Santa Cruz Beach
July 1, ’69
Haunted By Loose Ends
I arrived in Santa Cruz just in time to catch the
last of the sunshine. Nobody was home at Robin’s
place so I went down to the beach. When I returned, I was happy to
find Roger and Robin at home. It was cold outside, and I sure didn’t
want to spend another night muscle cramped and shivering. After the
greetings were over, I immediately stretched out on their warm floor
and slept like a baby.
At Rogers, I managed to stay less than sober in the daytime and at
night I generally ended up stoned. I spent the next five days on the
beach. If I could find people playing football, I would invite
myself into their game. All during this period Roger and Robin were
very friendly. I wished I could have done more for them besides just
a thank you.
There was more than one way to get to the beach. I usually took the
railroad tracks because I liked the solitude. At times that solitude
wasn’t friendly, though. One night, when Roger and Robin went to a
seaside restaurant, I went along for the ride. While they were
inside eating, I walked along the harbor and ended up on a weathered
dock, part of an almost empty yacht mooring. Sitting there,
listening to the waves lapping up against the posts, and the
creaking sounds of the yachts in their slips, I began to sing Otis
Redding’s great song, “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay.” After I got
tired of singing, and in the quiet of the night, I fell into a
darker mood; one where I could feel the waves of melancholy beat
against the loose ends of my life.
The Vietnam War beckoned, and I no longer had my student deferment.
I was, it is true, against the war, but I wasn’t in the militant
anti war camp, either. I wasn’t sure what I believed, but I did know
that freedom was worth fighting for, and when called, I would serve.
I didn’t have a problem with the military. I had a problem with
killing. Just because America considered Communism a threat, that
wasn’t reason enough to kill someone. Annihilating a different
culture because they used a different economic system to take care
of their needs was not reason enough to kill. Communism scared the
hell out of most Americans. Maybe looking down the barrel of the gun
at someone looking down the barrel of a gun at me would clear up my
confusion. Maybe then, killing the enemy—of whatever gender or age
would no longer be wrong. Time would tell on that one!
Damn, if Vietnam wasn’t bad enough, there was also that gnawing of
an old broken love affair that wouldn’t go away. I was 19-years-old
when I met Jane. She was 21. She was my first steady girlfriend. As
a student at Delta College, she sat with her friends a couple of
tables from where I did my homework. Janie commuted from West Branch
and I had an apartment close by, so everything was perfect for us to
get together. We might still be together if it wasn’t for last
Everything was cool until I got into hard drugs. After getting
hooked on speed, things began to fall apart for me. I trashed my
friends, my parents, and Janie. We’d been together for more than a
year and, after taking Janie home on our last date, I told her I
wanted to break up. We were in her parent’s living room at the time.
I thought she would get upset, but not that upset. Through her
tears, she wanted to know “Why.” I told her I needed more freedom. I
told her I couldn’t be the person she wanted me to be. I told her
that staying together wouldn’t be fair to either one of us.
Janie was always the strong one, but she went berserk emotionally.
She woke her mother up with hysterical crying. I couldn’t face her
parents. She screamed at me not to go. As I was getting into my car
to leave, I saw her mother pulling Janie’s arm, trying to get her
back into the house. When I backed out of the driveway, Janie was in
the driver’s seat of the family car, screaming at her mother who was
holding the car keys in her outstretched arm.
God did that hurt. God, it still hurts. There was no changing my
mind back then. I wish I were that sure of myself now. Even as I
write, I can feel the knots tighten in my stomach. Janie, if you
ever wanted revenge, you got it baby, every time I think of you my
insides turn to cement.