Waking up this morning to find a stormy unforgiving Fall day heralding the imminence of Halloween, I am reminded of times past in what turned out to be my young adulthood. So long ago now buffered by the intervening decades a mighty assembly of nearly forty years previous, it leaves me in astonishment that there is anything that remains clear about specific incidents that make up my own narrative. As with so much in my life I feel caught between the first and third person in terms of the telling my own story. For someone so timid and sheltered as I the recounting of any incident sounds trivial at best as any anecdote with a lukewarm twist towards any discernible adventure of old long burned into the text of so many romantic novels. I can only hope to pull the jangling bones out from the back of the closet and if nothing else admire the thickness of the dust that covers the skeleton.
The verge of adulthood for me had come after the final completion of college. The close knit ties of family though nurturing had led in my own case to a persistent restlessness not unlike the proverbial kid in a candy store. I wanted a taste of everything I saw. The dislocation caused by this attitude had left me incomplete in the realms of higher education, career and romance. No sooner would I take up a vocation with the intent of following it to some form of conclusion then I would see another possibility heading the other way and drop everything and hop aboard in midstream leaving the former subject behind. This became maddening for those around me but I suppose in light of the ensuing years it was a reaction on my part of being too sequestered in a tiny world of my parent’s hopes and dreams? Whatever distinction I had in secondary school that had provided possible entry to a renown school of architecture was discarded to advance the whimsy of going to what turned out to be an exceedingly small small Florida community college bounding Cape Kennedy. That in turn was thrown over after an initial application for becoming some form of scientist closer to home. Then came the puddle jumping around various liberal art’s topics until I found myself in a state university studying various types of fine art disciplines. This too petering out before the consummation of a formal degree into a fast money occupation as a salesman. The culmination of these ramblings and the collections of acquaintances made and then left in my wake found me at a loss for a suitable direction half way through my twenties.
The watershed of finding myself abandoned by my latest girlfriend who wisely saw no future with a lackadaisical ‘hippie wannabe’ high school bus driver who tinkered with building high speakers. A washout in my mid twenties, I pulled myself out of the lethargy of tepid bathtub water and took long walks. Not to be outdone I applied to and went back to another state university and with some diligence completed my college degree in art. A small milestone by some reckonings in light of so much wasted effort resulting in being behind my contemporaries by several years of idle rambling. And certainly something that was vastly appreciated by my devoted parents who had sacrificed much in relative silence to support my mercurial whims towards the goal of having a properly educated son. My ‘Renaissance‘ sensibilities had kicked in and like all ventures of young men had resulted in a ready job waiting right out of school in the position of a free flowing designer of custom belt buckles. The fad of spin casting pewter ornaments being at its height at that time. I brought my schooling to bear and made quite an impression on my boss, a fairly successful regional entrepreneur who had built up a small company out of the back of a small storefront into a million dollar plus operation. No small feat at the time. I had the occasion to play the talented ingenue given the privilege of hiring an assistant who I was to find out was a great companion but a rotten craftsman. We both had many adventures together over the succeeding months taking advantage of the loose organizational structure of the operation goofing off as much as we could. Often too many times. I was brought home to enjoy evenings and weekends with his girlfriend in some antiquated wooden frame walled domicile within the real estate haven of a former slum area of the big city.
The restless desire for new vistas that he and I and his girlfriend shared in the dark recluse of the back of that shack motivated us to decide to pack up and leave for the mountains of Colorado. Once again I recall my restless spirit bubbling up. Its effervescence spiriting me away to a new unspecified minor adventure into the semi-civilized unknown. The three of us finding the Colorado Aspens changing colors above the 9600 foot mark before our ski bungalow apartment located far out of Breckenridge. The short spell of a month of communal habitation without income fast knocking the illusions of freedom, it seemed that I was the only one capable of finding and holding down a steady job. Early mornings without he rise of the sun I would be found shoveling several feet of snow off the newly contracted framework of some local home building in anticipation of swinging 16 ounce hammer to bear on 16 penny nails to drive them into frozen plywood. I found both my hand and my ire swelled each evening by the fact of my companion’s loafing idleness complimented by the flow of revenue from the cornucopia of my day’s labors. A month more and I had decided to jump what seemed to be a sinking ship and move on to an opportunity located in the Emerald Empire of the Pacific coast with an old high school chum.
I can recall leaving early in the morning of the 31st of October with stable weather conditions and some 1,244 miles to be driven in an old rusty beat up suburban station wagon that served as my getaway car. Once again a sense of my own betrayal of both others as well as self descended upon me producing that same old sense of impending loss and desolation. The melancholy balanced by the excitement of another unexplored vista providing a utopia of unexplored possibility waiting at the end of the drive. My journey was as spontaneous as it was unplanned and I felt compelled to continue unabated without stopping for anything more than gas and the release of my bladder. As journeys go, it was a happy one spent howling along at the top of my lungs to the popular tunes of the day as one remarkable vista after another of the American West swooshed by. In some ways I felt as if I was in a small mobile viewing auditorium drinking in these fantastic sights and at times feeling ‘over-served’ by their magnificence. There was also the impression of a certain covertness of wanting to stop and devour everything along the way in terms of the experience of knowing the many flavors of passing landscape. It wasn’t till I arrived over the borders of Utah and became dazed by the transition of four lane to eight lane highway curlycues that I began to wonder if I would get lost in the landscape. Increasingly, along the way, I began to see visions. Strange little creatures in fantastic attire prancing along the roadside sometimes entering shadow and others silhouetted by the descent of the Sun. It was as if those tales of an Eastern Sleepy Hollow had a Western counterparts. Ones that only the savagery of ancient native Americans could fully comprehend. And perhaps were wont to prey upon tenderfoots like myself.
A strange sense of inner terror began to mount as I began a straight line passage across the lifeless Oregon desert in the dead of night. The sky was filled with trillions of tons of burning bright stars. Their combined weight seemingly squeezing down upon the landscape to produce objects of menace to the unwary traveler so foolish to be caught alone within their midst. I found myself traveling ever faster than ninety down the moonlit two-lane fearful to even edge my head into a tilt to peer out the driver’s side window. If anybody had ever asked me, had I thought I was being pursued by some monstrous entity or a UFO, I would have quickly sworn to the affirmative on that count. It seemed that those hours found me a completely solitary presence upon that road that night. My sense of unremitting angst relieved only by morning and the appearance of the Cascades rising up from the distance. The fairyland realm of tall evergreens and pines captivating in some sense of Disney-like magic soothing like a balm those unrelenting waking minutes of waking nightmare from the evening before. As I pulled into town, I realized that I had traveled unadvisedly as any character of Washington Irving or Edgar Allen Poe with a reckless haste that for the fickleness of fate could have led to an unlikely conclusion. Though my unease to abandon the call of inner wanderlust may not have diminished over the years, that particular Halloween stands in memory as one that had impressed upon me the possible outcomes from temporal follies entered into too precipitously or unwisely.