This is the second in a series of narratives about my advanced individual training at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, in 1972.
A Different Viewpoint
While hitch-hiking with my friend, Roy Turvey, from Ft. Dix, to Washington DC, a nice man, with a little boy, dropped us off at a Hilton Hotel in Baltimore and departed. However, the Hilton was too expensive, so we started looking for a cheaper place. We tried a Lord Baltimore Hotel, but it was way too much. We tried to locate a USO, but eventually decided to stay at a Holiday Inn, where we paid sixteen dollars for a really nice double room, with a color TV, and a bathtub.
Though it was ten o’clock already, Roy and I changed into civvies, and went out for a stroll through the streets of this old city, with nothing like it to compare in California. We walked past the docked Civil War-Era ship Constellation, and admired the clipper ships, reflecting Baltimore’s naval history, and its efforts to preserve that history. As we ambled along , everything seemed to point back to an earlier time period, when the stakes were higher, and you paid a higher price to wear the uniforms that Roy and I had found so convenient to hitch-hike around in. It was a different viewpoint from which to examine my military conscription, one with a little less bitterness.
Arriving back at the Holiday Inn about 12:30, we got a late snack at the downstairs cafe. We actually still had enough adrenaline flowing to stay up for a while watching television, before finally turning in. My last memory was that Baltimore had heretofore meant nothing more than the sad ending of the 1966 baseball season, with Brooks Robinson stopping everything hit between the line and the shortstop, and the Dodgers producing the prototype of the 2011 Giants: all pitching and no hitting. The Dodgers scored two runs in the first three innings of the first game, and then were shut out for the final thirty-three innings of the 1966 World Series. Better t have not gone to the Show, than to have performed so abysmally.
I woke up the next morning and took a hot bath, the first I had enjoyed since I had visited with Nancie’s Uncle Al, several weeks before. I dragged Turkey (Roy’s nick-name) out of bed after I got out of the tub, and sat down and filled out a couple of post cards, one to Nancie and one to Mama. Afterwards, we bundled up, because it was raining, and headed back out, and stuck out our thumbs.
A black man stopped almost instantly, a military guy who was not in uniform, and who took us all the way to the front steps of Jeff’s dorm room at Georgetown U, making lively conversation the whole time. When he asked what we were doing in DC, and we told him we were visiting my friend here at the university, he nodded knowingly and wished us luck. I think he figured we had come to the university to acquire knowledge in a more biblical sense.
We went straight up to Jeff’s room, waking him at close to eleven in the morning. Rolling over, and fumbling for his glasses, he still managed to indicate one of his drawers, just out of reach, which I opened for him. Inside I could see several containers of precious herbs, that Jeff had collected in the time he had been at Georgetown. There was some And here I had been thinking that he was a political science major, when evidently he was into horticulture.
We sat there for a couple of hours, sipping gin and smoking reefer in this dorm room in Washington DC, certainly the closest to home I had felt since hitting the East Coast. In the letter home to Nancie, I described the scene similarly, with the slight omission that I never mentioned the greenery, probably out of fear of censorship.
Roy and I took off after a couple of hours and set out to see some of the city. It was so beautiful, even in the rain. We promenaded past the White House and the big Cathedral, but we deemed it too far to walk to the monuments, even though we could see them in the distance. By now we were famished, so we bought a couple of sandwiches, and headed back to Jeff’s.
Jeff’s girlfriend was there, so after siting around for a while, she suggested that we head back to her place, and she would check with her roommate and see if we could crash on the floor, so that we did not have to pay for another room for the night. Her roommate said great, and we were on.
Wanting to be the perfect host, Jeff suggested that we go see The Godfather, which had been released within the past few days. All of us had read the book, and it proved to be everything that it had been billed to be. When we returned to the house after the film, we crashed, Roy and I being provided with blankets and pillows, and finding places on the cluttered floor of this basement dwelling.
We had entered the house, and immediately descended one floor, into the basement, which was a series of refurbished rooms, very haphazard in terms of dimensions. What it meant, was that in the morning, when I awoke, before the others, of course, I had no concept of what time it was. There were no windows accessible from this basement set of rooms, so it was coal black. I lay there for hours, before they started to stir at around ten. Not since I had been home on Fellowship Street, had I lain around of a Sunday morning, and just dozed. I could have gotten used to that very easily.