NCCC, like most government programs, had its bonuses and drawbacks. On the up side was the composition of the group. Young people between the ages of 18-24 from all over the country were living in a somewhat closed community on a decommissioned military base on the grounds of a VA hospital. We had a super fun time hanging out with each other and sharing our lives. We had physical training everyday, but it was fun and diverse. We had huge games of capture the flag and wonderful house parties and shared dinners. We had big kitchens and dining rooms which accommodated our functions.
It was during this year that I held my first Seder dinner (all vegetarian)for my new friends-printing off my own extremely edited version of the Haggadah for the event. We had matoz ball soup, asparagus, matzokopita (a spanokopita that uses matzo instead of phyllo), and Mrs. Dunklemans chocolate cake, which was simply matzo soaked in brandy and layered with chocolate whip cream. We quickly abandoned the Haggadah and drank all the wine and ate all the food!
The down side of NCCC was all the crazy rules. The people who ran the program were all ex-military and they were unaccustomed to people questioning their authority, which being the smart-mouthed, opinionated woman that I was (and am), ran me afoul of their good graces. During a community wide meeting, (there was about 120 of us) it came to light that NCCC could access our health records from our personal physicians, thus eliminating doctor/patient privilege. I stood up and announced to the assembled group that we had signed over rights when we signed up for the Corps.
They were always trying to dismiss people from the program for stupid reasons. During a dismissal hearing, you could have someone represent you, a lawyer even-if you could afford one on our $125/week stipend. I became the de-facto lawyer for people facing dismissal. I would call up the attorney for the Corporation for National Service in DC and find out how to argue the case for my client. It turned out that I made a great lawyer, and usually prevented dismissal for the member. Let's just say that they were happy to see the back side of me cross the stage at graduation.
During the last project of my Ameri-Corps service year, we were stationed on Long Island working with the Nature Conservancy, with one short stint in the Hamptons where we planted beach grass in front of mansions at a gay pick-up beach. We shocked the hell out of an older gentleman in a Mercedes who was parked in the pick-up parking lot, when we knocked on the window and asked him to take a group photo of our team. At first he wouldn't even roll down the window to talk to us. After he realized that I was not trying to sell hetero-sexual favors to him, he laughed and relented. He took my disposable camera and tried in vain to make it work. He laughed again and said that it was hilarious since he was the guy who made all the Herbal Essence commercials with fancy cameras, but he couldn't figure out a $6 disposable Kodak. We of course did not realize what the place was until a local explained it to us. Then we understood why there were so many single use KY Jelly packs and used condoms in the sand where we were planting beach grass trying to stop erosion in front of millionaires' mansions.
During our stay in New York, my old boyfriend from Ely, MN, a hulking Swede named Pete, recently joined the Student Conservation Association's New Hampshire Parks AmeriCorps program in Allenstown, NH. During a long weekend we made plans for me to travel up north to see him. I took the train to Grand Central Station and got on the Amtrack to Worchestire, MA where my friend was going to pick me up on his motorcycle and drive me the hour and a half through the cold New England fall back to New Hampshire. Luckily, his bike wasn't working, so Pete, in the company of 3 other fun loving people made it a road trip and picked me up in a safe and warm car taking me to a place that would again, alter the course of my life