Thanks to mom filling out an application to Valparaiso University, I briefly attended college after barely graduating high school. Mom figured I’d jump on it since my favorite cousin, Tom Hutton, had just returned from Vietnam and enrolled there on the GI Bill. I ‘d kept up a correspondence with Tom during his entire tour, a time during which he went through some heavy, heavy changes and emerged as an ardent anti-war activist.
I’d been living in Oakland when I got the news I’d been accepted, so I hitch-hiked back east, and checked out the Lutheran college both my parents graduated from. Unfortunately, I felt tremendously isolated from all the devout Christians, although I did create two lasting friendships with fellow searchers on the path of illuminated fun I’d been scouting the past three years (The Merry Pranksters being my ultimate role model). We discovered a hay-filled barn with a giant rope swing and it became 24-hour party central. A lot of swan dives into the haystack while intoxicated on LSD, beer or both. After the Kent State Massacre, however, I stopped attending class, and just spent my time studying the art of having fun all the time. When the school music building burned (suspected arson), it came down the grapevine I was the number-one suspect being investigated.
Eventually, my dad caught wind of the situation and cut me off completely, having already wasted $5,000 on tuition fees alone. The best thing that came out of Valpo was an encounter with Joseph Heller, who clued me into Louis-Ferdinand Celine, a tremendous influence on Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs, Joseph Heller, J.D. Salinger, to name but a few.
Maybe I wasn’t attending class, but I was educating myself in my own way and I burned through everything Celine wrote (that I could find) in a few days. My draft number was low, so when my cousin Tom discovered my circumstances, knowing I’d be inducted straight from the physical exam into bootcamp, plunked down $350 for a one-way ticket to Stockholm, where his army buddy, Ed Keeling, was attending the university. I had very few possessions, just a letter from Tom explaining my hasty exit from the States and could he help me out? I had virtually no money, and slept the first few nights on the floor in Ed’s tiny dorm room, with Ed wondering what the hell was going on and when was I going to get the hell out of there?!
I was soon rescued, however, by a couple of amazing Swedish goddesses, one blonde, one brunette. Eva, the blonde, took me under her wing and introduced me to her revolutionary cellmates. She put up with my cynical rants and was even amused by them. Eva sensed I was going to evolve into a great, great revolutionary. In fact, I think she was convinced that’s exactly what was going to happen. This made me laugh. I loathed Marxism more than I did organized religion!
Eva was certainly beautiful and I undoubtedly had a shot with her, but I chose Marta, who was a dead ringer for a French movie star. Or maybe Marta picked me? In a way, she became my first real girlfriend. Marta was a year or two older and gave me some necessary schooling in art of making love. I was living my down-and-out-in-Europe fantasy and having a blast! I even got some extra work in the film Joe Hill, which gave me enough money to buy a typewriter so I could commence creating the first great counterculture novel of my generation, the rock’n’roll, garageband, go-for-broke generation that actually created the sixties. I never got beyond the opening chapter.