I was camped-out on a flatbed train car en-route from Lincoln, Nebraska to Seattle, Washington on that fateful day in 1980 when the car I was riding was sidetracked…and I met the Attractive Nuisance who (after a 2-year, cross-country, epistolary romance) would become my mate, my wife, and my muse. In the morning, before I left, all she asked was that I go for for a hike in the mountains, and lay down in the wildflowers with her…

So begins Chapter 1 of my next book. Here’s the plan: 1 emblematic day per Chapter for each year of my life as the archetypal “Stranger In A Strange Land.”

Side-tracked
Rolling out my sleeping bag and using my pack as a backrest, I rode on a flatbed railroad car behind the windbreak of a shining new John Deere tractor. The train traveled in fits and starts all night, arriving early the next morning in the vast switching yards of an old railroad town at the base of a mountain range. There the train paused again while the car I rode was side-tracked and un-coupled. Far ahead, around a corner, I saw the rest of the train moving on without me. Dis-mounting, I followed the tracks to an old railroad station, still-functioning, but just barely.  According to the local paper, I was in Ogden, Utah.

It wasn’t hard to find the library and there I met a librarian known as Trice, short for Patrice. She seemed fun and interesting but we couldn’t really talk while she was at work, so I asked her out to dinner. She countered by inviting me to her apartment for a home-cooked meal, making it clear that she was happily married and this wasn’t about that.

When I arrived with a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread, Trice introduced me to her friend Suzanne–a surprise guest, invited to provide security for the event. Something about Suzanne’s squeaky-clean good looks and her forthright and flinty Mormon manner caused sparks to fly. In retrospect, it’s clear that, consciously or not, Trice had set us up.

Suzanne and I spent the night together out on the balcony under the stars, she in her sleeping bag and I in mine. She was a school teacher who had quit teaching after seven years and gone back to college. She had a Master’s in Education and had burned-out on “academentia.” She had traveled, by bus and by thumb, and now she had a part-time job as a river guide.

When I asker Suzanne where was the best place to hitch a ride out of town in the morning, she knew just the spot, and then started telling me how to get rides with truck drivers, and how to get out of a ride if you need to.

“I’d kiss you,” I said, “but I’m afraid you’ll give me a karate chop.”

Kissing was all that happened that night. The next day, we hiked up to the mountain and laid in the tall grass and bright yellow, mule’s ear flowers. Then it was time for Suzanne to go to her other job, working with another friend in a company they called Green & Clean. I hitch-hiked back to Seattle, resumed my job driving a taxi, and we commenced an epistolary courtship. Having someone to write to has always been at the core of our relationship.

When I Grow Up:
A handmade home movie about a recent trip to Brooklyn with my favorite Attractive Nuisance.

Honeymoon photo while house-sitting in Seattle, 1982

Honeymoon photo while house-sitting in Seattle, 1982

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