Roy Van Til

Profile Updated: March 9, 2016
Roy Van Til
Roy Van Til


Roy Van Til


Yes! Attending Reunion
Residing In: Vienna, ME USA
Spouse/Partner: Linda Bautz Van Til
Children and grandchildren: Justin, born 1973; Desiree, born 1977

Finley, born 2007; Arden, born 2009; Emerson, born 2014
Open Category for whatever you wish to tell about yourself in whatever way.

What is Swarthmore? …in the rear view mirror:  

Launchpad or umbilicus?    Key or cave?  Portal or prison?   Fulcrum or sanctuary?  Insight or echo?  Completed or elited?  Competition or demolition?  Repeated or obsoleted?  Savored or disfavored?  Inspirational or desperational?  So what is it really:  Springboard or tether?

Field of dreams or guilty nightmare?  Mature reflection or twisted recollection?  Satisfaction or time’s refraction?  Goals achieved or just deceived?   Mistakes aborted or potential unsorted?  Horizons surpassed or contagions grown fast?  In training for life or restraining the strife?  Striving to learn or preparing to earn?  Bravely filling the breaches or just repeating the teachers?  Point of inflection or pointless deflection?  First rays of strong truth or last flickers of youth?  So how do you size it up:  Runway or hangar?  

Not sure how I feel a half-century after our robed parade through the amphitheater on 6/6/66.  Commencement or retrenchment?  Parents are both gone, but vividly remembered with deepest appreciation.  Teachers and staff are all gone, but live on in memories of Ed Faulkner’s grip on my racket but uncertain hold on his steering wheel en route to Muhlenberg or Ursinus, Henry Gleitmann’s infamous accent and rats, Randy’s good nature as our favorite maintenance guy, Hedley Rhys’s inscrutably rapturous love of still lifes, Claire Wilcox’s theatrical outrage in class heaving our bluebooks out of Trotter’s second floor, Tom Blackburn’s imperious 3-piece with gleaming Florsheim stare, Bob Barr’s (btw, still looking 30 after fifty years) kindly but vital eviction from A-section of my overly exuberant puerile behavioral threat, the reassuring hypercaloric call of “steaks, hoagies, hot hoagies" in late evening, my panic at being asked to a Sadie Hawkins dance by an older woman who must have been at least twenty, timely snacks at Soms before its demise, dancing to the Runts at Sharples or the Critters in Wallingford, spinning the oldies or reading aloud the bizarre fictional “Minutes" at the controlled bourgeois depravity of the DU House, hearing the grim news as I walked past Sproul Observatory on 11/22/63 and not realizing how it would alter every day that followed for five decades, stifling yawns through Collection but feeling ecstatic that the seating was alphabetical, jawing with the suspicious gatekeeper Catherine at dinnertime, weeding the President's garden with Billy Hoyt as our joint punishment for trivial misdemeanors against humanity, making lifelong friendships with amazing people like Steve and Roger and HAP and Tom and Tommy and Bob and Johnny and Jim and Andy and Lee and Jill and Liz and Libby and Brack and Patsy and Freebo and so many others, wishing the lunch banter at the corner table would last for five hours until the dinner bell sounded and then pick up again until closing time...looking for any lame pretense to avoid the tediously masochistic and solitary ritual of turking, living happily without wheels despite getting my first Detroit lead sled (a navy blue ’51 Caddy) two weeks before high school graduation, despising the sadistic grading scale that was cruelly devoid of pluses and minuses, all but worshipping the incredible specimens of fantastic trees on campus including the gigantic oak by the tennis courts, descending cacophonously with taps clicking on every stair from the third floor in C-Section, lamenting the depressing cityscape from the Media Local…a ride that filled me with excitement for my ultimate destination in either direction..., and a kaleidoscopic barrage of fractured but fleeting shards of shape and color scrawled in ghostly indelibilities, strewn in a tableau of longing and distant hints of pleasures outgrown but barely remembered and slights and injuries seared forever into the disfigured cortex.  The myopically distorted filter of fifty years somehow disallows purging the soft drive between the ears or redacting the tsunami of sheer nonsense and risks not taken and calls unanswered and challenges dodged and kind words too often left unspoken.

So Swarthmore, in spite of the accumulated Dali-esque persistence of memory, remains a singular pole star at the epicenter of my shrinking world, sheltered from the fault lines lacerating reality.  My years there by the Crum prepared but did not motivate me to dramatically change the world, my shortcoming entirely,  but they helped me secure a place to stand:  A vantage point from which to survey the shape of things to come and to accept with some grace and humility that I am just a pawn in a four-dimensional chessboard stretching to infinity.  No matter how crazy the world becomes, and it has far too often thrown our shared hope for a peaceful and rational and caring sustainable planet into a maelstrom of hellish and suicidal currents, I take refuge from the storm by conjuring up a soothing image of the sunny greensward stretching from the staunch and gray Parrish past the soaring stone spire of Clothier down to the hunkering stone fortress of breathlessly angled Sharples.  I know that I can navigate through the angriest winds with a welcome assist from the abundance of ideals and ideas, the lifelong friendships and the enduring climate of mutual respect, and the treasured opportunity to live and learn for four years in one of the world’s most serene and civilized places…shielded physically from the sheer enormity of life, yet integrated with the issues, cultural and economic textures, while intently aware of the profound divisions that cleave our unequal society so deeply on matters of opportunity, economic fairness, distribution of wealth, belief in rational analysis, both freedom of and freedom from religion, attitudes toward war and peace, insistence on racial justice, importance of environmental quality, and so many others.  

And far more important than elements of vocational or inspirational nature, kudos to Mama Swats for giving each of us Sixty-Sixers exposure to a network of kindred personalities, whose too often only digital long distance connections provide partial immunity to the crushing loneliness of economic deprivation, marital mismatches, geographic immobility, confining disabilities, stultifying careers, business failures, broken relationships with family, arbitrary loss of loved ones, and perhaps the full panoply of the human drama as we, possibly the last human generation doomed to mortality, play out the final innings before re-entry, quite unaware, to the inexorable nothingness of eternity. 

Thank you for doing what you could do, Swarthmore, to help this naive suburban caucasian guy from north Jersey learn how to care enough to make a difference through having lived.  I can’t recall ever talking with anyone who was not a middle class white Catholic, Protestant or atheist before I arrived at Swarthmore in September of ’57 to visit my brother Jon, Class of ’61.  I became a teacher in college after June of ’66...a generalist struggling through four decades with the curricular constraints and delusional mathematical certitude of rigid economic dogma.  And only part of that initial decision to stay in the classroom was the specter of the impending draft into a hideous cause I absolutely refused to kill or die for.  I am glad you remain there, Swarthmore, shining brightly in my rear view mirror, and yet beckoning right ahead through my windshield whenever reunions roll around.  See you in June, if all goes reasonably well between now and then.  

Roy Van Til ’66, Vienna, Maine

Further Comments about Spouse/Partner or Relationship history:

Married 1972

Education History since Swarthmore:

Ph.D. in Economics from Boston College in 1975

Career History

Taught economics at the undergraduate level in various colleges for forty years.

What might surprise us about you or your activities?

We are all pretty much past the age of surprises, now mired in the zone of grudging acceptance or callous indifference.

Memories from time at Swarthmore

Got time to decode ten thousand pages of random insanity from my keyboard? ...I thought not. But here goes: (Unfortunately all the photos did not make it on to the Swats Reunion website, so I will send the complete letter to many of you and if you other folks want a pristine copy of this verbiage with photos included, coming to your digital doorstep via email, please email me and ask.)

To our Class of 1966 on our 45th Reunion weekend: Okay, shout it loud...we're comin' back and proud! Let's hear it in your best decisive, inexorable, certitudinous, somewhat bored monotone..."Suburban Station...30th Street... University City... 49th Street... Angora... Fernwood-Yeadon... Lansdowne... Gladstone... Clifton-Aldan... Primos... Secane... Morton....... SWAAAATHMORE!"
Want to take a snarky trip back in time? Pick up your duffle and backpack and start slogging back up Magill Walk with me for a few minutes...
Read on, Macduff, and damned be him that first cries, "Hold, enough!"
First of all, let's clear up the puffery. The Swarthmore campus covers 425 acres. That's four times the area of Vatican City, the other small community that has convinced itself of its own infallibility and that it clearly deserves to run the planet. The website claims there are 1524 (1534 in 2015) students with a ratio to faculty of 8 to 1. That's because it requires at least seven students to locate each of the professors who is on sabbatical at any one time. In some semesters the student faculty ratio rises to 152 to 1, but the various exotic herb gardens thriving in the Crum and on the windowsills of the crunchier dorms make such details irrelevant. Going to class is so old school. The marketeers' boilerplate has long included the boast that the college is 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia. The hallowed front steps of Parrish Hall are actually 10.5 miles west southwest of the corner of Market and Broad streets as the crow flies, if one ignores particulate-bearing windage and the Coriolis effect, but who is quibbling? I find it interesting that none of the 19,579 living grads of the college (there are Eco 101 classes almost that big at Ohio State) refer to Mama Swats as being "7.1 miles northeast of Marcus Hook" when giving people directions. (More living grads than that now because recent classes are much larger than the oldies who are completing the dust to dust routine). The tuition is now $39,260...a colossal figure that is 72% of the US median household income in 2010 of $54,442. (Update to 2015: Tuition is $46,060 an US median income is about $52k, so tuition is now up to 88.6% of the median income...but 100% of the need is met by the college as it lives up to its egalitarian ideals). But don't let your grandkids worry, room and board is now a trifling $11,900 per year, so that eats up another 22%! (Room and Board now $13,550). In contrast, the tuition was about $2000 back in 1962 when we started at Swats, a year when the median family income was $5956. So the tuition used to be only a third of median family income. But back then you could graduate and actually find a real job to pay back the student loans, if your tender and way too mortal butt wasn't being dragged by LBJ and then by Tricky to the jungle to keep some randomly selected domino-playing tyrant in power so that Casper,Wyoming, would be safe from imminent invasion.
Start with your names: Back in 1944 when most of the Class of '66 was hatched, the top boy baby names in the US were James, Robert, John, William, Richard, David, Charles, Michael, Thomas and Ronald. The girls were led by Mary, Barbara, Linda, Patricia, Carol, Sandra, Nancy, Judith, Sharon and Betty. No sign of Aiden, Jacob, Ethan or Ryan...or Emma, Madison, Ava, or Emily. And you will find no Hernando or Chamiqua of Abdullah or Wuhang or Dweezil either, nor throngs of Sophias. Start leafing through the latest issue of the Swarthmore Alumni rag and check out some of the tongue-twisting monikers. The place we went to has transmogrified into a truly global institution of higher learning, with lots of exotically enchanting names we seldom heard reverberating back in the day: Like the sheer poetry of the name of the Class of '59's own Wentworth B. Ofuatey-Kodjoe, the great political scientist who passed away on 3/17/09 after a distinguished career at Queens College of CUNY. Oh well, we had Bill Andrews and Bob Williams and Dave Clark and Mary Lewis and Anne Mills. (Full disclosure: Okay, I admit I cherry-picked those white bread names out of the class list, and we also had a Freeland and a Shiraz and a Linton and a Patchen and a Klaus and a Delmar and a Lowell and an Emel...but the point is still valid that John (with ten) and Susan and Barbara and Nancy were the most common first names in our class. Just to pick a more recent class at random, the Class of '98 had graduates with first names of Takiji, Tam Minh, Assad, Fatimah, Kimon, Kuo-Hui, Roanna, Jagath, My Phuong, Solimar, and Giridhar. This was the glorious lexicon we rarely encountered when we were way too sequestered far from global realities in the early sixties. (By 2010, the college itself had enrollment that is 45% White, 14% Asian, 12% Hispanic/Latino, 7% international, 6% Black, and 5% two or more races. By 2014 it was 43% white, 15% Asian, 14% Hispanic, 6% African American, and 22% other/mixed/unclassified. The pot ain't melting, it is thriving.)

The top selling cars in 1962 were the Chevy, Ford, Pontiac, Rambler, and Olds. No sign of big sales yet from Toyota or Honda. There were no SUV's in existence except the barn-like International Travelall and a few Jeeps. A lot of Swarthmore parents unknowingly presaged Clark Griswold and drove early versions of Wagon Queen Family Trucksters with names like the Chrysler Town and Country. Very few cars on the road in 1962 had front or four-wheel drive, or independent suspensions, or rack and pinion steering, or padded dashboards, or recessed steering wheels, or disc brakes, or radial tubeless tires, or crush zones, or air bags, and just a few had safety belts. Run into an abutment on Baltimore Pike and it was just your fragile SAT-devouring nerd noggin going one-on-one with the chromed radio buttons on the dash, and the laws of bionics and physics were unrelenting. Fatality rates per mile of driving were three times higher than they are today. But would you trade the safe and sleek techno-capsule you are cruise-controlling around in these days straight up for a mint version of your mammoth beast of a college ride? Yes, I would...but would you? Most of our classmates left their high school or family cars at home and just bussed or Media Localled their way to campus, featuring that painful trudge up Magill lugging suitcases that probably had no wheels back then, so we had to heft the entire bulging mass off the stones to Wharton or wherever we were doomed to reside. Bring back that '59 Caddy and we'll let you decide. Come to think of it, our aging flesh could use some rejuvenation at Earl Scheib, and the heck with the cars. Or would you go back to your '56 Rambler with all the jokes and adolescent fantasies that went with its seductively reclining seats? Here's the 1962 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible, selling back then for a whopping $6610:

And when we graduated, here was one of the dream machines that Swarthmore bodos rarely coveted:

We were all conditioned to shun the power and raw sexuality of the GTO and instead buy one of these death traps like the Renault Deux Chevaux:

...or the ultimate tin foil tuna can from Deutschland:

I still miss that '51 Caddy I drove in Empty Lakes, NJ.
BREAKIN' UP: The divorce rate back then in PA was 0.8 per 1000 population. Now it is 3.4. Most of the tragically mismatched couples in '62 just suffered in silence or heaved cookware at each other until their shoulders wore out. You could debate whether the much higher divorce rate now is an unmitigated disaster in a disposable society or a wonderful awakening to the possibility of refreshing change after so many naive misjudgments made at an early age by hot-blooded kids. Some stoic 66ers are still whistling along with their "first love". But let's not talk about the golfers. And some have been trading in the older models with regularity for trophy wives, many with lyin' eyes, who promise not to notice the senility of their new spouses as long as the ink on the prenup and will is dry and filed safely in their attorney's vault. Different yolks for different folks. Pills for every pitfall. Many long and winding and impossibly convoluted roads will intersect in early June after your last 45 or 66 years of gallivanting around the planet while navigating the tempting and addictive but notoriously treacherous waters of human relationships.
Who was born in our senior year? Here are a few to make you feel young... Abu Musab al-Zarkawi was born 10/20/66 and began blowing up neighboring cribs, Mike Tyson hatched 6/30/66 and started a long career of hitting on the young babes in neighboring incubators, Janet Jackson emerged on 5/16/66 and began having diaper failures, Christy Canyon erupted stark naked from her momma's heaving seething loins on 6/17/66, Chris Rock hatched on 2/7/66 and hurled a vomitous stream of profanity at the obstetrician, Cindy Crawford popped out 2/20/66 and wriggled into the tightest Pampers, John Daly slithered down the chute on 4/28/66 and crawled to the 19th hole for refreshment, and during our graduation ceremony on 6/6/66 as we sweated in our silly medieval bathrobes out under the tulip trees, we were unaware that Sean Yseult of White Zombie was coming into this world to transform world culture for maybe ten stoners for millennia immemorial. We could go on with this meaningless litany of natal days to include Sandy Alomar, John Cusack, Tim Wakefield, Halle Berry, Adam Sandler, Stefen Edberg, Curt Schilling, but what would be the use of all that? The impact of all those bambinos now turning 45 would not be felt for decades, and it was a slim year for talent anyway. We are much more likely to remember those who busted loose from this mortal consider this list of croakees if you really want to feel ancient:
Buster Keaton died a silly sub-titled death at 71, Lenny Bruce enjoyed his final overdose at age 41, Margaret Sanger at age 87 left us to plan our own parenthood, Walt Disney died of a coronary while waiting on line at Space Mountain at the age of 65 in mouse years, But it was the year before we graduated that the biggies felt the wrath of the reaper: Winston Churchill passed at 89 and Malcolm X was reduced to a pile of lifeless molecules in a hail of bullets at age 40. And Nat King Cole, the Mellow Mouth of Ten, crooned his last unforgettable tune. Also in '66 our parents' generation lost Ed Wynn, Montgomery Clift, as if we really cared, and in this celebrity-crazed world of ours we tend to forget that every day on planet earth in 1966, hundreds of thousands of ordinary people died. The world population was 3.38 is now more than double that at 7 billion. (Make that 7.3 billion in 2015) And of those humans still around, we are older than 90% of them. (More than 93% of them in 2015) Ironically, as our mortal choppers go the way of all flesh, perhaps it is time for many of us to consider, once again, "bringing out the Gerber's."

TOP TEN SONGS FROM 1962 through 1965:
We can argue this until doomsday, but these were the biggest hits on the charts during our five years at Swats:

1. Green Onions - Booker T. & the MG's
2. Bring It On Home To Me - Sam Cooke
3. You've Really Got A Hold On Me - Miracles
4. The Loco-Motion - Little Eva
5. Sherry - Four Seasons
6. I Can't Stop Loving You - Ray Charles
7. Up On The Roof - Drifters
8. Twist And Shout - Isley Brothers
9. These Arms Of Mine - Otis Redding
10. Do You Love Me - Contours

1. Louie Louie - Kingsmen
2. She Loves You - Beatles
3. I Want To Hold Your Hand - Beatles
4. Be My Baby - Ronettes
5. I Saw Her Standing There - Beatles
6. Surfin' USA - Beach Boys
7. Glad All Over - Dave Clark Five
8. It's All Right - Impressions
9. Blowin' In The Wind - Bob Dylan / Peter Paul & Mary
10. Please Please Me - Beatles

1. You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling - Righteous Brothers
2. My Girl - Temptations
3. You Really Got Me - Kinks
4. House Of The Rising Sun - Animals
5. Where Did Our Love Go - Supremes
6. I Get Around - Beach Boys
7. All Day And All Of The Night - Kinks
8. Oh, Pretty Woman - Roy Orbison
9. A Hard Day's Night - Beatles
10. She's Not There - Zombies

1. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - Rolling Stones
2. Like A Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan
3. In The Midnight Hour - Wilson Pickett
4. Papa's Got A Brand New Bag - James Brown
5. My Generation - The Who
6. Mr. Tambourine Man - Byrds / Bob Dylan
7. Yesterday - Beatles
8. The Sounds Of Silence - Simon & Garfunkel
9. Ticket To Ride - Beatles
10. The Tracks Of My Tears - Miracles

1. Good Vibrations - Beach Boys
2. When A Man Loves A Woman - Percy Sledge
3. Reach Out, I'll Be There - Four Tops
4. Gimme Some Lovin' - Spencer Davis Group
5. Ain't Too Proud To Beg - Temptations
6. Eight Miles High - Byrds
7. For What It's Worth - Buffalo Springfield
8. Paint It Black - Rolling Stones
9. You Keep Me Hangin' On - Supremes
10. Wild Thing - Troggs

You know, I can't remember one damn thing that Linwood Urban taught me in a stultifying semester in Trotter Hall suffering through "Problems of Christianity Today", but I have most of the lyrics and melodies of those fifty tunes...and maybe five hundred more...rattling around between my ears as if I am about to head over to Soms for a snack in five minutes after pretending to turk for a while in my riotous quad in A-Section where Bob Gwin is working out the chords on a Woody Guthrie tune while Johnny Wehms is slamming the lacrosse ball against the wall a thousand times without a miss.

Try reading those lists without hearing and feeling something primal and amazing. Your patellae and perhaps other dormant body parts are already beginning to awaken to the beat and revive the muscle memory of the frug and bop and hop and stroll and crossfire and stomp and twist and mashed potatoes and swim, dog, monkey, watusi, pony, hitch hike, etc. By the way, I put together a CD containing 28 of the greatest of those hits. I will hand them out to any interested parties at the class dinner to anyone who has successfully avoided uttering the ultimate fatuous reunion cliche so far during the weekend: "You haven't changed a bit!" Right. And you are dealing with cataracts large enough to impede the flow of de Nile. (Don't expect a CD from me for the fiftieth, but it may be a good time to schedule a Dance Seizure party on the Thursday night before the reunion. Is that barn in Wallingford where the classic party with the Critters was held still available? "I'm Mr. Dieingly Sad" I volunteer to deejay the pagan orgy/all-night dance-athon if someone else pays for the barn and the sound system and the Diet Dew.)

Chuck Berry

Possibly less familiar to everyone than the music, here were the 25 highest rated TV shows during our senior year. After all, even today when you see a Prius hogging the slow lane with a bumper sticker that reads "Shoot your TV set", it is usually driven by a Swarthmore librarian or someone brainwashed by one. I try very hard to cut my own viewing time down to sixty or seventy hours per week, for that is my sane approach to living La Dolce TVita. For you see, I have always hated to miss a single episode of the Sopranos, The Wire, Entourage, Northern Exposure, NYPD Blue, the four majors in tennis, the NBA playoffs, the MLB playoffs, March Madness, 30 Rock, the Twilight Zone, Rachel Maddow, Real Time, The Last Word, Stephen Colbert, or a score of other classic shows over the last seven decades in which the medium has indeed been the massage for my dormant neurons, confirming my prescience in 1957 when I penned a poem called "TV, My Master" in fluent doggerel patterned after the metrical line of the Twenty-Third Psalm. (And Breaking Bad, to update to cover the greatest TV show of the last five years...or the last century. Speaking of that, just substitute Walter White for "He" or "Thou" or "the Lord" in this little chunk of dogma to experience ecstasy.)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,
He leadeth me beside still waters.
He restoreth my soul.
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness, for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me, in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

My version began with "The TV is my master, I shall not doze." I leave it to your own colorful imaginations to fill in the rest of this blasphemy.)

October 1965 - April 1966
1. Bonanza
2. Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
3. The Lucy Show
4. The Red Skelton Hour
5. Batman (Thurs)
6. The Andy Griffith Show
7. Bewitched
8. The Beverly Hillbillies
9. Hogan's Heroes
10. Batman (Wed)
11. Green Acres
12. Get Smart
13. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. 14. Daktari
15. My Three Sons
16. The Dick Van Dyke Show
17. Walt Disney's
Wonderful World of Color
18. The Ed Sullivan Show
19. The Lawrence Show
20. I've Got a Secret
21. Petticoat Junction
22. Gilligan's Island
23. Wild, Wild West
24. The Jackie Gleason Show
25. The Virginian
Notice that the top show was a western, although the genre that dominated the fifties was growing long of tooth. Think of that every time you use the terms vamoose, I reckon, yup, down yonder, rustler, cowpoke, varmint, saloon, string 'em up, or box canyon. Peppering your salty language with these egregious hunks of festering mucilage will be profoundly entertaining to your pets and grandchildren as we all get sucked down into the maelstrom of irrelevance. Wax your Gran Torino and sit on the porch, yelling at the kids to get off your lawn.

The greatest causes of death back in 1966 in Pennsylvania were heart disease (457.3 per 100,000), cancer (179.3), stroke (108.8), and accidents (48.2). By 2007 those four killers were still the grim reaper's favorite tools in Penn's Woods, but the rates had dropped except for cancer: Heart disease down to 199.4 per 100,000, cancer up a bit to 188.2 , stroke down to 42.9, and accidents of all sorts down to 38.1. By 2008, only 21.4% of Pennsylvania adults 18+ smoked cigarettes. Back in 1960, 58% of men over 30 and 27% of women over 30 smoked tobacco products of some sort. (I am too tired to update all this grim fecal matter, so you do it yourself.) Smoking was permitted just about everyplace, even in restaurants and on airplanes. The show Mad Men portrays that aspect of our culture accurately. Recall how the hallway outside the teachers' lounge at your high school always smelled like the toxic atmosphere of Venus. Clothing reeked of it. Breath was Stygian.
Medical technology had advanced, there is better health care prevention and education, and as we all know, cars are built much safer although even speedier than they were back in the day....but those huge V-8s seemed to be insanely powerful to the average 17-year-old kid. But while certain forms of recreational suicide are down, the stats for 2008 show that the American People have by and large put down their ciggies but they tuned in, dropped out, and turned on to a variety of other drugs: For everybody age 12 and over in 2008, 65% had smoked at some point in their lives, but 82% had consumed booze, 41% had consumed marijuana and/or hashish, 36% had smoked cigars at some point, 14.7% crack, 14.4% LSD and/or ecstasy, 1.5% had used heroin, and bunches more had abused various other prescription pills and home-brewed hallucinogenic confections. (I am the only non-religious fanatic I know who has never consumed a single taste of booze, or imbibed a sip of champagne, or had a glass of wine, a slug of beer, a puff of a cancer stick, a toke of a joint, a lick of LDS, a hit of Coke, a needle of horse, a pill of Oxycontin, etc. I am the experimental control for humanity...the canary in the cosmic coal mine...the ceteris in the planetary paribus, so when I finally buy the farm you know we must surely be nearing the End of Days.) (Update to 2015: I am now addicted to red potato salad garnished with pesto.)
These thrilling and chilling data on drug use of course ignore all the legions of people who have spent a good chunk of the last 45 years devouring the edible landscape by the handful: One third of American adults 18+ in 2008 were normal weight (31.2%) by the body mass index, while 34% were overweight and 33% were obese by that measure. In 1966, only 14% of American adults were obese. And if you tried to pig out at Swarthmore back in our scrawny youth, the all-seeing Catherine would bludgeon your knuckles as you lunged hungrily for seconds on those well-marbled slabs of steak at Sharples. But there was always the Lorelei call for "Steaks, cheesesteaks, hot hoagies!" ringing across the Wharton Quad after 10 p,m. to tempt one into a kilo-caloric frenzy of hot dripping cheddar oozing from a ginormous bun saturated with aorta-clogging fats...but after turking for hours to decode all of Prof. Henry Gleitmann's Psych 101 vituperations in broken half-Anglicized Hoch-Deutsch, those obscene Philly sandwiches were irresistible.

THE FUCKIT LIST: Most of us are too proud or mature or simply grossed out by the thought of buying a Corvette and wearing gold chains and bleaching our implanted hair and popping an endless diet of blue pills and male enhancement products and Cenegenic injections to call up our equally deteriorating buddies to tackle a bucket list of painfully retro activities that will somehow rejuvenate our dwindling sense of manhood before we fertilize the planet until the end of time. So I suggest we embrace our own personal Fuckit lists, so we don't spend every nickel of our paltry Social Security checks buying books such as, "Ten Thousand Sub-Arctic Islands You Must Snorkel Before You Die" or "The Sexagenarian's Guide to Reptilian Fare for Desert Trekking" or "The Cyberpictorial Cygnet of Thai Teenagers in Heat"...and actually leaving the recliner to embark on these suicidal missions. Let's make this clear: You are not doing anyone a favor by thinking you are going to audition for a Dos Equis commercial. We each may have some endearing charms to someone on earth, but none of us is the "most interesting man in the world.' So maybe the advice we should follow as we belch and flatulate serenely into our recliners in front of the big-screen TV that holds our experiential futures in its digital grasp, is "stay satiated, my friend!", as we open up a bag of Doritos before the big game. And when someone calls to suggest a week at a fantasy cobra hunting camp in Tora Bora, we are ready to respond with an emphatic "fuckit!" And so our list grows longer. We'll read about your burial or disappearance in the next Swats Alumni Bulletin and chortle before slugging down some artichoke dip.

Speaking of checking out of Heartbreak Hotel, the murder rate in the USA in 1966 was 5.1 per 100,000 and by 2010 that rate dropped back down to 5.4 after peaking at 10.2 during the urban crack wars from 1980 forward. Did this affect the gangland battlefield known as Swarthmore? There were no homicides in either year in that rare sanctuary from the mayhem. In 1966 there were less than 350,000 people behind bars in the USA (not including those hanging out at Greene's)...but by 2010, there were 1.6 million Americans getting scared straight and making sure they don't drop the soap in the shower. But in a recent year, the fuzz in the sleepy suburb of Swarthmore had to deal with no murders, no reported rapes although some DU's allegedly utilized burandanga on a daily basis to uphold the animal house tradition, no muggings, and only eight aggravated assaults, usually on a hapless professor who was just asking for the policing job is not exactly a tour of duty in Baghdad four years ago. And the average police officer in town pulled down a cool $45k or more for this hazardous public service of calling up the dean to discourage water ballooning of townies from C-section windows or harvesting exotic herbs behind Martin before they can be rolled into a cash crop.

Back in '60 the state of Pennsylvania was 7.5 % African American, although our "polite" society called them Negroes then. By 2010 it was 10.8%. (Now 11.5%) How about lily-white and non-Latino Swarthmore? Back in 1960 there were very few minorities, even in this liberal college town...most suburban dinosaurs were of Caucasian ancestry. Chester, a few miles south down 320 and now the much detested I-476 (alias the Blue Route that did not exist back in the day), was a different story: It is 79% Black and the median household income is $25k per year. Separate, as always, and very unequal. The population of Swarthmore in 2010 was still 83% white, with Asians forming the largest minority group. Median household income in Swarthmore was a plump $119,000 in 2009. But while the rich get rich, the poor get the national imbalance is approaching a tipping point. By 2010 in the USA as a whole, whites were down to 64.7%, Hispanics (who could be of any race) were at 16%, Non-Hispanic African Americans comprised 12.2%, and Asians were up to 4.5%. Diversity rocks and Baracks.

Bruce never sang it that way, but for many decades all sorts of foreign-born plus native of foreign-born parents have built their futures in the melting pot. The 33 million immigrants or children of immigrants of all ages in the USA, counted up in total in 1960, came from Canada (14.7%) Italy (13.7%) and Germany (13.0%) the UK(7.8%) and Russia (6.9%). I wonder how many of your parents were foreign born? And how many survive today in their nineties or even beyond the century mark? This summer we hope to celebrate the centennial birthday of my mother, Bee Van Til, a child of Ruzena Vydra and Vaclaz Blaha from Czechoslovakia who came to America in the 1890s. (Bee died in the summer of 2012...almost made it to 101 after a great life.)

"99, 33, and one": Bee Blaha Van Til with my daughter, Desi Van Til, and Desi' daughter, Arden Penelope Mewshaw, in a photo taken October 2010 in Terre Haute, Indiana, by Sean Mewshaw, my son-in-law.
By 2009, of the 36 million foreign born citizens of the USA, about twenty million hailed from Latin America, ten million from Asia, and less than five million from Europe. And does anyone know why I tried to stumble through silly texts like "Knulp" in a weird German class at Swarthmore? I might as well have learned pig Latin or Esperanto. The times...and the accents...are 'a changin'. Jah, Ich bin ein schweinhund.
CAR ADS IN 1959: Enough of all that tedious demographic stuff that does not involve cars...
Though we were cranked off the assembly line in '66, we were at our impressionable adolescent best in '59 at age fourteen or fifteen when the Great American Tail-Fin Craze reached it zenith of psychotic excess: The dream machines in the late fifties were given animal traits, or served as metal sculptures of status and dominance for the driver, or came laden with barely concealed sexual innuendo, jutting symbolism, and double entendre. The enormous behemoths were sold as metallic prosthetic extensions of ego, and they were given annual facelifts that obscured the fact that they were relatively unchanging rear-wheel drive monsters that lacked independent suspensions, or radial tires, or rack and pinion steering, or roll cages or crush zones for safety in collisions, or disc brakes, or seat belts, and a host of other smart features. But with those protruding chromed bumpers jus asking to be waxed lovingly, they looked like they could snap off mighty oaks along the Merritt Parkway at the stump without suffering a dent. Here are a few excerpts from ads appearing in Life magazine that year: For a '59 Plymouth with the "forward look": "The massive grill and low-slung bumper give it a powerful poised look." For a red '59 Pontiac convertible: "If you like your action taut-and sheathed in clean, crisp lines, Pontiac '59 is the one car that wraps up everything you want on the grandest, most glorious scale you've ever known." Meanwhile, "Oldsmobile for '59 introduces the new linear look...the start of a completely new styling cycle." And for a white '59 Buick, "...and it proclaims your good judgment, your good taste, to the whole world." Meanwhile, two million Americans lost their lives on the highways in the twentieth century. We were all brutalized by those tragedies. There were cars named after sleek wild animals (Impala, Jaguar), those named like spaceships (Rocket 88, Star Chief, Galaxie), those that conjured up exotic places (Eldorado, Riviera, Catalina, Safari), those named for road races (Bonneville, Grand Prix), and those that reeked of snob value (Ambassador, Fleetwood, Patrician, Imperial). By '66 cars were more homogeneous and tedious, so here are a couple of images of outrageously voluptuous '59s to whet your appetite for environmental devastation and an endless succession of wars fought over energy supplies and pedestrians becoming impaled on sharpened fins:
Cadillac and Chevrolet Impala

Don't zone out on me now, or else the ghost of Prof. Bob Euwema will administer a savage multiple choice exam on all this trivia beneath the Media Local's rotting trestle with prizes to include eggs dropped from Clothier Tower by crazed physics dweebs and old Rohrshachian sheets of wallpaper salvaged from the pink Freudian excesses of the old dining hall. From 1966 to date while we were all aging inexorably and in many cases contributing to the mountains of festering Pampers, the USA grew 59% in population from 196 million up to 311.4 million. (Now 321,471,794) Some of our classmates helped fill up those station wagons with their rug rats back in the sixties and seventies. Meanwhile the GDP in phony cheesy inflation-ravaged dollars grew 20 times larger, from 733 billion in 1966 to more than 14 trillion today! (Now $17.9 trillion) When adjusted for the ravages of inflation, the GDP only actually tripled in size. In June of 1959 the Consumer Price Index was 32.4, while by now it is going past things are on average about seven times more expensive than when we commenced our adventures after that fateful day in June, although any doofus economics 101 student knows that such comparisons across vast hunks of time are ridiculous, what with all the new products and changing qualities of services and goods and our evolving priorities. (The CPI is now 239) But let's stop being colossal, infuriating nerds for once and take this inflation, with all its statistical warts, as a fact of our lives. Though the US now outspends the entire rest of the world combined on "defense" (and "offense" too), it is only 4% of America's national output, but defense was a whopping 9.4% of the GDP back when JFK had his 1000 days. We spend proportionately less on defense than we did during the missile race of the sixties. By the way, as many of us learned through painful experience, the minimum wage back then was $1.25...but that is the equivalent of a plump $8.75 per hour today. And just a couple of months ago I signed on for a part-time job at $10 per hour, so we have all not yet achieved economic nirvana! And the national debt was only $330 billion, or $1,600 per citizen. Now it is over $15 trillion, or about $50,000 per American. (Now $18.2 Trillion of about 60 grand per American citizen.) Even after adjusting for inflation, that's nearly a five-fold increase of the real debt burden per person. I have always found that taking on massive debt to be so much easier than actually working and saving up, so I am implying no criticism of our addiction to self-deluded rapacious spending. Families and governments and everybody are hooked on plastic, and both political parties ran up the bill. Would you have voted for people over the years who promised loudly on the stump to faithfully deliver you "higher taxes and reduced benefits!?" or "No chicken in every pot...and no pot to piss in anyway!" Of course not. So we all whipped out the national credit cards and partied hardy for half a century. Let your kids and grandkids clean up after the orgy. But first, we demand well-pruned shuffleboard courts and well-prune-juiced diets at our palatial CCRC's.
Cut the gas and split, Daddy-o, or I'll have a cow and deliver you a knuckle sandwich for playing backseat bingo with my baby with the classy chassis, cause you are cruisin' for a bruisin' know I've got dibs on that stacked paper shaker ever since that unreal night at the passion pit on Baltimore Pike...and hear me, Spaz, this greaser pounds all party poopers and then floors it flat out and lays a patch with my jacked up machine that the heat can't touch, so get bent and agitate the gravel, you four-eyed goof, or I'll go ape... buzz off, Pizza Face, cause I've got it made in the shade.

In retrospect, although the Fonz made it cool for a while, we probably sounded like colossal jerks. But listen to what's being said on the street nowadays by some teen with the hots for Lady Gaga, saggin' their ugly drawers around their flabby kneecaps, and tell me they are an improvement.
Duck tails, letter sweaters, bobby socks, saddle shoes, flats, converse sneakers, rolled up jeans, comb in the back pocket, ponytails, pedal pushers, poodle skirts, Playtex over-the-shoulder boulder holders with way too many hooks, Bike jock straps, rolled-up t-shirt sleeves, cashmere sweaters, Brylcreemed hair, flat tops, collars up, spit curls, and white socks with black penny loafers. And from one of the countless canned nostalgia web sites, what about candy cigarettes, wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water inside, soda pop machines that dispensed glass bottles that you slid along the rack and lifted out, real dining car diners with table side jukeboxes to flip through, blackjack, clove and teaberry chewing gum, home milk delivery in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers, newsreels before the movie, P.F. Fliers, telephone numbers with a word prefix...(Raymond 4-601), party lines, peashooters, cootie catchers, Howdy Doody, Hi-Fi's & 45 RPM records, Spin and Marty, 78 RPM records, Green Stamps, mimeograph paper, etc.
To illustrate the point, check the candid shot taken at 365 Morris Avenue in Empty Lakes, NJ, of an unidentified younger brother flogging Barbara Van Til in 1959 for dating a greaser from the wrong town, thereby causing humiliation to the entire family for generations to come. Actually, I still dress just like that kid! Matching things is so much easier when everything you own is black, except the socks, of course.

Here are a few prices from 1959 to share with your incredulous kids or grandkids or young friends: Hershey bar: a nickel. Wetson's basic burger: 15 cents. A real steakburger at Paul's Diner, much more than that, but at least you would survive it. A 1 lb. loaf of Taystee bread...probably white: 20 cents. Want some round steak? A pound will set you back $1.04. Dozen eggs? 52 cents. Remember: multiply consumer prices (on average across the board) by a whopping seven and a half to jump the 52 years to 2011! Viewed that way, the good old days don't seem quite that cheap anymore.

Whether you were born in the shadow of D-Day or the Battle of the Bulge or when the Battle of Okinawa raged and the nukes were dropped on Japan, the timing was just right that when we came of age, America would be involved in another foreign war. Sharing the bassinets next to yours in the penultimate year of World War II were the following infants who would become:
Angela Davis, George Lucas, Rudy Giuliani, the late Jill Clayburgh, Danny DeVito, Jacqueline Bissett, Dennis Franz, Michelle Phillips, Roger Daltry, Lorne Michaels, Tom Seaver, Alice Walker, Director Peter Weir, Sirhan Sirhan, Barry White, Diana Ross, the late Paul Wellstone, Charles Wang, Molly Ivins, the late Dennis Wilson. And in 1945, these wrigglers joined the human drama: Steve Martin, Neil Young, Tom Selleck, Deborah Harry, Goldie Hawn, Henry Winkler, Carly Simon, Eric Clapton, Franz Beckenbauer, Rod Stewart, Van Morrison, etc. How is this for a meaningless exercise?
If you were 20 in 1965, the white guys had 50 more years of life expectancy remaining...but the white gals had 57 years more years to curse the traffic jams on the Industrial Highway. That seems like kind of depressing news, especially for you guys, who appear to be enjoying every decadent decade of debauchery. However, if you made it this far to age 65 in 2009...and anyone reading this garbage I am spewing out obviously survived the ordeal... the actuarial tables turn in your favor: That erstwhile cool white guy would be expected to live to 82, and the once swingin' babe on his arm could anticipate an extra 3 years of blissful solitude to 85 after she sells off his short irons. (Update to 2016 when most sixty-sixers turn 72: Life expectancy is getting whittled down by the reaper to a scant 12.8 additional years of fun and games for the guys and 14.9 more years for the girls. How pissed off will we be if we are the last generation to experience death, because some Swarthmore nerd figures out and defuses the aging gene three months after we all croak?) The black guy and girl would have a couple of years less of life expectancy, but who is counting years once you limp past 80 anyway? Of course, to those who ditched the "starter wife" during the dot-com boom and married the nightshift hottie at Hooter's, have fun listening closely to the lyrics of the Eagles' "Lyin' Eyes" when you are whipping around Sun City in your turbocharged golf cart, absurd and undesirable in your ill-timed tumescence.

You remember what events of cosmic significance were happening at the college from September '62 to June of '66, so I thought it would fun to wrap up this insanity with a list of things of consequence in the big scary world beyond our protected little campus: As the lyrics to Ted Nelson's classic 1957 Hamburg Show, possibly the world's first rock musical...a musical revue that contained lyrics as compelling as these: "Here for eternity, in our smug fraternity, safe from life's enormity!" Yes, that's the same cyber-genius who coined the term and developed the concept of hypertext in 1963. But then I reconsidered, for there was way too much happening from '62 to '66 and you lived it. So I spare you the agony of reliving all that mess. Just remember the good stuff and let the bad vibes evaporate.

Nothing ruins a reunion worse than political ranting or arguments about religion or boasting and whining about the size of our personal assets or the alleged perfection of every mega-brained hyper-cute grandchild. The country is so polarized now that we should all declare a moratorium on venomous feuds from today through the reunion and the happy times afterwards when you treasure and nurture the rejuvenated friendships. The years are piling up for this generation born in the mid-forties. At age 66 or 67, those of you who believe absolutely that God created Man will have no luck at all convincing classmates who believe just as fervently that Man created God, and the reverse also holds. And those of you who feel that Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Michelle Bachmann and Donald Trump are the saviors of the planet and brave champions of democracy will have no luck convincing those of us who think they are pompous, ignorant buffoons. And those of you who zealously believe that GWB was the worst president since Nixon or Harding will have no luck convincing Obama's lefty worshippers that Barack Hussein O. is obviously a communist Muslim alien born on Arcturus and brought here by the Klingons to force us to enjoy decent health care. Those who still believe the War in Iraq was justified and was essential to the survival of America will fail miserably if they attempt to convert the peaceniks who think the war was a brutal act of aggression based on shoddy intelligence. Those who think Palin is a Godsend will not convince those who think she is a pathetically stupid Barbie incarnate. And so it goes. John Lennon sang, "Let it Be." Not bad advice for each of us who looks forward to many more good times ahead, with intelligent, tolerant, ethical, rational leaders making the right decisions on behalf of us and our entire world.
So let's all save our hot cable-news-ready breath and avoid challenging these irreconcilable differences. You may have been raised in a lily-white, affluent, business-oriented, conservative town that voted heavily for Nixon over JFK in 1960 and Bush decisively over Gore in 2000 and then Kerry in 2004 and even voted for McCain over Obama in 2008. Many of you, or so it is rumored, have gained some considerable financial success, and have lived lives of meaning and adventure and integrity and fulfillment all over the country and perhaps all over the world. So it is likely there are some of us at the June reunion who, in our late sixties, (Okay, early seventies!) will have forsaken our old progressive views from the decade of the sixties that fired our enamel, to creep to the political right on things like war, religion, taxes, social issues, gun rights, torture, etc., and you should not feel threatened by the large numbers of equally patriotic Americans who believe the polar opposite. Nor should the far left wing proponents of decisive environmental action, bringing the troops home alive, closing GitMo, tighter gun control, taxing the rich to reduce poverty, enacting national health care, allowing gays to serve openly in the military, ensuring freedom from religion, and pushing the liberal social agenda, feel intimidated by their opposite hues on the incredibly wide political spectrum. I wish we could all try to be red-blue colorblind for a while, a collective "time out" from the rancorous rants from the rabid extremes, so we can focus on the music of our friendships and the compelling stories of our lives and our families and our memories of shared challenges, those special times so long ago but still so fresh in our minds, that have sculpted us into the fascinating but still conflicted people we are today.
Wishing us all peace and good health and happiness and enduring, meaningful, rekindled friendships for this reunion ...and beyond.

Roy Van Til, Swarthmore Class of '66
I hope this rambling rant was worth your time and trouble to slog through it, and please forgive me if I upset anyone with the occasional abrasion within this piece of measured nostalgia. Here for your viewing pleasure and swift deletion are some photos I snapped a few years ago on another visit back to the campus.

Roy Van Til
577 Town House Road
Vienna, ME 04360 USA

RVT, hitting the beech...and trying to remember his initials ...but he probably forgot to bring his Swiss Army knife anyway.

Community Service, Volunteer Activities, Hobbies, Interests, Retirement Activities:

No sex, no drugs, but tons of non-stop rock'n'roll.

Books, Creative Products, Athletic Achievements:

Finding my cheap Walmart diopters to read whatever makes me feel alive; creating creative creations for creatures that have never been created before my miscreants; shooting threes on my driveway and blasting lethal ground strokes unseen by fellow humans and deluding myself about imagined greatness while the woodland animals chortle.

Spiritual Practice and Openings, if any?

Outgunning all mythical forces on a daily basis. I rule. No contest. I am undefeated so far, so why should I practice? Never had a single moment in my entire life when I believed in Deities or the supernatural in any way, shape or form. I am totally comfortable in my understanding of the reality of the rational and fundamentally mindless universe with all its immutable laws, infinite expanse, irreversibility of time, inevitable mayhem of birth and death and loss of energy, and spectacular variety of tangible biological and physical processes and permutations. Insecure Humanity creates gods in order to feel safe. There are untold billions of strains of life across the universe located on isolated, unconnected and unconnectable islands offering merely temporary survival...and we Earthlings are just clinging to one of these fragile outposts....and we comprise a rather smart and curious bunch of eager beings, especially in comparison to most of the other masses of wriggling complex molecules on distant planets encircling countless other stars. If we don't kill each other off totally, we will achieve further amazing things before the window closes on the stable vantage point from which have learned to understand and explore the deepest recesses of reality.

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Hi Jill, Enjoy your special day. Thanks for all the kindness that you radiate to the world. Keep up the good fight for a better life for everyone. May your family, community and this whole crazy country enjoy good health and true happiness in the coming years. We all can't deal with another 2020, that's for sure. Love and peace to you and yours, Roy

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Aug 31, 2019 at 10:37 AM

Geez! Another birthday? Do you insist on doing this every single year? It's becoming a wee tad repetitive. Please take a decade off. RVT

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Jun 23, 2018 at 7:58 AM

Hey Lin, Are you still having these birthdays every single year? This can become habit forming and tiresome after a clutch of absurdly high numbers pass by. I recommend only celebrating every tenth one in order to reduce the stress that comes from forcing your legions of fans to come up with something lame to say about you on an annual basis. Take care and be well as you gobble up all the great things about your quintessential NoCal lifestyle. Roy of the Vienna Woods

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Posted on: Dec 20, 2016 at 6:25 PM

Yo Raja, Next week enjoy unwrapping my usual annual Christmas/Birthday/New Years gift from my primitive hovel in the Maine Woods to your wicked good shack under the bridge in Portlandia. Wish I could stop by the Church during your 9-minute drum solo on Crocodile or the Tube Exuding and hurl... some heartfelt greetings to you as you pummel the skins senseless.

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