The girl from Venice Beach – 1973
The girl from Venice Beach – 1973
I found a hand typed letter in some old drawings last week (February, 2017). It’s a forgotten love story about one of my old girlfriends. I’ve tried to retain some of the voice of that 17 year old, while rewriting some parts to make them more lucid. And yes, this really happened.
November, 1973, somewhere near LA:
Fuck it was cold that morning. I was awakened from my slumber by a sound that scorched my heart. Teijsha, god, my beautiful Teijsha crying out in mock anger as Todd did something outrageous to her lovely young body in the early morning light.
Half asleep, my mind drifted back over the last couple weeks:
Teijsha and I running, clutching our packs and sleeping bags, tripping over our soaked ponchos, kissing and hugging, laughing and smiling, giggling and hoping: shit, that damn 16 wheeler truck better be going as far as Eureka…because once we get our stuff inside that 1000 mile high tractor and get ourselves up the ladder and shut the door, we’re not going to get out just because he’s only going as far as podunk, which is halfway to Eureka and has the tiniest amount of traffic between here and wherever we are.
Goodbye to a 1000 experiences, lifetimes, climaxes, smiles, frowns and grins…Teijsha and I stoned out of our minds on mescaline, walking into Ruth’s Anaheim laundromat, skipping to the bulletin board, giggling at the thumbtacks, later camping in a small patch of trees inside the cloverleaf on-ramp to Interstate 5, looking up through the branches to the dark sky as we made love with diesel trucks roaring by on the road. And then falling asleep with Teijsha snuggled warm and happy beside me. We were 17, in love, and the world was our oyster.
The dream faded away as I woke up fully, sickened by the sound of Teijsha and Todd making love in the kitchen not less than twenty feet away.
I tried to cover my ears, and when that didn’t work, I crawled down to the bottom of my sleeping bag, not an easy task in a 1968 surplus military down sleeping bag. I could still hear them so I grunted, and then coughed loudly. Teijsha must have recognized the noise as me because the sounds got quieter.
I went back to sleep for a while and dreamed about the folks back home in far away Olympia. I was wakened again by the sound of Todd and Teijsha going outdoors. They had to step over me as they walked through the kitchen of the house where some kind folks had invited us to spend the night.
I sat up and looked over at our traveling buddy Myron, who was bunking down with me below the silverware drawers. He had finally woken up and was blinking over at me through a stupendous hangover.
Myron: “Well, which way did it go?”
Me: “You owe me 10 cents.”
Myron: “It went, you mean.”
Myron: “Ah well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles eh Mark?”
I was feeling pretty shitty about the whole thing so I got up, grabbed my patched blue jeans, pulled them on with a shirt and walked out to the porch. I sat down on the rocking chair and played some lonesome blues on my harp. I’d been playing since the seventh grade when dad gave me a chromatic harmonica for Christmas but mostly I liked playing my Hohner Blues Harps. Pretty soon my feet started to freeze so I went in and sat by the wood stove, which the people inside had been stoking to warm the frigid house.
The front door opened and I heard Todd talking about how cold it was outside and how many different types of birds they had seen. He really was quite a nice guy. We’d met him at a freeway entrance and had invited him to join our threesome as we hitched our way up Highway 1. All four of us had got a ride with these fine people in a VW bus, and then they’d invited us to spend the night in their coastal cabin. Despite the fact that he had just fucked my girlfriend, I couldn’t deny he was a mellow dude.
I was still sitting hung over in the kitchen warming my feet when Teijsha walked in. I could tell she and Todd had been doing some heavy talking ’cause her eyes were all red. I hadn’t even looked at her since the night before when she and Todd had sat on the couch together and started getting it on. As I would come to realize later, free love has it’s down side. There are no ties or commitments , and everyone is free to do whatever they want.
I chose my first words carefully.
“I hope he takes good care of you.”
I guess those were the wrong words because she broke down crying as she ran into my arms.
“Mark, I love you so much, God I love you!”
Well, that really blew me over ‘cause she had just spent the night with Todd, and in the short time I’d known her she didn’t usually just ball anybody.
“I still love you too, Teijsha.”
She was holding on pretty tight to me and it felt damn nice. But I didn’t really know what was happening so I put my arm around her, like when your grandmother is hugging you and you’re just kinda’ hanging on until it’s over. She sobbed for a little while, holding on fiercely and rubbing my back.
“Do you love him?”
“No, but I think I’ll be very happy with him. But that doesn’t change the way I feel about you. I’m so fucking confused!”
She cried some more then and I was getting to feel a little more sure of myself. I tightened my arms, and she responded by lifting her head up off my shoulder. She looked into my eyes with her beautiful tear streaked face, like she used to do when she wanted me to kiss her. At that moment, kissing her was the last thing on my mind and I turned my face away to look out at the fog shrouded coastline.
“Don’t lose me,” I said.
“Oh Mark, I won’t, you’ll see me again.”
“I hope so. God Teijsha, I love you so much.”
Then we both cried for a little bit and I started fidgeting, worrying about Todd walking in on us. Then she did something that really blew my head wide open. Teijsha had a way of talking to me that made me feel tremendous rushes of emotion toward her. It was when I had my arms around her and she would squeeze her hands up between our bodies. She would play with the buttons on my shirt as she talked to me, looking at the buttons she was pushing around and glancing up at me every once in a while. She smiled up at me from behind her long lashes. Every time she did this to me my insides melted and I felt I could love her forever.
Well she started doing that again only she was crying at the same time, stopping to sniffle between each word.
“Do…sniff…I…sniff…do I…sniff… have your address Mark?”
“No, I’ll write it down for you.”
“Mark, if I came up to Olympia in a couple days, would you take me back?”
“Oh, for sure Teijsha, for sure!”
“Well, maybe one day I’ll come walking up to your parents house and surprise you.”
I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down my parents address, where I planned to be for about two weeks during the holidays. I gave her the paper, then found Myron and told him I wanted to split right away. I wanted to hitch to Olympia without spending another night on the road.
Myron was a really mellow dude. He and I and Teijsha had been slowly hitching up the coast between LA and Eureka for a week and a half. Highway 1 was a great place to hitch because there were lots of fellow hippies driving and hitching the road, with frequent places to sleep on the beach. He was headed for Portland eventually. But he knew I couldn’t handle the Todd and Teijsha scene, so he was ready to split immediately.
I went inside to get my poncho and found Teijsha sitting alone in the pantry, weeping. “Did you want to be alone?” I asked. She nodded her head.
I finished packing my pack, an old canvas relic from World War Two. I said goodbye to the beautiful couple who had invited us all to crash at their seaside cabin.
I went back to the pantry, not knowing what to expect. There was my lovely red haired Teijsha. She was curled up in the corner, looking very alone and far away. Her beautiful body was covered in baggy clothes, but her huge eyes stared brightly at me. There was a depth to those eyes that stays with me still to this day.
“Goodbye…” I murmured.
She shook her head slightly, but said nothing, just looked away.
I walked up to Todd, who was sitting in the nicest chair, with his arms folded tightly, staring out the window at the foggy ocean.
“Take good care of my friend,” I told him. He seemed quite taken aback at that and hesitated briefly before warmly grabbing my extended hand.
“I’m really sorry man,” he said.
“That’s alright, I did it to the dude she was living with down in Venice Beach two weeks ago. That the way it goes,” I said.
“That’s the way the ball bounces,” I heard Myron mumble quietly behind me.
“That’s really beautiful man,” Todd said. “Take care of yourself, you are a beautiful person.”
“So long,” I said.
So Myron, me and my harmonica started truckin’ off up the road to the freeway entrance. I turned around once and saw Teijsha looking out the pantry window. It was still partially covered in morning frost, but I could see her tear stained face watching us walk out of her life. I got out my harp and played the Beatles song “Let it be”. We got a ride in a red Volkwagen with a couple cool ladies, away from Teijsha, and one hell of a lot of me.
The back story
I’d met her two weeks before. I had hitched South for a while to escape my wet November tipi. I’d built the tipi after dropping out of high school. I’d cut down the trees, bought a roll of canvas, sewed the seams, everything. I based it on a book called: “The Indian Tipi”. I had put it up on a commune West of Olympia. But the tipi got damp and uncomfortable as the rains came in, so I would head south to warmer weather. I had no where to go, no one to meet, no money in my pocket. I’d fetched up at the Ventura Pier, sitting by the side of the road. I’d given up on getting a ride and was in a mellow mood, watching the world go by.
I got out my trusty harmonica and started playing the blues, sitting on my old canvas rucksack. I saw a VW bug slowing down next to me. I stood up and there was a beautiful red haired girl inside the car, all by herself.
As hitchhikers, we were totally dependent on the people who gave us rides. Very few of us had any money, I might have had five dollars. The people who picked us up gave us shelter, food, everything. We had to basically let the honesty in our souls shine through while standing on the side of the road. They had to be able to look at us and know in an instant, while traveling at freeway speeds, that we were good people.
In some respects, getting rides was an art form. Even back then, single women would generally not pick up guys. Yet there was lovely Teijsha, looking at me through her open passenger side car window, the VW burbling quietly at the curb, waiting to hear my spiel. For hitchhikers, especially guys, this was the gold standard.
“Hi, I’m Teijsha, where are you headed, looks like you need a ride?”
“Far out, yeah, I’d love a ride! I’m not headed anywhere in particular, just hoping for a change of scenery and maybe some food?”
I smiled warmly into the little car at the amazing woman. She looked boldly right back at me, clearly liking what she saw. She was about my age (17), and was wearing very short cut off tattered blue jeans. Her legs were long and slim and she was curved in all the right places. The view into her low cut tank top as she leaned over and rolled down the passenger window was taking my breath away. She was stacked like a brick shit house…to use a common term of the times. To say it was lust at first sight would be an understatement.
“Sure, I have some food at the house, it’s not far away. You wanna come with me? We can get high.”
I threw my pack in the back and she drove me to her place where she had some food. Then we sat on the couch smoking reefer while staring deeply into each others eyes. There was something going on and I really wanted to see where it led. She told me we needed to wait for her boyfriend to get home from work.
He was a chill dude, I’ll call him Ben. He accepted me warily. Clearly this was not the first time she had brought home lost puppies.
After a couple beers and more reefer, we decided to all go to a drive-in movie. I hid in the back seat under a blanket to avoid paying. When we got our parking spot, we leaned the front seats down and all three of us crowded into the back seat where there was more room. When I look back on those strange times from the perspective of age, I can only shake my head at what happened in the back of that car. Both Ben and I started making out with Teijsha. I was making out with her on my side, and Ben was doing the same on his side. Her attention was divided and eventually Ben threw up his hands and left.
After a couple days of that Ben was getting increasingly unhappy. Teijsha and I decided to hitchhike up to my tipi in Olympia where we could start fresh. I wondered how she would make money to help support us. While I had a part time job waiting for me in a print shop, I knew she had no real skills, and my money wouldn’t support two of us.
“Teijsha, how will you make money up in Olympia?”
“Um, I can sell smack? I was a user for a while, and I still have a lot of contacts.”
“Shit, I don’t want you turning all my friends into heroin addicts!”
“Don’t worry, I will only sell to users, it’s easy to tell who’s using. I won’t mess with your friends.” I was dubious at this statement, but I trusted her, and more than that, I really wanted her to come home with me.
Her boyfriend Ben didn’t take it well. Teijsha had insisted he was just her roommate, but I could tell he loved her. He didn’t get violent, just got quiet and sad. He told her he loved her and would always have a place for her if she decided to come back.
Teijsha and I hitched north up the coast, a couple of vagabond hippies with no money, no plans, just flowing along in the river of life. The rides were usually easy to get, especially when you had a girlfriend as beautiful as Teijsha. With her movie star looks, everyone wanted to be near her. She bubbled with excitement and passion for living.
And then we met Todd, and, as my parents had done with me, I gave her her freedom. It broke my heart to do it, but I felt it was the right thing to do.
Hitching was a very reliable method of transportation back then. I had become so good at it that I could beat the Greyhound between Olympia and San Francisco. There were thousands of hippies traveling around the country then (early seventies). All the freeway entrances had lines of hippies with their thumbs out. Anytime I felt the need to escape my life, I would load up my pack, grab a guitar,some harmonicas and walk to the downtown freeway entrance. A car would usually pull over within an hour. I had the dress and look down to a science. Fellow hippies could look at me and know in an instant that I was fellow traveler, and more than that, they knew I would be cool.
They would pick me up, make room for my pack and we’d share a joint and whatever else they had including food. I’d also get rides from “straight” people. Often they were business professionals in nice suits and ties. They were curious about why I was on the road. All they expected in return was entertaining conversation…maybe a song on my harmonica, and occasionally help with the driving. I hitchhiked the entire west coast, parts of Canada, and all the way to Colorado and back. All my high school friends were in college by then, but I felt the need to stay on “Walk-a-bout”. All I was sure of was that I just wanted to be free and not think about the future.
My parents (strict Presbyterians) were not happy about my choices, but dad was a very wise man. He knew my mind was set. I think he also had faith in my intelligence, and knew I would come around eventually. So they let me have my freedom. Their offers of free college tuition had no attraction for me.
People who I could relate to were all heavily involved in stopping the Vietnam war. We wanted to change the world, get in closer touch with nature. It was all a bunch of foolish pipe dreams with no real basis in reality, yet they made perfect sense in my confused 17 year old mind. Around my high school, and to my peers, I was a hero. I had dropped out of the corrupt American dream and was living the real dream, the life of freedom. I had a part time job printing at the Sherwood Press…whenever I was in town…and the tipi. Life was full of marching in the streets, standing vigils at the State Capital, and volunteering at the Olympia Food Coop, which still runs to this day (2017).
It took me three years to come to my senses. I sort of “hit bottom” and didn’t like what I saw. Through it all I always had a part time job in printing with my old friend Jocelyn. She didn’t mind that I liked to hitchhike around the country. She also acted as a lifeline between me and my dad. My dad and I were estranged for a while. But Jocelyn sang in the choir with dad and would pass on messages to me since I had no phone in the tipi. She had a fleet of young people who helped her at the print shop. They were all high school friends of mine like Ted, Margot and Byron Youtz, Marc Young and even Devi Unsoeld and her brothers.
Once I realized I needed to get serious about life, Jocelyn suggested I attend a trade school for printing. I was already running her shop. I didn’t do billing, but I could handle all the day to day interactions with customers, and print the usual run of jobs from wedding announcements to her bread and butter work: funeral announcements. There was a vocational trade school half an hour up the freeway in Tacoma.
I walked into the college that fall and asked if they had openings. The teacher, her name was Connie, seemed sad that they were full. I told her a little about my history. Suddenly she asked me if I was a high school drop out. When I admitted that I was, her face brightened. She said they had one opening left but they were holding it for a dropout. It came with a full scholarship but only if I agreed to attend extra classes to finish high school while I studied printing.
In looking back over my life, it’s clear to see that was a pivotal day. I was a natural printer. All the classes were easy. I could run the letterpresses better than the instructors. I was so good with the machinery that the pressroom instructor (Lamar) tasked me with rebuilding one of the Multilith 1250’s.