Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wicked and Evil Grandma Helen © 2010 Dakini Verona

Wicked and Evil Grandma Helen © 2010 Dakini Verona

I was born in Queens, New York in the year 1954. Dad was a New York City fireman and mom was a stay at home mom. We were one of the first blended families that I knew. Mom was divorced and had a son from the previous marriage; dad was a widower with two kids of his own.  I was what they referred to as an “after thought”. Mom was 34 and dad 43. Unheard of for that era. I sometimes wonder if birth control if had been an option for mom, if I would have even seen this life.

My parents were very loving ...  loving to each other. They did not know how to love children – but boy, did they love each other. I remember being embarrassed as a teenager by their ‘loving’ many a times, but I am getting ahead of myself.

I cannot remember being held or rocked by my mother. I do remember the stories my mother told me of how I was a horrible baby. She told me that I would take off my diapers and paint the walls with my poop and how I would escape from the confines of my crib by climbing up the curtains. But now that I think about that… how can you leave a baby in a crib long enough for her to do those things?

Why can’t I remember being caressed? Most likely because it never occurred. I know my mom had a tough time as a child. She hated her own mother. Grandma was from a long line of stern English/Irish blooded hard-assed business women. Her sister had a boarding home in New York City and I remember hearing stories of how she would throw out people who did not have the rent. Wicked evil family.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Auburn Trail Part III: Panning for Gold © 2010 Dakini Verona

Auburn Trail Part III: Panning for Gold © 2010 Dakini Verona

There I was, lost in the foothills of the Sequoia National Forrest on a quest to find shelter before nightfall. I ventured down the trail a bit further, until it became clear to me that I needed to find a way to protect myself from the night. Off the path, I saw a ravine surrounded by a grove of trees, with piles of dried leaves and branches. The area seemed fairly well protected, for being out in the open. I tried to remember my limited survival training in the scouts. We learned about how to make a lean to. 

I did remember that they were supposed to be easy to make. Well not as easy when you have no tools or team mates to help. But I did succeed in pulling some dead branches together, leaning them against the trees and then using the leaves and small twigs to cover the frame. I gathered more dried leaves and created a bed. I crawled under this primitive shelter, burying myself in the leaves and tried to fall asleep. 

I was tired and cold and very hungry. I ate all my berries to distract me from the sounds of creatures of the night. Just small sounds like that must have been ground squirrels and bunnies running from night predators. At least there was no threat of bear. Not tonight.

I was grateful that those hills were protected from the cold desert night. The temperature dropped a bit, but it was tolerable. The sounds of the forest lulled me off to sleep. The skies were still dark when I was abruptly awaked by the birds greeting the dawn. They seemed so much louder here in the wilderness. They must have been empowered by their freedom.

I decided to continue on the path which descended down the hill, away from where the cabin was. I already knew that the trail going up did not lead to the cabin, so I did not want to waste my time trying to find the right path. I had hoped to find some sign of civilization. If I never found the cabin again, I would be ok. If I lost my belongings, it would not be the first time. I always traveled light for reason. Bedroll, food. A change or two of clothes. A few mementos of my travels. I did miss those belongings right now. I wished I had that granola and water. I also wished I could curl up in that warm down sleeping bag and go back to sleep in the safety of the cabin. My mind wandered as I placed one foot in front of the other, careful not to slip from the trail. That was all I needed, to fall and get hurt out here in the middle of nowhere.

Suddenly I realized that I could hear a sound in the distance. It was the unmistakable sound of rushing water. I must have been close to the river. I strained and looked through a stand of trees. These trees were different than those further up the hillside. I guess because they were close to the water source. The foliage was green and alive and very thick. I had to struggle against the lush foliage to get closer to the sound. Finally, I broke free. There it was. Clear as day. The American River.

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Auburn Trail Part II: LOST © 2010 Dakini Verona

Auburn Trail Part II © 2010 Dakini Verona


I lost some time again and “woke up” in Sacramento. I don’t remember much about how I got there. I don’t remember the ride. I looked around as saw the hills had turned brown from thirst. It was hot. Hot and humid. Typical Sacramento.

This time the lapse in memory was not drug related, but caused by yet one more trauma. I tried to push away the visuals which were playing back in my mind, stuck in a loop. Flash backs of the narrow escape from that creep-a-zoid predator. I could still smell the pungent odor of his sweat and blood, yet I was almost 100 miles away.  I thought back on what had just happened.

I wondered what I must have looked like to standers by on that street in Berkeley: a frantic figure, running down the avenue with a bloodied knife in one hand and her worldly possessions in another.  Didn’t they recognize that shrill sound as a scream? I’m sure they must have heard it. But, no one came to my aid. They just turned away, back to their tiny worlds with their tiny problems. They did not want to get involved. There were no heroes in the streets.  Not then. Not now.

I brought myself back to reality. I was on the side of the road, with my thumb out, looking for another ride. A car stopped and I approached cautiously.

I felt safe once I saw the occupants of the hippie mobile. I accepted the ride. I mentioned that I was in search of an adventure in the wilderness and was trying to get to the trail I had heard about. These people were heading east, past Sacramento. They said they knew of a cabin which was open for anyone to stay in, outside of a town called Auburn. They said that they could give me a ride. I was set. Or so I thought.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Auburn Trail Part I © 2010

Auburn Trail Part I © 2010

Somewhere in my travels, I came across a tale of the hiking trails which were reported run along the rim of the mountain range from Mexico all the way north, to Canada and beyond. I don’t quite remember the official name of the trail, nor even if there was one, but I will call it The Auburn Trail, because I was able to access the trail from Auburn. Auburn was a sleepy town nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range outside of Sacramento, California. Being the thrill seeker that I was, naturally, I was drawn to this new potential new adventure.

I had mentioned to my parents during my trip home for their anniversary that I was thinking of buying a horse and riding across the entire country. As you can imagine, their response was less than favorable or supportive. I am sure they thought it was just one more pipe dream. I even broached them with the concept of loaning me $100 to do so. Now, granted, I had no idea where I would buy a horse for $100 or how I would manage to feed the horse or even take care of myself on this trip. But you see, such is the beauty of naivety. You have all these great ideas, but no worries about the consequences of acting on them. Well, back to my story about The Auburn Trail.

As I try to remember the series of events leading up to this monumental adventure I find myself struggling to fit all the pieces together. The details are really vague… as I sit here, almost 40 years later. However, I will try to recall what I can. To be honest, I am not sure I could have recanted the story in its full details even as they unfolded. Such is the curse of living a life where you spend most of your time dazed and confused, if you get what I mean.

Anyway, I decided to hitchhike to get as close as I could to the trail and determined that Sacramento was my destination. According to the maps, it was the gateway to Auburn. My experiences on the road had taught me that it was always best to start with the larger city to seek information. Small towns just were not that friendly. After all, I wasn’t in Woodstock anymore.

The journey was not uneventful, as you may have already guessed, or it would not be noteworthy. It started with my on the sidewalk in Berkeley with my pack and bedroll at my feet and my thumb raised high to oncoming traffic. I was always lucky to have a great sense of direction, so I knew which way led out of town. I never had to wait long when hitch hiking, I guess it was because I was, as my dad used to say “easy on the eyes”.

A rather non-descript sedan that looked like it belonged in the suburbs, pulled over to the curb. It was not the typical ride I had grown accustomed to, not a hippie-mobile.  It was getting late and in spite of my apprehension, I left my post on the familiar sidewalk of Telegraph Avenue to approach the driver. The middle aged businessman looked like all the others that were driving home after a boring day in the office. My instincts warned me to wait for a ride that had a better vibe, but he assured me he was safe. Famous last words.

I got in the car, and kept my knap-sack and bedroll close at my feet, should the need of a quick escape be necessary. I sure am glad my instincts also told me to reach down and feel the comfort of the hilt of my hunting knife which was wedged between the top of my right knee high leather riding boot and jean leg.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pregnant and Backstage with Led Zeppelin in 1973 © 2010 Dakini Verona

Led Zeppelin Concert © 2010 Dakini Verona

It was a warm day in Golden Gate Park, which was very unusual if you have ever been to San Francisco in the summer. It was June 6th 1973. It happened to be Led Zeppelin’s last San Francisco concert- however it was my first.

I was just 10 weeks shy of giving birth to my love child. I was very pregnant and flaunted my “condition” by wearing a tie-on halter top and low slung short cut-off hip hugger jeans with wildly colored tights. I refused to conform to the mandates of society and therefore not only did not own any maternity clothes, but flashed my ample belly at every opportunity.

I had become proficient at finding my way into concerts without paying. There were always spare tickets to be had. A smile, pleading eyes, who could refuse? So there I Kezar Stadium smack dab in the center of Golden Gate Park,  in a crowd of more than 50,000,  swaying to the music of yet another rock legend. Led Zeppelin. I could barely contain myself. I swooned at the sight of Robert Plant and Jimmie Page. I worked my way up towards the front of the crowd and planted myself right in front of the gigantic speaker on the left of the stage. This had come to be one of my favorite spots at most concerts, because not only could I see all the performers on the stage clearly, but I could feel the music reverberate through my entire body. Little did I know that my baby did not feel the same way about the music.

Kezar Stadium June 6, 1973