I decided to visit Jimmy at the University of New Hampshire only to run into a whole school organized against the building of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. After going to one of many scheduled demonstrations, I decided that I really had no business participating since I was ill informed and not a native of the area.
Thus in late April, I returned to Nantucket, and started to work getting ready for the tourist season. I helped open up a number of restaurants and even got involved in scalloping. Still the island was not as exciting in the spring as the summer, so I made a couple of trips up to New Hampshire to see what was happening and to tour.
Finally in May after what seemed far too much traveling I decided to settle in Nantucket for the summer. I gave away my car and a lot of excess luggage to the hospital thrift shop since I did not think I needed an excess of formal clothing in a resort, only to find I did not even have enough clothes to be a waiter. Thus I ended up taking a job in a bakery making rolls and doughnuts. It was all very theatrical, but it soon became boring and I took a job as a dish washer in a restaurant. Other than carpentry one summer, I had never done manual labor, and found it all terribly sweaty and tedious, however, I did enjoy the company of my fellow college workers.
Once the weather warmed up, I spent most of my days at the beach with the other students who worked and vacationed on the island. I stayed in a boarding house which was filled full of students and other travelers run by an old nurse who had been around the island for ever.
My days evolved into a casual routine of play, work, and rest. My decorator friend and Jimmy lived on the same street as I did, however I hardly saw them since they were busy with their other island friends. I became somewhat annoyed that individuals who wanted to be my friend when off island chose to ignore me when on island.
Still I enjoyed the island as a change from Greenwich, although it seemed a large portion of the people there were from Greenwich. Half way through the summer I changed jobs to a French restaurant since the work was easier and the atmosphere more congenial.
I took up sewing a canvas back pack on the beach during my free time which took many hundred of hours while I was tanning. The summer pace increased through August and fell off through the fall. I moved into an apartment over the laundromat and proceeded to help paint the interior as the winter was setting in. On the day after Thanksgiving I loaded up my back pack and took the ferry boat to the mainland with a friend. There I rented a U-haul truck and drove up to Dartmouth college where I had stored a number of my possessions and proceeded to move them down to Philadelphia, where my sister Patty lived. My mother had sold the house in Greenwich during the summer and living in an apartment with no storage.
On the way back from Philadelphia my friend and I stopped by Manhattan to buy him a camera and have a few drinks at the oldest bar in New York. Then we drove the Uhaul truck until we ran out of gas in Mystic, Connecticut leaving the truck at the dealer next to the highway. He took off hitching back to the ferry at Woodshole, and I started hitching down to my mother's in Greenwich. I stayed the night in Greenwich and borrowed some money from my mother since I had used up most of my reserve moving, and I proceeded to hitchhike down to Florida.
I had the huge back pack that I made which was too heavy for hitching. However, I had no problem in getting rides mostly with students and military. I spent the night traveling down to Florida after a brief stop at Georgetown University. As soon as I arrived in Florida, I went out to the airport at Fort Lauderdale and checked my pack except for the bare essentials which I kept in a gunny sack.
I was unable to find a job working in a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, however I found a job working in the best French restaurant in Florida in Boca Raton. Unfortunately the job did not pay enough to live close by and I did not have a car, so the chef leant me a tent and I camped on the Boca inlet in the woods.
I would stay at the restaurant through Christmas working both Christmas eve and Christmas day. In the day time I would hitch down to the beach in Fort Lauderdale and in the evening work in the restaurant. However, one morning a bulldozer showed up where I was camped to build a new hotel. I quit my job and spent New Year's in Fort Lauderdale.
After a hilarious New Years, I decided I wanted to see the Bahamas, so I purchased a round trip ticket to the Bahamas with my remaining funds and kept $3.00 exit tax. On arrival I started to hitch hike into town, but a cab gave me a ride to Paradise Island, where I found a cypress forest to sleep in. The weather was perfect so I was comfortable without a tent or sleeping bag. That evening when I was walking around I ran into two English fellows my age and they invited me to stay with them in their beach villa.
We would go to the Casino and much to my surprise there were thousands of kids my age in the casino all having a jolly time. I never figured out where they all came from, but I always seemed to be running into large groups of deja vue friends. Most all of them were blond haired and blue eyed and they all looked like they were related. I had the longest hair of anybody male or female since I had not cut my hair in several years. I had a good time visiting the Bahamas for several days and truly believe that expression, "It's Better In the Bahamas". When my British friends left on a brand new British Air 747, I caught the local shuttle back to the mainland.
On arrival in Fort Lauderdale, I decided that I would enjoy the more peaceful island of Key West, so I hitchhiked down there. The old building that I had lived in was still abandoned so I moved back in and began my usual routine of beach and library. Nothing had changed on the island except that there were a different group of tourists. One day I was talking to the bartender of a small bar that had worked in the same restaurant that I had worked in Nantucket. While we were talking, in walked Cliff Robertson and Dina Merrill. They fit very well into the South Pacific setting of the bar. However, I knew as celebrities showed up the island would become more populous.
After two weeks of my usual routine, I ran into my friend Jimmy from Syracuse. He had dropped out of the University of New Hampshire and was pursuing a health routine of jogging and beaching it. It was good to have an old friend around, but since our routines were different we hardly ever ran into each other despite the smallness of the island. After about a month on the island, I ran into John from Long Island. He was an artist who was living much the same way that I was. Having quit cigarettes for six months, he got me back to smoking Marlboros.
John showed me an abandoned hotel next to the beach we always went to. He had a key to the Hotel Casa Marina which was last used as a peace corps' training center some ten years before. We would spend much time exploring the abandoned hotel and decided it would make a fine residence with its views of the ocean. We would spend the next several months living there and using the beach club next door to clean up. There were some draw backs to the Casa Marina, mainly that there were at least a hundred stray cats living there which tended to make it smell.
The cats were all the off spring of the infamous six toed Hemingway cats that lived at the Hemingway house. Still at least we had a comfortable place to stay for free. We would live on a simple diet of cuban sandwiches and health food. Most of our mornings were spent swimming at the beach and watching the windsurfer. After going to the library in the afternoon, we would wander around town and occasionally talk to Jimmy who was working at a yogurt stand. Sunsets were always the main event of the evening and as always most of the island population would be assembled for the event. We were amongst the youngest visitors on the island, and every one seemed to be happy that we had chosen the island as our winter home that season.
After about a month at the hotel, construction workers showed up to begin work on renovations for opening a Marriott hotel there. Since we were always around the hotel, people assumed we were working on the project. The head of the construction company was an acquaintance of Jimmy's so we were allowed to stay on in the hotel with all the cats.
However, we had to get up at sunrise every morning when the construction crew arrived and could not return until evening. We began to look for better accommodations on the Truman annex naval base. We checked out the old abandoned Truman white house which was termite infested and decided to stay at the hotel, although we would move into the annex across the street, where most of the cats also seemed to be retreating to. John loved cats and was terribly happy with them all, and I always kept worrying about disease from all the stay cats, not to mention I always preferred dogs. No one seemed to question our existence in Key West and we were welcomed every where we went. I knew quite a large number of the local merchants, and they all seemed to be happy with the new prosperity from the increase of tourism mainly from the many articles written about the island in New York Times.
The Chamber of Commerce treated me like an honorary member, and I was an omnipresent member of the old town neighborhood. After a couple months on the island, John and I were having dinner with Jimmy and he announced that he was going to hitchhike out to California. Since it was only March and rather cold up north and out west, we did not really believe him, but the next day we walked him to the outskirts of town and he was off. I would sorely miss him since he seemed like the focal point of our friends, but he said the island was changing and he had played it out.
John and I would stay another month pursuing the same routine. One day I received an income tax return, and I decided with the added funds we should start a slow trip north in mid April. John had said that he wanted to go hiking on the Appalachian Trail, so we hitched to Atlanta, and bought a lot of camping gear. I visited my sister and brother in law while there, and then we caught a bus to Ashville, North Carolina. Ashville was near the lower end of the trail, and we started off on our adventure from there.
Since neither of us had used a car much recently, we were quite good hikers, however the weather was cooler in the Carolina mountains than we were accustomed to in the Keys. We made about ten miles a day on the mountain trails setting up camp in the forest every evening. We would pass about a dozen hikers going the other direction every day. Our guide book was very accurate and the trail was well marked. My only reservation was that we were camping out in a bear sanctuary, but none of them bothered us despite some noise around the tent at night. On the fifth day it began to snow, and we were beginning to feel quite miserable. However, as luck would have it, we came across a hiker's hostel run by a bunch of Christians and we were given shelter from the storm. We stayed there for a couple of days resting, and we decided to abandon the trail and hitch down to the Carolina shore where the weather was warmer.
A day later we were in Hilton Head, South Carolina; and we set up camp on the shore of the north end of the island. That night we heard a large amount of snorting around the tent, and I suddenly remember the stories of the infamous Hilton Head alligators that were indigenous to the golf course and surrounding swamps. I suddenly began to shake with terror and John said I was letting my imagination run wild. However, neither of us would look out of the tent, and I began to boil water to throw at an alligator if attacked since we had no weapons. Eventually the noise went away and we slept lightly that night.
The next morning there were alligator prints in the sand surrounding our tent. We decided to leave the island. We went down to Beaufort Island which was adjacent to Parris Island and set up camp on the beach at Huntington Island. That evening we had been unable to get a ride hitching through Beaufort. I don't think all of the Marines cared to see long haired hitchhikers coming through their community. We had walked by miles of Marine Corp's cemetery on the way to Huntington Island.
That Sunday morning when we got up, there was a lot of noise around the tent. This time instead of alligators there were thousands of marines around us on the beach. I rather enjoyed the scene, but John was somewhat intimidated. We had a good day on the beach with the Marines, and we decided it was too cold up north yet and we decided to hitch back to Key West, from Marines to the Navy. On the highway we got a ride with a friend of Jimmy Buffett who was going all the way down to Key West, so it was an easy trip down the Florida coast. We would remain in Key West until mid May and start hitching north again. We camped out for a few days on the beach in Vero Beach, and would spend much time watching the surfers at Sebastian Inlet. The bugs were horrible, but my mother had frequently vacationed in Vero Beach, so I felt like I was touching base with home.
We continued our trip hitching up to Washington D.C., and after walking around the city caught the Amtrack to Connecticut