WHERE AM I, AND HOW DID I GET HERE?
- WHERE AM I, AND HOW DID I GET HERE?
by C. N. Bohnson
Early in 1954, I applied to the United States Air Force, and was
accepted as an Aviation Cadet. They gave me a reporting date of March
13, 1955 -- the day after my 21st birthday. At the time, I was working
with my uncle as an electrician. I called my best friend, Howard, who
lived in New Hampshire.
I had met Howard when I was fourteen and he was twelve. My father had
somewhat capriciously decided to move the family to Hudson, an outskirt
of Nashua. He bought an old farmhouse situated on twenty-or-so acres of
land-half woods and half fallow fields, and opened a snack-bar in a
small building at the front of the property. It was called "The
Cauldron." Howard and I were both in the choir at the little Episcopal
Church in town. My family only lasted there for about a year and a half,
and then we moved back to New York. But Howard and I stayed in touch,
even spending some vacation time together.
Anyway, figuring I'd be gone for who knows how long once I left for the
service, Howard agreed to come down and spend the summer with me. My
uncle hired him on as my helper. We shared my small second-floor
apartment a few doors down from my parents' place (which was over the
hardware store which Mom ran, and which was the home of my uncle's
We had a ball. I was going steady with Anita, a girl I had been dating
since high-school. She introduced Howard to her cousin, and we basically
double-dated for the next eight months or so. Not having a lot of money,
our dates were somewhat unique. We had what my grandmother called
"champagne tastes, but a beer pocketbook." So Howard and I would invite
the girls over for an elegant evening. We would all four get fancied up.
Then Howard and I would prepare dinner. After we had eaten, we would
turn on the hi-fi and dance the night away.
That was our Friday night or Saturday night routine. On work nights,
though, Howard and I would usually just stay at home. One night, however
-- one of those nights when the air was leaden, and the temperature
hovered somewhere between "boiling" and "broiling," we absolutely
couldn't take it. We didn't have air-conditioning in the apartment, and,
when one o'clock came around, and we and our beds were soaked through
with sweat, I suggested we give up and go over to the 24-hour diner
across the street.
After a while, I was getting embarrassed at sitting there and not
ordering more than our original minimal order, Then I had a brilliant
idea. "Why don't we take my dad's car for a run? We could go to the
coast-see the ocean. It should be cooler there-plus, dad's got an
air-conditioner in the car!"
We decided that sounded like a plan, so off we went, heading to Long
Island, figuring we would get out into the country. With no particular
destination other than the coast in mind, I just drove aimlessly -- due
east. Whenever a choice of roads was presented us, we chose the one that
seemed to go further east.
In spite of the fact that I was a native New Yorker, I had only a vague
idea of the geography of Long Island. I knew there was the Atlantic
Ocean to the south and east, and Long Island Sound to the north. We
wanted to see the ocean at night, so east seemed to be the way to go. It
seemed we would never reach the ocean. As we drove ever eastward, the
roads got narrower; three lanes became two, two turned into one-and
there were still no signs indicating "Ocean ahead." Then, finally, even
that one lane became little more than an unpaved path. Suddenly there
was a sign nailed to a tree at a turn-off in front of us. By the light
from our headlights, we read the carelessly-painted scrawl, "Montauk
Yacht Club," with an arrow pointing to the right. Straight ahead was a
low rise, concealing whatever lay beyond.
"What do you think?" I asked. "If we head for the Yacht Club, we might
get in trouble for trespassing. And the ocean must be somewhere close by
up ahead..." We thought about it, we talked about it, and eventually
decided that a trespassing rap could hurt my chances as a cadet,
so-straight ahead it would be. I gunned it-up and over the sandy hill
that lay before us-and down! we plopped onto a narrow sandy beach, with
our front wheels IN the Atlantic Ocean!
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Cliff Bohnson http://homepage.mac.com/cbohnson/
Organist-Choirmaster, St. Philip's Memorial Episcopal Church