Sheboygan looked like Our Town and it was. As in: “This is our town you no-good, long-haired, faggot hippie-freak! What the fuck do you think you’re doing in our town? If you so much as look at one of our women (not that a faggot like you looks at women), we’ll cut your dick off and throw it on the grill at our next Bratwurst Festival.”
As I’d driven into Sheboygan, I’d passed this cheery, road sign –
Welcome to Sheboygan!
Bratwurst capital of the world!
The sign was lined with the crests of the Knights of Columbus, Kiwanis, Rotary Club, Masons, Moose, Owls and Odd Fellows – everything but the Raccoon Lodge and the Mystic Knights of the Sea. But, the town’s “Welcome Wagon” committee hadn’t taken that big-hearted, big-bratwurst sentiment to heart; especially where bearded, longhaired, hippie-freaks were concerned. If you looked like I did and weren’t in college or crippled then folks, especially in places like Sheboygan, were mighty suspicious –
“Why aren’t you in the Army, boy?”
You know the scene in the movie where the stranger walks down Main Street and merchants pull down their shades and hang the “Closed” sign on the door while parents cover their kids’ eyes and pull them indoors? That was me in Sheboygan in 1969. You know the movie scene in which the stranger turns a corner and walks smack into the high school football team who proceed to kick the stranger’s long-haired behind? That was me. Or, the scene where the town’s folk speak angrily about the stranger in the third person while the stranger is standing right next to them? Me, again. So, getting a job in Sheboygan in 1969 was near-on impossible. In fact, it was impossible. Employers asked to see my Draft card which listed me as 1A, which marked me as bound for Saigon which raised alarm bells about my being in Sheboygan and close to Canada.
In the spring of 1969, I dropped out of college and was instantly stamped USA PRIME CANNON FODDER – FOB VIETNAM. So, I did what any red-blooded, college dropout would do – I dropped a tab of LSD. Then I wrote a letter to my Draft Board. So, along with the FBI’s recording of my castrato voice in Casa Storta restaurant, there sits somewhere in the U.S. government archives my literary attempt at dodging death in the Mekong Delta.
My apologia was neatly handwritten and coherent until I peaked on the LSD at which point my penmanship and prose style achieved heights of evagination, opacification, introflexion, contusion and abrasion not seen since the automatic writing of the Surrealists. My text was pre-post-modernist in the truest sense while its semiotics encompassed elements of proto-Beat, neo-Symbolist and crypto-koan poetics. The last legible bit was a Socratic dialogue between Ho Chi Minh and The Electric Prunes. Then I reached for my Crayolas and lost all connection with coherence and sanity.
My Draft Board read my cri du cœur.
My Draft Board told me to report.
I reported and, with knees knocking, told my Draft Board to their astounded, furious faces that they could go fuck themselves. Then, with knees knocking even louder, I wobbled out of the room.
Single proudest moment of my life.
And, I remain proud that I was a Draft resister, not a Draft dodger. I publicly proclaimed myself opposed to the unfair Draft system. LBJ and Secretary of Defense McNamara had become so desperate for fresh meat that they were drafting men who were physically deficient and mentally defective. (Look up “McNamara’s Morons” if you don’t believe me.) Meanwhile, Bill Clinton and many other politicians of the Left and Right were Draft dodgers. They did not publicly oppose the Draft lest it harm their political futures. Instead, they had influential people protect them from present and future harm. I had only my Crayolas.