July 27, `69
I made it through the night and was quick to split in the
morning. I was anxious to find my own apartment, so I started
hitching as soon as I reached the highway. My first ride took me to
the road going out of town. Getting into Berkley wasn’t hard, but
getting out of Berkley was something else again. At the end of town, over a hundred hitchhikers, filling up four city blocks were also trying to get out of town. Many of the hitchhikers, some carrying signs, to my chagrin, were having better luck getting rides than I was. The cats, going to metropolitan areas as far away as Europe, were getting rides while I only wanted to go seven miles down the highway. I would have walked except pedestrians were not allowed on the Oakland Bay Bridge.
I stood in this hodge-podge of people for about two hours.
Finally, I got so frustrated that I quit hitchhiking altogether.
While sitting on the sidewalk, I saw this pretty girl darting in and
out of parked cars with her thumb sticking out. I asked her where
she was going and she said, “San Francisco.” I asked her if I could
tag along and she said, “Come on.” It didn’t take long to get to San
Francisco after that.
With directions, I found my apartment. I was already in the
seedy section of San Francisco, but at least the Market Street
section was frequented by all kinds of people. I found myself moving deeper into an area where the people were not there by choice. When I arrived at my address, I found a falling down apartment building. Black, sooty, and broken bricks made up the outside of the building while collapsing ceilings, graffiti filled walls, and broken steps greeted me on the inside of the building. The place should have been condemned.
My two-room apartment was furnished with a table, two metal
folding chairs, and another chair that looked to be home to critters
I did not want on my body. The bed looked the same. There was a
1940’s variety refrigerator and the gas stove was turn of the
century. The apartment had three ceiling lights; only the one
dangling from the cord worked. The toilet and bathroom sink were
stained and dirty beyond belief. There was no hot water, and the
smell was the result of three piles of cat shit lying on the floor.
This was no Waldorff Estoria, but it was mine, at least for a little
I decided to make the best of it. I walked down the six
flights of stairs to the manager’s apartment. I asked the black man
for some cleaning materials. He said, “Who the hell are you?” I told
him my story and he said, “That’s bullshit.” He also said, “If you
know what’s good for you, you will get the hell out of Dodge and
don’t let the door kick you in the ass on the way out.” I realized
too late, that I should have kept my mouth shut. I was not going to
leave without a fight, though. I needed that apartment. I pleaded
with this guy to let me stay. I never forgot that I was talking to a
black man, in a building where as near as I could tell, no white
person could be found. I also knew that I was a white honky in what is called the tenderloin district of San Francisco, and the only
safe place for a person like me was anywhere but here. Even so, I
kept the conversation going; finally the landlord said I could stay
one night–one night only!
I was thrilled. I left my gear in the room and split. The
first thing I did was look to see who was playing at the Jazz
Workshop. That proved to be a disappointment; I never heard of the musician. What was supposed to be a time for jubilation was fast turning into the pit of depression. I didn’t know what I wanted
anymore. I decided I was going to have a good time even if I had to force it. I needed to change my mood first, so I went to the North Beach area to score some dope. I had no problem finding and buying some acid, and after dropping it, I knew I was on my way to someplace different, like it or not.
Instead of climbing out of depression, however, I spiraled
down into the belly of the beast. There wasn’t anything left to hope
for. I had long passed the stage of wanting to do something. I went
back to my apartment. Once inside, I sat at the table and stared out the only window in the place. On the other side of the window, six feet away, was a brick wall. The bricks began to tell a story, my
story. As the evening shadows darkened, my life’s failings were
finalized in those melting bricks.