The Spitfire… -
With over three thousand dollars in the bank the first thing I did when I hit the beach was sell the clunky Ford sedan and buy a midnight blue 1969 Triumph Spitfire Mk III. With a 1300cc in line four cylinder engine, it looked much faster than it was but for its day it was pretty quick, getting up to 60 mph in about thirteen seconds, with a top speed of ninety-five mph. According to the speedometer I actually hit a hundred and five on a downhill grade with the wind at my back and with the spike in gas prices due to the Arab Oil Embargo perhaps the best thing about the little beast was its average fuel consumption of 33mpg. It was the perfect car for my road trip.
… Detour … - After a bit of work and a new top, a belated birthday present from my folks, I tossed my back pack and sleeping bag into the trunk and set out on my first grown up vacation in third week of November. My first stop was Sweet Briar College in Virginia where I was due to hook up with Jude Norris for Thanksgiving break. Since I had over a week to get there, I took my time driving the back roads with the top down enjoying the rural countryside of Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee. Whenever it got dark and cold, I’d pull over, grab a bite at some greasy spoon and then find a campground in some local state park, build myself a nice fire, roll out the sleeping bag and enjoy the autumn nights under the stars. The weather was with me and I never had to stay in a motel. Everything was going great until I hit a detour in the Great Smoky Mountains in east Tennessee.
It was familiar country to me, as my family had driven up north and down south through the Smokey’s several times when we lived in Florida, but the road I’d chosen was a state highway off the beaten path and with only one day left to meet up with Jude, I ran into a detour. The flagman directed us to the left where a rough one lane gravel road descended from the highway into what mountain folk refer to as a “holler,” which is a small valley or hollow formed by a stream bed. It was stop and go as the flagmen directed traffic in both directions and after I surrendered to the inevitability of my situation I smoked cigarettes and enjoyed the spectacular scenery.
With the autumn foliage in glorious color and fording the shallow creek bed at several turns…
…that detour proved to be a two hour epiphany, one of the most memorable and pleasant experiences of the entire trip. Back on the asphalt two lane road; I made pretty good time whipping through the mountain curves but it was cold and dark and starting to snow in the Shenandoah Valley in western Virginia. I pulled over and put up the top, then about thirty miles northwest when I got to Roanoke, the clouds broke up and I was treated to another epiphany.
I pulled over at a greasy spoon, bought a giant cup of coffee to go, dropped the top, threw on a watch cap, heavy coat and gloves and drove the rest of the way to Sweet Briar in the enchanted landscape of moonlit snow.
… Sweet Briar, Art History… - Much to Jude’s relief I arrived around eight that night and after greetings, hugs and kisses I signed into the visitors’ dorm, where I’d be spending the next two nights with a few other young dudes. Now I’d never been to a women’s college and for me it was an experience to be remembered. The next morning, we met for breakfast at Jude’s dorm where I was appraised and approved by several giddy young ladies. Jude had only one morning class, Art History and I tagged along. The professor was a woman in her thirties who was perfunctorily running down the list of Italian renaissance masters. She had a slide show of all the art and architecture, but aside from the art there really wasn’t much real history to her lecture. Students were encouraged to ask questions but again there wasn’t much depth to their inquiry. When she put up this slide of Donatello’s David, I raised my hand.
“Interesting that you chose the small bronze,” I said, “It’s by far my favorite over the large piece at the Bargello in Florence. Can you tell us if there’s any truth the rumor that the model for the piece was a Medici nephew and Donatello’s paramour?”
The professor was somewhat taken aback but when she heard titters coming from the back of the room, she gathered herself up, “As I said the piece is famous because it was the first known free-standing nude statue produced since the Roman Empire. Some people look at it as proof that Donatello was revealing his homosexuality, but there are no verified details of his relationships so that interpretation is pure speculation.”
After class Jude said, “Wow, how did you know about that?”
I laughed and said, “I taught myself how to draw from Da Vinci and Michelangelo, and they followed sixty years after Donatello. There’s a helluva lot more to art history than sculpture and paintings.”
We played a few sets of tennis that afternoon and, despite her years of lessons and amateur tournament competition, I won as usual. It made her crazy that I’d never taken lessons, ran around my backhand and still managed to beat her in straight sets.
With the last classes finished the wanton women of Sweet Briar broke out the wine and went wild! Apparently the hormone levels at women’s colleges tend to swell as holiday breaks approach.
…Primal Sex, Thanksgiving at Duke and Rajesh - The next morning was pleasantly sunny and we set out for Durham, North Carolina where we were going to hook up with some Texan friends of Jude’s at Duke University for a Thanksgiving feast.
We stopped in Lynchburg, had a hearty breakfast and continued to cruise along the back roads with the top down until neither one of us could stand it any more and we pulled into a little state park where we found a deserted picnic spot. After a quick hike up a creek bed to escape any prying eyes, we improvised a bed of dried leaves and had our way with each other. After four months off shore with nothing but my left hand, I was more than ready and it was so nice that we did it twice. I’d often enjoyed sex in the open countryside around Austin and the woods of Virginia proved to have the same primordial effect. For any readers who have not experienced the pleasure of copulating au natural, let me say that no matter the season, it is a powerfully primal experience. Jude and I developed a taste for it that we pursued at every opportunity throughout our relationship.
Sated for the moment, we got back on the road and within a few hours we arrived at Duke University where we were greeted with cold beer and Texmex for lunch. I was kind of excited to visit Duke because of their parapsychology research. From 1930 to 1965 there was a Department of Parapsychology on campus, but like the boys in Ghostbusters, they got a bit out of hand and so they were shuffled off to an old house just across the street. I’d dabbled with the Tarot myself and I was interested in finding out what they were up to.
So while Jude caught up with her friends in the dorm, I walked across campus to find the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man. I arrived in the late afternoon and rang the doorbell a couple three times. No one answered so I turned around on the porch and started to walk away when a plump hippy looking dude in his late twenties or early thirties opened the door. He apologized because he’d been on the phone and no one else had answered my ring. He introduced himself (I cannot recall his name, so I’ll call him George) and invited me in where we stood in the foyer while I asked about how they were researching psi, the unknown factor in extrasensory perception and psychokinesis experiences that is not explained by known physical or biological mechanisms. He explained the experiments with Zener Cards and such…
…and then he directed my attention to their recently improved gadget a digital random number generator with six LED’s that displayed any number up to 999999.
George demonstrated by pressing a red button and in an instant a number appeared on the LED’s, and then he told me to push the button and see if I could display a bigger number. I did and it did. As we continued to alternately push the red button he casually explained how this new improved tool was used to demonstrate potential for psychokinesis and every time, for over a dozen times, the number flashed higher when I pushed the button. “Do me a favor,” he said, ‘Close your eyes and let’s try this ten more times.”
I placed my finger next to the button, closed my eyes and each time he told me to press the button I complied. After the tenth number came up I opened my eyes and the guy was staring at me with a funny look in his eye. “Would you consider joining us as a test subject,” he asked, “We can only offer a small stipend, but it appears that you’re testing positive for psychokinetic ability.”
I wasn’t surprised but I chuckled and said, “I’m only here for a couple of days and then I have to get on down the road. I’ve got places to go and people to see.”
George handed me a business card and said, “If you can find the time, please call me. I think you might be a potential asset for our research here.”
I took his card and put it in my wallet, “I doubt I’ll be coming back this way, but if I do, I might be interested.”
With that I was about to take my leave when a thin gentleman of Indian extraction came down the stairs and asked, “Is this a new recruit, George?”
“Not sure,” he answered, “Perhaps you can persuade him.”
George introduced us and Rajesh turned out to be the resident expert reader of reincarnation. Born in Trinidad, he was a very pleasant and gentle fellow of some age over forty who resembled a young Ghandi when he was a lawyer in South Africa and London.
“Well then let’s see what’s what,” said Rajesh, “Do you read people?”
“No I try to read their cards,” I answered. “Excellent,” he said, “We have all kinds of cards here – playing cards, Tarot cards, Zener cards, which do you prefer?”
“I use the Rider-Waite deck,” I said and with instructions to George to find a Tarot deck, Rajesh led me to another room off the kitchen where we sat down to read one another. “Do me first,” he said, “Let us see what the cards reveal?”
George appeared with a well used deck and after Rajesh shuffled and cut the cards according to my instruction, I did the standard ten card Celtic spread.
I’d been reading Tarot for over five years and I had never seen cards like those that came up for Rajesh, nothing but Aces and powerful mystic cards of the Greater Arcana without a negative card of any kind. I read the cards as best I knew how, but to tell the truth I didn’t really have a feeling of connection with him and I told him so. He laughed and said, “That’s okay, it was a very good reading. I can be very confusing to a lot of people. Now, let me read you. Do you have a coin?”
I reached into my pocket and pulled out some change. “Very good,” he said, “Now hold that quarter in both hands and try to stop thinking. When you’ve cleared your mind, drop the coin into my hands.”
I closed my eyes and regulated my breathing as I’d been taught in the yoga classes we had at the Odyssey and when I was centered in the time and place of the present I dropped the coin into his hands. I opened my eyes to see his smiling face and he giggled. “You know yoga,” he said, “Not what I expected from such a fierce young man.”
He pressed the quarter between the palms of his hands, closed his eyes and when he was ready, he clapped his hands and allowed the coin to drop to the table. “So much more than I imagined,” he said as he began with generic descriptions of the tumult and chaotic twists and turns of my life, then he became more specific about the violence and craziness in my family. Although it was still in a generic vein, it made me pay closer attention. I was impressed that he didn’t look for confirmation, but continued to address me in a matter of fact manner that was more narrative than dramatic stream of consciousness. What I remember most clearly were two points of specificity when he raised his finger and said, “… you were a fugitive, and unjustly accused of a crime, but now you’re free of that burden and trying to reclaim your life.”
Later on he said, “You’ve had your heart broken many times and that is why you have no trust for people. Some time in the next few years, your heart will be broken again, worse than ever before and that will drive you into madness. Your recovery will give you new strength and over time from what you learn, you will become a great teacher.”
Broken hearts and crazy I could understand, but teaching? I could barely find my butt with both hands, what the hell could I teach anyone? I said as much in more polite language and Rajesh giggled again, “What we learn from books and classrooms has no value unless we use what we learn from life as well. The best teachers speak from the experience of their hearts. All others are ineffectual pedagogues. Everything worth knowing can be found in the eyes of a child.”
At the time I still didn’t expect to live to see my thirtieth birthday and I couldn’t imagine the thousands of different people that I would train in my professional life or that one day I would teach a six year old California kid from the ‘burbs how to walk in the woods without falling down in the mud.
Except for attributed photos and text, all content is copyrighted © 2015 JKM (an apparently ineffectual boilerplate joke