On a Saturday morning on mid May, 1970, I locked up my garden apartment in East Windsor, NJ and drove out (taking two days) to Indianapolis to start my first “assignment”, supposedly implementing a “dynamic programming model” (in Fortran) for the television manufacturing plant north of downtown. It is long gone; there is a museum there now.
In those days, suburban apartments didn’t need deadbolts; you could just auto-lock the door and drive away for weeks. The apartment complex was called the Princeton Arms, south of route 571 (the Princeton-Hightstown Road). I don’t know if I could find my exact unit today. I was even adopted by a cat for a while.
I even recall some of the popular songs on the car radio (I drove a Ford Maverick then), “Everybody’s beautiful, in their own way.” The idea made me uneasy. (A couple of years later, when I had a different job in the government, a pouty coworker would say, “I don’t notice men’s bods. Yes, women’s bods.”) I also recall what played on the car radio as I drove away from Fort Eustis on Feb. 6, 1970, “Without love, I am nothing at all.”
Finding temporary housing on the per diem offered was a challenge. RCA paid $30 a week per diem for singles, and $50 for married. This was in the days long before discrimination got attention. The married employee got a larger stipend for travel whether or not the spouse accompanied him (her would have been a less common pronoun in those days). To me is sounded like a subsidy for missionary sexual intercourse, even within marriage.
Having to find a housing on the cheap, I located a room fairly quickly for the exact $30 a week. An elderly widow owned the home. I had taken my tape-deck and open reel copies (technology as of 1970) of the Berlioz and Verdi Requiems, and would listen to music on my earphones (all you needed was the pre-amp on the tape deck). Apparently I took the typewriter and worked on the manuscript of “The Proles” (media reviews blog).
The landlady recommended a particular destination south of the city. This was Brown County State Park, near Nashville, IN (and pretty close to Bloomington and Indiana University). I did go down there on a Sunday in June, and was surprised by the amount of topography. When I came back, I recall soliloquizing about the novel, and wondering how I could justify the divide between the two halves if the book. I recall stopping at a railroad crossing for a freight train, and then eating a family restaurant, and then going to an evening church service somewhere. While I waited on the train, I had a mini-epiphany. Why not, I mused, suppose that the contents of my brain (as those of all of my Army and graduate school friends – real world in these days long before the Internet) could be stored on a computer, and that my body (or anyone else’s) could simply be replicated on demand later. Any amount of time could pass. I decided then that the second half should take place fourteen years later, which would make it 1984. (As it would turn out, this would approximate the time I made a visit to Lama Foundation north of Taos, New Mexico for “spring work camp”.) Now this may sound like the premise of the upcoming movie “Transcendence”, which I haven’t even seen yet. But it’s clear that such a device opens some possibilities, like multiple reincarnations.
I would ask the pastor at the church that evening if “love” should be a transitive verb. He saw what I now call “upward affiliation” as a sin. Well, it can lead to bad karma, or set an unsustainable example for the rest of society. It can separate some people off from society, and leave others in more precarious family situations. If someone wins the pennant, someone else finishes in the cellar, right? That can make a democracy unstable and vulnerable, ripe for Revolution (attain, Media blog).
One day that week, the landlady told me that she had to go into the hospital, and that I would need to move. It turns out that a woman at the plant had an attic apartment (even with its own kitchenette and little TV) two blocks from the plant, for $35 a week. This worked out much better. I had more privacy, lived a little more normally.
The assignment would end in July, somewhat a technical failure. It was never achievable with mainframe technology on the Spectra in 1970.
Don’t forget the song “Indiana wants me, but I can’t go back there.” Police sirens can be heard. That actually may figure into the book.
(Published: Saturday March 29. 2014, around 11:45 PM)