Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories: Chap. 11: Ted Gold and Dave Gilbert: Roommates, 1967

Chapter 11: Ted Gold and Dave Gilbert: Roommates, 1967 (x)

Ted drove his father’s car south down the New Jersey Turnpike, and then west towards the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Like nearly all the New Left men whose cars I rode in, Ted was a good, safe driver who did not take macho risks on the highway, but who could drive for long hours and at night without having to rest his legs, at highway speeds of about 70 mph. In western Pennsylvania, Ted stopped the car for some gas and some dinner at a Pennsylvania Turnpike rest area restaurant. At Ben’s urging, we just walked out of the restaurant without paying the bill after we had eaten our meal, and we giggled as we hit the turnpike again. It seemed easy to outfox the Howard Johnson restaurant chain, if you just ignored their capitalist money-game rules and took what was rightfully yours from the corporate monopolies.

From Pennsylvania, we crossed into Ohio just as Ted and Ben were getting into a discussion about how U.S. society was going to look in the 1970s and 1980s—after we had successfully overthrown the U.S. government and made a Revolution in the United States.

Sitting in the backseat, as Ted kept turning his head towards the backseat to reply to Ben’s arguments while he drove, I half-noticed a sign which seemed to indicate that the divided Ohio Turnpike, because of construction, was going to turn into a two-lane, no-passing, undivided road a few miles ahead, with one lane going west and one lane going east.

Ted, apparently, didn’t notice the sign because, as I half-noticed that on-coming traffic was beginning to come towards us on the lane to the left of us, Ted suddenly accelerated and started to pass the slow-moving trailer-truck ahead of us. Before I could say anything, Ted had driven the car into the left lane and was alongside the slow-moving truck to his right. Then, suddenly, Ted realized that about 400 yards directly ahead of us a big truck was rolling head-on towards us in the same left lane.

Instinctively, Ted took his foot off the gas, slammed on the brakes, swerved the car back and forth, skidded in a way that stopped the acceleration, and somehow managed to reposition the car back in the right lane behind the slow-moving truck, only a few seconds before the oncoming truck from the west passed us by at full speed.

For about a minute, Ted, Ben, Brian, the Japanese student and I all sat in hushed silence. Then Ted said with a laugh: “Since when did the turnpike become a two-way street?”

And Ben replied: “I thought for a few seconds there that we all weren’t going to live to see the Revolution.”

We all laughed. And then Ted decided to pull over to the side of the highway and let Brian take over the driving, after the turnpike had once again become a divided, 4-lane highway. Once Brian started to drive, Ted and Ben resumed their lively political discussion.

Neither Ted nor Brian were yet used to driving on highways stoned in Fall 1967. So even though Ben had brought a supply of grass with him, we all decided we wouldn’t turn on together during the drive out to Wisconsin.

Brian was also a good, safe driver who didn’t drive in a macho way and he was more satisfied than Ted to just drive at the 65 mph limit. Because both Ted and Brian could relieve each other at the wheel, there was no need to stop at any motel before arriving in Madison, early Saturday morning. We then checked in at the Student Union building to register as SDS National Council participants and dropped Ben and his Japanese student friend off on the campus, before driving to the off-campus house in which a childhood friend of Ted lived with a woman friend. Ted’s childhood friend was also a red diaper baby.

Madison reminded me somewhat of Bloomington or West Lafayette, Indiana, and I was curious about what it would be like to attend school so close to a lake. But I didn’t get a chance to do much independent exploring at Madison during this weekend because the debates were too lengthy, and by late Sunday afternoon it was already time to return to the highway back to New York.

Ted’s childhood friend rented the first floor of a run-down house in Madison’s student ghetto. He and his woman friend were both pleasant and anti-Establishment, but they seemed more interested in just living together and being alone with each other, than in getting involved in SDS politics. Ted’s friend showed us the big room in which there were extra mattresses on the floor on which we could crash later that night, and he gave Ted an extra set of keys for the house and first floor apartment. Then Ted, Brian and I said goodbye, left the house, got into the car of Ted’s father, and drove back to the student building to attend the National Council meeting.