Trippin’: Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 43, February–June 1972
So there I was, far beyond knowing better, up to the hilt of my manhood in a relationship with a spiritual freak, holding a four-year-old girl on my lap. And that was only the tip of the iceberg!
Life with Jodi was strange—to say the least. She was a good, sweet soul, living a selfless existence, devoted beyond belief. Her daughter, Hanna, was a doll, and I felt a great deal of love for both of them. But Jodi’s puritanical demeanor was from another time. I sensed that her somber manner hid a deep hurt, but when I prompted her about her past, I got nothing. In fact, communication was sparse. Any attempt at a normal conversation seemed futile.
Jodi spent her days cleaning and cooking and engaging in other chores. A fair portion of my evenings were spent sitting by the wood-stove, watching her spend hours in the kitchen. My offers to help were constantly rejected. She’d call me to the table, then place a picture-perfect platter of food in front of me. The meal always looked worthy of a Sunset Magazine shoot, and the quantity of food could have fed a covey of lumberjacks.
“Wow, that’s beautiful. But I can’t possibly eat that much.”
“Just eat what you like.”
“Aren’t you going to join me?”
“No, I nibbled while I was cooking. I’m fine.”
“There’s way too much here.”
“Just eat what you want. I’ll give the leftovers to the animals.”
“That seems like a waste of good food?”
“It says in the Bhagavad Gita that you shouldn't keep food for more than a few hours after you prepare it.”
“But when they wrote that book, like thousands of years ago, they didn’t have refrigerators!”
Unfortunately, there was no reasoning with her ironclad belief system. If it was written in one of those holy books, it was the law! I fancied myself a sensible man but there was little room for sensibility when dealing with Jodi. And it was hard to object after she spent hours preparing dinner with so much love—or at least devotion.
And that was one of our longest conversations! Whenever I would try to connect on a personal level, she would shift into a subservient, silent mode, eyes staring down, as though communication posed a karmic penalty.
So day after day, I would eat alone, and she would clean up and then find another chore to focus on. After eating, I would compliment and thank her for the exquisite meal but she would bow her head as if my compliment negated her selfless act.
Then I'd retire to the living room to watch the flames dance in the wood-stove because she wouldn't permit me in the kitchen, either to cook or to clean up. It sounds like a chauvinist’s dream but it sucked. I'd spend time with darling Hanna before Jodi hustled her off to bed. The child was an angel, full of life—when her mother’s strict ways didn't squelch it.
My evenings were always the same—eating by myself with glimpses of Jodi making like a busy bee. When I retired, she disappeared into the bathroom for hours before showing up for bed.
I was in a relationship but feeling quite alone. My dog, Charlie, was my rock, my constant loyal companion. I stayed because I loved this woman. Jodi gave and gave but the warmth I craved wasn't there. With all her giving, something in her tragic past had squelched her ability for emotional intimacy.
I believed that the love I offered would triumph in the end, bringing this kind, beautiful woman out of her shell. I was optimistic that she could shine in the sunlight of passion and self-worth, that my affection and patience would win out in the end—so I stayed.
But underneath, a subtle frustration began to grow.
One day in April, Jodi replaced the thin throw rug at the foot of the bed with a round as a button, fluffy little lily-white carpet. A couple of nights later, I was lying in bed, waiting for Jodi to arrive. She was making yet another attempt to break the Guinness Record for time spent in a bathroom. Meanwhile, Charlie had adapted to the new carpet and was curled up in a neat little ball, ready for a night’s sleep. When Jodi finally arrived, she eyed Charlie with a discerning look.
As she crawled into the bed, she asked, “Do you think Charlie could sleep in the living room at night?”
“I don't like her hair on the rug. I just think it would be better for her to sleep in the other room.”
In over four years, there were only a few occasions when Charlie and I hadn't slept in the same space, including the time she was being spayed at a Kansas City veterinary clinic. Her loyalty had been unwavering, and she deserved mine in return. To lock her out would be taken as a punishment. Besides, she was worth more than any scrap of carpet fiber, leaving me with only one option.
In a soft voice, I said, “Sure. No problem.”
I crawled out of bed, clutching my pillow. “Come on, Charlie.”
I closed the bedroom door as we exited. Then I threw an extra log in the wood-stove, spread a blanket from the couch on the carpeted living room floor, arranged the pillow, and tucked myself in. Charlie curled up against my leg, and we went to sleep.
Sometime in the middle of the night, we were both invited back to the bedroom and the issue never emerged again. I loved Jodi—but Charlie had earned her place in my life.
Leonardo and Maria Petrillo lived down the road with their three children, Mario, Louis, and Julia. An Italian-born stonemason, Leonardo was renovating his recently acquired farm. He was laying brick walls outside the original wood walls of his house, transforming it from a near ruin into a beautiful villa.
My temporary job was keeping Leonardo supplied with bricks and mortar as he laid the long tan stones, layer by layer, around his home. I was amazed with his pace and with the precision with which each brick was placed.
Hauling the materials proved to be demanding physical labor. I encountered long days of heavy lifting with only a lunch break for one of Maria’s wonderful Italian meals: mountains of pasta, vegetables, and a refreshing glass of red wine. At day's end, I was so exhausted I could barely stand. But it was the kind of achy fatigue that left me proud and satisfied—that grateful feeling that comes from testing your body to its limits.
I also enjoyed a glimpse of Italian culture. From casting seeds by hand from a bag looped over his shoulder to milking the family cow, there was something about the Petrillos that was down-to-earth inspiring. My stint with Leonardo lasted for several weeks until his sons were out of school for the summer. Then I was searching for work once again.
We didn’t need much, as Jodi lived in the house for free. The only stipulation was that she leave for two weeks in late June when the owners came up for vacation. I used this opportunity to take Jodi and Hanna to Winters and Big Sur. It was fun to share some of my old haunts with my new family.
James, Carlotta, Iris, Roy, and Freddie had established an organic farm on rented land north of Winters. They called their enterprise Odyssey Orchards and peddled their produce to area health-food stores and through their own produce stand. We stayed with them for several days.
The landlord owned four Shetland ponies, and Hanna was infatuated with a gentle white mare she was allowed to ride. It was a refreshing time and I felt Jodi and I grew closer, even though she was still withdrawn.
I hoped, as our relationship progressed, the walls that surrounded her heart would finally crumble.
To be continued...
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Trippin': Roads, Rails & Mountain Trails
In book 2 of his Hippie Adventurer Series, Rich takes us on another wild ride during the 1960s as he and his faithful canine companion, Charlie, hitchhike, hop freights, work in an Alaskan gold mining camp, and manage a Sacramento Valley cattle ranch.
A Message from Rich
Trippin’ is my gift to all of you. For me, the ’60s were a heartfelt time of growth, exploration, freedom, and brotherhood. I hope to impart a truthful account of what it was like to live as a hippie in that wacky, magical era. Enjoy the journey!
To receive episodes delivered directly to your email box, sign up HERE.
If you haven’t read the first book in the Hippie Adventurer Series, the award-winning Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes, you can find it on Amazon and Audible.
1A. Escape from Heavy Caverns