On the Road to Shambala

Swimming Pool with KidsYears earlier, another pre-teen Martian landed in a similar home. In 1969 my parents moved our family from our Mayberry-like, uber-wholesome borough of Spokane to the hip and grooving metropolis of Seattle. One look at that skyline hooked me. I loved living in a big city. There was so much more.

I was enamored with our brand new apartment complex. Everything smelled new. The warm summer air brought out the intoxicating aroma of landscape bark. Everybody sucked on cinnamon toothpicks and slathered on Coppertone during this record-breaking sunny summer.

There were hundreds of other families living in the complex. Most had moved to Seattle to build Boeing’s new 747 jumbo airplanes. There were so many kids my age, and best of all – more girls than boys. Doug was a cool kid my age that was brave enough to buy cigarettes from a vending machine at the gas station. He and I became best friends and spent days somersaulting off the diving board at the pool, blowing off firecrackers, and catching garter snakes. Our favorite pastime was sneaking into vacant apartments and smoking. Sometimes we’d invite a couple girls to join us with hopes of getting some kissing action. Did we? Let’s just say I married one of those girls in a fake ceremony at the creek behind our apartment, my sister Barb was the minister and Doug provided the ring from a Coke can as the symbol of our never ending love that lasted until the end of the week.

During this renaissance of my life, I felt there were not enough hours in the day, that’s how much fun I was having. The idea of wasting time fishing or playing catch with my Dad would have never occurred to me in my frenzied state. I’m sure Dad offered, but I probably did anything possible to get out of it so I could get back to my black market candy business.

Had my parents known about the smoking and making out, they probably would have shipped me to one of those camps advertised in the back of Sunset magazine. Dad got upset the night I came home from a Three Dog Night concert smelling like marijuana. Mom had taken me there for my 10th birthday and a girl next to me was getting high. Her smoke kept drifting over to me and I was scared it would make me hallucinate. I wanted to leave right in the middle of “Eli’s Coming” except my mom talked me into staying, insisting the smoke wouldn’t hurt me. She was right, the rest of the concert was far out.

We eventually bought a house and moved away from the apartments that had brought me such joy. The summer of love ended. Not just for me and my innocent escapades, but for my parents as well.

NEXT: In a New York Minute


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