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Return Engagements (Book One) PART 28… in which I try to understand

Picking up from Part 27, in which I returned home.

I was back in bed an hour after arriving and starting my notes, as 2016 caught me again.

I got up a little late the next morning and spent a long time explaining the experience to my wife. She wasn’t sure what to think but encouraged me to write about it. I hugged or called everyone else as circumstances permitted, then went back to my notes and wondered what would become of it all.

A few days later, before I was even settled back into 2016, I seemed to get my answer when the British voted to leave the European Union, against what seemed to be all odds.

But it wasn’t the politics of it that made me think that this was affected by my experience. Rather, it was because Brexit was an anti-establishment movement. What had happened in my alternate world wasn’t about politics, but the discrediting of a blindly worshipped status quo.

This possibility received further confirmation over the ensuing weeks, as I saw Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, surging in the Democratic Party’s presidential race, and Donald Trump, however I might characterize him, surging to the head of the Republican race. Both of these were strongly anti-status-quo candidates, and the public was clearly moving toward them.

Then of course was the election of Mr. Trump, which surprised most of the world.

As I write this in 2018 I am certain that what people called a “populist” surge (including a major Italian referendum in December of 2016) was actually an anti-establishment surge. More than that, I think it was influenced by my trip to 1963. I have no way to be certain about such a thing of course, but that’s my opinion just the same.

What remains to be seen are the long-term effects of this rejection of the status quo. That masses of people are still talking about the deep state and “draining the swamp” is, I think, some indication that it is continuing. And from my perspective, that’s a fairly good thing.

But as it was in the aftermath of the Johnson-Hoover coup, it’s crucial that this surge not spill over into hate. Politics always leans that way of course, but keeping people on the better side of it is crucial. If we stay away from that poison, beneficial changes will follow; if we pass over to hate, the changes we desire will be corrupted before they are born.

* * * * *

Beyond that, I carry the effects of the trip in myself.

After I had been back for some months I searched for Michael’s journals. Mike Jr. died years ago, but I did find his son, now an old man. (I wore a hat and tried to change my appearance so he didn’t recognize me from the Christmas dinners, but his memory seemed to be spotty. It may not have mattered anyway.) I made up a story about Mike being my grandfather’s friend and his showing me a journal as a boy. He knew nothing about the journals and guessed that they were lost when his mom passed and they sold her house.

All that remains of Michael Burroughs’ journals is what I retain in my memories.

Ashkenaz, my hangout for 1964, vanished long ago, and my Roundtable friends are long gone as well of course.

La Villita is still centered on 26th Street, and there is still a Mexican community there, but all the restaurants and stores have changed. It’s pretty far off my usual path, and I get my Mexican food in other places now.

It pains me to see people treat the Warren Report as gospel and anything else as a “conspiracy theory.” That had always bothered me (it’s an appeal to authority weaponized with ridicule), but much more so now. The arrogance of it… the willful blindness of it… I try to stay away from the subject.

As time passes, my trip through 1963, 1964 and 1965 becomes more and more just a bygone passage of my life, a lot like 1981, 1982 and 1983. I liked it, learned from it, and incorporated it into myself. Now it’s just an extra set of experiences.

I learned from my other-worldly friends of course, but it wasn’t the things they said that stuck with me. Rather, it was their attitudes, how they saw the things of this world as trivialities and the things within us as important and enduring. And while I don’t dwell on those things in any analytical sense, I feel like they’re changing me from the inside.

And perhaps that’s the way growth has to happen.

* * * * *

 (Available now on Kindle)

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