Wednesday, November 8, 2017

TAPES FROM CALIFORNIA: Teenage Road Tripping, 1976 -- Available Now!


 
I am proud and pleased to announce that TAPES FROM CALIFORNIA: Teenage Road Tripping, 1976 is now available for purchase through my publisher BearManor Media, and at Amazon retail outlets. The book is currently in Hardback and Softcover formats, with an eBook coming soon. The following is the synopsis as it appears on the back cover:

   February 1976, two friends set out on a six-month hostelling, and hitchhiking road adventure beginning in Canada's West Coast, and continuing down the Pacific Coast of the United States. While living at the YWCA in Vancouver, Ontario teens Jill and Jan found short-term employment as chambermaids, enabling them to travel south of the border through Washington and Oregon, to California, where they spent several months before returning home across Western Canada.

   Derived from journals faithfully depicting the girls' daily experiences and encounters between February and August 1976, brought to life is an enriched narrative characterized by an assorted cast including hippies, outlaws, New Age visionaries, sages, witches, mystics, medicine men, Vietnam Vets, lonely hearts, and more.

    Set against the matchless beauty of Canada's Rocky Mountains, California's majestic coastline, its exotic desert landscape and the diversity of its three major cities, in the spirit of Jacks Kerouac's On the Road, Tapes from California: Teenage Road Tripping, 1976 offers a personal and refreshing portrait that treads a delicate path between vulnerability and courage experienced during the unfettered, less restrictive 1970s era.

   Please stay tuned for coming details on how to win a free copy of TAPES, and other related news!


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Chapter 49 excerpt: Loopy in Kamloops


 These last couple of months have been busy preparing for the imminent publication of Tapes from California. Progress has been going very well, as we eagerly anticipate a late autumn release. Presently, the book is in the capable hands of BearManor's expert layout man/ typesetter Brian Pearce (John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches, Golden Goddesses:25 Legendary Women of Classic Erotic Cinema, 1968-1985) who is crafting the final work. Please stay posted for news about the book's release date, pre-orders, and review copies. In the interim, I hope you enjoy the following excerpt from chapter 49: Loopy in Kamloops. Peace
 
We could hardly believe our good fortune when André, the crazy Frenchman from the Kamloops hostel, drove past in a dusty Chevy riding shotgun, one of the first vehicles to emerge after more than a one hour wait. Having almost given up hope of leaving Golden that afternoon, Jan and I’d started to suspect we’d fallen under the Wawa curse. Already beyond our location, the Chevy pulled a quick U-turn and eased toward us, slowing to a stop next to our packs. Motioning to pull the handle to get into the car, I was shocked to discover the burly individual behind the wheel who introduced himself as Tim, had a broken left leg. Stretching from his left hip all the way down to his ankle, a cast revealed swollen toes sticking out through a jagged plaster opening. It was the required foot if you’re driving a stick.
   Tim was driving a stick.
   Eyeing Jan warily, I was unsure what to do. Reading our concern, Tim threw back his head and started to laugh uproariously. “I was in a car accident a few weeks ago,” he mused. “Don’t worry though. The accident wasn’t my fault.”
   Boasting about his competency as a driver, Tim told us he’d cruised all the way from Vancouver with the broken leg. No trouble.
   It wasn’t much of an assurance, but the afternoon was wearing on. We didn’t want to be stuck in Golden forever. Sensing our reluctance, André suddenly went overboard in praise of Tim’s “crackerjack driving skills,” and stressed how safe he felt under the big man’s command. As if it would clinch the deal, André threw in a lone “Jesus Christ!” followed by more laughter. Convinced of having pulled off an affecting sell job, leaning into the back seat, André rearranged his and Tim’s packs next to a gargantuan tent, obviously stuffed into the vehicle in a pinch. To make room for our gear, gathering a handful of strewn-about clothes, he went about redistributing the items, and tossed some camping paraphernalia into the trunk.
   Nervous about the fucked up situation we might be getting ourselves into, aversely, Jan and I climbed inside the Chevy and yanked on the weighty passenger door. Behind my back, two fingers were crossed.
   Sometimes you gnash your teeth. Abolish all reservation.

   True to his word, André’s friend was anything but cavalier about helming the road. Notwithstanding his temporary disability, Tim proved to be an exceptional driver. Reminiscent of the fictitious character, Luke Moriarty, the unofficial ‘driver’ in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road inspired by Kerouac’s real life pal, wild man Neal Cassady, Tim handled his automobile like a pro, as if gliding a precious vessel over glass. Not once did he compromise the safety of his baby or his cargo.


                                                                        ***

1976: Tapes from California © 2017 Jill C. Nelson 
 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Excerpt from Chapter 11: Hotel California



‘Walter’s beat up van pulled discreetly into a parking lot adjacent to a low-rise apartment building on Lander’s Street, in Southwest San Francisco. One block north of the San Francisco Mission, perpendicular to Market, Lander’s runs between 14th and 16th.
    It was almost 6 am. According to our guidebook, Jan (who’d earned the right to take full charge of mapping our hostel stays) figured we were close to one mile from the hostel. Abiding by hostel procedures firmly outlined in the book, we’d have to wait until 5 pm before check in.
    Carole kindly offered her apartment to anyone needing a place to crash for a few hours or wash up. Everybody, including Walter, took Carole up on her offer. Alongside capable Snowmaker at the wheel, our first mate had been instrumental in aiding our group to safety, not once complaining about fatigue, hunger or requiring a pee break. Despite Walter's traps, we were grateful for our quick thinking cohorts.
    Small and sparse, otherwise, the apartment was clean and cozy. Following a short introduction to Carole's roommate and lover, Willow, a tall Hispanic woman in her late thirties, rolling out our sleeping bags on the living room floor, Jan and I attempted to grab some shuteye. Others snatched vacant couches and chairs scattered about the room. Stretching out after crunching into cramped quarters dreaming up ways to avoid Walter’s hulking, threatening form was a luxury. Neither one of us wanted to go through that again. Especially Jan.
    Slumber was short-lived. Shortly after laying down our heads, sunlight crept through the blinds, casting its scope along the surface of the floor. Illuminating tiny dust particles floating in front of a picture window, its span engulfed the entire room. Yielding to the morning radiance, despite having spent more than eighteen hours with a bunch of people in a rusty van, surprisingly, I felt rested.
    Members of our grungy group took turns using the bathroom for a quick whiz, crap, and scrub up. Thanking Carole and Willow for their hospitality, Jan and I bade our fellow road warriors goodbye. Soon, we would disperse in different directions, vanishing from sight, as if the entire journey was an apparition. With more gall than brains, Walter asked Jan to stay in touch, telling her she’d be welcome to crash at his buddy’s place whenever she returned to Vancouver. Practically pushing me out the door of Carole’s apartment, my friend couldn’t get away fast enough. Stepping out onto the brilliant concrete sidewalk, we considered how to play the day.
    First priority was to find something to eat. Since dining on a turkey feast and all the trimmings in Aldergrove 48-hours before, Jan and I hadn’t consumed anything other than Nanaimo bars, pop, and candy. Jane’s meal felt like a lifetime away.
    Needing to get our bearings, looking around, I stared down at the beat up pavement, a platform for damaged, overstuffed garbage containers. Graffiti-laden brick walls barely disguised grubby buildings. I began to panic. Maybe having a wild hair about travelling to the Golden State had been in haste.
    Having been away from home eight weeks, to date, we hadn’t dealt with anything insurmountable. A couple of close calls were the extent of it. However, morning light has a way of throwing a beacon on cracks often overlooked after dusk. Had our trip to San Francisco been less complicated, we’d have felt more optimistic. There was no point dwelling on the past. Jan and I were BIG girls – new to a city upheld by its reputation for liberal attitudes. From what we could tell in a very small window of time, San Francisco surely had verve. Hoping to attach ourselves to that free spirited fiber, excitement awaited around every corner.
    Though sunny and warm, a hard wind blew in off the bay, motivating us to dig sweaters out of our packs – just in case. Finding a grocery-gas station, we cashed in two $20 traveller’s cheques, and picked out a couple of bagels at the adjoining breakfast bar. Packs secured on our backs, Jan and I walked over to Mission Delores Park to collect our thoughts. According to Jan’s guidebook, the green space was one of several parks scattered throughout San Francisco, Golden Gate being the largest. At one point or another, we’d try to visit them all.
    Sitting on the grass mid-morning, eyes darting everywhere, we were struck by the sedate atmosphere. Overhead, smeared across a sapphire blue sky, jet streams created an impression of flecks on glass. Other than enjoy the pulsating sunshine and spring foliage, people didn’t appear to have anything pressing. Several feet away on the flattened grass, catching winks, slouched a pair of drunks. To our immediate left, an African American couple played peek-a-boo with a toddler. This was Tuesday morning. Late April. Not an official holiday. Why weren’t people at work? Around us, men, women and children engaged in varying groups: eating, snoozing, reading, as if time had stopped. Having been raised in an environment wherein the rapid pace of the status quo often eclipses the simpler elements of life, I wasn’t used to this.
    Leaving Mission Delores Park, lugging our packs like storm troopers for the better part of the afternoon, cautiously, Jan and I roved the neighbourhood, people-watching, window shopping, making mental observations about the rougher brand of hippies, freaks, and greasers loitering outside of storefronts, greasy spoons and head shops. Marching up and down the hilly San Francisco streets, doggedness in our steps, we sampled treats in Just Desserts, assessed the frontage at Modern Times Book Shop on 24thStreet, and purchased food items from Safeway. Despite being whipped by raw, relentless wind gusts off the bay, my jeans and plaid flannel shirt kept me comfortable. Mid-afternoon, winds calmed. Filling our nostrils with an intermingling sample of salt and ocean fish blowing in from Fisherman’s Wharf, the balmy sea breeze reaffirmed why we’d travelled to California.
    Jan and I returned to Delores Park. In one hour, we would head over to 101 Steiner Street. Check in at The Holy Order of MANS youth hostel. Having read rave reviews about the place in our guidebook, according to Jan, a maven in her field, the hostel came highly touted. Disregarding the questionable neighbourhood and unfamiliar name for the place, the residence we’d assumed, was some kind of holy monastery doubling as a shelter for travelling youths. After six weeks living at the Y, anything would be an improvement.
    Besides, reviews don’t lie.
    Charting our map of San Francisco, close to 5:30 pm, Jan and I found ourselves at the foot of a narrow, Victorian style, four-story turreted structure painted grey. A couple of fan palms and a single Maple tree stood on opposite sides of the residence. 101 Steiner Street was the correct address; yet the building didn’t appear to represent a youth hostel – more like somebody’s private home. Adjacent to Duboce Park in the lower Haight district, The Holy Order of MANS Youth Hostel was stationed in a locale my parents would consider a less than desirable part of the city. On the outside at least, the joint appeared A-Okay.
    Climbing the front steps toward the porch, putting nebulous first impressions aside, Jan rang the buzzer. We waited. Appearing from inside the vestibule, a mild-faced young woman wearing long brunette hair parted in the middle and fastened at the back of her head, pulled open the screen door. She introduced herself as Reverend Mary. Appearing at her side, in bushy beard, and dark, horn-rimmed glasses stood a late-twenties dead ringer for a priest. His name was Brother Bruce. Both were outfitted in traditional Catholic style clergy garb. I studied the couple’s attire more closely. Fastened with a woven jute belt, Mary’s powder blue tunic covered everything from her neck to her ankles. Her counterpart, a white clerical collar creasing his chin, was dressed neatly, in jet-black shirt and black pants. Hand-carved wooden crosses attached to leather cords fell at their midsections. Possessing enormously translucent eyes, Mary and Bruce beamed like a pair of godly Caucasians.
    Believing for a moment that we’d trespassed into some sort of hard line Holy Roller church rather than the folksy peace and love communal envisaged from the name of the hostel, I hoped there wouldn’t be reason to leave. It had been an exhausting last couple of days.
    “We’re looking for a youth hostel.” Jan piped up. “Are we at the right address?” Reaching out to squeeze our hands, an assurance that we had not made an error, Mary beckoned the two of us inside. Apparent by the bemused looks upon their faces, our hosts were used to confounded guests.'

Tapes from California: Teenage Road Tripping, 1976 © 2017 Jill C. Nelson



 


 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Excerpt from Chapter 40: Chaos Leads to Order


Chapter 40 excerpt: Chaos Leads to Order
'Restless and bored, Jan and I watched brightly coloured sailboats chase one another out on the water. Deciding to head back by bus, it would be nearly five when I reached the hostel – the appropriate time to return to the bubble.
   Jan would catch up later.

Without vocalizing it, almost telepathically, an underlying need for space had been established. To allow one another room to breathe, Jan and I recognized the time had come to slacken things. Perceptibly and emotionally, my friend wanted to stay at arm’s length, at least until I made my decision. In my gut, I felt a shift was imminent. I simply could not go on much longer agonizing about what to do about my immediate future.

   Something hit me that morning during services at Cole Street. Apart from a measure of familiarity with the Brothers, Sisters, and few of the novices at HOOM, I knew very little about the Holy Order of Mans organization. Though I’d leafed through a copy of The Golden Force, the group’s practices, procedures and faith origins eluded me. Designed to enlighten, I knew that certain segments of the book were crafted to flatter supporters and impress colleagues while goading outsiders into believing that HOOM members were part of a private and elite supernatural society. Knowledge of the Order was shaped from what had been told to me by partisan members.
   This wasn’t acceptable.
   Even Brother John reminded me not to get sucked in by other people’s opinions.
   Mystifying me, I hadn’t given The Golden Force a fair trial and intended to read it whole.

   My pragmatic self-resonating, since all of this wavering began,, I might be contemplating enlisting for some freakazoid show after all, just like the Moonies – a group capable and culpable of harvesting brains on loan. In all fairness, the possibility couldn’t be disregarded.

   Riding the trolley up hill, I hopped the bus for the final stretch of the ride to Steiner Street. Playing it safe, I dawdled in Duboce Park where Jan, Beth and I’d held our private party two nights previous.

   A couple of HOOM kids I hadn’t met before crouched on their hands and knees, worked the soil garden next to the hostel. Spotting me, they meandered over. The female, Rebecca, made a formal introduction. Timidly, Thomas held out a violet flower picked from a sweet pea plant.
   Would I like to have it?
   Thanking him, I accepted and waited to see if something would transpire.

   In recent days, veterans and new members of the Holy Order seemed to scope the hostel and its hinges like ants. In case there might be reason for it, I kept my ear to the ground. As I’d discovered with Joanne earlier, in all probability, Rebecca and Thomas were merely being friendly.
   HOOM folks might be the appendages of a cult, but so far, instincts told me they were trustworthy.

   A slight, cherub-faced girl with blue-grey eyes, Rebecca’s demeanor was gentle, kind. Early into her career as a novice, the 18-year-old worked part time on Clement Street at a fruit shake bar called Haven. I couldn’t resist asking Rebecca why she’d decided to join the Order.

   Having come from a troubled background, Rebecca admitted she was seeking love and stability in her life. An instinctually spiritual person, the novice had a close friend that recently became a Sister of the San Francisco chapter. In turn, the friend invited Rebecca to attend some of HOOM’s meetings. Upon completing reading The Golden Force, Rebecca asserted its message and accounts spoke to her in a way that she had never before known. Believing HOOM to be her calling, Rebecca was convicted, yet conceded the choice she made wouldn’t necessarily be what others might choose.

   Thomas and Rebecca left the garden to head over to Safeway, leaving me alone with my thoughts. Did a definitive answer really did exist in the galaxies somewhere? I felt asinine believing there might be a remote possibility.

   “So… are you going before the council?”

   I swerved my head around. There stood the Good Samaritan, proudly, as if he knew something I didn’t. For a smartass second, I thought about sniping, who wants to know? And decided against it.

   “I don’t think so. No. Why do you ask?”

   “I’m psychic.”

   “Oh… Is that it?” Obviously, my fence sitting was a topic of conversation in a certain neck of the woods. Inspecting my chest, Teddy grinned. “I’m glad to see the jacket is keeping you warm.” Casting my eyes down the front of the green kangaroo, I felt the wind kick up as it often did late in the afternoon, and was happy to be zipped inside of the coat.

   “Thanks again for letting me use your jacket. It’s real cozy. I don’t feel right keeping it though. Are you sure I couldn’t buy it from you?”

   “It’s yours.”

   When I started to gripe, Teddy mimicked my complaint. Then, as if remembering something, without saying a word, he got up, darted across the street and ran toward the manse.

   I watched the Good Samaritan pose precariously on one foot on the front porch, the house where he now resided full time. Apparent that something was on his mind, in less than thirty seconds, Teddy turned on his heel and zoomed back. Straightforward, he pressed again, “So you’re not going before the council?”

   “The council? Um…No, not yet. Actually… I didn’t realize there was a council.” Unsure about sharing the extent of my indecisiveness, and wishing that Teddy would say something to convince me to stay, I stated flatly. “Jan and I hope to leave the city in a couple of days.” As if studying the outcome of a science experiment, The Good Samaritan narrowed his eyes. “Have you got a pack and everything?”
  
   I sure did. The thing was starting to weigh like a 100 pound anvil. Uncertain where this conversation was going, I nodded. “Yeah.”

   “So are you going north?”

   “Eventually, yeah. Back to Canada… But not home right away. Why?”

   Firing skinny arms and spider-like hands into the air like a rocket, Teddy replied. “The reason I ask is because I’ve got a really good pack and I’ll give it to you. I know you don’t have much in the way of travel necessities.”

   Slack-mouthed, I stared back at him. “Give? As in for free?” I blinked hard. “I couldn’t accept your backpack…. unless you’d consider selling it. I don’t have much money, but I could write you an ‘I owe you…’”

   “Forget it then," he snapped. "I wouldn’t sell it to you. You can have it.”
  
There was positively no way in hell I was going to sponge Teddy’s pack, even if the prospect of having the Good Samaritan’s backpack for keeps was unfathomable. I had seen it once, weeks before. Black and grey, the oval shaped nylon sack had a couple of literary quotes written across it in dark marker. White gardenias were fastened to the zipper by a bungee cord.
   Teddy’s bag was amazing. Jan and I were both wholly impressed.

   “Well, thanks.” I felt my face glow beat red. “I’ll think about it.” Faking that I’d never seen the pack, apparently up for grabs, I continued to play dumb, “What’s it like, anyway?”

   Expecting to be regaled with an incredible story attached to the origins of the knapsack, I sat back and waited for Teddy to elucidate about his pack’s history. What he divulged wasn’t an elaborate tale at all. Quite the opposite. In taciturn voice, he contended, “Oh, it’s been very good, very loyal.”

   As if I needed convincing, the Good Samaritan was quick to reassure. “It’s a beautiful pack. There’s not another one like it.” Like dew coating a meadow at dawn, past years and memories flashed briefly across his wistful blue eyes. “It took ten years for me to build it up to what it is today, you know," he said. "I don’t take giving it away lightly.”

   Teddy’s emotional attachment to his beloved backpack suggested a parent crowing over a growing child, reticent to let him loose to the world, yet believing it a necessary measure for personal growth.
When we’d first met him, Teddy talked of living out of his backpack for four years after leaving Vietnam and his ex-wife behind, spending weeks surviving in the desert before coming to San Francisco. His knapsack represented friendship, faithfulness, devotion. It was his second skin. What Teddy had withheld about the pack was the beef of the story.
   I’d have to imagine the rest.

   We broke into a little comedy skit: The Good Samaritan offering me his pack – my refusal unless I could pay. Struck by the absurdity of going around in circles, like an Abbott and Costello routine, we both started to laugh. Before I knew it, it was time to break up the party. Starting toward the manse, the Good Samaritan halted. Then he turned and looked me up and down. “So, you’ll be here for another day or so?”

   Reaching both hands upward, I pulled my long, thick hair to the back of my head, formed it in to a ponytail and smiled flirtatious. “I think so, yeah.” Dipping his head in courteous fashion, Teddy broke away and ran across the street. Reaching the lower steps of the manse porch, he performed a tap dance on each cement block until finally touching down softly on the verandah. I
   f I hadn’t been awestruck before, now I was money in the bank.'

Tapes from California: Teenage Road Tripping, 1976 © 2016 Jill C. Nelson
 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Excerpt from Chapter 50: Loopy in Kamloops


Excerpt from Chapter 50: Loopy in Kamloops

'Lying flat on my back on my sleeping bag, staring upward at the V-shaped peak where tent sides meet, I watched mosquitoes congregate to conspire the long night ahead. Directly out the west window, indiscreet, the sun folded into candyfloss pigments of orange and pink. Allowing ideas from the passage to percolate, something hit a nerve. More than anything in the world, I wanted to be happy. Not for passing bursts, but for long, undulated periods, where emotion could be amassed and the afterglow of happiness preserved.
   Maybe there was a way to channel bliss somehow.

   There is a beautiful narrative in J.D. Salinger’s Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters, in which Seymour Glass describes a perceived, permanent yellow stain on his right hand, a leftover from brushing against a playmate’s buttery dress during his childhood. Through recollections and emotions, perhaps symbolically, we have the ability to engender the same durable effect. Fishing in a pond of happy memories, possibly there is a means to train ourselves to summon joy at will, and provide nourishment during dry spells. If the law of vibration detailed in the Holy Order of Man’s digest really works, and there was evidence of it through our basic requests, maybe then, all one needs to do is believe in happiness.
   The rest will take care of itself.
***
On Friday, a few days beyond June 21, morning is grey, chillier than the day before. Not a drop of precipitation in sight. Thanking Paul for our stay, at half past seven, Jan and I made our way from the Kamloops hostel out to the highway. Stale sesame seed bagels tucked deep in our packs, we hoped to get a head start. Other travellers, also moving east, had already packed their gear.
   Watching a torrent of cars and transport trucks blow by in haste, loitering on the shoulder of the TransCanada, we contemplated the trip ahead. Habitually, Jan and I willed a harm free journey. Counting our flight to Vancouver,  in four months, we'd logged close to 6000 miles. Having been in near constant motion since leaving our jobs at the hotel in March, it hadn’t felt like a stretch. The unknown quotient of the remaining weeks of our trip was a thrill. Along with the rush of day-to-day adventure, came the proverbial ache of anxiety.
   The yin and yang of confronting a faceless future.'
1976: Tapes from California © 2016 Jill C. Nelson

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Chapter 9 Excerpt: "Luke"

View of Mt. Baker, Washington, from Aldegrove, B.C.
Chapter 9: Luke

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” – Saint Francis de Sales


 
Awakening Easter morning, I peered through the bedroom blinds. The sky was a dull grey, no sunshine in the forecast. Despite the dismal weather, claiming her mm had a surprise, Yvette had gotten up, dressed, and encouraged us to do the same. Hidden inside of cupboards, next to books and between boxes of Crispy Crunch cereal were dozens of chocolate Easter eggs wrapped in coloured foil; a caring touch by Jean who rightly assumed we might be feeling homesick. After we finished gathering up the eggs, Yvette’s mom cooked us a hearty blueberry pancake breakfast. Around four, sisters, Louise and Linda accompanied by Linda’s husband and their three children, congregated around the living room in anticipation of a traditional Easter dinner. Somewhere within the commotion, Yvette’s much-lauded older brother called to apologize.
   Luke would be arriving late.
   Perfect.
   The past several weeks, Jan and I’d heard many stories about Luke – all of them good. Whenever that happens, you wonder if a person can actually fulfill expectations. In my mind, I’d manufactured some Adonis-like human being with a six foot wing span. In this scenario, big brother did not disappoint. Arriving minutes before dinner, standing at a little over six feet tall, peering down from a pair of heart-stopping baby blues and wavy, chestnut brown hair floating past his shoulders, Yvette’s sexy, older brother easily lived up to the hype. One momentary look, and it was easy to understand why Luke drew people to him like shit sticks to a blanket – particularly women.
   Once introductions were over, we took our seats at the table set for twelve. Supplemented by the appropriate trimmings, Jean had prepared a spectacular turkey feast .
   In the midst of serving trays and casseroles dishes containing turkey, almond stuffing, scalloped potatoes, broccoli, squash, cranberries and rolls passed in conveyor belt-like fashion down the table, Luke absorbed some well-intentioned flak from his parents for his unconventional lifestyle. Currently staying  with friends nearby, a Jack-of-all-tradesman, Luke took on whatever work he could, dividing his time between Victoria, Saskatoon, and Mexico. For a fraction of what it would cost to settle in a major city, Luke’s dream was to live in the country permanently. The way he explained it, seemed natural.
   Despite fine-looking features, soulful blue eyes and liberal philosophies, what struck me most about Yvette’s older brother was his gentle deportment.
   At times, exchanges between parents and son were prickly. Staring down my plate, I listened alert as Luke softly deferred to Jan and me as unsuspecting allies, suggesting that our presence at the family table might help improve what he’d perceived his parents’ questionable opinion of their only son.
   The back and forth had reminded me of squabbles between Chris and my parents around the Sunday evening dinner table not many years before. Heated arguments about my brother’s hair length, his unsuitable clothing, and what they saw as a rebellious nature in general. According to Luke, Jan and I were doing the same thing he was, bucking conformity, trying to find a sustainable way to keep our heads afloat. Refraining from caving to societal traditions and parental expectations.
   I hadn’t thought of it that way before, yet when Luke had said it, it sounded sensible. Sane. Then again, every utterance from Yvette’s big brother’s princely mouth seemed reasonable. Much to their mom and dad’s dread, Luke pointed out, even his kid sister was an example of non-compliance. After all, Yvette had both feet planted firmly in her big brother’s shadow.
   After a time, somebody cracked a joke and people moved on to lighter dialogue. You got the impression this was the family norm. Relieved the conversation hadn’t spiraled into obtuse remarks or hostility – I’d noted that although members of Yvette’s family did not unanimously agree, they were civil and respectful of one another.
   Levity deflected beautifully. The absence of alcohol might have had something to do with it.
   Dishes magically cleared away. While Jean served homemade coconut cream pie and Nanaimo bars everybody milled about. Announcing he’d be returning shortly to his friend Mandy’s place in Langley, Luke asked Louise if she’d give him a lift. Prior to our trip to Aldergrove, it had been decided that Louise, who lived with her husband in Vancouver, would drop Jan and me off at the Y on her way home. From there, we’d take the bus back out to Betsy’s for one last night before departing with Walter and company next morning.
   When the time came, it was tough bidding Yvette yet another goodbye. Tears welling, the three of us made a firm promise to meet up in Banff that summer. Thoughtfully, Yvette wrapped up the remaining Nanaimo bars for us to take on the road.
   Mandy’s country home was a small, yet pretty, older house. Outmoded fixtures and a wood burning stove absorbed much of the main living area. Joined by her husband and young son, Mandy was moving to Hawaii and selling off several pieces of furniture. Looking over some of Mandy’s tables, Louise purchased two items for her apartment. When we about ready to leave, off the cuff, Luke made a proposal. Though careful not to commit, after our return from California in a few months, he might consider driving Jan and me to Alberta.
   I didn’t care if Luke’s offer was in vain and would never materialize.  
   Gesturing affirmatively, I concurred. “That could definitely work.”


1976: Tapes from California © 2016 Jill C. Nelson

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Chapter 44 Excerpt: Mirror, Mirror


Chapter 54: Mirror Mirror
Greater Vancouver


“If you are lacking certain things in your life scheme then you have not made the pattern for them, or you blocked it with another, or you did not think that you would have them anyway. So, did you get what you expected – Did you? Yes, I think you did. We have news for you – you do not face the world at any time; the only world you face is the world of your own being – body/soul/mind, and your atmosphere – which is your responsibility. You should prepare then. This is your world and your responsibility.” – The Golden Force, Chapter 3: Growth (pages 27 & 28). 


'Since leaving San Francisco, I’d started reading portions of The Golden Force, trying to digest the book’s message, and assimilate it with my pre-existing belief system. Deceptively taxing reading, the book required a good deal of thought and analysis. Until that point, I’d mostly read contemporary and classic literature, biographies, and true crime. Specific passages of HOOM’s holy book were not only demanding and tricky to understand, but hard to imagine assuming into my life. By adopting a more studious approach (not my usual forté), eventually, I hoped to grasp initiatives.

   It was too soon to know what I would do with the information.
   As of late, I’d found myself identifying with one of my literary heroes, twenty-year old Franny Glass, the chief character in J.D. Salinger’s immortal novel Franny and Zooey. As the story unfolds in the Glass family’s New York City apartment, having taken a sudden exodus from her studies, as if an appendage, Franny clings frantically to an anonymously written book of Russian origin; The Way of a Pilgrim. Her preoccupation with the book’s divine subject matter has driven Franny into a paradoxical, spiritually charged emotional state, causing her to question everything she had come to take for granted, exasperating her mother Bessie, and particularly, her brother Zooey.
   Given my incongruous state of being, I was beginning to appreciate Franny’s impasse. The fact the book had belonged to her beloved (and deceased) older brother Seymour did not escape me.
   The previous evening after Jan, Fujiko and I finished dinner, now Father’s Day weekend, I walked over to a Safeway to place a rare collect call home. Significant changes had transpired within the last couple of months.
   The conversation with my father went well. Dad and I reminisced about our family trip to Vancouver and San Francisco many years before. Then he passed the receiver to my mother. Filling Mom in about our recent travel adventures, eventually, I broached the subject containing the four-letter-word: H-O-O-M. Explaining there was a possibility I might return to San Francisco in the fall to join the organization as a novice-in-training, I stressed this was only one option of many. By her silence; I knew what my mother was thinking: She’s lost her mind. HOOM is an insidious cult!
   “What about St. Lawrence College?” Mom put forth a concerted effort. “I've sent in the $35 registration fee. I thought you’d at least consider it. All your friends will be going off to school.”
   I hated letting my mom down. “I don’t know.” I said. “I’ll first have to see what happens with HOOM. I’m not ruling anything out.”
   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.
   Hanging up the receiver, something ugly dawned on me. By relating information I knew would upset my mother, unintentionally, maybe subliminally, I'd wanted to hurt her. If so, that made me a callous bitch. It possibly also meant I was hoping to seek revenge for something. In truth, I hadn’t expected my news bulletin to receive a warm reception. However, by stressing words such as if and maybe, I felt my update was delivered in a way that was acceptable. It’s about making a convincing sales pitch. Sometimes the manner in which an idea is presented is easier to digest than what is actually said. In my case, the strategy accomplished the reverse, harsher effect.
   If only I was able to convince myself.
  Returning to Steiner Street would depend upon what emerged in the coming weeks – if any of it still made sense. HOOM didn’t have quite the stranglehold on me it had one week ago.
   Still, it was there, persistent.'
Tapes from California: Teenage Road Tripping, 1976 © 2016 Jill C. Nelson