Wednesday, December 7, 2016


I heard an old song today, Indian Reservation by Paul Revere and the Raiders (link below), and it started me down a familiar rabbit hole. I can remember hearing this song in a cafe every morning while waiting for the school bus when I was eleven or twelve. This was one of our favorites, and I often sacrificed my milk money to listen to it and a few other songs. We were told, my friend Joe and I, that if the songs were played enough, the jukebox man wouldn't change the records when he came by from time to time. We didn't take any chances. Listening to the song, I felt a strength I had never known - a strength that surged through me that made me feel good and valuable. It was selfless and it was pure. I was beginning my evolution from a lost young boy to a powerful, caring man. I just didn't know how long the journey would be.

I can remember that year in school vividly: I was energized by social issues and my own efficacy to help others. Despite the fact we had very little, I hoarded all my change and did odd jobs to fill the Trick or Treat for Unicef cans in our classrooms. I wrote poems about the war, participated in debates about pollution and the environment, and I started to listen to the lyrics of the music exploding around me. I was finding myself even as I was lost in the madness and chaos of my family's tumultuous existence. We bounced around the Midwest, and my social consciousness was displaced with a constant need to adapt and to try to fit into each new community we traveled to. Somewhere along that route, I picked up the notion to join the Peace Corps, and it became the only true beacon I would have for decades.

Throughout the the last three decades, I have learned to focus that power I felt in that little cafe when I do my work. In front of a GED class, in a refugee camp somewhere in Africa or the Middle East, on a Jamaican mountain top, sitting with a group of teachers laughing and chatting anywhere, I feel that old energy, that old grace coursing through me. It is warm and it is comforting. But it needs fuel, and that is the price for this legacy, or maybe this curse. I have absolutely no dreams of retirement or taking it easy somewhere. This often creates an uncomfortable juxtaposition with many of my peers, particularly those who have not traveled and who have long since decided to end their careers at what ever institution I have come to. Their need for stability is foreign and often distasteful to me. I lust after challenge and the human interchange that helps others. When I feel a deprivation of the resources necessary to do so, I leave the environment, not knowing if I am courageously chucking away any sense of security, or cowardly fleeing human commitment and the consequences of compromise.

Lately, a little fatigue has drifted unfamiliarly into the equation. I take it as the heralding of a long overdue climax to my career and wanderings. Only a bit of lingering financial quagmire keeps me from committing to a final, more invested career change. Wherever I land, it will be a basic and humble existence, most likely a refugee camp somewhere. I can seem myself, for the first time, staying somewhere for the rest of my life. Not here though, the air is getting too thin.

For now, I will discipline myself to write a bit more, build more stuff, redouble my work ethic, and listen to a few old, friendly songs.......