Thursday, September 11, 2014

Excerpt from Chapter 33: Flower Lady

Vernal Falls, Yosemite

Chapter 33: Flower Lady

Nothing matters very much and very few things matter at all.” – Lord Balfour

An old brown truck that had seen better days pulled up to the Village Mall at Yosemite Park where Jan and I stood with matching thumbs out. The overly eager driver, obviously delighted to happen upon two teenage girls standing at the side of the road, was more disappointed than we were when he discovered we weren’t headed in his direction. A pleasant enough fellow, we would have been more than happy to ride a good stretch of the road with him.
     One down.
     Next, an older man stopped to give us a short lift, taking care of a few miles, with approximately two hundred and eighty five left to go. When he dropped us off, a couple of young guys were already ahead of us lingering on the shoulder of the road. According to the small sign the two had fabricated, they also had a reasonable distance ahead to travel.
     The last thing you want when you’re hitchhiking is competition. Luckily, we were young, and we were female – those two factors alone usually trump two males in their twenties waiting on a ride any day of the week. Unless, of course, the prospective driver happens to be a woman.
     Along came a black Pontiac Parisienne. After crisscrossing over two lanes and coming to a stop, the driver opened the heavy passenger door, enabling us to make our way into the vehicle with ease. He even sprung out of the car to help us with our backpacks, and told us he was heading to Lake Tahoe.
     Discouraged, we had to decline. Once they’d clued into the fact that Jan and I we weren’t getting into the car after all, our competition almost tripped over one another as the two dudes raced over to the vehicle and jumped inside. Jan and I watched longingly as the big boat squealed from the curb with a vengeance. Dust and stones, perpendicular to the white wall tires, spat and sputtered, like a mini explosion as the driver tore up the road. Wondering if the fireworks display was for our benefit, I hung my head. That could have been our ride if only we were going to Tahoe.
     It was out of the question.
     Almost cheerful about our misfortune, Jan was convinced that morning a car would soon appear with our names emblazed on it. I chuckled to myself at her wishful thinking and sat down on a rock, briefly removing my boot and sock to expose my foot and wiggle my toes in the fresh air. It was still a relatively cool morning. One that would become progressively warmer as the day wore on.
     My right foot had become sore the day before when my feet swelled in the heat while walking up and down The Mist Trail at Yosemite. The inside of my one hiking boot caused friction against the back of my heel, and an ugly callous the size of a robin’s egg had surfaced. The callous actually started back in Vancouver when my work boots were still new, but had gotten worse in recent weeks. I considered switching to my sandals, but then I’d have to strap my boots to my backpack and I didn’t want to create any extra weight –even one pound or two was too many to carry once the sun came out in full force.
     Ten minutes later, an anonymous vehicle eased its way up along the horizon. Finally, a yellow ‘69 Toyota station wagon came into view. As it got closer to us, the car began to slow down and eventually stop. Inside was a good-looking man in his late twenties. His name was Grace. Grace introduced us to Jude, his equally attractive blonde girlfriend. The couple were from Australia and on their way to San Francisco for a few days prior to heading up to Montreal, Canada, to attend the summer Olympics. Ultimately, they were headed to Europe where they planned to travel with a Euro-rail pass.
     We didn’t subscribe to coincidences in late spring of 1976, and so, with an extra bounce in our steps, Jan and I began to unload our weight into the back of the small wagon. My good friend didn’t neglect to shoot me an all-knowing glance. Out of respect, I gave her a mock bow.
     Jan's intuition had been spot on.

1976: Tapes from California © 2013 Jill C. Nelson

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Chaos and Order ~ Chapter 38 Excerpt

The following is another excerpt from Chapter 38 titled "Nameless Wanderer" and describes the challenge of being faced with a tough decision as a teenager thousands of miles from home and family, with little life excperience to draw from. In this excerpt, Jan and I are back at the youth hostel on Steiner St. in San Francisco.
'On Monday morning, Craig and Larry left.
     People were starting to drop like flies.
     Jan and I washed and dried the dishes and listened to Phil Ochs’s Pleasures of the Harbor on the record player. The melodies and lyrics of each song felt meaningful and oddly poignant – the way it is when you listen to a piece of music for the very first time, and its enormity is overpowering.
     Afterwards, I took held onto the cover of the record I’d purchased a couple of months earlier, went into the bathroom and locked the door. With my journal on my lap, I began to scribble down some of the writings by Ochs that appeared on the back of the album’s jacket.

      “…and the bleeding seer crawled from the ruins of the empire and stood bleeding, bleeding on the border he said, passion has led to chaos and now chaos will lead to order.”

     I placed the slender black marker down for a moment and looked out the window at Duboce Park. It was still, nothing to observe around the premises except the freshly turned vegetable garden adjacent to the house. I shifted my eyes toward the manse across the road from my window. There was little activity, I wondered if that meant school was in session.
     The silly joke made me smile.
     With my pen in hand, I began to scratch out a self-directed message in my journal.

     “Everyone seems to think that it’ll help if I ask for an answer. It’s not an easy thing to do. I want to try to write about/to God, but I can’t. The words won’t come. There are too many concepts to consider... it all boils down to one basic idea. Stay simple. Don’t worry about anything, because when you stop worrying, you open yourself up to answers already in existence. There is little reason to constantly wonder why.
     ‘“Relax, and you shall find your place in space.”’

     Meadowlark rang in my ears. It wasn’t much, but it was something.  
     That morning the sky was blue streaked and the temperature had soared to 87 degrees. There was no excuse to wear the green kangaroo so I stored it safely inside of my pack. Jan and I set off to the underground shop to see about a ride north of the city, and then hiked over to the San Francisco Ride Centre. That proved to be a useless effort; it was explained that we each had to pay a four-dollar registration fee before anyone would assist us in finding a ride.
     No can do.
     One fact was constant; without money, finding our ticket out of San Francisco and up to the west coast of Canada wasn’t going to come easy. Not unless we hitchhiked our way out. That was a definite possibility.  
     As we sat in a Chinese restaurant eating fifty-cent bowls of steamed white rice, Jan and I tossed schemes back and forth but it still came down to money. We had enough to get our butts back to Canada, and then we’d go from there and see how long we could make our dollars last if we couldn’t find work. As long as we weren’t faced with forking out dough for fees so headhunters could locate rides for us, we’d be okay. While eating our lunch, jointly, we visualized that we’d find a ride between Wednesday and Saturday.
     I was starting to think I had a split personality. One side of me was set to make Holy Order of Mans (HOOM) my home and the other was talking about going to Alberta, with Jan and the friends we hoped to visit there. It was a strange and surreal state of consciousness; I looked forward to synthesizing my thoughts and options so that they would become united. The only drawback was that it couldn’t be forced, but the pot was about to boil over.
     I had one day to go.'

1976: Tapes from California © 2013 Jill C. Nelson

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Excerpt from Chapter 42: Pressing On

The following excerpt is from Chapter 42 titled "Pressing On." The excerpt describes an unusual night in June, spent in a car in mystical Mount Shasta, California. Jan and I were introduced to Roger fifteen minutes before the three of us departed in his white Volkswagen beetle from the youth hostel in San Francisco, to travel with him to Eugene, Oregon. Roger planned to drop us off in Eugene on our way to Seattle. It wasn’t uncommon during those days to hook up with someone at a hostel and share the cost of gas if you were headed if the same direction.

"Use spear of mind which is thought – to stop what negativity has been wrought.” – The Golden Force
     It was close to eleven that evening when Jan and I first started to feel symptoms of fatigue. Roger had finally found the magic spot to lay his head for the long night ahead – it was about twenty feet in front of where he’d parked the car, close to a tangle of undergrowth and sheltered beneath the tall firs. On top of broken ice and sludge, it wasn’t much of a refuge.
     Roger peeled off his denim jacket and jeans, preferring instead to sleep only in his t-shirt. In the few hours since we’d arrived at Mount Shasta, Jan and I witnessed Roger make several desperate disappearing acts into the woods, only to return many minutes later to resume thrashing around inside of his sleeping bag. We watched him flaying about, and heard sounds of him coughing and vomiting. At one point, I gave him a huge wad of the toilet paper I’d stashed inside of the vehicle earlier so it wouldn’t get damp. He thanked me. Once, when Jan got out of the car to wander over to where Roger lay, he told her that he was fine and to return to the car. He wasn’t fine, but we were at a loss as to how to help him. All we could do was to sit tight in the car, and if he needed anything, we were on standby.
     I’d read in a book somewhere that withdrawal symptoms from opiates such as heroin, could vary from a day to a few days, depending on the amount ingested and a person’s body type.
     Roger had proven to be a gentle, sweet man. Neither one of us wished him harm in any way. 
     Swathed in darkness with a throng of stars proliferating the sky, the dominant presence of Mount Shasta wearing a snow-white tiara reminded us how dependent we three were upon one another that night. It might have been the power of suggestion, but there was something corporeal about the mountain, as if it was watching over us, waiting. I recalled some of the mysterious stories Roger had told us earlier in the afternoon when the sky was still light. He’d said there were secret tunnels and rumors of a subterranean city, and that people had eyewitnessed unusual spectacles and reverberations at Shasta which they believed to be spirits. Eyewitnesses mentioned the existence of little people; faeries, even a Big Foot population, and other odd, immortal creatures inhabiting the mountain that only made themselves visible to a chosen few. Evidently, Mount Shasta is one of the landing sites for UFOs. It was, and is still considered a cosmic summit on planet earth.  
     Inside of the car, I clutched Peter’s green kangaroo jacket around my shoulders, pulled my sleeping bag up to my neck and asked Jan if she was scared. She said she wasn’t, but said she wished that Roger would feel better soon. I did too. We decided it wouldn’t hurt to pray to the mountain, asking it to help Roger become healthy again.
     In the dark, off in the distance, the sallow face of the mountain stared down at the two of us bundled inside of our sleeping bags secured within the enclave of Roger’s bug. Our unconscious mindscapes were linked, an allusion that Mount Shasta was listening. Within the hour, we both fell asleep.
     Throughout the crisp night, Jan and I periodically awakened and took turns keeping watch. It wasn’t something we planned – we felt compelled. Someone needed to be on guard to make sure Roger didn’t freeze to death outside in the cold. It seemed inprobable that a person could perish in Northern California climate in June; we didn’t want to take a chance.
     Due to the frosty temperature and restrictive space inside of the vehicle, neither one of us slept longer than brief intervals, anyway. At times, the foggy windows made it difficult to make out Roger's sleeping bag. Every so often one of us rolled down a window to clear the condensation trapped within the car. The translucent skies overhead cast a generous dose of light, permitting us to view his figure moving, almost in a punishing manner out there on his side along the rutted ground, as if he was seeking penance for some unforgivable deed. Given the volatile circumstances, mercifully, Roger probably had a better night’s sleep than we did. During the last few hours toward dawn, our haunted friend slept uninterrupted.
     Sunshine oozed through the trees in the early morning, warming the air inside and outside of the vehicle. Feeling a strong urge to pee, I opened the car door, walked over to a nearby bush, crouched down behind it and unzipped my jeans. I heard the sound of branches cracking off in the distance, and looked up to see Jan in her yellow cable-knitted, wool sweater, seeking cover. It was obvious she also had the need to relieve herself. As I refastened my pants, I glanced across the way toward the surface of the partially icy ground and watched the lumpy mass that was Roger shift inside of his sleeping bag. All but concealed by his cocoon, the man was still alive; thank god, and smoking a cigarette. 
     I got back into the car and Jan soon followed. She appeared tired, exactly how I felt and probably looked. Both of us kept our eyes ahead fixated on Roger waiting to see what his next move might be. 
     “What do you think?” I craned my neck over at Jan, hoping she would sum up our present situation.
     Jan shook her head, pondering. “I don’t know. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how he’s feeling. If it takes longer than we figured to get to Eugene, that’s fine with me.”
     Pointing her head in the direction of Roger’s sleeping bag, Jan took a short breath, and then hesitated, “As long as he’s okay.”
     The distance between Mount Shasta and Eugene was approximately two hundred and fifty miles  – about four hours drive or more, depending upon traffic. Neither of us wanted or expected Roger to drive anywhere unless he was feeling up to it. Depending upon the kind of night he’d had, it could go either way. If he was detoxifying from drugs, it might be a few days before he’d be in shape to drive. I started to imagine what it would be like to remain for two or three days in the precise location of the Great Spirit, with its clandestine sect of highly evolved human beings. There were tales of conduits, possessing the power to channel the thoughts of supernatural spirit bodies. If indeed they existed, there was no doubt that at least one of them possessed the power to negotiate our prayers on Roger’s behalf.
     I hoped it was true.
1976: Tapes from California © 2013 Jill C. Nelson

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Excerpt from Chapter 38: Nameless Wanderer

The following excerpt is from Chapter 38: The Nameless Wanderer

Somehow, Jan and I got our wires crossed with Craig and Larry. They were nowhere to be found when we finally arrived down at the Wharf around two pm. We searched all along the waterfront but to no avail. They probably got fed up waiting for us to attend Cole St. services first, not to mention, we had something to eat afterwards; withdrew a bit of money out of the bank and caught the bus to the Wharf. All of that took a few hours. Obviously, they weren’t patient boys. I can’t say I blamed them. As it turned out, they ended up going to a concert which would have been a hell of a lot more fun.
     In those days, when travelling you had to be precise if you made plans to meet up with people, and hope there weren’t any unforeseen circumstances that might have bearing on whether or not an individual showed up. There was no way of knowing details as to why someone didn’t materialize until the next time you either saw or spoke to that person. Changing plans last minute meant that generally, someone was left stranded waiting, annoyed, while staring down at the face of a wristwatch. Living at hostels or at the homes of strangers for brief periods as we were doing in cities that were foreign to us, created an even greater need to be specific when pinpointing locations to hook up. The ability to send or receive a text message would have come in handy. This was more than twenty-five years before the mode of communication had been dreamed up.
     No such luck.
     Jan and I sat around on a bench for a while watching the boats chase one another out on the water. It was now getting close to 4 o’clock and I decided to head back to Steiner St. I figured by the time I reached the hostel by bus, it’d be almost 5pm – the coast would be clear to return to the nest. Jan wanted to stay behind and said she would walk home later.
     The two of us hadn’t vocalized it, but recently, Jan and I both detected an underlying need for space, at least until we (or she) were on our way back up the coast. Silently, we’d agreed upon slackening things a little in order to allow one another room to breathe. I also knew that Jan wanted to stay within an arm’s length of me, at least until I made my decision. That afternoon, I felt in my gut that a shift in the wind was imminent. I simply couldn’t go on much longer agonizing about what to do about my future.
     Something else occurred to me during the service at Cole St.  in the morning which had given me cause for pause. That was this fact: apart from a measure of familiarity with the Brothers, Sisters, and some of the novices at HOOM, I knew very little about the organization. Its overall practices, procedures, and origins of faith eluded me. My knowledge was shaped from what had been told to me by partisan members. That wasn’t good enough. I had leafed through a copy of HOOM’s bible, “The Golden Force,” but I was a layperson and though some of the passages were designed to impress, flatter supporters and also colleagues – that they were a part of a private and elite, supernatural society – the book mostly remained bafflegab to me.
     Which brought me back to the leading question: Why was I considering joining a cult?
     Peter’s face popped into my head.
     That was my pragmatic side resonating – I’d known it was hiding inside of me somewhere. For one of the very first times since all of this wavering had begun, it dawned on me that I might actually be considering enlisting for some freakazoid show like the Moonies, capable of borrowing your brain and not giving it back. Sure, I’d thought about that before. Now, it seemed like a real possibility. It might not have been much, but I determined that I'd better cling tightly to all grey matter.
     I rode the first leg of the trip up the hill on the trolley and then hopped the bus for the last stretch of the ride. The bus dropped me off in front of HOOM, and I decided to read for a while in Duboce Park where Jan and Beth and I had held our private party a couple of nights before - just to play it safe.
     A couple of novices I hadn’t met before, Thomas and Rebecca were outside working in the soil patch. They eventually meandered over to where I sat and made a formal introduction. Smiling shyly, Thomas held out a pretty, violet-colored flower picked from a sweet pea plant and asked if I would like to have it. I thanked him and waited for the shoe to drop. In recent days, veterans and new members of the Holy Order crawled around the hostel and its hinges like locusts. In case there might be a reason for that, I stayed on my guard. In all probability, they were only being friendly, just as I discovered Joanne had been in the garden earlier in the week.
     These folks may have been appendages of a cult, but so far, my instincts told me they were rock-solid people.

1976: Tapes from California © 2013 Jill C. Nelson. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Excerpt from Chapter 35: Rose is Still a Rose

HAPPY 2014!

     Progress is going well on "Tapes" with completion of over 200 pages. My goal is to include photos and artifacts from our journey, some of which are extremely unique as some of the sites are no longer in existance.
     The following excerpt is from Chapter 35 and tells of some of the experiences during our time at The Holy Order of Mans  (HOOM) Youth Hostel on Steiner St. in San Francisco. Jan and I stayed there for extended periods on two separate occasions during our travels that spring.

'I looked over at Marcel, and then down at the various Animals LPs in his hands and noticed he bore a remarkable resemblance to Eric Burden, the band’s lead singer. Since our first introduction, Marcel had reminded me of Moe from “The Three Stooges”. At that moment, I realized I’d had him pegged wrong from the beginning, and told him so.
     I don’t think he appreciated being teased.
     We split up shortly after that point, with Marcel remaining behind. Jan, Doug and I got a lift from a man in a pick-up truck. When asked where we were headed, we instructed the driver to drop us off at the wharf. I still wasn’t feeling up to snuff but I figured that the salt-water air, boring deep into my lungs had to have been at least about half as restorative as a day’s rest in bed. Anyway, I didn’t have a choice in the matter; the hostel was off limits during the day unless you were at death’s door.
     I wasn’t – not yet anyway.
     By the time we'd been delivered back at the hostel late in the afternoon, my sore throat had turned into a cold. I didn’t pay it any mind – with any luck; I’d shake it as long as I stuck to ginger ale, and a healthy diet.
     What a laugh. Our stingy diet couldn’t get much healthier.
     Despite my aching body, I had a feeling of well being when setting foot in the door at Steiner St. that afternoon. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but if I’d learned anything since coming away, it was to live in the moment and revel in the nebulous blush.
     Carpe diem.
     Experience teaches that serendipitous sparks are few and far between, when one comes along, you reach out and grab a hold of it. Eventually, it will dissipate and this one did too, but while it lasted, I felt warmth in the core of my stomach, that spread upward throughout my body, filling every crevice until it finally subsided, leaving me with a redefined awareness of the difference between contentment and joy.
     A metamorphosis was taking place inside of me and I felt it was for the better.
     Marcel was waiting for us upon our return, all dressed up with somewhere to go. Evidently, after we left him back on Telegraph Avenue, he’d met a voman – details about her whereabouts or any physical description were not disclosed. I didn’t say it out loud, but I was curious if Marcel’s “voman” in question was a streetwalker. Not that it was any of my business, nor did I care, but he clearly made a point of letting us know he’d met a female and bragged that he was planning to hook up with her again later that evening.
     She might have even been a phantom.
     It occurred to me that it was quite possible Marcel was trying to make Jan jealous because she’d turned down his premature marriage proposal.
     While passing an hour or so until mealtime, dressed in wool pants and a buttoned-down shirt, Marcel joined a small gang of us in the park to play a pick-up game of softball until he split the crotch of his pants and asked Jan if she’d mend them for him. This was the second time he’d made the request to Jan in less than a week. I didn’t want to rain on her parade, but I was certain he was very capable of sewing his pants himself. If the shoe had been on the other foot however, I probably would have raced around to track down the closest needle and thread, and gone right to work.
     During dinner, Marcel and one of the other girls at the hostel had a contest to see who could draw more skillfully. Marcel made the greater impact within the group with his artistic dexterity when he set about to draw a pencil portrait of Jan. His depiction of her features and hair was extremely accurate.
     Jan was flattered beyond compare but she still wouldn’t budge on the marriage proposal deal.
     No one could accuse our Swiss compadre of lacking in the persistence department.'

1976: Tapes from California © 2013 Jill C. Nelson. Awesome Inc.