Easter came early that year and I was soooo excited. I had made arrangements to fly down to San Francisco, to visit Havalock. I had saved my baby-sitting money diligently, despite Chris's constant requests for small loans and my own inroads for gas money and the rap sessions at Denny's where coffee was only a dime and we drank gallons, chain-smoking Marlboros and pooling our change to buy a plate of fries. Jeff and I were flying down together when school got out Friday afternoon and Havalock had sworn she would be at the airport to meet us. I picked Jeff's brains for weeks. What should I wear? What should I pack? Should I bring dressy stuff (I didn't have any) or was casual more the mode?
"Definitely casual,” Jeff said. "Bring a couple of shirts, a couple of pairs of jeans and a warm jacket. It's cold when the fog come in every evening. Don't worry about what you wear. You'll see,” he informed me. I wanted to know where we would go and what we would do and who we would see but every attempt I made to hammer out even a tentative itinerary met with amused silence on his part. All he would say was, "It will happen, what ever happens. Just be cool and hang loose."
Well, I wanted to be cool, really I did. But, I also wanted to know what is was gonna look like before the fact, a problem I struggle with still. By the time we got on the plane, I was really a pain in the ass, I'm sure. "We're going to San Francisco,” I informed the stewardess that took our tickets, grandly, which was probably no great shock to her as we were on a direct flight. "We're going to be staying four days,” I added, perhaps so she could plan to be with us on the return flight. What a silly twit I was. Jeff just laughed and helped me wrestle my large fuzzy coat down the narrow aisle to our seats.
I can describe the flight and the plane perfectly, although that would be boring. I am only tempted to do so as I can remember so little of the rest of the trip. Havalock was at the boarding gate as promised and whisked us into her car and off to see the Wizard. That's exactly what I felt like that week, Dorothy, or maybe her little dog, Toto. Havalock called her apartment The Pit not as in the pits but as in the pit-stop and we didn't spend too much time there. She had a wonderful old station wagon, known as Jesus Chrysler, and what I remember a lot of is driving up and down hills and screeching around corners and wondering where we were every time she would pop up onto the freeway to get from point A to point B, because it's faster. We hit China Town for dim sum and then took a twisty ride down to the wharf where we walked around and stared at people. We parked the car and wandered back up to North Beach where, she told us, things wouldn't really start happening until after midnight. But, things were happening enough for this kid. I couldn't believe my eyes.
People. All colors. Every size and shape. Dressed in incredible costumes and unbelievable color combinations. All talking and joking and making a scene. Their scene. Cool hipsters in black with dark glasses stood rapping with African giants with hair-dos to rival any poodle. Women in long flowing dresses sauntered by, holding hands with beings of indeterminate sex, and age for that matter. Was this what Chris meant by a dyke, I wanted to know. The boots were right. Oriental women stood in doorways, looking a thousand years old, holding babies wrapped in bright red shawls. Tiny gangster looking fellows with blueblack hair shouted from outside clubs "C'mom, c'mom, c'mon, hurra, hurra, hurra, the shows about to begin,” while trying to snag sailors from every country in the world into their place of business, where the signs out front told us "Live sex, on stage, every 15 minutes." So far as I could tell the show had not only begun, but had spilled out into the streets. I saw a man and a woman rubbing against each other while leaning against a storefront. They were oblivious to us as we walked by. "Don't stare,” Jeff chided. I couldn't stop myself.
We went to Havalock's boyfriend's house, a tiny two-room walk-up above an Italian delicatessen. There was no furniture, just mattresses on the floor. There were about a dozen people sitting around, listening to music by candlelight, incense burning, the air thick with smoke. Everyone scooted over to let us join them. Havalock said, "These are my friends from Reno." Her boyfriend, Randy replied, "Cool, man, welcome." No other introductions were made. Randy said, "We just got some really good shit. Mexican. Help us test it out,” and he busily broke up a handful of that same green weed full of stems and seeds that Chris had brought back from Mexico. He loaded a pipe, unlike any pipe I had ever seen as it had a bowl about the size of my fist and a long hose for a stem, which was attached to a fancy brass holder with intricate designs cut into the metal.
"Here,” he said, handing the pipe to Havalock. She took the pipe and he lit it with a kitchen match. She drew deeply and sucked the smoke way down. She took a couple more sippy puffs off the pipe and passed it to Jeffie who did the same. As Jeff handed the pipe to me, Havalock finally let out her breath and said, "Oh, man, yes,” in a long shuddering sigh. "Sure is,” Jeff said, his voice high and squeaky from holding the smoke in.
Oh fuck, I thought. What am I gonna do? This is it, the real thing, dope, right here in my hands, right now in this pipe. What if the cops came? What if I freak out and lose my mind. What if Mom finds out. I'll be like Robin, on restriction forever. Oh fuck. But, even as all these thoughts rushed through my mind, I knew exactly what I was gonna do, I was gonna smoke that thing. I was gonna find out about this good shit stuff. I looked around at all the dreamy, smiling faces around me and caught Jeff's Dare You eyes. I put the stem in my mouth and pulled a lung full of smoke in, opened my mouth and French inhaled, the same as I had done a thousand times, with hundreds of Marlboros, in front of the mirror first and then, with practice, in public. I sucked that smoke back up out of my mouth, through my nostrils and way, way down into my lungs where it immediately began to grow, And grow. And grow, until I exploded in a massive fit of strangled coughing. Everyone started laughing uproariously like I had just said the wittiest thing in the world. Jeff and Randy both started banging on my back. Havalock looked so proud she was like to burst. Everyone started talking at once.
"Ah! A virgin,” Randy said. "You should have told me, Havalock, we could have started her off on something a little less potent."
"Just take little hits till ya get used to it,” a skinny girl with no tits in a see-through blouse said.
"Don't be so greedy, little pig,” Jeff said, his face tres amusee, his voice low as he exhaled.
"Hold the smoke deep. Suck slow. Don't overload." Coached a fellow sitting just across from me, as I sat there with tears streaming down from both eyes, still half gagging but game to try again. I put the stem to my lips and tried little, deep, slow sucks. I may be ignorant but I am teachable. The smoke still swelled alarmingly in my lungs but I held it down this time and watched as the pipe made its way around the circle. The room was dark and filled with shadows from the many candles set along the window sills and atop a small wooden spool in the corner and the upright crate that served as a table in the middle of the circle. The music was strangely pleasant, an instrumental piece that sounded like it came from India. (It did, I discovered). Randy filled the pipe and it went around the room again, from hand to hand, each smoker sucking hard, seeds popping and sending sparks flying out of the bowl.
I sat and smoked as the pipe went around another two or three times. People were pretty quiet except for the sucking noises and the duck-like snorting sounds they made while trying to keep the smoke down as long as they could before letting go with a explosive exhalations and refrains of "Wow!"
I expected the walls to melt and start dripping down to the floor. I expected to float off into outer space. I expected a rush of some kind to explode in my brain. I didn't know what to expect, but I thought something would happen, something would change.
Nothing seemed any different, however, except the room was getting bluer with smoke. I took the pipe again and said, "I don't know. What's the big deal. I don't feel anything. Are you sure this is marijuana?" and I immediately put the pipe stem in my cheek and tried to draw on it. Again the room burst into machine gun laughter as my face turned bright red and I tried again, aiming carefully and managing to get the stem in my mouth this time. 'Oh, you ARE priceless,” Jeff said as I passed the pipe to the woman next to me. I turned and looked at him. "I AM priceless,” I thought. "Beyond value,” and my thoughts ran off into a myriad of directions, each thought erupting into another and another so that I couldn't follow any one but tried to think them all simultaneously. "So, this is what it's all about, eh?" and I looked down at my hands, and watched how each finger moved and how strange they looked, there, at the ends of my arms, waiting for my brain to tell the what to do. "My brain. It controls the whole thing. I think, therefore I am. But the am I think, what is it? Is it what I think or does it exist outside of my thoughts, and if so where?" I looked over at Havalock who was smiling in a secret sort of way and playing with the fringes on her jacket. I wanted to ask her but my tongue couldn't figure out how to say the words. I opened my mouth and out popped, "This is good. I can't even say what I think."
"I know,” she replied. "A vacation from the mind, to the mind, if you don't mind,” and we both started laughing, little silly girly giggles.
"Oh, shit, they're off,” Randy said, but he seemed pleased, too, and filled the pipe again. Then everybody started talking and I was so surprised that I could hear each of them and think of what to say but the conversation was moving much faster than my mouth could. Once in awhile I would interject something but mostly I just watched and listened and thought lots of big, branching thoughts that all came back to "Wow".
At one point, I remember saying, "My Mom wouldn't like this,” and Randy really laughed. "Oh, she would if she ever tried it, I bet." and I got the giggles so bad thinking about my Mom, so dignified and erect, sitting in this dark little room, that I had to fall over for a minute. "Nope," I said, "Even if she tried it. Mom doesn't like anything that confuses the issue." Soon we were all laughing about confusing the issue and "Mom wouldn't like this" became the rallying cry for our visit.
I sat there that night and had the most remarkable experience that I couldn't share with anyone because I had never heard of or experienced anything like it. I fell in love. Not sex love like wanting to do it. Not lets-get-married love like happily ever after if ya don't end up hating each other and splitting the sheets. Not baby love like when ya look at a sleeping child. I had never imagined a feeling like this. I watched Randy filling that pipe and I knew I loved this stuff. Pot. Grass. Weed. Mary Jane. Shit. Whatever ya called it. I loved it. I loved the circle and the dreamy stares. I loved the candle light and the smell of jasmine and hemp burning so thick it makes yr eyes sting. I loved the crumbling of the weed and the sifting out the seeds and stems and the filling of the pipe and lighting and passing it, that whole soothing ritual, and the way it made me feel inside all far off and right there at the same time and out of my head with my thoughts running away in every direction at once. I loved the music and the way I could feel it ripple across my skin and taste the sounds. I loved the way this stuff drew me up outside of myself so that it didn't matter for a moment that I was fat and clumsy and felt shy and stupid around strangers and wasn't gonna learn algebra no matter how long I sat in that fucking math lab with the indecipherable symbols roiling around on that page. I loved the way it made me feel, special, different, and glad to be different and happy to know there were lots of people different, just like me. I s'pose this feeling can only be understood by another dope fiend. I knew right then, that night, that dope would be my lifelong companion, my lover, my friend, Dope would entertain me and keep boredom at bay. It would fill up that big hole in my belly that was always hungry, always wanting more. It drew me up and wrapped itself around me and said "Welcome home, little sister, doubt no more." I watched these people around me and I felt so free, so unburdened, so light from having a weight lifted I never knew I carried, the hopes and fears and questions and desires and terrors I had dragged around with me all these years. I'm gonna have to get some more of this stuff, I thought, like about a ton of it, for starts.
Jeff was right, it was better than booze. Much better. I have no idea how long we stayed at Randy's. Time was acting funny on me. We talked about going to a concert but somehow we never got there. A bunch of us loaded up into Jesus Chrysler and drove out to the ocean and ran in the surf. We smoked up another couple of pipes out there and then we went to Havalock's place, to make a Pit stop. I was pretty fucked up by this time but I was quite content where I was. Peaches/Tortuga was there and she was madder than hell about something and made a scene, hollering and ranting at Havalock. I could tell that she didn't like Randy, the looks between them were flying fast and furious. The upshot was that Tortuga took the station wagon for the weekend; apparently she and Havalock had made plans that had gone awry with the arrival of Jeff and myself. "Bummer,” Randy said, succinctly. "You are one severely up-tight chick,” and he began loading the pipe, a peace offering, perhaps.
"Don't call me 'Chick', you stupid little dip-shit!" Tortuga spat, as she whisked her sleeping bag and a haversack and her angry self out the front door which reverberated resoundingly after she slammed out.
"Oh," I said, "My Mom really wouldn't like that."
Most of the rest of our stay in San Francisco is a paisley twirl in my mind. There was no day, no night, no sequence of events to mark time except for the pipe. The Pit had one small bedroom a living room and kitchen and bathroom and one large closet. The closet was like a guest room, a mattress on the floor, a winebottle looking fecund with the wax from hundreds of candles burned twisty and dripping sat on a upturned crate, the table of choice for starving artists, a few shelves; what more could you want? We sat on the mattress, snuggled close and tight like a litter of puppies. We smoked and rapped and giggled. Once in a while, Havalock would hush us, when we got too loud. "What ever will the people in the other closet think?" she asked us in mock horror, which reduced us to tears of laughter.
I gathered that Havalock had pretty much quite going to classes, another bone of contention between her and Tortuga. Pammy was in and out a couple of times. She smoked with us but she didn't hang out. Apparently she had a whole gang of kids on campus that kept her pretty busy in her own right. She gave us tickets to a production that we never got around to attending. I was surprised to see her look so different. Her hair had crawled out of its staid bun at the nape of her neck and was a mass of wild tendril curls. "Isn't it a gas? It's the humidity down here. The fog comes in and my hair boings out. I love it!" she said.
Sometime that night, or maybe it was the next morning, we got hungry. Good and hungry. Starved, as a matter of fact. "It's the munchies,” Havalock explained to me. "It's the down side of a pot high. All of a sudden you think ya could eat a horse if it would hold still long enough. It's hell on a diet. Celery sticks just don't make it." We decided to cook something. It took us the better part of an hour to uncurl from our nest in the closet and troop en masse out to the kitchen where the pickings, we found, were slim.
"A tin of smoked oysters, of course,” Jeff hooted, rummaging through the cupboards over the sink. "And, here's some rice. And, what's this, seaweed?"
Havalock was doing the same, with her head inside the icebox, tossing out random ingredients she found in that bright lit cavern. "Celery, naturally, a little limp but oh well. Three hairy carrots. One fucking onion. An egg. What's this? Something fuzzy. Looks like a science project. Better dump that. Oh, bonanza. A piece of BBQ what? Duck? Maybe. Not pork, I don't think. Some sprouts. Ohhhh, a papaya. We're good to go."
Randy sat on the counter top and rolled joints, "One for each and everybody. Step right up, folks. No waiting. Get 'em while they're hot."
Jeff and Havalock and I made a meal, of sorts, rapping and smoking and joking and laughing. Everything was enormously funny, even when I sliced my thumb. "Oh, blood sacrifice,” while a group called Jefferson Airplane played over and over again on the stereo in the empty living room and the good people slept in the closet next door.
San Francisco Soup, With Mystery Meat.
Open the tin of smoked oysters and share them out. Don't they look like little babies? Or, ears? That's pretty funny. Put the rice on to boil, two cups of rice, four cups of water, a little salt. When it comes to a boil, turn it down and put a lid on it. Put a lid on what? The pot, dummy, not yr mouth. Oh, ok. Slice the celery, carrots and onions real thin. Yes, the onion looks like the cosmos. Cut it up, anyway, maybe we'll come out on the other end of time. Time? Is the rice done yet? Nah, it's still bony. Let it sit some more. Oysters all gone? Here, have a slice of papaya. Oh, wow, like velvet in the mouth. Share that out, everyone gets a taste. Ummm, sticky, slick, eh? I never had papaya, before. Saute the veggies in this sesame seed oil. What's that? Wait, you'll see. Smells good. Look how the onion pieces go translucent. Oh, and the carrots curl up. Celery is boring, it just sits there and sizzles. Moved, seconded and approved, celery is a boring vegetable till ya add the sizzle. It's not a vegetable, its a fruit. Who's a fruit? I resemble that remark. Rice done? Yep. Put it in this four quart soup pot. Add lots of water, here's some oyster sauce, put that in. What's oyster sauce? Maybe it's what's left when the oysters move. You goof. Put those veggies in. Where's the mystery meat? Here, you cut this up. Slice it real thin. Throw those sprouts in there. What are those? They look like sperms. Jeez, get yr head out of the sewer. They DO look like sperms. In search of an egg. Here's the egg. Don't put that in till the whole thing comes up boiling. It IS boiling. Oh, put it in, then. Yeah, stir it up. I think it's done. What is it? Breakfast. Better than Cheerios. No, its egg drop soup. It's lunch. The Naked Lunch? Could be, kiddo. Are we gonna put this in bowls? Nah, just get spoons. We'll eat it right out of the pot. Pot? Did someone say pot? We better smoke a joint first and let this cool down a little.
So, we smoked another bowl of pot and then we ate the soup out of the pot and then we all took a little nap. Thus ended our first day in The City. The sound of the shower woke me up and I listened to Jeff and Randy and Havalock in the bathroom, wondering if they were all taking a shower together. Nope, Mom wouldn't like any of this but I thought it was wonderful. There were some funny vibes going on between Havalock and Randy, like heavy come here-go away stuff. I could tell that she felt crowded and I could tell that he wanted closer. But, the undercurrents were quiet little ripply pools of feelings, unspoken and we were cool. Havalock decided we should tour the city. Street cars, trolly cars, busses, I was always lost. "Get a transfer,” was about all I could understand. We had several joints for breakfast and I was back in that dreamy far off place, watching, and amused.
Randy took us to visit some friends of his that lived in a commune in the Fillmore district. on Divisidero Street. Wow! A whole house fulla freaks. With kids and adults and babies and dogs and cats and a African parrot squawking, more hair than I had seen in an entire lifetime and everyone talking at once. We smoked some more and I watched what I figured was a dope deal go down, right in the living room, right in the middle of the kids climbing all over our laps. Cool. Pot, I discovered, was sold in ounce bags called "lids" that cost ten dollars or "a dime" and in half ounce "nickel" bags for five dollars a pop. Wow. Randy bought kilos called "keys", in LA for eighty bucks and broke them down into ounces and turned them for a clean profit in San Francisco. Even smoking half, a given, he doubled his money on every key. Math made easy. "Don't you worry about the cops?" I asked, about the third time an ambulance or fire truck screamed by on the busy streets outside, sirens wailing. Randy laughed every time I flinched.
"Don't sweat it,” he said, "When they come for ya, they never have the sirens on." I don't know why that information was calming to me.
We took a bus up to a place called Haight Street and then I really did lose my eyeballs. Some guy floated down the street playing a flute. Two girls were skipping and holding hands, singing, "Just follow the signs. Just follow the signs. Just follow the signs." Some kind of weird mantra. People were standing on street corners selling drugs. I saw a man with a peacock feather pasted to the middle of his forehead. It matched the shirt he was wearing, as he danced about from foot to foot. "Speed. Best in town. Black beauties, time release, fasted acting, longest-lasting stuff around. Speed?" he inquired as we passed by. "Acid here. Pure and simple for the pure and simple. LSD. Quantity. Caps or tabs,” some other guy chanted at us. Apparently none of them worried about the cops, the heat, either. A pair of cops strolled by and everybody just grinned. My heart was hammering in my throat but Jeff held my hand and said, "It's cool. Just smile." I smiled. The cops walked on down the street.
A black guy with a foot tall Afro hit on Havalock. "Oh, baby, have I got something for you." She looked him in the eye and winked. "Yo Mama,” she said and they both laughed. I didn't get it, but I laughed, too. We stopped in a shop that had beads from all around the world. I was so high I could have spent the rest of my life in there, looking, touching, feeling. Crystals. Turquoise. Jade. Lapis lazuli. Silver and hammered tin. I had to have some beads. Jeff bought me a strand of Mexican stone beads, red and blue and orange and black and white, with a bell dangling on the end. Oh, really Wow. I tinkled along behind my guides.
We wandered along the street, watching the happening scene unfolding around us. Randy seemed to know about half of the people there and we ducked into an alleyway and smoked a joint with a black chick he called Fast. She sure talked fast, I could only catch about every third word. Something about her old man was busted and she needed some bread. I honestly thought she meant like Wonder. Randy gave her a wad of cash and told her to stay cool. The next minute we were back out on the street, crossing into a place called Golden Gate Park. "You have to see this,” Randy said. "It's out of sight." Well, truth to tell, I was getting out of focus, but we followed along behind our fearless leader, down winding paths, past groups of people who seemed to be doing nothing other than getting high and hanging out.
We came to a small hill, "Hippie Hill" Randy told us, where about three dozen people sat around playing drums. African drums. Talking drums. Hindu drums. Indian drums. Some were just banging away with sticks or bottles or cans. The throbbing of their music had grown louder and bigger the closer we came but nothing had prepared me for the Sounds we found when we arrived in the middle of this writhing, banging, booming, ululating throng. One man blew a sax, a weird deep bluesy trail that wove between the drums. Another whined high and eerie on a clarinet that followed no other rhythm or sound around but lead them all off into places they explored together, call and response, the drums beating out a cacophony that brought it all together into a never ending song. A girl was dancing half naked, her shirt tied around her waist, her feet flying in a blur of movement, her breasts bouncing shamelessly. One fellow kept wetting his thumb and dragging that across the head of his drum which made a noise like an animal calling its kind and cut right through me into a wildness I never imagined I could feel. About a hundred people danced around. The sun was hot and every one was singing or banging along. The song went on and on and on.
Randy rolled joints and passed them. People had bottles of wine going round. I drank and smoked and found an empty bottle and banged it against my stone beads which added an interesting clinking kinda noise that felt good in my hands. Big time wow. Even on midnight skip, I had never heard stuff like this. The music got hotter and faster and tighter and kept building, growing, we were the music and the music was us. Everyone danced and beat their bodies. The music rose. And rose. And rose. It was a volcano, a river, an ocean, a tempest. It grew till it couldn't get any hotter, bigger, faster. Then it all crashed and came to a dead stop.
Everyone else stopped. All at once. By some unseen, unspoken cue, We all caught our breaths and then laughed and started talking at once. I must have been drinking quite a lot of wine. When the music stopped, my head didn't. It was still throbbing and things were beginning to spin. I sat down on the grass and put my head back and looked up at the clouds overhead. Wow. I was breathing real ragged and uneven. I sat back up and watched the drummers as they began again, a different song, the same. I sat there and really concentrated on my breathing. For some reason it seemed like I had forgotten how. I was learning how to be a part of The Sounds but I couldn't remember to breath. I took slow deep breaths, in and out, and listened to the ocean ebb and flow in my head. Someone offered me a bottle and I drank some more sour red wine from a gallon jug. It passed around the group and came back empty. I experimented blowing across the top of the jug and started making some interesting fog horn noises. I picked up a rock and banged the jug while I was blowing, This made fun sounds, too. A joint went by and I smoked. A bottle went by and I took a long pull but it wasn't wine and most of it came back out. A girl laughed at me and said. "Tequila" but she pronounced it so it sounded like "To Kill Ya." I had to agree.
We sang and danced and drummed till the sun went down and then, just like the music would stop suddenly, bang, everyone was picking up their toys and going away, like the City was our Mommy and she called us home. Randy picked me up off the lawn and set me on my feet. "This little virgin's had too much to drink, I think. Come on, Jail Bait, lets get on down the road." I followed Jeff and Randy and Havalock, but my feet were having a little bit of trouble, they kept getting caught on each other and twisted around. "Just put one in front of the other," Havalock coaxed me, "Ya can't move 'em both at the same time." Next came another long bus ride, "Get a transfer,” and a stop at a liquor store on Market Street to buy a jug and a trolly ride on a street car where I put my head down between my ankles and quietly threw up a witch's brew, feeling much better immediately thereafter. At last, we caught a final bus and then we were back at The Pit, where Pammy had dinner all ready, French Bread, hard white cheese she called Feta, sounded like fetid but tasted salty and good, salami, sliced tomatoes, mountains of shredded lettuce. We made sandwiches and nibbled and smoked and rapped and I was almost feeling human again, or at least normal, when Randy broke open the jug and the whole guzzle routine started all over again.
Pammy had a half a dozen friends over, all of whom had extremely odd names like Toad and Crankcase and Glory, and wouldn't you know it, they had The Dick in tow, Richard, whom last I had heard had taken off for the East coast. I could feel the chemistry between him and Havalock across the room and so could Randy, I guess, 'cause they kinda growled at each other like a couple of dogs. I gotta say that Randy was cool, though, after his hackles went down he set right in to get The Dick caught up on all the smoking we had been doing, who was obviously an old hand at this.
They had each brought a bottle or two and people set in to doing some serious drinking. We played a game called Grandma's Trunk, were we all sat in a circle and named a list of things that Grandma would put in her trunk for a trip to Europe, starting with "Five sucking pups". The object of the game was to be able to remember and recite the list of items she had placed in her trunk in order as they had been named and as the list grew longer and more ridiculous, the task grew more and more difficult. "Five sucking pups, old Grandpa's watch, three pair of hose, one Gideon bible without the book of Job, nine silver salamanders, a box of Baklava, her best set of Waterford china minus one broken teacup, a copy of the I Ching with three gold coins, and, and, and, oh fuck, I forget..,” I said.
"You lose, you lose. You have to take a drink,” sang Havalock, gleefully, handing me the gallon of Red Mountain Burgundy. "It was 'one fucking pork pot pie", how could you forget?" Jeff exclaimed. I drank deep and began again. "Grandma packed her trunk with five sucking pups and one stuffed gorilla." I said. Pammy took up, "Five sucking pups, one stuffed gorilla, and an etched crystal thunder mug." The game went on. I always lost when it came around to me. Between the joints and the wine, everything was fading in and out. I crawled off to the closet to take a nap where, much to my surprise, I found Randy already about half asleep.
"Well, lookit here, it's the Jail Bait,” he said, with a funny kind of laugh, "Do you give up?" and he scooted over and offered me half of the sleeping bag.
"Don't call me that. I'm almost eighteen,” I lied, I had just turned seventeen. I climbed down into the sleeping bag and he put his arms around me. "This probably isn't where ya ought be,” he said, "Baby chicks get burnt when they mess around with old men like me."
"Oh yeah, how old are you?" I asked. Who could tell, sometimes he looked like a teenager, other times he looked like he could be in his thirties. "Well, I am almost ten years older than you and that's the truth,” he replied. "You should go to sleep."
I started laughing, "You mean like my Mama always says, 'Leave sleeping dogs alone"?" He laughed, too. "Something like that."
Well, this was the first time I had ever been this close to a boy and he wasn't trying to make me. I admit I was intrigued. The fact that this was Havalock's boyfriend, kinda, what with The Dick showing up out of the blue, made the whole thing a lot more interesting. Add to this that Tortuga hated him, and I was hopelessly attracted. The fact that he was being disinterested only added to the challenge. So, I put my mouth on his and stuck my tongue in his mouth and wrapped my arms around him and sort of wiggled under him. Chris would have been glad to see that Randy was a complete gentleman and gave in to the inevitable and I got rid of my long-unwanted virginity on the spot, in the closet in Havalock's Pit, late the evening of the Spring Equinox, 1967.
It was a quick quiet fuck with none of the mess and pain I had heard so many other girls recount and I have to say that I wondered about this, about my missing hymen and whether I was some kind of defective female. There was no bells ringing and the ground did not shake. Randy kissed me on the forehead and tucked me into his arms and curled around me and we went to sleep, me with my Levis down around my ankles, him with his around his knees. What I remember most is thinking, "It smells just like the ocean." and "Thank God THAT'S over with. I'll never have to wonder again." It was really no big deal. The drumming that afternoon had been a much more powerful awakening.
We must have slept for several hours. I woke up to Havalock shaking me, saying, "Get up, kiddo. My turn,” which made perfect sense to me. Randy wriggled back into his clothes and gave me a bag of dope and told me he'd see me around probably, and Richard and Havalock squirmed into the closet as we crawled out. Randy was a pretty amazing guy, I thought. He slapped Havalock on the fanny and told her, "Be good,” and he let himself out the front door. There were bodies crashed all over the living room, as well as the bedroom. I finally found Jeff, in the kitchen, curled up in a blanket. He looked so funny without his glasses on, oddly naked and defenseless. It took him a few moments to wake up and realize that it was me climbing into his blankets. "Jeez, what are you doing?" he asked. "Well, I was sleeping in the closet but now Havalock's there with The Dick and if it's ok with you I'm gonna sleep with you."
Now, this is the oddest part of the whole weekend, from my perspective. Having shed myself of my unwanted maidenly state and puzzled at it's uneventful passage, I slipped into Jeff's arms and set right in to seducing him. I didn't even stop to ask myself what I was doing or why. He was shocked and protested to give him credit. He argued and hissed at me and said "Stop that. Be still. Go to sleep. You're half drunk and you'll hate yourself in the morning."
"It already is morning and it's too late to stop,” I told him. And Nature, as they say, took its course, as the sky outside slowly lightened. Jeff was a much nicer lover than Randy, I thought, from my vast experience. He was a nice kisser and he was gentle and tentative and very shy. I was persistent and receptive and the poor kid really had no other choice. "Besides, " I told him, as he collapsed atop me in the end, "No one can stay a virgin forever and I DO like you, you know." "Oh, God,” he replied, which I have heard a time or two since.
As Jeff slept, I lay there, finally laid, and wondered at my self. I don't know why I crawled out of the sleeping bag with Randy and right into Jeff's blankets. You see? I told ya that sometimes even I Make No Sense. I felt like I ought to be shocked. Lord knows Jeff was. But, me? I was just utterly pleased with myself. "You're a woman now, whatever the hell that is." I thought as I drifted off to sleep.
The rest of our visit was more of the same with colors. We slept very little, I remember that. Randy showed up again the next afternoon as The Pit was beginning to come to its collective feet and whisked us, man woman and child, off on another round around. I did a rerun of the upchuck scene on another trolly car, much to Havalock's amusement. "Jesus, you are a prize puker,” she said. It's red wine on an empty belly. Never fails. We went to a coffee house on Hayes Street called the Blue Unicorn where I spent over an hour in the unisex bathroom just reading all the years of graffiti scrawled on the walls. The one I liked best said:
We are the children our parents warned us about.
which I thought was quite the wittiest thing I had ever read. We listened to a man playing a balalaika, strange gypsy songs. "Where have I been?" I wondered. There was a woman reading poems, most of which went over my head except one I remembered to this day. "This is dedicated to all my little sisters," she said. "I wrote it when a woman I know told me her sex life sucked, and it goes like this.
Well, what do you mean 'sucks'? I asked her.
Oh you know, he says your place or mine
and we go to one or the other
and he takes off his clothes
and I take off my clothes
and we do it
and that's it.
He goes home or I do
and I stare at the ceiling after
and think "Is this all there is?" she said
So, I said, to begin with
sex should never be
something that just happens.
If it isn't special
it won't be special
so, why bother?
But, most of all,
I vowed right then and there that since I apparently was gonna have a sex life, I would make sure that I didn't lie down with just anyone, and I would be careful not to take off my own clothes. My Mom had told me sex was an awkward thing but nice if ya loved the man. I had heard girls swear the stars fell out of the sky when they did it. I saw people have sex as casually as ya would wash your hands before supper or make it more complicated than getting a law passed through Congress. I thought about sex the same way I had thought about booze, "I'm gonna have to figure out how to do this right."
That poem taught me more than my mama or any of the sex talk I heard from all the girls. I wanted it to be special but the only yardstick I had was this business of taking off my own clothes. Well, at least I had SOME kind of standard. I fell in love with that woman at the Blue Unicorn. She didn't shave her arms or legs and I decided I never would again either. She sat and talked to us for awhile after her reading and drank some tea. She had the oddest eyes I had ever seen on a human being, grey and both turned in slightly so it looked like she was watching something right in front of her nose. She was very funny. She said that the unicorn was a shy animal and could only be touched by a virgin. "That's us," she said, "We are virgins. Every time,” and she roared. "Yeah," I thought, "the Sacred Order of the Virgin Every Time,” and a couple of years later I got a blue unicorn tattooed on my right shoulder to remind myself that I am always only as innocent as I believe myself to be.
We went to a midnight film festival at the old Straight Theatre, long since torn down. I don't remember any of the movies we saw. I was fascinated with all the activity in the audience. Women were nursing babies, men were rolling joints, couples were coupling and uncoupling. There were a lot of little kids running around, eating peanuts and throwing the shells at each other, which I could understand. The crowd came and went. We drank some more wine and I did another upchuck, in the bathroom this time, just for a change. We ate some hash brownies and then I went away to starlight time only returning when Jeff shook my shoulders and told me we were going to walk down to the ocean. It had gotten to be day, somehow, while we were in the theater, and coming out into the bright sunlight reminded me of the Saturday matinees when I was a little kid and we came out of the dark cool theater into the hot white desert sun except the scene on the streets was much odder than anything ya could see on film, in vivid technicolor.
It took us all day to walk the length of Golden Gate Park out to the ocean. We stopped at the Crystal Palace conservatory to look at all the plants and trees. The lilies were incredible, floating suspended in their still pools, our voices bouncing off the water and the glass walls and roof far above us. We ate corn dogs and rode on the carrousel. I watched a hundred or more pigeons fly out from the roof of the stone castle, their wings catching the sun and flashing as they wheeled and turned in unison. We wandered through fern glens and fuchsia gardens and along cobblestone paths and across meadows with wildflowers. We played ring-around-the-rosy at the base of a redwood tree and ran, dancing, through the maze of trunks of Eucalyptus trees that dripped sap all over us. We got to the ocean in time to wash in the surf, smoke yet another joint, and watch the sun slowly slide down into the Pacific.
For one moment, in what I am sure was a drug-induced optical illusion, it looked as if the sun was a doorway into the other side of the universe. It stood balanced on end on the rim of the sea and bulged and grew wide and opened calling to us. I pointed this out to the others and we stood there, arms outstretched, calling to the sun. To no avail, it slipped down into the ocean which turned a thousand shades of opalescent pink, purple, fiery orange and silver.
We sat there for several hours, huddled up to stay warm, nestled into our jackets, listening to the surf, watching the stars come out and the moon come up. "This my Mom would like,” I thought. We were so peaceful. Seagulls cried and wheeled overhead.
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