Do you remember college? I do. Every single minute of it. I loved it. Of course, I loved high school, too. I even loved grammar school. I just love being in school -teaching or as a student. And I’m still on a college campus. UCLA has been my home for the last 8 1/2 years.
In fact, right now I’m in the newly built north campus food court which was completed two weeks ago. Before that, I spent my breaks at Ackerman Student Union, which is so yesterday! Stuck in the past is too kind a description. These new food digs are a step up,but concrete floors, institutional chairs, an an attempt at modernizing the tables, to say nothing about the food selections (can we offer something other than Subway, for God’s sake) create a really unappealing atmosphere. Who designed this place anyway? Not a bit of charm, mustard counters (reminiscent of Don Drapers’s kitchen counters in his 1950’s house in “Mad Men), and a lighting grid that deliberately makes everyone, not just boomers like me, look like they were just hatched from an egg.
But I digress. I still love being on a college campus. UCLA was my first choice when I graduated from Marin Catholic. No, really, it wasn’t but I didn’t want my parents to pay exorbitant tuition at Sarah Lawrence. So to get away from home, I fled to Los Angeles. It was familiar because I had gone to LA so many times as a child, I knew all the neighborhoods. My grandmother lived near Hollywood Memorial Cemetery. She was buried there, too. I joined a sorority, majored in Theater Arts, met a lot of funny Jewish guys, and got pretty good at beach volleyball. Oh, and I developed a taste for scotch. Not a bad start, if I do say so myself. But I only lasted a year and a half. I finished all the theater classes, hated the rules of the sorority, did a few shows at Royce Hall, finally got rid of my virginity (are you still with me) in a Manhattan Beach Hotel (oh, John Chamberlain, where are you now?), and left in January of 1963.
Berkeley in the 60s was calling. I hit the campus in stride, continued my major in theater and was determined to get my PhD and teach. I had good intentions and I was the good girl who held to the script of political activism. Liberal was my middle name. Existentialism was my philosophy. Theater was my beat. What a fabulous education I had – the depth of subject matter, history, economics, art and, of course, the political scene was amazing. I smelled pot everywhere but I didn’t really know what it was. My Jewish boyfriend/husband to be only mentioned it in passion. He was a law student and clear as a whistle. There were even mixed couples flaunting their coupling! Horrors! I was in heaven.
Then Kennedy got shot and our world fell apart. Vietnam appeared like an ugly, disfigured alien and the free speech movement was on. The following year, I married my Jewish beatnik, and we left for the even stranger land of Las Vegas where the mob ran the town and I had no college degree. Someone told me that was a blessing in disguise. I could be a showgirl if I wanted. But, gee wiz, I only had 18 more units to finish my major. I was going to graduate in 3 1/2 years and go on straight through to a PhD program. What the hell. No, I was in hell – the third rung of Dante’s hell.
There was some kind of university in Las Vegas – more like a community college, really. It was called Nevada Southern University in those days with its three buildings and a new library (probably donated by some mob guy) and those three buildings were like tawdry Army barracks. It took me 7 months to approach the bombed out hut known as the administration office. In the meantime, I dodged going back to college by working at the Sahara Hotel, meeting all the most funny comics and lounge singers of the time and saw the Rat Pack. Other than that I was eating my way through every flavor of ice cream and lying in bed reading every book I never read and wanted to read.
Nevada Southern University had no theater major. Wouldn’t you know! So I had the most units in history and I assumed that major because I like history. Okay, this wasn’t a beautiful campus and I lived mostly in my car – an old MG that my husband got me with the distinction of having to shut the driver’s door with a rope – but I made it through with a degree in a year and a half. I got my education degree and was armed to teach but not history. I luckily got a job at a high school teaching drama to a bunch of pot smoking, LSD taking misfits whom I adored. I only lasted a year, however. I was 22 and they were 18. Not good because I was miserable and wanted to party with them. So back to school I went for a Masters in Education and then back to school again to teach for another three years and then back to the university, which by then was called the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, a much classier name. Another degree in Theater, a teaching position and by the age of 36,I was off campus.
The day I stepped on campus at UCLA after 42 years, I was home once again. I was teaching yoga and meditation and I was beyond blissful. I love the energy, the kids, the minds, the excitement of always being around learning. I even kind of, sort of like the new food court because it’s kind of grungy and it makes me feel that grungy college-I haven’t taken a shower in 2 days-feeling. I’m living proof that you can go home again. Only this time, no beach volleyball and I’m way past losing my virginity.