Still Learning How to Fly ~ Chapter Six: "Home of the Spartans" (Pt.2)

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 29th Sep 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Biography & Autobiography

In this installment, my value system is changing all at once as my best friend begins studying the Bible with JW's, and the Watergate Affair rocks my world!

Graduation, Marriage, and Jehovah's Witnesses Thrown into the Mix

In high school Mike had always had a longtime steady girlfriend, and that relationship had carried over for awhile briefly in his community college years, but eventually they broke up, and he began dating others but no one steadily. But sometime early in his senior year at MSU he met Cathy and that was it. He fell. She didn’t live all that far away from him either. There was only one hitch. She was studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and she was serious about it, and if he was going to get serious about her he felt he should at least investigate it. Cathy invited him to their Kingdom Hall where he was welcomed, and he was offered his own personal study, and he accepted, and so their courtship began . . . a love affair on two levels. And so Mike progressed toward his degree juggling a courtship, college, studies, Bible studies, Kingdom Halls, and a part-time job at the hardware store in Jackson. Add into this mix growing dissension within his family ranks the fact that he was studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses, mostly because of the things they don’t do like celebrate birthdays, holidays like Christmas, vote, or fight in wars and salute flags you can see how mystified Mike’s parents and siblings were growing at this union. Actually I was a bit, too, but I tried to keep an open mind about it. Cathy was really nice, and she had the most calming effect upon him. And I could see where it was all leading.

Mike graduated in Spartan Stadium that June along with 8,000 others. Walter Cronkite was the featured speaker, and we were all in attendance. It was great. Walter was great. The day was really hot as I recall.

Mike and Cathy got married shortly thereafter in Cathy’s parent’s home. I was Best Man, and Cathy’s sister-in-law was Matron of Honor. One of the brothers from the local Kingdom Hall performed the nuptials. And life went on. Mike and Cathy weren’t officially Jehovah’s Witnesses yet, because they hadn’t been baptized as such. They were sort of in the hangout phase. But the spark was there. The match was struck, and they continued their studies.

And I continued mine.

Watergate Rocks My World

These were the Watergate years. Richard Nixon was reelected in November 1972 by the largest plurality of votes in American history. In January 1973 the five defendants in the Watergate burglary trial pled guilty, and the whole sordid affair began to unfold more carefully before the public eye faster and faster as time rolled along. What Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had already begun the previous June was about to gather big steam, and the entire Universe, myself included would become mesmerized, and I would be forever changed.

Scarred would be a better choice of words for a long time. Knocked for a loop. I had been too idealistic. I listened to hour after hour of testimony on the radio and television. I could not look away as if I were staring at a burning building waiting for the last of the rafters to fall, the roof to cave in on the remaining souls captured inside screaming for their release. And I can still recall my literal horror in July 1973 while I attended the summer quarter on campus sitting in my truck with the windows rolled down listening to hearings on my AM radio and wondering out loud, “Did I hear him right?” when Alexander Butterfield gave up the startling information that all of the White House private conversations had been recorded on tape. It was one of those say-what moments, and I can never forget as I reached over and turned up the volume on my radio with Butterfield repeating his answer. I guess he then knew he’d blown the whole thing wide open! Soon the transcripts of those tapes were printed for our perusal in paperback form, and I bought my own personal copy. The term "expletive deleted" entered the collective consciousness in those days, and we all found out firsthand the personal two faces of Richard Nixon, really the two faces of any public person though it would take me another three decades to realize that last part. I needed to grow into that last part. I wasn’t there yet.

Right at that moment though my world was rocked, torn asunder. The semi-political animal, former Young Republican me, the guy who had just voted for the first time ever and had cast his first vote ever for this turd . . . I felt as if I would have been better off pissing in the wind, because it had all blown back in my face, and the stench of it was all I could smell. Bitter. Disillusioned.

I found myself during my junior and senior years in college questioning everything. Politics, thanks to Watergate. War thanks to Viet Nam and the so-called peace talks. Church and spirituality thanks to Pastor John, my mom, and Mike and Cathy. And even sex now and again thanks to a new magazine that had popped up on the newsstand in the campus bookstore, Playgirl. Wow! A magazine with pictures of nude guys? Just what I needed. Something else to confuse and excite me all at the same time. What the hell more did I need to throw into this mix? And like a slave, I could not resist the occasional thrill of it.

Another Lottery

Mike hadn’t found satisfactory work in the area that really turned his crank, and for a newly minted college graduate with a B.S. degree in Business, he and Cathy grew restless, and so somewhere in all of this they pulled up stakes and moved to Portland, Oregon . . . perhaps early that fall. Cathy had relatives there, an aunt and uncle plus her grandmother, so they were very hopeful for a restart out there on the west coast where they would continue their Bible studies.

I, of course, began my senior year at Michigan State full of hope for my graduation the following June. I was right on track for it credentials-wise though in order to finish I’d had to take out a bank loan, because I was running low on funds. My part-time job just wasn’t enough, and because of MSU’s quarter-based system I was taking a lot of classes during the course of a year’s time, far more than before, just compressed into a shorter time span. So even though I was spending only $17 per credit hour, over the course of time it was all adding up, and I needed new funds for the tuition of my senior year, and I wasn’t about to wait out another year while I built up funds again. Fortunately, my dad and I had heard through friends about a trust fund loan set up for students in need just like me with a low 2% interest rate, and, of course, I didn’t have to begin repaying until some time after I graduated. Great. They loved me, and I loved them. Match made in Heaven.

As I began the fall quarter, I also began preparing for the winter quarter when I would do my student teaching. That would be my only assignment, of course, for the winter, all 15 credits of it. Imagine, I had to pay the university $255 for the privilege of going off somewhere to be stationed in a classroom as a student teacher for free for ten weeks, five days a week, but that’s how the system works.

To accomplish this, the College of Education had a lottery system. Ah yes, another lottery system . . . this one because each of us student teachers would be sent out into a school system somewhere around the state, and we were given a list of preferences. The lottery would give weight to our preferences. Those with low numbers might get theirs, high numbers would not. Well, you know the track record I already had with lottery numbers. We had to draw numbers out of a fishbowl, and mine was 400 and something, but THAT was actually a low lottery number. Anything below 600 was considered a low number I was assured, so I was in good shape. Wow! You mean I actually won something? Yup! But don’t get your hopes too high I was told.

I looked at the list of school districts in the list where we’d be assigned. All of them were either local area ones or Detroit area school districts except for one, the one way up north in Traverse City. There were none down in my hometown of Jackson. I told them I lived at home with my parents in Jackson County, and they explained to me that preferences aside, all the local area Ingham County assignments would go to all student teachers who were married and those who lived in married housing out of necessity. Well, that just made sense to me. No argument there. Our preferences kicked in after that. Okay, I could work with that.

That meant that winter term I was going to have to pick up and move somewhere for ten weeks or so, and from looking at the list I would be moving to the big city or the little city way up north. It was a no-brainer for me. I’d been to Detroit several times, but I wasn’t a big city guy. My decision had nothing to do with teaching inner-city kids. I’d already worked with them several times in and around Lansing. I loved kids, and it didn’t matter what their background was, but I came from a small city, and I didn’t want the distractions of me trying to acclimate myself into a big city environment to detract from the focus on my student teaching experience which I knew was going to be tough enough as it was. I’d never been to Traverse City, but I knew it was up in God’s Country, somewhere north of Manistee, and that put it just north of Mike’s parent’s lake cottage. Good enough for me. That became my choice, and with my reasonably low lottery number, that’s exactly where I was assigned.

(In the next and final installment to this chapter, I go off to do my student teaching just prior to graduation, and I experience some unintended beneficial side effects.)

Link to next installment . . .

Link to last installment . . .

Link to beginning of book . . .


Autobiography, Gay, Gay Community, Gay Experience, Gay Men, Gays, Glbt, Lgbt, Memoir, Memoirs, Memories, Memory, Non Fiction, Non-Fiction, Nonfiction, Serial, Series, True Experience, True Experiences, True Stories, True Story

Meet the author

author avatar Ken Painter
Retired Chicago public school teacher. Singer, songwriter, musician, author, & opinionated old curmudgeon. Married to my husband & living in Colorado, USA. Also a father & grandfather.

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author avatar Lady Aiyanna
29th Sep 2013 (#)

JWs go by the book called the Watchtower, a magazine that makes them see what happens next. This is with associated scripture and their Bible has a different date for Christmas rather than the one associated with the regular Christians. They also have their own type of Scripture read wherein their Bible is more or less similar although the english is different.
None the less, when you are a practising JW you wear, browns, Greys, Blacks and white and don't celebrate festivals or do transfusion or communicate with the outside world apart from ones within the Kingdom Hall and preach the Watchtower with Biblical references to prospects they want joining the Kingdom Hall.

Personal experience as a JW but am no longer one because of their certain principles that never went along with mine and I told them this on their face and walked away. Didn't like their two-faced falsities although I respected their religion and teaching and still do, just not the people within it.

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