Excerpt: 'Living History'

Bill and I shared a small apartment near a big park not far from the University of California at Berkeley campus where the Free Speech Movement started in 1964. I spent most of my time working for Mal Burnstein researching, writing legal motions and briefs for a child custody case. Meanwhile, Bill explored Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco. On weekends, he took me to the places he had scouted, like a restaurant in North Beach or a vintage clothing store on Telegraph Avenue. I tried teaching him tennis, and we both experimented with cooking. I baked him a peach pie, something I associated with Arkansas, although I had yet to visit the state, and together we produced a palatable chicken curry for any and all occasions we hosted. Bill spent most of his time reading and then sharing with me his thoughts about books like To the Finland Station by Edmund Wilson. During our long walks, he often broke into song, frequently crooning one of his Elvis Presley favorites.

People have said that I knew Bill would be President one day and went around telling anyone who would listen. I don't remember thinking that until years later, but I had one strange encounter at a small restaurant in Berkeley. I was supposed to meet Bill, but I was held up at work and arrived late. There was no sign of him, and I asked the waiter if he had seen a man of his description. A customer sitting nearby spoke up, saying, "He was here for a long time reading, and I started talking to him about books. I don't know his name, but he's going to be President someday." "Yeah, right," I said, "but do you know where he went?" At the end of the summer, we returned to New Haven and rented the ground floor of 21 Edgewood Avenue for seventy-five dollars a month. That bought us a living room with a fireplace, one small bedroom, a third room that served as both study and dining area, a tiny bathroom and a primitive kitchen. The floors were so uneven that plates would slide off the dining table if we didn't keep little wooden blocks under the table legs to level them. The wind howled through cracks in the walls that we stuffed with newspapers. But despite it all, I loved our first house. We shopped for furniture at the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores and were quite proud of our student decor.

Our apartment was a block away from the Elm Street Diner, which we frequented because it was open all night. The local Y down the street had a yoga class that I joined, and Bill agreed to take with me — as long as I didn't tell anybody else. He also came along to the Cathedral of Sweat, Yale's gothic sports center, to run mindlessly around the mezzanine track. Once he started running, he kept going. I didn't.

Page
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...