My second year on the street was different.
I lived with Amy for a few weeks in the winter. Then I met M.
We met on a Haight Street in San Francisco. We got to know each other in Santa Cruz. Our last camp was out in the woods. And we named the trees along the path. Part of the walk to the woods was along train tracks. And she once told me of a dream. She was walking on train tracks. A man with a red face followed her down the tracks. Until she turned and confronted him. Then he was gone.
But M needed to go home to Seattle. James gave us a ride to her dad’s home. When we got there she tried to dump me. But I was desperate. I was sad and lonely. I begged. She didn’t dump me.
I returned to Santa Cruz alone. We planned to meet for the Rainbow Gathering in Oregon. I met her in Eugene. The gathering was in eastern Oregon. It was near the town of Prineville. My first gathering.
We traveled from the gathering back to her dad’s place in Seattle. Then we started east. We stopped in Idaho and Montana. But the longest stop was in Boulder. In Boulder we got wet, and we never got dry again.
After Boulder we went to Ann Arbor, Michigan. We traveled along the highways, hitch-hiking. And slept outside under the stars.
From Ann Arbor we went to Ithaca, New York. After I got arrested and released, we left town. Our next destination was Cambridge, Massachusetts. We stayed in Cambridge for a couple weeks. We spent our days in the park and at the bookstore. I gave her a dozen roses. She hid them under a shelf. Sometimes I like to think they would still be under the shelf today.
Then we came back to California. And she returned to Washington.
Soon after coming back I started to work. My first job was for Cal-PIRG. But it didn’t work out for me. I am not a salesman. And I didn’t agree with asking money from poor people. Sometime we went to neighborhoods near San Jose. But others we went to low-income areas of Santa Cruz.
“They have no money,” we would tell our leaders. “They can give you some spare change,” was the reply. And I thought I was working so I could stop begging. The PIRG group does good work. But it shouldn’t be looking to those who have so little. Others who have more should give more.
At one point I was having a bad day. I told them I couldn’t work. They gave me a guilt trip. They said it was because I wasn’t doing good, but I would do better. It was really about M. But I didn’t want to tell them. I quit soon after.
The next job I had wasn’t much better. But my boss became a friend. He became someone I respected. The job was collecting signatures for petitions on the ballot. I did it for months in Santa Cruz. I enjoyed being a part of the democratic process. The pay wasn’t great, but I made some money. I quit begging. And I saved some money.
When Thanksgiving came around I took the bus to visit M. We spent a few days together. And it was good. We made plans for me to move and live with her in Seattle. I went back to California to work and save money.
When I returned to Santa Cruz I camped in the woods. I worked doing the petitions. But the weather was getting wet and cold again.
One day I met Susan on the street. Susan had come to town with an older man, and two female friends. Theirs is the story of Santa Cruz’s ability to draw people and keep people. They had planned on driving through town, without even a stop. But their van broke down. And they stayed and became a part of the community.
Susan was older than me. I always thought of her as being wiser. She felt to me like someone who knew more about the world. But she often didn’t seem to know what she wanted. She was a free love hippy girl. Only as she pointed out to me once. This only meant she was free to choose. And it didn’t mean she would choose to have sex with someone. This was in reference to other guys, not myself.
One of her female friends was a Gemini. One of the few I have known in my life. And she was cute. I had a bit of a crush on her. Except if you ever did something for her because she was a girl, she would be angry. I could understand the theory, but in practice found it silly at times.
When I met Susan on the street it wasn’t my first meeting with her. We chatted and she gave me a hug. She expressed concern about my being cold. Then offered to let me camp with her and her friends.
They camped on the beach in Davenport. It was on the property of the Odwalla headquarters. Although it may have already been a former headquarters. We camped there for a couple weeks. And I was warmer. And it was good to be people. Also, I love the beach.
We heard about a gathering in Big Sir and wanted to attend. So we packed up our stuff. Susan, her friends and I. We all hitch-hiked down to Big Sir. But we split up on the route and didn’t meet in Big Sir.
The gathering was said to be at some hot springs. I had hitch-hiked with Susan and one of her friends. We got there without food and money. We talked to a store manager, he gave us some bad fruit to eat. And we did. On the first night we were there we slept in a cabin in the woods. I don’t know how we found the place.
Susan was next to me in her sleeping bag. She would be close, then push me away. Then pull me close. It felt confusing. In the morning she and I hitch-hiked into town. I recall she was eating an apple. And using a small knife to cut the apple. Then when a car came along she would stick out her thumb. Then back to cutting and eating the apple. We both were eating the apple. I suggested to her, “we might get a ride faster if you put the knife down.”
We couldn’t find out friends. So the three of us started to hike up the trail. We figured we would find them at the gathering.
We were about half-way to the hot springs when we met our friends. There was no gathering. And for some reason when we split to hitch-hike our group had all the tents. So our friends had spent the night without a tent. They stayed in the hot springs to stay warm.
We were halfway there so my group still wanted to visit the hot springs. Then we returned to Big Sir. And went back to camping on the beach. Susan’s said her grandmother once sent her a carbon-monoxide detector. Poor grandma didn’t seem to understand where Susan was living.
After a short period back on the beach the sheriff came and asked us to leave. Susan and her friends had talked about leaving town. But I wanted to stay. Susan gave me a tent, and left.
This is the tent I camped with too close to the river. I used it while the winter passed and I saved money. I called M when I was ready to move. But, she told me, we would just be friends. So I didn’t move to Seattle, i moved to Portland. A city M said she hated.