Postcard: Blue Aerogramme
"CAMERADO I GIVE YOU MY HAND/ WILL YOU GIVE ME YOURSELF/WILL YOU COME TRAVEL WITH ME/ SHALL WE STICK BY EACH OTHER AS LONG AS WE LIVE?" ...That’s Walt Whitman, from "Song of the Open Road."
My worst traveling companion turned out to be the woman I was most in love with. Funny how that works. You make a lot of pre-trip promises that come with the poetry of the territory, and then, you end up unraveling out west somewhere, because you're not comerados at all, you're just men and women, Walter. And men and women should never be on any open road together, if: she prefers making love in the Amsterdam youth hostel while I prefer making it to the U2 concert in Denmark.
T.C. and I lived together off and on for 6 years and, when Ronald Reagan got elected and we decided to miss his entire administration, as much as we could. So I drove a taxicab, she graduated grad school, and we took off to Europe.
We made sure to read Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, cuz we’d be biking through the Lake District of England, she’d go into a post-grad funk. You know, who am us? Why don’t I have a job yet? Oh yeah...I’m in Europe. – and through the Zen book I’d be able to show her how Pirsig writes: "The cycle you’re working on is really yourself.”
Meanwhile, European history progresses.
One day we’re hitchhiking in Scotland, and not getting along at all. So we’re standing like 50 yards from each other, she’s back there and I’m around the bend up here. Scots in between us are shearing sheep. But we could care less, we’re yelling at each other. Right, you become very relationship-focused when you travel in your 20s.
So Doctor McEwen, from Lumphaven picks us up and takes us through the Grampians which is the mountain range in Eastern Scotland nobody knows about because all anybody knows is "the HIGHLANDS THE HIGHLANDS!" Anyway all of a sudden the Doctor goes into this story of his life, about losing his daughter and then his wife, and he starts crying, and me and T.C. just look at each other in the backseat, and we start crying. Right there in his little Fiat in the middle of the Grampians of all places we’re BALLING.
As he dropped us off he told us not to cry, not to worry, not to quarrel, because we’re Young and it’ll all pass. (SCOTTISH ACCENT) "Don’t cry, don’t worry, and don’t quarrel cuz you’re young! and it will pass."
Hitching and Crying. It's a life.
I think when you travel you hear the heart talking, because two months later we’re still together – love can take you a ways – and we make it down to the island of Crete.
We’re still fighting, I’m reading by now The Colossus of Marousi by Henry Miller. It’s about the wondrousness of traveling, alone, thru Greece. And TC, she’s sitting on the window ledges in our penziones, smoking and threatening to jump. I don’t know, something about grad school, or something I DID, probably, its, or the fact that every guy named Costas is hitting on her.
Anyway, Henry Miller: "Left to his own resources, man always begins in the Greek way - a few goats, a rude hut, a patch of crops, a clump of olive trees, a running stream, a flute. Life is at its root embedded in simplicity, asserting itself uniquely."
Ahh? Ahh? So one night we’re in a kaffeneion in Heraklion, and we’re not getting along, but we’re with a new friend we’ve made called Spiros, he’s about 70, with this big bald wispy-hair Henry Miller head. Spiros toasts us with Cretan Rachi which is their homemade ouzo out there on the big island, he lifts his little glass and says:
"There is no paradise on earth my friends....The only paradise on earth...is friends."
So we start crying again, and that’s how we end up. Not Camerados, exactly. Just crying a lot. I remember one time I said to her, "Don’t cry. There’s nothing we can do," and she said, "I know, that’s why I’m crying."
I’m leaving a lot out of course, things that had to do me wanting to go to Turkey and she France, me getting arrested for robbing the National Bank of Greece, and she climbing out onto the ledge of another penzione in Buda, or was it Peste?
And sometimes, you know, she’ll call on Valentine’s Day. It’s the day we always broke up. Together 6 years and we broke up like every other Valentine’s Day. Very dramatic.
But when I think back on our trip to miss the Reagan years – even if only the first 16 months – we really were having the time of our lives, you know?
We picked grapes there on Crete for a while. Women pick, the men haul. Eleven hours sweating with old Greek grandmas and grandpas who need us because their own ungrateful children have emigrated to Australia to get rich running fish and chip outlets. The grandmas feed us hunks of feta, cucumbers and fried salty fish. Oreya!
One sun-drenched Cretan afternoon, in the middle of clipping a fat luscious bunch of stafilya under the steep vines, T.C. looked over at me and said, "Do you love me more for doing this?”
And I said, "Yes,"
And it was true. I did.
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