When I was a kid growing up in San Francisco in the 1960’s, I truly felt invincible, just like the gang I hung out with all the time — my brother Michael, sister Jennifer David and Barry from around the corner, and Ricky Solis from up the street. We did all kinds of crazy things, like climb scaffoldings in front of buildings and run up and down the planks. We’d ride bikes and I would ride a skateboard down steep San Francisco hills. One time I almost got swept to sea by an undertow at Ocean Beach, and I was saved by the biggest and strongest of our gang, David Hirrell, who pulled me out. I don’t think we ever even told our Mom about that incident. She would have freaked out. Back then, we ran all over the neighborhood and Golden Gate Park which was our giant backyard. I also fell out of a tree a couple of times. I can’t believe I never broke a bone, but my legs were always bruised and both of my knees had consistent scaps on them.
I felt safe running around the neighborhood, though looking back, it probably wasn’t as safe as we as kids believed it was. We lived on SEcond Avenue off Lincoln Way near Kezar Stadium. Though everything changed drastically in the ’60’s, and the hippies sometimes took over our play area to build a stage and play music, we just played among the dancing, colorful hippies, and the women who twirled. We saw them on acid trips but just perceived them to be weird, like alien beings from outer space or zombies grateful to be dead like the Grateful Dead who played music for hours. Mom would open the living room window so the music drifted in into the night, and we’d play among the music and the conga drums like it were no big deal. We were just bummed that they “invaded” our play area, but they offered free food and free cotton candy, so how could we stay mad at them? They were cool people. If you can’t beat them, join them! And we were never afraid.
But then there was that day when I was a little older, age 14, when I ran away from my evil stepfather who said I was “punished” and couldn’t go with my brother and sister to hang out with my Dad. I could feel Dad suspecting something, but he was so shocked, he didn’t what to say when the evil stepfather told him I was grounded. I don’t even remember why I was grounded.
All I know is, I decided to run. I bolted out the front door, ran down the marble steps and around the corner feeling the cool air of the swirling masses of fog turn into fire, the heat and adrenalin pouring through my body as I ran. I truly feared for my life as I beelined down an open alleyway and began jumping fences as if it was nothing. This time, my heart pounded heart, and the heat became stronger. If he caught me, he might kill me, I thought, as I crouched down behind a fence in a yard I didn’t know as if a bomb was about to hit.
Today on my daily walk in the woods, I saw there’s a smaller trail that branches off the main trail because I saw someone walking on it, then he appeared on the main trail. I have rarely seen anybody off-trail up in the woods, so it surprised me to see someone. The guy said the trail goes all the way up and meets another trail on the other side. He saw a group of deer at the top where they often hang out.
He said there was even a bridge to cross the creek which just appeared two weeks ago. His dog apparently showed him the trail. I found myself intrigued, but I saw that it was steep and a bit muddy and definitely rough. The so-called bridge From what I could see it looked like a log that you had to balance on. Plus you have to get through a lot of foliage.
I decided that if I explore this trail, it’s a good idea for me to go with someone else and not alone. Then I remembered the Hobbit. I remembered how Gandalf told Bilbo and the dwarves don’t leave the trail! Stay on the trail! As I traversed the rest of my familiar trail, I thought hey Gandalf has a point. Besides, I feel safe on this trail. I’m not sure why, but I do. I have known fear. But I never feel it here in the woods. It’s as if I’m somehow protected.