“California or Bust”
We made our escape from New York City and were now floating down the highway in a boat sized Oldsmobile “88″. With enough cash for gas and enough reefer to put a pleasant mellow on the long cross country drive, we felt like “Kings of the Road”. Indeed, life was good! We decided to make an all-out nonstop run to LA; it was in the middle of winter and we wanted to get to sunny California ASAP. The plan for this ambitious endeavor was to rotate our positions so one of us would always be behind the wheel while the person riding shot gun would be the spiritual navigator and the third person had the luxury of spreading out in the back seat and in the “88″ it was like sleeping in a queen sized bed.
We had to steer through a winter storm from Pennsylvania to the Mid-West. I swear we hydroplaned across three states. We slid into a shopping center somewhere in Missouri to stretch our legs and buy some staples. We were spotted by a gaggle of teenage girls who immediately descended upon us. Completely surrounded we were pounded with questions. One girl asked, “Where are you guys going”? When we replied, “California”, they squealed with delight and pleaded, “Please take us with you”! Before we could respond to their cry for help shocked and horrified mothers rushed in and snatched their precious princesses from the wicked lure of long haired devils. Entering the super market looking like weathered road warriors we quickly became the objects of unabashed stares from startled shoppers. I think their bewildered gazes were mostly of a curious nature rather than malicious, regardless, it was unnerving. We quickly gathered our groceries tried to make a stealthy exit and scurried back to the sanctuary of the “88″, put the pedal to the metal and never looked back.
As we were cruising down the highway just outside of Tulsa, a car full of teenagers pulled up alongside in the fast lane. The driver started honking hysterically while the rest of the passengers yelled and waved in a like manor. We initially tried to ignore them fearing they were probable local homeboys looking for a little down home fun with some of those damn hippies. We finally made eye contact with them. Holy shit, it was a car full of young wannabe hippies flashing us the peace sign. They were still infants in that evolutionary process. The boys all had early Beatles mop tops; one had the courage and conviction to sport sideburns! A chorus of shrill giggling came from the back seat which was stuffed with coquettish long haired hippy girls in waiting. We rolled down our windows and engaged in a sixty miles an-hour conservation down the highway. A lad looking a lot like Ringo Starr shouted, “Where are you guys going”? “San Francisco” we yelled back. Their car erupted into cheers and more peace signs. The girls shrieked, “Take us with you”! What’s this, another plea for help in escaping from Oklahoma? We could smuggle them out and set them free in California. A novel notion but summarily dismissed as a bad idea no matter how noble our intentions would have been. We had to decline their request but as a consolation prize I rolled up a joint, reached and handed it to a girl leaning half way out of her window, a delicate maneuver as we sped down the highway. Again, their car exploded into shouts and squeals of joy and even more emphatic peace signs. We pulled away from them and continued on down the road.
Road weary and atrophied we pulled into a rest stop in Arizona. The three of us had to stretch out on a stationary flat surface and get a proper sleep. Picnic tables would do just fine. We rolled out our sleeping bags and settled in for the night. I was awakened by a feeling of something light and cold falling on my face. Damn, it was snowing! We bolted out of our bags and packed ourselves into the car. Well, nothing to do now except torch up our last joint and drive on. After a heavy dusting of fresh snow the desert looked like a moon scape. The cacti became moon men sprouting up and reaching for the sky. Some looked as if they were waving at us. As the sun peeked over the horizon we crossed into California. Just a few more hours and we would be in LA, two days ahead of our deadline. We delivered the “88″ to the designated location, received our bonus and scattered in different directions. Both Dutch and Ben were anxious to get back to the Bay Area. I was tired of moving and stayed with my cousin Mike for a few days to reset my sense of balance. I lost touch with Dutch for years until a chance meeting in Lake Tahoe casino that rekindling our friendship; material for a future chapter.
Not wanting to rely on hitching I hopped aboard a bus to Stockton. I found my friends Bush Baby and the lovely Bim cohabitating in the old duplex that I had vacated. The duplex was a notorious refuge for a crazy cast of characters. This is where I had an ever so brief encounter with my current wife of thirty five years. Anyway, I cleared out a little nook in the junk filled basement for my hidden headquarters. My presence was kept a secret especially from the landlord who would have evicted me. Except for occasional visits from special girlfriends I was living like a fugitive hiding from the real world, a self-imposed exile. After a month or so I realized this was a dead end existence. I didn’t know what to do or where to go from here. One day I visited my parents to see if they needed anything or help around the house, my father was getting a tad old and wasn’t as agile anymore. My mother handed me a letter postmarked from Canada. I tore into it wondering who this could be from. I let out a scream that scared my mother. Oh my God, the letter was from Vrandi! She was now in Toronto and wanted me to come live with her! After a flurry of selling and borrowing I was on the next available flight to Toronto.