Monday, September 12, 2011
Although San Luis Obispo County is rather a nice area to look at, it is a whole different thing to try living there when your name is Bobby Jameson.
It is, in fact, an old ranching community, for the most part, made up of a lot of people who migrated from the central valley of California, from places like Fresno and Bakersfield.
A lot of stout Christianity, agriculture, and military people, just to mention a few of its attractions. Trying to fit me into this backdrop from hell, is exactly what I was faced with the moment I arrived in 1985.
My mother lived in a place called Grover City, if you can believe it, which sounded to me like East Of Eden starring James Dean. It is a small community in between a number of other small towns, known as the Five Cities.
Pismo Beach, Shell Beach, Grover City, Arroyo Grande, and Oceano, a mish-mosh of agriculture, beach towns, and Christian zealot good-ol boys. I fit in about as well as a black guy moving into a Ku Klux Klan stronghold.
I looked like I came from Hollywood. I did not look like I belonged in the Five Cities area. As soon as I hit the street, I was eye-balled to death by the locals, who did not try whatsoever to hide their disenchantment with me.
It was, "Watch your ass, Jameson," from the moment I arrived. Every street fighting instinct I had went on red alert from the first day. You know, like finding yourself in the bad part of town all of a sudden.
I felt like I was in hell as I drove around the area trying to get my bearings. Whereas L.A. offered endless opportunities for everything, this place offered nothing but the evil eye. The vibrations felt like concrete, a thick heavy feeling of, "We got our eye on you, boy!"
I knew I had to establish myself as a member of AA, and find the local meetings, but Jesus Christ, this place was scary. I truly didn't believe I could take it, but knew I had nowhere else to go, so I stayed, "a day at a time," literally.
For a long while, I would go out and sit in my car in the evening, because I felt so out of place and lost. I would try and coax myself into going back to L.A., but in the end would stay for one more day, and then one more, and one more...
My sense of longing for something familiar dogged me for a long time, and the feeling of being a fish out of water would rule my life for years to come. But in the meantime, I would have to make do with my new surroundings and seek out what good I could find.
I drove by a few of the local AA meeting places and sat in my car afraid to go in. From outside I could see a lot of cowboy hats and big bodies, indicating to me that I was gonna fit in here like a fart in a diving helmet.
Finally after a week or so, I made myself go into a meeting in Arroyo Grande called the Firehouse group, because it was held in the fire station. It was bigger than the others so I thought I could lose myself in the back of the room.
"Now don't say anything, Bob, just keep your mouth shut and sit down and shut up," I said to myself, "don't do anything to draw any attention."
I slipped in the door and stood there quietly for a moment, looking around for an empty chair, finding one a couple rows up. I made my way toward it, but as soon as I did, heads began to turn around and eye-ball me.
"Aw shit!" I thought, as I watched one head after another turn in my direction. Smiles crept over their faces as they nudged the person next to them, saying, "Get a load of this guy."