A Northern Trip

First…start the music

California is only one state for mapping purposes. In truth it always has been at least two very different worlds. The world of Southern California is hot, beaches, kicked back ‘tudes, densely populated, and cars. The Northern California world is more vineyards, cooler temps, slightly fewer people, all punctuated by the ever-so-sophisticated San Francisco. Back in the day traveling between the two worlds was as easy as a $39.00 round trip ticket on Pacific Southwest Airlines with its’ incredible flight attendants, a nickname of TransLove Airways, and planes that smiled.

1968 was more than an odd time to be in either world. My immediate world was surfing, girls, and graduating from a nice (and only slightly repressive) Catholic high school. What awaited me was the near certainty of being drafted for Viet Nam with a very much more shortened lifespan than I had planned. Seemed like a good idea to check out a few things I may have otherwise postponed. So I boarded that smiling jet and was transported to that “other” Northern world.

The day was crab at Alioto’s on the pier, watching the Urbanites at Union Square, and Chinatown. That evening I found myself standing in line for tickets to hear my current fave, Jefferson Airplane. Later on I heard they built that city. The venue was packed and long before the Airplane took the stage all you had to do was breathe deeply to grab that high. I hadn’t exactly been holding my breath and was soon deeply into the music. Embryonic Journey lead to Someone To Love as the vibe built. The set mellowed down as they began Fat Angel. As the song worked towards a crescendo I made through the tightly packed crowd my to an exit for some fresh air.

The door was not so much an exit as a portal. It slammed closed behind me and I was instantly alone, enveloped in the smell of salt air carried on a dense fog gently surrounding me as it caressed my face. The faint metallic clang of a cable car bell mixed with odd sounds of the city that floated in giving the scene a confused, spooky, etherial, boundless eyt unseen feeling. Growing out of the gray walls I could hear the throaty rumble of a motorcycle coming towards me. As it paused for the red light I was greeted with the huge toothy smile of a buckskin clad biker and glimpses of the city reflecting off his chrome machine. Flashing a quick peace sign, he was swallowed back into the fog.

“He will bring happiness in a pipe. He’ll ride away on his silver bike. And apart from that he’ll be so kind in consenting to blow your mind”

I walked to the waterfront and caught a cable car back to the bus station and from there the airport. The smiley plane with its’ hot pants clad attendants felt even more unreal as it sat patiently waiting to transport me back to my warm southern world.

“Fly TransLove Airways. Gets you there on time. “

A little over an hour later I stood on the beach, Mother Ocean reaching out to touch my feet inticing me westward. Her vast expanse faded into the unknowing blackness of the horizon. Changing worlds so fast can mess a bit with one’s mind. Psychedelic music in a fog shrouded alternate reality was one world. Viet Nam was another. My future might be still another. Thoughts of being an artist, of love and future children mingled easily with darker, more limiting fears of jungles and endings. On the other side of that water was Viet Nam. Behind me throbbed a city full of other possible futures. Some were choices…

“Fly Jefferson Airplane. Gets you there on time”

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