Although Ya Don’t Know Who I Am… Won’t Ya Listen To Me

In 1973, it was $73.00 per semester to attend a California state college, and $225.00 per quarter at U.C. Berkeley (where they smoked pipes in tweed and played chess). I went to three schools, contingent on a proffered couch or artistic collaboration. I was escaping my insane father, and staving off the workforce. Like today’s youth, I had no attention span, and would have been put on Ritalin if they had it—but I had a high GPA due to a photographic memory and analytical cerebral powers, thereby circumventing the need to study or do homework. I graduated with honors, but forgot everything (another quirk of my trick brain).

I began a Master’s program (again, “employ-ophobia”), but dropped out the first day. I still dream of academic truancy. I’ll suddenly appear in a class at the end of the semester, forgetting its day and time (or very existence). I go to the administration building for a catalog, to recall other courses I enrolled in, and get lost en route. I would have opted for the shorter credential, but would’ve also had to live at my folks’ house and teach in South Central L.A. with a nervous disorder and agoraphobia.

My Alternative Liberal Arts degree (3 units for punting decapitated heads during a rock concert) led to a series of grunt jobs, but 35 years later I made a CD and repaid the defaulted federal loans (three-quarters interest) out of fear and kibitzing, as I was secretly disabled. I credit my collegiate experience, however, with obtaining and securing those low-paying (yet often glamorous) gigs (though I quit every time), as I had sophisticated charm and wherewithal. I also got to put the best years of my lives (I’ve led many, and ditto for the personalities) on a colossal tab.

For the benefit of you new and returning students, I shall expound on this “trickle-down” of subconscious and subcutaneous knowledge. My vital outside reading was funneled through “required reading”—the true wisdom of my alcoholic lit teachers was derived through lecture asides, office flask sessions and off-campus class parties (tear gas and dummy bullets on-campus). I was exposed to free spirits, radicals, artists and intellectuals; at Granola State, a topless quad and nude dorm swimming pool showed how barriers could be broken. Starvation could be countered by “grace” (vis-à-vis free dorm buffets, pavement money and mysterious commissions). Visiting gurus instilled focus through meditation and bestowed “Samadhi.” It all permeated my music, art, films, and writing (I had 5 minors), and my fear of elders and peers was placated.

Though the torch I pass was lit in another millennium, you can show your appreciation by following “Cohen’s Chico Top 10 List of Don’ts”:


1) Don’t yahoo yelp (“OWWWW”) from moving vehicles (or throw Slurpees), nor at “hotties” or singer/songwriters.

2) Don’t skateboard on the sidewalk or on campus.

3) Don’t talk in the library (this includes to the personnel).

4) Don’t read books on smartphones.

5) Don’t burn furniture.

6) Don’t antagonize transients, felons or “bangers.”

7) Don’t vomit by parking meters.

8) Don’t subject residents to a “Get Off of My Cloud” scenario.

9) Don’t run the light in front of the 7-11.

10) Don’t drink 11 shots of vodka like John Bonham and my bassist.

Tags: ,