436. The Cruise To Hell

 

It was years ago in late fall that we arrived at the dock in Baltimore to board the massive cruise ship Discordia (POA Lines) to the Bahamas. All expenses paid, all food, all drink, all entertainment, all rights and responsibilities, prepaid by someone else on a credit card with unbelievable rates forever. Who? We’ll get to that. Needless to say, it was a feast, a feastival, Thanksgiving on the high seas. What could be better? But whom does one thank for such luxury?

Ten stories or more soared up above the harbor waters. We took the gangplank up and then a glass elevator above the glittering lobby to our floor, seventh or eighth. We had a little window balcony and two beds. A bathroom slightly larger than an old fashioned phone booth. Unnecessary really, since the party was 24/7. Once we’d put our baggage away, we began to explore the narrow hallways, the grand staircases, the endless murals of Renaissance nudes merrily debauching their fantasy lives away.

The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus by Peter Paul Rubens

 

Hmmm, that’s subliminally norming lewd and lascivious behaviors. Sort of classical pornography, if that is not too much of a stretch. The pantomimed message, “Drink, lust, seize, surrender your soul, revel in the flesh.” But it’s just wallpaper, right? Not hypnosis.

The crew were quietly efficient with shiny skin and flaming eyes. They were present to meet every earthly need we might conjure up. We could not guess that behind lustrous ivory teeth their tongues had been removed. Even the band on the lido deck played songs appropriate for surrendering the flesh… “Hotel California”, “I Shot the Sheriff”, “Positive Vibration”, “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” in a loop. As the huge ship plowed out of the Chesapeake Bay, under the double span of the Bay Bridge, the guests’ vibe changed like a new set of clothes, from almost winter to almost nothing. We slipped collectively into a new groove, into babbling citizens of a shining suburb of Babylon, Babble On, Babble On… Onward toward the dark islands where black slaves had produced bleached white sugar for lily white Europeans not so long ago.

Once out of the Bay, countless stars glittered in the black skies above and reflected in the choppy black waters below. The power of this craft was unimaginable, able to hurtle three city blocks of human cargo forward at twenty knots per hour, cutting the horizon into two silver plumes. Our destination did not matter. The speed and power, the rhythmic momentum were all as if in a dream. Certainly, it was dreamlike. The monstrous engines below reverberated imperceptibly until sleep, when our dreams were massaged by their humming undertow. Gray noise.  Narcotically even. Such sleep! Such pleasures of the nether world suffused our naked minds and bodies.

By day two or three I began to sense something was not quite right. Everyone had every carnal need met almost before awareness of the need arose. Passengers used words like “nirvana” and “heaven” to describe their experience thus far. So saturated with luxury, they began to explore beyond usual prescribed boundaries. Couples began schmoozing with other couples and rubbing their legs shamelessly at the pool or in the hot tubs, toes touching erotic landing zones were met with excited giggles. No one seemed to object or even notice. It was all one good, fun, party. Since we were in international waters, no specific country’s law applied; and so the law of the jungle came to rule across the ship’s many splendid decks. Every one did what was good in his own eyes.

In the fine dining rooms guests ate with their hands while sitting in damp bathing suits. The staff smiled witlessly, encouraging beastly behaviors. They seemed to enjoy the mess. No worries.

Casino Table Games

Down in the casino everyone was a winner. No one lost. The signs at the slot machines and black jack tables said, “All winnings paid out at d’hotel Fornicatio, Nassau, in U.S. dollars tax free.” Unbelievable. The euphoria built up like a summer thunderstorm. Free money. Free booze. Free sex!!! The whole scene was like the hippie movement of the late 1960’s– no consequences. Free love. Guiltlessness gurgled gleefully.

Casino Slot Machines

And yet, yet, the fear of anarchy rose up with the ceaseless champagne bubbles hissing above every fluted glass. It’s not a party after five days of orgiastic efforts. It’s work to equal or exceed yesterday’s exploded boundaries. Mondays are for mojitos; Tuesdays are for tequila; Wednesdays are Wallbangers…. Thursdays are thoroughly debauched. Fridays are try it days. Saturdays, get saturated. Sunday… Anything goes. If you were conscious in the ’60’s, the reckoning was rough. After Woodstock a colossal mess was left behind on many levels.

Where is the port? We’ve been at sea for days now, I think. All the gluttonous activity topped off with lust and greed for more…. causes a loss of memory in the participants. Who knew Sloth was addictive?  It’s so easy to be less and less, to care less, and think less, and shame less. What land dwellers call morals are such a drag on the POA Lines.”Man, morals are like shells. If you don’t have any enemies, you don’t need any shells. Right?” The thing about Prince of the Air Lines is that they get it. Their motto:  You are free to be fully who you want to be, full throttle, full luxury, full time.

Finally our port is in sight, so says the Captain. But there has been a mistake. We veer away from Nassau and head toward another abandoned island to the west.

 

 

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435. Yushi

 

Many years ago, let’s see, eleven? maybe, my daughter Grace came home from high school in the beginning of her senior year, like October or early November. She talked about this adorable Japanese exchange student at her school who was living with an old bachelor. The old guy didn’t do much for the boy, named Yushi. Grace made her case like the lawyer she would go on to become. She laid out the fact that we had room to spare since our oldest daughter was in her senior year of college in Philadelphia. It would not cost us anything, and he’d be easy to manage. “He’s so cute and shy.” Overall her description fit that of a fuzzy puppy, the cuddly, snuggly, no maintenance breed, you know, like a stuffed animal. My youngest daughter was okay with having a boy live with us, so we opened our home and family to Yushi.

I met him for the first time in early November. Our church was doing its annual Christmas cantata/play. Somehow I was asked to be the narrator, so I wore a deep red shirt with a Christmas tie with three kings and a pair of aces on it. After the 7 pm show, I was introduced to Yushi. He immediately assumed that I was the senior pastor, because, well, who else would narrate the Christmas cantata/play? “Harro, Missa Burrito. Nicesa meet you.”

Yush was lonely. There were no other Japanese in the school and very few Asians. Eventually he hooked up with Jay, a Korean exchange student from another school. Jay’s English was demonstrably better than Yushi’s, and he was not as inhibited as Yush.  Yush had an English/Japanese translator gadget that he often turned to; however, most of the time he would simply smile as he fumbled for an English word and then surrender with his out pitch, “Sumsing”. Yush quit sentences with “sumsing” so many times that our family began to use the term jokingly. 

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  • Franklin- Spq109 Collins Pocket Speller

 

 

 

For instance, in simple questions, “Did you finish cleaning your bathroom, Grace?”

“Uh, I uh, so, um, ‘sumsing'”.  It never failed to bring a grin or a laugh.

Anyone in the family to anyone else, “What are you thinking?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I am sinking of sumsing.”

We did find a Japanese restaurant in a nearby larger town. Yush was tickled to see other Japanese and order his meal (eel) in his native tongue. Alas, he did not run into any other Japanese kids until  his spring break group trip to New York City, which reminded him of another megacity, Sweet Home Tokyo. His upwardly mobile parents had high expectations for Yush and low tolerance for his desultory attitude.

I am not sure what his parents expected. I know we just wanted to have some international influence that might wash out the yucky taste of our last semi exchange student we halfway hosted, Nina from Germany. Her favorite word was “horreeble”. “American chocolate is horreeble.” “American television is horreeble.” “Only Italian shoes are not horreeble.” She is another post of her own. Anyway, Yush would wait for me to get home from work. He wanted to watch sports on t.v. or play basketball, back when my body worked somewhat. He also hit tennis balls against our garage doors while our now long dead border collie Nick ran down any misses. Dogs speak all human languages, if you did not know already.

Yush seemed very familiar with American sports, including NFL football. We watched all the playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl. We also played chess regularly. I gave him white and I played black while spotting him several pieces. He was not very good, but he did funny things like lining up all his pieces against mine to declare victory without even moving a piece. I persuaded him to move back one space to allow some movement. Then I beat him.

I drove him to school many mornings and had oddly impressionistic conversations along the way. One morning in the playoff season he asked me, “Missa Burrito, why blacks always wins?”

‘Oh,’ I thought, ‘tread lightly and be politically and racially sensitive.’ I paused and then delivered what I thought was a sound, unbiased answer. “Well, Yush, there are Blacks on both sides of the football, you know?  So no matter which team wins, since they have Black players on them, Blacks always win.”

He let that sink in for a moment and retorted, “No, I mean in chess.”

 

Yush snickered like a guinea pig sneezing.”Heee,hhhheeeee, heee.”

Another time, after a sweaty game of paintball, we were driving to a picnic on a 90 degree June day. His English had advanced to reading road signs by then. As we crossed a small bridge, Yush asked me, “Missa Burrito, do you sink bridge will be icy?”

“No, Yush, but I think I might smack you.”

“Heee, heeee, heeee,” he sneezed.

The ultimate Yush story, however, occurred over a simple meal of chicken, rice and green beans after I got home from work. We were passing the dishes around the dining room table when Yush asked me, “Missa Burrito, you got ricense?”

“Uh, do you need more rice, Yush?”

“No. Do you got ricense?”

“I’m not following you, Yush. Do you want something like aromatic basmati rice?”

“No. In counsewing office. You got ricense?”

Of course that was a keeper and a keystone in the legend of Yush. In fact, after I told my buddy Dave about the ricense caper, he invited us over for one of the playoff games. On his front door he had a poster that said, “WE GOT RICENSE!”

434. Indefatigable Joy

Image result for tornado pictures aftermath

Some days, hombres, are rough around the edges and wrinkled in the middle.  Today is such a day.  Alas, a big snow storm is brewing and the snowblower won’t start; nothing new there. Still, I yanked and yanked the pull cord and sprayed and sprayed starter fluid (ether) around the carburetor intake to try and overwhelm it with fumes to ignite the fuel or the operator. The thing looks  brand new, and it should since it just sits in the garage like a super model all year until we get a whopper snow storm, which is due tomorrow. Now you might say that I have had all year to fix the thing since it performed so poorly last winter in the historic 33 inch blizzard. But to know me is to hate me when it comes to being proactive. I am actually tempted to just lie down and breathe the ether for a while, perhaps even pretend I had a quiet stroke to distract my wife from guilting me for my incompetent indolence. And who could blame her? I don’t enjoy being helpless, but I can’t get all bent out of shape about life’s little irritants. I never wanted to be a twisted pretzel.

I had two computer cords to return to our former internet service provider and forgot both of them on my way to work this morning.  No big deal yet. They are fining us $150 for early termination, despite ten years of being a faithful customer. Shake it off, I say. Then as I unlocked my office door, my key snapped in half. The business end looked back at me like a silver snake in a hole hissing, “Have a niccccccce day.” I had to laugh out loud. At least it locked in the open position. ‘Could be worse’, as my buddy Steve says. I called Nancy’s Lock and Key and told them my plight. “We’ll get to you by the end of the day.” Reassured, I nearly skipped over to the corner coffee shop for a blueberry muffin and medium coffee, but the barrista was sluggishly slow to wait on me. He had a kidney stone to birth and looked like a man menstruating for the first time: pale and weak.  I felt very fortunate not to be him.Image result for pale pained faces male

I got back to my office just in time to open my lap top but not check my phone messages. My first appointment guy walked through my door; only he was the wrong guy. I was expecting Bill and here was Jim. Uh oh, another snafu for me. I began to stutter my explanation to Bill and to figure out when to reschedule and when to feel stupider and incompetenter, when I thought, ‘Hey, I have one voice mail to check. What if that is Jim cancelling? What are the odds? 90 to 1 maybe.”  I checked my voice mail. It was Jim cancelling. Pow!! Due to the expected blizzard tomorrow, his company had moved all meetings up to today. Victory was mine!! It was a perfect triple win-win-win. Except I still had no snowblower that worked. Sure, it was shiny and good looking in a eunuchy sort of way, but completely  impotent.Image result for broken snowblower pictures

I sat down with Bill and then the next three clients. Zoom, zoom. The day was flying past as the wicked nor’easter approached from wherever nor’easters approach. I felt like I was in a poorly written novel that was limping toward some sort of denouement. Things were getting resolved too easily, and oddly enough their tension seemed to give me empathy and focus for my anxious clients. For some inexplicable reason, I felt no worries or dread at all. I did feel some pressure on my bladder, though. As Archie Bunker didn’t say, “You don’t buy coffee, you rent it.” How Great Thou Art played on AccuJazz, Will Bernard at the guitar. Man! Everything fit so nicely. Even if I had no faith, I’d have to by two o’clock on this day or be a complete heretic. “Hallelujah to ya!!” I felt like yelling to somebody, anybody. If you can’t be smart, be Irish.Image result for st patrick's day celebrants pictures

I realized that I was choosing joy as I dodged metaphorical bullets. Then I wondered if I were experiencing the placebo effect of belief in good outcomes, thereby ensuring good outcomes. Was I placeboing my  self?  (Don’t you hate when someone turns a weird noun into a verb like that? Like Tebowing or tuxedoing. It’s downright smarmy.) No, I was actually just accepting the brokenness around me with a light heart, a bouncy helium heart without mania rocket fuel involved. My back and leg still hurt as usual and my taxes are not quite ready for my accountant, but I am choosing joy over pain or guilt and embarrassment.Image result for joyful faces

Maybe yesterday’s mini lesson on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit actually produced some fruit in me.

The Fruit of the Holy Spirit is a biblical term that sums up nine attributes of a Christian life according to Paul the Apostle in his Letter to the Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”Image result for peace images and picture

433.promises

Image result for sunny march sky pictures

Sunny day with a high blue ceiling brings hope and flavorful expectations of lilacs and honeysuckle ahead. Today. The Conococheague Stream is full and rushing over the rocks arranged by teen boys to make a swimming hole about an easy seven iron shot downhill from my office door. A large sycamore log teeters on this primitive overflowing dam, big enough for two log rollers to compete upon. In two months kids will be screaming and flying off the rope swing on the other side of the wooden bridge that used to support slow trains back in the day. In one month fishermen will walk through those waters in hip waders, hoping to catch freshly stocked trout. Two blocks from our noisy town.

Today is merely the promise of things to come, like a good night kiss on the first date. This summer maybe I’ll kayak the stream all the way to the first barbed wire fence downstream. It’s one of those things I pondered doing a time or two. Like biking the C&O Canal years ago from Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia to Potomac, Maryland outside D.C. Yup. Seven hours start to finish one glorious October day. Memorable things start with just a whisper of a promise on a day when you happen to be zoning out of stress while tapping in to the vibe of your local universe. Before you know it, heavy petting and luscious affections flow by, quick as a lizard on hot asphalt. (If you understand the last two sentences, please PM me and explain.)

We all make promises, usually with the intention of honoring them when the time comes. We call it “keeping your word”. Lots of us have trouble either making too many promises or not keeping enough of them. I remember a promise about Iraq paying for the three trillion dollar war we waged there. We would simply take their precious oil and sell it to recoup our expenses for, well, for what?  Destroying a failed nation?  For being an international SWAT team?  We also have folks who promise (swear) to tell the truth,the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to Congress and then conveniently fail to tell the whole truth or blatantly lie under oath. “Oh well”, we say,”they’re politicians. What did you expect?” Maybe a wall that Mexico paid for? With what? Tequila and taquitos?

There are intelligence workers who swear to keep our national secrets secret, who then leak them to Wikileaks to expose to the entire world. Heck, there are millions of folks who promise to pay for what they bought on credit who walk away from a house or car or credit card bill. Some declare bankruptcy; others just go off the radar. Promise keepers keep on working through their debts, their oaths, their commitments whether they like it or not.

I know an Amish man who borrowed $150,000 dollars to start a business that eventually failed. The other party was an Amish millionaire who loaned money out to fellow Plain folks. My guy’s business went belly up during the recession of 2007-2010. No one wanted what he was trying to sell. One consequence was that “Enoch” had to sell his house and workshop and little barn to partially pay back his debt. He and “Rachel” moved into a shabby old rental house. Both kept working diligently to pay off their promises to everyone except the electric company. (Why? you ask. Cuz they are off the grid. They’re Amish.) They didn’t complain or go for bankruptcy. They simply trudged forward in simple honesty, steadily repaying a loan that will likely go with them to their graves. Most folks I know would not do this. Instead they would declare bankruptcy and get out of financial Dodge as soon as was physically possible.

Now, I am not advocating debtors prisons or harsh laws against folks in impossible craters of debt. Nope. I am advocating for making fewer promises and keeping all of them. Perhaps the greatest worstest example of breaking promises is the awful state of marriage.

I borrowed this chart from an article by Randal S. Olson. You see the strange dance of marriage and divorce over time and circumstances. Ironically, the two trend lines seem to be wedded to each other. One goes up, the other follows. One falls, the other does too.  It’s so strange to see this parallel. Notice the spikes and valleys during the depression and world wars. I was curious about the uptick in divorces at 1970. then I remembered that was the year “no fault” divorce became a law in California,and other states followed. Divorces needed no blame or shame to be granted from that point onward.

If you can’t keep your promises, don’t make’m.

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432. Hippy, hippy, shake, shake, shake

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It’s my birthday. Hip, hip, hoorah!! Sixty one or sixteen for my dyslexic brothers and sisters. This has been the year of the joint. (No, not that kind of joint!) Last January, as you may recall, we had a record snowfall of 33 inches, which required me to push a snowblower and snow shovel for most of a very cold day. Later that day my wife wanted to go to the Snowfall Ball and actually ballroom dance. I did…Swing dance… I swung and missed. My left hip has never been the same. See, I did not want to disappoint her eager dancer’s heart, so I took ibuprofen instead of a three day nap, and I danced a few numbers. Until I had to sit, stretch, ache, and finally leave there, a broken man. Weeks of Advil, Flexeril, and Tramadol followed with a heating  pad, physical therapy, a TENS unit, exercises designed to strengthen my weak core, and more. Oh, yes, Yoga class became mandatory. It sucks to feel your body let your mind down after six decades of your mind letting your body down. It’s bloody mutiny, I say.

I can remember these details because I am in pain again today as I await my yearly doctor’s appointment. Now the pain shoots down my left leg along the IT band, causing bursts of pain in my hip, thigh, calf, and ankle, even the arch of my foot. C’mon! But wait!! There is more. The IT band stops at the knee, so the Doctor tells me it’s likely nerve pain from a deteriorating disk or two or three. L5, L4, L3, blast off. “Ground control to Major Tom…take your Tylenol and put your heating pad on…”  It’s a slow, dry pain… like a two by four being pounded through a keyhole with a rubber mallet.

After putting in a week of compounding and painting my daughter’s drywalled play room in Tucson last year, I found my right wrist and elbow began to squeak. I felt like the Tin Man, wanting only “Oil can. Oil can.”  The right shoulder was about half sore. Rest helped until October when I returned to paint the outside of her house. The wrist/elbow combination flared up again, but I rested like an iguana in the 90 degree heat and took Advil. Beauty and purpose are good anti-inflammatories. They do not, however, prevent injury or accidents.

“Doc, I banged my left elbow into the door jamb as I carried a bag of wood pellets into my house this winter. It felt like the bone split.”

“You aren’t hurt. Nope. You’re just stupid.” He didn’t say but  was thinking not so quietly. I should have known better since he is addicted to painkillers himself.

Maybe it’s a spur. Perhaps I’ll get a full body x-ray. Man oh man. It was the phantom  bladder sphincter pain last spring. Finally got that resolved due to the second specialist I saw. The first specialist smiled as he suggested merely oblating the nerve. (Sure, I thought, let me oblate your brain first.)  Who knew health care was so complicated in old people? I thought Obamacare had fixed everything forever. I realize that I am sounding like the old crones I did not like to hear when I was younger, just clucking all day about their aches and pains. Somehow, I feel my stuff is the exception. Plus, I am doing something about my deficits, not relying on magic potions or spells. But chronic pain has a way of distracting you from the joys of life.

Here’s the thing: I’m going to dinner and dancing tonight to celebrate my demise. Oh Joy. Again, my bride is expecting me to twirl her and cuddle in rhythms called cha-cha and foxtrot and waltz. Sure, I want to, but the imaginary broken drill bit in my left hip tells me no. However, “It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I  want to; sigh if I want to. You would cry too if it happened to you.”

Oh, the humanity!! So I distract myself to dissociate from the pain. “I am not in pain. I am Sciatica the Crusha from Russia!!” 

“Granpa, that’s not a nice word.”

“Leah, it’s just a new word. Like Carl and Paul, the sock worms; you didn’t know them until they sat next to you on your chair. Remember?  Now they are you buddies.”

“Yeah, can I talk with Carl?”

“Sure, just let me take my shoes off.”

This is where the story gets ugly and perverse. My daughter Grace, the mother of Leah and Max, and the benefactor of my labors, introduced Leah to her socks, “I’m Judy. And I’m Jaylene.” They were fuzzy magenta girl socks. Leah lit up like she’d just hit the jackpot in Vegas. “Hi Judy. Hi Jaylene!”

I was shocked and appalled. “Dad, the look on your face is priceless. You look like someone just stole your only puppy.”

“Well, this is intellectual property theft, or at the very least copyright infringement.”

“No. She just prefers girlie sock friends. It’s a free market.”

“That is sexism at its worst. You are conditioning your child, my grandchild, to operate inside social constructs that are discriminatory and self limiting. As an attorney, you know that I’d win this case easily in court, where I will see you to further discuss this affair; unless you’d prefer to settle out of court.”

“I can’t believe you are so proprietary, Dad.”

“You stole my schtick.”

“No. Leah prefers magenta girl sock friends.”

“It’s because Carl is white and male; is that what you are saying? That is reverse discrimination against the entire athletic sock world. I will take this case to the highest court in the land and win. I demand justice.”

“Let’s have Leah pick which sock friends to play with. How about that for a compromise?”

“Absolutely not! You can’t just roll into town and open a Burger Queen and sell Whoopers after Burger King and Whoppers have created a market through hard work and investments… and tell the public to pick. It’s robbery.”

“Okay. It’s your birthday and your hip hurts. I’ll put Judy and Jaylene away before Leah gets too attached. Do you feel better now?”

” A little. If I’d known how the story would end, I would never have painted your house.”

“Really?”

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431. Gutter balls

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My memory floats back on rainy days with Van Morrison singing, back to late adolescence in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. I don’t go into the back pages of my life too often, but when I do, it’s both comforting and poignant, like a bayberry candle burning in a funeral home. A warm memory arises of teenage guys hanging together, listening to music and talking, trying to figure our way through life. Then another ethereal memory floats by, sweet fumes and specters. These jeweled memories hang together on specially braided brain wavelengths– pearls, rubies, agates, opals, and jade. Precious individually but priceless as a group.

One such string of memories starts at Mark Craver’s kitchen table, surrounded by bright orange flowers on the wallpaper. My brother Steve, Gerard, Gulley, Crave, and I were yakking and drinking whiskey, I think. Could have been vodka, who knows. It was late. Crave didn’t drink much, if any. Never saw him drink a beer, come to think of it. Gulley’s dad worked at the White House then. Must have been Jerry Ford’s place in those days. One of a few of our un-elected presidents. Anyway, Gulley was jabbering about this or that and we said, “Call the White House. Go on. Call them.”

Now this was long before the cell phone or internet. Gulley picked up Colonel Craver’s kitchen wall phone and punched in some numbers. He handed it to me. A crisp young Marine voice answered, “Good evening, you’ve reached the White House. How may I direct your call?” I froze and quickly hung up. Some things are pranks; other things are precursors to getting arrested. This was definitely the latter.

“Okay, Gulley. You got me. Dang! I hope they don’t trace the call. Let’s go somewhere, fast.” I imagined the Secret Service surrounding the house and calling us out with bullhorns… “Put the phone down. Walk out backwards with your hands interlaced behind your heads. Any sudden moves will result in death by our sharp shooters. No booty dances either. We’ll shoot you in the head for that.”

A funny aside, as I go down this bunny trail, Crave’s younger brother was  interviewed by the FBI during the Unabomber hunt. Apparently Nate had drifted and hitch hiked in a manner that put him near the bombing sites at the time of the explosions.  How unlucky can a guy be? “No, no. I can explain. I’m a brilliant but aimless drifter without any attachments to stabilize me and nothing to lose. I’m not your guy despite the strangely convincing circumstances.”

Now this may be sequentially incorrect or right on. Memories overlap and play dress up in my mind sometimes.  As I recall we got a crazy urge to move, go for a ride. I suggested Richmond, Virginia, a two hour drive south. Gulley had his Super Beetle  back then. He jumped on the idea and off we went to 95 South at three or four a.m. on an early summer night. He and Craver were the big boys, so they sat up front. Gerard, my  brother, and I were skinny then and sat in the back, hips grinding into each other. Sideways, please!  Our mood was high and optimistic, nearly manic. Gulley got so excited about the bubbling bromantic adventure that he punched his windshield and created an interesting spiderweb pattern that was hard to see through. We stopped for beer at a 7-11 somewhere on the way and were told we had to wait till 5 or 6 a.m. to buy the beer. Apparently Virginia had a sober up time back then. We waited and carried on for a while; bought the beer; and sojourned southward in the weighted down VW with the cracked windshield. I would have pulled such a car over for no other reason than violating fashion laws… had I been a cop, which would have been ludicrous for any civilized society.Image result for strange motorcycle cop pictures

[Why do adolescent males do the things they do?  And who pays for the damages?  The driver’s insurance and the driver usually.  “Mr. Gulley, it appears that your windshield was hit by an object on the inside. How does that work?”

There was the time we sat on the hood of Sam’s 1968 Ford Falcon, which I would later buy for $400. The car was bottoming out on the dirt road out of the campground we had inhabited the night before. The three passengers got out to put weight on the front end and counterbalance the vehicle. Of course we laughed and carried on. The park ranger cop was not amused and wrote Sam a ticket for some violation or other. His license and registration were in the glove box under an ounce of pot. Sam was cool and compliant that day, but I know he had to go back to Fauquier County courthouse to answer for our crime against nature and humanity, a month later with his dad, the Air Force colonel.

Then there was the ride back from Dulles Airport in the middle of a moonlit night when Dwight turned the lights of his green VW bug on just in time to hit a deer.  Amazingly only the deer died. The VW sustained sheet metal damages, nothing more. We deserved worse but were spared so I could blog about it forty years later, I  suppose.]

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