Heading down to New York, 5:30 a.m.,
to track the footsteps
of Kerouac and Caulfield,
we drove through the "Negro streets
at dawn" to find a city wide awake,

125th Street, its bustling self, but we managed
to land briefly at the Apollo Theater,
to hear the beat of rock shows
long past, before being carried
down Broadway, to booths at the old West

End Grill, where Jack and Allen talked
the talk that big questions talk, and where
the smell of the place seemed laid down like
so many sedimentary layers, going back at
least to 1943 and probably further, then

on to Columbia where we entered the gates
as young Jack once did, the plaza,
the books, with America, Western Civilization,
all still in tact, before we shattered the air, fists
upraised, like barbarians at the gate

in '68, with the cry, "Shut It Down" to
stunned onlookers who wondered, quite
justly, what the hell was going on, but
on we marched, not against a war,
but there was just so much to do, places to

go, namely the great cathedral of St. John's,
where Jack's footprints were
found, because you just know he wandered
amidst all that stained glass
(and did he stand dreaming amidst the immortals

at Poet's Corner?), and besides, a certain pastry
shop that spoke of sin waited across the
street, with cream puffs to get
lost in, which some did, but first a homeless
man leaped out of the shadows,

a hustler who knew his gargoyles, almost him-
self a gargoyle, proceeding to lay
down a rap that cast a spell, as he ran
pillar to pillar, with us in tow,
us the spellbound, listening to a great

teacher who but for a few things might be
leaping about his classroom at the new L-S,
but this mystery took time to
ponder, and there was no time, for we were
off again, to Seinfeld's favorite eatery

where a picture was definitely taken, before
cutting back down 112th St. only to be stopped
cold not by fate, but by jerk who had decided
to park his Escalante in the middle of the street
while he attended to an errand, thereby leaves car, trucks,

our bus oh so dead in the water, while hardened New Yorkers,
witnesses to everything human, bystanders to
a million calamities, stood shaking their
heads at a depth of selfishness beyond even a Naked
City's imagination, until the guy showed

up, slinking away before his selfish skin could be
flayed cubic inch-by-inch, but no matter,
for we were on our way to the Museum of Natural
History to keep an appointment with
a Mr. Holden Caulfield , over by the war

canoe and the dioramas, and not one thing had changed
he would be glad to know, not one stuffed animal
had moved, since he walked through holding Gertrude
Levine's sweaty hand, and so the requisite passage was
read, and out onto the steps by Central Park we tumbled

to experience New York on a bun, the Sabarett's
hotdog, m-m-m, and we were hungry, and we pronounced
it "Good," only to find that three of our band
had disappeared somewhere in the Museum, perhaps
forever, but they were only gift shop

desperados, so we speeded down to 72 St, to the Dakota,
to the spot where John Lennon fell,
then strolled through Strawberry Fields, where we too
imagined well, where we at least imagined some
group shots imagined by countless

groups before, then the duck pond waited,
where we stood wondering with Holden, Where
do they go?, pondering, pausing while our
two Sarahs, comrades of the holy beanbag,
danced beneath New York skies to the stringed

strains of a jazz violinist, but we needed to
find the still nuttier music Caulfield loved, only
to bump into a long lost friend, amazingly
a teacher once at L-S, as if somehow this had
all been scripted by serendipity, but we

finally came to the carousel, and gave it
whirl like ol' Pheobe Weatherfield
Caulfied did, while Holden watched, and reached for
our own Golden Ring, unfortunately removed by
insurance companies long ago, but still

the ride was grand, and sent us spinning
out of the park and back to the bus, but not before
we claimed a mountain for L-S, from which
we could not quite see our next destination,
the haunt of bohemian and beat, of

artist and folk singer, which could only mean
Greenwich Village! Dinner! Strange Stores!
NYU! A New Driver! Real coffee shops!
Washington Square Park! Chess Hustlers!
Drug Dealers! New York When The

Darkness Cometh! But the real darkness we found
later, at a place called Ground Zero, oh memories
of fire, where photographs were taken but
all smiles disappeared, and back on the bus we

fell only a few hours behind schedule, zooming uptown
to Grand Central, where perchance Holden might
be arriving, and we charged into it with a plan,
executed with precision, into the beating heart of
the city, in the frantic madness of rush hour, under

the starriest sky, we wheeled like constellations,
and got the picture we sought, the Information
Booth was ours! even if some commuter
did crash our party, which hey, he was entitled to,
and then we ran for our lives back to the bus,

and out of the city, well, almost...but first we heard the
Call of the Bronx, while a stunned neighborhood
watched a giant tour bus disgorge at dinner time,
Why?....What? .... Who?....Courtyard Dreams...Sweatshops
....Socialists.....Pine Trees...The Rail....It all was there,
this place never changes, said I, grateful as Holden,

then came Clinton, good ol' DeWitt, the high school
that looks like a high school, and we charged up the
steps while the cop inside started to freak "What's
this?" even the girls, because there's no
way to stop girls now, they cannot be

stopped, give it up, the world's gone
coed, and so a bus hurtled back
to Massachusetts though this American
Night, and how could I even begin to explain
the marriage that took place, the hand

later asked for, the forgiveness granted
after a flap about National Anthems that
never occurred, the singing, the traffic
jams, the 3 kids lying on the floor there's no
explaining it, nothing taught or learned that

would help anyone on MCAS day, just one mad day
in New York, on the road, looking, searching,
eyes wide open, some good laughs, and a teacher
lost in thought, thinking now of other trips, many
trips, the past whizzing by him like the scenery

outside, going home now not like three years
ago, returning to learn a dear friend had died, but
going home to find the one he loved, now travelling
her own road, from half a world away, and the two
roads converging, then finally joining

at the top of the stairs, she standing
there, smiling. There would be hugs and
kisses, and talk of South Pacific adventures, and
there would be stories of a last field trip, and
memories, always, of a day well-spent.

November 18, 2005

All written material © Bill Schechter, 2016
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