I came to New York City in 1969, ostensibly to study at New York University. But there would not be much studying, for this was not just any time. Political upheaval and violence was mixed with sex, drugs and rock and roll. There was extreme distraction.
The Vietnam War colored and dominated everything. Hanging on my dorm room wall was the iconic anti-Vietnam War poster, And babies, with its horrifying image of the My Lai massacre. Dead soldiers in body bags seemed like a daily sight on television. On the heels of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King had just been assassinated in 1968. President Richard Nixon, a man seen to be so evil, in 1974 at the apex of the Watergate scandal needed to proclaim to the nation, "I am not a crook".
Some of the most seminal and notable music groups of the 20th century flourished at the time. And of course, there was Woodstock. This was a time of rampant drug use, particularly LSD. Timothy Leary had already commanded America's youth to "Turn on, tune in, drop out." There was fallout from these excesses. Music icons were dropping like flies, primarily from drug related causes - Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Brian Jones.
Sexual freedom reigned after the introduction of the contraceptive pill in the early 1960s. The spirit of the Summer of Love in 1967 permeated the culture.
Consciousness was being expanded. Everything was in question. Groups were beginning to vocalize and demonstrate. In New York City, there were the Stonewall riots in June 1969. The women's rights movement was in full force, on the heels of the birth control pill and Betty Friedan's revolutionary book, The Feminine Mystique.
There was the SDS and the Black Panther Party. The Weathermen, a small extreme group of radicals formerly from the SDS, had built a bomb factory in the Village and exploded an entire townhouse.
We had just landed on the moon on July 1969.
Study? In New York City?
It took an enormous draw to get a student into a classroom and keep him or her attentive. In spite of bullets flying in the world outside, there was one man who could do it. A legend in 1970s time and still today. In just a few minutes, across that park and behind those trees, I have an appointment to meet that man again, for the first time in 40 years. I can't wait. It's 19 degrees out there, but I won't feel it. Got to run. See you later. In Part 2, you will meet Professor Robert Gurland :)