Above Photo: Riot on the Strip, Carbondale, Il. May 1970.
On the third day of his new/old life Peter Federson is attending a day full of classes...which he barely remembers because he's been hurled nearly 40-years back into the past to relive his college days again.
The Engineering Building, was the site for my floating abnormal psychology class, which met in a different building depending on the day.
I remembered Earl, my psych instructor. He was 1970s cool, and one of the few black TA’s on campus. He sported a huge Afro, and a clean but un-pressed brown and white striped business shirt with the standard SIU TA button-down collar, complemented by a brown knitted tie. A pair of blue jeans completed the uniform.
Earl was half-sitting on the desk at the front of the room, sipping from an earthenware mug, which he deliberately set on the desk. He opened his mouth and the class quieted. Then he closed his mouth, and just as people were starting to talk again, he announced:
“Okay, imagine someone hassled, fully clothed, lying on a hard mattress, with his jacket as a pillow, in a small room, with the lights on…in the Carbondale jail. Now this person might not sleep too well.”
I remembered this lesson, and I started laughing along with the rest of the class.
“Now, seeing as this is SIU, one of the nation’s leading party schools—according to Playboy magazine—I’m assuming that one or two of you people have had the Carbondale jail experience.”
Knowing looks passed around the room, followed by uncharacteristic blushes from the tough yuppie-to-be students. Earl had us pegged.
“Well, this might be humorous at the age of 18 or 20,” he said. “A lot of us hit the keggers heavy in our youth, and then straighten out. But for one out of ten people who drink, the hilarity of waking up with a spike between their eyes, feeling that ‘ole stomach acid in their throat, seeing three Alka-Seltzer’s instead of the usual two, continues throughout their abbreviated lives, culminating in the excitement of delirium tremens accompanied by sclerosis of the liver. And it all started with the occasional kegger. But even in pre-kegger days, the furious power of alcohol to capture the minds and bodies of 10 percent of the population is recorded repeatedly in historical writings. That means, statistically, one out of every ten people in this room will become a lush…”
Everyone turned around and started silently counting.
“And don’t count me,” Earl said. “I don’t drink.”
It was a small class, and there were only eleven of us in the room. I knew I didn’t have a problem yet, but within ten years my drinking would spin wildly out of control….
A word this time—not a feeling—that came from my distant past. Bullshit! And as with that weird feeling in earth science, there came the unshakable belief that I could drink as much as I wanted, any time I wanted, without penalty. Then the feeling was expunged so quickly that I suspected it had not been there in the first place.