Friday, June 21, 2013

Digging dirt in New England

Friday, June 21, 2013

The last time I traveled north, I didn’t go as far as New England, just up the Hudson to Kingston, and a few miles west to Woodstock.
New England is as foreign to me as mars, although my father’s family came from East Boston, a place I need to visit before I die.
I made it to Boston with Garrick and Pauly one very rainy winter in the mid 1970s to help move a mutual friend who was going to attend art college there.
That was the year McDonald’s went on a sales pitch about getting your burger anyway you wanted it, and pissed off Pauly when we had to wait an hour to get it. That was also before the Sandinistas took over and drove out the rip off cattle ranches that allowed McDonald to sell beef cheap. But that’s a whole different direction.
Hank and I speculated about buying land upstate New York, or even in New Hampshire, were we might till the land and make our living digging dirt.
These days digging dirt in that part of the planet means something entirely different, but I still long for the peace of it.
I missed the gang’s trip to Nova Scotia – because I was on the west coast at the time. My family has roots there, too, from the con-artist that married by Great Great Grandfather just prior to his death and took off back to where she grew up in Nova Scotia with the lawyer and the family fortune.
My grandfather on my father’s side also married a woman from Nova Scotia – although she apparently resided elsewhere in New England before marrying him. So I suppose I should go to Nova Scotia before I die as well.
Hank, Rob, and Pauly made that trip in the summer of 1971 just after Hank broke up with Peggy, the love of his life, but managed to blaze a trail of love making the whole way up and back, once even abandoning Pauly and Rob at a broken down motel so he could go with a girl to a rock club miles away.
I remember hearing about the argument about whether or not to take a ferry or drive through New Hampshire, with Hank arguing for the longer driving route only to get outvoted and threatened if he didn’t take the ferry.
But even getting to Nova Scotia they still weren’t safe, getting lost at the top of some mountain where Hank tossed the keys out of the car into a field of grazing cows, while Rob hunted for the keys, Hank sat on the hood of the car singing, and Pauly with his tape recorder interviewed the cows. After digging dirt for a while, Rob eventually came up the keys and they went on their way, down into the mists, and back to civilization, the dirt of that hill top clinging to their heels.

All these years later, I still have the tape Pauly recorded on that trip, including the interviews with the cows. But I really want is to feel the dirt they dug, feeling it against my skin, thinking that if I can’t get there, at least I got to touch a bit of it before I die.

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