Uncle Mister Jack

Jack Marlowe

Jack Marlowe is one of my oldest friends. He was my English teacher in high school at the American Community school in Athens and he's about fifteen years older than I am. He had come from San Francisco in 1969 and was by far the hippest and most radical teacher in the school. He liked rock music. He looked like John Lennon. He grew a beard and his hair and he let each of his students individually decide what they wanted to get out of junior and senior English class. We had to write out goals which were called objectives for ourselves and if we attained all of them we could give ourselves the grade we thought we deserved. Very revolutionary for it's time and with some students it actually worked. My objective was simple. My best friend Peter and I would put together a magazine called Blues Scene. It wold have interviews, reviews, biographies, reviews, ads and editorials about us and our small circle of friends and our nearly fictitious band called C.C. Blues King, which was more hype than band. We had to put out two issues. If we succeeded we would each get an A+.

Both issues came out the same day which happened to be the day of the deadline. We sold them all over campus for 45 drachma until we were called down to the office because not only was some of the material not fit for high-school reading but we also poked fun at the OSI, a branch of the US embassy that stood for Overseas Special Investigations and was in charge of keeping the drug problem within the American community under control. We had even exposed an informant in a funny cartoon of an OSI tank with swastikas running over stick figure students that looked like ants under the direction of the aforementioned informant. From the tape emanated a word balloon which said in big letters "FUCK THE ANTS". Mr Marlowe wanted us to change it to "Death to the Ants" and it became an editorial issue that we argued about for some time. In the end we won out over censorship and the language of the cartoon became a major issue, not to mention the fact that we had outed an American undercover agent which in some people's eyes might be considered an act of treason. We were told by the principal that we had to collect all the magazines we had sold and destroy them. We were told that if this magazine were to fall into the hands of the enemy, (meaning the US Embassy or American Military authorities), it would be curtains for all of us including Mr Marlowe. We hurriedly collected all the magazines and returned the money to our fellow students. Then turned around and resold them at a higher price and made all buyers take an oath of secrecy. We both got our A pluses for 11th grade English as well.

But Mr Marlowe was under close scrutiny. The board of education, which was controlled by the US Embassy and the military, did not like him. As far as they were concerned he was a hippy, teaching American kids how to be hippies and take drugs and rebel against their parents. Though Jack was slightly radical he was not as dangerous or wild as they thought. He lived in San Francisco but he didn't even like the Grateful Dead. He introduced us to Elton John. He never mentioned drugs. When we would sit around my room smoking hash we would wonder "Do you think he smokes?" We were never sure. He was an adult. How cool could he be having been brought up in the straight fifties when everything was in black and white. "Maybe Mister Marlowe's a narc", someone said. It was an outrageous thought but we couldn't dismiss anything. We could only test his limits and see how far we could push him to know if he was truly one of us. I pushed too far. The next year he kicked me out of his class mid year. Since English was required to graduate I was told that I must go into Miss Priles class, who had a more traditional approach, which is the understatement of the century. I knew just by looking at Miss Priles that I would not last a week in her class. If Jack wouldn't take me back then I would drop out of school and run away to India. Jack refused to take me back and I refused to back down. In the end the school waived my English requirements and I spent the rest of my high school career taking art classes.

It got worse for Jack. Every time we got in trouble it reflected on him. Finally one of the other teachers cornered us on a Plaka street one Saturday night. "Your friend Mr. Marlowe is in trouble. Unless you guys get under control he's gone."

Peter and I had just read Jerry Rubin's "DO IT!" and "REVOLUTION FOR THE HELL OF IT" by Abbie Hoffman and were experimenting with some of their ideas. We had decided one day to start a revolution and close down the school and were surprised at how easy it was. We had made up a list of demands in about five minutes. Nothing too outrageous. Non-mandatory class attendance, free use of all copy machines and smoking on campus. We didn't plan anything. We just sat down in front of the school and said we were protesting the unfairness of the campus elections (we didn't even know who was running) and refused to go to class. Within half an hour there was a crowd and people were giving speeches accusing the school of tyranny, injustice and even racism. By the end of the day class was canceled and the entire school was brought into the gymnasium to hear us out. It amazed me how many students were against our demands. "If we have non-mandatory class attendance nobody will go to class" shouted a young girl with tears in her eyes. Here we were offering our fellow students freedom and they didn't want it. Disillusioned I left the assembly. All the teachers were so interested in our social experiment that I was free to climb the tree at the far end of campus and smoke cigarettes for the rest of the afternoon while Peter and our circle of revolutionaries stood on stage being shouted down by a student body that had no interest in revolution, freedom or smoking on campus.

But it was all ill-timed. There happened to be a meeting of the school board and with Peter at the forefront they assumed Jack Marlowe was behind it. It didn't win him any friends but when we agreed to call off the dogs to save his job it appeared he had weathered the storm, until he did the unpardonable. He showed up at the school board party not wearing a tie. Jack was finished at ACS. No more Mr. Marlowe. Just citizen Jack. The Military Industrial complex had won. But since we were all graduating anyway we didn't care.

But I always had a soft spot in my heart for Mr. Marlowe and when he contacted me because he wanted to know a nice, unspoiled place in Greece where he could go to write I told him about my grandmother's village of Kalohori, never suspecting that he would buy a house there and end up being one of my best friends. He even become known to my daughter as Uncle Mister Jack. Practically a relative.

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