Monday, August 3, 2020

Yellowstone In Real Time

                  I'm leaving Saturday morning bright and early to drive to Yellowstone for a backpacking trip. Been planning it since last year. First night I'm staying over in St. George, Utah. It started out when I realized it was only a two day road trip up there. I mentioned it to my son in DC if he was interested and he said yes, but he and his fiance were planning a trip to Egypt. I mentioned it in passing to my daughter that lives in France permanently now and she decided she and her boyfriend were definitely interested in coming. And I invited my new found family in Texas. My full grown grandson and fiance wanted to come.
                    In February, I put in for the back packing permit and because I wouldn't hear until maybe May and all these folks wanted to come I reserved car camping for the same time in August.
And then the pandemic. So Chelsea and Vincent made reservations to fly into LA and drive up with me. They have French vacations that give them off weeks in a row if they want them. I start looking at my gear and realize that I'm missing half of everything I had. I'd been loaning things out and apparently not getting them back. I had three of everything needed, for me and my two kids that used to go with me. But Chelsea's sleeping bag is gone, I have one of three camping stoves.
                      I still have three bear kegs, what you put your food in that is critter proof. So I need gear. I need 5 sleeping bags, five backpacks, six bear kegs. It's gonna be an expensive trip. Then the pandemic. France tells Chelsea and Vincent that they are not supposed to leave the country and if they do they will have to spend two weeks in quarantine when they return, so they have to cancel. They got a voucher for their airfare that can be used later maybe next year.
                       I put together gear and food for the remaining four of us. And then my Grandson and fiance in Texas tell me they can't come, His girlfriend has lost her job and they don't have enough money to pay their rent. The tickets I bought for them are turned into credit vouchers that they can use over the next couple of years, so they could come next year on the same tickets. I told Chelsea in France that if it didn't work this time, that we could try for 2021. I don't know the park, I don't how cool the route is that I've picked for the back pack trip, etc. etc. Next year might be better.
                        So Chris and I are still going. We talked about virus concerns etc and I don't think it's going to be a big deal. I'm driving up alone in my car with gear, staying in motels along the way and driving back, again with little or no contact. He is flying in and I'm picking him up in Jackson Hole from the airport. There's going to be very little close contact with anyone.
                        There's probably more danger in those little old ladies in the supermarket that have to feel every tomato or every avocado, before they choose one. I bought a can of bear spray. I've not met the bears of Yellowstone as an adult, and everything I read says they are more mellow than Yosemite bears, but you never know. There was a video I watched about an encounter in Yellowstone between three Yellowstone employees and a mama bear and her cubs. And one of the guys got seriously charged by Mama, but he and his friends didn't retreat. My buddy and I ran into a Mama and her cub at Kings Canyon a couple of years ago, we yelled and retreated. Mama didn't come after us, she ran off with the baby in a different direction.
                         Anyhow, I'm off Saturday morning. I'll try to give you photos and stuff along the way. See if I have anything to say. The second night I'm stopping in Logan, Utah. My very first marriage was there fifty years ago and we lived together all of ten months and I did my second year of college at Utah State there. Thought I'd look around. You might get some strolling down memory lane. See two blogs entry back: "Journeys of A Different Kind" for a little background.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Going to California

Journey 1976

                   It was time to go. My personal love relationships had tanked. I had spent the winter with a bad cough that wouldn't go away. I felt I was drinking too much and doing more dope than I should. And I realized that the guy I worked for was madly in love with me and I couldn't/wouldn't reciprocate and I felt guilty about that. So I shipped a few things on to my mother in Los Angeles, got rid of almost everything else and packed up a pack and stuck out my thumb.

                    A friend said I was going off to California to be a 'bronze god' - thanks. I had also finished the first draft of an entire novel. I don't even remember getting out of New Orleans now. Somebody picked me up. There were a bunch of rides. I was reading "All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers" by Larry McMurtry and lost it somewhere along the way and never finished reading it. I sang to the traffic and practiced my whistling skills. I thought I had a pretty good rendition of Poor Wayfaring Stranger just in whistling it, but now realize it was probably pretty bad, but almost anything sounded good while being drowned out by traffic.

                     I was inspected by the Texas Highway Patrol at one point. I had cut off all of my hair before leaving so I resembled a clean cut kid. There had been a little pamphlet published years before entitled something like "A Hippies' Guide to The Man" or something like that. You needed to call them Sir. I did that. They checked me out for weapons and dope. And one of them wanted to take me to the Greyhound Station and make me pay for a ticket, but I told them I didn't have much money and I was going to Los Angeles for my family reunion and I wasn't ever coming back. They finally left me to my own devices.

                       So I got as far as Ft. Stockton and was let out on the west side of town in mid-afternoon and stood there forever. The kids cruising stopped to visit before the sun went down. I ended up just walking down from the highway into a clump of bushes and laying out my bedroll and sleeping and the long night of waking up and traffic and then no traffic and finally finding myself at dawn and putting myself back together again to go back up again to the edge of the road to try again.
A rancher gave me a lift and offered me a beer for breakfast which I accepted and then let me out fifteen miles down the road out in the middle of nowhere. He was turning off to go home.

                        I wrote a song a lot time afterward about that. (Actually it was a poem first, and then I made it a song thirty years later).
The song is a scroll down "Where Are You Going?"
I made it over to a creek and refilled my canteen and went back and waited. Finally I got picked up by a moving van and rode blazing all the way across west Texas at 90 and then at 100 mph. And told the two guys about New Orleans. They didn't think I should have left the girl I had been living with the year before.

                        They let me off in El Paso, A sweet gay guy picked me up and took to the west side of the city all the while offering to take me home with him and he promised to treat me right. I declined. Then again standing out and a guy in a van picked me up. He wanted to drive straight through to LA, was I up for that and I said sure. He had a German Shepherd in the back. So we drove and drove and switched off. Smoke a little dope. I think I napped first. Then he crawled into to the back to nap and I drove and was stopped at the California state line. They wanted to know if I had anything to declare. I told them no, 'thinking shit, don't search the van.' They let me go. I think he relieved me again and he woke me as we pulled into downtown LA near the main bus terminal. I thanked him and walked in to get a public bus down the Carson where my Mom and Stepdad lived. And walked into their mobile home park by 10:00 in the morning. 'You should have called' they told me.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Journeys of a different kind

1972 -

             So I had a hard childhood. Had very little to show for anything. I didn't particularly achieve anything or succeed in anything. My grades were lousy, I had to go to work at 14 to make some money. I was a carhop at a drive-in. The tallest carhop in the world I would guess. I read a lot of books. I had read a lot of comic books, and then paperback action and sci-fi novels. Stumbled on to some better books: Steinbeck, Sherwood Anderson, Maybe probably Jack Kerouac, then Tolkien and Herman Hesse and a bunch of other stuff. Oh and a college student had given me Ayn Rand to read while I was working my way up from Cap Hop to Soda Jerk to Kitchen cook.  I was boy journalist, writing for the High School Paper and they had a teen thing for us to write things for the local city paper. I went to the Bloomington School Board meetings with my clip-on tie to report on the Board meetings as a high school student.
               I had no life. No girl friend. Just a bunch of nerdy friends to hang out with and share weird things with. The kids from the south side of town that I worked with were cool and we did dope and went on illicit camp-outs which the parents never knew about and drank, but were still pretty nerdy.
At fifteen I wrote a short story that was sort of based on a story out of Winesburg Ohio by Sherwood Anderson which was basically a tale of me going to work, going to a party and getting drunk and the fantasy of the perfect love. Well, it turned out I wrote it pretty well, or better then well. And all the adults told me I was genius. Probably a big mistake to believe them. But no one ever had told me I did anything really well.
                 I had already been making up stories about myself to compensate for my nothing life. There had been a silly story in Harlan Ellison's first book about how he pretended to be a teenage hoodlum to write a book about gang life and had supposedly learned how to flip open a regular pocketknife to make it seem like a switchblade. I kept that one to tell other kids. I quit a fry cook job I hated in my Senior year because it was a terrible job. I made it into a story about how a friend wanted to to cold turkey his heroin habit so I went to help him do it. I had told this to one of the waitresses and she called me when a group of her friends were setting up a halfway drug crisis center and asked me to come help. Despite my bullshit, I wasn't too bad at it.
                  I was a good little actor. I had portrayed my guilt about a a supposed knife fight to a co-worker at the drive-in and somehow everyone became afraid of me. It was helpful for warding off the bullies. I had a guy in High School accosted me because he wanted me to do all of his homework for the drafting class we were in. I asked him if he was serious and did he hear about the bad knife fight. After that he left me alone. I guess I was writing my first novels in my head.
                   People believed me. Which was a real problem. My best friend and my girl friend bought into the bullshit because I was such a believable actor. You always had to have regret and angst about your life and it bought you belief, whether it was true or not.
                    So married at 18 and off to Utah for my second year in college. I had not admitted my virginity to my wife to be out of embarrassment and confessed it on our honeymoon trip to Utah. This became the betrayal of my love. It went downhill from there. In Utah I went to my first group therapy session, where you have a group of five or six people all confessing themselves in a room with a therapist there to help act as guide. I confessed all. And no one hated me. I was sure they would. So after that, I decided to try and tell the truth. It was hard.

King Lear:

Friday, July 31, 2020

Going to New York City

Journey 2006

                I wasn't much of a basketball player or fan until I had one to raise. My son ended up at my height of 6'7" and was pretty much a super jock of a kid. He played soccer and basketball and volleyball and baseball and went out for cross country one year. He was in a club basketball team in Middle school and started on Varsity his freshman year in high school. He applied everywhere for college. There were only a few schools interested in him for basketball. Occidental here in Los Angeles and NYU and Stevens Institute in New York. And there was a coach at some school in Buffalo NY that had seen him play in LA, but then he changed jobs and he wasn't in a position to recruit or something like that. Chris had a 26 point game in a summer club thing ( I had a video of it.) and I tried to get USC interested but no luck. Because I worked at USC I got free tuition for him and you could trade it to other schools on a list. Occidental and Stevens were on the list.
                 So he was invited back to New York to check out NYU and Stevens. His High School Coach was interested in taking him, but after watching him interact with the guy from Buffalo, I decided I would take him. It was winter of 2006 in his senior year. It was about 2 degrees Fahrenheit in NYC during the day. And there was snow. I rented a hotel room for myself and he was going to stay in the dorms with the basketball guys at both schools. I had talked to both schools and explained what I was doing and they seemed fine with it. The High School Coach seemed a bit bent out over my plan. I didn't tell Steven Institute yet about the tuition trade. I figured maybe both schools might offer him something. So away we flew.

                    I dropped him off at Stevens and went to find my hotel. - a cheapy place across the river in Hoboken, it wasn't too bad. I suddenly flashed on the motel. I was having health problems then and it hadn't been figured out yet. I had a pint of ice cream that night thinking it would help my problems. It wasn't later than I would learn I had developed diabetes. Anyhow, he played and hung out and explored. I spent a lot of years researching a couple that married and was the center of art and literature and theater circles in NYC in the mid-1870s. I finally completed a slightly fictional, slightly true novel about them about year ago, and have written a musical about them as well. Check it out if you are interested:

                      So I went off to look for where they lived and went off to the Met to look at their art collection and hit all the museums and wandered around the city in the freezing cold. I was amazed by the folks walking their dogs in Central Park in fur coats and snow boots - the dogs, not the owners.The meeting with the Stevens folks went pretty well and when they realized they didn't have to provide a scholarship, they gave him some enrollment credit for being a musician and enrolling in their music industry program as his minor. I got him from Stevens and we went off to NYU and I had a hole in the wall hotel room in the city, which was not fun. I had to go to the front desk and explain to the guy that I needed a room with enough bed to accommodate two 6'7" guys and he looked at me like I was from Mars. Paying an arm and a leg later I got a bed that we could both lay in though it was cramped.

                       He came back to me exhausted. We did make a trip to the Empire State Building and he brought a present for his girlfriend at the time. (She was already accepted at Columbia there.) And we went back and he slept like the dead for the next eight hours. The return was a bit exciting. The taxi I had ordered for the airport didn't show and there were none to be found on the street. A woman in the lobby had a limo reserved and it showed and I made a deal with her to split the cost and in the whole transaction discovered she was broke and I was probably being scammed but agreed to cover her share because I was so thankful to get to the fucking airport.

                         This is where he ended up going. Stevens Institute. He saw Sculley land his plane out there. He said there was one bad spring when the rain was falling horizontally on Stevens' hill

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Journeys 1974

Journeys - 1974

             I was in New Orleans, living in a boarding house room on Rampart and working at a printing company on the streetcar line out past Canal Street. I thought I wanted to be a printer, so I was entry level, cleaning a two color press and jumping up and down and loading paper and cleaning the printing plates on this press as the Printer got it ready for the the run. It was manual labor, but the guys that hired me thought I had promise.
             I was lucky, came into town with hardly any money and rented a place in the first place I walked into and got hired in the first place I applied at. The studio apartment was the worst, smelled of cigars and urine and I cleaned it a bunch of times but it never got any better. And it had a shared bathroom down the hall. The manager was this older lady with her grandchild and refused to let anyone in the building come in with overnight guests. This was not going to work for me. So I found a worst place over on Decatur Street (a block from Bourbon Street), which was one small room in the slave quarter portion of the building, but the shared bathroom was just across the courtyard. The manager there liked me a lot and put up new curtains for me and made sure I always had my own toilet paper. And wanted to share my little room sometimes I'm sure. Anyway, when I moved, the old lady manager asked if I'd be willing to drive her and her granddaughter to Nashville for pay. We worked out the details and I needed the money, so I agreed. It would just be one long weekend, maybe missing just one Monday at the printing company.
              So I made the trip. She had a car and I rented a trailer and loaded it up and we took off out of New Orleans late on a Friday night for Nashville. I had really injured myself at work and had one of my fingers in a brace from accidentally running it into the print rollers on the press. A lot of this became a novel "The Smallest Creatures"
published by The Book Folks, but years later. It was originally going to be called "The Cowboy and the Witch" which I carried around in my head for a number of years and then one evening with a television writer friend over wine and donuts in LA, helped me flesh it out as a dramatic thing.
               The other almost little journey I was tempted to make was, in my loneliness, I had made friends with some people in a cult that were ready to send me off to Boston to get brainwashed by the home guru.  Luckily, when I showed up to run off with my stuff to Boston, they revealed that their true mission was to find a new recruit that could teach the guru's sons how to play basketball. I hated basketball most of my life until I sired a basketball player. So sanity prevailed.
                 I finally started to make friends with other writers and artists there and got a job in a bookstore where I supposed to be. New Orleans was my Paris, I always figured. I hitch-hiked to California next to find my way. I wanted to be Jack Kerouac.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Journeys: 1971


    1971: I was already divorced from a marriage that lasted all of 10 months. I had purchased an old Studebaker to drive from Utah back to Bloomington Indiana. I didn't know where else to go. The car was gone by the time I got it home. Sold it for parts. I found work right away in a restaurant. Found a boarding house room and thought about what to do next. I needed to face some stuff, one of which was my father. He was living over in Paris Illinois. So I hitchhiked to Terre Haute, spent the night at a Salvation Army Mission, which was basically a large room with bunk beds and a lot of smelly men snoring. I was afraid somebody would steal my shoes, but when I climbed into the top bunk the guy below me told me to take them off so I didn't dirty the bedclothes. I did reluctantly. Morning was a long line to go pee and brush your teeth and then you had to sit through prayers and singing before they would feed you breakfast, so I split and got McDonald's or something. Got to Paris about 11:00 in the morning. It was easy to hitchhike in those days.
     I was downtown thinking about how to find the address I had, when the old man spotted me. He picked me up. We went to lunch and then he took me over to the apartment that he and his new wife owned and operated. The woman impressed me as a real stick up her ass type. He took me to see my Great-grandmother and Great Aunt who were still alive, though my Great Grandmother was bed-ridden and blind and deaf. He left me there to spend the night. My Great Grandmother proceeded to tell me how my Grandmother, my Father's mother, was a drug addict and had driven my Grandfather to drink. A very odd reality to me. She was high strung and a hypochondriac and had a nervous breakdown at one point and my Grandfather was a famous Alcoholic in Bloomington. They thought my father was quite admirable for surviving his childhood. 
    My Great Aunt was never very talkative. They fed me and gave me a bedroom to sleep in. I spent the night dreaming that my father was climbing the stairs and bursting into the room and shooting me.
I died several times that night. Did I mention that he used to beat the shit out of my mother, shoot off his pistol in the house and my brother and I got into a physical fight with him which I lost. Did I mention that he stalked my mother long after the divorce was final. And one of my memories from Junior High is her running in the door from work and slamming it in tears because he was sitting in car outside and had followed her home with a pistol in his hand. The restraining order meant nothing in those days.
    So in the morning he wanted to drive me home. I couldn't figure out a good way to say no. And it was a bit of work to hitchhike. So along the way, he told me all about how he was actually a CIA agent and how there were enemies out to get him and he could show me the windshield with the bullet holes in to prove what he was saying. And that my mother had tried repeatedly to kill him by poison. And how the enemy agents were all about and I had to keep my eyes open. He had been a part time insurance claim investigator in reality so he knew how to trace people and get information about them. He wanted to know all about my girl friend and her name and where her family was etc etc. I lied through my teeth.
    So after all this was over with, my mother asked how it went. I told her, he was just as crazy as he had ever been and the bottom line was that I just didn't like him. He wasn't a nice person and every conversation had an angle and he was always on the make. I'd had overheard a conversation the day before between him and a potential client for his business and it was a horribly greasy conversation.
    However, the nightmares went away for lots and lots of years, until he murdered his second wife and the police called me to find out what I might know. I'm sure he gave them my contact info. I was living in LA - it was twenty year later.
    The journey was to face those nightmares. I split from Bloomington without seeing him again until ten years later in San Francisco when he tracked me down because he wanted me to sign off my rights to the estate that he couldn't dissolve without my permission. I told him no, and told him to go fuck himself.
    I got my first book out of this years later "It Knows You By No Other Name" and then when he died, my brother and I went and spent several years cleaning up his mess: "Under The Cold Stones" came out of that.