Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Both my parents were convinced Friends, thanks to deep discussions they'd been having with their peers at a YWCA closely associated with the University of Washington, where they met. Jack was a Seattle native whereas Carol was a precocious kid at Garfield High, her dad an itinerant Linotype operator.
Dad was having conscientious objections to the university's compulsory ROTC gun training. Mom would later join the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). All that made me a birthright Friend, by the time I showed up in Chicago, with dad by then completing a PhD in regional planning.
Portland, Oregon would be my first stop in a family wherein the patriarch was hell bent on world travel and adventure. We left the United States when opportunity knocked, and I didn't return to Portland, on my own, as a would be homesteader, until after six years in Italy and four in the Philippines, and then a few more in Gotham, on the east coast.
Mom had agreed to this life of adventure, as long as it still meant having kids. Dad overcame his skepticism on that score, and the kids were even allowed pets, provided we didn't expect to take them with us when we relocated. Mom worked hard as a social activist, after her time in Rome as a would be novelist. She worked with the poorest of the poor.
Quaker meeting in Rome was with Thomfordes, and Braids and other such families. We'd meet in each others' houses and apartments. Most had apartments (like we did), but the Thomfordes, with lots of kids, had more of a ramshackle farmhouse like you'd find in Tennessee, where I imagined they were from.
The dad worked for FAO, the UN agency that works on food supplies. Phil and Winnie. They had lots of comic books, thanks to their kids, including Mad Magazine. Sometimes I was given a choice to attend silent worship or go upstairs and read. I'd go either way, mixing my Quakerism with Robert Crumb and Pogo.
Mad Magazine was a pun on Madison Avenue, and later the TV series "Mad Men" (which I've lightly sampled) would recreate that heady world of TV advertising. I was fascinated by the idea of ads, and that they might work at a subconscious level. I started reading Freud in 8th grade. I was like a budding Adam Curtis, the BBC documentary film maker who studies PR and propaganda.
My parents would later join the Florida Avenue Meeting in Washington, DC, the family home when dad was between jobs. He was a freelancer, on and off various government and private payrolls. He didn't just work for the United States. He had a job with the Ministry of Planning in Egypt for several years. Mom and dad moved to Cairo. He worked for the Ministry of Education in Bhutan, in the pay of the Swiss.
When Libyan leader Qaddafi took over in Libya, and commanded that the US quit its military facilities there, dad's work as a planner for Libya was unaffected. He wasn't working for the US at that point. He didn't live long enough to see NATO later wreak its revenge.
I left the Philippines for college in 1976 and graduated from Princeton class of 1980. I'd studied philosophy, under Dr. Richard Rorty especially, and had learned a lot about academia in general. I heard the call of the "real world" and jumped ship, forsaking grad school for teaching high school instead.
I moved with a few of my housemates, from 2 Dickinson Street at the university, to Magnolia Avenue in Jersey City, just behind that Loew's Theater across from the Journal Square PATH station.
I heard the call of destiny again and quit my high school teaching position of two years, with St. Dominic Academy. I was too young to commit to teaching high school forever, I told myself, before diving into a dark night of the soul.
My early and continued studies of psychoanalysis would come in handy, as my psychological world started flying apart. Why was I thinking of Tibet so much? What was this sense of urgency? How was I ever going to make a difference in this world?
I tried Quaker Meeting in New York City and the observant could tell I was under some stress. Ray and Bonnie took me in as a friend. I took care of their new baby when both of them headed into Manhattan day jobs, as temp worker and nurse.
Eddy (another school teacher) and Yazz let me occupy their apartment that summer I decided not to go to Egypt again. I was thinking in terms of a startup, without knowing that term.
(to be continued)