It was a very good year

1969

Pre-yuppie

Still sixties

Easy rider

No “chill” yet, big or otherwise

We thought that we could re-invent the world

Make a difference

That we could change the order of things

Not become part of some blue jean fashion revival

Nostalgically chic

Some twenty or forty years later

Helping sell bell bottoms and ties dies on Telegraph Avenue and Rodeo Drive

Before JFK, RFK, and MLK were Drives, Airports, and holidays

When they were just fallen leaders, grieved for by our nation

MLK Street Sign

 

Things weren’t so squeaky clean in ’69

like they were in ’49 or ’59

During McCarthy, the Red scare, and Ike Eisenhower

When everything was button downed and cookie-cutter conformity

When “Duck and cover” meant 6th grade air raid drills

and “water” was still for drinking; “gates” for opening and closing

Watergate

 

In ’69 we liked the dirt and grit of the road

We thrived on politics, protests, and fighting for civil rights

We knew “the times were a changin'”

No matter how George Will condemned us years later for being a “failed generation”

Whose “all you need is love” and “give peace a chance” were mere pie in the sky illusions of  “youthful idealism, self-indulgence, and immaturity”

 

1969_etravelswithetrules.com

I had been born for the year

I grew up at 1969 Valentines Road

I was always looking at the numbered sign post in our front yard

with the green holly and red berries all around it

always wondering “WHEN would that far off year ever come around?”

 

It was always 1952, 1955, 1958

When I was 11 years old, in the fifth grade

Waiting out front of our 3 bedroom ranch house in the New Yawk suburbs on Valentines Road

for Mis Lockeledge, my 5th grade teacher, to come driving by in her green and white ’56 Oldsmobile special

I’d jump up and down and give her a big wave and shout

“Hey! Miss Lockledge!”

And she’d give me a big smile and wave back

from under her red curly, Howdy Doody hair

It was so great

I was there every day to make sure she wouldn’t miss me

And she never did

because she saw pretty well with her tortoise shell specs

until one day we knocked them off her face with a flying red Converse All Star

Afterwards, I remember sitting in Principal O’Farrell’s office

My first run in with “the law”

but definitely not my last

 

Then it was finally 1960

We had a brand new, rust-colored, Chevy Impala station wagon

1960 Chevy Impala Station Wagon_etravelswithetrules.com

The one with the flat fins

Not the curved ones like the year before, ’59

But the cool flat ones

Like a rocket ship

The Impala became mine when I was old enough to drive

To take the guys to school

Or down to the beach

West End 2

Or to Nathan’s Original hot dogs in Long Beach

Nathan's Hot Dogs._etravelswithetrules.com

 

It was me who wasn’t very cool though

I got put in with the smart kids

With Nicky Blaustein who had eye glasses with Coke bottle lenses

and with all the other nerds

“Mom, please don’t make me do it!”

“It’ll be good for, son.”

And so it was

Because I had no voice or power of my own

 

Then it was 1965

when I finally graduated from W. Tresper Clarke High School

in Westbury, Long Island, New Yawk

and I went to UB, soon to become the State University of New York at Buffalo

where I was an unhappy collegiate camper for 4 years

never having a date, never having sex, always looking to fit in

where I didn’t turn out like I was supposed to

become “my son, the doctuh”

with a happy wife, 2.2 children and a 2 car garage

Instead I got an advanced degree in frisbee

Summa Cum Laude

With a minor in sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll (without the sex!)

Hippie Frisbee

 

Ya see, drugs weren’t so bad back then

And the cops weren’t so good (are they ever?)

We thought we could learn a few things from a little grass

and a little hash

We didn’t main line or “just say no”

Instead, we said “yes”

to alotta things

We “turned on, tuned in, and dropped out”

We opened our minds, expanded our consciousnesses, and thought we’d never look back

 

I had this poster on my college bedroom door in 1969

A picture of a 22 year old Dustin Hoffman from the movie, “The Graduate”

It asked in a very large font

“What’ll you do after you graduate?”

Good question

A lot of us wanted to know

Dustin Hoffman.the Graduate

 

We weren’t as smart or insecure as the kids today

We didn’t graduate with useless MBAs

to join the lines of the unemployed

or delay our enormous students loans

by moving back in with our parents

 

We guys just wanted to stay out of the draft

Keep away from the jungle called Viet Nam

It wasn’t until we saw the movies “Deer Hunter”, “Platoon”, and “Full Metal Jacket”

that we felt guilty for not laying our lives down for our country

Make Love Not War.Burn Draft cards_etravelswithetrules.com

 

We were born to wear white collars

Cocky young college kids

Who burned our draft cards

Or got high lottery numbers, like me, to avoid the draft when we graduated

Or if didn’t, we crossed the Canadian border

Or went to graduate school at the London School of Economics

We weren’t going to die in a war we didn’t believe in

We gambled that we’d be forgiven

Because we knew someone else was committing the crime

The “masters of war”, not us

So if you said “black”

We said “white”

Except in the case of race which most of us didn’t want to run

 

Are_You_Experienced.Hendrix

Jimmy Hendrix asked all us wanna be hippies, “Are you Experienced?”

But “No”, I wasn’t, although I desperately wanted to be

I was just a camp counselor for 10 year olds

Who sometimes inspected swimming pools over the summer for Nassau County

I’d never been anywhere

Never seen

anything

 

Then one day on The Bowery, living in the Om Zig loft

Finally having cut my painful childhood umbilical cord

I met curly Joe and I crooned

“You’ve seen everything

You’ve been everywhere

Texas, an’ Alabama, an’ Montana, an’ Washington State

I wanna be like you when I grow up

Like you and Bob, and Woody and Jack

And his “on the road” Neal fucking Cassidy

On the Road.Jack Kerouac

Tramping forth this great big US of A

Living on speed like Joe Shit, the Ragman

And dying of “exposure” some ten years later

next to a lonely, unmarked rail road track south of the border

Frozen solid by the elements like some hunk of beef left out over night

Too drunk or stoned to know the difference

Too many miles on the odometer

Like Jimi, or Janis, or Jimbo of the Doors

A world-wide celebrity even in his grave at Pere La Chaise cemetery in far off Pareeee

 

“I’m gonna see every city I ever heard of

I’m gonna stay there as long as I like

Take my 850 dollars that I saved up from my unwanted, miserable Bar Mitzvah

And I’m gonna meet people

I’m gonna do things

Drive really far

Really hard

Hit the road, Jack,

with no return in site

Travels with Wolfie.Road Trip_etravelswithetrules.com

Sure, I’m scared

So scared I can’t even talk

Hell, I lost my voice 3 months ago in the East Village

Dancing for the first time

Learning about my body for the first time

So introverted and scared I couldn’t even make a peep

But I’m hungry, ready to learn, ready to fly………..”

 

And so that’s how it was

on the first day of Spring, 1970

I was 22 years old

I had this 1964 blue Pontiac Tempest

with a green and brown, camouflage-painted, left year fender

And I was going to drive up and down this country like it was one big map

Herman Hesse.Steppenwolf

The Tempest’s name was “Steppenwolf”, or “Wolfie” for short

Named after Hesse’s novel or Credence’s song, maybe both

And he was my best friend

My only friend

And we were off to see the world

At least that part of it called “America”

All 50 states

At least the 48 on the mainland

 

We were gonna see The East Coast

the Confederate South

Fort Sumter, the Civil War, Uncle Tom’s Cabin

On top of Old Smokey, way down upon the Suwannee River

Selma, Montgomery, the Battle of New Orleans

Texas, the Alamo, the Wild West

The Mid-West, Kansas-Missouri

Mark Twain, the Mississippi

Huck Finn's raft

Honest Abe, Crazy Horse, and Geronimo

Davey Crockett, Wild Bill Hickok

Everyone and every place I soaked up in 11th grade history with crazy Miss Bandiero

Jellystone National Park

Mount Rushmore, the Badlands of South Dakota

And “there’s gold in them thar hills”

All the way to Summer of Love Cal-ee-fornia!

 

 I wanted to see it All

To do it All

I’d been saving up a long time

I was a volcano ready to explode

I had seeds to sow

Places to go

Years to grow

 

But what first?

“Which way, Wolfie?”

Rand McNally Road Atlas

I bought me this map

A 1970 Rand McNally “Road Atlas of the United States”

Big and thick

Like a 24 inch baloney sandwich

You take a long time to eat it

One bite at a time

One road, one page at a time

A lot to digest

 

“Maybe I should just blindfold myself

And take a stab at it?

Whataya think, Wolfie?

You know, like wherever my finger lands

That’s where’ we’ll go first?

bismarck_etravelswithetrules.com

But what if it lands on Bismarck, North Dakota?

Not only will it be cold, bleak, boring, and depressing

But how will we get there?

I mean, from New York?

Without driving through Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, and Minneapolis

Not to mention all the other places along the way?

 

No

Seems like a better plan

A more orderly one

To see the great country one city at a time

Starting south

Or at least, heading off in a southerly direction”

interstate_95_map_etravelswithetrules.com

So…

that’s how it was

I got into the Wolf

And headed off into my first sunset

Spring, 1970

To my first destination

Baltimore, Maryland

Home of the Orioles

And many other birds I had never met before…………

Baltimore.Oriole_etravelswithetrules.com