No One Ever Left Alive in Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five (Part 2)

[Last of a two-part post.]

On Tuesday, April 23, 1985, there was a quiz for Lit class on Crèvecœur’s Letters From an American Farmer. And I was struggling to finish the book.

“Laura popped up in my Linguistics class just as it ended,” the journal states, “to ask me if there was any assignment—we chatted a bit after class about the party at Dolphin’s on Saturday—she wasn’t there—she’d gone home for the weekend. I saw her again, while Rick and I waited for the bus outside Currier after dinner—she was going up to eat and we chatted again. Shame that she has a boyfriend…”


The journal describes the vibe in Iowa City on Monday, May 6: “Anti-apartheid rallies, daily, on the Pentacrest. They’re making news, writing all over Jessup Hall—which they’ve renamed Stephen Biko Hall. Beautiful weather. Trees have ‘leafed out.’ River’s flowing, occasionally bristled by a strong wind. Mosses pushing through cracks in the pavement.”

But me?

“I feel like a real nobody. I talk to people and I’m afraid to say too much. I wish I’d shut up, never [make] small talk.”

I’d gotten on the bus that morning with Yolanda, from my dorm floor. “She was on her way to ‘Selected Authors.’ ‘What’s on your mind?’ Samuel Johnson. ‘Wasn’t he kind of a pessimist, a real grump?’ —Depended on who he was with, Boswell—he just knew what was really, truly good, she said (earnestly?) … ‘Well, isn’t that the mark of a good critic?’ —That’s bullshit, she said.”

I ranted through the rest of that day’s journal entry: “Who? Johnson, or literary historians, or me?”

I was feeling utterly friendless in Iowa City.

“I don’t have that here, not with Bud, or Rick, or anyone. If I were to get married tomorrow, I wouldn’t have a best man to choose from! How sad things have become!”


Dad had sent me the Sunday Minneapolis Tribune want ads. You know, so I could look for a summer job once the school year was over.

So I answered an ad for “Proofreader” at Fingerhut Corporation in Hopkins, Minn.

It was Friday morning, May 3, when our dorm room phone rang. It was Fingerhut’s human resources department calling, requesting an interview. I told them I was still a student at the University of Iowa; they said were willing to schedule the interview around that.

So I took a Greyhound north the following Tuesday, stayed at the farmhouse overnight, then interviewed the morning of Wednesday, May 8, 1985.

Afterward Dad gave me the keys to my car—the dark blue 1981 Datsun GX coupe I loved so much, with cassette tape deck and zippy wheels—so I could drive back down to school for the remainder of the semester. But I couldn’t keep it at Mayflower Hall due to parking restrictions, so Chris Hampl let me stow it at his apartment.

Then, after Fingerhut Corporation called to offer me the job that same Friday, I was beginning to feel like somebody, too.

Bud and his girlfriend Kim seemed to be on the outs, so his sister Beth and her boyfriend Larry came up from Louisville to join us for an R.E.M. concert at Hancher Auditorium that Thursday. After the show we went to The Crow’s Nest, but “stayed only until midnight”—later learning R.E.M. had also crashed The Crow’s Nest after midnight to catch the local band and shoot pool.

We felt totally crestfallen.


It’d been cloudy and rainy for four days straight.

So Rick, Jane, and I went to one last movie.

It was John Sayles’ Brother From Another Planet, at the Bijou, on Saturday night, May 11. “I loved it,” the journal says. “You can take a fantasy film like [Ron Howard’s] Splash and throw it out the window compared to Sayles’ film.”

After the show we piled into Rick’s Volkswagen Bug and headed over to Fitzpatrick’s, where we grabbed a booth in the back. We shook off the rain and drank pints of Harp, “talking about relationships, sex, all the abundance or lack thereof—getting in a few jokes as well.” I found out Jane was from St. Louis, Mo., and mentioned my friend Thérèse to her, also from St. Louis. We left the bar near midnight.

“The last 6 days,” the May 22 journal entry (written back in Minnesota) reads, “have been fireworks aboard a Concorde that leaves Nome, Alaska, and lands on a beach in Bermuda.”

The week before was filled with final exams and graduation parties.

My roommate Bud Morris’ parents were due in from Louisville on Thursday, and he was packing up to leave Friday morning, May 17. Friday night Dick Bray had planned a grad party at Harv’s House. I still needed to pick up my Datsun at Chris’ apartment, and get it gassed up so I could leave early Saturday morning.

On the way to supper I ran into Susan, a friend of Jim’s, and also Laura Speaks. “Laura and I got into talking about our upcoming Literature and Language final exams, so she invited me over to her place … to exchange missed lecture notes.”

This is funny because I’m sure I was past caring about anything at that point: college or relationships.

Or, maybe not.

The day before I was to leave Iowa City for the last time, Laura and I were at her place. Here’s what the journal says:

“In between scanning each others’ notes, we chatted about music, books. … She said she’d like to get into proofreading, too—eventually, maybe, she said, becoming an editor in a publishing house. We watched the fish in her aquarium. I even got to talking about old girlfriends—noting to her that I’m anxious to pry into my old diaries for story ideas. I guess her present boyfriend’s a music major. I didn’t think to ask what he plays. It seems a lot of these attached girls I meet are genuinely happy. Oh well. I’m thinking about how I’m going to end my little stint here—that is, most assuredly in a whimper, not a bang.”


Laura’s boyfriend’s name was Michael.

Like, of course.

Great joke, universe. Ha, ha, you’re freakin’ brilliant.

Friday, May 17, 1985: Rick and I shared a last supper at Currier Hall, after I’d had my Astronomy final and scrambled to pick up the Datsun at Chris’ apartment.

My Literature final exam (cruel in substance as well as timing) was at 7 p.m. in the English-Philosophy Building. “It was short-answer, identification, and two essays,” the journal states. “It was difficult. I sweated through the whole two hours. Most people did. ‘Fifteen more minutes,’ Franklin said. ‘Keep shoveling.’”

Franklin wanted to see me after the exam, as I’d failed to turn in a paper. “He knew about my job interview and gave me an extension of two weeks” to mail it to him.

After the exam I ran into Laura—“she did really well on her paper and was happy—I was really down and knew I did badly in the exam; she stroked my face and then gave me a lovely, big hug.”

I’ll never forget that moment. It was amazing.

It was Friday night, finals were over, and a six-hour drive north lay ahead.

But not without One Last Party, at Harv’s House with Dick Bray and friends. I went to see Laura one last time, over at Dolphin’s, “but she was cleaning out her aquarium with her boyfriend.”

Rick Kubat showed up at Dick’s party. “I had quite a few beers,” the journal says. “Jim, Laura and her boyfriend Mike showed up later. We listened to old ’70s songs that LeeAnn played. Jane was there. We got stoned. I vegetated. I spilt beer on myself while sitting and talking with Laura. I decided it was time to leave.”

I think that’s when the 1970s finally ended for me, odd as it seems to say that now.

But leave I did.

Driving back north the following morning.

And into Corporate America, 1985.

~ by completelyinthedark on September 18, 2015.

2 Responses to “No One Ever Left Alive in Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five (Part 2)”

  1. This was amazing to read : ) My 1st yr @ Iowa was 1984 & I spent many a night @ the Crow’s Nest. The Tetraphonics practiced on the guy hall of my floor @ Burge & I wish I knew what happened to Cameo, the red-haired lead singer who always came up to talk to me on campus whenever our paths crossed. Cameo was warmth & goodness & always smiling. & very talented. Cheered them on @ Battle of the Bands & watched them @ the Nest. Ahhhh the Nest. Magical & wonderful just as you described it & loved how you described the height & expanse of the dance floor & stage room – it took my breath away the first time I entered that room with my friends from Burge. A big smile of amazement & love on my face – seriously in love with that place & the feel of it, the type of music & people, that big open room – my heart was huge there. It was SO awesome to hear you thinking those same kinds of things. I still have a Tetraphonics flyer packed away somewhere. I wish I could go back!! I only live 50 min. away now. Sometimes I just go & walk all over the place there & jump on the Cambus & just soak that place up again & pretend I still live there : ) I am wondering if I walked by you, ran into you, talked about something deep with you, etc, while at the Crow’s Nest : ) or on campus. : ) Or in John’s Grocery, on Interdorm… & wondering if I’ve been in Hy-Vee with Sue in Bettendorf, etc, as I am in the Quad Cities almost every day for one reason or another. I so related to you chasing her down the street that night & wanting things to work out & having those chance meetings all the time which made it seem like surely something was going to come of it! I had things going on in my world like that too. So cool!!!! Thank you so much for keeping that journal going back then & you were right you knew what was going on was a special time that needed written down. I’m SO happy you wrote it & shared it on here!!! THANK YOU!!! I lived in Mayflower my sophomore year, 1985-86. I loved the pictures you posted of that awesome kitchen in Mayflower & your bunk & all, I can still smell that place. I loved it. It had a distinct smell that building, kind of metallic & like a gas stove all mixed together : ) & incense burning in some room down the hall. : ) I also relate to you saying you were at one point sick of everything & everybody & suddenly the charm was hard to find, etc. I went through that too at about the same time you did I think. I was kind of a lost soul there for a few months. So where are you now in your life? Do you have more that you’ve written, because I want to read it if you do : ) Have you been back there over the years? Take good care of yourself & have fun! Go Hawks, Erika

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Erika! Good to hear from you. I’d like to drop you an email. Is the gmail your current email addy? Best, Mike (Heck yeah, go Hawks! 😉


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