Buzz Café, Oak Park

I’m still “processing” as the professionals say, my meeting the English teacher I had sophomore year that inspired me to want to teach. Forty-five years is a long time between moments, and the moment I so frequently had with former students, turned to my direction, has made me reflective, maybe a little bittersweet, and wondering if I evoke the same as was evoked that evening.

As a sophomore in 1970 I was lost and angry with no purpose in my anger save jealousy that the Summer of Love, the tumult of the Democratic National Convention and Woodstock all went on without me. Bill was to my young mind the most together, most philosophic, the most frenetic  teacher I have ever seen, so different from the stoic Christian Brothers or the borderline incompetent Vietnam dodgers wasting our time with no idea how to forward a class. Bill was all forward, with a manic glee as he focused on connections between art and music and literature. I was enthralled, I was convinced, this was the life work I would and did pursue.

The man I sat with at Buzz, as memory meets reality, looked nothing like the person in my mind’s eye. We are eight years apart, and the gulf between 67 and 59 seemed like nothing compared to the presumed gulf between 23 and 15.Bill retires this year, and his tales were of the injustices he suffered at the hands of administrators and the disparate plans he has for the future.

Will I look like this? Do I look like this now to those who come back and reconnect? Do they, like me, gloss over the realities that age brings? Will I be found less together, a bit wanting? Should our memories of the great people who inspire us be stored in amber, ever relevant, ever young?

Still processing, as they say. Delighted to see him again, thoughtful and vibrant, yet wistful, as l was as I drove away.


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