By Diane Hughes
When I met Glenn, he was young businessman running an employment agency. I was a hippie who needed a job. In those days the distance between those two worlds seemed immense. I purchased a very conservative dress and low heels, shaved my legs, and pulled my long hair back into a more traditional and girlish hairstyle. I showed up in his office at the appointed time hoping I could somehow pass as employable. I didn’t type, which seemed the main requirement for all the women’s jobs, and my job history was spotted, but he tried to find something for me.
One day he called to set up an interview and I surprised him by saying I couldn’t do the interview because the next day I would be at an anti-war rally on the Stanford campus. I was equally surprised when Glenn told me he too would be at the rally. I was curious about who he really was and he was just as curious about me. We talked for a few minutes and agreed to watch out for each other at the rally and to talk later in the week about the job.
When he called me to ask me if I’d like to go to the beach, I said yes mostly because I wanted to go to the beach which was an hour’s drive away and I had no way to get there. Over the next year or so, while I was trying to figure out some way to live where I could keep a roof over my head and live my values without too much compromise, Glenn was in the process of shedding the overly responsible business persona for a more relaxed life. He let me work in his office to build some usefull skills and helped me enroll in a state run training program to learn bookkeeping skills. We both found in each other someone who seemed to understand who we wanted to be and we thought we could find a middle ground together.
When I imagined the life I truly wanted, I wanted the freedom of my recent life of living on the beach but with the security of a place to live; a VW van perhaps, and someone to share it. Glenn imagined getting out of the business, and living a freer life and my plan sounded good to him. He had an income of $280 a month for his Navy Reserve duty and that would be sufficient to live on if we had a van to sleep in. It seemed perfect. He’d sell off all of the art and furniture he’d acquired and with his savings, we’d buy a van we could travel in, coming back to the Bay Area each month for him to give his required time to the Navy Reserve.
We began planning how to pull this off. We bought a post office truck from the government surplus auction. We spent hours drawing out our space, measuring carefully for the perfect fit and searching for used RV equipment. He sold everything and we lived on very little while we converted the post office truck. Glenn found a mechanic that tackled the challenge of rewiring for a reasonable price since our vehicle had caught fire, the reason a low milage engine was so cheap. We painted the vehicle white, thinking in time we might embellish with paintings of flowers or something but we never found quite the right thing. Once while we were working on the truck at my sister’s place, she came out acting strange looking at the sky. She was a little freaked out by the Goodyear Blimp floating slowly overhead with it’s ever changing patterns of light.
We were fearless as we tackled building cabinets and making curtains and cushions, jumping into projects and learning the skills as we went. Since it was a small space we thought yellow would be the best color for the interior so we painted everything a bright school bus yellow. Glenn came up with the idea to use a pre-exisiting dresser and built the cabinets around it. On the walls above the table and benches that turned into a bed, we added a bright yellow and orange plaid wallpaper. It turned out great. His family thought he had totally lost it, and his mother mostly blamed me, but as the project developed everyone came around. Glenn’s brother was generous with the use of tools and advice about how to build the cabinets. Nearing completion, Glenn’s mom found plastic dishes at a yard sale and helped make sure we had enough food to start our journey.
On the walls with the yellow plaid wallpaper, we added a single shelf to hold books and when we packed to leave, filling that shelf seemed to symbolize everything the two of us wanted to be. Our time was going to be filled with reading and thinking about all of the great ideas, history and art. We would meet interesting people who were living interesting lives.
It was a great adventure! Every day was an unknown, yet we enjoyed our own secure and cozy home. We first headed North. On a perfect California day, we parked beneath some huge redwoods, enjoying the aroma of those 2000 year old trees as we drank coffee and read. In the gold country we panned for gold and enjoyed learning the local history. With the back door rolled up, we read and napped to the sound of surf. We visited a number of the Missions built by the Spanish. We picked up a couple hitchhiking north so we took them all the way to the commune they were headed to in Oregon, where we were welcomed with some righteous weed and soggy vegetarian fare. Everyone appreciated our unique home and we admired the organic architecture of their dome-shaped main house. We regretfully had to head south to get back to the Bay Area for the weekend of Navy Reserve duty.
to be continued….
Because this is a longish story, I am posting it in two parts. Read part 2 here.
© 2015 Diane Hughes