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  • Well I rode a while, for a mile or so
    Down the road to the eighteenth avenue
    And the people I saw were the people I know
    And they all came down to take a view

    it stung my tongue to repeat the words
    That I used to use only yesterday
    Meanings just dropped to the ground
    I tried to remember what I thought
    And what I used to say

    "Don't let me go down" - no don't let me go
    Oh my hands were tied as I struggled inside
    The empty waste of another day
    Memories were blank to my eyes

    The fire and the glory of that night
    Seemed safely locked away
    Too hungry to rise. Too hungry to …

    But my head felt better as I turned the car
    One mile said the sign
    Made it just in time, boy you've made it just in time!

    - Cat Stevens, from “18th Avenue”
    My life is changing in so many ways - I don’t know who to trust anymore
    There’s a shadow running through my days - Like a beggar going from door to door

    - Neil Young, from “A Man Needs a Maid”
    The discovery that Jean had felt the way I had, had felt the love growing up between us, but that I would probably never see her again, was simply devestating to me. It was like the revelations with Martha, just a few weeks earlier. I suppose that, up until that moment, I had still been holding out some hope for love in my life. With Martha, I had taken my shot for the Big Love – the love I’d held onto with the seemingly impossible hope for all those years that it could someday come to fruition. That shot had fallen short, that Big Love now extinguished, gone forever.

    Now this fresh new love - this innocent, beautiful seeming gift from the gods - or wherever it was that this angel, Jean, had materialized into my life from. She had carried me away from Norfolk, halfway across the country to begin my journey to freedom - then, just as suddenly as she had materialized, she had simply vanished - and now she too was gone from my life, love gone forever.

    Both women had acknowledged that love was really there, that it wasn’t just me hallucinating about it or succumbing to some fantasy –they had been real, but love could not be mine. Just a big, gigantic tease.
  • I’d had the werewithal to stand up to the oppression of a despotic, demonic captain, and to do what I’d had to do to get away from him and his ship. I’d managed to survive two harrowing months on the road, thousands of miles from home without a penny to my name, running from the law, running to my freedom, doing what I had to do to get through it. I’d survived two days in the seeming fires of hell itself, the San Francisco City Felon Tank. I’d emerged from it all, smiling and victorious, freedom in my hands, with my whole life laid out before me, plans for the future, good plans, a plan to make something of myself, to enjoy my hard-won freedom. I’d rediscovered, or maybe discovered for the first time, my creativity, my writing, and I had been writing up a storm through it all, like a modern day Jack Kerouac, a traveling hobo like Woody Guthrie, bound for glory.

    But losing love, again, had left me with a feeling of despair and hopelessness. In that moment, sitting there with Harry, my old drinking buddy from the wild days when I’d just returned from the cruise from hell and had to blow off seven months worth of steam, there was only one thing to do. Get wasted. Harry was always up to getting a good load on, and I just wanted to lose myself and my fresh heartbreak in a good, hard night of partying, and then get on with my life. I needed it to soothe the hurt, the loss, the unfairness of it all. Getting loaded had always been my friend in that way, taking the rough edges off of life, welcoming me with it’s open arms, cradling me in the oblivion of forgetting. I needed that now, more than ever.

    And, I did – I went out with Harry and got blasted, hit all the joints along the strip like we used to hit together, tried to pick up some ladies - but my heart just wasn’t in it like before. I wasn’t feeling wild, I didn’t have that steam to blow off, I didn’t have a raging beast inside to quell. I just felt defeated. I drank and got high and sank deep into myself. Harry thought I was kind of a drag and told me so, but he was a good friend, and was bound and determined to help me snap out of it. But, there was no snapping for me. The old tricks no longer worked. I thanked Harry for trying, but just felt like I needed to lick my wounds, and get back to my life.
  • I made my way to my old apartment near the beach, where my old roommate, Dave, was still living. He was there, and glad to see me. I told him all about my journey, my road to freedom, then we got high together, and I crashed on his sofa. While I was crashed there, a good old buddy from my ship came by. He had heard that Pete was back in town, and wondered if Dave had seen him, yet. Dave nodded to the pile of clothing and flesh crashed out on the sofa, which Mike hadn’t seen when he came in, and Mike looked over and laughed. “Oh - there’s Pete!”

    Mike and I had become good friends, especially on the long cruise. We had an unlikely friendship. Mike was as straight as they come – he never drank or got high. He had three basic things in life that he liked – Jeeps, Pepsi-cola, and Bob Dylan. The latter had been our initial common ground. As we stood watches together, down in the lower level of the engine room, on the cruise, we would talk for hours about Dylan songs. Mike also read a lot, and on that cruise, I had become an avid reader, reading 75 books. We talked for hours about the books we were reading. We just had a great chemistry between us, and his friendship, as much or maybe even more than Dave’s fabulous blonde hash, and friendship, had helped me make it through that interminable cruise from hell.

    Mike had heard all about my exploits – he knew I’d gone AWOL, how I’d wound up at Treasure Island, and how I’d managed to get an honorable discharge at the end of it all. Now, he too, wanted to make that run to freedom. He had different motivations than I had – he just hated the heat of the engine room on a ship. He wanted out – couldn’t take two more years of it, and wanted freedom from the heat.

    He had a Jeep – of course! – and planned to drive cross country, taking his time, taking the back roads, to kill off the thirty days one needed to be gone for, to ensure you didn’t get returned to the ship. “Want to come with me, Pete?” he offered. I don’t think I hesitated – “Yes! I need to get the hell out of Dodge – there’s nothing for me here, now. I need to get back out there.” This would be my way back to my dream of life after the Navy, back to my California dream. Things couldn’t have worked out better for me. And, I’d be helping my good buddy out, his guide on the road to freedom. Leading, in my own way. Perfect!

    I felt a little bit like the Pied Piper of Freedom. Late on the night of July 31st, 1977, we climbed into Mike’s Jeep, and I was back on the road! I felt like I'd made it out of Norfolk just in time! That glimpse into despair and hopelessness had really scared the hell out of me.
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