Rune Rofke - Glenn Emery
Yesterday was my first day in San Francisco after a month on the Ideal City Ranch up in Boonville, California, in Mendocino County. It was clearly a month that has altered my life -- completely changed me for the good. It was the time I found God.
Just about 5 weeks ago I came to San Francisco for no good reason other than the fact that I had nowhere else to go. Our little band of travelers was down to Jerry and me. Everyone else either had to go back to school or had to be somewhere else.
Jerry and I were on the side of the road outside of Yellowstone. He had changed the oil on the van, letting the dirty oil spill on the ground. He didn't care. I also had learned that Jerry kept stolen phone card numbers in his wallet, which he used to make long distance calls all over the world for free. He told me he got them from somebody who worked for the corporations that owned the numbers. He said the calls look like any others on the bill and they would never find out. Ripping off big companies was not a big deal to Jerry. He didn't see it as illegal. He even gave me one to call my dad back in Dover. I was surprised how easily it worked. I kept the number in my wallet for a long time, but I never used it again.
I didn't know where to go. I was hoping Jerry would ask me to come with him to California, but I didn't say so. He asked me what I was going to do and I told him I didn't know. Then he said he wished I'd come with him to San Francisco, which is what I wanted to hear, so I said yes.
We drove all night, picking up hitchhikers until the van was almost full. The van was an old work vehicle that had two side doors that opened wide. They didn't stay closed too well, and Jerry had put a hasp and padlock to keep them closed. I guess he forgot to put the padlock on after we picked up a hitchhiker because somewhere during the night along the highway in the desert, while I was driving, both doors suddenly flew open. We never could tell if someone had fallen out or not. We didn't know how many people we had picked up. Somebody had been leaning on the door, but no one knew if anyone was missing, and it was too dark to see down the road behind us. Jerry locked the doors and we drove on. Somebody gave us an 8-track of "Dark Side of the Moon," which we played all the way to Reno.
The sun was just coming up when we got to Reno. Everyone bailed out and went their separate ways. It was just me and Jerry again. We had almost no money and we needed gas. Jerry said we could make it playing blackjack at the 50-cent table. I didn't think it was a good idea. I had always heard that when you gamble you lose everything. But Jerry said we would make enough to fill up the tank because he knew how to play. I believed him because he was a lot older than me, so we went into the nearest casino and headed to the blackjack tables. The casinos were nearly empty at that hour and we were the only ones at the table. Jerry told me all we had to do was stick on anything higher than 16 and hit on 16 or lower. It worked and about 20 minutes later we were about $5 richer. We filled up the tank for about $3.50 and spent the rest on the cheap breakfast at the casino. Then it was back on the highway. We reached San Francisco that afternoon.
The next day, Jerry left me alone with the van. I cruised around San Rafael, Novato and Mill Valley, looking for Grateful Dead houses and whatnot while Jerry tried to talk Imoe into coming east with him. I came into the city the next day.
Jerry hadn't wanted me around because he thought it would be weird for me and Imoe since we used to live together in Atlanta. But it wasn't, except for Jerry. Imoe and I got along fine. We even took a walk around the city a bit. She was staying at 269 Frederick Street in the Haight-Ashbury district, where her ex-husband Michael lived. Imoe didn't want to get back together with him. She just needed a place for her and her son to crash until they could find a place.
She told me Michael was an artist, but I only saw one thing he did. It was an ink drawing of a woman's leg in a fishnet stocking with wings and lots of little weird details, sort of like the Yellow Submarine. There was a big one in a frame in the bedroom. It was really well done, but I saw it in smaller drawings all around the house too. I wondered if maybe Michael only had one picture in him and he did it over and over.
Anyway, Imoe and I were walking in Golden Gate Park and she was telling me she couldn't get into Jerry but she could get into me but that she also understood that I had things to do. After I got together with Karola at the Grand Canyon, she had told me she realized that when I had moved in with her on Clifton Road in Atlanta that I wasn't expecting to have a family. Her little boy Jason was a handful, and sometimes I lost my temper. One time he went out in the rain in his slippers and I hit him on the bottom with my belt because my dad had done that to me once or twice and I thought it was OK. But it left a big welt and a bruise on him, which was bad because he was only four. Another time I thought throwing him in a creek was the way to teach him to swim. He was so scared and screamed so loud that Imoe ran into the creek and pulled him out. Both times I thought I was right and I got angry about it.
She and Jason had left me with Karola at the Grand Canyon three weeks earlier. Now we were walking through Golden Gate Park and she was saying she still wanted to be with me. I just said how crazy and uncertain our lives had become, living a very vicarious day-to-day existence, that we didn't even know where the next meal was coming from, yet that was OK because something always came along. But I also said I felt I had done everything I had wanted to do up to that point in my life and I wasn't sure what I should do next. My exact words were "I feel I am at the end of my rope." I didn't mean it in a negative way, just that I had run out of options, but I also felt something good was about to happen.
At that precise moment a small but very dynamic young man walked by. He was with a cute girl, but he was the magnetic force of the two. We exchanged hellos. I remember being struck by his smile. It was too big for such a casual situation. I actually mocked him as we walked on, exaggerating my face into a huge toothy grin. He suddenly called back to us and said, "Would you like to come to dinner?" Without thinking I said yes to a free meal.
His names was James Brooks and he had the most brilliant and fascinating blue eyes. He handed me a pamphlet that had his address on it. He told me he lived with a group of people who were living according to some principles. He kept saying that word, "principles," repeatedly, but I didn't know what he was talking about. I didn't consider it important. I was only interested in a free meal.
I told Imoe afterward that I had a feeling that he was a very magical person. I also said I had a feeling this is what I had been looking for, yet I didn't know why. I didn't understand what he had said.
I went to dinner that night. Neither Jerry nor Imoe was interested.
The address was a very nice townhouse in Pacific Heights, a posh neighborhood overlooking the bay. The outside was in good repair, and the inside was spotless. I was asked to take my shoes off. I thought that was odd but I did. Everyone was so friendly and happy. I was sort of put off by their straight appearance. I was obviously too cool for these people. But I thought I could humor them for an evening. They sang songs like there was no tomorrow and I went along. Somehow I had a great time.
The food was not remarkable, strictly vegetables and brown rice, but I was happy to eat anything, especially if it was free. I didn't really get to eat much because I was surrounded by James and three other people, including some cute girl, who kept asking me questions. I noticed they didn't eat at all. They made me feel like I was the most fascinating person they had ever met, and it made me feel really good. Before I could get seconds the food was taken away and we were herded into another room with chairs. I thought I'd go home after the meal, but apparently some entertainment was planned. Somebody with a guitar led everybody in songs that were a little too loud and enthusiastic. I knew they were putting on a show of exaggerated joy, but I saw no harm in it. I wanted to be a polite guest and then I'd leave.
Somebody named David, the leader of the group, started talking about three blind men and an elephant and how nobody could agree on what the elephant really was. And then he told a story about starving people at a banquet loaded with the most delicious foods in the world, but they only had 10-foot chopsticks to eat with. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn't use the chopsticks to eat. Then someone used their chopsticks to feed someone else and then everyone started doing it and that's how they all finally ate their fill.
David also said they had a big farm up in Mendecino where people lived and raised food. That sounded perfect to me. Someplace I could hang out for a while, do some honest work, while I figured out what I was going to do next.
We sang a couple more songs and James said they had a bus that was going to the farm that night and I could go if I wanted. I told him I did. But then he told me I'd have to pay and my heart sank. I told him I didn't have any money. David came over and James told him what I said. David said if I got the money I could come to the farm on the weekend. Before I left, James invited me to come back the following night for dinner. I went back to Frederick Street, really wanting to go to the farm but feeling I probably wouldn't get to because I was broke. I tried to convey to Imoe and Jerry what a great time I had, but they were skeptical.
The next day, a Thursday, Jerry and Imoe dropped the last of the LSD and went out to Point Reyes. I took care of Jason. I knew this was going to be Jerry's big push to get Imoe to come back to NY with him, but I also knew she'd probably say no. When I asked them about Point Reyes the next day, all they could say was they had seen a seal and that it was a good acid trip (but apparently could have been much better).
The next night I went back to Pacific Heights for what I thought would be another free dinner. This time, though, they asked me for $1. I told them I didn't have any money and they let me in anyway. The program was exactly like it was two nights earlier. Even the songs were the same, and the stories about the elephant and the chopsticks were almost word for word. But all I cared about was whether they'd let me go to their farm, even if I didn't have any money.