From the Village to Venice

(This is dedicated to the many young men and women today who live in their parents’ basements, staring at their smartphones.)

I STEPPED OFF the Greyhound in Manhattan, walked out the terminal door and spotted a small hotel across the street. I checked in. I’d just arrived from Los Angeles, and all my belongings, which weren’t many, were in a blue duffel bag.

I had about $2,000 to my name, and it was all in cash in my wallet.

The reason for my arrival was a girl of 18. I thought I was in love, and perhaps I was. We got together later that day, and the following morning I rented a studio apartment in Greenwich Village and found work as a painter’s helper. I was just short of 21.

busBut later that next day, it was clear the girl of 18 wouldn’t work out, so I spent another night in the hotel and caught another Greyhound the following morning to Tennessee. I  forfeited the studio deposit, and I still feel a bit bad about not helping that painter.

I moved into my parents’ apartment in Nashville. There was no basement. I found a job at a mattress factory. It was a small operation that pretended to refurbish mattresses, but what we really did was pick up the old mattress and return a newish one.

Within a couple of months I’d saved more money, so I boarded another Greyhound, back to Los Angeles. I missed California, the Golden State, which it was in those days.

I rented a studio apartment in Venice and found a job parking cars in Beverly Hills. It was fun work, sorta, and one day I parked Debra Pagets Cadillac. I owned no car myself, and the Los Angeles area was a difficult place to live with no wheels. Still is, I hear.

I had nowhere near the money to buy a car of any kind.

Oddly, what sticks in my mind about those weeks in the studio was listening to Martha and the Vandellas’ endless singing of Dancing in the Streets on the radio. The tune had just been released and was a huge hit. The girls wore wigs.

Restless, one day I packed my bag, abandoned the studio and the parking lot and boarded another Greyhound back to Tennessee. I attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville for a spell before returning to Nashville when my parents decided to move to New Orleans.

I hitched a ride in the rear seat of their Nash Rambler. New Orleans was like moving to Heaven, and I stayed for 18 years doing all kinds of crazy crap.

The unplanned life.

And then you wind up in the middle of Mexico.

22 thoughts on “From the Village to Venice

    1. Ms. Shoes: Puerto Rico, two times, one for 11 months, another for five months, was inserted in the middle of my years in New Orleans. I went off. I returned. I didn’t want to complicate the yarn with that.


  1. I never rode a Greyhound bus. My last intercity bus ride was from Oakland to Ft. Ord in a chartered Gray Line bus for discharge after a year in the Army in Korea. Scary ride, because I had gone not more than 25 mph for over a year.


    1. Phxxer: Never rode a Greyhound? That would have been quite rare in your times. They were everywhere in my youth. which was not all that long after yours. And Trailways. Haven’t thought about Gray Line, a tour bus outfit, in a long, long time. Just did an internet search, and it’s still alive and well.


  2. You lived in your parents New Orleans basement for 18 years? Or the Nash’s rear seat? That is some crazy crap!


    1. Seems like that’s the one of the typical routes — at least these days. Or something like that. Have you noticed our contemporary state of “journalism?”

      Sorry, Felipe, no offense intended. But I couldn’t resist.


      Kim G
      Ajijic, JAL
      From where we wonder if there are any standards at all left in the profession formerly known as “journalism.”


    2. Mound: I graduated from LSU in New Orleans in 1969. My father was working on the New Orleans States-Item (now defunct) at the time. My degree was in History, pretty much useless. My father recommended me to the managing editor, and he hired me as a reporter. It was not unusual back then for newspapers to hire people with no newspaper experience. I didn’t like being a reporter at all and after about six months I managed to get transferred to the copy desk. Turned out I had a talent.


  3. An unplanned life. That was a tumultuous time. I returned from Viet Nam in October 1966. The whole world was one antiwar rally. It was best not to mention one’s military service. I finally got a job in a machine shop, but it only lasted a year. Then I took classes at Arizona State University and worked in the hardware business. My goal was a degree in journalism, but it was real hard getting into the classes. To fill out my schedule, I would take history classes. There was no problem getting into those classes. They just added more chairs to the lecture hall.

    One day, I noticed that I had enough hours in history to petition for a degree. I did it. I didn’t graduate, but took my degree by the mail. It cost to be in the graduation. My brother was a U.S. Navy employee in San Diego. He did political cartoons under a pseudonym on the side for a small company that published a Republican newspaper for each of the California counties. His wife worked there also. She got me a job. The operation was run out of a closed Piggly Wiggle supermarket in Normal Heights, which was anything but normal.

    We did everything. Wrote articles, did interviews, typed it up and pasted it up. Everyone there worked for a different entity. There were something like forty different shell corporations around the operation. We did a mail-back poll between Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. Nixon won hands down. I wrote it that way, and then I found out the paper was owned by Reagan.

    I ended up back in Arizona unloading rail cars. It was a job. But one day I was talking to a hippie who also was unloading rail cars, and he told me that he had been fired from a factory a couple of days earlier. After work, I went to the factory and told them I heard they had fired that guy, and I wanted his job. They gave it to me.

    I worked in that factory for over three years. It was mostly mojados and the management was Spanish deficient. It was fun, but I wasn’t making much money. Times got tough, and one day they laid off anyone making good money. They had a whole bunch of new mojados hired on. Business is business. But the orders were made in inches, and the English rule was a total mystery to those Mexicans. I guess they don’t teach fractions in Mexico.

    Well, they had to hire me back, but in the meantime, I had applied to work in state service. I was called for an interview at the state. And I stayed in state service until I retired.


    1. Señor Gill: Well, that was sure a yarn. So I was not the only one stumbling about in those distant times. If I ever knew you tried to get into the news business, I had forgotten it. Strange you couldn’t get into journalism classes because, before Watergate, I don’t think it was a very popular field. After Watergate, everyone wanted in. Everybody wanted to be Bernstein or Woodward. Before, you could get a news job with little to no training as I did. After Watergate, the hiring standards got way tougher.

      I too almost became a civil servant. I took a state exam in Louisiana and did spectacularly well on it. Actually, they told me I got the highest score in the history of the civil service exams. Ahem! I got a job offer immediately, but then they discovered I had another semester to go before graduating, and a degree was required. By the time I graduated, I had been detoured into the newspaper business.


  4. Felipe, I remember most of what has been written here today. I can’t remember why and how your Air Force enlistment ended. Just curious.



    1. Dan: Without going into the grim details, let’s just say — and it’s true — that I talked myself out of the military. I was in the Air Force just shy of two years. Funny thing is that it was not difficult. The reason I talked myself out was the 18-year-old girl whom I had known since high school. I reallly wanted to go to her. I was in California, and she was in New York. Something had to be done, and I did it. Love conquers all … or it doesn’t.


    2. Dan, P.S.: Yes, I have written much of this history, in other forms, here in the past, but it’s been quite a while. Interesting that you remember. I don’t think you noticed one huge error, however. I did not think of it till this morning. It was not Venice where I lived on returning to California. It was nearby Santa Monica. I would have edited the post to correct it, but then I would have needed to change the headline, losing the alliteration. I like alliteration, so I’m leaving it alone.

      The friend who picked me up at the bus station and who helped me get settled lived in Venice, and I visited him quite a bit. This all happened over 50 years ago, and the aging mind can get confused.


      1. Nah, I didn’t notice that. I have been thinking about this almost all day. Easy to talk your way out of the Air Force? That would have been in the summer of !964 or so. Myself and another guy were trying to figure out how to get out (SAC), but there didn’t seem any clear way without long-term damage to our futures. And then there was Vietnam looming, and we were too young and inexperienced to calculate those odds. You must have been a real convincing fellow! But the real head-scratcher was the reason for doing it in the first place. Young Love. Amazing!


        1. Dan: I was in TAC, not SAC. Perhaps TAC was more laid back. And, yes, it was fairly easy, and I was indeed pretty convincing and sharp, so much so that the officials who handled my departure case commented on it. Yes, it was 1964. And I got an Honorable Discharge due to my fine, if somewhat abbreviated, service.


Comments are closed.