(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.
But 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 Paget‘s 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.