"On The Lamb"
It didn't seem like a good idea to go directly home since the authorities may be looking
for me there, so I hitch-hiked to Philadelphia. I'd only be an hour or so drive from my
parents' home in New Jersey.
I met some hippies in the park at Rittenhouse Square and told them I was looking for work
and a place to stay. I was taken to the office of the Distant Drummer, the local underground
newspaper. That night I slept comfortably in an overstuffed chair in their second floor office
at 1609 Pine St.
The next day, I sat on the front steps of an old brownstone and sold newspapers which had
been fronted to me. A young woman stopped to buy a paper and talked with me for a while. When
I told her that I had just gotten to town, she invited me to stay with her until I got my own
She took me home and introduced me to her younger sister who shared her apartment. Then
she left us alone together. Her sister was very aggressive and immediatlely kissed me, took me
by the hand into her bedroom, and began to remove my trousers. She sat me on the edge of the
bed, got down on her knees in front of me, and, welcomed me to Philadelphia!
I continued to sell the Distant Drummer without any hassles from the police. It wasn't
long before I found a cheap room above an ice cream shop on Pine St., just a few blocks east of
the newspaper office.
I met lots of young liberals who bought the paper and discussed politics with me. An
Italian man that I talked with, almost every day, often spoke of his desire to open a
restaurant. We discussed our ideas on the subject and found that we had a lot in common.
There was a very small restaurant on the first floor of 1609 Pine St., just below the
Distant Drummer office. It was very new and was operating in full swing, but, when the
present owner found that he could not get a liquor license, he wanted out of the lease. My
Italian friend and I decided to go into a 50/50 partnership; his money, and my ideas and hard
work. He agreed to be a silent partner and allow me to manage the place as I saw fit. We
bought the business for $5,000 and took over the lease.
It was less than a month since I'd escaped from jail in Key West!
I named the restaurant the Nifty Noodle. It was quite small and only seated about
22 people. The walls and ceiling were white. The only color was in the table cloths of red
and white checkered oil cloth. The place was too bright, and so stark that it looked like a
hospital dining room. I decided to redecorate a bit.
All of the employees were laid off, but, I asked them to stay, help redecorate, and then
work strictly for tips when we reopened in a week. To my amazement, they all agreed.
The owners of the Distant Drummer, upstairs, gave us stacks of old underground newspapers
that they had received from all over America. We spent a full day going through them picking
out the best art work, poems, cartoons, and centerfolds. We deceided to make the cartoon
character, "Fat Fredie" of the "Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers" our mascot, since he always
had the munchies.
We completely covered the walls with the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, using it as
you would wallpaper. Then we papered with underground news print at different angles. Finally
we put up our selected pages and painted it all over with two coats of orange shellac. The walls
were now very easy to clean and had an aged appearance. Once we were opened for business, we
found that customers, in order to read various parts of the wall, sat at different tables
each time they came to eat.
For the remainder of that first week, I ran the restaurant alone. I put a sign in the
window that read, "OPEN 24 HOURS". When a customer came in, I would seat them, take their
order, prepare their meal, bill them, and take their money. To get some sleep, I placed two
chairs in front of the door and lay across them. When a customeer came in, the door would
hit me, and I'd jump up to wait on them. In this way, I got to know what hours were the most
The menu was varied, with anything from sandwiches to a complete seafood dinner. The prices
were outrageously low because I had no payroll. The waitresses worked strictly for tips and
the cooks got free room and board. We slept in rooms in the basement.
It didn't take long for the word to get out. For lunch, local business people got in line
out on the street, waiting for a table in this new "hippy" restaurant. In the evening, we
allowed musicians to jam. On Friday and Saturday nights, we stacked all the tables and chairs
up against the wall, as people danced and ate sandwiches standing up. All I did was walk
around filling peoples cups with complimentary coffee.
The Nifty Noodle was one of a few restaurants in town open after the bars closed at
2:00 AM and was usually busy right up 'til we closed at 4:00.
On Sunday we "officially" closed at midnight. I'd individually tell my regular customers
to stay. When everyone else left, I'd lock the door and the weekly private party would begin.
The kitchen was open for anyone to help themselves to food and drink. There would always be
plenty of pot and LSD!
Whenever my partner came in, it was to collect money for the rent or to make a paymnent
to the bank on the $5,000 loan. His wife kept the books. The only payments I made were for
food, which I paid in cash upon dilivery. My right pocket was for daily receips and payments.
At the end of the day, any money left, went into my left pocket. If one of the cooks needed
money, I just gave it to him out of the left pocket. The waitresses made fabulous tips and
I had a very long list of girls who wanted to work for free. We placed a sign in the dining
room which said, "THE WAITRESSES' LIVELIHOOD IS THEIR TIPS".
Our customers were always ready to lend a hand if they could. When I needed a printed
menu, a "starving" artist offered to do the art work in exchange for a few meals. The menu
looked like a page from a "Zap Comic".
For the first few months of the operation, business was strictly hand to mouth. Even though
I always covered the daily costs and monthly payments, my partner wasn't satisfied. He would
slap his pocket and say, "Since business is so good, why don't I ever see a profit here?"
I tried to explain to him that we were building a great business and paying off the loan. We
shouldn't take any money from the business yet. Soon enough, there would be profit. He never
understood. I had never taken any money for myself, being perfectly happy with just room and
None of the equipment in the restaurant belonged to us. The former owner had gotten the
food purveyors to supply everything. The soda company had installed the soda dispenser. The
meat supplier loaned us the slicer. The coffee supplier, the brewer, etc. I got a call from
the ice cream man one day. He informed me that we didn't use enough ice cream to warrant the
loan of the freezer which they supplied us with. They were going to come and take the freezer.
We needed the freezer for more than just ice cream. All of our portion-pack entrees were
After much thought, I called the ice cream company and explained, "Please find out how
much it will cost you to send a couple of guys over to haul this freezer away. They'll have
to take our rear door off the hinges to get it out. The freezer will probably go into storage
in your warehouse until you need it somewhere else. Then you will have to move it again."
"I'll call you back", he said, and did, offering to sell the freezer to us for $50!
That night, I asked each customer, as they came in the door, for a dollar donation to help
buy the freezer. We had no problem raising the extra $50 that night.
The next week-end, my partner raised all the prices on the menu. His wife frantically
rushed around reinstructing the waitresses, while he stood at the entrance demanding a dollar
admission! Many people got mad and left, never to return. Then, his wife broke the
dishwasher by dropping a spoon into the circulating fan. We had to start hand washing the
I began to have second thoughts about the partnership and started to look for a place of
my own. I located a furniture warehouse just down the street, which would be available as
soon as the furniture was removed. I planned to make it into a dance hall with live music,
and have a window in the back with take-out food. I knew I could do it with very little
initial expenditure. When my partner got wind of my plans, he offered the owner of the
warehouse more money than I had, upsetting my plans.
To make things worse, an ex-girlfriend, who possibly was jealous of my new girl friend,
began to tell people about my escape from jail in Key West. It was time to get out of town.
I discussed my misgivings with my partner, we assigned one of the cooks as manager, and
I left the Nifty Noodle with $28 in my pocket.
It was early spring when my girl friend and I arrived in New York and found a crummy
little room to rent on Times Square. She went to work as a cocktail waitress in a little
dive and I spent my days going to $1 triple feature movies on 42nd street. Each night we
would look thru the paper for an appropriate job for a long haired, bushy bearded hippie.
I went to an interview for a job at the Electric Circus on Saint Marks Place. The
manager said that I was perfect for the job and hired me to operate the "head shop" and hot
The Electric Circus had been the hottest place in town in the 60s, but now, had gone down
hill. It was a huge place with loud rock and roll music and lots of psychedelic lights.
When I worked there, it was busy, but the customers were a little rough.
The hot dog counter was right next to the "carousel room", which was the place where pot
smokers would indulge. It was a very dark, round room. You would sit on seats against the
wall or sit facing outward on the slowly revolving carousel in the center. You would light
a joint and pass it to the person in front of you, and when he would pass it, there would be
a different person there. In this way the pot went round and round, back and forth, to
Just outside of the "carousel room" were bleachers which afforded a view of the main
entrance. Bikers, who were hired as bouncers, sat there. They didn't allow any pot to be
smoked outside of the "carousel room", and would warn people who were smoking inside, if they
saw a narc come in the front door. I sold roach clips, but most often, people would just hand
me their lit roachs as they came out. This would keep me in good supply. I'd put the roach in
a clip and finish it off under the counter!
I ran into a friend from Key West who shared a second story loft with a gay ballet dancer.
The loft was directly across the street from the police station in Little Italy. It was a
safe place for hippies, since the police never look for trouble in their own back yard. My
girl friend and I were invited to share the loft.
Unforturnately my girl friend and I had just stopped having sex. She had recently
admitted to me that she had never had an orgasm in her life. I guess my ego was too deflated.
I just lost interest. When my friend tried to hit on her she decided to return to Philly.
The third story loft, upstairs, was occupied by another dancer who was in an off-Broadway
production of "Dracula". My roommate told me how she would throw herself on the floor when
she was "horny". It sounded crazy, but, now and then, there was a loud thud.
I had met her a couple of times. but wasn't much impressed. She was not very attractive
and talked a mile a minute. One night though, when she had just hit the floor, I was in the
mood. I went upstairs and knocked. The door opened wide and there she stood, totally naked!
"Wanna fuck?" she asked me matter of factly.
I wasn't really ready for this kind of quick action and asked her if I could sit down and
have a cup of tea and talk first.
She fixed me a cup, stood quietly next to me while I drank it nervously, and then
encouraged me to touch her. I slowly, and gently, ran my hand from her shoulder down her back
to her hip. She pulled away from me and shouted, "Get out!" She ran to the door, pointed
down the stairs and yelled, "Get out!"
Dazed and confused, I left.
I stayed in the loft in Little Italy for a couple of months saving much of the money that
I made at the Electric Circus. I accumulated about $200. I'd been on the set of a Sofia
Loren movie where a friend was working as an "extra". He and his mother were going to sponsor
me into the Actors Guild. The $200 would have covered the cost of a photo portfolio, which
I needed to get started as an "extra".
My roommate was working on a marijuana deal and encouraged me to give him my money. He
said when the deal was done I'd have the $200 back and more. Several of his friends and I
waited in the loft one night for his return. One girl had given him $500.
The phone rang and we were told that all the money had been stolen. He never returned.
I later heard that he had been seen on a Harley Davidson motorcycle which he had bought for
a cross country trip. It would seem that the money had been stolen.
There was a man who sold $5 bags of pot on Saint Marks Place. I bought a bag from him
that was truly knock-out weed. I sat in Washington Square one night with a friend, rolling
the last of the pot, when a cop came up behind me, reached down over my shoulder, and snatched
the partially rolled joint from my hands. I was taken to the police station and booked for
When we arrived at the police station, the officer led me up a flight of stairs, down a
hallway, and through a doorway. Then, we turned around, went back out the door, and down the
hallway to the interrogation room. I was supposed to be confused, but thought it through, and
felt I remembered which door in the hallway led down the stairs to the street.
While being finger printed and interrogated, I feared they might discover that I was wanted
for escaping from jail in Key West. I had created some ID while in Philadelhphia with the
alias, Donald Robert Keats.
I watched for every possible chance to make a run for it.
I pretended I was sick, and when no one was looking at me, I bolted into the hall and down
toward what I remembered to be the exit door. Two policemen were in hot pursuit.
I swung open the door, which I thought to be the exit, only to be looking into a broom
As I spun around, a cop was standing directly in my path. Over his shoulder I could see
a "MEN" sign over the bathroom door. I quickly ducked under the officers' outstretched arms,
past him, and into the mens room. I crashed into a stall and pretended to be throwing-up. I
flushed the toilet and stepped out. I don't think the cops knew that I had tried to escape.
A lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union came to my cell in the morning and asked
what I'd been busted for.
"A very small amount of pot", I told him.
"Don't worry, I'll get you off".
An hour or so later, I walked into court, the ACLU lawyer said something to the judge, and
I was released.
While sitting on the steps of the Electric Circus, I noticed a lovely young woman walking
by who looked very familiar. I stopped her, recognizing her to be my teenaged lover from
Washington DC, now in her 20s. After some conversation I told her that I wanted to make love
"Well, I have a boyfriend. He's bi. You should meet him. If he likes you, maybe we
could have a menage a trois."
I asked to visit, which we did. Her boyfriend was very nice and good looking. I
explained that I was straight. He said that was OK, and we set a date for our affair. I
was to supply the pot.
I found the man with the great $5 bags, handed him the money, and put the bag in my
I arrived at the apartment of my two friends, we went into the bedroom, took off our
clothes, and climbed onto the bed in a circle. I looked at how beautifully sexy this lovely
girl was. I was extremely excited. I took the bag of "weed" and dumped out the contents
to roll a joint. As the contents of the bag spilled out, we all three gasped. There was a
pile of parsley and oregano!
With the passion of the moment lost, I dressed, apologized, and departed.
I went to Saint Marks Place to look for my dealer. I met a guy with some acid, bought
a hit, and ate it. I continued looking for the pot dealer, to trade the phony bag for good
The acid started to come on real good and I began to freak out over the fake pot I was
carrying around with me. --- What if I got busted again, only with a bag of spices? --- What
would a cop do if I were to walk up to him, hand him the bag and say, "Officer, I found this,
and feel it may be dangerous. Would you get rid of it for me?" --- What if I did give
it to a cop?
Now the bogus bag was making me nervous. I didn't want it to freak me out and ruin my
trip, so I went back to my hotel room. I wanted to return the bag to the dealer, but holding
it would definately give me a bad trip. I decided to throw it out the window. I stuck my head
out and watched it fall, like a leaf, down three stories, to land at the feet of a cop who had
just stepped out of a door at street level. He leaned over, picked up the bag, and quickly
looked up at me! I pulled my head into the window, quickly gathered up my rolling papers and
other paraphernalia, ran down the hall, stashed everything behind a commode, and, ran back
to my room, where I waited, freaking out, for the knock on the door, which never came. Damn
...my acid induced, fantasy head-game had come true. I had given the fake pot to a cop!
With no savings and the summer almost over, I looked for something elso to do. There
was a great deal of talk about a commune in Vermont where New Yorkers were being encouraged
to live. The rock band, Canned Heat had apparently purchased the property and was giving
it to anyone who wanted to live there. I hitch-hiked up with two runaways. A black girl I
knew and her Puerto Rican girl friend.
It rained most of the first day as cars drove past, splashing water on us. The second day
we went hungry and our last night on the road was bitter cold. We squeezed together under
our single blanket at the side of that New England road, shivering.
We arrived at the "Rainbow Commune" to find it inhabited by lots of young people from
New York who were living in tents and make-shift shelters. Some were digging large deep
holes which were covered with lumber and dirt to survive underground through the long
freezing winter. There was a group who lived in large teepees and called themselves the
"Hog Farm". They had been instrumental in feeding the throngs of people who attended
"Woodstock" the previous summer.
The huge property which bordered Canada had been clear-cut of timber a few years before,
but was now green and beautiful. It was interspersed with large stands of forest which
hadn't been cut.
An underground railroad for Vietnam draft resistors into Canada was quietly in operation.
The commune is now known as "Earth Peoples Park" and I feel was the birth place of the
present day "Rainbow Family".
The two girls who traveled with me found men they liked and stayed with them. I was
offered a tar paper teepee which had been abandoned by another camper. Someone else gave me
a light weight sleeping bag that was plastic on one side. I kept dry but not warm that first
The next day was exciting as I explored, met people, and walked around naked in the warm
sun. There was a stream where we swam, bathed, and lay out in the grass.
There was a nice warm campfire that night. To everyones' delight, I told the story of
A girl who called herself "Betty Boop" invited me to spend the night with her in her
sleeping bag. When we climbed in together I was aware of how warm she was and how very cold
I was, especially my hands. When I held her close she flinched, so, I put off making love
with her until my hands could get warm. I tucked them under my arm pits and clenched my
arms thightly to my chest.
Our small-talk-conversation to kill a little time got serious when she asked me, "What
religion are you?"
"I have my own religion", I explained not wanting to tell her that I was an atheist.
"Aren't you a good Christian?" she asked, as if she were.
"Why, no", I admitted, being honest.
"Get out!" -- "What?" -- "Get out!"
I pleaded with her that I was a good person and that it was cruel of her to "turn me on"
and then turn me out in the cold.
"Oh well", she said, "do what you guys do and then get out".
So, I did what us guys do, for myself, and crawled off to my cold, tar paper teepee,
swearing at myself, and to myself, that I would never, ever again, tell a prospective lover
that I wasn't a "good Christian".
The next morning the lovely "Betty Boop" was gone, and all the good Christian boys who
had been makin' it with her, were pissed at me. I guess she had passed the word before she
left that I was the devil incarnate.
To do penance, I shaved off all my long hair and my big bushy beard. Now, my head and
lower face were all white. My head also had little scabs all over it from the dull safety
razor. To make things worse, my head got sun burned, and when my hair started to grow out,
the skin peeled and lifted away from my scalp. I was a mess. For the rest of that week, no
self respecting little bouncing naked waif would even look at me, much less want to get
intimate. All the other guys were having their fun, but I got board and decided to leave.
Things changed a little though, on my last night there. Everyone was disgusted with the
awful cooking that was going on at the community kitchen; good food, being made into bad food,
through chemistry, over an open fire. I told everyone that I would prepare a spaghetti dinner.
I took up a collection and walked to the store for supplies.
The spaghetti dinner was a great success. I was asked not to leave, and several of the
little cuties actually came on to me a little. Now, it was my turn to be cool, and like a
fool, I snubbed them.
Early the next morning I headed for New Jersey to see my family. I went to my
grandfathers' farm. I didn't expect that anyone would be looking for me there.
The news was bad. My mother had spoken to the police in Key West, who, at first,
thought I may have drown trying to swim to Christmas Tree Island. My mother, father, and
sister had been to my restaurant in Philly and knew I was OK. My cousin, Roger, had
wandered into the "Nifty Noodle" one night and was shocked to see me alive. My mother, "for
my own protection", had been telling everyone that I was dead!
To make things worse, the fingerprints from the New York City bust had been processed.
The authorities now knew that I was alive. I was now also in violation of crossing state
lines to avoid prosecution. The FBI was looking for me!
My family was angry and disappointed with me. I'd been taken off their will; disinherited.
My mother told me that I should leave and not come back. I did just that...for over ten
I began my first, cross country, hitch-hiking trip with California as my ultimate
destination. Donald Robert Keats was no longer a safe name. I had to travel without any
ID. I called myself Robert Owen.
In the year 1824, the Welsh industrialist, Sir Robert Owen, came to America with money
he had made operating successful textile mills in the British Isles. He established one of
the first socialist communities in the New World. New Harmony, Indiana, boasted a planned
community with clean homes and profit sharing for employees.
Robert Owens' son, Senator Robert Dale Owen, helped establish the Smithsonian Institute
in Washington D.C. and worked toward freeing the slaves. He also was one of the first
renowned Americans to publicly advocate the use of birth control.
Since some true Owen blood runs through my veins via maternal blood lines, I felt very
comfortable calling myself Robert Owen.
I was used to hitch-hiking. I'd done plenty from Washington D.C. to New Jersey when I
was in the Navy. There is little I remember of the trip to California, other than my one
night in Boulder, Colorado. I hung around a park where several hippies were doing their
thing. One fellow had drawn a small group around him, so, I stood around, watching and
listening. This young guy was recruiting people to go with him up into the mountains and
camp out for the night near Nedderland.
"There's a place I know where it's beautiful, with huge trees, fresh water, and beds of
pine needles to sleep on."
I began to get interested when I realized that several people had decided to go with him
and there were about an equal number of girls as guys. Some of the girls were rather
attractive, especially one girl who was obviously taken by him.
We "hitched" up the mountain in small groups and met at the side of the road where he'd
already arrived. We had to cross a fallen tree over a turbulent rock filled stream. We
It was truly a fabulous place. The trees were enormous and towered over the clearing
where we were to camp.
We gathered wood and built a fire as it had become quite cold.
We huddled around the fire, wrapped in our sleeping bags. Our host immediately began
to "work" his captive audience.
"Love is the most important thing. We must love each other. Lets hold hands. We are
here in this special place for learning and healing. Our energies are mingled...Let's
stand, holding hands...Let's chant...Oooouuuummmmmmm...Do it with me...Oooouuuuummmmmmm."
I stood there holding hands with strangers around a campfire and I wanted to be somewhere
We sat back down, curling up in our cozy cocoons. He began to grill us on how love was
the most important thing, and how we must all love one another. Then be began to talk about
sex, and how that is the best way to show love.
"The energy that you create with sex can work miracles. You just direct that energy.
Now let's stand and hold hands once again. Hold hands...Now lets breath deep...
Ooooooouuuuuummmmmmmmmm...That's good. Now hug the person on your left."
I hugged the girl on my left. She was rather ordinary looking, short, and when I held
her, my face was just above her hair which smelled dirty.
"Now hug the person on your right."
I turned to face the guy next to me. He looked at me as if he were going to cry.
Obviously he was taken with the moment. When he opened his arms to me, for a second, I
didn't think I was going to hug him. I was really uncomfortable, but I did it anyway.
"Now let's hug all around."
So we hugged all around. It was not too bad until I had to hug our "host". He held
me too closely. I was really uncomfortable. This guy was a phony. I felt it in my gut.
This fellow was trying to mystify these kids into having sex with him.
I said something to the effect that this was a "crock", and retired behind a tree to
curl up in my sleeping bag.
The game around the campfire just petered out after I "broke the spell", and I
definately felt bad vibs coming from the group, aimed at me.
Later that night it rained like all hell. I rolled over, pulling my sleeping bag with
me, and curled up. The bag was the one given to me at the Rainbow Commune and had plastic
on one side. The rain ran off me like off a ducks back. I pulled all my possessions up
under the plastic backing and stayed warm and dry, although a little uncomfortable.
The next morning everyone was soaked to the bone, cold, and angry. Not angry at
"Jughead" for bringing them up here in the first place, but at me, as though I were the
devil himself and had caused all of their discomforts on my own.
I was warm, dry, bright and happy, relishing the moment, as I left to hike further up
the mountains to Nedderland, leaving the soaked group behind to sulk, and search
their confused souls for some bizarre accountability.
I arrived in San Diego, California, and got a room in a flea bag hotel near Balboa Park
with the rent paid by the Welfare Dept. They also gave me a little blue punch-card which I
took to a local Mexican restaurant. The cheapest thing on the menu was hot cakes and eggs
which I ate with lots of butter, salsa, salt and pepper. I'd go there for two or three meals
a day in order to make the small amount of money represented on the card, last all week. I
worked for this privilege at City Hall, where I did gardening two afternoons a week. I liked
the setup, so I never looked for a regular job.
Most of my time was occupied hanging around Balboa Park with other drifters and welfare
recipients. The nights were usually very active with lots of pot smoking and chasing women.
Everything for me in San Diego went to hell when the Welfare Dept. found me a job as a
cook in the filthiest, "greasy spoon" restaurant I'd ever seen. The joint catered to
alcoholics and smelled of cigarettes, BO, and booze. I didn't want the job. I told them
in my interview that I was an alcoholic so that they wouldn't hire me. The Welfare Dept.
told me that I was "cut off" and took my food card and hotel room away from me. I pleaded
with them, explaining that I loved the job as gardener at City Hall, but, they said it
was not, nor was it ever supposed to be a permanent position. I left San Diego penniless
and headed for Los Angeles.
I went first to LAX, Los Angeles International Airport, determined to get a flight to
Hawaii. I approached everyone who seemed to have anything to do with the airport. If they
wore a uniform, I'd ask them if they knew of a way for me to get a free flight. I spent
several days living in LAX trying to get to Hawaii. I'd sleep on the carpeted floor with
other people waiting long hours for their flights and I got free food at a restaurant in
the terminal which served a cup of potato salad or coleslaw with their sandwiches. Many
people never even opened the cups and would just leave them on the table when they left.
I'd walk nonchantantly through the restaurant and pick up the untouched containers from
the tables and took them off to be eaten as I got hungry.
I found some free entertainment to while away some of the time. One of the seats that
had a built-in TV was out of order. It was stuck in the "on" position and didn't need a
quarter to be operated. When I'd get finished watching, I'd turn the volume all the way
down and turn the contrast to black. It appeared to be "off". When I'd return, I'd just
turn the volume back up, adjust the contrast, and watch all I wanted.
LAX "free living" was rather cushy. But, after a week of having spoken to hundreds of
stewardesses, pilots, service personal, and counter persons, I'd not found my free ride to
Hawaii. The only offer I'd received was a free flight to England on a chartered plane
which had dropped its passengers and was headed back to London, empty. Because I didn't
have a passport, I had to turn down the offer.
I went to the LA Marina, to see if I could get a private boat headed for Hawaii. I
offered my services as ships' cook or crew member for free passage. After several days
of speaking with people there, I only got reports of boats that had just recently left or
weren't going for a long time in the future.
I headed for Redondo Beach, hoping to raise some money to pay for a flight to Hawaii.
When I arrived at the Redondo Pier, I joined up with a group of homeless kids that called
themselves "pier rats". We frolicked on the beach and hung out on the pier.
I found a secluded platform under the pier, out over the water, where workmen could
access the pipes of one of the restaurants. There, I made a little home for myself by
stretching and tacking up canvas bags to make a small "room" where I kept my belongings and
laid out my sleeping bag at night. After a couple of days, someone found my hideaway,
tore it up, and took my sleeping bag. I moved into a "cave" in the rocks above the beach
where several kids had made their homes. There were places where you could crawl in
through openings between the huge rocks and find large cavities where you could stretch out on
There was some money to be made on the pier. We "pier rats" would pass a hat and
then take turns jumping off the pier to entertain the tourists. We made the most money
during the "red tide" which is a condition where the water is teaming with tiny
phosphorescent creatures that "light up" when the water is disturbed. At night, when we
jumped the twenty feet or so off the pier into the water below, the splash was like a
display of fireworks and made our performances even more exciting. There was a restaurant
on the pier that liked the crowds we would assemble for our jumps in front of there
business and would give us lots of food at very low prices from their take-out window.
So, once again, I had a good living and lots of leisure.
I made friends with the cooks at our favorite restaurant and was asked if I wanted
to make some money toward my ticket to Hawaii by helping in the kitchen each night. I
wasn't on the payroll, but was accepted by the management as though I was a regular employee,
which meant I had free food privileges. Each night, just before closing, I'd start to clean
up the floors and do other chores that the cooks would usually have to do prior to leaving.
In this way the cooks could leave earlier each night. They gave me tips for my help. After
a couple of weeks, I'd saved up about a hundred dollars.
The police came and evicted all of us from the "caves". I headed back to LAX
to look for a cheap ticket to Hawaii. After a thorough search, I found an airline which
had a seventy nine dollar "stand-by" ticket for students. I spoke to several young people
and found a student who agreed to buy the ticket for me. I checked my bag, which was empty
except for some crumpled-up newspapers, and waited for a seat. When I tried to board the
plane, the attendant at the entrance said, "I need to see your student ID. You look
too old to be a student".
"My bag is on the plane and my ID is in my bag."
"Sit down over there", he said, "and I'll look into this".
He definitely didn't want me to board the plane. But, at the very last moment, he
reluctantly let me go. I was on my way to Hawaii!
This way to
Part Three - HAWAII
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