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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Last Time I Slept with a Communist

 I went back to Colorado two weeks ago to attend my 50th high school reunion.  Other than a quick visit two years ago to attend a memorial for the judge I clerked for many years ago when I was in law school, I had not been back to my life long home since 1997. I drove all over town and saw so many places that are radically different from what I remembered or which no longer exist. Memories of my earlier life kept rushing through my head including the the summer of 1967 when I was a 20 year old college student, when for the first and only time in my life, I slept with a communist.  He was in his 50s and head of the Colorado Communist Party.  He was taking me to Chicago to attend the National Conference for New Politics. We drove in his brand new Chevy pickup truck with one of those campers with a platform that extended over the truck cab to provide more sleeping space.
I am second from the left
I was a nerdy - liberal - college kid in 1967.  I was against the Viet Nam War and against the racial unrest in our country, but I was never a campus radical. In fact I was opposed to the campus unrest that was sweeping the nation.  While I agreed with a lot of the causes espoused by members of the Students for Democratic Society (the SDS), I never fell into their cause.  I wasn't one of them, and I certainly was not a communist. I was instead a member of the Colorado Young Democrats and was the president of the CSU Young Democrats that year. I was also a member of the Associated Students legislature at Colorado State University. I was that guy who always wore a suit or sport coat to student government meetings. I tried to build consensus and get things done by agreement. I was not a trouble maker. While I opposed Lyndon Johnson on the War in Viet Nam, I agreed with his philosophy of reasoning together. And I certainly had no aims to destroy anything.  I had plans of going to law school and eventually running for public office. The most radical thing I did in college happened my senior year when I grew my hair out just a bit, grew sideburns, and went to class wearing cutoffs and sandals.

We arrived at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago just after sundown. I remember our arrival quite vividly because my Commie driver struck a pole while trying to park the truck near the hotel. He  got out of the truck to survey the damage to his new vehicle. His new truck and camper were damaged. He almost cried. Communist my ass. This guy was just a normal guy who worked for every buck he had.  His new prized possession was ruined or so he thought. Oh it worked fine, but it would never be the same shiny un-dented Chevy Truck! I need to mention that a buddy of mine (Tom H.) traveled with me in the camper. We left the old man at the hotel for most of the stay and met up with them to return to Colorado four days later. 

The National Conference for New Politics (NCNP) took place in Chicago over Labor Day weekend in 1967.  I did some online reading and found references to there being between 3,000 to 5,000 people who attended the meeting. The hotel ballrooms could never have held that many people. The online references did get it right, however, in saying the meetings were disorganized. While I had attended several Colorado political conventions and a national Young Democrats meeting in Miami, I had never attended a "meeting" like this before. There were representatives from all sorts of left wing organizations. The stated purpose of the NCNP was to create the basis for a third party to run against President Johnson in the 1968 Presidential Election. Some hoped that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. Benjamin Spock would run for President and Vice President as the third party candidates.  There were typical political speeches by some pretty famous people including Tom Hayden and Renee Davis both of whom were among the Chicago Seven arrested a year later for disrupting the Democratic National Convention also held in Chicago. They spoke with authority. But they were the exception. There were a lot of loonies with a myriad of agendas.  There were several break-out sessions and ad hoc meetings of various groups to discuss all kinds of issues. After spending half a day with this assemblage, I knew America had nothing to fear from the radical left: they couldn't agree on the best way to get out of a paper bag.

I got annoyed with my buddy and stayed away from our room one night. I took brief naps in various places in the Palmer House and moved from place to place throughout the night. I walked around the block numerous times. I rode up and down the elevators all night long. The elevators had a feature I had never encountered before: they talked. A voice would come on and announce the floor as the door opened. I purposefully would prevent the elevator door from closing whereupon the voice would come on and say "The door is ajar" to which I replied "The door is a door. It is not a jar" and laugh to myself.  I did this repeatedly.  I used to tease small children and dogs - and now I was teasing a machine.

During one of my up and down elevator rides a young black guy got on. We acknowledged each other. He asked if I knew if there was a drug store open.  I told him no - it was the middle of the night. Nothing would be open. I looked at him and asked "What do you need?"  He said "condoms" to which I replied "I have one you can have".  I got out my billfold and retrieved the one I had been saving if ever the need should occur. It did, but not for me. He gladly accepted it and got off the elevator. And I kept riding the elevator and taking catnaps until the next morning. 

On Monday night Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the speaker at a large but old auditorium far away from the Palmer House Hotel. We had heard rumors all day long about some serious threats having been made against Dr. King.  It was feared Stokely Carmichael would disrupt the speech.  Carmichael was the leader of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and was also a part of the NCNP, but he was not supposed to be a part of King's speech.  My buddy and I arrived very early so we could sit up close to the stage. I think we were in the first or second row. I will never forget that night.  The internet is a repository of all kinds of information.  I found that speech which you can listen to if you CLICK HERE.

The speech lasted about forty minutes. Dr. King referred to his "I Have a Dream" speech.  He spoke of racism, militarism, poverty, the unending War in Viet Nam. The speech I heard was not memorable in itself. But it was memorable because of it being made by Martin Luther King, Jr.s and the look on his face when and particularly his eyes when all hell broke loose at the back of the auditorium. He had been looking around the room as if he was expecting trouble.  About thirty minutes or so into the speech there was a clamor at the rear of the auditorium. I said the hall was old. It had panic doors with glass windows with wire to protect against breakage. The doors had those metal push bars to permit quit exit.  The doors were thrust open and people at the rear made a lot of noise. I looked back but could not see what was going on. I could tell some people tried to force their way inside. But they were forced back and not allowed to enter. That was the end of it.  Dr. King continued with his speech - unphased except that he looked grateful that nothing more serious happened.
The Commie's Chevy was Red  and new in 1967 - his camper extended over the cab to provide more sleeping space
The next day my buddy and I met up with the Commie for the long ride back to Denver. I never feared Communist domination after that trip. As far as I was concerned the organized "left" was totally disorganized.  And the one acknowledged communist I knew was as materialistic as any man or woman I have ever met.

 Oh, if you thought I meant I had sex with the Commie, shame on you.  I only slept in the Commie's camper.  He was a proper Catholic who was married to a really nice lady. She went along for the ride and fed us.  The Nation Conference for New Politics was a bust. I did become a lawyer and practiced law for a while. Today I sell houses to rich people in Key West, Florida.

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.