On the Greyhound back through Mexico, and Texas to New York
After a pleasant few days in Venice playing music, talking through the night and putting the world to rights with a bunch of like-minded people, it was time to head off. We boarded a greyhound and headed south with the intent of checking out Mexico.
We stopped off at San Diego but the bus stopped downtown in a dingy, decaying area that was none too appealing. We stretched our legs, got some food and set off again.
Heading to the Mexican border was exciting, arriving rather less so. Being refused entry because of hair length was deflating. We stood and stared across at Mexico, we breathed in lungful’s of air carried on the breeze but we did not get to set foot in it.
The bus was our home. It trundled through the night as we dozed. It stopped in little towns and we set off to taste the air, eat, freshen up and clear our heads. In Texas we got hassled like a scene out of Easy Rider.
We stopped in some small town that seemed more like a frontiers town from the 19th century. There were wooden boardwalks and hitching rails, cowboys in big ten gallon Stetsons, gun belts, yeans with cowboy boots and spurs. The strange thing was that these ‘cowboys’ then climbed into station wagons and drove away. You wondered how they could drive with those big spurs sticking out.
We only had forty minutes so we found a burger joint and sat down at the bar. After ten minutes, in which time we were studiously ignored while all around were served, we realised that we were not welcome and left.
Back on the bus a bunch of crew-cutted youths started taking the piss and baiting us. Everybody else on the bus studiously ignored it and for a while it looked like it was going to turn very nasty. Fortunately they contented themselves with verbal ridicule and disappeared at the next stop.
Texas hadn’t quite caught up with the rest of the States.
As we headed east we were seated next to a young American Indian girl and we started talking. Her grandfather lived in California and had contacted her. He lived in a log cabin built into a ridge that he’d hollowed out. He informed her that he would be dying shortly and wanted her to join him as he revisited all the places he’d been to say goodbye. She told me how they had gone on horseback around the countryside and performed little rituals at places of importance. When they had returned he had dug up some relics that he had buried in a skin in the floor of his cabin. He had given these to her so that they would be passed on. She would not show me them because she said they were sacred. But she did unwrap a large rock that was around eight inches in diameter and had a big groove worn round it. She explained that it was a weapon used in buffalo hunting. A leather thong was wound round the rock and it was swung in a circle. A warrior hunter would ride up alongside a buffalo and chase it down while whirling this heavy rock around and then bring it down on the buffalo’s skull. When it fell stunned he would jump down and quickly slit its throat with a knife.
I could picture the scene. A herd of buffalo, hundreds of thousands strong, stampeding along so that the ground shook and a warrior, bareback on a horse, hanging on to the mane with one hand, twirling the heavy rock around with the other and guiding the horse along with his knees to bring it right up alongside the chosen careering buffalo. Then the swing to crash it into the beasts forehead and it stumbling to its knees as, quick as a flash he leapt from the horse’s back to dispatch it.
I could not begin to appreciate the skills involved. I had ridden horses bareback and I knew that wasn’t easy. To become so adept that you could gallop and guide with your knees along while twirling such a weight as this was truly amazing. One slip and you would be under those hooves. To be able to kill an animal as big and powerful as a buffalo was awesome.
I found myself looking out of the window of the coach as we passed through the arid lands and marveling at the life of those nomadic tribes. It was tough and exciting, a million miles away from the life I led. I hankered for it.
We arrived back in Boston to say goodbye to our good friends. On the day of our departure Donna rushed in. She was a waitress in the Deli I had worked in and was clutching a newspaper – the Boston Evening Globe – the biggest newspaper in Boston. We were on the front of it.
Right under the heading was a big picture of Liz and I, taken from behind as we walked along Massachusetts Avenue with the caption – ‘a young couple in step with themselves and the times’. They must have been short of news that day.
We arrived in New York and headed for the subway with its graffiti covered trains. We’d worked out a way to get to the airport. We’d go to the furthest point the subway took us and catch a bus. On the way we stopped off at Macy’s to get a present for my little sister. We had worked out our fares and had one dollar and ten cents to spare. I found a little plastic clockwork duck. It was a bath toy that paddled its way across the bath. I thought she’d love it. It was ninety nine cents.
The girl made a mistake. She took my last dollar and gave me a dollar and a cent change. I nearly pointed out the error but I didn’t. It meant we could buy something to eat.
We left New York with seven cents.