Del: I felt bad about the effect that my deception would have on the people I loved, but I also knew that this was a completely irreversible decision. Once I was gone, I was gone. There was no turning back. Good-bye Wendell Watson, hello Billy Mann. It was like committing suicide, but without the blood.
And I felt great about it!
Back in ‘Nam, I got ahold of The Whole Earth Catalogue, and it became the road map for my new life. I hitchhiked to San Francisco. Haight-Asbury, Man, with flowers in my hair! Finding a place to crash was no problem, although people were suspicious of my short hair.
The entire world was buzzing. Between new places, new faces, and new ideas, things were impossibly alive, especially compared to where I had just been. I felt so free. I started hearing about how things were even wilder up north. I met a girl who was heading off to a commune in Mendocino County. It was way off in the sticks, but … what the hell, let’s go. We hitched up, and it was kind of squalid, but it was nice being out in the country. After a couple of weeks I heard about another place further north, in a promised land called The Emerald Triangle. I decided to check it out. Tried to write a song about it. Never finished it. Too stoned.
[Doin’ My Part]
Greg: I was in my dorm room when someone told me I had a phone call. It was my Dad, telling me in no uncertain terms to come home. Mom and Cassandra, both red-eyed, were already there. No one had to say anything. There was a copy of The Providence Journal with a small article that a “local man” had died in combat.
Greg: Three days later there was another call from Dad. The same drill … come home, now! I found him sitting at the kitchen table with a small pile of dollar bills. “$2411,” he said, “exactly the amount that I paid to Obediah Brown to pay off his school bill.” He could see my befuddlement. “Plain envelope, no return address, no note, postmark FPO San Diego.” Dad could see my befuddled look. He was step ahead of me. “I’ve got some contacts in the American Red Cross. Sometimes they can help in these situations.”
“What are you thinking?
“That something’s not right here.”
But the Red Cross really turned up nothing. Cause of death, reported in the Journal simply as “in combat” was likely friendly fire or what the military sometimes reported as “collateral damage.” From the perspective of the Marines everything looked in order. We did call Del’s mother Trudy address in Florida, and we reached out to her, but she said she had received a consolation visit from an officer in full dress uniform who also delivered an official notification of death.
Had she received his personal effects? Yes, she had his dog tags and Military ID and a few personal items and a small amount of money. Yes, she was distraught, but in the course of the conversation admitted she had not sent or received a letter from Del for more than two years. “He made some stupid decisions,” was her final sign-off.