This is an excerpt from my memoir. It’s after my best friend and I take a Greyhound Bus from Williamsburg Virginia to Ventura California to see the Grateful Dead. I’m nineteen years old.
After the show Thomas and I catch a ride with some folks we meet who are traveling up North. We drive through Santa Cruz and up scenic Highway 1 to a beautiful and remote beach called Greyhound Rock.
We join a dozen or so hippies who claim the beach their temporary home. Below the craggy cliffs is the wild and dramatic Pacific Ocean. Greyhound Rock is massive rock boulder the size of a super-size whale. It reigns supreme over small rock boulders in the shoreline. Elephant seals bask in the sun, sometimes letting out a guttural grunt that sounds as awkward as they look.
Sleeping bags are scattered on the beach along the bottom of the cliff. Each day we walk a treacherous climb up the cliff to the parking lot and catch a ride to Santa Cruz where we eat at a soup kitchen and hang around town. We return to the beach and party all night. The vagrant lifestyle gets old quick.
I’m coping with anxiety and depression. I’m around people 24/7. I feel like an oddball and let me just say that if you feel like an oddball around a group of smelly hippies that live on a beach, smoke pot all day and engage in free for all dancing around a bonfire like a neolithic summer solstice celebration it’s symptomatic of a serious issue.
Thomas and I hitchhike to San Francisco to see the Jerry Garcia Band. We have no tickets. Our plan is to sneak into the venue. I am not proud of this sneaky behavior but hey, at least I didn’t hurt anyone by sneaking into a concert.
A van pulls over to pick us up. The couple looks friendly. No serial killer vibes. I step up to the rear and the walls are covered with blinking lights and panel boards covered with knobs and thingamabobs that I know nothing about. It’s a Star Trek Van being piloted by two happy Silicon Valley geeks. They hand back a joint that gets me so high I am freaking out on the panel board bling and not hearing a word of what anyone says.
Highway 1 is stunning. I see houses perched high up above the ocean with a view that takes my breath away. I think, “I’m aiming for that life.”
As we approach San Francisco the woman hands me a piece of paper. She says, “This is my brother’s address and phone number. Go stay with him. Tell him I sent you.”
After the Jerry Garcia show that we barely sneak into we knock on the brother’s door. It’s around one a.m. He opens the door. There’s a party going on. He smiles and says, “Come on in!” He doesn’t ask who we are or anything.
Up until that point in my life I had not been exposed to many gay people in the way that these guys are gay. One guy is wearing a pink wig and a pink and orange paisley dress. There’s a couple in the corner making out. It’s classic San Francisco gay scene.
I’m thinking, “Oh my god these people are great!”
One guy says to me, “Honey, is this your man? ‘Cause I got some advice for you.”
I say, “No he’s my best friend. My brother from another mother.”
He says, “Girl, why aren’t you two together? You sure look cute next to each other.”
The next morning the brother cooks us a hearty breakfast. A few party-goers are passed out in the living room. Thomas and I hitchhike back to the beach.
A few weeks pass by. I’m at the beach camp while everyone is sleeping. I’m wide awake and very stoned. The moon is full. I can see figures moving around but I cannot tell if they are elephant seals or Charles Manson’s cronies lurching behind the rocks. I pretend to be sleeping. I reckon the Manson cronies will kill the sleeping hippies located closer to them. I’ll sneak behind the big boulder to my left and either a) find a rock to throw at them or b) run like hell.
The next day I wake up and wonder why I’m living on a beach with a crew of folks whose main vision of their future involves where to score the next joint. I return to my parent’s house.