Chapter 4

"What dog?"

He's doing the Jerk....
He's doing the Fly
Don't play him cheap 'cause you know he ain't shy
He's doing the Monkey, the Mashed Potatoes, Jump back Jack, See you later
alligator."  Lyric by  James Brown
    Things sometimes change

Dennis and Ron 2002
1965
   I was living with my cousin Ron in Alhambra, Ca. I was having a great time working and partying the night away.
The trouble was that one income was paying for the two of us to party. I was staying broke, but having fun at night.
The routine was simple, on payday we would get our clothes out of hock (laundry), save enough for a burrito a day.
At night we would go over to the local draft pallor (Tikki Hut in Alhambra (Next door to the Orange Julius at that time)).
Nurse a twenty-five cent draft, until the party people started buying rounds.
The uniform of the day was a colorful shirt, Bermuda shorts, Mariachi sandals and sun glasses.
We were cool.
California cool.
The clothes were lightly starched and cleaned. Normal wear for LA.
We were listening to the Mamas and Papas on the radio and blues in the night clubs.
We would go to the nightclubs on weekends. Some of the kids around the neighborhood were
 wearing beads, T shirts and letting their grow. I thought it was another fad.
 ***
Neither Ron and I had a car or drivers license.
He knew how to drive but vagely memtioned with a smile something about a senior homecoming football game and
all the lights in the city of Alhambra going out one night when he should of been playing football.
***
When I had first met Ron after coming back to California from Ky. I was staying at home in La Puente.
 As soon as I got a job at F.T.F. I needed a place to stay that was closer to work. My cousin Ron said I could stay with him. He was living above a movie theater on Main St. in Alhambra. This location was nostalgic because it was my old grade school stomping grounds near Third St. and also it was within walking distance of F.T.F. His place was just a single room overlooking Main St. just to the edge of the theater. There were two beds in the room. We were to pay ten dollars each for the room, that was it.
During this period of time I met Ron and Gene's Rugby and Semi-pro football buddies. I met Jack Summers at this time. Jack was a line backer type, a rugby mentality, let us knock the crap out of you, type of guy. He turned me on to wide striped rugby shirts. There was also a semi-pro quarterback that stayed with us for a few days, he was down on his luck, he was tall and blond, looking every bit like a quarterback, a tab hunter look alike. After most games (Rugby or football) we would all go to Shakies for pizza and beer.
This rooming house was managed by a short chunky foreigner. He hardly spoke any English, he
was always wanting me to pay for anyone who just walked into the room with us. When ever I would walk into the building he'd say, "jush two naa three, you pay". I would always say, " what? k pasa" and walk into the room. I think Ron and I drove the guy mad. We always paid our twenty, but he always wanted thirty.
Most of the time someone would crash there for the night, we never knew who would be there, if anyone at all.

The photo of the theater in alhambra, Ca. Where my cousin and I threw our
clothes out of the window to keep from losing them.
3 Windows at right of theater marquee.

When we decided to move out of this room, our landlord said we could not go until we paid him his back rent. We said we did not owe him anything. He said he would be waiting outside the door for his money. Ron said that he would probably take our stuff if we ever walked down stairs. My cousin Ron had an old plastic sun dial hanging on the wall. He also had a plastic sword hanging next to the sun dial. This was our art. When we opened the door to carry our stuff to the car, the man was standing in the doorway saying " jush two naa three, you pay". We closed the door, I looked for some other way to do this. We opened the window and threw all our stuff out the window onto the sidewalk. When we were done and the room was empty. I grabbed the sword and sun dial off the wall and we opened the door and using the sun dial as a shield we fought our way playfully out of  the room and down the stairs, I held him off while Ron loaded his brothers car.

I recently talked to my cousin Ron on the phone, laughing with tears in our eyes, reminiscing
about the escape from the room and  the bachelor pad we shared for two weeks and other old
times. He said, "You know I had to go to jail because of the dog".  I looked at the phone, puzzled,
trying to remember the dog. I said, "What dog?" Hell those were fun times, I stayed broke.
****
White sox donít make it.
White sox donít make it. Ron and I heard this, so we started wearing white sox with
everything we wore. We were neat and clean, but we didnít care for the fashion industry
telling us that white sox donít go with black slacks. I think that the world did the same
thing that we did, they started wearing white sox with everything. I still wear white sox
with everything, to Laurelís dismay.
****
 Bond, James Bond!
Ron and I would sometimes go to the Mann's Grauman's Chinese Theater and see whatever was playing.
Mostly Bond, James Bond!
Going to the show with Ron is not what I wanted to talk about.
What I wanted to say was:
 Ron had his children for the weekend so we decided to take the children to the show. The stuff that Ron and I usually saw was not fit for children. So we looked in the paper for something suitable for children. What we found was a show playing at this theater we knew nothing about. We circled the address, figured out how to get to where the show was, I do not know whether we bowered someone's car or took a bus to this theater. When we got to the theater we paid our tickets, entered, got some cokes, candy and popcorn. We settled down in our seats to watch a Walt Disney movie. We had no clue about what we were about to see. When the lights dimmed the rumble of soft voices were stilled. Musicians started tuning up the instruments. We sat and watched knowing that Walt was going to treat us to a cartoon. What we saw was Fantasia. I never have been so spellbound in all my life. Totally entertained we were. Amazed at the sheer beauty of what we were seeing. Emotionally uplifting, we were all children, lifted up to another level of awareness. We were carried by Walt on a musical tour of notes and dancing beasts, waving the colors with music, colorful frescos dancing off the walls, pirouettes of purple hippos, lightning flying down upon splendor of color. For two hours we sat spellbound, when it was over nobody in the theater wanted to leave, we sat wanting Walt to give us more.
Walt Disney is a man, a being of good humor, with of mind of colorful rainbows to give.
Walt Disney studios is another matter?
This movie Fantasia was made in his prime, if you want splendor, see it.
****

My cousin talked me into moving into a singles (bachelors) apartment building with pool, patio, girls and barbeque grills. Three of us were going to help pay the rent. We moved in, I think I paid the rent. After about two weeks of living in this bachelor apartment. I am sitting watching T.V. and my cousin says to me. His friend is bringing over some marijuana over tomorrow night. My image at that moment is of a drug addict. In my mind this is out of the question. This upsets me quite a bit. Mentally I was not prepared for this. I never opened my mouth to say no, I just listened and thought. Hey ! I was thinking of leaving. I always wanted to be a bracero. In one night I am making plans to become a bracero. Not a drug addict. The more I thought about it, the more upset I became. I never told anyone. I packed my seabag. The next morning while he went out to find a job. I headed for downtown LA. I rode the bus, because I did not have a car. I went to the
agricultural department of farm labor. I knew I could find out there, where I could go and get a job. I walked into the building with my seabag over my shoulder and walked over to the counter. There were no waiting lines. The place reminded me of a bus depot. I asked the man behind the green desk, where I could go to find a job. He pointed to a old grey bus and said it would be leaving soon, going to a lemon grove up in Goleta, Cal. I asked if I could go, he handed me a form and said to fill it out and hop on the bus. I filled out the form and got on the bus. The bus was filled with mostly older men.  They looked haggard and worn. The bus left about five minutes later. It took a route similar to what a greyhound bus would take. It headed strait for the freeway. We traveled north, I guess Galeta was up north. The bus got off the freeway near Santa Barbara. We traveled side roads well known to the driver, unknown to me. We finally pulled into a gated compound ajacent to an airfield there in town. The bus parked, we were told  to go into a holding area where we would receive our instructions as to what was expected of us. We were told that we would have a dormitory to sleep in.  Food three times a day. It sounded great to me. They said that they had a store for needed supplies, the man pointed in the direction of the store, we all looked. Anything bought at the store would be taken from our wages. I was not worried, because I had my savings pass book in my bag. The best bank in America was my bank. The man went on to say that required equipment to pick lemons were?
He showed us:
 1. Leather gloves that went halfway up your arms. They were to protect you from the long thorns in the lemon trees.
 2. Stainless steel cutting shears, for nipping the stem properly. So not to damage the next years crop.
Room and board would be taken from our wages.
Beans and Tortillas. The food was good. I am a beans and tortillas type guy.
We would be paid once a day.
Well you guessed it. Everyone was in debt to the company store, before they ever got started.
I  remember that story from our history class in high school. Faces from the John Stienbeck's novels are everywhere.
We were led to our rooms, I think eight to a room, the room was very large, it was fine.
The bath was a community bath, similar to a high school gym shower. Overall not bad.
What was bad were the winos that were around. These people were without hope.
If you had wanted to, you could have made it your lifes task to save one wino.
Something like taking a hippie to lunch.
There were holes in the fences where the winos would sneek out to buy a bottle of wine.
The owners didn't want drunks picking fruit. They wanted sober men picking lemons, hence the fence.
They took us by truck out to the orchards. We would be paid by boxes picked.
It was extremely difficult to pick lemons because of the inch long thorns.
These trees were already picked of most of the their fruit, we were there to do the finale picking.
I found out after two days of hard work, that there was no money in lemons for Dennis.
In our room there was an Arab man about thirty years old.
We became friendly and talked of better things to do.
He mentioned that the apple season would soon be here and there was much better money in apples.
About the forth day, we decided that we had enough of lemons and the labor camp.
We decided to leave the winos, the thieves and the poverty behind.
Before we run up the road on another adventure, let's speak of Galeta the town and of Santa Barbara.
Galeta sits next to the ocean on the coast. There was an old airport across the road from the labor camp.
I never saw any planes there. There was an odd blimp or plane there, an experimental something or other, it was strange.
While I was there they had a car race at the airport, MGs, Austin Healys, and a lot of other small engine autos.
They had straw  bales of hay at the turns. We watched part of the race and moved on into town.
We visited The University of California Santa Barbara Campus on the oceanside with its boardwalks of concrete.
We would go into this folk bar nightly, where people would sit on a stool and play their own folk songs.
We would sit and drink coffee.
These were the times of  folk music moving closer to rock and roll, everyone was understanding Woodie Guthrie.
We visited Santa Barbara with its Golden Beauty. It was beautiful there.
I was on a lower level there.
I was the "poor picker" picking their fruit.
I was resentful of the lemon growers' wealth.
They took advantage of the poormans weakness.
I understood the "Golden Haired Beauties" riding around in their MGs with the tennis rackets and tab hunters in the back seat.
I did not like them. I later met the "Golden Haired Beauties" at Morningstar.
They didn't seem to like it either.
The poor labor was in my mind at the time in Goleta, the wealth in Santa Barbara.
Something was not right.
I now understand the poor mans plights. Can you blame the landowner for making a living?
I wanted to ride a white horse in a grape field. I picked lemons with winos.
I understand the coal minor and his company store.
Anyway we decided to leave the lemons behind, this Arab man and I.
I said where are the apples.
He says that everyone told him that the Yakima Valley in Washington State is the best place to go.
Sept. 1966
"When do we start?" I said. I had never been north of San Francisco. He said "We will go different ways and see who gets their first." I cannot remember which road I took the coastal road or the freeway. I think I took the freeway. I caught rides whenever I could. When I finally got to Yakima, I headed for the farm employment office in town. I walked into the building to find that every seat, every space was occupied. My My! I asked one of the men standing where do I go to pick apples. He smiled and said apples won't be ready for a least two weeks. I said what are all these people doing here? "Jus waiting" he said.
As I was about to turn and go find some room to rent for the night a  young farmer in his forties walks up onto a platform above the crowd and says.
"I need three men to pick hops?"
No one in the crowd answers.
He repeats his plea and waits five or ten seconds.
Time passes.
No one in the crowd answers.
He repeats his plea and waits five or ten seconds.
One man says "OK".
Now I need two more, no answer. "Two more!"
Another man raises his hand.
"I've got two, one more man?"
Twenty seconds passed before I raise my hand, why not, I need work.
What the hell are hops?
Nobody wanted to pick hops.
He motions for use to hop into the back of his pickup for the ride to his farm. I grab my seabag, put it into the truck and then I climb in. The three of us adjusted ourselves in the back of his truck. "You'll learn" he replies after asking us if we know anything about picking hops. We drove about ten miles before we got to his farm. He drives by his house toward the some small buildings in the distance. We end up in front of three small one room cabins. He shows us were each of us will stay. I share a cabin with a man my age, a little heavier than I. We say our hellos... he was already there. The farmer says that come sun-up we'll be in the field, so be ready to go early.
We were all ready to go come sun up. Women, men and families were headed toward the fields.
Where these other familes came from I do not know?
A few of us jumped into his truck, some people had their own cars. The group followed the farmer to the fields of hops. What I noticed first was that the hops were suspended on wires. The wire were held up by poles in the ground, everything looked like a giant grape arbor. The picture of it would look like this. The farm tractor pulling a combine between two wire rows, fifteen feet in the air. Each row  is on each side of the combine. If you were to put a cherry picker cage on each side of the combine, up high, that is what it would look like. And that is what the farmer did. The hops would grow up a string attached to the wire above. When the hop plant got to the top it would grow outward and fall back to earth. The plants would look like ice cream cones. The hops were indeed a vine that climbed to the sky and fell back to earth.
         My job as was explained to me, was to have a pair of leather gloves, machete, long sleeve shirt and then climb up the edge of the combine to the cage above. In the cage I stood waist high above the hops. Once there I  would reach into the hop vine and grab hold and pull. I would use the machete in a slicing motion along the wire seperating the hops from the wire. Below me women with large hats would cut the lower end of the hop plant at the ground. The hop plant now free, I would swing it into the combine where the hop would be separated from vine and string. The farmer would move tractor and combine in a steady pace, stopping only to refuel and/or eat lunch. We would work until dark, never stopping. After about three weeks non-stop I was exhausted. I had four different partners in the other cage. They all said that they were not paid enough for that kind of work. When we finally had finished picking all his hops, he told us all to come over to the house where he said he would pay us. As he paid me and shook my hand he said, "stick around a bit, I'd like to talk to you after everyone leaves". When everyone was gone he said get in the truck. We drove around to another farm of his across the road. He stopped in an apple orchard, we got out. He then said," How would you like to pick these". I looked at the trees, which were not very tall, they were loaded with fruit the size of grapefruit. I said "yes". He then preceded to tell me how to pick them. Grab the apple firmly, careful not to bruise the fruit with your thumb or fingers. Do not drop any fruit at all, lay all fruit down gently, but work fast.  He gave me a bag to wear. I would fill the bag, then go over to a four foot by four foot by three box. The large box was on skids and attached to a small tractor. I would get five dollars for every huge box I filled. With such large apples in did not take to many apples to fill a box. As I would fill a box the farmer would come over and inspect the box for culls. I worked in the orchard alone. These apples were premium, nothing but the best. I made plenty of money out there on that farm. The time came when I had picked all his trees. I had finished up the apples on this farm. The farmer thanked me for helping him out. He paid me, I packed my seabag and he took me to town. We said our goodbyes and he left. I went over to the post office and asked the clerk for any general delivery mail sent to a Tom.  He looked and handed me a postcard, it was from the Arab man. He gave me an address of where he was at. I  went over to the bus depot and found a map of town and the area. I located the orchard and found him in a cabin similar to the one I had at the other farm. I said "man these are tall trees. Nothing compared to the young short trees I had worked". I asked if this was the only orchard he worked, he said yes. A man could not make any money here, because you would have to climb up fifteen feet up, pick a few apples, climb back down and do it again, always moving the ladder. He says stay and see how it works out. I said ok. I stayed one full day, but on that day I met a young short Eskimo girl, Smokie, she had a round face, black page boy hair, round body, not to round. She said that she was going to Seattle tomorrow, would I like to keep her company. I said sure there is no money to be made here. We traveled by greyhound to Seattle. When we got to Seattle she said I'll see you later and left. I looked in the phone book in the bus depot for an employment office. Found it close to the bus depot. I walk over and into the building. I waited in line for about five minutes, walk over to a desk, where a man motioned me to sit down. He looked at the form I had filled out. He also asked what kind of work I wanted? I said that I just got into town and that I would do anything. He looked into his Rolodex and pulled a card out. He filled out another card and handed it to me. He said that was it and good luck. I thanked him and left the office and building. I though to myself that was easy. If I had been really needing a job at that time I probably would not have gotten a job. I had money in the bank and a paycheck from picking apples. I went over to the office building that he sent me to and reported to a man in the basement of the building. The job that I was to do was to scrub the hallways in the office buildings at night starting at eleven P.M. That was fine with me, anything to get started in town. Don't forget I have just gotten into town only four hours ago and was to start work that night. He said to come back tonight and we would go over everything in detail. My next priority was to find a place to stay. I looked about town and found a room at a small hotel in town. The rent was about ten or more dollars a week for a room, that is all I needed. Going to work that night, some funny but strange things were found out. As I walked over to the Smith Tower as the building where I was to work was called. As I entered the building through the front glass doors, I noticed to the side, a small pub, I walked in looked around, a cocktail lounge is what I saw, not a pub. There were men and women sitting at the bar. A young bartender was working behind the bar. He was dressed in the working uniform of a bartender, long sleeve white shirt with garters on the arms and black slacks. I looked in and walked out. I headed for the steps to the basement. I passed several women coming up the steps as I walked down. When I finally reached the basement I heard music. As I approached the area that I was in that afternoon I noticed two doors wide open strait ahead of me. Apparently they had been closed that afternoon. What I saw was another bar. More activity than the lounge upstairs, the bar was crammed full. I looked in and to my surprise, Smokie (the little Eskimo girl I was on the bus with) was sitting with a group of girls at a table close to the door. A song was playing on a music box. Knowing that I had to go to work in about fifteen minutes, I walked over and said hello, she said something about how did you find me? I told her about the job I was going to. We made small talk and she introduced me to some of her friends. As it turned out later this was a ladies gay bar. I learned what I had to do for this job from my employer. I stayed the winter there in Seattle. I worked in the Smith Tower building as a night watch man with cleaning duties. I hung around the girls in the gay bar. These were the first people I had met in Seattle. Before work each night. I would head to this bar to dance with the girls. I met some nice people there and a few of the dikes said to my friend Smokie "take him somewhere else". Most let me dance with them, but that was all, I had fun dancing.. They were committed to their lifestyles.
"I'm Your Puppet" was playing on the juke box.
 ***
Deep in the sixties "When a Man Loves a Woman" by Percy Sledge is playing on the jukebox.
I am sitting at the bar in Seattle.
That sound moves deep into my mind.
 

A Little Pause

The Next Menu
 

    Chapter 4
 

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