Sunday, April 13, 2014

April, 1971: First time in Scranton

The only reason we headed to Scranton that spring day in 1971 was because we knew half way up into the Ponoco’s along Route 80, we would never make it to Portland in our home made camper.
It we could not get this big wooden box over the sloped edge of these low mountains in the east, how could we expect to get it over the steep Rockies out west?
Even on these smooth roads rising out of the Delaware Water Gap the wind blew us from lane to lane. So we pulled over onto the side of the highway, unfolded a map, and looked for large swatches of yellow that indicated large population areas.
We did not want to get stuck out in a rural area after what we had encountered in similar landscape of Northern California. Even this late, some people in this part of the world still hated hippies.
Even then, we drove north warily, remembering a from a week earlier the New York State cop that had rousted us at a rest stop for our sleeping there over night on our way back from the Canadian border. And that was allegedly more hippie friendly New York.
Pennsylvania, we figured, was bound to be worse.
But it didn’t feel bad as we rolled up and down the rolling hills that led into the east side of Scranton. It felt refreshing after having lived in the cluttered Lower East Side for the last six months, even though I was stuck in the back of the box for most of the trip, peeping out the back door at the road we’d already traversed.
We barely made the trip up the hill to the final drop into Scranton, stopping at the look out to ponder our chances and to debate whether we should heed the warning signs that claimed no trucks should try and make the descent.
Just to get there, we had to get out and walk beside the truck as it struggled up to that last peak. Riding down would be more like rolling a stone, and we were not sure the brakes would hold and we could stop once we started rolling.
But they held, and when we reached less steep landscape, I saw two and three family houses along either side.
Mike, Marie, Louise and the baby road in the cab of our strange pick up and camper, and so got to see the whole journey I only saw in reverse.
Mike, who did nearly all the driving at this point, pulled over several times to talk to freaks he spotted on the street. At one point, Louise came into the back with the baby and so leaving us both to lean out to listen to what was said, debating if we should be involved in the discussion. But it had been a rough trip on the baby already, and she was finally asleep, and so we waited until Mike’s face appeared at the door.
He was a shy man really, despite making the FBI’s most wanted list for a week or so (and later would get that distinction again when the feds ran out of killers and rapists, and had to settle for non-political rebels to hunt,) and angry rebel who had already lived his life in frustration and hadn’t yet reached the unbearable and untrustworthy age of 30 (he must have been 25 then.)
He grinned at us, and told us that he had found someone who might be willing to trade an old car for our box on wheels, a vehicle that might manage the next 2,900 miles to Portland, when the box clearly could not. He said these people would also allow us to spend a few days at their place if we wanted to rest after the grueling first hundred miles of our trip west.
Louise, being concerned about the baby, said we should. She looked so much like the Madonna with Christ Child at that moment, I could not decline, even though I had some doubts.

I did not know that this town, this amazing haven in the hills of northern Pennsylvania would loom so largely in the future, and that it would become a place of refuge later, and a place to which I would come often, sometimes in extreme joy, sometimes in utter misery, but always leaving me changed.

No comments:

Post a Comment