Steve Sherry's The Vagabonds of '74

A Night In The Can In Kansas

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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

Seeking Shelter from Powerful Winds

With all the miles we were putting on, it was bound to happen...... We got lost........
 
Somehow we found ourselves going South toward Kansas instead of East toward Chicago and by the time we realized our mistake it was too late to turn back.
 
The detour was to bring about a dramatic turn of events......

Our last ride of the day began at dusk and we were let off somewhere in Kansas without a clue as to what to do next but that would prove to be the least of our problems.
 
The moment we stepped from the car we were walloped by a blast of wind that set us back on our heals.
 
We pushed forward down an exit ramp into a gale that was stronger than anything we'd ever felt before, leaning into it at a 45 degree angle in order to gain forward motion.

Down the road we saw the lights of a Gas Station and pushed toward it as the wind numbed our faces.
 
In order to communicate we had to yell or our voices would be drowned out.
 
Reaching the station we tumbled in the door coming face to face with an attendant who looked like he'd seen a ghost.
 
It was an effort to formulate a semblance of language. 

"Man,......... it's........ windy out there!"

"Yeah, it's really windy tonight," he said, still taken aback.

"We're hitchhiking across country," I said,
"Is there any place around here we could crash for the night?"

"Not around here," he countered, "not that I know of."

Alf and I were beginning to comprehend the depth of our quandary.
 
There had to be somewhere we could go to get out of the wind and cold.
 
Scanning every nook and cranny for a place to lay our heads, I never thought the interior of
a Gas Station could look so inviting.

 
My eyes fell upon tire racks lining the walls that were crammed with new tires and might make a respectable bed if the tires were positioned just right......

"Hey bro, ya think you can let us crash here for a few hours? We'll be gone in the morning."

"I can't," he said, if my boss finds out I'll get in trouble."

"Oh come on, just for a few hours. We can sleep up there on those tires. We'll be out of the way and no one will see us, I promise."

"I can't, I'll get fired. I wish I could help ya but I can't."

 
We tried a different approach.
Was there a College nearby where we could possibly try our luck?
 
He informed us there wasn't anything in the vicinity.

"Can you suggest anything? We're really uptight, man. We're in a bad situation."

"Well, there's a Motel down the road. Why don't you go there and get a room?"

"We can't. We've got no money."

"Well, maybe they'll let you stay anyway if you tell them the situation."


Slowly, we picked up our bags.
 
We weren't going to get any help from this guy but he did have a point.....
The Motel might be willing to put us up. It was our only move.
 
 
We pushed hard against the door and squinting our eyes, leaned forward and began moving our feet.
 
By the time we got to the end of the parking lot our faces were paralyzed and all we could hear was the wind scraping by our ears.......

With our pants whipping at our legs and our jackets inflated like balloons, we inched along.
 
 
To this day, I have mental images of Alf with a beleaguered look on his face
yelling Encouragement as we glanced over to each other to gauge our positions.

Down the road the lights of the Motel came into view and we gaiged the distance by peering into the wind then down at the ground and glancing up again......blinding wind in or faces......

We crossed the parking lot, yanked the door hard to get it open and stood like Zombies in the vestibule.

A pretty young woman was sitting behind the counter and gave us time to pull ourselves together, then asked if she could help. Forcing my mouth to pronounce the words, I explained the situation.

"We're trying to get back to New Jersey but we really don't have the money for a room.
Is there any way we can stay here?  
We'll do some work in the morning.
We'll do anything, sweep up, wash dishes, anything.
We normally wouldn't ask but with that wind out there, we just can't take it!"

 
With a sympathetic expression, she waited for me to finish before speaking up. 

"I'll tell you what, I can't make that decision but I'll phone the Manager and ask him what we can do."

"Okay, thanks," I said, encouraged by her willingness to help.

She picked up the phone and called the Manager, explaining the situation as we waited with baited breath.

"Tell him we're good workers. We can mop floors or do anything.
We'll sleep in the broom closet if we have to."

 
She talked for a few minutes then hung up and turned to us with a pained look on her face.

"I'm sorry but we can't put you up here. It isn't the policy of the Motel. We really can't."

We stared in disbelief.

"He did have a suggestion though.
He suggested we call the Police and see what they say.
They might be willing to let you sleep there for the night, hows that?"

Alf and I exchanged uneasy glances.
The last thing we wanted or needed was to be hassled by the cops.
We didn't know if we'd be charged with Vagrancy or fined for Hitchhiking but the situation was desperate.

Reluctantly, we gave the okay and she picked up the phone and dialed the Police Department.

"Hi, I've got a situation here with two young men who seem very nice and they need a place to stay for the night. Is there any chance you can put them up?

She listened to their response while Alf and I stood off to the side muttering our concerns.
A minute later she hung up the phone and turned to us with an optimistic expression.

"They say they can pot you up!" (what a surprise)

Knowing it was a mixed blessing, we sat down and waited and 10 minutes later they walked in the front door.

"These our Customers?" one of them asked the clerk.

"Yes, " she replied, "and they seem like very nice young men."

She was only trying to help but we knew that weather or not we were "nice" cut no mustard.
 
 
We thanked her and walked out to the squad car. We had our bags taken from us, placed in the trunk and were driven a short distance to the Police Station where we were asked for Identification.
 
"New Jersey, huh ? What are ya doing here?"

We explained the best we could knowing the questions they were asking were designed to trip us up but finally they were satisfied and filled us in on the rules.

"Okay, you can stay but you'll have to sleep in a Cell. You're not Claustrophobic are ya?" 

We had to remove everything from our pockets and were escorted down a corridor where the cells were located. A large key was inserted into a lock and the heavy door pushed open.
With a sweep of his arm, the Cop ushered us inside.

"Okay, there's a bed for each of you. We'll come and get you in the morning."
 
He slammed the door, turning the key with a loud clack, leaving us in what was basically an iron room.

We knew they were going through our belongings and making phone calls to New Jersey to see if we were kosher. We each selected a bunk and were just getting comfortable when the light went out, leaving us in total darkness. 

 Here we were in Kansas, locked in an Iron Cubicle with only the girl at the Motel desk as a witness to how we got there.
 
 
Our concerns affected our sleep.
I fell into a world of clashing thoughts and anxieties and over the course of the night awakened several times having to remind myself where I was.  

With no natural light to clue us in on the time,  we languished, Semi Conscious until jolted awake by the light being turned on in the cell.
 
Again there was the clatter of keys and tumblers turning in the lock.

"Okay," a voice called, "time to get up. Time to leave Heartbreak Hotel!"

They didn't have to tell us twice.
We jumped to our feet and were escorted to the front desk where we were met by different Cops than the night before.
 
We had to endure some ribbing but were all smiles, wanting nothing more than to get on our way.
We were given our wallets, asked to sign a release and were told that we could go.

"If ya want a cup of coffee, there's some over on that table."

We made sure to thank them, collected our bags and went to the exit..........
but when we pushed against the door nothing happened.
 
 
We thought it might be locked but on the second try we forced it ajar and were instantly reminded of why we sought refuge in the first place.
 
A Blast of Cold Wind heaved the door against our extended arms.
 
This was absurd! Wind just didn't need to blow that hard.

We cut across a fallow field where pillars of dust swirled overhead and flocks of birds hugged the ground.
 
 
If they spread their wings ever so slightly, they were instantly blown away, fighting to keep their equilibrium.....and in a matter of seconds they would cartwheel out of sight........... 

The wind was unrelenting, whipping our faces until we were teary eyed
and had to turn our backs repeatedly for a moments relief.
 
 
In this manner, we made it to the On Ramp and held up our thumbs.
Fortunately,  people took pity on us and we caught a couple rides heading East.

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