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Confessions of an Itinerant Batik Artist

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(or "November 1st -the Longest Day")



We left Auckland on November 1st as planned and flew North back to the States. We went easily and quickly through Customs and Immigration in Honolulu, Hawaii where it was November 1st once again. Another short plane flight took us to Maui where, feeling rather dazed and tired, we were picked up by Kristin's housemate, Helen. She drove us up to their dream house high in the center of the island. Having spent so long in tropical Asia, Maui's exoticism probably made less impact on us than it might otherwise have done. But the island was certainly beautiful, dominated by an extinct volcano and rocky with palms and tropical flowers everywhere. Kristin's house, a temporary rental, was pretty amazing. It was very large with both a hot tub and a swimming pool. She was working for the Maui Aids Foundation as their volunteer coordinator, wonderful work to be doing but not without its irony. For a woman who wished nothing more than to be mated and to find true love and companionship, she had chosen to operate in the least likely arena to achieve that goal. But Kristin was in good form and very busy. She immediately carried Catherine off to her weekly Sufi dancing class leaving me at home to try and catch up on my sleep.

We managed to see quite a bit of the island while we were in Maui. Perhaps the most spectacular spot was Hana, which was a couple of hourís drive from Kristin's. She took us there via a fabulous "secret" pool off the highway where the stream fell in a waterfall into the pool at one end and we could swim naked in complete privacy. I could see that the Hawaiian Islands were full of surprises.

Hana was a jagged black volcanic coastline where waves crashed against the cliffs creating fantastic convoluted shapes. We stayed in a cabin in Wainapatapa Park, made great walks along the cliffs and had a sleep on a black sand beach. It somehow felt to me like we were on a vacation at Paradise Beach in Hell! We spent our nights in Hana cooking, playing dominos, listening to short wave radio programs and catching up on our sleep.

But we also got to see the main towns of the island too. Paia, which was pretty low key, had some 'alternative culture' shops while La Haina was big tourist business. There were a lot of galleries there too but disappointingly, they mostly sold slick "new agey" paintings of dolphins, moons and rainbows. There were some artists making a great deal of money in Maui. One night we went to hear Kristin's ex-brother-in-law, Joe, play great jazz piano at a local bar. Mostly we seemed to spend a lot of evenings watching movies on the VCR and sleeping early. I think that I was little depressed to be coming back to America after all our adventures in Asia. I was afraid that our world, which had expanded so drastically in the past year, would close down again once we came back to live in the States.

Kristin had carried a bag full of jewelry, textiles and small woven pots back to Maui for us when she had left us in Bali. Catherine had a day of sales of her Bali goods at the house one afternoon and pretty much recouped all her money outlay in one day. On our last day in Maui, we got up at four am to drive up to the rim of Haleakala Volcanic Crater, the highest point on the island, to watch the sun rise. At least a couple of hundred other tourists had made the trek up to the top of the Volcano that morning. It was a spectacular sight but there were too many people there and too many camera flashes going off for comfort.

In mid-November, we flew into San Francisco and caught a bus out to Marin County. Simma, Haroun and Zeb picked us up and took us to their condo in Novato. It was always wonderful to be with that family again. Zeb was my godson and of course I had known Jeffrey since he was Prince Valiant sculpting his "Whale" as my near neighbour in Ibiza. I had known Simma since before she had met Jeffrey when I had been attracted to those cerulean blue eyes myself. As usual, Catherine and I managed to bring the rain with us and the long Californian drought ended the day after we got there.

Catherine had never been to California before but I of course had lived there twice. I had always thought that California would be the place for me but somehow things had never worked out for me very well there. I had always felt rather socially isolated there and had never really found my niche. Certainly the weather was the best to be found in America but somehow, as a European, I found that I related better to the people and attitudes on the East Coast. One of the reasons we had come to California was to check out the possibilities of Catherine finding a post-graduate course in Conflict Resolution there. Surely such a course could be found at Berkeley, the traditional home of the Counter-Culture? We both liked Berkeley itself a lot when we went to stay with our friends, Cliff and Jocelyn, from Bali. The whole place had a small town feeling, everywhere was in walking distance and we had great friends there. But alas there was no course in Conflict Resolution and we began to realize that we should probably have to head back to Washington DC to find the course that Catherine wanted.

We went into San Francisco itself every opportunity we had and in typical style, walked vast distances all over the city. When our feet got sore, we took to taking buses. I renewed an old friendship with Kristin's best friends from Florida, Sondra and Jake, whom I'd known years before. Sondra was in the textile designing business herself and was helped by her giant Afro-American husband, Jake. They lived right off Haight-Ashbury, which gave us a chance to explore that area of town as well as the adjoining Golden Gate Park. They invited us to come and eat Thanksgiving Dinner with all their family, which we did at the end of the month.

On the last day of November, Catherine and I drove up to Grass Valley with Jeffrey. It had been six years since I had lived in the chicken shack there. That time I had married Carol very precipitously and had then packed up my trusty Station wagon and driven East in search of my vanishing bride. So much had happened to me since then. Alas, the Dome was no more, having been pulled down since it didn't comply with the local building code (and how!). My enchanted shack had been boarded up for the same reasons. All the stuff that I'd left behind was carefully stored in a new shed and I spent some time sorting it all out and separated some books and papers to take back to San Francisco with me. The spot was still beautiful, the trees were bare as winter approached and the hills were clear so that one could see for miles. We walked to the sunset rock and all sat there reminiscing about the past. Probably, Jeffrey and I only remembered the good times that we'd all spent on the land together. The bad days were consigned instinctively to the forgotten trashcans of history. I felt that I was happy to have spent those two years on Still Road but that I wouldn't want to go through the experience again.

That same day, we made a lightning trip up to Grass Valley where I saw my old friends, Joy and Floyd. They were still running their halfway house for the mentally disturbed and still heavily involved in the local theater scene. Next stop was to have a Chinese meal in Nevada City with Ron and his new lady Cathy and finally we stopped off at the Kitchen Restaurant in Auburn where I'd been a baker oh so long before. Nothing seemed changed and Pete greeted me as if I'd never left. It was a pretty frantic day but I felt as if I'd been able to tie up a lot of loose ends.

We spent a few more days with Simma and the family in Marin County and then were suddenly back in Washington DC on the East Coast, some thirteen months since we'd left to go around the world. I had realized a lifetime ambition in the process. I realized too that the world was suddenly rather small and quite accessible and that we would probably go around it again before too long.


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