Monday, May 22, 2006

I made one of my “bookies” for Mike, as I was wont to do for anyone I had a desire to connect with, anyone I wanted to share my soul with. In addition to many of the quotes from my little green Just Buch, I added several more.

It’s tiring my voice to talk across the room.
You’ve got a lot more going for you than just your teeth, baby.

-from Tennessee Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Any More
(a movie I happened upon on TV with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

Even though my mind is hazy and my thoughts they might be narrow,
where you’ve been don’t bother me or bring me down in sorrow.
It don’t even matter to me where you’re waking up tomorrow.
Daddy, you’re just on my mind. - Bob Dylan

At least we’ve been barking up the right trees. - Ray Mungo

Don’t it make you want to go home, now… - (popular folk song)

uniquities - me

I’m studying to be a prophet. - Danny Blair

Don’t some of the darndest things happen in this fairy tale? - The Golden Goose

Droll…how very, very droll. - Remington commercial

We can have archaic and eat it too. - Gary Owens, Laugh-In

When it gets old enough, gossip becomes scholarship. - Dick Cavett

I wrote a letter to him at the end of the spring trimester, on April 26, 1974. I have three versions of the letter, why I don’t know, and each has different phrases and ideas, so I’m including parts of them all in an attempt to reveal who I was at that moment.

“I’ve been sitting for an hour or so in your old house (Clarks) waitin’ for somebody to show up but nobody seems to want to. Stranger-than-fiction evening. I sat down with some Liebfraumilch and a kerosene lamp and soaked up the Lazarus album like a sponge. I hadn’t heard it for literal months and it Spoke to me. You were very much here. But besides you there was a veritable crowd, on and off. It sort of brought back the past.

“So I’m alone and it’s midnight. I got back from chorus tour two days ago. Comments on that experience we’ll save for future reference. Also I have recently taken my last set of undergraduate finals and walked across a stage and graduated. My first 4.0 and it was for 18 units. Pretty gratifying. But I’m not relating to the experience.”

The next version of the same letter is typed on carbon paper with the word COPY in red printed down one side – how many years has it been since I’ve run across a piece of paper like that? Decades.

“Dear M.—
“I’m not at all sure why it’s been so hard lately to get down to writing. It hasn’t been hard to be thinking about you. A night alone out at your old place (Clarks) with Liebfraumilch, a kerosene lamp and Lazarus (it seemed I soaked it up like a sponge, I hadn’t heard them in so long); seeing “The Paper Chase” – even if the people around Yale are Nicer than they are at Harvard; hearing Gaston play in a group at his house; getting two terrifically exhortative ifthat’saword missives from yourself — it’s been pretty enjoyable.
“Was that duet business a sneaky hint that you might be out this way?
“For maybe the first time in my memory I’m not living in the future very much at all. It’s likely because I don’t know what to expect – if I did it would probably be fear and trembling time. So the summer isn’t making me as nervous as usual.
“These post-graduation weeks have been crazy. Chorus tour was overall a valuable thing; it had its high points, like a really moving performance in Winslow, Arizona of all places, and its lows, like when my guitar got busted. I think it can be healed. Graduation itself left a very small impression on the old emotions. Unreal to the hilt. That much-appreciated non-creedal statement arrived just after the last of six finals. Praise the Lord, and I mean that, I finally after eleven trimesters made a 4.0 for 18 units. Gratifying in an irrelevant way. Since then I’ve played a lot, and it does feel bourgeois; one day I worked in the School of Business with Naomi, and the next I tie-dyed with Julie Sime.
“I wouldn’t think of holding you to any sort of creedal statement – as long as you return the favor. Just keep making new ones. I’m afraid you do leave yourself open to relentless questioning, from me and everybody else. But that’s the price we all have to pay for having Opinions and Thoughts. If nobody cared there’d be no controversy. How boring. —Of course you can always refuse to answer.
“You are the beneficiary of my mistake – I bought this Joni tape for the bus which turned out not to have a player, just like me. So it’s yours. Whatever else this one is, it’s kicks. My guess is that the book is worthy (good nite, I haven’t typed for too long) of those moments when there is absolutely nothing else to do, if those exist —
“I pray for you. Your sharing with me is challenging and comforting. I ask God to be with you too.”

From the third version of this letter, I will only quote those phrases in which it differs from the first two. I know the Faithful Reader’s patience is extensive, but surely it can’t be infinite.

“It’s a little crazy. I’ve got the compulsion to write but few collected thoughts. It’s hard even to take my emotional temperature at this point. I’m sure that’s a blessing. I thought the old feelings had been numb pretty much lately. I didn’t respond a whole lot to “graduation”, just the typical letdown after finals; chorus tour always gets everybody all excited and overwrought, but it seemed just really nice and tiring. (Winslow, Arizona was something though. It was an Amen congregation and we were really preaching and praising when we sang, instead of going through the motions.) But last night was one of those Nights. I was at your old house (Clarks) all alone with a little Liebfraumilch, a kerosene lamp, and Lazarus. Don’t let it give you the creeps, but you were very much there. It’s sort of a communion. The words really spoke and the music sparkled. A nice moment, lots of nostalgia and some peace.
“Unlike last tri, I didn’t take much time to Think this time…Mostly there was only time to react to emotions raised in class. Holy terror from Tyler (it was scary to be in Vegas on tour – Rome incarnate); the eternal frustration with Doctrine from Doc Mitchell; forever being caught between Reformation Grace and the “repristination of the church” (what a phrase) – (It was terrific to see Richard Hughes
[i] mit Familie heading out of Sambo’s in El Paso while we were coming in) – Well Anyway, no new conclusions resultant. It was really nice though to read Barth (Evangelical Theology) because this time I had a tad more grasp of what was being said. Parts of it reminded me of your situation and goals and that was good…
“These tapes are a mistake of which you are the beneficiary. I bought ‘em (the Leo Kottke one used, as is evident) for the player that turned out to be busted on the bus for chorus tour. Therefore I’ve never heard either one (except in person – Kottke was good in concert but I bought the tape blind – or would it be deaf) and have nothing on which to play them – so they’re all yours…
“There’s a challenging, comforting kind of support coming at me from your side of the country that I really appreciate. If my month of meditation produces anything valuable, I’ll waste your time with that. I figure you’ve already forgiven whatever was less than memorable that has gone before. Keep forgiving —
“Love. Gwen”


Here’s me around that time of year in the side yard of the Youngs’ beach house.


The spring passed rather uneventfully. I had a job babysitting the Youngs’ first grandchild, Emily and Steven’s little toddler, David, two afternoons a week. He was adorable, a rather quiet child and very obedient. I wrote to Grandmommie that “if you ask him, he can tell you that he’s 22 months old. He’s really smart and fun to be with.” Once I was feeding him some yogurt in his high chair, and I couldn’t get his attention. He was focused on the ceiling, watching the rainbows that the sun was making from a rain puddle outside. He was my kind of spacey, rainbow loving child, a little blond angel. After I would arrive at their house in the canyon, and feed David something, he would take a nap. Then I would get him up and play for awhile, and put him in my car to take him to his mom. Emily was teaching English at Pepperdine, and we would find her classroom just as her class was ending and I would hand him over to her.
I loved driving down the Malibu Canyon Road in my yellow Camaro. I was still fearless, having never been in a wreck, and some teasing friends liked to call me “Mario Andretti”. There was a tunnel we would pass through on our way from the house to the campus, and David and I had a tradition of saying, “Oooooh…tunnnelll” as we went through it. I would always ask him what my car was called and he would say, “Ca…meh…wo!”
Danny lived that year, with a roommate whose name I don’t recall, at Point Dume in the Royce Clarks’ backyard garage apartment. Royce was my theology professor, and he and his wife Dessie were quiet, gentle, Southern people who had been transplanted like the rest of us to this strange and glamorous beach community. Danny made that garage apartment a work of art, with lots of plants, some of his own original art, and a candle stand with pierced metal shade we had bought that made wonderful shadows on the walls and ceiling. Somewhere around campus we had found a round wooden table with solid sides that someone was throwing away, and we had decoupaged it with lots of pictures cut out of magazines. That sat in the middle of the room, and his single bed was the couch.

It got to be the end of senior year. We had not spent time together, but for neither of us was there anyone else we would want to do graduation with. Sara had returned from Lipscomb and been two years at Pepperdine Malibu, and she and Sam were back together again. So the four of us went to the Senior Banquet together. It was at some Oriental restaurant up in the Hollywood Hills, and was an uneventful and too-formal occasion to have any fun. So when it was over, we decided to get some wine and go back to Danny’s apartment for awhile together.

We were all together in Danny’s room, listening probably to Cat Stevens on the stereo, and Danny and I, down on the floor in the dark, found ourselves kissing, just one long kiss. We both said, “That’s the first for me in a year.” It had been a long time, again, and both of us had missed the other, missed the togetherness, and now we decided to “try it again” for the summer.

Sara’s and my graduation was in April. (Danny’s would occur in August.) Sara and Sam were together, though not engaged or committed, and Danny and I were together for the time being, so we celebrated graduation with a picnic on the beach. The Rindge Beach House sat on a spit of sand with the Lagoon on the right and the Malibu Cove on the left, where surfers have traditionally sat on their boards in their black wetsuits year round, waiting for a wave. So we were out there with the whole sky around us like a dome, and the sunset was the most awesome, gentle, tender, Impressionist sunset I have ever seen. The colors were incredibly pale, pink and peach and violet and green, the clouds were wispy streaks (instead of the giant, billowing Michelangelo clouds, which I also love) and they spread all across that sky.

I missed this hike in the Malibu hills. I remember that those two girls on top were great girls but I have no idea what their names were. On the lower level are Danny Blair, Janice Hahn, Virginia Burch, Jimmy Hahn and Kenny Waters.


One fun night that summer Danny and I took in George Lucas’ American Graffiti at the Malibu movie house. Even though the story was set in 1962, it was only different from Danny’s experience growing up in Stockton in that there was no overt drug use in the movie. It really rang true for him. I remember feeling frustrated that he didn’t want to say more about what it stirred in him. Always looking for the way in to a person’s heart, hungry to know what they were thinking and feeling, I felt shut out when there was silence.
My mom traveled, as had become her custom, to Germany for a month during that summer, to work with her old friend Irene Johnson at the children’s camp in Gem√ľnden. While she was gone, I had more freedom to spend time with Danny, and Caren Houser was around a lot too. (Sara and Marilyn had gone back to Europe for a trip with their parents, so Caren was at a loss.) Naomi had gone for the summer to work at Camp Shiloh in New Jersey, where Sam Jackson and Elaine Thomas and Gail Cosner and so many other of our friends had labored before.

Caren and Danny and I spent time by the pool, one morning with omelet breakfast prepared by me. That day sticks in my mind because it was the first time I had ever worn a swimsuit in front of Danny. I had hurt him many times because of my frustration with his lack of communication, and he took this opportunity to make me feel hideous because my body was not attractive to him. This was a rejection I had feared for years. It cut deeply and confirmed what I had been believing about myself. I had hoped that somehow he would love me so much that he would not feel this way.

One night, he and I took a drive in the old blue Falconi to the beach and walked out to the water in the dark. I was wearing my favorite long dress, the one I had made from an Indian bedspread. It was cool, so I had on my brown cape as well. I was feeling most magical. We ended up lying on the sand and sharing a very tender time, separate but together, cautious yet close. Another time we were lying on his bed, and I finally discovered just a hint of what people were talking about when they spoke of “arousal”. Fully clothed, we couldn’t have been more chaste, but his roommate heard the bed springs creaking, assumed that the expected was taking place, and embarrassed both of us with his comments the next day.

Another night, Danny spent the night on the fold-out couch at my mom’s house, and I got in bed with him the next morning, just wanting to cuddle. He was getting to the point in his life where this just wasn’t going to work any more, but instead of discussing it, he simple barked, “What is it you want??” I didn’t understand his frustration. Nobody had explained things to me from the male point of view.

Perhaps in an effort to remove a long-standing barrier between us, I finally broke down and tried marijuana for the first (and last) time. We took a little drive down the coast to visit a supplier friend of his (who turned out to be someone I had grown up with, who I didn’t know smoked dope) and easily scored. We were up in a canyon, and it was a lovely, private setting for getting high. I had been told that some people don’t have any particularly strong experience on their first try, but I had been sitting in closed, smoke filled rooms with Danny at various parties over the past four years, so maybe it had built up in my system. At any rate, I was not disappointed by a lack of results. I got very stoned.

I absolutely hated it. I had tunnel vision, which was disturbing. I hated knowing that Danny had driven me places in this state and I hadn’t realized how skewed his senses were. He had endangered us, and I hadn’t realized how much. I asked him to drive me immediately home, and was scared all the way. I couldn’t wait to get still, hoping that would help to diminish the effects. I lay on my mother’s couch and prayed that these sensations would leave as soon as possible.

I put on a Second Chapter of Acts album and tried to sing along with their lyrics of praise to the Lord. I did have one interesting experience due to the high. As I closed my eyes, I felt I could tell where the various musicians on the recording had been sitting in the recording studio. I could hear each instrument coming from a different distance. But that perception was not fun enough to make up for the other weirdness. I wanted so badly for my body to get back to normal. The next day, as I drove through Malibu Canyon, I thought I could still feel it affecting my vision. I asked the Lord to forgive me for taking myself temporarily out of His hands and putting my body in the hands of the drug.

o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o

Random thoughts gathered for a letter to Mike: “Joni’s new album came out this week – I’m glad I heard it before I bought it, but the compulsion to do so was strong despite my disappointment in this latest one. I got disillusioned about her moral character years ago but this time the music made me sad too. That’s a first, in seven or so years. It was a real let-down to recognize old Carole’s and maybe James’s influence – and there’s a lot of rock n’ roll and an Andrews Sisters, and a ‘30s scat song, the first song ever she didn’t write. The really disgusting thing is that the first time through I was critical – and by the third, I Liked it. Now is that Flexibility – or weakness of personal conviction? Most likely it doesn’t matter much (except I can’t decide what’s worth sending) but it’s a principle that bothers me pretty often.

“A confrontation with Joni always results in a big philosophical problem or two – I wish I had the energy to work on them instead of waiting until they fade away, unresolved. Is not making a decision the same as making one in this case? Problems of relating to one’s environment (getting spacey or bent out of shape); the values and dangers (real or imaginary) of music; honesty vs. illusion vs. love; und so weiter, und so weiter

[ii]

Preparation killed the cat – or is that a misquote?

“I left the glitter boxed up in Bekins – just in case, you know.”

I wrote this to Mike Johnston on July 24, 1974:

“Hello, my friend,
“(‘Let’s just please watch those possessive adjectives, buddy.’
[iii])

“How well are you maintaining your composure under the muddlement of the French language? You know I relate, though last summer’s pressures weren’t quite as great, probably. This summer continues to be an astonishingly varied experience. At the moment (just to set the scene) I’m watching the booth for 20 Century Christian at the North American Christian Convention (a Disciples-type affair) in Anaheim. It’s more or less a circus, reminds me of dove-selling in the Temple, but doesn’t everything? So many smiling faces. It can be nice. (Also I’m getting paid, which helps since my car seems to be falling cheerfully apart.)

“YOU RAT! Pardon the outburst, but I had to wait till last week at Richard Hughes’ house to find out you had not only passed Deutsch but conjured up Honors in every dadburn class! It’s not that my faith in you was waning, but I do enjoy being informed of as many occasions for joy (or at least satisfaction) as may arise. Well hurroar for you.

“I talked to Kerry Gifford, you may have heard the name (ex-Yale Div. person) and he was interesting and encouraging about The Program. My aspirations are still shaky, but they’re there. I may get to work in the Disciples’ Historical Society while I’m in Nashville, if Hughes’ recommendation can get me in – purely for experience, you understand. I’m glad for my Roots, but feeling less and less tied to them.

“JM is sold out, the whole week, or I’d go for my birthday. My feelings about her seem to parallel my general mood lately. Seems like a new chapter is about the begin – old things remain, a little faded and mellowed, and whatever’s up seems challenging, if not downright delightful. God bless us and keep us on the old cutting edge (even if it does seem dull now and again…)

“I do not like this letter. Maybe I’ll send it as a penance. Grin.
“Gwen”

[i] Richard Hughes, my Church History professor, profoundly influenced my thinking with just a few words about the “American civil religion,” thoughts which he recently published in a book entitled Myths America Lives By. In retrospect, he was one of my favorite teachers, and in the passing years his wife Jan shared with me that I was one of his favorite students.
[ii] “and so forth, and so forth…”
[iii] Does anyone recognize the voice of J.D. Salinger, specifically in Seymour: An Introduction?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Remember that guy I had hated in fifth grade Sunday School, and came to appreciate so much in high school, Chris Stivers? He and I continued to share musical experiences during college. My junior spring, my first semester in Malibu, he and I went on choir tour together. He and Sandy Tiner (granddaughter of a former Pepperdine president who preceded Norvel) were just starting to get together. (They later married and had three beautiful and musical daughters.)

Chris formed a group of musicians that was just a bit reminiscent of Chicago, or Earth, Wind and Fire – he had the nerve to use horns! He had found a fabulous vocalist for his band who had come to Pepperdine from Nashville, Nan Arnold. She and her brother Chip were both in Malibu that year, both excellent actors as well. It was a good thing she went on to graduate from Abilene Christian University, where Marilyn and Janice were, because it was there she met her husband, Wayne Gurley. But I was glad to get acquainted with her that year, and still know her to this day. (In fact, we’re currently in a weekly study group together.) I loved Chip Arnold too. He used to drop in and chat when I worked my first real Nashville job, and went on to appear in several movies, including starring as the Apostle Paul in a depiction of the book of Acts, also featuring Dean Jones. Next spring a movie he wrote will star Michael W. Smith.

Each year there was a spring revue where the various sororities and fraternities would prepare musical skits and compete. It was called “Spring Sing” and was always a lot of fun. Our junior year was our first semester at Pepperdine Malibu, and Danny and I were both invited to participate. He did join in, playing the part of the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz, and did a great job. I was invited to sing “Bali Hai” as Bloody Mary from South Pacific, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. My heart rose up when I heard the first words of the invitation from Nan and Chip, and then I realized the part was intended for a motherly, fat woman. I didn’t have the self-acceptance that playing that part would have required. To myself, I used the excuse that I was afraid of shaming Danny by playing such an unattractive role. I just wasn’t mature enough to realize all the positives in the situation. I could have had fun, and maybe I could have shone in the part.

I believe another girl was in Chris’s group as well, and also a friend of Nan’s. Melissa Kelly I largely remember in connection with the Missions Workshop that fall – that must have been the first time we met. She played flute, she was full of life, and her vivacious energy made a big impression on me. Who could dream that in later years she would move to Nashville and we would end up in the same church, playing and singing together on a worship team? And who could guess in 1973 that she would be reading this tale of my life in 2005, and encouraging me to “Add pictures!”

The next thing Chris Stivers and I did together was early December, 1973 – we sang at a Christmas party at Jim Nabors’ house. Jim Nabors played Gomer Pyle, first on the Andy Griffith Show and then on his own show, and he had an annual Christmas party for the Hollywood TV folks. He (or one of his staff) had called Pepperdine’s music department to hire a small group of students to sing carols by the front door as his guests arrived. Chris hired Danny and me and his cousin, John Novak, and some other girl I can’t remember.

The guest list for Mr. Nabors’ Christmas gala was a Who’s Who of network TV. Florence Henderson drove herself to the party in her own station wagon, unlike all the others who were delivered to the door ensconced in stretch limousines. Betty White and Allen Ludden were there. Richard Crenna, and the Smothers Brothers, passed me in the hallway. (I was tempted to reach out and touch their faces and say, “Are you sure that’s really you? Or is that a Halloween mask?”)

After we had sung our throats raw in the chilly wind by the front door, a staff person invited us in to eat leftovers back in the kitchen. But, no, first someone had the bright idea that we should sing some more for the guests. So someone lifted up a tent flap (It was my first outdoor tented party experience, with huge heaters.), and there we were…maybe ten feet away from Dionne Warwick. I nearly fainted on the spot. And what did Chris choose to perform, but a Negro spiritual where I would have some really high notes all by myself? I was mortified to be singing such a song, after so much throat abuse in a chill wind, in front of my personal vocal hero, Dionne Warwick. But we pulled it off without complete humiliation.

Chris, being such a talented instrumentalist, was particularly thrilled to meet Doc Severinsen, Johnny Carson’s band leader on the Tonight show. They had a brief chat, and I’ll bet Chris could have taken further advantage of the connection. Instead, he fell in love with Sandy the following year and got married and took a “normal” job at Pepperdine (IT, and some teaching) to support his family. He’s never stopped being musical on the side, but I always wondered how far he could have gone if he’d tried. Such a gifted guy.

Seated at dinner on either side of Jim Nabors were two perfectly opposite specimens of feminine iconography, Charo and Dorothy Malone. I found out later he was gay, and that explained his choice of seating companions. He wanted to display his ability to surround himself with the opposite sex, but his choices were definitely two women he would never have had a relationship with. Charo was way too crazy and Dorothy was way too old.

Here’s a random snapshot of Helen, Sara, me and Momma taken around the holidays of 1973. Anyway I guess it was a holiday event - I can’t imagine why else I would have been wearing that formal dress.
Surprise Visit to Yale
I mentioned earlier a girl that I became friends with at Malibu, Virginia Burch. She had also been friends with Mike Johnston, but she had little patience with his intellectual questioning and doubt. She thought maybe I was up to the challenge of evangelizing his heart, and she was all for the growing relationship between us. So when Christmas, 1973 was approaching, she and I devised a plan. She would invite me to spend a few days with her family in New York, which my mom would go for. (She would certainly never have gone for our actual plan.) Then, after I spent a little time with the Burches, they would put me on a train to New Haven, I would show up and surprise Mike at Yale, and then come back to New York and fly to Nashville to meet my mom there for Christmas. At Thanksgiving I wrote to Mike, vaguely fishing to find out if he would even be in Connecticut over the Christmas holidays.

“I’m sitting in my room with three candles and the wind is howling. It’s terrific outside. I’ve just been with Naomi and we saw someone that looked so much like you. I’d almost forgotten you were three-D. My goodness. How nice it would be to see your face. What’re you doing for Christmas?
“There has been many a time lately I’ve wanted to write. I take an almost perverse pleasure in owing you a letter, having the opportunity ahead of me. How dumb. The last Epistle to the Quasi-Scholarly made my day. It would have made my week but I carried it around with me all night and (gasp) Lost it. It’s typical – I lose anything I could potentially get attached to. If in the near or distant future you wouldn’t feel too redundant, I’d delight in another such piece of immortal scribbling. What the dif between a quasi- and a real live universalist? I’m quite intrigued by your creative processes. And I got inspired to boot. Spent seven hours today with Philo. How in the cat’s hair am I supposed to know where he got off the track? I’m not sure I even know which particular track he’s on.
“It’s a new experience playing role reversal with sweet Gaston. He’s so busy that we all, me especially, have to go see/get him, can’t expect him to hitch or whatever. So I’ve patiently, humbly been doing that at intervals. I’ve been learning about patience (?!!) and waiting for the Lord to decide when I need blessing. We’ll see what the future brings. I’m trying hard not to hold my breath. Music is so very fine, though.
“The whole point has been – God is so good.
“Are there any nice faculty wives there at all to care for you poor independent young men? I pray for you often. But darn it all God made us quite social if not downright fleshly and we do need people, in Him, at least some of the time.
“The leaves are turning in the canyon here and it’s cold and there’s fires in fireplaces. You inspired an actual poem the other day that’s not so wretched. Maybe someday I can show it to you. It blessed me.
“How are your dreams doing? or are they on reserve for future reference? I’m completely up in the air and not as concerned as might be profitable.
“I really wonder where I’ll be next year.
“Things are pretty fine right now.
“If we don’t start a nunnery in Appalachia, I get the feeling I’ll see you—
“God be with your spirit. Love
Gwen”

The reader should not be too terribly surprised that this gift of a few days with Mr. Johnston was so important to me that I took notes. Consider this fair warning that the next few pages are simply quotations from a remarkable flow of conversation. My word-starved soul was so happy in Mike’s presence, because for the three years I had spent with Danny it had been pleading, “Talk to me!”. Mike really talked…and he talked quite specifically to me.

“Virginia and I left a subway full of confused people (We’d sung about the Lord from Jamaica to Penn Station, talked to a fine old man about guitars) and she waited to check my stuff while I bought a ticket. We were feeling salty as anything and the freak behind the counter smiled back at me and sold me my ticket from the wrong line; then baggage room clerk was kind; and finally a powerful urge that Thursday was the Right Time, plus a ride from the Rutherfords to Penn Station had me on my way to New Haven, Connecticut.

“I got on the train at Penn Station, got off in New Haven, couldn’t find a cab so caught a bus to a stop in the vicinity of 409 Prospect, Mike’s mailing address, and started to walk. It was night, it was pretty rainy, and it was crazy…I didn’t even know if he was in town or not. I walked a fine walk up a hill, turned the way that felt right, went up a wrong driveway, and there was 409 – Yale Divinity School. “Oh, no, he doesn’t even live here,” I thought, “I’ll never find the boy.” I had to pray. “Lord, You see this situation I’ve gotten myself into. Please help me find him.”


“I entered the Quadrangle, where a row of buildings stretched ahead on both sides of a green yard, and the Chapel stood at the end. I tried the left side first. I passed up one door and went in another, about to ask a girl to help me find him when I turned around and there was his fine handwriting on a card, calling from the door. I pretty nervously knocked – a couple of times – and he finally came to the door. Neither of us could quite “picture it.” He didn’t really register any shock. I mean, my gosh, here stands this girl, in the dark of night, with no warning, but he acts like it happens to him every day.

December 20, 1973
Do I get a hug? (“I could use about half an hour.” It was Fine.)
(Hand on hair) All right, how long have you been out in the rain?
(Then he asked about fourteen or so people and I dutifully reported and I finally wondered if I shouldn’t think about practical matters and told him I was there indefinitely and he decided we’d think about it later. So we talked on. Discussed studying.)
So how do you feel about it [studying] now? For me, it’s self-perpetuating. I think I’ll always study. I don’t think I’ll ever quit.
I’ve been practicing…(He pulled out his Fender guitar, pre-tuned and ready.)
There’s this really beautiful song…(“Here I Sit,” from an album by Lazarus I had taped for him. I confessed I always thought of him when I heard it.)
Three people have come by and all three of you think the Lord led you here.
This may sound trite to you, and I can’t explain it, but you should have seen the ice… (There had been an ice storm and every twig and blade of grass had been coated in sparkle.)
That sunrise was the best you ever missed, it made nature lovers out of both of us. (Jerry Gaston, his guitar playing friend)
Here’s another Christmas present I would have given you.
Would you feel a sense of accomplishment if you wrote a book like that?
What’s that? This is a test… (“The Messiah” on the stereo. I passed.)
I heard about you long before our paths crossed.
We’ll worry about that when the time comes.
(Finally it was 4:00 a.m. and we decided we should sleep.)
My friends will tell you that I don’t care what I eat or where I sleep. (He slept on the springs and gave me the mattress on the floor.)
It’s kind of good you showed up tonight. Tomorrow I was moving to a married students’ apartment and nobody would have known where to find me.

December 21
(How fine, to wake up there, so content. So fine to lie in bed and talk to a guy for two hours.)
Well, did you know where you were when you woke up?
We should hear some music. Maybe Joni Mitchell. (Puts on Hedge and Donna, perfect for a mellow, gray rainy day.)
I was looking at children’s books for my little sister and I thought of you.
(He went to the cafeteria to eat lunch while I washed my hair in the Worleys’ apartment. A tad nervous, but all right. Thoughts in my head were dittoed when he came in.)
I was going to say, “Hi, darlin’, what’s for supper?” but I chickened out.
(So it was music time again. We went in the Common Room and played and watched it go dark till about 5:00 pm, at which time we went to see the Div. School libraries. He was sure I’d relate to the Missions Reading Room, showed me his desk in the balcony. Terrific place.)

I wish there were a big fireplace here. I thought about the lights, but what for?
I’ve been thinking, why would you want to be a librarian? (Self-same doubts beginning on my part. Back to the Common Room, fine place mit Klavier, so naturally I had to play. “ See You Again”, “For Free”, “Richard”, “Willy”, “Amahl”)
You and Gaston, and – no there aren’t any exceptions – only Gaston and you make me feel like singing. With most people I just shut up.
(We went in to supper in the Refectory.)
I didn’t know what that was till I got here. It seems like there are some things about you that Catholic novels would explain.
I’ve written more to you than anybody.
Maybe we should go to church tomorrow…
I haven’t been this relaxed in a long time. (Me: “And I haven’t been so content…”)
(No appetite, for him either, which he said never happens. Fine talk, a nice present. Back to the apartment and talk till 1:00 a.m. Really wearing, on faith mainly, what sort mine was and how he didn’t have any, me not believing that. How I didn’t want to depend on experiences, or how I felt, for faith at all, how he never experienced or felt anything. For me, it had been like a prayer, talking, because I knew God heard/was there. For him, “Nothing is like a prayer.” Then talk about giving up, how to decide what to do/buy/etc. Decision: we’re both quasi-Puritans.)
I’ve got a real headache, do you have any aspirin? (“Don’t believe in ‘em.”) You’re kidding. (I considered a head rub and braved doing it without permission.)
I’m embarrassed to say so but I think you healed. it. (Him sleeping on the living room floor, me in the bedroom. Ah.)
If I think of something to talk about, I’ll come tell you.

December 22
(Clearing of throat) “…he said, trying to start a conversation…”
I was thinking if you came we should go to a concert or maybe an art museum.
I’ll handle that.
I’ve been wondering for fourth months what’s just a hundred yards over that direction — they say there’s an ocean around here someplace.
(We walked through Yale Divinity School and past a graveyard and to the Yale Green and the churches and class buildings and found an art museum.)
I’ve walked this way a thousand times. (Asked directions.) See what I mean? Everybody here’s so nice. Maybe I’ll be a nice guy in five years.
(At the art museum, neo-Medievals by a guy named Abbey, plus illustrations I liked, but he reacted to.)
I’m like you, they’re not old enough for me.
(On the second floor, a funny old man showed us around, pointed out the Ferris wheel and the man’s head in “Coney Island” by Stella, and read us all the names and artists.)
Gwen, come look at this. (Saving me from the guy.) Did it bother you because he didn’t know more than you did?
This may bore you, but these things were in use before Christianity.
(Looking at furniture, talk about aesthetics, why is it right for people to make pretty things, why I’m hypocritical because I want a select few of them. Outside, old museum feeling of pride/overload, distaste. But altogether more pleasant than usual, and I said so. He thought it was valuable. We left a place with rotten atmosphere and went to an Italian place to eat. I confessed about thinking of him and Elaine and the Stovalls at Le Palme. Talk mostly about death and heaven.)
You don’t have to answer this, but how did you react when your father died? (My reaction of frustration that I had to grow up. My backwards relationship, learning to love my mother.)
For me, the worst thing about my parents’ aging and about death is the goneness.
(Both eating salad, he paid, unimportant but nice somehow. On the walk home, I said I was tired of my voice but not of his, “Talk on.”)
I’m not too good at these practical things.
I was probably walking pretty spontaneously. (He had such long legs I asked if he was having to change his walk so I could keep up.)
How would you like to be here with our backpacks getting ready to cross the country?
I’m pretty indifferent to women’s lib – in fact, I don’t think Christians should demand their rights, men or women or blacks…I didn’t know much about prejudice until a couple of years ago, and when I found out I had it I got rid of it.
I can see that.
I once told you that Betty Hance and I wished Hans Kung was Pope and the Reformation hadn’t happened and you thought that would be terrible – well, it would have been.
I could have gone by here a thousand times and not noticed that door.
If it weren’t so cold I’d show you that cemetery.
And you thought God had it all worked out…
I think I’ll study a little German. (Niebuhr on the church, for a couple of hours.)
Doug Herema would hate that, my refusing to answer.
I probably have more faith than I talk about.
I sound like a scripture man.
I’m trying to get one up on you…
The Sea of Galilee…that was all right.
Okay, who painted “Coney Island”? (Joseph Stella. A post-museum visit pop quiz. I passed. We talked about his major professor, Ahlstrom, and the patches falling off his elbows. His seeing Roland Bainton, the great Luther scholar, riding his bicycle with his long white hair blowing behind him. Both of us saying goodbye to Heidelberg – he had been in the Pepperdine program the year before me, with his then-girlfriend, Elaine Thomas.)
So, it’s Elaine here, you here and me there…
The church, and you, and me…
This room needs a blackboard.
What would you change in here? Anything you really dislike? (Me: “Well, take that cherry float candle, for instance…” I thought the decorating in the Worleys’ apartment left something to be desired.)
If I lived here, one of the first things I’d do is fix that door.
(We sang some more in between talk, some hymns from the Blue Book…)
Most of these would sound irreverent. (“I wouldn’t mind.”) Well, I would.
Hungry? I knew you’d say that. (I hadn’t been hungry for the whole visit; my soul was being so richly fed. Moldy cheese and lettuce and peaches for supper, then the 11 o’clock news.)
Did you ever see a newsman you wanted to punch in the nose?
Ah, I knew you watched TV. (We watched “Song of Bernadette” about the miracle of Lourdes. Strange feelings flying, him getting spooked. Sensory overload beginning to affect me. So much the movie suggested I couldn’t pick up to talk about: faith, healing, monasticism, usw.)
All these people we have in common, I hardly know.
Here’s another six-hour topic…
That’s why my ego goes up and down so much. I go into one seminar and I’m a hit, in another I don’t know anything.
“Look,” I told his wife, “your husband doesn’t know it yet but I’m not one of his flock.”
Does that depress you?
He just shouldn’t have put that in there if he wanted people to listen to him. (J.B. Philips telling how C.S. Lewis appeared to him on the night of his death.)
That’s so Augustinian.
Did you hear Francis of Assisi almost went blind, he cried so much?
One of the Niebuhrs, Reinhold or H. Richard, converted one of my professors. I thought that was something. (Could it have been George Lindbeck?)
(I was saying, “If their happiness depends on – is it – penultimate?) “Good,” he approved.
I don’t need anybody’s help.
As Dr. Gibson would say, it’s a pain.
As Ahlstrom would say, so what?
Remember, you’ll drive yourself crazy being picky.
I can see that, but I always think the easy way is a cop-out.
(“I haven’t been so preachy in a long time…”)
Well, I haven’t responded so much in a long time.
He’s a good man.
You’ll have to unpack that one. Gaston doesn’t write long letters, but they say a lot – you have to unpack them.
George [Miller] and I never worried about it. We knew we’d always be around.
I just always think I’ll see ‘em in a couple of weeks.
It may be it bothers me as much as it does you – but when you’re desperate enough, you put up with it.
Look, the easy way’s not always wrong.
(Double final confrontation – the gist of it very vaguely suggested by me, “What am I going to do without you? How can I write you anymore if you won’t say you have any faith? He doesn’t expect to have anything more definite later on. Oh, God! Really a struggle because of my pussyfooting, but helpfully resolved at least a little.)
(“If I’ve seemed very insecure it’s because I haven’t talked this way before…”)
We haven’t been talking about people.
You’ve been quite entertaining.
(It didn’t feel right, but I figured it never would, so I said, “All right, good night.” So hard. Felt colder than it had all the time before, but that was partly the leaving, partly my demanding he take a stand.)
Tired?
We’re got to be two of the most polite people…
There’s going to be a great sunrise…No, I was just testing you.

December 23
(Next morning, I wasn’t sure how to be. I was really hurting, but I mostly sat and looked calm. Some talk, warmer. I got on the phone and called a cab – we might have walked, he said – but we hit the train just right. I was picturing leaving him at the apartment, but he wanted to come with me.)
Are you going to convert the guy on the airplane?
What would you do without me?
I’m coming with you.
If I told her a thousand times, Virginia would never understand.
At the New Haven train station:
(“Well…goodbye.” Fine hug.)
I’m glad you came.
(“I’ll believe you.” Pause. “This is all too dramatic for words.”)
I know, it’s like a war movie.
(On the train, I turned around: “God bless you.”)
(Confused look.) You too.

“Weepy as hell. Good old angelic prayer. I thank You and I praise You, Lord Jesus, Father God. Be with him, Lord, he cannot live without You. When I arrived in Nashville for Christmas with the relatives, oh, boy, did I have a precious secret hidden away in my heart.”

Grandmommie flew back with us to Malibu after our Christmas visit, and here she’s pictured with Marilyn, David Lemley (the first Young grandchild) Norvel, Sara and Dad Young in the courtyard outside the library at Seaver College, Pepperdine University, Malibu. Norvel must have been so proud to be able to show his dad the amazing accomplishments of the Malibu campus.

I wrote to Mike in February, “How well do you relate to your name? I’ve wanted for a long time to do a study on the theology of names in the Bible – they seem to be so terrifically significant (“I have called you by name – you are Mine.”) I may have overreacted to people I’ve known who’ve incessantly called my name, but I very rarely call a person by his/her name. I deal mostly without any attention-getting device; when communication is really personal I say “you” – I’m not sure whether I think names are irrelevant or especially holy.

“We were comparing me to good old emotional religious types at one point I believe. There’s one area of the whole question that I’m up against again – the idea of “leading” in Big Decisions. It’s crazy. I believe God gives signs all over the place, but when it comes to me, He does it really simply – He just sticks one idea in my head and it stays there. That’s how the librarianing came up (disgusting as that could potentially be) and now I even think I know where I’m going (maybe I told you) – Nashville. It’s a bit hard to imagine, but this is my last chance to learn to deal with my Roots and Kin and that seems important. And Peabody (the name rivals Pepperdine) is well known and innovative enough to suit me. So if you have a minute you can pray about my future, even as far as this summer goes. I’ve wanted to work at Shiloh since tenth grade, so it’s another last chance deal. I’m excited and terrified about the idea.

“It would be nice to be Luther, depend entirely on grace and take no responsibility for the practical expression of your theology in everybody else’s life. (Of course that’s overstating it.) We’ve been discussing Reformation people in Hughes’ class and it’s a frustrating reminder that hassling over practical issues has been going on forever. I wonder if I’ll always feel the imperative to worry whether everyone else is properly enlightened. Jeez. Who do I think I am?

“It’s so nice to hear from you often. God is good. And you’re all right yourself.
And my response to his response: “I’m dangerously close to getting spoiled – such a week for blessing. You may have guessed by now that I’m crazy enough to have actually considered (just for a few minutes) “dropping by”. You’d best be careful with your invitations. (TWA cut their prices to NY in half just for this month, much to my chagrin – if that’s the right word.)

“Joni came our with a new album a couple of weeks ago, and that’s always an event. And it finally happened – I was Disappointed. It reminded me of a blatant sellout…”