Crossing the Atlantic Chapter 4

In February of 1964, during a season of serious storms in the north Atlantic, we got on the SS America, and headed out of New York harbor for Liverpool in England. Our ship’s quarters were more like a locker than a room, miniscule, with four bunks and a sink. We were stuffed in there with a German who never washed and an East Indian guy who never stopped throwing up. When the German wasn’t pissing in the sink, the Hindu was puking in it. Naturally, this made us want to spend as much time as possible outside the room. And that wasn’t easy because the sea was huge with mammoth rollers, the aftermath of some ferocious storm. We could hardly stand up to walk. In the lounge, the easy chair I was sitting in all of a sudden took off across the room, sliding a good fifty feet. In the bar, all the bottles broke. At dinner there was a board around the table to keep the dishes from falling off.

          This is how we crossed the Atlantic, full of hope for the romantic adventures we would have and full of youth and positive forward motion. I think the biggest fallacy in my thinking at that time was the notion that somehow great things would happen on their own, that I would be recognized by the unknown masses for the talented and wonderful person I was. Now, in my advanced years, I understand that a nineteen-year-old doesn’t get much consideration from the world. But I was nineteen then and the center of the universe! If I could just get myself in an interesting situation, I thought life would provide. And of course, it does provide and did provide but not in the ways expected.

           Mark went on to Paris and I stayed in London to negotiate, through a lengthy correspondence with my parents, for release of my savings so I could buy a motorcycle. This was difficult work for me because my mother, who had always given me a very long leash, extracted a solemn promise from me a few years earlier that I would never ask for a motorcycle. As a young woman she had seen an accident and a boy’s brains spilled on the pavement. Unfortunately, young men don’t have much compassion for their mothers.

           A great deal of my time in London was spent finding motorcycle shops and looking over the motorcycles, BSA’s and Triumphs, the classic English bikes famous throughout the world. My heart went out to Triumph and particularly the 650 cc Triumph Bonneville with low road racing handlebars, spoked wheels, a big head lamp, twin carburetors and kick-start ignition. The one I wanted had a gold and white gas tank.

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