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September 09, 1976 - Image 25

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Michigan Daily, 1976-09-09

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'T'hursday, September 9, 1976

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

P

ThurdaySepembe 9,1976THE ICHGAN AIL

age Five '

HISTORY

OF

THE

BLUES

By BERT STRATTON
N ANN ARBOR IT WAS blues music on the speakers. It was up in the
bell tower where the History of the Blues class was meeting. Where
over seventy students had the blues and the music was saying something
like, "Everything's gonna be alright," and we knew, sure, everything'd
be alright, but things wouldn't be great. There wouldn't be all those teen-
age dreams and good times anymore, because now we were all twenty
or older, and now things were just gonna be OK, nothing more or less.
No wonder we all had the blues. Everything was blue. It was bluebooks and blue
jeans and even the team was Go Blue.
Yeah, the Blue went to the big one, the Rose Bowl, and they blew it. They
didn't take any chances. The marching band didn't even take any chances. They
did silly precisioned goosestepping while the Stanford band did truly original
riffing.
Yeah, because in Michigan it was really the History of the Maize and Blue.
And why not call it yellow and blue? Like those yellow felt underliner pens in the
library that worked overtime, even on football Saturdays, when so many of the
students squeaked their way through books like White Collar and Suicide and
The Uses of Disorder.
So in order that we students didn't go off and commit suicide, the administra-
tion innovated some new courses, like the History of the Blues, student-run, stu-
dent-inspired. To go up into the bell tower, to plug into and listen to scratchy 1930's
sounds coming from the giant Music Department speakers. It was getting down
with discussions about the Jackson blues and the Delta blues and the various
differences between them.
Some nights we'd get an added attraction - seeing the old monkish carillon
player sneak up the bell tower steps and play his songs. He did unique versions
of "Silent Night" and "Fiddler on the Roof", depending on the season. Everybody
loved him. And one night there was a special guest carillon player, a Mr, Meyer,
who came all the way from Florida to jam on the Michigan bells.
It was worth it, good times like that. And plenty easy assignments in class. In
fact there weren't any papers. And it was there that I first saw Martha. It started
out simply enough-I was bored and I stared around at the girls.
qHE WAS NOTHING SPECIAL to look at, really. She had that turned-up-nose
WSP face like you see on every street corner in America unless you're in
New Yoric City. That everyday face, long thin brown hair and unsparkling green
eyes--except when she put in her green-tinted contacts and then they really
shined. What else was there? She had normal tits and a normal ass, and by that
I mean the normal big ass most American girls have.
All of this adding up to the fact that Martha knew that she wasn't anything
special to look at, and I think it gave her a greater insight into things, and for
sure some kind of humility. After all, she couldn't just twitch her butt to get
what she wanted.
And that's why I dug her. I dug her lumpy white socks and her work boots
and her frayed blue jeans. And on top she wore a T-shirt. One of those working
shirts you see in factories, with a little pocket in the corner for your cigarettes,
but she didn't have any cigarettes. Pretty much a freak. Anybody'd say that.
Fortunately not the calculating freakiness of most college girls, with the dirty
jeans and the expensive tops. Martha was all the way. And at the time I thought
the freakier the better as far as my chances of getting laid were concerned. I'd
just come off an experience with a stylishly-hip Jewish girl who'd deceived me,
so now I was out looking for a completely apathetic dresser. Martha didn't give
a shit how she came on.
So there I sat digging her, and during the first few weeks she just quietly
sauntered in, sat down, and nothing happened between us.
But then the third or fourth week of class I was already sitting down when
she walked in and I smiled at her, without any lechery implied, just in a good
mood and hoping for some companionship, and sure enough she sat down next to
rme and we started talking.
We didn't have any time for Blind Lemon Jefferson or whoever was on the
speakers. Everything was spinning around in good raunchy blues fashion and I
felt like a nut and I felt I had my luck with me. So the first thing I said to Martha
was, "Who's your favorite musician?" -this even before I knew her name.
She looked at me funny and smiled. "I don't know. What kind of question is
that?"
"You gotta have some favorites," I said testing out my new theory that a girl
should have some of the same heroes as the guy or vice versa. And what's more
people should have heroes, because so many people don't give a shit for anything.
No heroes was nowhere.
"Dylan," she said, probably just to get me off the subject. But no, that's just
what I was looking for! After all, who's there besides Dylan?
IT WAS AN UNAVOIDABLE DECEMBER. You got your Mott's apple sauce fac-
tory in Michigan, they couldn't avoid it. And Dan Gerber and his baby foods
couldn't miss it. Those jars were cracking in the cold. And even Henry J. P. Ford
himself was freezing his arse off in Grosse Pointe Farms. Everybody got their
asses bitten.
The wind was fierce. It hit everybody's back on a gray slushy day and it
practically killed all the sensitive people, like all the Michigan arts-and-sciences
students who'd get up in the morning, take one look out the window, and say
"Fuck off, you no good weather." So why not hibernate like the bears? But nobody
could do it.
Strangely it wasn't the snow so much as it was the wind. It hurt everybody's
morale. No morals too. Everybody fucked all winter. That's if they had a girlfriend
or boyfriend.
But other people walked lonely nights to the libraries and bitched all the time.
I didn't have a big wrap-around collegiate scarf. And for real tear-jerkers, no girl
ever knitted me one.
I myself wore two sweaters, my curduroy jacket, and my father's green scarf.
V0 IT WAS LIKE THAT when I went and dug the History of the Blues. Well,
upon entering the classroom I had to immediately strip down to just my shirt
and pants because the heat was going great guns, rattling the pipes. Everybody
was hot and there it was 10-below out.
Everybody was only ten people. The only people who shaved up for the last

Blues class. Luckily Martha showed, because if she hadn't I would have been up
shit creek. I didn't have her address or anything.
But what could I say to her on a cold December day? Like, could I say,
"Wanna go out?" Considering it was so freezing, she'd think I was a lunatic.
But that's what I did. I didn't have any choice really.
I said, as we were walking down the steps out the door, "How about going for
some coffee?"
Funny thing, I hate coffee, but that's what you've got to say. I'd heard it
many times before.
Martha and I sat down in a booth across from a pair of grad students. French
ones who talked about fellowships and student visas. Pretty serious types. We
talked about ambitions and careers and families and everything else you talk
about when you don't know the other person very well, finally hitting on a mutual
friend, Jim Border, my roommate freshman year. All fairly uninteresting stuff.
But what she really dug was her family. It makes me think of "Love Story"
(it was on TV last night) where Ali MacGraw calls her Italian father by his first
name and they're very poor and chummy.' Something like Martha's setup, except
hers was poor Irish. Martha's mother had died when she was four. And there I
was, most likely your everyday rich, Jewish, out-of-state snob. She seemed to enjoy
laying her poverty trip on me. I sat back and took it in, saying, "Yeah, OK, so my
father pays the bill."
All this was commonplace talk compared to when she started telling me
about her boyfriend. I had no idea she had a boyfriend. The only hint I'd had
was one night after blues class when there was a dark convertible waiting to pick
her up. Well, the boyfriend was a Vietnam veteran and not a college student.
And she wasn't sure she'd be seeing him anymore because he'd run off to Florida
for a while and they didn't get along, although they were engaged.
Sum it up by watching Martha walk out the door and say, "I got to go over to
the Social Work Library and study."

"Great." And that was the end for a while. It was almost Christmas vacation,
and I'd come away from the History of the Blues with a decent prospect.
IN DEL MONTE FRUIT COCKTAIL you have most of the grapes and peaches
at one end of the can and the cherries at the other end. Net wt. 1 lb. 2 ozs. A
little more expensive than A&P fruit cocktail and not worth it, because when A&P
wants to copy something they can do an exact replica of it, just like the Japanese.
They have A&P Corn Flakes and nobody can tell them from Kellogg's Corn Flakes.
So I switched over to A&P fruit cocktail. It was all cheaper.
Oh my shitty meals! I lost ten pounds last year. I didn't cook much. It all has
to do with laziness.
Who wants to hear that? What can you say about somebody who stares at his
feet all day and doesn't even have the strength to cook for himself? And only
washes his clothes once every three months (wearing underpants three or four
straight days). And my bedsheets .. .
Some nights my friend Jeff and I would walk the streets and wonder if there
really was anything to do, like career-wise or woman-wise. And naturally we
always got degenerate and started joking about sex. And Jeff would always end up
the conversation with, "All I need is a good lay and everything'll be fine;" A
somewhat unexpected comment to hear in the seventies, but that's how it was---
no wild orgies every night.
Sundays-those were spent in the Law Library along with the law students.
Habeas corpus people. Dead. Too much Revised Code will kill anyone no matter
how many tokes they take on their fancy pipes, elegantly curved lawyers' pipes.
And Sunday New York Times too, imported.
All those twenty-five year-olds. I sat back and read A Walk on the Wide Side.
And on the way out of the library I wondered why nobody'd managed to smash
the old-fashioned street lights yet. And I thought about times spent across the

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"Frats." I'm wincing. I'd thought she'd had enough sense to avoid them.
"You mean you went to fraternity balls and proms?"
"Yeah," she jokes.
With Martha she'd been overwhelmed by all the frat guys making plays for
her body. Naturally she'd been awed by it, having just come off Medina where
she hadn't seen anything.
"Well," Martha said, "you see, finally at the end of freshman year I balled
one of the dudes."
I think I'm supposed to answer, "Yeah I got fucked freshman year too." But
it's all a lie. I didn't get fucked till the beginning of sophomore year.
I tell her I got gucked freshman year too.
J'M SUPPOSED TO BE READING TOM JONES for English Survey II. I hate the
idea of being forced to read a 900 page book in a week. And I hate Tom Jones
too. It takes about 200 pages for Hank to get off the ground.
I can't stand school. I got my writing. Who needs school? Right then, about
page 150 of Tom Jones, I decide it's time for me to quit again. There's no need
to go through big moral and philosophical discussions about it. I've quit once
before. This time it's easy.
I go over to the counseling office and make an appointment with the dean
to quit school. I'm slightly embarrassed about having to face the guy for the second
time in a year.
But luckily I get the assistant dean, a young woman who's bored to death
from listening to students lie to her all day. They give fake reasons why they're
quitting. I tell her I'm quitting because I hate my courses. She says, "How about
if I write "financial" for your reason for withdrawing? Then you can always get
back in if you want."
"Thanks." I'm free. Now all I need to do is to go over to the cashier's office
and get my tuition back.
That happens. It all happens. I'm out of school again . . . and what? What
am I going to do with myself now-money-wise? time-wise?
Well, it's no worry really. School had never been much of a time-occupier
anyhow. I'd stick to my schedule. Get up about eleven. Go over to the Graduate
School Building and read. Go back and eat. Write for two hours. Sleep. Wake up
and eat. Go read again. Spend the night bopping around, drinking Cokes, and look-
ing at records. Hopefully find somebody to talk to.
Also, with Martha things might be easier. We might get something going.
We arrange more coffee reunions. Staggering them out. We're both scared
of killing the whole thing off in a week.
* * *
ARTHA'S GOT THE BANGLADESH RECORD, and I want to hear
Dylan on it. I wanted to hear everything. So I say to her one day,
"We don't have to do anything special. Let's just go hear your
record.
"But what else are we going to do for the night?" she asks.
I smile. I've got fucking on my mind for a start, but I don't
say that. "Oh, I don't know. We can listen to all six sides, even
Ravi the Shank!"
She tlaughs. "OK. But don't think we're just going to sit around all night. You
know that's why Frank and I broke up. We never did anything anymore."
So with that in mind (the next night) I head on over to Martha's. house, about
a mile away. And it's cold, especially at E. Huron where the wind funnels up the
street like a hurricane. I brace my back to it. I'm about five feet away from the
curb, hiding behind the wall of the corner church. It's time to think I'm the next
greatest writer in the world and that I'm paying my dues.
"Gotta pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues." That's my favorite song
on the album. We listen to that side first-Ringo and Harrison. I love it. Then it's
time for Dylan.
When I look into Martha's eyes I see the considerable dues she's had to pay.
She's blinking. Her eyes are too green. (And aren't all the girls of America paying
extraordinary dues by wearing their contacts in the day?)
I want to kiss Martha. Get her to close her eyes. We're talking sex again, just
waiting to get down to the important business of touching each other. Well, when
I kiss her we immediately go at each other. I'm hoping for the lights in the room to
go out. No way. You got to get up and turn them off yourself.
I dismiss the lights as trivial, and we keep at it. I'm hornier than shit. It's
been years, though Martha is going around calling me a sex maniac, thinking I'm
getting fucked regularly. All her friends are busy fucking so she expects I'm getting
the same. And when I tell her I had a girl friend and I'd seen her over Christmas,
she assumes we balled. I don't have the nerve to tell her the contrary. I hardly
have the nerve to tell myself-to count back how many months it's been since I've
fucked.
Yeah it's fifteen, and I was ready for most anything . .. I'm loving it. We're
going great guns. Full clothes stage.
After considerable time of full-clothes, Martha gets up and laughs, and says,
"You don't really think we're going to ball, do you?"
I think, "What's she talking about? Of course we're going to ball!I"
"No I can't," she says, "It'll fuck with my head. I can't be balling two guys at
once." She's told me she's still sleeping with Frank.
"That's cool," I say.
Piss, I'm ready to die! I got a super hardon that'll take thirty minutes to bring
down. "Oh we don't have to fuck," I agree.
What am I saying?
I go back to kissing her. I know she digs it. We can go on forever like a couple
of maniacs. We go exploring around each other's bodies. Still full-clothes. She's busy
rubbing her hand against my zipper. I get inspired to turn the lights off. It's no big
deal. It works, and Martha gets back into a sexy mood and we head for the bed,
stopping a minute to light a candle.
We're goingtat it again, but after a few minutes she stops the action. I'm ex-
pecting another reprimand. But instead it's "I want to ball you."
So the show's on!! We stop for a second to get some of our clothes off. Now it's
just underwear, and now we're under the sheets.
So it happens. It's all pretty obvious from here on in. Or it should have been.
But I acted like a renegade from the Sexual Deviants Hospital: Sinking into her I
almost shoot off right then, but then I settle down and stop action. Just rest inside
her. I'll be all right. But she wants some action shortly so I gotta turn it on. In no
time she's churning it up. I'm trying not to come. I've got this movies-inspired

thought, namely, that the longer you hold out the greater you are.
Anyway, I blow it from my standpoint. While she's churning I accidentally let
go of myself and come. What a drag! I've had nine-thousand jack-offs better than
that fuck. The whole time I'm coming I'm also trying not to come. Fuck those
movies! Fuck those dudes who say, "Ah, we fucked all night!"
So the first fuck's over, but I still got a hardon! And I keep going! (Those fif-
teen months have had their effect on me.) Meanwhile Martha's had a semi-orgasm
from what I can tell. That doesn't exist does it? Well, she was right on the edge of
one. Not quite.
I stupidly figure she wants to keep going, so I'm fucking away still (must be
over ten minutes of fucking so far). Then she interrupts, "You aren't going to ball
again, are you? I've never seen this. You come twice without stopping?
It's embarrassing. I feel like running away. Yet I still have the hardon, and I
still have the inclination to get back on her and fuck. I keep feeling around her
body, massaging her.
Martha's tired enough but she says, "Alright, one more time if I can get into it."
She wonders, "You sure we're right for each other? I mean you still got a hardon
the minute after we fuck!"
I can't very well tell her the story . . .
So we work up another fuck. A little harder. Well, she gets into it, She's ready,
loosened up.
She's reaching a peak real fast, shaking mightily. I'm wondering if she's going
to kick in the wall and wake everybody up.
And in the middle of all this, I realize that in all my many experiences (three
women) and travels throughout my life, I haven't yet had a girl who's had an or-
gasm. It's fucking amazing.
I love it. In the excitement of it all, Martha jerks me all over the place and I
come again without wanting to. Again it's not up to jack off standards, and I'm
pissed. She's happy, also dead tired. "Enough," she says. I relax on her. We both
smile and agree it was great. It was great for her.
I say, "Yeah, it was great."

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way at South Quad dormitory, where the law students often went to get snacks.
Hamburgers at Smitty's. And boring poetry readings at Smitty's, where often
jokers would read for ten straight minutes. And when there wasn't any poetry
reading, the country girls would wander around looking for football stars, since
all the football players had to live in South Quad where they were fed extra-large
steaks and had their hair cut.
* * *
NE JANUARY DAY, cold and all, I see Martha again. It's at the
Arts and Science building. I'm parading around campus trying to
get a routine together, trying to pay my tuition, and Martha's doing
the same thing. She's cruising around trying to get her scholarship
money.
Her big full-length Army jacket comes sweeping across the
floor of the building. Her wide smile on. Her Molly Pitcher frontier
look beaming. I think to myself, "She should be in the Northwest Territory." I
mean back when Ohio, Illinois, Michigan & Co. were the Northwest Territory, 1787.
Round, fair-skinned face. A couple dents from adolescent pimples. She's got the
secret of the universe locked up in her face. An absolute nothing face. All smiles!
She's gotta be all smiles. I'm thinking, "What's it like to have your mother
die when you're four?"
It's hell. If my motber'd died I'd gone beserk. Even if she died now I'd go
beserk. You can't make it without a mother.
Martha's her own mother. She's busily cruising between errands. She's doing
everything herself. The all-time independent. Well, we talk about our Christmas
vacations. She'd been up to Boston and back, just to cruise.
To move things along, I bring up our old going-for-coffee routine - our old
coffee date at the Cottage Inn. She's up for more coffee. "How about the Union
Station?" she says.
"Great!"
I'd never been to the Station. It's in the Union, and funny thing, I'm an old
Union freak-I hung out there all the time, but I'd never been to the Station,.
probably because it was rarely open.
We're waiting in the long line, talking, I got my copy of Jack London's Great
Short Works in my pocket. He's part of my routine. I'm trying to read a little
of him every morning. All I want to do is read and write. That's me.,
And then there's Martha. All she wants is good times, and sparks. She wants
sparks to fly everywhere. I'm happy about that. She's jumpy. I need somebody
to wake me up.

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