Deb’s Psychedelic Saturdays – On Becoming a Hippie – Chapter 19
Written by Deb Cavanaugh on July 18, 2020
Now that Paul was back home and I was back on my feet again, the sunnier weather started coming. Because Paul’s father had passed, he inherited a little money, not a ton but enough to catch back up, get a vehicle, have a little cushion and start moving forward. Paul also wanted to get his own guitar. He’s been playing mine which was a nylon string classical guitar and was pretty beat up from being on the road so much. He decided to go shopping and the first place he went was the big local music store that did a lot of advertising. Paul didn’t really care about appearances much. He often had rips in his clothes, and his beard was long and scraggly, though he was always clean. When he walked in, all of the salespeople ignored him while still keeping a close eye on him. When he pulled out his wad of cash and fanned himself with it, they almost tripped over each other to help him. He smiled that wily smile that he had, nodded to each of them and walked out. He wandered around aimlessly until he saw a small shop tucked into a basement, “Captain Whizeagle’s.” The guy who ran the shop, Fred Cole, was very cool. He was another long-haired musician, well-known in the Pacific Northwest, though we didn’t know it at the time. He welcomed Paul in immediately and gave him an amazing deal on the guitar which now lives with our grandson, a 1969 Gibson Hollowbody Archtop electric guitar.
Now to find a vehicle. We decided on a VW bus. It was red and white. We bought “How to keep your Volkswagon Alive.” It might have been the first “for dummies” book ever written. And it certainly did help us keep that bus alive. Now that we had a large vehicle, it was time to drive to Bay Area of California and retrieve the things we’d left in storage three years ago. Yes, we’d actually kept up the payment on that unit for all of those years, knowing that we’d go back out west. The timing was perfect. Jessie had been about 9 months old when we left, leaving toys and clothing in storage. Now Justin was a few months old and those things would come in handy. Paul’s sister still lived in San Francisco, running a house painting business. We could stay and visit with her for a day or two before heading back home. This was still well before the days of car seats and even seatbelts, so we set up the back with enough room for stacked boxes and the two kids.
When we arrived at the storage unit, there were many more things than we remembered. It was going to be a tight squeeze, but we managed to pack it all in. We drove slowly with such a heavy load but finally made it to San Francisco where we lighted our load a bit. There were things that we just didn’t need anymore. That afternoon, Sage had a job, so we walked to the mission where we donated our leftover items. As we were walking around, we saw a poster on a pole. Van Morrison was playing at an elementary school that afternoon. Admission was $5 per adult. The school wasn’t far away, so off we went. The show was amazing. The auditorium was small, even the seats were small. I was shocked that the room wasn’t packed. There weren’t very many people at all. The band had a horn section and there were three female back-up singers who were amazing, as was Van Morrison himself. Everyone had such great energy. They did two sets with a break in between. During the break, Jessie told me she needed to use the potty. When we walked in the girl’s room, there were the three back-up singers. It was also their dressing room. Jessie was quite gregarious at the time and started a conversation right away. She told them that she thought they were great and that we were singing along. “Did you know that my mom and me are singers,” she asked. Before I knew what was happening, we were all singing together in the bathroom, harmonizing and having a great time. The second set was just as good as the first, and the whole experience was unforgettable.
We had a nice evening visiting with Sage. The next day we headed out, getting a later start than planned. Paul, who had to work the next day, had heard about a shortcut through the hills that saved quite a bit of time, so we decided to go that route. Paul drove for a few hours when it started to rain. It really rained, too. It was coming down in sheets. He soon tired out, and it was my turn to drive. We just had to make it through the pass and would hit highway again and smoother going. The rain was slowing us down a lot, and we really needed to get back tonight. I started to pick up some speed, hydroplaning a little bit here and there, but not a lot. There was no one else on the road, so I had the whole two lanes to myself. I started seeing garbage bags littering the road in front of me and just careened around them like running a slalom. I wondered why there were so many of them. “Oops, that one was a little close.” Paul woke up with a start and began yelling at me to slow down and pull over. “What is your problem, Paul?” He stuttered as he spit out, “You’re driving through boulders! Didn’t you see the falling rock signs?” No, I hadn’t noticed any signs, and those were just garbage bags, right? I looked again and realized what they actually were. Up to that point, I was driving with confidence and doing great. Now, I started freaking out. I managed to pull over and let him take it from there and never heard the end of it until the day he died. We made it home safely, he got to work on time, and I unpacked our past.
We had expended a lot of energy moving into a new city, having a baby and losing Paul’s father. Paul and his dad hadn’t been close. His mother and father had a tumultuous marriage, to say the least. One day, Paul and his siblings went for what they thought was a visit to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from their home with their mom in Greenwich, Connecticut. They never came back, their parents divorced and all communications from their mother was circumvented by their grandmother. Paul left home for good a few years later at the age of 14. What often happens in families where the adults are fighting with each other is that the kids also fight with each other. It’s a learned behavior. My brother and I did the same. It can be hard to lose that habit and often takes years away from it to succeed.
With so much stress, Paul and I, though we’d always bickered, started to argue in earnest. The one thing that kept us together was sharing our music. But even that was difficult with two kids and day jobs. Paul worked in restaurants, staying at one place for a few months and eventually moving on to the next one. I took whatever work I could find while juggling two small children. I made macramé plant hangers for a wholesale business until the fibers started affecting my lungs. I watched other kids and eventually started an underground daycare in our home. One of the most interesting kids I watched was “Spike.” Spike was three years old and the son of a hardcore biker, Rocky, and his beaten and much maligned woman. She was not his partner in any sense of the word. She was a very tough woman and accepted her lot. Their son was emulating his dad, but his behavior was too much even for Dad. They were related to one of our neighbors and had heard that I was unorthodox and watched kids. They wanted me to watch Spike three days a week. They’d tried many different centers and private daycares but had gotten thrown out quickly. Spike was violent and rude. He was totally out of control. They needed someone who could break a wild animal. I refused. I had other children to think about. He got gruff. I should explain that I’ve had other experiences with bikers in various places around the country. They’ve always liked our music, and Paul and I were often like pets or mascots. I was always provided with my own personal security guard when I went to their parties. I wasn’t intimidated by this guy and refused again. Anyway, hurting me wasn’t going to get him what he wanted. And, his brother lived next door.
They came back again, begged and offered to pay me a lot of money. I agreed under one condition. I would have total control. They were not to question anything I did or said, and they had to back me completely, no matter what their son said. They agreed. Spike’s first day, I searched him and took one knife away. He still had his fists, though. I wrestled him to the ground and, out of desperation, shoved him in the closet and leaned against the door. I took a breath and finally sat with my back against the door and started playing a game with the other kids. It got quiet in the closet. There was no more screaming and banging. Uh-oh, what if something happened? I slowly opened the door, and Spike bit my hand and tried to worm his way. I quickly shut the door again and locked it. What had I gotten myself into? I set the other kids up with an activity and started making lunch. I spoke to Spike through the closed door before opening it up again. I explained what the rules were again and told him that he could come out and be with the rest of us if he behaved. If not, I would give him a flashlight, his lunch, a snack for later and some things to keep him occupied until his parents came to pick him up. I couldn’t believe the words that came out of that child’s mouth. I returned with the promised items and waited for the end of the day.
I have to admit that I was a little nervous having to tell Rocky that his son had been locked up in a closet all day, but I was determined not to let it show. Rocky just laughed and mused that he’d wanted unorthodox, and that was what he’d gotten. He told him he figured it was better to have him in a closet than in a jail somewhere. He’d be back the next day. Spike spent all three days in and out of the closet, coming out for longer stretches of time out with the rest of us as the days went by. The second week went much better, and I was noticing a change in his whole demeanor. He would come sit close when I read to them and eventually climbed into my lap. He was still wild when they moved away, but he was not full of rage, lashing out at everyone around him. He learned how to make real human contact and let a very few trusted people in. I always hoped that he made it, but I never heard from them again. They just kind of disappeared, even from Rocky’s brother. They wanted to make a new life for themselves. I certainly understood that, having done it myself many times over.
Right now, though, I felt like I could stay in this place forever. Our house was in a little cul-de-sac with three other houses nestled together. The yards were long and narrow with three quarters of an acre each. There were fruit trees, flowers and vegetable garden plots in all three yards. They were fenced off from each other, but we soon took care of that, removing sections of fence so that the kids could have free rein. We all got along, and we all had children of similar ages. It was my first paradise, and I was happy.