Steve Sherry's The Vagabonds of '74

Dreams Grow Sacred Put Into Action
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Early '74 Montclair, New Jersey, Alf a most unusual friend
Cedar Grove, New Jersey my little town....Miss Munches House, Newberry's, Cedar Grove Pool
Hitchhiking To Albuquerque 1972, The Commune and Krishnamurti, University of New Mexico
Seeing Badfinger At Carnegie Hall, The Dugout, McSorely's Ale House
Seeing Bob Dylan, "The Poet Lad" At Madison Square Garden
South End Pizzeria, Van Gogh and Plans for California
Jersey Shore Recollections, Summer of '71. St. Louis, The Gateway of the West, The Road to Colorado
Rocky Mountain Panorama, Problems with the Pinto, Ritchfield Utah???
California! Lennon's Lost Weekend, Venice Beach, Malibu
Pacific Coast Highway, Panoramic Visions and the Magic Carpet Ride To Santa Barbara
San Francisco, The Shelter, The Warf and the Hole in the Wall Hotel
Sacramento, Jumping A Train? Wierd But True, The Shock of My Life
Oblivion, Reno, Good Samaritans and The Ghosts of Woody Guthrie, James Dean and Tom Joad
A Night In The Can in Kansas
University of Kansas at Lawrence and The Doobie Brothers
True Meditation Foundation of Human Understanding, "How Your Mind Can Keep You Well"
Vagabonds of '74 Part 2: Old Friend Ollie, Meeting Veronica, The Suburban in Montclair
BOSTON, The Leap of Faith and A Night in a Shelter
Sleeping in a Newspaper Truck, Cambridge Hippies and No Turning Back
Squatter's Rights: 269 BROADWAY, Furnishing Our Hippie Pad
269 BROADWAY becomes Miss Dale's Farm
California Hippies Arrive. Free Food from The Docks, Strange Encounters
Kenmore Square Blood Bank
Leonard Cohen, Patron Saint, Ali Defeats Foreman and the Great Squash Fight of '74
Vivid Visitors from New Jersey,
The Invasion of Boston University, Taking Over The Dorm
Jonathan Swifts, Harvard Square and The Sugar Shortage
Beacon Hill Gulf Gas Station and Reflections Atop The Longfellow Bridge
Christmas 1974 in Montclair, Returning to Cambridge, "13th Floor Panarama"
Bandages, Canes, Barroom Brawls and Spontaneous Conversation
Meeting Leonard Cohen
The Beginning Of The End and Saying Goodbye
Vagabonds of 74 Epilogue
Essex Catholic Memories: Crosby, Stills & Nash, Marty Liquori, Mark Murro, City Stadium, St. Benedicts, Dylan, Positively 4th St.
The Essex Catholic Wrestling Team 1971: 8 District Champs, Ting A Lings, Hitting the Town....
Essex Catholic Teachers and Students, Br. Harrington, Mr. Lamb, Mr. Taglieri, Mr. Zarro, Simon and Garfunkel
Random Events at Essex Catholic 1967-1971: Stuff Happens! Bomb Scare, JUG!, Abbey Road
Essex Catholic Senior Year 1971: World Trade Center Rising, The Staircase from "A Hard Days Night?" Meditation, MySpace: "Jersey Shore," Crosby, Stills and Nash Epilogue
The Jersey Shore: May, 2011 Brielle....Sea Girt....Introspection On The Sand.....
Essex Catholic Memories 2012

Leaving for California, Arriving in St. Louis, Jersey Shore Recollections, Panoramic Visions, Dylan, Lennon, Primal Therapy,

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Into Pennsylvania we drove, up mountains, through tunnels, finding our groove .
 
Emotions were sloshing around and we needed time to let things settle.
 
The radio was on and Gilbert O'Sullivan was coming across the airwaves.

His song "Alone Again, Naturally," with its poignant lyric put me in an introspective mood.....

I recalled being in Alf's house one summer afternoon when the same sacred song was careening around the living room.....

"Ya like this song, huh?" Alf piped up.

"Yeah, I dig it cause it's real. It makes me glad to know that other people feel like that.
It means their minds work like mine and I'm glad they feel that way."

"Sad?"

"Yeah, I'd like to spread a little misery around if I can. I don't wanna be the only one feeling shitty."

"Whaaaaatt.....???

"Yeah, if I can spread a little misery around isn't that what life's all about?"

I glanced to my right. The look on Alf's face was enough to break me up.
I reveled in exchanges like that and Alf was the Perfect Foil.
 
His reactions were one of a kind.                                              
 
 
 
                                        *****************************              


                                    A Snapshot of My Plight
 

We slept the first night in a rest stop. Probably got four or five hours of sleep, woke up cramped and cold and were quick to rouse ourselves and hit the road. The enormity of the trip was taking shape against the backdrop of my life:
 
Everything had a meaning. Everything was for a reason and I wanted to get to the bottom of it all.
 
Whatever I was, whoever I was, I knew I'd never have a conventional life.

I rejected the Run of the Mill things most people steer their lives by. 
For me, the equations were too confining and didn't provide the answers I needed to live.

I'd rejected any aspirations for the Corporate World knowing I'd never fit in......
 I needed the Big Picture, something to make life worthwhile.

My past had been built on Idiosyncratic Logic that had gotten me through school but was now confining.

Old perceptions just weren't cutting it, in fact my belief system had been obliterated.

 I needed more information, new information, accurate information, The Truth.

I felt that no one ever really understood me and no one could help me and that I would have to forsake everything I ever knew to find my way.....

The fact that Alf and I had trust in each other helped but even he couldn't really understand.
 
He was living in a Universe of his own that was just as perplexing.


The one thing we could do for each other was compare notes and because we shared an Ocean of Experiences, no insensitive thing uttered was beyond being forgiven.

No amount of stubbornness  could sever the friendship.
No bad behavior made either of us too embarrassed to face each other the next day.
We were brothers......
 
 
 
                                  
                       The Gateway To The West

 In late afternoon the city of St. Louis was coming into view.
It had been a long day and the sun was aslant, warming us in its dying light.

We negotiated the ramps and overpasses leading Downtown and while trying to eyeball the sights,
we tossed  instructions to each other.....

"Okay, can ya get over?? Keep to the right.... See if ya can get over..."

"Okay, anyone behind me?"

"No, go ahead. Ya got it!"

We exited downtown......
To our left were the Old Neighborhoods, block after block of red brick buildings from a bygone era, Immaculate and Dignified......
 
It was America as it used to be,  Freeze Framed, resembling a movie set in the late afternoon sun.

I liked the thought of being in St. Louis, it always had a positive connotation for me.

I liked the name, its landmark Arch......
I liked the Cardinals and their classy uniforms.

I liked Curt Flood and Tim McCarver, Ken Boyer, Lou Brock and Mike Shannon and the fact that it was located on the Mississippi and that it was nicknamed
"The Gateway to the West."

And since it was the Gateway to the West, it was also past the point of no return.

Emotional attachments had to be suspended.  From there on in, we were looking into the future.


   
             
                                         Schmoozing

Whenever we stopped for food or gas Alf would use the opportunity to Schmooze with the Locals while I stayed in the background.

This began to tick him off because I was cramping his style.
He was into conversation.
Conversation, was the way he kept himself in tune with the world.

Simply asking for directions could lead to formal introductions, handshakes and then a discussion of the music scene. 

If the service station had 3 Attendants, it was necessary for Alf to spend time talking to each one.

I would watch from the car shaking my head in disbelief, growing increasingly peeved as he was, in my mind, wasting time.
 
On the other hand, he was growing impatient with my unwillingness to socialize and finally, after a pit stop, he let me have it. 

"Ya know Davey,  I'm gonna get out and talk to people on this trip. I'm not gonna just sit there.
I'm gonna get out and do things. You just sit there!"

I was stung by the criticism but he had a point.
 
I knew I cramped his style but all I wanted to do was get to California, not try to make friends along the way.

We ended up in a major squabble and afterwards it grew silent in the car.
 
Alf just couldn't see that my being overwhelmed with life stifled my spontaneity,
causing me to appear antisocial.
 
I didn't want to be that way but I just couldn't help myself.




                               Jersey Shore Recollections

                      Summer of 1971 and Panoramic Visions


     While driving, I had the luxury of ruminating on things I needed to sort out and my thoughts returned to the summer of 1971......
 
I'd been invited to stay at a beach house at the Jersey Shore and spent a lot of time there with friends from High School.

A friend's parents owned the house but they lived up north and were hardly ever there so we had the place to ourselves and did some serious Partying that summer.

During the day we'd sit around listening to records.
 
 
I'd just bought Dylan's "Freewheelin" album and I was enthralled with what I heard.

Paul McCartney's "Ram,"  which had just come out, The Door's "The Soft Parade"
and the Lee Michael's album that featured "Highty High" punctuated every waking hour.

Those records were like the four corners of the Universe spinning day and night as the summer slipped away in that little house at the Jersey Shore.

    
      On weekends it was often filled with friends engaged in drinking, smoking and general mayhem.
 
Sometimes when I found myself feeling alienated I'd slip out the door and walk the couple blocks to a sandy cove on the edge of  Barnegat Bay.

The waves at my feet, the stars above and the ocean smells provided solace for my teeming mind and in those Mystical Moments a Gaping Hole would open inside me and I would become aware of an emptiness so great that I felt as though I was being devoured.

I'd actually ask myself out loud "My God, why do I feel like this?"

Others around me didn't seem to have the same problem.
Why was I being bombarded with things I could not define or fathom???

Again and again I would try to grasp those Silvery Thoughts as they slipped through my fingers.

I didn't realize it then but I was seeking to latch onto something Transcendent, something that wouldn't desert me like everything else I'd ever known...... 

In my naivete, I believed that if I could somehow utter the right words to explain once and for all exactly "Who I Was, How I Felt, and What I Was Seeing,"
 
I would be delivered from my sorrows.....
 

In the meantime a Stream of Consciousness  was  tumbling through me but the moment I tried to define it, it would slip away.......

Whenever I tried to explain  to friends they never seemed to understand so I kept it locked away and carried on laughing and partying in clouds of reefer and rivers of alcohol.

They all seemed to have directions in life while I hung suspended between unfathomable riddles and overwhelming sadness......

There were times when I actually glimpsed some kind of Transcendence but instantly it would melt away.......
and I would emerge curious but still troubled, a young man reaching for the Good Things in Life but having no real way to attain them.......


When I'd pulled myself together, I'd walk back to the house and rejoin the party as if nothing happened, having just tried to repair the Universe and put the World back in its proper order.....
at least the way I defined it......

Yeah, I was a party animal but at some point the party was going to come to a crashing halt so it was a Blessing that I could not see too far into the future.

Still, I felt fortunate to be at the Jersey Shore that summer and I savored the time I spent there.
The future still looked good, just a little uncertain.

While my friends had aspirations to go to college and prepare for the corporate world,
my plans were to  survive and keep my options open, to seek Happiness, and I did, with all the courage I could muster but I was already in hard times and had no idea I'd be running into harder times.

What I saw in the waning days of summer back in 1971 was the last gasp of life as I knew it slipping away......

It was bittersweet but Panoramic and though it didn't prepare me for what was to come,  
that interlude of Freedom and Friendship at that little house meant a lot to a left handed,  romantic bohemian like me..... 



                                

                                                  *********************



It was past nightfall but we still had some driving to do before we would stop for a few hours sleep.

"Hey, Alf."

"Hey what?"

What are ya thinking about?"

His imagination tweeked,  I waited for a reaction.

"I was thinking about the time we were pushing my Volks Wagon down Cedar Street and I slipped on the gravel and you came running around the back of the car saying
 
'Are you all right man? Are you all right?'  he said, imitating my voice.

"I remember that." I said.

And he reminded me of the details of how he borrowed his friend's car and was emerging from the railroad tunnel on Bowden Road when he saw oncoming traffic, swerved and ended up flipping the car over. 

The roof was stoved in but aside from having a few bumps and bruises Alf was unheart.

He ended up being the new owner of the car and after hammering the roof  back into shape, showed up a few nights later at my house to go bar hopping.

We probably traveled twenty miles that night and I pushed that car fifteen of them as Alf sat inside trying to jump start the engine.

"Do me a favor, would ya Alf?"

"Yeah, what?"

"Don't turn over anymore Volks Wagons."

 
 
 
 
                                    "Jim Butterworth"
                      Dylan, Lennon, Primal Therapy
 

I kicked the engine over in the early morning chill as Alf ran to the rest stop bathroom. Before dawn we were rolling again.
 
After several days of buying gasoline and food we were feeling the pinch of dwindling finances.

Fortunately, once we got to Denver,  Alf would call home and have his father wire his last paycheck via Western Union.

In the meantime we'd become so low on cash that we'd concluded we'd have to pick up hitchhikers to help pay for gas. 

We kept our eyes peeled for likely candidates until somewhere west of Kansas City we spied a lone figure on the side of the road, your standard traveling Hippie, long hair,  jeans and backpack.
 
We pulled over and he trotted up to the window.

"Where ya goin?"

"I'm goin' to Boulder," came the reply.

"Well, we're going all the way to California, get in!"

I got out of the car and helped him cram his backpack into the back seat.
 
From his general demeanor I could tell he was an okay person, spontaneous, affable.
He was a little older than us but the kind of person we could relate to.

"You from England?"  I asked, picking up on his accent.

"Australia."

"What are ya doing here?"

Hitchhiking around the States. Right now I'm on my way to Boulder."

Alf, never one to be left out chimed in.

"What's your name, man?"

"Jim, Jim Butterworth."

I'm Alf, man. This is my friend Davey. "

We shook hands in the standard handclasp of the day, intertwining thumbs and soon after,
Alf pops the question.

"Hey ah, Jim? I don't know if you can handle this but ah....can you spot us a little cash man?
We need gas money to get to Denver. We're short on bread, man."

There was a moment of silence. Jim wasn't sure if we were telling the truth or just trying to finagle money out of him.

"We're not rip offs man," I said explaining the situation.
 
Jim then agreed and Alf pulled into the first available station. 

When we got going again we began to let our hair down, discussing the issues of the day.

"Hey Jim, what do the people in Australia  think about America?"  I asked.

"Well, for the most part, they like Americans.
 
Everybody thought in the sixties that America was going to live up to its ideals then Kennedy was shot and everything went sour."
 
He grimaced and stuck out his tongue for emphasis.


Conversation turned to music, the standard by which to size up the company you were in.
 
I mentioned Dylan and found that Jim was well versed in his music, offering Cogent Observations
and citing different songs.
 
I then told him about hearing "Hard Rain " for the first time.

I was working at the Pancake House in Verona and the older guys who worked there had the radio tuned to WNEW F.M.
 
When that song started playing I dropped what I was doing and listened intently.
 
Little did I know that it would have such a Profound Impact on my life!

I was swooning in Revelations.......ecstatic.
 
Dylan was putting into words things that existed way down deep inside of me. 
 
A true and vital message had been delivered from the Labyrinth!! 
 
When the song was over I was a changed person, awakened to a Universe of new possibilities.
 
I was like a blind man who suddenly regained his sight and had to restrain myself from running out onto Bloomfield Avenue to proclaim this profound event!!!.............


 
I'd recently bought "Mind Games,"  John Lennon's latest effort and began punctuating the conversation with references to his "Mother" album and his involvement with Primal Therapy as a means of attaining Consciousness.

"I don't think John Lennon's a criterion for anything." Jim shot back.

Naively, I supposed Primal Therapy was the cure to all the foibles human flesh is heir to and thought that Lennon had reached a state of bliss.
 
Ironically, at that very moment, he was on an drinking bender in Los Angeles which lasted for months and would come to be known as his "Lost Weekend."

 
Achieving Consciousness was supposed to be what the Counter Culture was all about and seeking to understand one's self held a lot of currency with young people back then.
 
That's why Yoga, Meditation and Therapy movements were so prevalent, though most were just
Pop Culture fads.

But Consciousness is attained only through long suffering and perseverance.  How could it be any other way???

"I'm just getting my head together to the point where I really like it," Jim said and he meant it.

"Man, he's not like me," I thought staring out the window.

I was miles away from the Well Being he was talking about.
 
Life warps and stifles us to different degrees.
Some recover and find their way and others end up lost at sea.

My life had taken unexpected turns that I was still trying to comprehend what it was all about.
I knew the answers existed but I didn't know where.

I was standing at a Fork  in the Road with no instruction manual and no compass.
 
 
This was the reason I so eagerly devoured the Carlos Castaneda books.  
 
His teacher, Don Juan, had access to "knowledge" that empowered him and directed his life.

 
In my life, the Real Me was being held prisoner while an unreal me acted out for purposes of survival and I could no longer go on pretending everything was all right with such deep internal conflict.

I was lost in a house of mirrors and any direction I moved in produced more illusions.
 
I had to press on though and decided I was going to find out what I was made of no matter what.
 
 
That's what this trip was all about, finding myself, healing, getting my head together...... 

         ...................................
 
 
 
 
 In the wee hours of the morning we crossed over into Colorado.
 
I was in the back seat drifting in and out of sleep when I overheard remnants of a conversation.
 
Baring his soul, Alf was relating what a sensitive person he was to Jim who was slightly amused but sympathetic and gave Alf his full attention.

"Is that right?" 

"Yeah, " Alf replied.  "I'm a very sensitive person."

For some reason I was prompted to lean forward and say "Oh, shut up,"
which brought a chuckle from Jim while Alf  turned to me with a hurt look on his face.

I laid back down and kept my mouth shut after that. I shouldn't have been a jerk. 
 
 
Alf was just using the opportunity to interact with Jim as an older brother figure and I felt guilty for jumping on him like that.
 
 
Underneath it all, Alf was one of the most sensitive people I ever knew.
That was one of the reasons we were friends.


Jim would soon be getting out for his trip north to Boulder and conversation tailed off as we prepared for a parting of the ways.

"Hey, well listen man take it slow, have a good time."

"Yeah, it was good meeting you guys.  If you're ever in Australia, look me up." 

On that vibe we rolled to a stop on the outskirts of Denver and all climbed out.
 
 
I reached into the back of the car for Jim's bag as he stood by with a big open grin on his face.

 
Good luck, man,"  he said.......
then suddenly grabbed me, giving me a bear hug that sent a shock wave through me.....!!!!! 
I was stunned...........

Being a seeker he was a Powerful Presence and a jolt of Electricity passed into my body........
 
Wow!!!
 
I knew what it was, a gift from a Kindred Spirit..........
Encouragement, a supernatural kick in the ass to help me along my way......

He turns and embraces Alf and more well wishes are exchanged as I stood there still reeling from the Cosmic Jolt.......

It was my turn at the wheel and I walked over to the driver's side.
 
Waving one last time we drove off leaving Jim standing in the Middle of Nowhere.
 
 
He was already hitchhiking for the next ride and a moment later I glanced in the rear view mirror to see that a truck had pulled over.

"He got a ride!" Alf and I looked at each other in disbelief. 
 
"He sticks out his thumb and the first truck pulls over!"

We turned to look at the fork in the road behind us and saw that Jim had already been whisked away to his next Rendezvous with Life.............
 
 
 
 
                                                  Western Union

At the moment everything was well.
We'd taken a big chunk out of the journey and were wide awake and inspired.
 
Once we got to Denver,  Alf would call home and his father would forward some money. 
 
All we had to do was find a Western Union office.

At the city limits we pulled into a Truck Stop to ask directions and as luck would have it, saw a Western Union sign in the window.
 
Alf placed the call and things were set in motion but we were disappointed when told we'd have to wait overnight for the money to clear which meant another night sleeping in the Pinto.

Our priorities were in order though.
We decided the best thing to do was go to the bar next door for some beer.
 
Just to be on the safe side Alf brought his Guitar, placing it near his stool as he sat at the bar and when an older guy saw it, he asked to hear some tunes.

Alf was quick to agree but I didn't like it. I'd been through the movie before. His guitar playing was just not up to snuff so when he asked what he should play I begged off.

"I'm not into it man, I'm just here to have a beer." 
I walked across the room to check out a deer head mounted on the wall,  putting the kibosh on the whole thing. 

We were hungry anyway and I suggested we get something to eat with our last few bucks.

The bartender directed us down the street to a sandwich shop where we ordered 2 sodas and 2 subs.

"And could you put as much of "everything on it" as you can for two guys from New Jersey who are hungry and all out of money?"

They threw in two bags of chips and we returned to the car and devoured the food.
It didn't even come close to filling us up but it would tide us over until morning.

That night we froze again.

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