Losing them, fixing them, forgetting to put them in
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In order to come together with people that share common interests, we have traveled around the U.S. for the last five months, hitchhiking with very little or no money and carrying only what we could stuff into our pockets. We shared with many people.
I wanted to touch him, hold him and laugh with him, show him something — just one thing — good about the world, but I couldn’t think of anything just then. I wanted to fold his mother into me, whoever she was, and love her, build for myself and these two people I didn’t even know a world where laughter and gentleness is possible, not distorted.
I’m not down on Chapel Hill. With me it’s a matter of finding out that I don’t have to live there in order to be up. I have not always felt this way. In fact, I had a bad case of what I call the Chapel Hill Syndrome.
Going home, as if home were still a possibility, or, like those other shadowy and relative values of our age — love, honesty, rationality — nothing more than a momentary echo of something past, and nearly forgotten, a smudge on the map, a torn page from the history book, when families stayed put, when the heart was forever, when politicians were statesmen, when faith was an arbiter at the edge of learning rather than a substitute for reason.
And so it was pronounced: there would be a gathering of the multitude, and musicians would play and fireworks would light the sky. The people were joyous, for they had just beheld the resignation of a powerful leader who had sought to rule through discrediting these free people. A note of justice was to be heard through the festival.
I think I’d rather talk about Charlotte. North Carolina, that is. I really can’t be objective about Chapel Hill, and my subjectivity is too complex to put into words. But Charlotte! There’s a town I can write about cause I really don’t like that city. I can’t quite put my finger on it, you know, because it would take half my hand to really cover it all.
Living with and loving kids who never got an even break. I put aside the idea of climbing the mountain together. I read case histories and wonder if I could make even a small impression. Could they learn to love me as I love them? Could they begin to love our brothers and sisters as well? Is it even possible that they could learn to love parents; foster-parents; judges; probation officers; and policemen, who, in their own weakness, do the children so much wrong?
So many people have so many good things to say about Chapel Hill, we thought we’d ask some folks what they don’t like about it. A sample of public opinion:
“The casual village atmosphere has become a casual rip-off atmosphere.”
“I don’t like the cars on Franklin Street. Close it off and plant flower gardens on the asphalt.”
It’s not just that this is a small town where everybody knows you. Even on my first day in Chapel Hill I was greeted by many smiling faces and hellos as I walked down Franklin Street. Believe me, after Buffalo, NY, and Washington, D.C., it was an overwhelming feeling that made me say, “Yes, I think I’ll stay here,” as I know many other travelers have done.
Coming down here: tunnel of freeways, of semis, left lane, embankment, passing at 80, 85, 90, an occasional unconscious suicidal 95, 100, thinking of the Missouri regiment marching up Canyon de Chelley (deep narrow canyon in northern Arizona) with the Navajos covering them from the crevices of the canyon all the way up but they didn’t know it: the Navajos had to admire folks with that kind of nerve, or at least wanted to figure out their number.
Three A.M. on East Franklin Street and there were just these three things moving. A battered green one-ton pickup truck with a hanging muffler and two kids from New Jersey; an old guy who told them how to get to Manns Chapel Road; and the cop car that made a quick u-turn and followed them out of town.
“. . . as my taste became more refined, I abandoned de Musset for Verlaine, and, as a rule, I’d say that one who was brought up on Hugo would dedicate himself entirely . . .”