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
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
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......!!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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,
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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, ah...possibly....as 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
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?
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
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.
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.......
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
Nearby was a small Cafe and with hunger creeping up on him, Alf announced that he was getting something
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."
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.
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........