No. 14: What Goes Up Must Come Down

As they say, that which goes up must come down, and so Harold Rothman Plymouth ’72 was due to come down after the cosmic summer he spent at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area working as a photojournalist: shooting mountain sheep and white-blonde B.C. chicks with polka-dot bikinis and everything in between by day; gigging as a harp player with the Boulder City “desert rock” band Iron Cross by night; and allowing his luxurious, government-issue three-room trailer to become a commune-cum-crash pad for other members of the band and their friends and their friends — including, as he discovered one August night when he found himself playing host to another friend of a friend, one of the region’s biggest drug wholesalers.

After the species of summer that Harold had just had, his return to Plymouth was bound to be anti-climactic. Jeez, he was lucky to get out of the summer of ’69 alive!

Be that as it may, it must be said that Harold Rothman ’72 could not have picked a worse place to return to college to spend his sophomore year, one guaranteed to both accelerate and aggravate the inevitable comedown from his ultimate Nevada summer, than the ramshackle three-floor hovel-cum-countercultural convention center at 405 College Avenue to which he moved, in September of 1969, with his Creedence Clearwater records, Greta Garbo poster, Hopi “peace pipe” (readily convertible to other uses), textbooks and all.

He wouldn’t just come down to earth, so to speak, but to verily crash and burn, just like those speeding cars that used to zoom off into space in the land of NO SPEED LIMIT.

Needless to say, the textbooks were the first to fall by the wayside, followed shortly by Harold’s blotto, curled-up form.

Call it sophomore slump. Call it C-Town blues. Whatever you call it, Harold Rothman Plymouth ’72 had ‘em bad.

Not that there weren’t some compensations to living at 405 College Avenue, also known as Freak Hotel amongst the C-Town cognoscenti.

It was kind of cool, that first week of school, when everyone was back from summer and cars were buzzing up and down College Avenue, and people were giving each other high fives and everyone was still wearing sandals and shorts, to put Rothman’s roommate’s Guido Bindi’s giant stereo and speakers out on the balcony and be DJ for a day and blast the Stones or Taj down at all the new and returning Plymouthians walking by, just as if he had his own radio station. And everyone once in a while someone would turn when they heard a tune they liked and look up and give Rothman a thumb’s up or an old peace sign. Yeah, right on! Do it to it!

And it was keen to have a hallway long enough to hold trucking contests, as the residents of 405 College Avenue were wont to do, when the mood availed. And the mood often availed.

And it was cool to be able to throw a party for the entire house, as occurred every other night, and have someone, say, with an Australian bush hat walking around shouting “No Prisoners!” a la Peter O’Toole at his most demented in Lawrence of Arabia while another visiting tripster recited Baudelaire followed by another person offering you a joint with a dead pan expression and the mock-cautionary words, “And remember, use only as directed.” Yes, Doctor! And may I please have another?

Then, of course, there was Steve from South Dakota, better known as “Steve Freak,” who had hitched all the way from Pierre to hang in Collegetown because he heard that it was the Berkeley of the East (which it was, at least for a while), and who wound up renting Rothman’s closet to sleep in for five dollars a month. And so once or twice a week, at 2 or 3 in the morning, Rothman would be wakened by Steve’s ghostly form entering the room and floating by his bed before quietly opening the door to his closet, entering, and just as quietly shutting it behind him.

That was cool, too. Indeed, in its own cracked way 405 College Avenue was a cool place to live – maybe the coolest in all of Collegetown. What other place could boast of having its own recording studio, as 405 did, or of being under round-the-clock police surveillance?

No doubt about it: 405 College Avenue was concentrated fun!

However, as a place for an already mixed-up college student to get his bearings, particularly after the ultimate summer Rothman had just had, or to study. “Study?” Rothman’s roommates would kid him when he tried to go to his room and hit the books. “What’s that?” 405 College Avenue left something to be desired.

And so after about a month or so, Rothman stopped studying. And shortly after that, he stopped going to classes, too, and decided to just, well, go with it.

“Yes, Doctor, I will use only as directed. And would you mind if I took another hit for the road?”

“Can do, son, can do. And would you mind putting on some more Creedence?”

And so it went. Rothman had begun returning to Planet Earth. Fast.

“NO PRISONERS! NO PRISONERS! NO PRISONERS!”

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