I got the idea to live in San Francisco when I was in college. Maybe it's the fact that it seemed like the complete opposite of where I went to school in northern Virginia, a geography I never really liked and tried desperately to escape every chance I had. One spring break I made plans to go San Francisco on my own, to explore the city and see if I liked it.
In writing this, I remembered for the first time in years that I had an ex-boyfriend fly out to meet me on that trip- bad decision- for a few days. Not just any ex-boyfriend, but my first love, long-term high school boyfriend. Why? It's hard to say. I didn't love him any more, but I think I wished I did. I remember throwing a full pack of Marlboro Lights out the window, declaring that I was through with cigarettes. He yelled for me to stop, insisting I was crazy, but nothing was gonna stop me from throwing those babies out the huge city window, with no curtains, in the white-walled hotel room where I was staying.
I was twenty-one at the time. I had no money (awesome planning), so I made good luck charms and tried to sell them on Haight street for a dollar. The charms were made of random garbage like Juicy Fruit gum wrappers, hole punches, and tape. I made them very small so they could fit in places like wallet pockets. I think I had recently read a Basquiat biography. There was an older man named Bobby who worked the front desk of the hotel. I showed him my good luck charms. I said that I was trying to sell them, 'like Basquiat.'
I remember the exact outfit I had on that day. I wore a 3/4 sleeve vintage sweater that had peach and rust-colored stripes on it, and a vintage sea green skirt with forest green flower outlines and pale peach flowers on it. I also had on a recently borrowed pair of dusty orange leather, wooden-healed wedge sandals that I wore over thigh high coral-colored wool socks. No matter how great I felt in my San Francisco-inspired outfit, I was bad at selling good luck charms on the street.
That is also the day I met Dudley. He asked to sit down across from me at a cafe when there were plenty of other places to sit. I was eating a beautiful sandwich, for which I had just enough money. I ended up staying with him the first week of the first summer I lived in Berkeley. Only as a friend. Dudley was more like a brother. He had a creepy van because he used to be a ski instructor in Vail. I borrowed it one day to drive to my first day of art theory and criticism class at UC Berkeley. It was my first time driving there, not surprisingly (though things have changed) I was running late, and of course in a panic to find a parking place. At some point I noticed an underground parking garage and got really excited.
As I drove down the ramp, I heard the most vile screeching and scraping sounds when I realized what I had done. The roof rack was hanging on by only a few very loose screws. Not only had I done serious damage to Dudley's car, I was worried someone would steal the roof rack while I was in class, but nobody did. Then something strange happened. When I got back to Dudley's the roof rack wasn't there. Apparently it fell off the top of the van as I made the 45 minute drive north, driving 70 miles per hour, back to his place.
I parked the van a few blocks away and paced as I tried to think of what and how to tell him (a new friend but still a relative stranger) that I tore up the top of his van and lost his roof rack. I even called that same ex-boyfriend, a mechanic, and asked him to make an estimate of the damage, based on my description.
When I did tell Dudley what happened he told me that he didn't care. That he'd thought about trying to sell the roof rack for a while, and that he was happy to be rid of it. He said the dents, black marks, and scraped paint didn't matter either. That it was on the roof. It wasn't important.
Sometimes, it just makes me laugh, the roof rack story, and the sequence of events that made it possible.