This was the spot of our Wednesday night meetings and where I used to tutor some of my co-workers to help them get their GED's.
I don't have a lot going on in my regular life, so I think we'll just take a trip in the way back machine, okay? Since this weekend's talks with Mr. B. have had me thinking about relationships lately, I thought I'd go back to 1985 and the scene of the beginning of my first real relationship. Ready? I'm not so sure I am...
Jimmy being a dork and wearing two pairs of sunglasses while building trails in the back country at King's Canyon.
I came to Leggett, California because of a guy. Originally, when I moved to California to join the Conservation Corps., I was planning on living at the site on Turtle Island in the San Francisco Bay. I had some friends moving to San Francisco, and we figured I'd be able to go into the city and hang out with them on weekends.
I met a boy named Jimmy at the training academy in Angels Camp, Ca. We spent three weeks there learning how to fight wildland fires and floods and getting in shape for the physically demanding work we would all surely be doing for at least the next year. Jimmy was smart and funny and we had that casual high school kind of thing where he never asked me, but it was assumed by everyone including us, that we were going out. He was going to do Salmon Restoration work in Humboldt County and he tried to get me to go with him. He said in San Francisco, I'd just be picking garbage and he assured me I'd get tired of that in a week.
I was nineteen and all of my plans were subject to change anyway, so I decided to go to Leggett. It sounded like more of an adventure. When we got there, Jimmy suddenly changed. We had been hanging out everyday at the academy, but once we got to our site, he ignored me and seemed really annoyed whenever I stopped by his trailer. Since I'd never had a real boyfriend before, I didn't know that he expected me to pine after him - that it was part of the game for him. Instead, I just figured he wasn't interested, and I went my own way.
Here is a picture of Neal in the girls' trailer at our site with the He-Man action figure we found while working in Willits , California.
The second week I was there, I was walking down to the swimming hole on the Eel River. Everyone else had already headed down, and since I was being pokey, I wandered there by myself. When I walked past the last trailer in the row, I saw Neal standing there watching me. I noticed him the first day we arrived, but he scared me a little. He was too good looking and I thought he was a lot older than me. (he was actually only a month older than I was) Since I was only wearing my swimsuit, I was even more self-conscious than I normally was around cute guys. I nervously said, "hi" and kept walking. When I reached the edge of the woods, I looked back and he was still watching me walk.
Here's another recycled photo of me learning how to run a chainsaw in the California Conservation Corps.
Neal was one of the saw specialists and in charge of teaching us new guys how to run saws so big, that I could barely lift one when I first started. One day he had a project where he needed one person to help him break-up a mini log jam. He picked me and later on, he told me he had it all planned out. It was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. The log jam was located on a double waterfall, right next to a gigantic Redwood grove. Since it was pretty precarious, he did most of the sawing, while I removed the wood from the water, busted them into rounds and Neal and I both bucked them into a crib where we'd store them until the Winter when we could come back and safely burn them.
We ate lunch and Neal finally talked to me. He seemed so quiet before, but when there wasn't anyone else around, he let loose. He asked me about myself, and was really open about all his shit. He told me he had his eye on me since I first got there, but he wasn't sure what was going on with me and Jimmy. I told him, "Apparently, nothing."
Within the next week, we were dating. We basically spent almost every second of the day together for the next year. He's probably the only person I would be able to spend that much time without strangling. We could be fun and social together and both be quiet and live in our own little worlds together when we were at home.
Here is a blurry photo of Neal, a year later, when we lived in San Francisco.
We definitely had plenty of problems. We were nineteen when we started dating and broke-up when we were twenty-two. He grew up with a lot more money than my family had, but we were both weird in the same ways. We were the youngest kids in our families and our mom's were both artists. His dad was a merchant marine, and mine was a photographer. In other words, we had similar abandonment issues. The thing I really liked about Neal and have a really hard time finding in other men, is that he didn't have to constantly label himself and create that persona. He painted and refinished antiques and made his own steel drums in his backyard, and read every book I recommended to him and did tons of environmental work but he never went on and on about being an artist or a musician or an intellectual. Those were just things he did.
Sometimes I wonder what he's like now. My friends and I talk about how different men get as they age. A lot of them get really cranky and set in their ways, and they all seem to get more emotional. Some men can deal with those emotions and become better people, but some freak out and can't admit that they have them. My big fear is that I would run into Neal now and he would have turned into one of those mid-life crisis forty-three year old guys who hang-out in bars and keep trying to prove to themselves that they can still get twenty year old chicks. I also wonder if he'd be disappointed by the forty-three year old I've become.