Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll and Etc.
When the Age of Aquarius finally dawned over upstate New York, I danced in the morning light.
Why wouldn’t I? Plain girls like me finally had a chance at happiness. No one cared that I had small breasts and a few scattered pimples here and there. Best of all, I could toss away those damn curlers that I had to sleep on every night through high school and I could wash my face of the cosmetics I never quite learned how to apply and I could comb, rather than shave the hair under my armpits.
We all agreed that everything is beauuuuuuuuuuutiful, in its own way
Fatsos, cripples, and ex-convicts weaved flowers in their hair and frolicked together in the park.
Everyone was welcome to come on board the peace train. We were cool and everything was copasetic.
As a general rule, if everything in your life is cool and copasetic, you can be fairly sure that you have veered off the path of Enlightenment and turned onto the highway of Entertainment.
I smoked dope, popped tabs of LSD, and had sex with anyone who had long hair and a friendly smile.
If one managed to stay alive, these activities were not necessarily detrimental to one’s well-being. There was no such thing as AIDS, the drugs were not yet filled with yucky stuff from China, and if you fell out of a tree, a trip to the emergency room did not cost $10,000.
However, as I said, in terms of enlightenment….
I and many of my brothers and sisters had become smug, self-satisfied, hypocrites. We were intolerant of intolerance and collectively disdainful of conventionality. We were independent spirits who were always hanging out with each other.
Actually I was too unsure of myself to become TOO CONFIDENT and I had been a people pleaser for so long that I could not bear to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I had turned myself into one Hell of a smarty pants. I thought I had everything figured out.
This is because I started reading philosophy or, at least condensed versions of philosophy. There were not yet books entitled “Semiotics for Dummies,” but I was a quick study and enjoyed slipping phrases like “ontological insecurity” into discussions.
After a month of a thorough review of the history of philosophy, I decided to become an Existentialist
Not only did this declaration gratify my self-image, but it provided me with the answer to the mystery of being and the meaning of life.
THERE WAS NONE!!!
(Wo)Man created his/her own values. Meaning depended only upon one’s “ultimate concern”.
Our destiny was decided for us. Here today, gone tomorrow, kaput, the dust and ashes of exploded stars.
In the interim between death and death, all we could do is dance and sing while we were rolling Camus’ damn rock up Camus’ damn hill, then watch as it tumbled down, again and again and again.
In other words, college turned me into a nitwit Most of the time, a good-willed nitwit, but someone who did not know that they did not know, which, as Socrates pointed out, was the stupidest of all.
I was also a self-centered narcissist, which I still am, but at least now I can laugh at my own folly and the silliness of being a human being.
Young boys were dying in rice paddies, blacks were burning down cities, factories were spewing forth waste, but those issues were not REALLY my “ultimate concern”
Like all young people, I was searching for a “beloved”, someone who would not only know my name in the morning, but who would also show enough concern to remember that my favorite color was yellow.
Was I looking for a prospective husband?
Good grief, no! If that was my goal, I would have married Jeff.
My parents’ gloomy marriage and the domestic lives of my three older sisters had made me cynical. I did not want to spend my life wiping snot off noses and shit off babies’ backsides. I was destined for greater things!
I did not yet know what those greater things might be, but, I hoped my “significant other” would help me figure things out because the absence of free will meant that making decisions was difficult
I knew I was going to be a teacher, at least for a while, but this would be a temporary stopgap until I my school loans were paid off, I bought a car, and hopefully bumped into Mr. Right. I preferred a writer, but a derelict would do, as long as he was cool.
Thank The God That May Not Be, I hadn’t gone to California and bumped into Charlies Manson. I am fairly confident that I do not now and did not then have the capacity for brutality, but I suspect I may have hung around the periphery of the ranch, I’d wrangle an invite to a few of his parties.
“Charlie blew my mind last night! When the Revolution comes, it’s going to be led by blacks. We have to choose! Do we want to sell out and be on the side of the capitalist pigs who are destroying the planet or do we want to work together to form a brave new world of peace and love and lots and lots and lots of pot and sex?”.
Frankly, I wasn’t sure. I sorta didn’t want to join anything that would result in dirty hair.
Plus, I secretly disapproved of calling cops “pigs”. It was dehumanizing. They were merely benighted pawns of the “Establishment”, leading lives of servitude and self-alienation.
So, after graduating from school, my tentative plan was this: I would teach for a while, and then be on my way, wander here and there until I found the place that my soul had led me.
I assumed I’d be a pretty good teacher. Although I felt intimidated and slightly nauseated by babies, I assumed that I would be great with kids. At least those who could talk in simple sentences, and say things like, “I have to use the toilet” or “I don’t mind if you take a nap, mommy. I’ll just sit here and play quietly by myself.”
I had twelve nephews and nieces and had pretty well perfected the wacky aunt role. It was fun! What I didn’t recognize was that I was only with them for relatively short periods of time.
“C’mon, we’ve pretended we are demented monkeys for half an hour. Let’s all roll down this hill and when we’ve hit bottom, I’ll spin you around until you’re dizzy and can’t walk. It will be hilarious. You’ll find out what it’s like to be drunk. After that, I’ll have to take you home”
“Wah! We don’t want to go home! We want to be with you, Auntie Oh-So Cool!”
I did not surrender to their pleas. Like a good comedian, I knew I had to leave ‘em while they’re laughing.
Incidentally, my niece recently informed me that I had actually encouraged them to eat flowers, which is so idiotic it pains me to think about it. What if I had served them a plate of Deadly Nightshade for lunch, accompanied by large glass of opium juice?
Yep, teaching, that’s what I would do. Maybe I wouldn’t be allowed to roll down hills with the kids in my class, but I envisioned my future students sitting in neat rows of desks, hands folded.
But…., that was tomorrow and this was NOW. I would live in the ultimately meaningless universe and smell the daffodils before they wilted
Being a jolly nihilist may seem to be a contradiction in term, but if you are a 20 years old who has never experienced death, disease or decrepitude, it is quite easy.
It was all about liberation. Freedom was exalted, personal responsibility evaded, and commitment to anything other than that which made you feel groovy was dismissed.
Well, that was my interpretation and many others of my generation.
We applauded wildly when bands smashed perfectly good guitars on stage. We belittled nine to fivers and mothers who baked brownies, unless those brownies were laced with marijuana. We threw feces at returning war veterans.
Ok, that’s an exaggeration. I heard that this was done, but I never met anyone one who did it. I and everyone else I knew preferred the “putting flowers in the barrel of a gun” approach.
I must confess that once, just once, I cursed at Nelson Rockefeller as he was making a speech in our student union, but, trust me, I was not alone. I was an anonymous face among a throng of angry protesters, and would never have considered such behavior if I wasn’t surrounded by my comrades……oops, my brethren.
But then again, I did not especially like being “one among many” either. It depended on the size of the group of brethren.
Once, when I joined thousands of protesters in Washington, I felt increasingly uncomfortable as the crowd surged this way and that, here and there, chanting slogans. I worried that I would be swept away with them if they decided to storm the White House.
Heil Abbie Hoffman!.
I would have greatly preferred to stand outside the Rose Garden with no more than a small number of nuns and mothers with toddlers in strollers. Yes, we would carry placards, but they wouldn’t be rude. Maybe there would be a picture of Picasso’s popular lithograph “Bouquet of Peace” on one of them. As for slogans, “Kiss not Kill” would suffice,
I soon recognized that the mellow yellow folks were apparently located in some other part of the park.
I just had to cool my pits, listen to the warm, let it be and try to recall the basic theme of “Being and Nothingness”. There was something about “facticity” in it. People locked up in chains can still decide to resist or accept their circumstance.
In other words, if you can’t swim, float.
I eventually evolved into a confused revolutionary who used the jargon of the times, but basically distrusted it. A soldier holding a bouquet of Easter Lilies, marching toward the world of tomorrow; one in which peace and justice would prevail.
I even had a tee-shirt with the slogan “Peace Now” and a raised fist.
I had little sense of history. This frustrated me when I was dragged into a shouting match with my father. He lived through the history I had only read about.
Why the hell did Eisenhower fire McCarthy?
I was also a bit naïve.
If I had gone to North Vietnam, I would probably have taken selfies--oops I mean photograph-- of me twirling around on an anti-aircraft gun, like stupid Jane Fonda. I would have brought along a camera and shared my Polaroid pictures with my new Vietcong friends.
I knew the basic premises of the War in Vietnam, and concluded it was a doomed enterprise. If this hadn’t been so obvious, I might, in retrospect, claim to be prescient, but I wasn’t. I just had common sense.
The US became stuck in a military quagmire, we evacuated, the bad guys took over, and, now, 50 years later, the dominoes remain in place
In truth, as ardently as I supported the counterculture, I was basically guided by the same impulses that motivated me in high school, just with a semi-sophisticated twist.
“Pwease love me, you chauvinistic pig who has exploited women for centuries”.
However, on the conscious level, my heart and mind were aflame with revolutionary fervor. This had not only been ignited by the zeitgeist of the times, but also by a professor who taught Freshman Sociology. His name was Bob Morrison . He was an alcoholic, which added to his allure.
He also looked like Johnny Cash.
In fact, when Morrison and a few other people and I picked up Abbie Hoffman at the airport for a speaking engagement at Geneseo, the first thing Abbie said when he his eyes rested on Morrison was, “Who the fuck are you? Johnny Cash?”
Morrison decided the comment was a real knee-slapper, which relieved the rest of us because Bob could sometimes be unpredictable, depending on his degree of intoxication
I have one very clear memory that always pops into my mind when his name is mentioned
One evening, in the middle of a conversation, he walked over to a window, opened it, and threw up. He then wiped his face with his sleeve and returned to the discussion as if nothing unusual had occurred,
Is that cool or what?
Morrison, as we referred to him, was one of those teachers who excite the imaginations and pretentions of literary wannabes, who are most often young men. They listened to him with eyes aglow, laughed when he laughed, and eventually transformed themselves into his clones.
The women did not feel the same obligation to impress him because we were chicks and it didn’t matter.
We were occasionally asked if we were “women” or “girls’, which we understood to mean, “Do you want to have sex with me?”
I never had the remotest desire to do so. The very idea made me queasy. Would he lean over and throw up off the side of the bed?
Worse than that, would he expect to chat with me about the book he had written entitled “Primitive Existentialism?”
“Bob, I’ve noticed that the Existentialism to which you refer is quite primitive”
His fan club met almost every evening in a local tavern and rapped about this and that, none of which was inconsequential.
Bob Morrison could go on and on. He dropped the names of famous authors as often as a would-be actress mentions celebrities. His heroes were philosophers like Husserl, Heidegger and a mass murderer named Charles Starkweather.
Morrison apparently felt a bond with Charlie because both of them were outcasts, trying to live authentically in a culture that destroyed souls.
As I mentioned, the first time I encountered Bob Morrison was in Sociology 101.
Initially, I was puzzled why so many students had enrolled in the class and why a few guys were agitated and pacing back and forth in the back of the lecture hall.
I sat at my desk, spiral notebook before me, pen poised, ready to do what all good students do--take notes and doodle.
I watched as Morrison slowly approached the lectern. He stared at us intently for more than a minute and then asked in a deceptively soft voice,
“What IS violence?’
He paused for a few more minutes, apparently waiting for the question to sink into our minds.
He then walked across the room and in what I later learned was practiced fury, kicked the waste basket, as if it were a Jew and he an angry Nazi. The basket flew into the air, its contents spilled everywhere, nearly missed a student’s head and, then crashed into the wall.
“THAT is violence!” he shouted.
I wasn’t quite sure how to articulate this concept into my notebook
Morrison seemed to lecture about everything other than Sociology. We read a book by Jean Genet which dealt with numerous men having sex in a variety of positions in a penal colony..
I had no idea why he required us to read such a book and wondered how the heck he was going to test us on it? Multiple choice? Essays?
“Why did the main character fist fuck his lover, then ejaculate onto his head? Explain why the author considered this a sublime act”.
What did the book MEAN?
I was still perplexed even after he spoke for an hour on the subject. All I could figure out was that it had something to do with….yep…., alienation.
Similar to this was another time when he again began a class by asking a question in what had now become his familiar stage whisper.
“What is it that you SEE?”
Students raised their hand and offered profound responses, but I grew nervous when he started pointing at people individually.
“You! Now you! How about you?”
I immediately started planning on a suitable response and came up with one that pleased me.
“I SEE the starving of children in Biafra!”
Sure enough, he eventually directed his steely gaze in my direction.
“What do you HEAR?” he boomed.
If I had any presence of mind, I would have replied, “I hear the cries of the starving children of Biafra” but, flustered, I stammered, “Uh. I dunno. I guess I hear you talking to me.”
I was embarrassed and humiliated. I felt every capillary in my face expand
What would he say to me? “Get out of my class, you dumbbell!”
Morrison simply raised an eyebrow and turned to someone else. I sighed with relief. At least he didn’t ask a follow-up question.
I’m hazy when and how it came to happen, but I eventually became a member of his sycophantic coterie and sat at his table almost every night, drinking beer and listening to the conversation, which was really more of a monologue.
Perhaps I was accepted because I was usually braless. I don’t want to sound immodest, but I had lovely breasts.
Good ole Bob Morrison…
Sometimes he handed out tabs of acid and we all participated in psychedelic adventures together.
Most of the time, we had nifty experiences. Once I stared at a dead squirrel for two hours. Another time I rolled on the ground clutching my stomach, laughing like a lunatic because my boyfriend had raised his finger in the air and said wittily, “Heidegger is a gravedigger.”
I only had one bad trip. There was a ravine/small canyon near my college and after we climbed down it, we took mescaline. I think this may have been because Morrison was heavily into his “The Teachings of Don Juan” phase and wanted to find his ally.
Anyway, I hallucinated, saw cows all around me, freaked out and started to cry.
It took a while for my pals to “talk me down” and make me understand that I was mistaken. There were REALLY real live cows down there and they were peaceful and loving.
Someone put his hand on my shoulder, led me to a cow, and encouraged me to touch it.
“See? Real. Nothing to be afraid of, baby.”
How and why there was a bunch of cows munching grass in the bottom of a canyon has always puzzled me.
A few years after I left college, I lost touch with Bob Morrison, but continued to hear wacky stories about him. He had been fired from his job, left Geneseo, and had become involved into an “Individualized Education” thing in which students paid for a useless diploma from a pompous sounding, but uncredited university.
Then I was told Bob Morrison was dead.
Had he really cut off his arm with an electric knife?
I don’t know, but the very fact that I thought the story MIGHT be true indicates what kind of man he was.
I did not have sex with Bob Morrison, although he tried to seduce me several times.
However, I did have romances with other professors. It wasn’t unusual in those days for students to mingle with their teachers. It was not considered sexual exploitation; it was considered fun and educational.
One of my flings was with a visiting professor from England, but he was rather odd. He always showed me a photo of his wife and children before we did the dirty deed in a motel.
The first time he did it, I thought it was touching, but, later, after several encounters, I decided it was simply creepy. Was this some kind of weird ritual he engaged in to ease his troubled conscience? Or, even worse, was he pretending they were watching?
Whatever, it was definitely an anti- turn-on. The image of their smiling faces began to haunt me, initially in quiet moments of reflection, but later at the point when I was supposed to have an orgasm.
A memorable sexual experience was one I had with a black professor who taught “Negro in American Society”, a course which mainly consisted of African American students yelling at white students, who hung their heads in shame.
Professor Ford obviously believed in the stereotype that “Once you’ve had black, you never go back”.
He seemed to spend more time admiring his penis than responding to any of my physical attributes.
Now, as we all know, most guys are fascinated by their genitals, but this guy took it to another level. He appreciated both frontal and sideways views of its reflection in the mirror. Sometimes I was near him, but most of the time I was not.
We became a threesome
The teacher, the student and the penis had an intense, but short-lived affair. I simply couldn’t compete with his infatuation.
In regard to sex, I’ve always been a solo act or a duet. I am not the type of woman who has engaged in group encounters. I’d be too self-conscious and would either pretend to be a porn star or end up acting like a woman who had ice cubes up her ass.
One evening, as I was lying peacefully in bed, I heard what sounded to be a multitudinous romp in the room next to mine.
Well, again I exaggerate. It was probably no more than a dozen people, but they were making more noise than a hundred.
They were not in a bedroom, so I thought they must be flopping around on the floor.
I was torn between covering my head with a pillow or getting up to and putting my ear to the door.
I decided, if I chose the latter. I might be discovered by a participant who suddenly needed to urinate.
I tried to muffle the sound by putting a pillow over each ear, but I could not stop my mind from visualizing their coupling or tripling or quadrupling. . At first I thought of a sleazy and horizontal version of the Rockettes. Then I remembered that scientist who had discovered the shape of the benezene molecule when he dreamt about a snake eating its own tail
It was hopeless. I couldn’t avoid hearing their grunts and groans, even when I tried singing Old Man River and counting backwards from one thousand,
Suddenly I heard the plaintive voice of my old pal Eliot.
“Hey! What’s going on? How come no one’s with ME!”
Apparently, there must have been an odd number of them in there and they hadn’t formed a circle.
My heart surged with pity. Poor Eliot
Perhaps I had a flashed back to the Junior Hop in High School, standing alone, wistfully contemplating the couples doing the Mashed Potatoes.
This was a particularly painful memory because I was quite proficient at doing the Mashed Potatoes. Aside from my nephews and nieces, my mother had been the only other human being to witness my talent. That’s because she taught he how to do it! She demonstrated that it was simply a sideways version of the Charleston, except you didn’t pretend to cross your knees at the end.
Poor excluded Eliot.
Perhaps I should tiptoe into there, locate him in the sea of bodies and gently lead him out of the room and into my bed.
There was only one problem. Eliot was one of my favorite people, but I found him undesirable. It was not only that he resembled an Irish Solzhenitsyn, but he was quite a bit shorter than I and I didn’t want to have sex with someone whose head was just above my navel.
I reprimanded myself. I could try. Perhaps I might be able to do it if I closed my eyes and thought of England or the thin Elvis Presley….
What was the Women’s Movement about? Should I behave like a soft-hearted prostitute or a woman who was true to herself and would not do what she inherently did not want to do?
After all, I was a Feminist. I owed it to the daughters of the world to be worthy of emulation.
I was also an Existentialist. Life is hard and then you die. Eliot would have to learn that sooner or later.
I decided to go downstairs, turn up the volume of the TV and watch whatever was on..
During these years I participated in many “Encounter Groups”. I couldn’t get enough of them. I was astounded that I could actually take a course in which the only thing that was required of the students was to keep a journal, weep, and confess our character flaws to a bunch of people who had just finished trying to psychologically destroy us.
Of course, I was a complete liar. I made up a tragic story about being jealous of a sister who was much prettier and much smarter than I.
No way was I going to reveal my secrets to those nitwits.
I only got a B because I couldn’t manage to cry.
Anyway, my Psychology professor decided it would be really neato to encounter each other in a public park that was not far from the school. It was a lovely day; a perfect setting in which to embrace the miracle of ourselves.
Once there, after holding hands and singing Cat Steven’s “Morning Has Broken”, we gave birth to ourselves, much to the amusement of an ever-increasing number of onlookers.
We started out on the ground, lying in the fetal position. We then struggled to emerge from our wombs by wrestling with ourselves. Slowly slowly slowly we stood up, wailed, reached for the sky, then danced with joy. I sort of did a “Zorba the Greek” type movement, while the guy next to me made several pirouettes.
When we looked at each, we burst into unstoppable laughter; my stomach hurt so much that I felt like I had really given birth.
One particular experience in an encounter group was kind of scary.
We were supposed to rest our heads in a partner’s lap, then close our eyes, and allow the other person to explore the contours of our facial features through touch. We were then asked to share with others the emotions this experience was evoking in us.
I was paired with a Vietnam vet who, after several tours of duty, had, that year, decided to enter college because the military had paid a bonus.
I placed my head in his lap, he encircled his hand around my neck, and gently massaged it. It felt great. He then moved his fingers to my face and it got a little weird. He seemed to be writing something on my forehead. I quickly opened and shut one eye to assure myself he didn’t have a magic marker.
Next came my nose. He was caressing it when the professor told him to continue what he was doing, but share with the others the feelings he was experiencing..
“I am thinking about the fragility of the human skull and how easy it would be to crush it”
There are so many of those “I can’t believe that REALLY happened” or “Only in the 60’s” events floating around in my brain
Once, I planned to attend a rally of some sort in Washington DC, for a reason I can’t remember, mainly because I never got there.
A friend told me that he knew about a commune where I could crash en route to the capitol. It was in Virginia and was inhabited by a group of “outta sight people” who would welcome me. He didn’t know their phone number, but it didn’t matter because I didn’t need to call in advance. They were so “with it” that anyone could just drop in and drop out.
He offered to drive me. He’d hang out with his buddies for a while, buy a little shit from Rocky, his dealer, then return to Geneseo. I could take a bus to Washington from there.
I accepted gratefully
When we arrived at our destination, I saw a huge multicolored house , an unmowed lawn filled with weeds and a bunch of people who were smoking dope on the porch
I was startled when I noticed there were several children among the group, and unless their joints were toys, they appeared to be taking part in this activity.
I disapproved, but decided not to say anything. I was essentially a moral coward. Actually a self-interested moral coward because I needed a place to crash that night.
We exited the car, approached the group and were greeted like we were long lost, beloved relatives, even though they never asked our names.
“Yeah, man, of course you can crash here. The more the merrier”.
We all embraced and we happily joined them on the porch, even though I still felt uncomfortable with children being there
“Maybe I’m just uptight,’ I reprimanded myself. “It’s a new world….remember?”
I asked a guy who looked like he had just walked off the set of “Easy Rider” where I could get a bus in the morning and if I’d need a cab to get to it. I was told not to worry about it. They had a communal van and someone could drive me. All I had to do is pay for gas.
When I agreed, he said, “Hey, man, I gotta better idea. I’ll drive you. I’ll take along the ole lady and the kids! While you’re doing your thing, we’ll do a little sightseeing and check out all that historical shit. It’ll be a blast!”
I told him it sounded good to me. The more the merrier.
The next morning, our little group, which consisted of me, this guy, his wife, his three kids, his sister and his brother-in-law took off for our adventure.
We were all merrily riding down the highway, talking and laughing and sharing stories, when the kids got bored. They whined a bit, then one little boy, who looked to be about 5 years old, unzipped his uncle’s fly, took out his penis and started playing with it like it was a puppet.
The penis talked and swayed from side to side and spun around in circles. It even sang “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”.
Aside from me, no one reacted. I was appalled. The blood must have drained from my face because the uncle felt compelled to tell me that all the kids were being raised to view genitals as just another part of the anatomy, like a foot or an ear. They were determined that their children not have “hang ups” about their bodies and sexuality.
I think I said, “Cool”, but I thought about penis envy and worried that there would be a series of psychiatrists in this child’s future.
“Doc, I’m still having nightmares about one-eyed snakes”.
To my relief, the uncle didn’t become aroused, which would have freaked me out even more. I wondered how often they did this
A few miles down the road, the damn van broke down and we didn’t have enough money to get a tow truck, let alone bring the van to a garage.
As promised, I had filled the tank with gas, but I didn’t tell anyone that I had more money in my pocketbook. I didn’t want to part with it and be left with nothing.
So much for brotherhood.
I was told that the only person who would fix the van for free was a guy named Joey, who apparently had been a top notch mechanic until he got into amphetamines.
Joey didn’t have a phone, but his house was located midway between our present position and the commune. It would make sense to hitchhike to Joey’s and then have him drive us back to the van.
Joey could fix ANYTHING and he would diagnose the problem in no time. If necessary, we’d drive to a local dump, and hunt around for the parts that were needed to repair the van.
Fuckin’ Joey might even be able to make his OWN parts. The guy’s a genius!
I did not have the courage to hitchhike alone to Washington, so I decided to go with them.
We broke up into two groups, said good-bye and assured each other we would arrive safely at Joey’s, though at different times.
My group consisted of Penis-guy, his wife, and me. I was relieved because I didn’t want his nephew to start playing with his puppet again. Whoever picked us up in the car might call the police.
We didn’t wait long before a friendly guy in a pick-up truck stopped and told us he only had room for one of us in the front, but we were welcome to ride in the cargo area.
I headed for the front, but Penis guy’s wife beat me to it, so he and I climbed into the back of the truck and headed for the town where Joey lived. It was scary at first and I got a little dirt in my mouth, but it was sort of fun.
The driver was nice enough to drop us off not far from our destination and we walked the rest of the way
Unfortunately, when we got to Joey’s, he wasn’t there and the door was locked.
“Keep cool”, said Penis-guy.
He gestured toward a window on the ground floor which seemed to be open. All he would have to do is cut the screen, crawl through the window and, once inside, open the door.
We could wait for Joey in there. We’d probably be able to find something in the refrigerator to scarf down.. Good ole Joey wouldn’t mind.
We succeeded in breaking and entering the house.
The inside of the house was revolting. There were dirty dishes in the kitchen, the living room and the bathroom. Domestic debris was scattered everywhere, which included several pairs of underpants, all of which were stained in autumn colors.
We were hungry, but there was so little food in the refrigerator that it made me suspicious. Was Joey into amphetamines again?
We found a box of Ritz crackers in the cupboard. They were stale, but edible. There was also a jar of Velveeta cheese, which, I am told can stay fresh for a century.
Joey still did not appear nor did the members of the other group, who, we later found out, had developed parental solicitude and decided to head directly to the commune.
We conferred with each other about our predicament and reached the conclusion that we would have to stay the night. I was given the privilege of sleeping in Joey’s grimy cot.
I slipped between the no-sheets with dread. I didn’t even WANT to inspect the blanket closely because I knew I would end up sleeping on the equally grimy rug.
I drifted off because I was so tired, but my sleep was intermittent because I kept having nightmares about rats.
At sunrise, or what I assumed to be sunrise because the light was diffused through the gray glass of the windows, and it was hard to tell, I wearily dragged myself out of bed and walked down into the kitchen to get a spoonful of Velveeta cheese,
There sat Penis guy and his wife, who sadly told me that Joey still had not come and we’d have to hitch hike back to the van because someone might steal it or the cops might tow it away and it was unregistered. Fucking pigs.
So, we stuck a note onto Joey’s front door, attached it with gum and a little bit of snot, and walked a little ways to the main road.
We didn’t have to wait long before a benevolent girl in a Volkswagen Beetle stopped to pick us up. Her name was “Rainbow Morn”, which explained why her car was red, orange, yellow, green, and purple. She had left out the indigo because they didn’t have spray paint in that color, and she wasn’t sure she knew what indigo looked like.
Rainbow Morn was a chatty girl and she told us that she had also lived in a commune which had disbanded when one guy, in a jealous rage, stabbed another guy, who was sleeping with the first guy’s old lady. He didn’t kill him, but the whole situation had become a bummer and she booked out of there because of the bad vibes.
Rainbow Morn was now living with her parents until she sorted things out. .
We were relieved when we saw that the van remained in the same location and in the same condition as we had left it.
We said goodbye to Rainbow, who told us she’d see us again because she intended to check out our commune. She was convinced that our fortuitous meeting was a sign from God.
I gave a quick prayer of gratitude to Rainbow’s God because we only had to wait about 4 hours until good ole Joey appeared.
A bleary-eyed Joey, who looked like he had slept in the bushes, examined the van, but was too screwed up to locate the problem
They would drop me off at the bus station and return to the commune, so Joey could smoke a little dope, get a little rest and straightened himself out. They would retrieve the van tomorrow.
They dropped me off as promised and I never saw them again.
I’ve always wondered whether good old Joey had been able to repair the van and if ehe eventually died from an overdose.
Another occasion in which I visited a commune with disastrous consequence was when my friend Bill joined an Indian tribe and changed his name to Yellow Sky.
I’m pretty sure if he and Rainbow Morn ever met, she would think it was another omen and a kid named “Yellow Sky in Rainbow Morn” might exist today.
Bill and I had kept up a correspondence, even though he lived 8 miles from Cooperstown, New York and had to walk to the post office and back. He called me once on a pay phone, but he ran out of coins and our conversation was interrupted by the operator.
I was looking forward to seeing “Bill turned into Yellow Sky.” I wondered if he would be wearing moccasins or would have decorated his face with blueberry juice.
We made arrangements to meet, I took a bus to Cooperstown, and met Bill at the post office. He wasn’t wearing feathers, but his hair was tied back into a wispy braid. Much too his distress, Bill had been struggling with baldness for as long as I have known him.
Now that I think about, I have never seen a picture of a bald Indian. Their hair is always thick, their braids fat. It must have something to do with genetics or corn.
Yellow Sky gallantly offered to tie the small suitcase I had brought with me onto his back. I thought maybe he would use a vine, but he had a rope in his pocket We walked and walked and walked, chatting about old times. He told me thate he was happier than he had ever been in his life.
Five years later, Yellow Sky was in Berkeley and living in a building which housed “The Living Love Center”, a non-profit organization led by Ken Keyes.
Its brochure provided the following information:
The Weekend Consciousness Growth Intensive is based on the rapid, modern methods described in the Handbook to Higher Consciousness by Ken Keyes, Jr.
We use simple living arrangements in which the participants of the Intensive sleep on a carpeted floor of a large room. The morning breathing exercises are done without clothing. We suggest that you bring a blanket or sleeping bag, a towel, toilet articles, and simple clothing.
When I visited Yellow Sky, he claimed that because had learned to live lovingly, he was happier than he had ever been in his life.
A few years after that, he joined an ashram in India and I lost touch with him. Maybe he had reached the pinnacle of happiness.
After eight miles, my feet started to ache and I was delighted when the teepees came into view. These were located not far from a lake, and I immediately thought of that poem
“On the shores of Gitchee Gumme, by the shining big sea water”
I imagined us sitting under the moon in a large circle, smoking a peace pipe. Afterwards, when I was sleepily stoned, I would crawl onto a cozy cot, listen to crickets, and drift off to The Happy Hunting Ground.
As usually happens to dreams that have no foundation, I was disillusioned within the hour.
The Indians were much too much into pretending to be Indians. I think Tonto might have been their role model.
In addition to that, there was a lice epidemic and everyone in the tribe was afflicted. Men women and children were all scratching and picking bugs out of each other’s hair, like a colony of baboons.
I was horrified. There was absolutely no way I was going to spend the night under such conditions. I desperately began thinking of an escape plan. How could I get out of there without insulting my friend?
I devised a simple, yet brilliant strategy
As Yellow Sky and I were sitting together on the shore of Gitchee Gomey, swatting flies and reminiscing about the time he had taken LSD for three nights in succession while sitting alone in a cemetery. It was one of the happiest experiences of his life.
I suddenly halted in mid-sentence and stared into the distance with what I hoped was a glazed look in my eyes.
I told Yellow Sky excitedly that I had just had a vision of my mother calling me and I had to go home immediately. It was imperative that I see me mom. She needed me. I didn’t care if it took all night to get to the bus stop.
He replied that he understood my eagerness to return home, but we would have to wait until “the rising of the sun.” It was way too dark to walk in the evening, especially in the rain. He then pointed toward the dark clouds in the distance.
I had no choice; I reluctantly agreed.
That night, we did smoke a peace pipe before going off to our respective teepees, but I was not feeling peaceful at all.
I sat down some distance from Yellow Sky and placed what few clothes I had under my fanny
We talked once more, and then he fell asleep under a fur blanket made out of some kind of animal, which I hoped was not a deer because they have such beautiful eyes.
I did not go to sleep. I remained sitting upright and intermittently stood for long stretches of time. I wanted to get out of the teepee, but it had begun to rain outside.
Dawn eventually arrived and when Bill stirred, I yawned and told him we had to go RIGHT NOW. My mother called to me in a dream. We did not have time to eat whatever Indians eat for breakfast. My mother needed me.
We walked 8 miles back to Cooperstown where I bought a bus ticket. We had a few hours until my departure, so we went into a pharmacy and I bought him about a gallon of Quell. It was my parting gift to the Indian Tribe.
When the bus arrived, we embraced. He looked deeply into my eyes and told me my mother would be fine. If not, death was a natural part of life and she would return to the earth, which is as it should be.
Surprising as it may seem, I forgot momentarily about my lie, then remembered and squeezed his hand, cursing to myself for having hugged him.
I boarded the bus and within a half an hour I started feeling itchy. I could feel lice crawling all over my scalp.
Four hours later, when I arrived at my destination, my hair looked like I had combed it with an egg beater.
I frantically began to look for a pharmacy after I exited the bus. I was practically running up and down the street. I couldn’t find one, so, I accosted a stranger to ask for help.
He recoiled when I grabbed his arm, maybe thinking I was mentally ill, but eventually he was able to assist me He did, however, brush my hand away from his elbow when I explained about the head lice. .
When I got home, I lathered the Quell into my hair. All my hair-- both above and below my neck and under my armpits.
For additional protection, I applied a thin coating to my entire body, which I didn’t remove for an entire night.
OF COURSE, there were no lice and I had covered myself in all that icky smell for no reason. .
I once became a speed addict for a week. . I met an ex-con at a party, who told me that he had reformed and had a good, steady job selling drugs. He said he was having a “sale” on Black Beauties, a particularly potent form of amphetamines. If I bought more than 50, he would give me a discount.
I am a person who can’t resist a bargain, so I purchased the pills and experimented with them immediately. I loved the rush I felt and became so enthusiastic that I popped a few more of them into my mouth every few hours.
After two nights without sleep, I was transformed into a person who was brilliant, charismatic and filled with creative energy. I was confident that I could teach myself not only Algebra, but Calculus, as well, and pondered over which would be the better language to learn--Mandarin or Latin.
It was so fun, so exhilarating, so Be-Here-Now, that I never wanted to stop. I understood what Yellow Sky felt like when he claimed he was living at the happiest time of my life. Obviously we both were now living at the highest level of consciousness, like the Dalai Lama or my dog Brenden or Keith Richards.
My journey into Nirvana was thwarted when my friends started staring at me with diabolical expressions of their faces. I knew, with complete certainty, they were planning my execution.
The CIA may have been involved. People like me, with gifts extraordinaire, could not be allowed to live because I would reveal the schemes of the invisible overlords to keep the masses content, while they themselves lived in luxury, drinking fine wine, eating chocolate cover pears and enticing movie stars to sleep with them.
Okay, I again exaggerate, but I did become wacky and a tad paranoid until my friends intervened and insisted that I take a fairly large quantity of downers.
What would life be like without pals like that?
I slept for about three day and felt a little sick, but I had learned an important lesson.
If you’re going to take uppers, retain AT MOST a two day supply and give the rest to a close and stalwart friend, who would be able to tolerate an extended period of pleading.
Drugs…I loved them.
Once, my friend Paula and I were driving to California and we picked up a sad-faced couple, who were hitch-hiking in the rain.
It turned out that they were from Latin America and barely spoke English, but they expressed their gratitude in a mixture of both languages.
We drove for an hour, communicated as best we could, and when they found out we were “cool”, their eyes lit up and they invited us to crash at their pad in San Francisco and smoke some incredible pot.
Wow! Yeah! Out of sight!
When we arrived at our destination, they showed us around the house and indicated that we were going to sleep in THEIR bedroom, which contained a huge, luxurious bed.
“No! No!!” we exclaimed. .
“Yes! Yes!” they insisted
I hoped, by the end of the festivities, “Yes yes” would prevail
This exchange lasted for about five minutes until we all decided to postpone the argument until later that night.
Let’s not worry about it. Pot would make our decision for us.
Our host retrieved his stash and we smoked about 20 joints of the strongest marijuana I had ever experienced.
Eventually, when we reached the point in which I felt like I was slack-jawed and drooling, Miguel complained that la fiesta was boring and we needed something to liven things up. He retreated into the basement.
I assumed he would return with maracas or a giant bowl of chili brimming with jalapenos or maybe tequila, which I hoped was not the case because I had heard stories about drunken Mexicans competing with each other to swallow the worm that floated around in the bottom of the bottle
When Miguel returned, he brought with him a dozen Latinos, some of whom were carrying silver platters. One of them named Pablo leaned over and displayed what seemed to be an infinite number of lines of cocaine, and offered me a sample..
I had never tried cocaine before because no one in Geneseo could either afford it or grow it, but on several occasions, when stoned with friends, we had watched some dramatic made-for- TV movies about sweet faced heroines whose lives were destroyed by stupid boyfriends who induced them to experiment with cocaine.
Sadly, virtually all these young women ended up as sleazy whores, living on the street until a relative or minister or good-willowed cop intervened and saved her from her degraded and squalid life. At other times the heroine died a pathetic death and the last shot was of her parents weeping over her grave.
Anyway, I was fairly certain that I knew the procedure for snorting the cocaine and was both eager and a little nervous about it.
I looked again at the handsome young man bending over and offering us cocaine
He seemed to be about my age and was smiling broadly.
I wondered briefly if we would later become lovers, which was okay by me.
I had once seen a film starring Fernando Lamas and Simone Signoret which I found to be extremely erotic.
First he kissed her finger tips, then his lips slowly ascended her arm, then, with increasing urgency, her neck. At last they kissed. A steamy kiss that indirectly suggested that he had a strong penis, which would lift her away to a place where she was the happiest she had ever been.
Okay, Fernando and Simone were French, but it wasn’t THAT much different from Spanish.
I assumed their style of lovemaking would reflect the beauty of the Romance language-- lilting and seductive, not guttural and full of spit like the German
The young man handed me a cylinder that appeared to be a dollar bill that was rolled up tightly.
This surprised me because in the made-for-movies the boyfriend had always handed his girlfriend the coke in a tiny silver spoon.
Pablo indicated in pantomime that I should insert the tube into my nose, close one nostril and inhale quickly.
I wasn’t quite sure how deeply I should stick the cylinder up my nose because I didn’t want to break what might me a ritual or appear do something that was unsanitary.. I decided that, as long as I didn’t touch the edges of my nostril, I’d be okay.
I leaned over and followed the instruction he had given me.
I snorted quickly, said “Ah!” which made my throat tickle, which was immediately followed by a reflexive cough.
As often happens during a tragic event, I watched in slow motion as the cocaine soar into the air, create a fireworks display of white powder, then descend. Some of it drifted away; but most of it landed on Pablo’s shoulders
For a few seconds Pablo looked as if he might strike me,
Maybe he didn’t really look like he was going to strike me. Maybe he just looked startled,
My brain was not only addled from cocaine, but was also ingrained with stereotypical image of a Latino swilling down tequila, beating his wife, then going out to sing “Babaloo” with amigos with maracas. One guy in the group would have a worm hanging out of his mouth.
Pablo quickly regained his composure, shrugged his shoulder and said either “Es un poco dificile” or” Es un dificile poco”.
Then he asked me to marry him.
Turns out that Pablo’s visa was running out and he wanted to marry an American so he could become a citizen, He offered me a substantial sum of money to do it.
I hesitated before replying.
Hey wait a minute, maybe this wasn’t such a crazy idea. All that cash, unlimited amounts of cocaine, and Latin loving every night!
It was tempting. It seemed like a daring and revolutionary act.
I had never shown solidarity with our Cuban brothers and sisters by picking sugar cane.
I had not become a political activist; fighting to save our country by achieving peace through violence. I had only participated in one sit-in, but it was in a laundry room and we couldn’t hold hands because there were too many washers and dryers .
Did I not claim that I wanted a new-improved America, a huge, blissful commune which extended from California to the New Your Island, from the Redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters?
Did I not chant “All we are saying, is give peace a chance” over and over again in a circle of hippies with arms linked together and stars in their eyes? .
I was being given, in one small way, the chance to do something heroic
I sold out and declined Pablo’s offer.
As I mentioned, I was inherently a xenophobic racist.
The next day we were invited to stay, but we had been up all night and hadn’t been given the opportunity to sleep in either our host’s sumptuous bed or rolled up in a rug on the floor. We needed rest. I also wanted to avoid Pablo, who had started calling me Sarita.
Exhausted, our brains reeling from all the drugs, Paula and I decided to explore San Francisco.
We should have taken a tour bus. All I remember is walking up steep hills, riding on a trolley car and reading hand-written signs about where you should go if you took too much acid and had a bad trip.
We desperately needed to crash, but didn’t know where to go.
We briefly thought about pretending to be high and following the signs to the bad acid trip place, but we were too tired to risk either being with others who might be having a genuine freak out or listening to the soft voiced counselors trying to talk them—and us—down. I mean, how long could we keep the act up?
We passed a homeless shelter.
Yes, we felt like immoral hypocrites, but, hey, we were so exhausted that we were barely able to walk.
We promised each other that to compensate for our transgression; we would give money to some panhandlers the next day.
The God That May Not Be punished us. The mattresses on the floor were hard, my lice phobia returned and a toddler crept into Paula’s bed and fell asleep on her stomach.
Again, NO SLEEP!
We decided to leave San Francisco and find some place more peaceful, like, for instance, Los Angeles.
Damn it. I didn’t get to Woodstock.
In fact, I didn’t attend any concerts during my stoned out years. I’m not sure why. Maybe because they took place in the summer and my mother guilted me into a series of dreary jobs during vacation.
I had gone to several concerts when I was in high school. I had seen the Beatles at Shea Stadium and the Rolling Stones a year after that.
Everyone has seen clips of the screaming, weeping adolescent girls who almost peed themselves when the Beatles walked on stage, so I need not describe THAT in great detail..
Suffice to say, no one could tell if the Beatles were really singing.
I was excited, of course, and experimented with a screech or two, but never with complete abandon.
Even then, I felt uneasy in crowds and the whole scene gave me the willies.
I kept imagining the girls storming the stage, tearing the Beatles apart and returning home with their trophies…, fistfuls of hair or body parts.
The Rolling Stone concert was different.
Not surprisingly, the girls became hysterical, but the experience was much more erotic.
When Mick Jagger started humping the microphone and crooning “I’m a King Bee, baby, buzzing around your hive”, the girl next to me unzipped, then stepped out of her skirt and threw it toward the stage.
I thought it was weird because first of all, we were too far away and the stage was not within striking distance. Second; why had she removed her skirt in such a ladylike manner? One would think she would have torn it off or at least ripped apart a pleat or two. Three, why did retain her half-slip?
Modesty, I suppose. A few years later she probably would have tossed both her bra and underpants on stage, as well, but America had not yet reached that stage of debauchery.
The skirt landed about five rows ahead of us, and fell on another girl’s shoulder, who removed it and threw it onto another girl, who threw it toward Mick Jagger. It still didn’t hit the stage.
The girl in the slip next to me may not have been able to touch her idol, but the skirt almost had a front row seat.
I wondered if she would retrieve the skirt after the show had concluded or return home without it? What would her mother say? Would she be punished or would mom start weeping?
I suspected the latter because her mom might worry that her daughter had reached the age in which she could make bad choices and end up pregnant and living in a trailer park with a heroin addicted boyfriend.
My best friend’s father had been a professional guitarist and he was able to procure tickets to several nifty bands of the era. I had wonderful experiences, none of which I remember.
Most of the bands were British and lame, like The Dave Clark Five and Gerry and the Pacemakers, but we also saw Jerry Lewis’s kid who sorta looked like his father, but without the rubbery face.
At least we could hear them. “My Heart is in Bits and Pieces as I Ferry Across the Mersey because This Diamond Ring Doesn’t Shine for Me Anymore”.
I wish oh wish I could claim that I saw Bob Dylan.
I wish oh wish I could claim that I didn’t see Bob Dylan because he started using an electric guitar.
The truth is I didn’t see Bob Dylan because I thought he had a goofy voice and his songs were too long.
Most of the music from the sixties was a backdrop for the general mood I was in during the time they were popular.
When I hear them, my mind is transported back to a specific event or that period when I was joyous and free or intense depressed over social trivialities.
“Like, you know, Tom is really cool and I dig him, but, like, he is screwing Smooky and she didn’t hug me at the Be-In, so maybe she’s into him and is, like, uptight when I’m around. I shouldn’t let it bum me out because, like, babies are starving and life is a cosmic joke.”
Then I would burst into tears.
It seems like I am always bursting into tears, doesn’t it?
This is interests me because I never cried after I became an adult, which occurred when I was about 45.
Perhaps The God That May Not Be only allots us so many tears.
Now THAT is a cosmic joke. Ask the mother of a kid who starved to death in Biafra.
Yeah…The 60’s was outta-sight.
As some douchebag hippie—one who probably became a stockbroker and made zillions of dollars shorting the market before the crash of 2008, getting rich off the calculated misfortune of the workers whose savings were wiped out and who he once upon a time defended with tears in his eyes-- once said,
“If you can remember the 60’s, you weren’t there.”