California and the Bay Area. I am sitting here in the quiet tranquil morning time, drifting off, and thinking back to the “Good Ole Days” one of the luxuries of life I can still afford. Stirring up the dust, blowing the cobwebs out of my brain … Turn right and head on down Harder Road or up to Mission Blvd, maybe to the Plunge, how does that sound? Maybe walk the long trail to the back of the park, check out the hollow dark cavities of my mind …
Sitting out front of Dad’s house, on his redwood fence, smoking a Marlboro, the cool breeze coming in off the bay, carrying the smell of tomato’s from the Hunt Cannery on B Street.
Saturday’s (and sometimes in the middle of the week, don’t tell Mrs. Ormsby) on the beach in Santa Cruz, the surf pounding, a gull swoops down to steal a potato chip off the blanket. An ice cold bottle of wine at the end of the string, buried in the sand.
A teenage girls’ husky laugh in the dark in the balcony of the Hayward downtown. Two slow dances with Marylnn Matteson-Stith at the La Vista Cafeteria on Friday night. Squatted, Indian fashion, on a boulder in the Sierra Nevada’s just outside Lake Tahoe. A sky full of white wispy clouds and dragon flies.
A stolen kiss at the Grove after a Lancer’s Football game.
The smell of fresh cut Alfalfa wafting into the cab of the pickup in the valley outside of Manteca. 12 years old, sitting on top of the Hayward Hills, looking west to San Francisco, and seeing the city clearly, along with the Bay Bridge. Remembering back then, how it used to be, not like it is now, with the myriads of people and the pollution.
Sitting in the shade of a lofty majestic pine beside a deep hole in the Truckee River. Hooking a big fish on a trip to Clear Lake. Sleeping on a blanket on the grass in Golden Gate Park. Working as a pool hand at the old swimming pool at Tennyson one summer.
Back in the day, back in the day.
Need to wrap this up, I am getting carried away.
Time to go, I have rambled on for long enough. Having sufficiently increased my word-count, I shall now retire, only to fight again, on another day. Back to the real world … I have rats to kill … checks to pay …
Life, what happens when you are not looking.
My First Bike was a used Schwinn that I bought off our paperboy. You remember your first bike? Maybe it was under similar circumstances, back in the fifties, money as it is today, was tight. You didn’t get a lot of new stuff back in those days.
Everyone on the block was getting a bike, one by one, my buddies brought them by the house to show them off. New paint, shiny leather seats, bright chrome spokes and I wanted one. I wanted one so badly that I approached my father and I said to him, “Can I have a bike?” He looked at me, and then he said, “What did you say?”
So mustering up as much courage as a ten year old kid is possible of, slowly I repeated the question, “Can I have a bike? Everyone on the block has one and I was wondering if I could have one too?”
My father just replied, “God did not put me on this earth to buy bicycles, he said I had to feed you, clothe you, give you a warm place to sleep, he didn’t say a thing about bicycles.”
Not prone to give up easily I repeated the question as if I never even heard his answer. “But Dad, everyone on the block has one, and I want one.” So he said, “Listen, there is a lawnmower and a rake in the garage, if you want a bike, go get ‘em and start mowing lawns. I aint buyin’ you no bicycle.”
And thus, at a early age, I learned what would be a long series of life lessons from my father.
I got out and I hustled, that summer I mowed my share of lawns, and I got my first bicycle. Luckily for me, there was no shortage of lawns to mow on Mocine Avenue. I mowed a lot of lawns that summer and put the money back and saved until I had enough to buy my own bicycle.
It was not easy, first I have never been all that good at putting money away for a rainy day as my mother used to call it. And in those days, you got fifty cents for mowing a lawn, and that was it.
Over time my labors proved to be rewarding and I finally saved up the coin to purchase a bike. I found a teenager who had one that had just recently been painted and had racks for a paper route, he wanted fifteen dollars, I talked him down to twelve and I rode it home.
My father came home that day from work and mom and I were in the front yard admiring my new purchase and mom said to my father, “Look what Don bought. He says he gave twelve bucks for it, pretty sharp huh?” and my father said, “Sure is, let me take it for a spin” reaching down and grabbing the handle bars.
Gently I pulled the bike back and said to him, “God didn’t put me on this earth to provide you bicycles to ride.” And he smiled, and then said, “That’s it kid. You are learning.” Then he walked on in to the house, somewhat amused. Who knows, he might have been amazed that I actually got it?
That was my first bike.
I delivered the morning paper at 4am on it and threw the afternoon paper after school for a couple of years. That old bike served me well and it was a sweet time of life for me. Today I am not sure whatever happened to it, I think it was eventually stolen but I cannot for the life of me remember.
Later on came a ten-speed and my old man jumped in his pickup and drove alongside me down Goodrich Street and clocked me at thirty-three miles per hour. It seemed to amuse him to no end, I would often hear him repeating the story about that damn kid almost going 35 mph and how he could not believe it.
In 1963 or ’64, I am not all that sure of the year, President John F. Kennedy declared that every American should be able to walk 50 miles.
Even at that time, it was evident that American’s were getting grossly out of shape and eating way too much. So we all got together, all my buddies and I, and we determined that if you could walk 50 miles you ought to be able to ride 100. So we did that. We started out from Franks’ Donut Shop one morning at daylight and we rode over hills out thru Niles Canyon, to the valley to Livermore, California, and back a distance of 106 miles.
And it was way after dark when we finally made it back home, tired, sore and very much wore out.
I used to go down to the meat market and beg off the scraps of meat, and then ride my bike down to the bay (about five miles) and sit on the rocks and fish for sand sharks, no licenses, no school, no lunch, none of that garbage. When I was a kid, if you wanted to go somewhere you took your bike, no soccer mom in a SUV drove you anywhere. That is just the way it was.
You rode the bike, or you did not go. No ninentendo, MP3, Streaming Live Video, MTV or Hackey Sack … We had our own amusements … Just being a kid and having a bike played an important part of it.
- Grandpa’s Low Rider
- Down On The River