Fleeing California

Like Warren Buffett’s opinion of windmills, my opinion of college came with a caveat, not without subsidies.

My dad was a stockbroker and 1970 was a down year. We talked about the future. He couldn’t afford the money and I couldn’t afford the time.

Sure, I learned some interesting things, like how to budget my time, unlike high school where I was treated like a child or a convict. I learned that white is all colors. A prism or a rainbow separates it into different wave lengths (or colors). Black is lack of color. Most of all, I learned that criticism is a gift, not an offense.

I hung around Oakland for a couple years after that, somehow making a living. Frugality is a key component to that. Beans and rice have almost the same amino acid balance as steak. But things were going downhill. I took a job in Sausalito, across the bay north of San Francisco. I hitched over there and spent six nights a week sleeping on the dining room floor. I did all the maintenance inside and out, helped the cook, and washed dishes. I was allowed to eat anything there but steak, and have all the beer I wanted.

Meanwhile, the students and other misfits who lived at the Oakland Avenue house drifted away and were replaced by junkies. My record collection along with every other thing of value went into some jerk’s arm so he could throw up on my compost pile. And those records cost $2.50 apiece! While I was busy at the restaurant, my house seemed to change overnight, like a sped-up version of the State of California.

I had a plan. Well actually I didn’t. I went to Sumitomo Bank to draw out my $56 rent money for the month, having given up on Peter Sellers adopting me. When my passbook came back I found that there were 120 extra dollars in my savings account. The landlord was due to stop by for the rent the next morning so I went “home” and crashed for the night. I handed over the $56 and said it would be my last. He looked at me as if to say, “I don’t blame you and good luck.”

That next week I was weeding the pea rock around the restaurant and pulled up a dandelion. Wouldn’t you know it, under those spreading leaves was a folded $100 bill. I think I ran in and kissed the cook but I can’t remember for sure. Actually, I can’t remember the name of the restaurant either.

The cook had a 1959 bug and sold it to me for $200. If there was anything I thought to be important besides starting and running, it was stopping. So I grabbed my Idiot’s Guide and rebuilt the brakes. The cook said two week’s notice was too long so he let me work another week. I stopped by the bank and closed the account, basically stealing the money. Let’s just call it an unemployment extension. Basically the same thing.

My crazy friend Cary and I painted the roof silver to keep it cool inside and headed east, staying on gravel whenever we could. That bug only went half as far on a gallon of fuel as the modern VW we have now. And some power hungry maniac didn’t mandate it to be so. The better mileage was accomplished through a desire for profits.

Those who have heard this story before know that I paid back the bank. 

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