A Trip to the Sixties

Early Out, the title of Carlos Ledson Miller’s early 60s memoir, refers to his rather impulsive decision to leave the Marine Corps after nearly four years and return to civilian life, a journey that takes him from a visit to his father in Belize to a stay in the French Quarter in New Orleans, and then to school and work in Houston. International events intrude—the Bay of Pigs, the Kennedy assassination, the beginnings of involvement in Viet Nam—and hang over Miller’s head as he waits out his two years of inactive reserve service, subject to recall if needed.

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But that shadow on the horizon isn’t enough to disrupt the life of a young man completely on the loose for the first time. Of course not: Miller manages to disrupt his own life often enough, describing with wonder and good humor his adventures in the bars and pool halls of New Orleans (while holding down a respectable job with horrible hours) and his decision to move on to California, a trip which somehow stalls out in Houston, at a time when the Astrodome is just a giant hole in the ground, the Colt 45s are not yet the Astros, and Miller’s vacuum-tube based electronics training is on the verge of obsolescence as transistors begin to take over the industry.

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If you remember the 60s, if you’ve lived in New Orleans or Houston, you’ll enjoy this work of “creative nonfiction.” And if you’re too young to remember a time when a steak dinner could be had for $1.49, you’ll learn a thing or two about the not-so-distant past. A thoroughly entertaining visit to an important decade.