I first moved to California in the summer of 1976, age 19. Lived for a year on the Fremont St. off-ramp at the foot of the Bay Bridge. . . And I sometimes look back at my 19-year-old self. Having no idea what was in store for me. Having no idea what human life was all about, really. A blank slate waiting to be filled. But seething with dreams of glory. “Itching like a finger on the trigger of a gun,” as Paul Simon put it. And this yearning for something more, something I could never quite put my finger on.
I had this weird belief in myself — in spite of virtually no evidence or affirmation from the world at large — that I was touched with some kind of greatness. And that that could somehow play out in my favor if I got a couple of lucky breaks, as my life unfolded. But also knowing I could just as easily get swallowed up by the streets and amount to nothing.
And I had this gnawing loneliness. Looking everywhere for that one person who would somehow make me whole. Wondering where she was. And if I would ever find her.
I was already a deeply wounded person, age 19. So I was locked into this desperate search for truth. I thought God was the answer. And if I could just find Him, that would solve everything.
Trying to figure out how to support myself. Was there some kind of job I could slot into, something I could at least tolerate. Wondering if there was a place for me anywhere in this world. Or if I was just a hopeless misfit who would never fit in anywhere.
I can still see myself clearly in my mind’s eye — my 19-year-old self. Standing there at my campsite under the Bay Bridge, listening to the non-stop traffic droning on above me, and looking out at the San Francisco Bay, and the Oakland and Berkeley skyline far off in the distance beyond that.