June 9th, 2005

Have you ever heard of the movie “Dispatch from Reuters”? Starring Edward G. Robinson, the cigar-chomping Capone figure of “Little Cesar,” the 1936 (I think) flick was about the founding of the famed Reuters news service.

Consider the following your personal dispatch from Sander’s. (No, this is not a blog. How I hate that word!)–.

Full circle? Certainly felt like it two weeks ago, as I sat in the dining room of The College of the Atlantic, the “environmentally friendly” college of human ecology I revisited two weeks ago, musing on the pouring rain and the eternal verities, over a plate of range-fed roast beef, as one of the highlights of my 25th Reunion Maine tour, or whatever you would call it. Twenty four-and-a-half years before, in December 1980 (the same long ago, faraway month when John Lennon was assassinated, an event I experienced at the isolated Mount Desert Island campus, itself an intellectual off shoot of the ’60s), I came to the then 10-year-old “experimental” college, or “laboratory college,” as the species was known back in the 1920s heyday of progressive higher education, in order to write a column about it for the “Earth” page of Omni Magazine.

Remember Omni? I do. I did some of my best work for Omni. Why, I tracked down Robert Redford in the wilds of southeastern Washington State for Omni! See the In Search Of section of Journalism, which also features a candid photo of the Sundance Kid and I hanging out on the grounds of an eco-house to which The Great White Father had just given his blessing — shortly before he split after promising to give me a longer interview, and I spent three weeks making phone calls to his office in New York from a telephone booth on a highway in Pullman, Washington, before giving up, taking the cross-country train back to New York, returning to my Yorkville garret, turning on the phone answer machine and learning that The Kid would be pleased to see me the following day at his Rockefeller Center offices — even though I had never told his office when I was returning! Spooky! But that’s another story–)

Anyway, my original piece about COA was published in the spring of 1981, the same year that I both tracked down Redford for Omni and taught a course in Hanging Out. (Yes, 1981 was a very good year for me, or at least a freaky one.)

Alas, Omni died.

But, somehow, I survived, and so, I was pleased to find, has this strange, wonderful, college of “human ecology.” Indeed, I was touched to find that the college, having survived the great experimental shakeout period of the 1970s during which a number of its out there kin went under (see my obit for Eisenhower College), is not only alive and well, but thriving, with enrollment growing from 180 to 250. It was great to see some of the same original faculty I had met during my original l981 visit. Of course, they may have had a bit less hair than they did back then, but, to judge from the classes I audited, they are still having a blast, and that was good to see. It is reassuring to know, in these selfish, self-centered days, that there is one campus where both the students and faculty are manifestly and vociferously dedicated to making a difference. Long live the College of the Atlantic! And look for the article(s) I am crafting for various and sundry, based on my recent return sortie to the Van Allen belt of higher education over the next few months.

Interesting trip. While I was having my own reunion, so to speak, with the College of the Atlantic, I was having a simultaneous reunion with myself, you might say: “Gordon Sander, Gallivanting Journalist, Class of 1981″ meets “Gordon Sander, Greying But Still Lively Gallivanting Journalist, Class of 2005,” you might say. Given the singular arc of my life and career, this made excellent ontological sense.

And sure enough, one misty afternoon, as I was traipsing around the outer perimeter of COA`s mist-enshrouded island campus, I did run into my old self, or a spitting version of the same, carrying a flask of Jack Daniels, as I wont during to do during those Hunter Thompson-esque days, when I saw it as my personal mission to illuminate distant pedagogical worlds for the Great American Reading Public.

“So, what have you been up to these past 24 years?” ’81 asked ’05?

“Well, the latter replied,” after gazing up at the circling seagulls, “I grew a few books, lost my hearing, found my voice, covered a ship sinking, jumped out of a treehouse and broke both of my ankles.”

“Ouch! That must have hurt!” ’81 winced–

“It did,” ’05 said, “it did.”


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