Sunday, November 25, 2012
An education from the Road.
Most folks I know have a hard time learning in a structured environment like a classroom. Me included. I didn't struggle in class but I damn sure didn't pay attention. I could not have cared less. I can remember many a night sitting on one end of my bunk and staring at a stack of books on the other end. I had no concern for what was in those books. I was more interested in what was coming over the radio and teletype. Ya. You read that right.. I spent a lot of my teenage nights in a jail cell. My dad had two jobs when I was growning up. He was the preacher at our local Baptist church and he was also the graveyard shift dispatcher for the County Sheriff Dept. He had my best interest's at heart and he was a Man of old methods. In an attempt to keep me from the troubled path that I was on he would take me to work with him and lock me up. Please understand this.. I don't hold any of that against him. He did the best that he could do and any little scabs he might of put on me as a boy I have covered over with my own self imposed, life long mental scars. He can sleep in heavanly peace knowing that I hold nothing against him.
I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have learned more from living than I ever learned from a bound book. If I needed to know it then I learned it. It has been seldom in my life that I hired someone to do work for me. I'd rather learn and do for myself.. I am sitting in a room I built. From foundation to roof I have a sense of pride that cannot be bought or given. These are the things that have given MAN pride for thousands of years. I understand that. Now I'd like to share with you another great truth in my life. That sound pompous as hell but bear with me. I think you will understand.. I think it is a common thing that we have. It is a quest for understanding ...
East bound. Interstate-76. more than a few years ago. Fighting traffic and wishing I had a jousting stick.. Whoever called this the city of brotherly love must have been an old bastard. I recall that he made the first set of bifocals and have often wondered... Which came first, the name for Philadelphia or clear vision.???
Riding along the Delaware River. Thinking about a powdered headed General and his rag tag Army crossing that river in the death of winter in a boat.. I'm thinking that there has to be a bridge soon.. In 1957 some rich folks got together and spent your tax money and built a bridge.. They were probably drunken, no good politicians of the lowest order but today I was happy for the bridge that they had built.. Two things stuck in my mind as I crossed that bridge... The road signs had me asking more questions than they were giving answers.. What kind of name is Gloucester city.? whats it mean.? how the hell is that pronounced.? and the other question was,,, Who is Walt Whitman.? How important do you have to be to get a bridge named after you.? Does it matter that the bridge goes from Asshole, Pennsylvania to Asshole, New Jersey.? Was this guys name like Dr. Samuel Mudd.?
I crossed that bridge and took the first right. I needed to get my head right and my finger of the trigger so I pulled into a trailer terminal under the bridge. With some club crackers and Vienna sausage, I sat there and admired the underside of The Walt Whitman Memorial Bridge. Back on the road and a better frame of mind I rolled on into Atlantic city and nothing else can be said about that trip.. I know.. cold ending. Let yer mind run wild.. My tongue won't.. lol.
Not long after that trip I was spending some time in the public library in Daytona.. Those that know it know that its not a bad place to be. From Beach St. you just cross a little walking bridge and you are there on an island surrounded by the inter-coastal waterway. Short story.. I was living on the beach at The Ledo Beach Hotel. Went to pay my weekly rent and found out because of Speed Week my rent had went from $149 a week to $600 for the week.. Yup. I was homeless. I spent a lot of time at the library and the minor league ball field.. At the library I met a man.. A Poet named Walt Whitman. I read about his Leaves of grass and I learned about his Song of Myself. Fate had put me at this place. at this time. with nothing but time.. I read all that I could and I came to an understanding. I learned from his writings how grand we are as individuals. I learned about how common we are to each other. I learned that I am not special and that all that I have seen, done or learned everybody before me has suffered, experienced or known. I learned that there is nothing new and from that I drew comfort.
I'm not gonna tell you that this one guy changed my life and he is the reason that I am the way I am.. But from his writings I have found a way to look at things differently than I did before.. I now have a sense of common ground with all the people that I encounter. I now know that when I light a cigarette in public, if a person approaches me I can offer them a smoke before they ask. That simple act alone has told that person that I understand and we have that in common. Now we can move forward into finding out what he really needs. Walt Whitman taught me that. He had a knarley beard and in my book that would have been reason enough to name a bridge after him. Could be that is what them drunk, crooked politicians were thinkin when they named that bridge after him...
Skip forward more than a few yrs. I'm riding north of Boston on 95.. I'm thinking of a girl I had met in a bar back in the late 80's. She had played a large part in keeping my ex-wife at a distance by letting her know that she was a practicing Wiccan. I didn't remember much about her other than she felt that I had given her the greatest honor by allowing her to give me a blowjob. I also remembered that all the witches came from Salem, Mass. North bound and rollin. I see an exit sign for Gloucester. Diggin on the exit ramp and I'm trying to remember why that name is in my mind.. Ya. Thats that shit hole trailer terminal on the Jersey side of the Walt Whitman Memorial Bridge.. My mind is clickin like a chain on a sprocket now... If that was Gloucester City,, this Gloucester must be its namesake.. Hahaha. I'm such a dumbass. I twist on and find my way into the sleepy villiage of Gloucester, Mass. Past the Gordons Seafood Company. I find a neon sign that has welcomed me in many places..
A flashing "Open" sign gets me every time. I walked into a bar that every man in America has been to or at least heard of.. Old walnut. Smoked stained enough that you wanted your beer in a bottle and a silver haired, grandma for a bartender.. The sun was still up high so I really wasn't expecting the A-team. What I found was an education. "What'll ya have".? Bud. My drink came with a question.. "Have you heard the story.?" Pardon me..?? " Have you heard the story.?" This is the moment that I realized that I was on a new planet and that it was my responsibility to learn the local language... "Ma'am. I am not from here and I ain't got a clue what the hell you are talkin about..." She smiled in a knowing way that I will forever remember. She ragged the dust out of two shot glasses. filled them from a dark bottle and said, " I've got a story you might like to hear.".
In October of 1991 a fishing boat named the Andrea Gail returned to dock in Gloucester, Mass. after a small haul. The Captain of that boat convinced his crew of the dollars to be had on a quick turn.. She shared with me the story of the men and the women that they loved. She told me this story with the pain of a survivor. Not the tone of a person that heard it third person. Her name was Ms. Ethel. The same as my mothers. I listened with the wide eyes of a child. We drank from that brown jug and she popped the filters off my Marlboro's like it was a carney trick.. "I don't care if you are 300 pounds,, smoke like a man". Ms. Ethel was relieved around dusk and I figured out at that moment that she was not an employee. There was no counting till or inventory.. The push-up bra took over and didn't ask any questions.. And Ms. Ethel said. "lets go for a walk". She took me on a tour of Gloucester pointing out all the places and telling me of all the things. We walked down on the dock and she told me of her families history. She pointed out the Widows peek and told me of the men who had been lost and the women who had mourned. I am a sucker for local culture. I was chin deep into the story that this old bird was sharing with me.. I was feeling every bit of it. We walked back to the Crow's Nest and at the door she opened for me she stuck her head in and said, "make this one pay double". as she slapped me on the back with enough force to send me over the threshold. My money was no good it that bar for the rest of the night.. Drunk as Cooter Brown is no comparison.
I had a time and I think they did as well.
Fast forward to my fuzzy slippers. I'm Home in Tennessee and my lovely wife brings me a paperback book called The Perfect Storm. She said that it sounded a lot like a story that I had told her before. As I read that book I remembered the story that I had told to me by that ole bird. Here is how this breaks down.. A lady took the time to share with me a local story.. Years later, I'm given a book about that story... Years later.. I go and see the movie in the theater..
Oh ya.. I learned that Gloucester ain't pronounced the way it is spelled.. I think they do that to identify those of us that ain't local..
until we meet again.
Posted by I AM DON WOOD at 3:01 AM