LIFE IN THE WILDS OF NORTHERN CA
Broadway in North Beach
It turned out Kit had met a girl from San Francisco at the old Mt. Shasta ski resort a month before I called his aunt, and they had skiied together. After they left the ski
resort, however, they did not keep in touch. Shortly before I called his aunt, the girl had entered a topless contest in one of the clubs along San Francisco's famed Broadway St. in North Beach (home of the famous "Hungry I" etc.) and,
deciding her own name didn't sound exotic enough (we guess?), told a news reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle who was interviewing the topless contestants, her name was Kit Perlee! And as you've guessed by now, his aunt thought I was that girl.
I quickly told her who I was and fortunately she remembered me and after reminiscing a bit, was delighted to give me her nephew's current address which I assumed meant
he was neither married nor engaged.
So I composed a nice newsy letter asking how he was and what he was doing these days and included a few noteworthy things about myself,
mailed it, and waited (hopefully) for a reply. And I got one!
"My God" the letter began - no "Dear Gail" or any such salutation (Obviously, after 6 years he was a little surprised to hear from me!) But he went on to tell me a little about
his life with the Forest Service and other things he was doing. It wasn't a long letter, but I was encouraged. So I wrote back.
Unfortunately, things went a little
downhill from there. He was glad I was doing okay and all, but he still didn't want to perpetuate a pen pal relationship since he was now 400 miles north of me instead of 400 miles south. He wished me well, said it was nice
to hear from me, and signed off with "Bye, Kit". And that, it seemed, was that. Well, Hell's Bells!
So once again I went on with my life - dating and undating this fellow and that, singing and dancing and playing my guitar. I was really quite terrible at playing the guitar.
I could only play 2 songs even halfway decently - "Blowin' In The Wind" and "Kumbaya". So I decided to stick to singing. Good decision!
That's me on the left.
Between dating and work my sister Cindy and I - the one who'd played my accomplice in her younger days
when I was scheming to meet guys on beaches and who was now in college - started doing things together. We went on hikes, flew kites, rode bikes - the latter through S.F.'s Golden Gate Park mostly. We tried riding on the beach at the foot of the
park one time, but the sand was a killer! We had someone take our picture, then slogged our way through the sand and back up into the park!
And we visited the
zoo, saw a movie or two, and just did things sisters do.
L-R: Your's truly, sisters Cindy and Meredith, Dad, and Mom. Brother Steve was taking the picture.
Easter came and went along with other notable holidays and celebrations, and pretty soon it was time to head up the mountains to Lake Tahoe for vacation again. (I
went every year with my folks and still go every year with my own family. You haven't truly been on vacation till you've been to Tahoe!)
The old Meeks Bay lodge.
One day while I was browsing around in the Meeks Bay lodge looking for postcards, I decided I should send one to Kit. So I picked out one of those extra large ones
with a pretty picture of the lake on it and wrote asking if he remembered the place where we'd had fun on the beach by day and danced by night all those years ago?
When we got home and walked into the house, there was a huge pile of mail our neighbor had been collecting from our mailbox and leaving on our diningroom table, and as we sorted through
it my mother suddenly pulled out an envelope with a big smile and said "Here's something from someplace called . . . Requa?" and I grabbed it out of her hand! Kit did, indeed, remember our meeting at Tahoe eleven years past and went on to write
a nice newsy letter back - this time without mentioning anything about an unwanted pen pal relationship. So I answered his letter and included a recent photo of myself taken
at Tahoe that summer.
And Kit wrote back - including a picture of himself and I decided he looked as good as ever and his letters were rather interesting - rather poetic, actually, which I didn't remember
about him. But then his mother was a poet with two or three books of poetry published, so maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. And so we kept the postal service busy delivering
our letters to each other.
Meanwhile, as September slid into October and November, sister Cindy and I attended Cal (U.C. Berkeley) football
games on fall Saturday afternoons. (Her boyfriend at the time played in the Cal band.) That was fun. In the first place, I love football, and we always sat in the rooting section where they did card tricks. We'd walk down into the rooting
section and there would be these huge stacks of heavy vary-colored cards sitting in each space with an instruction sheet on top.
You'd think it'd be easy. Hold up a certain
color card when your number was called. But sometimes the numbers were called out so fast all you had time to do was assume it had been called and zip your card up there - praying you were supposed to be holding it up and
that you were showing the right color because if you were wrong on either count, one of the cheerleaders would call out your number to let you know you had erred, and then everyone would look around to see who had goofed up! And of
course everyone was admonished not to throw their cards in the air when the tricks were over, but of course everyone did, so you had to throw your arms over your head to keep from getting clobbered with dangerous falling missiles. Sure was fun though!
We were coming on Christmas then, and Kit came down to San Francisco to visit his aunt and uncle and brother and trade in his "VW 'Bug'" for a sporty red Karmann Ghia and we
got together for a couple of dates - going to see "The Committee" in North Beach one night, and a delightful production of "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown" another. And
then he was gone back up north. Christmas came and went along with New Year's, but we continued to write to each other and when I had a 4-day holiday over Memorial Day weekend I flew up to visit him.
It was the first time I'd flown and I was a tad nervous. And of course it couldn't have been a direct flight. Crescent City (nearest airport) didn't have a runway big
enough for a jet, so I had to take a smaller plane called a prop jet out of San Francisco that made at least two landings and takeoffs along the way before we finally reached my destination! But we got there safely so that was good, I guess.
I was a little disappointed at first that another couple, friends of Kit's, had come to visit with him that same weekend. But the four of us wound up having a lot of fun together.
We drove down to Prairie Creek Redwoods St. Park near the little town of Orick and wandered through a place called Fern Canyon just off the ocean. If you were to imagine what the garden of Eden might have looked like, Fern Canyon would be a perfect example
with its 20-30 foot high banks covered with hanging ferns flanking each other across a narrow fissure with a small creek runing down the center. So lush and beautiful.
thought the weekend had gone very well, so flew home with positive thoughts and almost immediately had a reassuring letter from Kit to confirm it.
A month later I flew up to see Kit again when I had another 4-day holiday over the 4th-of-July and again, we had a good time together. He showed me around Crescent City
which is aptly named for its beautiful crescent-shaped bay and harbor. The breakwater on the left was built after a tsunami in 1964, created by a major earthquake in Alaska, wiped out the town's first two streets - First and Second Street and all their
buildings. That area is now a lovely bayside park and Third Street is now the first street!
After touring the town, we had lunch at a wonderful seafood restaurant called The Grotto overlooking the bay and ocean. Not only was the view stupendous, but the food was delicious
- especially my favorite: deep fried scallops! And their Boston style clam chowder was the best I've ever tasted so how's this for pure luck: the woman who bought the first cabin Kit and I lived in in Gasquet (see "Life Along The River") had
been a chef at The Grotto and gave me the recipe for her chowder! Ja vol.
Me aboard the Klammath Queen.
On one of the days of our holiday together we took a hydroplane river boat up the Klammath River. Quite an adventure. We skimmed over rocks and boulders barely 3
feet beneath us, skittered our way through rushing riffles, and deftly avoided more active rapids. But our experienced pilot knew exactly what he was doing and it was a lovely trip. I forget how many passengers the boat held,
but there were quite a few of us.
At some point during that 4th-of-July weekend we began to talk about our relationship - agreeing that the long-distance thing was going to be increasingly difficult to keep up and
lacked certain benefits. Furthermore, we weren't getting any younger (by now we were in our late 20's), we seemed ready to settle down, we were attracted to and liked each other, and had a history together stretching back eleven years,
so why put off what appeared to be inevitable? We decided to get married, Kit bought me a lovely engagement ring, and we had dinner with a good friend of his that night to celebrate!
Monday night and the end to our holiday came all too soon. It was time for me to fly home and after dinner Kit drove me to the airport. But there was a problem. Crescent City, in the summer, is prone to
fog and it was too foggy that night for the plane to take off. So I called my office the next morning to explain the problem and said I should be back to work the next day.
next night it was again too foggy in Crescent City for the plane to take off, so we drove down to Eureka, had dinner, and I stayed in a motel that night so I could take a cab early the next morning to the airport in nearby Arcata and (hopefully) catch
a plane back to San Francisco.
But once again, it was very foggy. The time for my flight came and went and we were told the turn-around plane from San Francisco had been
delayed because of the fog and we were asked to be patient. After a while we could hear the plane from San Francisco circling and circling - waiting for a break in the fog to land and it finally did. And you should have seen the action then!
Fearing the break in the fog would disappear any minute, while the plane idled on the tarmac, arriving passengers were hustled off while those of us departing were lined up at the passengers'
lounge door ready to race out and onto the plane the moment the last arriving passenger was barely off. Fortunately the break in the fog lasted just long enough for us to get off the ground and I was in San Francisco an hour later.
From there I took a bus into the city, walked to my father's office and, smiling, showed him my diamond ring! He was so sweet. I know both he and Mom wondered if I'd ever
get married? I was 28, had been engaged once, briefly, had had a couple of proposals and opportunities for others, perhaps, but had ended each relationship for one reason and another. Even so, my father - bless his heart - asked:
"Honey, are you sure about this?". I assured him I was.
By the time I could catch a bus and get across the bay to Oakland where I was working at the time, it would already be mid-afternoon, so once again I called my boss to tell
him I wouldn't be in until the next day. And then, of course, I came waltzing into the office flashing a sparkling engagement ring on my finger and no one but no one believed my story about delayed planes!
We planned to be married on my father's birthday, July 27th, in a small semi-formal ceremony before family and a few friends with a nice dinner afterward. At least that
was the plan when I flew home . . .
NEXT: THE ACTUAL WEDDING