1989: My Summer Vacation: Prologue

Since I didn't have a job or any money, I had to go home to Greenwood.That was okay, because it meant that I wouldn't have to worry about buying groceries or paying rent. I could drive Mom's car and take my time finding a job. But there was also a serious possibility that I would go out of my skull with boredom.


My friends Kevin and Mike were home for the summer too, and we helped each other beat back the ennui. Our activities were mostly nocturnal: There is something intimate and well-nigh mystical about a Greenwood night. We drank coffee and smoked cigarettes at Waffle House 'til dawn, we climbed rooftops in the suburban darkness, we overdosed on cough syrup; these were healthy, red-blooded, all-American activities. When I got hired on as a night security guard at a local factory, we had contests to see who could stay awake for the longest stretch. (I won: 53 hours.)

Midway through the season, the three of us (being politically conscious and socially responsible college students, and having little better to do) went up to Indianapolis for the Nuclear Freeze Walk. Everything was organized in the big lawn between the library and the war memorial; people were selling tee shirts and bumper stickers and other souveniers.

A sudden cloudburst sent everybody running underneath the trees. I craned my neck looking for Mike and Kevin, whom I'd lost in the shuffle.


Instead, just a few feet away from me, I saw the most beautiful woman in the world. She was standing in the rain, with her face turned toward the sky and her arms stretched out to either side. Her black dress was soaked. She was dancing in the rain, smiling, blissful.

The crowd shifted, and she was gone. I was in a daze. Soon the rain stopped, and we all did the Walk as planned. I shouted anti-nuke slogans until I was hoarse, and when it was over I went to the factory and put in a double shift.

For 16 hours I sat with my feet propped up on a desk and stared at nothing. I thought of the woman standing in the rain, how thrilling it had been to see her, how I couldn't stay in Indianapolis patrolling a factory for the rest of the summer. I had to blow the place or go crazy.

At first I thought I'd just quit my job and take off without telling anybody, hitching for rides and taking my chances on the highway. There was a certain romance to that idea. But what was the point of being so dramatic about it?

So I told my parents and Mike and Kevin about my plan, and I began my preparations.

I picked up several hitchers in Indianapolis and asked them for pointers. And I did a trial run, hitching down to Bloomington and back, just to see if it could really be done. I tried (without success) to sleep on the ground in our backyard, between the jacuzzi and the arbor. I even interviewed the local police chief about how to avoid getting arrested. I packed Dad's old army knapsack and dug his canteen out of the attic.

And then I was ready...