Sunday, July 10, 2011


For all I knew, I wouldn’t still be alive now in the Nineties; ain’t nobody guaranteed their next breath. And the way the board changes, no telling what the game will be past maybe later today . . . but even then you can be taking a chance. So deciding on a lifestyle change meant a total fresh start: no lamenting over my personal situation, how the world should be, or what I’d planned on twelve or twenty years ago. It’s day one.

Looking around, I have to go “whew”. I feel vindicated for the last twenty-five years I wasted on fun and travel. With every new wave of layoffs and failed pension funds and savings institutions, my knees go weak. I could have worked all those years and then suddenly still been in the same boat I’m in now.

By keeping the overhead down over the years, when I made a buck I got to spend it. (I live like a millionaire every chance I get. Often that’s only for a matter of days, but those days add up.) (Won’t find me living in a flophouse eating canned dog food with thousands of dollars stashed in the mattress for a rainy day.) I’ve got no monthly payments, I know girlfriends aren’t after my money, and my time has pretty much always been my own.

Laguna Canyon, rock ‘n’ roll music festival, Christmas 1970. The announcer on stage introduced somebody in the crowd, “ . . . been On The Road for five years,” and everybody cheered. That same winter I spent bouncing between Long Beach and San Clemente. (Yes, Nixon lived there in San C. Just nobody ventured near that half of town.) Traveling the Pacific Coast Highway back then was like seven months of Saturday nights: beach parties, hippie and surfer girls in every direction, Orange Sunshine, quality backyard garage bands. I carried a jacket with a toothbrush in one pocket and a hair brush in the other, a sleeping bag and a smile. I’d catch a day or two’s work from time to time, fall in love several times a week, got to dance a lot. As a workie I was ruined.

From SoCal to B.C., I learned that my sleeping bag didn’t care where it was. It could be laid out along a river, on a friend’s futon or a rest area picnic table, under the stars or under a bridge . . . simply left rolled up in a corner when a bed presented itself was okay, too. It didn’t know the difference. Just keep it dry, it was happy.

I hitchhiked. You had a friend driving tomorrow to where I wanted to be hundreds of miles away, I’d turn down an offered ride. By the next day your friend might not be in the mood for a rider, be forced to say no to a more preferred passenger or some last-minute cargo because of me, or simply his plans might change. Somebody just pulling over is open for some company right now. (When traveling with a girl, you get a ride quicker, but the quality can go way down.) (I thumbed with a large dog for five years, but got sick of talking about it every ride.)

It’s no fun to hitchhike to work, whole wrong attitude. The idea is to be out there, your bed in hand, even with a destination, no rush, staying open, enjoying being there along the highway. On a slow road I’ve thumbed both ways, whichever way a car passed didn’t really matter, just being high on the possibilities. (Few strangers will come knocking on your door to invite you to play, but On The Road, with the proper attitude, it’s hard to avoid.) (In a city, just up and down a main drag would do.)

I went alone to see Kris Kristofferson in concert in Portland. Three folks took the seats to my left. The girl sitting next to me pulled out a poster with a picture of Kris on it. “I took this off the wall in the lobby. I’m here for that face. Why are you here?”---“I stashed my sleeping bag in a locker at the bus station and I sold blood to buy my ticket. I’m here because he sings songs about me.” She got up and took the seat on the other side of her friends.

On my way south to San Jose one night, I got a short—like three exits—ride with a guy I’d never seen before. He commenced to tell me how long I’d been On The Road, how I packed my suitcase, what people thought of me and how that compared with what I thought of myself. Then when he dropped me off he told me exactly how much money I had in my pocket and drove off.

Standing across from the ranger station in Gasquet, on beautiful Route 199, in pulled a sheriff’s truck, two window-vans full of men wearing camouflage clothing, and an empty dump truck. C.A.M.P. (Campaign Against Marijuana Prices.) (sic) The deputy went inside. One of the paramilitary troopers got out a van, stood rigid behind his dark glasses, hands clasped behind his back, feet apart, giving me the stern stare across the road for a full five minutes. Finally his keeper came out of the office and they all headed north. A while later a local girl pulled up, asked, “You in a real big hurry to get somewhere?” I said, “Nope.” She said, “Hop in.” Later that day she returned me to the same spot with a “See ya later.” Just as she turned back down her street, the sheriff’s truck, vans, and (now loaded with the green) dump truck came driving by. The plant warriors howled and hooted, thought it was pretty darned funny that I was still there.

I took off from my hometown when I was almost twenty-one. I didn’t actually head to California back then, it was just as far as I could get away on a motorcycle. I never left the West Coast after that because I liked the weather and the people. I stayed On The Road because I decided I’d rather be hungry than bored. I found there was a need out there for a person who was available for limited amounts of time and I met people in between jobs who appreciated talking to somebody who didn’t know anyone they knew.

I’ve landed on my feet so many times after bailing out of an unsatisfactory situation that I lost even a healthy amount of fear of the unknown. Stick out my thumb and there’s a new something to do right down the road. (Though sometimes it’s raining in between.) (Rain and my parents being the only challenges in life I haven’t figured out how to deal with.) From playing pool in Bell Gardens to softball in the Emerald Triangle, picking apples in Oyama to volleyball in Molalla, foot-cruising the Haight to planting trees around Vedder Crossing, Laytonville, or Boulder Creek, working Hollywood movie crews to kicking back with a tall one watching the drive-in movie from under the freeway overpass south of Roseburg, the West Coast has always satisfied.

But, alas, I’ve been bouncing up and down from Tijuana to Whistler Mountain so many years now it’s almost like having my own place. I know where to sleep, where not to get let off, places to head when I need a shower, some work, or the use of a car. With AIDS in the world and the carrot of casual sex gone from in front of my nose, and those hearty party people I used to run into On The Road replaced pretty much these days by the hopeless homeless, it’s time to change the channel.

I recently began tying my hair back every day and took an informal live-in job. (It’s strange sleeping indoors every night, so I recorded some traffic sounds to play as I fall asleep.) Time to maneuver into a tolerable situation for the times.

The best security I could think of for the Road was a slingshot and a small magnifying glass. If it came down to it for any reason, I could always shoot something and start a fire to cook it. Now I figure perhaps our only hope for survival would be a law to require all the big shots to relieve themselves outside at night. Maybe by checking out the stars on a regular basis they’d get a little perspective on our situation.

So anyway, whatever happens, I’m just a retired Character now. Off the Road. I put in my years out there making all those appearances for the tourists. “Adding to the reputation of the Left Coast since 1966.” Now where do I apply for my pension?

No, really, I think I’ll become an NFL quarterback. (Hey, they make good money.)

I could get serious again with the clarinet or pool cue.

Or maybe I’ll just marry Madonna.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Few Random Scenes From Over The Years:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

MySpace, etc.

Google: "Grinnin' Sinner".

Thursday, July 16, 2009

PRETTY GIRLS (A Perspective)

I know, I know, “pretty” and “girls”, both words are offensive to some people. There are also those who would have little kids wear safety helmets and goggles to finger paint. Hysterical as one group or another is being about most everything these days, the real world is still there. And like it or not, the real world includes pretty girls. They are real. Special, but real.

Pretty girls have ruined my life and I love them for it, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. (There were twenty, twenty-five kids in my early 1950s kindergarten class. I remember two, the pretty girls, Natalie and Virginia. For eternal life, a money machine, and Paris Hilton for a month, I couldn’t name the teacher or a single other kid.) I’ve had great jobs with bright futures, friends, hobbies, peace of mind, and money, but they last only precisely until some little honey smiles my way and pow, I’m a goner—used, amused, and defused. Then I’m ready to start it all over again. (I like them feisty ones.)

But it’s not necessary to know pretty girls intimately; it makes it all worth it just to see them around. When none are in sight, just knowing they exist in the world can keep you going.

According to some folks, it took advertising and men’s magazines to tell us what is desirable in a female. I think not. I’m sure guys were walking full speed into trees and tripping over their own feet while checking out a pretty girl long before beer commercials. Heck, we wouldn’t be here if they weren’t; let’s lose that notion right now. I don’t know how the same body parts put together basically the same way can have such a varied appeal. I’m not saying it’s fair, or right . . . only true. Some people don’t even want “pretty” to count. Ha! I don’t want summer to ever end. (Bet I get my wish first.)

I like to watch other people’s reactions to pretty girls. In the back of a Santa Rosa/San Francisco bus the other day rode a young copper-top with milky white skin, wearing a brown leather bomber jacket. (Reading James Joyce.) She had folks shooting sideways looks at her all the way, even from the front of the bus, men, boys, and two women couldn’t look at her hard enough. And recently in Healdsburg, I spotted this dark-haired goddess entering a market with a pretty blonde girlfriend. I stopped at a fast-food restaurant up the street and a few minutes later the two girls came in. (The power of wishful thinking.) Then through the window I saw him coming, a guy with his mother and his about ten-year-old son. He walked in normally, innocently, but when he saw her he could have snapped his neck he looked elsewhere so fast. After regrouping, then checking where mom, the boy, and the guy behind the counter were looking, he started copping glances. There ought to be a law. Sometimes I think the Ayatollah was right . . . cover them babes up. Give us a break.

No. Yes! Nooo . . .

(Allah, help us.)

I had a deprived childhood . . . no sisters. My grandfather was a big help. He told me he planned to write a book: What I Know About Women. “It’s going to be this thick. And every page is going to be blank.” When I decorated my room with Life Magazine pictures of Brigitte Bardot, my mother promptly redecorated with a razor blade, slashing away any images of offensively located skin or obscenely shaped clothing. I ignored the warnings on the TV commercials and used Brylcreem by the pint. My favorite song was “The Wanderer”. It’s a stage of life that some of us manage to live through.

Now, over sixty, a survivor of the sexual revolution, after many years as a California get-naked-and-party hippie, three unconventional marriages, and being a dedicated ‘60s, ‘70s, and early ‘80s swinger, (until AIDS got turned loose in the world), I feel about as qualified to have an opinion of pretty girls as anybody.

I remember telling my first wife some of my observations on the subject back in the middle ‘60s. I told her I thought pretty girls were so accustomed to the red-carpet treatment all the time, big come-ons from guys wherever they went, that by being casual, like going through a door ahead of one, or scratching your nose while you’re talking, or handing a pretty girl a jar to open that you’re having trouble with, can make you stand out a bit in their world full of gallantry and posturing. (Getting the silent treatment in the car on the way home from a party one night, it finally came out what was wrong. Apparently I’d absently rubbed my nose while talking to some gal and seeing it my wife had surmised that I was making a play for the other woman.)

Pretty girls have told me that looking so good can get mighty lonely sometimes. Men are afraid to talk, figure somebody looking so fine has to have all kinds of boyfriends and wonderful things going on, wouldn’t care to meet them. Other times guys who do talk won’t deal with her beyond her looks, that’s all that matters to them.

Ahhh . . . but when it’s good, it’s great. There are pretty girls who thrive on the attention, enjoy dressing up that body, revel in the opportunities that looking good present, exploit their looks like any other asset or ability, are centered enough to handle unwanted advances without coming unglued, enjoy life.

John Lennon sang that a pretty face lasts only a day or two. An old cha-cha song said if you want to be happy, never make a pretty woman your wife, to get an ugly girl to marry you. It’s said that beauty is only skin deep. In an article on looks I read, “Although she feels that she looks better now than she ever did, [she] says looks don’t even cross her mind anymore.” (Huh? Then how’s she know she looks better now?) Janis Joplin wasn’t pretty, but boy was she beautiful.

Ever see Barbii, the dancer/porn star? (“Back by urgent demand.”) I didn’t particularly want to spend big bucks to see her in person like some tourist, but I did go apply for a job where she was dancing, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. I’m sorry, but I doubt if I’d have been so inspired by, say, Janet Reno, back at that same time, intelligent and successful as she may have been.

Just being with a pretty girl makes for changes. I was walking with Jessica in West L.A. As we passed a gas station, one of two motorcycle cops parked across the street yelled at a guy pumping gas, “Put those eyeballs back in your head or we’ll shoot!” Up a couple blocks, I was waiting for her outside a store when the cops came roaring by, and when they spotted me they both spontaneously waved to me as they passed, just because I’d been with her! Another time I was in an Oregon hospital about to be released. The Saturday shift, nurses and aides I hadn’t dealt with before, was on. I was pretty much riffraff compared to the wealthy rancher in the other bed getting lots of attention . . . until Kathy, with her mane of blonde hair, wearing cut-off jeans and a skimpy top, came in with my clothes. Suddenly all the nurses got noticeably concerned with how I was doing. Amazing.

I’m not sure if there can be an actual point to this story. Pretty girls, easily as holy as any spectacular sunset or moon-lit ocean scene from a TV commercial for religious tapes. Whew, they can all take your breath away and make you glad you’re alive. That’s all I know.

Some folks seem to confuse beauty with obscenity, call a topless woman at the beach or a nude centerfold pornographic, not the work of nature that it is. Spending lots of time in Canada during the 1970s, I noticed no such nonsense up there. There was regular nudity on the six o’clock news, on family camping shows, in daytime network movies. Many here in this country seriously agree with the Ayatollah; luckily others have some fun with skin and beauty and such.

I managed an adult book store in Idaho for a few months. Groups of girls would hit the door from time to time, always with a burst of laughter. (“We’ve been sitting in the car for almost an hour waiting till nobody we knew was around so we could come in here. We’re looking for favors and gifts for our friend’s bachelorette party. Where’s the edible underwear?”) Several daughters brought in their reluctant mothers, always heading to the twenty-five-cent movie booths in the back room. (One mom came out for more quarters. “If I’m going to watch this,” she told me defiantly, “I’m going to see the end.”) Every time was the same when they left: Mom, eyes glazed and riveted straight ahead, made a bee-line for the front door, while daughter, grinning triumphantly, strolled along behind. Mostly the customers were couples and military men. (The store had a pretty tame selection of boy/girl magazines and videos, but did have four bondage magazines on display in the corner. Never sold one, but about three times a week somebody’d lift one to show a friend, “Hey, this is what you need, yuck, yuck,” and then put it back on the rack. One day three grandmother-types came in, never so much as glanced up at me, they spread out around the store. A committee, I’m sure. They perused the covers of magazines, the selection of paperback books and videos, the marital aids and sex toys, never touching a thing or saying a word. Then they spotted them . . . the bondage magazines. Zap—like a magnet. The three proper ladies spent the next fifteen minutes shoulder to shoulder, going one page at a time through all four magazines. Then, noses high, aghast, out the door they marched. They had certainly found what they were looking for, God love ‘em.) (Like the magazine cartoon, a similar woman standing at her window looking through binoculars, “Harry, come quick. The neighbors are offending us again.”) (My personal favorite is the people who were outraged by the mere outlines of two humans, a male and a female, on the outside of one of those rockets NASA shot up. Some called it “pornography in space”, like our very shape is indecent.)

Pretty girls . . . the hobby. (Remember ‘The Rifleman’ episode where disaster would strike whenever this pretty girl walked by? She thought she was jinxed. Nowadays it’s often cars getting rear-ended by similarly distracted drivers. Cute waitresses make more in tips. I’ve seen a taxi driver offer a free ride just because a pretty girl was in the group. Emergency-room staff work harder to save an attractive person. Even babies smile more often at good-looking mothers.) It’s not a crime.

So anyway, I have always been blown away by those before-and-after makeup pictures in magazines. The models look like totally different people, from plain to gorgeous. I know one girl myself who has that dramatic of a change after doing her makeup every morning. I know another who’s an after/after. First thing in the morning, without so much as a comb to her red hair, Beth is cover-girl material; she can’t look bad. Riding with her in her little Mazda truck on a rain-slicked freeway, she pulled out to pass three vehicles just before our exit. Doing just shy of eighty-miles-an-hour, ready to cut off the third car we had passed to make our turn, the girl with us screamed. Beth laughed as she made the exit, told the girl that I’m the only person who isn’t afraid of her driving. Hey, I just figure: What a way to go!