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Interview with Paul Wilkes, November 8, 2005 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Paul Wilkes, November 8, 2005
Date:
November 8, 2005
Description:
Paul Wilkes, author/journalist and professor of creative writing, discusses his childhood, college years, and early adulthood and military service. Wilkes is the author of nineteen books and has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker. He has been a visiting professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, Columbia University, and the University of Notre Dame, among others.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Wilkes, Paul Interviewer: Riggins, Adina Date of Interview: 11/8/2005 Series: SENC Notables Length 57 minutes

Riggins: Good morning. My name is Adina Riggins. I'm the UNCW Archivist and Special Collections Librarian. I'm behind the scenes, behind the camera, right now because the subject of our Interview is in front. May I introduce Paul Wilkes who will be speaking to us, we hope, for more than today... about your life and times, your career, your writing life, your religious life... whatever else comes up. It's all going to be relevant. So, I'd like to, again, welcome you here. Can you please just introduce yourself? State your full name.

Wilkes: Yeah, Paul Wilkes is my name.

Riggins: Can you tell me a little about where you were born. Where you grew up... all those...

Wilkes: Well, maybe my name Paul Wilkes has something to say uh... where I was in the birth order. I'm the last of seven children and my father and mother were uh... my father was a co... was a coal miner in Pennsylvania, in the hard coal area. And, uh... it was around Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania that he was a coal miner. Now, Wilkes is not... I'm Slovak. 100%. That is not a very Slovak name, it is a very English name. So, the... my oldest sister was baptized "Vilk," v i l k, and the name "vlk," v l k, means "wolf" in Slovak, so probably we were "Vlk " when we came over from the Old Country. My father and mother were born here. But, uh... all my other brothers and sisters had middle names. I was the last of seven. I just got "Paul." My father's name is Paul, also. And, um... the circumstances of my birth are... I think... moderately interesting. My uh... they had just moved from Pennsylvania, having lost a house because of the Depression... very poor, had borrowed a Model T Ford to move their six children and their... whatever household goods they could.

Riggins: Where did they move from?

Wilkes: From the coal mining areas near Wilkes-Barre ... Scranton, Pennsylvania. They lived in different "coal patches," where ever there was work. And, they lost everything. They lost everything. They came with just the shirts on their back, in a borrowed car. I mean they were like the "Okies" from...

Riggins: Did the mining companies ... just ...

Wilkes: The Depression... oh, because business was bad... steel mills weren't producing much. They didn't need much coal. Everything was bad. So, my father heard there was work in Cleveland. Came to Cleveland. And, they lived in an upper attic, in an attic.. in a relative's house. I think... it might have been my grandmother's. When they arrived here... so there's mother, father and six kids sleeping... not, you know, not three to a bed, you know, across... or four to a bed, because that's all the room they had. You know, its really one of those stories. And, my mother became pregnant with me which was not exactly the blessing from God that uh... they were seeking. And, in fact, she was encouraged to, "Take something strong, Margaret..." In other words... you know... "Drano" or something like that so the baby would go away, because they couldn't afford another child but she said, "God will provide." And, the night ... um ... that she began to feel the labor pains coming on, my father was going to go to work the next morning. And so she said, "No, no Pat." She called... his name was Paul but she called him "Pat." "Pat, you just lay there. I'll ... ." She walked to the hospital... two miles... two miles... St. Luke's Hospital which was... you know, twelve or fifteen blocks away. It was about two miles because I've clocked it, 'cause I went back. She arrived at about eleven o'clock at night and the nurse said, "Fine, Mrs. Wilkes, we're ready for you and because you're on Public Assistance...." They were on Welfare, basically. She said, "That'll be $1.27 for each night and you'll have to pay this day because its not midnight yet." So she said uh... "Oh, no.." So, she goes out into the Waiting Room and waits 'til after midnight and then comes back in and has the baby. So, this was... this was a "frontier woman" who knew when she was going to have the baby, was not going to pay an extra $1.27! And, I was born. The last of seven children. We eventually then bought a house ... they bought a house for $4,000 on Forest Avenue, 11412 Forest Avenue, where I was raised. This was a... um... you know, forget about Jews and Blacks... I didn't even know Hungarians and they lived three blocks away... this was a Slovak ghetto! This was... everybody was Slovak, we all were Catholic, we all went to St. Benedict's Grade School. And, it was a very kind of... very tightly-knit community ... very tightly-knit community. And, so that was the ... the early days of my life. I ... I ... but, in a strange way, felt like an only child, although I was the last of seven. But, there was four years difference between me and the youngest sister and then there were all the other ... my oldest sister is fourteen years older than I am. So, there were ... that's quite a... a group, there. And ... and so, I felt like an only child, somehow, and that's probably why I became a writer. And, why I left home when I was seventeen and all that stuff. I'm kind of like a little outside the... I'm not outside my family but I'm an "out writer," in a certain way. So, I go to grade school and um... all these Slovak kids... and the nuns teach me how to diagram sentences and good grammar and all that stuff and I fought it and I was a "bad boy." And, whenever the teacher would leave... the nuns, they had to go to the bathroom, too, although we didn't understand that, but they would leave the class and somebody like you would, you know, the good little girl, would be in charge. And, they would put your name on the board if you were bad. And, of course, "Wilkes" ... bingo! I was up there. She didn't even have to leave the room... my name was painted up there because I was always messing around and stuff like that. So ...

Riggins: What about grades? Did you do well?

Wilkes: I was ... I think I was ... I think I still have some report cards. I think I got pretty good grades except for "Conduct." "Conduct" was not my strong suit and "Penmanship." I have the worst ... I had straight "D's" or "C's" in "Penmanship" but I think I did reasonably well in the other stuff. So, it comes time for high school. Now Benedict, I was in St. Benedict's Parish and there's Benedictine High School which is right up the street, in Cleveland, Ohio... is where I was born. But, something inside me was telling me not to go there. One reason was that one of my cousins was a Father Robert Wilkes ... who thought ... who was ordained to the priesthood... and you would have thought the Lord had descended on his shoulder... you know, he really thought that ... he was just another Slovak like the rest of us ... but now that he was ordained a priest he thought he was a pretty fancy guy. And, I just didn't care for that too much and Benedictine High School was the natural place to go but I didn't want to go there. There was another high school across town called "Cathedral Latin," "The Cathedral Latin School." It was kind of a prep school for the seminary, in the old days. And, then just a good ... all boys Catholic ...high school.

Riggins: It was public or...

Wilkes: Catholic high school... all boys, Catholic high school. Right across the street from John Hay, which is a public ... but, no I went ... I 've gone through Catholic schools seventeen years... kindergarden through college.

Riggins: Was that a struggle for your family to pay?

Wilkes: It was ... it didn't cost anything. Um ... in grade school, you had a book bill. $6 or $8. a year for your supplies. In high school, the tuition was $100. and I earned the $100. I was a caddy at Pepper Point (?) Country Club. And, I'll never forget in freshman year, at Cathedral Latin, I took my $5. and $1.'s and $1.'s and got it changed into a $100. bill, at the Cleveland Trust Bank, on the corner of 116th and Buckeye. Took that $100 bill and slapped it on the counter at the bursar's office at Cathedral Latin and I paid for my own tuition. So, I'd been working since I was like ... ten years old. I had paper routes and caddying and stuff like that because there just wasn't any money to go around. So, I .... you know, if you wanted to have it, you better earn it. So, I go to this Cathedral Latin High School which is a little bit better, it's a cut above ... And, uh... when I graduated from grade school I ... I had a... they called them a "ten-way suit." Now, this was a suit that had a checkered jacket, checkered pants, blue pants, a vest that was checkered on one side and blue on the other. So, this was a suit you could wear ten different ways. You could wear the blue vest, the checkered vest, the checkered pants the dit ,dit, dit... dah ... there were ten different ways. And, I thought this was ... just $40 ... just forty bucks. I'll never forget ... I thought this was the coolest thing ever! Because, this was... at my high school you had to wear a shirt and a tie and a jacket or a sweater. So, I was ... you know ... vest, jacket, you know, I ... and after about the first three or four months, you know, the guys would kind of make fun of Paul Wilkes and his "magic suit." You know, "What is it going to be today?." And, 'cause I was a kid "from kind of the wrong side of the tracks." I mean a lot of people were poor. I don't want to say that I was the only kid and everybody was rich. But, I was kind of "from the other side of the tracks." And, so... did they make fun of me a little bit? Maybe so. But, anyhow, I had Notre Dame Sisters in grade school which are very good, very strict... but, they really taught you very well. In high school, these were Marianists (sp?) these were Brothers and Priests who were ... who treated boys as if they were men. We were "men of Cathedral Latin School." It was not called "Cathedral Latin High School," it was "Cathedral Latin School." And, it was as close to a prep school, I think, as we had in... that were Catholic prep schools. But, it was a very, very good school, very good reputation. So, I studied really... the Classics. I took Latin. I took Religion and Algebra and all that kind of stuff. And, uh... did reasonably well in school. Uh... I made the National Honor Society and stuff. But, a key moment happened in my sophomore year. I was starting to date this girl, Carol Corsaro (sp?) who was the a sister of a friend of mine and she was "hot as a pistol" and I just wanted her to love me forever. I saw all these guys had these "letter sweaters," you know, that were sports guys. I was 5'2" when I got to high school. I was not going to be on the football team. So, I saw this kid going down the hallway with a quill on his letter. And, I said [he covers his mouth secretively], "How'd you get that?." He said [again covering his mouth], "I wrote for the newspaper." So, I said, "I can do that." So, began to write for the "Latineer," l a t i n e e r, which is the high school newspaper and got my "letter sweater" and got Carol Corsaro, who is now married to a very rich guy and lives in Malibu. So, that didn't work out but none the less [laughter] Carol Corsaro and I were an item, for a while. So, so... that was ... that was my beginning as a writer. It was purely to get that ...

Riggins: To get a letter for...

Wilkes: To get a letter for her, see. So, you know, whatever ...

Riggins: You probably got a letter for (inaudible)

Wilkes: Yeah, yeah... well, I mean... and in those days it wasn't like ... you know ... sex ... I mean, you just ... so that she would like you and you would be able to sit in the backseat of a car and "neck" for a while or something like that. I mean, you know, that was the kinda' standard ... the kind of gold standard, at the time. So, going through high school and... you know... doing ok... working. I got a couple sweaters. My father actually did odd jobs and he worked at a sweater factory and they would give kinda of the "seconds" to him. And, I ... I can remember wearing these sweaters that had a little ... something a little missing here. Or, they were a funky... like orange color or something like that. I mean I was just a little outside the ... you know... but I was trying to be cool and like one of the guys but I was probably not. Anyhow, in my senior year this ... these couple guys kind of discovered me as, you know, like ... I was kind of a "hood." I wore black draped pants when I would go out. They had a thing called a "Mister B" that was a ...

Riggins: May I ask, what year was this?

Wilkes: This was 1950 ... I graduated in '56 so this would be '53 ... '4 ... '5.

Riggins: So, you were born in...

Wilkes: '38. 1938. Ok, September 12, 1938.

Riggins: Ok.

Wilkes: So, I'm going through high school. These guys discover me, as kind of this bumpkin, see. But, they're the kind of cool guys. They wear the houndstooth jackets and they ... I discovered a whole 'nother world. They had ... I mean we were trying to sneak a sixpack of beer. These guys were having martini parties and manhattans and getting wasted. And, one guy had his ... he lived in an apartment which I thought was so cool! I mean, I had a house ... I mean ... you know ... they had an apartment and that was ... I don't know why I thought that was so cool. But, anyhow, and really, really soiree (?) parties, you know, this was really a upscale thing. They came ... I came to the first party with my "Mister B" ... "Mister B" was a ... was a style of a really kind of flared collar. It was pink. My knot was about this big [he gestures largely with his hands]. My jacket was a "one-button roll." That was the style, at the time. "One-button roll" ... you'd have a button that would roll like that. It was blue with white flecks and I had "ice cream" flannels on, you know, kind of a light gray flannel, draped. "Draped" means where the bottom is close to your ... and that was kind of the gangster style. So, they said, "Uh [groans], really ... who is this guy coming in? So, bingo, they get me a houndstooth jacket and a pair of khaki's and I don't know ... penny loafers or something like that. And, all of the sudden I am transformed from "hood," which I thought was really cool, because I was going to school with a lot of Italian guys and they all ... you know [he gestures in a macho manner] they were these guys with a lot of hair ...

Riggins: You got along with them?

Wilkes: Huh?

Riggins: You got along with them?

Wilkes: Yeah ... well, they were "hoods," you know, and I was a "hood." And, I wanted to be a [grimaces] tough guy. And, so all of the sudden ... But, these guys were like "collegiate." That was ... see ... that was not a big thing, then. Don't forget, this is '56 ...

Riggins: And, this is Cleveland.

Wilkes: ... This is Cleveland. Not everybody's going to college like they do nowadays. We're all kind of "Hunkies" and children of immigrants and stuff like that, so...

Riggins: Yeah.

Wilkes: And ... and, education was not really a prem ... at a premium in my family. And, education was... you go to school, you gotta' go to school but get a job, get a secure job, get one with a good retirement program. Do all that stuff ... 'cause my father had lost everything he had owned, worked very hard all his life. . He was a carpenter.

Riggins: What did he do?

Wilkes: He was a carpenter.

Riggins: So, he worked for a business?

Wilkes: He did. He worked for a terrible business, actually, he worked for a company that did... um, after a fire they would go in and tear out all the other stuff and re... re... So, he died eventually of "black lung" which was from the coal mines and from that kind of carpenter work. So, he died from emphysema at the age of 72. Um... so... so here is ... we're in high school and I'm writing for the paper, I got the "letter," Carol Corsaro, find this group ... martinis ... drinking a lot!

Riggins: Oh, so you did get in with this group?

Wilkes: Oh, yeah, yeah! Oh, no, no ... I was drinking a lot. I mean, I mean...

Riggins: Did you guys read a lot or did you do... ?

Wilkes: No, no, no. That was ... well, that was about the senior ... it was about the senior year of high school ... I guess I did. One thing did happen in that senior year besides all the drinking and I mean plastered drunk, driving cars that we should have never driven ... my buddy had ... his sister had a powder ... a pink 1954 Ford convertible that was just the coolest car I've seen in my life. We'd go ... we'd drive ... we'd drink. It was awful. Senior year of high school also another... two things happened. One, I'm walking along the hall ... this is before my conversion into the collegiate guy ... well, I'm still a "hood.".. and I'm walking down the hallway and I got my "DA" [he sweeps his hand backwards over his hair] and acne and attitude and stuff like that and Brother Adolf, who was probably "born old," but he was the librarian at Cathedral Latin ... your patron saint Adina. So, this guy was ... Brother Adolf said, "Come over here, Wilkes." [Wilkes replies in his "hood" voice] "Yeah, Brudder, whad ya' want ... yeah, Brudder, what is it?" [laughter] If I had said, "What do you want?," he probably would have slapped me. But, he says, "I got a book for you.." "Yeah?." He says, "It's by Thomas Merton. He was a bum when he was your age. He turned-out to be something. Maybe there's some hope for you, but I don't know?" So he gives me The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. The Seven Storey Mountain, just for the record, is a book about Thomas Merton, it's his autobiography, where he was a wild guy in high school and college and made a girl pregnant and was really running wild and ...

Riggins: Was he the liberation theology...

Wilkes: No, your thinking of Gustapo Gutierrez or Mart... Thomas Merton was a Trappist Monk ... and will get back to him later because I do a film on him eventually. But, he joined the... he was at Cambridge, he lived overseas, he was brought back to America and he graduated from Columbia and joined the Trappists, a cloistered groups of monks, in 1941, right as we were on the ... on the verge of World War II. But, he had a real conversion experience. And, he was this wild man and he left the world to become a Trappist, a cloistered Trappist monk ... medieval order ... don't talk ... barely eat ... you know it was a complete turnaround for him. I read the book, The Seven Storey Mountain. The ... Seven ... Storey ... and "storey" is spelled ... storey, "Seven Storey Mountain" um... and I just said, "Man, this is it, this is it, this is the kind of person I want to be.." I mean I knew how wild and crazy I was and I just wanted to be something better than what I was. And, so Jerry Corsaro, who was the brother of the girl that I was dating, Carol, jumped in that '54 Ford convertible with many sixpacks of beverages ... and they weren't "Sprite" ... in the backseat ... drove six hundred miles, from Cleveland, Ohio down near Louisville, Kentucky, ... the Garden ... the Abbey of Gethsemane, where Merton was ... knock on the door, two o' clock in the morning... we want to meet Thomas Merton. Of course, we were "three sheets to the wind." The Brother was very kind, "Oh, yeah, come on in, boys. And, uh ... well, let's get you some breakfast." So... so ... I'll never forget eating the breakfast there because Merton lived on bread and water and zucchini and all that kind of stuff. But, it was a very simple life. Well, anyhow, we go to Mass and then we go to breakfast. And, breakfast is this ... steam table of eggs and bacon and French toast and pancakes and ... gorgeous ... you know ... buffet! And, I was so overwrought. I said, "Oh my God, I came to suffer here ... and here I had this fabulous meal put in front of me. But, anyhow, we stayed a couple days in the monastery, never met Thomas Merton. Of course, he was very famous, at this time, and I'm sure I was one of about sixteen people to show up, that day ... to try to meet him. I never did meet him. Drove back. Drove back to my life. Alright, now ... it was probably in the ... probably around January of that year, '56, that we had a new thing at our school called a "Counselor," a "Guidance Counselor." [in his "hood" voice] "What's this?." So, he calls in ... everybody's in alphabetic order. Wilkes is obviously last. He calls me in, he says, "Wilkes, what are you going to do next year?." I said, "I don't know. You know ... I'll work on the steel mill or ... you know ... I'm not really good with my hands, like my father was a carpenter, he was very handy, but I'll get some kind of "blue collar" [I didn't say "blue collar" but ...] working job.." He said, "Wait a minute, here. Let's take a look at the record." He said, "Let's see ... you wrote for the newspaper, right? You know, you did this IQ Test, here." He said, "You did pretty well." I think, if I remember the numbers, it was like 133 or 131 or something which doesn't make you a genius but makes you ... you know ... a little bit better than the average. So, he says, "You know, you did pretty well on this IQ Test. You know, you could go to college." I said, "What do you mean, college?" My brother ... I had a brother who was in the Navy, who didn't graduate from high school. My father had actually been in the Navy during the first World War. I had a brother in the second World War in the Navy. Neither of them could swim and I couldn't either. But, that's another story. But ... so I said, "What do you mean college? I mean we don't do that in my family." He said, "No, no, you could do it! How about "Journalism" ... studying Journalism?." I said, "Well, I don't know. I wrote for the paper. I guess I could do that." So, there was only one Catholic school that had Journalism courses and that was Marquette University, in Milwaukee. So, it was like Catholic ... Journalism ... Marquette. There was no ... zip! [he gestures with his hands]. It was just a direct line. You didn't even .... I mean you didn't even think about Ohio State or Northwestern ...

Riggins: Easy ...

Wilkes: No, it's ... there was no choice. I kind of vaguely thought about Notre Dame but I couldn't afford it ... in this way ... I knew I had to work my way through college and in South Bend there weren't the kind of jobs that I could ... I knew Milwaukee was an industrial town. I mean, I don't think I could spell "Milwaukee," I don't think I could spell "Marquette." But, none the less that's where I ... He says ... you know ... and, in those days, there were no SAT's, no anything like that ... you just sent ... they sent a letter and if you graduated in a certain place, in your class, in a Catholic high school ... and this was ... I guess ours was a very respected high school ... you were in! So, all of the sudden, I get this letter ... I'm going to college ...in a couple ... you know, in mid-September. Now, comes a real tragedy. My mother was very ... had a very ... had a lot of liver problems. She was kind of jaundiced and stuff like that and what the autopsy eventually would show is that she had cirrhosis of the liver, but never drank. But, you can also get it from malnutrition. She had six kids. Seven kids ... with me. Never sat down to the table when ever we were eating and stuff like that. God only knows what the woman ate? Or, if she ate or whatever happened? But, she was very sick. So, anyhow, I was taking her down to the hospital in Akron, Ohio to be seen and Jerry was with me, my buddy from the "convertible time." So he was ... we took a day off from school. May 1, 1956. Key... key day in my life. Driving down the highway, it's a three-lane highway with ... its brick. I'm an impatient guy, anyhow, so this car is kind of going slow in front of me ... slow in front of me ... and I'm going to pass him. I pulled into the middle lane ... which they don't have too many of these now ... were the middle lane is a passing land going both ways ... you see what I mean, you know ... ok ... so I pull into the middle lane and all of the sudden I see someone doing the same thing, coming the other way. Had I been an experienced driver, I would have just eased off and eased back in again. I really panicked. I hit the brakes. I skidded around and a truck hit me coming from that ... in the far ... you know, the other lane coming in ... that car that was ... I saw ... I never ... I don't even know what happened ... hit right on the right side ... right where my mother was sitting. She was sitting ... oddly enough ... although the ... you know, we tried to put her in the middle and Jerry on the outside, she said, "I want to sit on the outside." And, she was killed!

Riggins: Sorry.

Wilkes: And ... and, when I saw the car later ... you know ... the whole front side and there was this ... I'll never forget it ... this, this ... the windshield ... you know, there was just this ... [his hands, forming a circle, lunge forward] ... from (?) where she hurt her head, obviously.

Riggins: Had the car skidded the other way?

Wilkes: Yeah, skidded and then the other car, the truck hit me just like that [gestures with his hands]. She was killed instantly.

Riggins: You were taking her to the hospital for some tests?

Wilkes: Yeah, and then the Doctor that did the ... eventually, he was a friend of the family ... and eventually did an autopsy and he said her liver was so compromised she probably wouldn't have lived another six months or a year. Now, was he trying to let a guy down easily, I don't know? I don't know ... to this day. But, none the less, she died. She was killed. So this is a very ... you know... this is obviously a very, very... very ... you know, awful thing in a guy's life. I'll ... the two things I remember from being in the hospital in Akron, one, is my father coming into the room. And, although he's not ... he was never a guy who preached or he wasn't a guilt-producing guy, he was just so overwhelmed he just said, "This is a fine graduation present." I was about to graduate. And, ... but, that's not like him. I ... I ... 'cause this was a really good, generous, kind, never preachy, never mentioned the word "Catholic" ... kind of a guy. But lived it. He was a generous, good, kind ...

Riggins: How did he feel about your antics all through high school?

Wilkes: Well, I don't ... I think he was so far out of the loop that he didn't know.

Riggins: He didn't really ...

Wilkes: No, no ... mother ...

Riggins: ... a low profile at home ...

Wilkes: Yeah, yeah. And, my mother ... and my mother ... you know, women raised the family. I remember only ... I mean, my mother used to slap me on a regular basis because I was a real "smart mouth." My father hit me once 'cause I ... he had his tools in the basement and I took a saw and I was sawing a rock or something like that. His tools were precious to him and he kinda' of ... you know ... gave me a few licks, then. But, I was not beaten as a child or anything like that. I was ... I was disciplined and my mother, I can remember her ... I was 13, 14, 15 ... going "whack" [gestures with his hand] for being a "smart mouth," which I was ... and deserved that plus ... But, anyhow, my sister, Frances, who would eventually die a very tragic death, as an alcoholic, came to my bedside and said, "Nobody blames you, Butch. Nobody blames you."

Riggins: That was your nickname?

Wilkes: Yeah, yeah ... she was ...

Riggins: That was your nickname, "Butch"?

Wilkes: Yeah, "Butch." That's her ... that was always ... 'cause my father name was Paul and I was called "Butch" "Nobody blames you, Butch." So that was kinda' ... she was kinda' like my redeemer, right then, you know, 'cause I was ... you know ... obviously felt terrible ... you know ... I had done this ... and, here I was the last kid about to leave the house. My parents could finally have a life to themselves ... and here was ... here was the story. So, anyhow, that was May 1st and I ... you know, I wasn't drinking or anything like that. I mean I wasn't ... uh, that kind of a situation. But, it didn't stop me from drinking. I was drunk when I walked up to get my high school diploma. I mean I was drinking a lot. I mean I drank a lot through that year and I drank a lot through college. I ... and probably some of it was trying to just ...I felt ... I felt alone, I felt bereft, I felt ...

Riggins: Numb ... the pain.

Wilkes: Numb, yeah. I mean I was a "motherless child." But, but ... you know, but I had to work! There wasn't no time to just say, you know, how do you feel about this? And, I had to work ... I got to college ... my father took me and a box [he gestures with his hands] about maybe as big as this chair to the train station in Cleveland, Ohio in September. Pushed me and the box onto the train. You know, not that [he gestures with his leg] ... but I was gone. I was going off to college. I had 400 bucks in my pocket and I had the address of where I was supposed to stay at the dormitory. I had never seen Marquette. I had never visited Milwaukee. We had not toured college campuses like they do nowadays. Forget about ... gone ... gone! I was off to college and there was the beginning of my college life. At Marquette University ... ok ... I really feel out of the loop, even further. I mean here are these little girls from Oak Park with their sweater sets and their little plaid dresses and here's me with ... you know ... they're going ... and they're going to the cafeteria to eat, whatever they want to eat. And, I'm saying, "God, you know my 400 bucks was gone within about a week!." You know... I paid tuition ...

Riggins: Even though it was Catholic, did that make it seem like "family" a little bit?

Wilkes: Well, I had never known anything other than that but it wasn't like smoochy, kissey ... you know we're .... we're enfolding you here.

Riggins: Right.

Wilkes: No. No. No!

Riggins: There were fraternities, though?

Wilkes: There were fraternities but ... and I would have actually joined an advertising fraternity which was a half-baked thing but anyhow ... there were fraternity houses, my roommate was a fraternity guy.

Riggins: Being in a fraternity you have to have money.

Wilkes: You got to have money and all that kind of stuff ...

Riggins: And time...

Wilkes: And, I didn't have nothing! So, I eventually ... money was gone. I'll never forget going up to the lady ...

Riggins: Were you resentful of some of this?

Wilkes: Yeah! I was pissed-off. Yeah! Yeah. I was like ... hey, wait a minute. And, you know, I felt sorry for myself.

Riggins: Right.

Wilkes: You know and I carried that with me for a lot of years. Like, "Why the hell ... why don't I have that stuff or why doesn't my check come every week or why can't I go to the cafeteria and just eat ... I was eating at "White Tower" and I would go to get ... this was after working ... I would go and get a bowl of soup and ... because I could get as many crackers as I could possibly eat and I would put the crackers in there. I mean there were more crackers than soup. That would ... and maybe a "White Tower" hamburger, you know, for about 70 or 80 cents or whatever the cost of it was ... and stuff like that. I mean ... Or, I would buy a big thing of peanut butter and just eat it. I mean it was really like one of those ... uh ...

Riggins: Did you know other people like that?

Wilkes: Well, yeah!

Riggins: ... or they didn't want to talk about it?

Wilkes: There were ... there were other ... other people were working their way through college, too. I was not the only one. But ... but, I was ... you know ... I really felt ... I had a big chip on my shoulder. And, also, I did not stop drinking. You know ... but ... but I would go on Friday night when you, Adina, were going to the Ball, to "Snowflake ... Frolic" ... or ... the ... whatever it was ... or, the other girls ... not you. Those girls ... you know ... those girls. Those girls were going to the "Snowflake Follies" and the guys had the tuxedos and I was in Red Arrow Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a sixpack with all the other ... trying to ...

Riggins: ... Trying to cool (inaudible) yourself off ...

Wilkes: Trying to say ... [he slaps his hand and make the "screw you" gesture] ... you know ... right here ...

Riggins: Yeah.

Wilkes: ... "Fuck you!" ... is basically what I was saying to the world and to them ... And, you don't understand me and nobody understands me ... and, nobody cares about me ... and ... but, I worked ... you know ... and I was working in factories. Sometimes, I was working 40 hours a week ... yeah ... one of my jobs was at American Can Company. I went in at 11:40 ... I'll never forget the ... I went in at 11:48, at night, and I got out at 6:48, in the morning. Six and a half hours, half hour for lunch. 6:48 in the morning and I'd often go over to "Johnny's Roundup," which was the local bar, have a couple of "Slim Jims," maybe a boiled egg, shot and a beer ... [slaps his hands] and I'd be in my eight o'clock Philosophy class... smelling like I'd been out all night ... my flap jacket or whatever it is ... I just got out of the factory ... and these little girls from Oak Park with their cornflake on their lip, coming from breakfast ... you know ... I was ... you know ... I was kind of still the rebel, see. I was the rebel! And, I'll never forget, one Philosophy class, I was so tired ... I had mononucleosis, more than I didn't have it ... for four years in college. One day in Philosophy class ...

Riggins: How did you drag yourself to class?

Wilkes: You just did. I mean, what was the choice?

Riggins: Did you miss class?

Wilkes: I don't think I missed too many classes but I fell asleep in virtually every class I ever attended, at one time or another. I mean during ... I mean each period, I would sleep for part of it ... I was just so tired ...

Riggins: What was motivating you to keep on?

Wilkes: I don't know! Well, I ... what were the alternatives? I mean, this is what I ... I had to go to college. I ...

Riggins: If you quit, you'd be working at factories, anyway ...

Wilkes: I guess so.

Riggins: So ...

Wilkes: I guess so. And, that ... that was it. I didn't have this great ... [puts his fingers to his temple] "I'm going to be a writer. I need a college ... ." No! It was like ... I really do have a work ethic. So, there was something that was just ... that was just kick ... clicked-in there. And, this Philosophy class ... eight o'clock in the morning ... Murphy, was his name, uh... Professor Murphy, and I remember, I used to sit near the front because if I sat in the back ... I would ... the class would be a total failure. And, I was so sleepy and I tried to hold myself ... I fell asleep and fell forward and did a complete somersault right in front of the class [laughter] and, what happened ... the class dissolved in laughter and Murphy said, "Class closed. I can't go on after that!." So, so ... that was the ... the great event (?). I did very poorly in school. I would eventually graduate with a ... I think a 2.24 average out of 4. So, I just barely, barely, barely got to college ... got out of college. I was ... you know ... not a great ... I guess I probably was ... you know ... I guess I had enough brain cells to do this stuff ... but, I had such a chip on my shoulder! I was working a lot and I was ... I was out of... you know, I was in the fog ... someplace ... really ... most of the time (?).

Riggins: What was your major? Did it stay...

Wilkes: Journalism, Philosophy, and Theology ... a minor in Philosophy and Theology ... which was very ... at a Jesuit school ... Marquette is a Jesuit school because everybody was mandated for 12 or ... 12 hours of Philosophy and Theology. And, if you took 16, you got a minor in it. So, I was ... and Journalism was my major so ... And, I was very undistinguished. I didn't write for the paper. I ... I don't think they even knew I was there. I would eventually get their highest award, at Marquette, years later. But, they didn't even know I was there. You know, I was this guy who kinda' showed up for classes ...

Riggins: You didn't find a college (inaudible) ... you hung out at bars ...

Wilkes: Bars ... you know ...

Riggins: And the college kids were like ...

Wilkes: Yeah, didn't have much to do with those ... a couple of ... I dated a little bit ... I felt ... I didn't feel very attractive ... I didn't feel like ... you know ... I was real ... I don't know, I just was real ... you know, the guys had the "white bucks" and the bow ties and the right haircuts and the Oxford cloth shirts and ... I just didn't have any of that stuff uh... although, I had some of it... I had the "white bucks" and I had woolen "wigwam socks" and I had ... maybe ... an Oxford cloth shirt. But, I didn't really have the regalia.

Riggins: Where did you live?

Wilkes: I lived in a dormitory for a couple of years and then I lived in a series of rooming houses ... one of which I think Dalmer ... remember the guy in Milwaukee who was taking people and eating them and doing all ... I think he lived in the same one. Not at the same time, but the same place on ... on ... I think it was 11th or 13th Sreet in Milwaukee? I seem to remember ... after his whole situation. But these were $8 a week places ... $10 a week ... where you'd have a room that was a room and maybe a desk ... that was ... I mean really ...

Riggins: Did your family come visit or did you do ...

Wilkes: Never! My father never came to Marquette until my graduation day.

Riggins: Couldn't get away or for whatever reason?

Wilkes: Well, no ... it wasn't part of "the thing" ... you know ... although he did send me a little money. I think he was sending me fifty bucks a month. And, then $75 in the last year or so. So, he was trying to help me whenever he could. But, uh ... but it was ... you know, basically mine to do and ... or not to do!

Riggins: Did you go home on "breaks"?

Wilkes: Never at Thanksgiving. Only at the end of the semester.

Riggins: Christmas.

Wilkes: Yeah. Yeah ... because I couldn't ... I would go to somebody else's house or something like that. I'll never forget ... one girl ... one girl ... I went to her house, one of these Park ... River Forest ... Oak Park girls ... very fancy house ... invited me home for Thanksgiving ... and a couple other kids. I wasn't involved with her or anything like that. But, I'll never forget ... I uh ... at the dinner table ... so, over my shoulder comes this plate with food on it ... so, I'm taking the plate [he makes a tugging motion] and the person's not giving me the plate because it's the servant and they're serving me the thing. I had never seen such a thing, you know! In my house, you passed it around and you ate quickly because if you didn't eat it, it was gone! I mean, there were not only seven kids but there was mom and dad and grandma' living with us so there was ten at the table. So this was a ... when my mother sat down ... so this was a ... you know ... this was a contact sport, just to get food. So ... I mean it wasn't quite that bad ... but you ate ... you know ... you didn't sit around and chit chat. But this guy and I had this tug o' war over my shoulder and finally took my pork chop and did that. So ... um ... very undistinguished college career. Worked my way through ... uh ... I would spend a lot of time ... there was a uh... a little chapel ... one summer I couldn't get a uh ... back in Cleveland. I came back to Mar ... Milwaukee and stayed in a back room of a wonderful priest, Father ... Father McVeoy, m c v e o y. And, he let me sleep in this little kinda' alcove, in the back of his office and I mean, it was just like ... you know ... like a closet almost but I was able to ... 'cause I was trying to get a job and trying to work. And, there was a little chapel there, right in the Dental School, where this was. And, I used to spend a lot of time in there and Father McVeoy would give you "Holy Communion," whenever during the day you wanted it. He would put on his stoll and go in and give you "Holy Communion." And, that was very, very important to me or in Jesu Church. And, I would go and I would pray and I would say, "God, you know, help me get through this. I don't know what I'm doing here. I don't feel well. I'm having my problems, but be with me and, you know, show me what to do in life." ... and, all that stuff.... which had been a constant refrain in my life. "Show me the way, Lord. Show me the way. What should I be doing with my life? What should this be about?" ... and uh... from ... from when I was 7 or 8 years old, I was ... it was the same prayer. So, we go to college ... we're about to graduate and the draft is on. This is 1960. So, either you're going to wear khaki or you're going to join one of the other services. And, I'd always figured I'd look better in blue then I did in khaki so I joined the Navy. I did not know how to swim. I was accepted to Officer's Candidate School. Went to Newport, Rhode Island, in February. It was the coldest February on record. I got out of the ... my first cab ride in my life, I think ... I got out of the cab and ... in Narraganset Bay ... and the wind is whipping off the water and I thought I was going to die! But, anyhow, I go through Officers Candidate School and I do "ok" at this. I was like a Platoon Leader and stuff like that. But, I still couldn't swim. I'm taking lessons. I'm choking. I'm gagging. I can't swim! I can't swim! Getting to the end of my training and they say, "Either you are going to pass your test or you're going to wash out and become a "swobie," an enlisted guy." Last day ... you have to swim 50 yards from point A to point B, in this pool. I eased into the water, at point A, [he slowly starts to lean backward] I laid down on my back and I [twitches] twitched for 50 yards to point B. I still couldn't swim but ... I like... I twitched for 50 yards and passed the ...

Riggins: (laughter) Had you seen anyone else doing that or you just ...?

Wilkes: No. No. Thank God, no one else saw it either! But, the military doesn't care how you do it.

Riggins: As long as you ...

Wilkes: If you walk on water its ... A to B ... you get it. And, then you have to jump off a tower ... you know ... to simulate what it would be like jumping off the side of a ship, you know, if you have to abandon ship. So, what you do is you put like this [pinches his nostrils shut] and you put your other hand right over your private parts which I will not dramatize here ... so that they don't rip right out [slaps his hands] as you hit the water at thirty feet. So, I did [makes a sputtering sound] ... came up ... I didn't choke or anything like that ... you know ... you bob-up pretty quickly ... when you ... when you go down like that. And, I had passed my test. I was now an "officer and a gentleman" in the United States Navy. Am I going into too much detail or is that "ok"?

Riggins: No, this is fine.

Wilkes: Ok. Ok, so I go through Officer's Candidate School. I go to another school. I am assigned to a ship, "USS Power" DD839, in Charleston, South Carolina. So, I get off the plane, get over to the ship, and I'm walking into the Charleston Naval Shipyard and I come upon "839" sitting there and there's a picture of it still in my office. I mean, my heart just s... almost came out of my body. I mean, I saw this ship and I said, "Oh, my God, its so beautiful and its my ship and I'm going to be on it and I just had this great feeling welling up inside me. Beautiful! And, I was a real red-blooded American boy, too, you know, I wanted to serve my country ... although I wasn't leaping out of my sneakers to be in the military but the draft was on so you had to do what you had to do. Anyhow, I'm aboard ship. I become ... I'm now an Officer, on this ship. I'm the Communication Officer and the Intelligence Officer and all this kind of stuff. So, we did a lot of sailing. We did training down in Guantanamo Bay. And, then we'd sail into ... the ... the .. you know, whole area. And, then we eventually ... uh ... it was now uh ... 1962 and we were called down to Guantanamo Bay, again, and we ... I was stationed in Mayport (?), Florida. Mayport, Florida is fairly close to Cuba. We were called to do "picket duty" during the "Cuban Missile Crisis." We were on picket duty to stop the ships that were bringing over the missile parts from "Soviet block" countries. One day, I'm on the deck. On the sc... on the radar screen is a blip and we're tracking the blip and you can track it so that ... I actually was "ok" at this stuff ... I mean um ... navigation and stuff like that ... so we're tracking this ship and you could see that its path ... where it was coming from ... was right from the Straits of Gibraltar ... it'd come out of one of the ... and it was going toward Cuba. Blip gets bigger. Get on the binocculars . There's a little ... not so little ... there are coffin-shaped boxes on board. Cuban Missile Crisis. Missile parts from the Soviet Union. These are missile assemblies going to Cuba. "General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands, man your battle stations!." We are in there with helmets and machine guns and everything else and we are going to board this ship. I am the "Officer of the Deck," so I am the one in charge. I pull up along side and I'm parallel to this Yugoslav freighter going about seven knots [makes a "shu ... shu ... sound] through the water. I go right up alongside. The waves are washing up in between us. We raise flags which say "Lay to, in the water. We are going to board you." We're sounding on the bullhorn, "Lay to, we are going to board you!" We are blowing our [makes siren sounds] horn. Nothing. Nothing. The ship was sailing on. Nobody is on board. Sailing on ... .seven knots just ... "We are going to board you! We are going to board you! Get ... lay to ... lay to!..." Nothing is happening. The Skipper is going nuts! He's an Anap... an Annapolis graduate. He knows that if he blows this one, his career is over! He better make this one right! We are in wartime situation. Finally, the wheelhouse door on the bridge opens and this big fat guy comes out scratching his belly with a beer in this hand. Looks up ... as if ... "What the hell is going on here?," he's saying to himself. This warship with guns trained ... and people in helmets, you know, ready to blow him out of the water! So, he's like this [gestures in bewilderment]. And, the Skipper is speaking in very precise English, "Lay to ... we're going to ...." And, this guy is going like this [bewildered gesture]. He doesn't understand ... of course ... he doesn't know what these flags mean or anything. I said, "Captain, hold on just a minute." I go over to the wing of the bridge. I look down at the guy. And, I look at him just like this [points his finger straight out] and I go [with his pointed finger he firmly makes a turnaround loop ... and repeats it a second time]. He salutes me and turns the ship around! So, when the history of the "Cuban Missile Crisis" is written, that finger right there [he holds up his pointed finger, again] turned one of the ships back with the Soviet missile parts on it. This finger [he says with humor]. You have seen this finger, in person.

Riggins: (inaudible) ... story...

Wilkes: Yeah, that's it! You ... when the history is written. The Skipper looked at me [disbelief look] "How did you do that?." (laughs). I go like this [shrugs his shoulders].

Riggins: That's chutzpah!

Wilkes: It was chutzpah!. And, he was a Yugoslav and I'm Slovak. I know ... I knew how he was thinking! I knew how he was thinking. We're Slavic, see. So, I go [he makes the loop gesture again with his finger] and turns the ship around. So, anyhow that was one of the missiles ...

Riggins: That's amazing.

Wilkes: ... that's a missile that didn't get to Cuba during the missile crisis. And, of course, we were there ... you know ... when they ... when America thought they were going to be bombarded at any time. So, I was at a ... you know ... it was a very ... although as the Intelligence Officer, I knew what was happening. I was getting all the files and all that stuff. And, it ... to tell you the true, it was not as scary onboard ship as it was in America. I mean, we knew that we had all the cards and they were not going to ... they were not going to launch missiles. I mean, we'd of ... we'd of blown Castro right off the island.

Riggins: The scary part in America was ...

Wilkes: Yeah, not knowing ... you know ... man, we ... I knew a ... of course, there were the ... you know... the days in November ... you know... the famous Kennedy days. Are they going to do it, are not going to do it? But, we just never felt they were going to.

Riggins: So, maybe, you felt less scared being part ...

Wilkes: Oh, yeah! Absolutely.

Riggins: ... of the military than being a civilian ...

Wilkes: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Riggins: ... at that point. That's interesting. And, you couldn't share that information with anybody.

Wilkes: No. No. I was ... well ... me. Tells everything and talks all the time. I couldn't say anything to anybody, except the Captain...

Riggins: You're on the ship.

Wilkes: Well, also, I couldn't even tell the men. I mean ... I just ... you know, I was the Intelligence Officer. I mean I had "Top Secret" ... I had the highest clearances in the Navy. Obviously, I mean ...now ... I couldn't get cleared to be a dog catcher ... you know ... because of my more radical views and stuff like that on government, religion and all that stuff. But, then, I was pretty straight-laced. So, we now deploy from the Mediterranean and this is the important part of one's life. We go through the Mediterranean, we go into the Suez Canal. We go over to the ... um ... the Indian Ocean. And, we pull into Karachi, Pakistan. Karachi, Pakistan ... um ... this is a very ... in two ways ... I 'm reading ... I'm sitting in wardroom (?) reading the "Karachi Dawn," which is the local newspaper ... "Pakistan is doing wonderful. We are eradicating disease. We are ... ." I'm looking out the porthole window. Elephantitus, leprosy ... yeah ... yeah, I mean ... it was like a catalogue of the worst diseases you've ever seen and deformed people ...

Riggins: You learned something about ...

Wilkes: So, I said ... "Wait a minute!" ...

Riggins: The written word isn't always the truth.

Wilkes: ...I said, "Wait a minute ... I studied Journalism in college. I could tell the truth when I get out of the Navy ... which was really the beginning of my writing career. Right then, at that moment. Also, I don't know if it was that same day but it was in that time in port, we had a Chaplain on board who went ... he was a Methodist. He went over to the local Methodist Church to preach and so ... and he invited the people back for a tour. Come the afternoon, three young ladies come from the church ... other people. One of them gets a little faint because she had just suffered from Dengay (?) fever and a lot of other things. They bring her to the wardroom where I am sitting there looking at my slides of Rome and stuff. We had been to Naples and stuff ... This proves to be the first Mrs. Wilkes. Uh ... so anyhow, she's there and uh ... she ...

Riggins: Now, where's she from?

Wilkes: She was from Lincoln, Nebraska.

Riggins: Ok.

Wilkes: She was a Methodist missionary ...

Riggins: Oh, I see.

Wilkes: ... teaching teachers in Pakistan.

Riggins: What were you (inaudible) ?

Wilkes: What was what?

Riggins: What were you doing ... what was your mission?

Wilkes: We were operating with the Pakistani Navy and the Iranian Navy. It was called "SENTO" or "SETO" or one of tho ... not "NATO" but one of those forces and we were doing Joint Operations. The Brits were there, too, and we were doing some Joint Operations.

Riggins: "Cold War" stuff.

Wilkes: Yeah, exactly. And, we were carrying a lot of stuff for the Pakistani people, too. We had a lot of stuff on ... and, for the Saudi's. We would eventually go to Saudi Arabia and take books and all of that kind of stuff. And, take the Sheiks out on a trip. I mean we were ... we were, you know, everybody was in love with everybody ... in those days. So, anyhow, this young woman comes and she says uh... you know ... "How ya' doing?." And, we were talking and stuff like that. "Well, if there's anything I can do for you while you're in town, please don't hesitate ..." "Thank you. Thank you very much." "Really, if there is anything I can do for you while you're in town ... you know ... don't ... don't ..." "Yeah, thank you." "How about ... would you like to come to dinner, tomorrow night?" says she.

Riggins: Forward!

Wilkes: Says she. Yeah, well its "ok." So, she's living with this couple and she picks me up ... not a bad looking woman ... I can show you some pictures, if you want to ...

Riggins: What was her name?

Wilkes: Her name was Joy Carol Haupt ... h a u p t. Those three names are very important. You'll see why. I'm not telling you anything that doesn't have another ... we're weaving ... we're weaving a narrative, here.

Riggins: (inaudible)

Wilkes: No, no, we're weaving a narrative, here. Believe me ... believe me. So, here is Joy Carol Haupt, a nice Methodist girl from Lincoln, Nebraska. Picks me up the next night. Pulls up in her Volkswagen ... not a bad looking woman ... and these guys are saying , "What the hell is going on with this Wilkes, man? I mean there's leprosy and bubonic plague and elephantitis and he's got this "foxette" that's coming to pick him up for dinner. He is the man!" So, anyhow, she picks me up and I say, "Before we go to Air Club (?), I really am a little thirsty. You know when you're out at sea ... and we did not drink at sea ...we never had any booze on board. So, we stop at the local motel and pound down probably three martinis. I love martinis, love manhattans, I like the taste of booze, I like the feeling of booze ...

Riggins: To this day?

Wilkes: I love ... No, I stopped drinking twelve years ago ... but we'll get there.

Riggins: Ok, I'm sorry.

Wilkes: That's o ... or, else I'd be sitting ... or else I'd be in a wheelchair, probably. So, anyhow ... um ... we eventually go to this place. So, and then after that we go out. She says, "Oh, I'd like to show you ... you know, the Indian Ocean is very beautiful. These giant sea turtles ... like we have here in Wilmington ... come and lay their eggs ... and, they were ... paddling up ... and they were crying ... you know they cry when they come up to lay their eggs and it was very dramatic. And, of course, we're on the beach ... the soft winds are flowing ... blowing ... and, we kinda' of ... you know ... get into it. Not sex but close. Ah, but ... you know ... hmm ... kiss, kiss ... hug, hug, hug! And, passion, passion, passion ... So, anyhow ... whoa ... something is happening here! But, I've got to get on ... my ship is sailing! So, we promise to write and we do write. And, we're writing ... I'm in Ceylon ... I'm in Sri Lanka ... I'm in ... you know ... uh, Ceylon is Sri Lanka ... Saudi Arabia. I was writing back. I was also the Postal Officer, so I made sure that we got mail into the ship. So, we're writing ... writing. This thing is developing. So, what the hell is going to happen here? I'm a Catholic and she's a Methodist! This can't happen! So, anyhow ...

Riggins: And, she's in Pakistan and you're ...

Wilkes: But, she's about to go home. So, when my ship gets back to the ... back to ... America ... I think it was in ... I think that was in November? I think I got back in May. She's there at he beach ...

Riggins: 1960 ...

Wilkes: ...3.

Riggins: Oh, so you're in the Navy ...

Wilkes: Yeah, '61 I joined ... so, I in '63 through 4. Three year enlistment.

Riggins: You didn't join in 1960?

Wilkes: Couldn't get in right ... I started in ... I probably joined in '60 but I didn't ... I wasn't ... uh didn't start training untl January of '61.

Riggins: (audible)

Wilkes: Yeah, so back in America and she's there on the pier saying, "Yeah, I think we can work this thing out.." I go to see a Catholic priest. He says, "Forget about it. You're a Catholic. She's not!." Very uh ... very ... like ... "No, I don't want to talk about it, because there's nothing to talk about.." I called another one, "No, we can't do anything!." So, my Catholic Church kinda' said, "Later ... for you.." Now, don't forget, this is 1962, '63, '64. The Vatican Council is about ... happens between '62 and '65, in Rome. The Vatican Council completely transforms the Catholic Church. I am an old-line Latin Mass Catholic. So, here ... at this time, the Catholic Church is changing but I don't know that its going to change. I had seen Pope John Paul ... John the 23rd in Rome. That's was the old Church. It was wonderful. I loved it! Ok. But, anyhow, I want to marry this woman and we go to see an Episcopal priest. And, he says, "Well, you know, there's a middle way, here, and its called the Episcopal Church.." So, we get married in the Episcopal Church. My family boycotts the wedding. "Thank you for being so sympathetic." My family boycotts the wedding.

Riggins: That's hard ...

Wilkes: My brother ... my brother ... one of my brothers comes, an aunt and my father. But, my brothers and sisters ... others ... they just say, "He's not marrying Catholic, we don't want anything to do with it.." But, the worst part of the wedding is ... its in the Episcopal Church ... that's ok ... the reception is a Methodist reception with ... you know ... three mints, a walnut and some punch! [laughter] My father is a shot and a beer guy. My brother ... my Aunt Rose, who is like a ... wild woman ... who had a baby out of wedlock and everything ... she's a wild woman! I say, "No drinking.." To this day, if there is one bad decision I made, it was that one. But, I wanted ... I ... all of a sudden ...

Riggins: Some of them came to the reception ...

Wilkes: Right. For ... reception ... for as much as it's a reception. Yeah. Yeah.

Riggins: That's what they say, I'm sure you know, about Southern Baptist receptions ... some cookies and punch.

Wilkes: Yeah, that was it! It was ... it was ... awful! It was awful! It was so ... so... sanitized!

Riggins: (inaudible)

Wilkes: No ... no... Jews and Catholics ... we eat, we drink, we dance, we sweat, you know! So, anyhow ... they ... you know, there's this wedding. I don't allow them to drink. I ... I ... this is a bad decision, that I rue to this day. But, anyhow, we get married and we are ... you know ... we launch ... I'm about to leave the Navy. I leave ... you know ... I'm through the next May. I move to Boulder, Colorado ... to take my first job on a newspaper. I sent a lot of resumes around and I go to Boulder, Colorado. So, I go to Boulder, Colorado to work on my first newspaper and I'm doing ok ... you know ... I write for their magazine and I'm writing stories and stuff like that. Very conservative ... [responding to Interviewer's cue ...] Stop?

Riggins: Oh, no. We're fine. What did I do with my car keys ...

Wilkes: (laughs) Ok. You'll find them. You didn't go too far. They're not in the pond. So ... so ... I'm at Boulder, Colorado ... which is a very conservative paper... which I don't really even know what means "conservative" .. you know?

Riggins: Right. Right.

Wilkes: So, anyhow, I'm back in Boulder, Colorado and then I say, "I really... I really want to be ... you know, I really want to be a free lance writer but I better get another degree because if I ... you know ... then I can teach and then write because its a tough life. So, I think, "I'll go to graduate school.." I call Marquette. The Dean ...

Riggins: Just to let you know, we do have just a few more minutes ... on this tape. So...

Wilkes: Want to stop ...?

Riggins: Well, yes. if this is a good stopping point. But, this might be good ... Boulder, with your new wife ...

Wilkes: Yeah.

Riggins: And, you're thinking about graduate school, working for the newspaper ...

Wilkes: Right. Stop now?

Riggins: Yes. That'll be great.

Wilkes: ... Is it "stop" for today?

Riggins: Yes, unfortunately, I have another meeting. I'll know to set aside more time, next time, but I'd really like to come back.

Wilkes: Yeah, ok.

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