The New York City adventure

I WALKED OUT the front gate of Castle Air Force Base in the San Joaquin Valley of Central California a free, young man. It was the mid-1960s.

Taking a taxi the few miles into Merced, I got on a Greyhound down to the City of Angels where I boarded another bus headed to New York City, 2,451 miles away as the buzzard flies. It was a four-and-a-half-day ride.

I thought I was in love, and maybe I was. The object of my desires, my high school sweetheart, lived just outside New York City in White Plains. She was staying with her psychologist — or perhaps psychiatrist; I don’t recall — and his family, sent there from Jacksonville, Florida, by wealthy, worried parents.

Her name was Jane, a beautiful, teenaged Jewish Princess and only child.

Aside from one breakdown near Pittsburgh, Pa., in the middle of the night, and the fact that I had stupidly put all my clothes and toothbrush in my suitcase locked in the belly of the bus, the trip was uneventful.

I walked out of the Greyhound station in Manhattan and spotted a hotel across the street. I checked in, showered, brushed my teeth and combed my hair. Ah, that’s more like it. And I phoned Jane.

It was either that afternoon or the following day — it was over half a century ago — that she came into town to see me. We got naked in the hotel, just the second time in my life, and then we went out. The first had been with her too, a couple of years before.

I recall neither where we went nor what we did, but I do remember she was distant, which saddened me.

Over the next three days I found a studio apartment in Greenwich Village and got a job as a painter’s helper via an employment agency. The memories are quite vague now. I saw Jane one more time, and I walked her one evening to a subway station that would return her to Grand Central and on to White Plains.

I spent just one night in the apartment and never reported to my first day of work as a painter’s helper. Instead I returned to the Greyhound station and boarded a bus to Nashville, Tennessee, where my parents lived.

I did not say goodbye to Jane, and I never saw her again.

* * * *

(Tomorrow: The City of Angels Adventure, back to California.)

Evolution of a yardman

SOME THINGS just stick in your mind.

As a kid, a century ago, living with my family in Florida, one of my responsibilities was mowing the yard. I was not fond of it.

That ended when I graduated from high school and headed off to college in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt. Ahem!

Flash forward about a quarter century. I bought my first house — in Houston, Texas. It had a yard. Two, actually. One out front abutting the street and another out back abutting the rear neighbors who, strangely, in my nine years there, I never met.

Once again, I was faced with mowing a lawn, and here’s where the moment came that sticks in my mind.

I was mowing the front lawn for the first time, and a neighbor across the street walked over. I mentioned that I had not cut a lawn in decades. Her response was: It hasn’t changed any, has it?

I laughed. No, it had not.

clippersI mowed that lawn for nine years until 1995 when my then-wife divorced me for an illegal-alien yardboy. Just a coincidence that. She worked at a plant nursery.

I moved into an apartment and then another. No yards. And then I moved to Mexico in 2000, renting a two-story house that came with its own yardman. Indeed, I was not confronted with a yard that needed cutting until 2003 when we moved into the new Hacienda.

My new lawnmower was not big, and it sported a Briggs and Stratton motor. Those engines have changed little since I was mowing in Florida. They are clunky. A couple of years later, I bought a bigger, better mower from Sears that came with a good Craftsman motor.

For about six years, I mowed the grass. I got older. I got my wife to chip in, 50-50. I got older. That was when I hired Abel the deadpan neighbor to cut the grass. I still did the edging with a weedeater. I got older still.

About a month ago, I hired a guy down the street who has his own gas weedeater to edge the Hacienda lawn. I am out of the yard business in all its aspects. Last week, after removing the extension cord, I hung my electric weedeater on a wall. That’s all she wrote.

I’ll hit 71 very soon. It’s interesting to watch life wind down.

Time to smell the roses, which hopefully are not growing overhead.