So, the following morning, I head out without breakfast, on down to Salt Lake, and then out across southern Utah, through Cedar City and St. George, and through that little corner of Arizona where the Virgin River runs down through the Black Rock and Virgin Mountains into Lake Mead (beautiful country).

I get down to Vegas around sunset, but am scared off by the neon and whole spectacle of the place, so I head on down into the Mojave Desert through Barstow and into the town of Mojave for a night’s rest. But I am low on gas and low on cash. I get a room for like $20, but that leaves me with no money, 300 miles to go and 10 gallons of gas to get there.

Like I said, its going to be close.

I’ve still got one set of mountains to get over, but its only the Tehachipis (Ta – HATCH – a – pees), and the snow level’s at about 4500, whereas the pass is about 3900. As I drive through the Tehachipi pass, I can see up to 4500 ft. where the snow is happily falling, while I’m down in the rain, grateful to be within a day’s drive of the San Francisco Bay.

So, I get up onto the I-5, and start up north. I stop for a hitch hiker just outside of Bakersfield, hoping that he’ll have a dollar or two for gas, but he’s flat busted and on his way to Alaska. We ride together up the central valley, but he jumps out as the gas needle gets lower and lower (I’ve explained the situation to him), so I dig $.98 out of the car seat and put it in the tank.

Getting back on the on-ramp, I pick up another hitch-hiker, this time a penniless Dead-Head on his way up to the East Bay. So, off we go.

We get over the outlying mountains on into the East Bay, where I drop off my passenger and sell some batteries I had been carrying with me for another dollar of gas to hopefully get me over the bay and into the city.

I’m aiming for the Dunbarton Bridge, because I figure it won’t have a toll. Well, I figured wrong, it does have a toll, but it also has a free car-pool lane which bypasses the toll, and I feel a little guilty as I cruise by, but mostly now I’m just worried about whether I’ll have enough gas to get me up to the Haight. I still know some folks in the area (although Mitch Caplan has since moved to Seattle) and might be able to borrow a couple dollars so I’ll have gas to get the extra 60 miles out to Sebastopol.

It turns out the girl I had hoped would be home is not home, but I’ve got some cassettes with me which I brought along for the ride, and so I head on over to the local used record store and get about $5 for my troubles – big money! At least enough to get me the gasoline to get out to Tim’s place, so off I go, but not before picking up some homemade raspberry newtons at the local health food store (the only thing I’d eaten all day), ah yes the good old Haight! (This wonderful little corner store has since gone out of business and the restaurant Cha Cha Cha’s has expanded into their space)

And as I walk past the old Red Vic movie theater that used to be there, I look up on the marquee and see “1991: The Year Punk Broke” is playing, but I don’t have the money or the time to relive the past, however much fun it may have been.

The rest of the trip was mainly uneventful, but I did have to sell all of my Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth albums to make sure I’d have enough money to get back to Oklahoma where when I did get back to the empty house (my dad by this time was spending every night with his soon-to-be new wife) there was Sharon’s letter just waiting for me to read at midnight at the end of this hellacious December week-long oddessy to the west coast explaining that I would most likely never hear from her again.

That was when I decided for sure to head back to New York. I needed to call my Mom and check it out with her, but that was the plan – was to go back and do my student teaching at my old high school while I lived at home as this student teaching prevented working and was basically a job in itself while instead of being paid FOR it, you had to pay to DO it, and couldn’t get certified or get a decent job without it.

So there I was, at 27, moving home and going back to high school.

Ah, well, a lot of my friends were actually back in NY. Jim Maddox had moved back there from San Fran while I was in Oklahoma, and Jefferson was back there living in a studio on E. 82nd St., Dudley was living in the “Fonzie Shack” apartment above Jeff’s Aunt and Uncle’s garage, although my brother was on his way up to Toronto to work up there for a year. But, I would get to do some serious math teaching, which was the ticket to full-time work, or so I thought.

(Down East, Maine September 1998)

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