Chapter Five: I See Light (Junior Year)

What about Chapter 4: Deep in the Valley?

The academic struggle had now lasted four semesters and I’d had the opportunity at this point to commiserate with my classmates. This led to the realization that they weren’t picking up the concepts on the first try either. The difference was, they understood that this wasn’t abnormal.

I worked my way out of the hole I was in by starting with some informal tutoring. In other words, I started hanging around with the guys who were getting good grades. They helped me with the homework. If they went to see the professor, I tagged along. When I had a question, it was easier for me to ask them first. If they didn’t know, we’d go to the Prof en masse.

The relationship wasn’t entirely parasitic; I could write, they couldn’t. If there was a project that required a report, I was more in my element than they were so I had no trouble getting on technically strong project teams. My GPA began to rise and almost as a side-effect, I began to understand.

I credit one particular classmate as a critical mentor. Pete from Rhode Island. Pete and I had almost nothing in common except our academic major. To me, he was sort of the Cal Ripkin Jr. of chemical engineering. Highly competent, but not someone I’d’ve chosen to hang with on a Saturday night.

My feelings toward Pete are warmer now than they were then. I wish I knew where he was, but haven’t been able to locate him. Our last conversation was at the commencement ceremony. He said “It’s been a pleasure” and shook my hand vigorously. I smiled, but could think of nothing to say in reply.

Anyway, music took a back seat for a while. Or, put more precisely, I rebalanced my priorities. I still saw my high school friends on the weekends or during break. I had an off-campus studio apartment where we could hang out, play guitar, drink a little beer, smoke lots of pot and occasionally write and record music (“Tap Haven” was recorded that winter).

Most of the songs created during this time were instrumentals co-written with Jack Chamberlin or Joe Adams. One that Joe and I wrote and recorded, I simply titled “Hampshire House Jam” which was the name of my off-campus apartment building. It’s the only period recording that’s good enough to include here. I may be able to re-record others, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Once the term ended and things slowed down though, I found myself writing more traditional songs again that summer. I was in possession of Wayne Ackman’s four-track recorder and bass guitar while he was overseas with the Navy. I also borrowed a synthesizer from JD Taylor so, for the first time, I actually had a variety of sounds available and the means to record them.

The first song I wrote was about two of my friends (Joe Adams and Jim Frazier) who had gotten a real job playing more than one show. They were booked to play a series of Holiday Inn motels. They were excited about going out on tour and I was happy for them, but (as I’d already written about this before in “Anywhere, But Here”) could see the down side too. “Helping Hand” is about the struggle to gain acceptance and the necessary assistance it would take to survive and advance in the music industry.

I’d also now had more than two years to think about how I’d dumped my interim girlfriend and the guilt and remorse found its way out in “Get It Right”. Not only had I thrown away someone who really cared about me and hurt her deeply, but I’d had a long, lonely time to think about how karma works.

Continued in Chapter 6: What Do I Do Now?