PART I: BEFORE // Chapter One: Where He Came From: 7

Thus Gilbert passed a happy holiday season his first year away from home, using the excuse of having to study to avoid having to go home to see his family. He bore them no ill will, but felt simply that he was living a new life now, his own life, and had no desire to return to his old one, however briefly.

Early in the next year, 1968, Gilbert was called upon to travel to the downtown area of Philadelphia with the college chorus which was performing a recital at a concert hall near the old theater where Gilbert and his father had seen so many great movies together. As he entered the auditorium, Gilbert felt a strange frisson. As he looked around, he felt sure that this was the same auditorium where his father had first seen his mother, accompanying the Ben Allyn choir on piano, almost exactly twenty years ago. His father, when in his cups and in a sentimental mood, had described the event to him many times in minute detail. After getting his equipment ready, Gilbert sat back for a moment in his father’s old seat and gazed up at the stage, where once again the Baldwin grand piano was positioned downstage left and angled toward center stage. Both the piano bench and the risers for the chorus were empty at the moment, but Gilbert imagined his mother, younger than he was then, sitting gracefully at the piano, her slim fingers running over the keys. According to Carl, he had fallen in love with Vanessa at first sight. Twenty years. What the hell had happened? Gilbert wondered if he and his life could ever change so drastically over the next twenty years. He wondered if, like his father, he would fall in love with some beautiful girl at first sight and be swept away into marriage. He shook his head to clear it and vowed this would never happen to him. Besides, he had a show to do.

So his life passed peacefully enough until one day, near the end of his sophomore year in May of 1969, he was studying in the library when he heard angry shouting and chanting coming from just outside. He rushed over to an open window (for it was a beautiful spring day) and saw a crowd of people about his age carrying picket signs, waving their fists in the air, and chanting what sounded to him like “No more war! No more war!” They appeared to be heading toward the Administration Building which (this being a small campus) was only about thirty yards away. Sensing an opportunity, he ran back to the dorm (only about twenty yards away) to find Jerry. Luckily Jerry was in his room taking a nap, and Gilbert rushed in excitedly, yelling “Quick, grab your camera and let’s go!”

By the time they got to the Administration Building, the crowd of protesters had settled in, sprawling over the lawn and on the building’s steps, demanding that the college president, Dr. Godfrey, come out and meet with them. Hurriedly telling Jerry to film him like he was a reporter on the TV news, Gilbert went over to the leader of the protesters and began to interview him.

Now Gilbert, though intelligent and observant, knew nothing of politics. The life he had thus far lived had sheltered him from the realities of the outside world, including the still-raging Vietnam War. His naïve questions and comments made the protest organizers laugh and soon, with his mixture of affability and credulity, had drawn them out to the point that the spokesman talked frankly with him, patiently explaining what the war was all about, why they opposed what they considered to be an immoral war, despite the wishes and laws of the US government.

Gilbert’s first documentary was a smashing success, and he made several copies to be shown at special events on and off campus. As a result he had become somewhat of a local folk hero.

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