In Mountain Lake Park the other day, I met three young people hefting backpacks—a man with a goatee, a walking stick and a purple hat that would have done Dr. Seuss proud and two women in colorful clothes. They were heading to the Golden Gate Bridge to hitchhike up to Spokane, Washington. I gave them directions.
I could relate. My son, Yosi (nee daughter, Rachel) used to ride freight trains across the country, stopping in small communities of like-minded travelers. Not everyone knows where life will take him at an early age.
On the other hand, I once wrote a speech for a Silicon Valley CEO who showed me a notebook with his entire life planned out, including holding high political office. His political career hasn’t panned out to the best of my knowledge. Whether he’s found that “failure” to be crushing, I don’t know. He was otherwise quite successful—as expected.
So what about young adults without clear goals who set off into uncharted waters? Here, too, I could relate. Throughout college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I went into the Army for three years hoping for enlightenment. No such luck. I married Carolyn and taught English at a private school in San Antonio for a year while she completed her undergraduate work. I was still clueless. Then we traveled throughout Western Europe for three months. On one of our many (passenger) train rides, I chanced on a magazine article about advertising by one of Madison Avenue’s top creatives. I started my advertising career several months later at 27. I had my ups and downs, but things worked out quite well.
As to Yosi—he tired of trains, settled in Tennessee then moved on to New Orleans where he lives now. The contacts he made on the rails and on the road led to working steadily as drummer/fiddler for a wonderful band, Hurray for the Riff Raff. Yosi transformed from vagabond to career-minded musician.
In May, a two-person version of Riff Raff—Yosi and Alynda Segarra, the band’s writer/singer/guitarist, who also rode the rails—toured the UK for Loose Records. Carolyn and I saw them in London where they were well received. (In Nottingham, Yosi later informed me, they were treated like rock stars.) At dinner in an Indian Restaurant near our Bloomsbury hotel, Yosi and Alynda revealed that they think about fame. They don’t have much time to think, however. Three days after returning, Riff Raff left on a US tour. We’ll see them in San Francisco this Sunday, June 12, at the Amnesia Bar on Valencia Street.
I don’t know what those three young travelers expect to find in Spokane. My guess is they’ll move on. And on. But eventually, something or someone will catch their attention. They’ll stop floating with the current and drop their separate anchors. And hopefully, like the rest of us who’ve sailed uncharted waters, they’ll find a home.
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