Thursday, March 23, 2006

Going To California

I have decided to go on a road trip of sorts. Over the next few posts we’re going to San Francisco circa 1976 (a late addition to the itinerary in honor of Dane), Beantown circa 1990, our nation’s capital 1994, and we will end up in the Windy City this May. It will all have some connection to my ongoing struggle, though when it comes to San Fran, it is admittedly a stretch. So let’s hit the road.

Back around ’76, newly in the work force, a few dollars to spare, my best friend and I did the classic trip – flew to LA, drove up the coast, visited SF, headed to Yosemite, back to Frisco and flew home.

When we got to SF, we of course went to Mecca, otherwise known as Haight Ashbury. We arrived mid afternoon and being on vacation went to a bar for a beer. As we were finishing the beer, and I was contemplating a second - we were still on vacation - my friend was in a hurry to move along. I wasn’t sure why, but we travel well together and I assumed I would get another beer along the way, so we left.

Now this was a “corner” bar, nothing trendy, not overly crowded - mid-day. My friend realized something else – it was a gay bar. Now I was in that bar and never noticed a thing. I didn’t doubt my friend – I am sure he was correct. But I have often wondered as to the commentary on me – was I just oblivious or was I in an element that was non-threatening? I always felt it was the latter.

So now that I have made the connection to today – I said this one was tenuous – let’s stay in Frisco a little longer.

1976 – Frisco – a Dead head – I needed music and we found the Shady Grove. I assume it is long gone, but this was an awesome music club. That night we went to see Merle Saunders – he had done an album with Jerry Garcia that was a lot of fun. Somewhere well into the evening – 1 or 2 AM, he did No Woman, No Cry and he just got into the chorus – it felt like it lasted forever – and at that moment in time I had no doubt in my mind “that everything was going to be alright.” Still thirty years later I find comfort in that moment – swaying in the middle of the dance floor knowing it really was all okay.

By the time we left the club, renting a room seemed silly, and we did only have a few dollars to spare. We ended up in a marina in Sausalito, slept in the car and woke to the sun rising over the harbor.

Only a few more slides in the carousel – stay with me now. We headed East that afternoon and was going to camp in the desert, that is until we got to the desert. One look at the campsite, back in the car, heading East again, with a desert sunset, still the most beautiful I think I have ever seen, in the rearview. The camera did not work but as Paul Simon wrote “Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.”

That night we found ourselves in the Stanislaus National Forest, some mescaline in our pockets, a jug of Paul Masson (mason as the clerk called it) wine, and a peaceful nights sleep on a bed of pine needles.

Enjoy these images because there is nothing pretty when we make our next stop. See you in Beantown.


woe said...

This is the second post of yours that has touched me in as many days I think. You link to the gay bar may not be that tenuous. More than ten years ago I accompanied a girlfriend a number of times, to a gay bar to meet up with a gay friend of hers. I always felt completely comfortable there.

I just dug out my copy of no woman no cry, and put it one before even clicking the comment button. I really feel that everythings going to be alright now. Thank you.

Brian said...

"Time it was,and what a time it was, it was..."

aboutlastnight said...

I love this concept of a road trip so temporally spaced out (and thanks for the nod).

I enjoyed reading this; it was a nice window into some of your history

rainman said...

I walked past a gay pub in London for 14 months and never realised it was gay. I used to go to Marks & Spencers every lunchtime past this pub and it never dawned on me. I was 19 at the time, gay but not "practising" as they say :)
we have a saying "can't see the wood from the trees" I think that applied to me at the time.