A bit of a book
Trip Start Dec 28, 2004
270Trip End Ongoing
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I never set out with any clear intention to start traveling or to lead a most unusual life. It seems as though the circumstances of life had made my choices for me, although at the subconscious level, I suppose that I was strapping on my sandles and sticking my thumb into the wind even before the events that cut me free from my straight life began to overtake me.
At the time, I was like every other young person out there; hoping for an adventure and looking for an opportunity to start getting on with the business of living a life that if not monetarily rewarding then was at least a bit fulfilling. Hope was all that I was doing though since I was nowhere close to having enough money to break free and leave the life that I had somehow settled into while I wasn't looking. This settled life consisted mostly of a mindless factory job that paid the bills and gave me a little spending money on Saturday nights but did little else to further my cause.
To add insult to injury, I was holed up in an apartment with a 45 year old man and his alcoholic buddy as roommates. The arrangement had been formed out of a basic need of cheap housing and not any sort of friendship. Being less than half the age of my counterparts provided many an opportunity for insults and hostilities over the six months that I lived there. Most of these conflicts centered around the younger crowd that flocked to the apartment on a daily basis. For reasons that I have yet to understand, the presence of my friends irritated my roommates to no end. The more people that came in the front door, the larger the tension between us grew. I would have done almost anything to get out of that apartment but my friends had all hung the no vacancy sign on their doors and I was left with no choice but to swallow my pride and settle for the uneasy existence that was in reality, my only option.
It was mid-afternoon when I came home from my assembly line job, entering the apartment through the first floor bedroom window. The window had become at least a temporary solution to the problem of the parade of people coming in through the front door. The idea was to bypass the ritual of using the front door altogether and then try and avoid any sort of contact with the old folks. It all seems ridiculous in retrospect but it was working well enough.
Thankfully, neither of the roommates were home that afternoon as I sat down and peeled off my boots from my worn feet. I had just leaned back, beginning to relax and trying to forget another meaningless day in my life, when the phone began to ring. It had been no more then five minutes since I had arrived home and I just didn't feel up to the task of talking to the outside world just yet. Once you start talking on those damn things, it feels like you just don't stop. One conversation might end sooner or later but you can be sure that someone will knock on your door or dial your number within minutes of your bidding farewell to the first violator of your sanity. I found that the trick is not to start the dirty business until you feel up to it or until it becomes absolutely necessary. Following these stringent guidelines, I gave the phone the dirtiest look I could muster. Hoping against common sense that whoever was on the other end of the line would have the decency to leave me alone long enough to allow me to wallow in post work blues. I think that depending on common decency was the mistake.
The phone continued its incessant ringing despite my meanest looks and most negative thoughts. It was a determined bastard, and since I didn't have an answering machine, it seemed perfectly possible that it may just keep ringing until the second coming of Christ. Knowing that I had been bested once again, I picked up the receiver.
"Is this Mr. Rosenthal?" A disembodied voice inquired.
"This is Motorola human resources."
"Yeah?" I asked, growing impatient with the pleasantries.
"Well I'm sorry to have to inform you that you are being let go at this time."
"What for?" I asked, suddenly feeling disorientated by the unexpected developments.
"Well, you lied on your application."
"The hell I did! I even gave you a couple of real reference numbers which is a first for me." I quipped back. I didn't sound like a man that was in control of the conversation. My voice broke and cracked as I tried to grasp what the hell was going on.
"You stated on your application that you have never been convicted of a felony when our background check shows otherwise."
'Okay' I thought to myself 'I've got this under control. I see where they made the mistake. This is fixable.'
"Oh, I understand. I was never actually convicted of a felony, I'm still awaiting trial." I said quite innocently, if not naively.
"Well that amounts to the same thing I'm afraid."
I tried to explain to her the simple yet elegant idea of the Constitution of the United States. The part where they go over the whole innocent until proven guilty thing is where I spent the most time with the closed minded beauracrat but to no avail. My job was lost and I was left without a source of income. There was $300 in rent plus the never ending bills and I had no job to cover either. It was time to worry, if not panic.
To make things that much worse, I had a court date in three days that was a sort of mandatory affair. There is nothing on god's green Earth a person dreads more then a court appearance. It may be for something as trivial as a traffic ticket and you will still get that sinking feeling in your gut as you walk into the courtroom. I think it stems from the fear that somehow, some mistake will be made and you will find yourself sitting in a 12 x 8 jail cell for no particular reason. And since I was facing a much stiffer penalty then any traffic ticket carries, I was not looking forward to the ordeal at all.
I passed those three days between my termination and court in a chemically induced stupor. The hope was that the liquor and drugs would somehow cure my problems while I was unconscious or wasn't looking or any mix thereof. The least they could do I thought was provide some temporary relief from reality. My plan for the big day was to go to court and get another continuance that would keep me floating around on the streets for another 3 or 4 months in the judicial equivalent of purgatory and then afterwards go out and look for a job while still dressed in societies uniform, or as I call a suit and tie, the monkey suit.
On the day I was due in court for my big fat serving of criminal justice, I woke with a blistering hangover from the last few nights of drinking and drugging. Hangover or not, I still had to get my ass moving so I wouldn't be late for my date with the judge. The courts tend to frown upon the entire concept of being tardy for some reason. Their weapon against this is something known as a "failure to appear warrant". Kind of catchy, huh? Has a real ring to it, hell it almost sounds like some sort of magic trick or something equally ludicrous but that shit was not going to befall me, not today. I planned on making it downtown with time to spare but first I had to actually find someone willing to give me a ride since my broke ass could not afford a car of my own. I consulted my little black book for help in finding transportation.
I was never one to plan ahead. Things just seemed to fall into place most of the time without any help from me. 'Someone will give me a ride' I reassured myself as I began to punch a litany of numbers into the worn keypad of my phone.
After around twenty calls, I began to question my theory. It seemed that people dread driving other people to court almost as much as actually having to go themselves. A totally irrational fear but who can blame them? In the end I had to call my surefire ride who will agree to almost anything. That sort of personality made him a convenient source for a ride as well as amusing as hell since he would do some seriously outlandish shit sometimes.
Today though, his good natured exterior was gone and replaced by something that
Sounded a little too much like sobbing to be completely comfortable with. After listening to him babble incoherently for a few minutes, I was able to calm him enough to drag the story out of him. It should not have been surprising I guess. We all knew that he was in ill health for the last few years of his life but when I heard of Jerry Garcia's death, I couldn't help but feel a dizzying sense of despair wash over me.
It's hard for people to explain their connection to this rock deity to people who have never felt part of that particular "scene". To outsiders, he was nothing more then an aging rocker that was beyond his prime but to me, he was the mentor that I had grown up with over the years when my closest friends were the headphones in my walk-man. He had symbolized the inner revolution that I had fostered through my teenage years and late into early adulthood. The death left me almost completely without any sense of direction. Over the years, there was always a constant in our lives and that was the Grateful Dead. Now what would I do? I needed time to mourn, or to be more truthful, to curl up and weep but through all of this I still understood that I had to get to court and face my accusers. It's an age old rule that court does not stop for pain, it causes it and there would be no exception made today. Understanding this sad truth, I asked Adam for his help with my troubles finding a ride into the city. He was looking for someone to talk to in his grief so he quickly agreed to at least drive me to the train station that would run me downtown.
I was picked up on my way back from court by my brother who was waiting for me at the train station as I jumped across the tracks. He was doing me the favor of giving me a lift but I know that he also wanted to share his sorrow about the loss earlier in the day. If it wasn't for him many years ago, I may not have ever stumbled upon the way of life that enveloped me now. He was my gateway into the music and the "scene" before I was old enough to discover these things on my own. Now Jerry was gone and I don't think either of us knew what to do.
We consoled each other the best that we could as he drove the few miles to my apartment complex. As we pulled into a space in front of my building I noticed a pile of riff raff strewn about on the lawn. I didn't think much of it since my life is in a constant state of disarray and my home was no exception. I didn't realize until my brother had pulled away that everything on the lawn were actually my belongings. My roommates had decided to conduct some sort of hillbilly eviction while I was gone. I tried to find out just what the hell had happened but they refused to open the door, fearing for their safety. Looking back on that day, it seems like a wise choice not to unlock that deadbolt considering my state of mind.
I used the neighbors phone to call for a ride and then descended on Amanda's house, looking for a place to rest after such an abysmal day. Amada was only seventeen but her father was an understanding sort of guy who let me sleep there on occasion. That's what I needed now. Just somewhere I could lay my head in peace for a few minutes.
No matter how much I explained, she just could not get a grasp on the situation.
"What do you mean you got kicked out?"
"I mean that alchie and his buddy tossed me out while I was at court."
It took a few of these back and forth exchanges before she finally got a grip on the goings on and came around to helping me out with my problems.
"Well, you can probably stay here tonight but after that I don't know."
I had to find somewhere to go. This was only going to be a one night haven which was not the solution to my current troubles. For the second time that day, I consulted my phone book. Now it was near impossible to get any manageable form of conversation out of most of the bastards since the news of Jerry's death was running rampant over my social landscape. The idea that I may actually be a homeless person bolted into my head like a wild horse and was gone just as quick; leaving only a sheen of sweat on my forehead to show it had been there at all. &n bsp;
Finally, after many calls and much worrying, a distant friend came through with a surprisingly good option.
"We're going to San Francisco for the funeral. You want to come?" He asked.
Let's quickly recap. I have no job, I have nowhere to live and to be quite honest, a lengthy prison term looming in front of me
"Yeah, when do we leave?"
"We'll be there in a couple of hours. Hang in there." He said, sensing my desperation for escape.
I spent the rest of the evening sitting in the back yard of Amanda's house where there was a large pond. There was nothing to do but smoke a little weed and listen to the frogs courting one another which I suppose is not the worst way to spend a few hours of your life. We sat in a tree house that was really nothing more then a platform with a railing that had been nailed halfway up a weeping willow. It offered a nice view of the property and pond and gave us enough privacy so I had no complaints other then my sore ass from sitting on a bare plank of wood.
Amanda was a nice enough girl and even better looking truth be told, but being with her was like being in a whirlwind. She was an advocate and user of just about every drug out there on the streets. Each minute spent with her was spent doing something, anything. Swimming, talking, drinking, and snorting. It was all completely ludicrous but that was Amanda. The only way to shut the girl up was to kiss her but even then she could be so aggressive that you actually grew physically tired.
I sat there that night thinking to myself 'You know, you're sitting here with a beautiful girl, a tremendous buzz coursing through your blood and just to top the scene off, you are sitting in a fucking willow tree for god's sake. Being homeless isn't as bad as you thought it was, huh?' It was a strange thought to have but it was true. Nothing had really changed in my life other then the fact that when it came time to go to sleep, I would be doing it in the outdoors. My life was still relatively intact if you considered the big picture. If it was all the same though, I would have liked to have had my bedroom back.
I was saved from Amanda's version of Greco Roman wrestling by the splash of headlights into the driveway. It was indeed my friend Jeff, come to pick me up and deliver me to the promised land of northern California. A person that I had never seen before was riding in the shotgun seat. He seemed like a sullen little man that was somewhere near our age and was named Ivan. The three of us would be companions in our pilgrimage to the west, at least for the next week or two. I said goodbye to Amanda and promised that I would see her again fairly soon. After a sincere thanks to her father for feeding me, we climbed into the car and drove down the gravel driveway and out into the awaiting world.
The drive was eerily quiet. I for one was just too deep in shock over the day's events to hold any sort of a coherent conversation. The entire drive west was uneventful since we had chosen to do a straight shot all the way across the Midwest and into the mountains with the hope of reaching San Francisco as soon as possible. There was no time for sightseeing or the scenic routes that crisscrossed all over the western states.
When we had left Illinois, no funeral arrangements had been made yet. We were convinced that if we took our time getting there though, the god's would frown upon us and see to it that we miss the service. This was unacceptable.