The Day I left California
There are a lot of important days in a life, and while the day I left for Washington probably isn’t the most important, it does rank up there as a pivotal day. I don’t remember the exact date, but it was April, 1973. I was barely 22 at the time but already had an arrest record that ran in the double figures, and had been in the L.A. County Jail enough times that they may have been considering installing a revolving door just to accommodate me. The first time I hit “the county” as we called it, I was 17, and went to the old Hall of Justice Jail, long since destroyed. The rest of the trips were to what was then called “the new county” but I understand that also has since been condemned.
None the less I had reached a point in my life where I was definitely fed up and tired of getting myself in trouble and was looking for a way out. At the time I was living in a beach front hotel, locally known as “the cockroach hotel”. It was aptly named because the roaches were so thick, that we used to go down in the basement and round up them up, dip them in resin, attach a chain and clip, and sell them for “roach clips” on the beach front. We really didn’t do too badly, but as a bunch of derelicts and drug addicts we lacked the necessary skills to come up with a good business plan.
That is where I was living when Patrick Nolan showed up. Patrick was an acquaintance and older brother of a friend of mine, who had just returned from Vietnam. He was largely deaf from loading shells into artillery pieces and occasionally stopped by with a bottle of wine to visit. Pat came from a large Irish-American family whose father had been quite a brawler but had recently converted to Christianity and calmed down considerably. Pat was going thru a period of readjustment and was having some struggles with direction. I was trying hard to “go straight”, but its difficult to do when almost everyone you know is a drug addict, drunk, prostitute or partier. And then there’s the problem that the better people have already got you pigeon-holed and are somewhat disappointed if you don’t live up (or down) to their expectations.
Unknown to Pat, I had a sister in Seattle, Washington, and was praying for a way to get there. Unbeknownst to me, Pat had an older brother living in Sequim, Washington. One day when I was down in the basement rounding up cockroaches, Pat showed up with his bottle and in the course of our conversation said,
“Guess where I’m going”? I knew instantly and looked him in the eye and said, “Washington”.
Pat was dumbfounded, but two weeks later at six in the morning he drove up to the parking lot in his lowered 66 Malibu, with a pot of soft tacos his mother had made. I jumped out of the window of my apartment (rent wasn’t paid) and into the car with one change of clothes and 20 dollars total cash. We bid farewell to California and began our long journey north, on which Patrick insisted at hitting every winery for free samples between the grapevine and the Oregon border.
However, we did arrive in Seattle, in due time. Patrick, who finally emerged a victor over a long war with alcoholism, was one of first people ever to try and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with me, and his mother was a notorious prayer warrior.