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Road Tripping


Over the weekend I told the story of driving from LA to TN for a colony of bees, turning around for home the next morning on all of an hour or two of sleep. I said it might have been one of the more challenging of road trips I've known. Home from work today a bit under the weather. I am sitting here looking at a digital camera I bought over the weekend with video capability. I should be trying to figure out how to use it, as I intend to make videos of myself reading poetry. But I've never owned a digital camera before and so feeling a little intimidated by it. Actually the feeling might be less intimidation than a gut, an animal distrust of the machine. So I am turning to technology more familiar in order to pursue a theme.

Road tripping. Is it just me or has it become a lost art? Or, if not that, is road tripping peculiar to my generation of dharma bums, sons of dharma bums, Merry Pranksters, and other roadway Romantics? Viewed objectively, probably the last explanation fits best. I came of age on stories of road tripping, hitch hiking, train hopping. From stories of hobos in their jungles, settlements usually found on the edges of towns and close to the tracks, to Steinbeck, to Kerouac. And too in my family, at least in the generation before mine, there was a certain romancing of the open road. It was nothing for my mother to wake us when she got home from waitressing, usually after midnight, put us in the car and drive five to seven to ten, even fifteeen hours to visit a relative. (Memory image says she was happiest on the open road and feeling free.) It was nothing for an uncle to come into town late at night, spend an hour or so in conversation, then ask me if I wanted to take a little trip with him, usually to another relative's home somewhere else in pre-Interstate FL. One uncle especially was the master road tripper. At age 14 (just after WW1), he left the Florida palm scrub, rode the tracks to Seattle, hopped a boat working as a stevedore, came back, then rode the Old Spanish Trail with an Indian on horseback and as far south as Mexico. So I guess there is no denying that road tripping is in the blood, that it only got reinforced by certain readings.

This is a chronicle of road trips made. Some of the stories I've told in passing. But they've never gotten bundled up by a theme of their own. Getting on the road is no longer as fun as it used to be, what is maybe a function of age. The small irony is that I can afford to own the world's most perfect touring car, a mini cooper, a car made for the open road and that gets 44 MPG. Back in the day I almost never had a car. Hitch hiking, bus riding, train taking, maybe a girl friend's car borrowed for the purpose. Sittting here now, all the road trips coming to mind, each with their own set of dynamics, and I am feeling a little overwhelmed by the theme, more so than was felt when chronicling the jobs. Probably I'll forget some. But something else occurs to me. What is open about an open road when there are no more surprises around the next curve, when the curves have been straightened, when the next truck stop smells the same of sweat and piss as the last one and the one before that, when motel rooms are so mind numbingly the same, from coast to coast, you wake up in the morning and need a full five minutes to bring to mind the name of the town you are in, and when, perhaps most heart breaking of all, the little by-way town you pass through is only kept alive because of its Interstate-interchange commerce, with the rest of downtown pretty much vacated? For the record I am supremely saddened by what the Wallmarting of America has done to my country. It has denatured us all.

So the scene is set. I came of age in late '69. By then I had already hitch hiked across the country, hitch hiked up and down the Atlantic Seaboard. Story starts there.

Tere
Aug/10/2010, 4:22 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Road Tripping


Tere,

What an excellent topic. I'm very happy to see you starting a new thread/series of stories. Looking forward to following along.

Chris
Aug/11/2010, 9:11 am Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
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(Thanks, Chris. I hope the narrative entertains.)

Picaresque is a word I thoroughly enjoy: of or involving clever rogues or adventurers. Viewed as a literary sub-genre the word implies an adventure devoid of meaning or purpose, no theme, no quest for a goal. Dante's adventures had a goal. So did Bunyan's. So did Homer's. Fielding's Tom Jones adventures did not. Neither did Stendhal's, nor Rimbaud's, nor Vachel Lindsay's, nor Kerauoc's. But in its own way the picaresque, in fact, has a meaning and an end. The picaresque amounts to nothing more or less than rambling about, the end of which is garnered experience. And I cannot say how many times my ramblings have informed me in the voter's booth.

June, 1969. I never knew why D.H. asked me to go with him. We were in the same H.S. graduating class. He was African-American, a beautiful young man. I had caused a ruckus earlier in the year, bringing attention to racial prejudice on the grounds through an off-campus newspaper I put out with friends. Maybe that was why. (Racial tensions were so high that year in Durham, NC. !@#$ they were so high white football jocks sought out my nerdy ass in the halls, daily banged me into lockers.)

Three days after graduation D.H. and I, on a Monday, were on an I-40 interchange in Durham N.C. and looking for CA. I have one regret about that moment and only one. Marie.

Tere
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Terreson,

Yes, the definition of what constitutes road tripping is interesting. Hemingway, for example, also seems to have had a goal or goals in mind, though maybe in a larger sense he really was exploring . . . life. But one of his short stories, can't remember the title just now, was about two young guys coming into this little town. The bartender is rude to them right off the bat. Then they go to either a bus station or train station, and they encounter loggers, Indians, a cook with white hands, and obese, painted prostitutes. That particular short story seemed a bit like road tripping. Their direction seemed a little undirected, or at least their encounters seemed unscripted.

Road tripping might have something to do with the degree of how scripted or unscripted the trip is. When we were very young (26 and 28) my wife and I would jump in the van and just take off, and we would end up in very interesting places, sleeping next to motorcyclists or in some fishing village in our van. We would encounter people traveling cross-country in motorcyles at the only tiny restaurant open at 4 a.m. Now that we're much older, road tripping might be the equivalent to our trip to Spain where we rented a car and drove in the mad traffic in Madrid, got lost in Seville and
Granada, drank a beer standing next to ten Guardia Civil at a restaurant in the country, etc. While we did that our friends instead signed up for a guided tour on a bus. Maybe it's the spirit that counts. As always, I look forward to your installments, and to your unmatched writing style. Zak
Aug/12/2010, 1:15 pm Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Zakman, I keep saying how I respond to the way you think. You think loose, you think expansively, you think in a way to push against skylines. After stating my intention I got to thinking of bus rides and train rides I would call road tripping too. Taking a bus gets one as close as can be to a panoramic, or maybe a serialized, view of small town America. Back in the day a passenger train could connect an American to every mid-size town in the country. I did not buy a first car until 1993, age 42. It was a '76 Scout International I kept in operation for ten years. Before then mass-transit was often used. So I figure road tripping includes busses and trains, if not airplanes and jets (with maybe one exception). But here is the principle I adopt. You say: "Road tripping might have something to do with the degree of how scripted or unscripted the trip is." There you go.

Last night, and to my surprise tonight, I mentioned Marie. Marie was a classmate, a very popular, attractive, and razor sharp intelligent cheerleader who, for reasons I've never fathomed, took a shining to me, a student who cavorted with the outside group of longhairs and political subversives. Standing on the ramp leading up I-40 she was my one regret that Monday morning, making for a moment pretty decisive in one man's life.

D.H. and I were indeed longhairs. He with his afro, me with my mop of curly black hair. To say the least I was lean and he was leaner. Had we been smarter we would have chosen a different route, one not taking us through the South in such a year of political and racial polarization. His motive was to get to Pasadena where his estranged father, a brick layer with a Jewish wife, lived. My motive: still unclear to me. I knew I wasn't college bound. I knew I was a poet. I think I had already decided that if I wanted things to write about I had to experience them first; which is strange to say, since, this is the first time I've ever thought of recounting the trip and some 50 years later.

I wish I had the power of recall for incidentals Japoco Cassanova had when he wrote his memoirs. I do not. I remember standing on the entrance ramp to I-40 in Durham. I less than remember, only register, getting through NC, into TN. I don't remember Knoxville. I do remember Nashville. Topography I remember. Being a Floridian all those changing land formations kind of blew me away, kept my attention. Progressing from the Piedmont into the Appalachians was pretty dramatic to a 17 year old. And the rides came easily at first. Sometimes they took us fifty, a hundred, two hundred miles forward. Drivers were always traveling salesmen, rednecks, and truckers. D.H. and I both had duffle bags on our shoulders. Maybe that was signal enough we were destination bound. And we would get into the car, asked where we were going. We would say CA. I don't know. Maybe the pop song "CA Dreaming" would resonate for the driver.

I remember Nashville. I remember walking down her gritty streets, not glitsy yet, not false yet. I bought a pair of cowboy boots there. D.H. was amused. When we got back to the Interstate ramp a cop corralled us. I got pissed and challenged him, then got shoved into the back seat of his patrol car. The while D.H. is saying to me: don't challenge them, man. Finally the cop let me go after checking in with his dispatcher and learning the black and white pair of guys who had robbed a convenience store had been apprehended. Letting me out of his car, he said something like, don't ever challenge a cop; I could have put you in a prison camp for a long time.

Summer of 1969.

Tere
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We did not stop, rest, or shower until we got to Little Rock, AK. I knew of a middle-aged couple living there. They were college types. I knew of them through an older brother also a college type. And they had agreed to put us up for a couple of days so that we could recoup. Between Nashville and Little Rock all I remember was crossing the Mississippi River at Memphis. It was my first sighting and crossing of the Big Muddy and I was impressed. I wonder if it means something that I now live a mile from the river, that I work in bee yards just inside its levee. Probably all it means is that my life has been a function of criss-crossing the country. Many years ago, over thirty, I had a chance to go expat in Europe. Almost did. Actually I did and then changed my mind. Socially, Europe has always been more in keeping with my sense of things. Some years later I would discover that Spain is in keeping with my soul especially. But even in my early twenties I recognized the Americanness of my psychic roots. This in spite of all of her handlers, game setters, political and corporate swindlers who, in the end, will kill her dead. There is a point to my digression. A native Floridian, I grew up in a kind of Eden. Tidewater marshes especially have always figured as where the world gets spawned, not only metaphorically. Living a couple of years on the Piedmont Plateau situated between the Atlantic seaboard and those old woman mts called the Appalachians and I saw a different shape of beauty. And then the hitch hiking that ran through like an artery and accelerated the graft. America is the woman I know best, the woman who has accepted me always. She is not the problem in the world. Her handlers are. By age 17 I was starting to get the fit of things.

My standing joke has always been it took us two days to get to AK from North Carolina. In addition to the two days spent resting up it took us another two days to get out of AK. Upthread I mention that the country was pretty polarized politically and socially that year. More so than even now in 2010. Words were not just divisive. They were productive of violence. No need to itemize it all, the acts of violence and the categorical hatred of "the other" that got played out. Anyone who has forgotten, or and especially has failed to learn about it, deserve to remain in a state of ignorant bliss. It was bad and not just in the South. But there was something else going on that summer. A social revolution that had been growing for over ten years had begun to come to fruition, the flowering was starting to bear fruit. The fruit turned out to be tasty. And Americans of all walks of life partaking of it found it delicious, seductive. Let me caption the case this way. The previous year, '68, the students of France revolted. They demonstrated and rioted, especially in Paris. They were wanting the ouster of the country's then president, Charles DeGaulle. That arrogant, arrogant bastard of the Old Guard, upon resigning, gave as his parting words: Apres moi, le deluge. (After me there will be the flood of unrest and disorder is what he intended.) Students demonstrating held up the placard: Apres le deluge, ce'st moi. (After the flood of unrest I will still be here to carry on was their message.)

"Something happening here / what it is ain't exactly clear." Something happened in America by the summer of '69. It was all grassroots, not all that newsworthy. It had less to do with the anti-war demonstrations or the civil rights movement, even if spurred by both. It had everything to do with both middle-class and working-class America deciding the time for tasting the fruit is now, no longer to be deffered to retirement as her handlers had designed. It had to do with wanting a better way to proceed.

Tonight it occurs to me why it only needed two days to get from Durham to Little Rock hitch hiking. All those people. Piedmont people. Mt. people. TN people. They saw two teenage children on the side of the road or on an Interstate ramp. One beautifully black and one scrawny white. We were symbols for them. We pointed to a better America, less hate driven, less divisive. And they picked us up.

One sobering note about the journey. Our Little Rock hosts informed us of two hitch hikers, one black and one white, who tried to pass through TX. White boy got beaten badly. Black boy got beaten worse. D.H. and I decided to pool our resources and take a bus through the Lone Star state.

Tere
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On the desk now is a road atlas serving as a visual reminder of our trek. It is helping to bring back to mind scenes. As mentioned, we needed two days to get from Little Rock, pretty much the state's epicenter, to Fort Smith on the OK state line. I guess the spirit of '69 had not yet found its way in. Truck stops were not all that friendly, waitresses less so. Truckers could go silent when we entered the door. Several times, standing on the side of the road, vehicles would veer into our paths for the fun of it. I talked to more cops, all state troopers, in AK than in any other state. By then I had learned the necessary lesson: acquiesce, go passive, submit, make yourself as invisible as possible, damn near play dead. I still hate the memory of that. But D.H. said it was the best way to get to CA and he had the street smarts. Finally Fort Smith, a town I can almost place in my memory, and the OK state line.

Somewhere in Oklahoma we were picked up by an Indian. He said he could get us a 100 miles or so down the road but that he first needed to stop by his home. I don't know. His home was maybe 50 miles from the Interstate. I do know he should not have been driving. That he was drunk is putting it mildly. Flat, flat land. Road a thin ribbon of black top. Driving at an excessive speed, sometimes not entirely on the pavement. And quiet. The warrior was quiet. Silent. I think I was in the front seat and D.H. was in the back with our duffle bags. I do register that the vehicle would have had no seat belts. I've known relatives to get !@#$ faced and get out on the road. I've done it myself a couple of times. What I realize is that a poor man drunk and on the open road is trying to prove to himself he has somewhere to go, knowing full well he doesn't. Some years ago I met a young girl who briefly worked in the same restaurant as I did. She said she was from Oklahoma and that she was Cherokee. I said on my mother's side I got Creek blood. She said the Cherokee nation came from Oklahoma. I corrected her, telling her her blood line takes her back to what is now North Carolina. She got angry, said it wasn't true. I stopped short of versing her in the Trail of Tears history, the forced march of Native Americans to OK ordered by Andrew Jackson. Whenever I see an Oklahoma license plate I think of that sweet looking girl, the disjunct in her sense of her own heritage, and I think of that drunk warrior on the road trying to prove to himself he had some place to go. First conquered Native Americans were. Then put on the dole by the BIA, given Reservations with still no place to go.

Oklahoma City. I think we stayed a night in the town's YMCA. What a great idea that was, the YMCA and YWCA. Probably it was a product of the Great Depression. For like $5 or $10 a night a person could get a room with a communal shower down the hall, get cleaned and sleep safely. That summer I would stay in a few YMCAs while road tripping, which I'll mention later in the narrative. What a good idea it was. More Populist than religious.

The morning we set out from the city we first got breakfast. But how to say this? D.H. was a city boy, a mamma's boy in some respects. His intestinal tracts were not accustomed to, much less equiped for, rich, corn and slop fed pork. I still see the scene and chuckle. To the north the city skyline. We are back on the Interstate. Apologetically D.H. nicely says something like: Man, I can't hold it. There is no cover. No trees and no shrubbery. I try to block him from highway view the best I can while he drops trowsers.

Somewhere west of Oklahoma City, pretty close to TX I think, we lucked out hugely. A travelling salesman picked us up on his way home to Amarillo. It's a long way from Fort Smith to Amarillo and I remember nothing about it because I fell asleep, my head resting on D.H.'s shoulder. The man took us to the bus station and we got out of Texas.

Tere
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I can't remember where we got off the bus. But I have a memory-image of the streets and desert white buildings of Sante Fe. Looking at the road atlas that doesn't quite make sense, but that is what I remember. I don't think it had been a week since we left NC. But if so, only barely. We were starting to wear down. It was getting difficult to take in, to register, impressions and sensations. But in New Mexico our luck took an extraordinary turn. Somewhere we were picked up by two boys a little older than us. Their destination was CA too, Los Angeles in fact. As ours was Pasadena the fit was perfect. D.H.'s father had a guest house where we could stay. The trade off was perfect: a place to stay for a ride the rest of the trip. And so we were able to relax, which helped us get back the ability to take in scenes and settings. We were also able to meander a little more.

I've thought about those two boys many times. They were either from Wisconsin or Minnesota, and I think the latter. They were long time friends and they were both on their way to Viet Nam. This was a send-off road trip for them, a last hoorah. Maybe someone can help me remember. In June of '69 was the draft still fully in place or had Selective Services gone to the lottory system yet? I think it had. Still 17 in June, come September I would come of age. It would be my turn to make a certain choice. As an aside, it took me awhile, took a couple of decades, but I finally decided that opposition to the draft, a position I held too, was perhaps the one, without question the main mistake of my generation. Subsequent American history would be different if a citizen army was still in place. At the very least, foreign affairs would still be connected to, and influenced by, the voting booth. What a huge mistake we made. At the time the opposition seemed logical and even obvious. But in retrospect the disconnect it led to has produced far reaching and fundamentally damaging social, political, even historical effects. Categorically speaking we were wrong. Wars would not drag on. Military culture would be more diverse. We should have found a different way in our opposition to the war.

A foursome now we headed north. Next stop would be the Grand Canyon. The salient of what I remember about my first sight of the Canyon was the overwhelm. I simply couldn't take in the immensity of it. Something so vast is hard to make sense of, since, inhuman in scale. Since then I've seen my share of wilderness and mountains and glaciers and deep valleys and wild ocean coastlines. But the Grand Canyon my senses could not register. Later we would sight see other canyons close to the highway. With them I could take in the beauty of geological formations and stratifications. Take in the contrasts between sky and canyon depth and the pine-green of the edging forests. But not the Canyon.

From the Four Corners (of New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona) we travelled northwest, crossing into Utah, passing through, and into Nevada. Destination: Las Vegas. I was the only one who had no desire to sight see the town and pull on a one armed bandit. I know why. I had grown up in a commercialized tourist town (Daytona Beach), knew too well the tawdry, seemy side of such towns. Just no allure when you've seen the backside of glitz. Back then mega-corporations had not come to town yet with all the palaces along the strips. My recollection is that Las Vegas still had a downtown where the casinos were located. I've not been to the town since. But the photographs I've seen of the strips are contra what I remember of the streets which, then, were smaller in scale and pedestrian-negotiable. Most of my time was spent on the streets, since, whenever I entered a casino almost immediately a huge man in a two piece suit would lead me back to the door. I guess being under-age is the one thing not allowed there, at least in a store front.

Speaking of being under-aged, while writing the story of crossing the country for the first time, I've been remembering that I had no I.D. A social security card is all. No license, no passport, no birth certificate. It never occurred to me I needed something of the sort. And with all the times we were stopped and questioned by law enforcement types only once was I asked to produce a document of some sort. That was in Pasadena and after we reached our destination. A couple of years ago I was traveling on business and with all kinds of I.D. Drivers License was valid but a little worn. Expiration date did not show clearly. From when I entered airport security's system until I got back home, with lay overs in both directions, I was tracked. My tickets all got specially stamped. And at every checkpoint I was given special attention and closer, full body scrutiny. And this in spite of being employed by one the country's best known employers. Pretty wild, huh? Back then a boy of 17 roaming the country, not even able to prove citizenship. And now an old man of 58 disgustingly well established and given special security treatment through out the entire system. (Got a new license first week back home.)

Sorry to be so disappointing, but I cannot remember much of how we got from Las Vegas to Pasadena. Looking at the map, the most logical route suggests we turned southwest. I guess we drove through the Mojave Desert, which comes as a surprise. I remember passing through mountains. San Gabrielle Mts? And I remember pulling up into D.H.'s father's drive way. It was a modest home, possibly a 20s vintage bungalow type house and with the guest house in the rear. And I remember the stern countenance of the father who didn't seem all that pleased to have his son from his first marriage on the premises, much less his friends. I especially remember the man's daughter, the product of a handsome black man and an exotically beautiful Jewess. She was easy on the eyes and her voice was like sweet water on the ears. Later that summer and back in NC I would learn from D.H. she was sorry to see me go. I guess just another simple twist of fate.

My apologies for the length. But I am wanting to wrap up my first cross-country road trip tale. The summer of '69 was a busy summer and there are two more tales, maybe three, to tell.

The oddest part of my CA dreaming story is that I didn't like L.A. I honestly felt like a stranger in a strange land. I didn't like the Hollywood hills, Sunset Blvd., the streets, the parties where there were too many bowls with substances free for the taking, the people, many of whom were either coming down or going up. I just wasn't getting a good vibe, as the saying went. There for a few weeks and the southern boy was looking to get back home, which has kept as a pattern over the years. It was all too fast, too easy, too much. D.H. and I had become good friends. On the road we only quarrelled once. He didn't want to see me go. I called my mother back in FL, from whom I had long been estranged, and asked her to send $50 so I could have something back on the road. I would hitch-hike home. Mothers can be funny, even with sons who are not all that comfortable with them. She insisted on buying me a plane ticket, something she could not afford, would go on a credit card, and while she was battling with cancer. The worry in her voice was so clear I can hear it now. And I think maybe she was glad to hear me finally ask for something. I was too tired, too worn down, too dispirited, one demoralized hippie by all he had seen (and done), to be proud.

D.H. and the Minnesoto boys drove me to the airport. Ticket got me to Charlotte, NC. From there I hitch hiked back to Durham where I did nothing but sit, walk, sleep, sometimes eat, visit with friends and get out into the Piedmont's forests as often as I could for a good month, maybe longer. Before the summer was out I would road trip to NYC twice.

One more thing. When I listen to this song that first road trip always comes to mind.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe7yOccqdxI

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Aug/15/2010, 5:05 pm
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Terreson,
I've caught up to where you got out of Texas. I will comment in more detail later. Right now, I just want to say I wondered if they didn't put something in your friend's food. You know, cops many times will only eat where they can watch the meal being prepared, or where they know somebody. You did say your friend was Black? Just a thought. This is powerful writing. It makes me think about things, takes me back. It shakes things up a bit, even while remembering how good things could be, too. Zak
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Thanks for speaking up, Zak. I sincerely cannot make these chronicles without a reader or three. I sincerely don't know for sure if the stories are worth dirtying the air waves, as an old L. Cohen song puts it. The replay is shaking things up for me too. Both the good and the bad, the honorable and dishonorable. The scientist in me views the chronicles in the same way I view the jobbing tales, as a small strand of social history. The journalist in me is not so objective. I wonder. Maybe you or someone else can tell me. Why does writing down the record seem to matter of and in itself? And, yes, D.H. was a young Black man, a year older than me. I have a grand-nephew whose father is Black. Every time I see him I remember D.H. So much joy in that young man's soul. Just like D.H.

Tere
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Tere,

Sorry for reading along and not registering a response. As for 'writing down the record,' I wonder if most of us experience our lives in narrative form...searching for meaning, beginnings and endings, imposing the narrative on a zillion, random occurrences...maybe it takes an enlightened being, a Zen Buddhist master, to just be in the moment...but they too, have a construct within which they operate.

What does this have to do with your thread? Don't know. I am following along and appreciating as usual.

Chris

Last edited by Christine98, Aug/16/2010, 1:59 pm
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Chrisfriend if my post prompted your's I apologize. I didn't mean my words that way. I have every reason to believe you are there and reading. You are very indulgent of your friends and board members that way.

About the second part of what you say: "As for 'writing down the record,' I wonder if most of us experience our lives in narrative form...searching for meaning, beginnings and endings, imposing the narrative on a zillion, random occurrences...maybe it takes an enlightened being, a Zen Buddhist master, to just be in the moment...but they too, have a construct within which they operate."

Today I was thinking along similar lines maybe and came up with a different slant. This is the first time I've actually tried to sketch the outlines of that trek of 41 years ago. I've never actually thought it was a story with much instrinsic interest. Maybe I should have done then what I would do many years later when crossing the country a third time and noted immediate impressions in order to gain some texture. And maybe some meaning. Until now the memory of the trip has kept in a sort of plasmic, unformed state in the brain. Making the record with a road atlas in front of me has given shape to an experience before now shapeless. Maybe I was a Buddhist back then. Or maybe I was a teenager operating on impulse, which is more likely. Then again, and not to get ahead of the theme, I've criss-crossed America so many times since then, I am forced to ask the question: why?

On a different note I remembered something today, a funky thing, about the weeks spent in L.A. One night we, the four of us, got dinner in a Denny's Restaurant. In that year it was politically correct, at least for the far left, to rip off the establishment at every level. While eating a pretty good, short-order cooked meal we were conspiring on how to get out the door without paying the bill. We made it happen. One by one leaving the table, by one ruse or another, we got out the door; bill unpaid.

Gathering in the parking lot by the car we were approached by a proselitizer. I don't know if he was Buddhist, Shinto, Taoist, or what. But he gave us each a card and on the card was a magic formula that when chanted three times would give us each our wish. (I am not making this up.) Then he tells us of a meeting place, his house, a drab little house that night. Mostly out of curiousity we decided to go. That was the night I registered the sorriness of all proselitizers, which is not a bad regstering for a boy of 17.

His magical chant served me well in a game of hangman's noose some twenty years later in a bar. "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo." Or phonetically: Nam Me o ho Rang Gea Kyo. I won the game. It's all a game. Just like in '69.

Tere
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Here's a road song (I am thinking I would like to get more deeply into this conversation later; but here is an intro):

This Is the Way I Communicate
Like light flickering over a piano in a sultry cabaret, like a round blue balloon fitfully drifting out into the storm-laden sky, like anyone you know or I know trying yet again to remember just what it was we were doing with our lives: that's what its all been like. The cat cries, and I respond filled with the illusion of concern. The world cries, and my besotten brain bleeds into tears of angry, chain-rattling despair. It's all about language. It's all about the symbols we choose. A new day dawns cloudy and forbidding.
We are entering San Francisco in the morning fog, early, early, the world still dreaming. Or maybe it was Cambridge, Mass., lost in the fog, unsure of time or space. Sometimes there is singing: something about a "Yellow Submarine" or "Strawberry Fields" or sometimes haunting melodies without words. But it's all about the words, even those implied by the music.
Wine can help. By the gods, wine is sometimes all that can help (tho sometimes even wine betrays me).
The stinking debris of mornings after the night before, or just morning by the coast with the stink of rotting fish, the cries of gulls or sirens, the emptiness without tears, the cold of morning -- I remember that too. That no more mornings could touch me, that I could hide contented in the night dreaming flying dreams so none could touch me. Fragments. Taking life in fragments. Folding each shiny fragment into tender velvet pockets sequined to reflect the light, let them be all right, feel cared for. Let the nights protect us from the days. Like a wandering hermit with a self-igniting lantern . . . .
Aug/16/2010, 8:40 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
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Whoa. I get the scene. The interstice between midnight's romance and dawn's salt cure. Yeah. I know that place in my bones too.

So this is how you communicate? Your medium works for me. How about more road songs and such close texture. Invitation open to all.

Tere
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Coming back to the summer of '69. I got two offers to road trip, and one invitation to fly in a small, four seater plane from NC to Gulfport, MS. And then a road trip I made solo. It seemed the word was out in my circle of Durham friends: want a travelling companion and Tere is your guy. One road trip invite was made by a guy who I think I distrusted without knowing it at the time. His plan was to travel to the Pacific Northwest in a sleek looking, really a smooth, tailed out, sweet looking Studebaker. I can't remember. Had he already decided I had stolen a love interest of his or was that yet to come? And it would happen a second time within the year. Anyway, I declined. (In retrospect, speaking as an old man, I wish I could attach my name to 75% of the liasons I was thought to have had. The remaining 25% I'll claim with sweet memories.)

Second invite was a trip to NYC. Bobby is dead these days; either from drugs or alcohol and I think it is the latter. In '69 he always had money, the kind that goes untaxed, and he just a kid. He wanted a road companion. I said I barely have enough money to buy smokes and a beer in the Ivy Room, a local watering hole for Duke U. types. He said not to worry. Funny huh? The Studebaker man, the son of a theologian, I didn't trust. Bobby, a dealer but no pusher, I did. I never asked the reason for the trip to NYC. He never explained.

I knew nothing about nothing back then. Every state we passed through seemed more and more denatured, which is not a word I would have understood then, a word I understand now. Deleware should maybe be renamed Dupont. And New Jersey, the Garden State???? We spent a couple of days at the home of a former Duke prez in western New Jersey, an old colonial home the rich can afford to refurbish. I remember the son of that prez explaining his father's actions back at Duke when he called in State Troopers to bash in the heads of students protesting a war. But I said nothing in our host's home.

It seems this particular road trip has more to it than I thought at first.

Tere
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Passing through northern NJ on I-95 I had my first glimpse of post-industrial America's graveyards, the scene left when industry goes broke or pulls out. At age 17 I wasn't knowledgable enough to register what I was seeing. But having grown up in tidal basins and salt water marshes I was emotionally keen enough to feel a fundamental pain. All the marshlands, all the wetlands of northern NJ fouled, dead because of the refineries and petro-chemical plants, by then shuttered up, and that stretched to the east of the highway for endless miles. That was the day I found I had no taste for urban civ. That may have been the day I became more an environmentalist than a leftist believing in the proletariat and unions and the dictates of Marxian ideology. Workers are no less responsible for the killing off of nature than are Capitalists and Communist party leaders.

We drove into Manhattan by way of a tunnel. I thought I remembered the tunnel was called the George Washington. But the map tells me that is a bridge and so that passage must have occurred in another road trip to Manhattan. Through Lincoln Tunnel we would have emerged up onto the island. Had we crossed over on a bridge I might have had a chance to take in something of an overview. Coming up through a tunnel was different. City suddenly in your face. I got a notion of what immigrants coming through NYC must feel: the full assault on the sensory systems.

We took rooms in the WMCA. At the time I wouldn't have known it was the same building in which Dylan Thomas gave his famous NYC readings in '51 or '52. Room was cheap, small, clean, free of bed bugs. Building was tall and not too far from the UN, being on the East Side I think. The East River. Tonight I get the connection. Bobby was looking to connect, in the business way, with the older brother of an old girl friend of mine from high school. The family had recently relocated from Durham to the City and they lived in a high rise overlooking the 42nd Street bridge. Son of a B***h. That was why he paid my way. He was counting on S accepting my knock on her door. Inside he could do his business with her older brother. I need to process.

Tere
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Terreson,
Even though your postings are not extended ruminations, like your job writings, they do hit home. Here, where you are having to process the motivations/machinations of people 40 years ago, well, that works harmoniously with my own thinking this morning. I woke up very early with a certain anxiety about why I have not been disciplining myself enough to write more regularly. Then I started digging back into my past, looking at the reasons why I refused opportunities, why I sometimes made decisions that kept me in limbo instead of moving forward. Kind of like you are doing with this piece, suddenly realizing that there was somebody behind the curtain -- like in the Wizard of Oz, except that this time -- for me, at least -- it wasn't necessarily the Wizard or God, rather it was my own lack of courage, or my own inhibitions. Then you search for the accident, the psychology of some early stubbing of the toe, so to speak. Fascinating. In your case, of course, you're using literature, and the cases are more universal. That's why those few of us here who read you, enjoy the trip.

Auto and I recently exchanged some long notes on one of my less notable poems "In the Weeds" on the other site, and we talked at some length about why people write. The only difference turned out to be the degree to which each of us requires an audience. I told her I was reconciled to no-audience, but then had to explain that yes, I would like a larger audience if it were possible, but had to go into detail to explain my position: that most of us will not be recognized (by a large audience). Anyway, she might come here and correct any misrepresentation I've made here. She also visits both sites. That conversation ties in with the wonderful work you are doing here. And I commend you for it, even if you don't get the large adoring crowds and the Nobel Prize for Literature for your work (reference to the Nobel Prize was also jammed into my conversation with Auto). Having said this, I wrote a poem the other day (at dawn, actually) temporarily titled, "To Be a Writer" -- a title which has probably been used before -- and in it I mention Dave and you by name & hopefully in a salutory manner. I'm debating whether to post it here, or not. And whether to change the names of the people, you and Dave. Change Dave to Mike, and Terreson to Grierson, or Davidson or Stewart. Not sure. Thinking it over.

Thanks for the writing. Zak

quote:

Terreson wrote:

Passing through northern NJ on I-95 I had my first glimpse of post-industrial America's graveyards, the scene left when industry goes broke or pulls out. At age 17 I wasn't knowledgable enough to register what I was seeing. But having grown up in tidal basins and salt water marshes I was emotionally keen enough to feel a fundamental pain. All the marshlands, all the wetlands of northern NJ fouled, dead because of the refineries and petro-chemical plants, by then shuttered up, and that stretched to the east of the highway for endless miles. That was the day I found I had no taste for urban civ. That may have been the day I became more an environmentalist than a leftist believing in the proletariat and unions and the dictates of Marxian ideology. Workers are no less responsible for the killing off of nature than are Capitalists and Communist party leaders.

We drove into Manhattan by way of a tunnel. I thought I remembered the tunnel was called the George Washington. But the map tells me that is a bridge and so that passage must have occurred in another road trip to Manhattan. Through Lincoln Tunnel we would have emerged up onto the island. Had we crossed over on a bridge I might have had a chance to take in something of an overview. Coming up through a tunnel was different. City suddenly in your face. I got a notion of what immigrants coming through NYC must feel: the full assault on the sensory systems.

We took rooms in the WMCA. At the time I wouldn't have known it was the same building in which Dylan Thomas gave his famous NYC readings in '51 or '52. Room was cheap, small, clean, free of bed bugs. Building was tall and not too far from the UN, being on the East Side I think. The East River. Tonight I get the connection. Bobby was looking to connect, in the business way, with the older brother of an old girl friend of mine from high school. The family had recently relocated from Durham to the City and they lived in a high rise overlooking the 42nd Street bridge. Son of a B***h. That was why he paid my way. He was counting on S accepting my knock on her door. Inside he could do his business with her older brother. I need to process.

Tere



Aug/20/2010, 4:12 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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" I told her I was reconciled to no-audience, but then had to explain that yes, I would like a larger audience if it were possible, but had to go into detail to explain my position: that most of us will not be recognized (by a large audience)."

Audience can be wherever you choose to interact. What do you seek in audience? If your aim is communication, interaction, critique, persuasion, or fame, audience can be found. When you say "recognition," do you mean "I see you" or "I like what I see" or "this is a writer of substance" or something(s) else?
Aug/20/2010, 7:49 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
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major "60s" road song


Lifelines

It's a tale many times in the telling
Of wisdom and wonder and enchantment foretold.
Captivating, yes compelling.
But catch it now, before you're old (we're so soon old).
Cross country wide and free; a gypsy's life by caravan
And what is yet to be is stretching wide, without a plan.
Try, if you can, to imagine just how you're gonna end.
. . . You're gonna end.
Past ships and planes and miles of dusty road.
It's all been told . . . and then retold.
We've lived a thousand lives before, we the vagabonds of Earth
But let me try to tell you my story, it's all I own
Whatever be its worth.
It started in a coffeehouse so many years ago
Where poets of our century were wont to waste their days
And in those days did bright mindwaves cast their net and flow
To catch up young unruly souls and charge them with the craze
For adventuring -- for "something new"
To catch a star and flow wherever it should lead
To search our the holy answer to the ache of human need
To be the first new holy breed to wholey shake the Earth
To usher in a promised age, so many years in birth.
It was a time of carousels and colored lights;
A time of feeling grandly strong and right;
A time when Life was just beyond our sight.
What made it go? Which corner was the wrong one turned?
Or is it merely time to take things slow,
To gather up the threads of what we've learned?
The darkness cast upon us, how was it earned?
Oh yes, I meant to tell you of brilliant desert skies
And city street romances that sparkled ere they died.
Of Denver's summer snowstorm and LA's winter flood
And secret, solemn friendship pacts seal'd in summer blood.
Of a much awaited sunrise within a foreign town
Of food and flowers and incense freely passed around
Of turquoise rings & violent springs & jails of many brands
Of gentle smell of smoke so sweet
And wondrous madmen once to meet who read witchcraft in your hand.
And so much more; yes, lifetimes more.
I would give it all to you, asking nothing in return
But that you seek, in your own style, for yourself to learn
Of corners waiting yet to turn before our time is through.
And perhaps one day you'll say to me:
"Yes, the answer's here! Yes, the answer's clear!"
And you will say to all of us: "Here's what we must do."
Before our time is through . . .

-Laurie Corzett
Aug/20/2010, 7:51 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
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libramoon wrote:

Audience can be wherever you choose to interact. What do you seek in audience? If your aim is communication, interaction, critique, persuasion, or fame, audience can be found. [libramoon, I already have a fine, supportive, compassionate and understanding audience here. In the context of our original conversation, we may have been speaking not only of the quality of the audience but of its "quantity" -- as in Marketing Principles 101.] When you say "recognition," do you mean "I see you" or "I like what I see" or "this is a writer of substance" or something(s) else? [Your question is too complicated for me to answer in a short piece here. My only concern for the two boards where I participate is to have a few good people respond occasionally to what I write. What else can most of us ask for? We already have that here. It's a fine gift provided to us by the genius inventors of the internet (probably unintentionally). Most of us won't have wider audiences. Some will, of course, and you might be one of them. That's wonderful if it happens or is happening. My original point was that most of us won't reach those levels of nortoriety or fame. And we, many of us, will accept that, and continue to work because we have something to say. Does that answer your question? Thanks for commenting. Zak]

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Always giving me something to think about, Zak. About the realization involving Bobby of a couple of nights ago it certainly stopped me. I suppose he used me but he did give something in return. And seeing S again turned into a good thing. I had kind of broken her heart, what bothered my conscience. When we saw each other again, she welcomed me into her flat, smiling, it was clear she had forgiven me, didn't really think about me anymore. It amounted to closure for us both I think. So I am good with it all. I was such a bastard in those years and for too many years to come. Falling in love too easily, too quickly, too completely, and as quickly falling out, leaving the girl like a deer caught in the headlights.

As for why any of us write, I am not sure there is a single reason large enough to account for, what for me at least, is an obsession. With the first poem I wrote, age 16, I knew immediately and in my body I was hooked. But why? I don't know. Upthread Chris comments on how we can turn to narrative in order to make sense of experience by giving it a body with beginning, middle, and end. I can go with that. You frequently mention that writing is about communicating. I can go with that too. Goethe wondered why it was some god gave him a voice to utter all of his pain while most men must suffer dumbly. This also makes sense, points to a large truth perhaps. An English novelist of the 20th C said: "How can I know what I think until I write it down?" Frequently I can write down thoughts, look at them, and say to myself: I didn't know that is what I think. Colette said she wrote because it was her metier and left it at that. I sometimes think that what makes a story teller is, at root, the urge to gossip, telling tales out of the classroom or out of Los Vegas. I had another girl friend in high school. We were pretty stuck on each other. One night at home I wrote her a poem in a small spiralbound notebook. I gave it to her the next morning in school. At the end of the day she gave back the notebook and I discovered she had replied to my poem with one of her own. I was surprised and delighted by the game she had easily, childishly, created, a game of mostly love poems made in conversation we kept to for as long as we were together. So many reasons to write and all of them good to go.

I know nothing about your story, Zak. I know you are married. I think I know you and your wife have been married for a very long time. But that is all. There is a dark side to being a writer, at least the kind of single minded writer I am. The long, straight hours needed to write and read day in and day out is not possible without a heightened degree of selfishness. Statistically writers, all artists for that matter, tend to be not very responsible when it comes to seeing to the needs of wives, families, even jobs. That was certainly my case, still would be except that I have mostly retired. Even my jobs I've only pursued for as long as they were fun. Always I have balanced the needs of others against the needs of writing, and writing consistently shown preference. I call that pure selfishness. Maybe, Zak, your case is less one of being inhibited and more one of not being selfish enough.

James Joyce, by the way, was a terrible father and husband. When he wasn't writing and reading he was drinking with Hemingway and the others, and Nora and the children lived in poverty. But I just remembered a more instructive story and I know you get a kick out of literary anecdotes.

Faulkner would finish a novel, go into a sort of depression, get drunk and stay drunk for weeks on end. When drunk he became emotionally abusive of both wife and daughter. After one such binge his daughter said to him: 'Daddy, why are you so cruel and hurtful to mother and me when you drink?' Faulkner replied: 'Darlin, no one remembers the daughter of a great writer.' I think I recall a similar story about the writer J. Cheever. About the drinking for sure.

It is a damn selfish thing, the writer's life. One could argue it has to be, which is true but still no justification.

Sorry for the tangent. found myself riffing on your post. Hope it is okay.

Tere
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Laurie, this is rich writing. It gives me a tingle on the nape of my neck. Everything said here strikes me as true and essential. The way it is all said comes across as a delight. The catalogueing especially of impressions and memories.

This is how it seems to me too, at least for a certain class of itinerants or, using a term I like better, outriders. And you bet. Absolutely. The questing theme contains it all, especially the part about how the round table knights each set out for the holy grail, none of them knowing what they would find along the way or even what the grail would look like if and when found.

I don't know how you feel about it but for me it is a funny feeling being at a station in life adequate to giving advice to the next generation of outriders. When my daughter was a teenager, and poised on that precarious cusp of time we all know well, she inspired a set of aphorisms amounting to wisdom lit. I had her in mind and called the set "A Forest Dweller to his Young Visitor." Having lost her to mental illness it is hard for me to go back to that piece. At the time my concern was that she wanted too much to be like my generation, essentially to be like her daddy. Pretty much I wanted to tell her that her quest would be hers and hers alone, that, as you say, the themes never change, but that the fit of it must if it is to be original and authentic. It was maybe two years later when the symptoms manifested themselves, the diagnosis came down, and I put the "advice" away.

By way of a riposte here is some of what I would have told her and her generation.

~If what you want is to feel things deeply, then learn how to feel things originally. Because of groupthink, the authentic feeling never comes to the surface without effort. Having discovered as much, you then find how you must unlearn what you come to know in order to have the deep feeling again. This you succeed to, sometimes by stepping outside the ken of your circumstances, sometimes by widening the circle surrounding you, and sometimes by digging more closely into the nature of things familiar to you. Without the deep feeling your choices are two: either your soul turns into a sleepy singer or it goes to slumming.

~If what you want is life then you must live the dream, not dream the life. My own experience tells me that certain addictions deaden even the dream.

~If what you want are the deep body soundings coming back to you, telling uou you are alive, know that life only comes to those near enough to her. The ability to respond to such soundings is change. The standard conceit of men is to think they should never bend. The corresponding conceit of women is to think, since so closely akin to the mystery, they need not reach out for things beyond themselves.

~If what you want is to love, please take heed when I say this thing of love into which we pour so much of ourselves does not mean the same for everyone. For some its discovery is easy and effortless while, for others, it can seem to always keep a little out of reach. Anyway, it never stays still; pushing and pulling, coming in, going out, running on. But no matter the difficulties, the only real danger is in thinking you can live without it.

~If your desire is to see things clearly, then learn to question all Ways, questioning as well the intuitive voice of the Teacher within. This is true of even the Lunar Wise Way you've taken where, after all, the moon shines most brightly on those who see through the dark nights alone.

~If what you want is Beauty, Truth will turn to a butterfy sewing the way in front of you. But if what you want is power over others, Truth will come to you like a cat scratching at your wrist: hurting you while turning to purr.

~Now for a hard one. The experience of the past can only be imitated at the expense of rendering yourself a caricature of the dead. Emblems of the past are vessels emptied by time's passage and changing circumstance. Taken out of the creative context such "signs" become conceits or badges worn to hide a lack of nerve. And it is precisely this lack of nerve describing the cult follower whose way of life restricts, rather than expanding upon, the manifold implications of existence. Hate groups, regimen worshippers, company clones, followers of millionaire consciousness raisers, religious and ideological fundamentalists, those for whom wealth is a golden calf; it is a lack of nerve they have in common, and one that frequently fixes upon an ideogram from the past. If one tries to stop time and stay within the fixed frame of a still-life picture, what is lost is today. There really is no choice in the matter, except for the insane. Every generation must set out on its own Grail search. This is how the world is made green again. If what you want is life, and if what you want is to keep the dream of excitable life alive, then take on the actualities of your own time. Become a familiar to your own perilous quest and to your own Village. You can never retreat, and you can never give in to the voices of hatred, cynicism, and the institutional escape found in a collective identity. You must somehow, in the small way of daily heroics performed by all of us little people, stay a true and lively lover to the dream. The dream is what never changes, the Eternal Idea whose face of mystery is feminine, even as the cloth does.

Tere
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Not much left to tell about the week or so in NYC with Bobby. I walked the streets a lot. Walked along the banks of the East River. Lexington Ave., 42nd St., down to Times Square, Central Park where I found relief from the frenetic concrete, standing in front of the UN and in front of what is now called MOMA, the mind boggling wealth found on Fifth Ave., riding the subways and trying to make sense of surface geography by means of the subway stops, which sense never came. One day I saw some young longhairs working a corner. They were panhandling, a term I only learned then. On a lark I tried it myself. It was fun. The memory-picture says older, middle-aged women were the most generous, but memory-pictures can lie. For the most part the trip was uneventful.

Upthread I replied to Laurie's post by drawing from an old set of aphorisms. One I didn't cite was the product of walking many city streets over the course of almost two decades. Its seed can be traced to this first visit to NYC.

~If what you want is the adventure of city streets, please hear me now: the tale has been told, it invariably ends in a requiem for the dessicated soul, and you will not survive there. In the sly lizard world of cold neon and hot pavement there is always, always a bigger lizard. And the invitation of the dark alley leads into no mystery, only into the darker alley.
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Saturday afternoon and with time to tell tales.

After returning to Durham I still kept to hanging out with friends, doing nothing productive, neither reading, writing, or working. I remember meeting a sculptor whose habit was to beat the heat by sleeping in the day and working at night. I would sometimes visit her. Sometime in July I saw a movie, a romantic comedy with Jack Lemmon and Catherine Deneuve, and set in New York City. Last night I found on the internet the name of the movie. It was called "The April Fools." The story line was typical of the time. Middle-aged man, a rising star in the corporate world, and in a dead end, no love marriage. Wealthy woman, wife of the man's boss, also in a no love marriage. They have a liason. She leaves her husband for France. The corporate man leaves both the corporate world and his suburban wife to accompany her. Scenes are set in a romanticized Manhattan. As incredible as it may sound the movie sent me back to NYC, this time on my own, still age 17. I would last on the streets, walking, panhandling, sleeping on park benches and sometimes on the rooftops of high rise apartment buildings, for three weeks before realizing I had no entrance into the world of romantic comedies.

Memory-pictures are a particular jumble of this road trip. I hitched a ride with a friend on his way to MA. I can't remember where he dropped me off but I think it was in Manhattan. It is a funny thing about New York and what words can say about places. One is always in Manhattan, never on the island. One is always on Long Island but never in it. Interesting, ne's pas? I guess some islands are fertile and some islands are sterile. In later years I would get to know Long Island pretty well because of my first wife who was from there. And because, by chance, my daughter was born there during a Christmas visit with the in-laws. And frankly I indeed found that particular island sterile. (A statement I'll let stand without bothering to justify or explain it.)

Where the hell was I the first day and evening? I can't remember. I think it was a square. Time Square maybe or Union Square. I would spend time in both. I had a rucksack. Not a synthetic kind of backpack. They hadn't been fabricated yet. But a sturdy old, if slightly worn, canvas rucksack. And I had exactly $5 in my pocket. I know it was because it was a single bill a friend had given me before leaving Durham, also telling me I was crazy. Hell, I wasn't crazy. I was 17. Besides, I was looking for Catherine Deneuve.

All the streets, the street corners. I never got hassled by the police, which is a good thing, since, I still didn't have a proper form of I.D. 42nd and Lexington I remember the best. Second best would be Central Park where I slept undisturbed, never actually afraid. Dawn would come, I would look for where I could wash my face, and move on. I somehow panhandled enough money to keep me in food and cigarettes. Sometimes I would visit my old girlfriend, S. If her mother was not home she would let me in to shower. Shaving was not an issue yet. I remember one night staying in their uptown apartment. Her older brother put me on to an upper and we talked the night through. By dawn I was back on the streets. Almost by instinct I made my way to Central Park, feeling strung out. There was this sweet looking Black girl looking at the chimps in their cages. How did the conversation begin? I can't say. Then she slips me a bit of unprescribed medicine to ease the brain torsions and walks away. I remember seeing her later in the Park. Such a sweet smile she had, two ships passing in the dark, as the saying goes.

The best of what I remember about that stay was sleeping on rooftops and above the city. Sometimes apartment dwellers would let me in. I would take the elevator to the top, stretch out and stare at the stars. Not many stars to be seen from below a city's light shield.

It occurs to me, just now, I actually found my Catherine Deneuve stuck inside a bad relationship. She was a bookstore clerk on Lexington. I would visit her and we would talk for hours on end. Mostly about her and about books. But by then I had no more emotional resources left for the streets or for NYC. I had decided to get out and go back home. I got a letter from her back in NC. She would do the thing women tend to do and tough it out in a bad relationship.

To get out of town I panhandled enough money to get me as far as Staten Island by subway and by ferry. From Staten Island I hitch hiked into NJ. Toms River is a town I remember. Nights and days, days and nights, all a continuum. Somewhere in NJ I was picked up by a priest. He was driving back home from Woodstock. He had stars in his eyes, as the saying goes. Woodstock had clearly impacted him, shaken his allegiance to any and all organized religions. It was in his eyes and in his frantic talk.

He took me as far as his town, Atlantic City. He put me up in a YMCA. I remember the boardwalk. I remember the dirty ocean. I remember walking the streets of Atlantic City and feeling the loneliess.

The priest bought me a bus ticket that would take me to Richmond. Getting back to Durham was chancy after that. Out of Petersburg I got picked up. The man was big and the man was queer and the hour was close to midnight. He said he was a Nam vet. He said he was a prison guard. He said he would put me on the bus if I went home with him for the night. I said no.

I slept on a roadside park bench that night, somehow not raped. Next day I got back home to Durham.

Tere
Aug/21/2010, 6:36 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Road Tripping


One more road trip to round out the summer of '69. I wasn't back in NC a week when Hurricane Camille smashed against the Gulf coast. Her winds were actually greater than Katrina's when she came ashore, over 200 MPH. I flew down to Gulfport with a man, his girlfriend, and his son. He had a single engine plane. I think it was called a Mooney. He spent the days and nights transporting medical emergency patients to N.O.'s, west of the storm's path. His son and I spent days and nights in Gulfport working at the Salvation Army distribution center helping to get out food and other essentials, one loaf of bread, one essential at a time. Funny to think on it. There was no FEMA in 1969. States did not declare states of emergency, looking to get federal monies. Hurricanes happened, floods happened, tornadoes happened. Little people worked together to overcome the disasters. I just looked up the history of Camille. She was a b***h of a storm. She killed and flooded all the way up to TN and into VA before she went back to sea a strong, strong storm. One afternoon in Gulfport I was walking along US 90, the coastal highway. There was an ocean going barge stradling the road and a good half-mile from the water. Then and there I got it. Humans do not own nature. She allows us a precariously kept enclave...for awhile.

Summer of '69. Age 17. Cross country, NYC, Atlantic Seaboard, Hurricane Camille's after-path. I think I forgot to map out just how depressing I found Atlantic City's boardwalk. But it doesn't matter. Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Daytona Beach, Miami Beach, L.A., NYC, they are all sorry excuses of a town built by sorrier town fathers. This I got back then and just a child.

Spring of '70 and another cross-country road trip, the one that was supposed to make a new world.

Tere
Aug/21/2010, 10:41 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Spring of 1970. In the jobbing chronicles I touched on this next road trip, a trip I remember with some bitterness. But bitterness is too strong a coloration. I'll just say the adventure added to my education.

In Durham of those years I found myself associating with Duke students and with children of Duke professors. (Given as a fun aside the man who wrote the popular song, "The Gambler," was such a son. I can't remember what his father taught. I do remember that Don was a computer programmer, that he was damn smart, that he had a girl friend, a pretty blonde girl as I recall, who broke his heart. I knew him slightly through a mutual friend with whom I lived for awhile. Even after moving to Nashville, looking for his big break, he initially paid bills working the old punch card computers. This best known song of his was written soon after his father died whom Don loved dearly.) Anyway I mostly hung out with a Duke kind of crowd. Almost by definition Duke students are, or at least were, well heeled and smart. I only knew one exception to the rule: a poor girl from the county, and the first student from the county ever to enter Duke, there on a scholarship. I remember her fondly. She was a lit major who more or less started me off in my readings. A little over 10 years ago, one drunk dark AM while living on the side of a mt, I found Sue's Georgia phone number and called her. We talked for hours. I learned she had become a court reporter who also taught the art.

I believe it was Sue who knew about and put me in touch with a group of four students, 3 guys and a girl, looking to go communal. Their idea was to homestead in British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands. The group's leader, a writer and aspiring film maker, was to go out before the others and get things started. He needed a driving companion. I said sure. I had worked steadily after coming back from Gulfport and the cost of living was cheap back then. I would be going out well financed.

I don't remember much about the first part of the trip, or from NC to WI. Starting with the lakes of the state memory-images stay with me. We drove an older model Willis Jeep, maybe a '62. The real kind of jeep, the utility kind. Small, with a canvas top, side and back windows made of a plastic kind of material you could not see through, and no shock absorbers.

We left Durham for Philadelphia, which was where A. was from. He was hoping to get money from his parents. The family was Jewish and A.'s parents were liberals. It is hard to realize just how afraid liberals were, especially the upper middle-class variety, of their children in '70. That is, children who had gone radical in their protests against the War, and who had gone extreme in their solutions for all social ills involving race and class. A's parents were convinced we were going out to start some sort of militia type camp and that we were looking to foment unrest. The Revolution I suppose. Their fears were reinforced when they found we were carrying rifles. Two deer rifles intended for hunting. That was a tense few days. Doubly so for me because their distrust, or maybe it was disdain, of my working-class self was palpable. I could taste it and smell it. I am reading a book presently. Its theme involves class warfare in America, what the author maintains is at the root of the so-called culture wars. A sub-theme is how liberals have betrayed the working-class and how the working-class has had its revenge by adopting far right stances against everything from unions to...well, you can pick your issues of choice. The book's theme and handling resonate for me. I would only add it is nothing new. That liberals, especially of the professional class, long ago decided to distance themselves from the working-class, the working poor, and the poor of all ethnic and racial groups. All I have to do is remember how A's mother would look at me with the noticable look of fear in her eyes. Go figure, huh? A scrawny hippie of 18 dead against all forms of violence but whose error was that he was of the wrong class.

Setting out, at first we pretty much drove day and night. I am having difficulty sorting through the memories. The next year, summer of '71, I would again cross the country and also camping along the way, but following a different route. In '70 we took the northern route: WI, MN, ND, MT, ID, to Washington state. Anyway, all I remember of east of the Mississippi are turnpikes, toll booths, commercialized rest areas with their several concessions. Looking at a map maybe I remember the Allegheny MTs of western Pennsylvania. So different they are from the rest of the Apallachian chain. I think perhaps they are geologically younger looking. I think I remember passing through Columbus, OH. There I remember road construction that caused us to detour through the city. But the lakes of Wisconsin and waking up to the cold mornings in a state park I clearly remember. I particularly remember stripping down and taking about the coldest washing I've ever had.

By the fifth of May we were somewhere in North Dakota. I know this because of the morning when we walked into a roadside diner and saw the headlines in a newspaper. The day before four students had been killed on the campus of Kent State. I remember that day so clearly. And I remember the realization we all had, all of us, from coast to coast. All the boys and girls of my generation and of a certain social and political persuasion, we white, black, brown and yellow children had been declared public enemy #1. Before that day it had been limited to the rioters of Watts, Detroit, Newark, and a score of mid-size cities across America. (I had seen the National Guard mobilized and rolling down the streets of Durham. And I remember listening to Jesse Helms who was still just a TV station owner giving the nightly editorial and calling for all rioting civil rights protestors to be wiped off the face of the planet.) Now it was the rest of us, all of us, all my generation too. Enemy #1.

I've since seen footage of the shooting, footage I am guessing taken from the window of some nearby building with some height. I've watched how the Guardsmen turned away as if falling back and then in perfect unison almost as if choreographed turn back around and open fire. It doesn't matter to me if the shooting was ordered or spontaneously decided upon by the guardsmen themselves. Doesn't matter at all. That day was pivitol. The brink had been found. The chasm between us and them. In retrospect Kent State had two consequences. Those of us not already radicalized got so that day. We became more, not less, determined to keep to what we believed in. (The Weathermen were soon to follow.) And the otherside, for lack of a better term the establishment, suddenly realized it was faced with a huge question: did it have the stomach for killing its own children? That day was pivitol essentially because white Middle-Class America had to decide if, for the sake of order, it was willing to kill its own sons and daughters. A year or so later while hitch-hiking to D.C. I was picked up by a trucker. His story amounted to being one of the guardsmen who had fired on students at a Black college in Mississippi. His conscience bothered him. I can't remember how many students were killed there. But the news barely got coverage, is barely remembered today. Kent State got front page coverage and is remembered today. We won that day in early May 1970. Our determination was tested and found resolute. And the older generation realized it was not willing to kill its children. That day changed everything.

A. and I talked at length the morning we read the news. I think I remember he wanted to turn back to fight. I know I did not. I think I already sensed the worst was over. I certainly was not willing to go violent, which, to me, would have been a betrayal of my values. However it was decided we continued on.

The Dakota badlands are beautiful. The reds and the yellows in the rock. The pearl blue of the sky, a sky so large. And we were there in early spring when growing things come out of their winter hiding. Montana came as a surprise. I expected mountains immediately. But eastern MT is plains for hundreds of miles. You can see the Rockies as if they are close. They are not. That is what I remember the most. But my memory is mixing up road trips.

Somewhere in the mountains we were on a two lane highway. A semi was close on our tail. The jeep only had so much power and the incline had some degree to it. The trucker got frustrated with us. By way of nudging us out of his way he hit us. A. was driving I think. He pulled off the road onto an excavated roadside spot. I remember him yelling at me to get the rifles. I purposefully fumbled around in the back of the jeep knowing full well where they were and where the bullets were. The delay allowed the trucker to pass on and soon out of sight. That was when I discovered A. was a bit too impressionable for my taste.

Also in Montana the jeep broke down. It might have been the alternator. In some small town we found a shady tree kind of mechanic working out of his home. Why he did it I don't know. But he worked well into the night to get us back on the road. I think it was close to midnight before he finished the repair, talking nonstop all the while. When he finished he said to pay him whatever we thought the job was worth. I suspect we probably didn't.

Mountains like the Rockies I had never seen. Drive between and over them for days on end and you swear the whole universe is mountainous. But then when working off-shore in the Gulf one year I would have sworn the universe is an ocean. Same is true when I am in tidal marshlands. I think people tend to forget just how impacting on how they see and sense things local environment is. She is indeed formative of our perceptions.

Montana and northern Idaho. In Idaho we stopped in a town to eat a hot dinner we didn't have to cook over a fire. Back in the jeep I was to drive. I pulled out, couldn't see behind me, and smashed into a parked truck. We got out, surveyed the damage, and A. said something like let's get out of here. I still didn't have a license and so didn't argue. An incident never before reported.

Spokane, WA. As sad looking a working-class town as Butte had been. Even by 1970 these towns built on mineral extraction(s) were hard pressed. I think of all such towns I've seen over the years Aberdeen, Wa on Greys Harbor is the saddest looking. It is no accident that Aberdeen has the highest suicide rate in the state, or did in the 90s. But I've never been to Detroit. And how many cities do you have to pass through, stop in on, stop by before the message finally comes clear? America is dying. She isn't just post-industrial. She hasn't been for all of my adult life. The health of her cities is terminal. Don't take my word for it. Road trip instead. Yesterday it was Detroit. Before that it was Newark. Tomorrow it will be Atlanta and Houston. Charlotte, NC, a financial capitol, is already hard pressed to keep the lights on.

I am going to end my story of the '70 road trip here. We arrived in Seattle and never got any further. The others in the group caught up with us. It was clear to me these children of wealth didn't have the stomach to go further. Maybe they hadn't intended to. A. turned out to be not so great a leader. neither a sage or a warrior. The others, but how to say it?, they had soft hands. By mid-July they had all contacted their parents for money enough to get them back home on the East coast. I would stay in the Pacific Northwest until I finally made enough money picking fruit in Oregon to buy a plane ticket for North Carolina. Initially I was staying because of an older woman. But that is a tale best relegated to fiction. Besides, a year later Rod Stewart would cover the case better than I ever could.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEoc13bwCw0&feature=related

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Aug/22/2010, 5:45 pm
Aug/22/2010, 5:43 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Hi Tere,

Coming to this late but finally got caught up on all the entries. Too many posts to comment on them individually at this point, so I'll just summarize a general reaction: What a rich thread this is.
Aug/22/2010, 8:54 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Thanks, Kat, for reading. The story kind of stops me. I look back on it all with some distance and with the perspective age gives. '71 saw me crossing the country a third time. The tale of which coming soon.

Tere
Aug/23/2010, 9:23 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Terreson,
Those incidents with A., getting bumped by the semi, his wanting to brandish the rifles, wanting to go back to the college scenes to fight -- it seems like it was all immaturity. He must have been a kid swept up in the hysteria of the time, of the idealism that turned brutish when the Guard began to shoot people down. He didn't realize or just hadn't thought it through what it would have meant if you had not protected him and yourself by pretending to have a hard time finding the rifles and ammo. My take on the demonstrations and the consequent/subsequent shootings at Kent State and other places is that kids exactly like A. had no idea they were playing with fire. Well, some of them did. At my university, some kids blew up a lab and killed some people. But the vast majority had no idea what the real price would be. When that was revealed, the demonstrations stopped. It's no clear in my mind whether the demonstrations stopped first or whether the draft was terminated first. It's not clear in my mind whether one determined the other or vice-versa. The entirety of the 60's made it a dynamic, if chaotic time. You know, the assasinations, the war, the civil rights. You got the flavor of it and experienced it to some degree, as we all did, in your travels. This retelling gives it a very personal, and valuable, perspective. Thanks, again. Zak

Last edited by Zakzzz5, Aug/24/2010, 11:45 am
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Thanks for your thoughts, Zak. It does rather spook up some of the ghosts, doesn't it. And almost by definition ghosts cannot die. I am not sure they can go away.

Like many of us, by May of '70 A. had already been tear gassed. Also like many of us he had already felt the crack of the baton on skull and knees, two body parts police in riot gear focused in on, almost clinically, certainly effectively. So I think it fair to say we were aware of the nature of the fire. I don't know. On that Montana highway maybe I just had a better sense for when and where to pick your quarrel. My quarrel back then was not with individuals but with systems. Still is frankly.

Tere
Aug/26/2010, 6:56 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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