Friday, December 13, 2013

My junior year at Maryland I started to think about grad school.  There was a youngish professor in the philosophy department who talked a little bit about it.  He wanted me to major in philosophy in grad school and I think he was from Northwestern.  He might have suggested that I look up departments and faculty members and such to shop around.  Again, I had no idea what it was all about or how to do it.  I finally decided I couldn’t possibly do philosophy.  I enjoyed his courses in people like Plato but other courses involved contemporary language analysis, lingusitics and epistemology and I could barely understand one third of any of it and wrote bullshit papers that managed to get Bs.  I guess I looked at Northwestern and then at Chicago because Dad had once taken the whole family on the train there when he went to a grocers' convention and I had faint and happy memories of that adventure in the Windy City.  Can’t recall where else I applied nor if I was accepted anywhere.  Some memory of asking a professor and having him say, well if you got accepted at Chicago that’s the place to go.  Might have been Duquesne in Pittsburgh, the other place.  I must have vaguely known that Peace Corps was an option after college but it was fairly new and I had no first-hand urging from anyone in that direction.  Plus in my mind it would have felt too much like joining a religious order again, missionary version.  

There was the clear mandate to keep a student deferment going somehow and a clear notion that I had no idea of what I wanted to do about anything.  I enjoyed the full year, four quarters, at Chicago tremendously even though I did feel like I had to run extra fast to catch up with all the bright shits from the ivies and other better colleges.  Funding ran out in some way after the year in Chicago for the masters so I looked for a teaching job and felt really lucky to get one at a small college downstate in Decatur, Illinois, Millikin University.  Miss Milner roomed next to me in a rooming house across the street from campus.  It was her second year at the college.  No clear memory of when we decided to get married, maybe late fall or early winter.  Colleagues at the college, we learned later, had a betting pool on us.  March of that year Virginia announced she had just gotten a full scholarship to go back to grad school at Chicago.  Her masters was from NYU in Spain.  I managed to complete one paper a year overdue and got my masters that spring.  But when she said she got this full fellowship I asked her why did she apply to Chicago.  I had been thinking about moving out to Berkeley—but had neglected to tell her that.  With her full funding it was Chicago we would go to.  I re-applied there for the doctoral program and managed to get a teaching job at the Calumet Campus of Purdue University, about an hour commute from south side Chicago.  First year back I taught there, then the year after I got into the doctoral program but with some partial funding so I must have borrowed some from my parents.  Two more years in Chicago and we both were at the end of university connected funding and it was Virginia’s “turn” to get a job.  New Hampshire and the rest is history.  There were zero jobs available in ’71-72.  I think she had an offer from a place in Kalamazoo or Kankakee, from a community college in the inner city of Chicago and from Plymouth State.  She had gone for the interview by herself, so I had never seen any of New England until we drove the VW bug and a U-Haul truck here.  I hated leaving Chicago because we had had a great time there.  And we really sort of told ourselves we would stay in Plymouth for two maybe three years max, have our degrees in hand and then most likely live out our days at Swarthmore or Skidmore, Oberlin or Antioch.  Some such toney liberal arts place even if we had never heard of it before then.  We didn’t want to go back to Millikin nor to any part of the midwest.  Harvard would call, surely.  

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