We Crawl Before We Walk–Buddhist Mindfulness Lesson

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While Searching For Lost Traveler’s Checks, I Met Herb, A Drunk Indian

Drinking Beer, Sitting On Wet Lawn Chairs

June 26, 1977

What a mismatch of events in the last twenty-four hours. After writing in my journal last night, I walked down to the canteen to buy an ice-cream cone and when I got there I bought a pack of cigarettes instead. In front of the place, a guy was setting up an old Sears & Roebuck’s electric guitar. I decided to stick around and listen to the music. It wasn’t really music that I heard. He played as if he had just finished lesson three on the “lessons for free plan.” Another old guy was standing across from me, and when the wretched music began, he left. I was getting ready to leave myself when the guy came back holding a squeezebox. Between the two of them they produced an incredible sound, and it wasn’t the kind that sticks in your head, either.

Listening to those “not so young guys” play music was hard on the ears, but at the same time it was inspiring. They were beginners, or just plan bad. But that didn’t matter. I needed to see that; I needed to see beginners. It gave me something to feel good about. It was their music and they didn’t give a damn whether I liked it or not! Those guys were probably as musical as they would ever get, but that didn’t matter. They were having fun. When I walked back to camp, I could feel a warm spot in my chest push away the depression that had been inside me for so long.

It was late when I got back to camp. I wasn’t ready to turn in. I wanted to walk the beach and smoke a cigarette. I wanted to milk that feeling of not being depressed, and, at the same time, say good- bye to the beach. Going to my pocket for a match to light my cigarette, I realized that I had lost my travelers checks. It was too dark to look for them. I went to bed without smoking a cigarette, and I went to bed with an ach in my stomach that made sleep almost impossible.

Up with the sun, errrr, I mean fog, I went to look for my traveler’s checks and on my way back to the canteen, I met Herb, a drunken Indian. He wanted to help me search, so the two of us retraced my steps back to the canteen. Just as I reached the canteen, on the shoulder of the road, I found my black checkbook lying in the weeds. Herb got all excited and wanted me to celebrate with him by having a beer back at his campsite. I agreed, and followed him down a logging trail, where we came to a camper. His family was still asleep. We sat down in wet lawn chairs with our beers in hand. If it weren’t for the fact that I had found my lost money, that morning would have gone down as the gloomiest in history. The mist was so thick, you got wet through osmosis, not rain.

Herb and his family– wife, three boys, and a daughter, were on their way to a Pow Wow in Yarmouth. After our second beer, I found myself searching my head for reasons not to take Herb up on his offer. He wanted me to throw my bike in the back of his truck, hop on the back of his motorcycle, and go with him and his family down to the Pow Wow. By then he was already drinking the coffee that his wife had handed him and his 17 year-old son was working on both of Herb’s motorcycles. After the Pow Wow he promised to take me all the way to Turo, which was another hundred miles up the coast. He lived on the Mic Mack Indian Reservation, which was not far from Turo.

It all sounded too good to be true. I really wanted to go to an authentic Pow Wow, but my past experience with Indians, especially the Montana debacle, where my drinking buddy deliberately ran over me with his truck, made me think twice about spending time with Indians and alcohol again. But, I told myself this had to be different. After all, this was a whole family of Indians, a family that sported two new 750 cc Hondas, and an almost new camper. That had to say something about responsible behavior. I mean accumulating possessions took money and that usually meant you had to be able to handle responsibilities. Anyway, I said to myself, “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” as I told Herb, “sure, I’ll go with you back to Yarmouth!”

I Asked For My Money-Instead I Was Offered Two Bologna Sandwiches

The Pow Wow

We put my bike in the truck, and I climbed on the back of Lenny’s motorcycle while Butch, Herb’s 7 year-old, climbed on the back of his dad’s motorcycle. Oh, and before I forget, there was one other thing that helped me decide to go to the Pow Wow. When Herb was trying to get me to go with the family, I told him, “I can’t afford to spend much money since I was running short on cash.” Without hesitation, good old Herb shot back, “Don’t worry about money, just get on board. It’ll be fun; you’ll see.” Anyway, things began to look a little tilted when Herb took off on his motorcycle at 80 and 90 mph. Lenny and I were right behind.

At our first stop, Mrs. Herb was not happy. She made Butch get off the motorcycle and back into the truck. She told her husband to slow down. Herb, now upset, took off at 110 mph. Lenny stayed with him up to 100 mph and then backed off. Thank-you Lenny. We left the truck in the dust, as we careened around the winding curves on the two-lane road at 45-degree angles. I was
now having second thoughts about wanting to go to the Pow Wow. Apparently, I had put to much faith in that coffee Herb was drinking when he convinced me to ride along; after all, when I met him, he was stumbling around on the side of the rode. When Lenny and I caught up to him, he was coming out of a roadside party-store. In his hand was a brown paper bag, which turned out to be cheap whisky. The bottle got passed around before Lenny and I could even dismount. I had two drinks before the empty pint had to be broken against some rocks (Indian superstition I guess). Once we took off again, I became very irritated as I watched the same scenery that had taken me three wet, depression filled days to bicycle, move past me in the wrong direction. At least we had slowed to a reasonable speed, 60 mph.

Our next stop was when Herb had to get gas. Both Lenny and I watched in horror, as he was too drunk to keep his bike balanced. It fell to the pavement, almost hitting the gas pump. All three of us struggled to upright the bike. The shiny, new bike quite literally lost some of its color after that. Herb told us he was too high to ride. High was not the right word. Stone drunk would have been more appropriate. Lenny looked at me and said, “Lets get him something to eat.” There was a restaurant across the street, so after Lenny parked his cycle in the parking lot, and then came back for Herb’s cycle, we all went inside the restaurant.

Up at the counter, after we finished eating our meal, Herb realized he didn’t have any money. I ended up paying for his fish and chip dinner. Outside the restaurant, Lenny assured me Mrs. Herb would pay me. He said she was carrying $350 cash. After lunch Herb still couldn’t ride. He wanted to lie down and sleep. As Lenny and I scouted out a place for Herb to lie down, Herb got on his cycle and took off. Careening down the highway after him, I longed for the feel of my own bike underneath me rather than the vibrating monster that went 90 mph.

Herb never did get gas, so we caught him at another gas station as he was, once again, filling his tank. This time the bike stayed upright, and because Lenny was in the bathroom, I ended up paying the $2.50 for his gas. When we finally reached Yarmouth, nobody knew the directions to the Pow Wow. I began to wonder if the Pow Wow even existed. We never did find the place, but in our wonderings, Herb’s wife finally found us. We followed her to our final destination.

The Pow Wow was located at the dead end of a gravel road on the Indian Reserve. There were five houses scattered along the road, one of which belonged to a very unfriendly Indian. There were no trespassing signs everywhere, and he was sitting on his porch with a rifle in his lap. The Indians at the Pow Wow itself, which was supposed to be filled with Indians from all across Canada, looked to be of the local variety and numbered about forty. Herb showed no interest. At first I thought he was disappointed in the turnout, but after we found a place to set up camp, I got the real story. Alcohol was not allowed on the Reserve, and we were camped on the Reserve.

After I pulled my bike from the back of the truck, I was ready to leave. But I had come so far and at such a cost that I couldn’t make myself leave without at least checking out the Indians. I walked right into the middle of the Pow Wow. There were some young Indians off to the side playing Lacrosse, but a large black kettle with a woman standing over it marked the center space, so that’s where I headed. As I walked up to the lady stirring the kettle, all eyes were on me and they weren’t of the welcoming variety. It didn’t take long to find out I was not at a Pow Wow, I was at an Indian Unity Meeting. The lady stirring the pot came all the way from Cape Cod, and in as nice a way as possible she told me that I was not supposed to be there. That was not what I wanted to hear. Actually I felt more Indian than the Indians that I came with, but I really couldn’t tell the lady that. I was about to say goodbye when a not so nice Indian, the Chief maybe, came up to me and in non-flowery speech informed me that I was not an Indian. I could have argued the point, but I was well aware that this day had run its course and what was left of my energy had to be directed over the horizon.

I went back to the Herb family to bid adieux, get my bike, and ride off into the sunset. So as not to be seen drinking, they were camped on the other side of the swamp from the Pow Wow, errr, Unity Meeting. Ma Herb had stopped at the liquor store and packed Herb’s cooler. I was handed one last beer. Conversation never got around to the Pow Wow, but I did find out where Herb got his money. The new motorcycles and truck were bought with the $25,000 that he had just won in the lottery. Herb was one rich, drunk, Indian. Before leaving I asked for the money I had spent on the family during the trip down to Yarmouth. Herb replied, “On Monday, when I get to the bank, I’ll give you the money.” I was offered two bologna sandwiches, instead. I accepted them without a second thought.

I just ate them. They were good. I’m presently thirty miles from Digby, and the ferry over to New Brunswick, heading for home. I am not depressed from this day’s events. Actually, when I think about it, I have to smile. It had been insane, but at least now, I’m headed for home. I can’t continue this trip. I’m tired of biking, tired of being dirty, tired of eating shity food, tired of everything, but most of all, I’m tired of looking for a campsite when its going to rain at any minute.


3 Responses to “We Crawl Before We Walk–Buddhist Mindfulness Lesson”

  1. tilly/tildy Says:

    that sure was one very interesting day, and the events of that day sure make for good story telling….thankyou for sharing….blessings tilly

  2. Beverly Says:

    Dave, I believe I’m beginning to recognize a pattern in your writings……it seems a lot of your ,ummm, adventures involved drinking.

    Tilly is right, you are a good story teller. Welcome Tilly to one of my favorite bloggers!

    I haven’t quite figured out what the fascination about your stories is for me, Dave, why I have to come back. Perhaps it’s your honesty about yourself. Maybe it’s the matter-of-fact way you describe the events. Maybe it’s the courage to reveal so much about yourself in your writing. Maybe it’s how you can turn even the most mundane things into grand adventures. Maybe it’s the details you go into that makes your story come alive, as if I am right there leaning into the curve at a 45 degree angle or I am tasting that bologna sandwich. Maybe it’s the way you make me want to be there with you in your story. Maybe it’s the anticipation of what’s coming next. Maybe it’s your style of writing. Maybe it’s your understated sense of humor. Maybe it’s your wit. Maybe it’s the way I am living life vicariously through you in ways I have never been able to before. Maybe it’s the way I can see life through your eyes. Maybe it’s the glimpse into your very soul. Maybe it’s the power you have to make me care.


  3. dave Says:

    Thanks for the comments. Tilly, the good news is that yes, that day was made for story telling. The bad news is that those days were/are few in number. It may be that my writing will be less effective from here on out (at least in terms of the good stories).

    Here I sit Beverly, naked, warts in full display. My formative years were spent in Houghton Lake, a tourist town, where the winter population numbered 2500, only to bloom in the summer to 10,000. On my block-a long block-15 to 20 bars dotted the landscape. Having a good time meant holding a beer in one hand and a lady in the other (I was better at holding the beer, though). My one hero, a bar band bass player from Canada, brought with him from Canada a U-hall filled with cases of IPA Pale Ale every summer (his band had a continual gig at one of the better bars). At night, when he was working, he let me listen to his jazz music and drink his beer–good memories all. This took place before I graduated from high school. My mother, a lifelong bartender, worked at the same bar as the bass player as she supported the family during the hard times. When my father got his job as an appliance salesman things got better, though. Anyway, I’ve kept up with my drinking habit (for the most part, responsible drinking) right up to the present. That said, however, I’m in the process of cutting back now. It hasn’t been easy but the world does look different–and, I might add, the change is good.

    I want to thank you Beverly for the kind words once again. Truth be known, I’m more comfortable with criticism than I am with words of recognition. Actually, the last time I came close to being singled out with kind words of recognition was after a high school football game win. I overheard my coach tell another coach that “heyl ran like a deer.”

    Take care,

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