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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
AOL Homepage: The Road Trip, Part Six and Conclusion 
12th-Aug-2000 08:55 pm
Devil's Tower
From my original AOL homepage:

The Road Trip--End of the Road

We arrived in West Lafayette, Indiana, at Purdue University where Kevin had served his intership year at the end of his doctoral course. There we had a grand party waiting for us as his entire staff was throwing a shindig for him. Much music, conversation and consumption ensued. I spent the entire evening in the company of psychologists and still walked away a free man. I was content. Late at night, we made our way back to South Bend and crashed at my place.

The major event of South Bend ended up being a dinner with Kevin's dissertation advisor, Professor George Howard of Notre Dame's psychology department. I had met Prof. Howard and his wife, Nancy, who is a counsellor herself, before since I taught their son John last year. As we were talking over dinner, Nancy brought up a project Kevin and I had been working on before his move out west disrupted our work: roughly 150 pages of text of a work looking at lifestyle in the teachings of Jesus, from the dual perspectives of a therapist and a theologian. Listening to us, George suddenly asked if we would be interested in presenting our work to the Erasmus Institute. A word of explanation: the Erasmus Institute is an institute at Notre Dame geared toward overcoming the sillier heritage of secularism by re-engaging dialogue between theology and other disciplines. This year, they are focused on the social sciences and George had applied for and received standing as a senior fellow, working on a project about religious outlooks regarding environmental concerns. Kevin and I, especially I, who knew what the Institute was, were stunned. We enthusiastically agreed. As we left that night we were already planning our presentation. When we got into the car, the CD randomizer began, out of roughly a hundred songs, to play "Joyce Country Ceili Band." We had the blessings of heaven. There was much rejoicing.

After Mass at the crypt at Sacred Heart on Sunday morning, featuring a most painfully out-of-tune guitar, we set off for the suburbs of Buffalo, there to stop for the night at Kevin's brother's place. Scott and his wife Diana and their incredibly cute little gnome children Jake and Tucker were our hosts. Standing around the kitchen we laughed and laughed telling stories and dealing with the hyper cleverness that only three-year-olds can create.



We finally made it to Massachusetts and Kevin's family. And as we ran out of steam, so are my words drying up. This was, at last, rest. Kev's folks have always been very kind to me, but they're also Irish and therefore deserve my best Irish hassling. As we tramped in through the door, Mrs. Fleming gave me a delighted "Hi Mike!" I simply jerked my thumb over my shoulder, gesturing out the back door to the car in the driveway, and said, "Babs: bags." As she stared at me in disbelief, I glowered at her and clapped my hands, shooing her towards the door. "They're not going to unload themselves!" I snapped. Then she broke into delighted giggles.



Time with the Flemings turned into lots of good food and conversation with the folks and with hometown sons Chris and Dave, who'd I'd met over the years on other occasions. I took a few photographs of the clan over a light dinner one night in the kitchen. Mysteriously, what appears to be a halo has appeared over Mr. Fleming's head in the developed photograph, however unlikely this seems. (Who said that?!) Here I present the undoctored photograph with no further comment.






Kevin and I also spent a day down at their Long Island Sound cottage in Connecticut. So, from our heights in the Rockies, beyond the continental divide, we had at last come to the sea. As I felt the waves hit my feet, I really felt that we'd come to the end of the trek.






All that remained was a few days more of rest, reading and really good company. Then I had to be off to start the new school year, and Kevin would be flying out to Los Angeles to play drums on Seth Sholmes' new album, (Dan Folgelberg producing!) and then moving down to New Jersey to begin work with a practice along the coast. I simply just tried to soak in the pleasure of it all. A few more dinners, including a great night with Kevin's Uncle Ted, some glimpses of the New England architecture and a few historical sites from Kevin's youth used up the rest of our time.









I had a frustrating time right after Kevin dropped me off at the airport in Hartford. The American West counter handled only a dozen people in about half an hour and I found myself uncertain about getting my luggage and myself to the plane on time as I waited and waited. Finally, they called to see if anyone was on that flight about 20-25 minutes before departure and I got to jump the half-dozen people still ahead of me. Annoying.


But it was so pretty flying over Connecticut and the West Point area before the clouds set in. Yeah, I was definitely loving New England.... I finished my novel as we landed in Chicago and found myself very melancholy. Byzantium really had a major struggle with faith as the theme towards the end and it clicked with some of the self-examination / look-at-emptiness themes that had come up for me as we traveled. I realized that the "time to pull over and sit somewhere in the mountains" urge that I was feeling was really stemming from those thoughts. Somehow I can't do that kind of thinking on the road itself. Perhaps there is too much movement or noise or change. I'm not sure.... Anyway, some more lyrics for a song that I'd started writing on Kevin's porch back in Laramie came to me then, and the song was finished on the bus as I was leaving Midway.



On My Way
The summer that my grandpa died
I journeyed way out west
A time to think. A time to mourn.
For seeing what was best.
To see that my horizons
had yet to be discerned
To come to be comfortable
that I'd so much yet to learn.

The land was broken. The land was fenced.
Was it open or was it tamed?
The long Wyoming highways
are really a narrow range.
But the sky was vast and conquering
of every borderline:
life and death, time and space
and maybe yours and mine.

The old man at his rest now
This young man on his way
No set destination
I'm just here today....

Grandpa was a character
a stubborn, solid soul.
Up was down, blue was red
that's the way our talks would go.
The man could try the patience
of a stone, that much is true
But he built a family, he built a home,
hell, he even built a school.

The mountains stand together
yet each peak is alone
I rode on with my brother
and our thoughts were not our own:
Highway conversations
past and present scenes
Hopes fears jokes regrets
All that our lives might mean

The old man at his rest now
This young man on his way
No set destination
I'm just here today.
I'm just here today.

I sought my own emptiness
'cause a friend said that's what I fear
And the rhythms of the world
they brought that silence near
And here on bus near journey's end
I grope for words to cast
my feelings into sculpted thoughts
to make some wisdom last

Oh grant that leaves may comfort me
as I blow on my way
Oh clear from me this summer's haze
let me see the depth of day
And bring at last that pleasure's smile
that simple, subtle grace
of seeing in each moment
my God face to face

The old man at his rest now
This young man on his way
No set destination
I'm just here today.
I'm just here today.




I then had an encounter that turned into a lot of fun. As I waited in the bus station to switch from the Tri-State to United Limo, I was starting to watch Al Gore's speech at the Democratic convention and was also keeping an eye out for the Notre Dame bus, due in 45 minutes. I noticed others headed to ND, including a cute Irish-looking lass, auburn/red hair, shorter cut, brown eyes, round-faced with a very pleasing air to her. Anyway, as we sorted ourselves out from a false alarm, with a few people asking, "Going to ND?," she asked me, "Are you in the Folk Choir?" This turned out to be interesting because she--Katie was her name, Kathryn Weil, an actress majoring in literatures--was just starting her Junior year, so I have no idea how she would have ever seen me with the Folk Choir, since my last year in would have been her senior year in high school. Anyway, we had a fun conversation for the next three hours as we made our way back to campus. She was just coming back from a semester in Chile and would be heading off to London in the spring. So we compared adventure notes. It also turned out that she knew Jeni Rinner and Dan O'Brien out of the Folkheads--Folk Choir members--that I knew. (And--oddly enough, I found out from John Welsh--she was his brother Tim's best friend or somesuch in kindergarten who then met again at Notre Dame.) This then turned into hours of conversation and laughter, making the bus ride an absolute pleasure rather than a long, lonely roll through the dark.

After parting ways on campus, I dragged myself and my luggage into St. Ed's Hall and up to Erik's apartment for a promised ride down to my apartment. It was midnight.

And that was the end of the Road Trip.
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