Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Thursday, August 25, 2016
|View of Mt. Baker, Washington, from Aldegrove, B.C.|
1976: Tapes from California © 2016 Jill C. Nelson
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Negative propaganda surrounding counter cultures, communal lifestyles, spiritual cults and worse -- left wing, grass roots guerilla groups employing weaponry to overpower opposition, populated the news in the years leading to our departure. It was a tough sell attempting to mollify parents when stories of diabolical and violent masterminds such as Charles Manson, and more recently, the S.L.A. (Symbionese Liberation Army); a subversive group that headlined media outlets following the 1974 kidnapping of Patty Hearst, daughter of newspaper mogul Randolph Hearst, were in the forefront. These reprehensible stories left a sour taste in the mouth of parents and establishment – making it veritably hopeless to convince my mother that Holy Order of Mans was different.
Thankfully, there wasn’t time to debate the issue. Keeping the call short, we segued into a softer, palatable topic. I told my mother how much I looked forward to seeing family again in less than two months. Mom was pleased to hear those words. The best part of returning to Southern Ontario was the prospect of seeing old friends again, though with everybody headed in different directions come September, our bittersweet reunion would be short-lived.
Tapes from California: Teenage Road Tripping, 1976 © 2016 Jill C. Nelson
Tapes from California: Teenage Road Tripping, 1976 © 2016 Jill C. Nelson
Thursday, December 31, 2015
"Jan and I stood in the campground parking lot taking stock of the visual splendor. Shouldered between robust mountains, cerulean sea, sun and sky, the landscape up and down the coast from the mouth of the Big Sur basin was extravagant. For miles in all directions, daunting cliffs, accentuated by a profusion of colored cacti perched on jagged rock, stretched beyond where the eye could see. We couldn’t have summoned a more heavenly place to rest our heads.
Employing the same tactic as the night before, when the park official was attending to young man driving a small station wagon, Jan and I sleuthed past the visitor’s booth and into the campground. Safe beyond the front entrance, we popped into the general store to pick up a couple dinner items and scoped the most idyllic setting to drop our tent. This would be a respite for our bodies and our minds.
Below a wooden bridge, not far from a pebbled pathway, we found a spot adjacent to a brook. Large fir trees, and the rugged Santa Lucia mountain range seemed like old friends. Quickly, Jan and I set up our tent and unfurled our bags. Still ill equipped for light and fire, I hoped the temperature would remain relatively comfortable. Not wanting to give energy to negative thoughts, I didn’t express my fears.
Jan suggested we get our bearings.
Suspended on a fallen tree trunk, bathed in blonde sunshine, I composed a letter to my family, and another one to Liz. Depicting our San Francisco experiences, I described Peter, Michael, Gerry, and the Holy Order. Two days had passed since leaving Steiner Street, I missed the place and the people in it.
That morning, Jan told me she’d dreamed about Gerry and Peter coming to take us away. When she'd tried to cry out, her voice fell silent. In my letter, I told Liz about Jan’s dream, and more about Peter than I had mentioned to my family. After sharing the things I knew about him, I re-read the letter and thought it made Peter and his life seem depressing. Much of his life was depressing, but I didn’t want to her to think he was a loser – which he wasn’t. I added how when Peter entered a room, he was whistling, or carrying wild flowers. I told her he was helpful, a good listener, and fatherly in many ways. When Jan and I'd mentioned how Jan had been refused at the border during our first attempt across to Washington, Peter had taken the side of the officials. During our spiritual discussion on the second night, he nearly croaked when I admitted I couldn’t imagine being around in twenty years, much less know where I'd be in twenty days. He reminded me the world is a good place. "It’s getting better all the time,” he'd said. I should never forget it. I told Liz of Peter’s patience and fearlessness, and how close I felt whenever we talked.
There were strong feelings.
Liz and other friends knew I could be over the top once something grabbed a hold of me. No doubt, my family would be wary about some of the things I’d intimated.
When nightfall came, our cheer fizzled. Just as the night before had sucked, this one did too – only worse. Here we were, nearing the end of April in California; it felt like January in Southern Ontario, mostly because of our inept sleeping bags. The gnawing in our stomachs didn't help – a bag of Fritos split between two people, and an apple apiece doesn’t cut it. My spirits low, I began to feel sorry for myself; that I was responsible for dragging Jan along on this unpredictable excursion. She had wanted to travel; there was no question in her mind or in mine. Still, Jan was sixteen months younger than me. A big gap. No doubt, she was scared shitless. I know I was – of all kinds of things – wild animals, and crazy rapists lurking in the forest seeking unsuspecting victims to overtake, and kill.
As stupid as it might sound, freezing to death in our tent flashed through my brain, just as it had the night before. I should have been the prudent, older, protective sister. I was however, able to take comfort in the knowledge that Jan was above holding someone hostage for her own choices.
Wide-eyed and shivering in my sleeping bag, I felt increasingly guilty. As of late, our trip seemed to be hitting the skids.
The temperature dipped down to almost zero. It would be an unforgiving night."
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
|Texas Lake Youth Hostel, Hope, B.C. 1970s|
At half past one, our bus broke out of the downtown terminal driving eastbound on Highway 1 destined for Hope, Surrey, and Abbotsford. Deb’s hometown of Chilliwack was scheduled along our three and a half hour course. Encouraged by its name, traveling the TransCanada highway, we watched curiously out the window at green pastures, rolling foothills, and rivers that snaked through woodlands with hushed domination. Feeling upbeat about our next adventure, I was hopeful for all that Hope might bring.
Seated next to me, chin tucked down, Jan wrote in her diary. I began reading chapter seven of The Golden Force titled “Universal Law of the Creative Mind.” The chapter talked of a dynamic life force living within and outside of us that materializes when summoned. “To harness and develop acceptance of that power with confidence is integral,” the passage stressed that the power of reception opens the door for all things to transpire. Creative and unfiltered thought processes brings about manifestation.
The same song and dance.
Reiterating the positive visualization technique Brother James had taught us when we’d first met him back in April, barring the odd exception to the rule, by keeping a clear-cut image in our minds of what we’d anticipated, for much of our trip, it had become apparent. Maybe it was because we weren’t aiming high enough. Possibly, it was because we’d deluded ourselves into believing that our prayers were being answered.
I doubted it. Negative thinking works on the same principle as positive revelation. If you look ahead to darkness, it will befall you. Employing the formula, hope should be the alchemy of all good things.
Nearing the Hope municipality, large billowing clouds that had supplemented us for a good portion of our drive through serrated mountains, touched the surface of the highway, enfolding our bus, and generating a stir of excitement amongst its passengers. Surrounded by the Cascade Mountains and thick secluded wilderness: valleys, streams, lakes, and the Fraser River (named after Canadian explorer Simon Fraser), we had penetrated a dream paradise.
Pulling into the bus terminal, six and a half miles south of the Texas Lake Youth Hostel, Jan and I climbed down the steps and chilled. Purchasing a couple of muffins at a country store, we headed back out to the road to hitch the rest of the way to our destination. For our fee the hostel book promised breakfast and a light supper – a dinner meal sounded too good to be true – we knew from experience that it’s always best to show up with a semi-full belly, in case of food shortages.
Walking out to the TransCanada Highway from the terminal, we didn’t have any difficulty soliciting a ride. Driving a light brown pick-up truck, an early-thirties woman pulled over to the shoulder of the road. Her name was Sharon. Smiling when we told her where we were headed, Sharon said that she lived and worked at Texas Lake and assured us we would love the hostel and its adjoining co-operative community.
Nearing the Texas Lake premises, Jan and I gazed around at the mountainous setting next to a neighboring lake where rose-colored pickerelweed drifted restfully over a quickening waterfall. A pretty sight in summer, I imagined how the scene might appear in winter. Bleak, desolate, watchful.
About to approach the dirt driveway, Sharon slowed down the truck, allowing us to observe various buildings of differing sizes; cabins for permanent residents, and sleeping dorms for travelers. There were chicken coops, a huge vegetable garden; an oddly shaped dome type structure in behind the main (big) house; cows and goats, dogs and cats. At first impression, once again it appeared that we had arrived where we needed to be. For the moment, the purr in the air was a knowing wink and the hurt of leaving Vancouver and our friends behind took a back seat. Texas Lake promised to be another wondrous designation – a utopian edition of a Bermuda Triangle sewn covertly into the planet’s seam.
A person would have to be steel hearted not to be seduced by the simplistic Texas Lake surroundings at first glance. A couple of decades away from melding into the technological age, 1970s youths took pride in small prizes.'
1976: Tapes from California © 2015 Jill C. Nelson
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
1976: Tapes from California © 2014 Jill C. Nelson
Saturday, March 7, 2015
This excursion was not going to be cheap, about ten dollars total -- we hoped beyond hope our decision to skedaddle would be worth the investment. Arriving at the depot a couple of hours ahead of schedule, we stuffed bags into a locker to conserve our backs while waiting around. To pass time we read, and watched people come and go. Before we knew it, it was time to board.
The bus pulled out of the terminal -- on schedule. Heading east from San Diego, Jan and I were two giggly friends again, excited to leave the city and our worries back at the men’s Y, with the junkies and the ex-cons. Our ride would be almost two and a half hours. Feeling fatigued from the crazy night we’d endured and the long walk to the terminal in the blazing heat that morning, we took turns dozing along the way. Once we arrived at the Riverside station, there was another hour to spare before the last bus left the station for the desert at half past three.
The mid-afternoon sun high in the sky, I was completely overdressed in a pair of green cords, work boots, and a long-sleeved, pale blue peasant blouse. Since leaving Val and Phyl’s earlier in the week we were running out of clean clothes and would need to find a Laundromat once we got settled in at the hostel.
The distance between Riverside and Hemet wasn’t far, approximately thirty-six miles. Traveling on an old beat up school bus, the ride was far longer than it would have been had we good road conditions. As our bus crawled up and around the dusty dirt roads at a snail’s pace, with only five other passengers on board, I expected Rod Serling to announce we’d crossed over the threshold from reality into a void called “The Twilight Zone.” It wasn’t that bad actually, but it did occur to me what would happen if the bus was to break down in the middle of the desert. Jan entertained the same concern, but we tried not to think about it and sat back to enjoy the ride.
This was a piece of cake after the Gregory fiasco.
The temperature in Hemet that May afternoon was an extreme 102 degrees and counting when we pulled into the terminal close to five o'clock. A change of clothes was in order but our journey wasn’t over yet. We hadn't reached the Meadowlark hostel a couple of miles outside of town in Valle Vista. Hotter than hell, according to AAA, there were no buses going out Valle Vista way.
After a detour at Robert’s Health Food Store where a nice girl offered us a couple of glasses of water, Jan and I walked up the road a ways and stuck out our thumbs. For a long hour, vehicles few and far between roared by without giving us a look. If we hadn’t had a sleepless night or been up at the crack of dawn hustling our asses to the bus depot, we might have considered hiking to the hostel. In the dry, oppressive heat, however, walking was out of the question. The possibility of sunstroke was on both of our minds.
There was a gas station just ahead at the corner. Surely, someone there might suggest a way for us to get to Meadowlark or drive us for a small fee. Since Jan was relegated to call down to the front desk to dispose of Gregory the night before, it was my turn to ask for a favor.
While she waited outside, I entered the gas depot and approached an elderly man seated on a stool reading a newspaper. Sitting comfortably in his faded denims and white undershirt marked by yellow sweat stains it was clear his itinerary was open. When I approached him, the man looked up, obviously recognizing I wasn’t from the area.
“Can I help you?” He told me he was the proprietor of the station. I explained how we'd journeyed from San Diego earlier in the day and arrived in Hemet from Riverside an hour ago, telling him we needed a ride out to Valle Vista where the Meadowlark youth hostel was located. I asked the man if he had a car or access to one would he consider doing the honors and drive us over there.
The stranger looked at me with raised eyebrows when I mentioned the part about our planning to stay at a hostel in Valle Vista. He knew Valle Vista, but he didn’t know of a hostel anywhere in the Hemet region. I pointed to the photo of the place in the guidebook and he frowned, still puzzled about its existence. Sure enough, he asked me to follow him out to his car. When we stepped outside of the station, I introduced the man to Jan. Tickled that our scheme had worked I thought it best not to tell her we might be getting a ride out to a mirage in the middle of the desert.
Double-checking the address, we drove down the road a ways until pulling up to the front gate of the Meadowlark property situated on a few acres of land, with several buildings scattered about. Supposedly the hostel was situated somewhere within the grounds.