Twists in the Road

01/23/2021 2 By BuddyCushman

This morning, sitting in the mauve, living-room recliner, sipping hot coffee, I found myself slipping back through the time and times of my life – these 72 years – and it came to me I had experienced four moments during all that time where causes and conditions, a specific event or two leading the way, had had a profound impact on my life. Such that, following, I would never be the same again. Four moments.

Sometime in the fall of 1968 into the spring of 1969 my view of life, and include here culture, society, and politics, underwent a metamorphosis from leaning Republican to lifelong (secret handshake) membership in the American Yippie party. A kid from my high school was killed in Vietnam. I went to his funeral and could make absolutely no sense of it. Just before this, or just after, I attended a lecture at Cape Cod Community College, where I was a student, by William J. Lederer, author of a book titled “The Ugly American”, and in the lecture he described a recent journey through Vietnam and the things he’d seen – lies and duplicity and downright evil perpetrated by the US government on the people of Vietnam, and as significantly, on its (our) own people. At that time there was a group on campus, the ‘Union for Student Involvement’, a bunch of long hairs and hippies and guys and gals who we’d label radicals nowadays, and all of a sudden what they were saying – what they’d been saying – made perfect sense to me.

In the fall of 1968 I’d held a Richard Nixon sign at the Hyannis rotary. By the fall of ’69, having started up a USI chapter at my new school up in Salem, I was sitting in and picketing, writing leftist screeds, and generally checking out from the mainstream of life. Forever.

That’s Number One.

The late winter of 1983 I was crashing on my little sister’s couch in Somerville, MA, just back from yet another gonna-live-there-forever excursion out to California (bus rides back and forth). I owned two trash bags of personal items which were stashed in a friends’s cellar in Medford. I’d managed to buy a weird used car (’69 Sunbeam) and land a job as a youth outreach worker for a brand new kid Drug and Alcohol Counseling/Outreach/Referral program in Stoneham. I was there, at work, the afternoon of April 15, 1983, which was a Friday, sitting in on a training by a guy talking with the few of us staff about working with junior high kids around smoking pot, risks, and stuff. But that’s not what I heard. What I heard was this guy talking to me, and just to me, all about me. I could have been alone in a cave with this dude, him a reformed junkie at a methadone clinic in Allston. I lost track of time after work, something about driving up and down Route 1 hour after hour. When I got back to my sister’s place just after 11:30 there were four 16-ounce cans of my Ballantine Ale in her refrigerator. I stood in her kitchen and drank two of them. April 15th, 1983.

The next day was my Saturday to cover the program and I showed up but ducked out at noon. I drove up to Stoneham High School and began running on the school’s track. I was there by myself. It’s funny what I remember, with all I don’t, but I ran that circle 28 times that Saturday, seven miles, and on the 14th time around (keeping count on my fingers) I heard someone say, “I’m an alcoholic.” I was the only one there. When I finished running I drove back to my sister’s, opened the fridge, grabbed the two remaining cans of Ballantine and poured them down my sister’s sink.

I have not had one drink or one drug since. Number Two.

In the summer of 2008 I was sleeping in a spare room with friends in Harwich, again on Cape Cod, running the housing program for the Aids Support Group in Provincetown and – as has been my way – hankering for something else. I began driving after work to the Chocolate Sparrow Coffee Shop in Orleans and writing cover letters for jobs all over the country, mostly kid jobs. I must have sent out 50 resumes and received not one offer. But, along the way I found myself sending lots to Portland, Oregon, and having never set foot in the Northwest and knowing not one soul, with no job waiting, of course it made good sense to me to move there. So I left my worldly goods in a storage unit and drove to Vancouver, Washington, where I’d rented a room on Craigslist. This was September ’08. Four months later I moved to Portland and found a kid job, and on September 24th, 2009, I went on what we used to call “blind dates” with a woman I’d met on Match.Com. The following September 24th we got married in Virginia, combining wedding and honeymoon.

Ah, Susan. Changed my life. Gave me the space to grow in all kinds of cool and unexpected ways. Magical, mystical partner.

Meeting Susan was Number Three.

I left our house (Susan’s, I rent) on a hot-as-a-mother day in July or August in 2018, and went for a walk “down low” along the Johnson Creek. I was most of the way home before I made or received (the memory thing again) a phone call from my best pal Gavin in Oakland, CA. During the conversation he began telling me about a diet called Keto, how they’d used it to treat mentally challenged kids back in the 50’s, he was doing it, some of the specifics of what you could and couldn’t and really wanted to eat. His excitement. By the time I’d got home I’d decided to give it a try, like, why not? So I told Susan and she said she’d like to try it too and about that time I was up to a weight of 181 and 15 minutes ago I weighed myself and the digital numbers read 149.4, and I have to tell you the weight thing, while real nice and comforting in many ways, isn’t the best of it. Blood numbers (better ones) and brain-cell fireworks. Tangibles and intangibles, all trending wicked better.

Keto – was Number Four.

So, this is what I was thinking about hours ago, this is what came to me this morning, this is my weather report for the day, like I posted earlier I was going to share, begin sharing one every weekday moving on. This one longer than most will be, no doubt, really fun to drift back and remember stuff. Details, children. It be in the details.

Or you might say – Shake it up Baby. Twist and Shout.