A Travellerspoint blog

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The Guys at Sausalito Shell

I want to tell about the guys I work with at the gas station, for they have helped make it a fun (or funny) place to work. First of all there’s the boss, Herbie, a short stocky man from Boston, with a strong accent. It’s his station, so maybe that’s why he gets so “enthusiastic” about it. He helps us, if he’s there during a busy rush, and he is a rush to watch. He runs around yelling at the customers, “All the way UP, pull all the way to the front pump!!” “Whatta ya want?!? The Supa?! (super unleaded) It’ll reach.” When I first saw him doing this, I thought, “I can’t work up that much enthusiasm over pumping gas.” But later I saw that we only act like that when Herb’s around or when we get pissed off at the customers. Anyways Herbie’s not around much. He’s got two guys that are more or less supervisors, Joel and Paul. They make the schedules and do the hiring. Joel works days and he reminds me of a television character. He’s probably in his mid-30s, a little fat, talks with a New York (?) accent and walks with a bowed head and a determined pace. He’s generally pretty serious but he talks more on-the-level with you than Herb does. Paul works mostly second shift and is maybe my age. He’s pretty quiet and serious about the job, but has a good sense of humor.

Google Street View image from 2011

Google Street View image from 2011

Now we get into the rest of the guys, the real characters. Konnie, the guy who usually opens in the morning, is a retired guy and says he works there for something to do. He got bored with walking the dog all day and wanted to be with some people. He’s a good guy. And funny, too. He’s got a voice like a combination of Lou Costello and Curly of the Three Stooges. He wears a Shell baseball-style hat that hides his balding head. He’s real easy to talk to and tells stories about the old days, his elaborate sandwiches, people that come into the station, and about anything in general. The regular customers like him and call him by name. He kinda reminds me of my Dad, how he gets along with us younger guys. And then there’s Bob Roundin. Bob is what I would call the male version of a California “valley-girl.” He’s real “energetic” about everything and anything, which has given him many nicknames, such as Rapid-Roundin, Rappin’ Robert. He’s been known to chase cars down the street to dry them off or close their gas-cap door. If someone comes in with a certain kind of car, he’ll talk for 5 or 10 minutes about how some relative of his had a car JUST like it, only it was a different color, year, and/or style. And when he’s telling a story his body sorta emphasizes it by doing a weird Steve-Martin-type dance. And the words he comes up with! Like when I sold him a picture of his car I’d drawn. “That’s STOKIN’, dude!!” or “Hey, that’s killer!!” The guys and I can’t usually remember most of his words, in writing. Even the way he asks people if they want a car wash, usually gets this weird look from the customer, like, “What’s with this guy?!” When I first saw him I thought he’d be fun to talk to and work with but now I’m glad he works mostly days.

Brot, Rich, and Bix

Brot, Rich, and Bix

The guys I usually work with are Brot, Robert “Bix” Bixle, and Durward. Bix is another slightly crazed guy, or maybe uninhibited is the word. He’s a little older than me, shorter, with hair that doesn’t stay where he puts it. He’s trying to move up in the company by working at an auto-detailing place called Car-Craft, also owned by Herbie. But he’s working more and more at Shell, due to the lack of employees, especially the last 2 weeks I’ll be there because Konnie’s on vacation. He’s in the Bay Area because he wants to get a band going here with the more open music field. He says that more bands play their own music here. Bix is fun to work with. He uncontrollably whistles and hollers at pretty women. Twice now he’s surprised me by pointing out the 1st and 2nd girls he’d had sex with since coming into town. I don’t know if he’s kidding me or not. It’s also funny how he mocks the way Herb yells at the incoming cars, “Move ’em up!!” He recently bought a ‘68 Rover from Herb and had a lot of trouble with it, but he loves it.

Durward is a tall, thin guy with very long thick hair and a beard. He looks like a hippie or a vagabond or a burn-out but he’s really a responsible worker. He works construction week days and at the station on weekends. He just moved here 6 months ago from Colorado, when a friend of his, one drunken night, asked if he wanted to drive out to California, and they did. He’s pretty quiet and drives me crazy with the music he turns on when he works nights. “Long versions” of funky black music. Nasty. Durward surprised me by telling me that he’s only one quarter away from having a degree in Journalism, or an English major. He’s a writer and said he was currently reading “Lord of the Rings” for the 3rd time. This sparked some interest in me, but I found it difficult to talk to him about any of this. He said he lived in his car for a while when he first got out here, and he’s showed me that there are a lot of transients living in Sausalito. An interesting contrast with all the rich folks that live there. But now, to stay away from the ridiculous rules and costs of renting an apartment, he’s renting a room from Brot’s family. Brot is the guy I probably work with the most. Brot is short for Brotten, he said. He is 20 years old and reminds me of your typical high school kid. Aside from the fact that he says he’s working to support his mom and sister. He says he screwed up by failing school last year, so now he’s got to take 12th grade over again, plus work full time. He was heavy into cocaine last year, I guess. Brot and I have a pretty good time working the late shift on the week days ’til 12:00 and weekends ’til 1:00 a.m.

Bix, Rich, and Brot, a little later!

Bix, Rich, and Brot, a little later!

Anyhow, that’s them. I just wanted to describe the crazy crew that works at Sausalito Shell.

Posted by VANagain 10:33 Comments (2)

Girl Traveller at the Beach

Sept. 21, Friday, I guess. Today I finally met somebody who is travelling in the same style as me. Ya know, pull up stakes, and head out with no time limits or real destination. I’d stayed in Sausalito overnight last night and was looking for a casual spot in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to eat breakfast. I actually found some picnic tables that I could park close to (the first I’ve seen in the Bay Area). I parked next to a black pick-up truck with a girl and a dog sitting on the tailgate. After I got things set up and got the bacon cooking, I went over and asked if she minded me parking there. Maybe she was enjoying the rare solitude in the area. Of course the only reason I asked was to start a conversation. I said I noticed she was from New York. She said she’d been travelling for 4 weeks (actually 2 weeks driving and 2 spent in the Bay Area). She looked like she wasn’t sure about talking to me and started to go towards the driver’s door as if getting ready to leave. We stood there and talked about our travels a bit. I noticed I was standing a ways away from her, sort of subconsciously trying not to scare her away. But when I knew that I had to tend to my burning bacon over at the picnic table, I decided that she could either leave or come over. She must’ve figured I was safe because she and her dog, “Honey Bear,” came over and sat down. We ended up sitting and talking for 2 or 3 hours.

Google photo of Rodeo Beach in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Picnic tables on the right.

Google photo of Rodeo Beach in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Picnic tables on the right.


Google panorama from here

It was a beautiful day, with the ocean just behind me, and I really enjoyed hearing how someone else was travelling. She was another talker. She even admitted that she has a problem with interrupting people and talking a lot. And she was right. Her interruptions made me nervous about what I was trying to say, but reminded me that what she had to say was more important to me than what I had to say. She’s got a topper on her truck, but has so much stuff in it that she sleeps in the cab. She has no stove and had no cooler until she finally bought a cheapy a couple days ago. She’s much more tight about her money and spending than I am. She said that she was getting a little tired of life on the road. No wonder, I thought. She’s really roughing it. Plus she hasn’t known anyone in any of the states she’s been in, so she hasn’t been able to get back to civilization at all. She did say that she’d met some good people while travelling and has a glove box piling up with addresses for “if you’re ever in the neighborhood again” type deals. And she mentioned a bicyclist she’d met in Colorado, a guy, who I think she may have gotten close with. But he had to continue bicycling west and she couldn’t go that slow so she said she’d meet him on the Golden Gate Bridge on her birthday, next Sunday.

Anyhow, I had to be to work at 4:00 and she wanted to walk with her dog, so she took off down the beach. I really wanted to make some plans or somehow tell her that I thought we should do some things together. She’d mentioned how lonely she got and I’d said I’d like to have a fire on the beach with someone. But all I could manage to arrange was to tell her maybe I’d see her tomorrow in the same place and we could splurge and cook up a good meal. She said, “Maybe I’ll see ya tomorrow.” Well, I’ll let you know...

This is probably the place—the only beach that I could find using Google Maps that has a parking lot near picnic tables in Golden Gate Recreation Area

This is probably the place—the only beach that I could find using Google Maps that has a parking lot near picnic tables in Golden Gate Recreation Area

Sept. 22nd Sat. Well, I did go back to the Golden Gate Rec. Area to find the girl’s truck in the middle of the beach parking lot, where she’d spent the night, no doubt. I said hi to her and her unfriendly dog. She then walked to dog and I ate breakfast. Then she suggested that we hike up into the hills around there, which sounded like a good idea. It was another beautiful day and I wanted to see what was over the hills. It was very enjoyable until after an hour or so, I realized that she wasn’t too worried about how far or long we walked. I kinda wanted to make up some hamburgers and potatoes for the two of us and I mentioned that I had to be at work at 4:00. No problem; I had nearly 3 hours to get there. But we got kinda off the beaten path and ended up blazing a trail thru the brush and as it was I got to work 10 minutes late. Before we parted ways I finally thought to ask her name. It was Nanette. (I’d already known that her dog was “Honey Bear”.) When I left I wished her a good trip, said it was nice hiking with her, but made no attempt to make plans to meet with her again. I’ve been trying to put my finger on what I didn’t like about her or whatever. I’ve wanted to make sure, since I met her, of how I felt about her, and not be merely caught up in our similarities in lifestyles and/or traveling. I mean she seemed to be my age (though she wouldn’t say) and was sorta attractive. Maybe it was the lack of interest she showed for me. Maybe I’ll talk to her tomorrow, maybe not.

The view we may have seen on our hike. I don't remember. And of course I didn't take any photos. This is from Google.

The view we may have seen on our hike. I don't remember. And of course I didn't take any photos. This is from Google.

Posted by VANagain 00:37 Comments (0)

Rose Marie

Sunday. My day off of work. I was sitting in back of my van, feeling kind of awkward. I sat a moment to decide why and figured it must be the freedom of the spare time and all the things I wanted to do. I used to get this feeling back home on weekends or evenings when I had no plans. It was either the problem of deciding what to do first or (even worse) finally getting time to do something I’ve been telling myself I want to do, and wondering, “Do I really want to do this?” when it comes down to it. The last couple days I’d been telling myself that I would enjoy some time spent reading out in the sunshine. Just take it easy.

I decided not to go see if Nanette was still hanging out at the Golden Gate N.R. Area. Instead I went to the North Beach area, where I phoned my brother Bob, and my buddies David and Jeff. But I decided it was too cold there so my van ended up parked across from the Palace of the Fine Arts.

Palace of Fine Arts park benches where I met Rose Marie - Google

Palace of Fine Arts park benches where I met Rose Marie - Google

After eating a sandwich, I walked across the grass towards the pond in front of the Palace. I had one of the sci-fi books I’d bought and I was wearing my leather vest (which I hardly ever wore—probably because nobody else did). It was a nice sunny day, but the wind had a touch of fall in it. I looked at the other people around the pond, but saw none sketching the Palace, as I’d seen the other times I’d been there. I wanted to talk to someone new and figured a sketcher would be a good choice. I saw a park bench in the sun and sat, down a ways from a woman in sunglasses. (Nearly all women I’d seen in the Bay Area wore sunglasses). I read a few paragraphs and realized that I kept stopping to think of something to say to this woman. After a few glances at her, I thought, “She is just sitting there. She’s not doing anything but smoking a cigarette.” Everybody there was doing something. There were bird-feeders, readers, photographers, tourists (also taking photos), picnickers, and sunbathers.

I closed my book on my forefingers, looked at some pigeons flying by, then looked at her. I think she was looking at me (hard to tell with those sunglasses) so I said, “Hi.”

She smiled, curious and/or amused at my saying hi after several minutes had passed since I sat down, I imagined, and said, “Hello.”

“I just thought I’d ask what you’re doing. I mean you’re just sitting there. It seems I always have to be doing something, like reading,” I said, gesturing with my book. “I can never just sit and relax.”

“I wanted to get out on such a nice day and sit in the sun,” she said, with a nice accent, that I later learned was German.

We talked, still sitting a ways apart until people sitting down on either side of us caused us to move closer. She said she lived a couple blocks away and I started to lie and say that I lived in the Richmond area, to separate me from all the tourists there. But I’m not a good liar and ended up telling her of my travels from Minnesota. She said she loved to travel, had visited a lot of places, and lived in Frankfurt, Germany, Paris, and now in SF. We fell into the “heavy” kind of conversation that I like so much. We both agreed that most anyone can, by setting goals and a certain amount of discipline, live the way they want.

I looked at her and asked, “How do you live?”

“I try to take things pretty easy and do all I can to have a good time,” she said.

“That sounds like some good priorities,” I said. “Most—some people don’t feel they can do that. They don’t think it’s right.”

“Yes. They feel guilty,” she said. “The Bible has taught them that they have to suffer or something, because Jesus died nailed to a cross.”

She didn’t believe much in the Bible. I felt the same. She told me about a book she’d read that rationally explains some things in the bible called “Holy Blood, Holy Grail.” I told her I’d look it up.

We talked a bit more. Her name was Rose Marie. I said I was Rich, and she said, “Oh, as in Richard?” The sun was starting to get low and into our eyes, and I thought maybe she wanted to be moving on, so I suggested we walk around the Palace.

“No, I really was going to be getting back home,” she said, looking at her wrist and finding no watch. She asked the two old men next to her for the time. They said, “After five,” and tried to get her (or us) into their conversation, sort of. She looked back at me and said, “We could walk this way a bit,” gesturing towards where she’d said she lived.

We walked a couple blocks and talked. I asked, “How was one to know exactly what one wants?”

She said, “You travel around and live for a while and you get to know what you want and what you don’t.” She’d mentioned she was 42, and had lived in SF the last 16 years.

Eventually we stopped at a doorway that she said was hers. I didn’t want to leave but went into my, “It’s been nice talking with you,” stuff and she started to say goodbye but then invited me in to see some paintings her ex-husband had done that we’d talked of earlier.

“What a contrast to the ‘flat’ I’m staying in,” I said, when I saw her beautiful and expensive-looking place. The paintings were nice but I was just as impressed with the rest of her furnishings. My hopes that had been building of getting to know Rose Marie better stopped right about then I think. Subconsciously, at the time, I realized that we were in different leagues despite our similar views on things.

When I started to run out of things to say, and she didn’t suggest anything further, she said something about having to get ready to go out to dinner with friends. Again I said that I enjoyed talking with her and was glad I’d made the effort to talk to her in the park. She wished me a good trip and called me “Rick—or Rich, isn’t it?”

Google Street View photo

Google Street View photo

Walking back to the van, with the bright sun in my eyes, I decided that I would have made arrangements to meet her again if I weren’t leaving town in a week. I knew I’d be working mostly nights all week long.

A couple women were walking the other way, talking, and it sounded like one said, “Rich.” I looked up and thought, “No, they’re not talking to me.” Then as they walked past me I clearly heard “twenty years older. Can you imagine?” “How could they...” I thought, “No. Impossible.”

Rose Marie had told me that she doesn’t have the trouble of never-enough-time. I wished I would’ve had the opportunity to learn the secret to having time from her. But I made no attempt to remember her address.

I can appreciate a painting that looks like a photograph. And I readily enjoy a book that really captures the feeling of real life. But then there are photos that look like paintings. And what do you do when life starts to resemble fiction? Can you and should you do anything?

Posted by VANagain 11:22 Comments (1)

Last day at Sausalito Shell

Sept. 30th. Sunday night. I’ve just finished my last evening of work at Sausalito Shell. It was another slow one, like last night (I washed my clothes then, in the washer at work). I finished the drawing of Joel’s truck and took a couple photos of me and Brot and Bix. Today was the only day I had to work in the rain (and it was only a drizzle). It gave the place a whole different feel. Brot had a rare night off, but came in to have a “tall one” (Coors), shake my hand (twice), and say goodbye and good luck. “We were the best night shift team yet!” he said. I feel kinda sorry for him (as well as the others) stuck working there. Brot was pretty envious of my travelling, he’d said before. I’ve got to go back to Shell tomorrow morning to get my last check and then cash it, along with two others, at the Bank in Sausalito. Then I’ll cross the Golden Gate Bridge for the last time and say goodbye and thanks to Harry & co. (if they’re there). It should feel good to travel again!

Bix, Rich, and Brot, having a “tall one” on my last day

Bix, Rich, and Brot, having a “tall one” on my last day

A man came into the station on my last day with Colorado plates on his car. While checking his oil we were talking about nothing in particular. When he was ready to go he asked, “Are you looking for work?” I told him no, and about my travelling. He gave me a hard look and one of his business cards, and said, “You ask good questions. I like the way you think.” He told me briefly about a computer installation business he ran in various states. Said to send a resume, remind him of where I met him, and see what happens.

Posted by VANagain 09:34 Comments (0)

Leaving San Francisco

October 1st. Another Monday begins yet another leg of my journey.

My last view of San Francisco from Sausalito

My last view of San Francisco from Sausalito

After running around Sausalito and thru downtown San Francisco, I finally hit the open freeway this afternoon. Clippin’ along through yet-unseen parts of the southern Bay Area, it felt like I hadn’t stopped travelling to work at all. Listening to KFOG (-FM stereo) as long as possible, I took South 101 along the Bay down through San Jose. Once again I was struck with the “responsibility” (?) of the trip. There are so many places to go to and try to see what they’re like. Maybe it’s typical of me to spoil the freedom of my travels by worrying about what I’m missing. But I don’t want to waste this opportunity to check out, first hand, the places I go thru that interest me. Just driving through a city on the freeway and looking right and left doesn’t tell you much. And when I do pull off and drive around town, all I do is get lost or turned around. After all, how do you know what to see or where to go in a town you’ve never been to before? I get to wondering just what my PURPOSE was when I set out on this trip. Look for a new place to live? One can live anywhere. A lot of people do. OK, I said I’m escaping winter. Well, everyplace in California is relatively warm all year round, as any geography book will tell you. Maybe the thing to do is to make a point of seeing anyone I know in cities I go to, and have them tell me what to see and how it is. That’s worked well so far. And in the other towns, just make an attempt to talk to people living there. And like Dad said, “Take lots of pictures.”

Well, I’m glad to have my destination, Texas, as a sort of purpose.

I read a couple chapters of Blue Highways before going to bed, to try to get myself back into the travelling mode. I can see how the author was able to write such a thick and amusing book: He puts down all the entertaining and enlightening conversations he had with the people he met. And I wonder if I should be doing the same. I started to, back in the Red Book, and noticed that the pages get quickly consumed.

Like all the people I dealt with while working at the gas station; should I write all that down? Ya know, all the “rich” folks that would come in, with their European cars, fill up at the full serve side, and have a car wash (for $3) done on their already clean cars. And the black folks who came from Marin City, across the freeway, with their beaters or Cadillacs and get $3 worth, or 5 bucks, and pay with a $20 bill (never failed). Or the beautiful, scantily-clad women who always got great service, whether they were at full-serve or self-serve. Paul said, in one of his casual (and surprising) humorous comments, that the women of Sausalito got together and had meetings to decide how to drive the guys at Shell crazy.

We had a guy come in a panel truck with a big sign on the rook that said, “IMPLEMENTS.” Now I thought I knew what that word meant, but couldn’t figure what it meant, seeing it by itself on top of his truck. I went around to the other side to collect the gas money from the guy, and noticed there was also a price, $30, and an example on the roof. It turns out that he made his living, I guess, selling implements, “The best, all-purpose tool for gardening and farming,” he’d said. It was just a long wooden handle with a wooden Y-shaped thing on one end.

And just a couple days ago Bix and I saw a big old Step-Van pull in that was all painted up with psychedelic designs (peace sign up front). “Looks like it drove up out of the ‘60s, doesn’t it,” I said to Bix. I noticed a for sale sign on the back, asking $1,000 for it. I asked the driver (also directly from the ‘60s) if it was really worth that much. He smiled a hairy smile and said, “It’s gotten me away from Park Patrols, Highway Patrols and Police many a time.” I didn’t understand so he lifted the engine cover and told how the hyped up racing engine would beat any street machine around. Then he gave me a brief sales pitch about how he “deals in anything made by nature: Herbs, plants, etc.”

Then there was the lady in the four-door pickup. It’s roof had been ripped off and had been repaired with sheets of plywood and I had a feeling she lived in the truck. She had straight, short, gray hair, only one front tooth, and was dressed like a street person. But she talked real intelligently. She had paid me $15 and started pumping gas. And then she went into this elaborate conversation full of analogies about how an intelligent person’s ideas don’t guarantee success due to people stealing their ideas and marketing them themselves. She bitterly compared herself to a termite in a house thought to be safe, but given time the little termites will bring the building crumbling down on the owners. She went on and on and I was desperately trying to catch on to what she was getting at. She finally drove off and left me wondering why some street-people sound so intelligent (or at least have intelligent-sounding arguments). Then Brot came up and asked if I collected $19.45 from her! He managed to catch her before she left. I was disappointed in her.

Posted by VANagain 15:01 Comments (0)

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