I had applied to two colleges, David Lipscomb in Nashville and Harding College in Arkansas. My cousin Judy, who was like a big sister to me was at Harding and I seriously considered it but Music City, USA won out. It's hard to imagine what would have happened if I had chosen differently. Lots of things would have been different. I could imagine I had made another choice and dwell on that and even think of it as a parallel reality, but it is not real and my history is just as it is and will never be any different up to now than it is right now. When I think about my history I cannot imagine myself otherwise than as I am defined by it. But then once in a while I find a piece of my history that I forgot about and that little piece of history doesn't even look like me. So I think, where was 'the real I' when I was doing that? The thing I did or said doesn't seem like 'me' so who was it? Good question, isn't it?
Back to college. I was mystified; I maintained an appearance of equilibrium but I was a fish out of water. I went to the Freshman Mixer, which was a big night-time picnic on the playing field. I remember a game where everyone's shoes get tossed into a big pile and then everyone digs. That was supposed to mix us all up together so we would make become friends. It was fun and I'm sure I went back to the dorm that night full of high hopes of getting to know some of the students (read girls) I had met at such an informal event. But the every day experience was not the same. I succumbed to an overwhelming feeling of disconnection. It was a world away from the safety and healthy freedom that I had experienced as a teen at church camp in upstate New York.
Back to college again. Also during that first quarter I signed up to perform in the Freshman Talent Show. I sang two folk songs, 'The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night" and "Ragaputi". The Fox song was a silly, uptempo song about the misadventures of the crafty fox and his night raid on the poultry yard. The other song was an Indian prayer-meeting songa favorite of Mohandas Gandhi according to the liner notes of the Weavers record I got it from. I sang it because it sounded radically ethnic and it was obscure and exotic. I memorized it phonetically, but oh, it sounded cool. I retuned my guitar to the drone notes and just droned it all the way through without changing chords. I dressed for that performance in my suit of Pakistani clothes: the huge baggy draw-stringed pants topped with a long-tailed shirt, all white cotton. The emcee of the program who introduced me, my songs and my outlandish outfit was none other than my future cousin-in-law, Marlin Connelly, speech and Bible prof; of course I had no way of knowing that at the time. And I had no way of knowing that my future bride attended the show with her then boy-friend, Michael. She noticed me; I found that out later. She noticed the outlandish looking guy who sang the outlandishly radical songs.
I wanted to be noticed and complimented for my singing and guitar-playing and I guess I must have received some compliments, but the memory that remains with me is that of two faculty members after the rehearsal commenting to each other about the "wonderful natural voice" of one of the other performers. They didn't say anything about me.
I lived in the dormitory and made friends with the guys on my hall, most all of them scientific and mathematical types. I was supposed to have been the mathematical type too but I didn't turn out to be the mathematician I was cracked up to be. You see, I had always been good at taking standardized tests and so, because I had taken all the high school math and had apparently done well enough on the college entrance tests, I was assigned (pre-registered) to freshman calculus upon my arrival at college. Well, again I was mystified. I got help from my friends but, as it turned out, I was not meant to be a calculusician (!?). I knew I had to throw in the calculus towel so I went to the registrar's office and changed classes. I made the change before the administrative deadline and walked into a trigonometry class. but by that time I was too far mathematically goneat the end of the quarter I had earned an F in trigonometry. I had made my mark on math and that mark was an F.
But by that time I knew my path wasn't going to be in math and science; my path was going to be in music. I made straight A's in music theory. I was a duck in water in music theory. My a cappella singing classes at summer camp and the guitar chord theory that I had learned on my own was enough to give me a good start as a music theoretician. But I still had to have a math credit to graduate so I waited a few more quarters and took college algrebra. I passed it with a D. My good friend Cliff Bennett used to say I was the only student to have taken the math sequence backwards.
To be continued.