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Saturday, September 18, 2021

62 I am the passenger

We were ready to go. Norm was going to drop us off by the highway on his way into work on Monday. We didn't have anything to give him in return except for our thanks. Maybe the pleasure of our company was enough for people. I'm sure he's remembered us. Thanks Norm. 💓

I don't know what was going on in that alley that Norm parked his car. On the way in we saw used condoms and on the way out someone left one hanging on his antennae. I guess at least they were using them in Chicago. I hardly saw them in New York. People weren't using them for disease, just pregnancy worries back then. Could have been a difference in what was available. Everything was regional then.

I have a little snapshot in my mind where we were dropped off. There was a small bridge. Looked pretty industrial. I remember things looked dark to me. We had a hard time there. People were just zooming by. We just wanted to get out of the city. We walked some. Stopped. Stuck our thumbs out again. Over and over.

A little bit of that "Oh... I can't stand the sound of the cars anymore. Wow. Loud here in the city." Conversation became intermittent. Big wide smiles started looking like flat horizons. I always was better at holding the faith than LBJ. Maybe I'm a little bit of an airhead? Boredom and hypnotism was setting in. I guess that switchblade could have been helpful in some situations, but not standing on the side of the road trying to get a ride. LBJ was practicing. Open. Close. Open. Close.

I'm like "Nobody wants to pick us up because you're standing there with that switchblade. Would you pick us up?" It was wearing on us. 🤣 We got to another bridge and he threw that knife like Joe Namath passing to Don Maynard downfield. Ok. We both snapped out of it. We kept walking. When it looked a little less grimy a semi finally pulled over after I don't know how many hours.

Interstate 80... we'd be yours for a while. Feeling better. Less cranky. "Where you headed?" "California." "Well, I'm stopping in for a while at a truck stop a few hours ahead."

AM radio came in strong but the truckers used CB's a lot. They'd have a handle and greet each other. The truck drivers sure seemed like they had each other's backs.

 

There we are. Pulling into the largest truck stop in the world in Walcott, Iowa. The trucker was heading into the back. We got dropped at the front. Headed on into the restaurant.


I see there's some photos of the place nowadays. It's all kinds of small franchises. We walked into a huge cafeteria type place. The tables were crammed together. It seems as though there were hundreds. The place was jam packed too. Basically nowhere to sit. One of the waitresses kind of yelled over to just sit down where there was room.

We walked around a little and saw a couple of open places, but boy did we get a few stares. Like hard stares that said "You better not even think of sitting here." Dragging around our stuff. Disheveled. Oh yeah. There's a table of like minded individuals. Glide on over there. "Is it ok if we sit with you?" They were happy to have us.

The waitresses did pretty good in such a huge place. Food was so much cheaper then. Yeah, everything was, but diners and cheap eats were more common. So we had a little conversation with everyone at the table. They finished up and left since they got there earlier than us.

Hmm, hmm. Eating our food. The waitress came up to us with a completely freaked out look on her face. Huh. She's not just freaked she's pissed. "Your friends left without paying!!! You're paying for their food too!!!" "What? We didn't even know them. We sat at the table with them because there was no other place to sit." "The hell not." She ran off I guess to get the manager or something. It was going to take a minute because of the hugeness of the place. We threw down our forks, picked up our stuff and ran. Believe me, we had to.  The long haired type was not always looked upon too kindly. Even if they believed us they might ignore it just to have a little fun and throw our asses in jail.

Got out through the crowds. Ran off to the street and stuck out thumbs out. This time luck was on our side and another truck picked us up almost immediately.





Wednesday, September 15, 2021

61 Work away all your pain

I thought I remembered more from our visit to Norm's. Maybe just a little. South Side.

Similar. Norm's place was cleaner & no backyard.

I have no idea why everyone's family members were off somewhere. We didn't ask why everybody was gone. There was more trust of fellow human beings then. Easier to get along with people when you trusted them. Norm's brother was out of town so we took his room. Something. Remember the scene in the Blues Brothers in the hotel? The train by the window. Well, the L rode right by. We were on the second floor so it was about the same level. I mean right next to the bedroom we were in. Every time it went by it didn't just make a lot of noise, it shook the whole damn building.

 

Norm's place was the complete opposite of Phil's. Kind of seedy and rundown. But the neighborhood felt more alive. Lots of people on the streets. A mixture of storefronts and plenty of bright clothing on the people walking the street. It was 1972. But, we didn't spend a lot of time outside while we were there. Pretty sure we stayed with Norm about four days or so.


Norm's girlfriend was staying there. She was very nice. Kind of quiet, but I could be at times too. I remember the four of us got along really well. Spent a little time listening to music and laughing about the state of life. You could tell we were out of towners though. How do you describe mopey New Yorkers that spent a lot of time contemplating shit on the subway? We were a little "gothier."

In a way we were all so innocent. We wanted to hear and learn about the different ways people led their lives. You could watch movies, read a book or a newspaper, or experience it. When LBJ and I met people along the way a lot of time was spent listening.

Here's the thing though... we were at such ease with Norm and his girlfriend we spent a lot of time relaxing. After the first day we hardly left the room. Even with that train going by constantly, I don't think we stopped much. Maybe the hypnotic vibration of the train did a number on us? 🤣 Couldn't control ourselves.

Wondering about food? No problem. Norm's girlfriend was kind of a riot. She made us food and left it by the door. 🤣 Knock knock knock. "Hey. I made some food." 🤣 I guess every one was laid back and just enjoying themselves.

By the third or fourth day the weekend rolled around. Norm was off work. Knock, knock, knock. "Hey, let's go out today." Norm and his girlfriend wanted to go to a nearby park and throw a frisbee around. Believe it or not, we never did that before. Long Island hippies weren't big on it. That would interrupt listening to music and all that other stuff we did. I mean I went to the beach all the time, but I went in the water and body surfed the waves. I didn't throw a frisbee.

I remember the park. Not details, but the sights and sounds. Lots of music on transistor radios. Jim Croce was playing loud. Don't Mess Around With Jim. Green grass and dogs running around.

Lots of people. Actually pretty crowded. I think it was good we finally went outside into the air and sun. Norm was cool and was welcoming. But we figured it was time for us to hit the road again. We actually had a pretty great time after our first intro to Chicago.

Went back to Norm's, had a good dinner and actually slept. Norm was a real city dweller and was worried about us. He handed LBJ a switchblade for protection. They also gave us another sleeping bag so we didn't have to share. How about that. 💞



Wednesday, September 8, 2021

59 Keep on knockin' but you can't come in

We're driving into his neighborhood. Talking about heading to California. It just wasn't as regimented. No calendars on the phone. No rushed reservations to make. It was easier just to relax when making any kind of a trip. Even when I was little, we made road trips and just pulled into a motel along the road when everyone was tired and hungry.

We didn't run into anyone nervous or anxious about making a destination on time. Phil had no motives, we thought, except that he probably wouldn't mind sitting around with a couple of laid back people for a bit. Heard about his friend Norm. They were in the army together, both from Chicago. Two different worlds though. Norm lived in the South Side of Chicago.

We pull into the neighborhood. I've seen some fancy houses on Long Island, but these were completely different. All kinds of strange proportions. 

Well anyway. Fancy stuff doesn't impress me. Phil shows us his sisters room. We plop down our two little bags and one sleeping bag. I have never been in such a frilly room. It was all puffy and lacey. 

Lacey and frilly like this.

I should describe my room at my parents a little. Old worn, bare wooden floor. I like that. Dark and unshined. Ridges from use. I painted a beanstalk from floor to ceiling. I heard people that bought the house later kept it. I am completely sure it's gone now. You could tell by the looks of the way they took down trees and pulled out bushes. I had a lot of knick knack things from my grandmother. An old steam radiator. A very old table with my stereo. Really not all that much. I wasn't there a lot. Most of my friends didn't go overboard either.

Norm and his girlfriend showed up. One of those funny friendships. They seemed so different and looked so different. Phil was short and quiet. Norm was big and funny. Norm went out of his way to tell us he was an Indian. American Indian. Those were the terms everyone used in 1972. Then Phil would sarcastically tell us "No. He's Mexican." They were friends and constantly joking about it.

Norm said he just picked up an album. It's real funny. Just as we were getting ready to listen, Phil brought out tabs of acid for everyone. We dropped it and smoked some reefer. Norm put the album on. I'll never forget seeing that cover for the first time.


I have to explain the difference in time periods again. There was no cable TV. There were three networks and if you were lucky you had a couple local. I was super lucky to get WPIX and WOR in New York. WNEW too. That's where I watched all my monster movies and old black and whites. Especially WPIX. There was no internet.We had newspapers, magazines, tabloids and word of mouth. You could live and not have 24 hour per day bombardment of information, or so called information, and entertainment. There was a definite difference in East Coast and West Coast influences. Sometimes never the twain should meet. It was 1972 and this was the first time we heard of Cheech and Chong.

All I remember is we were all laughing our asses off. That's all I could tell ya. We just listened all night, maybe playing some of the tracks again. Dropping that needle on the vinyl. I think my stomach hurt. Well Norm actually had to get up for work. He left with his girlfriend and we went up to the frilly room. "Are you sure your sister won't mind?" Nah.

I must say that bed was very comfortable. The most comfortable we had ever been in, let alone after staying on the ground and what not. What do you think we were doing in that bed? Well, it pretty much went on for days. What can I say? When Norm came over in the evening we'd put some clothes on and head down stairs and it all started again. We weren't eating much. Phil would leave in the day and show up later. A few times we headed out to a deli or something for some food while he was gone. We didn't raid the kitchen cause he never offered. We thought..."Ok. Whatever." Not much detail here... sorry. But it was all very relaxing and nobody minded. Cause that's what people did. More drugs in the evening, some record play, conversation and laughs. If you expect me to remember everything we talked about you can forget it.

After about three or four days 🤷 we came back and went up to the bedroom. There was a surprise we weren't expecting. It's not what you're expecting either... anyway, there was all kinds of psycho writing in lipstick all over the mirror. It basically said "I know you've been fucking in my bed." Hmmm. I thought the sister was gone. Phil said she wouldn't mind?

Not this

Norm came over that evening and heard about it. I think Phil was laughing. Norm told us "Phil hates his sister." Huh. That's trippy. He had us " messing up" her bed as some kind of statement. Whatever Phil. We all had a good time. I can only imagine what went on when he saw her. He wouldn't let us straighten up. Norm said "C'mon over my place." We were headed for the South Side. I remember a little bit more from there.





Friday, September 3, 2021

58 mayor daley made this place

Lots more vehicles in the morning. I remember the sun came out and we dried out pretty quickly... except for that sleeping bag. We just kind of got up and went. Found a little place to go number one, even though I was always good at holding it. Sorry. Stuck some toothpaste in my mouth and brushed my hair. The water got us pretty good the night before anyway.

We got picked up by another truck along Interstate 90. I was in the back, don't remember much. The trucker was heading off the western course and let us off on the outskirts of Chicago, eastern side. Hitching the entrance ramp, a fella picked us up and said he could drop us off the other side of Chicago. That sounded good to us because by the looks of where we were, we didn't want to spend too much time there.

I used to hang in some funky neighborhoods in New York, but some of the neighborhoods we were driving past were crappy to a degree that I hadn't ever seen before. The guy driving seemed pretty cool but then he said he had to make a stop. He took us into a place that I'll try to describe. I was in the backseat like usual and I all I could do was to turn my head right and look at the bowels of desperation. The buildings were tumbled. If there were any people to be seen, they were joyless. Leaned or sitting, but very few. Something you wouldn't believe could exist in this country. The 70's were fun but there was a lot of struggle for the poor and middle class alike. No excuses for some stuff though. No excuses. The rich don't feel it, usually.


Like this but lots and lots of rubble. Much shittier.

Make a stop in front of a building that didn't look like anyone should be in there. If somebody was, they had to be living way worse than Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy. This was a lot worse. Ok. Like a couple of idiots sitting in the car. Oh. We didn't want to make any assumptions, right away. Sitting there, looking around. Saying "Wow. Look at this." Oh five minutes goes by... 10 minutes goes by. "What's he doing in there?" All of a sudden LBJ blurts "He's getting other people. Let's book." We were definitely so out of place there. We walked fast and headed back down to the highway. 

Hit the entrance and put our thumbs out. Typical 70's car pulled over. The guy yelled at us "What the hell are you doing out here? Get in!"

It wasn't a cop car. I just like this picture.

I couldn't tell you the exact date but it was August 1972 sometime. The only exact date I remember was the day we left because of the Rolling Stones concert and resulting mayhem. The fella's name was Phil. Easy to remember cause we stayed with him awhile. He was very upset that we were walking in that neighborhood. He didn't work and my presumption was that he was over there to pick up drugs. Phil went on to tell us about the Mau Mau killings that just happened. It was like a contained race war in Chicago back then.

Very difficult to find information on this on the internet. You're not getting your full history at all. But people were in fear in Chicago. That shithead Daley. I'm not going to say I knew everything about what when on there... but whatever he did or didn't do was no good. Corruption. Politics.

Phil was somewhere in his 20's. Just got out of the army a little while back and was living with his parents in Oak Park, Illinois. But they were gone for a couple of weeks. Headed over to a neighborhood of Frank Lloyd Wright homes and the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway. How do these cities go from one extreme to the next with a couple of miles? 

Anyway. It was going to be weird.


Mau Mau members headed back into jail.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

57 There are changes lyin ahead in every road

So this is all in the same day. We left Toronto, had that long interlude at customs, drove past Detroit and then there we were. Heading past Toledo. We certainly got to know those two kids, what the heck... we were probably near the same age, maybe they were a little older. Thank you so much. Hope everything turned out ok.

They let us out near the Ohio Turnpike. We already knew that you had to stay off the highway to hitchhike. You could pretty much locate yourself at the very bottom of an entrance ramp. Any higher you had a better chance of the cops bothering you. Off the ramp the local cops would bother you.

Did you ever hear the song "The Shape Of Things To Come" by "Max Frost?" Well, that kind of is the theme of what happened next. I guess just because it was a new experience that we kind of got used to and dug. Thumbs out. A semi-truck pulls over slowly. We look at each other and start running up to meet it. The truck driver leans over and opens the door. 'C'mon in." LBJ jumps up first, cause you know, check it out. I jump up there and skedaddle behind the seats. Kind of into the sleeping area. "Where you going?" California. He laughed. "I'm not going that far. I'm pulling into a truck stop a ways on up." Ok. Sure.

Movin' On 1974-76. Great show.
We were driving a while. Not real long but we were getting out into the country. Couldn't really see, because it was dark by then. But you could still see corn. Wow. City kids. When I was three my family took the train from New York to California. But I don't remember bupkis. Family vacations normally were maybe upstate New York. So getting out into the midwest was new to us. We were astonished by it. I think we made the trucker laugh.

I don't know where this truck stop was exactly. Might have even been in Indiana. He pulls in. And lets us out near the front. He was heading on towards the back. Now what? It was like a foreign land to us. They didn't have big truck stops on Long Island. I didn't know how it worked. Didn't pay too much attention at the time to stuff like that. But I was always interested in the working man and what he did for a living. I was just never exposed to this.

There was a big restaurant like there is at every truck stop. We still had some money left from Montreal, but we figured we better concentrate on getting a ride. There was nothing around. No hippie types to ask if we could crash at their place. I suppose we could have walked into that restaurant, but it just didn't feel like the thing to do. We were close to an entrance to the highway so we put our thumbs out every time a vehicle passed. But that wasn't a lot, even though the truck stop was right there. We weren't wearing watches. No cell phones. Maybe it was kind of late. Uh oh. It's raining. No big deal. We could handle it, but our stuff was getting wet, including that one sleeping bag. Oh that turns out good. 🤣

Getting hungry again. We did have some bananas in our bag. Pretty sure we ate at least two each, maybe more. What were we supposed to do with the peels? They're natural. There's fresh dirt around. We threw them on the ground. 

We were strong as hell. Peanut butter. Occasional milk. Coffee. Whatever. But walking. The amount of walking. Extremely healthy. A little standing in the rain forever wasn't going to hurt. It had to be well past midnight. Yapping away about dumb stuff. Excited for the new experience. Whoa. What's that? Crap. It's someone in a suit walking over towards us from the restaurant. Shit. He saw us throw the banana peels. He may ask us to move along. Maybe worse, who knows. We weren't the cowardly type. We waited for him.

He gets up to us. I really remember him looking a bit like Roman Polanski. His suit was even a little mod. Wide lapel. Bell bottoms. But a suit. Here he goes. "Hello. You're having quite a time in the rain. Aren't you?" "I thought you might be hungry and I brought you some chicken" He was the manager of the place. We had a nice little talk about how he wished he could do what we were doing. He was tired of the responsibility. Would love to just travel without worrying about his job or whatever. He felt trapped. Wanted to see the rest of the country. We talked about some of the beautiful areas we might see. Gave us a few tips about the locals. Advised us to stay off the farm property. Cause really, we were kind of dumb about some things.

He wished us luck. I think we put a smile on his face. We thanked him a lot for the chicken. It was wrapped in aluminum foil and there was quite a bit. Fried chicken. Yum. Not a big thing in New York. And then as he was walking away he turned and said "Hey. Don't worry. You can throw the bones on the ground. I'll send someone out tomorrow to clean it."

We never got a ride that night. We walked a little out of the way and moved off the road a bit and laid down on the wet sleeping bag. Thank God it eventually stopped raining.


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

56 A little bleary, worse for wear and tear

Hold that thought. Headed for Toledo. I have to jump out of sequence here. Something happened in the summer of 1978 that just crawls up out of nowhere.

By that time I had moved out of New York three times but ended up back in the cesspool each time. This is the day that made it final.

Before we get to it, I'd like to say it was always with the turntable, receiver, speakers, albums and maybe one frying pan. Well, after the first time. I claimed that stuff when I got back. Each time I moved though it seemed as though I lost some albums and eventually the stereo. The one real regret was leaving "The Transformed Man" in a bedroom in Colorado.


Back in the hellhole. As soon as I got back I was wondering what the hell I was doing. But stuff happens and there's no changing it.

There was one thing that made New York OK. Artsy shit and music. I was still going into Manhattan for those things. Every other weekend or so maybe? Sometimes every weekend? I had to live too, so I had to take care of that. I wasn't going to be an unhealthy soul just wandering the streets. There's been a lot of stuff between now and then. Some scenes stay there and some get cut.

I didn't take this picture of Lou Reed. I never met him.

I don't remember specifically where I was before all this happened. I remember it was a Sunday. A hot, dirty New York Sunday afternoon. I was going to leave and I was heading through Central Park. I've written about the park before. All the people that hung out. Laying down. Talking. Smoking. Smooching. I can't write the description of what New York was like. I've said this before. Check out the visuals and the movies.


I hated disco. Rock n' roll was taking a hit. Too much stuff you heard had to have that beat. People started dispersing. Gone to other states. Or absorbed by it. I had good friends that were going to those stupid clubs. The places where I had gone to see live music were turned into disco nightmares. Why do I even bring that up? In the park people were still pretty much listening to better music on their radios. There was still a segment that rebelled against what was being pushed down their throats.

I'm tired. I'm hot. I'll admit I remember being thirsty. I was wearing super tight white pants. Jesus. In that filth. Let me tell you it's always been jeans for me. Every day of my life, but not that day. I was starting to feel crappy. I was having that tunnel vision realization that everything around me completely sucked.

Dragging myself through a field. People were laying on their blankets. Radios were on loud. I hear "The Girl With The Faraway Eyes." I don't know about where you lived, but The Stones were on the airwaves a lot in NY. They got copies of albums and 45's probably before anyone else. It wasn't digital then, you know.

Probably my least favorite song of theirs ever. I know he meant well, or maybe not, but that accent. Mick, no good. Now it will go down in history as possibly my least favorite song ever. I associate it with that day. The view of the grime I had and New Yorkers listening to this song. No thanks. I was almost falling over. Well, here's what did it. You ladies will empathize. I suddenly and unexpectedly got my period. In my very tight white pants. I know nowadays people let all kinds of things hang out and what not, but many people were still somewhat embarrassed to buy tampons at that time. Our older sisters. Just to let you where peoples heads were at. This kind of personal bodily function wasn't plastered all over advertisements on TV quite yet. So I'm walking through Central Park feeling shitty with nicely sized red stains in my crotch.

It wasn't like Amazon could deliver tampons or a change of clothing. This was my fate till I got home. And that's what I was doing. I wasn't spending anymore time in the city. It wouldn't have helped to go into Tiffany's to ask for a "napkin." I would have been escorted out. I suppose I could have looked for something. A shirt to tie around my waist or something. But maybe I didn't have much money with me. No credit cards except for the fancy people.

I head down the stairs to the subway. Get on my train. The shitty dirty train with creeps on it. Punks.

If they were cool punks maybe there could have been mutual respect. But these were punky punks. Giving me a time. You know the verbal harassment stuff you've seen. Kind of sniffing around. I knew better than to show fear. That makes it worse. No eye contact, but not I didn't hold my head in a submissive downward tilt. Just kind of normal. The whole time I'm thinking "just get me out of this. I'll never live like this again. Ever."

Maybe they were intimidated. A lot of the cave people (I love real cavemen. I just don't know how to describe them without calling them dumb and ignorant) were grossed out by that stuff then. You know, a dirty woman. Eventually went through enough stops that people got on and they got off. I got home and it was just I'm outta here after that. I know I wasn't physically abused, but it was enough of a psychological nightmare it did my relationship with New York in. It's all cumulative.

62 I am the passenger

We were ready to go. Norm was going to drop us off by the highway on his way into work on Monday. We didn't have anything to give him in...