Steve Sherry's The Vagabonds of '74


Early '74 Montclair, New Jersey, Alf a most unusual friend
Cedar Grove, New Jersey my little town....Miss Munches House, Newberry's, Cedar Grove Pool
Hitchhiking To Albuquerque 1972, The Commune and Krishnamurti, University of New Mexico
Seeing Badfinger At Carnegie Hall, The Dugout, McSorely's Ale House
Seeing Bob Dylan, "The Poet Lad" At Madison Square Garden
South End Pizzeria, Van Gogh and Plans for California
Jersey Shore Recollections, Summer of '71. St. Louis, The Gateway of the West, The Road to Colorado
Rocky Mountain Panorama, Problems with the Pinto, Ritchfield Utah???
California! Lennon's Lost Weekend, Venice Beach, Malibu
Pacific Coast Highway, Panoramic Visions and the Magic Carpet Ride To Santa Barbara
San Francisco, The Shelter, The Warf and the Hole in the Wall Hotel
Sacramento, Jumping A Train? Wierd But True, The Shock of My Life
Oblivion, Reno, Good Samaritans and The Ghosts of Woody Guthrie, James Dean and Tom Joad
A Night In The Can in Kansas
University of Kansas at Lawrence and The Doobie Brothers
True Meditation Foundation of Human Understanding, "How Your Mind Can Keep You Well"
Vagabonds of '74 Part 2: Old Friend Ollie, Meeting Veronica, The Suburban in Montclair
BOSTON, The Leap of Faith and A Night in a Shelter
Sleeping in a Newspaper Truck, Cambridge Hippies and No Turning Back
Squatter's Rights: 269 BROADWAY, Furnishing Our Hippie Pad
269 BROADWAY becomes Miss Dale's Farm
California Hippies Arrive. Free Food from The Docks, Strange Encounters
Kenmore Square Blood Bank
Leonard Cohen, Patron Saint, Ali Defeats Foreman and the Great Squash Fight of '74
Vivid Visitors from New Jersey,
The Invasion of Boston University, Taking Over The Dorm
Jonathan Swifts, Harvard Square and The Sugar Shortage
Beacon Hill Gulf Gas Station and Reflections Atop The Longfellow Bridge
Christmas 1974 in Montclair, Returning to Cambridge, "13th Floor Panarama"
Bandages, Canes, Barroom Brawls and Spontaneous Conversation
Meeting Leonard Cohen
The Beginning Of The End and Saying Goodbye
Vagabonds of 74 Epilogue
Essex Catholic Memories: Crosby, Stills & Nash, Marty Liquori, Mark Murro, City Stadium, St. Benedicts, Dylan, Positively 4th St.
The Essex Catholic Wrestling Team 1971: 8 District Champs, Ting A Lings, Hitting the Town....
Essex Catholic Teachers and Students, Br. Harrington, Mr. Lamb, Mr. Taglieri, Mr. Zarro, Simon and Garfunkel
Random Events at Essex Catholic 1967-1971: Stuff Happens! Bomb Scare, JUG!, Abbey Road
Essex Catholic Senior Year 1971: World Trade Center Rising, The Staircase from "A Hard Days Night?" Meditation, MySpace: "Jersey Shore," Crosby, Stills and Nash Epilogue
The Jersey Shore: May, 2011 Brielle....Sea Girt....Introspection On The Sand.....
Essex Catholic Memories 2012

Beach Cities.....L.A......Venice.......
Lennon's Lost Weekend.....

Sunrise, and the temperature inside the Pinto climbed to an uncomfortable level forcing us out for air.
It was time to move on anyway, the first order of business being to buy a muffler strap.
We made our way down the main street of a large town, possibly Barstow,
spotted a Ford Dealer and were able to buy the exact part in question. 
And there in the parking lot I made the repair with just a screw driver and pliers.

Amazingly, the original soap smear was still holding but just for insurance I slathered more over the hole.

We followed Interstate 15 south, hop-scotching over to the Beach Cities.
It was a lot different from the beaches of New Jersey.
Our idea of the shore was 1920's Hotels with miles of Boardwalk.
What we encountered bore no resemblance to anything we could relate to and instead of balmy weather it was chilly, overcast and windy.
Still, the thing to do was head for the beach.
We were excited about seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time and leaped  from the car, feasting our eyes on the view.

On the beach groups of young people huddled around fires they'd lit to keep warm
but moments later a lifeguard in a Pick Up Truck drove up and informed them that fires on the beach were taboo and they were told to put them out.......

We turned to investigate a commotion behind us.
It seemed like a Mass Evacuation and  I thought there was an emergency of some kind. 
The World was on the move,
cars and vans on the Main Drag were in a full tilt rush to get somewhere.  
But when we saw that the Locals paid no attention, we took it to be normal......
California was supposed to be laid back.........Weird......!!!

Another night was spent shivering in the back of the car.
Had we been more world wise, we would have visited a Salvation Army store and bought a couple sleeping bags but the thought never crossed our minds.

At the first hint of dawn we continued on the last leg of our journey with the Pinto,
proceeding down the San Diego Freeway.
Over night, a thick blanket of fog  had settled in so we drove well below the Speed Limit,
wary of tail lights looming up in front of us.

Once we'd delivered the car, the owner would hand over the 50 dollar deposit.
This was crucial because Alf had been spending his money on motels, gas and food since Denver. 

We exited the freeway and proceeded to a little town called Poway,
located the street and pulled up to the house.
We straightened our clothes, took turns combing our hair, then walked up to the door and rang the bell. A moment later a woman with a cheerful demeanor opened the door.

"Hi, we have your car."

"Oh, you're here!" Okay, good to see you, come on in!
Would you like something to drink? Water, juice?"

"Okay, some juice would be good."

"How was the trip, any problems?"

"No, no problems."

She filled us in on her move from New Jersey to this totally out of the way place.
Viewing it through twenty year old eyes it seemed remote and uninviting.
There was nothing but barren hills and the appeal escaped us.

It was time for a test drive and with the lady at the wheel we held our breath.
Did we spill anything on the seats? Was it idling too rough?
Would the whole frigging muffler fall off once we got going?? 
After two or three spins around the block she was satisfied and gave it the thumbs up.

"Okay, boys, let me get your money."
Man, were we relieved.!!!
Only 50 bucks but under the circumstances, a small fortune. Now we were eager to get going.
California was beckoning.

"Do you need a ride anywhere?"

"Oh yeah, can you give us a ride back to the main road?"

She was nice enough to oblige, letting us off at an on ramp leading back to the Freeway.
We dropped our bags down on the sand and watched her drive away.

Then, Reality set in.
Standing there with the knowledge that the car was gone made us feel naked.
On the one hand we wouldn't have to pay for gas, on the other hand we were now without shelter and there was no longer a buffer between us and the world........
Half an hour later, we scored a ride, all the way to Huntington Beach.
We were let off and began walking, wondering where to go when a passing van slowed to a stop.
We hadn't even been hitchhiking.

"Hey, need a ride?"


"Where ya goin?"

"We don't know, we just got here."

"Well, I'll drop ya off at the Pier. That's the happening place."
     At the pier we began circulating among the crowds hoping to latch onto something tangible.
Whatever, I knew it was good to be with Alf.
He was without peer (no pun intended) at drumming up the necessities of life. 
Part entertainer and part public relations man, he could shed Personas like changing his socks.

And there I was, on a quest for the Holy Grail while my personal life was in shambles,
nurturing the hope that Love was just around the corner and it was:
around the corner, down the street, across the river, over the mountain, through the barbed wire,
across the ice flows, through the minefields and around the corner, waiting just for me.......!!!

My saving grace was that I was in the presence of a master.
All I had to do was get out of the way and let him do his thing and we would soon get a handle on the situation.

All around us people were dressed in tie dyed colors, hats and bandanas.

The Main Drag was filled with Volkswagon Beetles and Buses painted in psychedelic colors and  designs but what impressed me most were the Pick-Ups hauling Campers on the back.

They were like Cottages on Wheels with shake shingle siding and Anti War Slogans painted on the sides.
The owners, as far as I was concerned, had an inside track on life.
Wherever they were, they were already home.
They brought their abodes with them into town, to the beach, wherever.
They had a place to hang out or party in, or if they were tired, a place to rest.
The possibilities were endless and my Creative Gears were turning every time I saw one of those magnificent specimens roll by.

We approached a dude playing Guitar and singing "Working Class Hero." 
The tune was old hat by then but filled with the angst many of us carried inside and he was banging out that tune with a sneer.
Just our kind of guy and in between songs we struck up a conversation.

When friends of his showed up Alf wasted no time nailing down a place to crash and we were whisked off to their rented house a few blocks from the beach. Our first night without the car was a success.

In the morning we showered and shaved and decided to return to the beach.
We had just one request, and that was to borrow their Rock and Roll Fake Book for a few hours.

We assured them we'd return it and they reluctantly agreed. After a few hours on the beach we decided to hitchhike up to L.A. and true to our word set out to return the book.

The problem was that every street looked the same.

We knew the house was white but it seemed most of them were white. We had no street name or number and ended up completely flummoxed and fatiqued under the weight of our bags.

Stopping to get our bearings I happened to look up to see some sparrows flitting in and out of the fronds of Palm Trees.
In rainy or windy weather they would be totally protected. The irony of the situation hit home.
Not only the people here but the birds had their own abodes while we were vulnerable and exposed.

"Man, that's what I need," I thought, "a place of my own,  just like them."

Meanwhile the situation was unresolved. What do we do about returning the book? 
We made a few more passes and even knocked on a few doors to no avail. We were hopelessly confused and felt bad but if we wanted to get to L.A. we would have to press on.
We really did make the effort to return the book though.

                            L.A., Hollywood, Lennon's Lost Weekend
The drive north was a series of  rides.

While hitchhiking I became curious about the Ice Plants that grew everywhere along the side of the road.
I'd never seen anything like them before.....
Yeah, we certainly were in a different world than the one we'd left behind.....

We got a ride heading North but after running into traffic, our driver tells us he knows a short cut and heads away from the Freeway, driving down a road lined with Eucalyptus Trees.
The setting became a snap shot in my mind, an old fashioned post card of a California that is rapidly disappearing.

Where those Giant Trees stood on that bucolic road in 1974, most likely now stands row after row of condominiums or strip malls..........

From there we began stair-stepping toward L.A. The problem was actually finding L.A.

It's such a sprawling piece of land that you might be in L.A. one minute and not know it and then a minute later be in a different town thinking you've arrived in L.A.!

It ran on and on filled with busy Boulevards and Strip Malls that all looked the same.

Totally confused, we actually got into an argument with a gas station attendant who insisted we were in L.A.  after we'd just been told by someone else we weren't.

We finally decided to go to Hollywood, not realizing that Hollywood was in L.A.

Twenty minutes later we arrived on Hollywood Blvd. which was more to our liking.
It resembled "back east" more than anything we'd seen so far and we began our trek through
"Tinsel Town" somehow expecting to be invited to a party or recognized for our great feat of driving across the USA.....

We visited the Chinese Theater with its hand prints and footprints of Movie Stars imbedded in cement.
We passed by Souvenir Shops and winced when we saw people spending money on expensive trinkets when they could have been spending it on the needy. 
Namely, us !!!

We rolled down to the corner of Hollywood and Vine to see the Capitol Records Building and stumbled upon a Cafeteria where we loaded up on as much food as our stomachs could hold, stuffing our pockets with bread and butter before leaving.

We faced the City's, steel and glass, indifferent to our flesh and blood wants and needs.

Daylight was waning , we had to find shelter and the thing to do was let Alf get to work so when he saw a passer-by he went into his spiel:

" Hey, ah....pal? Ya gotta cigarette man?"

The guy obliges as Alf warms up.

"The names Alf , man," he says and extends his hand to shake.
He thoughtfully pouts his lips as his fingers go to his forehead to scratch his brow.
His voice is low key and humble.....

"You ah, wouldn't know, far as any, ah....if there was a place we could crash tonight, would ya man?"

It turned out that the guy wasn't interested in helping us and when more people brushed us off I began eying the overpass of the Hollywood Freeway as a likely place to spend the night.

But the next guy turns out to be a struggling actor who had an apartment nearby and after Alf explained our dilemma, he assented to letting us crash there.

"I hope you guys aren't rip offs,"  he said as we followed him the few blocks to his pad.

"No, we aren't rip offs at all," I said, "not at all. We just need a place to crash."

It was a studio apartment with a kitchenette and we sat around while he made tea and talked about his acting career.
It turned out that he'd been in some movies as a bit player, someone who walks on and walks off with just a small speaking part or none at all.
It was cool that he was making money and could support himself in the process.
            John Lennon's Lost Weekend 
In the morning we hit the streets of Hollywood, meandering along, taking in the sights.

When we passed a Newspaper Kiosk I happened to glance at the front page:
"Lennon Goes Berserk In Hollywood." 
Lennon? John Lennon?
I opened the door and removed a copy and there it was in black and white,
the story of the scuffle that John had at the Troupadour.

He and Harry Neilsson had gotten drunk at a Smothers Brothers gig and wouldn't stop heckling them.
When asked to keep quiet they made matters worse by breaking out into boisterous singing.
The two of them were tossed out on their asses by a group of indignant celebrities and patrons.
"Can you believe this?" John Lennon in a barroom brawl?  Maybe we'll bump into him somewhere!!"

I folded the paper and tucked it in my duffel bag.
This was a fulfilling bit of information.  John Lennon was on these very streets and going out to clubs!
The possibility of bumping into a Beatle was head and shoulders above anything else.

What we didn't know was that Paul and Ringo were also in town and they were all hanging out at a beach house on Pacific Coast Highway just under the cliffs in Santa Monica.

What confused me though, was that after Primal Therapy I'd thought Lennon was supposed to have attained Happiness !!!
What was he doing getting drunk and fighting?
I wondered about it and kept on wondering........

He'd touted it as a Panacea for curing pain and neurosis and now I wasn't so sure.

                         Santa Monica    Venice      Malibu

From Hollywood we hitched to the Santa Monica Pier, finally ending up on Venice Beach
amid the activity of skate boarders and crowds of young people "doing their thing......"

We didn't stay long though, we couldn't really get into the scene.

Like New York, L.A. is a state of mind.
Viewed from a distance the illusions can be grandiose. Being on the street is a far different story.
For us, L.A. became like "Journey To Ixtlan," you keep searching but you never get there.
We were going on instinct and the strongest instinct was the pull of the road so we decided to head to Malibu, just a few miles north.......

......our first ride was to the intersection of PCH and Sunset  where Hippies were selling tie dyed garments, sun visors and trinkets.......
We checked out the merchandise but buying anything was out of the question.
Our cash was dwindling steadily and was becoming an issue with me.
Alf, on the other hand seemed to have no such qualms. He never worried about anything.
What boggled my mind was that it seemed to always work for him.........

It was on to Malibu which seemed like any other highway town.

We didn't realize that the Malibu of legend was hidden from view
and PCH, to the natives, was only for getting to the shady canyons or the beach front homes.

Nearby was a small Cafe and with hunger creeping up on him, Alf announced that he was getting something to eat. 

I knew not to get between him and his next meal when he still had money so we plopped down at an outdoor table and perused the menu.
Alf decided on Chicken Dinner.

"Chicken Dinner? That's expensive! Get something else, man. We can't afford that."

"Sorry Pal, Chicken Dinner."

I was just as hungry as he was but to stand on principle I ordered a slab of cheese and a cup of tea.
We dug in, me eating slowly, savoring every morsel and Alf, totally immersing himself in mouth watering aromas......
He fixated on each piece as he devoured it and licked his fingers, making annoying sounds in the process.
I was getting really pissed off.

What can I say? He just knew how to live better than me.
I finally did break down and hit him for a few scraps. The cheese just wasn't going to hold me over.
I chastized him for spending the money but there was nothing I could do.
He overwhelmed me with Territorial Imperative........


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