Charming and slightly sad story of a 15 year old who decides that he needs a vacation. I just love that he takes off to savor the freedom of doing what he wants, but is outraged by the idea that he might be running away. Even at 15, it is quite clear in his head that he simply needed a vacation – and one that wasn’t being directed by other people. I totally remember feeling what he describes. I’ll be looking forward to reading Pete Jordan’s new book, “Dishwasher: One Man’s Quest to Wash Dishes in All 50 States.”
NOT knowing what I’d eat — or if I’d be eating at all — I decided to play it safe and dumped two dozen red multivitamins in a sandwich baggie. I stuffed the baggie into the pocket of my corduroys.
Then I pulled on my coat, grabbed a rolled-up sleeping bag and the brown paper bag that contained my clothes, and left the note on the kitchen table.
As I slipped out the front door of my family’s small San Francisco apartment, I shouted “See ya later!” to my brother Joe — the only person at home. From the living room, he called back, “Where ya going?”
“Out,” I said, then closed the door behind me.
I was 15 years old, and it was August. The note on the table read: “I’m taking a vacation. I’ll call when I get there. Be back in about three weeks.”
At the crummy summer camp I’d attended when I was younger, every hour of the day was scheduled, which I didn’t find very relaxing, and on family vacations — where a consensus was needed to do anything — I always had to tag along after my four older siblings. I rarely got to do what I wanted.
So I caught the streetcar to downtown and boarded a Greyhound bus.
I rode five hours, out from under San Francisco’s persistent fog cover, to Lake Tahoe — which had what I considered to be the two key ingredients of an ideal holiday locale: fogless weather and miniature golf. Upon arrival, I folded my coat under my arm and called home, collect. My mom sounded worried.
“Are you coming back?”
“Of course I am,” I said.
“You’re not running away?”
“Running away?” I was insulted. Living in Haight-Ashbury — a magnet for runaways — I’d met plenty of teens who’d fled home to live on our streets and sleep in our parks. This sojourn usually lasted only until a squad car pulled up to the corner where my friends and I were hanging out. The cops would pluck the runaway from the crowd, stick him in the car and ship him back to his suburb/state of origin. It was exactly that environment that I needed a break from.
“I just wanted to get away for a while,” I told my mom.
“Well,” she replied, “just keep in touch then.”
After buying and applying some sunblock, I hiked straight to the miniature golf course. As far as I knew, it was the closest one to San Francisco. Continue reading