Slipping back into that ubiquitous past, I see this booming oil town in the 1930s with cars and horses, and wild eyed buckeroos who came to this tiny burgh in north Texas looking for a stake to a fortune. The town was snuggled in among the breaks of the caprock that characterized this panhandle area. This caprock is a vast elevated landscape that once may have been part of the rocky mountains until a glacier of a distant ice age sliced off the mountains and left a vast flat area of plains stretching north to the Canadian border and ending just south of Amarillo, Texas.
Somehow I was born in that town where the sky was filled with smoke from freshly drilled burning wells not yet flamed out, with black geysers popping off many times during the day. We were at the beginning of our romance with oil, an affair that now has become somewhat jaded and perverse. But then oil was king. Oil was liquid gold, and people rushed to it for the promise that anyone with the right divination might become a millionaire overnight. Striking oil was a kind of cataclysmic orgasm, hot, turgid, and explosive, an event to be celebrated... bubbly, overflowing, black champagne.
My first years were full and eventful, and I still remember vividly lying on my father's lap and looking up into his blue eyes. I also began to crawl and walk somewhat precociously, and thus was a constant problem fo my parents, particularly for my mother and my sister. My sister was almost ten years older than I, and I had invaded her space. Months passed and soon I was upright and ready for adventure.
My space existed as a backyard of a building where we rented an apartment. By the side of the building was a gate, and beyond the gate lay the world which seemed to call to me as seductively as any of the sirens in Homer's Odyssey. On one hot summer day, as I played alone in the yard, I discovered the gate was open, and in an instant I was off to see the world.
The story my father tells is that he learned of my adventure from the state highway troopers. My sister and mother never have spoken of this episode as far as I know, although they have heard my father's version many times.
According to him, the troopers, after some considerable trouble and inquiry, finally determined that I belonged to my father who worked at the local electric power and light company.
On that summer afternoon near the end of the workday, two troopers brought me into my Dad's office.
"You better keep an eye on your son..." they warned.
"Where on earth did you find him?" my father asked increduously. He hadn't known until that moment that I had been missing. My mother and sister had been scouring the neighborhood looking for me and hadn't yet reported it to the police.
"He was walking east along the highway outside of town in his barefeet."
"Yeah," said the other trooper, "and we asked him where he was headed..."
"...and...?" my father looked at me and the troopers.
"Well, he said he was going to New York City! Like I said, you better keep this tyke on a tight leash..."
So it is on record that at the age of three I was determined to get to New York. Now in those days of no television, no access to movies, and little interest in radio (for me), how did I ever get the notion of New York City in my head? My Dad insisted that no one in the family ever mentioned New York, but it was clear at that time that I knew that was where I wanted to be. That energy and vision persisted throughout my youth in Texas, and when I finally made it to New York, I felt like I had returned to a familiar place, a home I had always inhabited in my heart and mind.