A Travellerspoint blog

September 1984

Cousin Joy

I stopped in to see Joy Kingsbury, my cousin, and her daughter, Amy. I had an old address and went to San Rafael, CA to find out she’d moved to Valley Ford, CA, which was on Hwy. 1. Turns out I’d gone right past her house without knowing it, earlier that day. Oh well.

She lives with her boyfriend Gary in a house out in the country next to the town’s only gas station. She said things were real slow there. She wishes she still lived in San Rafael, or better yet, in San Diego. As it is she couldn’t afford to live in San Rafael or real close to San Francisco, so she’s out in the boonies. But her job she’s had is so important that she commutes 100 miles to work each day. Sounds like a good example of what California is like. Tough to find good work and cheap housing.

Well we’ll see about the jobs, anyway. I’ve been looking for work since I hit the “Bay Area.” Virtually every gas station I’ve been to in Novato and San Rafael has a Help Wanted sign in the window. In fact I’m right now parked in a lot next to a Shell gas station. It’s got a huge Help Wanted sign, so I’ll talk to the boss tomorrow morning. Joy says San Rafael is a good town to live in, so I could work here a couple weeks. I’ve also got a number of a temporary agency in the area I’ll call on Tuesday. Of all the times to come into a city looking for work, I come in on Labor Day weekend. Most everything is closed ’til Tuesday.

Posted by VANagain 01:46 Comments (1)

Renaissance Faire

Now speaking of Novato, a couple I talked to (Mike and Lindie) in a State Park in northern California gave me a list of places to see. Lindie told me about a Renaissance Faire that takes place in Novato sometime in August or so. So on my way back from Joy’s place I stopped and asked in Novato and, whatta ya know, the Faire goes on for six weekends in August and September!


I dug out all my clothes that I’d used last year at the festival in MN, but alas, I didn’t bring my sword along. I shoulda known better. This morning after checking on a gas station job, I headed out to a valley in the country near Novato to find a setup remarkably like the one in Shakopee, MN. It’s funny; they’re both on Hwy. 101. I splurged and paid my $9.50 to get in and $2 a beer while in there, even though my money orders were quickly dwindling.

I had a good time, although I missed having someone along, like John from Data Card (we went to the festival last year). I’m always happy to see the amazing amount of beautiful women that show up at these fairs, wearing colorful and skimpy clothing. People love the rare chance to wear outfits of medieval times: daring, gallant, bright, simple, and intricate. There were a lot of impressive outfits and the actors working there put on some elaborate and amusing shows all around the rest of us.

There are interesting paradoxes or contrasts here, though. A lot of fair employees dressed in elaborate costumes of old, carrying hi-tech walkie-talkies. Pretty girls in old-style dresses and chromed sun glasses. A big man looking like Friar Tuck, laden down with video recording equipment. But I suppose that’s to be expected. A woman working there (from LA) said what she liked about the fair is that people from all walks of life show up and enjoy. They come from all over California for this.

I guess the biggest fair of this type goes on in Los Angeles in May and June. Who knows, maybe I’ll be there.

Seeing all the folks of olde got me thinking of myself, the traveler, and how it would be to be traveling in medieval times or as in “The Lord of the Rings.” But, as Marilyn said back in Portland, OR, I’m probably living in the best of times to travel. We are very mobile these days. And she’s right. I bought my van for $300 and hopped in it and I’ve seen a lot of the country and covered 6,000 miles in six weeks. Hardly possible in the days of the settlers or King Arthur.

A guy I talked to at the Renaissance Faire had another good point about these times. He admitted to being what he called an ex-hippie or leftover hippie. We were talking about slipping through the cracks and making a living and he said, “Things are changin’ at an incredible pace. People are making fortunes out there, doin’ just about anything. Just get out there and grab a piece of whatever you want. It’s all there for the takin’. Of course it’s all gonna fall in in about 10 years or so. Then we’ll have to dig in and hang on.”

Posted by VANagain 10:19 Comments (0)

San Francisco

Being that no jobs are to be had before tomorrow, I decided that I’d take today, Labor Day, and run around San Francisco. After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco, I gave Harry Clark a call. He’s an old buddy of my brother Steve’s and had stayed at mine and Nancy’s house awhile back. He immediately told me to come to his house when I told him I was in town. He rents a 2-bedroom place in a triplex in northwestern SF, an area called Richmond on the map. We talked about my family a bit and he told me I could make myself at home. (He said “Leave the door open when you leave.” It seems that in California when they say that, they don’t mean unlocked—they mean wide open! No bugs, I guess.) There are already two other people living here besides Harry, and he sleeps on the couch. “Gotta rent out my room to pay the rent,” he said. Then he lent me a map of SF, told me a few places to go to, and took off to do some work. He paints houses, I guess. So I took a shower and went out to see the city.

The view from Twin Peaks with the Golden Gate Bridge in the fog in the distance

The view from Twin Peaks with the Golden Gate Bridge in the fog in the distance

First I went to the top of the Twin Peaks, two tall hills in the center of town. Amongst the radio towers and tourists, I stood, with a 360-degree view of SF, the bay, the bridges, and the fog-covered ocean. From there I headed for the waterfront and Fisherman’s Wharf, more or less taking what is called the 49-mile scenic drive. This route took me to many good sights, including Fisherman’s Wharf, saw Alcatraz Island, the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, the ocean beach, the Palace of Fine Arts, Sunset Blvd., and to an art show going on in Golden Gate Park.

The Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts

Alcatraz Island, as seen from Fisherman's Wharf

Alcatraz Island, as seen from Fisherman's Wharf

There’s a unique kind of architecture to be seen in SF. It’s an older style and mostly white or pale buildings. I think it looks like, from a distance, a foreign seaport city. You’ll see some Greek or Roman looking buildings cropping up in the middle of things, like the Palace of Fine Arts. And the “houses,” or apts. (or whatever they are) are of an older style but are in good shape. They are real close together and neat looking from the front, but kinda crowded looking in the back. From Harry’s place you can look into a lot of the neighbor’s windows and hear their radios. I suppose that’s life in the big city.

San Francisco's crookedest road, Lombard Street. Coit Tower on the hill.

San Francisco's crookedest road, Lombard Street. Coit Tower on the hill.

Now about the famous San Francisco hills. 17% grade?! Most mountain roads are 10% at the worst. It makes for a neat looking city though. And lots of buildings get a nice view. (Good thing the roads never get icy here!)

The Golden Gate Bridge is funny, too. All along I thought it was supposed to be gold in color. Hell, it looks like primer red. And no one ever calls it the Golden Gate Toll Bridge, but they get a dollar from you every time you cross it.

But, all in all, I think Labor Day was a good day to see the city. There were a lot of people takin’ it easy in the parks and the wharves, but all the business traffic was gone. I think I’m going to sleep in the van in front of Harry’s place and call a temporary agency tomorrow morning. I just don’t know whether to work in SF or one of the cities around it, with more breathing room. We’ll see....

Posted by VANagain 11:39 Comments (0)

Looking For Work

Sept. 4th, Tuesday. Look for work day. I was a real responsible person and got up at 7:00 a.m. to call up some employment agencies. Bright and early, you know. Well, as a guy staying at Harry’s told me, the agencies don’t open up ‘til 8:30 or 9:00. Doesn’t make much sense to me. It does explain why we could never get any temporaries until afternoon back at my old job.

So at 8:30 I went to one by Harry’s neighborhood and they told me they didn’t need anyone in the category that I fell into: light industrial, they call it. which I guess is about right. Blue collar type work in a white collar business. So I had to go to one downtown. There I filled out lots of forms, took some tests that sounded easy, (weren’t) and now I have a number to call twice a day to see if they have any work for me. Fun. I feel like I’m accomplishing nothing now.

After all that I walked around the Haight-Ashbury area. I’d heard of it, but didn’t know much about it. Only that it was big in the 60s and they put out some underground comix from there. I looked through some comic and book stores, and saw a purple building called the Jimi Hendrix Electric Church. I didn’t check that one out.

Then I remembered to call the artist that Don Black had told me to see. I arranged to meet him tomorrow morning at 9:00 at some coffee shop. He said he would look forward to meeting me.

That evening I ate supper and watched most of a Star Trek episode at Harry’s place. Sorta felt like life back home, except for the new people that show up at his place. New to me anyway. Another pretty girl, who has known Harry for a while. And a guy from Austria.

Anyhow, still trying to accomplish something, I went around the corner to wash clothes. Good thinkin. Now this one was my kind of laundromat. You could talk to the people! And they’d talk back! (The ones who could speak English, that is.)

I talked to a man (around 40-ish) who was from New York. Called SF a small city. I asked him my question I’d started asking a few people. “Why do you live in SF if it’s so difficult to do so?” He said he like it here. Good people. He hasn’t been back to NY since he’s moved out here 5 years ago. We talked about traveling, drinking, the service, and mostly lifestyles. We felt the same about the unnecessary expensive lives that most people live. “I just scrape up enough money for the rent and utilities. Then if there’s any left that’s fine. If not, that’s fine, too,” he said. His advice on drinking was, “Don’t drink just because your down or depressed. Just tell yourself now that you won’t and you won’t.”

Then after my clothes were done I noticed a pretty girl who’d just started her clothes, and was standing out by her car. It was a nice night and I was in no hurry so I started talking to her. Asked her why she lived here. She said she was from Michigan or Missouri, somewhere in the Midwest, out in the country. Told me about the lesson she’d learned and the concessions she’d made, moving to the big city of SF She was a real talker, which I like. I wanna hear all that folks have to say.

“I come from a huge family. And from the country. I’m a trusting person,” she said. “I’m nice and responsible. But I learned that not all people in this city are that way. In any big city, I imagine.” She’d lost money and things to people she’d tried to live with. And she’d given up a lot to live here. She’s been living in affordable places sharing the rent, had most of her stuff in storage, her dog in a kennel. But now she’s tired of that. She’s going to get a bigger, more expensive place with a yard and all the stuff that she’d had back home. She’s moving up. If she can find a place. And someone to share it with. She’s planning on splitting the $1,000 a month rent. Now she’s paying $700 a month. And she wants to get rid of the Ford wagon economy car she’d bought new back home. She always has to explain why she has it. She’s gonna get a sorta beat up convertible foreign car.

When her clothes were done, and we were out by her car again, I told her it was interesting talking with her. She said she like to talk. Then she said (sorta out of the blue), “Well, I don’t live with anyone--I mean I live with my brother. If you need someone to talk to or something. He’s in the book. You can get ahold of me there.” She gave me her brother's name. I asked her name (Debbie) and told her I might call her sometime.

The next day, Wed., I went to see the artist, James, at the coffee shop. Easy to find, impossible to park. I think in a big city like this that you’re better off without a car, and if you do have one, you don’t move it. You’ll lose your parking spot. (They say that a lot of SF is good for walking to places. I’ve walked quite a ways already, to the store, to Harry’s from where I parked).

Anyhow, I found James “hangin out in the coffee shop” like he said he did every morning. Introduced myself. I felt uncomfortable around him. Sorta the way I feel around Harry. I can’t put my finger on exactly what causes this; something to do with their own confidence or something. James listened to how I met Don Black and my questions about Art. (My mind sorta went blank when I finally had the chance to ask someone.) He showed me some slides of his paintings that were currently in a show somewhere. Real colorful, Picasso sort of things, abstract and figurative. He said he always knew that he had to paint to live, never just a hobby. It’s taken him 15-20 years to get to having a gallery selling his stuff. Said you can’t work full time and be creative. The suburbs also kill creativity. When I asked him how to pay the bills when you’re not working, he said don’t have any bills (real helpful). Also said that you can’t starve in America. One of the reasons he said when I asked, “Why SF?” was the light. The combination of the sunlight reflecting off the bay, the fog, the buildings, etc. make for beautiful light. Not to mention having a great view from nearly anywhere, due to the hills. And he’s right about these two points. They were all reading the papers so I told him I had to go and might talk to him again.

Posted by VANagain 09:22 Comments (0)

Back to Work!

Throughout the day-and-a-half since Labor Day I have felt like I had to accomplish something in this job hunting, and quick. Enough of this applying and we’ll get back to ya. And enough of this big city shit. So I headed back across the Golden Gate Bridge up into Sausalito, the closest suburb to where I’m staying. I stopped into the first gas station I hit. I asked if there were any job openings, filled out a real small application, and within 10 minutes I was putting on a yellow Shell shirt to “see how I do.” It was just what I wanted to hear: Go to work.

It was nice of Google Maps to take this photo since I didn't think to in 1984. It still looks about the same.

It was nice of Google Maps to take this photo since I didn't think to in 1984. It still looks about the same.

On the job at Sausalito Shell

On the job at Sausalito Shell

But I’d have to admit, it was tough! It turns out they’d just fired a guy the day before and another was going back to school. Aside from my usual immediate discouragement that hits me when I start a new job, I hadn’t worked for 6 weeks. I had a lot of wimpy thoughts go through my head, while they were showing me their routines, like, “I just want to be camping in the wild,” or “I can’t/won’t learn all this.” But, as usual, I’m fortunately not strong enough, yet, to just up and quit a job, especially after just starting. After a while I told myself that I had done this before. I had worked at two other gas stations when I was 5 years younger and it was wintertime! But the thought that really pulled me through was that my old buddy Sean had done this sort of stuff, working at a car wash, and really mastered it. (I forgot to mention that there is a car wash attached to the station.) If he could do it, of course I could do it. Or else it didn’t say much for me. Towards the end of the day I was managing to catch on, somewhat, to their procedures. I realized it’s a lot like my old office job; there’s a certain order of doing things most efficiently. I’ve just got to get it to become second nature. By the end of my 8 hours, I was marked on the schedule for every day through the weekend, at least 8 hours a day, with varying shifts. Perfect.

I feel pretty responsible now. I’ve got money coming in, instead of only going out. And it’s not so bad working outside during the best time of year in California! And there’s all the pretty ladies that come in to the station! This whole city is filled with them. So now my main concerns are how long I’ll have to work there before I can hit the road again (of course I told them I’ve moved out to SF to stay), and where I’m going to stay the whole time. I don’t think I want to live in the city with Harry the whole time (although I’m quickly getting to like the people and the luxuries of the house). I don’t feel good about using his house.
My work commute

My work commute

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