Thursday, December 31, 2015

Excerpt from Chapter 15: Hitching a Ride

"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

Excerpt from Chapter 45: Hope reigns in Hope

Texas Lake Youth Hostel, Hope, B.C. 1970s

Chapter 45: Hope reigns in Hope

“We can't return we can only look behind from where we came.” – Eugene McNamara

     Excerpt: 'On Wednesday, my condition hadn’t improved leading me to believe I’d caught a bug after all. Regardless, Jan and I headed out early in the morning rain to purchase our bus tickets to Hope. Soon, we’d be on our way. 

    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

Excerpt from Chapter 36: Chinatown and City Lights

Excerpt from Chapter 36: Chinatown and City Lights
On Thursday morning, one of the female novices at Holy Order of Mans, Joanne, came out to the garden area of Duboce Park where I sat sketching yellow cornflowers. We chatted a while about life in general, inside and outside of HOOM.
    Suspicious, initially, I wondered at first if she’d been sent by one of her superiors to try to get inside of my head. During the course of conversation, I realized that wasn’t true. Joanne had come outfitted with gardening tools; she was not there under false pretenses. It wouldn’t have been worth her effort to pry anyway. I certainly didn’t understand what was going on and doubted that anyone else could make sense of it either. 
   A couple of years older than I, Joanne had been raised in a commune in Northern California. Based upon little information she shared about her upbringing by parents who were artists and nomads, joining a cult didn’t seem like an unnatural step for her. She made and accepted her choice as easily as one might accept an arranged marriage. I was baffled and intrigued. Joanne was well meaning and joyful, not in a sickening kind of way. Her good cheer seemed to come from her heart.Our exchange that morning was lightweight as a powder puff; a nice reprieve from the heady conversations the Brothers tended to yammer on about. 
   If anything, our brief, revealing talk helped to ease some of my doubts from the day before.
   Joanne had no idea.
Inside the hostel, Jan soaked up the first couple of morning hours drinking coffee and talking with John Gailey. John was on his way to Los Angeles where he hoped to find a few days’ work before heading down to Mexico. A veteran traveller, he’d laughed off any notion it might be dangerous traveling south of the border alone. After an exchange of addresses and telephone numbers, Jan met me in the garden and we set off for Market Street to purchase a needlepoint kit for her.
   On our way through Union Square, we were accosted (pleasantly so) by a pair of clean cut Moonies dressed as college boys. Their matching polyester pants and button-downed shirts fooled us -- at first. Essentially, we were ambushed by two missionaries offering us the world on a silver platter – free dining privileges and friendship – in exchange for a weekend, praying and cavorting at their compound located in Berkeley – a regular barrel of laughs.
   In all likelihood, there wouldn’t be too much cavorting – these dudes were a serious pair. During our time in San Francisco, Jan and I had heard many rumors and warnings about weekend visits to Moonie quarters. The group had a reputation for preying on aimless teenagers; ridding them of self-respect and responsibility reduced to drooling, monosyllabic subordinates willing to do whatever was required of them by leaders. A kind of reverse suck version of the tactics that master manipulator Charles Manson employed to lure, bully, and divide family members.
     Reading one another without speaking, it was unanimous, Jan and I would brush off our two walking manikins.
     It wasn’t easy. Wide-eyes blazing, all amplified pupils, the two passionately expounded on their faith and beliefs extolling the virtues of commandant, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, giving the impression they were buzzed on mescaline or even something better. Not that either one of us had anything personal against mind-altering substances, but the deportment of these boys was enough of an excuse to refuse.  
   Moonies were freaks, not in a good way. By comparison, HOOM members were innocuous.
1976: Tapes from California © 2014 Jill C. Nelson

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Excerpt from Chapter 21: Finding Our Place in Space

The following excerpt is from Chapter 21: "Finding Our Place in Space." 

'After the Gregory incident, sleep that night was fitful and sparse. It didn’t matter. If we wanted to be in Hemet by late afternoon, we had to get up early and walk to the terminal a few miles away from the men’s Y to catch the 12:15pm bus. At this rate, Jan and I were reluctant to hitchhike and take a chance on another stranger. Gregory's crushing blows against our door was as if someone had taken his boots to our emotional well-being. The last thing we wanted to do that morning was put ourselves at more risk. The bus would take us from San Diego to Riverside; then we'd need to transfer onto another bus out to Hemet. Our only regret was not getting over to explore Old Town, a part of San Diego where we had planned to spend our final day. With the trek ahead, so much for foiled plans, Old Town would have to wait.
   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.
   It figured.
   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.  
   At first look, it appeared that no one was around. The man waited in his car while we walked up to the front door of the main house and knocked. No answer. Then we ventured around to the side door of one of the smaller buildings and discovered an office where a young man was seated inside. Above his desk, a sign read “$2.00 /nite.” Jan and I were about to pay when we were informed the hostel wasn’t officially open yet for business. Not until summer.
   Gravely disappointed, we groaned. The young man had an idea. Since we'd traveled a distance to get there, we could stay, as long as we didn’t mind sleeping out in the horses stables.
   We sure didn’t.
   Returning to the car, we thanked our gas station friend for the lift and went back inside the office to pay for a couple of nights. The young man then proceeded to bring us back around to the animal stables where the temperature was at least fifteen degrees cooler. Three horses and one colt were housed in the stables. It felt good to get out of the sun and be in the company of a few furry creatures. Finally, we were able to lay down our packs, rest our legs and tired bodies.
   Not far from the premises, a small grocery store stocked fruits and vegetables, and other inexpensive food items for supper.Things were starting to turn around. Little did we know that Meadowlark was much more than a youth hostel.'
1976: Tapes from California © 2013 Jill C. Nelson