Monday, April 9, 2012

Helpful Hooker (Running Away to Canada-Part One)

In the fall of 1969 my former first love, Alan, and his friend, Tim, were planning to run away to Canada. Tim had been drafted, was home on leave from boot camp, and didn't want to go to Vietnam. Alan had been caught with two joints, was awaiting sentencing, and didn't want to go to prison. My recently acquired friend, Anita, and I talked them into letting us come along. Anita (unbeknownst to us) was afraid she was pregnant. I had been emotionally reeling since I had been gang-raped walking home from a beach dance the summer before. We four friends were going to begin our lives fresh--have a do-over. We hoped to join a commune.
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We were able to cross the border into Canada pretending to be two couples going on camping vacation for a couple weeks. When they opened the trunk and saw sleeping bags (one of the guys brought) along with everything I had accumulated for living on my own one day--including an iron and my yellow metal colander...

...they probably thought our story must be true. After all, in the age of hippies, who would run away with brush rollers and a bonnet hairdryer? ROFL!
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Anyways, we drove and slept outdoors. I remember skinny dipping in the dark in Lake Superior and losing my class ring washing my hair. I remember sitting on big rocks along the shoreline eating plums for the first time. We stayed in a hostel along the way where all the girls were in one huge room and all the guys were on another floor in another huge room...army cots and wool blankets (itched like crazy)...but you could take a shower.
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We thought we were so street wise and worldly. But Anita and I snuck into the bathroom after all the other tougher looking females were asleep to take our showers. We were kind of scared of them...plus shy--LOL! And there we were in the bathroom shaving our legs in the sink and rolling up our hair with the brush rollers. In the dim light I shaved off a mosquito bite that bled profusely and started us off on a suppressed giggling attack that came to an abrupt end when a deep voiced woman yelled at us from the darkness of the army cots. (I have a round scar on my shin to this day.)
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When we got to Quebec City and heard it was well organized for helping draft dodgers, we decided to find a room to rent and start our new lives. The guys got directions to some very old Victorian looking houses that had been divided up for cheap room rentals. I remember being shown the small grubby room. Tall narrow windows, a single metal bed frame with a thin stained mattress, and a used condom on the floor...but seems to me it was ten dollars a week, they didn't care if four of us stayed there, and we were running low on cash. There was a shared bathroom and kitchen. The kitchen was large enough it had an old table and a couple chairs. The bathroom had a lock on the door. We took the room.
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I told the guys to get my scrub bucket, dish soap, rags, and Windex out of the trunk (told you I brought everything I owned) and, with optimistic enthusiasm, Anita and I went to town cleaning every inch of that room. The semicircle of tall narrow windows were actually part of one of the turrets you could see from the street...cool! But there were no curtains or blinds (thank goodness we weren't on the ground floor) and if you looked out the back side window you could see right into the room next door to us...and there was a bed right under the window...and a naked girl was sleeping in it...next to a naked man...with no covers! So we tried to be really quiet and turned our heads while we cleaned the windows.
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Anita and I whispered about how shy we were and how we had never slept naked. How we wished we were as comfortable with our bodies as this girl apparently was. We finished scrubbing every inch of the room, flipped the mattress to the least stained side, and had the guys bring in all our things. Anita and I had found a wooden orange crate under the bed that had been made into shelves, so the rest of our few dry goods stacked nicely in there.
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We were fluffing the towels and deciding where to hang them in the bathroom when that girl sleepily posed in the open door. We apologized, explained we were just figuring out where to put our bathroom things, and would get out of her way. She smiled and told us, with her groovy French accent, to keep everything in our room and to keep our door locked...including the toilet paper we had just hung on the holder. She told us that the guys would use anything to wipe their butts, including our towels...and that anything and everything would be used or stolen. We thanked her profusely and scooted out with our toilet paper, soap, shampoo, and towels.
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She was our heroine! Beautiful, long thick dark wavy hair, slender, looked like a model, and kindhearted, too. She always smiled so genuinely and asked how we were doing. Wondered if we were the ones who cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen (of course) and thanked us. Anita and I wondered if we could ever be friends with her. She wasn't much older than us and was just so gentle and sweet!
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The next day the guys left early to see if they could get fake IDs. They left us with change to wash clothes at the laundromat on the corner. We'd been traveling for several days and were out of clean clothes. Us "women" were expected to clean, wash, and cook, of course...and, girls of the 50s that we were, we loved taking care of the guys. The "men" would return and give us the lay of the land. But it was a small laundromat and all the washers were full with baskets lined up waiting, so we decided to try later in the day. While we were gone we remembered the beautiful girl, were wondering about her some more, and decided to peek out our window. Surly she couldn't be sleeping in the afternoon again, right?
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She was! Naked! And with a different naked guy!
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Goodness sakes! We had read all about the hippies and free love...and we knew that grass, hash, and pills of all sorts had finally hit the upper midwest...but we were still a bit shocked to see it close up. Of course, it could have been a French thing. This triggered a long conversation about living in a commune, wondering what was expected, and could we have sex without love...like men did?
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By dusk the laundromat was almost empty. Anita and I were sitting in the metal chairs watching traffic, waiting on the dryers, wondering when the guys would be back, and still discussing this free love idea...when we watched her saunter up to the corner.
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She just stood there. Waiting. We figured it must be a bus stop and kept gabbing. But a car drove up, she checked to see who it was, and got in. We figured it must have been one of the two boyfriends picking her up for a date because she was looking good in her mini-skirt and makeup. How rude to make her wait on the corner, though, we thought.
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We were folding clothes when the car returned to the corner and she got out. Now we were puzzled. If they had a fight she didn't look angry or upset...and she didn't go home. ??? We snuck peeks as she stood on the corner and fixed her lipstick.
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A different car drove up and stopped by the curb. As she leaned in, we could see the guy this time...and it wasn't either of the younger boyfriends! As she climbed in the light bulb finally went off. I remember Anita and I staring wide-eyed at each other as we heard the car drive away. "She's a hooker!" we whispered at the same time.
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We scrambled to get all our clothes and get out of there before the car returned to the corner. Not to avoid her. We still absolutely adored her. But we didn't want to embarrass her by kind of catching her in the act, so to speak, you know? I think she knew we were clueless suburban Americans and we didn't want to ruin our friendship with her.
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We never mentioned anything about her private life. We had a friendly relationship with our self-employed neighbor the entire week we lived there. To this day I think she was the sweetest, most beautiful woman and think of her fondly.
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The guys could get fake IDs and Work Visas, but there was nothing to help us girls. Without those Anita and I couldn't work in Canada. We didn't want to be a burden for them, so we called home. (Would have been missing persons on TV the next day...missed our 15 minutes of fame, I guess--LOL!) After we flew home, Tim decided he shouldn't go AWOL and returned and went to Vietnam (survived, but they're never the same). Alan drove back for his sentencing. Anita found out she was pregnant. And me? I learned that you can't run away from your sorrows, no matter how hard you try or how far you run. So you might as well deal with them where you stand.
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17 comments:

Stephen Hayes said...

This was an interesting tale to read. I was eighteen in 1970 and I was set to flee to Canada to avoid the draft. But when my number was called it was #270, and they only took up to #150 that year. My future father-in-law (an army colonel) and I never spoke about this in the years to come. Thanks for sharing.

Sandi said...

Oh boy, what a great story! Reminds me of a couple similar situations I was in. I was 18 in the fall of 1969, and just discovering the world outside my parents home! The next year I ended up being an itinerate worker, picking pears and apples, living in a little tiny cabin . . . and loving every minute of it! I think I made about $5 a day! But, it was free rent, while it lasted!

Toriz said...

Hey, if nothing else it was an adventure to look back on and remember. :)

Rita said...

Tori--Yup! I've never been one to live my life looking back and wondering "what if", you know. No regrets! ;)

Rita said...

Stephen and Sandi--I replied to both of you via private email and didn't realize it. Thanks to both of you for commenting! :)

Dee said...

Dear Rita, the word "gang-raped" stunned me. I truly cannot imagine what that terrifying experience must be like. And yet you have survived and thrived. I admire you deep down and broadly.

I keep getting comments on my blog about how courageous I've been. But I've been nothing compared to you and your experiences. You are the one whose memoir would show a vastness of experience and a will to survive and to give back to the Universe.

To run away to Canada with all that implies was so daring. The young woman you met reminds me of the prostitutes in Steinbeck's novels about California. She was an innocent at heart. As were you.

Isn't life a mystery and a puzzle?

Rita said...

Dee--Life is truly a mystery and a puzzle. As you know, courage is just doing what you have to do even if you don't want to. It's quite relative. ;)
You thought on a large scale than I did. I was in survival mode back then. I am deeply grateful that I never lost myself--my soul. Stubbornness, I figure--LOL! ;)

Janie Junebug said...

You can't camp without an iron! I love your stories. I'll gradually read through more of them. Dee sent me. I'll follow you, and I hope you'll follow me. My blog was private and is now public again. You can find me at www.dumpedfirstwife.blogspot.com.

Love,
Janie Lola

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

When I was younger I was afraid of everything. I'm not sure why that is - perhaps just that I had such a happy childhood that I never wanted to leave it. I'm still not very brave, but despite that, I've actually done a lot that I never imagined. Even now, I was terrified to begin this road trip, but I am settling into it nicely. I'm hoping to be more open to adventure and inviting it in as opposed to resisting it. You and Dee are true inspirations to me.

Rita said...

Janie--Yes, how could anyone go camping without an iron--ROFL!! ;)
Yes, I am now following you, too. :):)

Rita said...

Melissa--Thank you! You are truly on an adventure right now, yes!! I am following your travels and love all the pictures. What a huge shift!! Enjoy! :)

Kathryn Grace said...

What an adventure! I especially love how important it was to you to take cleaning supplies and scrub that room! I'd have done the same.

Rita said...

Kathryn--Oh yes!! You would have really wanted to scrub every inch of that little room, I tell you! LOL! ;)

DavidShag said...

So much here to take in! My hitch-hike adventure was to California in '63 to be a surfer, thence to SF pre-Hippie days - I meat Beatniks! What amazing things one takes for granted in one's late teens. I have known a girl who was raped and I am astounded that you still had such courage after to hitch and so forth - it took years for my friend to even be able to stand at a bus stop alone. One of the great things about those days was meeting people so far from one's own experience, people one had been warned against. I am so grateful that there are so many groups and types whom people condemn en masse and of whom I have personal knowledge from my travels that always tempers my feelings about that group. People can be so kind and so often are. In fact they USUALLY are. It is easy to forget that in the heat of discussions of politics or beliefs. By the way, it isn't just true in the US and Canada. Twice my car broke down in the Saudi desert at night more than 100 miles from either my destination or my home there. Both times one of the first couple of cars to pass stopped, seeing my outstretched palm (you don't use your thumb to hitch there) and the driver, shocked, exclaimed, "You cannot hitch-hike in Saudi!" - then gave me a ride to exactly where I was going for fear I was too dumb to learn. I was.

Rita said...

Hi David!
Beatniks! They always seemed so morose to me, but fascinating. The hippies were a much happier lot--LOL!

I was terrified to leave the house at first. But I was determined that they weren't going to take huge pieces of me away ( I was a born wanderer). I wasn't going to let them do that to me. I didn't want to be afraid all the time. I didn't want them to win. So, I forced myself to walk across town to a girlfriend's house--alone--shaking and sweating--and kept doing it over and over that summer and fall until I quit trembling and my heart quit racing. I am a stubborn Swede.

And I agree with you--people are usually nice and helpful and kind. USUALLY. I did not allow that terrible night to taint my belief in the goodness of people. I still give them the benefit of the doubt--and let them show me who they are. I've just learned over the years to pay attention to what they show me...not what they TELL me. ;)

Cazzy said...

So is this a short story, or your story? It is a great story, if true you have really lived!
My friend Spyder Lyn writes her stories on a site and they go onto Amazon, I will have to look it up for you, or you can find it on her blog.
Cazzy x

Rita said...

Yes. They are mine and very true. :)