I had gotten an apartment in Wexford PA, right across the street from the office of Camelot Coal, the company owned by the father of my friend, Tom Jones. When I was there, I decided to learn how to play the saxophone. I bought one from one of my friends at the ground school, Charlie Briggs. The woman who lived above me complained about the noise, despite the fact that she and her son woke me up early every morning, clomping around on their floor. That is apartment living.
I wanted to become good enough to just sit in with a group of guys and jam. I had no idea how hard that was, especially for someone my age. The mind is not elastic enough to get all that stuff at that age. It was like skiing in that regard. There were just places I could not go, because of learning at such an advanced age. I have seen kids learn music and skiing so easily and quickly, I always advise friends with small children to expose them to stuff like that as early as possible. They absorb it like sponges.
One day, I was getting a sandwich at a fast food place on the Wexford Flats, when I heard the Steely Dan song, Deacon Blues. I had heard this song before, I had been a fan since I moved to Atlanta in late 1979. But this time, the lyrics hit me like a ton of bricks. Maybe I never really listened before.
Nearly every line of that song had something that I could relate to my life after the army. Although I didn't know it, there was a line that predicted a future part of my life, "I rise when the sun goes down".
It was all sad. It's a song about losing and I could see that I was on a serious losing streak. My eyes started some serious leaking. Once that first overwhelming feeling passed, I realized I was just feeling sorry for myself and vowed to work on stopping that.
I thought a change of scenery might help, so I moved into a townhouse with another ground school instructor and a USAir flight attendant. It was all platonic, but it was good to have people around. I did decide to stop dating the reservations lady. I could tell it was not going anywhere and I was still probably pretty glum to be hanging out with at the time.
USAir had bought an old elementary school and was moving the ground school there from the Moon Township branch of Robert Morris College, where we rented several rooms. We would be shut down for a while as we made the move. We were able to show up wearing jeans and I decided to grow a beard. I could tell that this got on the nerves of certain members of the pilot management. I did not give a rat's ass.