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LOST JOURNALS from the GREAT PEACE MARCH

by Gene Gordon

Way in the back of my closet one day I found piles of old papers and books. Beneath musty volumes some journals lied buried. Dog-eared, weathered and torn, stained with liquid and food - what could these be? I sat right there on the floor turning page after... But no! Some pages were missing entirely. Others were near unreadable, smeared with rain, bleached by sun. Still, I could make out enough to appreciate that recorded here was a tremendous adventure.

It told of a nine-month march across the United States, of hundreds tramping 3,700 miles from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. In these pages I found people calling for peace, for an end to atomic threats and nuclear tests. TAKE DOWN THE BOMBS! These journals told of love in tents, of poetry and song. Food, sex, danger in the wild - there was much pleasure in these pages.

But who was the author of this incredible story? As the closet grew darker and darker, my mind burned brighter and brighter. Could that have been ME on that heroic journey? Did I write all this? Or had I stumbled on another man's work? I sat in the closet in this reverie for hours.

Then it all came back like a dream long lost. Yes, the Great Peace March was the biggest thing in my life! Didn't I walk away from six years of satisfying radio work to go off on that march? I recorded forty hours of audio tape until in Iowa my machine gave out. I sang my heart out - every piece of music I knew in the world. I wrote poetry, songs, and skits.

I peeled potatoes and scrubbed porta-potties. I pulled shifts on WQO, The Voice of the Great Peace March. I produced four Shakespeare plays, directing and acting as well. I fell exhausted in the heat. I fell a dozen times in love.

I was a loner but The Great Peace March picked me up and raised me to golden heights of friendship and love. Will 1986 go down as the best year of my life? The year I marched 3,700 miles across a continent with 500 gentle warriors, spiritual soldiers? Was the Great Peace March the most joyous event of my life, the most exultant adventure? Was I at my all-time best, most caring, creative, committed? Was I ever more vibrant and alive outdoors in sun and storm? Did I ever sing so much or love like that before?

I don't know. Is it all coming back to me now, that which really happened, that spell of time lovely as a dream? Or am I dreaming now, going crazy altogether? Was that me on that March so happy and so healthy? Then why have I forgotten so much for so long? What happened to me? What are these mysterious yellow pages in my closet?

Happily, in solving this riddle I had the help of Peace Marchers Ralph Vrana and Guy Colwell. Ralph testified that I was indeed on the Great Peace March. We were neighbors, he swore, in OY Village. He says he captured me on tape, and in his San Francisco studio this good friend gives me to hear a voice he swears is mine on the GPM.

Further corroboration comes from Guy. He insists that we two were, up here in the Bay Area, organizing for PRO-PEACE, getting people together for Departure Day in LA. As for the actual crossing of the country, Guy recalls our times together at Stoddard Wells, in Barstow, on the desert close to Las Vegas, near Glenwood Springs, and so on...

I study books about the GPM. Definitive is Franklin Folsom's. With Connie Fledderjohann and Gerda Lawrence he describes March logistics, the nuts and bolts - it's all very thorough. And yes, in this great document, on page ninety-three, I find a poem, and under that poem my very own name!

Both Anne Macfarlane of New Zealand and Sue Guist of California have published book-length accounts of life and times on the Great Peace March. I read both closely. In FEET ACROSS AMERICA Anne speaks of a play, and in PEACE LIKE A RIVER Sue associates that play, and others, with an actor of my name. If that really was me it seems I was indeed on The March, but I walked in a world of make believe.

I watch Cathy Zheutlin's film, JUST ONE STEP, again and again. And yes! I catch a fleeting glimpse of someone who may have been me twenty-four years ago. Yes, I admit he looks very much like me.

OK. I'm prepared to believe I was on the Great Peace March. But what happened to my memory of that colossal event? Did I suffer a strange sort of amnesia? I watch slides and recognize familiar faces; I write letters to folks who were on that walk. OK, I'm convinced: I was on the magnificent Great Peace March.

But the journals! These journals cannot be mine. They tell a tale so off the trail, so weird, and yet so wonderful. No, I could not have written these journals. Nevertheless, I'll take up these lost pages. I'll put them together in a book. No! Even better, I'll publish them on the Internet!

It may be interesting. I know it will be beautiful - dazzling visually, for it'll be chock full of the drawings of Guy Colwell, Peace Marcher and great artist.

Yes, what the heck! I'll bring to light these lost journals I uncovered in my closet. Perhaps someone can identify the author. It may even happen that the journalist himself will come forward and... But who would claim authorship of so bizarre a tale?

In any case, these journals do tell a story, one of the strangest of the hundreds of remarkable stories from the nutty, fruity GRAPE PEACH MARCH across the United States.

"The Flags" by Guy Colwell

Guy Colwell's America

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