Right Down the Block
Jimmy was old school San Jose, if ever I met someone who was. He grew up on the east side, in a large family with blue collar values and a hard work ethic. He was working at United Auto Stores, Story Road, when I first met him, and he was very knowledgable behind the counter.
He had hair that looked as though it were pressed by an iron every day before he went out the door, it was that straight. He wore dungarees and long sleeved plaid shirts, that he would roll the cuffs up on, making me wonder why he just didn’t wear short sleeved ones in the first place. He had the original Don Johnson look, with the stubble of beard seemingly permanently a part of his style. Jimmy was married to Sue, and she was just the nicest gal in the world. He was so steady and dependable at the lofty age of maybe twenty-five.
As you may have guessed, Jimmy attended San Jose State University. One of the first things I found out about him was that at one point he had lived down on Tenth Street, only a couple of blocks from the school, and that he used to live right down the street from one of the members of the Doobie Brothers, a 70’s rock band with origins in San Jose. The band played regularly a few doors down the street. How is that for being in on the ground floor of a rising rock and roll band? This fact was enough to impress me, and Jimmy was pretty nonchalant about it, as though most kids got to experience seeing friend go from nothing to rock icons.
Jimmy was a guy who knew a lot, but he was not always willing to share. If he was in a good frame of mind, he was patient and willing to go the distance. If he was in one of those black Irish funks, then you kept your distance, because he was really not very patient.
I liked Jimmy a lot, but I was also not one hundred percent comfortable around him. I liked his younger brother Clancy though, an excitable guy who had the usual sibling rivalry going on with Jim. Clancy used to like to play the guitar, and he had the market on “Free Bird.” I must have heard him play that song twenty times. That was OK though, because I sure couldn’t play it.
Interestingly, Jimmy and I followed parallel courses for a while there. First of all, in December of 1975, I bought twenty acres of land up on a ridge in Mendocino County, for eight thousand dollars. It meant a payment of sixty-seven dollars a month. Within a crowd of guys, for whom a car payment was a stretch, to have one in your midst who was spending sixty-seven dollars monthly on twenty acres of land was unheard of. There were a lot of guys at United who were envious. I may have had a head of long hair and a blazing red beard, but I was also a landowner, up in Mendocino County no less.
Jimmy went home and told his mother all about the land, and Mrs. Hogan started to investigate, and before we knew it, she had bought the parcel next door to ours, up here on the ridge. Who would ever have guessed it? Many years later, when Mrs. Hogan gave up her dream of ever moving up here, my family got together and bought that parcel from her, and that severed the tenuous string that still attached me and Jimmy.
After Jimmy had stopped working for United, but while we still saw each other occasionally, we got together and decided to move into a four-bedroom house on Jeffrey Street in San Jose, where we split the rent. Later, Laura would come and live there, and still later, various other members of the family, or close friends, like Paul Holloway. He came for a weekend, and stayed for a year and a half.
The house venture worked out well enough, but better for me in the long run than for Jimmy. Though I was going to school full time, and working twenty to thirty hours for United Auto, I was still very much into my stereo that I had brought back from Korea. Jimmy liked it too, only not as loud as I liked it. There were some evenings when I think we may have been better off in different locales.
We parted ways amicably enough, and went back to seeing each other at the occasional party, everyone expected loud music, and no one was disappointed or upset.