On my first trip to California, I hitchhiked on U.S. Route 460, which is a major East/West artery. Right away I got a ride from two girls who were about my age; I was still 16, but now I looked like a hippie, with long hair down to my waist. The girls — two sisters — were cute. “Where you going?” one of them asks. I say, “Wherever you’re going.” The girl at the wheel says, “Dallas.” About halfway there we stop and get a room for the night, only we don’t sleep much. The girls tag me. We fuck like rabbits. In Dallas we get to her father’s place, a humungous ranch like the spread on the TV show with J.R. Ewing that was a big hit at the time. The sisters tell me I can hang there. I did for five days until they got a call from dad, who wanted to be picked up at the airport. They drop me off on the side of the highway and I get a ride from Jimmy Jarrett who worked for a company that “amalgamized” scrap metal. That’s what he told me. He was on his way to Las Vegas where the MGM Grand had burned down.
Outside Vegas I get a rider from a truck driver who seemed okay. “I’m going to L.A.,” he says. I say, “Me, too.” Sometimes a trucker would want to get in your pants, but mostly they were just lonely and wanted someone in the cab to talk to and make the time go faster. On the way to L.A., the trucker gets on his CB radio and talks to a girl with the handle “Sunshine.” He comes alongside her Karmann Ghia; they talk and then pull off to the side of the road. I think she was a hooker who worked the truckers. She wanted me to ride with her, but the trucker said, “No,” and that I had to go with him because, in exchange for food on the way, I was going to help him unload in L.A. But when we got there, a guy with a forklift did all the heavy lifting so I was free to go.
I’d heard about Venice Beach when I was in the Florida Keys so I headed there and pretty soon connected to a Jamaican named Demeo who made and sold bamboo flutes to tourists. He took me under his wing and introduced me to his friends, all of whom lived on the beach and looked out for one another. Helicopters would strafe us—mostly just blow sand in our faces—but we hunkered down under tarps and were unharmed. We lived on government issued cheese, bread and peanut butter. Then one day Demeo tells me “Get a job and contribute your share to the group.” I said, “I know how to sell weed. I can do that.”
He hooked me up with some Mexican guys who fronted me weed. I would go out to West Hollywood by bus and peddle dime bags outside a place called The Yellow Submarine that had a pool table and a few pinball machines and that sold sandwiches. West Hollywood was dirty and smoggy. There was nothing glamorous about it. I had to go to there because gangsters had cornered the weed market at Venice Beach. Kids smoked dope outside the Yellow Submarine, and old guys came-by to pick-up the young boys. At the time, I felt that nobody should fuck a fourteen-year-old except another fourteen year old, but I couldn't protect all those kids. It was sad. It’s still sad.
One day my friend, Scotty, and I see a shop owner named Simon standing on the sidewalk yelling, “There goes a mugger.” We take after the dude who’s carrying a woman’s purse under his arm. “Hey, dude, drop the purse,” Scotty shouts. We catch up to him; he drops the purse in a parking lot and takes off. I pick it up and look inside. There’s $800 there. “Hey, we got bank!” I said.
We go back to the store—Simon the Best Blue Jeans—where the owner is standing on the sidewalk. He’s shocked that we’ve come back. “I bet there’s no money inside,” he says. I say, “Shut up,” We give the purse to the Chinese lady and she bows to us. That’s all the thanks I needed, though Scotty wanted a cash reward.
After that, I started going to a place called Okie Dogs that sold French fries and hot dogs. Homeless kids hung out there. I got to know a girl who shot speed and who had needle marks up and down both arms. It would take her half an hour to find a good vein. That was very disturbing! Then I had a girlfriend named Dee Dee Alton, whose dad was the head of Pepsi for the western U.S.A. I fell in love with her. In fact, I fell in love with almost all the women I met in L.A. Dee Dee was spoiled rotten; she had a BMW 2002 which I ran really hard one day on the way from the Renaissance Faire. Dee Dee and I would get down and dirty. By this time I was 17 and thought I knew nearly everything there was to know about the world. I didn’t. Dee Dee helped me grow up and figure out who the fuck I was.