This is one of those posts where I'm going to recycle photos I've used in the past. I think this was taken in Iowa City in 1984. I've also probably touched on some of this material in the past too, but you know, whatever.
By the time I was nineteen, I had already fucked up a lot of shit in my life. A lot. I couldn't help it. I didn't know any better. After my mom died when I was ten, I lived with very strict and abusive legal guardians, and then the minute I turned, eighteen, BAM! I was on my own. For years I had been told I couldn't do anything. I was told I was stupid. It took me a long time to figure out that most of what I was told was bullshit.
You'd think that the minute I was finally free, I'd be happy all the live long day, but instead I felt totally lost. I wasn't allowed to go out much in high school and for sure couldn't date. All those mistakes most kids made in high school, I had to make in college. I had a lot of catching up to do, and boy howdy, did I catch up. I fucked up my classes, I fucked up friendships, I did all kinds of drugs and drank and went to hardcore shows at 10 S. Gilbert and Selected Works Bookstore. The one thing I never screwed up, though, was work. I worked at The Mill at night and at Amelia Earhart's Deli during the day. I was also restless and starting to get bored. If I was going to drop out of college, I wanted to at least go on adventures. My original plan was to move somewhere where I could make more money and save to go to Europe.
I had a roommate who's sister had been in the California Conservation Corps., before she met Dinah Shore's son and moved to a small town outside of Eureka. I've always loved hard physical labor and I wanted to be able to do work that I believed in. Turns out, it was pretty easy to get into the Corps. All I had to do was use a California address - my roommate's sister said I could use hers, but I actually had to go there to sign up.
Not only did I not have a car, I didn't even know how to drive. A thinking person would have done some research and figured out that going almost anywhere in California without a license and a car was asinine. Good thing I wasn't a thinking person, or I would never have left Iowa City.
I had no idea where to go once I got there. Luckily, there was a dishwasher who worked at The Mill named Mark who was from California. He was also a DJ at one of the country music stations and introduced me to Emmy Lou Harris and Graham Parsons. I asked him where he thought I should move once I got there and he said he thought Santa Rosa was a nice place. I went to the library and got out Santa Rosa phone books. I found a place called the Redwood Motel and called them to reserve a room, just because I liked the name. Once again, a thinking person would have checked it out a little more thoroughly, but...
I went to the army surplus store to buy a duffel bag and a backpack. I had to get rid of everything I owned, except what I could fit into those two bags. My friend Johnny Rater bought me a bag of those fake white crosses out of the back of a punk rock magazine. I thought they would make me more aware, but really they just made me more annoyed with people than I already was. Thank god, they didn't take up much room.
I left at the beginning of April. It was weird how little fear I felt getting onto the plane by myself to move halfway across the country to a place where I didn't have affiliations with anyone or anything. If someone could have shown me what I would experience when I got to California, I still don't know that I would have been all that scared.