Monday, August 24, 2009

click on the picture to actually read it!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

a kind of indecision wracks my brain, as i carry on in a number of fronts: moving things out of the upstairs and back rooms, so that we can finish the house; starting a new school year along with 20,000 returning salukis and a number of new teachers and students; getting a son with a broken finger, home for medical treatment which apparently cannot be done in another state; keeping an eye on facebook, twitter, and the general swirls of the social media; preparing for a state-fair gig, a theatre-kind of production, and finally, watching bizarre storms pass through the area.

the rain appears suddenly out of a moving, restless sky and pounds us for a while, cooling off heated roofs and roads and making everything steamy for miles, but ultimately freshening the air and making the grass grow. it comes sporadically but violently & makes me think of the son, out driving a small car with a broken finger, in the plains west of here somewhere. he will hopefully be here tonight. so here's the problem: i've been invited to peru; the people there want a reading specialist, and will pay my flight. i've wanted to go to peru for years. but i'm somewhat unprepared to be a reading specialist, and worse, it may be that many of their teachers are elementary (k12)- slightly out of my range. i wrote back to them hedging, suggesting more appropriate people. at this point i am a little tenuous about the professional end of it. personally, yes, i'd love a week in arequipa peru, no matter how you package it. it will be spring there; just as, here, it will be starting to cool off.

what to do? some people say, relax, just do it, it'll work out. and i'm sure it will. at this point, things seem delicate; it seems hard to readjust, to less space in the house (temporarily), more noise, more people passing through, things happening. the kids are directly affected; they've lost their rooms, just as school has started. they protest in their own kind of way. the rain, and the steam, set the stage. we are busy moving; we get them movies, but, the movies end up separated from their cases at times; they watch, right in the path of the new furnace-guy; he tells a story about ringing in his ears, i need to concentrate; have an answer here, and keep on with the music. arequipa- dry mountains, sunny, not far from chile. drywall- soon to be put all over the upstairs; could be a little dusty. august- that time when dawg paws are painted on the streets, and people do their best to give incoming freshmen the best of their experience. the student drinking areas become quite wet- but it's not necessary, the humidity is already well over a hundred.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

just getting back from a family vacation that started in st. louis, took us down to kentucky, and ended up here on a a cabin overlooking kentucky lake, near the town of grand rivers, a short ways south of paducah. our intention was to not go far, but to do lots of family things: city museum in st. louis, chucky cheese in paducah, and throw in a train museum, a try at the arch, a lot of swimming, paducah street fair, and ice cream on demand. It's steamy out, yes, but we expected that; it's august; we're in the south. the august sun sets over kentucky dam; a very steamy night settles on a river/lake; the boys, all three, are exhausted and asleep. tomorrow, it's back to carbondale.

the city museum's outdoor garden is a maze of metal gates and fences welded together so that kids can crawl, out and up, all the way up to an airplane perched way out above the parking lot and the ball pits below. It is way out here that some guy at some point dropped all his credit cards, and his id, but while I was chasing a four-year-old, it was way out here, a good crawl on twisted metal, that he had to go potty. this is to be expected. the hard part, for a big old guy like myself, is to follow him in places where I barely fit, or to get him to go a different direction. the whole museum, though, is truly an american landmark, a kids' paradise. I was glad to see it thriving, to see it full, and to see the vast majority of its workers young punkish kids with earrings in strange places.

we had to stay near the airport two nights, in order to pick up two different family members on two different flights, and in st. louis this means a very confusing set of roads in and out, and a number of different villages where the city of st. louis should be. normandy, woodson terrace, berkeley, norwood, bel-nor, etc.; these are towns that barely could think of a name, yet were determined to notbe part of st. louis proper. And you truly pass through dozens, or maybe it's the same ones, dozens of times. at the arch, we ate down by the river, but a car was broken, and a long line threatened to get much longer as the afternoon wore on; we left for points south. in sikeston, we ate at a famous restaurant, lambert's, that advertises as; they throw their rolls, and put lots of license plates all over the walls. maybe they were the original, for putting license plates on the walls, but this is something very agreeable to me; I was in the middle of a license plate game, which is still not finished by the way, and appreciated both the variety and the historic spread of the plates- and also, a tribute to some local, done entirely in missouri plates, up front. the road from sikeston to paducah crosses back into illinois for barely a minute, at the tip down there by cairo, but we didn't really see cairo; in minutes we were in wycliffe kentucky and on the road into Paducah. Lots of ice storm damage on trees all over the place; it seemed steamy, and strangely devoid of healthy trees; what was left looked sickly and covered by tangly vines. Paducah is familiar to us, except for the train museum, but eventually we ventured down here to Kentucky lake, barely twenty minutes away, where we saw a different world entirely.

kentucky lake was made by the tennessee valley authority; and is made by the damming of the tennessee river where the kentucky river feeds into it; both are now lakes with river channels in them, and the area between, land between the lakes, entirely wild and full of parks. I can only imagine the massive displacement that must have resulted when the dam and the lakes went in, and, though the lakes, or this one anyway, is wide, clear and beautiful, it still has river barges plying it, and a huge power plant within sight, up at the edge. so I imagine that in fact there are lots of mixed feelings, somewhere in the countryside, about the tva and what they wrought; but, what do I know? to me a wide lake, blue, fresh, with a breeze on it, means a break from a steamy, stifling summer at a time when I need it the most. kentucky, which advertises itself as, is in fact somewhat wild, pretty, hilly, but definitely hit by that ice storm I mentioned. and steamy, yes. we're in the delta, or near it; the river, the barges, the roads, everything seems to be pulling us further south, where it's hotter, steamier, and one is best advised to stay in, lay low, take it easy, and have iced tea, sweetened or unsweetened. the boys charge around as if it's all normal; this is life, let the grownups take care of the details. I remain offline, trying hard to ignore thirty or forty emails a day, stay off of facebook, pretty much, and just concentrate on the boys and new tricks they're learning, especially in the water. they are only at these ages once. the rest of our lives are so busy, we are barely able to see them.

unbridled spirit, is one thing I think of, when I see rivers left natural, to pound rocks, find their course downstream, and do what rivers do. or, when young boys tear around, getting away with whatever they can, testing their limits, doing what young boys do. In fact, the boys are now sound asleep; angelic, soft motel-cabin pillows around them; who knows what they dream? the rivers are entirely tamed; not only the kentucky, but also the tennessee, and the cumberland, and whatever else flowed up this way and fed into the mighty ohio and then the mississipp. I know that the words 'tennessee valley authority' were not said without spitting, by many; they built huge dams, mainly because they could, and they were good at it too, and this supplied a lot of power, but it drove lots of people off the land, and totally devastated the ecosystem. all of this is now virtually forgotten; it was well before my time even; I barely heard of it, it was already twenty or thirty years back before I was traveling around these parts. forgotten, maybe, or dimmed, hazy, lost in other concerns. kentucky, with a character of its own- a bluegrass honda, a bluegrass check-cashing service; a 'dirt-cheap' cigarette store, a well-preserved old river town; it feels a little behind the times, in some ways, yet also, in others, more prosperous, more successful, than our part of illinois. the barges haul their coal up and down the bridled rivers; way out, in the lake, a few sailboats drift, back and forth, taking in the sunset and the soft breeze, having found a single cool and pleasant spot to let the heat of the summer pass. The rest of the year, it's pretty mild, usually, and there's something to be said for that.

for many years i made a serious investigation into communes. eventually i saw the biggest ones of that era; one was called the farm, in summerville, tennessee, and the other was twin oaks, in louisa virginia. but before i went to these, i visited a host of other, smaller ones. by the early seventies the new england countryside was dotted with them, so if i heard of one, i'd try to visit, if only for a weekend.

i would like to say it was a serious investigation into alternative family structure, but part of it was probably serious investigation into how a suburban kid, with no experience, could become a farmer and live in the country. and even that was a stretch; i wasn't absolutely sure that's what I wanted to do. it was quite beautiful out in the country; virtually every farm I saw, I fell in love with, and mostly with the wildflowers, the rough edges, the country roads, the fresh air. In some ways it was the possibility of living way out there that I was looking at. I had no way to imagine the complexities of living in a community, though I asked people about it. Would I be good at this? I had no idea, and don't even now.

In new england I visited a couple of them, though i only remember one clearly; it was frog run farm (though I may have the name wrong), and it was way up in the northwest kingdom of vermont. I remember it clearly mostly because, for some reason, my father was involved; he was there, and they explained to him what they did, and how they lived, just as they explained it to me. That part of vermont was rugged, beautiful, remote; it took hours to get there, and that was unusual for vermont. people were nice, understanding; they certainly didn't have to take in visitors, but they did. I found this most places; I would give them some money, if I could, and help with some work; I'd ask some questions; then, I'd go home.

In eastern tennessee I was given a ride by people who were the sunflower family; they had a farm in a hollow behind the highway, and clinch mountain rose up at their backs, as they made a fire to make breakfast, and tried to make a living. that was difficult; this was a dysfunctional family. we worked at an incense factory down the road for a while, said one member of it, but he implied that this wasn't a very permanent or successful arrangement. In other ways the area wasn't easy for them to integrate into; the land wasn't easy to grow anything on. This may have been true at most of the places; what did I know? here at least i was able to stay, for about a week, until news came down that one of the members, trusted with a large piece of money for supplies, had somehow lost the money. this was it, most thought; we'll all be off to some other place. one couple even mentioned a place, more in central tennessee, where they'd try; it was called short mountain, maybe. I myself was on to the farm. you'll get a taste of it there, they said.

in fact the farm was a kind of intentional town; rather than seven or eight people comprising a family, they had more like three or four hundred; whole families, who lived in the woods, some of whom I probably never saw or met. Here, everyone was busy; they had jobs; they worked the land; they worked hard and worked a lot. one thing that scared me about the place, though, was that to buy in, you had to buy into a whole philosophy. they agreed about certain things there, and everyone just agreed to agree to it. vegetarianism, for example, and a kind of hippie-era language. It wasn't that i had a hard time with these particular things; I didn't; I was rather amorphous in my beliefs about all kinds of things. it was more that I was worried; in a conformist kind of place, i'd definitely be a non-conformist; that was my natural tendency. was that a problem?

years later, i realized i wasn't quite done with my quest, and i had the chance to visit twin oaks, a commune in virginia. this was another big place in the world of communes, because they made a publication about it, and because their philosophy was closely tied to skinner and behaviorism. they made a point of saying, though, that people there had all kinds of religions, and philosophies; they agreed on certain tenets of living, but were free to read, philosophize, and explore as many ideas as they wanted, and did. one of the interesting tenets that they lived by was that everyone in the community should work equally; this should be measured, and quantified fairly, so that if someone did an unpleasant job, they would have more free time, whereas someone who did something desirable, would have less.

a final concern i had was, what became of children who grew up in places like this? i wasn't disappointed at what i saw; if kids come to expect a wide and loving family, close attention to their needs, etc., it would be kind of like growing up in any very small town, or, very large family. there would be good things, and bad things. and that's kind of how i remember the whole experience.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

it's a busy time for everyone, most of all the kids, who are shuttled from daycare to friends' houses, to the lake, to do their thing, which is grow, full-time. the older ones have to prepare mentally at least for a new school year, but i, having just finished a term today, and having but a week to wipe clean my brain to start a new one, am going brain dead, trying to focus on the young ones, trying to live in the moment, though most of the moments around here are quite hot & humid, summers being what they are.

nevertheless, i have a lot of irons in the fire, and I'll beg the reader's forgiveness for wasting time with me as i get my act together with some of the stuff i'm doing. surely you'll see, below this post, some scraps from my autobiography; rather than focus on a set of stories that I'm trying to pull together, my mind keeps being pulled back to my college years, partly by experiencing vicariously the college years of my jayhawk son, who, ironically but not surprisingly, now wants to see some of the world. having access problems at home, it's easier for me to sit down and write a piece like this at night, than to get online and actually put it there; as a result, some of my posts are arriving late, and not in order, etc. but that's not my point. I'm reliving those days, the early ones in boston, and really putting them in there entails organizing, and looking at what I have so far, which is tentatively called just passing through. and that forces me to look at my whole life and what is missing from the memoir, and there are a few things to point out there. a number of good stories. a quest to look at communes and what they are made of. a love angle; there actually was one in those years; i've been hesitant to put the people I was most close to in there, but , since i'm respectful of privacy in general, i could be more literally truthful with some of it too. and finally, if i were to tie it all together, what would I do? how would I do that?

the question comes up because of teacher man, an interesting guy, who wrote his own memoirs, carefully, and made a fortune, quite accidentally. raw truth can sell like hotcakes; that's something I've learned, and something I should keep in mind as I pull it together. Now naturally I've been avoiding my latest collection of stories, pile of leaves, because it's such work actually pulling this stuff together; yet, that's what I should do; that's what I should be spending my time on, this break. I'm a writer; I can get it in a file; I can make it palatable; I can clean it up. I have to tell myself these things, because, in some ways, I'd rather spend my breaks in facebook.

speaking of which, my campaign to get obama to put his library in little egypt is underway; I should mention that though I'll remain detached from the outcome, what I'd really like is a really great job, doing something completely new, and working for obama in this way, in my own home territory, would be just about perfect. I think everyone gets caught up in the political aspects of his presidency- what he's doing right, and wrong, etc., and we on the left, his closest supporters, may end up most critical. at the same time, to me, as a guy spending most of my time with a very young, black illinoisan boy, nothing is clearer than the fact that his mere being there is about the most profound change this country has ever seen- and we shouldn't forget it. If I could bring but a shadow of that profound movement to this area, i'd feel like my life was worthwhile, as if it weren't. to that end, I'll devote my energy to mastering facebook groups, and the art of getting people to 'follow' you; it'll be an interesting ride. To the same end, I'm considering getting involved in what could be called the aamsi, african-american museum of southern Illinois, which, best i can figure, needs a web page. it's an angle; it's a learning experience; it's a new dawn, and I'm grateful that new things pop up sometimes, for sure.

on the graphic arts front, more photos of the castle park have arrived; this will soon be a portfolio, and will be presentable to mr. b.r., known as king b, who may or may not want a calendar made from them. it's a project; it's an iron in the fire; it's a happening thing. And finally, on the music front, gigs are popping up everywhere, and it's all one can do to keep one's head above water, with so much going on. state fair, battle of the bands, you name it; I may be getting some media exposure, here, pretty quick. It may do me in; on the other hand, it may make life more interesting, worth stirring for. a venue to sell books; a way out. This business of straddling media may force me, eventually, to pick a log to go over the falls on. of course that could be stated as, progress, I suppose.

late at night, in the coop with the young guys, having an ice cream treat, and a young worker begins talking about boston. says it's just attractive to her, a city, somewhere far from here, and she's going to go, by hook or crook. wants to know if anyone knows anything about it. yes, i do, i say, i've been writing about it, which i have. i was able to sum up my memories pretty well. of course i don't know how it's changed over thirty seven years. in some ways, lots; in others, not at all, i'm sure. it's people, who, before it's all over, need to get out, and see some of it.

Friday, August 07, 2009

in the heart of it- 700 comm ave, boston

in january i switched dorms to a large towering dorm, called 700, for a semester. my roommate here was p.h., who smoked a cigarette the minute he woke up and, after that, was quite friendly.

700 was a place where it could be said that stereotypes came home to roost. whereas west campus had been a drug festival, to me, 700 seemed more of a culture, more of a classic college dorm; unfortunately, i wasn't very interested.

p.h. and i set out for western mass one weekend; another, i signed on to a bus that went down to washington d.c. to protest nixon's inauguration. at this demonstration, we looked on in a haze, as many of us had slept very little on the bus; washington was cold, and police totally blocked us from seeing anything useful or pretty.

when the weather cleared up i spent more and more time going up into new england, canada, new york, anywhere i could.

of my education, i remember several things: i took classes from many famous people, among them howard zinn, an urban historian, and a famous writer, who was a gentle and interesting guy. unfortunately, though i agreed with zinn's radical politics, i didn't want to be a political scientist; i had no real interest in pursuing urban history at the moment, though that was interesting, and finally, though i fancied myself a writer, i had nothing to say, yet. most of all, i felt like i was grasping at straws, wasting my parents' money, flailing around trying to find meaning that wasn't there. my sociology major put me in a statistics course that was a crusher. i could hardly bear to show up and do the homework; in the fall i transfered to journalism.

from my autobiography:


just passing through
summer in the hill country- pennsylvania & wv, 1973

i was quite bad at getting summer jobs, or good ones, anyway, and those summers of high school and the first year of university just tended to prove that very strongly. One year my mother pressured me into volunteering at a social agency in downtown buffalo, and it was actually very good for me; i once cleaned out a house that had had hundreds of cats in it, and another that was lined wall-to-wall with unused merchandise. mostly I hung around the house, listening to music, getting in the way, taking drivers' ed, stuff like that. i was very bored in high school; summers were boredom squared.

coming home the summer of my first year of college was even worse. i'd been let go from a farm in vermont where i'd hoped to spend the summer; i had no choice but to hitchhike home, and then morosely go pick up my stuff with the family car, when it was free. but it was only early june; another summer at home seemed unbearable. my mom, well-connected to people in downtown buffalo, got me a possible job selling vacuum cleaners, but this seemed to me absurd; i just couldn't do it. it may have been buffalo that I couldn't handle; i certainly wasn't beyond other ridiculous jobs. in any case, i left a note on the kitchen table one morning, and set out for pittsburgh, where my brother lived, and where i had spent some time growing up.

my brother had a little apartment in squirrel hill, and was very sweet and reasonable about letting me stay there. it was the kind of place where, if I put something on a wall, he'd leave it there for years, having little inclination to decorate. He was busy in graduate school, and walked most days; he was comfortable in his spartan existence, and said that I didn't bother him much; he didn't need to charge me rent; it was fine if i just stayed there. i kind of drifted in and out, trying to find a job. finally two guys hired me to drive around the area with them selling magazines. one other young kid was part of the crew. it turned out the kid and i did most of the selling; these two guys partied a lot, and seemed to have their own agenda.

we went down into west virginia, and over into eastern pennsylvania, where there were fairs, or where we could set up shop for a while. In some cases they would get a motel room, in most we just headed back to pittsburgh at night. we didn't make much money, though we sold a few. "newlyweds are best," they would say. they were nice, actually, these two guys; kind of on the partying side, i suspect, but they tried to keep me, a 19-year-old, out of it; the other kid was even younger. they didn't want trouble from our parents. they wanted to sell magazines, and they weren't doing so well.

once I was far enough east in pennsylvania to come up against an amish farm, and brazen enough to try out my rap on the amish farmer. what else could i say? i had to tell him what i was doing on his land. he gazed at me impassively before he passed it up. i felt like a complete idiot. although I'm sure he was quite literate, there wasn't a single one of these magazines that would have been of any use to him. i decided on the spot that this was a bogus job and i didn't want to pursue it much further. the summer was about over by now, though. there wasn't much left for me but to take what little i'd made, go back, and start another year of college. this time I was a journalism major, and had a new place to live, on symphony road, back by fenway park, but I had the same problem: failure to connect to the university community in general.
walking to leverett

i was always proud that my name, leverett, was somewhat rare, and also important in the history of the US, though somewhat obscure. some people remembered leverett saltonstall, a genteel senator from massachusetts, and others would mention that the leveretts and saltonstalls were old families whose names carried enough history that one would use them both, rather than casting one off for a name like "joseph" or "peter." when i arrived in boston, i looked around; i found that leverett hall, a harvard dorm,was the most common use of the name, but people often referred to leverett circle also, a traffic nightmare, but an important junction of storrow drive, beacon hill, the interstate, and the charles street jail. when i was there, usually in a car or quickly navigating one of north america's rare roundabouts, i'd look up at the "leverett circle" sign and wonder: how did this happen? is this good, that such a place carries our name?

but i found out that a town in western massachusetts carried the name also, and so resolved to go there by hook or crook and see the place. i calculated that i could get there in a day, hitchhiking, because it was about three or four hours driving; this could be five or six hitchhiking, but who cared about time? this was a weekend. to complicate matters, though, my roommate, p.h., wanted to go also. he was an admirer or my wanderlust and just wanted to see how it happened. it was january, but not too cold (i have other memories that have it as frigid; i think we were frozen sometimes, but not so bad, when we were walking). i told him that it could get colder, or snowier, and we being in a pair could make life difficult; it didn't faze him. he was up for it, and come saturday morning, we set out together.

The boston area was quite crowded, but that's actually what we needed, because people were hesitant to pick up a pair of guys. We didn't get out to western mass. until the afternoon, and then a strange thing happened. On the road to leverett, there was a complete lack of traffic; nobody. we were still about five miles out, but it seemed like we could be there forever. a sprinkling of snow was on the ground and the trees in their soft brownness spread out in all directions; it was hilly and wooded, and quite beautiful. we started walking. this was hard on p.h., a smoker in bad shape, but he turned his collar up and did the best he could, asking to rest every once in a while. my own step was light as I had no baggage, for the first time in a long time, and that made me feel as if I could run. nevertheless it was strange that there was not a single car; the road was silent.

eventually we found out why; we came to a clearing, a church, a few buildings, and finally an old school; we were in town. the parking lot of the school was totally full, with overflow parking in all the surrounding places. everyone in the valley was at that school.

so, we walked in. It was an annual meeting, and it was being conducted by town elders, the people of leverett. most of the people of the town were attentive; they were doing business, and people cared, by and large, how things turned out. A few people milled around out in the lobby of the school. a few posters caught my eye; they were posters bearing the leverett crest; this held three rabbits (or hares, leverets) which irecognized from my youth. they were apparently planning the bicentennial, which was to be held the following year, at the meeting.

i quickly thought of a passionate, inspirational speech about the name, which i could give to the crowd, and inspire them to hold a better bicentennial. most likely, though, i wouldn't even be around the following year, so it would be of little use to me; this would probably be inappropriate, and everyone would think I was some kind of nut. but I looked at the posters with the crest, and i thought, this is odd. it's a kind of welcome home, maybe.

p.h. was ready to go home; it was clear we would be lucky to be able to use the last of the daylight to actually make it back. the afternoon was in fact quickly receding over the wooded hills, so we did. before we left, I told some old farmer who I was, and how happy i was to see the posters. it warmed my heart. he got a chuckle out of that; i'm not sure he believed me. but it didn't matter. Aafew minutes later, we were walking back the way we came; it was easier going back, as now there was some traffic; also, going into boston, for whatever reason, was easier than leaving it. we got back to town late at night, of course, and were starving, but that was to be expected. it was more fresh air than p.h. had experienced in a while, but for me, the excitement of the trip, actually making it somewhere, and making it back, was only compounded by the success of making it somewhere that was important to me personally.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

go visit the canary islands...
Dear Mr. Obama,

I am a Lecturer at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, but I write to you as a loyal supporter, proud Illinoisan, and common citizen, so I am sparing you the formal university stationary.

I am writing to ask you to consider putting your Presidential Library in southern Illinois. The main reason I ask is that we need it, as we have a very rich history, some lakes and some vineyards, but very little else to attract visitors.

From your perspective, however, there are a number of good reasons to do this, and I would be happy to present them to you if I could. First, good, beautiful, and cheap land is available in abundance, and you could use as much of it as you need at a good price. Second, you could give a boost to an area with a rich cultural heritage and an intense history, especially for African Americans, an area which includes Cairo, Mounds and East St. Louis, to name a few. You could avoid Chicago politics, and the dilemma of which area to place it in within a large city that has more than enough to offer everyone anyway, but rather, reconnect with a group of loyal supporters (including myself) who have believed in you from the beginning.

If you choose to consider this offer, I would like to present you our case, and, if it comes to fruition, I would like to be part of its realization. If you choose not to, however, I would thank you anyway for reading this proposal. We remain proud of you, and send you greetings from “the Land of Obama”.

Thomas Leverett

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Mud season wins another

R.W. was a guy who drove from his house to his barn, though it was just one building over, and he had to go all the way down to the road to do it. Driving was faster than walking, though only slightly, and spared him the silence of the country that surrounded him when he walked; also, then he'd have his truck with him no matter what happened, and wouldn't have to walk back to get it. When he was challenged on his hard-driving lifestyle, he'd bring up a neighbor, another Vermont farmer who had milked cows for fifty years until he retired, moved to Florida, promptly had a heart attack, and died. This was in mud season, May, a wet and cold time in Vermont, when everything was still just frozen enough to stick a truck in a ditch.

I happened to know him because, at the end of my first year at the university, I'd taken to hitchhiking out into New England to see what I could find, and came down into Middlebury one time, to find a sign on a bulletin board there in the Laundromat perhaps, asking for a hand, no experience necessary. I was the living example of no experience, at least as far as a dairy farm went, though R.W. also had Morgan horses and did a bunch of other things too. He agreed to take me on. I said I could get out there as soon as school got out, and that was early May, which was just around the corner. I hitchhiked back to Boston to finish school and figure out how to get up there; I ended up twisting the arm of a poor friend who had a car, as I didn't have one, and was willing to take a couple of days driving way up there. It was about six hours maybe, Boston to Middlebury; little did I know, at that time, that Middlebury was an important place in the world of language education; I hadn't met anyone, hadn't heard of it, didn't really know any of that. It just seemed like a beautiful place, far from Boston, in the most rustic and beautiful countryside one could imagine.

R.W. was proud to say that the farmhouse I'd be staying in, on a creek a few miles outside of Middlebury, was a few hundred years old, and that accounted for the lack of some of life's comforts, like a shower. I'd throw my overalls, covered with whatever I'd been shoveling, in a big pile which all smelled the same; I'd take a long hot bath and listen to blues; it must have had electricity. I slept like a log until early when I'd be aroused to go milk the cows again. I was lousy at milking cows in spite of R.W.'s patient instruction. He wouldn't let me near his horses which were quite valuable, though I shoveled after them quite a bit; I couldn't blame him, I was pretty incompetent. I had no experience whatsoever, and furthermore, was just off a year in university at which it seemed like every drug imaginable was being passed around my dormitory, and everyone was in such a haze, that I couldn't help but be influenced, even though I left regularly and aggressively virtually every weekend. I think in the month I was there, in that farmhouse outside of Middlebury, I was only beginning to get a focus on life, and see things clearly enough to perform competently at anything. Yet just keeping my life going was a little more than I could handle; I needed a ride into town just to do my laundry, and then would be saddled with a big sack of it, unable to say walk around and meet someone. It was a bit dead in the summer anyway; I think I was there a month, and hardly talked to anyone.

R.W.'s family was nice enough to me; they had me over for lunch, often, and fed me well. I ate ravenously, being unused to such hard work, and again, being virtually unable to stock my own cabin or function very adequately there. Still a college kid, I'd never really cooked much, but worse, was thoroughly exhausted upon coming home, and couldn’t even go to town for groceries; it was about five miles. I hadn't figured out the transportation yet; hadn't gotten a bike; hadn't done anything, really, to make the situation viable. At R.W.'s house, the television told of Watergate, which was unfolding as I was there. I might have said something about it, because I was already thoroughly convinced that Nixon was a crook, and had broken in, and was absolutely guilty. Of course, I was from Boston also, where that was a relatively centrist position. Conversations with R.W.'s family were therefore not productive; we were too far apart on the topic at hand, and they couldn't imagine having lunch without the television; they were isolated; the television was their connection to reality.

R.W. had a father and/or an uncle in the area, and we would occasionally go up and work for him; he also had horses, only many more, and also more famous. Perhaps they would do business as well; I'm not sure. This was the extent of the traveling I did while I was there; the rest of the time, I stayed home, in the bath, blues on, that ancient creek right out my window. My windows open, my dreams were heavenly, though I don't remember them. The place was charmed and haunted at the same time; I could sense generations of drama there, yet, to me, it was the first silence I'd ever experienced; the first time I was totally, completely, alone. At first, I really loved it, craved it., and breathed in the fresh air as if it were my first breaths.

At some point, after about a month, R.W. pointed out the obvious: it wasn't working. This may have had less to do with my poor milking skills, than with the fact that I was so utterly unable to take care of myself in the little cabin. I stlll had no car; I'm not sure if I was capable of buying one. I doubt I could sustain myself without one, or if he wanted to keep giving me rides to town. He was tolerant about the rate at which I would extract myself from the cabin; I left the place walking. I hitchhiked down into Albany by late night and somewhere outside of Schenectady, got stuck for the entire early hours of the morning, on an exit somewhere out in the woods; again, there was nothing but silence, for miles around; it was long past the time that I prized that silence, and now, I was kind of hoping for some voices, some company, a new direction. One summer job was down the hole, and it was only early June; time to get another. Where, or how, I had no idea; but, for the moment, it was just me and a very lonely highway, until I figured it out, or until dawn, whichever came first.