My stomach was all in butterflies. I looked out the window: we were deep inside a cloud, and all you could see was white. You could tell how fast we were going by the shreds of cloud within the cloud, whipping by the window so fast they blew into sight and blew right back out again before you could get a good look at them.
Finally the huge machine started making groaning and scraping sounds, which I knew to be the beginnings of the lowering of the landing gear, which finished with a bump. The craft itself was doing some bumping around, apparently due to some turbulence within the cloud as we got to the lower elevations. All of the stuff within the plane started shuddering and shaking as if it would all be shaken to pieces. I was very glad I had not had more wine. I tried wrestled my fear to the ground. It was a skill I had learned, that served me well in many situations.
I kept my eyes on the clouds outside, expecting them to clear at last as we descended, but the atmosphere out the window stayed pure white, even as the pilot threw the engines into reverse and the rear wheels touched down, bouncing once, and the plane was on the ground. We were in a pea soup fog.
HaightThe plane taxied around, and I wondered how the pilot knew where he was going in that impenetrable sea of white. At last the plane came to a halt, the lights went on, and the male attendant started talking over the intercom about Welcome to San Francisco, be careful to look around your seat to make sure you weren’t forgetting things, overhead luggage, and that the temperature outside was 48 degrees and raining.
48 degrees! I had left the East Coast on a May morning in short sleeve weather, and had not thought to bring anything warm. California is the place of sunshine, isn’t it? It is in all the pictures. You never see anything but sunshine in California pictures. I did not know what to do. I thought about it for a minute, and decided that I would go straight to Haight Ashbury and buy a cloak with a hood. I had $35 left after paying for my ticket. That should be enough to buy a warm cloak.
I had no luggage to get, so I asked the agent at the gate where I could get the bus to Haight Ashbury. He looked at me strangely, and I hardened my gaze, looking him right in the eyes, and he gave me directions to the bus. I went off in that direction, leaving him looking after my receding figure with that same strange look.
I found the bus stop OK. I stood outside in the cold in the bus stop shelter with my teeth chattering for a good hour until somebody asked me which bus I was waiting for, and I told them Haight Ashbury. Oh, they told me, that bus service has been suspended for today. Haven’t you heard? We’ve invaded Cambodia, and there’s a huge demonstration. The whole City is in an uproar. You can’t get anywhere on public transportation today.
Oh great. I’ve come all the way across the country, pulled an enormous horror show, spent nearly all my money, and I can’t even get into the City. What will I do now? I went back into the airline terminal to get warm and think.
It didn’t take me much thinking, because there were not many choices. I really wanted to see Haight Ashbury. I didn’t really care about the rest of the City because Haight Ashbury was where the Hippy scene was, and that was what I was after. It was what I was all about.
Problem was, I couldn’t get there. I did not have money for both a cab and a cloak, and it was obvious that I would need some warmth and waterproofness, and soon, if I were not to become ill from exposure. So a cab was out. I could hitchhike, if I knew where I was going, which I did not; and the fog was rather off-putting, since I could not even make out the overhead traffic signs above the road in front of the airport. Even though I had taken the huge risk of getting on a cross-country flight without knowing exactly where I would go or what I would do, I did not want to put myself so directly in harm’s way right off the bat.
And I really had not bargained for this cold rain and fog. And if all of Haight Ashbury was one huge riot right now, how could I count on somebody with love and peace in their eyes coming up to me and inviting me to crash at their place, as I had envisioned in my fantasies? Now that wasn’t likely to happen.