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  June 19, 1999



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Long and winding roads
By BRET "The Hitman" HART -- For The Calgary Sun
  Meditations and messages, (while driving).

 On a road in Vermont that felt like I was driving through a fine oil painting, I was taken by the beauty. So much so that I wanted to stop for a while and just breathe. I couldn't because I was the main event with a hundred miles to go. Coming 'round the bend, I saw a strange site. Off the side of the road aways was an old shack, lost in time, in the middle of nowhere. I doubt it had plumbing. And a guy, deep lines in his weathered face, with a peg leg, in Deliverance clothes, sitting posed, elbow on knee, chin on hand, on a rickety chair. Complete with an old, worn-out hound dog and keg at his feet. A rifle propped within arms reach. Who was he waiting for? How long had he been keeping watch? I wished I'd had a camera but that would have been just one more piece of normal life I'd have to carry in my bulging bags.

 In Hershey, Pa., the air is scented by the sweet smell of chocolate they've made for generations. During an afternoon break at a TV taping, years ago, I went to see the big factory. I wondered what it would be like to dive into swimming pools of fudge big enough to make Willy Wonka envious. There were these humongous mixers from planet of the giants or something. Flowing waves of chocolate! I've seen stranger waves than chocolate ones, though.

 On a sweltering hot day, driving through the back hills of Pennsylvania, rushing to get from Philly to I don't remember where, thick, undulating waves of heat rose up from the baking asphalt. They flowed like water but smelled like tar. I had a tape playing, Robbie Robertson's Showdown At Big Sky and rounding the bend, suddenly, looming on the horizon, were the giant stacks of Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. I was driving through my own personal movie about the end of the world. An eerie virtual Mad Max. A moment made of coincidences, only, I don't believe in coincidences anymore. There are reasons.

 Like the time I was in a big hurry to make the four-hour drive from Boston to New York. It was late at night. Don't these stories always seem to happen late at night? But it was. It was snowing hard but I knew I'd be on the most travelled road in the States. So how come there were no cars? I mean, not one single car? You can sit for hours in traffic on this road but this time I hadn't seen one single car for hours! This is one of the most populated places on Earth and I hadn't seen one single person for hours! It dawned on me, maybe this stuff isn't snow at all -- it's nuclear fallout and the world has ended. Sound far fetched? Well as exhausted as I was, it made perfect sense. It didn't help that when I turned on the radio there was nothing but static! I tried my cell phone. It didn't work! There were black ghosts flitting and dancing all around the car! An hour (that seemed like an eternity) later, I saw light in the distance. It turned out to be a fleet of the biggest snow plows I've ever seen. I was never so relieved to see a bunch of trucks. Incidentally, it turned out to be the worst blizzard in history for the Eastern U.S. I take weather reports more to heart now. There was this one truck, though, that scared me to death -- and back. Driving to Glen's Falls, in upstate New York, I missed the exit off a major highway. I was late getting to the show. I was tired. It was dark. It was snowing hard enough that there were few cars on the road. I wanted to avoid getting fined for being late so let's just say I got off the highway by a method other than standard operating procedure. Just off the highway was a six-lane road, with a divider in the middle. I was about to make a left when I was paralyzed by the site of a big ol' Mac cab and trailer, sliding right at me on the ice. Time stopped. There was no air, not that I needed any because I was holding my breath. Everything moved in slow motion -- including the truck -- somehow. It sliiiiiiipppppped to a halt so close to my driver's door that you couldn't have put a sheet of paper between us. I knew I was a dead man -- and then I wasn't. In that moment when time stood still, I'd prayed, 'Oh God, not like this,' and thought of loved ones. He heard me. On a long and lonesome highway, I asked God, `why can't I just go home to my family. What am I doing out here?' My body was sore, my heart was lonely, and my mind was fantasizing about finding the nearest airport so I could go home. I wasn't sure if I was more hungry or more tired and I stopped when the road's endless white lines were dancing and weaving their tricks on my weary eyes. As I inhaled some sort of unidentifiable mystery meat at a nameless greasy spoon, I felt the all too familiar stares of the locals. Again I asked God, `why can't I go home?' I could feel eyes fixed upon my back and I decided, enough was enough, and whipped around. It was a young boy of nine or 10. His body was ravaged by cancer. He sat, one-legged, in a wheel chair. On his bald head was a Hitman cap. His eyes were wide and he had an amazed smile so big I thought his face would crack. I walked over to him and he told me his name was Joshua and that I'm his hero. He told me watching me helps him to fight `The Big C' (his phrase). I told him I'll never be as tough as him and we sat off in a corner and talked for a while. Who was going to tell a kid on borrowed time that it was way past his bedtime? When I drove off, an unseen voice asked me if I still need to know why. I heard that! I think maybe Joshua saved me more that night than I did him. Lately, I've got big questions and so far I haven't heard any answers.

 I'm listeni

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