Wednesday, August 3, 2022

99 The house of ruin ain't mine no more

I went to bed. I climbed the bunk. I had tears but I had the mad flowing too. And Zac was there. The only thing I had to hold onto anymore. I was pretty damn alone. I couldn't give up what was left of me. Maybe these people weren't as fucked as I thought, but I really think they were. It's nice to want tranquility but their idea included giving up everything that made you an individual. Do what you want but let me go.

I'll change if I want to

I woke up the next morning. The cooking women were gone and I let the others go to their oatmeal. I walked up on out of there with Zac and started along the road to town. Need hypnosis to know the distance but my mind was filled with confusion. I stuck my thumb out and made it to Forest Grove.

I don't feel like spending a bunch of time looking for photos of Forest Grove in the 70's. For some reason I get nothing. There was a cafe. Perfect. Coffee and food with what money I had. Yeah. Just like they all were. A counter. Cheap decent food. A place for the town to sit and talk. Eat and read the newspaper.

Not much different in the early 70s, except for the cars.

I was shook up. What the hell? Am I really going to do this? I was tired. If this had happened in the beginning I would have just kept going by myself. But it was a long trip and I needed to just come down now. Three months of hitchhiking, drug doing, good people, bad stuff, tempting death, fooling around and a little broken heart. I was strong but not immortal. Maybe I need to admit that even though I could hold myself like a warrior, my heart was vulnerable.

The waitress and some old dude next to me could see I was messed up. "You okay, hon?" Who knows. Maybe that was a regular occurrence in this town, these times. I got up and went to the back. Pay phone on the wall. Did you ever hear Patty Hearst say "Mom, Dad." Well this was the first time in three months. Don't think I was the only one. Lots of Long Island hippies, malcontents, punks and criminals needed to go places. Sometimes you'd hear about them and sometimes you wouldn't. "I wonder what ever happened to..." I called collect.

"Mom." "Can I come home?" My mom and dad were always cool as hell. They lived their young life wild and almost encouraged it in me. The Sophie factor. Grandma Sophie was a hell of a woman. My mom loved her. Learned a lot of superstitions from her, too. Yes. Of course I could.

But we hung up because she was going to call my seemingly money bags sister. My parents had never taken a plane. I don't want to go off into other stories, I just want to finish this. But my mom didn't know how to get a plane ticket and they didn't have as much money as you think. The big gap in wage earners wasn't as wide as it is now and my dad kept having heart attacks that took up the money. My sister was paying.

I waited and called. My sister, K, was there now. They had a couple more things to figure out so I sat back down and drank more coffee. The waitress didn't mind. Oh yeah. Mom asked me if LBJ wanted a ticket too. I didn't tell her how hard I was already trying to get him to go, or anything else. Nothing else. Ok. They were going to get him a ticket too.

My sister answered the phone this time. "The flight is tomorrow. It's all arranged. go to the police station. They'll help you." "The police station?" I sunk. I didn't want to do that. Cops and free livin', free thinkers didn't exactly have a camaraderie at that time. But we didn't have the internet, cell phones, ubers or credit cards. People had to make connection, of some sort, whether they wanted to or not.

In a self induced haze I started walking over there. This is what happened... my sisters husband was a cop. They have that fraternity thing and he made the call over to their cop shop. They were waiting for me. I walked in there, a small place I remember. Nicer than New York cops.

Well, I went back to the farm. Eeew, the cops dropped me at the gate and said they'd be back tomorrow to take us to the airport. Eeew. But right now I wanted my pants for Christs sake and I'll ask one last time. And I needed to tell LBJ that I got the tickets.

I was seething, but even then sometimes I still appear laid back. Am I a stereotype? I think not. But this time I'm sure it showed. Almost immediately walked into that jerk that wouldn't give me my pants back. Gritting my damn teeth. "Where are my pants?!!!" "They're not ready." Same as he always said. Yeah. Mad. "Well, forget it." 🙄

It was after they came back from the field and I didn't dawdle and found LBJ. "Got plane tickets for tomorrow. Don't you want to get out of here?" He just paused and said "Yeah." Maybe he was tired too. But he said "The cops?" Yeah. It was a horror. Put my eyes down. "Yup. The cops."

I walked back to the place where they kept the women separate and just laid down on the bunk. Staring, crying and sleeping. Luckily Zac had food but I didn't eat again.  I didn't want to go back to New York. That filthy, dark, dirty, bleak, depressing, corrupt ramshackle of a shithole. Ugggh. I was sick. I'm honestly having chest pains thinking about it now. It was fucked.

Next morning the cops were up at the outside gate just like they said they'd be. Not a happy thing really. We walked the small dirt hill with the bags we came with. I'm pretty sure the both of us were wilder looking, lots of hair growth. But I was wearing a pair of brown corduroy pants instead of my beautiful jeans.  I'll never forget those brown pants either. I like earth colors and sometimes go with that theme. They looked good but they made a lot of noise. Funny noise.

Pretty quiet sitting in the back of the car. I don't remember how we got the ticket. You went up to the counter then, I guess, but I didn't have any ID. Did you not need it or did the cops give me a sheet of paper? I remember a friggin piece of paper flying around in front of my face. Doesn't matter.

I still had Zac. First time either of us were ever on a plane. Huh? I can't bring Zac? 😢 I loved him. This is sucking in every way. Perk that bravery up. I stood outside and saw a nice couple, the older bohemian type. Zac was the coolest cat and people loved him because he was strange and different with that extra toe. And animals don't care if you're a little weird.

I asked "Hi. Would you please take my cat?" 😔 The gal was especially nice. She pet him and said of course. I didn't look when I handed him over and gave them his food.

We walked back to the gate. Looked around one last time before we hit New York again. So that's pretty much the end of that. When we landed it was a different story... dirtier, more jaded, less hopeful. I don't want to summarize or put a moral to the trip. It's not like there are actual lessons in my story, just the only one I've got down pat. Take it all in and turn it into that movie in your head. I want to say something corny and that's holding me back. Stuff like the more scenes you film, the better the story after the final edit. 🙄 Dork.


Wednesday, July 27, 2022

98 The book of judges

Still doing time with the Jesus Freaks. I looked at them knowing many of the people there had good meaning in their heart, but at the same time I felt as though they were damaged and weak. I never got near the people running the place except for the one Bobby Beausoleil character. He's the one that took my jeans to be sewn. I call him that because he had a look much different than the rest of the members. He had a dark impish look and he wore black. I thought there might be a chance to relate to him. I don't know if you understand how I was a dark themed hippie. Love and all, but let's check into the dark side once in a while. I was a Black Sabbath girl. Even Jesus spent time with the devil in the desert.

In between checking Beausoleil out, I was falling into a deep funk. I just wanted to go. Why could I see what was happening and no one else? Because I had balls of steel, that's why. I held my mind and didn't let it sway. I knew the tricks that were played. Every fucking day the same thing. Hold back food then glorify the message with reward. That small piece of chocolate. No time to gather your own thoughts. Broken sleep, prayer and chores. The masters of manipulation learn human nature early.

If I had such fortitude why didn't I just go? It was getting close, but a few things stuck with me from Catholic school. The Dominicans main lesson "Use the brain that God gave you to think about what will make this world a better place. Think of others. Don't follow, hold onto the free and individual spark in your soul. Think but be kind." One of my mom's themes too. These people were twisting LBJ's brain in a way I hadn't seen before. He was a big "fuck you" kind of guy and now he was following orders. 

On the few occasions that I quickly saw him, which was really weird because we were usually in constant fornication, I pleaded with him to leave. "I hate this place. Can't you see it? They're using food and sleep to weaken people." Now you might think "but he was happy." Not what I saw. He had a vacant look in his eyes. My thought is that they gave that part of his brain where he was thinking about the trouble he left a rest. I appreciated that. That's why I stayed as long as I did. But I felt that they were getting free labor and a sense of power out of it. Who was I to judge, right?

So it was twirling in my brain that for my own sake I had to get out of there. Not any kind of existence I longed for. I was still working on LBJ but I had another obstacle too. How could I love a pair of jeans that much? Because they were an expression of what I was. Every patch, every color of embroidery thread. I astounded people with them. I'd see the Beausoleil guy "Are my pants ready yet?" "No. Not yet." "What's taking so long? Give them back to me." I couldn't even get in to talk directly with the sewing ladies.

Far, far beyond this in creativity

"No. We have to let them be sewn by the sewing women. Let's pray they get done soon." No. I'm not going to pray they get done soon. Give them back to me." He just stood there and I walked away. If you ever wanted to see me mad, this was the time.

Next day the Beausoleil guy approached me as I was outside, the only alone person. "Are my jeans ready?" "No. Let's sit." I am not unreasonable so I sat on a log bench with him. Here's a little conversation.

"I hear that you've practiced witchcraft." 

"What?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The person that I shared my bed with and had such intimate conversation exposed something personal to a stranger. Witchcraft in the early 70's was severely frowned upon by many segments in the population. Not the mass produced wicca of today. Uh oh. I didn't say anything.

Then the Bobby fella went on to explain his dark path that he had taken. No wonder he had the black and the silver. "I used to practice witchcraft." I don't remember all he told me about how he fell into so much depths and dregs, but he had been into it darker than I was.

I could have sat there for a few more minutes. I am always open to discussion, but he started veering from the kind and forgiving Jesus and ventured into the cruel and wrathful God. I was going to burn unless I changed.

I was hurt beyond words that I was so betrayed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

97 The strasberg

There's still more to be told of my time at the Jesus Freak commune. Think of a state of food regulation, sleep deprivation, sweeping, standing away from the masses and watching it all like a movie. But I've been listening to Lola by The Kinks everyday and it reminds of a little story that might be a bit interesting to some of you.

We need to jump ahead to 1974, close enough. I wrote about some of the shitty apartments I lived in at the beginning of blog but there was one shining star. I was living in Long Beach, one of the crappiest cities in New York at the time. But this new place was about two blocks from the boardwalk and the beach. It was after the apartment on Park Avenue that was condemned for super bad plumbing and cockroaches.

Cute building from the 30's. I lived on the ground floor which was the coolest. It had a side door into the old kitchen. Good working order. Old stove, old refrigerator. Living room in the front, bedroom in the back. Hardly any cockroaches 'cause everyone in the building was pretty clean. So lucky to get it. I don't know how it is there now... but in those days you had to go to a real estate agent for rentals unless you knew the landlord. It was always a woman in her 40's or 50's dealing with apartments. This one lady liked me for some reason and tried real hard to find something decent. Good job lady.

This story isn't about the apartment but about a few of the people that happened to visit.

So it starts with Mike B. One of the kids in Catholic school, a grade ahead. He was one of 13 children. There were quite a number of families that size. No wonder the parents were all alcoholics. Anyway, I have something to say about how judgy people are about kid raising. When you're around families like that you witness the miracle that we are individuals. Is it a spark in the soul? I don't know. Families can produce saints, priests, nuns, derelicts, drug addicts and criminals all in one group. No rhyme or reason. You just gotta try.

Mike was a New York hippie. Not the wussy stereotype west coast style. Peace in the world, but bar fights if pushed. Mike had strength of character and decency to no end. There's a story about him taking the worst part of a drug rap (a small joint) under the Rockefeller Laws to spare others. But it's really his older brother we're talking about here. I forget his first name because everyone called him by his Polish last name. Guys that tough on the southwestern shores of Long Island didn't use their real first names.

The ethnic Catholics in those days could be very heavy drinkers. Mike stuck with the pot, but older B drank like Van and Jim. Those of us that were goofier and hippier used to try to convert them to just weed and a little Mateus but to no avail. "Yeah. That's the drug of the establishment." Didn't work.

Well, my man used to meet up with the older B on occasion in a few of the many available dive bars on Long Island. We didn't call them that, they were just bars or old man bars. Older B looked like he'd turn and knock you down with his pinky, but he was a gent to the ladies. Word was he had criminal ties, but I didn't pay attention to that stuff. I was always into the entertainment value. You almost couldn't avoid it.

Just an example
Sometimes he'd stop by. That's just the lifestyle back then. There'd be a knock on the door and people would pile in. The purpose would be to listen to music, smoke some pot and talk. I don't know, people liked coming over. No invitation, no big preparation. Whatever. It was much better and more fun. Usually someone that had a car brought people.

Mike B and older B never came over together. They didn't hang out with each other. Older B started bringing his girlfriend. I couldn't tell you her real name, it was different every time. 😅 I'm going to call her Lola 'cause that's the most memorable.

Lola was a topless dancer at one of the sleezy clubs in a nearby town. I think it was Freeport. Some towns had them, some didn't. Older B was a white Polish Catholic, in those days we said Polack, and Lola was black. That was still quite a deal in the early 70's. Especially to the old timers. Watch the movie Joe to get a taste of what they were like.

She was naturally flamboyant and I was curious about her personality and her lifestyle. The fellas would be drinkin' and we'd be talking about womanly stuff. It wasn't just talk about sex, but about life and the sucky things in society. You can think what you want, but birth control and more freedom for women was still in its early days. There was some tough stuff to put up with.

But the reason I named this story after Strasberg was that she was completely into her "work characters." She started coming over to just talk with me. She knocked on the front door and each time I opened the door it was a different human. Different wig, different outfit, different name. I opened the door one day and she had on a blonde wig. "Don't you know me, S.? It's Lola."

"Oh Lola. C'mon in." Isn't it cute that she liked to talk to me 'cause I was a goofy flower child? 

One evening I was sleeping already and my man was in the living room. Apparently. It's hard to explain the way some people thought about different things during that time. We were forcing change, I guess. I'm not taking all the credit though. I think it's some kind of strange force in the universe. Dorks we were, huh?

Who knows why I was knocked out already? Maybe a long day at the beach? I loved the challenge of body surfing with crowds of people. The waves could knock you over when they were big enough, if you didn't dive into them at just the right moment. You'd end up scraping along the bottom, for example, if a fat guy got knocked over and then went ahead and knocked you over like a bowling pin. You'd be riding the wave with him on top and you with the shells.

Sleeping, sleeping. There was an open widow a couple of feet from the bed. I hear my name. "S. S." It was Lola outside calling my name. Huh? I got up because she was whispering. What? "I just gave your man a blow job." Huh? I just woke up. She repeated "I just gave your man a blow job. I thought you should know." One of the weirdest ways I ever woke up.

I laid back down. How do I explain what was happening then. We were so anti-establishment. People were trying for free and honest. There was a lot of it in certain circles. Humans are so weird. Changing back and forth, back and forth. We can't make up our god damn minds.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

96 Oh yeah that was the departure

I knew I'd forget a couple of things and have to come back later and throw them in. I need to add a little something about leaving Berkeley. Yeah, we cleaned a couple of rooms at the dorm but we needed to survive. LBJ worked, not everyday, and I did the Free Clinic panhandling thing, close but not everyday. But take a guess, we didn't care too much about money. We ate food and we hung out. Trying to figure out what the hell was going on in the world. We believed that and I still do. People need to spend some time when they're not working their asses off in the rat race. Our Long Island parents were fine examples. I don't think I knew anyone whose parents weren't alcoholics. Most of them were the moms. Miserable in their situation. "Hello Mrs. S." She just had her hair done and her eyes were real glassy. They threw us in Catholic School so we didn't notice.

So when we were going to leave we had some money, but who knows what was going to happen. Little bit extra could keep us from being hungry. I planned this. I did go out one more time for the Free Clinic the day before we left. I stood in front of the food co-op and did fine.

On the streets when we hung out we all took care of one another. We had to survive. It really was a community. No phoniness. We talked about the beautiful places we went and the places that were cool with us being there. We shared our survival stories. And created stories of how the world should be.

So right now I had to survive. I heard the thing to do was to get the box, do the thing, keep your last take and hit the road. The people at the clinic knew this happened but they were all about helping people out on the street. They looked at you like this was the last time they'd see you and the dude always said something about taking care. These were the best people.

My day ended. Night was getting closer and I did what I heard. I went into a restroom somewhere out of public view. Turned that box upside down and started shaking. It took work. I smashed it up on the floor and got the last bit out. Threw it in the garbage along with my panhandling license. Split the next morning. Thing is they kept my birth certificate. Nobody cared. What did you need ID for back then. Nothing. And that was the end of Berkeley.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

95 I'm going insane

Knock knock knock. Bang bang bang. "And the lord..." Blah blah blah. Every day. Oh every fuckin' middle of the night.


No. I am not going to go into the kitchen. This was 1972. I was defiant about that at five, I'm not caving in now. It's only been a few days. I've hardly seen LBJ but in passing. I am not liking this.

Alright. Leave me alone with your ideas on what my work should be. I'll do something on my own.  "Ok. I'll sweep." I should have said "I'll fuckin' sweep" but I was too god damned polite. So I swept the dusty wooden barracks floor. The front porch. The mess hall and the office porch. Oh no. Don't you dare go near the men's barracks. Ok. Ok. Stop telling me that. Oh yeah. Don't worry, I won't go in the office either.

Sweeping around the mess hall I figured out why they had to get up at three every day. It's hard to believe. Before almost every god damned thing they did they stopped and prayed about it. Let's say a pray before washing the dishes. Alright, I'm really a believer in letting people go on with what they prefer, with that ever present phrase "just so long as they're not hurting anybody." But I wondered how these women, and men, got to the point where they thought they had to be so submissive?

More of that later. So I swept the floor by my lonesome every day. Good. I'm playing with my cat now. I finally got to see LBJ as he was heading out after one of the dumb meetings. I wasn't hep on leaving him there and hitchhiking my way out of there by myself. "I hate this place. I want to leave." Whew. The city boy was hit with the country. Well, I was too but not with these people. "I just want to go." "Aww, not yet. I get up on that hill when the sun rises and look out over the fields. It's beautiful." Well nice for you but I'm here watching a bunch of brainwashed chicks praying over dirty oatmeal bowls.


Ok. I'm getting all judgy here, but I was living there. I am sure these people had huge holes in their psyche and were just finding anything to patch it up. Whatever. Later on that.

Ok. He's been through a lot. I'll wait a little longer. While I'm here maybe I can sew up my patched bell bottoms. They were beautiful. All kinds of colorful material pieces. They were hardly pants anymore, just patches.

Probably 3 times as many patches as Alvin Lee & Ron Draper's jeans

I asked one of the few men that was in the "farm" during the day if I could get a needle and thread. "No. We'll give them to the sewing group to work on." "I can sew them myself." "Everything must be done as a community here." "That's ok. I can do it." He just kind of took them from me. I should have kept them. Jesus Christ.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

94 The witching hour

3 am. Loud bang on the door. Someone starts reciting something loud. What is that? Oh. It's some kind of bible verse. I was never that familiar with verses. Our nuns were progressive Dominicans. They'd read a few sentences, but we never memorized anything from the bible. We talked about the meaning of love. It was always the priests that sucked.

I was groggy. Probably still had weed inhalation from Washington. "Why are they doing that?" "Time to get up." "No thanks. I'm going to sleep." "We have to get up to make breakfast." "In the middle of the night?" "There's a lot of people. The men go to the fields at dawn."

Just the menfolk
They left me alone. I got up when the sun started coming up and the clang clang clanking started. So the men got to sleep later and wander over to the mess hall at dawn. I went in there and most of the women ate after the men because they were dishing it out. 😑 Some women were sitting at a separate table. I sat down with them. They did other female stuff like sew and clean. "No. Don't know how to sew."

No coffee. Some kind of molasses and chicory drink. Alright. A bowl with a big plop of oatmeal. No milk, no sugar... nothing. Plain. Good. I'm into simple stuff. But why get up at 3 am to make a plop of oatmeal? Everyday it was the same. 

The menfolk went up the hill to the fields. The kitchen women were cleaning up. The sewing women went off to their room. I went and got Zac and brought him outside. There was a clearing between the women's cabin, the mess hall, the sewing room and a couple of small cabins. We played in the dirt. Not a typical hippie commune, I didn't see any dogs running loose. I don't think anyone had any pets. It had dawned on me pretty quick that this place was really strict and was mostly into reciting bible passages. I didn't worry too much yet.

The field work stopped mid afternoon. Damn, I was hungry. It was a long time since that plop of oatmeal. If I was picking berries I'd be shoving a few in my mouth. The bell rang again. I filed in there with the other women. Walked the line. Oh. Lentil sandwich. Delicious. This time as we finished our delicious lentil sandwich... I don't remember what we had to drink, water or lemonade... people, I mean men, became joyous. It always started with one particular fella getting up and praising god. People would join in with big smiles. I just sat there. 

After some jubilation we went outside to listen to more passages. I sat there and looked around, enjoying the experience. Whew. This is something. Look at all these people digging words. I noticed there were a few couples allowed to sit next to one another. They were officially married. But the sexes were separate and I definitely wondered why the women stood for it. I wanted to hear. I was so open to different lifestyles. But they pretty much uttered quotes. Ok. Do what you want, but I'd like to hang out with a couple of guys. I don't like cooking very much and forget the sewing.

It went on for quite a while. But I thought we'd have dinner too? "No dinner?" It probably would have been lentils again anyway. "Sometimes we get a snack."

Well, luckily I still had some peanut butter and Zac still had food. We hit the sack early and I started to completely ignore the bible verses. It was non-stop.

It started all over gain. The banging on the door and the loud voice reading. Goodnight. I pulled the pillow over my head.

Monday, June 6, 2022

93 Enjoy your free buffet

Maybe I've mentioned that I had already looked into many different spiritual paths. A lot of people were searching. There were Jesus Freak groups in my hometown. Some looked in churches where they spoke in tongues. I went to one of those with a boy down the block once. I didn't join in on that one. There were lots of young Jews for Jesus in my hometown too. You didn't have to believe the son of God stuff. Just find reverence in his words of love and peace. 

I'm telling you this so you understand why I wasn't all weirded out when we got into the back of that truck. It was kind of fun. People seemed to be as happy as could be. Most were standing in the truck and holding onto the railing of the bed. Singing as we drove.

A tall fella asked if we wanted a sandwich. "Sure, thank you." We each got one. We unwrapped the wax paper. I love wax paper, that's what my sandwiches came in as a kid. You just have to know how to fold it. Opened it up. Hmmm. It was good whole wheat bread. The thick, heavy and healthy kind that doesn't come in a plastic bag at the store. But what was on it? "Lentils." "Lentils?" Beans weren't real big in suburban homes at that time, yeah pork and beans but not lentils or garbanzos. Even at the health food restaurants in Berkeley I didn't have anything with lentils in it, even though they probably had them. Ok. I'll try it. I liked to try things. But all this sandwich had was plain lentils with yellow mustard on whole wheat. Not spiced up either. Plain. I'm not complaining. They shared their food with us. Thank you. It was just the beginning of this chapter but it was really a clue as to what to expect.

We didn't have anything to drink but they gave us a square of chocolate. The ride was refreshing out in the open air. I didn't see too much of the surrounding views because it was dark now and I just sat and looked up at the stars. The people spoke to one another but mostly sang. Looked like there were more guys than gals in the truck.

Looked a lot like this.

I asked where we were going. The one fella that did most of the talking said a farm near Forest Grove, Oregon. Ugh. Headed south but this might be cool for a while. Took less than two hours, so it wasn't a completely quick trip but we had food and a place to stay. 

When we got there we all piled out of the truck. Where were we going to sleep? "Well, the women's cabin is near the mess hall. The men sleep up the hill a bit." Huh, what? What? "Isn't there a place where we can sleep together?" "No. You need to go over to the women's cabin. All the women are there."

Weird. Ok. I'll try it. Off I went. All the gals were already in their bunks except for the couple that were traveling in the truck. It was a plain room with old wooden bunk beds. All that was left was a top bunk for me. I still had Zac and my bag of dry cat food. Up we jumped and thought "Ok. We'll get a nice sleep and check everything out in the morning."

99 The house of ruin ain't mine no more

I went to bed. I climbed the bunk. I had tears but I had the mad flowing too. And Zac was there. The only thing I had to hold onto anymore. ...