September 24, 2020:

I took the Greyhound, most of the time.

In those days there was a station in Redlands. Riverside was the main Inland Empire hub, and you changed buses there traveling to and from San Diego. I liked that little station. There was a happy two-booth café for french fries and a surprisingly fruitful little used bookstore where I bought Vico and Cellini and Essays in Self-Criticism. From there the route was backroad, partly the old Highway 395, partly the newer Highway 15 which paralleled it. The only town was Temecula and aside from that you'd ride for two hours without a house or a Denny's in sight. Just California backcountry hills and rocks and scrub.

At first I went home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. And summer. For holidays I took the bus, with a daypack filled with books, contact lenses and tetracycline. Clothes were still plentiful in my childhood bedroom in my mother's little apartment on Cowley Way. Food was in the fridge. She stocked it with sodas and we were set for visits.

Summers she'd get me, in her 1968 canary yellow Nova I loved and wish I owned today. Years later she sold it without offering me it first. I owned books in milk crates, a stereo, a week's worth of clothes, and the 1972 Telecaster Thinline I'd bought from an older student. It all fit easily in the trunk and back seat. Nowadays my books alone require a moving truck.

Partway through my first year I brought home a girlfriend, Kathy, one of the nicest girls I ever managed to somehow attract. She liked me but she left school that first year and I never saw her again. On that trip we took her car, a stick shift. In my little neighborhood on a slight hill in the parking lot behind the grocery store she taught me to drive it: how to grip using just the clutch, how to shift without stalling. My mother was dumbfounded. "Where will she sleep?!?" With me, of course. Spooned very very tightly in my little childhood single bed, no longer quite so childish.

I liked the Greyhound rides. They were relaxing, I could read, and I loved getting the living fuck out of horrible smog-poisoned Redlands, only a few miles from the Kaiser Steel plant in Fontana which was for decades the actual source — contrary to legend it was not the freeways — of the L.A. basin's horrific pollution. Ocean air, hallelujah! But I detested the city bus necessary to take me home from the Greyhound station, which at that time was on West Broadway downtown. Downtown was cool: it was sketchy in a disreputable bums-and-porn kind of Times Square way. But the city buses carried too much bad karma from grammar school, so that boarding them took me mentally to ugly places. I never did get over that.