50 Years - Memories including Tears

I was lucky enough this past weekend to be able to attend my 50th University Reunion - in Madison, Wisconsin.   This writing relates to my experiences.

Five years ago I moved from Seattle to Chicago.   I (falsely as it turned out) presumed that my friendship with a man I will call H, would be my most meaningful bond in Chicago, besides that with my son and his family.   H - indicated - in communication that I read with confusion and disappointment - that as we get older, we pull back from our ties with friends, and only maintain those that are most important to us.   My feelings are that as I get older, every year I lose friends from my past, or fear the loss of them, and that keeping up the ties is most important for me!

Though my bonds with college friends is minimal, due to how I've been with friendships in general, I was very happy when KV - reached out to me about a month ago and said: "George, are you coming to our 50th Reunion?  I'm coming with a new close friend."   I checked with my partner, looked at airfares, and within a few minutes, my trip to Madison and Chicago was On. 

A Bucky and me - by the Memorial Union - Looking out at Lake Mendota

I flew from San Francisco to O'Hare - and then took the Van Galder bus to the UW-Madison Campus stop.   At O'Hare I was saddened, though not surprised to see the Mexican "refugees" - having been dumped by the Texas governor, sleeping on the hard floors in a building across the road from the terminal I was at.  I saw a girl of perhaps 10, obviously having come back from going to the bathroom, joining her family, all of whom were asleep (it was about 6:00 a.m.).   Chicago- officially - was trying to take in these refugees, overwhelmed by their numbers.
In Madison, I Lyft'd to the "Learning Day" on campus.   "Wow, we all look so old" - was my first impression, noting the others, frequently in Badger (Red) attire, as well as looking "well dressed" in contrast to my:  "Keep Abortion Safe and Legal" shirt in both Spanish and English.   I was the only one there seemingly still in 1969 - when most of us arrived as undergraduates at UW.

Much of the presentations was quite interesting, particularly the professor's talk which focused upon the popular music of 1973, and how it related to the times.   It was wonderful to see KV and to meet his accomplice - JA.    It was also great to chat with a few other classmates, none of whom I knew.

Bucky and Me - October 15, 2023 - before the Disaster (the football game)

KV, JA, another woman, and I skipped the end of the sessions, and walked along the Lakeshore Path in the drizzle to the Memorial Union.   It was great to be at one of my "old homes" there - the pathway in its rustic beauty (tree covered  overlooking Lake Mendota).   We sat down in the Stiftskeller, by the Rathskeller, another home spot for me as a student.  (My tears are starting as I write!).   Though we were 50 years older than most there, it was relaxing and wonderful!   L - left us - dressed up for the Friday supper event.   We watched and listened to some wonderful live jazz, and then headed down State Street, where we found a nice restaurant for dinner.

I very, very much enjoyed, minimally at least, getting to know JA, and having time also with my college buddy KV.    Being back in Madison is always wonderful, and this was a special treat!

KV - in the University Bookstore

Saturday I started very early, after finding (without being requested) two perfect football tickets at an inexpensive price for my two friends.   After an early breakfast at Dennys, I then, later on, met Glenn and his husband for a second breakfast at IHOP.   Glenn was a housemate in 1983 - when B, my first spouse and I moved from Chicago to Madison.  I always appreciate the times we share together.

After breakfast, they drove me to the Capitol Square Farmer's Market, which was an additional treat for me.   Walking down State Street, I bought a cheap used turtleneck shirt at Ragstock (memories from the 1980's and beyond), got my sorbet fix at The Chocolat Shoppe, and worked my way to the newer, much improved Union South.

The "Tailgate" gathering inside Union South was delightful!   I met most of those at my table and enjoyed finding varied common ground with different people.   This included JazzFest (New Orleans), Chicago, and more.   Mr. Buckminster Badger joined us hear, to the delight of nearly all of us.

I think "P" and Bucky

I very much loved being at the Iowa football game, while being totally disheartened by how my beloved Badgers played!   There was significant diversity as to how we screwed up the game!   It was still great to be "home"!  (Many tears now, and when was at the game).  Ironically - I never attended a game between 1969-1972.   In 1973, just before I moved to Chicago, I got a job as an usher at games, and saw my first Badger football.

Getting my Lyft ride from Langdon Street - after walking rapidly from the stadium was a big hassle (endless delays).   I then met my cousin Esty for my dinner on the NE side of Madison.   She is Israeli-American - a journalist - and a very leftist person politically, very much aligned with my politics, though much more politically educated and aware than I am.   She is traumatized by what is going on now - with the unnecessary deaths and deep destruction.   It was good to be with her in this difficult time.

Sunday - I had a most amazing experience!   About 8:00 a.m. I went to Collective Coffee at State and Frances.   I saw a young woman wearing a Yale sweatshirt and Wisconsin sweatpants   I thought carefully, getting my nerve up, and then asked her a question:

"Are you from San Francisco?"
Response: "Yes"
Me: "I think I know your uncle!   His name is DL."

About a month ago, before I knew that I was coming to Madison, my good Oakland friend, answered my question, and indicated that he had a brother in San Francisco.  I knew that all three brothers and their father all went to Yale.

DL told me - that his niece - had told family members that she wasn't going to Yale and was a freshman in Madison.  It was easy enough for me to figure out!   She and I talked for a few minutes and then both left separately.
I arrived very early at the final Reunion event - the Sunday brunch.  I had a most pleasant discussion with a coordinator of the brunch before other attendees arrived.   It was nice to share briefly with more alums!

I left the brunch early, not feeling like hearing the detailed appeal for our money through estate planning.  Our debt is huge - and willing debt on UW - isn't an option.

I then went back to my motel room for The second MERJ - Men for Equity and Reproductive Justice (www.JoinMERJ.org) public event.  It went incredibly well, despite its sparse attendance.  Hopefully others will view the YouTube video of it.

I then Lfted off to the Palestinian support rally where I again saw my cousin.  I felt privileged to be able to attend and support others I care about deeply.

Sunday evening was supper with KV + JA + KV's freshman roommate and is wife (Madison residents).   We at a wonderful meal at a nice restaurant on Willy Street!   Again, it was wonderful to conclude my time with my buddy and my new friend.

LRS and Bucky

Monday, I took the 4:00 a.m. Van Galder Bus to O'Hare, The "L" into Chicago and had a nice conclusion of my trip!   I had a wonderful hour with my close friend and ally Andy, and had a great time with my beloved granddaughter H.

I very, very much appreciate the opportunities I have to do meaningful things in my life!  I especially appreciate my partner B - for agreeing that I could go on this trip!

Madison, and Badgerdom - bring more tears - as I write.     Though I wasted so many opportunities as a student, not taking my studies seriously enough, it was an incredible, incredible experience!

Joan Baez - 12,000 cheering students at the Fieldhouse -   $2.08 - cost (she only allowed a chart of $2 + tax) - highly, highly unusual, was incredible.

Chicken Little Blues Co-op - which I was a part of was something wonderful for both others students and us!

Hound Dog Taylor - was someone I got to "know" a little!     My buddy Wes Race - was his "best (white at least, probably overall) buddy" and I remember being at his flat on Chicago's South Side after college.   I also attended his funeral!

Later on I used to regularly see Jimmy Dawkins play at Ma Bea's - at Sacramento and Madison Streets in Chicago.

Our big triumph was:  Howlin Wolf and Mississippi Fred McDowell at Union Theater.   We thought that Wolf might not live long, however McDowell was the one who died July 3, 1972, not that much later on.  I used to occasionally see Wolf play at Big Duke's - on Madison (also) near Ma Bea's.   I remember the staff member telling me that Wolf cost $2.00 - other artists were $1.00 + the expectation of one or more drinks.

1969-1970 - was my most notable year at UW!   I lived on the 2nd Floor (Callahan House) in Sellery Hall.   There was rooftop - outside our windows, from the extended part of the first floor.   They were preparing the site for what became Vilas Hall across Johnson Street. 

Just after we arrived for school, the Republican lead legislature cut AFDC benefits.  Just as the campus disturbances were starting to lighten, foolish Governor Knowles - panicked - and called out the National Guard.   Students - and others - tour off - the wood planks around the construction site - and set fire to them - closing down Johnson street outside our windows.   

Tear gas canisters - landed on the roof outside of our rooms!   

Then early in 1970, the teaching assistants in the newly formed union (historic occasion) went on strike.   We had no classes (the Engineers still had classes) for a good 6+weeks.

Then May 4, 1970 at Kent State University and May 15, 1970 at Jackson State University - there were campus killings of students by the police.   This was the final class stoppage - and very traumatic!

Summer, 1971 - I wasn't there that early morning - but there was The Army Math Research Center Bombing, with one tragic death - the largest political bombing in U.S. History - up until Oklahoma City - years later.

Most things - weren't so dramatic!   I wish - that I had heard of Magic Sam - and had stayed up and gone to see him at 12:45 a.m. - after the liquor sales stopped - at The Nitty Gritty - the last weekend of his life.   I think that he was the greatest modern blues guitarist - dead of a heart attack December 1, 1969 - at the age of 32!   The picture below - is of an earlier show at the Gritty.

I'm crying as I finish this writing!   So many memories - most of them positive to wonderful of this period of my life!    I left Madison I think in November, 1973 for Chicago - and blues music there.   In early, 1983 my first spouse and I moved to Madison (for me again).   My son was born in St. Mary's Hospital in Madison on my 36th birthday in 1987.   In May, 1989- the three of us moved west to Oakland, California.

Thanks for listening!   Feedback (including pictures to add) most welcome!


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