my years at the soul-less water moccasin camp were taking their toll. the reptiles they enlisted as my teachers didn't know what to make of me. i was smart enough to fake my way through with decent grades and the tiny thread of sanity that clung to my marionette back made me glide by my profs' subconsciousness, scaring them or, in some weird way, making them feel that i was somehow their adult equal, so they chose to look the other way, dumbfounded.
as time passed my tail was beginning to point and wag. the only problem was that since the great flood my family forest had turned into a dismal swamp, and i had become stranded on a waterlogged stump hundreds of miles from nary a dry spot, dontcha know. it seemed that thunderclouds from all over the world gathered above my bog to gaze at their murky reflections. narcissistic mist mongers! then, from between the scattered lily pads blossomed a lotus, sweet and radiant. this fragrant flower shattered the stereotype of a 'heaven above', revealing a 'heaven all around' as she shot toward the sky, prying apart the storm clouds and raining her petals down over me and my swamp providing me with a stable and dazzling pathway to the shore. i was free. i devoted myself to yoga, self-hypnosis, and meditation and left all thoughts of the academy behind. with a diploma in depression, british music from the sixties, and monty python's flying circus i walked away from andover high school forever.
it wasn't for almost another year that i would walk away from my childhood.
one very very cold february night in a dark parking lot in albany, NY a girl i wanted to love (the girl who always said, "woow" as her eyes would open wider and brighter than the red hurricane on jupiter) accidentally squirty squirted a whole glass straw full of liquid dreams into my mouth. fifteen minutes after i had gargled with it and finished swallowing it down she hopped away replacing her usual 'woow' with a giant 'woops!'.
for hours and hours i relived my past and my future...my present, i was convinced, was a bleak one. the hours were really the one split second i had to decide if i wanted to live or die, because, as i believed, i was on the side of the road with my head split open from a motorcycle accident i had somehow managed to have without actually having. i chose to live, and when my starry eyed deserter girl found me my skull was intact and, in fact, i looked quite dashing with a multi-coloured quilt wrapped over my head like a wise old gypsy...gazing into the crystal pollution ball of whatever river runs through that overblown sidewalk called albany. she drove us home and the very next day i strapped a small suitcase and a rolled up sleeping bag on the back of my motorcycle and headed down the highway to the open universe of the university my friends had gone to in amherst.
ahh...it was free. it was like that fruity garden in that big book with all the metaphors and slippery language, and rotten apples. naked people massaging each other...a roomful of tripped out cynical hippies cheering for two of our friends who were proudly making love for the crowd and the pleasure. in the echoey stairwells i spent days and nights singing my songs and borrowing ones by the moody blues, beatles, syd barrett, and donovan. i learned so much from this time in the dorm, but i also missed out on so much else. i loved a girl there...
after three or so years i heard the cornfields of sunderland asking me to live with them. so i did. oh, the lovely 'farmhouse'. barns, fields, a pond, an empty five story tall grain silo with a great blue tin cataract as its roof, jimson weed, morning glories, gallons of wine, even more beer, even more whiskey, and bad bad bad relationship karma taking hold! gotta gotta get out!! beautiful, but dangerous and crazy.
i knew what i had to do and that was drive away again. this time in my little yellow volkswagen rabbit. california or bust. santa cruz was no fun and the apartments were expensive...my california gold rush had yielded no treasure, and all i was left with was a bad sunburn, huge dilated pupils, no money, and a girl i had warned not to come with me (she had pleaded and cried and in the end my spine fell like her tears). we headed south. where to go?
i thought the perfect place to go would be a place called avalon. this was fitting because the roxy music album of the same name had always been one of my favorites, and ... as i had had the revelation (when i was thirteen) that i was the reincarnated soul of king arthur, it seemed the likely end and completion of something. i was excited to have found such a place... there we were on the ferry (another roxy music pun!) thinking about the new lives we would have there. the 'blue lagoon' life on the quiet side of the island where they had real buffalo! i was sure we would dive for pearls and make friends with seals and lobsters, and drink coconut wine, and let our bodies become canvases for the sun and its tubes of amber and raw umber paints.
whamm! avalon was a fat rich man's hemmingway of a tourist trap. where the rum cost more than your bail. (maybe they didn't even have a jail, though, because as we know, rich people never go to prison)
we were warned that our 'blue lagoon' was not to be found here. sad and dejected i whimpered onto the ferry headed back to california proper. now where to go? we headed south again.
those happy go lucky californians must have seen my massachusetts license plate and wanted to make us feel at home...they treated us to some good ole east coast crime. they broke into my car in encinitas and stole my immaculate birds-eye maple acoustic guitar and most of our luggage while we were at the beach. luckily, my electric guitar was back at the condo of a wiry haired avant-garde hunter s. thompson type fellow who was nice enough to let us stay with him and his jacuzzi. i didn't want to take advantage of his hospitality so i looked for an apartment and a job in san diego...i kept looking up from my newspaper and between drops of sticky sweat i saw san diego as a filthy sweltering cesspool, and the air burned my nostrils as my chest heaved with dread. (maybe san diego's nice, as i've been told, but i was broken and didn't see it) all the apartments were outrageously priced and i had just left a meaningless job back in the not so common commonwealth. what the hell?!!!
on the same page as the tombs for rent i noticed a little ad that boasted, 'one way to hawaii-$99!'. there was no choice and not a moment to waste with rational thought. i sold my thousand dollar vintage 1967 gibson es335 guitar for $300 and my car to 'gonzo' for $100 and we're off to sunny old hawaii to find 'blue lagoon' for sure this time! aloha!
honolulu was a doozy! "excuse me, sir, which way to my own private paradise?". the city was big and intimidating. we just got on any bus to get out of there and ended up in a very dangerous hawaiian slum, and, by now, our santa cruz sunburn had peeled off, making us walking cape cod lighthouses. we decided hitching out of there was the only solution. back in the tourist part of the city i remembered a friend who was supposedly going to grad school there so i gave him a ring. he put us up for the night and pointed us in the direction of 'blue lagoon'...the napali coast on the island of kauai!
with makeshift back-packs and muddy k-mart boots my soggy feet slip-slided up and down the steep cliffs of the napali coast. instead of 'blue lagoon' we ended up playing 'lord of the flies' with a couple of pot growing vietnam vets living in a camouflaged camp on the side of one of the cliffs. after seeing them spend a whole month's check from the unsuspecting government on margaritas for us and keystone light beer for themselves i knew something wasn't right. i became ever more aware that they were greedily eyeing my youth and innocence and, no doubt my sexy companion. one morning before the sun rose the girl and i slid down the mountain straight to the airport and flew to the 'big island' with less than a hundred dollars in my pocket.
as luck would have it, 'blue lagoon' was to be found on a cliff overlooking a nude black sand beach named 'kehena' (bay of the dolphins...and there were loads of 'em). our tent was planted on a soft rust coloured bed of pine needles under a mix of majestic coconut palms and gentle fir trees. the waves crashing against the cliff rocked us to sleep every night. my days were spent swimming in the nude and soaking in as much sun and warmth as i could to try to replace the cold dark that had snaked its way into my open heart. food was abundant...falling off the trees literally...mangoes, papayas, avocados, passion fruit, guavas... and other fruits i had never even heard of! i would also pluck shellfish from the rocks and eat them raw for some gourmet protein...and the animal inside me roared with delight...i was all natural. in fact, i had even stopped drinking, because, apart from the obvious reason of not having ANY money, there was no point...everything was so beautiful!
after a few months we found ourselves living on the side of another mountain (this time legally). a hawaiian family who owned the land was camping there also, hundreds of yards from our site. the tent was set up under a huge 'monkey pod' tree, in which i was lashing smaller trees together with vines to build a real live tree house. every morning the monkey pod tree would open its leaves to collect the sunlight...creating a green net that would graciously allow steady streams of golden light to pour down to the grateful earth... at dusk the monkey pod with furl her leaves closed and let them hang like sleeping bats...revealing a starry sky unfathomable to a northeastern lad like me.
the hawaiian family was involved with the people running the sovereign hawaiian nation movement. they were wonderful folks and among them was the rightful king to the hawaiian throne...we called him 'king andy'. king andy was a sweet and large man who loved to sit around on his porch with me strumming his nylon string guitar. we played each other songs...and he would always request elvis tunes. i loved playing 'king elvis' tunes with 'king andy'.
it was through him that i met a shaman who had been living and studying with tribes people and other shaman in the amazon rainforest for i don't know how long. this mystical man let me stay with him for a week or so and guided me along some eye, soul, and heart-opening journeys... through the tangled vines of my sub- conscious world. he saw right through me and helped me realize a lot of truths that had lied buried over the years. i lost so much fear, insecurity, self doubt, and with it...bye bye girl.
i moved back to kehena beach shortly thereafter. this time alone. i swam with the dolphins every day...i got to know them and they got to know me. i played with them. they played with me. i would dive and twirl then watch them mimic me. they made me feel at home.
later i moved right down the street into a large purple solar house with a friend i had met, with whom i also started a band. our landlady, who lived upstairs was a lovely new-age goddess with a six year old daughter. it was paradise. i walked across dry lava fields with fresh flowing lava visible underneath to where the volcano was erupting, shooting a hundred feet in the air and landing in the sea..forming new land...the earth growing before my eyes. after a year or so i went to the other side of the island to be in the overblown movie 'waterworld', which was filmed in part on hawaii. i made a bunch of cash and was determined to travel the world so i was off. i bought a ticket home to massychewits, and said goodbye to my dolphin friends and the surfer girl i had started to love.
in preparation for my trip i bought good camping gear (i was going to be prepared this time!), new clothes, and even a jungle hammock with mosquito netting so i could sleep anywhere in the world discreetly without being sucked dry by malaria bugs. my plan was to start in england, then once i was in amsterdam i could hitch and busk my way through europe then down to northern africa, then across the middle east, through india and china, and then end up in bali, which i heard was like hawaii, but better...this i had to see!
however, when i arrived in gatwick airport in england, looking like i had just stepped out of a verse from 'bali hai'...with long flowing wavy blonde hair, a deep savage tan, a backpack, and a guitar...they decided i wasn't for them. a stern well dressed woman kept a stern well stiffened upper lip and told me i didn't have enough money and that they were sending me back on the next plane to boston..USA. i asked if i could use my ticket to amsterdam instead and she declined without so much as a hint of sarcasm. off i go again. drinks on international flights are free and i took advantage of that and had a nice conversation with a sweet british girl i met while smoking a cigarette in the back section of the plane.
"hi, mom,...i'm in boston, would you mind picking me up please?... england was great, and the queen says, 'hi'."
back in the states after two long flights back and forth i decided to move to northampton, because i knew i liked it there. i'm glad it all happened like it did. otherwise, there'd be no aloha steamtrain!
the rest is recent history, even though that was five years ago. i'll save that for another time.
all i can say for now is that the past few years have been thrilling. they've been absolutely crazy! i even got engaged to be married somewhere in there quite recently to a wonderful woman who lives down the street now and is doing well for herself. once again, though, i had to be moving on. i am as happy and healthy as i've been since hawaii and feeling free. considering my overwhelming love and passion for discovering the beauty within myself, women, music, and life in general, 'free' is where i need to be.
the aloha steamtrain has set me free and is my life to the core.
i was born a poor amphibian. my lungs and gills were as visible as the heart that had been stapled to my sleeve. i had a series of yellow underbellies that made me giggle as they scraped against the twisted shag-root rug of my mangrove forest-home floor. all the laughing made me skeptical and left me with the feeling of having been duped. so, i unfurled my clawed webbed toes and stood strong and up high on two knobby branches called my leggies. soon i was climbing and running and leaping from tree top to tree top, occasionally missing, barreling down at full force, only to catch myself with a confident finger and tossing right back up to my perch with a wide sweeping view of the sky and the sun.
when things got rough i would dig a hole in the mossy floorboards and disappear into the dark and stay there til the danger had gone. my sunshine flower of a mother taught me to feel with the power of a NASA satellite radar. bombarded as i was from an early age by situations requiring a turtle-like shell, my ticklish underbellies and reverse radio transistor of empathy and frailness might as well have been painted with a giant orange target circle. the jungle was loaded with jackals and ravenous piranha...mouths open... gaping jaws snapping with every show of insecurity.
my great red glowing father showed me how to extract caffeine from the wings of butterflies and psychically flit from every glorious gardenia to any and every droll daffodil. by the time of my first molting i had learned to suck termites from holes in the banana palm lamp-posts that lined my family's rainforest avenue.
i tried to mingle with the orangs and gibbons, i tried, i think. but, they were busy running wild and screaming and howling and carrying on, like they're supposed to, i suppose.
as i entered the esteemed 'academy of confusion' i quickly learned why it was called that. i embraced its motto- 'stick with us, or stick it'. i 'stuck it' and kept to myself. i found no one and nothing worth while to stick with otherwise. however, some rosy cheeked leprechaun hooked me by the neck with his crooked warty shillelagh and flung me down his tarnished rusty rainbow. i landed in a damp cardboard cauldron full of golden fish hooks barbed with indifference. oh, what a laugh we both had!