My first year of college at UC Santa Cruz was rather adventurous to say the least. I had a friend named Tyler, who is now a Navy SEAL, who used to have enough ninja equipment to be thrown in a padded room. You name it, he had it…throwing stars, swords, gloves with spiked claws on them (which I borrowed one night during my sophomore year along with a pair of his two-toed tabi slippers to climb up into my apartment window to let myself in, because I had locked myself out). Tyler was one of those guys who wouldn’t hesitate to scuba dive in the middle of the night. One night Tyler and I climbed and rappelled down the tallest building in Santa Cruz, which was surprisingly tall. Climbing up was fairly easy. We climbed up the fire escape and Tyler had a sturdy grappling hook that we used to hoist ourselves up onto the roof. I was scared out of my mind. It was my first time rappelling and here I’ve found myself entrusting my life to a guy I barely knew for a few months. I remember slowly hopping down the side of this building and my feet landing on a window where I looked inside to see a janitor turn at just the right moment for him not to notice me.
I had another friend, James, who sported an impressively stylish afro for a white guy. James also had a burly beard that made him look wise beyond his 19 years of age. James and I hit it off immediately. He was from Washington DC and he educated me on the DC underground funk music scene. James had impeccable taste in music and was more than happy to share his interests. One Friday night, James and I were looking to get into some adventure, so because of my fascination with the Beat Generation, we got the bright idea to thumb it up to San Francisco, man. We took the bus down from campus to the Pacific Coast Highway where we stocked up on beer from the Safeway. James’ beard could always let him pass for 21 years old, so James did the purchasing of our beer. Our first ride was from a Rastafarian chef, who offered us some reefer, which we may or may not have partook in. He took us as far as Año Nuevo, which is a hub for elephant seals. Our next ride took us as far as Davenport. By this time it’s 10pm and we wanted to drink our beer, so we set up camp on the beach where someone had left a campfire that had a little bit of life left in it and we drank our beer while taking in the Northern California beach vibes and philosophizing about life and where we were headed. We drank until we passed out, but then we were rudely awoken by a terrible thunderstorm. Soaking wet and shivering we somehow made it through the night without dieing of frostbite. We were very ill-prepared for camping. We didn’t bring anything with us but beer. That rain thwarted our plans to go to San Francisco, so at 5am, we’re standing on the side of the Pacific Coast Highway looking like mangy wet dogs with our thumbs out in attempt to hitch a ride back to Santa Cruz. We were thinking that there was no way in hell anybody’s going to stop for us standing here looking all haggard, hungover and soaking wet, but sure enough, a VW bus pulls over about twenty feet in front of us and an enormous Samoan man swathed in what looked like a diaper gets out of the passenger side of the bus and yells “GET IN!” James and I look at each other and agree, “Why not? Today is as good a day to die as any.” We get in the back of this VW bus filled with clutter and boxes. There’s a wiley-eyed hippie dude back there with us and he says to us, “I’m Henry, that’s Steve there driving and that (pointing to the large Samoan man) is ‘The Bitch.’” At this point, James and I are considering opening up the sliding door and jumping into the Pacific ocean, but we decide to hear Henry out. The Samoan man turns around and says “Yep, I’m ‘The Bitch.’” Henry then gives us a laminated piece of paper which we are instructed to read. “Food for the Homeless” is what it’s titled. As we are reading this, Steve says, “You guys mind helping us out here for a minute?” The answer is, of course, “YES!” because we feared for our lives. Steve pulls into a factory parking lot. Turns out, it’s the Odwalla juice factory. We load up some Odwalla juice crates into the back of the VW bus. We were helping these hippie dudes load up donated juice that they were going to deliver to homeless shelters. Henry then says, “Yep, that’s why they call him ‘The Bitch,’ because he’s everybody’s bitch.” Ah, it all made sense now. As soon as we got to Santa Cruz, “The Bitch” asked us if we were thirsty and if we wanted any juice. He gave us two tangerine juices and we were back on our way to the college lifestyle once again after our little one-night adventure up the coast.