Plan B

Recap: Dina has run away from home, flying from Boston to San Francisco, hoping to find love and peace and somewhere to crash in Haight Ashbury.  But on the day she arrives, she finds that not only is San Francisco enveloped by a freezing cold fog, but the whole city is enveloped in a riot: America has bombed Cambodia, igniting protests that erupted into violence across the country.  Haight Ashbury was not an option.

It was time for Plan B: Call Stephanie.

I had met her at a summer arts camp the year before, and fell head over heels in love.  She was my first female crush.  5 foot 8, long blonde hair, fascinating hazel eyes that were set slightly asymmetrically, enough to fascinate and still be beautiful.  She had luscious breasts and showed them off in black lacy pushup bras, which nobody got to see except me, because we spent hours in her dorm room talking, and it was hot….very hot.  We had stayed in touch through the following school year and vowed to see each other again.  And it was happening!

Stephanie lived in Santa Cruz, which was farther from San Francisco than I had thought.  Somehow I had envisioned California being about the size of Rhode Island, with everything being within easy bus riding or thumbing distance from everything else.  Instead, it turned out to be this huge, long drawn out state where things were hours from each other, and where, I was to learn, things were either blistering hot or freezing cold and not much in between.

I went to the pay phone and dialed the number I had written in my little spiral notebook.  It turned out to be long distance, so I had to ask to reverse the charges, and hoped like hell that Stephanie would answer and accept the call.  She did.

She was delighted to hear that I was here, and marveled at my resourcefulness at managing to get to San Francisco on my own.  I minimized it, and said that I had just come for a visit and to see the place, since I had heard so much about it.  Neither of us mentioned the fact that the school year was not yet over.

She told me the number of the bus to catch to Santa Cruz, and that either her mother or her father would bring her to pick me up at the bus station.  I was to call when I arrived.  They lived up in the mountains, and it would take them half an hour to drive to the bus station, which was actually just a stop in front of a cluster of shops.  I could go in and look around the shops while I waited for them.

The bus ride to Santa Cruz from San Francisco is Highway One all the way.  I had never seen such dazzling vistas!  Once we were well out of San Francisco, we drove out of the fog that sat upon it like a big fat toad, and all was blue sky and sunshine, just as I had imagined.

What I had never imagined was the incredible Northern California coastline, with its dramatic cliffs draped with succulent plants bearing beautiful pink flowers, and poppies lining the roadsides, and the breathtaking beaches spreading out mile after mile, ever changing and ever more majestically beautiful.  Tears of joy and gratitude filled my eyes.  I was here!  I was in California!  This was it!

Finally the bus rolled into a quaint little town.  The bus driver called out “Santa Cruz!” and I got off, shouldering my leather bag.  The sunshine was deceiving:  it was still chilly, and there was a biting wind.

As Stephanie had said, there was a cluster of little shops: boutiques, really, full of all sorts of hand made items.  It all looked very familiar, since I had been raised with only handmade items.  We never had a thing in the house that was manufactured, except things like toilet paper and maybe some pots and pans.  Even the silverware was hand made by a friend.

So I went in and browsed around, looking for a warm wrap.  I found a beautiful Peruvian ruanna.  I knew it was a ruanna because just the year before there had been a visiting potter from Peru, and she wore a ruanna.  My father had been enamored of the word “ruanna” and liked to pronounce it, rolling the “r” dramatically.  A runanna is a poncho with a split front, so you can throw one side over a shoulder.  It’s warmer than a poncho or serape, being made for Andean winters.

This ruanna was made of alpaca wool, woven in a unique way so that there were two layers of wool woven together.  I mean the wool itself was woven two layers thick.  The outer layer had a simple pattern of stripes, using the natural color of the alpaca wool, light gray and dark gray.  The inner layer was a flat weave of solid light gray.  It smelled of alpaca.  I fell in love with it.  It did not cover my head, this is true, but it was warm and cozy and beautiful, and it had its own kind of mystique.

How much was it?  I asked the woman who kept the shop.   Thirty five dollars, she said.  I looked rueful, as I had just spent five dollars on the bus ride and another ten cents calling Stephanie from the phone booth outside.  I didn’t have enough.

How much do you have, asked the woman crossly.  I have twenty five dollars, I said conservatively, not wanting to risk absolutely everything.  OK, I’ll take it.  She took my money, wrapped up the ruanna in tissue paper, and stuffed it in a brown paper bag with handles.  I stepped outside the shop, took out the ruanna and put it on, threw out the tissue paper, and folded up the shopping bag and stuck it in my leather bag.  It would come in handy later.

Stephanie and her parents arrived in an old red pickup truck.  Steph jumped out and grabbed me.  We stood there hugging for a long time.  Her father finally came over and said jovially,

“OK girls, you have all day to catch up.  We need to get up the mountain before it gets dark.”


Head In The Clouds

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.