I have posted before about Gabby saying goodbye to Young Emily in Clark Park, West Philadelphia, in August 1970. Here I continue from Gabby’s journal, describing his drive across the country, stopping briefly in Winnemucca.
And – then – it was just the Ford and me and a half-dozen boxed mini Tastykake apple pies and a Triptik that Tavia had done for me – burnin’ the breezes through the humid, green, rich and sweet-smelling Pennsylvania Turnpike August night, assuming standard orbit – on to glory! Goodbye Philly.
As excited as I was about getting back to California and Lance and our fight for justice, there was more than just a trace of sadness in my eyes. This was not starting out as the glorious Return from Exile that I had been imagining since getting on the Greyhound in Delano 11 months earlier. Cicero’s triumphant return from Thessalonica to cheering crowds in August 57 BC had been my working model. I didn’t feel like Cicero.
Nor, for that matter, did I feel like I was in Karl von Steuben’s painting of Napoleon’s triumphant 1815 return from exile on Elba.
Back on the road – gas was $.30 a gallon and there were no real speed limits and – aside from the Young Emily despair (what is she doing Right Now? What were we doing at This Time yesterday?) – what a joyful drive it should have been! The further west I got, the happier I should have been, but I was finding that as the ever-so-long and ever-so-lonesome night passed and morning came, her scents were fading from my fingers and shirt. I despaired the passing of her scents – of her hair, her kiss, her clothes, and most of all the mingled sweet her-me, girl-boy scents from the gates of heaven, from our loving embrace, from her girl places and my boy places.
As the day and miles passed I was either very happy (less) or very lost (more) and the AM radio in the car was not a great help with either emotion.
Grace Slick’s power in Somebody to Love helped too, but not much. As I crossed Illinois, I remembered a funny story that a girl named Mary told us on the picket line in Trenton about haiku. Haiku! Of course – that’s the answer.
Perfect love perfect sorrow
Moth flame poof she said.
I was proud of my achievement, but found no comfort. Our perfect love, followed by perfect sorrow, boiled down to three words. Moth. Flame. Poof. I said those words over and over.
I stopped in Nekoosa for a too-short visit home – three years away from home takes home very far away. It was here that my cognitive dissonance about the Union and Young Emily crested, the pull of California/Lance/justice and the pull of the young girl in Philadelphia tore at me. I wasn’t in the habit of working emotional problems out with my family and I didn’t start with this one, putting on instead a Happy Gabby face, content with every life decision I had made and steering the conversation to the lives of other family members and local Tri-Cities news.
The first night home I found my answer in Joseph Conrad, my paperback copy of Lord Jim from high school still in what used to be my room. Of course – there is the answer! In the destructive element immerse! Let pain of loss be pain of loss. Let perfect sorrow be perfect sorrow. Let the road home be the road home.
Accept the ablution that perfect sorrow offers, the loss of innocence that you didn’t know you had to lose. If she still finds a way to haunt you, immerse yourself in the haunting. Moth – meet flame. Poof! Ha!
I highballed it across the prairie states and stopped in Fort Collins where Cody was trying college and taking his science very seriously and what not. “I half expected to see Young Emily with you. That was a pretty special harmony you two had” was the first thing he said – and how did he know this after only seeing us that one night in Washington?
I poured my heart out. He listened and then summed it up, “Easy come, hard go.”
“Honestly, Cody, I didn’t even see the coming coming and yes, hard go – who knew?”
“Could-be dream lover of a lifetime? She sings like Patsy Cline – you know that I assume. And she’s there, you’re here? I don’t know.” At least he didn’t call me a fucking idiot. Richie would a few days later though.
It was then the Ford and me over the Rockies into Nevada. Inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid which I had seen with the Dazzler five or six or seven times, I stopped in Winnemucca for the night. I learned that the legend of a robbery there was – a legend. Not Butch at all.
Nevada, California, to Delano. The old Ford got me there.
I ran this by my friend, who of course knew Gabby and Young Emily those days. “Well, it’s 46 years later and it worked out pretty good, but I bet that was one sorrowful drive he had.”
What about the post?