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WHERE AM I, AND HOW DID I GET HERE?

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  • Cliff Bohnson
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 20, 2005
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      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
      electrical business).

      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
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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