My Last Trip To L.A. Part Six

21 Jan

My Last Trip To L.A. Part Six

By: Bob Gersztyn

All Photography copyright Bob Gersztyn

59 Jartran

We arrived at the same time that the Detroit Tigers were in the World Series, which they won.Β Don Henley releasedΒ “The Boys of Summer,” which was our homecoming song. Then weΒ lived with my mother in her condominium, until we finally worked out a deal with Jartran, where we paid the estimated repair cost of the trailer axle, of around $800.00, so all our possessions would be returned. Kathy was pregnant again for the 6th time and my best friend from high school, Jerry DeClark offered to rent me his mothers now vacant rental house that was coincidentally located on Los Angeles street, in Warren, Michigan, just across from Fitzgerald high school that I graduated from nearly 20 years earlier. We moved in just after Halloween and I had a month to paint the garage for the first month’s rent before the snow started.

60 Los Angeles Street Warren Michigan

Jerry DeClark was my best friend in high school and after, and we spent most every free moment together talking about life and love, until I got drafted into the army in August 1966. He was a tackle on the football team and towered over me. After I was discharged from the army in August 1968, Jerrry got married and was attending Eastern Michigan University and majored in accounting. I became a hippie and made new friends and eventually moved to Los Angeles, California. Jerry got divorced, dropped out of college a quarter away from graduation and became a millwright in a steel mill. Now he was remarried, but was still responsible for his under 18 year old daughter from his first marriage, who was attending Fitzgerald high school. Fitzgerald was now a reflection of the youth culture of the 1980’s as reflected inΒ its graffiti, Β . What the MC5 and Stooges were in 1969, the Sex Pistols were in 1985,Β .

61 Fitzgerald reduced314

I applied for different jobs, but wasn’t getting anywhere, and contacted Safety-Kleen about getting back with them, when someone mentioned that since I was a veteran and former postal employee that I had lifetime re-instatement rights. So I went to the Royal Oak, Michigan office, which controlled the 480 SCF (Sectional Center Facility) and applied for re-instatement. The Post Office was my original source of revenue when I first became independent from my parents. I was given a choice of being re-instated as a carrier, clerk or mail handler, so I chose mail handler and was assigned to the Royal Oak GMF, located in Troy, Michigan, which processed and delivered all the mail for SCF (Sectional Center Facility) 480 zip code.

62 Troy GMFedit214

I hated the Post Office, because it was so big, impersonal and military like in its operation, but after 13 years of life as an adult with a wife and 5 children to support, I now had a totally different perspective on things. Sure it was a giant machine that could care less about you as a person, but as long as you did your job, you would be rewarded with an hourly wage that allowed you to support your family and work overtime if you wanted extra. By 1986 I had all my bills paid and had enough money saved to move back to the West Coast, since we believed that Michigan was not where God wanted us to plant our family.

63 Detroit316

I applied for a transfer with the U. S. Postal Service to Sacramento, California along with Medford, Eugene, Salem and Portland, Oregon in March 1986. By April the Salem, Oregon Post Office contacted me and said that they wanted me to begin working there no later than July 1, 1986. So I began preparing for the cross country move, once again. I was a veteran cross country mover, so it didn’t even phase me, since this time we rented the largest Hertz truck that they had and was guaranteed a good job at my new destination.

64 Detroit315

While we were back in Michigan, I began to evaluate the entire 13 years that I had spent on the West Coast and where I was at now in relation to my ministry and artistic expression. In retrospect I realized that there were 3 consistent items that endured everything. They were the exploration of the spiritual dimension, music and photography. While in Michigan I discovered a new musical pied piper, who ended up impacting my life with his music as much as Bob Dylan. His name was Bruce Cockburn and I first heard of him in the Wittenburg Door back in 1980, when we first began our time of wandering in the wilderness. There was a used record store on 9 Mile Rd. near I-75 that I went to regularly to buy used albums for $3.00 each. They had almost all of Bruce Cockburn’s albums up to that time, on vinyl 33 rpm records, since CD’s were just beginning to come out.

65 Bruce Cockburn 1997 - Port, OR #10


Cockburn had been making solo albums since the early 1970’s and became a born again Christian in 1975, and his music became the way that he expressed his faith. “Lord of the Starfield’s” was his first Christian song. However, he wasn’t a gospel singer like Chuck Girard or Keith Green, but his music was very political and rich in social commentary in the tradition of the folk singers like Woodie Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs. At the same time his music was spiritually impacting, because the lyrics and melodies elicited parallel thoughts and emotions in my own life and became part of the sound track that accompanied it.

66 Bruce Cockburn 1992 - Handcolored #15

At this time I still only purchased Christian music, even though I listened to secular FM rock radio in Detroit, like WABX. Just before we moved to Salem, Oregon, Bob Dylan came to Detroit, with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as both a co-headliner and his backup band. I purchased tickets before I found out that had to be in route to Oregon at that time. So with great disappointment I sold my ticket. I had never seen Bob Dylan in person, up to this point and thought about the concert on my 2400 mile drive across North America to Oregon. I looked at my watch as we crossed the border from Utah to Idaho at the time that the concert was to begin back in Michigan and drank in the irrigated landscape.Β

67 Bob Dylan #4

I continued to read voraciously, as I had always done and two of the most influential books from this time period were, “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah,” by Richard Bach, whose way of thinking ran parallel to the direction I was moving in. At the same time I read “Sell and Resell Your Photographs,” by: Rohn Engh, which was a crash course in the world of stock photography. After that I began to approach photography as a journalist and began to submit my images for publication at the same time that we moved back to Oregon for the 3rd and final time.

68 Welcome To Oregon


I didn’t begin working at the post office in Salem until the 5th of July, so we had a few days to find a house to rent, move in and get settled. Many states have a city named Salem, because it comes from the Hebrew word Shalom, which means “peace, wholeness or completeness.” These were all desirable spiritual attributes, so it was with great excitement and anticipation that we started our new life in the Pacific Northwest. After 6 years of restless travel, totaling 11,000 miles from 7 different major moves we could finally rest.

69 Salem328

Of course once we were back in Oregon and it was only 1000 miles from Salem to Los Angeles, we had to take a quick trip down there to see our friends. I could drive on I-5 all the way and we actually made it back to Salem that time in only 13 1/2 hours. Our love for L.A. made it hard to leave and stay away, but at the same time we knew that we wanted a clean and wholesome environment to raise our family without having to worry about them getting shot on the way home from school. Of course that was back in the 1980’s before school shootings, even in Oregon became common. If you wait long enough, a cultural phenomenon that originates in L.A. will finally makes its way across the U.S. and into all of the cities of everyday America.

70 Pasadena Freeway off York Blvd overpass

To Be Continued









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