When I was a little boy attending the Oak Bluffs School I was introduced to the wonderful world of books by Jan Buhrman, who was librarian at the time. The curiosity was always there in the back of my mind but was waiting for a catalyst. Jan gave me that gentle push. Books were addictive. It was like Jan was a peddler and had seduced my young mind with her wares.
One book and I was hooked. I had a vivid imagination as a child. I would spend hours in the meadow across from my house with the neighborhood kids, or in the woods beyond, playing for hours, dreaming of adventures in far off places. While attending the Oak Bluffs School I employed my imaginative powers in the library searching and seeking for a book or books that would transport me far, far away from dear old Martha’s Vineyard to some place that I could only dream about. In those books I discovered many things: kings, queens, cold mountain lakes with villas perched on the high cliffs just on the horizon. I discovered snowy peaks and exotic animals, strangers dressed in foreign costumes. I felt like a bright feathered bird that was trying with all of its might to find the opening in its gilded cage to fly free, far away.
I was not like the other kids in the class in many ways. I would read books and fantasize about where my first trip would be out into the big, wide world one day, rather than bother with things like sleepovers, hockey or cub scouts. I imagined having tea with the Queen of England, or waving to throngs of folks from the balcony of the Kremlin. Maybe I would hike up and down the great wall with a newly made Chinese friend. Who knew? That was the beauty of it, the romantic unknown of what could be, or might be. I dreamed on for the next few years.
I took my first trip to the UK when I was about 15, quite without the permission of my mother or father. I saved as much money as I could working two summer jobs, and toward the end of the summer I hopped a plane from Boston to London, then on to Scotland. There I had the time of my life seeing those castles and stately buildings in real life, discovering that they actually did exist. Finally I was off and traveling, my dreams were becoming reality. I simply made up my mind and did it.
During that trip to the UK, I knew then and there that I was going to be a lifelong traveling fool. I could not believe that you could board a plane and a few short hours later be across the world. It was amazing to me how rather simple it was to escape the gilded cage that I grew up in. I never wanted to return, never wanted to be cooped up again seven miles out to sea, shut off for months and years from the rest of the world at a time, save for television. Fly far away, birdy. But I was too young and regrettably had to return to dear old Martha in the end.
I returned to the over-protected shores of Martha’s Vineyard with a determination to leave forever. Yes, I said it — forever. I had gotten a taste of the world at large and I liked it. Baby, I had the blues. I knew what I was meant to do, or so I thought. So I made up my mind to go out into the big bad world some day and see everything, experience every kind of situation (good, bad, ugly, or what may come). It was the excitement of meeting people and of finding out all about them organically, from scratch. It was the sheer, body-quaking excitement of turning a street corner in Los Angeles, or Tokyo, or maybe Rome, and not knowing exactly what would happen next. Good. Bad. Ugly. All of the above.
It took me many years more of fluttering away from the gilded cage for short periods to test the skies, to see if the winds were just right. I could not explain it or define it, but the thirst and hunger to see and experience for myself the world at large was all-consuming. I was determined to have my way, resolved to fly and leave the nest behind.
That was over 10 years ago. I haven’t been back to the rock in all that time. I once had a clandestine return to Boston in the fall of 2007 for business, but was ready to leave quickly. And all the time that I have been gone I have gotten my wish. The people, places and things that I have met, seen and experienced have been exactly what I wanted. It has been an endless adventure. I imagine that my thirst for the unknown stems from my Native American roots and that some obscure ancestor has bestowed their nomadic ways upon me.
Ten years and a million miles have not quelled my thirst. I have walked down the Hollywood walk of fame walking into light poles, people and baby carriages because I had my eyes firmly planted on the ground, my inner monologue constantly babbling (I think I actually fell on my knees before Betty White’s star). I have rubbed elbows with the stars on street corners in downtown LA, at West Hollywood cocktail parties and at Griffith Park. I have been adopted by the families of friends in Texas and spent hours herding cattle on horseback, truck back and the obligatory ATV. I have worked for a major motion picture company and coordinated transportation to and within New Zealand while ensuring that production started on time so that you could enjoy those movies about funny things called Hobbits. And more.
Today I find myself in Mexico teaching English in a pretty city by the sea. Mountains crown the deep, natural harbor. The air is warm and balmy. I teach a class of 8 to 10-year-old children how to say, “Good morning,” and “Where is the nearest pharmacy?” I try to keep it fun while being professional but secretly ache to teach them phrases like, “Wicked awesome, Not for nothin, and Make me a fluff-ah-nuttah and no one gets hurt.” All good things in time. Of course I want every one of them to become ardent Patriots and Red Sox fans. For now I will settle on successfully coaching and assisting them to become fluent in the English language.