Banks and Roasting Marshmallows:
The Education of Daniel Marleau
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This chronicle of
student unrest, set during 1970 on the Santa Barbara campus of the University of California,
follows student Daniel Marleau and friends through personal and political
upheavals that begin on campus with the firing of a popular professor
and spread off campus to the infamous burning of the Bank of American
in Isla Vista. Those who lived through the Vietnam War era will be
swept into a portrayal evoking measures of angst, anger, and bitterness
alongside nostalgia, humor, and resilience. Those who are too young to
have lived through this period will find areas of identification with
characters who face circumstances and challenges that remain relevant
in a time of continued military entanglements, corporate excesses,
political divisions, and global terrorism. Numerous photographs taken
by the author complement the narrative.
and I returned along Ocean Road. He left to check his store while I
went to my
apartment. After tuning the radio to KCSB, I tossed together a
sandwich. According to reports, a crowd of about seven hundred gathered
Perfect Park for the rally. But two blocks away a cruiser had already
smashed, overturned, and set afire.
Now about three
to four dozen cops,
clad in riot gear, moved on the crowd to clear the streets and prevent
rioting. But instead of dispersing, the crowd charged, advanced on the
and succeeded in driving them up Embarcadero del Norte. A reporter then
on the scene around the bank.
heard the Bank of
America has been broken into. Some reports are saying that fires have
started inside . . .
I wasn’t expecting an attack on the
bank. I grabbed the camera and bolted for the door with part of the
going out there. If
they’re breaking into the bank, I need photos.
Matt supplied the voice of reason.
––Don’t do it,
man. You’ll just get
see you later.
sun had set and it was now more difficult to see. Nearing the top of
I heard angry yells and rocks bouncing off the pavement. At the Enco
on the corner, I approached a group that had just retreated from the
The cops occupied the park. Another group collected to my left. Several
those in front of me gathered stones from behind the gas station. I
beside a few others who stood motionless in the background along the
curb of El
Embarcadero--watching and waiting.
The cops slowly
advanced toward us as
the group in front of me drew back, throwing rocks and taunting them.
moved with the crowd south along El Embarcadero, the sound of broken
piercingly from somewhere down del Mar. A couple of large rocks thudded
rolled in the street near where a group of cops in riot gear now stood
southwest end of the park.
Suddenly a separate group of rioters,
surprising everyone—especially the cops, charged from the
direction of the
Magic Lantern Theater. Throwing rocks and projectiles of every
hollering, and howling like villagers in pursuit of a Frankenstein,
mass thrust itself onto one side of the police line, breaking it apart
forcing a rapid retreat of its dismembered parts west across the park.
instant this group attacked, the group in front of me reversed
joined the onslaught with matching war cries and rock volleys. I froze,
stupefied by the din they raised—banging sticks on metal
garbage can lids,
screaming like savages, and slinging bottles and rocks in
across the park. Judging from the fury of their movements, they held
Within seconds the combined attack
of these two groups routed the cops, driving them in full retreat
park toward del Mar. I noticed one cop knocked unconscious by a brick.
others shouldered and dragged him along, straining to keep their
in-coming volleys. Sensing weakness, the rioters intensified the
Several cops had by now received serious blows from the rocks. They
retreating as fast as they could down Seville Road.
The rioters didn’t let up. Here and
there two or three stopped to pick up something to throw. Busting apart
rocks, tearing up loose chunks of asphalt, chipping off concrete from
curbs—anything they could rip apart and lay their hands on
got thrown at the
cops as they retreated down the street.
In numb disbelief I staggered after
them, glued to the scene like a witness to a train wreck. Following the
it coursed further down Seville, I saw where the crowd had broken out
in two realty offices on the south side of the street. Further down I
attempt a photo of a few rioters passing under a streetlamp. My hands
adrenalin jacked my nerve endings. Over the blood thundering in my ears
another sound, an odd, out of place sound coming from my left. It was
Barely audible, I couldn’t make out what it was. Then the
volume grew louder,
much louder, until it was unmistakable. The Rolling Stones’
Man” blasted from an open window filling the night air up and
down the street.
Some of the rioters cheered. The cops kept running until they were out
chased by rioters who turned the corner after them and disappeared in
was out of range now. I put
down the camera, hands still shaking, feeling fastened to the middle of
street, listening to sounds from beyond the corner. Finally I stood and
in the direction the rioters had gone. But at the intersection I turned
from the rioting and went along Camino Pescadero toward the ocean. I
wanted to walk. A current swarmed all around. In the air. In the
rioters. In the
cops. I felt it moving inside me.
After wandering the back blocks of
Isla Vista for awhile I came out at the top of the loop area again and
the bank. A hundred or more people were gathered in front. Smoke rose
between pillars supporting the overhanging roof. Recessed lamps along
overhang emitted dim cones of light through the smoke leaving the
entrance in a
hazy, diffused glow. Remembering the camera, I snapped a picture,
taking in most
of the crowd and the bank.
closer, I came to the edge of a bonfire fueled by an assortment of
table tops, cartons, paneling, papers, and other paraphernalia taken
inside the bank and now mostly charred beyond recognition. Continuing
knelt down and worked the light meter. Tri X Pan was fast film but with
flash the shutter would be too slow for good definition. The light from
fire would help. I set the shutter at 1/15th and pressed off a shot. I
reset the speed to 1/30th and aimed the camera a little
more to the left across the flames and pressed off another. Moving
slightly closer, I took two more shots while steadying the
camera on my knee. As I stood up to get a better look, someone spoke
the camera, man?
Taking pictures ain’t cool.
enough light to
––All the same, point that
attracted unwanted attention,
I headed toward the back of the building. On the way, I passed several
small vertical windows. Through one rectangle flames could be seen
leaping toward the
ceiling. I stopped, pressed off a shot, and continued around back. As I turned the corner, two
the entrance slipped inside the bank. At the opening, pieces of glass
broken doors lay strewn across the lobby floor. I peered inside for a
seconds. There was barely enough light to see to the far side of the
on impulse, I stepped through the hole in the door and plunged into the
two who came in before me scanned the damage from the middle of the
I appeared, they moved toward the door, glanced around, and
because they noticed my camera. Now alone in the room, my eyes adjusted
light and smoke, which wasn’t yet thick enough where I stood
to make breathing
difficult. But I was too transfixed to breathe—gripped by an
upheaval on the inside
that matched what I saw in the room.
in front of me, two large overturned lobby tables sprawled across the
on its side, the other with legs straight up. Toward the far side of
an L-shaped desk with a broken leg listed like a sinking ship in a sea
papers strewn from ransacked files. Steel cabinets and drawers
buoys through the surface of paper. A single ceiling lamp in the far
dimly lit the lobby wreckage.
main source of light came from the corner beyond the teller windows
something burned too brightly to see what it was. Flames reached
halfway to the
ceiling and silhouetted teller windows extending along the lobby to the
corner where it became difficult to see through the haze.
in the burning room, the strangeness of the scene choked me as much as
odor of smoke. I raised the camera, thinking it would record the
it all. After quickly pressing off three shots at different angles into
room, I was about to take a fourth when two guys emerged through the
door. They walked past me as if I weren’t there. Surveying
the destruction for
a few seconds, one then picked up several booklets from among the
a large desk and flung them across the room into the flames. The other
did the same
with a light-weight chair.
As they continued throwing debris
into the fire, I stared at the flames through the camera lens. The
felt earlier that night came over me again. Moving slowly, I bent down
up a bound booklet. It read: Bank of America Audit Report 1969. The
stronger. I sailed it toward the fire, then picked up another and flung
grabbed another. But while raising my arm to throw it, an image flashed
mind. I saw myself standing a few feet away, framing me in the
viewfinder as I
was about to throw the book. My arm stopped. As I lowered it, I noticed
other two in the room staring at me. Tossing the book aside, I turned
almost running, crossed over the strewn glass and out the doors.
Several people now gathered at the
back entrance. As I passed them I heard a voice. It was the last voice
to hear at the moment.
be damned, Marleau! Is that gasoline
Canova grinned, obviously pleased to
see me. For a second or two I stared at him with a face that conveyed
what. Groping for words, I mumbled a response.
––You should get out of
Pushing past him, I crossed the park
in the direction of the beach. Surf pounded in the distance. I walked
until I felt the sand beneath my feet and salt air on my face. It
cleared my head
of the fumes, smoke, and bedlam that hung in the air over Isla Vista.
whirled: What madness! What was I thinking?
Walking and listening to the surf, I
lost track of time. But when I started back, it must have been well
midnight. Returning along El Embarcadero, an unusual light radiated
park area. When I reached the top of the loop, I stopped and stared in
disbelief. Flames engulfed the bank and smoke rolled above the walls
night. The roof and part of one wall had caved in.
I’d left earlier I hadn’t
imagined that fires inside would consume the whole building. The
cops I had earlier expected to appear at any minute hadn’t
responded. Instead, the
bank now succumbed entirely to flames and Isla Vistans controlled the
scene was hard to fathom.
around the park area
and along the street in front of the bank to watch. I walked around the
toward the Magic Lantern Theater. Some stood quietly gazing into the
Others grouped together talking, laughing, and drinking from bottles of
beer. A few others leapt around the burning wreckage, occasionally
a yell and throwing something into the fire. I sat down on the sidewalk
brick wall fencing a flower bed next to the theater and watched the
pillars in front of the bank still held, but the front wall had caved
when the roof collapsed. The brick walls on each side and in back
fire. It took the good part of an hour before the fire gutted most of
They had done it. They had really
done it—whoever “they” were. Now all of
us—whether residents of Isla Vista or
students of the University—were sailing together, like it or
smoke-slickened, uncharted waters.
I stood up, tired and unable to stay
any longer. As I started to walk away, I noticed three guys doing
near the front of the building where part of the fire smoldered. I
to within a few yards to one side of them. They held refashioned coat
over what was left of the fire along the remains of the front wall. On
of the hangers were several marshmallows. The one closest to me raised
hanger from the coals and with thumb and forefinger gingerly pulled at
marshmallow. It had gotten a little too blackened and oozed off the
slipping from his hand. He caught it before it hit the ground and
over his head. Then it disappeared into his mouth.
Copyright © Gregory Desilet 2005
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