Peace Pilgrim Profile: James Edward Goodnow has a mission to spread the message of true harmony and love across the earth. Now, if he could just get a working engine in his van, he might do more spreading.

March 05, 1997|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

Fellow pilgrims, the peace movement has stalled in Cockeysville. But fear not. A peace messenger, who envisions TRUE HARMONY and LOVE on earth, also dreams of a new engine for his Econoline van.

"That's my sick baby," says James Edward Goodnow, messenger for peace but no auto mechanic. He stares into the Econoline's spent engine, hoping the van will heal itself. They aren't going anywhere for a while.

Peace, as usual, must wait.

Goodnow goes back to the house -- one of those grand old homes planted on a hill. If stalled in life, there's no safer port than Anne Carey Boucher's pastoral spread way off Shawan Road. The owner lives alone, with her portraits and fat pond, geese and horses, a golden retriever here and there.

Then came January, and a visitor. "That was a sign," says Anne Boucher.

That was Jim Goodnow, who came bearing peace petitions and books. Goodnow, who began life 57 years ago in Mount Washington, had come full circle. Last summer, he decided to set out from California on behalf of a global, if little-known, grass-roots peace movement. Now his search for peace, and his broken crate of a van, had delivered him just up the road from his Baltimore birthplace.

"I remember when he arrived," Boucher says, "I kind of looked at him."

Looking at Goodnow, one sees: Dennis Hopper-wide eyes; a trimmed, silver beard; and weathered hands that dip and dive and assume the prayer position when the man goes ballistic on the subject of peace.

There is a safe connection here, says Boucher -- widow of William Boucher, the patron saint of Baltimore downtown redevelopment who died in 1995. Goodnow knew her late husband, considered him a mentor. Boucher was aware of Goodnow's cross-country mission but, frankly, had forgotten about it until he called her in January.

You can stay here, the widow told the peace messenger. They forged an arrangement. She could return to painting portraits, and Goodnow could do his peace thing. Lord knows the house is big enough for the two of them. Plus, it's company, she says.

More than a month later, the van is still in Anne Boucher's driveway, a country walk from her pond and horses. Jim Goodnow walks the walk every morning to get the mail for his host, who's lent her guest a mailing address for his peace business.

Where Goodnow goes from here is not the question.

How did he get here?

Baltimore, 1942.

Bad news on the doorstep. James Goodnow's mother spent the war years delivering Western Union telegrams from the military to Baltimore families. The Mount Washington woman traveled with her 3-year-old, Jim, who remembers "the yellow letters with black trim and cellophane. I watched all those people fall apart."

At public school No. 221, young James performed ably in the "duck and cover" drills popular in Cold War America. From under his desk, Jim gazed at the ceiling and "that quarter inch of plywood" and developed, somehow, "a fear of being blown to smithereens." He ducked and covered until summer, when teen-aged Jim staked umbrellas in Ocean City. Far away from home in Mount Washington, where his mom kept delivering telegrams and his father, a former Merchant Marine, kept working for Westinghouse. It was not, by Goodnow's account, a peaceful household.

"It wasn't Ozzie and Harriet, I'll say that," Goodnow says of his parents' eventual divorce. Another memory features a lawyer asking a young Jim who he wants to live with: Mom or Dad. The young man took a pass.

"I was a runaway at 15."

He went to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to stake umbrellas on that beach. He had to get there first. In pre-interstate America, Jim Goodnow hitchhiked along U.S. 301 when a '55 Cadillac stopped for him outside a South Carolina tobacco barn.

"Four brothers stepped out," Goodnow says. And the white boy from Baltimore thought for a second before accepting a ride. Deep South, you know.

The brother in the back seat, Goodnow remembers, could handle a guitar. "So, are you guys musicians?" the kid asked. They drove to a Lumberton, N.C., high school, where Goodnow helped pull out the bleachers. The brother with the guitar got into a tuxedo, and the gym must be 90 degrees, Goodnow says. And the man, Otis Redding, did a second show that night. Just changed tuxedos is all.

What this has to do with Cockeysville and world peace, who knows. Goodnow's life is knitted with little adventures like this. After landing in Fort Lauderdale, Goodnow was a lifeguard, in the Coast Guard, and worked on deep-sea fishing boats, where he'd rig lines for tourists hellbent on landing a sailfish.

At 18, the bohemian from Baltimore boarded a French liner to England. With cheese and jugs of wine for provisions, Goodnow hitchhiked across the continent. In Tangier (circa 1957), he toured the docked Calypso as a guest of Philippe Cousteau, son of Jacques. It's a fine tour, but Goodnow isn't asked to enlist. He decides to set out on foot for Algeria, until Cousteau tells him about the warring French in Algeria.

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