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Re: Road Tripping


Summer of '71, August maybe. I had a girl friend, a graduate of Duke. Her report says she is in Dubai as of this month in '10. Back then she had taken up with my hippie self. She had a sweet, sweet car. A Plymouth Skylark convertible with a slant six engine, an engine that did not know the meaning of death. I can't remember how it all transpired. (Actually I can and choose not to go there. She would be my first wife.)

I suggested we cross the country, still from NC to the west coast. She said okay. I said that in Oregon I could get apple picking money to get us back. She said okay. They are today called MREs. Back then they were called C Rations. I bought a few cases, what camping gear I didn't already own I bought too. We set out together.

Tere
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Re: Road Tripping


Terreson,
You got me thinking about the sequence of events back then. I actually did some research, as a result of your piece here. It turns out that the demonstrations continued, even after the shootings. In fact, the shootings at Kent State prompted many smaller demonstrations across the country. I was under the impression they had stopped after the shootings. At some point the SDS rioted maybe in D.C. and had seven of their number shot down (killed), and many arrested. One would have to look at the date when the draft ended to really know what it was that put a stop to the major demonstrations. I believe the biggest one was before Kent State. It's true that there had been many beatings. You'll recall the Chicago police riots. But Kent State was the first time that the National Guard took part in shooting down college students. College students have traditionally lived protected lives, in comparison to their working class brothers. In the poorer neighborhoods, the kids had a harder time hiding out from the cops to smoke pot. This has been an image in my mind, though I remember frequently seeing kids smoking pot at parties. I think they had to worry about undercover cops. In the college dorms, kids were pretty much immune from the undercover cops. Or that was my impression. My impressions are open to correction, just as my impressions about the Kent State Shootings and the demise of the major demonstrations has now been modified. I still think there was a downward curve for the demonstrations after the shootings. However, I don't know if it had to do with the shootings per se or whether it had to do with the end of the draft (what was the date for that in relation to the Kent State Shootings?). Anyway, your piece prompted me to think of these things.

As for being aware of the nature of the fire, what I had in mind was the difference between being beaten and being shot. There was an awareness of police brutality before Kent State, but the Guard had not come out to a college campus to actually fire on the students. I know the Guard had been called out to the Black riots in the urban centers. They were known in the early part of the 20th Century to have backed up the Pinkertons in breaking strikes and shooting down miners and their families. But that had been a while back, and they weren't shooting down college students. So I guess what I'm pointing out is the degree of violence that happened at Kent State. Zak

quote:

Terreson wrote:

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





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Re: Road Tripping


Zak, this is an exchange I big time welcome. I too will need to do some research in order to jog my memory. Right now I will say I think I remember the demonstrastions didn't stop until the evacuation of Siagon in the spring of '75. Either way and anyway the one point I wanted to make regarding Kent State was that the question came down to: did (white) middle-class America have the stomach for killing its children for the sake of law and order. Public reaction to the shootings suggests it didn't, which was actually a good thing. Had parental authority (the state) chosen otherwise there would have been many, many more Kent State scenarios than there were. I think we were right not to give in. But self-analysis tells me we were also self-righteous prigs too convinced in both cause and means.

About the undercover cops you mention vis a vis marijuana use back then. My memory is a little different. We called them narcs as in undercover agents or spies. The ones I knew about in H.S. were dealers who had been busted and who, for a lighter sentence or no sentence at all, turned informant. I heard of this one guy, can almost remember his name, who owned a decked out hearst; with interior purple velvet and all. His shtick was to drive around town and into the county with back "seat" occupants stretched out and getting stoned.

Tere
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Re: Road Tripping


http://www.may41970.com/Jackson%20State/jackson_state_may_1970.htm


http://www.beauty-reality.com/travel/travel/sanFran/peoplespark3.html


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Re: Road Tripping


Laurie, my edit of your post amounts to supplying the hyperlink to make the links more accessible.

And thanks. As soon as I saw the name of the school in Mississippi I remembered.

(later) Boy. The RS article captions a deep slice of the times. It is a good reminder of just how polarized the country was in '69.

Tere

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Thanks Tere. I don't know what it is with me and links not going live.

That was a violent time, here in America, old against young. It really amazed me back then that America could so casually kill our adored youth, unless you count the jealousy factor I guess. My life seemed to be one big protest march in those days of post-Woodstock peace and love.

Peace (and Love),
L.
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Suumer of '71 again. The previous year I had crossed the country, taking a northern route. Year before that it had been a southern route. So I decided to take middle route. NC, KY, MO, KS, CD, WY (I think), ID, with intended destination being Hood River, OR where I had picked apples and pears the summer before. Why I don't know, but I have more memory-images of this trip than of the first two. I don't know. Maybe a woman's company was the difference. We camped along the way and spent more time traveling locally where ever we stopped. Maybe that is the difference. Back then campgrounds were not so crowded, not like now. And there were none of those land yachts taking up space, engines always running, even stopped while generating power for the appliances and AC. Colorado I especially remember. Its mountains which we passed through more or less in a northwesterly direction. But before getting to Colorado I must tell a funny story, one I don't think my then traveling companion would mind getting told. In Kansas she decided to send her NY parents a postcard to tell them what she was doing. It seems she hadn't informed them before we left North Carolina. I remember thinking that was a bit odd. But then I hadn't given any family member of my own notice either, which was pretty typical behavior on my part back then. Anyway, fast forwarding however many days or weeks to when we would camp along the banks of Quinalt Lake on the Olympic Peninsula in WA state, she called her parents to let her know where she was. I remember that day. She drove to the nearest town to use a pay phone. I stayed at the camp site doing a typically hippie thing working with leather, making a back pack. She returned crying. She had learned her parents had impounded her trust fund, convinced I had kidnapped her for her money. Now I remember! I had already met them once. They had been incredulous that their daughter had taken up with a boy with no prospects. That was it. And so their suspicions. Still chuckling at the memory here. Me? Interested in money? Money = time and that is all. Time to read and write.

I remember it was cold in Colorado, especially camping. Cold, tingly cold and beautiful. Western Wyoming was too. We got to Hood River OR early one morning. We drove to the orchard where I had worked before. I talked to the orchard owner who was not the same man I had worked for before. But I learned the year's harvest was not a good one due to some sort of blight as I recall. And he would not be taking on fruit pickers. So I decided we should travel to the Olympic Peninsula, camp for awhile and do some hiking, which is how we ended up on Quinalt Lake.

Goodness but I love the deep forests of the Pacific Northwest. In '71 I would have known nothing about the natural history of the environment, not like what I would teach myself when later living in WA. But it didn't matter. The Olympic Peninsula has the world's northernmost rain forest in a place called the Hoh Valley. I am trying to remember. There is one place on the peninsula where the average annual rainfall is in excess of 200 inches. Hemlock, Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, Spruce(s), Yew, and what is left of the old growth forests. Even a clearcut can be beautiful in summer with fireweed, a beautiful flowering plant that gives a nectar source making a very tasty, golden honey. All this road tripping all of these years, looking for something I suppose, and I still can't figure out where I belong. But I have narrowed down my choices to two: either the Pacific Northwest or the Deep South. Both resonate. Musings of an old man and that old Waylon and Willy song says it best:

"There's a road in Oklahoma
straighter than a preacher,
warmer than a memory.
And it goes forever onward,
been a good teacher
to a lot of country boys like me.

I've been down this road
just looking for the end.
But it don't go nowhere,
just brings you back again.

Leaves you lonely and cold,
standing on the shoulder.
But you've gone too far
to go back home,
so you're walking on a nowhere road."

That's what road tripping is for me.

After a week or so on the peninsula I decided it time to get back to the east coast. I was getting hard pressed to find a route not already taken. So I decided we woulg cross Canada. One last note about our time spent camping on the peninsula. I was reading a trilogy of books damn hard to swallow and keep down and I knew it even then, a boy who knew pretty much nothing about nothing and the nature of nothing. John Paul Sartre's "The Roads to Freedom."

We drove north to Port Angeles. From there we took a ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island. Then another ferry to the mainland, south of Vancouver, BC. We drove by way of Canada's main transcontinental high, Highway 1. Jaspers and Banff are the two parks we camped in I remember best. I also remember the truly vast plains of Alberta. And I remember the city of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan. There we took a hotel room to clean ourseves and our clothes. But the map shows that the city is on Highway 16, not 1. So we must have not taken 1 all the way. By the time we reached Winnipeg, Manitoba we were out of money. We called friends in North Carolina to wire us enough money to get back to Durham, which they did. By then I decided it was time we made a beeline for home.

Funny story here and not one I can make up. My girl friend is in the Western Union office to get the money wired to us. I am in the car driving around the block because of no parking. I pass by the office for the third or fourth time when my girl friend comes out the door. She says I have a phone call. Which seems incredible enough except she then says it is from my Florida mother. Go figure. I swear to everything that is holy the long reach of that woman was incredible, her sense of timing exquisite. It turns out that when word got to her I was in Canada she was worried I had been forced to become a draft dodger. Not that she would have minded. I should one day tell the story of how that lady stood down the FBI who had wire tapped her phone because of a cousin, she being his favorite aunt, and who, in fact, had become a draft dodger and moved to Canada. She was just worried is all. I told her I was fine and was returning to the U.S. How the hell she could find me right at that moment in a Western Union office?

Tale of that year's road trip ends here. After Winnipeg, with enough money for gas, we drove straight through for NC.

Tere
Aug/28/2010, 4:24 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Road Tripping


Just read your most recent post, Laurie. It sure was a violent time socially. Maybe you are right. Maybe it amounted to jealousy. Or maybe it was more a matter of fear, fear of a generation that had rejected the older generation's dominant values, ne's pas? And in big and little ways. Your link to the Berkely protests points to a huge truth and reminder. The idea of something as egalitarean as a people's park. How innocuous can an idea be? Yet how dangerous it all seemed to the dominant order then.

I don't know how it all sits with you, your reflections on what went down way back then. Put succinctly, I figure we failed to find the grail, so to speak. Possibly every generation does. But I also figure America's is a better society than it was before us, even if lately again hard pressed. All second-class citizens of the era, in which list I include women, have a voice now they didn't have then. That is a measurable gain.

Peace and love, as you say.

Tere

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Before continuing I got a story to give that speaks to the theme of road tripping and to a certain subset of age-mates of my generation. With any luck the story might speak to other generations. Comments made concerning the time frame these peregrinations are about to step out of bring the story to mind. The piece was written in the fall of '82, just back from Spain and then having taken a road trip I'll eventually get to. I'll call it an allegory in the tradition of, say, Paul Bunyon's Pilgrim's Progress.


  Journeyman Lovers

We were five days in getting there, three days in getting through. And we did not find the tree sprung blaze until the night of the last day.

We could feel them rising in the distance. Long before we could see the mountains, we felt how thick the earth’s tongue was growing. We could feel it lapping at the air. The red clay of the plateau had given way to rich vegetable loam, and the wind’s song was spreading out in the overleaf cloak of shade. The dark trunks of the trees all seemed wide enough to pull down the sky, which was when we knew we were deep inside the foothills. Then we entered between the mountains with their sequin gowns of gold and red, and we felt how much closer was autumn. The road followed deeper into the earth’s fold, while we followed the road.

It was a snake, that road. And in spite of what we knew, we still began to doubt where it would take us. The higher we went the shorter became its coils. And soon we were lost inside our own dizzy senses. All we had, then, was our faith in journey’s end. That, and the river rushing rhythmically beside us. We knew that the river must be coming from a place closer to where we were going. We knew also that, if we staid beside it , it would please us for awhile. And we did see fly fishermen who had stopped and waded out to easy spots. They were below the places where the river’s course was broken, where the river’s flow was slowed by the bluffs, bends, and hard faced shallows. They were patiently casting their flies over the cold dark pools. And they never did see us, they never turned around. They devoted themselves to casting out, and to reeling in, their slim and skimming lures, while the season’s trout must have been swimming down under, playing out their lives, wondering if it was time. But still we kept too the road and we did not falter. We felt as if we were the ones who had too thoroughly been turned around.

The road soon lost itself inside the pass’s deepest defile, and we were shouldering the big boulders leaning out from the mountainside. We then found ourselves wondering too. We too were wondering how soon. And the sky was barely a ribbon thinly waving above us, echoing the river and road’s bending, curling streams. But it was just so far away, a blue whisper, and it seemed to mock our traveling wishes. And keeping to the road was all we had to put between us and the brooding mountains bearing down, those heavy mountains closing over. There was nothing belonging to the sun that could find us where we were. No light, no warmth, no breezy scents. We were forced to leave our first days behind us. We found ourselves shedding thin desires for desires more deeply buried.

Then it seemed as if our constant climbing was dropping out from under us, and that we were falling too. Gradually, even senselessly, the curving, curling road turned over into the mountains’ other side. It was pushing us down the ridgeback’s blind side. And what took hold of us mostly was the dampening fog closing us in. It closely wrapped us in. Our going was slower, for fear of losing the road, and there were no more cascading measures to guide us. The river’s song had left us, the mountain’s slope was still, and so we took to the fog, having no place else to go. And the milky silence that banked around us closely held us in. It was holding us in a way no song’s flight can. It held for us the loves we remembered, and all the loves we had lost. It held onto the things we knew, and all the times we had been mistaken. And just as soundlessly as it came, the mountain fog was gone. It left us alone to follow on the road we had chosen.

When we finally reached below the covering mist, we could see out over the valley hidden away. And the sun was calmly shining, shining full in its face. Without throwing itself into surges of yellow light, the sun was pacing over and down. And the valley was a gap stole away below a sharp, mountainous rim, the sky was the cooling, unbroken blue of a high autumn, Shenandoah day. From where we were perched the valley looked like a gold flecked lake. Its oaks and maples in red, yellow, and burnished bronze was a surface of waving winds. We continued on.

We were a long time in reaching the valley’s other end. The strands of several days were woven without a snarl into night. When we slept, we slept in the open bottom of that earth bowl. And our time was taken in fair weather. From when the sun came up and poured its first streams of light inside the basin, to when it rounded over and was flung away empty again, the sky was kept in shades of shallow blue. And the nights were open ended, they were always open ended. They showed through to the deepest blue demesne.

Then in the early evening of the last day, while the sky was still blushing, we came to where we were going. It was up against the valley’s blind end, against the shouldering south side of the range. It was where we found what we were looking for, and they were all there too. They had already begun nursing the flame, the one that would keep itself going through the night. In the middle of a white pine grove littered with the remains of cars sinking into the ground, there was a widely cleared circle with a tree stump at its center. And it was inside that stump where the flame was sprouting. The long necks and perfect pears of guitars, like big bottom girls, had been its kindling wood. The fire was already growing, the edges of darkness were pushed away from the smiling arcs of faces, and our sacrificed friends were there, they all were there. They were warming their hands and their earth turned wrists on a tune. The men were mostly guarded behind unshaven faces, and the women were sparkling with earrings that were as flashes thrown out of the flame. Such sparks as were once again getting thrown out of the flame.

They had been gathering for some while. We were late arrivals. But the jug of wine was going around, still going around. It had gone around before. They made room for us and we all joined together. We married our fortunes one more time. Then the pipe you never did see coming. It still had inside itself the magic of dragons. And the wine came back, we all took of that, and the lasting flame kept growing. It seemed again as if it could never die.

The flame was looking with roomy desire for its king to come, and we were looking too. All of us who were there. Beggar poets and journeymen thieves, we had found our way from the outlands, and we were waiting for the long year’s monarch to return. We knew he would be coming. We knew he would be starting out from the North country, that he would be traveling down desolated roads. He would be breathing the air in the fields of Tom Paine, and, soon, he would reach this oldest valley inside the oldest living mountains. And we knew he would show before the dawn split itself open one more time. We knew we would know him by his wired shoulders, and by the lovely white flame that would take us inside its blue pulsing embers. We knew what would happen, we knew how it would all begin. We knew the far away stars would draw down and keep us company.

And so it happened that when the fire grew higher, when it leaped out of its full cup that had become ember tight, when it began dancing beside itself and was flirting with us all, we gave no thought to having found again what we had lost. We did not stop, or try to turn aside, the teasing, tingling flame that night.

Terreson



Last edited by Terreson, Aug/29/2010, 5:26 pm
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After the summer of '71 I rather calmed down in my road tripping behavior. I've been thinking about why for three consequitive years, from '69 to '71, I made three cross-country treks. For the adventure and experience, yes. To try to get a handle on America, yes. But there was a more personal reason. As a child born in fear, conceived in heart hurt, whose first years were spent afraid of everything, from parent and relatives to the ocean and strangers, I set out to prove to myself I was not afraid of the world anymore. There is the truth of it. As a child of three the recurring nightmares were proof positive the universe was an unfriendly place. Closing in on twenty-one and I was better positioned to agree that perhaps the universe was more friendly than unfriendly. (Riffing here on something Einstein said about the two fundamental approaches to the universe.) Anyway, after '71 my needs were different. I needed to read and read and read and read and I knew it. If I wanted to be a poet and a man of literature I had to read. But that makes for a different story.

On the other hand there are different kinds of road trips: the local ones. I read someone to say that the Romantic of today, or late yesterday, adventures differently. Rather than going to foreign and exotic places he or she seeks out places closer to home but tucked away and off the radar screen. I did that a lot in the 70s and early 80s and again in the 90s. The hills of North Carolina, the Piedmont and Tidal Plains. All on small roads and through small towns barely a recognized spot on the map. Then the Piedmont plateau and the hollers of Virginia. I so loved those hollers, felt at home. Now I understand why the environment seemed so familiar and friendly. Florida Crackers, all of Irish-Scottish descent, had come down out of the Apallachians, all yeomen, pretty much instinctively hating authority. And even up in Rhode Island I would set out from Providence looking for, looking for what? Local environment. In the countryside of Rhode Island I first met with a term used to describe glacially deposited rocks dating back a good 10,000 years. They are called erratic rocks. Those house sized boulders brought down in massive ice shelves that could reach up a few thousand feet. A reckoning brought about by a road trip or two and that changed everything in my perceptions and time reckoning.

Europe in '74. I was no more there to tour than was Shelley, Byron and company, and so it doesn't count as a road trip. I was there for the same reasons they were: to find my own aesthetic sense. (Lit historians so miss the point.)

The '76 train ride down to N.O. wasn't a road trip either. But riding down from VA on the old Southern Crescent train to work off-shore, and reading Yeats, that was when I got the huge thing. A huge thing that if I try to explain can only appear small. But I got it. Night time towns. Midnight and the dawn. Daytime towns. The clickaty clickaty of wheels on the tracks. The red clay. The pine forests. The fetid smells of contained people smeared in cloth.

While reading Yeats over something like a 22 hour train ride I got the root smell of beauty. She kind of smells dirty. She kind of comes up smelling sweet.

Tere
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Damn. Did I say that about Beauty immediately above? A flat out retro notion in these days of disembodied poetics, a notion itself pretty retro. And where did I get the notion? Did it come from experience or did it come from a book? Did I get it from Yeats that night and day travelling through and into the Deep South? Or did I get it on maybe too many roads? Some years ago, many years ago actually, I read an art historian's study of the nude in Western painting. He said and persuasively demonstrated there are two types of Venuses in painting. Just opened the book. I keep forgetting the idea was Plato's originally who said there are two Aphrodites. There is Venus Coelestis (celestial) and there is Venus Naturalis (vulgar). I guess it is the same as what psychologists reductively refer to as the Madonna/Whore dynamic. I guess. The first type has never appealed to me, still doesn't. Second type has, still does. But never not once have I walked away from her, as I've somehow managed to do, unscathed. I think it is she I have in mind when saying she smells so dirty, of experience, comes up smelling so sweet, of promise perhaps. Or maybe of the dream.

In the late summer of '78, having left Providence, RI and gone back to Charlottesville, VA, I returned to Providence for my daughter. With the help of a friend I packed up and moved down to Virginia my estranged wife, my daughter, a Russian emigree, my daughter's day care giver, and her two children. The reason was purely selfish. I wanted my daughter out of Providence, one of the most hard-bitten towns I've ever lived in, and I wanted her closer to me. We rented a U-Haul truck. A big one. Half the space was given to my daughter's mother, the other half to the Russians. It turned into a move from hell. One of the hardest road trips I've ever made.

My then wife is an organized person. The Russian mother was not. Getting her belongings down two or three flights of narrow row house stairs proved heroic. I particularly remember her refrigerator, trying to fit it through the stairwell. I also remember entering her apartment and seeing she hadn't packed. She expected us to carry everything down as it stood in situ. With everything finally in the U-Haul the space was a solid cube of stuff, stuff accounting for five people.

On the morning we were to set out the Russian mother came in her car to the apartment where my wife lived. She announced she had decided against the move. All I could think of was having to get all of her possessions back out of the truck and back up the two or three flights of stairs. Somewhat disengenuously I think I told her she would be making a mistake. Fortunately her children interceded. In Russian there was a furious exchange between the mother, her older daughter child and her son. Both children were arguing with her to go, make the move. It took all of fifteen minutes. The children won. Thinking back on it I've decided that the woman's children knew what I knew. Providence was not a fit place, neither was living on welfare, for children and other living things.

As an aside to the story, two or three years later I happened by chance to observe the older daughter's H.S. graduation in Charlottesville. She graduated with honors. She might have placed One in her class. And I saw her mother that night who did not see me. She was remarried and she looked happy. I just remembered her name.

We set out. A caravan of one truck and two cars. I knew the best Interstate route well, maybe too well, and so I took the lead. No cell phones then. RI, CT, a slice of NY, PA, western slice of MD, then down through northwestern VA. We were barely out of town and on the highway when I discovered a problem with the truck. Its engine had no guts. Back then I blamed the problem on an engine governor, the device that could control a vehicle's speed, and that in the Jimmy Carter years of oil crisis was employed in commercial vehicles. Since then I've decided the truck was overloaded. Its engine did not have the capacity for the stuff with which we loaded it. Cruising speed was 45 MPH. Inclines leading into the Apallachians would be 35 MPH. This is no exaggeration.

Still in RI I pulled off the highway, explained the problem to the others. I told them to go on ahead. My friend, I used to call him the Virginian, I knew was capable of getting two women and three children home. He was a good man, still is, a better man than me. Maybe I should have said we need to turn back and get a better or bigger truck. But I was committed to get my daughter to VA. And that is the truth too.

I am remembering. South out of Scranton the Interstate enters into the Mts. Sharp, sharp incline. I guess they stopped off for a concession of some sort. But in the side mirror I saw the two cars coming up from behind. I was pedal to the metal and doing 35 MPH. As they passed there was the Virginian driving the Russians' car. I swear he gave a rebel yell with fist pointed forward. I miss that man, miss his friendship, miss his youth.

I can't remember exactly. I think it was somewhere just over the Virginia line. Yes. It was north of Winchester in the Shenandoah valley. Sometime around midnight it was. I could not see the road. That might have been the worst rain storm I've ever driven through. And the fog. I stopped off in a rest area, trying to decide what to do. The decision amounted to keeping on. Back on the road. Somewhere along the road I called the Virginian's wife who was waiting for us anxiously. I learned that the group had taken a motel for the night. It seems my wife had gone up an exit ramp in the storm, thinking it was the Interstate. I-81 the map says it was. The Virginian had made an executive decision.

I rolled, more aptly limped, into C'ville around 2 AM. The others came in later in the day. I had already rented a house for my daughter and her mother and found a house for the Russians. Unloading was much easier.

That might have been the most grueling road trip I've known. Hard. It was hard. The deep fog and the downpour just to get your daughter close to you? Makes no sense.

Tere
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So I am one drained off bee keeper. The season was long, with many tests conducted simultaneously, and the heat came in early and stayed on. But last night, dark AM actually, there was finally a chill in the air. And I somehow made it to my vacation week. Free space and time in front of me for another 8 days. I hope to make a road trip this week, possibly with a crazy birder friend. Destination is the site of an archeological dig that has always stood as a sacred spot for me. Poverty Point. The first of all the Mound Builder type sites discovered. Discovery going back to the 19th C. and that set the model of all Mound Builder sites from Ohio to Georgia. Poverty Point is dated to extend back to around 1850 BC and artifacts have been found there, stones, that would have orginated in present day North Carolinia. But now for a classic road trip made in the spring of '82.

I don't think of the 5 or so weeks spent touring Spain as a road trip, not as such. But I need to say that by then I had remarried. Flying back to America on a plane of Spanish provenance with one fuel tank leaking petro over a wing I was met at JFK Airport by my second wife. We had conceived a plan, one intended to tape back together an all but fractured, shattered marriage. We would road trip. We would drive US highways and state highways, avoiding all Interstates, heading for New Orleans, a city she had never walked. We would then turn east, travel along the Gulf Coast, head for FL where we would stay with my relatives.

I can't remember how many days we took for the trip. Maybe 7. Maybe 14. Maybe it was 21. Time frame is lost to memory. We had many conversations with people belonging to small town America, starting in PA as I recall, mostly held in diners. We took our time, stopping often and viewing whatever caught our eye, from parks to landmarks to main streets. We would also read while traveling. I remember she was reading a biography of Georgia O'Keefe. She wanted me to read a Tolstoy novel she had just finished. Or is it a long short story? His Kreutzer Sonata, whose name he took from a Beethoven sonata. Ultimately what a sad story about a marriage betweeen an older man and a jeunne fille. The moral of the story, at least as I saw it, was simply that life isn't there, isn't around, is without dreams and fulfillment. And in order to become a grown woman the young wife has to accept as much. More on the O'Keefe book later.

First we turned for the Ohio River. And we crossed it several times, going back and forth between OH and KY. I think I remember Lexington. According to the map we would have had to stray from the river. I also think I remember Fort Knox. In that year the polluted Ohio would have been a river in triage, having in the seventies famously caught on fire. Still there was something mystical about the river, with so much history to it, American and Native. And I was blown away by the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Less by the sight of it than by the majesty of that it happens, has happened for millenia, will continue happening long after I am gone. There was a lawyer we met somewhere in KY in a diner. He gave us a last word of advice: "All it takes is a little breath." Meaning that if you want something just ask for it, that being the first step to getting where you want to go.

TN. I don't remember much about Tennessee except for passing through Memphis again, as I had in '69. The salient I remeber of passing through Mississippi was having a picnic lunch in front of a plantation's ruins. It was called Windsor Plantation and situated on a bluff high above the river. Columns, red brick I think, were in place as was much of the floor plan. But that was all. Blue sky, yellow sun, field in spring time flower. All the while trying to melt a woman's scorn, as the old song line put it.

New Orleans and the French Quarter. This was my third visit, third time walking the streets. Jackson Square, Cafe Du Monde, the levee walk, Bourbon St (my least favorite street what with all the trafficking in flesh), Chartres St (my favorite street for reasons unknown). I think by '82 I was starting to feel that America is mine to hold. But that is not exactly the feeling. More like I was starting to become a familiar to her. That is closer. But it was just a start. Conception not yet complete, not the way it would become in '87 when I boarded a Greyhound bus in St Augustine, FL and rode it to Pasco, WA. More on that later.

The Gulf Coast and coastal Highway 92. Gulfport, Biloxi, Pascagoula, Mobile. From Mobile we drove due south as far as the eastern tip of Mobile Bay. In a bayside park we stayed the night. Then approaching the Florida panhandle. Now to describe something I cannot explain. Crossing into FL, but how even to describe it? We stayed a night in an older roadside motel, the mom and pop kind when the US highway system was still the country's main routing. The next day I was walking around under live oaks heavy with spanish moss, just the environs of my childhood and some of my earliest memories. The moment almost amounted to, maybe it did, a Proustian kind of madelaine moment. The vertigo was real enough. And it felt as if the earth was opening up, looking to take me inside. Having left the state at age 16, even having returned home many times since, almost every year, it was the first time I truly felt inside her environment again. Scared at first, I simply let go and the sensation felt okay. Friendly.

From the panhandle we crossed through the state, an interior I knew well. We drove almost due east to Daytona Beach for my mother's home and where I grew up. We stayed there for a couple of weeks, maybe a few weeks, resting, walking the beach, and showing my then wife places special to me, such as Tomoka swamp and Ponce Inlet. I borrowed a boat from an uncle and we rode down the Halifax River, a tidal river connected to the ocean by way of Ponce Inlet.

The lady drove home to C'ville in Virginia. I stayed on for a couple of months to work and make money. Or so that was the stated intention. Truth is I needed family, people I understood, people who knew me, and an environment friendly to me. I was looking for rehabilitation. Or maybe just surcease.

About the Georgia O'Keefe biography. It was years, long after the divorce, I finally got around to reading it. I've never been a fan of hers. Certainly she is a master, no question. But to me, and this is just a subjective me, there is a sterility to her work. It has never managed to cross over from her to me. No warmth, no depth, all surface. Just poster art. But my curiousity finally got the better of me. One day the lady had been reading while I drove. It might have been in Kentucky but place doesn't actually matter. We were on a road, another nowhere road. She suddenly looks up from the pages, turns to me and says in a scarey way she had sometimes for saying things, really Cassandra-like, "You will never be a great artist. You are not selfish enough." Well, O'Keefe was certainly selfish, as I would eventually discover. I've long since realized I am too. I question whether she succeeded to great art. Besides, I figure that when greatness is truly afoot, the tag itself is inadequate to the meaning.

Almost forgot. In Ateliers I posted a long poem called Southern Sisters. I don't think it is very good and I gave up on trying to get it right. Mostly kept because it was an early attempt at a major conception. And it might have its moments. The poem came out of the train ride mentioned on the old Southern Crescent and draws on the '82 road trip when two lovers were looking for spring.

Tere
Sep/5/2010, 4:02 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Road Tripping


There are just a couple of road tripss left to revisit.

1987, St. Augustine, FL. For several reasons I had returned to my home state in early '84. Also for several reasons I left for the Pacific Northwest in '87. In part to get away from an ex-wife who had taken to stalking me, in part because I recognized that Old Florida, my Florida, was dead, and in part because I had a brother and a sister living in Washington. I mailed 5 or 6 boxes of books to a sister living in Pasco, WA. I took a Greyhound bus out in Sept. Greyhound had a sweet deal that year: anywhere in the continental U.S. for $50. So I bought two tickets. One for Virginia to spend time with my daughter. A second ticket to take me from there to WA State.

I did something not all that remarkable but that turned out to be extraordinarily useful. I took notes. Real field notes while traveling. I documented impressions of the countryside, of people, encounters, conversations, cities, bus stations. A bus is a real laboratory for any student of human behavior. All the more since the stops are frequent. And at every stop you get out to stretch your legs and, in my case, smoke a cigarette or two. Was I out of FL yet when I started jotting down impressions? For sure it was no later than southern Georgia. Getting to C'ville, VA took 20 to 22 hours, a 14 hour trip by car as I recall. Getting to eastern WA from there was 3 days, plus or minus. I can't be sure how long it took because I have never been able to sleep in a moving vehicle. It simply does not happen. On that trip I think I finally fell asleep somewhere in Montana, maybe somewhere close to the Continental Divide, and maybe for 3 or 4 hours.

Notes, impressionistic notes of scenes and records of people talking. Pages full of notes I must still have somewhere in a journal. I wanted to remember the trip for once and in detail. I wanted the kind of record I should have made the first time crossing the country in '69. The exercise worked. Trip firmly in memory. What I couldn't have anticipated was the poem that would come about a year later, the notion of which was incited by reading Whitman in depth, and that couldn't have been possible without those notes.

I am being a little coy here. In Ateliers I've posted the poem that came out of that bus ride. It's called Cross-Country. It's all there. Every state, every observation of note, every impression to strike a chord, every city, every scene I thought worth the record. But here is where the '87 bus ride produced something of a depth experience. I used it to package almost 20 years of one man's American experience, from new England to Florida. From Virginia to the West Coast. First draft poems rarely need more than an hour or two to make. Usually it is less than an hour. This one needed two weeks, writingt every day for an hour or so. It is a long poem, maybe 15 MS pages. Originally it was twice that size. But a substantial slice of America is there, at least as experienced first-hand. No poem I know about, not even a Whitman thing, and no novel I've read, not even a Steinbeck thing, has succeeded to what that poem succeeds to do. (Said without false humility.)

The poem tells the trip, tells also my fear for America's future in '87. So I am not going to recount the trip. But there were
two impressions that did not make it into the poem, an ommission which I regret. There was the young man, shaved head, sitting across the bus's aisle, reading magazines devoted to mercenary soldiers. I learned he was in route to some kind of private boot camp for aspiring militia types. In effect he was the near future's Timothy McVeigh. I should have paid more attention to him that year. Then there were the women, mostly young and middle-aged, who would almost franticly take the seat next to me if it was open. This happened stop after stop, the memory of which still tugs on the heart. They were not wanting my company. There was rarely conversation. They were afraid. They were looking for a safe seat, a seat they thought would get them to their destination unharmed. This memory impression still bothers me. It tells me America is still not a safe place for women and children, not a geographical location in which they can get expansive, free of fear.

So there it is. The trip's notes are in the poem if anyone is interested, as is my take on America's future in '87, a take globalization has proved pretty accurate. Our country is screwed, lost to the yeoman class.

One more road trip of note. Then I'll not bother the air waves anymore with this particular song.

Tere

Sep/6/2010, 4:10 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Time to tie off this thread. Memories can prove boring, especially to those who remember too much and who maybe have too much history. I am that kind of man. Too many road trips, too many friends, too many women, mayby not enough enemies, though they are notable. Think about it. Road tripping amounts to one of two results. You are either a cheat and always play safe or you put yourself out there while piously hoping the universe is a friendly place. Maybe there is a third result. You road trip needing money, needing a job, needing a better place than where you are. So many road trips predicated on such needs.

The thread is winding down and I want to say something about all my models who showed me the road. They all cheated. They were liars trading in phantasms. Or in the public's incredulity. Whitman was a cheater who traded in an America only in his imagination. Same is true of Edgar L. Masters and Sandburg. Lindsay was a particular liar, not reporting about America, just living what he wanted her to be. Steinbeck was an especial liar, looking for romance in poverty. There is no romance in poverty. Kerouac and Ginsberg never once got to the soul of America. These were my models and they all let me down.

To be continued. One last road trip.

Tere

Sep/6/2010, 6:50 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Well, that is pretty harsh huh? What I said immediately upthread. But there is more than a strand of truth to it, so it stays. Not that I should single out the writers mentioned. The larger truth is that in all writers there is something of the charlatan, snake oil salesman, or grifter. Our greatest sin is our penchant for romancing myths. The greatest myth we romance is the one we create of ourselves. This is as true of the lang-po poet looking to kill off the author as it is of a note taker recording road trips.

I've told this story before in the jobbing thread. For the sake of symmetery it gets repeated here. I was happy in the Pacific Northwest. No environment has better suited me before or since. I remember waking up on my first morning in Olympia, WA at the southern end of Puget Sound. Mt Rainier was right there, all 15,000 feet of her. I distinctly remember thinking, yes, this place is big enough for me. Here I can get expansive. And for fifteen years I did. Then I had to go and do that damn thing of falling in love, which in itself isn't so bad. What is worse is acting on the emotion, if that is what you call love.

By the time I left for Louisiana I was living on the north shore of the Olympic Peninsula in a county with a human population of .5 people per square mile. Coyotes were my nearest neighbors, along with the September bears and the winter time cougars. I rented a 15 foot U-Haul. It would mostly get packed with books. Having arrived in the PNW with 5 boxes of books I was leaving with 40 boxes. I had finally stopped selling books off or giving them away. For the big furniture a friend helped me load the truck. D.was a good and solid man. A true yeoman, part Native American. He swore he had once had a Sasquatch encounter. His account convinced me he had. I've mentioned this elsewhere, but about the last thing D. said to me is that it didn't seem right I wouldn't be around anymore. I suspect it was less my presence he would miss and more the idea of me, a writer living alone up in the mountains.

I found a home for one dog and one cat. My favorite dog would travel with me. I pulled out one afternoon, drove down Hyw 101, along the shore of Hood Canal, one last time. Stayed the night with a brother and his wife in Olympia. The following morning I drove for Pasco in eastern WA's Columbia Basin to spend the night with a sister and her husband. Yeah. And crossing the Cascade Mountains by way of Snoqualmie Pass one last time. I so miss that country. Knew it better, in greater detail, than most WA State natives.

Torrie and I drove on gifts of money and a credit card. My brother-in-law produced a Map Quest trip-tik for me. I had planned to keep to rest stops when needing to sleep. My oldest brother, always smarter than me, and my sister too, knew what I hadn't figured out yet. I was getting too old for that kind of thing. They gave me enough money, more than enough actually, to stay in motels for the 2,700 mile drive to LA. I had calculated that, at 10 MPG, the trip would cost $500 in gas. It would turn out I was off by only $50.

That U-Haul, in '02, was a far cry from the one I had driven from RI to VA in '78. It could cruise at 70, 75, 80 MPH. The cab proved to be comfortable and spatious enough so that Torrie could curl up on the passenger side floor board. The drive took 4 days, actually a little less, driving 8 to 10 hours a day. And once again I fell in love with America. I sometimes think she is only an idea, an idea like a once and future moment. It is true. She is an idea. One we are perpetually arguing over. But she is also a place of enormous beauty. Full of surprises and delights and secrets. Full of duende too. And so god damn forgiving. Maybe too much so. Just like all mothers are.

I had never driven through the Blue Mts of SW Idaho / NE Oregon. They really are blue. I don't know. Maybe it is the sheen of light play between the dominant pine forests and the sky. And I had never driven down through northern Utah. The crenellated skyline of the mountains, the color of rock, the bowl of the valley extending north to south; I was hard pressed to keep my eyes on the road. And I had never approached Wyoming coming through her western mountains. What a surprise. Even the rest of semi-arid WY was delightful on the eyes. The towns, built mostly of trailers, stood out like eye sores. They clearly didn't belong there.

CD, KS, OK, AR. The skies, the fields, the mountains, the rock, and it all in spring flower. It was early in May. Denver was dirty looking to me, or maybe it was only because of approaching it, coming out of the forests. Oklahoma City looked pristine and efficient. In Kansas one late afternoon the storms went tornadic. When I noticed that the cars parked under the overpasses had in-state license plates I figured it was time to follow their lead. Poor Torrie was terrified of the thunder. Beethoven's 7th Symphony turned up full tilt on the radio helped drown out the sound. She kept asleep. The Ozarks of Arkansas cutting against the sky. Many years ago, over 30, my best friend cut out of an Ozark cave a cluster of quartz crystal. He did it by hand with a chisel and hammer. And he gave it to me. That day I got a glimpse of what for him was heartland. And indeed it is.

Dallas confused the hell out of me. Just like Los Angeles had in '69. I would rather negotiate the streets of NYC, panhandling and pennyless, than drive through that city again. What is it with our species of the American variety? Why are we constitutionally incapable of designing cities more organically? Eastern Texas was a welcome sight. And finally Shreveport, LA and the last several hours down into southern Louisiana. Then one last motel room in which I would stay for maybe 5 days before I found us an apartment. Torrie would die in this apartment, crippled from extreme arthritis, a shadow of her former Northwest self. The day she died I pulled out all the photos I had taken of her in the Olympic Mts. Maybe I did wrong by bringing her away like that.

Now for something huge, at least to me. Every night of that road trip, in a motel room and often with a bottle of rum, I was reading Dante's La Vita Nuova. Why I am not sure. I had read it back in my early twenties along with his big book, maps of his hell and Ptolemic universe in hand. The only sense it has is that I was trying to figure out how to love a woman the right way for once. But I finally got what I had missed the first time around. Accusing Dante of idealizing Beatrice has for long been a cliche. Nothing could be more wrong headed. Dante was an early poet, one of the first after the Troubadors, to get that the object of a man's love, the woman, is not an object. She is a human being. This makes Dante something of a psychologist. There is one sonnet especially in which Beatrice's women friends call Dante over to them where they have gathered around a fountain in a Florence plaza. They take the poet to task for the cruelties he shows Beatrice in his poetry. Put succinctly his cruelties amount to his object-making of her. He is told he does her great wrong by making her the object of his love, not allowing her the fullness of a personality. I know enough about Troubador poetry, and how Dante borrowed his idioms from them, to suspect he learned this from them too. One Troubador, Arnaud Daniel who was also a mathematician, Dante comes across in the Inferno, acknowledges that Daniel is a far greater poet than he could ever be. Why hadn't I made the connection thirty years before? And it becomes all the more marvellous that it is Beatrice guiding him through Paradise. For him she, a woman, was a psychopomp, a leader of souls.

There it is. My last road trip and the last one I hope to ever take. These heroic trips never show you as much as you think they will. It is the glorious detail that gets left out.

Tere
Sep/7/2010, 3:45 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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