The Apartments

Gainesville, Florida. 1969

The Apartments were a vast honeycomb of sin, sex and rock and roll. Every weekend brought car loads of kids from the dorms. The only rule? Pass by the (few) closed apartment doors. Otherwise, go in, go everywhere,  find your bliss. 

"It's your thing.

Do what you want to do."

Isley Brothers


Dancing was a prohibited activity in my home. Mother knew, very possibly from personal experience, that dancing led to Sin. So did playing cards, picture shows, smoking, and alcohol. I guess Sin was a euphemism for that other three letter word-which-must-not-be-spoken. You know the one. Animal spirits must be dampened.

How many dancing people can you get into a small apartment? This is where I learned to dance: not Le Fox Trot, Cha Cha or Jitterbug, but the stand and wiggle hair toss. My hair then was past my shoulders, parted in the middle with the always necessary curtain of bangs, and straight as a board. I was a skinny 18-year-old and wore shift minis, sandals and bangle bracelets. 

My animal spirit soared.

Mother knew I had gone off the reservation and beyond the reach of her short leash. A cork board/chalk board was affixed in my dorm room right beside the wall-mounted telephone. I used a piece of chalk to mark the number of times she called. Those were the days before voice messaging or cell phones. In the beginning, I answered every ring I heard. But when it became clear that Mother might call as many as 17 times in a day, I stopped answering. I came to believe I could tell which rings were "hers," but in truth, I lived with the anxiety of a telephone version of what felt like Russian roulette.

When I did talk with her, there was no convincing her that I was not in my room to take her call because I was in the library, or in class, or in the cafeteria. She was sure that her virginal, bookworm daughter had become a freshman gone wild. 

And eventually, she was right. Sort of.

I tried to smoke a cigarette. I even tried to smoke a joint. I tried to drink vodka and orange juice while eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I was a miserable failure at those activities.

But as for dancing, well, that felt like flying, like breathing for the first time, like sweet freedom, and like a mind/body connection that, once made, could never be broken.

Mother was right about one thing, though. Dancing did lead to Sin.


3 thoughts on “The Apartments

  1. I remember staying in Gainesville with a friend going to school there. It was 1971. I went to a bunch of parties. I was no good at dancing but I was good at smoking the dope. What I remember was how everyone would tell a story at the party. My buddy and I had just hitch-hiked through Georgia and had two exciting adventures with the police to tell about. But everyone was having adventures and telling stories. I graduated high school in Miami in 1969. Gainesville seemed like a party town to young me. I didn’t think of it as sinful, just a nice place to visit. My friend lived in a communal house that was very cool.


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