A Life of Letters

Wish You Hadn’t Ripped Off Ma Bell, Son

Posted in 1980, Family, Mom by southpawcom on January 16, 2010

At the time my mom wrote this letter in November 1980, my life was about to take a dark turn. My dad, who had been diagnosed with colon cancer two years earlier, had been found to have bladder cancer just before I returned to East Lansing for my junior year at Michigan State. He was deteriorating rapidly, and the cancer was about to be found to have moved to his brain. Ronald Reagan, whom I despised, had just been elected president, to everyone’s horror. And John Lennon, an icon and our newly resurgent hero, had less than a month to live.

I was madly in love with Rebecca. We lived together at the Ulrey House Coop on M.A.C. Avenue in East Lansing.  We wore clothes from the Salvation Army and scrimped by, not necessarily because we were destitute, but because we were determined to live simply, “off the fat of the land,” at Rebecca would put it. We also rejected materialism, and I at least had been greatly influenced by my socialist professor of my Urban Sociology class, David Hill, and had learned to hate the multinational corporations that exploited us American consumers and workers while at the same time enslaving our brothers and sisters in far-off lands, such as El Salvador.

Over the summer I had read in a newspaper called the Flint Voice, written and published in part by Michael Moore, who later would become a famed political documentary film maker, about a method whereby one could make long-distance phone calls for free by dialing in a pay phone a phony credit card number with a certain code. It was irresistible — I could talk for hours with my beloved while at the same time sock it to AT&T, who of course had the blood on their hands of assassinated president Salvador Allende of copper-rich Chile. I remember making quite a number of free phone calls from pay booths around Louisville to Rebecca’s house in Detroit and believing it was perfectly all right.

All it took for me to stop ripping off the phone company, however, was Mom’s plaintive story of her bewildering involvement in Ma Bell’s investigation of my deception. It also stung a little bit that Rebecca’s mom also got involved…and perhaps even ratted me out. In any case, I hated to disappoint Mom like that.

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One Response

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  1. Rebecca said, on May 11, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Oh wow I vaguely remember this… Stolen moments on the phone, digging it from the man, shame on you!!!


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