I don’t know if it was Nixon’s idea but, in what might easily have been an extension of his benign neglect philosophy, the first lottery went off on Sept 1, 1969. The politicians seem to be saying they were going to wash their hands of any attempt to intelligently or thoughtfully administer the draft. Instead, we will exercise a complete lack of reason and let luck make the decision for us. The lottery decided I was number 9—a dead certainty to be drafted.
I think I had five physicals. But I never again had to strip or pee on demand; instead I followed a different colored line that took me to the room where they took excuses. This was like a different world. White people every where—hardly any black or brown people—carrying letters of all sorts from doctors, and copies of prescriptions, and x-rays Proof of any sort of any serious or oddball thing that could get them to let you go. One friend got out because he had a varicose vein on one testicle. My brother got braces and flew to a place that he had researched as having a very high reject rate. He walked in, smiled, they saw the braces and he was free.
I don’t know. Maybe I was just worn down, or had given up, or resigned myself. I don’t know what, but I had stopped taking the meds, and when they called me up for another physical, I had no excuse in the form of an updated prescription.
Actually, I did have one—an excuse, I mean–but I was afraid to use it. When I first saw the psychiatrist, I had taken the MMPP, the most sophisticated and accepted instrument for determining extent and type of mental illness. But I had been reluctant to use the results because they said: A) That I suffered from a massive reading defect, or B) I was malingering or C) I was a danger to myself or others. The report went on to detail this last finding in three or four single spaced pages. I figured they would look at the reading defect part, see I had a college degree, conclude I was malingering, and not even read about my homicidal, suicidal, homosexual, apocalyptical tendencies.
But I took it with me because it was all I had. I also took a good number of the various psychotropics I had on hand. I was determined that I would not, on the long bus ride up to the LA draft board, feel a fucking thing. I was pretty loopy by the time I got there, though not so loopy as not to notice they had redone the place, that there were now three shrinks in three offices where there had been just two. One of them was my bald headed nemesis from previous occasions and another—I could not believe my eyes–was a black man. A long line wound its way towards those doors—one line for three doors, so you had no idea which shrink you would get.
In one of the bolder moves of my life, I did not go to the end of the line. But stood in the middle of the room, and when the young man then in the black man’s office starting getting up, I marched right into the office and sat down. I slid my papers across to him. . There I was with my red curly hair rising up like a nimbus around my head, my thick beard over my Adam’s apple, my glasses so dirty my eyes were scarcely visible, and stinking like I had not washed my clothes in a month (which might have been the case).
He asked how I was feeling at the moment. I said, fucking shitty, that I had felt fucking shitty for some time and did not know when I was going to stop feeling fucking shitty. He read my papers, filled out a form, and handed to me to be taken to a secretary for typing up. I couldn’t believe it; he had let me off for a whole year.
I would not have to report for a physical again until January of 1972, and I would not have report for that because I would be 26 years old, too old to be drafted.
Go figure…But fuck it, I was free! In a specific sense.