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David Shapiro
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By David Shapiro

Saturday, October 21, 2000

Life’s road
offers both challenge
and opportunity

Take off your old coat and roll up your sleeves
Life is a hard road to travel, I believe

-- Peter, Paul and Mary, 1963

I felt a knot in my throat and a tear in my eye as soon as I saw the title "Old Coat" on a retrospective of Peter, Paul and Mary tunes. I had no idea why. It was one of the lesser songs on one of the folk trio's earliest albums.

It finally hit me that the 37-year-old song brought up long-buried memories of a time of important change in my life that was worth revisiting as I pass through another transition. Music has a way of getting your attention like that.

The summer of 1963 was my last in Los Angeles before my family moved to Hawaii. A highlight of the summer was a trip to the Hollywood Bowl with my best friend Tom to see Peter, Paul and Mary in concert. Thelonious Monk opened the program.

Tom was a year older than me and had just gotten his driver's license. His dad didn't want him driving the family car into Hollywood, but the concert ended too late for us to catch the bus all the way home.

In a compromise, his dad parked the car on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood, the closest point to home that the late bus would bring us. We took the bus to the bowl from there and then back to Lankershim after the concert to pick up the car.

The evening was liberating.

It was my first time out with a friend in our own car. The big inviting world that had seemed so far out of reach suddenly was accessible. We cruised all over the valley that night. I can still feel the sauce dripping down my chin from the double-decker burgers we got at Bob's Big Boy.

The music was even more of a revelation. As Monk's soaring piano riffs and PP&M's songs of hope, justice and joy ascended into the Hollywood night, I was drawn into new reality.

My eyes and heart opened to issues of racial equality, war and peace and social inequity -- matters clearly more important than my misery over being uprooted from my cozy life. That's the first step in growing up, realizing that there are concerns greater than yourself. I resolved that night to stop sulking and make my new life work.

It was my last outing with Tom before I moved and we went our separate ways in the turbulent Vietnam War years that followed. I went to college and became a conscientious objector. Tommy enlisted in the Marine Corps.

Our friendship and mutual respect remained strong. Tom visited me twice in Hilo during R&R respites from his tour in Vietnam. We jumped together into the cool waters of the Wailuku River from the rocks at "South America." It was a long way from L.A. -- and from Vietnam.

Star-Bulletin closing Life can be a hard road to travel, as the song says, but it gets easier when we remember that big transitions can be opportunities as well as threats.

I thought of this when someone asked the other day about the year of uncertainty over the future of the Star-Bulletin. "That's a heck of a way for you folks on the staff to have to live," he said.

"It's tough," I agreed, "but it sure beats not living."

Bulletin closing archive

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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