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.....
being in Alf's house one summer afternoon when the same sacred song was careening around the
"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."
"Yeah, I'd like to spread a little misery around if I can. I don't wanna be the only one feeling shitty."
"Yeah, if I can spread a little misery around isn't that what life's
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
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
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.
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
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,
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
I liked the thought of being in St. Louis, it always had a positive connotation for me.
the name, its landmark Arch......
I liked the Cardinals and their classy uniforms.
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."
it was the Gateway to the West, it was also past the point of no return.
attachments had to be suspended. From there on in, we were looking into the future.
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.
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.
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......
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.
bought Dylan's "Freewheelin" album and I was enthralled with what I heard.
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
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.
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
I'd actually ask myself out loud "My God, why do I feel like this?"
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......
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
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.
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.
What are ya thinking about?"
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
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.
roof was stoved in but aside from having a few bumps and bruises Alf was unheart.
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?"
"Don't turn over anymore Volks Wagons."
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.
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.
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.
"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?"
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.
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
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.
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."
and stuck out his tongue for emphasis.
Conversation turned to music, the
standard by which to size up the company you were in.
Dylan and found that Jim was well versed in his music, offering Cogent Observations
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.
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!!!.............
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.
don't think John Lennon's a criterion for anything." Jim shot back.
I supposed Primal Therapy was the cure to all the foibles human flesh is heir to and thought that Lennon had reached a state
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."
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.
Consciousness is attained only through long suffering and perseverance. How could it be any other way???
just getting my head together to the point where I really like it," Jim said and he meant it.
he's not like me," I thought staring out the window.
I was miles away from the Well Being he was
Life warps and stifles us to different degrees.
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
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.
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.
what this trip was all about, finding myself, healing, getting my head together......
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.
soul, Alf was relating what a sensitive person he was to Jim who was slightly amused but sympathetic and gave Alf his full
"Is that right?"
"Yeah, " Alf replied. "I'm a very
For some reason I was prompted to lean forward and say "Oh, shut up,"
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
"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.
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.......
suddenly grabbed me, giving me a bear hug that sent a shock wave through me.....!!!!!
I was stunned...........
a seeker he was a Powerful Presence and a jolt of Electricity passed into my body........
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.
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.
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.............
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.
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.
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.