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  • I have always been a wanderer, going back to well before my earliest memory. I have also always been a wonderer. I wonder about things, about life, about the world around me as I wander about town. I never stopped to wonder why I wander. It’s just what I do.

    Practically from the time I could walk, I wandered. A favorite family story is of the time that my parents were hosting a boy scout or cub scout event at our house on Midland Street in Pittsburgh for one, or a couple, of my older brothers. As the story goes, I was maybe 18 months old, still in diapers. It was a cold, rainy night, as the scouts began to arrive at the door, and would be ushered in to partake in the scouting activities of the night. At some point during the evening, well after all of the scouts had arrived and activities were in full gear, the doorbell rang. As Dad went to answer it, wondering who it could be, there stood Mr. Hampton from down the street, with me in tow, dressed only in a pajama top and soggy diaper, dripping from head to toe – “Is this one yours? I found him wandering down the middle of the street, in the rain – looks like one of your guys…” My parents were horrified! Somewhere, amidst the hustle and bustle of scouts coming and the door opening and closing, I had climbed out of my crib, and slipped out the door, to go wandering down the street.

    As I grew older, many a search party was organized to go looking for Pete. Where did he go this time? I just always wandered off – something would catch my attention, and I would have to go exploring. I might be found miles away, or in the next town over, just wandering around. I never got what the big deal was when everyone got all excited about me being lost again. I never considered myself lost, physically. I was just lost in wonder at the world about me.

    I was never a very efficient paperboy, when I delivered the morning Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to my 67 person route that sprawled over several miles of Brookline into Dormont in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. Again, this was due to my penchant for wandering, and for wondering. I moseyed along my route, thinking about baseball, and girls, and the many, many mysteries of life. I would take different routes to complete the job each day, just to keep it interesting. I played out whole games, whole seasons, of baseball in my head as I delivered those papers. Wondered what it would be like to be a major league baseball player.

    To this day, when I go to a ballgame, I do not sit in my seat for 9 innings. I need to wander about the park. I like to see the game from all of the different angles, and see who’s at the game. I’ll wander down to the home-team’s dugout, where my friends Hugh and Elliot have seats in row right behind, and say hay to Hugh and Elliott. The usher there, Karen, always insists on finding me a seat right there, but I usually have to beg off, because I have places to go, people to see. I have a friend who sits up on the 3rd deck, right behind home plate – he ran George McGovern’s campaign when he ran for the Senate way back when, way before he made his runs for president. I will often wander by George Will or Charles Krauthammer as I make my rounds about the park – they’re both big fans and more often than not, at the games.

    When I began to drink, I spent many a night in a black-out, whole periods of my life lost to my memory forever. It was not unusual for me to come out of a blackout and wonder where the hell I had wandered off to while I was blacked out. The most extreme case of this scary occurrence was when I emerged from a drunken blackout and found myself standing on a strange corner, somewhere in Haifa, Israel, clearly not in the same part of town as I had last remembered being in, looking at my watch and realizing that I had 15 minutes to get down to the wharf to catch the last tender boat back to my ship, which would be sailing off to Egypt soon thereafter. Checking my wallet and my pockets, I was also flat-assed broke! I wondered what the hell I was going to do now? Fortunately, a shipmate riding by in a taxicab, spied me standing there looking distraught, had the cab pull over to the curb, flung open the back door of the cab, and yelled, “Hey, Bridgeman! Come on! You’re going to miss the last boat!” I’ve often wondered what would have happened to me if that dude hadn’t wandered by?

    Tequila, especially, had a tendency to get me to wandering. I always wound up in another state whenever I got a good tequila load on. Not of mind. Literally, another state! I’d get that good tequila buzz going, and my feet just had to move. I would wander on down to the nearest highway, stick my thumb out, and off I went! Maryland to Delaware to Pennsylvania. Illinois to Wisconsin. Virginia to West Virginia. But, I’ll tell you, I met some really wonderful people in my tequila wanderings, and often in my alcohol-induced euphoria, took in the wonders of many an interesting countryside, while watching another “Welcome to (State Name)” – sign go by outside the car window!

    Whenever I travel, once I get settled into wherever it is I’ve traveled to, I must go out wandering. You never know who or what you’ll run into while wandering about – poets and Cambodian Monks last week in Dallas. I’ve previously written about the time I wandered into a hotel ballroom and wound up dancing with the wonderful and audacious Tina Turner. Or the time I wandered backstage at a Neil Young concert and ran into Neil at a buffet back there. I’ve had many wonderful experiences and met some pretty wonderful people in the pursuit of my wanderings. My wanderlust.

    It is, indeed, a Wonderful life! As James Taylor said in “Country Roads” – “I guess my feet know where they want me to go…” And then, there’s my theme song for wandering, J.T.’s “Walking Man”.

    The Walking Man, by James Taylor

    Moving in silent desperation, keeping an eye on the holy land
    A hypothetical destination, Say - who is this walking man?

    Well, the leaves have come to turning, and the goose has gone to fly
    And bridges are for burning, so don't you let that yearning pass you by

    The Walking man walks… walking man walks on by
    Well, any other man stops and talks, but not the walking!
    The Walking man walks!

    Well the frost is on the pumpkin, and the hay is in the barn
    And pappy's come to rambling on, stumbling around drunk down on the farm…

    [ Lyrics from:
    And the walking man walks, doesn't know nothing at all
    Any other man stops and talks, but the walking man walks on by
    He don’t say nothin’ at all

    Most everybody's got seed to sow, it ain't always easy for a weed to grow, oh no
    So he don't hoe the row for no one, oh for sure he's always missing
    And something is never quite right, ah, but who would want to listen to you
    Kissing his existence good night

    Walking man walk on by my door
    Well, any other man stops and talks, but not the walking man
    He's the walking man
    Born to walk
    Walk on walking man
    Well now, would he have wings to fly?
    Would he be free?
    Golden wings against the sky
    Walking man, walk on by
    So long, walking man, so long

    Lyrics courtesy of:

    Photograph: Taken during my wandering in the Loaming, with my Iphone, of the wonderful sky above the Lakes at Litchfield, Pawleys Island, South Carolina.
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