Coincidentally, the classic age range of the young adult is 18-30. Those years were pretty much exactly my young adult years, 1970 through 1983. Eighteen marked the beginning of life outside the sanctuary of institutional learning, as well as my first birthday on my own, almost independent, on a ferry boat in Eastern Canada. Young adulthood pretty much ended at the age of 30, when I started my first real job as a lawyer.
“Gimme Some Truth” is a John Lennon song, on his “Imagine” album, first released in September 1971.
I loved most of that album, especially the title song; it was hard not to. I did realize right away that many of his feelings were impossible dreams that I could not wholly share, a sort of updated “All You Need is Love.” But even if it was impossible to “Imagine there’s no countries, . . . nothing to kill or die for and no religion, too,” I still spent a lot of time hoping and dreaming, and especially during the years until reality set in. It’s warmer and better to look up than down.
So much happened during those years, it was almost crazy. I lived in three different countries and bounced around relentlessly, somehow managing to complete an extraordinary triple education: first the hippy highway, then the hippy college, and finally the hippy law school.
It’s that long young adult search that this volume of these memoirs addresses. My need to keep moving was a physical hunger, literally.
Based in Marlow from 1970 to 1974, I lived for a month or more in Harrogate, Birmingham, Oxford and London, in Vancouver BC and Banff and Edmonton Alberta, and in Cambridge, New York. I visited Brussels and Liège in Belgium, and Dunkerque and Paris in France, all by thumb. I hitchhiked and drove around the UK, Canada and the US. Commercial driving was my favorite way to earn money. I crossed Canada twice or more in a car, and the US once in a Greyhound bus, all the way from Manhattan to Los Angeles.
On and on I went, around and around, leaving wherever I was as soon as I felt comfortable heading in a new direction or uncomfortable where I was, and pausing regularly at home in Marlow. It was the only place that I felt really comfortable, which is a tribute to mum and dad, but I used to justify the recurring visits as the most efficient way to save money to travel. Unemployment was almost non-existent then near Marlow, and as mum and dad let me stay with them rent-free and use one of their cars pretty much at will, I quickly built up little nest eggs. Each nest egg fuelled another departure into my world of scruffy drifters, loud music, peculiar events, beautiful land and pretty girls.
Moving on more definitively, I lived for two years in Los Angeles (1974-6), four years in Northern California, Berkeley (from 1976 to 1979) and San Francisco (from 1982 to 1983), and three years in New Haven, Connecticut (1979-82), with one summer in New York. Each of the moves had an entirely legitimate reason, but it was never clear which came first, the move or its reason. “What a long, strange trip it’s been!”
Stories from the hippy highway start this volume of memoirs.
First comes Adrian, featuring the Rolling Stones! He attended Leeds University after Borlase’s, and settled there. In late 1970, he wrote me a letter suggesting that we get off our “idealistic arses” and form an International Peace Union. We should have. I was moving too fast.
Which brought me to Alberta in western Canada more than once, and two different kinds of love story, featuring Terry in one and Susan in another. Alberta was always good to me.
Then the shock: dad had a heart attack in August 1972, while I was still in Banff. Poor dad: he was only 46, and this abrupt change in his life sent ripples through the family.
Like a lot of other adolescents, I became obsessed with love and lust. Constantly moving on or away did nothing to settle this obsession or help it become more rational. And it’s difficult to capture in writing. I tried in Girls who Got Away, with mixed results.
In early 1972, Dennis Cruise helped me find a cheap car in Edmonton, Alberta, so that I could upgrade from hitchhiking. It was a pink 1959 Chevy Impala, complete with serious fins and a solid 283 cubic inch V8 engine. I drove it about 20,000 miles back and forth across the continent, before abandoning it in Colorado. As Neil Young sang about an old car in his life, “long may you run.”