I imagine myself belonging to an ancient fraternity of troubadours, minstrels and jongleurs. With that in mind, I present these verses for your delectation.
I go from scene to scene
I’m a troubadour
The road is my queen
The world’s my candy store.
I’m a creator
I’m a doer, not a waiter
I’m a sooner, not a later
I’m a lover, not a hater.
I fancy myself a knight
My pen’s a mighty sword
I’m guided by a Light
I’m defended by a Force.
And, yes, I’m a minstrel
Here to serve you well
With the songs that I sing
And the stories that I tell.
I respect your religion
So, let’s get to mixing
C’mon in my kitchen
And I’ll show you what I’m fixing.
I see there is a plan
I want to lend a hand
As I travel through these lands
I see that love is in demand.
I’m certain we are able
To sit around the table
Drop all our labels
And make this story a fable.
The images of my hero of heroes, the swashbuckling Robin Hood, and the long-haired, velvet-clad romantic, crooning and strumming his lute in the moonlight and gazing up glassy-eyed at his sweetheart swooning on the balcony, are favorites of mine. And when I listened to the dulcet sounds and enchanting words of Donovan and Dylan and Paul Simon in the ‘60’s, I was captivated. Although too lazy to practice an instrument (I quit after one guitar lesson), I did have an affinity for penning verse, which I have crafted regularly all these decades. Some of these poems I still discover in old shoe boxes and forgotten notebooks.
Eschewing formal higher education, military service and any notion of a stable lifestyle or traditional career, I have saved - not spent - my life traveling, living season by season, seeking beaches and palm trees, mountains and fountains, vaunted cities and culture centers, temples and theaters; making love and forsaking love. I relentlessly follow some voiceless invisible guide - or, more likely, an endless series of fanciful whims - to impart purpose and substance, with the element of spontaneity and surprise, into my life.
When I recall drumming a pencil on my school desk as a boy, daydreaming out the long windows into the infinite blue sky, it is clear now I was already a seeker. In my teen years, though, I was confused and afraid as my family and peers, community leaders and athletic coaches, watching me stray from the herd, warned me about sabotaging the success sure to be mine if I kept my head down, studied hard and followed the program. Yet, my motto, placed under my profile photo in the high school yearbook, was prophetic. It read: “To Have No Restrictions.” I was 17.
The conservative chorus confused me. Dread suffused me. My biggest nightmares were getting trapped, tethered to a vapid job and a boring regimented life for which I had no passion; and at the same time, spiraling into debt or having a child I wasn’t ready for with a woman I didn’t want to settle down with. At times, helpless and seeking direction, I begged (to who or what I don’t know), “Please, just make it (life) interesting and exciting.”
So, I kept my head up, dropped the schoolbooks and fled from the flock, sniffing like a hound for adventure, opportunity, mischief, the unknown and the unattainable. Their entreaties and caveats, based on fear and a lack of imagination, were bankrupt. So, as I grew increasingly ‘untouchable’ and confident, I was drinking Tim Leary’s Kool Aid, inhaling Acapulco’s Gold and listening to Cat Stevens’ Tea For The Tillerman, vital allies in my imminent blast-off to ‘Space.’
There was only one remedy for my wanderlust. And it was now or maybe never. I had to go, go, go. This is my precious life, I vowed. Besides, I had nothing to lose because I could always return to Normalcy, Monday-Friday, 9-5. Its jaw and claws would always be waiting.
It was time for “The Great Escape”. So, I hitchhiked to Hemingway’s house in Key West, Haight Ashbury in San Francisco and down the Pan American Highway through Mexico and Central America in a quixotic quest for, well, nothing in particular. However, I was starry-eyed and ready for anything.
Although it was often inspiring, The Road isn’t always lollipops and rainbows. Sometimes without a dollar in my pocket, all alone on a highway (sometimes in the middle of the night), not certain in which direction to proceed, I doubted and kicked myself. You fool, I cursed. You could be at home laying in your nice comfortable bed right now.
There were disasters, too: 33 days in jail for no reason in Guatemala in 1980; fatal threats by a gang of ornery Turkish Gypsies in Ephesus in 1998; a robbery with a big knife in my face in Morocco in 2005. All harrowing at the time but stories I now share with relish.
Yet, after all, adversity is beneficial. I know hunger and homelessness, if only for a brief time. Those days and experiences cultivated in me a lifelong sense of gratitude and humility, an appreciation for the little things I always took for granted, unaware of how privileged I have always been. My character has blossomed and my soul deepened as a result of all the trips and risks I have embarked on.
Days and nights with the Maya in Guatemala, the Rastafarians in the hills of Jamaica, the forgotten Hawaiians in their conquered islands, the original Gypsies in the desert of Rajasthan and the Gnawans in Morocco, among others, have enriched me, their friendship and trust in me treasures I cherish.
How many times did strangers, amazed and alarmed to find an aimless boy on the highway, invite me home, feed me, give me a job or money? In short, treat me like family or a special guest? Countless. As I had nothing, their houses seemed like castles, my hosts royalty, the meals, however simple, feasts.
I have been, for all time, impressed, spiritually converted by the kindness of strangers. Now, I reciprocate and do the same for fellow travelers I meet. And when they thank me for a shower or meal or sofa to sleep on, I feel consummate satisfaction in completing the circle (and the circles within circles).
I can never ever doubt, deny or ignore The Song in My Heart, this reward for my trust and courage, as it is written and played out before my delighted eyes.
Whatever that song is for you, sing it, believe in it, do it. Go forward with confidence and love in your heart and magic in your hands and feet. You will find more than you are looking for, more than you ever thought was possible.
As a result of my ‘folly’, my jumping off the cliff into a mountain of rose petals, I have traveled for 45 years and shared my experiences through my poems, performing them in parks, at festivals, celebrations and on stages wherever I am (62 counties so far). Even better are the collaborations in concert with other artists - musicians, dancers, painters, fellow wordsmiths.
It is the life I always yearned for, visualized and, ultimately, conjured. I urge you to do the same.