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  • I made my way back down to Norfolk. I stayed in an apartment of some friends I’d made in the area before I’d gone AWOL, and learned that the girl I had started out to Portland with had eventually come back to Norfolk. She had been really upset about my sudden departure on the trip out there, and wanted to see me. However, she was not around by the time I got there... story of my life, at the time.

    I got hold of some of my old shipmates, and my buddy Mike told me that he wanted to do the same thing I did. Mike was an anomaly. He was straight as an arrow, didn't drink or do drugs, and in fact, led a very simple life. He believed in three things, and three things only - Jeeps, Pepsi-cola, and Bob Dylan. We had bonded over Dylan, while spending long months at sea, filling the hours of boredom with deep intellectual discussions about Dylan's lyrics, and what they meant. We'd also read a ton of books while at sea, and would discuss them with each other. He was the only "straight" friend I knew at the time.

    Mike wanted to go AWOL for over 30 days, get an honorable discharge and get out of the Navy. He was fed up with life on the ship, and with the captain, as I had been. One of the books we had both read on the Mediterranean Cruise and discussed with each other while standing midnight watch in the engine room, was John Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley”. We hatched this idea of taking a similar trip across the country, sticking to the back roads, as Steinbeck had done. We began to make plans for a cross-country trip in his Jeep.

    This should have been a much easier trip for me to make than my first journey across country, when I had gone AWOL, but things had changed a lot for me since then. My addiction was now seriously out of hand. I had to get high or drunk practically everyday, and as much as I liked Mike, and enjoyed talking to him when I was straight, I just wasn’t so sure I’d be able to handle travelling with him in the condition I was in. When we had all of our talks and discussions about books we were reading on the ship, I was straight most of the time, and talking with him had helped me to cope with that condition.

    Now, I was high or loaded most of the time, and he was a bit much to take in this condition. But, we set out on the highway with high hopes. I didn’t have the heart to let him down. I had inspired him to do what I did, albeit in his own vehicle as opposed to the haphazard way I had travelled across country. We decided to start the trip with a visit to our old friend and crewmate George from Maine, so we pointed the Jeep north and started to make our way up to Maine.

    We made an overnight stop in Windsor, Connecticut, where Reed's folks put us up for the night. It was a very strange stop, and I was happy to get back on the road. I could really tell that I was losing my grip on things. Whenever I wasn’t high or drunk, I would get irritated very easily, and I just really couldn’t stand it. It was really hard, though, to get high or drunk when my travelling companion was straight all the time.

    After a couple day visit with George in Maine, I just couldn't take it anymore. My last morning there, I had George drive me down to the Greyhound Bus station in town, as I bailed on my friend Mike. I felt terrible, but I couldn't go on because...I felt terrible. I needed to get my head on straight, somehow, before I did anything like that cross-country trip.

    I was really strung out now, and could feel myself sliding downhill fast. I limped back into Norfolk, and wound up back in the apartment I had been staying at down there, and I decided to file for unemployment compensation.

    Things got tight fast, and I started selling my blood to a plasma center in Norfolk. I just could not hang onto my money for very long, it got sucked up by the booze and the drugs before I knew what happened - I was barely eating anything, just drinking and drugs. I began to seriously fear for my sanity. After about a month of a terribly scattered, lost existence, I decided to head back home to my folks' in New Jersey for a break.
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