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  • I really don’t know how I got through the last week in that house - I just remember my buddy Dave coming by every night to get me the hell out of there, like a true friend. He knew it was a poisonous environment for me, and he really had my back. I had no idea how much I’d told him in my drunken mumblings, but he’d gathered enough to know I desperately needed a friend to keep me from doing something stupid.

    Dennis and I had once been pretty good friends at Nuclear Power School, but I just couldn’t even look at him, now. I just wanted to mess him up, big time. I’d forgiven Debbie, figuring Dennis had just taken advantage in her time of need. He clearly had no code – no self-restraint. He’d just pounced on opportunity. He was dead to me. Debbie’d assured me that George would know the baby wasn’t his, which confirmed what I suspected - they weren’t even having relations at all, anymore.

    What a lousy goddamned situation. Poor George – still hadn’t a clue of what was going on. Did not see that, come the end of training, his wife was going to dump his ass for a guy she didn’t even love. And, I knew Dennis – he would eventually dump her ass and leave her with a kid to raise on her own. I knew him too well. There wasn’t an honorable bone in his body. (I would learn later that’s exactly what happened, too. She followed him to his ship in San Diego, and he just left her cold out there, after she’d left George). I still loved her, but too much water had washed under that bridge, and there was no bringing it back. There wasn’t a frickin’ thing I could do about any of it. Talk about one FUBAR* deal (*F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition).

    Dave took me out bar-hopping, and he helped to keep things light with his constant jabbering and questions about everything in the world except the damned drama I would otherwise be wallowing in back at the house. He kept pumping me with questions about our Canada trip – I had done a lot of research on just such a trip several months earlier, thinking about doing it on my own after the training was over, but I could see now that it would be better with a buddy. Otherwise, I’d drive myself crazy with reliving the drama I was desperate to leave behind me, now. One night bar-hopping, we even got lucky - got picked up by a couple of wild gals having a fun night on the town, one of which happily agreed to come back home with me, and we just had a hell of a time in my room all night. I saw it as kind of an exorcism of the demons that had been haunting me in that house all winter, and truly, it was. It helped far more than I ever could have imagined. I didn’t give a damn how much noise we made, either.
  • Then, it was finally over, and we were outta there! I lived in South Jersey and Dave lived in North Jersey. The plan was, after a few days back with our folks, I’d hitchhike up his way, pick him up, and then we’d head straight up the New York State Thruway all the way to Montreal, and take it from there. I picked up a great full framed backpack with Sleeping Bag at the Army-Navy Store in Cherry Hill, packed it up, included a fresh journal book to keep a record of what I determined would be a memorable trip, and hit the road, North Jersey-bound. I was seeking healing, and some kind of a spiritual cleansing, and that was exactly what I got on that trip.

    We hitchhiked all the way, and stayed at Youth Hostels throughout the journey, for $2 or $3 a night, which included a bed, shower, and continental breakfast. We stayed in Montreal for a week, where the YWCA also served as a Youth Hostel, and was in a good location for getting around to see the sights of that great city. We rented bikes and pedaled all over town. My one lasting memory of the time in Montreal was running into a bunch of British “Lymies” in a bar, and all of us drinking beer out of a boot. I have no recollection of why we did that, but it was a blast of a time.

    Next, we thumbed it straight up along the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City, where my 3 years of French in High School came in handy, as not too many people there spoke English. I wrote entries in my journal each evening about each person that picked us up, and the people we met at the hostels, and learned as much as I could about each of them. It was a journey of discovery. The more time and distance we put between ourselves and Saratoga Springs, the more I felt free of the hold that house had on my soul. I still felt like something was chasing me, but I knew if I just kept moving, I would reach what I was seeking. I didn’t know exactly what that was, or even what it looked like, but I had a definite idea that I was looking for an answer. I really didn’t even know what the question was, could not put it into intelligible words, but I could certainly feel it.

    The two most memorable rides I can still recall were the old miner from Spring Hill, Nova Scotia, who picked us up halfway down the province of New Brunswick on our way to Nova Scotia, and the ride we got in the back of a Royal Mail Carrier truck. The miner had been on the road for 4 days, having started in Edmonton, on his way back to Spring Hill. The man was speeding his ever-loving brains out. When he said he was from Spring Hill, I started singing the song about the Spring Hill Mining Disaster that my brother and sister used to sing when they were in a folk trio. It was an old Peggy Seeger number, and I knew all the words and the tune. The driver knew it, too, and indeed, had lost some family in the disaster we were singing about:
  • In the town of Springhill Nova Scotia, down in the dark of the Cumberland mine
    There's blood on the coal, and the miners lie - In roads that never saw sun nor sky
    Roads that never saw the sun nor sky

    In the town of Springhill you don't sleep easy
    Often the earth will tremble and roll
    When the earth is restless miners die

    Bone and blood is the price of coal, Bone and blood is the price of coal

    In the town of Springhill Nova Scotia Late in the Year of ‘58
    Well the day still comes and the sun still shines
    But it's dark at the graves of the Cumberland miners
    It's dark at the graves of the Cumberland miners

    Listen to the shouts of the black faced miner, listen to the call of the rescue team
    We have no water, light or bread!
    So we're living on songs and hope instead - we're living on songs and hope instead

    In the town of Springhill Nova Scotia, often the earth will tremble and roll
    When the earth is restless miners die

    Bone and blood is the price of coal

    We kept finding other songs to sing, anything to keep this cat awake. He was all over the place, and at one point, we went right off the road, over the shoulder, and bouncing down into a cow pasture. That’s when he finally decided to let me drive for a spell. We eventually made it to Nova Scotia, alive, which was a bonus!

    We decided to shoot for the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, way up on the northern tip of the province, and that’s where I finally caught up to “the light”, what I’d been looking for the whole journey. We were in the little fishing village of Cheticamp, getting ready to bunk down at the Youth Hostel there for the night. The young lady who ran the hostel had a look about her, something that just resonated with me, something I did not even begin to understand. But, as we were getting settled in, she came by to make sure we had everything we needed, and then she asked to speak with me in private. We went into another room, and there she just said to me, point blank, “I know what it is you’re looking for. You’ve found it. You don’t have to look anymore.” I didn’t understand any of it, but it rang true. I did feel like I had found whatever it was, and we just sat there quietly, for a good half an hour. I’d never experienced anything like it. There was no need for words, no tension, just sitting peacefully, and I felt a light inside, and that was it. Dave had all kinds of questions when I made it back to the bunk room, but I just smiled and told him everything was cool.

    The rest of the journey was pure glory. The light I’d felt at the top of the world, in Cheticamp, Nova Scotia, stayed with me all the way back down the other side of Nova Scotia, across the Bay of Fundy into Bar Harbor, Maine, down through Massachusetts, to New Jersey, and eventually down to my new ship in Norfolk, Virginia. I had been thoroughly cleansed, and everything was a new start, I had an unbridled optimism and suddenly felt young again, after having felt very old for my years, just a month earlier. It was an amazing feeling.
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