copyright rlj. 2012
Big Sur to Chatham, Ontario
4th of July, 1970.
The summer of 70 I ran away too, from our little motel in Seal Beach. It was the end of school year. We had started off in Olympia, where the family had congealed over the open wound of the year before, the cuts of mother leaving, fathers abuse, and my running away. We had lived in my sisters house in Lacey Washington, then moved to Elma, a small town where vampires would have been an improvement. Then we drove away from there, Thank God, in late winter, and I remember the feeling of arriving in Hollywood again, seeing the Vine Street exit, imagining Janis Joplin were near and in fact stopping at a gas station and seeing a beautiful hippie girl in a little convertible sports car, and curly hair and bracelets, and she smiled at me. Then we kept driving on to Long Beach, bumper to bumper traffic. One of those motels. It was always exciting to check into the motel. And father found a place in a neighboring beach town, Seal Beach, and we lived at the Seal motel, one large room with two beds, upstairs with a deck. I went to high school, I had two friends and we would hitchhike up and down highway 1 together. 4 and 20 was out, it was like holy water, country girl, that was us, and the Rickie-Tina-Seebu combo (Nevermind) practiced how to stand when we held our arms out. Should we stand to the side, or face the traffic. For it surely was an art back then, to invite the right car. Two guys in a van playing – what is that – thats the Almond Brothers. Oh. Smoking pot and listening to the Almond Brothers.
Who can say why, I don’t know why. I was on my way to return something to a friend, and as I walked across highway 1 I stuck my thumb out.
Perhaps I am paying now in so many ways for this one act. For the horror it must have brought my parents. Because when I was busted a month later they no longer lived there either. It was like I had the power to dissolve the fragile family that we had become. I leave the stop existing. Imagine the power and the guilt.
I went back to Big Sur but in the evening I got a ride to Muir Beach, the town just before the clefts start. The highway flanked on each side by motels set far off the road, there were other travelers. They had sleeping bags and coats. I stood around looking in need but no one offered to help, so I pulled my dress up over my head and shivered. Then I got up and went to phone booth and called my mother. I heard her voice. All I wanted to do was say Im sorry, I messed up. With all my might, all I wanted to do was say come and get me. But something… her anger… her possible anger… and my excitement about being out there… I heard her voice and hung up. Laying in the fog by the water, I shivered and cried all night and in the morning I caught a ride to salmon creek.
I was looking for where I would get dropped off… there were not as many travelers as the summer before. And then I saw a man in a blanket with a sign that said ‘food’ and said this is where i get off. I walked up to him and said, you have food? He said no Im asking for food but you need something? And that was how it was then, everyone was welcome, and everyone shared everything. I made my way to the cave, and there I lived for a few weeks. I met a boy and went to Santa Monica with him for a few days. He wore brightly colored corduroy jeans, and i have worn those every since, for to me they not only represented someone who had money to buy clothes, but the bright colors of another kind of life. He was a dancer. And after a few days when I was surely miserable, he took me back to Big Sur. But on the way was the famous Jimi Hendrix story, and I will not tell it here.
Of all the people I met that month, the Triple Scorpio boy woman, who wore robes and begged for food, Mario and DeeDee Watts, the most important is the Texan who had been caught with a lid of dope and sentenced to 20 years I think. He was driving around the US before sentencing, deciding if he would go back or runaway.
There was a night around the fire when one of the hippies said ‘tomorrow we are all leaving, lets all hook up again. Chatham Ontario, on July 3, two weeks from today.
And so it was that we all started our journeys east, to see how many of us would make it, and what our stories would be. The new yorkers, the canadians, the texan and me, and others I suspect. This the the story of the journey east, and what happened when I got there.
Rickie Lee Jones