I really ought to be in bed by now. And “by now,” I mean “two or three hours ago.” But I’m not, because I am frantically searching for my Carbondale After Dark poster, which of course has gone AWOL the moment I need it for a classroom display I’m creating about SIU’s long and (occasionally in)glorious history of student activism.
I’m also taking a rather ill-timed stroll down Memory Lane.
In between turning my office closet upside-down in a futile search for the poster and trying to keep the cat from eating the chipboard letters I intend to use on a bulletin board Wednesday, I’ve been busy scouring the Internet for images of the burning of Old Main in 1969 and the riots that shut down the campus in 1970. I haven’t found many worthy images for my bulletin board, but the search has conjured up some nice memories.
I arrived on campus 23 years too late to join the protests, but I earned the most useful parts of my bachelor’s degree in an ugly, Brutalist-influenced building whose spectacularly illogical floorplan was rumored to be riot-proof. (Said building was constructed to replace Old Main, so the explanation is understandable, if not entirely factual.) I spent long afternoons sipping cappuccino and eavesdropping on informal political debates as I listened to the sleet pelt the transoms on my favorite coffeehouse near campus. And I took a poli sci class from a former Nixon operative who asked me — as he was calling roll at 8 a.m. on the first day of school — if I was the girl who’d written the front-page story in that morning’s issue of the campus newspaper. (I don’t think Dr. Derge ever realized how much he did for me in that instant. For four years, I had been a very big duck in a very small pond, and I was not at all sure how well I would adjust to the anonymity I was sure I’d experience when I became one of 25,000 faces in the crowd on SIU’s sprawling campus. Walking into my first class to find that the professor already knew my name was reassuring at levels I cannot begin to describe, and despite our political differences, I will forever adore the man for ensuring that my college experience started off on the right foot.)
For reasons only an SIU graduate could understand, I would kill for a flame-grilled bagel with tomatoes, cucumbers, and sunflower seeds right now….