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They lived happily for the rest of his life. 1
It was March 1983, and I had a goal. Jiggs had left for Orange County with his friend Milt. They had gone to sell aluminum siding. They were tin men. My goal was to become truly free for the first time in my life. I had no wheels. Although the burned out limo still ran, Jiggs traded it to some hippies for several ounces of marijuana. The hippies lived in Gate 5, which is where the transients lived in Sausalito, in everything from tents to lean-tos. They threw a couple of black, fuzzy beanbag pillows in the burned-out backend andtransformed it into a pirate radio station for whatever cause still remained for the hippies of the early eighties. For the first time since coming to California, I had a legitimate job managing an insurance defense law firm on Lombard Street in San Francisco. My job in Washington, DC as a court reporter, and a good recommendation landed me the job on my first day looking for work. I was alone and hoped to remain that way. I had moved into a small two-room attic in a house directly across the street from Smitty's where I still shot pool in the evening. I had the use of the bathroom in this house, but I had no kitchen privileges. It may be why to this day the kitchen is the least used room in my house. In fact, I have a plaque on the wall that says, “I only have a kitchen because it came with the house.” It was given to me by a friend who knows me well. I had no phone, and I didn't entertain guests. The isolation was just what I wanted. I had more or less sworn off the human race. With the exception of my job and shooting pool, I kept totally to myself. The law firm was small, ten attorneys and twelve staff. As Office Manager, I supervised the support staff and was responsible for the monthly billing of clients. It was a straight forward job, very precise, and I liked the people I worked with. The offices were located on the third floor of a building on Lombard Street about a mile from the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a fairly short, straight commute by metro bus from Sausalito, convenient since I was on foot. The Silver Cloud Restaurant/Bar was located on the first floor of the building where I worked, and occasionally I'd join a few of the lawyers and/or staff for drinks or dinner. Most nights I would get on the bus and head for Sausalito and my little attic. I would change out of my work clothes and 2
head across the street to Smitty's to shoot some pool before retreating to my little attic to turn in for the night. Smitty's had two bar tables with sign up boards for anyone wanting to play. There were about a dozen of us who shot pool most nights. I sat at a table near the pinball machines, and clutched my quarter waiting for my game. If someone came over and asked if I would mind if they sat down, I would say I minded, and they would go away. I was just there to shoot pool. Some evenings I would choose to walk up the street to Pickles' apartment to watch my TV. Pickles was the local drug dealer who at this point owned my TV, because Jiggs left town owing him money, and he kindly accepted my TV as payment in full. I paid off many debts Jiggs had left behind, including several bounced checks; one for $200 at Smitty's. At Pickle's, I'd watch my old TV. When Pickles came back from his “office” which was a corner barstool at Smitty's, I'd get up and leave so he could do business. I knew most of his clients from shooting pool. Even if he was having friends over, I usually didn't hang out. I just left. One evening he came home, and he had someone with him I had never seen before. After a perfunctory introduction, I said goodbye and left. The next evening I went to Smitty's to shoot pool. I saw a man sitting on a stool at the bar in the corner by one of the big front windows. He was by himself. He was wearing a blue corduroy Greek fisherman's hat, blue work shirt and levis. He wore a red bandana around his neck and had a full gray beard and mustache. His salt and pepper gray curly hair spilled out from under his hat, although his hair didn't reach his shoulders. He had the weathered face and look of an “old salt” who had just sailed into Sausalito from somewhere outside the Golden Gate. It was the man I saw at Pickles' the night before. The only thing I knew was that his name was Bob. Although it was completely out of character, I went over to him and said hello, and he smiled and returned my greeting. He had one of the kindest faces I had ever seen. I felt completely comfortable. I quickly finished my pool game and went over to sit next to him. He bought me a diet coke which was all that I drank when I was shooting pool. I told him I recognized him from the night before, and he said he remembered meeting me, but I disappeared almost immediately thereafter. He asked me if I'd like to go to dinner with him, and I said I'd love to. What? Why did I say yes? There I was, stepping outside of the wall I had built around me. 3
We left Smitty's and walked downtown to a restaurant called the Trident which was on Richardson Bay. Our table was in front of a window with a view of the night lights of San Francisco. I spent two fascinating hours just listening to this man sitting across the table from me. He was at the same time outgoing and gregarious, and kind and gentle. He was staying with friends in Oakland while he awaited word from his friend Gary who was in negotiations in Egypt regarding a building project. Bob was an architect and had spent two years in Saudi Arabia on a project Gary had put together. Five days a week Bob went to the Great Western building in San Francisco and sat in an office on the 38th floor waiting for faxes to arrive from Egypt to report on progress in the negotiations. He happened to come to Sausalito on this particular weekend to see Pickles whom he had met several years before at the Chateau Liberte in the Santa Cruz Mountains where the Doobie Brothers hung out and where Pickles was working at the time. Bob was divorced and living in a house he had built in the Santa Cruz Mountains not far from the Chateau. While we sat having dinner, I was carried away to other times and far off places as Bob entertained me with tales spanning forty years, from World War II to the present; from the time he was a young soldier about to enter the war; to stories about writers like Ernest Hemingway, and Henry Miller and Langston Hughes. He was 59, and I was 39. But that didn't matter in the least. We felt a kinship as though we had known each other a thousand years. I told him something of my situation, but mostly I listened. He had been leading a rather nomadic existence for several years, after putting 25 years into a marriage, including a wife and four daughters. The oldest daughter had died tragically in a motorcycle accident in Hawaii, and he and Clancy had adopted her year old son Ben. From that night forward, we spent nearly every evening together, going to dinner and talking until late into the evening. He treated me with total respect. He somehow sensed, without discussion, that I was working through some things, and he allowed me space. This continued for nearly a month, into the beginning of April. He stayed in my attic one night, and I fell asleep with him just holding me until morning. The following day, while I was at work, he went back to Oakland to check in with his hosts, Larry and Donna who probably thought he had fallen off the planet. The next night he met me in San 4
Francisco when I finished work. It was a Friday night. We had dinner at the Silver Cloud, and decided this was the night we would make love for the first time. We were standing at a corner on Lombard Street waiting for the bus to take us across the bridge to Sausalito. It was late enough in the evening that the buses were not coming along as often as they did during rush hour. Finally Bob hailed a cab, and we jumped in and told the cabbie we were going to Caledonia Street in Sausalito. The cabbie was only too happy to accommodate us. We exited the cab in front of Smitty's, but we went directly across the street and went into the house where I was living and took the stairs to the attic. For the first time since I had begun my wanderings, I experienced real love. It was unlike anything I had felt before. We made love; we talked; we made love; we decided we would get married in Egypt. Within ten minutes of that decision, we decided we would marry before going to Egypt. Then we decided we would get married as soon as possible. We even had a mock ceremony on the spot. I was caught up in a whirlwind. I didn't even think to call my kids to tell them I had met someone. In fact, the only person in my family who learned of Bob's existence before we married was my brother Jim. Jim was my “crazy artist brother” as I referred to him. He was an excellent artist in many mediums, but was living quite possibly a crazier life than I was. When my mother learned that I was in California by myself and that I was no longer with Jiggs, she sent Jim to check on me. Jim was the perfect one to do so. Bob and I met him at the Greyhound bus station in San Francisco where he arrived on the long dog. I hadn't seen him in about five years, so I was very happy he had come. He and Bob became instant friends. They were both artists, both nomads and both gentle souls. After picking up Jim's backpack, which was all he had, we walked down to a metro stop and caught a bus to Sausalito. We arrived back at the attic, dropped off his bag and headed for Zack's to get something to eat. Jim asked all the questions for which he thought our mother would expect answers, but that was all academic. He would, as was his normal bent, tell my mother whatever he thought she wanted to hear. Jim knew Jiggs, of course, and he could see how happy I was. Bob told him about Egypt. In the meantime, I was working, so was Bob and all was not only well but better than it had been in years. Jim spent three days with us, after which he wrote a six page letter to my mother informing her that 5
I was working for a very fine gentleman (Bob) who had a project in Egypt, and I had been hired to work there for a year. She need not worry about me, because it was a very good job, and I was doing fine. He showed me the letter and then he put it in an envelope for me to send the next day. The next morning, Good Friday, Bob and I accompanied Jim to the bus station where he boarded the bus with his $99 pass and departed for the town in Michigan where we had grown up. His reason for going there, if he had a reason, was not shared with us. Greyhounds are fast, but Jim didn't even have time to get to Grand Ledge before his letter to my mother was pointless. Bob and I had already decided to get married as soon as possible. The letter was never sent. I wish I had kept it. I'd love to read it now. I did call my mother to assure her that I had a good job managing a law firm in San Francisco, and I was doing very well. Easter was just two days away. Bob invited me to his family Easter gathering at his daughter's home in Mill Valley. He would tell his family of our plans to marry. I met “the full catastrophe,” as he referred to his family. This included meeting his former wife Clancy, two of his three daughters, Shannon and Stella, and his son/grandson Ben, and Shannon's husband and two children. It was there that I learned that everyone called him Captain Bob. I understood how he came by the name, and I liked it, so he was Captain Bob ever after. The date of the Easter party was April 3, 1983. Captain Bob announced our plans to marry and set the date of April 22, less than three weeks away. Everyone raised their glasses and toasted our upcoming wedding. It was an incredible feeling for me. I never stopped to ask myself what I was doing. It never occurred to me that the question needed to be asked. The truth is, it was serendipity, all serendipity. It was right, that's all. It just was. It was like nothing I could ever have imagined, and there was no down side to it. After our announcement, and the toast, the Captain and I were given a ride back to Sausalito by a family friend and we stopped in Smitty's to make our announcement to everyone at the bar. After celebrating, we crossed the street to what was now “our” little attic. The next day, just as we had been doing for the last month, we caught the metro bus to San Francisco and I went to work. From that day forward, with the exception of going to Larry and Donna's to pack up his seabag, we were together except when I was at my office. During the work week, we would catch the bus and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco. I would 6
get off at the bus stop about a block from my office, and he would go on to the financial district where he would hang out in his office until I got off work. He would be waiting for me in the Silver Cloud at the end of the day, and we'd take the bus back to Sausalito. No one in my family knew what was happening to me, not even my brother Jim. I would have at least told him, but I had no idea how to reach him. Now I know this must sound a little crazy, but it was just happening. From Easter on we were in wedding planning mode. Of course there would be nothing typical about our wedding. The wedding would take place on the patio deck of the Silver Cloud. There was an iron gate entering the patio from the sidewalk. Captain Bob and Mike, his best man, would enter through the gate having come from two doors down the street where Sal the Barber gave them haircuts and trimmed their beards. I would be escorted downstairs from the law offices by my boss. We would descend from the office on the elevator and enter the patio through the double doors. Two weeks before the wedding, Bob went ring hunting. He found my ring in an antique jewelry store. It came from the Victorian era and had two hearts touching each other with flowers enveloping them. We went to a jewelry designer for Bob’s ring which had eight leaping dolphins around the band. The designer said he would make every attempt to have it ready for the wedding which was only two weeks away. Bob bought a new blue blazer, a new tie, and a new pair of leather boots. Bob's son-in-law Craig became an overnight Universal Life Minister so he could perform the ceremony. Bob’s daughter Shannon was to be my matron of honor. She and Craig wrote the words for the ceremony. They hastily added words necessary for us to exchange rings. Bob and I made appointments for blood tests and went to City Hall to apply for our marriage license. We were like a young couple getting married for the first time. The one thing I did on my own was to go looking for a wedding dress. I had no preconceived idea of what I wanted. I left my office at lunchtime one day, turned left outside the gate, and walked the length of Lombard Street all the way to Van Ness. I had no idea what stores I might be looking in, but when I reached Van Ness, I turned right for one block, then another right, walking back in the direction of my office. I was about to give up after walking one block past my office cross street. I turned right to walk a block back to Lombard when I looked across the street and saw an import rug store with a dress displayed in the window. It looked like a gypsy peasant dress, and I loved it. It 7
was nontraditional in every way. It was rose colored, with smocking, empire waist, billowy sleeves with a green floral pattern the last five inches of the sleeves, and the last seven or so inches of the ankle length dress. Bob would not see it until I came through the doors to the patio. He later described me as his Rumanian gypsy bride. I took the dress to a florist about a block from my office, and they designed a floral wreath which I wore in place of a veil. I carried a bridal bouquet which was tossed after the ceremony. Bob bought me the woven leather sandals I wore, and the earrings made from porcupine quills and abalone shells. Bob invited all of his friends he thought might possibly be able to attend on such short notice, and even called those he thought would not be able to attend. Everyone from my office would be in attendance, because the wedding took place at the end of the work day on Friday. I was a member of a girl’s softball team, and they all planned to come. I also invited all of our friends from Smitty’s, and Bob’s daughters invited many of their friends who lived in and around San Francisco or Mill Valley. I even had two blood relatives who heard about it and planned on attending, both of whom would be a surprise to me; one was my very straight-laced, but romance loving cousin Barb from Palo Alto; and the other was Jiggs’ youngest son Paul who knew what life had been like with Jiggs, and was very happy for my good fortune. As near as we could estimate, there would be about 150 in attendance. Sam, the owner of the Silver Cloud, kindly offered to provide all the hors d’ouerves at no charge, and all guests would buy their own drinks. My law office would provide the wedding cake. It was a very spontaneous and loosely organized happening. On my 40th birthday, just four days before the wedding, Bob's former wife Clancy invited us to dinner at Scoma's in downtown Sausalito. She wanted to give us a gift, and in a way turn Bob over to me with warnings and blessings. She was happy for us both, but she didn't want to attend the wedding. It was a very pleasant time, and Clancy and I became friends at that moment and forever after. Four days later, and our wedding day had arrived. The guests began gathering on the patio about 4:30 p.m. The ladies in my office helped me get ready, and my boss was as nervous as if he were actually my father. He was unhappy to lose me as his office manager, but having known Jiggs 8
before, he smiled to see me so happy. At 5:00 p.m., my boss and I got on the elevator to descend to the first floor. Shannon met us as the elevator doors opened. Captain Bob and his best man Mike had come from Sal's barber shop and entered the iron gate to the patio. They stood in place waiting in anticipation. Craig was holding the words he and Shannon had written for the ceremony. The guests were gathered informally in clusters on the deck, and the double doors opened and Shannon came out. She was wearing a beautiful Japanese kimono and had already begun crying. Her younger sister Stella was the only bridesmaid. One thing I learned that day was that Captain Bob's daughters were incurable romantics who cried at the drop of a hat. The sky was blue might do it. But they were so happy for their father, as were most of his friends who were there. Bob had been wandering much like I was, and they might not hear from him for months at a time. They worried about him. Everyone there knew either my story or Bob's and they were all beaming with us. Craig read the words he and Shannon had written, which Bob and I repeated to each other. We exchanged rings. Our hands were shaking with nervous excitement At the end of the very brief ceremony everyone broke into spontaneous applause, as Bob and I kissed. We were pronounced husband and wife, and everyone started hugging everyone. I was meeting half of the guests for the first time and so was Captain Bob. Sam, the owner of the Silver Cloud, had taken time to watch the ceremony, and when it ended he invited everyone inside the Silver Cloud for food and drinks. Herve, the wine merchant whose business was located on the second floor of the building, presented a wedding gift to Bob and me of two bottles of very expensive, imported champagne. The girls from my Smitty's sponsored softball team presented us with to silver chalices which had been engraved with our names and the date and location of the wedding. We opened one of the bottles of champagne and filled our cups. We opened the other bottle a year later when we celebrated our first anniversary. Toasts were raised, speeches were made, and my boss read a note he received from Jiggs who asked him to read it at the reception. Jiggs wished us every happiness, and I was most happy his best wishes were in writing and not in person. Because our courtship, although only a month long, was very connected to the transit system, Bob and I planned to take the bus from the reception to Smitty’s in Sausalito for the party to continue. Bob's youngest daughter Stella told a friend, and as we walked out of the front door of the Silver 9
Cloud, we were escorted to a stretch Mercedes limousine waiting to take us across the bridge to Smitty's. The party moved to Smitty's where I shot one game of pool. Captain Bob and I said goodbye, and went across the street to our attic while the party carried on. We were leaving the next morning for an undisclosed location in Pacific Grove, near Carmel, where we would be staying in a little cottage with no phone. Shannon loaned us her little VW Beetle. The plan was to stay there for the weekend and head down to Los Angeles to meet Bob's best friends, Barb and Storm, and Bob's middle daughter Rebecca who was unable to attend the wedding. I was absolutely blown away that life could take such a turn for me. I would have gone through all that I had again if I would have known this to be the result. It was the beginning of a second life for both of us, and I was anxious to share him with my family. Part 7 - Places to Go; People to See
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