Los Angeles Summer 1969
My first independent journey: Al’s brother lived and managed an apartment on Normandy Street between Hollywood and Sunset in Los Angeles I told my parents we were going to Lake Chelan for three weeks but I don't think they believed me.
Besides Al, there was Bill, my old St. Margaret’s buddy and his friend Eric, who with their guitars in tow were to break into the music scene in San Francisco or Los Angeles. Also, one of my oldest friends, Paul, who I first caught freight trains with to downtown Seattle.
On a sunny morning we opted for a gondola, a boxcar with an open top and waited to depart. It was a rather slow run, we even got bumped off the main line in Centralia and had to stay for a few hours. I recall there was an open wood chip car ahead of us and at higher speeds the chips would come flying back and we would all duck for cover.
Other times the guitars would come out and we would listen to songs as we watched the world go by. Evening was beginning to come on by the time we arrived in Portland. Al and I split from the others and hitch hiked to the coast. Paul went back to Seattle. Bill and Eric continued on the trains to Stockton, CA. Eric got food poisoning in San Francisco and Bill wandered the city for a few days before coming back to Seattle.
Early the next morning we started thumbing South. We got nothing but short rides until we got to Coos Bay when a VW van picked us up and took us all the way to San Francisco. On a local bus into town people warn us that the police are on the lookout for runaways, so we pass on Haight / Ashbury and cruise over to Berkeley.
We stash our packs in the bottom of a hedge and make our way to the campus. The colors, sounds, the atmosphere remain vivid. A bite to eat at a middle eastern cafe and then we get our bus tickets to Los Angeles. We enjoy a long, dark and screaming highway in relative comfort after the freight trains and sleeping on the ground.
Early morning in Los Angeles. After the marvelous architecture of San Francisco, the sights here are rather uninspiring but the weather is very warm and knowing that we have a place to stay is a relief. We get to the apartment with no problem and are happy to have arrived safely.
I was reluctant to call home for fear they would be tipped off so I stayed incognito. We wandered up and down Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards where a huge mural advertised the musical Hair. A neighbor was a rock music reviewer and had an incredible record collection.
One night he opened the door and flipped me and Al each a cigarette wrapped in American flag papers. Thunderstruck, Al wouldn’t budge from the couch. I lay on the grass outside and grooved on the snails. At one point we tried to secure some causal labor delivering advertising circulars but the pick up spot was in such a seedy part of town that we split.
Tried for some food stamps but since it would take too long to qualify we settled for some bus tokens. We hung out in front of the Whiskey A Go Go where T-Rex was performing but were unable to enter. We also wanted to take a day trip to Mexico but were nervous regarding our I.D. so we took a long drive to a remote lake. Stopped to capture a tarantula on the highway but a motorist swerved and squashed it.
We helped to move Al’s brother and his wife into a nicer apartment in the Hollywood Hills. We left for Seattle early and the first car to pick us up, a white station wagon, who’s owner, Murph, would rather drink than drive, was to bring us all the way to Seattle. Al drove most of the way and we picked up many other travelers.
A cracked block and drunken rages by Murph threatened but we stuck it out and were dropped off in the University District in Seattle. My parents knew I had lied but were so glad I was safe they couldn’t stay angry for long. I told them the details a number of years later.