Monday, May 14, 2007

The Haight, Fall/Winter 1993 and beyond...

You asked for it, so here it is...

Although it's difficult to put myself back in those days of lover, self, and drug abuse as I sit here watching the hummingbirds out my livingroom window as they gobble up and fight over the hummingbird soup I have made and placed out for them, I suppose I'll continue right where I left off. Crack smoking and drug dealing, right?

Yes, so during our last couple of days in Bellingham, I paid a guy $150 for the biggest car in the world: a 1975 Plymouth Satellite Station Wagon. I tried to find images of this impressive piece of steel on Google, but I don't think there is a camera large enough to capture the entire car on film. Yeah, eight hippies slept in that car on the Golden Gate Panhandle...(semi) comfortably.

I was sort of afraid to drive this car. It was the biggest thing I'd ever seen. Bigger than any of my dad's trucks, or my mother's '75 Plymouth Cordova, which I stole when I was 15 and cruised around downtown with my friend and neighbor, Darla.

I didn't drive it much, leaving that to my drug-loving soon-to-be fiancee, which, quite frankly, scared me as much as just driving the damn thing myself. Although, he made it plenty clear that he was in control. Even though the car was legally mine, he would be the one to drive it. That was my first inkling of the abuse that I would put up with for the next four and a half years.

Not long after we acquired the car we headed down I-5 toward the Bay Area. Quickly, we arrived on Haight Street, mecca for hippies everywhere. I was absolutely enamoured. Little did I realize, the "kids" that were hanging out there were doing far more than smoking pot in the trees of Golden Gate Park and dancing to fun music. Almost all of them were doing coke, ecstacy, and/or heroin, which are all drugs that, at 33 years old, I can still say I've never done. They were fighting and drugging, ripping people off and going to jail on a regular basis. I met a lot of people there who I would be surprised to find alive today.

We spent two months there. Most of the time we spent hanging out in either Golden Gate or Buena Vista Park or at a coffee shop called The Coffee Zone, and since we didn't know anyone who actually lived in San Francisco, we slept in our car, parked along side Buena Vista Park. Sometimes we went in on motel rooms with other people, which involved one person going to the office to rent the room, saying that they were the only one who was staying there while the rest of us hid in the bushes or ducked in cars. This ensured that the maximum number of people could sleep there for the least amount of money.

We spent a couple of days in a particular motel near Van Ness with a guy who was rumored to be the famed "Cosmic Charlie" described in a Grateful Dead song. As I knew him, however, he was just another coke addict whose preferred vehicle for dosage was a hypodermic needle. He had a routine: he would rent the room (because he had the ID and the money) and let us in. Then he would go into the bathroom for about 45 minutes where he would shower and fix up. When finally he emerged, he would wander around the room checking any and all possible places that wire taps could have been placed in the room: the telephone receiver, the hem of the curtain, between the mattresses, under the carpet. It was an odd experience. During this time we were also spending our days and nights with a heroin junkie called Rabbit (this later cracked me up when the movie 8 Mile came out and Eminem's nickname was Rabbit). The first night we stayed in the motel room with Charlie and Rabbit, I experienced for the first time what it's like for a junkie of any measure to cop and try to be patient while he is en route to the place where he will fix up. Charlie was the first to cop, since he was the driver, and he had very specific intructions about what to say if we were confronted by a police officer. After he returned, we drove to a different area where he gave Rabbit 10 minutes to find his own drugs before he would leave without him. Once we all were back in the car, Charlie drove us to the motel. Rabbit didn't have any kind of routine for getting high. He just found a comfortable place to sit while he cooked up his dope. That first night, however, the dope he bought was not a good batch and wouldn't cook up right. Try as he might, he couldn't get the black tar to cook down to a consistency that would get him sufficiently high. Eventually, he got some liquid drawn up in the syringe and when he couldn't get a vein up, plunged in where he thought he might hit one. He missed. He freaked out, yelling and screaming about not being able to nod off. Finally, Tom suggested that they smoke it, which was NOT what Rabbit wanted to do, but it was better than nothing. Although offered, I declined. I didn't want to even try to deal with that monkey on my back. I crawled between the sheets of the bed and slept while they sat up and smoked cigarettes, pot, and heroin.

We also traveled to Auburn, east of Sacramento, where Tom's mom and step-dad lived. Since we were in that area over Christmastime, we spent Christmas at Tom's parents' house with me getting to know them and Tom avoiding them, frequenting the barn to smoke pot and cigarettes. It was on Christmas Eve that he asked me to marry him.

I said yes.

Not long after returning to San Francisco from Auburn, Tom revealed his liking for crack cocaine. We were walking up and down Haight Street late at night, asking drunken stragglers for spare change when a man poked his head around the corner and offered us a glass pipe. Tom eagerly indulged while I, skeptic that I am, politely declined. We would have remained there until the break of dawn had I not insisted that I was tired and urged Tom back toward our car, now broken down in a parking place on the east side of Buena Vista Park.

I don't really want to discuss publicly the things we were doing there because I don't know who reads this blog and there are definitely some legal ramifications if the wrong person stumbled across these words and learned my name or the names of anyone else involved. I'm content to leave it in my past for the most part, but I am happy to disclose to people I know. If you're one of them and you're interested, give me a call and we'll talk. Otherwise, suffice it to say that we avoided the police as much as possible and ended up losing all of our money at one point and had to come up with an alternate plan.

The alternate plan became a whirlwind of traveling to new places with a person who was basically a danger and bad luck magnet.

We left San Francisco on a cold January evening, heading east on I-80 to Boulder, Colorado in the back of a pick-up truck. I had hitchhiked quite a bit at this point, but nothing compared to this. Although wrapped up in every article of clothing and every blanket we owned, cuddled together in the back of this pick-up, we were freezing cold and, although the truck was heading all the way to Boulder, we opted to get out at a tiny convenience stop near Lovelock, Nevada. We got out of the truck and walked toward the convenience store in the early morning winter desert light.

Upon entering the store, we were regarded as we looked...strangers in a strange land. Tom had a head full of unruly dreadlocks and my head was shaved from ridding myself of my own dreadlocks. We explained what we were doing and why we were there and then asked if we could do some work for a bed in the motel attached to the store and a bite to eat. We were offered a bed for a few hours (it was very early morning and we wanted to be back on the road by early afternoon anyway), some coffee, and some convenience store microwaved food in exchange for help cleaning trash out of the parking lot. So we slept for a few hours and walked out into the noon sunshine to begin our task.

About 2 p.m. we walked out onto the freeway and put our thumbs out. As the cars whizzed past we noticed that they were laughing at us but we figured it was just because we were a couple of hippies in redneckland. Then we looked at the sign we were standing underneath; it read, "PRISON AREA: DO NOT PICK UP HITCHHIKERS."

About this time a red pick up truck stopped to pick us up.

To be continued...


addie said...

Wow Aimee! I knew you were hardcore but I didn't know you were a WRITER... That was awesome. My sincere thanks for sharing your story.

knitbot said...

yeah, I really enjoyed reading it, even if I wanted to forget that it was you it happened to. We live and we learn, right? I remember meeting you when you were with your ex. That was a pretty strange scene, alright. You're a really good writer. You should keep it up. Seriously.

Aimee said...

In case you didn't see before, there are two (or three) other posts on this very same topic in February and March (and maybe April as well)

Thanks for the comments and compliments...I've always loved writing, it feels good to know that someone is reading!