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50 Greenwood Road was our address in Asheville North Carolina. We moved there from Marianna Florida in the summer of 1961 because my dad got a promotion from Chief Forester at the Southeastern Forest Experiment Station in Marianna to a better paying position as a top assistant to the USFS Regional Director in Asheville. It was all desk work and he hated it. He'd much rather get his hands dirty doing ecological research in the field. He started out doing range management in Colorado, then switched to forestry management and reforestation when the Forest Service moved him to Louisiana. His getting booted upstairs to a desk job worked out great for me: it made him ripe for the picking when UN headhunters came after him for hands-on work in Kenya. Here's what 50 Greenwood Road looked like in February 2023:

The house and yard were a lot nicer when we lived there in the early sixties. Back then this was out on the edge of the suburbs; the lots were large. The house had a big back yard, much of it in full sun. That no doubt appealed to my father, frustrated hobby farmer that he was. Our next door neighbors to the right in that photo operated a working dahlia farm, now long gone. The house was surrounded by lush grassy lawns back then, with side yards sloping down to the back yard. The house had a full daylight basement. When we moved in the basement was unfinished, just a concrete slab with cinder block walls on the three below ground sides, and a framed-in but uninsulated wall on the rear. There was no back door. The only way to get into the basement was via a staircase from upstairs. One of my dad's first improvements was to have a back door installed so the new power mower my brother never got could be moved from the carport into the basement, right next to where Dad built the industrial-strength tumbler.

My bedroom was in the middle of the front of the house at first. The picture window shows where that transcendent Xmas tree once gleamed. The window on the far left was my mom's sewing room. Not long after we moved in my father framed in a big room down in the basement under my room and the sewing room. That became an interesting combo room: my room and the TV room. No divider, just one big room. One year I got a transistor radio for Christmas. It picked up all kinds of distant stations at night, including some in foreign languages. I used to hide under the covers with it on Sunday night and listen to the AT40: America's top 40 on the clear channel broadcast from WOWO 1190 in Ft Wayne; I can still hear the jingle. That's where I first started falling in love with songs. Like Nowhere Man

and As Tears Go By

and BJ Thomas's cover of Hank Williams's So Lonesome I Could Cry.

Those AT40 hits were the first music I found and fell in love with on my own. But it was the music my dad gave me that got me started right, and I can hear his influence on my tastes in those songs.

The dahlia farmers next door were a couple and her sister. They bred new varieties for sale, and seemed to be successful at it. I liked going over there to see their farm, especially the goldfish pond. I'd mostly left my fascination with captive nature behind in Marianna, but the mysteries of a dark concrete pond of koi and bug-eyed goldfish still called to me. I think they liked having me there, most of the time. But I was a fat eleven year old hyped up from a candy habit and I loved to hear myself talk. I didn't pay attention to what they said except to use it as a springboard to launch into yammering on about something I'd done, seen, or imagined. One day my self absorption got to one of the women. She looked at me and said Well I guess you're just one of those boys who's been everywhere and done everything. It was a moment of spontaneous presence. For that instant I grasped how my self absorption felt to other people. I ran home with my tail between my legs, blushing furiously. I wish I could say that it made a difference, but I recovered fast. Self absorption is sadly self-propagating.

Violated sanctuary. Right across the street from our house in Asheville there was a big wooded lot. That was my retreat. If I felt the need to be comforted by nature I walked across the street and hung out with the fairies. One day I came home from school to find my sanctuary all gone, the trees cut down ignorantly, with no forestry skill, lying like jackstraws. I went over to mourn, exploring the wreckage, getting pine sap and sweet gum all over my hands. I walked along tree trunks lying on each other at all angles, kind of like swamp walking. My sanctuary became a jungle gym for a bit. But soon suburban homes like ours invaded that lot and I had to go further afield to find solace in nature.

The sound of snow. I found a new sanctuary out past the edge of suburbia. There was an open field across the street on the far side of the dahlia farm. To get to my new sanctuary I'd climb through the barbwire fence and cross the field. The far edge of the field was marked by a tiny stepover creek. Past that was woods, open deciduous forest with a few evergreens, my new retreat. One day there was snow in the forecast, and the sky was lowering. I had an hour before dinner, and I was feeling the need for solace. It snowed every year in Asheville. Not a lot but still a wonder to this ex-Florida boy who'd only seen snow fall once before Asheville, a freak north Florida storm that put down an inch or so. I bundled up and said I was going out to play. I walked down to my forest retreat and out onto the hillside, scuffling through the leaf litter of the year until I came to a favorite spot near some evergreens. Then I just stood there, gloved hands in my pockets. Snow was now just beginning to fall, and I became aware of a soft sound. I pulled off my stocking cap to hear better. It was the sound of snow falling on dry autumn leaves, a delicate whisper in the still air. I was utterly transfixed, momentarily transported to a space I now live in every day. I caught a bit of heck for being late for dinner. I knew I couldn't explain what'd happened, so I didn't even try.

Home grown vegetables. My father was a dedicated backyard vegetable gardener. He grew up poor on a farm in southeast Alabama where most of the food on the table was home grown or bartered from other farmers. The house in Asheville had a big sunny back yard, much better suited to vegetable gardening than our shady yard in Marianna. As soon as we moved in he started turning the bottom strip of the back yard into a big vegetable garden, big enough to grow sweet corn without worrying about pollination. Besides corn and tomatoes he grew runner beans and summer squash. I was more inclined to curl up with a book than grub out weeds, but I did have an interest in growing things, which he exploited to my benefit. He gave me a little area at one end of the garden where I could grow anything I wanted. I decided to grow some of the vegetables he didn't grow, like carrots beets and pumpkins. Nothing thrived in my little patch, and looking back it's easy to see why. My patch was next to the neighbor's trees. It was the only part of the garden that didn't get much full sun. Kind of a dirty trick, but it let him give me full rein in good conscience: no valuable garden space will be wasted in this scenario. He was cagey that way. I had fun with it. I felt proprietary about my little patch, and I learned some things about growing, continuing the education I started getting in Marianna and continued at Riverhaven, in Boulder, and finally Seattle.

Mowing the lawn. Lawn mowing had always been Tim's job, but when we moved to Asheville he stayed behind to be with his friends and attend Chipola Junior College. He loved Marianna and never moved away; he was a small-town hick at heart. So I inherited the lawn job. The lot in Asheville was much larger than the one in Marianna. The back yard in particular was the size of two ordinary back yards, with considerable slope. So much so that there was a low retaining wall across the middle of it I had to mow around. The front yard was small and level, but the side yards sloped steeply. The grass was thick, hearty Kentucky bluegrass where in Marianna we'd had mild mannered St Augustine. I took a whack at it with our old push mower and it defeated me. Dad tried it out for himself and had to agree: this lawn needed a power mower. Once I had a power mower I discovered I loved mowing the lawn. The noise of the mower insulated me from distraction and made me more present. It was my first active meditation and it transported me to a serene world of my own. The back yard was my favorite part to mow because of the apples. A craggy old apple tree from the dahlia farm overhung the east end of our back yard, every year dropping hundreds, seemingly thousands of green apples on our lawn. I loved mowing the apples. So much so I would walk through that area before mowing, kicking the apples up so I could buzz more of them. My mission was to obliterate the apples, but I rarely did better than getting one or two flat sides on them. Mower blade vs. apple made a wonderfully satisfying sound, a vibration I felt with my hands. I've never liked apples, and mowing them felt so right.

Losing my religion. I used to have a photo Mom took of me and my dad standing on that retaining wall in the bright sun. It would've been the fall of 1963. We were each holding up a campaign sign. He had a comically oversized LBJ button, I had a garish Goldwater bumper sticker plastered on my school satchel. Yeah, I was that kid, carrying my books in a satchel. My right wing rebellion extended as far as a flirtation with Ayn Rand, but it didn't last. I ended up being an adherent of liberalism/scientism until I finally lost my religion. That's me in the corner.

Cravat. I kept up with the styles that washed through Oakley Elementary as best I could. I finally wore chucks. I combed my hair down over my forehead in imitation of the Beatles, prompting Mom to call me a mop-top. Paisley shirts were the first clothing craze I remember. Those got bumped by big bright polka dots; I had a shirt with dime size blue dots on black. But wearing a cravat was my idiosyncrasy. At the time it seemed very cool; now it looks like the badge of a creep. O tempora o mores, as Alice Miles, my ninth grade Latin teacher might've said. She gave me an A+ on my report card, the only one I got in that school. I thought things French were cool; thus the cravat. A friend and I created an imaginary musical group, Antoine and Illya. I was the French Antoine with my cravat, he was Illya Kuryakin from The Man from UNCLE; Antoine was my homage to Napoleon Solo. Damn. David McCallum is so much cooler. Live and learn.

Smoking. I had my first drug experiences living at 50 Greenwood Road: smoking stuff. No pot, that was Kenya. The native grape vine in the woods had visible channels running through it when you found an old dead vine; they were everywhere. Smoking grape vine segments was my first experiment. I don't remember if I came up with it or someone showed me. They were hard to draw; you couldn't get much smoke. But what you got tasted better than any other smoke I ever tasted. Should have stuck with grape vines. My mom smoked Salems. My dad didn't smoke. When we first moved to Asheville Dad allowed smoking in the house. After a dinner party I could find ashtrays full of cigarette butts. I collected a bunch of butts and tried smoking that tobacco in a little briar pipe I bought at a pawn shop. Truly dreadful tasting. Sometimes a friend would get hold of pipe tobacco, like Prince Albert. Still pretty bad. But it wasn't hard to score cigarettes, at 25¢ a pack. I didn't like smoking, but it was cool so I kept trying. I'd gotten pretty used to it by the time I made it to the Y in Nairobi. News was beginning to leak out that smoking caused lung cancer, and my dad laid down the law: smokers were banished outside, including Mom. Several years later when Mom and I were living together without Dad in Indialantic we bonded over that. She knew I was smoking down at Sam and Gail's, and she offered to buy me my Benson & Hedges at the grocery store to save money. That made it feel almost like we were friends, my mom and I. The fellowship of users is a bond like no other.