Monday, February 8, 2010

Still Before the Cottage

True, I still had things left with long-suffering friends in Berkeley, but I did have too much to put in a box already in Eugene, not to mention Croesus the Cat. I can't remember what I did when I went for a summer in Berkeley for research or to Greece for a summer. I must have found someone to stay in my apartment and enjoy the cat. Even if there had been any of today's storage units to rent, I didn't know of them.
So long as I had no car, the first time I went to teach a Summer Session in Berkeley, a great boon, I stayed again on Haste Street, only a block farther west. I remember one of my Oregon colleagues, L.G., whose family lived in Berkeley and were a very fine French family, coming with her father to visit me in that bed-sitting apartment and their being the most considerate guests; one day my dear friend Sylvia's husband came by with their baby son, a delightful baby; one day the UC campanile chimesmaster's elder daughter, whom I'd known since she was seven and who had visited me at about twelve at 2308 Haste, came in adolescent grace with her friend (called Christine?), and we spent a most enjoyable day. In that rather dark apartment we photographed each other by the bright kitchen window. Not much later she had married a Hungarian-American, had traveled and met his family in Hungary, and had moved to the NW corner of California near Arcata, where I visited and met their baby later, when I drove down to California once by the Coast route.
Summer of 1963 at the kitchen table in the apartment I rented at 2237 Haste in Berkeley. Cathy was in her late 'teens.
It was a special occasion in Eugene when a film had a 'special' engagement at one of the mainstream movie theaters downtown. The two I remember were "Der Rosenkavalier" with Elizabeth Schwarzkopf as the Marschallin, very beautiful (and I had never seen it live, though the San Francisco Opera had it when they could; but I was not always there to be able to see it) and, also then new, "Lawrence of Arabia", a splendid film. They may have been, in fact, the only two movies I ever saw in Eugene. There were of course no video discs or VHS or beta tapes, let alone DVDs at that time. I just remembered: one of the times that I saw "Les Enfants du Paradis" was on campus in Oregon. Every time I went to Berkeley and imposed on my friends' sofas to sleep, usually that of L.S. in his delightful backyard garden cottage, I also bought LPs from my friend in the rear of UC Corner, and brought them back. I know every note of performances that I had on vinyl in those years--and I still have most of the actual LPs. There was, indeed, a record store in Eugene, but maybe only later, because it was called Crystal Ship, which had some Classical music. As I recall, it was misspelled: 'Chrystal'. The UO book store actually was very good, but it was the only book store in town that I regarded as such.
I think I should mention, when I still have a place for it, that Eugene has two geological anchors, Skinner's Butte, flat topped, at its north, with fine columnar basalt on its north face, and Spenser's Butte, peaked, at its south, where in the Spring a profusion of wild irises, protected, not to be picked, bloomed along the sides of the road that led to the top, approximately, of the butte. They call them buttes in Oregon, and they call their variety of crêpe myrtles 'grape myrtles' and, naturally, say that grape myrtles grow only in Oregon. One lovely plant, called vine maple, which turns bright red in autumn, really is native to Oregon.
I honestly can't remember much else about living at that address, except that it did snow a bit one year, but not much (there was much snow when I was living on East 32nd, later), and one year some students climbed up the drain pipe to climb in at my office window, which didn't lock, being old, in order to steal tests just before one midterm. The tests they got were from the previous year (I had the current ones at my apartment), so they risked their necks for nothing, but they left plenty of evidence (torn ivy, ancient dust removed) in getting in, apart from the absence of the old tests from the file drawer. One more thing: I remember that the Beatles' "Help" was released while I was there, and its LP, too, but I didn't see the one or hear the other except from the sorority house opposite or from the neighbors below me.
Yet another thing: it was in these first years that I was considered for other positions, one which I wanted very much, because it was at Wellesley, so near Boston, but I was out-classed by another candidate who also had roots in New England and more important yet links to the Museum of Fine Arts. It wasn't just her connections, because she had published some very important things. On the other hand, even after two years in Athens, where I had made probably every social error possible for a bohemian Californian to make, ones that even in relatively classless California still could not in half a dozen years be eradicated to make up the difference between low-income working class and middle-income academia, though my friends and mentors had made considerable progress in that regard, I might have had a difficult time at Wellesley. The other position, which was offered and which with mixed feelings I turned down, was at a very large midwestern university, temptingly within reach of Chicago, but there was at least one person in the John Birch Society there, in Classics, people said, and the unending flatness and and absence of any kind of geographical, geological definition, was dismaying. The architecture seemed too stolid to me, though good; it hadn't Chicago flair. It was too far from the Mississippi River for that to capture my imagination, as it does in Louisiana, and I did NOT think that grain elevators were the Chartres of the midwest. So I remained in Eugene.