September 9, 2020:
Then there is Fire in the Lake, and it all blows apart in an instant.
Vietnam, The African Queen, the no-neck jock bullying my spastic friend, the girls who were my friends who'd been raped or molested. Christmas, the conventional religious hypocrisy of my family, Dostoevsky, three older girls at Windansea, brown rice at the Ché, the rebel books at Groundwork. Anarchism, rebellion, revolution. "What are you rebelling against?" "Whataya got?"
So that I hurl myself into it with the energy of conversion experience. Go reds, smash state! Can't tell you what the state is, exactly, but smashing it sounds like a start.
The war is nearly over but there is still the need for amnesty for resisters. There's a revolutionary movement to support in Nicaragua, horrible regimes to oppose in El Salvador, Guatemala, and South Africa. There are books to read, slogans to understand. Years of lost time to make up.
I do my high school history project on Vietnam. Fire in the Lake and The Pentagon Papers. The lies, the betrayal of democracy, the heroism of the students and the clergy and the soldiers who resisted. I start talking to people. There's a custodian at Clairemont High who served time for draft resistance. He plugs me in to his network, I meet ex-soldiers active in Vietnam Veterans Against the War. I take organizing seminars among the movements at UCSD, sign up for study groups through Groundwork. I begin reading lots and lots and lots of books.
I drop the drugs. For a couple of years I don't even drink beer. I'm busy.
I tell my mother, I'm going to apply to UCSD. She's ecstatic. Then I tell her not for a year. I'm taking a gap year, where I'll sit in my room or the park or the bowling alley reading all the books I've neglected since grammar school. All of them. She doesn't get a vote. I think she takes it as more good than bad.
Emotionally I'm bifurcated. I'm manic with study, yet I'm also bottoming out with depression, now exacerbated by what therapy teaches me years later is my primary trigger, loneliness. I'm alone in my room with my books and my notebooks and my colored marker pens. Learning, catching up, stumbling in darkness.
My friend, the older woman who becomes my mentor through this period, gives me hope. We meet at the Society of Creative Anachronism, where I make spending money shooting photos of the costumes. She likes me, she's kind to me, we hang together in the mountains and we sneak into Monty Python movies, dead broke. As my brain slowly awakens my spirits even more slowly rise, so that after my gap year I at least feel — if not at all recovered — perhaps better prepared.