The 1969-70 academic year was 50years ago --- a half century. And we have been celebrating various “landmark” days this Spring (Earth Day, the Kent State killings, etc.). I have already chronicled the May Day weekend in New Haven, but what I would like to do today is selectively revisit my 1969-1970 year at Yale. As members of Morse residential College, most of my friends and I had single rooms --- a unique situation for college students in that era. Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges were mirror images of one another, designed by the brilliant Eero Saarinen (The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Dulles Airport in D.C., theTWA Terminal at JFK Airport in NYC, as well as Ingalls Rink --- the “Yale Whale” --- in New Haven). Saarinen’s take was Modernist (sometimes called "Brutalist") and unique. Yale architecture requires BLAST of its own to do Saarinen and his creations justice. For today, in order to introduce the Tales of the Pandemic graphic art, I am only going to share a few memories of that year in Morse College.
The Fall of 1969 saw an epochal change at Yale University: women were now members of the undergraduate student body. 250 “transfers” had been admitted from colleges all around the nation to join the Classes of 1971 and 1972 and the incoming Class of 1973 admitted 250 women among their 1200+ Freshmen (creating a ratio of about 4000 to 500! These were not only smart but also very tough young women). The Freshmen women were all housed in Vanderbilt Hall on the Old Campus (a building that had been the Freshmen dorm for me and some of my closest friends --- all members of Morse and Stiles Colleges). The archway into Vanderbilt (above right) was “retro-fitted” with glass walls and doorways to “protect” the young women, with a Security Guard sitting there to admit visitors (the Upper Class women were assigned to “entryways” in the various Residential Colleges). Needless to say, there was a steady stream of upper-class men/boys to Vanderbilt Hall, causing my close friend, future house-mate, and philosophy major Karl Pavlovic, to note: “I’ll wait until the dust clears” before acquainting himself with any of our new school-mates.
As significant for me that Fall was finding an abandoned brindle mutt on York Street, just outside Hungry Charlie’s, our burger-joint hang-out. I “adopted” the puppy, thinking if his owner saw me walking him around New Haven he would reclaim the dog. No one did. I was now faced with naming the pup. It happened that early-on in my ownership of the stray, a group of us were summoned to John Lissauer’s room because he had, magically, acquired a pre-release reel-to-reel tape recording of what would become The Beatles White album (John, of course, would go on to produce Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, as well as many other artists). Several of us jammed into John’s room and listened as the new Beatle creations emanated from his speakers and, suddenly, there was Maxwell’s Silver Hammer --- and my new dog had his name! We all agreed: Maxwell it was --- and he continued to be my dog until his untimely passing (on the Hutchinson River Parkway) in 1974.
It was also in the Spring of 1970, as the politics in New Haven were heating up, that a group of us were sitting around, “shooting the breeze” (as my Dad used to call it), when I opined: “Maybe I’ll get into politics after we graduate.” The room fell silent. Then, Jim Moyer (“Moyers,” as we referred to him), looked at me and, in his wonderfully measured tones --- which I’m sure he used more than once as a Federal Magistrate years later ---said: “Your life wouldn’t stand scrutiny.” Moyers had briefly been my roommate during our sophomore year (as we waited to be assigned single rooms) and was well aware of my sketchy “dating” life and my excursions into psychedelia. He was, of course, quite correct. And that leads to today’s BLAST. In these days of “sheltering-in-place,” where we are living in 24/7 close quarters with each other, we are under closer scrutiny than ever before --- with some comic results.
Hope you enjoy this take on scrutiny. Stay home, stay safe.