Beer Bottle Whizzed Past My Head


Suwannee River, Lake City, Florida

My ten month kitchen cleaner job would begin again in late August, but until then I was out of work, so I planned a bicycle trip up the Atlantic coast—the U.S.A. and parts of Canada. This post begins with my ride down to Florida and the start of my ride north.

Outside Jacksonville, Florida

May 14, 1977

The ride from Mt. Pleasant to Florida was in a slow, temperamental
car. After thirty-four hours of driving, Tom and I arrived in Lake
City, Florida. I met Tom after he read the note I left on the ride
board at school. My note read: “Hi. I need a ride to Florida at end of
the semester. Will share gas.” I got a phone call a couple weeks
before the end of the semester and after that my Atlantic Coast
bicycle trip was really on. The ride down came to an end at a KOA
campground in Lake City, Florida. After Tom had already paid the fee,
the guy wanted an additional $5. from me. I told KOA, “No thanks,” and
took my bike and sleeping bag over to where the mowed grass of a
nearby Exxon gas station met the wide open field, and there I laid out
my sleeping bag and called it a day—a long one. In the morning, I
started bicycling north.

It was a beautiful morning that turned hot in the afternoon. I took
every precaution to keep from getting sun burnt, but that wasn’t
enough, so here I am drinking this cold root beer under a shade tree,
writing in my journal, wondering just how burnt am I? No sense
worrying about it. I’ll find out in due time.

“Hi journal,” I guess were back together again. I’m free
again; biking down some road, my only destination
some other road, until I put the entire Atlantic Coast behind me. Not
only am I back on the highway, I’m back on the highway as a bicycling
Castalian–a seven-year dream come true! CMU finally made me a full
time custodian. Well, maybe not a custodian, but at least I’m
accumulating seniority (one year already) so eventually I will become
a custodian. I was hired into the least desirable job on campus,
washing pots and pans. I don’t mind. Working in the kitchen lets me
take summers off, and if it weren’t for that perk I wouldn’t be here now.

As a Castalian, life was not all work. For the first time (because I
had the time), I was attending music performances, lectures, sitting
in on classes, engaging people in “good conversations,” and, thanks to
Mike and Val, even partaking in some “leftist activities.” At their
courthouse wedding, I was their best man (the only man) and after the
wedding the three of us moved out of our trailer and into an
apartment. Things were really looking up. I did what I wanted when I
wanted, and got paid for it too—what a luxury! Castalia wasn’t for
everybody, but that’s okay. It made me happy. I chose it, and I will
continue to choose it. I was in Florida because of it, and I will be
returning to Michigan because of it. I had spent so much of my past
anticipating this future and anything less than jubilation right now
would be unimaginable. Things couldn’t get any better! It was sixteen
miles to Jacksonville, and here I come.

7:15 p.m., and here I am, five miles farther down the road, and
lucky to be in one piece. I guess a paragraph back I should have
looked a little farther into the future because a little foreknowledge
would have come in real handy. I probably would have avoided the
thrown beer bottle that just missed my head as it damaged my front
bicycle wheel. My last three hours were spent repairing two broken
spokes and drinking beer from the six-pack I bought. That joint a
curious stranger shared with me wasn’t bad either. I feel somewhat
better now, but I’m still not over my disgust concerning the beer
bottle incident. At least I found this picnic area to do my repairs
in. I’m going to camp here tonight. Shit! I forgot what I was going to
say. After that joint and the three beers, I’m not surprised. Oh well,
I at least want to mention the family that just left the picnic table
closest to me. I watched the little boy snag the biggest bass I’ve
ever seen—a six-pounder or better. The kid caught it with a hook
through the dorsal fin and pulled it to shore. He was so excited, and
so were his parents. As I write this there are some other people who
are taking their place at the picnic table. I hope they don’t come
over.

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About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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4 Responses to Beer Bottle Whizzed Past My Head

  1. starbear says:

    Wondering if it was a bottle of Heidegger or Sarte… Enjoyed the comparison. Watching out for flying beer bottles on bicycles! 🙂

  2. Mèo Lười Việt says:

    Sometimes I don’t know whether I should choose like or dislike for your post. What a ambivalent feeling!! You remind me of someone. He’s Vietnamese but he has some things like you!! 😦

    • bwinwnbwi says:

      People are rainbows, there is no one color that defines them and mostly it is the circumstance that “ignites the mood” that “colors the person at the time of the event,” As Bob Dylan has said, sometimes we are tangled up in blue. Very little “touch up” went into these journal offerings. If anything, and I’m not ashamed of this, my journal offerings are an honest portrait of the state of mind that motivated my writing at the time of the event. Thanks for the comment.

  3. bwinwnbwi says:

    “CMU finally made me a full time custodian. Well, maybe not a custodian, but at least I’m accumulating seniority (one year already) so eventually I will become a custodian.”

    After 36 years employment I became a retired CMU janitor (I managed to buy an extra year based on 4 months working as a relief custodian). Was it worth it? For anybody else probably not, but then again there are few Castilians among us—a well deserved tip of the hat goes to Hermann Hesse, the author who implanted the Castilian ideal in my head.

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