fragments of an attempted writing.

my dad.

There are a lot of things I could write about my father.  He was born in Helena, Arkansas and lived his first years there.  His maternal grandfather, a man who bragged about running over "niggers" with the fire truck while he and other white elite enforced the local curfew for blacks, used to sit my dad on his knee, having my dad hold a Confederate flag, and he would call my dad his "little rebel."  My dad years later would joke that "if only he had known just how that would come to be true."  My grandparents later moved to Ohio, where my paternal grandfather went to work with his dad at the family car dealership in Columbus.

Dad was in a car accident as in junior high which left him on seizure medication for years.  His parents didn't know what to do with him, so they let him choose a boarding school out of a catalog.  He chose what was, unbeknownst to his parents, a socialist boarding school in the Carolinas.  After 2 years there he came back home, lied about his age and joined a folk music club for Ohio State University students (dad was still in high school) wherein dad met Phil Ochs.  Later dad went back down South and worked with Stokely Carmichael and SNCC during the burning summers in Mississippi, where he once had a cattle prod applied to his testicles by some rural sheriff's deputies; his uncle Jack from Arkansas bailing him out of jail and telling him to leave and not come back if he valued his life.

Dad would move on to work in a couple of stamping factories in Ohio, one of them union and one of them not - leaving an indelible impression on him, as the non union shop had all sorts of guys missing fingers and hands and arms, and the union shop had all sorts of safety equipment in place, including pull strings attached the arms which pulled your arms away when you pushed the button for the stamp to come down.  His union at the Chrysler stamping plant was a unique one - a wildcat striking sort of local that said fuck you to the rest of the union after Bobby Kennedy was killed - his union voted to endorse McGovern, shocking their own unions and other locals around them.  But they did it for one reason and one reason alone.  Bobby Kennedy had promised to end college deferments, and after he was killed McGovern was the one candidate left who made the same promise - and the men in that shop were tired of it being their sons who did the dying.

Dad would join a commune in Cleveland, and became roommates with the fellow whose parents ran Ohio CPUSA, and dad would work as an editor for the Burning River News out of Cleveland until the FBI pressed him out of that, he would work with SDS and the Black Panthers, become friends with William Ayers and Cathy Wilkerson and Bernardine Dohrn and the lot (though dad didn't follow them to the weathermen), and get folks trying to avoid the war into Canada which involved meeting some savory characters in order to secure paperwork which is how he came to date a girl whose dad was the head of Cleveland's black mafia family, and at one point or another meet and work with just about everybody in the radical movements of the 60s.  The stories he has to tell if you get him going are amazing, like the one where he speaks of the Berrigan brothers and how their arrogance and messiah complexes ended up dividing the anti-war efforts in Cleveland, but I haven't time for that story now.   After dad had already started to burn out on movement activities, after the split in SDS and years of watching the Left turn against itself, dad decided to go back to school; decided to do the student-activist thing in a small, quiet college town in Ohio, Kent.

Dad tells a lot of stories from those days

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