Sunday, May 27, 2012

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xxxv)

It was in either May or June 1971 that I finally got around to exploring the City Island neighborhood of the Bronx on one weekend day. I had read somewhere that some counter-cultural hippie freaks had set up some kind of commune whose living quarters was in a rented house on City Island. But when I walked along the main street of what felt somewhat like a fishing village to me, I didn’t see much evidence that the commune’s presence there had created much of a counter-cultural hippie atmosphere on City Island’s main street in the Spring of 1971. So I did not look any further into whether or not moving into a hippie commune on City Island might be a possible new lifestyle option for me during the remainder of the 1970s.

What I did do in June of 1971, though, was to explore the possibility of enrolling at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and studying some field related to farming and rural life, like agricultural economics. In the early 1970s, out-of-state tuition costs at certain state universities in the Southeast (like the University of Tennessee) were still less than $300 for either a semester (or perhaps an academic year). And after I wrote a folk song about the advantage and desire to escape the loveless and depressing urban rat race scene of early 1970s New York City working-class neighborhoods for some potentially more liberated, land-based country scene in the rural USA, I thought, for awhile, that one way I might be able to eventually escape to a country farming community and live again in some kind of campus youth ghetto—where I’d feel less culturally isolated than I then felt in the Bronx—might be to try to take advantage of the University of Tennessee’s low tuition costs; and attend school down there. But by the time I got around to actually applying for admissions there in late June 1971, I no longer had enough money to afford to even pay for an application for admissions there, let alone finance some kind of long-distance move from the Bronx to Knoxville.

Yet I had been so into the idea of possibly studying at the University of Tennessee in the Fall of 1971 that when I exchanged letters with Sue of New Jersey—whom I had met in the summer of 1970 when we both worked at Camp Summit in Pennsylvania—I even mentioned in one of my letters to her that I was hoping to “learn how to feed all the hungry people in the world better,” by studying agricultural economics at the University of Tennessee. But although Sue felt that my possible new goal was a worthwhile one and also seemed to understand a critique of how Camp Summit had been run the previous summer that I included in one of my letters to her, she—herself—had decided that her best economic option in the Summer of 1971 was still to just return to Camp Summit and work there again as a waitress/server, before then probably going off to some college that wasn’t as far from New Jersey as one in Tennessee might be—despite the University of Tennessee’s then low-cost for out-of-state residents.

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