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REMEMBER NEEDLES!

By Gordon Alexander

It was 1974. My girlfriend (and future Mrs.) just graduated from Kent State University. I persuaded her that after 4 years of college, what she really needed was a warm Californy Beach.

I wanted Santa Barbara area, she thought San Diego would be nice. So after losing the best of 5 paper, scissors, rock (I hate that game) I reluctantly surrendered the dart.

She nailed Long Beach. So that's where we headed.

We packed up all of our possessions, a couple of bean bag chairs, a lava lamp, and a huge Pioneer Stereo System, and a few boxes of records.

Couldn't fit all in the back seat of her 67 VW bug, so we set out to do the impossible. We hooked up a U-Haul trailer on to the bug. Against the advice of U-Haul. Against the advice of ANYONE with a shred of common sense.

Hey, I aged into my wisdom, like a fine wine ages into it's full bouquet. Ok, maybe I'm more like cheese.

Anyhow. There we were. Our friends gathered around the bug and wished us well. We didn't make it down the street until the first person pointed at us and laughed. Yea, I know today it's fairly common to see a VW bug pull a U-Haul. Isn't it?

Well, even back then I was something of an oddity.

And we headed west. Made it all the way to Indiana, when the little beetle wouldn't go any further. But it was my good fortune to have run into a kindered spirit, in the form of a "let's go for it" mechanic.

He spent the better part of our first day on the Adventure, welding steel strips under the car, and putting bigger shocks on, and then doing something, that to this day I'm not sure about, that made the bug and U-Haul trailer WORK. And he didn't even charge us for his time, just for a few parts, and a picture. He wanted one for his wall. OH, and IF we by some miracle actually make it to California in this rig, he wanted a picture of that too.

I must admit, we did our share of attention. Two wild and crazy "kids" (never mind I had 4 years on Navy life and 2 1/2 years as a "waderer under my belt) that were headed for the promised land. At least I promised my sweety that I'd get her there.

But. The VW died. In the little town of Santa Rosa, New Mexico, she sputtered, she sparked, and then said No Mas. End of line.

Well we became almost instant celebrities. No one in Santa Rosa could ever recall anyone so stupid as to try to pull a U-Haul across country by a VW bug. Well, maybe more infamous.

Anyhow, for two days we were the toast of the town, treated like royalty. Because we were spending our money faster than Jerry Springer in a massage parlor.

The fine folks of Santa Rosa probably would have adopted us. But after two days of enriching the town coffers, we were rescued by a U-Haul truck that was picked up somewhere and driven to us. We loaded our stuff, including the bug, into the U-Haul truck.

And resumed our adventure. Now we were getting short on cash. Figured we had about enough left for gas to get us to Long Beach. Good enough for me.

So we drove, and drove and drove. And came to Needles, California. We did it. We made it to California. Almost. Needles is on the western "coast" of California, lots of beach, no water.

Some prefer to call it the desert. Well, you drive a U-Haul all day and night, it will look like beach to you too.

So we pulled into Needles. More motels than I ever saw. Now before we left, her parents bought her a AAA card, and a trip tik, and a AAA motel guide. I think they thought I was a little on the "hippie" side of life. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Well maybe a few things.

So we were armed with the right kind of information. But it soon became apparent, it didn't matter. There were NO VACANCIES signs anywhere. It's a good thing she wasn't pregnant (we saved that for about 10 years) or else I would have been looking for stables.

Now there was this ONE giant motel. With people splashing in the big pool. The parking lot filled with Cadillacs, and Lincolns, not a Beetle in the lot.

We just KNEW we couldn't afford this. So we drove by it twice. And someone in one of the little flea bags told us of a place a few miles out that had a vacancy.

So we headed out. But I had to pee. Really Bad. And we were in town, so no stops by the side of the road. I pulled into this big MOTEL that we KNEW we could never afford.

I ran into the lobby, asked for the bathroom, and ran quickly to it. Upon my return the guy behind the desk asked me where I was from. I said Ohio. He said he KNEW that because of the accent. He wanted to know where. I said Cuyahoga Falls. He was from Barberton, our cross town rivals.

So then he wants to know if I need a room. And I say,

'YES, BUT WE CAN'T AFFORD ONE HERE."

And he says, "HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT, YOU HAVEN'T ASKED ME YET HOW MUCH THEY ARE."

So I humored him. "How Much?"

14.95 And it just so happens, that's for the Honeymoon suite.

Second time in that lobby I almost wet my pants.

We were driving up and down the strip checking out rat holes for 25 bucks, and here is the biggest and best motel in Needles, that is the cheapest.

So I ask if he was doing an Ohio boy a favor. NOPE, that's what the "Old Man" charges, but he don't care about the motel, as long as it breaks even, he has the biggest bar and restaurant in town. You should have his bar receitpts.

So we ended up staying in the best room, the Honeymoon suite (and we acted like honeymooners too, passed out almost instantly, of course after a three hour romantic marathon, silly!).

Not only that but my new friend also bought us dinner and breakfast. That WAS for being an Ohio boy.

So the next day we sailed into Southern California. Remind me some day to tell you how we got the bug off the truck, that's in itself a story.

But the point. For the nexy 15 years, when we came up against it. When things got a little tough. A little tight. When we didn't know for sure if we had the strength to make it.

Feelings I'm sure all of you have known. All of you have experienced. When you were at the end of your rope, nerves frayed, and you just KNEW that there was no solution.

Well, when we got to that place, when we started making ASSUMPTIONS about what we could or could not do, then one of us would perk up and spout off:

"REMEMBER NEEDLES".

Because we made false assumptions. Because we were insecure, unsure of ourselves, thought we couldn't afford it. Thought we'd have to stay in a lizard infested flea bag, Drove right by the best, looking for the cheapest.

Passed up the really good, searching for the "just get by". Assumed we couldn't, before we ever asked.

So that is why when times got tough for us, at least for the next 15 years, we'd simply say,

REMEMBER NEEDLES.

So if you are ASSUMING. If you have doubt. If you are looking for the "make it through the month", then my friend, I loan you this story. There is a better place to be.

But you got to ask. Before you receive. That's the way it works. And you NEVER know what you can do, or what others will do, until you try. Until you ask.

So friend, if you have made an assumption about your life recently, do me a favor,

REMEMBER NEEDLES. And even though you were never there, you have been for most of your life. Assuming, without finding out for yourself.

Thanks for your time and attention.

Gordon Alexander

 

Copyright 2000 Gordon J. Alexander and Seeds of Wisdom Publishing, All Rights Reserved