Steal This Book
© Copyright 2021 by Alan Herman
Chapter 1: Found the Book and……..a Revelation
There it was! I was rotating the tall upright rack checking out the paperback choices, in a drug store in Provincetown, Mass.
"Steal This Book" That's the book I was looking for. And I did, steal that book. After looking around, I took it from the rack and hid it in my bag.
It was the summer of 1968. I got a call at school. My friends Gary and Dennis, decided to drive up from New York City, pick me up, and take a weekend vacation.
They picked me up in Albany where I had recently graduated from college. Dennis had his car and we drove the length of the Mass Turnpike, then South to the Cape Cod highway all the way to Provincetown. We took a swim, then looked around town.
Then, out of the blue, Dennis revealed in a first time unabashed way that he is gay. He asked to keep it to ourselves. He heard there were a lot of gay guys in Provincetown, and he wanted to have sex, and a lot of it, in one afternoon. His first time he said and had imagined much and was excited. He wanted to be loved and be a lover, he added.
Gary and I would walk around town and he would meet us at the car about eight, was the plan. Then, we would stay overnight on Truro beach.
Dennis saw a pharmacy. He wanted to buy some K-Y Gel for his smooth loving, that's what he read, he said. There I saw the paperback book rack.
I walked out with my prize, and Dennis and Gary soon followed.
Dennis said he would go his own way now. There were a lot of men hanging out. Indeed I was approached by a man with a proposal when I stopped to look in a store window. I was not happy and walked on.
Gary and I did not know what to think, simply stunned. We couldn't find any words, just looked at each and gestured with our hands. Dennis was married too. We were at his wedding.
You see him from time to time in New York? And he never said anything or gave a hint about being gay? I asked.
His wife is such a beautiful woman too, Gary added, shaking his head.
We walked toward the beach and took another swim. Then walked around a bit and some men invited us to a party. We looked at each other, and said no.
Provincetown was the place to be if you were gay all right. We tried to find a section of town where there were women.
We found the rest of the town. Women were walking around in bikinis and sandals. Gary commented that the women were probably gay too.
I showed Gary my prize. He had heard about the book and about the author, by Abbie Hoffman of the Chicago Seven Vietnam War Protest Group. Gary said he had had gotten a deferment because he was accepted into dental school; and I told him I was worried about the draft and had been accepted into grad school, but for the field I was applying, the school would not protect me if I were drafted.
Draft deferments were given only for undergraduate study, and my deferment was no more. Some of my high school friends had been sent to Vietnam, and one was killed.
"Steal This Book" had tips for avoiding the draft. How to avoid a draft physical, how to foil a draft physical, tips like that. And the authors wanted everyone to have it, and easily. On the cover was written that "we are not interested in making money off this book."
There was time to examine the book after I got back to Albany, and wanted to forget my ongoing worry at least for the weekend. I had to find a solution, my draft notice might be coming soon.
We never saw Dennis until later on, so assumed he must have succeeded. Gary and I wondered how he might be when we met up at the car.
We saw a White Tower and stopped for dinner.
Then we walked along the shore carrying our flip flops. We joked about what Dennis was doing. We were still stunned. The Provincetown shore was beautiful. It was hot day, but there was a breeze so really quite comfortable to stroll. We kept each to our thoughts.
We had forgotten where the car was parked, and were late once we located it.
Dennis was already there. And smiling. He said he had a terrific time, in fact he said he'd done a threesome. I was afraid to ask what that meant and Gary stayed quiet.
We stopped at a Dairy Queen halfway back to Truro. Dennis sensed our awkwardness and blurted out: "You ought to try it too you know."
That gave me an opening, and asked: What if Lauren finds out?" Dennis just answered: "She won't".
Dennis parked along the roadway at Truro, and though the sun had set, we could see our way through a worn down path through a thicket to the shore. We set out our sleeping bags.
We got up early, and except for a stops for gas and breakfast at a Cracker Barrel Dennis drove all the way back to Albany and the campus.
Thanks, let's keep in touch I said on the way out.
You bet said Gary while Dennis waved.
Chapter 2: Back in Albany
When I got back to my dorm Sunday afternoon, I hoped to see Elyssa, my girlfriend. It was a coed dorm with suites each with three rooms and a shared lounge, shower, bathroom and kitchen. She lived in a room in my suite.
She was there as I hoped, reading and playing her guitar while waiting for me, she said. We hugged and kissed and she said she liked the way I smelled with the surf and sand still a part of me. She closed the door and we made love. Afterwards, while we lay together, I told her about Dennis.
She smiled and said she had gay friends. In fact, the grass we smoked sometimes was courtesy of a gay friend.
Then I told her about the book. She asked if I felt guilty, and I said no. She knew I was looking for it and about my worries. She nodded, smiled as if she agreed and understood, and said "well…………good luck".
Then I said I now felt responsible for doing the right thing She asked me what I meant, and I said I felt entitled to steal the book because the war was wrong and I did not want to be involved in it.
But I also said that high school friends who did not go to college accepted the draft. One friend, Bob, who had been with me in our school dance band had been killed just months after arriving. She grimaced and nodded her head.
I didn't hate America I continued, and I thought I should do something else for my country if serving in Viet Nam was not right for me.
Elyssa asked me what I thought about her and our future as a couple. I told her I loved her and wanted to marry her, but I had not mentioned it because my situation made the future unclear. I didn't expect her to feel the way I did it I added.
I reminded her that I had been accepted into George Washington University grad school, but when I visited the campus to ask questions about attending, a representative told me the University could not protect because I had not been accepted for study in a field that would make me exempt from the draft. So, my dilemma is unavoidable.
Elyssa said she remembered. Then she said she loved me too, but was also confused about our future. We were both ready for a commitment, but not yet ready to make it.
She also had graduated in May and we were hanging around the dorm into the summer until we had to move out. It was now the beginning of August and we had to be out by the 15th. She said she hoped not to have to move back to her parents.
Elyssa also said she was not sure what she wanted to do next.
She was a good dancer and had taught me a number of dances. She thought she might move to Boston where she had a friend, and study dance and do any kind of a work; and hopefully find a way to make a living dancing.
I returned to my dilemma about how to beat the draft. Though I knew the book would likely help, I thought Elyssa might also have some ideas.
When she did not comment, I returned us to our meeting at a Students for a Democratic Society Viet Nam War protest group. I saw her and couldn't resist coming over to say hello. She said she had been looking at me too.
When the SDS chapter at our campus chose to join the violent off shoot, The Weathermen, we both were uncomfortable with continuing. And that made my conscience nag; and even thought I might enlist, and request a noncombat role.
She smiled, then said at least we found each other in the same suite the following semester.
We looked at each other and made love again
Afterwards I went to my room and read some of the tips and the methods in the book. The overall strategy described as 'playing for time' made sense to me.
Chapter 3: Beginning to play for time
The next day I called my parents and told them I was moving out of my dorm and was moving back home to decide what to do next. They had met Elyssa and liked her and invited her too. I mentioned it to Elyssa but she now had gotten excited about the idea of studying dance in Boston.
My parents said I had not yet received a draft notice. To me its arrival might be imminent. My parents knew I was worried. My father had fought in World War II, yet he was not happy with the idea of risking my life when there was no immediate threat to America.
If the draft notice did not come for a while, what was I going to do? How could I evade yet not jeopardize my future?
Meanwhile Elyssa made contact with her friend Elly in Boston, and decided to make the move there. We left the dorm on the same day, each to rental cars and our belongings, her going east and me west. We hugged and felt the other's tears on our necks.
I gave her the phone number of my parents, and she gave me Elly's number.
Please keep in touch she blurted out.
As I drove, I remembered that some of my friends had preemptively left the country, where it would be hard to locate them and create options for a job and social life, instead of hiding. That actually was a tip in the book, though the book advised that staying in the country, not being so obvious about evading and giving the appearance of compliance, would reduce the chance of prosecution.
The safer advice meant changing address from time to time, but might be the best first step. My local draft board would have to keep trying to locate me.
I arrived at my parents, stored my items in the basement and went back up to what had been my room before college. My parents had converted it to a guest and work room. That affected me.
That sign of change at first making me sad, soon instead made me feel good, another sign of growing up, and out of my childhood world. I felt independent, and was energized, ready to try that tip.
Gary was living at home while attending dental school so he was not an option. I decided to call two friends who graduated with me but were deferred because they became chemical engineers, and shared an apartment in Maryland near their employer, a paper manufacturing company. I explained and said my visit would not be long.
They immediately agreed and offered their living room for my stay. I said I would arrive in two days by bus. Could they pick me up at the station in Cumberland? The bus schedule stated 5:30pm.
That would be fine, Jack said.
My parents agreed to tell the draft board that I had moved away and did yet know my new address. We spent a lot of time together until I left, catching up on the family, friends and the neighborhood.
They asked if I needed money, and said no thanks I had saved most of what I earned from working at the college book store.
Also, I really wanted to be responsible for myself, and ask for help only when needed.
My father drove me to the Greyhound station and waited with me. I had a backpack and was ready for an adventure. I said I did not know what was next after visiting with Jack and Terry, but would keep in touch.
The bus turned into its bay and passengers lined up. We hugged and I got out to board.
Part 2: In Maryland
I love looking out a window to the passing scene, and there was lot to look at. The bus was arrived in Cumberland on time.
Jack and Terry came from work to pick me up, then drove to Westernport where they rented a house. We decided to take out a pizza and a six pack. Back at their place, I called my parents to say I had arrived and was fine.
No, no draft letter as yet.
Then the three of us spent the whole evening catching up. It was really fun.
How's the work?
I like it. Me too. They both sounded content and commented that there would opportunities to move up.
I told them about my trip to Provincetown with two other buddies, and the surprise change of lifestyle the driver revealed. I was stunned I said; had never imagined. Jack and Terry laughed and seemed to sum up their own feelings with Wow!
They said they wondered what I was doing, graduated and without a deferment; and were concerned too about the nonsensical war. I reenacted my 'conquest' in the Provincetown bookstore. They had heard of the book and the authors, but not much more than that. Still they thought playing for time was a good idea.
After all, the War wouldn't last forever.
It was late and they had to be out of the house by 7am. I said I'd probably take a long walk to look over Westernport and be back at the house by 5 when they returned. I set the living room up for sleeping with some of their extra bedding. Jack said to sleep late if I want, and to take whatever I could find for breakfast. .
I read some more of the book before closing my eyes.
They were quiet in the morning; I hardly heard them.
When I did get up, it was about 8. I first did exercises just as I had been doing every morning since baseball team in high school. Then I shaved and showered, got dressed, and found some cornflakes and milk, made some coffee and felt good.
I wanted to call Elyssa and tell her how I was, but then thought a day or two more of separation would help us clarify our feelings about each other. She had my parents' number anyway.
I washed the dishes and went out. They had told me there was a key under the front door mat.
I enjoyed the walk in the late summer air. Observing the town and street activity was therapeutic and I was able to clarify my thoughts.
I decided to stay no more than two days, and change my address again, this time to hopefully Scott's apartment in New York City. He was a high school chum with whom I still kept in touch. I would call him when I got back to the house.
Scott found out that being an elementary school teacher in a place where there was a demand for teachers could get him deferred. And he succeeded. Actually that was also a tip in the book, though I was not sure I wanted to do the same.
I called Scott when I arrived back at Jack and Terry's home. He was surprised with my surfacing after a long time. I told him what I was doing and said I did not expect to stay for more than a couple of days.
He said it would be fun to catch up, although he had a girlfriend and I would be alone from time to time in the evenings; and he might even bring Jane home to stay over once in a while. No problem I said. He told me his address and work phone, and said he'd leave an extra key hidden above the front door molding.
When Jack and Terry retuned from work, I told them about my plan; and my call to Scott. That was fine; also, they offered another call to inform my parents.
I told them I would be getting a bus to Baltimore and from there to New York the next morning. They actually seemed a little sad to know I was leaving so soon.
So…….I stayed another day; and that evening we went to a barbecue sponsored by the town. It was fun, families, singles and couples and all the beer we could drink. Best of all we could walk there, and not have to worry about driving on 'one too many' on the way back.
The next day they took me to work with them to show me around. The company was in Keyser, a town just a few miles away from Westernport across the west branch of the Potomac River and the state line of West Virginia.
After the tour I walked around the town, had lunch in a diner and watched the street drama, even eavesdropped. I returned to the company about a quarter to five, met Jack and Terry and we drove to a supermarket so they could replenish their stock.
They had talked, and hoped I wanted to watch a movie after dinner. That sounded great.
They both had a crush on Audrey Hepburn and suggested "Charade" that was playing on TV that night. I would have preferred 'From Russia with Love" but it really didn't matter
Great! I said
So they picked up spaghetti and sauce, French bread and garlic butter, and a few other things and we headed home.
The next morning we said goodbye, and they added,
They left in Jack's car and I walked to town where I found a Trailways bus stop to Cumberland, then from there to Baltimore, and finally to New York City.
Chapter 4: In New York
A long trip with many stops was ahead of me. I sat by a window and loved the scene of small and large towns, country roads and highways, so much to watch. We arrived in Baltimore at one, and I had to wait until two for a bus to New York.
My mind was full of thoughts while I was waiting, amidst the ever changing scene at the bus station. Maybe I should look for a temporary job while I'm there, and find my own place, and another address.
Once I'm at Scott's, I've got to let Elyssa know where I am, what I have in mind.
The bus arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal about 4:30.
Scott lived in Manhattan on East 25th Street. I called him at his school. He said he had to stay late for a teachers meeting and said Welcome! See you about 6 maybe later if I eat out or meet Jane.
Thank you I said, enjoy, see you later.
I decided to walk and enjoyed the busy city scene; and arrived at his place about 5. Really, it was on my mind, that call to Elyssa, so now with some privacy I put my bag down, and found the phone and called.
Luckily, she was at Elly's then and screamed when she heard my voice. Alan, how are you! How are you?
I'm fine, really good. But I miss you so much. I was at Jack and Terry's in Maryland. We had fun catching up. And now I'm in New York at Scott's, a friend from high school and mutual friend of Bob who died in Vietnam. Scott's an elementary school teacher and will be home soon. So now I've changed my address three times and if can keep that up, I will always be ready to make it hard for the draft board to find me. Oh, I miss you so much.
I miss you too, she said.
I really had to calm myself for a moment.
I thought I'd get a temporary job here for a few months, find my own place, and change my address to continue playing for time.
Oh, don't do that, Elyssa said right away. Come to Boston. You can get a temporary job here and we can get a place. Oh, I'm so excited. Please come! she appealed.
I just said, Okay! excitedly. I'll tell my parents, and……..I'll see you soon. I'll call again when I know how I will arrive and when. Your idea is Great! And whatever happens, we'll be together into '69 and will let what happens happen.
Elyssa screamed again and said Wow! See you soon.
I’ll be in touch again in a day or too.
Scott came through the door a few minutes later with Jane Hey Alan, how are you!
Hi Scott! Hi Jane, I assume. Jane smiled.
I'm fine. Arrived a few hours ago by bus, and walked here.
You travel light I see.
Always, especially if I'm moving frequently.
We're going out to eat. Would you like to join us?
Sure. Okay with you Jane?
Yeah, Scott's told me about you, about what you're doing now. I imagine how you must feel. The War is really a bad idea. We need to get out.
Yes. Well, I'm ready.
There's a restaurant a few blocks downtown that we like, "Farnies" on 18th Street. A general menu, big portions and good prices. Interested? Scott asked.
Sounds good, let's go.
It was a nice late afternoon in September, sun going down, cool brisk air. Perfect for walking. And lots to look at.
"Farnies" was the name of the host and he greets all diners.
Hello, a table for you folks?
Scott took charge: For three please. Is there a wait?
No, in fact I have a booth. Want a booth?
Scott looked at us. Sure, thanks.
Booths are good for a little privacy, 'letting our hair down'. And leather seats too.
Here're your menus. A waitress will come over.
The waitress first brought over three beers.
So, how have you been? I last saw you at a homecoming in '66.
Yes, I remember. Dance band graduates did a gig, and remember who showed up?
Ah, Steve, Steve Gadd. He's gotten famous, a studio drummer I think.
Right and we played the song with the trombone part that Bob played.
Yes, Bob. I saw the death notice in the paper. Killed in action Jane.
Jane shook her head.
Yes. So, I was at Albany State then. And came back for the holidays. I graduated in May and have been hanging around the dorm until recently when I had to leave.
I heard about a book titled "Steal This Book" that gives tips on how to avoid the draft such as making it hard for the draft board to find you by changing your address. The overall strategy is called Playing For Time.
So that's what I'm doing. I've changed my address twice since I left the campus, first to a Maryland address with some friends from college, and now here.
I've never had to provide these addresses because so far I've not been contacted. That's part of the problem, never knowing when you will receive a notice.
I have a girlfriend, Elyssa, who was in my suite in the dorm. She's staying with a friend in Boston, and suggested I come up and find temporary work, and we'll share a place. Day after tomorrow I'm traveling up there---to another address. Oh, I used your phone to call her, and still have to call my parents.
Don't worry, thanks for letting me know.
That's enough about me. How are you, both of you, doing?
I like the teaching. Okay for now. And I don’t have your worry.
Jane nodded, me too, I like the children and will probably stay in the field.
We finished dinner, and Scott offered to pay.
I appreciate it, thanks.
We walked back and Scott said he and Jane would stay out a while. You have the key?
Yes, I have it. I'm okay. I’ll probably watch TV, and do some planning.
We can speak briefly in the morning, Scott said.
Nice meeting you Jane. She smiled.
Back at the apartment, I watched some of a Yankees game, then turned the tv off and sat quietly.
I thought to myself, for the time being I've lost my interest in a career. I'm worried, but feel full of energy, really a synergy propelled by the address changes, positive actions, and Elyssa's enthusiasm. She always considers the moment more important than the horizon. I'm so lucky to have her.
I decided to walk over to Grand Central Station in the morning to find out about trains to Boston. Maybe the bus. I read the book some more, and then decided to wash up and make up the cot and go to sleep.
I never heard Scott come in, but there he was in the morning about to leave for work and he saw me waking up.
How did you sleep?
Fine, thanks. Quickly, I'm getting up now to get out and find the best way to travel tomorrow morning. May I make short calls to my parents and Elyssa?
See you later.
I shaved and showered. Doing these actions made me think about them, the morning routine for years. And yet my life is hardly routine. Still, it feels good to have the anchor of a routine that helps me endure each day, and play hard for time.
I dressed, had Grapenuts cereal and milk, and headed out.
I walked up to Park Avenue, then north to Grand Central Station. That was the terminal for trains coming and going on the New York Central and New Haven Railroads.
The New Haven Railroad had a train to Boston daily at 7am that arrived at 2pm. That was my train and I bought a ticket. I would arrive early to get my window seat.
I headed out to walk around. I felt a little guilty walking around, enjoying myself while other guys my age were getting killed or injured every day in Viet Nam.
I decided to take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, then sit in Battery Park and watch people, and the boats in the harbor. I took out a lunch from the terminal and thought about the future all afternoon.
Then, I took the subway back uptown to the E.23rd Street Station and walked to Scott's place. I wanted to treat him to dinner. In the meantime I called my parents and Elyssa.
Scott readily agreed but wanted to take in, and give us another opportunity to talk.
Sounded good so that's what we did. When it was time to call it a night, I told Scott I'd be leaving just after 6 for the station.
Thank you for everything.
Oh no problem. Keep in touch, and we hugged.
Chapter 5: First Steps in Boston
The next morning I kept to my plan and left at 6:15. I could hear Scott stirring, and called out Goodbye, then left
I arrived at the station close to 6:30 and found the gate, then waited. I felt good. My parents said there had not been a notice from the draft board. So, I could sit back and look at the scenery on a beautiful early fall day.
The train pulled into South Station on time. And as I left my car, there was Elyssa. What a sight for my eyes!
She ran up to me and we hugged and hugged.
When calmed down, so, you're at Elly's?
Yes, on the Fenway, not far from the ball park. Maybe you'll take me to a game and tell me what the game is all about, she laughed.
Sure, can't wait. I have an idea where I'd like to look first for a job.
I thought I'd apply as an orderly at one of the VA hospitals here. There's one in a neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, and another in the neighborhood of West Roxbury. Did you ever hear about these neighborhoods? You see I'd like to do something for the guys who have come back from Viet Nam injured.
No, but we can find out. Oh I love you so much, such a nice idea! Let's pick up a copy of the "Real Paper". That's a local community newspaper that will have apartment listings.
Elly's trying to get me a job at her hospital. Some evenings I take a class at the Boston Ballet School. At some point, I hope we can move to New York so I could go to auditions for Extra roles. Maybe my big chance!
Sounds wonderful, and you deserve it. And I'll get to make another address change too.
We both laughed.
I just know the playing for time strategy will work.
Arm around waists, we walked out of South Station, and she pointed out nearby Chinatown where she said we have to go for Dim Sum; then through a gritty neighborhood filled with porno theaters, arriving finally to a street with trolleys. We saw a newsstand and bought a "Real Paper".
This is Boylston Street. We can get a trolley to close to Elly's apartment. Do you have a quarter?
An Orange Line trolley soon came along and we boarded. My first time was fun.
No, Alan, you don’t pay until we get off.
Strange. Oh well, something new.
And if you don’t have a quarter? I asked thinking of something familiar…….
That Elyssa finished by singing, "You ride forever through the streets of Boston, you're the man who never returned." in tribute to the Kingston Trio song.
People on the trolley began to laugh and smile at Elyssa, and she got up and did a curtsy. A natural actress, and dancer. And lovely to look at. I was horny. The whimsical move back to New York at some point should stay in our minds!
A lot to look at as the trolley rolled along, stopping here and there.
We got off at the Fenway Stadium stop.
We walked to Elly's apartment. It was about 3 o'clock. I set up in the living room every night.
We looked at each other.
Elly won't be home until 5:30. Want to, she winked?
Absolutely, I'm hard just being with you.
We lowered the mattress to the floor…..and got undressed like it was the first time. Then we hugged and kissed and let our hands wander. Her strong dancer legs wrapped around me; we did every position we could imagine. She tasted so good. We squealed and laughed and couldn't get enough of each other. I tried to hold on as long as I could.
I looked over at the clock and it was 4:30. Elyssa, Elly will be home soon, we better get up.
She looked over and squealed Yikes Yeah.
We put our clothes on in a flash, raised the mattress and made sure the living room was arranged. Then just sat to get calm.
Let’s begin to look at the paper, she said. I want you all to myself!
Oh, I've got to make a quick call to my parents,
Don’t worry, I'll tell Elly. Shouldn't be a problem.
I spoke to my mother. I said I was now in Boston with Elyssa and we were beginning to look for an apartment. My mother said no notice had come and I gave her Elly's number. I would call again as soon as we had our own place and telephone.
That was quick?
Yes, don’t worry.
I had never expected Elyssa to be so excited about my coming to join her. Such a beautiful girl, I had thought she might want to try her graces with a Harvard or MIT guy. But no, she was mine, and I couldn't feel more confident.
Here's something. Wow good location she said, and price. If we both work we may be able to save besides. Commonwealth and Berkeley.
Great, let's call and say we’d like to take a look tomorrow.
Elyssa called and spoke to Dan Cullum the tenant who was between shifts as a taxi driver. May we look at it as early as you can have us, in the morning? 9. Great. 32 Commonwealth, apartment 4. Got it. Thanks Dan, see you then. Bye
We smiled at each other excitedly.
Maybe we did it, and so quickly.
Just then Elly walked in with Pat her boyfriend.
Hi Elyssa, is this Alan?
This is Pat. We're the most. Elly was happy and joking.
Elyssa and I made little waves. Hi Pat.
Pat's got a business that does sales with a company in Tokyo.
To myself, hmm Pat must have a deferment, how did he get it?
I got an interview for you tomorrow, Elly said looking at Elyssa. 9 am, I know I didn’t ask you but jobs are hard to come by, so I thought it was worth taking a chance. A ward secretary position. And on the job training. Okay?
Yes, wonderful! Thank you.
I'll give you the details later. Alan staying over?
Is that okay?
Yes, of course and winked. Pat's staying over too. And Pat and I want to take both of you out to dinner.
Terrific. Thank you.
Elly, while I'm at my interview, Alan is looking at an apartment for us tomorrow morning.
She looked at me, and I nodded okay.
Well you two are getting it together. Let's go, I'm hungry.
We all laughed and got up to go.
We ate at the Aegean Fare, a Greek restaurant in nearby Kenmore Square, talked, then returned for summing up tomorrow's plan before turning in. Elly couldn’t take her eyes off Pat
The next morning, Elyssa, Elly and Pat left to Pat's car about 8.
Elyssa and I kissed and we each said good luck to the other. Elly gave me a map to show me that I could walk up to the apartment through the Commonwealth Avenue mall
Sounded great and we all waved goodbye.
Nice meeting you Pat who was on his way to his business in Cambridge, after leaving Elly and Elyssa off at the hospital.
Pat waved, Hope to see you soon.
I remembered the way back to Kenmore Square and noticed Commonwealth Avenue, but then saw Beacon Street and also Brookline Avenue. I had to follow my wits to find how Commonwealth Avenue continued outside the square.
I found it amidst the traffic, and people on their way to work. Facing downtown on the map, Brookline Avenue actually began at the square while Beacon Street split off to become the axis closest to the Charles River on the way downtown, and Commonwealth Avenue became a central boulevard through the neighborhood of Back Bay. After a couple of blocks and across Massachusetts Avenue, Commonwealth Avenue split for each direction of travel divided by a splendid walking and sitting mall with beautiful large trees. Old-fashioned gas lamps provided the lighting.
Wow what a place to live, I thought!
I looked to see on what side were the even numbers and then relaxed to enjoy the beautiful shade trees. In about ten minutes I was opposite 32, crossed over to the sidewalk and pushed the buzzer for apartment 4.
I'm pressing the buzzer.
There was an elevator similar to the one in "Charade"; and as well a broad wooden staircase with a rug. I walked up to the second floor and apartment 4.
Dan opened the door.
Hi, call me Cullum.
Hi Cullum, I'm Alan.
I didn’t ask why he wanted to be known by his last name. He had a big mustache that Brewer and Shipley sported and immediately was hearing 'One Toke Over the Line"' in my head. Elyssa and I loved that song.
It turned out that Cullum had a 2-year lease, with one year to go. He wanted to sublet the final year for a move to Denver; and had already gotten permission from the apartment owner.
He kept the apartment nicely. High ceilings, one bedroom, old fashioned bathtub/shower, kitchenette, and a fire escape/terrace overlooking Berkeley Street. And as he told me, the apartment was one-block from the Public Garden, then through the park to the Common and Beacon Hill.
This is a Great Cullum! I'm taking it. For me and my girlfriend.
The lady who called me?
Okay! So it's 225 per month and a security deposit for the same amount. I'll tell the owner, and he'll prepare a contract. Oh, the first month and security deposit needs to be a bank or postal check.
That's fine. When can I move in?
In a week.
Okay, here's a phone at a place I'm staying at. I'll call again once I have the check, and bring it over with Elyssa.
Fine. Say, why aren't you in the army?
Uh oh, I thought, what's the question about?
Well, I…………before I could answer
I was in Nam for two years and saw some awful scenes. Buddies blown up. Villagers burning alive. Once I got back I decided to join the protest against the War. I can be more active out West.
Now I understood why he just wanted to be called Cullum. That's what he was called in the service, like every soldier is called by their last name.
Well Cullum, I'm somewhat doing the same thing. I'm playing for time to avoid the draft by changing my address as often as I can to make it hard for the draft board to find me. I would expect after a year, I'll change again. You know the book, 'Steal This Book', by Abbie Hoffman?
That's where I got the tip. Another tip says what to if you get a draft notice.
Wow, get out! Amazing meeting you. He hugged me, and I hugged him back.
After all, he was lucky, but other guys not; hopefully guys I’ll be able to help in my Veterans hospital work.
We both smiled at each other, and I started for the door. I'll call you in a day or two.
I couldn't wait to tell Elyssa. So I called Elly's from a pay phone. She was there. I could hardly talk I was so excited. Before I could begin, she screamed out, I got the job! I begin on Monday.
That's just wonderful. I'm so happy, for us.
And I've got good news for you. I've got us an apartment. I know you'll love it.
I'm sure it's great. What a wonderful day this is. I'm high and not high. She laughed.
I laughed too, I know what you mean. Tomorrow or Friday, I'll bring the first month and security payment, and you'll come with me to love the place as I do. Such a great location. We can move in in a week. Time for us to get any furniture we need. I'll have to be a postal check. I saw a post office on the way.
Come home now, she jokingly ordered. I want you
She opened the door into my arms. Oh, I love you so much. We hugged and kissed and she began to take my clothes off.
You know, as we lay holding each other afterwards, let's go over to the post office now and I'll get that check. Then I'll call Cullum and ask about coming over tomorrow and we'll ask about what he will leave so we can know what we need.
Okay, let's do it.
We got dressed and went to Kenmore Square where there was post office branch.
With the check in hand, we went back to the apartment and I called Cullum.
Sure, tomorrow's fine. 10 okay.
I'm bringing my girlfriend.
That's done. You know what?
It's only mid-afternoon. I should call at least one of the VA medical centers and find out if there are openings.
You’re really sharp today Alan. And if there are I want to go with you to the interview.
That will be boost for me. Okay I'll call now.
I have to remember to tell Elly I made several local calls.
And I'll ask her if we can stay though next Tuesday.
We've got a plan.
The phone book was under the phone.
Let's see, VA Jamaica Plain I said aloud as I searched. There it is. Employment.
Okay I'm calling.
And there were openings in transport, moving patients in wheel chairs and settling them in their rooms, arranging, bringing items they requested.
I was offered an appointment at noon tomorrow that would work out perfectly with the appointment with Cullum.
Oh, if I get it! I hope, I hope. God is really shining his face on us today.
Well we're good people she laughed. But it's true she added. And someday he’ll be with us when we get married.
That's it Elyssa. Just as in time, we'll move to know New York and you can be my star on stage.
She ran over to me and hugged me so tight. Of you really are my dream.
I'm yours Elyssa.
Chapter 6: Settled in Boston
And so I got the job and Elyssa loved the apartment. And at first we did not need to buy a thing. We could move in just days.
So September tuned into October and life was so good for us that I almost forgot that there were edicts in transit landing and affecting the lives of guys like me every day. Elyssa and I talked about marriage and family, and then were tempered by this hangman's noose-like vision before us.
Maybe we should wait till the future is clearer is the conclusion we so far came to.
And from time to time I spoke with my parents to know where I stood, to sober our thinking.
Then November turned into December and 1968 was over. And still no change in my status. It tempered all our thinking. We found ourselves coming home from work to Dubonnet cocktails, and then making love into the evening until we fell asleep.
We sensed our existential existence and tried to compensate by spending what we earned on good times.
Elyssa reminded me of our plan to move to New York, and her auditions. She was a really good dancer and the ballet school instructors told her so. But, at 23 she was much older than the teenagers who were the future of the Boston Ballet, and she might have been placed on one or more of the many stages in New York by now. She was reading Variety and would tell me about the auditions for New York City productions.
I tried to be brave and always responded: The future is ours Elyssa and you're going to be on stage. She always smiled at my encouragement.
Still I knew that it would better to stay the lease term and save some money before making the move. But no renewal. Staying on longer might affect Elyssa and lessen her trust in me. Heaven forbid I should lose her!
At end of 1968, we rented a car and drove to our parents on the long Thanksgiving weekend, first Elyssa's parents on Long Island for Thanksgiving Day, on which we strolled a chilly but refreshing walk on the boardwalk of Jones Beach while the turkey cooked.
Then, the next day to my parents in Rochester, N.Y. during which we saw the clan and had some fun times. My parents now came to adore Elyssa more. Elyssa was intent on entertaining everyone with spontaneous plies and twirls every now and then. That was Elyssa personified and I just watched and was so proud.
The only downside of both visits was that both parents preferred that we yet unmarried people not sleep together in their homes. So, the solution was for us to walk to the other's space, make love, and then walk back. Elyssa took the initiative.
On Sunday we drove back to Boston.
On New Year's Eve we took part in a First Night Festival that included events in many venues such as theater piece at the Charles Street Playhouse and a string quartet in a church on Newbury Street.
Then there was dinner at the Dubarry French Restaurant and a most romantic though frigid walk on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall amidst dry floating snowflakes
We actually gave up on a pre-Broadway musical tryout downtown that included the last stage appearance of Kathryn Hepburn in "A Little Night Music". Oh well, we just sighed while sitting in the cozy booth and finishing the champagne.
So 1969 began with happiness all around us.
And so it went into the spring. Every Saturday night eating out at Joe Tecce's in the North End, followed by a walk up and down through Beacon Hill passing near the Kennedy Family Estate. Then to Charles Street and the Common to the Public Garden and over the bridge of the lake with the swan boats below, and finally a block more to our apartment.
Also, a subscription series to the Boston Symphony, double features at the Orson Welles in Cambridge and a Doc Watson concert. Also a Red Sox game with the Angels. We were having good times.
Then it happened.
Coming in one day late in June, in order to pick up an item we needed, Elyssa was already at home getting dinner ready, and said, Alan, your parents called.
Do you know what it's about?
The notice came.
Oh boy. I better call right now. Should I put the tip about changing my address to work? My parents said they would cooperate with what I'm doing.
Uh, yes I remember. Better to talk to them first and remind them of the strategy you have been using.
And if the notice is about a physical, there is another tip I can use for this situation.
Oh yeah, you haven’t told me.
No, because it was not yet relevant, but now it may be. Okay I'll call right now. Can you keep the dinner warm?
Yeah, it's meatloaf. I have it on a slow cook because I knew you would be late.
Ummmmm, my favorite, great!
I'm with you Alan, don't worry. She came over and kissed me.
Hi Dad, it's Al.
Hi Al, I'm glad you called right away. How are you?
Fine. How are you?
Okay, bad news I'm afraid. The notice came. You have a pre-draft physical next Saturday.
Elyssa told me about the mail. I'm not surprised. You know what I've been doing, moving around, changing my address.
Yes. So do you want to use this strategy now?
What do you think? Should I?
Well you can still use it, because it's not an order to report for duty. If afterwards you get that type of notice, then you could use that hard to locate strategy to give you more time.
This idea appealed to me, and confirmed that my parents were behind me. Besides he and mom won't know about another tip I plan to use just for this occasion.
Okay Dad, I'll come.
It’s in Buffalo so all you guys will be taking a very early bus.
Okay Dad. Can you and Mom help me out with a flight?
Sure, just make the reservation and we'll cover the cost.
I'll be in touch about the flight soon. I hope I can travel early evening Friday. Then hopefully fly back late Sunday afternoon. Once I get back from the physical, I'm hoping to spend some time with you and mom, and maybe Sue and Bob and Miki and Lenny can come over.
That sounds nice.
Bye for now.
Oh Alan, it finally happened. Not surprising I know. Oh Alan I'm worried and she came over to give me a big hug.
Yeah, I know. But it'll be okay Elyssa. There's a tip in the book that I going to use just for this occasion. My parents don't have to know. You heard that my father gave me an incentive to come, suggesting that I can still make it hard to find me if I get a notice to report for training after my physical.
Yeah, true, a good idea. And you might as well keep your parents' trust.
Yes, you're right, thanks.
Elyssa smiled. So what is the tip to use for the physical?
Well, the tip is that because draft physicals are usually in the early morning, as mine is, if you eat many whole eggs immediately beforehand, your urine test portion of the physical will declare you unfit because the urine contains too much albumin, a protein that your kidneys should not pass. You might have kidney disease and the army won't take you until you have another test six months later.
Wow, that was in the book?
Yay! Elyssa was her happy self again. So you're going to go?
Well, I figure I'll get up before my parents, and eat the eggs for breakfast. I'll tell my mother I'm not hungry that morning. She'll understand. My father won't pursue the matter.
The only thing is my parents will smell it I'm cooking the eggs, so what I have to do is buy the eggs here and cook them hard boiled, at least 10, I believe is what the tip says, and take them with me to eat when I'm in my room getting up. Then when my father is ready to go, I'll be ready too. So with God's help, I'll be back Sunday night with some more time, guaranteed too.
Oh, Alan, wonderful. Elyssa came over and we hugged. We ate dinner. Then we walked over to Star Market on Boylston Street and I bought a dozen eggs. Back at home, I boiled up 10 and put them in the fridge.
I can't forget Elyssa.
Oh I'll be on your back about not forgetting them when you leave.
Then I called Eastern Airlines, and made the roundtrip reservation I hoped for.
And it all worked out just as I hoped. My father took me to the 6am bus, we were at the recruitment center in Buffalo at 7 and my group proceeded to take our physicals and submit our urine samples, and then proceed to exit interviews.
Just as the book said, my urine test showed excess albumin and I was told at my interview that my recruitment would be delayed for six months, at which time I would be notified to be retested. Also, I was told to contact my family doctor about this finding.
And that was that. I was back on the bus and returned to Rochester elated but keeping my happiness to myself. The guys all around might be called for basic training shortly. How many were going and how many would survive or even be changed forever?, I thought. I vowed to be as helpful to my vets at the VA hospital as I could.
The rest of the weekend went well. My sister and younger brother came over, as did my uncle and aunt and we sat around the kitchen eating, playing games and talking. I told everyone what had happened and everyone was relieved.
They were concerned about the test results. My parents said they would let Dr., Keegan, my family physician, know. And if he wanted to see more before six months they would let me know. So that topic was over for the time being.
They asked me about you. I said you are taking dance classes and hoping to go to auditions in New York where there would be more opportunities.
I told them about my VA work, and said I'm not at the point yet where I can plan for the long term; but at least with six months worry free, Elyssa and I can move to New York and Elyssa can go to auditions, and I can change address again. I would find another temporary job, but try to keep a long horizon for a career.
And, I said we do want to be married as soon as I no longer have to worry, and start a family.
The next day, just me and my parents talked and spent time together. It was nice. I called Elyssa to tell her what happened and my flight details if she wanted to meet at Logan. Then I hugged my mother, and my father took me to the airport.
While I do believe I did the fight thing Dad, thanks to your idea, I said as I got out of the car.
Let us hear from you.
Okay, I promise.
While waiting to board, I was thinking about next steps, and my ideas mingled with the setting sunlight; and then on board watched the twinkling lights of towns and cities below from my window seat.
Elyssa was waiting as I hoped, and beaming.
I had to be here to meet you.
We took the blue line subway to the middle of Boston, and walked hand in hand from there.
The next day over dinner, I mentioned what I spoke to the family about, about us and the future.
I had forgotten about our lease. You really are taking care of me. Oh I love you so much. Elyssa cried easily and a tear was flowing down her cheek. Then she winked at me which meant I'm yours.
Your spinach pie is worth it all. We both laughed.
I continued with my hope for getting a recommendation from the VA hospital and use it for VA hospital work in New York. With us in New York, and my freedom from worry extended till the end of the year, you could get the start you're hoping for. If God forbid I received the report-for-duty notice in 1970, then at least you would have your dancing. And I………..well would make myself hard to locate and play for still more time.
Alan, I'm coming with you no matter what! she shouted.
Alright Elyssa, thanks, I am getting ahead of myself, so neither of has to worry today.
How will we find a place to live in New York?
I thought I'd contact Gary, you remember Gary and……Dennis the surprise guy?
Elyssa laughed. Yeah.
So I would ask Gary to check the New York Times classified section in Sunday's edition that has apartment listings. He would call me should a listing seemed right.
Wow, you've thought of everything!
I had time during travel.
I'm coming over to give you a big kiss.
And she did.
I gather you think the plan's okay?
Yup, we're a team!
Okay aside from my getting in touch with Gary, let's put more of our salaries aside in the meantime. It may be some before you succeed in an audition and I want to be able to keep us going. But it's only July so let's have as much fun as we can until August. Not try to be too serious yet.
Elyssa winked, nodded and smiled.
And that's what we did. One Sunday at Crane Beach in Ipswich outside Boston along the coast. Another Sunday, a day in Rockport. Another Sunday, a picnic on the Charles River. And so July passed very nicely.
Gary told me he would be in touch. He also volunteered that Dennis was divorcing his wife, and got an apartment in the West Village to engage with his new lifestyle. I was sad for Dennis thinking he might regret the change.
In August I notified the apartment owner that we would not renew.
Gary called early one Sunday to report he found an apartment in Manhattan downtown in the financial district with a September 1 occupancy date. He gave me the number.
It's 375 a month, I told Elyssa, but it sounds like a good price for what we would get. Close to Battery Park, subways and the East River Gary said. I'm going to call tomorrow morning. Okay?
I'm with you Bear. That was Elyssa's new nickname for me.
Okay if I go down one day maybe even tomorrow to look at it, maybe even sign a lease for it?
The agent was helpful, and said yes, take a look as soon as you can because the place will go fast. I said I would take a look tomorrow early afternoon.
And that's what I did. In fact, as if God continued to look over Elyssa and me, the current owner was not taking any of the furnishings with her, so we could just arrive and move in. I paid the first month's rent and a month's security. I even arranged for the phone company to come by on September 1 to install a phone. The agent said to call a day before we arrived so that he could meet us with the apartment and mailbox keys.
I got a late afternoon train back and returned home about 11.
We've got our new home! I can’t wait for you to see it, I called out while I closing the door.
Elyssa was already in bed and raced out nude the way she liked to sleep. Tell me about it tomorrow. Right now I want you. Want you now. I've been waiting!
And so August moved on.
We moved on the 1St. I rented a car, we packed our belongings, and were on our way.
Chapter 7: In New York, again
The agent met us at the apartment as planned with the keys. Elyssa loved the queen size bed and the large living room with room for her to practice dance steps.
We quickly got settled I called my parents, updated them, and started looking for work immediately; and Elyssa bought a current copy of Variety to search for auditions for extras.
She found an open call for dancers/actresses in a Broadway revival of 'Carousel'. We even went to the Public Library of the Arts at Lincoln Center to watch a version so Elyssa could note the kinds of dancing and acting.
I called the VA Hospital on 23rd Street and heard there was walk-in hiring for the position I was seeking. I went and got the job, and the shift I wanted.
As if God continued to be by on our side, Elyssa auditioned and got her first role.
I started working again and met her at the stage door after evening performances so she would not have to travel alone at night.
The work at the VA continued to fulfill my need to help the people who served. Some vets were bitter, and some thankful they were home alive; some were open to conversation and some were not. I did my job, and listened to each and every vet that wanted an ear. I even told one what I was doing to evade and he said good luck, America does not know it should be thankful for people like you because you're sending a message that the War is wrong.
And so we were busy and time in late '69 went fast. Basically we saved our earnings and spent most of our free time at home. I was happy that Elyssa was happy. If I was forced to move again or had to go to the service, Elyssa could support herself. I even thought about requesting a noncombat role if I had no choice but to go, just as I had reminded Elyssa in our dorm suite some time ago.
At Thanksgiving, we again went to her parents. We took the Long Island Railroad.
And, on a news broadcast while we were there, there was a report about a draft lottery to be held at the end of December that would allow prospective recruits to know their order for call up.
I couldn't believe what I heard at first.
Did you hear that?
Elyssa's father was asleep. And Elyssa did not focus on the report. But her mother heard it.
Why, is that important?
Well, yes, very very important. We've told you about my status.
Oh right. Could help you?
Elyssa heard the conversation.
Yes, it could me, us. Elyssa, the report said that at the end of next month there was planned a national draft lottery.
Yes, that could mean I would be able to know how much risk I had to be drafted. I would be assigned a number based on my birth date. I assume the lowest numbers would be called up first. But I'm not sure about that.
End of next month. I guess we'll hear more about it in the coming weeks.
The long weekend ended, and we went back to the city.
So we'll see. Probably hear more in the next weeks.
You want to watch the late news? Elyssa asked.
We did hear the same report, along with a clip with scenes of soldiers in Viet Nam.
We looked at each other with hopeful expressions, kissed and turned off the light.
So the month of December, 1969 moved along. Elyssa had her musical and I my VA work
On the weekend we would go to the Metropolitan Museum or the Museum of Natural History on Central Park West across from the Metropolitan. We would walk down Fifth Avenue in the late fall with the smell of dank leaves, low lights and shadows and architectural lighting. When we got to 59th Street, we walked west to 6th Avenue and the M6 Bus all the way downtown through all the great squares, Times Square, Herald Square, Madison Square and Union Square finally to the last stop at the Staten Island Ferry terminal. From there we walked to Pearl Street past Fraunces Tavern to our apartment.
We had not heard more related news, and now it was New Year's Eve. Elyssa had a performance and afterwards we planned to walk to Times Square with the crowd, and then to the Howard Johnsons for sandwiches and ice cream sundaes.
And as we were leaving, now after midnight and the ball at the bottom of Times Square 1 and the top showing 1970, we read on the news ribbon that the draft lottery was live and numbers and birthdays would be announced next day.
So we took the downtown express with much emotion from the evening and the news.
Next day on the radio I heard that July 6, my birthday, had been assigned number 327, and the lowest numbers would be chosen first.
Elyssa heard from the bedroom, I from the kitchen and we met in the dining area. We smiled and hugged and hugged; then Elyssa pulled away and did a pirouette and twirl.
We were happy. But as I held her close again, I said to her softly, my worry is not over……..yet. Maybe they'll get to my number.
I know I was thinking that too. Why don’t we carry on as we have and see what's your status at the end of this year. If the army is not close to your number by then, maybe we can act as if the worry is over.
Sounds good. And we have been hearing more and more that the government would like to wind down the fighting.
We gave each other a broad long kiss with tongues tickling the other.
As January advanced, the newspaper published every day the number the Selective Service was calling up.
And in late January, my parents called to say they received a notice form the Selective Service that I had to be retested. The notice said that the retest should be done with my family physician. My parents said that they would make an appointment and call again, and they again also offered to pay the airfare.
It's just so I'm known as fit in case my number is reached, I'm sure.
Elyssa looked at me and nodded, bravely.
So I came for the test, and the doctor said he understood my concern, and would tell his office to take its time in reporting the results.
On the flight back, I realized how useful my theft a long time ago now had been. I really had made myself a tough candidate to recruit, through one tip or the other. And I had not broken any law, except for doping what the book cover said.
Elyssa was relieved to see me and wanted to make love right away.
With Gods help I'll soon be able to stop my birth control she said as we lay together. You know in my family there are many twins.
Oh boy, one for you and one for me I laughed.
Our desire to raise a child, maybe children, had also been a victim of my decision to evade. I wondered how many futures of the guys in Viet Nam and in the ready pool of candidates, and of their girlfriends and wives, had also been put off because of the War.
1970 rolled by quickly. 'Carousel' completed its run and Elyssa began to audition again.
She finally got several small parts in the musical 'The Fantastiks'. Though it was hard to see her, I loved finding her in 'Carousel' from the standing room section of the large Winter Garden Theater stage.
But on the smaller stage of the Off Broadway Sullivan Street Theater where 'The Fantastiks' was produced, I could find her right away.
What a spirited charmer my Elyssa is! Someday her name would be in lights.
One afternoon at home in November of 1970, Elyssa told me she noticed that the latest number used for recruits was 180.
Alan, it's time. Trust me. The system is not going to reach 327. Let's get married. And keep it quiet. Just you and me. I can get a friend in the cast to be a witness and we’ll marry at City Hall. How about it?
Fine with me. I'll take the chance.
Wow I'm going to start thinking career again, grad school, more training. But you know I like the job at the VA. I know I've got potential, but I like helping the guys. I've changed going through all this you know in a serious voice.
Elyssa came over to hug me and kiss me. I love you so much. We'll be just fine. Take your time. Now we have the rest of our lives only to ourselves. And I have you forever, and for our twins. And we both laughed.
Over two years had gone by since graduation, and the beginning of worry.
I found myself using "God" in thought and conversation more than I ever had, perhaps due to an imperceptible sense of vulnerability.
I had played for time and won, thanks to 'Steal This Book" and……….Elyssa.
The War would come to and soon and in 1973, and the Selective Service system became an all-volunteer system.