I was at a stopping place and decided to go over and see what Gardiner was doing. I would have called but we couldn’t afford phones. In fact a pound of hamburger was beyond reach much of the time. Beans and rice contain all essential amino acids. A living wage in 1970 meant we were alive. It allowed us to appreciate the finer things like Ladybug Lane. Ladybug Lane was a place in the Oakland Hills that attracted ladybugs until it turned the landscape red. Maybe there were a lot of aphids there.
Bob was home and painting, as usual. We were a little like Van Gogh and Gauguin, a couple of impoverished painters. He said a couple of friends were coming down from Eugene and they were going over to The City for Chinese food, “Wanna come?” I fished through my pockets as if I didn’t know how much money I had. “Might work,” I said.
Pretty soon the Oregon guys showed up. We put all our money together and decided it was enough, so off we went. They had a car. We found a parking spot a few blocks from Chinatown. A cable car was approaching and I was the last one out of the car and missed the cable car. If I was in Hampton I would have gone to the Chinese restaurant and found my friends but finding someone in an undesignated Chinese place in San Francisco is like shrinking government.
I wandered around North Beach and Chinatown enjoying the sights, penniless, until I ran into Tom Moy, who I had known in Santa Monica years ago. Tom was a good friend at Samohi before we moved away. He and his girlfriend were on their way to get ice cream and they bought me a hot fudge sundae. Talk about being poverty stricken and enjoying the little things!
All too soon (a familiar face was comforting) we parted ways and I headed to the Broadway on-ramp that led to the Bay Bridge (As it turned out, my future step-dad worked on that and the Golden Gate. Wow. Seven hundred feet up without a harness.) There must have been a hundred people there hitchhiking. A big car pulled up and I was part of the mob that piled in.
As we crossed the Bay Bridge toward Oakland the front right passenger started mumbling something that showed panic. He tried to jump out and we pulled him in and shut the door. We tried to reassure him things were okay, but he tried it again as we headed north to Berkeley. The driver pulled over just in time so he didn’t fly out of a moving car and he ran down the side of the freeway and out of sight.
We continued on then exited and were let out on University Avenue in Berkeley. So I started walking with my thumb out south to my home in Oakland. It was past midnight by then and a gigantic Buick Electra pulled over containing three black kids. Sweet, invincible me said, “Sure!” and I hopped in. They asked if I had any dope or money and I confessed to possessing $56 that I was keeping because it was my rent money. The kid in the back seat with me pulled out a big pistol.
I never thought I’d use this phrase but, long story short, I told them I was a poor exploited proletariat like them and there were plenty of awful rich folks around who could better afford being robbed. Next thing I knew they had driven me to my house, we shook hands and I went in to go to bed.
I opened the door to my room and found the land-lady’s cat had made a disgusting mess on my bed. I curled up on a pile of laundry in the corner and went to sleep at about three in the morning.
It sure was nice of those guys to let me live and keep my $56.