After the concert we settled back into our routines
with an eye toward California.
Alf was now working
at the Pizzeria in Cedar Grove driving the delivery van.
This brought some advantages; all the Pizza he could eat and limited use of their van for cruising through town.
Winter nights found me on the corner of Pompton and Ozone waiting for him to pick me up. (without his boss knowing).
I'd climb in and we'd be off, making deliveries to the familiar neighborhoods of Cedar Grove.
I sat on top of the warming-oven so I could hand the orders to him but when he took a turn too hard I went head over
heels and several Pizzas and sandwiches were destroyed.
Alf had to explain the situation but his boss was a mellow guy and he was soon back with a fresh order.
remember Don McClean's "Vincent" playing on the radio a lot back then.
It was written about Van Gogh but the pathos were Universal and I related to
the concept of the suffering artist and the misfortune involved.
Except for the music, the van would go quiet in the Holy Compression of the Moment
and neither of us said a word until after the song wound down to the end.........
This was a good time for Alf.
Working provided him with
focus and money in his pocket meant freedom.......
When it got late he'd drive me out to Bloomfield Avenue
and I'd walk the rest of the way home trying to balance a Universe of troubles on my shoulders.......
and pondering the leap of faith that was California......
Alf Has Second Thoughts
I was busying myself with preparations for the trip.
gotten a dead end job at a local business which didn't pay much but I didn't need
much, just enough for food and gas.
I began calling Car Delivery Agencies and found that there were
usually a few vehicles needing to be delivered to California.
the mean time I put things in the most positive light I could to keep Alf psyched up because in the back of
my mind, I knew he might need a little coaxing.
During the last days of February, I hadn't spoken to him at
all and this didn't bode well.
I was becoming concerned that he was getting cold feet.
When I finally did reach him, he assured me that he still wanted to go but not with the same enthusiasm he displayed
when it was purely hypothetical.
I phoned the agency and they told me they had a Ford Pinto going to the San Diego
area and that I could pick it up anytime in the next few days.
All I had to
do was go to Jersey City, sign some papers and leave a 50 dollar deposit.
When I called Alf to tell him the
news he wasn't home so I left a message but he didn't get back to me.
wasn't until the evening of the second day that I was able to get him on the phone.
"Alf, I'm ready,
man!" I've got the car lined up and everything. We gotta leave in the next couple days."
But I could
tell by his tone of voice there was a problem. He'd decided to nix the whole deal.
"Sorry man, I
can't swing it right now. Tell ya what. Go. Have a great time and I'll see ya when ya get back."
been through the movie before so I knew enough to keep my cool and try a little diplomacy.
"No man, ya gotta
go. We planned this for a long time. You can't pull out at the last minute. Ya gotta go!!"
man, I can't right now. See ya when ya get back ."
That was his mercurial nature.
months of planning and fortifying each other's sense of adventure, he was weighing the uncertainty of the road against the comforts of home.
the entire time my brother Eddie was taking it all in.
He'd known Alf
even longer than me and he carried a lot of clout with him.
He knew how important it was to me to make the trip and he was becoming indignant.
"Let me talk to him,"
he said, taking the phone from my hand.
"Hey! What's this bullshit about not going Alf? He said in a tone
that could cut right through you.
"You can't pull out now,
There was more give and take and when he finally handed the phone back to me I heard
a contrite voice on the other end.
"Hey man, if it comes down to our friendship, screw it, I'm going!
Let me get some things together and I'll be down tomorrow morning."
I knew the persuasion convinced him and there would be no turning back.
made last minute preparations and packed my duffel bag. The next morning I got the call.
on my way down."
A short time later his father's car appeared in the driveway and out stepped Alf in his
travel duds, guitar case in hand and duffel bag slung over his shoulder.
"You're bringing your guitar?
"Yeah, in case we wanna jam."
"How much money ya got?"
He took a deep breath.
"I've got forty bucks but when my final check comes from the Pizzeria, my Father's gonna wire it to me."
I had about a hundred twenty five dollars, no kings ransom, but in those days it went a lot further.
Gas was only forty cents per gallon and I remember paying 8 dollars for a motel room when I hitchhiked across country
two years before.
Food was a lot cheaper too, a cup of coffee was 20 cents and you could buy a hot dog for
We all hopped in my brother's car and drove to Jersey City.
I signed some papers and left a 50 dollar deposit which would be refunded upon delivery and we were given ten days to
complete the trip.
The good news was that it was a Ford Pinto which was very fuel efficient.
The bad news was that it was a Ford Pinto which was tiny and cramped and would be difficult to sleep in which is what
we planned to do.
It was a hatchback though, so the back seat folded down which provided
extra room to stretch out.
Back in Montclair we pulled together our things and loaded the car.
Had we been a little more seasoned we would have stocked up on more sandwiches, some extra padding to sleep on and a few
extra tools in case of mechanical problems.
But we were young and didn't
think too much about incidentals.
Besides, what could
possibly happen that we couldn't overcome? We were twenty years old, right?
It was around the first
of March, a cold, clear, sunny day. We settled into the Pinto and eased down the driveway.
Alf was toying with
the radio as the streets of Montclair disappeared behind us.
We were actually doing it!
were actually going to California..... but we had no idea what was in store for us out there on the open road.......