Back at the Tumblers
That’s exactly how I felt the morning of Friday, Sept. 15, 1978.
“I awoke,” the diary entry begins, “much happier, still feeling strange and wonderful.” Mom warmed some leftover spaghetti for my lunch, after which I hustled to the bank to open a new checking account. The Family Project insisted I sock away money to get me through the first year at the U—first tuition was due in less than a week.
Between school gearing up and factory work winding down, I had a lot on my mind. Suddenly, meeting Jocey came front and center. I couldn’t wait to see her again. I’d called the following day, left a message with her mom, then tried back on Saturday afternoon. Jocey called an hour later from a friend’s house. The happiness seemed mutual.
But four days in a teenager’s mind and—voilà!—Memory-Evaporation Syndrome occurs.
You see, I’d been replaying our initial meeting over in my head. What, exactly, had happened? I needed an actual human being to confirm it wasn’t all just a crazy, delightful dream. In the days that followed, we talked on the phone, planned a get-together that fell through and, the diary confesses on Sept. 18, “it’s just that my mental picture of her as I should remember it, on the bus, is unclear. It becomes so [much] more every day. But I can’t forget the circumstances, and even down to the moment she waved to me as she got off the bus.”
I wanted to leave factory life behind, but for some reason we summer workers were still on shift. The feeling with the folks at the time was, “Hey, if you can still make money and balance it with schoolwork, all the better.” I would’ve argued that focusing on schoolwork was the primary objective, but my vote didn’t enter into it.
Tuesday, Sept. 19’s entry opens like a page in my tumbler-deburring station logbook: “53,000 parts – #155010 Chassis —Mike.” I was “back at the Tumblers,” writing The Crowded Room, and later running into the “one guy that always plays the Bay City Rollers and KISS.” That night Mr. Mystery Rocker “had a portable TV set and on dinner break we all watched a John Wayne movie back in the Sub [Assembly] Lunch Room.”
Meanwhile I planned a first date with Jocey. I called Dudley Riggs’ Brave New Workshop to check on their latest show. On Saturday night, starting at 8 p.m., they’d be performing the wryly titled: “If We Had Only Left It To Beaver.” Dudley Riggs was an unusual idea for a teenage date. A Twin Cities improv comedy troupe that veered into social and political issues, Dudley Riggs further underscored that I was feeling more “in the Cities” than “out in the suburbs.” I even made sure to get Mom’s car for the night, then called Jocey to set it up. She’d just gotten home from a cross-country track meet and was excited about the plan.
During our phone chats, I found Jocey “a lot like Lisa Tepley: clever, pretty, sweet.” I told my old high school friends about her. As mentioned, it was a weird place to be in my life: no longer in high school, not yet in college, working a night job, yet still trying to keep in touch with everyone. I even visited Kim one Sunday, only to be dismayed by trash-talk about my friend Mary Geyen. “I love Mary,” I wrote in the diary, “I resented their judgments and found them petty.” Mary, like Lisa, was a good friend. And I protected my friends.
But it would be eight days before I’d see Jocey again.
Mom booked a sudden flight to Indiana to see Grandma Adams. At noon, Friday, Sept. 22, I drove her to the airport, stopped by the University bookstore, then paid tuition at the bursar’s office. En route home, on a whim, I stopped by Jocey’s house on Lake of the Isles.
“Well,” the diary reports, “Jocey wasn’t home, but I talked with Gloria, the housekeeper/live-in (she went to Harvard). Jocey’s sisters came home around 4:00 (I called Tonka and told them I’d be late). But I didn’t talk to Nina and Leslie for very long; I left that beautiful house” driving back west to another noisy night at the factory.
I was still hopeful—the Dudley Riggs date was the following day.