1974 --More Travels

After I returned from that first brief visit to Italy over the spring break, I couldn’t get enough of Italy. I began reading about Florence and studying Italian. I was looking forward to a sabbatical in 1975 when I could spend six months in Italy. I had responded to it from my deepest romantic core—Dante, Florence—I couldn’t get enough.

But my diary for that year tells a well-known tale: I was never content to do one thing at a time. I must always be pursuing multiple paths. While I was studying Italian, I was also teaching, keeping up with friends, attending movies reading books; sailing, partying, socializing, and dating three men at once—Dan, Tony and Bob.

Each contributed something different to my life. With Dan and Tony I played tennis. Then Tony assisted me in buying my first bike, a Peugeot (Dan’s car was a Peugeot), and we added biking to our activities (Dan and Tony were friends, but we seldom were a threesome). But beyond biking even, now there was sailing! Bob had a boat! In the midst of writing my dissertation in 1973, I had taken sailing lessons and met Bob at Monroe Harbor, where he kept La Paloma. As sailing was growing in my life, and with it Bob, who had the boat, while Dan was fading out of my life. I was looking for some one man who would do many things with me, and Bob seemed the best one. He had multiple interests that interested me. He also was an outdoors person, like the others. But he also fenced, sailed, loved nature and camping. He was also somewhat multi-cultural—a real break from the Irish and Italian Catholics that I had known. His mother was born in Peru; his father was Finnish. He had lived briefly in Mexico and loved Mexican restaurants with bands who could play Mexican songs like Jalisco, which he sang along with. He was willing to try anything, even an opera or an art exhibit, with me. He was the one who introduced me to the Caribbean, where he sailed over the winter holidays; and to Michigan, where he camped in summer. He wasn’t educated like the other two. He had gone to college and studied forestry for a year or two, but had gotten married and had a son, and had to get a job. He was mechanical and could fix anything, and worked repairing big rigs. He wasn’t an intellectual, but he was well-rounded, so while I never made any promise to him, I began seeing more and more of him and taking him to the many parties I was invited to, as our English department at CSU continued to be very social.

By this time Chicago State had moved to a new location on the far south side of Chicago, at 95th and King Drive, to a modern campus designed by Perkins and Will. Since the English department didn’t need any special equipment, our classes could be accommodated anywhere, so in those early days and in the absence of our own building (we have never gotten our own building, but have been bundled into Modern Languages), we floated through a series of accommodations—holding forth in the library for many years, then in the science building, alongside the history department, the philosophy department, the political science department, and other liberal arts departments on their way down and out. We may have complained, but indeed we had to admit that we were never high maintenance, so we got what was left over. Bob Meredith steered a calm course as chairman for many years. And the ship sailed on.

But back to the more interesting side of my life—my extracurricular activities. I did indeed teach two courses (The Image of the Black Man in American Literature and a composition course) that summer of 1974, while I was sailing, biking, holding small dinner parties to show slides of my trip to Italy. I was also visiting my favorite fabric store, Fishman’s, and sewing. The fashions had changed drastically, and new bright and psychedelic colors were in—hot pinks, oranges, chartreuses. I was turned on to making new outfits, including an orange wool pants suit outfit and some coulottes. So much to do—so little time! Ahh, the story of my life!

And so that summer passed as many others—sewing, studying Italian, reading, bike riding, sailing, playing tennis, through the 8-week summer term that began the next week after I returned from Italy and ended just in time for me to --GO TO SPAIN!

July in Spain with My Parents More Travels
That’s right, Spain again. My parents, who were inveterate travelers, had loved hearing about Spain from Joe and Pat and me after our 1967 grand tour, so they had been pining to go on such a trip themselves. My father was 76 and Mother was 69 that year. Of course, they weren’t going to travel on a shoestring, packing three adults and luggage into a VW Beetle and staying in the cheapest and last accommodations available on the spur of the moment as we had. They always traveled well, for they could afford to. They had booked an American Express tour and invited me to go along, as another reward for having finished my PhD and gotten tenure—things my mother doubted I would ever settle down seriously to do.

As it turned out, this trip became one of my bonding with my Dad. We had never traveled anywhere together except on our driving tours of the West when we were children, and on our many trips to Clyde. This time, we would be together abroad. I do not know what any of us expected from this trip, but it turned out to be a time for Mother and I to clash and for Dad and I to bond.
In the 16 days we were there, visiting Malaga, Tangiers, Morocco, Seville, Cordoba, Toledo and Madrid, Mother probably would have liked me to hand out with her and the little crowd she gathered -- entertaining couples from Kansas City whom she could regale with stories of all her travels--Thelma and Jack Drover and Al and Laura Evans. But after she had told them that I had gotten my PhD and had tenure, she didn’t really need me anymore, so I was free to go on my own, so while Mother was socializing, Dad and I took whole days exploring on our own— on special side trips to Marbella, Ronda, Nerja, Segovia, Granja, Avila. He was the perfect traveling companion. He would ride the bus or whatever was the cheapest transportation. He didn’t demand luxury or comfort. He didn’t mind getting hot, eating at roadside stands, climbing onto public buses. Joe took after him, and I did too. He loved to see new people and places, especially buildings and landscapes, like the wonderful site of Ronda. How can I ever praise my Dad highly enough? He was my hero and my inspiration. Fortunately I took along a camera this time, for I must have taken these pictures, as he has his camera in his hand, as always. His pictures were not of people, but of buildings and landscapes. I had learned from that trip with Joe and Pat to put people in.

August Camping Trip with Bob

As soon as I returned to Chicago in early August my nieces Therese and Marie Miller came to visit me for a few days. We went to the beach, to movies, we sailed with Bob, we biked, then they returned, and I didn’t return to Kansas City with them, as I would have normally done, to celebrate Dad’s birthday—his 77 th on August 21.

On board the Badger from Ludington to Milwaukee after Camping in Michigan
Instead, Bob and I went camping –my first time—along the west coast of Michigan, camping in Holland Beach State Park, then Orchard Beach, where we inaugurated the custom of always attending the sunset. In Chicago I can see the sunrise over the lake every day, but the sunset over the lake is a big treat. Our destination was Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, where we camped, watched the sunset, toasted marshmallows, hiked, canoed, built campfires, then headed back, camped in Ludington State Park, where we picnicked, biked, sunned and took the 4 p.m. ferry The Badger from Ludington to Milwaukee, arriving about 10 p.m. and were back in Chicago by midnight. The next day was Labor Day, so we got to see the finish of the Tri-State Race, as the boats returned from Michigan City on their third leg.
Michigan was so beautiful that Bob wanted me to see the Upper Peninsula where he grew up, so we planned to go there in late September, when the colors would be at their peak. He loved for me to read while we drove; he liked the history of the French and Indian Wars, so I read books by Francis Parkman— Pontiac’s Conspiracy and A Half Century of Conflict. Bob taught me to slow down and enjoy the scenery and sip the nectar of history. This was something I had briefly done when I traveled with Joe and Pat, when we had read to each other from the guide books about the places we were visiting. My love of traveling with my imagination grew with Bob. As Bob and I began to go out together pretty steadily after that, my frantic pace slowed down to a steady pace. He didn’t have any social contacts, it appeared, so I integrated him into my activities, and took him to dinner parties. He didn’t exactly fit in with my academic crowd, so we began to do things just together or I invited a few friends over, but didn’t have any more open houses. In the fall Bob’s big thing was football, so he always came over Sunday afternoons to watch the game at my place, and I would read. It was all very cozy and domestic. It was the closest I ever came to being married to anyone.
I didn’t settle down really, though. That fall I kept up with all the films, took a jewelry-making course, visited Muriel in Washington over Thanksgiving, shopped a lot, and taught my regular load of 3 classes. By December, I was ready for another great travel adventure. Bob and I flew to San Juan, where we stayed for a few days and got into the history of Old San Juan, then flew on to St. Thomas, for a week’s sail on the Maverick, and thus began my winters sailing in the Caribbean.
Home Memoirs