Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chapter Twenty: "Love Day"

Iowans welcomed the Great Peace March in myriad ways.  Whatever their abilities or talents or resources, local communities kindly re-directed them to us.  One sweltering day when we were camped in a meadow miles from even the smallest of small towns, a brigade of firefighters arrived, parked their fire truck on the grass and set their fire hoses on “gentle shower for washing off peace marchers.”  Some marchers ran through the mist in their shorts and t-shirts, others changed into bathing suits; still others brought soap and shampoo and lathered up for an impromptu shower.  The firefighters stood back in their coveralls and big boots looking satisfied.  A few days down the road, I was pleasantly surprised to hear “When the Saints Come Marching In” as the main march spilled into camp.   A community band played a concert of marches and popular tunes as we relaxed on the lawn and enjoyed the show. 

"When the Saints Come Marching In"
A Gentle Shower Courtesy of the Local Fire Department
At the rally in Coralville, a suburb just west of Iowa City, scores of local residents came out to greet us, and Senator Tom Harkin spoke to the crowd.  Like Pat Schroeder in Colorado, Harkin encouraged us to bring our message straight to Capitol Hill.  To me, Senator Harkin’s support was exciting and hopeful.  With him in the Senate and Schroeder and Markey in the House, we had three strong voices in government.  A nuclear test ban treaty and its partner, a nuclear non-proliferation treaty would have to pass the U.S. Senate, and Harkin could help to lead the charge.
By this time our financial situation had stabilized.  We depended upon a steady flow of donations coming through the Great Peace March office in Washington, D.C. and direct donations coming from visitors to camp.  The vast majority of individual donations were modest—under $20—but there were thousands of them, and together they covered all our expenses—vehicles and gas; registration and permits; and three hearty meals a day for five hundred people.  One day a man handed me a small donation.  “I completely disagree with your message,” he said, “but I admire your determination.”
I wondered why someone would grease the wheels of a wagon that was headed in a direction he did not want it to go.  To me, it was a disturbing rationale.  I preferred the approach some of my own family members had taken in letters they wrote before the march: We love and support you, but we cannot support your cause.  I wondered how many people greased Hitler’s wheels just because they admired his determination.  I took the man’s donation and didn’t give him an argument, but I probably should have. 
Just outside Iowa City, someone among the marchers proposed “Love Day,” and the word went out that everyone should wear pink or red on that day.  Love Day happened to fall on a rest day, so lots of local families were visiting our camp.  I greeted a family of four—mom, dad, and their teenage son and daughter—and gave them a tour.  They were friendly and talkative, the kids chiming in with questions and comments.  They were clearly a family who enjoyed being together.  We laughed and shared opinions and observations freely.  Like me, they were each wearing something pink—skirt, shirt, shorts, and socks.  We walked and talked, me telling the story of the march and showing off the various support vehicles and they asking questions about how all the pieces fit together.
Toward the end of the visit, I asked the family how they had gotten the word that today was Love Day.  They replied with puzzled looks.  I mentioned that since they were all wearing pink, I had assumed they’d heard from a marcher that it was Love Day.  They laughed.  Dad shook his head and said it was just a coincidence.  Then they looked at one other and laughed again.  Now I was the odd man out.  Mom explained that when they had come to the breakfast table that morning, each of them just happened to be wearing something pink.  We all had a good laugh about that.  “People around here call that “march magic,” I said.  They loved that “somehow” they had known it was Love Day.  As we waved goodbye, I hoped that some day I might have a family whose love vibration magically put us all in pink. 
That night, I was sound asleep when I thought I heard Fergus whispering outside my tent:  “Jackson Browne is in camp; he’ll be singing over by the kitchen in a few minutes.”
  I thought maybe I was dreaming, but there it was again.  I knew Fergus and some other marchers had gone to hear Jackson Browne in Iowa City earlier in the evening, because he had invited me to go along, but I hadn’t had money to buy a ticket.  Somehow, they had met Jackson and invited him to stop by our camp after the concert. 
Jackson Browne was one of my favorite songwriters.  His lyrics, full of longing and nostalgia, especially on his earlier songs like These Days, and Opening Farewell, so perfectly matched the plaintive quality of his voice.  I must have listened to his albums a hundred times.  At Constitution Hall in Washington years earlier I heard Jackson sing Song for Adam with such emotion that the audience was moved to tears.  I was sitting close enough to see a tear drop from his eye, too.
I dragged myself out of my tent, slipped my feet into loosely laced sneakers, crossed my arms against the night, and padded over toward the kitchen.  Sure enough, there was his tour bus parked along the side of the road, and there was Jackson with his guitar, sitting on a table in the open space in front of the kitchen.  I joined the casual semi-circle, all of us still half asleep, and listened as he started to sing.  It was so nice to hear him from just a few feet away, with a small amplifier, no microphone, just his voice and his guitar.  Time slowed and the music flowed, every song a lullaby.  Too soon, Jackson had to be on his way.  It was the wee hours of the morning when I drifted back to my tent, slipped into my sleeping bag and crossed over into sleep.  The next day when I saw Fergus I told him of the strange and wonderful “dream” I’d had, and he smiled and said he had been worried about waking people up in the middle of the night, but I assured him that I, for one, would never forget hearing Jackson Browne singing at midnight on the Great Peace March. 

Jackson after Midnight on the March
On July 31st, we reached Davenport, Iowa.  We camped in a city park above the western bank of the mighty Mississippi River, her muddy waters flowing past our doors.  It had taken us nearly five months to travel this far.  Tomorrow we would cross into Illinois and the Midwest, leaving the Great Plains behind.  Issues that had percolated over the past few weeks gushed to the surface as if the great river would not allow us passage until they had been put to rest.  The earlier crisis of identity had evolved into a crisis of trust.  A small group of marchers expressed doubt that everyone among us could speak effectively for our cause.  They were afraid that people in the densely populated cities ahead wouldn’t take our message seriously.  I had a hard time figuring out where they were drawing the line.  Was I one of the marchers about whom they had doubts?  If not me, then who?
By this time it was becoming obvious to me that a few people in camp simply couldn’t live without a crisis.  Whenever we settled into a peaceful mode for a couple of weeks, they’d fire up a problem and cajole everyone into a big debate.  Surprisingly, these were some of the most intelligent people in camp.  Or maybe it wasn’t so surprising that some of the smart people had to invent ways to keep their intellectual swords sharpened.  In any case, I was losing interest in the sideshow.  Their complaint smacked of elitism, and I didn’t like it.  Still, I dutifully stood and listened as marchers formed a trust circle and passed the “talking stick,” giving everyone a chance to express misgivings and frustrations.  Fortunately, we didn’t have time to deliberate long.  The next day we would cross into Illinois, but before the river crossing, we had an important appointment to keep.

Davenport, Iowa: Last Encampment West of the Mississippi
On the dock in Davenport we gathered to meet a Mississippi steamboat, the Delta Queen, carrying a delegation of peace activists from the Soviet Union.  By what appeared to be complete coincidence, our path and theirs were crossing at this precise time and place.  As the boat approached from downstream, we waved and held up flags and welcome signs.  In a moment I would have my first personal encounter with citizens of the U.S.S.R.  Of all things, our common ground was our wish to end the nuclear arms race.  Outwardly, I was excited and nervous.  Inwardly, I was suspicious that the Soviet government might have sent operatives to give the false impression that the Soviet Union was moving toward peace.  The whole nuclear issue aside, I carried a negative impression of the Soviet Union from the days when they had rolled their tanks into Prague to quash the Czechoslovakian surge toward democracy in 1968.  I was eleven years old at the time, and I sat in the big chair in our den and stared at the photos in Life magazine of Soviet soldiers putting down the demonstrations.  Czechoslovakia was the homeland of my ancestors, and my mother decried the turn of events and the fact that the United States could do nothing to stop it.  She explained that U.S. intervention might lead to an all out nuclear war.  In my mind, the U.S.S.R. had made an unforgivable decision to punish the Czechoslovakian people for wanting freedom.  It would take more than a Soviet peace delegation to dispel my skepticism.  I didn’t trust them and I didn’t want to talk with them.  On the other hand, I knew that to accomplish global nuclear disarmament we had to forge a new relationship with the Soviet people.
The delegation disembarked, and people mingled on the dock.  There were many more of us than there were of them, so not everyone had a chance to meet, but people chatted on the dock in pairs or small groups.  The Soviets set up an outdoor gallery of photographs from a peace rally in their country as well as artwork by Soviet children calling for an end to nuclear weapons.  That the Soviet citizens were allowed to have peace rallies and express their opinions publically was news to me, but my trust level remained low.  I studied every photo and every drawing, looking for clues to their authenticity.  Mayor Justine bestowed the key to Peace City upon the travelers, and a Russian woman sang folk songs while her husband played the accordion.  Some marchers exchanged names and addresses with the Russian delegates so they could keep in touch.  I didn’t strike up any conversations.  I didn’t know how to suppress my distaste for Russian domination of people in the Iron Curtain countries, and I didn’t know how to express to the Russian peace delegation that peace without freedom was not peace at all.  Maybe I should have searched for the cynical Russian lurking at the edges of their delegation, observing us with a skeptical eye. 

Arrival of the Delta Queen

Children's Art and Photos from Soviet Peace Rally

Bestowing a Peace Tree - In Russian
Soon the Soviets boarded the Delta Queen and we all waved and shouted good bye, good luck and “mir,” the Russian word for “peace,” as they pulled away from shore, and we continued on our eastward trek.
          Our Mississippi crossing was a joyful celebration.  Everyone walked in close formation across the long truss bridge.  For the first time, I felt sentimental about leaving a state.  With her rolling hills and whispering corn, spectacular sunsets and friendly, open-minded people, Iowa had been an unexpected pleasure.  My prejudices about America’s farmland and the people living there had been so ignorant and so wrong; for me, it was a hard lesson not to make assumptions about people I had not met and places I had never seen for myself.  As we crossed the Mississippi, I wondered whether I would ever visit Iowa again.

Crossing the Great Mississippi River
I walked with Evan into Rock Island, Illinois.  That great old blues tune, “Rock Island Line,” came to mind.  It turned out that Evan knew it, too.  I remembered it from an old 78 rpm record of my father’s that we played every now and then when I was growing up, and Evan knew it as a cover that “The Knitters” had recently recorded.  Between the two of us, we pieced together enough of the lyrics to do justice to the great old Ledbelly song:

“Oh, the Rock Island Line is a mighty good road,
oh, the Rock Island Line is the road to ride,
oh the Rock Island Line is a mighty good road,
if you wants to ride it, got to ride it like you find it,
get your ticket at the station on the Rock Island Line.” 

I was feeling burdened by the speed at which the whole march was moving.  I questioned myself mercilessly.  Had I accomplished enough?  No.  Had I contributed my utmost?  No.  Was I applying my talents and skills?  No.  Was I fully committed to the march?  No.  Would anyone really care about this trek when it was all over?  Probably not.  I felt foolish believing that our ragtag band of pilgrims could change anything at all.  Ram Dass’s “Be-here-now” lesson had fallen from my grasp.  I thought about a day in the future when my grandchildren might ask me why I walked across America.  The whole thing just seemed ridiculous.  It never occurred to me that my grandchildren might someday exist because I had walked on the Great Peace March.
Some marchers started talking about the “ripple effect” of positive change we were having on communities as we passed through.  It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in the possibility of a ripple effect, but I was having a hard time getting excited about something I couldn’t see manifested in some form or expression.  That made me a pragmatist among idealists, I suppose, though I noticed that Evan, Libby and a handful of other marchers also seemed to reserve judgment about the ripples of peace, so at least I was in good company. 
As we crossed into western Illinois, little things bothered me, like the Illinois town names of Barstow and Sterling, where I’d been weeks or months before, and Dayton and Cleveland, which I didn’t want to see until I was in Ohio.  What bothered me most was that after the gentle, verdant hills of Iowa, western Illinois, with its lackluster little towns and flat terrain, reminded me again of—Nebraska. 
Adding to my woes, I hadn’t had a letter at the mail truck for over a week.  My family and friends were usually great about keeping in touch.  My parents and siblings wrote letters full of cheer and humor and inquiry that lifted my spirits.  Deanna sent photos of my nephews who were nearly two and four years old.  On doubtful days, I looked at their faces, Ray smiling in front of the marigolds he’d grown from a seed packet I’d sent him months before, and Gabe lying on a lounge chair with his hand reaching out to the camera, and remembered that they were the reasons for my journey.

The Inspiration...
...That Kept Me Going
My friend Grace, a fellow teacher whom I’d met at the Maret School in Washington, D.C., had supported the peace march with a generous donation to my sponsorship back in the PRO-Peace days.  She helped the students at the school raise money to purchase a tent.  In her classroom, she kept a map of the United States where the students charted our progress across the country.  During the march, Grace sent letters, occasionally tucking a twenty-dollar bill inside that resulted in jubilation among my friends as it meant we could all go out for breakfast or an afternoon ice cream or an evening beer at the local pub. 
The only letters I couldn’t read were the ones that came from Andy, who had given me the idea of going on the peace march in the first place.  His letters were so cynical about the government and the chances of actually changing anything that I couldn’t bear to read them.  I just skimmed them, folded them, and put them away.  With the challenges I faced on the road, I couldn’t have pessimism weighing me down.  For the moment, though, word from the outside world, the normal world, the grounded world, was not forthcoming, and it added to my feeling of isolation. 
I had a good talk with Iris.  She knew my doubtful days, and I knew hers.  We sat at a peeling yellow picnic table, and she fired up a pep talk.   She started small, listing our hardships: sleeping on the ground, walking in wind and rain, going without showers; then she moved on to the dangers: exposing our skin to UV sun rays and our brains to the electro-magnetic fields under miles of power lines (Iris worried a lot about dangerous rays); a peace march diet that included meat and cheese, all unhealthful to her way of thinking, not to mention throwing of our skeletons out of alignment from all this walking.  With a dramatically rising cadence, she continued to the importance of our mission, ending with: “so our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren can live in a more peaceful world!”  Her diatribe put enough wind in my sails to raised a smile and then a chuckle and then a nod that everything was going to be alright.  The truth was that I didn’t mind those hardships; they were Iris’s hardships.  I had my own.  I just wasn’t convinced that suffering them was doing anything to bring down the nukes. 
Though we were from different backgrounds, Iris and I got along well.  She could take one look at the morning sky and forecast the day’s weather.  “Better bring your rain jacket today,” she’d say matter-of-factly, and sure enough, by afternoon, a perfectly cloudless sky would have deteriorated into a squall.  She knew flowers and trees and herbal remedies, and, having lived on a farm, she knew the wonders and the power of Mother Nature.  Once, I tried on her rose-colored glasses and was surprised to find that the world really did look better through them.  It sometimes baffled me that she was so completely convinced that human beings could actually set aside their bellicose ways and live in peace, but Iris was a true believer.
Sometimes we were like old biddies, bickering at one another, vying for the upper hand.  One day while we were setting up her tent I noticed that she had several little cuts on her hands, and I asked her about them.  She said they were just little nicks, but they didn’t seem to be getting better.  I asked how long she had had them and she said more than a couple of weeks.  They seemed to be getting slightly infected, so I suggested that she dab some Neosporin on them.  She was reluctant to use my little tube of “poison,” but I insisted, and she finally did, and the cuts cleared up in a couple of days.  I nodded, tongue in cheek, and said she could use my poison any time she liked.  Likewise, at one point I was coming down with a cold, and Iris convinced me to take a course of goldenseal and Echinacea, floral extracts which I was convinced would do nothing whatsoever for my health.  Sure enough, within a day or two I was feeling well again.  This time it was Iris who nodded ironically and advised taking herbs to strengthen my immune system.  We were working out of different medicine cabinets, but ultimately, Iris and I took care of one another.
Bill, Evan, MC and I walked into Moline in the evening.  We settled in with our beers at a table at Harley’s Tavern and talked about our waning enthusiasm.  I was well aware that although walking across the country was difficult, it was a luxury to unhitch from the normal responsibilities of holding down a job, putting a roof over my head, and keeping my belly full, in order to spend nine months living on the Great Peace March.  Nevertheless, we had gotten ourselves into something of a rut and decided we needed some projects to look forward to.  Evan and Bill and I talked about taking a couple of days away from the march to play music together, and MC and I agreed to collaborate on a show of her photographs and my music at the end of the march.
The Great Peace March lifestyle was a medium for creativity, but that didn’t explain completely the outpouring of artistic expression that became synonymous with the march.  Whatever differences we had, and there were many, the marchers were hard-core believers in our power to create something from nothing.  On a global level, we sought to create a world free of nuclear weapons.  Day-to-day, we created and recreated our community as we moved along the road.  Individually, too, we tapped into our own creativity, blossoming into poets, actors, artists, singers and dancers.  Most expressions were spontaneous, but every now and then someone would hang an art show on the side of a gear truck or gather a drum circle after dinner, or read poetry in a town hall tent. 

Art Show on the Side of a Gear Truck
For me, it was music that emerged.  I could play as much as I pleased, and I could play whatever I pleased, including trying my hand at composing.  I loved writing new songs.  They came from a mysterious place, and I never really knew how they arrived.  I sat with my guitar and ideas tumbled out.  They happened to be musical ideas.  Only two things held me back.  The first was that my songs were not about the peace or nuclear disarmament.  I wasn’t entirely sure what they were about.  They didn’t seem to have much to do with the peace march, and so I was reluctant to perform them.  The second was that although I was excited to experiment with new musical ideas, I needed privacy.  I didn’t want to subject everyone within earshot to the endless repetition and correction it took to finish a song.
Nevertheless, surrounded by a constant flow of inspiration, I slowly became aware of my imagination—in music they call it style or voice—and convinced of its value and meaning.  Bill and Evan were enablers.  They never didn’t want to play music.  Bill’s songs were always bizarre, so I felt safe with him.  Evan just wanted to play and sing.  Bill suggested that he and Evan and I drive to Shabona State Park to see if we could camp there for a few days and see what music would emerge.  That sounded like a great idea to me, and Evan was game, so we made a plan to scout out the park.  My mood took an immediate upward swing.
Near Prophetstown, the peace march camped at a neatly tended state park on the banks above the Rock River where it snaked around a big bend.  When I crept out of my tent in the morning, a thick fog lay over the camp.  I could barely see the line of trees across the river.  I paused, staring, giving my mind a few minutes to wake up.  Somewhere in the water below, a duck quacked, but the water was shrouded in mist, so I followed his sound like a game of Marco Polo as he paddled around.  An occasional splash told me he was diving for breakfast.  It was Wednesday.  The fog lingered and turned to drizzle.  Extra marchers answered the call to load the trucks, and everyone worked faster than usual, so fast, in fact, that I couldn’t keep up with the stacking and had to ask everyone to slow down so I could secure the gear.  “You’re working like Huns!” I shouted as I scrambled to slide the tents into place.
I heard Sabine, originally from Germany reply, “It’s ‘Hunnen!”
“What?” I shouted.
“’Hunnen!’” she repeated, calling into the back of the truck.  “It’s ‘Hunnen!’”
“Ok!  You’re working like ‘HUNNEN!’” I shouted in none-too-good German accent, and everybody laughed.  By this time I had cleared the logjam and we resumed the flow of gear down the aisle to the doors.
During the morning lull between breaking down the old camp and setting up the new one, Bill, Evan and I hopped into the van and drove back into Moline.  There we found a beautiful Carnegie library, its stately columns rising above the long front steps, and, inside, rooms shelved, trimmed and paneled in dark wood.  Fireplaces, dormant on a warm August morning, dominated the reading rooms; opaque glass tile ceilings allowed the natural light shine from the upper storey to the one below.  Best of all, admission was free.  I hadn’t known that among his philanthropic works, Andrew Carnegie financed public libraries all across America.  I couldn’t imagine a more worthwhile legacy.  I browsed at will and read whatever popped off the shelves and into my hands—Disco Dancing; a one-act play called For Distinguished Service by Florence Knox; Lives of Hollywood Children, and a book on walking.  The subjects mattered little; after days on end of holistic, experiential thinking, a linear narrative was an intellectual balm.  It was a relief to let my mind climb on a train of thought and take a ride, confident that we would travel to the end of a logically constructed paragraph. 
While I was at it, I dug around a little more in a history of the Crusades and confirmed the facts I had gathered so far, from Pope Urban at Clermont to the disappearance of young Stephen and his entourage off the coast of France.  I followed up on the “Pied Piper” connection and located Robert Browning’s poem, “The Pied Piper of Hamlin,” hoping it might contain information about the Children’s Crusade.  I also looked up the meaning of the term “pied” and found that the term described anything made up of a patchwork of colors—like the magpie, a bird that looks like a crow with black and white feathers.  As for the Pied Piper, in Browning’s poem, “his queer, long coat from heel to head was half of yellow and half of red.”  Browning used a clever storytelling device in which all of the rats were drowned except for one who survives to describe the wonders that they had heard in the Piper’s tune; then, when the Piper, having been cheated out of his rightful payment, leads the children out of town and into the “wondrous portal” in the mountain, one lame child is left behind who tells that the children heard promise of a land “where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew, and flowers put forth a fairer hue,” all in the Piper’s piping.  The story of the Pied Piper only loosely resembled the story of the Children’s Crusade.  Browning’s poem included an exact date of the Hamlin event, July 22, 1376, which put it more than a century after the Children’s Crusade.  He ends his tale with a reference to the legend of a lost tribe in Transylvania who dress in outlandish clothing and who are said to have come from the town of Hamlin in a far-away land, though no one knows how they came to be there.  This reference—to a people, inexplicably light skinned, fair-haired and blue-eyed, scattered across North Africa, who were said to have descended from the child Crusaders—only vaguely coincided with the scant historical record. 
I would have stayed in the library all day, but we needed to get back to camp to do our jobs and then find a place to play music.  At Shabona State Park we had no luck.  There were no electrical outlets to plug in Evan and Bill’s small amplifiers, and the resulting tension left everybody feeling dissatisfied and out of sorts.  We returned to camp, our happy plan dashed.

Journal Entry—August 6, 1986
            Local boys (teens) ride through camp on their bikes.  One comments to the other: “Looks like a rainbow fuckin’ blew up around here!”

August 6: Hiroshima Day
The town of Sterling, Illinois, revealed a poignant chapter in American economic history.  Sterling was a town of beautiful early 20th Century buildings with strong architectural features and lovely details.  Three-storey brick buildings with arched windows and crenellated brickwork stood above broad storefronts along the main street.  I could imagine the town alive with horses and carriages and early model automobiles.  But Sterling’s economic heyday was long over.  The town’s purpose and vibrancy had faded, maybe with the passing of an industry, or perhaps transported to a bustling strip mall outside town.  When the peace march walked through town, every store, every office, every restaurant was no more than a dark, empty shell except for the taxi service where one light was on in the window.  The nearby Rock River was, in one marcher’s word, “spent.”  I wondered how local people were getting by, but there was no one around to talk with.  I wondered what would become of this beautiful, sad, empty place. 

Portrait: Peace Marcher
In the morning I was putting my gear onto the pile by the gear trucks when I spotted a woman from Oxford, Iowa, whom I had met briefly back in Coralville.  Helen was a red-haired singer with a beautiful voice and a great ear for harmonizing.  We greeted each other with hugs and laughter.  I was so surprised to see her.  She had her car with her, she said, so she would drive to the next site and meet me there.  Walking that day, I was still in a lingering funk, mostly because I yearned for some private time for music, but also because I missed Iowa and the American West.  At one point along the road, Helen slowed as she drove by and shouted out that Evan had exciting news for me—a plan, she said.  A short while later I turned around to see Evan and Tom striding up behind me.  I stopped and waited for them to catch up.  Evan told me that Helen had invited us to drive back to her house in Iowa for a few days.  The passing clouds over my mood dispersed:  I was returning to the rolling hills and the magic of Iowa to play music with my friends.  
As soon as we got into camp, we headed over to the food storage truck where Clayton, a member of the kitchen crew, was lounging in the doorway.  Some of the marchers had started helping themselves to food whenever they felt like it, so Clayton had taken to hanging out in a strategic spot.  We told him we were leaving the march for a few days and asked if he could afford to give us anything from the larder.  He directed us to a shelf of food items that he said they would never use on the march, either because there weren’t enough of them to make a meal, or because they already had way too much.  We took some pasta, brown rice and canned vegetables and ignored the boxes of macaroni and cheese and the packets of artificially flavored, powdered drinks. 
Next stop was to let Adam, our work coordinator, know that Evan and I would be missing two days of loading.  Adam always smiled whenever I talked with him, his brown eyes squinting through thick eyeglasses that sat high on his nose.  He was pleasantly surprised that we had bothered to tell him our plan at all.  It seemed most people just came and went without arranging a substitute for their workdays.  No wonder the job of work coordinator was so exhausting.  Adam expressed his appreciation and said he’d cover for us while we were away.  We packed up our gear and our guitars and set out for Helen’s that evening.