Like many people, I look back on my life and wonder how I made it out alive.
I went to college at Oswego State in upstate New York. In the fall and spring, my college was beautiful because of its resort style location right on Lake Ontario I would find solitude on the rocky shores of campus. Looking across the water, I realized that the world was so much bigger than the academic world, that someday I would leave the world of tests, papers, and notetaking and be a part of something bigger. Beyond studying there was a lot fun, Wednesdays (Hump Day) at Bucklands Bar and after April 1, Nunzi’s Bar opened and we all hitched rides to a place of dance and libations, once again on the water. The bar was only for Oswego college kids, it was all ours. (Years later, I named my dog “Nunzi”) Afterward, we would stop at Rudy’s Stand for ice cream or a burger. It, too, was on the water. It seemed like this particular Great Lake existed just for us.
But during the winter, Oswego was famous for its strong winds and record snowstorms.
I experienced weather so cold it caused the stuff in my nose to freeze. The administration had to construct a system of ropes so the petite among us would not be blown into the buildings while walking to class. And the winters went on forever.
I lived in my sorority house during the 1968-1969 school year. It was a large Victorian building with a mansard roof. I shared a room on the third floor with two of my sisters. We had a house mother, an elderly woman who we actually called “mom”. She lived in a two room apartment on the first floor.
We also had a cook who every Friday made us mac and cheese or other high dairy dishes so our stomachs would be coated for a night of drinking and dancing at Buckland’s. She also introduced me to a great recipe that has served me well when I’m obliged to contribute a covered dish to a function. It very easy to make and somewhat inexpensive. The recipe follows. (This is exciting, this my first recipe on The Autonomous Traveler site!)
Green Pea Salad (“Give Peas a Chance” Salad?) 🙂
A large bag of frozen peas, thawed not cooked
Chopped white onion
That’s it. Mix it all together and chill before serving. If I really have to impress someone, say, someone who really knows how to cook, I add chopped pimento and bits of real bacon. We all know bacon is impressive.
The weather at Oswego State was particularly horrible during the winter of 1969. It was treacherous getting to Buckland’s but ironically not bad enough to cancel classes. I dreamed about escaping somehow. And then it happened, the song “Everybody’s Talkin” hit the airwaves.
written by Fred Neil
Recorded by Harry Nilsson
Everybody’s talkin at me
I don’t hear a word they’re saying
Only the echoes of my mind
People stopping, staring
I can’t see their faces
Only the shadows of their eyes
I’m going where the sun keeps shining
Through the pouring rain
Going where the weather suits my clothes
Banking off of the northeast winds
Sailing on a summer breeze
And skipping over the ocean like a stone
I bought the single. It became my theme song, my obsession. I played it over and over again until my fellow housemates said they would kill me if I didn’t stop. I desperately needed “to go to where the sun keeps shining through the pouring rain” or, in my case, completely obliterating snow.
Spring break in Florida was a sacred collegiate tradition and a great solution to my deteriorating mental state but getting there was tricky. With youthful enthusiasm and naviety, I actually considered hitchhiking the 1200 miles to paradise. Luckily, winter had also pushed some of my sisters over the edge and a great plan was made for five of us to drive down to Daytona Beach for April break. And so the adventure began.
We took turns driving. The song “Born to Be Wild” was on the radio (performed by Steppenwolf, written by Mars Bonfire) and we played it loudly with the windows down to let a southern state somewhere along Route 1 know that we were indeed wild.
Get your motor runnin’
Head out on the highway
Lookin’ for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Like a true nature’s child
We were born, born to be wild
A car filled with teenage boys rode up next to us and a drag race almost ensued but getting to Florida safely was a priority so we chose to back off.
After 24 hours of frequent eating , gas ups, and pee breaks we made to it Daytona. We found a room. I don’t think we had reservations and, of course, we didn’t have credit cards. All I remember is that everything turned out okay as we each paid our share in cash.
Crazy fun, sunbathing ,and laughter filled our days and nights. We were involved in an incident at an empty amphitheater. We met a guy who played the guitar and convinced him to go up on the stage. As he played, more and more people came off the beach to listen and sing along. We started a regular hootenanny, as we used to say in the old days. Well , somebody reported us and a police car arrived. The small crowd kept singing and the guy kept playing. I have to give credit to the confidence of the officier, he calmly went up to the player and put his hand gently on the guitar. Without saying any more, he somehow convinced us all to leave.
On my last night in Daytona, I decided to go for a walk by myself to take in the vibe of Florida one last time. A car pulled over and a nice looking older guy ( late 20’s?)started talking to me. We chatted for a while and he asked me to walk on beach with him. I said “yes” and hopped into his car. What a foolish young thing I was to take such a chance. We talked some more and I guess he realized how naive and innocent (clueless?) I was. We drove to a diner for some cokes and then he dropped me off at my motel.
Looking back at a lot of my shenanigans during my youth, it’s hard to believe I made it through alive. I’m wiser now and more cautious. But luckily, I’m still a little bit of a “true nature’s child”. Maybe, just enough to still make my life a tiny bit wild. 🙂
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