Refuge in Tucson

I grew up listening to jazz and classical–especially baroque–music, with a bit of pop and folk for variety. At college, I listened mostly to folkies. Then I got drafted, and learned rock and soul by the total immersion method. It was a bit of a shock.

LegsWhen I was stationed at Fort Huachuca, the post offered bus service to Tucson every weekend. I rode those busses several times. I stayed in an older hotel, and wandered around town until I had to catch the bus back to the fort. Most of my Tucson memories, frankly, are pretty vague; the object was more to get off the post than to see the sights. I do recall spending a lot of time on the University of Arizona campus, and spent enough money on clothes that I remember doing so. At least once I took along a camera, though I seem to have taken only one photograph. I’ve still got, and still use, a clipboard I purchased in the UA bookstore; it’s unusually well designed, and now carries a lifetime’s memories. A different story, though; perhaps I’ll tell it another day.

There was a bookstore/candle shop/concert space just off the campus. The place doubled as a coffeehouse (only on weekends, I think), and the house band was a folky quartet–a girl singer, her husband on guitar and harmony, a bassist (I think), and a drummer. It was the first time I’d found a drummer in a folk group, and the first time I’d ever seen a girl play a conventional drum kit. The group’s repertoire was pretty standard for a coffeehouse band, except they had an unaccountable affection for Tim Buckley. For me, the attraction (besides the drummer) was the opportunity to hear “my” music.

The bookstore’s name may have been Back Pocket, but I’d not stake money on that recollection. The drummer was a pretty & tanned & lanky person who answered to Twink St. Ledger, at least in my memory. Doubtless someone with better memories will stop by this journal some day, and set things straight; I’ll post an update at that time.

This recollection was triggered because iTunes found Buckley’s Buzzin’ Fly a few minutes ago.

Heard from Twink on September 19, 2011: She says I’ve got things essentially right.

Flying into Huachuca

On January 3, 1970, I left Kalamazoo for Fort Huachuca. I’d graduated from Signal School in early December, spent Christmas at home, and was assigned to Huachuca to wait for further assignment.

I don’t remember the trip, properly, though I do recall arriving in Tucson after dark. The last leg of the flight was via Apache Airlines on a plane (I hope not this one) which held a handful of passengers. I imagine there were Signal School classmates on the flight, but no longer remember those details. Since we arrived at Libby Field late in the evening, long after the staff had headed home, CQ put those of us who were new to the post into an empty office on the Old Fort and told us to get comfortable; someone would come for us in the morning. We stretched out on the hardwood floor and eventually caught some sleep.

Sunrise, and we discovered the Huachuca Mountains, like an unexpected island in the plains. Never–never–have I been so astonished by the morning.

This little reminiscence was provoked, of course, by my recent foray into Tombstone Territory.

Memories of Suite Judy Blue Eyes

Bought a copy of the original CS&N album from iTunes yesterday, and am listening at work.  Suddenly it’s 1970, and I’m back at Fort HuachucaAmazing.

The Army had trained more DSTE operators than there were empty slots, so we were TDPFO in the desert, waiting for the installation teams to build the places we’d work.  We had some notion of the pending construction, and we were being permitted to “bid” on specific stations.  (That worked like this:  As each installation was completed, the TDPFO GI who’d been longest at Huachuca was asked if he wanted to go there; they worked down the seniority list until the slots were filled.  If this method didn’t fill the staff, the most senior folks “won” the assignment, regardless of preference.  Getting what you wanted had some risks, and involved balancing what you knew about construction progress with your actual wishes, but it worked out well for most of us.  In my case, London came up the day after I accepted an assignment to the San Francisco area.  I might have lived a different life.)  (No regrets, he wistfully claims.)

I spent three months at Huachuca, which was pretty typical.  Many of the folks I attended DSTE classes with ended up in either LA or Seattle, in the same command as my SF assignment, and several of us moved together to Pleiku at the end of the year.