The characters and events described here are fictitious and any similarities to any other persons or events, real or fictitious, are sheer coincidence. Eventually these stories will be edited and prepared for publishing.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Painting - Bill Duryea

He found a phone booth, closed himself inside, stuck his finger in the dial and drew a circle… “Collect call from Eugene, Oregon, will you accept the charges?” “Yes,” said a voice on the other side. “Hey Dad, I wanted to let you know that I’m coming in your direction. I’m hitchhiking south, and I should be passing through L.A. in a few days,” said the boy. “Do you need me to wire you any money?” asked his father. “No that’s ok,” said the boy, “I have a few oranges, a loaf of bread and a tube of braunschwieger, I should be fine…”

He felt like he should be self sufficient and felt guilty about asking his parents for anything; he would rather be homeless and starving. Besides, it was an adventure for a boy of fifteen to be out in the world with nothing but his backpack. He had been reading the bible not because of any religious convictions, but being a drop-out he knew it was important to educate himself as best he could.  Often when engaging in philosophical discussions with the old-timers back in Crete, they would say that his opinions were faulty because he had never read this book or that (usually the Bible), so he was determined to read it cover to cover.  He liked the part where Jesus talked about the “lilies in the field.” He believed in the Buddha’s philosophy that one should “live for the moment.” He had faith that the universe would take care of him ….no matter what.

He walked to the highway, and held out his thumb. Getting out of Eugene was easy. His first ride was in a VW bus with a Rainbow Brother, named Chance. Chance talked cheerfully as they drove south and gesticulated wildly with his hands as he spoke. “Going to Santa Fe, huh? Far out, Man, that’s great! Listen man I got some dynamite acid, you know anybody who wants to buy some? Hey man, don’t answer that, you know? It’s cool man, really. Look man I got some good grass let’s get stoned…” time and space collided into one and, as dusk approached, Chance announced that they were getting near his exit. “You should let me drop you here. You’ll have a better chance of getting a ride here than where I’m getting off—there’s no on ramp there.” The boy tried to think through the foggy delirium caused by the grass. “No that’s cool, you can let me off at the exit.” he stammered. “Suit yourself.” said Chance. As the sun was going down he found himself at the deserted off-ramp. It was illegal to hitch-hike on the freeway so he had to sit there at the entrance to the on-ramp and watch cars go by for hours while waiting for someone to come along. Since only one out of many vehicles was going to actually pick him up, he may have to wait for a long time to catch a ride. Although the freeway was only 100 feet away he would have to walk  miles to find an on-ramp were the cops wouldn't hassle him.

 He had a nylon camping hammock that his father had mailed to him years before. He had carried it around for years but had never really used it before. He tied one end to a solitary old oak tree, at the edge of an immense field of dirt-clods; the other end he tied to a steel cable which was anchored in the ground nearby and lending support to a telephone-pole, which in turn supported a lonely phone-line that enabled communications with some nearby hamlet. He ate the last of his braunschwieger and read out of the bible as the light faded and the stars began to appear. He looked up at the full moon through the boughs of the oak and drifted to sleep.

In his dream he saw himself in the hammock: One end was tied to the oak and the other just went off over the field of dirt-clods, into the infinity of the Universe. The moon and the stars spun over his head, and he was free. He had no idea where his next meal would come from, but he wasn’t worried; he was a child of the Universe and the Universe would provide…

When the sun promised to break the horizon he clumsily got out of the hammock—it was difficult to exit the sleeping bag at the same time. It was cold so he quickly got his shoes and socks on, dug through his back-pack for a roll of paper, and looked around for an especially large dirt clod to host his morning toilette. He had a fast squat in the chill morning air, and stumbled back to the tree. After carefully rolling up his hammock and sleeping bag, he loaded his pack, hoisted it, and started off across the endless field of dirt clods. He knew that if he just followed the freeway, eventually there would be another on-ramp.

As the sun climbed into the sky and the exertion of carrying his heavy backpack over the large, uneven dirt clods started to take their effect, the boy began to wish he had remembered to bring some water along. “What an idiot!” he spoke to himself loudly. His heavy combat boots began to feel heavier and the dirt clods seemed to become larger and larger as he struggled to step over them. He had already crossed two immense fields and there was still no end in sight. Finally, after a couple of hours, he decided he would rather risk arrest than continue through the endless fields of dirt clods. He turned left, jumped over a fence and climbed up the embankment to the highway. Sweat was rolling off the end of his nose as he extended his thumb again. The first car that came by slowed down and pulled off the road. The blinker was still flashing as the boy hurried towards the car--a 1969 Chevy Impala; its driver, a “roughneck” on his way to Los Angeles. Alaskan oil-drilling platforms needed men to run them and wealthy oil companies were willing to pay a good wage. Guys from the Pacific coast states would often go to work out on the platforms for six months and then come back to their home towns in the lower forty-eight to spend their money.

Hank was just such an oil man. He wore a miniature silver drill-bit around his neck--like those used on the oil drilling platforms. He proudly held it out for the boy to see and explained its unusual shape. His robust build and hard, calloused hands spoke of the vigorous life-style of his trade. “I’m on my way south for my best friend’s wedding.” he said. “You want some speed?” No thanks said the boy, he wasn't into speed...

Hank drove fast and talked constantly.  The boy was still thirsty and hungry, too.  He  was glad when Hank pulled off the highway at a lonely truck stop for gas. After getting a long drink of water, he got the key to the bathroom and tried to clean himself up a little.  He went back to the car and climbed in.  Hank came out of the store with a six-pack of beer and two breakfast burritos.  He continued his constant monologue as they pulled back on to the highway.  He handed a burrito to the boy and told him to help himself to a beer.  "But keep it down,"  he said "and keep an eye out for the pigs."


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The Streets of Eugene

DateHis sister offered him a ride, but the boy elected to hitch-hike to Eugene, the closest town. With his orange back-pack loaded, he walked to the highway and stuck out his thumb. It didn't take him long to catch a ride and before long he was in Eugene. He asked some people on the street if they knew where he might find a place to "crash." They told him they were going to the Christ Brotherhood's community outreach center for free lunch, and that sometimes people stayed there overnight. The boy was hungry, he decided he would go with them.

The Christ Brotherhood seemed to be an informal collection of religious hippy guys. You could pick out the "Brothers" usually because they had a tendency to wear all white and had long hair and beards. The boy suspected that this was some kind of status symbol among them, though he didn't know what a status symbol was. Unlike other branches of the Christ Brotherhood, these Brothers were known to wear leather on their feet; some of them might even eat a little meat, now and then. The Brothers operated a homeless shelter at their Community Outreach in Eugene. Although they were religious, they didn't seem to object to the smoking of a little weed, once in awhile. The boy asked if he could stay with them but one of the Brothers told him they could only take a certain number of people or the city would "come down" on them. 

The Brothers set a pretty good lunch table, but they didn't have enough room for the boy to stay. They told him about a "free-house" where he could probably stay, and how to get there. The boy was already exhausted but with no where else to go, walked the several miles to the free-house. When he got there, he spoke with a group of people who were hanging out on the porch. When he asked if he could crash there, they  told him to  go inside and talk with Momma Nancy or Uncle Ted. He walked through the open door and let his eyes adjust to the dimly lit room. It was an old house with a large living room and four bedrooms. The kitchen was located on the far side of the living room and it was there that he found Momma Nancy, following an invisible path through the bodies on the floor of the main room. There were certain privileged occupants who had their own rooms, but every square foot of common floor space was occupied by some unfortunate soul with no where else to go. This place wasn't like the Christ Brotherhood at all...here there were people spread out on the floor all over the place with blankets and sleeping bags. Many of them were sick or handicapped; all of them were dirty. Momma Nancy said "Sure you can stay if you can find a place to roll out your bag." The boy found a place. Uncle Ted was a Viet Nam veteran, biker dude. "Just don't mess with my old lady," was all had to say. The boy had no intention of messing around with Momma Nancy.

The boy got in touch with his mother, who was now traveling around South America. She sent him an emancipation letter so he could apply for food stamps. At night he would stay at the free-house with the freaks and derelicts; they would all pool the change the had left from buying stuff with their food stamps and buy some cheap wine - Mad Dog 20/20 was one favorite; another was Night-Train. They would ceremoniously pour a little wine on earth, say a prayer for the "Brothers and Sisters who have passed on" and pass the bottle around. Dinner consisted of whatever they could get from "dumpster-diving" and the occupants' meager, collective food contributions.  

In the daytime the boy looked for work. Eugene was extremely economically depressed at the time. There was little to no work for anybody, let alone a boy with no formal experience. He would pound the pavement everyday looking for work, but no one would hire him. He would have at least one modest but wholesome meal at the Christ Brotherhood, around noon everyday.It was there that he met Dusty, and the two immediately became fast friends.

Dusty was a few years older. He actually had his own bed at The Brotherhood. Thin and slight of frame, he wore a blonde beard and mustache. He carried a bag with a strap around his shoulder from which he would sometimes produce a pen and paper to jot down a thought he was having. The two friends would drop acid and spend hours roaming the city at night, laughing hysterically at the great cosmic joke on humanity. Sometimes they would climb the hill on the North end of the town and look out over the sea of city lights below and ponder the mysteries of life. The boy was incredibly saddened when he showed up at the Christ Brotherhood one morning and was told by one of the brothers that Dusty had gotten busted....apparently he had been AWOL from the Navy and they had finally tracked him down.  

The boy would live in Eugene like this for six months. Even though he tried everyday, he never found work. The last month he became very sick. His tonsils swelled up so bad he couldn't eat anything; even swallowing liquid was painful, and he had a bad fever. He passed in and out of delirium as he tried to make it to the emergency room. He hadn't eaten in three days and knew he would die unless he could get help. At the emergency room, they gave him a prescription but they wouldn't fill it for him. He had no money to buy the medicine at the hospital pharmacy, so he would have to take a bus across town to a place that issued vouchers for the indigent. Somehow he made it through the fog of delirium and got some penicillin. He took a capsule out of the bottle, forced it down between his swollen tonsils without water, and passed out at the bus stop. He woke up several hours later and finally made it back to the free-house. A kindly old homeless guy gave him a bottle of cranberry juice and the boy forced down another cap of antibiotic. It would be another three days before the boy would be on his feet again.

Reader Comments (1)

Thank you so much for visiting my site. The story of the boy in Eugene is evokative of your experience with homelessness. Atlanta's homeless population is huge, and here more than anywhere else I have ever lived, I have experienced it almost as a phenomenon woven throughout every major part of the city. My goal, the goal of Project Homeless, is to bring resources, aid, and to humanize the homeless as a way to start doing something. It's quite a mountain to move, but it matters to me to start banging away at it. I appreciate your insights and your experiences with homelessness. You have a unique understanding, and you expressed the reality of a life on the streets that I am just beginning to get a sense of through my interviews. I also really enjoy your writing style, so I'll be keeping an eye on your blog. Thanks again.
October 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPeachtree Street

Oregon, 1981

The commune in Oregon was different than the communes the boy remembered from his childhood. Not the loose collection of desperate people searching for some sense of security in a group. These were respectable, well-to-do hippies. Trust-funders with loads of cash. Their commune would consist of custom homes equipped with the latest technology in agrarian living. Fancy chemical toilets, instead of an outhouse. Self-cleaning, air-tight wood-stoves. These homes were connected by foot-paths to create a sense of community, but the only thing communal about this place appeared to be the way the owners held title to the surrounding forest.

Tree's house was a large, circular three-story job. His sister made custom moccasins in a shop with no power on the first floor. There was a wood-stove there and the stove-pipe went through the second and third stories to heat the whole house. There was no fancy chemical toilet though. Instead, there was a sort of inside outhouse. Users would utilize plastic five-gallon buckets and cover the offal with ashes from the fire, which were kept nearby with a scoop. It was the boy's job to bury the "honey-pots," split wood, and feed and brush the horses.
He helped his sister with preparing meals or making moccasins, and the men with whatever projects they were working on. He slept under a massive pile of blankets and sleeping-bags in a tipi out front.
They built a still, but they could never get it to work right so they drank the corn-mash they had made, instead.

The boy would take long hikes up to the tops of teh surrounding mountain tops. He liked to try to get as far away from any traces of human civilization as he could. One day on Tree accompanied him on a hike. They found a small rose bush the boy started picking and eating the rose-hips. "These are rose hips." he explained to Tree. "I dont think you should be eating those," said tree, "How do you know they are rose hips?". "Because, they are on a rosebush." Said the boy.

It was a fairly happy existence, but not much social interaction for a boy of fifteen years. The invitation from Tree to live with them had begun to feel a little stale: Tree had probably just been trying to make points with his sister and the boy felt that Tree wasn't really all that thrilled to have him around, after all. He told his sister that he was planning to move into the city to find his own way.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

From Greece to Los Angeles

The late nights, the booze and the parties soon started to take their toll and the boy lost his job. His mother was not happy. She called the boy's father long-distance, and complained, "I can't control him--You have to take him--I don't have any money, will you pay for the airfare?" The boy didn't want to go back to the States, but he had lost his job so he felt like he couldn't really argue about it...

His father picked him up at the airport. "If you're going to live with me you're gonna either go to school, or work" he said. The boy got a job washing dishes at a family-owned Chinese Restaurant--he was their only employee. The Owner and his wife worked in the kitchen; their daughter and son handled the front of the house. The boy would ride his bicycle six miles and arrive at the restaurant around 2:00 in the afternoon to a pile of dishes four-deep that reached to the ceiling. The old Chinese woman insisted that the dishwater be scalding hot. The boy would drive his hands into the scalding water and ignore the pain. He would wash and wash the dishes until the pile was gone, until the dishes from the dinner rush would start to come back from the dining room. He would continue to wash dishes until everything was clean. Then the old Chinese man would stir-fry a huge wok-full of fried rice, and the boy would eat. Then, with his belly full, he would ride his bike back home and slip quietly into the apartment, so as not to wake his father.

The boy didn't like Los Angeles much. There was a big difference between the freedom he had experienced with his mother traveling around, and life in the suburbs of the San Fernando Valley. After about four months of "pearl diving," the phone rang one afternoon. It was one of his older sisters; she was on her way with her new boyfriend, Tree, to his house on the commune in Oregon. They sat and philosophized on the shag-carpeted floor of his father's apartment. The boy spoke of living in the moment; of living as if "every day is your last," as he said. Tree convinced the boy that if he really meant what he said, he was obligated to come with them to the Oregon. The boy had to agree. After all, how could he compare living in LA and washing dishes, to going on a new adventure someplace where he had never been? He called his father at work, "Dad, I'm sorry to tell you this, but I won't be home when you get home from work today. You know I love you, but I'm going with sis and her new boyfriend, Tree, to Oregon." His father spoke quickly and calmly, "That's o.k. son, I love you, too. Take care yourself and call me if you need anything." And so the boy left for Oregon with his sister and Tree, in an old Volkswagen bus.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Summer on Crete in the 1980's

His mother told him that if he wasn't going to go to school, he must get a job. She had a friend who owed her a favor and she asked him to give her son a job doing construction work. "But, don't be to easy on him," she said, "If he doesn't want to go to school, I want him to know how hard the real world is." The boy worked like a slave for half of minimum wage and paid his mother two-hundred dollars rent every month. When a seventy pound roof-jack fell on his head he started to have problems with his neck and back, but within a few days he went back to work.

Later, after his fifteenth birthday, the financial relief created by his working and paying rent allowed the boy's mother to save enough money to take them both to Europe. After spending a month in London, they hopped on a bus that took them through France, Italy, and Yugoslavia, on the way to Greece. From Athens, they hopped on a boat to Crete. With only about eight-hundred dollars between them, they traveled third-class on the overnight voyage. His mother had been to Crete before, while the boy had been living with his father--she had made friends on the Island and had promised to return.

They took a bus from Heraklion to Rethymnon, where on the first day, the boy was introduced to the Papyraki family, who had befriended his mother on a previous trip she had taken to the island.  Mrs. Papyraki prepared lunch Their first meal with the Papyrakis was one the boy would never forget. On top to the refrigerator in the Papyraki's kitchen, was a large bowl with a fine-mesh screen laid across the top. The bowl was filled with flour and had dark, round looking lumps in it that appeared to be moving very slowly. The boy was curious and asked what was inside the bowl. Some of the lumps were traversing the screen upside-down, attempting to escape their floury doom. “Snails,” explained his hosts. The boy had tried escargot before and wasn't crazy about it, but the way Mrs. Papyraki prepared it was totally different. After washing the snails in clean cool water, she would poke them with a toothpick to make them retreat back into their shells. Then she would place them, shell and all, face down onto the surface of a hot buttered and salted skillet and cook all the way through. When they were all cooked they were put into a clean bowl and placed in the center of the kitchen table.

They were served with cold retsina and freshly baked bread. With small forks the hungry diners extracted the delicious little creatures from their shells and devoured them. The bowl was quickly emptied and the boy wished there were more of the delicacies; damn they were good! He was later told that the dish was considered to be a treat and that the family didn’t often get to have them.

Michalis, their oldest son was about his age and the two boys quickly became friends. Stouter and darker in complexion, he was almost as tall as the boy who was really rather thin and lanky. He took the boy all around the village and introduced him to some of the other local kids. 

Walking around the small village on the second day in Rethymnon, the boy noticed that someone had spray-painted the Russian hammer and sickle in red paint, on a wall facing one of the narrow village streets. It looked something like this:
As he explored the village further he noticed that this graffiti was in several places throughout the remote little town by the sea.

This was during the Cold War and Greece was a battleground in a conflict for the hearts and minds of the Greek people. The boy asked his mother about it but she shrugged it off, "People take politics too seriously." she said.

Having been subjected to a great deal of patriotic propaganda growing up in the United States, the boy was surprised to find this communist presence in a country like Greece, he felt a surge of patriotism and started to hatch a plan--he must make a stand for freedom and democracy. He would buy some blue spray-paint and go around the village crossing out the red hammer and sickle symbols. Instead of any nation-specific symbol, he would paint his own logo underneath the communist symbol. Two swords crossed underneath a hat with a feather. It would look something like this:
The boy saved some of his earnings and bought a couple of cans of blue spray-paint at the only place in the village that sold it. He dressed all in black and waited until the village was asleep--even the bars along the waterfront were all closed. He took his blue spray-paint and crossed out every hammer and sickle with a large blue "X"; above each he painted his own retaliatory logo. After completing his late-night mission, feeling rather satisfied with himself he went back to the room they were renting and, carefully so as not to wake his mother, got quietly in bed. He didn't realize at the time that, in spite of his ninja clothing and cat-like stealth, it would be immediately obvious to everyone in the village who had crossed-out the communist symbols.  

They both got jobs working in restaurants right away--his mother worked as a waitress at Stavros' Restaurant and the boy as a host Tassos' Place. He also worked part-time for a doctor in the village, taking care of his house up in the mountains fixing up the place, taking care of the fruit-trees and chickens, doing little home improvement jobs, etc.

For tourists, dating in Crete can be somewhat risky. Women on the Island are expected to remain virgins until they are married and nuptial unions in the villages are often planned by the parents years before their offspring reach the age to marry. An outsider who tries to bed a local girl might find himself at the wrong end of dagger wielded by her father, uncle, brother, or cousin. The boy knew this but couldn't resist a little flirtation when he was approached by some village girls close to his age.

Poppy was blonde and heavy-chested, her friend, Mary, slim and tall with an aquiline nose. They were intrigued by this American boy who had taken up residence in their neighborhood. They invited him into their homes where they would entertain him with records and practice their English on him. At dusk they would walk up and down the village promenade, a strip of beach-front with a multitude of restaurants facing the beach, the boy with a girl on each arm. Every evening couples and families would walk back and forth along the waterfront, enjoying the fine Mediterranean air and watching an orange sink slowly into the Mediterranean through the invisible layers of atmosphere on the horizon.  

It was spring in Crete, and the boy was ready to party. In the daytime, when he wasn't working, he would swim in the Mediterranean while the sun painted his skin a golden-brown. His hair grew long and curly and he enjoyed it when tourists would mistake him for a local--asking him directions from tattered English-Greek dictionaries. He would pretend like he didn't understand and speak back to them with the few Greek words that he already knew. At night, he would hang out in the tavernas near the beach, drinking raki, and playing chess with the old men of Rythemnon.

He had a favorite bar on the beach called Rulie's Taverna. It was a dingy, one-room place with two pool-tables in the back and a long bar on the beach-front side. It was operated by a large, good-natured bartender named Zacharia, who would often give him free drinks. Zachariah's big round hands and thick fingers made the shot-glasses look like thimbles; he was well known for being undefeated in arm-wrestling. Strong-men from all over would come to the bar and challenge Zacharia to a match. He would always say no at first, but with some prodding he would usually give in and put his mighty arm up on the bar. The boy was playing chess and watching Zacharia arm-wrestle a muscle-man from England...Zacharia yawned and poured shots for himself and his opponent while the British body builder strained with all his might to bring the bartender's arm down. Zacharia winked at the boy, emptied his shot glass and poured himself another shot. Finally, the Brit gave up and sat down disgusted. Zacharia would never actually beat anyone, perhaps he was too noble, or maybe it had something to do with leverage--he would just sit there with big arm on the bar and drink raki until his opponent gave up. The boy decided to challenge the Giant.

He walked up to the bar and spoke to Zacharia: "That was really impressive, Zacharia." he said, "But that's not the way we arm-wrestle back in the States." Zacharia's large brow furrowed deeply, "How do you do it in the States?" he asked. "Put your arm up on the bar and I will show you." said the boy, "I bet you a shot of raki that I can beat you." Zacharia agreed to the wager and put his arm up on the bar. From the other side of the bar the boy grabbed the big man's huge fist with both hands, put his foot against the bar, and started to pull back with all his might. Zacharia resisted, pulling back hard, determined not to lose to the skinny American kid. By now, everyone in the bar was watching--even the British strong-man got up to watch the contest. The boy put is other foot against the bar and was now totally suspended in the air by Zacharia's great arm as he pulled with all his might. Beads of sweat began to trickle down Zacharia's forehead. The boy couldn't believe he had the nerve to do what he was about to do...

Suddenly, the boy let go of Zacharia's fist and fell to the floor of the bar, laughing hysterically. The huge Greek bartender was surprised--the sudden release of tension didn't give him time to prevent himself from punching himself painfully in the face. Everyone in the bar erupted into thunderous laughter. Zacharia was furious, "Give my your hand!" he said angrily to the boy as he was getting up off the floor. The boy put his thin arm up on the bar, still unable to control his mirth--Zacharia grabbed his hand and slammed it down as on the bar with as much force as he could muster--it hurt, but the boy the was still laughing out loud uncontrollably. Zacharia began to calm down and also started laughing. He had to admit it was a pretty good prank. He poured the boy a shot and the two friends laughed together--the boy with his bruised hand and the bartender with the swollen eye. Zacharia would remain undefeated at arm-wrestling for the foreseeable future.        

Irene was called Renio by those who knew her well. In Greece her name would be pronounced ee-ree-nee, and her nickname ren-yo. She was six years older than the boy, and very beautiful. All the men in the village were interested in her because she was from the mainland and didn't have any family in Crete--she was fair game for dating and one needn't worry about getting into a vendetta with her family. She could have her choice of any available man in the village; the boy was both surprised and flattered when she expressed her interest in him. Even though he was only fifteen, the boy already looked like he was at least twenty and Renio was surprised to learn that he was only fifteen. Nevertheless the the two of them spent all night drinking retsina out on the water-break for the small port that serves Rethymnon, gazing at the moon, talking about the things young lover talk about, and laughing at the wonder and mystery of the universe.

Under the biggest full moon anyone has ever seen, and under the Mediterranean stars, they sat and watched the waves splashing against the rocks while they spoke with the excitement of young people about the wonders and mysteries of the Universe. Finally, after what seemed like both an eternity and the blink of an eye, the full moon began to set into the sea in the west, and the Sun started to rise out of the eastern Mediterranean. Heat waves and moisture of the sea distorted the rising Sun: It wobbled as it rose through layers of atmosphere, stretching into a teardrop as it tried to cling to the ocean's surface on the horizon--elongating, it stretched into an hour-glass, getting longer and narrower until it finally broke into two suns--the first, brightly continued its way up into the morning, while the other, a darker shade of orange and red, began to set back into the eastern ocean.

The two young lovers would spend weekends hiking in the mountains of Crete--they found a valley in those mountains where they would stay for days at a time. It was a magical place with a river flowing through groves of olive and lemon trees, and patches of wild oregano. There were two aqua-ducts which carried water along the steep hills that bordered the valley, there they would fill their canteens and cool off during the hot summer afternoons. He loved the girl, but she was six-years older and she soon sought out someone closer to her own age. The boy was heartbroken. 

Pamela was from England; she was nearly twenty-six years old. Her curly brown hair, hung in ringlets around her face. She had a room not far from the village-square: She and the boy would go there in the afternoon and make love on an old and rickety metal bed. The metal springs complained loudly, but Pamela's land-lady never said a word.

The boy lived the culture of crete. He loved the warm Mediterranean sea; eating souvlaki in the afteroons; walking at sunset on the promenade with the young girls in the village; and, pretending to be an adult in the tavernas at night. He hoped it would go on forever.


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The Eighties Begin

Monday, August 18, 2008 at 8:52PM As the children of the immigrant hippies began to grow up, whether they were home-schooled or enrolled in New Mexico's public schools, it became clear that they were different from their more conventionally raised peers. Those who were in public schools often felt a sense of alienation from the other kids: After being raised in the freedom and permissiveness of the hippie culture, their more conventionally raised peers seemed to be...., well, childish. In addition to the cultural differences, they were usually in the ethnic minority since New Mexico was still mostly a mixture of Spanish, Mexican, and Indian ethnic groups. The hippie kids were often harassed, made fun of, and basically discriminated against. The boy hated school. Because his family was always moving around, he went to a different one almost every six months and he never went to the same school for longer than a year. He had few friends, and those were usually unpopular among the rest of the class, too. Everyday he went to school in fear, because he always had to fight some kid at school who had a beef with the "gringo hippie." He vowed that as soon as he was old enough, he would drop-out.

Later, the boy and his mother moved back to Santa Fe—they had lived there, off and on, during his younger years. It was still a pretty small town at that time, and most of the teenage hippie-kids living in an around Santa Fe enjoyed a good deal of freedom. They would congregate on the plaza in the summer time and hang out in small circles like teenagers often do. Most of them knew each other from their parents’ parties when they were smaller. The old and ancient cottonwood trees on the plaza offered them protection against the hot, New Mexico sun. They would do tricks on their skate-boards and bicycles, play hacky-sac, or just sit around on the grass in the shade, and talk. Punk-rock and New-Wave music had finally made their way to the smaller towns of the mid-west—many of the kids started to sport Mohawk-hairdos, wear studded leather jackets, and long, army-surplus trench-coats. Torn shirts, holy jeans, cut-off shorts, bandanas, and safety-pins were among the basic accessories. As they became familiar with each other, they started to develop a sense of group identity. No one knows who first coined the term, but they began to call themselves “Plaza-Rats.”

Every day the plaza-rats would meet on the plaza. Some would show up early in the morning, and wait for the rest to arrive. Finally, at about noon, more and more would show up and the eternal dance of the teenager would begin. Those who were there will remember that at that time there was a liquor-store on the plaza, “Plaza Liquors.” The plaza-rats would pool whatever money they had and find an adult to help them get some booze—there were some local alcoholics that hung around, who were always willing to help. An older Indian man named Gilbert was a little scary and didn’t always smell very good, but he was usually pretty friendly and was always willing to “pull” as long as he could join the circle. They would give Gilbert their money and wait around the corner as he went into Plaza Liquors to get the bottle. In a large group they would make their way to one of the less conspicuous parks in the downtown area, were they would be out of site of the cops. They would sit in a large circle, and Gilbert would ceremoniously open the bottle, pour a little bit of the precious whiskey on the ground “for the brothers and sisters that couldn’t be here,” then he would take the first drink, and pass the bottle around. Usually the boy had some grass—his mother had given him a large quantity of shake that was left over from a good harvest, and he enjoyed sharing it with his friends. It was a “dry” time, and weed was kind of hard to come by. Small pipes or joints would be passed in both directions to make sure no one was left out. As evening drew near, everyone wanted to know where the party was going to be, and a certain amount of social jockeying would occur. “I know of a party going on over at Jeff’s house,” said Julie, “his parents are out of town, but don’t tell anyone else about it, only cool people can come.” Sooner or later, everyone would find out about it though, and when you finally got to the party all of the plaza-rats would be there. Some of the older kids had vehicles; they would cram their cars full of plaza-rats and go to the party. Either at someone’s house, in the mountains, or out on the desert. The main idea was to get away from the jurisdiction of the city police. They would dance under the moonlight and do those things that unsupervised teenagers love to do.

When school started, the Plaza-Rats continued this routine, but most wouldn’t begin to arrive on the plaza until the school buses dropped them off in the downtown area after classes let out. The boy had a good friend named Scrap. Their parents had attended the same parties when they were younger, and when they became plaza-rats they remembered each-other well. They would often hang out after school, get stoned, listen to old rock albums, and philosophize. One day at school, Scrap asked the boy if he had plans after classes let out. “My father just came back from the peyote harvest,” he explained. The boy hadn’t taken any peyote since he had been a child, with the peyote church. “I’m going to your house, Scrap,” he said. When they got to Scrap’s house, the boy was amazed to see fresh peyote drying in three-foot high piles, all over the house. He had never seen such huge quantities of peyote before. Scrap took a few buttons from one of the piles, and they went downstairs to clean the needles and tiny quills in Scrap’s bedroom. On an old record player they listened to Iron Butterfly’s, Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida. They took some peyote-bark, mixed it with some of the green shake that the boy had, and smoked. Time and space joined them, and together they tapped onto the universal cosmic wisdom that all humans share. After a while, they decided to go downtown. The boy asked Scrap if he could have a few buttons of peyote to take with him. Scrap said, “No way man! My dad would be furious if he knew we took what we already did!” Scrap went to get his jacket and, as the boy stood there looking at the huge piles of peyote all over the house, he began to feel a sense of entitlement. His mother had taught him that it was bad karma to steal, but hadn’t he been more than generous by keeping everyone stoned last summer? “I have smoked a lot of my grass with Scrap. He shouldn’t begrudge me a few peyote buttons when he has so many,” he said to himself. With this twisted reasoning, he justified to himself the theft of a religious sacrament. He picked up a handful of the sacred buttons and quickly stuffed them into his trench-coat pocket. He and Scrap went downtown together, and met with some of the other members of their “tribe.” The boy kept quiet about the peyote in his pocket.

The next day, after school, the boy didn’t go to Scrap’s house to hang out and smoke as usual. Instead, he went straight to the plaza and looked for Juniper, a girl he had a crush on. “Don’t you know that we are destined to be together?” he had asked her once. Juniper liked him, but only made out with him once. “You’re really sweet, but I don’t want to ruin our friendship,” she said. As they stood there in front of the Haagen-Daaz ice cream shop, on the plaza’s south-east corner, they complained to each other about how bored they were. “Nothing ever happens in this town,” they agreed. Suddenly the boy had an idea: It was stupid, but he wanted to impress Juniper. He wanted her to think he was cool and well connected... “You wanna do some peyote?” he asked. “You have peyote?” she looked incredulous. “Give me some!” she said. That wasn’t exactly what he had in mind, but he gave her a couple of buttons. “Just don’t tell anyone were you got it” he said. This was the end of his friendship with Scrap, and whatever favor he had held with Mescalito was now lost forever.

It took only one day for Scrap to learn that the boy had stolen from him. Juniper had told several of her friends about the peyote, and where she got it. As soon as he learned about it, Scrap called the boy on the phone to confront him about the theft. The boy wanted to make things right, but it was too late—the damage had been done and Scrap would never trust him again. The boy tried to explain the weak justification for his actions, but Scrap didn’t want to hear it. “You better not come to school tomorrow, or I will kick your ass!” he screamed. The boy was afraid to fight Scrap, and he hated himself for his own cowardice. He tried to avoid the fight by coming to school late. He got off the bus and went to “the tubes,” twin concrete culverts in the arroyo, just outside of the school grounds. He sat in the tubes, smoked, and waited for the first bell before making his way to the quad. Despite his delayed arrival, Scrap was waiting by “The Wall,” where all plaza rats hung out when they were in between classes—it was the only place on campus where students could smoke cigarettes. There was a small congregation of plaza rats who had skipped class to see the anticipated battle. Scrap had a rail-road spike in his hand as he approached the boy. He took a few swings, and the boy backed up as he parried the blows. “I don’t want to fight you, Scrap...” he said. Scrap took a few more swings, but he had expected a more willing opponent and, although he was angry, he was really more hurt by the betrayal of someone he had admired and thought of as a good friend. Someone called out that school security was coming, and the group dispersed. The boy went home—he would never go back to high-school, again. He was ashamed of himself and disgraced among the plaza rats. He could no longer face his friends and was afraid of another confrontation with Scrap. He spent days and weeks in his room, just reading or listening to the radio. His mother didn’t understand why he wouldn’t go out—why was he so depressed? She tried to ask her son about it, but he was too ashamed to tell even her about what had happened. On a trip with his mother to visit some of her friends in Taos, he reconnected with some of his childhood playmates.

Bear and Feather were the children of a prominent hippie couple, who were well connected with the pueblo Indians and the Peyote Church in Taos. The boy had spent enough time with them when they were all children to have that strong feeling of connection that grows so quickly with young people. As their parents talked in the main house, the three kids went outside and into Bear’s teepee. They huddled around the open fire and Bear packed a bowl of some good Taos bud. As if they were grown up already, they talked about the “old days” when they all went to the Free School together, and the good times they had. Although Feather was a couple of years his elder and a little overweight, she was very pretty and the boy found himself fantasizing about having sex with her. They laughed and joked together and when it was time for the boy and his mother to leave, they all agreed that they must get together again soon...and they did.

Feather invited the boy to a cast party in Taos. She and her brother were appearing in Taos High School’s production of “The Wind in the Willows.” A friend of theirs named Fry, stole the show with his excellent portrayal of Mr. Rat. After the play, they all climbed into Bear’s old VW Bug and drove to a large, one-room house out in the sage-brush, for the cast party. The party was even wilder than parties in Santa Fe--if the kids in Santa Fe had freedom to do as they wished, the Taosenios had even more. A large pot-belly stove heated the house. There was a keg of beer and lots of drinking going on; young couples were making out in every corner; there was no grown-up supervision of any kind. Kids were partying as hard as they could and proving that they could party harder than any adult. The boy was the youngest person at this party, but not by many months.

Nobody knew what time it was, but Bear rounded them up and they got back in the VW. The boy and Fry had become good friends: From the moment they had met, they shared a certain way of thinking about things. It was as if they shared a joke that the rest of the world just didn’t get. The VolksWagon veered sharply back and forth, as it sped along over the bumpy, frozen road. Bear pulled out a joint and, as they smoked, Fry laughed hard. He kept saying, “Traw in the Baja, Traaaawwww in the Bajaaaaaa!” whenever someone handed him the joint. His laughter was contagious, and before long everyone was laughing hysterically. Bear had also brought some LSD, so they all dropped acid together. The boy had taken acid once before, when he was three. His older sister had given him a half-hit to quiet him down on the beach somewhere near San Francisco, but of course he couldn’t remember it. This would be the first time he took it deliberately and, because he was a little unsure how much to take, again he only took a half-dose.

As the sun rose they pulled off of an isolated dirt road, into the driveway of old adobe house somewhere on reservation land. Bear was friends with an old Indian man who lived there. He welcomed the strange group of visitors, and they all sat in his living room around a kiva fire-place in the corner of the living room. The old man had his hand wrapped in bandages. Bear asked him what had happened and he told the story: He had been in the back yard splitting wood, when he lost his balance. As he fell towards the ground, he threw his axe away from himself to avoid injury, and then put his hands out to break his fall. The blunt end of the axe bounced on a piece of cedar wood that was laying on the ground and in a perfect arc, the sharp blade came back and cleanly chopped the pinky finger off of his right hand. The old Indian quickly tied a turnequette, picked up his fingers, put them in a shoe box, and drove himself to the hospital were the digits were promptly sewed back onto his hand. He smiled as he held up his hand and showed the children how he could move the finger he had almost lost slightly up and down within the bandage.

On New Year’s Eve of 1980, Bear, Feather, and Fry came down from Taos to ring in the New Year with the boy, in Santa Fe. Once again, Bear had brought some LSD, and this time the boy took a full dose. The friends all sat on the roof of the house he rented with his mother as they waited for the new decade to begin. From their perch on the corrugated steel, they watched the fire-works and listened to the sounds of a city in celebration. As the acid started to kick in, the boy and Fry decided to take a walk. They didn’t plan to abandon the group, but the LSD was strong and they wound up not coming back, until the sun was coming up. As they walked around the city at night their shared joke got funnier and funnier. It was a cold winter night and there was frost on a chain-link fence as they climbed over it, although they were only wearing thin t-shirts, they didn’t feel the bite of the cold air through their warm acid-buzz. They jumped down into an arroyo and proceeded into “The Tunnels.”
The Tunnels had been built to allow flood waters to pass under a major thoroughfare that went north out of Santa Fe, towards Taos. There were two of them, side by side. They were about a half-mile long; each was about eight-feet tall and twelve-feet wide. A person could walk through them from one end to the other without stooping over. They were pitch-black at night, except for a place about half-way through, where a streetlight shone down through a storm-drain from the street above. The light burned a perfect rectangle of gold on the sand at the center of the tunnel. To the drug-addled minds of the two friends, it appeared that there was a bright bar of gold or some radioactive metal in the sand, casting its glow upon the walls and ceiling of the Tunnel. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing as they approached. They both experienced the illusion that they had discovered a treasure or an unexplainable mystery in the middle of this very dark tunnel—it wasn’t until they were nearly standing on it that they realized it was only an optical illusion and that the source was only an ordinary street-light. They both laughed when they realized they had been sharing the same hallucination.

As the LSD started to wear off and the sun began to rise, they began to feel the cold of the winter air and they returned to the house. Understandably, Bear and Feather were a little upset at being left alone at the house, and left out of the rambling adventures of the two friends. The boy apologized and felt genuinely sorry. Fry was little more self-centered and said, “tough luck!”

Gradually, the boy started hanging out on the plaza again. Scrap still wasn’t friendly, but it seemed like he had put the whole peyote-theft incident behind him. The boy still had friends, and the plaza-rats had sort of split into two groups. One group included Scrap and his friends, and the other consisted of the boy and his friends. These groups would mix around a bit, but mostly kept to themselves. As they got older, they grew in different directions. Scrap’s group listened mostly to heavy metal music and seemed to lean towards the darker side of psychedelia. Scrap himself got into many fights, and there were even rumors that he had stabbed someone. The boy and his friends started listening to a lot of reggae and ska music. They would build a fire on top of a mesa, discuss politics or philosophy, and try to figure out the meaning of life. They saw themselves as deeply intellectual and tried to have very profound thoughts. All of the plaza rats were always present at the really big parties out at Diablo Canyon or up in Aspen Meadows.

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Reader Comments (3)
Dang.. i see a book here dude.. you got me hooked now....
January 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkim rhodes
You received my comment via an image sent through the facebook messaging system ... I wonder if any knows who this is ... bwahahahaha .. ;>
January 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterseamuso
I agree with Kim...I see a book. I love your writing!
January 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMara


Hippie Kids in Santa Fe

The Free School, Taos, New Mexico

Growing Up As a Hippie Kid in New Mexico

Being a hippie-kid growing up in New Mexico was different. The first communes to spring up in New Mexico were near Taos. High on the Rio Grand Plateau, Taos was far from society in the early seventies. A visually stunning place, close to sharply rising mountains and a deep gorge running across a wide valley. New Mexico was still a wild place back then: The were still beaver living along the rivers, and fresh water to drink from the streams that ran out of the mountains.

The immigrant hippies got along pretty well with the local Spanish and Indian communities. Land was cheap, there was very little law enforcement in the area, and people could do what they wanted, mostly. The boy was in enrolled in the preschool program with the Taos unified School District. In the morning he would walk up a frozen, muddy, rutted driveway that led about a quarter of a mile from the highway to the round, one-room adobe house and wait for the bus to take him to kindergarten. He was one of only a few gringo kids on the bus and was often ridiculed by the other kids. The bus driver would listen to the radio has he drove the big yellow bus down the highway. “Bye, Bye, miss American Pie. Drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry…..” It was a long ride to school and the boy became bored. A light rain started to fall and as the drops collected on the windshield the driver turned on his windshield wipers. The wipers made a scrunching sound as they went back and forth...the boy followed them with his eyes and then his head. Another little boy noticed what he was doing and started to smile—he tapped the bus driver’s shoulder and pointed at the boy; together they laughed and the bus driver switched the wipers into high speed. The boy increased the speed of his head to match the speed of the wipers, just for the amusement of his audience. The other boy and the bus driver laughed at the expense of the stupid gringo kid, but he didn't mind. Happy to amuse his audience and enjoying the attention he continued his charade.

The Rio Grande River flowed from north to south through a deep gash in the high plains New Mexico. Wild scragily sagebrush was the dominant plant life; here and there, a lonely pinon or cedar tree fought for survival. At home, the boy would play in the behind the house in the sagebrush with his dog, Tesuque.  He loved his dog and they played for hours in the sage-brush: the boy loved the dog and the dog loved him back, just as much. Here he would learn the call of the coyotes that lived nearby along the canyon’s rim.

With dirt floors, no running water, and a single wood-fueled stove, life in the adobe house was rather rustic. The Taos Mountains rose sharply in the distance, and with old, rusting farm equipment lying haphazardly about, this was a surreal and beautiful place in time and space. The moon and stars turned over a wide valley rimmed with mountains. He would bath in water collected from the rain barrel, heating it on the wood-stove in a metal wash pan. One day, the boy didn’t want to bath, because it was very cold; the house hadn’t warmed up yet and they didn’t have much hot water. His mother told him he must wash himself anyway. In the cold winter air, he cried as he washed himself. The biting wind raised goose-bumps all of his little body and he squealed as his mother rinsed him off with cold water from the rain barrel. He quickly wrapped himself with a towel and stood near the stove as he dried off. The freezing boy stood so close to the stove trying to get warm that he burned the end of his penis on the scalding surface of the hot metal stove. The extreme pain brought back images of the wasp in the tangerine tree back in California, and the boy screamed in agony...

A community of hippies had sprung up in the area called Pillar Hill, just twenty miles from Taos. The boy had a crush on a girl that lived in the big farm house closer to the highway. Her family was raising chickens and she showed him how to hold the little chicks without hurting them. Sometimes she and he and some of the other kids would go over the hill to Buffalo Bob’s house. He would tell them stories as he smoked hand-rolled cigarettes and drank dark coffee, which he boiled on the wood stove in his small, converted box-car house. On the fourth of July all the grown-ups started to pass out sparklers. There had been plenty of rain and there was little danger of fire. Buffalo Bob told the children to stand back as he casually lit a quarter stick of dynamite and tossed it into the clearing. The deafening blast attracted people from all over the commune and the party went into full swing. The boy was trying to talk the neighbor girl into going into the woodshed with him, “…you show me yours and I’ll show you mine…” he said. They were just on their way for a good game of doctor, but her big sister came and glared at him as she led her sibling away by the hand. Some drunken hippie had left a six pack of beer in the shade by the woodshed. After a quick look around to make sure no one was watching him, the boy grabbed it and went around to the back of the decrepit structure. He rounded up a few other kids—they sat in the shade behind the wood shed as they all shared their first beer together. No one liked the taste of the brew, but they forced it down none the less. As they all started to feel the effects of the alcohol, they started to exaggerate their drunkenness and mimic the grown-ups by stumbling around and falling into each other. The grown-ups never missed the six pack…they had plenty of beer.

At the age of five, the boy met the leader of the Hopi Nation and took part in peyote ceremonies with the Peyote Church. He was the only child in the tipi and his mother the only woman--together they were the only white people. They would stay in the tipi all night long and chant with the elders of the tribe. The boy went before the priest and was blessed--the priest danced and chanted as he threw his magical mixture on the fire and fanned the resulting sweet, pungent smoke over the boy. The boy would stand with his arms slightly spread and receive the sacrament; he knew that he was experiencing something the other children didn't get to experience, and he knew that he was special in some way.... At dawn they would come out of the tipi and  greet the rising sun. They would eat something and the boy would sleep.

Later they moved into an old cabin with no utilities in Holy-Ghost Canyon, a tributary of the Pecos River. A few miles up, the highway ended at the Terrero General Store. The old man who ran the store would only sell a half a pack of cigarettes at a time when the supply truck couldn't make it in. At that time there were still beaver living on the Pecos River; their dams could be found every few miles along the river and the gnawed stumps of trees could be seen along the banks. The only heat in the cabin came from an old-style fireplace and cooking was done on a wood-stove. While most other parents were teaching their kids not to play with matches, she gave her son a box of Diamonds and let him play...she wanted him to know how to build a fire so if something happened to her the boy wouldn't freeze. His older sisters had already left home--a couple of them had gotten married at a young age; the other had simply run off. When the boy would ask for oatmeal his mother would give him a bucket and a hatchet--with these items in hand the boy would make his way down the slippery slope to a nearby stream, break open the thin ice and draw a bucket of water. The crisp mountain air would snap at his cheeks, but he would always linger to break open a blade of river-reed and munch on the frozen wands of ice inside. Then, bucket and hatchet in hand, he would make his way back up the hill through the snow, and his mother would make him some oatmeal. There was a bus that would take the boy to pre-school. He would walk a half-mile down the frozen road to the highway and wait for the bus by the old bridge. This was life in the mighty and rugged Pecos wilderness.

At the top of the mountain road was a place called Cowles. That winter, a woman in Cowles was going to give birth. The woman insisted that the boy's mother should deliver her baby and, although she had never done so before, his mother reluctantly agreed. She went to the library and checked out every book on midwifery she could find. She studied and learned; when the time came she went to Cowles for the birth. There were a couple of other children in Cowles, so the boy played outside with the other them during the long labor. When the actual delivery began, his mother called him into the house--she wanted him to see the birth. The image of the new baby's head emerging from it's mother's vagina was forever imprinted into the boy's mind. His mother used a length of dental-floss to cut the umbilical cord. The placenta was prepared for consumption in the traditional way. It was a practice in the old days to fry it up like any other meat--maybe with some onions and mushrooms. After some discussion it was decided not eat it; the old ways were dying and no one was quite that hungry. The had brought a pair of ice-skates--he went back out to the frozen pond with the other kids and they skated until his mother was ready to go home.

In the summertime the boy and his mother would go to a cave they knew of along the banks of the Pecos River. They would park their car off the highway and pack their gear in on foot. With their shoes in hand and pant-legs rolled up, they waded over the spillway of a wide dam, then made their way north along the banks until they came to their cave, hidden behind a dense patch of river willows and other foliage. The boy would play in the sun and swim in the shallows along the banks of the river, while his mother prepared lunch in the cave. When the afternoon rain storms came, the raindrops would make little short-lived stars in water that swept along with the current. The smell of summer rain mixed together with the sweet aroma of the river willows like a long forgotten memory from a place and time to which one cannot return. Back in the dry cave, mom was getting dinner ready. A large pot of beans sat in the coals of the fire and were almost ready. “Son, move that rock away from the fire a little, it looks like one of those that might explode.” she said to her son. As the boy grasped and started to move the rock, a huge insect speedily crawled out from under it and headed towards the cave wall. Mother and child screamed in horror as the giant creature gambled away. It looked like a gigantic red-ant. They stared at each other in shock. Never had they seen such a creature and the prospect of getting any sleep in the cave that night seemed slim...

The boy went to stay with his father for about six months when he was in the third grade. His father was working at the airport, teaching people how to fly small planes. They lived together in a very small room with a faulty gas heater. They would wake in morning feeling sick and dried out from the carbon dioxide and bloody-noses from the toxic air were normal. His father was often gone at night and the boy would amuse himself reading Mad Magazine or watching the tiny black and white TV his father had. They didn’t have a kitchen, so he would eat pretzels and string-cheese and wait for his dad to come home with something more substantial. They slept on the floor on a foam mattress. The boy was happy with his father.

The school in California felt strange and restrictive. The boy was used to the dirt playgrounds of New Mexico—here the school playground was paved over with blacktop. Strange markings in yellow on the asphalt hinted of some complex game the boy knew nothing about. He didn’t have many friends and was always picked last for the kickball team. He preferred to keep to himself rather than endure the taunting and the humiliation involved in dealing with his small minded peers. Around the edge of playground was a tall chain-link fence which generally resembled those you see around prisons. Trees were spaced inside of the chain link fence about 100 feet apart, growing out of square, sunken openings; here was the only organic material that could be found on the playground. During recess, the boy would go and set on the edge of one of these boxes. He would draw in the sand with a stick and think deep thoughts. One day, one of the teachers on playground duty interrupted his meditations to ask what he was doing. “I’m just thinking,” said the boy. “Why aren’t you playing like the other kids?” asked the woman. “I just don’t feel like,” it said the boy. “Well you have to play” said the playground monitor. “I can’t believe it,” said the boy “you are actually going to force me to play?” “Yes,” said the control freak. The boy went over to the monkey bars and started swinging from one end to the other. The teacher watched him for awhile, and he watched her out of the corner of his eye until she got bored and went away. As soon as she was gone he went back to tree, picked up his stick, and continued his musings. Even though he was only eight years old, the irony of being forced to play did not escape him.

His father wanted him in some kind of after-school program, so the boy joined the Cub Scouts--he spent only one day in the program, because he felt the den mother was oppressive. After school, the boy would walk about a mile and a half from his school to the airport and wait for his father to finish with his students in the sky. There was a television in the office of the flight school and he would watch as he did his homework. Of course he had seen Bozo the Clown; Sesame Street; and Captain Kangaroo back home, but his mother didn’t really believe in television and this was his first real introduction to it. He would lie on the carpeted floor, do homework and watch Andy Griffith; I Dream of Jeannie; Bewitched; Hogan’s Heroes; and other classic 70’s TV shows.

When afternoon TV was over and boredom overcame him, he would wander around the hangars and play on old, rusting equipment from some by-gone era of aviation. It was here that his father taught him to ride a bicycle. He bought an old bicycle with a banana-seat for his son, and fastened wood blocks to the peddles so the boy could reach them—he ran behind his son as the bike picked up speed. “Don’t let go, Dad!” the boy was terribly frightened. “I already did,” said his father. Once the boy realized he was riding by himself, he smiled and pedaled harder. For a moment he felt like he was flying like Superman. Then, very suddenly, he started to doubt that he could be doing such a thing. The bike wobbled as his confidence waned, and boy and bike came crashing down. His father came over and helped him get up. He skinned up his knee and it hurt, but he was too excited not to get immediately back on the bicycle. This new found skill promised a freedom of motion he had never experienced before. Once he had mastered this wondrous mode of locomotion he would spend hours riding his bike among the airplanes and hangars around the flight school.

Sometimes his father would take him up in the “Piper Cub” and practice aerobatic stunts. They boy was frightened at first, but he grew to have perfect confidence in has father… “Do it again, Dad, Do it again!” he screamed. Sometimes, father and son would take long trips in an old Luscombe tail-dragger his father had won in a poker game. They would fly over the grape fields of Northern California, touch down at a lonely airfield for a quick Egg McMuffin, and then take off again into the morning sky with coffee cups warming their laps.

The boy loved his father very much but missed the wild freedom of New Mexico...

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Comments (5)
I believe in the beginning there was a type of mutual disbelief and misunderstanding of each-others' cultures and beliefs between the Hippies and the Chicanos. It did eventually become violent.

I am certain there is so much more to this experience... You are touched in a good way - grasshopper
November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLILBIGMAN
Wow, being on the east coast often makes my childhood look wierd. When I read this article I realize it was more common than I thought. i don't think many can understand the lifestyle of the early hippy imigrants and thier children except those who lived it.
December 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRiel bilto
WHew!!!! such detail... i cant wait to see what happens next!!
January 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkim rhodes
cool story dave, sounds familiar
January 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteramal

Things Change

When she became pregnant things started to change. He was younger than her. He didn't have any children of his own and he was pretty sure he didn't want any. He wanted her to think about having an abortion...but, she had already done that once, and she knew she could never do it again. She started to pressure him about money, the Tripping on Acid business wasn't a big money-maker, so things were tight. He got some mundane job working in a windowless office and promptly flipped-out. He was in treatment for six months (to get off the weed it was said). He got out of the "facility" in time for the birth, however, and was filled with the pride that new fathers sometimes feel when he saw the little boy that fate had forced upon him.
She hung a baby seat from the patio awning overlooking the pool and put her baby in it. The boy would laugh and laugh as he watched his sisters and other kids play in the pool. The ice-cream truck came down the lane everyday. As soon as the kids heard the familiar melody they would run to find their mother and beg for change. With push-ups and star-bombs they would sit in the shade and consume their treats as slowly as possible. Lick by lick the frozen confections would disappear and then with sticky hands and faces they would all jump into the pool. After learning to crawl and then walk, the boy would run around naked in the backyard chasing the peacocks and playing in the cool water of the pool. He would climb the tangerine tree and pluck tangerines from its branches, devouring the sweet fruit by the dozens. Once, as he clung to the branches of the tree eating a tangerine, he watched in fascination as a wasp came buzzing up to him and landed on the end of his penis. Before he could react to the strange new insect, the wasp stung him. The searing pain on the tip of his penis would be the most vivid memory of his early years. He screamed as he ran to his mother, who could do nothing to relieve the indescribable pain. Of course the other kids joked about it and he was humiliated to spend the next three days walking around the gardens with his damaged member in a cup of baking soda.

The sixties were ending and the hippie culture was changing. Free sex gave way to jealousy and the drugs to paranoia. There was sudden shortage of mental health professionals, because of the many victims of statutory rape and sexual abuse. He wanted out and so did she, but they had different ideas about what "out" should be. She wanted to go live on a commune in the country (somewhere in New Mexico), and he wanted to fly airplanes, take acid and get together with more (and younger) women. He signed his interest in the house over to her, because he didn't want to fight about it. This would be his first of several failed partnerships with women involving real estate--She rented out the house to a bunch of heroin junkies and took the kids hitchhiking. "Oh well," he said, "I never wanted to be a dad anyway." The little boy wanted to be with his daddy, but daddy was far away...
She had a friend in San Francisco, Bliss, who owned a bead shop. She and the kids stayed with bliss while they were in San Francisco, she had a large apartment right over the Diggers Free Store on Frederick Street. She and Bliss prepared meals for 50 people at a time. At dinner time everyone would make a circle and hold hands. A bearded and long-haired priest named Father Phillip would say a prayer and then everyone would say three oms. Everyone would then sit on the floor cross-legged around the edges of the furnitureless room, and eat. After eating, several people would fill pipes and pass them in opposite directions around the circle. After taking a long drag, the boy's sister passed the pipe to a dark looking man who turned out to be Jim Morrison. He would often come to stay at Bliss's when he was in San Francisco. He grasped the pipe and took a toke. He passed the pipe to Father Philip who shook his head, "I don't smoke," he said. Jim exhaled the smoke from his lungs into the face of the priest and gazed defiantly into his eyes. When the boy asked his sister about the incident years later, she said "Jim Morrison was kind of an asshole." Father Philip gave communion to everyone in the form of LSD tablets, crossing each and offering them wine to wash it down in a beautiful hand-made, jeweled brass goblet. "Flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood." He said.

A short time later a tall and handsome black man with a huge afro hairdo showed up and everyone became very excited. "That's Jimi Hendrix!" someone said. After a good deal of coaxing Mr. Hendrix played drums, while someone else banged away on an electric bass. The crowed got thicker as more people arrived and a full blown acid party ensued. Consciousness collided with reality as people started laughing uncontrollably. As the walls began to breath inward and then back out, psychedelic hallucinations unfolded in every possible way. Some stayed to listen to the music, while others went on insane expeditions into the night. Jim Morrison sat in a corner and wrote a song about Bliss. Hendrix left relatively early (apparently he hadn't taken any LSD). The boy's mother and her daughters made plans to meet later and went off on their own adventures. The boy was safe asleep in a room upstairs.

The first commune to be set up in Santa Fe, itself, was called simply The Compound. It seemed like every hippie couple or single mother had at least one child from their years of free love in California, and organized child care was a common theme in the first communes--they created their own schools in which they could teach their children a new way of thinking. This was a fairly free and happy time for the boy. He and his mother moved around a lot as they explored the still wild New Mexico territory. Long trips across the blazing desert in an old VW bus were a normal part of life. Broken down by the side of an endless highway, they tried to flag down passing cars. The the boy cried, so she fixed him a tuna sandwich on her home made whole-wheat bread, and gave them some water from a large plastic container. A car appeared on the horizon and as it neared she called the children out of the bus. "If they see children they are more likely to stop and help," she reasoned. As the car got nearer, she smiled: "Far out it looks like they are hip!" The car was painted in bright day-glow colors, it was badly dented all over and the right turn signal appeared to be broken. It was an american make--maybe a Chevy or a Ford Galaxy. Its occupants introduced themselves as Chuck and Breeze, two guys on their way to the Lama Foundation in Taos. Chuck proclaimed himself to be an expert mechanic, but he seemed a little confused and embarrassed when she had to show him that on a VW Bus the engine was located in the back. He fooled around with it but couldn't get the engine to turn over. He offered them a ride, so they packed up the contents of the van and crammed into the Galaxy. They left the VW by the side of the road and continued forth with Chuck and Breeze.

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Posted Comment:

Great that you express this. You are a warrior from the start.... What choice did or do you have.

You have done well - few warriors can express themselves and non that I know can build and maintain a WEB site blog such as yours.

Stay at peace - which you R.... I am merely confirming where you have been and you have done well.

November 24, 2008 |

The Early Years

In an old but large house they lived fairly happily. He, she and her three young girls. They were both hard workers and although they were very poor, they somehow got by most of the time. He was some kind of an unemployed, genius artist who was handy with his hands. He spent a lot of time creating psychedelic abstract assemblages. She made some money cleaning rooms and making "trip-clothes" for local heads, but she often found herself keeping house and looking after the children (which was quite a job in itself).

At first they had a lot of fun. There were always friends stopping by--some living there (it was a semi-communal atmosphere). She had quite a green thumb and the garden behind the house started to take shape. There were tangerine trees, flowers, succulents of every type, and plenty of shade. There was a fish-pond with large beautiful Koi; there were peacocks; he kept pigeons. There was a large studio, which he used for various art and home improvement projects; a screened gazebo where she did her sewing. His friend, Tank, built a large tree-house for the kids with a trap-door for an entry. Along the driveway was a long wooden fence upon which he fastened an assemblage of all kinds of strange things: He painted pieces of junk with colorful absract designs and fastened them to the structure in bizarre and absract patterns. There was an old, insulated box-car with "Santa Fe" painted on its side, which had been converted into living quarters. Beneath the box-car was a cement bomb-shelter or basement that stayed very cool, even during the hottest days of the California summer. He would go down there sometimes during his acid trips, and not come out for many hours. "If anybody comes by, tell them I'm not here." he would tell her.

One day he decided he would blindfold himself for a week. He thought that he would learn to "understand color" from experiencing blindness. She patiently led him around the grounds and helped him eat, bath, and dress for three days, before he finally gave up. One morning, she woke up early as usual and started to get the kids ready for school. When she looked out the kitchen window into the back-yard, she was astounded to see him with a shovel—digging madly in an area he had marked out with stakes and string. She went outside to ask what he was doing; without stopping his digging he told her he was building a swimming pool. Amazingly, although he eventually broke down and rented a back-hoe, he actually finished the pool and later built a sauna to go along with it. Friends and family would spend hours this Eden-like sanctuary, smoking grass and hanging around the pool.

It was a happy time and life was simpler then, but things were going to change...

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Comment left by Ladybird:
David you are sharing your early years with us aren't you? That was your hippy father, wasn't it that did all the digging and you are the witness. Bravo for sharing.