Split: A Counterculture Childhood

Split: A Counterculture Childhood

Lisa Michaels

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 0395957885

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In this "disarmingly amiable reminiscence" (The Atlantic Monthly) that "may be the best argument for the left since Marx" (The New Yorker), poet and writer Lisa Michaels blends memoir with social commentary to tell a remarkable tale of growing up as a child of political activists during the early seventies. Michaels's upbringing was marked by communes, rallies, and road trips; as a young girl she traveled across the country with her mother and stepfather in a customized mail truck, complete with a wood stove, while her father spent two years in jail for his part in an antiwar protest. Raised in a rural California town, Michaels craved conformity, but eventually she came to share many of her parents' long-held values. By a writer of uncommon perception, SPLIT offers "a rare glimpse of a life that embodies a time" (Vogue).

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brilliant when you were in a clearing of twigs and blunt stones, miles from the nearest safety pin, and the only thing between you and hot dinner was a dust plug the size of a pepper grain. What I came to love was Mau's primal satisfaction when that ring of blue flame leapt reliably up from his match, the way he'd say under his breath, "Best thing I ever bought," as if it had just occurred to him. But on the rides out to the woods, stuck into the cab together, I often got on his nerves. I talked

night under one roof. Mau's mother and stepfather pushed aside their plates and did a tango in a corner before the dinner was finished. My father was roused to some vintage disco moves by the Commodores' "Brick House," and when I joined him the guests opened into a ring. At first I felt embarrassed, but my father, who never disappointed a crowd, got some superhuman burst of energy and started doing floor taps and scraps of the hustle. His shirt was soaked through. He was ecstatic. I tried to keep

elevated version of the Chapmans' staple fare: sugar and starch. Even though my mother plied Tillie with vegetables from her garden, I never saw a green or living thing pass through that family's lips. The girls often took their dinners outside and ate under the shade of the old walnut tree. Dinner might be tuna casserole topped with crumbled potato chips, or one slice of bologna on a hamburger bun, held together by a deep slick of mayonnaise. I sat on the end of the picnic table, slavering over

propping her feet on the porch rail. "Want me to teach you some harmonies?" Somewhere far off, a gong sounded. She and I would practice our perfect thirds on many porch-lit evenings at that house, testing, no doubt, the monks' vows. That fall, we entered ourselves in the school talent show. We were to sing "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and waited backstage before the event in vintage suits and netted hats. I leaned against the wall, dizzy with nerves, covering one ear and practicing my part, not

have gotten this from Sophie's Choice.) Elizabeth sighed audibly from her chair. The night after our first (and last) performance, my father took us all out to Benihana to celebrate. The Japanese-food chain had opened up not long before that, and it was still something of a cult phenomenon: you sat around an open grill while a man with a chef's hat and two cleavers riddled your vegetables into origami, then tossed his knives like a majorette. I was very impressed with the show, and touched

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