On a cool September morning in 1974 with duffel bags in tow Ollie
and I made our way to the Garden State Parkway On Ramp at Watchung Avenue in Bloomfield.
In the Autumn sunshine we stuck out a thumb and in a few minutes got our First and Only
ride of the day.
A young college student
was himself going to Boston and if we wanted to chip in for gas, he'd take us all the way there.
the car. It was, an AMC Gremlin with a hatchback.
I remember because I was scrunched up in the back of that thing for the entire trip.
As we passed through the first toll booth and made our way North,
one of my favorite songs began playing on the radio.
It was "Lover's Cross" written by Jim Croce and sung by Melanie,
both major talents of the day.
Laying on my duffel bag and staring out the window I very much related to the tune as
the Garden State Parkway disappeared behind us.......
It summed up so much of what I was feeling and helped soothe a very bruised ego.
Veronica was still
very much on my mind.....
In Boston, we went straight to the YMCA and got a room and the next day we began
checking out the employment and housing situation.
It was intimidating. We knew how to rough it but neither of us had the street smarts of Toad or
Eddie, especially Toad, who never sweated anything.
A short, stubby guy, he was athletic and quick on his feet.
He had a head of bushy hair and dressed the part of a bohemian,
(jeans, boots, bandanna and vest) but he was more of a hustler than a "flower child."
Without a second thought he would approach anyone to bum a smoke or "spare change"
or anything else he needed.
I was a little wary of him but to his credit whenever he was flush he would share with those
Many a summer night
he could be found lounging around the local parks sharing cigarettes, bottles of wine or whatever else came his way.
"Damn straight! What goes around, comes around." That was his working motto.
After a couple days in Boston we called home to find out where to hook up with Toad and my brother, Eddie.
They'd left a message saying to meet them in Harvard Square and it was a relief
to see them standing at the subway station when we arrived.
The more of us, the better the chances of making something work.
They looked ridiculous with their battered suitcases but they
were as slick and confident as ever, scanning the horizon and smiling when they saw us coming.
happening with you guys?" Eddie asked in his off the cuff manner.
"Nothing, we're staying at the
Y," I said. "What are you guys planning on doing?"
"We'll think of something,"
he said, almost ignoring me as he took in the surroundings.
Toad was just as loose, puffing on a cigarette while
checking out the Co-Eds coming and going and making off color remarks.
While Ollie and I were just trying
to keep our heads above water, these two were running on all Cylinders.
Both were adept at exploiting situations and Toad could drum up extra cash with his
Panhandling Skills anytime he wanted.
An hour later we wished them luck and parted with the understanding
we would phone home in a couple days to find out where we should hook up next.
Meanwhile, the YMCA was getting
old and the money allotted for room rent was running low.
During the day we filled out applications in Grocery Stores and Restaurants but when
you don't have a phone and you
don't know the city, you're at a major disadvantage.
When we called home once again we were told to meet Eddie and Toad at the Cambridge Common
off Harvard Square.
we found them "rapping" to the locals and tossing a Frizbee around,
one of Toad's favorite past times.....
True to form, he was carefree as could be, flinging and catching that Frizbee
with an artistic flare in between drags off his cigarette.
Ollie and I were uptight.
Things were not going well and we were hoping my brother and Toad had better luck.
What they then related
to us was to become legendary in the annuls of
"The Vagabonds of '74."
in A Newspaper Truck?
The first night in town Ollie and Toad perused Harvard Square looking to latch
onto a situation.
When nothing materialized they decided to bed down in the back of a truck filled with bundles of Newspapers.
Under the circumstances it seemed like an ideal place. The
newspapers would provide padding and insulation from the cold.
To their surprise, they were jolted awake at 3 A.M.
when the truck began rolling down Massachusetts Ave.
It turns out the driver was beginning his run, picking up the morning
papers for delivery around the city.
They grabbed their suitcases and leaped off the back of the truck as
it rolled down the street freaking out the driver and spent the rest of the night sleeping on the porch of a nearby house.
In the morning they awakened to see a couple Hippies rummaging through their suitcases which they'd left near
One was a bearded guy who went by the name of Merlin and the other, his lady friend, mistakenly thought the
suitcases had been put out for the trash.
Once the situation got straightened out, Toad and Eddie were invited
to a "Crash Pad" several blocks from Harvard Square.
They lived there with a bunch of other Hippies in a cluster of abandoned buildings
that were slated for demolition.
It was the perfect environment for people needing to put a roof over their heads without the burden
of having to pay rent.
Toad and Eddie, not wasting a minute in making themselves at home, plopped down and
began sleeping in the living room of one of the buildings that very night.
After they related the story, Ollie
and I wanted to tag along and be part of the trip.
Toad, was in agreement but Eddie was more guarded.
gotta get your own place. You can't stay with us. You're gonna blow our gig!"
There had always been
sibling rivalry between me and my brother and I wasn't surprised that it was showing itself again.
you man, we just wanna see the place," I said.
"Oh come on Ed," Toad insisted, "it won't
It was three against one so Eddie relented and Ollie and I followed them
down Mass. Ave. to Columbia St. then over to Broadway where
we came upon a city block of abandoned buildings, many which had their windows boarded up.
One block further and we stood in front of a two story tenement
that was visibly listing to one side and in need of major repairs.
It had a central hallway and four apartments, two up and two down.
A Different World
Eddie led us upstairs to a kitchen where two young woman were preparing food.
It was sparsely
furnished and run down. There was a table and a couple chairs, an old refrigerator and an ancient looking sink across the
If you walked from the sink over to the refrigerator it was on an uphill slant which provided us with
a bit of amusement.
It was apparent that the people who lived here were struggling, financially and otherwise.
The main reason that Eddie and Toad had been allowed to stay was that they wood
bring food home as payment for crashing in the living room.
In fact if it wasn't for Toad and Eddie the refrigerator
would have been almost completely empty.
Just off the kitchen was a room with a couple
mattresses thrown on the floor.
In the central hallway was another mattress where a guy named Jake
slept with his girlfriend.
You virtually had to step over them to get to the living room. The only thing that
gave them any privacy was a curtain hanging in the doorway held up by thumb tacks.
The living room was furnished
with two old sofas where Eddie and Toad slept.
The other units in the building were even more dreary.
I got a chance to peer into a ground floor apartment which was so filled with clutter that you could barely walk
Across the hall was the abode of a guy they called Dipsy Doodle or just Dipsy for short.
His claim to notoriety
was that one night, while very stoned, he fell asleep in a cross legged position, cutting off the blood flow to his legs,
partially crippling him for life.
He was a vindictive, tragic person who walked around on canes
complaining about this or that and was impossible to please. Everyone in the building was afraid of him.
Ollie and I sat at the kitchen table talking until it was time to return to the YMCA.
Two days later, almost out of money, we decided to roll
the dice and check out.
We'd been unable to get a toe hold and were unsure about what to do so in desperation
we decided to head to the on-ramp of the the Mass Pike and began hitchhiking West.
ride didn't materialize so we decided to stay in Boston and give it another try.
We made our way over to the Cambridge Common where we
hooked up with Toad and Eddie and when the day grew late, followed them to the Tenement.
we crashed on the mattresses in the bedroom off the kitchen.
When I hit that mattress and that feeling of well being
settled over me, it would have taken an army to move me.
For one night at least, we knew that we'd covered
Due to the well stocked refrigerator, the Hippies didn't seem to mind too much.
What had happened was that Toad had landed a job at a
Restaurant in Harvard Square.
This provided him not only with money but any extra food he
could smuggle out.
We were stunned at the amount of stuff he brought home, bread, eggs, mayonnaise and
restaurant sized cans of tuna.
"What goes around comes around, man. Everybody just help yourselves."
By day, Ollie and I hit the streets job hunting and would return to the Tenement
exhausted but at least knowing we had a place to
lay our heads.
But tension was beginning to build.
Eddie was concerned that we were compromising his Situation
and after a few days it became an unhealthy scene.
Our hosts too, feeling the pinch, complained that they
felt crowded and were dropping hints that we should leave.
The remedy for this was to make sure to restock the refrigerator.
Whenever that happened, the complaints tapered off and began again only when the food supply ran low. The
situation see-sawed back and forth for a week.
Meanwhile, we were getting acquainted with
the personalities that came and went.
One of them was "Sparrow," an intellectual type who
was into health food
and the Hippy life style.
He would show up to partake of whatever food was provided
by the girls, usually veggies and rice, then would spend the next 45 minutes clearing his bowls in the bathroom.
Normally, this would not have been an issue except for the fact that the bathroom had no door and he pursued
his bodily functions with such fervor that the sound effects echoed unmercifully throughout the house, often while
the rest of us were still eating.
Being Hippies, nobody saw anything wrong with this or the fact that there was
no bathroom door. To protest would have been "uptight," "uncool" and "unhip," all
the things that counter culture people were not supposed to be.
Hey, all Sparrow was doing was "being
himself," "pursuing happiness," "being healthy."
For us, each episode was a long drawn out affair,
a mixture of amusement and dread
as we stifled laughter on one hand and cursed him out on the other as Sparrow
"did his thing" in the bathroom just a few
steps off the kitchen.
As the days wore on our determination intensified.
We were under pressure but we weren't going to just
roll over and play dead either.
We had a right to survive, the same as anybody else.
In early October I
landed a job in a little cafe called "As You Like it" in Harvard Square.
I was passing by one day when I saw a "help
wanted" sign, walked in and nailed down the job then and there. It was basically kitchen duty.
I started that night earning minimum wage but I
was able to eat free and whenever I could I'd slap a sandwich together and toss it to Ollie as he stood outside at
the back door.
At the end of the week I was handed a meager paycheck but anything was a help.
I turned 21 while working in that little place. I remember
feeling a twinge as I stood there washing dishes.
"If my friends could see me now, what would they think?"
Meanwhile, there were more rumblings about our presence in the Apartment.
Jake, the guy who slept on the mattress in the hallway
was becoming territorial.
He contributed nothing to the house yet felt entitled to special consideration.
I didn't like him.
He was more a street person than a Hippie anyway.
All he did was eat our food and bang the hell out of his girlfriend keeping everyone awake at night.
began flexing his muscles and word got back to us that he was threatening to get physical in order to make an example of one
"I'll just grab one and throw him down the stairs," he said, or something to that effect.
It was a direct challenge and we were almost hoping he'd
It would have been a big mistake......
Returning home one night we were told we would have to leave.
The Hippies were "fed up," (no pun intended)
and they wanted back their space.
Confronted with the situation we sat down to discuss what could be
done to create a win-win situation.
That's when one of the girls spoke up, "Look, there are
where you guys can move in.
You just claim "Squatter's Rights" and the city
can't legally kick you out."
"Squatter's Rights" we were told, stemmed from Old English
where if you maintain the abode in question the Government can't legally remove you without due process.
"You mean we can just move in?"
"And they won't be able to throw us out?"
would take a long time."
A whole new scenario had just opened before our eyes.
There were a dozen or so buildings on the surrounding
All we had to do was choose one that was functional enough to live in.
Through the Grapevine, our hosts already knew about the
one over on Broadway
that had some vacant units.
It was all we had to hear.
We could even see it across the backyards by looking
out the kitchen window.
The first thing in the morning we would pay a visit to Broadway to check it out.......
Squatter's Writes here we come.....!!!!!