Unusual Occasions

A history of beginnings

On January 30, 1969 in Monson, Massachusetts, a small town about 10 miles east of Springfield, local school officials dismissed David Lucia, a high school English teacher, for growing a beard over the winter break and charged him with insubordination.  On January 30, 1969 newspapers reported that rising cases of a rare infant disease known as phocomelia, which shortens the limbs. The article quoted a geneticist from Northwestern University who observed that the syndrome is “being observed in babies born to hippies.” Holding up a green and white capsule for the media to see, the researcher declared that the “Hippies have no idea what they are taking and are taking it to weaken the effects of LSD. I have heard this through the rumor-mill,” he said. “The hippies’ babies’ limbs are short.” That same day, in an interview with his authorized biographer, John Lennon remarked that “people think we know what’s going on. We actually don’t really. We are just doing it.”

On the same day, January 30, 1969, in response to students’ occupation of the London School of Economics, the British Minister of Education declared, “it is unbecomingly monstrous to disrupt the quiet life of learning of a college, university, or school, because of Vietnam, Nigeria, or race or because you accuse us of capitalism.” In Lagos,  again that same day, the U.S Ambassador to Nigeria said a “quick kill” would be the most “humane” way to end the succession of Biafra. In Washington, DC, on January 30, 1969 Nixon’s press secretary declared that President Nixon would usher in an “air of calmness and confidence” that would sweep the nation. In the early hours of the morning, under layers of grey clouds and drizzling rain, in a hospital room in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I was delivered backwards.