Father, Pink Flamingos and Me.
'Born in El Monte California in 1952
The first thing I remember are the bars on my crib and a glowing light with voices coming from another room. Five years later I awake with alligators under my bed. Mommy!! Daddy!! Alligators under my bed!!! Father rescues me and holds me in his arms, for the last time. Mother stands in front of the wall heater in our dark living room. Father was leaving for a crooked nosed younger woman he met at the race track. One night as I was watching my hero Sinbad the Sailor on our black and white TV Father stopped by. The same dark room lit only by that portal to another world. He sat on the ottoman and asked a few questions then left, that was it between us.
Mother began sleeping around. A slow parade of men began coming in and going out. I can still smell the cigarettes, booze and bad breath. Mother wore these colorful velvet dresses that I found magical. They glowed in the darkness of the room. She then curled up on the couch, forlorn and brokenhearted. She began a slow descent into the hopefully loving arms of death.
I had my unhappy sister, 15 years my senior and my brother Richard, 10 years older. Richard stepped up and became a surrogate parent. He fed me, bathed, loved and cared for me. He protected me from my Sister to the point of fist fights. It bonded me to him for life. In his effort to escape he joined the Navy and was gone.
A friend of Mothers told her, as she would often remind me, she had a reason for living and it was me. She got off the couch and I became the center of her attention. She had to work now so I was left in the clutches of my ever loving sister. She had her scapegoat and I had my little wooden rocking chair. I would sit in that useless refuge, in the arbor windows, waiting for Mother to drive up in her little Rambler and rescue me. To this day I can't apply my toothpaste without thinking of Sis, she traumatized the experience. Sister became pregnant out of high school and continued her life elsewhere.
There were a few attempts at live in nannies. One of which introduced me to a horror movie. I could not walk to school for weeks, she was gone. Another one quit because of the dollar I stole from her. I had no use for it but I new it was valuable, she was gone. So Mother stopped working.
So we started our intimate little life together. She was forever ironing clothes and crying while playing her favorites like "Born to Lose" on our HiFi Stereo. While she labored I found comfort on the floor in front of the speakers while playing my wooden flute. She introduced me to musicals like South Pacific and Oklahoma and I learned the lyrics by heart. I had children's music as well like "Teddy Bear Picnic" (That damn song still pops up in my head). If not ironing she would be sewing, on her Singer, in her underwear. I would sit at the table with her and play with her collection of 100's of buttons while she sewed. For me those buttons were like magical coins from far away lands. I became a model child. I would walk myself to church on Sundays, A's in school, meticulous in my chores and oh so sweet. After all I was her reason for living. It was my responsibility and I embraced it.
Then came Orvel. The offish, uneducated son of a Utah coal miner, my new Dad. Mother married him with my excited blessing. Having a dad seemed like a great idea.
We'll get back to him later.
Chapter 2, Adolescence
I'm around 10 now it's the early 60's and life is good. My friends and I ride our bikes thru these suburban streets stealing fruit from un-fenced yards. Skateboarding thru school hallways on weekends with my nephews on homemade boards. Got baptized a Mormon, had a paper route and became a Boy Scout & Cub Scout Den Chief. The TV enthralled me with the latest shows. Petticoat Junction aroused us."I Spy" and "Wanted Dead or Alive" thrilled. Ed Sullivan entertained us with variety. We could eat at the new McDonalds and thought it amazing that they had already sold a million burgers. Sambo's restaurant was down the street and I ate my hotcakes while studying the black boy and tiger murals. I was infatuated with my new cousin Dolly. We played games in the grass while listening to the transistor radio.
blushed and giggled while the Rolling Stones sang of satisfaction.All seemed right in the world.
Sometimes I would stay with Father and his wife Judy. They lived in a trailer behind Fathers shop. He would work in the shop while is was left alone with her in the trailer. She would dress me up in suits and model her square dancing dresses. Again the colorful velvet. Afterwards she would partially undress us and lay me down to cuddle and play touching games. Father once walked in on this and all hell broke loose.
A few years have gone by and dreams of a happy family are now becoming nightmares. Orvel was an immature child prone to dramatic menacing rages. The camping trips often ended abruptly. When this happened I was locked in the camper-trailer with a bucket as he raced for home, yelling all the way. On one of these hellrides the camper suddenly pulls into a turnout, stops and mother gets out. The truck lurches back onto the road as I stand looking out through the locked rear door. I watch as my Mother casually dumps her remaining coffee out of her green glass cup, into the dirt. No tears, no protest just quiet resignation. It was a side of her I'd never seen, strength in hopelessness. She knew he'd turn around, I didn't.
Chapter 3, TheTeenager
I'm 13 now going on 14 and quickly becoming rebellious. For example I somehow managed to steal my parents car and drive it around the neighborhood. I then crashed it into our front yard. I began running away from home. I would climb out of my bedroom window and I was gone, sometimes for days. Friends and I built a bonfire one night by the side of the levee and got falling down in the mud drunk, my first experience with alcohol. Days would find me hitching rides and nights walking the streets, but eventually I would go back home. One defiant day of mine Orvel tried to strangle me, Mother hit him over the head with a frying pan, she decided take me and run. We packed up the station wagon and we were off! We landed in Santa Cruz California in an apartment overlooking the carnival Boardwalk. I was enrolled in the local school but only went to a couple classes. I stole money from Mother to buy pot and pills. Her hopes of a good life together with me straightened out were ruined. My Brother came down from San Francisco, picked me up and took me to his place, Mother went back to Orvel.
Now I was able to spend a few weeks in the city as a budding boy and I loved it. Brother lived two blocks from Golden Gate Park and Haight Street. So I was right next to the the Hippie's Mecca. He lived with his lover Stephen and an assortment of gay men, most of which were drag queens. Brother didn't have time for me anymore so I was left on my own. I spent my time in the company of the hundreds of young pilgrims experiencing their small taste of freedom. I ended up in a number of situations not age appropriate. Eventually I was summoned back home, but I would be back, I knew that. Brother put me on a Greyhound bus that pointed south. I became very familiar with buses over the next few years. With all it's seedy stations and collage of characters.
I had to start Mormon seminary classes held before High School classes started. Mother would drop me at the church. I was in the front door of the church, out the back and over the wall. I did attend High School for a time, about one and a half years but I preferred the streets. I was eventually kicked out of High School and sent to a school for juvenile delinquents, which didn't last long either.
I would disappear from home for weeks now. Sleeping in backyard trailers, garages and delinquent parent's apartments. Hung out with the other dropouts, ex-cons, addicts, dealers and messed up ex-military. I'm still 14. My friends and I would make our way to Pasadena and Colorado Blvd. It was a scene out of "American Graffiti" mixed with the onset of the 60's, Hot Rod's and Hippies, Bob's Big Boy and Head Shops. The roller skate girls served up burgers at the drive up. On occasion we would hitch or scrape bus fare together in order to get to Hollywood and the Sunset Strip. The "Whiskey a GoGo" glowed with the promise of rock & roll delights with all the glow and darkness of the Strip. We were explorers trying to catch a glimpse into another world, trying to find passage. If we were lucky we'd find a flop house for the night. Gay men and such would troll the Blvd. for willing youth. Naive child that I was I didn't realize that men inviting me to their place didn't want to just get high.
One afternoon in one of El Monte's suburban homes crowded with suburban youth I shot up for the first time, Seconal, heaven in a homemade syringe. I took to like a child on Christmas morning. In no time at I was a regular intravenous barbiturate user. I tried heroin, didn't like the vomiting. If I couldn't get downers Speed was an acceptable change of pace. As long as you had enough cigarettes. LSD was starting to make its way into our town. A friend got his hands on some "Purple Owsley" LSD. It was amazing and ultimately terrifying. I fell down the wrong rabbit hole and needed to be sedated, never stare into a mirror while tripping. So for now I stayed with Mother's little helpers. I became very adept at shooting up, myself and others. I always had "works" (needles and syringe) with me and I learned all the tricks of the task. This earned me the moniker of "The Medic" which I wore with pride along with my Beatle boots and a jacket with FTW painted on the back. I would find myself in seedy motels shooting up bikers. Some of them for the first time. I remember one threatened to kill me if I missed his vein.
Our small town police and I were on familiar terms. Orvel would call them when I showed up home. I was on a runaway list so they needed to be notified. Orvel and Mother would fight over whether or not to let them take me. On one occasion I came out of the shower naked and two cops were standing there. Instead of covering my dick I covered my track marks.
One day an older girl, Julie, was driving her Mother's car around and picked me up, she was my first. We did it on the bathroom floor while my parents ate lunch in the next room. I introduced her to drugs and totaled her Mother's car. As time went by she became more and more lost to everyone. In one of those motel rooms bikers pulled a train on her while George sang of his weeping guitar. They kept me at bay.
Chapter 4, First Arrest
My first arrest was a spectacular disaster. The circle of delinquents that I moved in often met at a convenience store near the High School. A young man stopped by and invited a small group of us to his place, to get high. The word spread and it became an orgy of drugs, sex and a gun. It went on for a few days and it must have been Thanksgiving or something because there was a fully cooked turkey in the little kitchen. While I was passed out on the living room floor someone started shooting the gun off. I found out later that one of the bullets went through the neighboring house and landed next to a child. When the cops arrived we all panicked, it was chaos. I remember stuffing pills and works into the turkey. They marched us off 2 by 2 in the pouring rain. Most went home but I was sent off to the Los Angeles Juvenile Detention Ctr. One of the young girls at the party was supposed to flush the pills down the toilet, she swallowed them instead. Before she went into a coma the police questioned her. They asked her where she gotten the track marks and drugs, yours truly was named. I was up for involuntary manslaughter if she died, she woke up. The detention center was a High School from hell with bars and you couldn't go home. They shaved my head and gave me the crabs. After my release I saw the young man again. He had been horribly beaten and avoided me with fear in his eyes.
I was sent to my Father's home in Lodi California. A room in the shed was prepared for me with cardboard walls and an old bed. I quickly decorated them with rebellious graffiti. I was enrolled in the local High School, but I only remember the entrance and exit. Made friends with the local boys and we drank to excess and I introduced them to pot. I don't remember any conversations with Father. He had shut down, counting his days to the last.
I met up with a sweet girl. We knew each other from my childhood visits. In my mind I always associate her with Dolly. We had a brief but wonderful time together. Skinny dipping in the local pond and making love after. She had this small bedroom that hardly fit her single bed. One night as we lay together the moon bathed us through the window above her bed. I rose up and beheld her young beautiful body, she glowed in the darkness of the room. The real first time.
One day I left my Father's place walked down the driveway and I was gone. A friend let me stay in his parents attic for awhile. He would bring me food and such. I managed bus fare and took a bus for San Francisco. It's 1969, I'm 15.
Chapter 5, San Francisco
Upon arriving in the city by the bay I headed straight for the Haight-Ashbury District and my Brother's place. He still let me sleep on the couch but for the most part he was absent. If not working he spent his time in the bars and the baths. The Counterculture movement was still bouncing off the walls. It wasn't all peace & love though. I was robbed twice in the lower end of Haight St., I was an easy target. Still the scene was exciting for a boy like me. All the hopeful runaway youth looking for a way to enjoy life. The drugs, hope, despair, freedom, poverty and music. We were comrades in arms. I would often panhandle outside the Fillmore West to get admission. Seeing great performances by Janis Joplin, Ike & Tina and Iron Butterfly etc.
At one of these concerts while sitting in front of the stage and tripping, another comrade shared his opium. Shortly after I watched the Grateful Dead melt down onto the stage. I left frightened and made it back to my brother's apartment. Floors started spinning in multidimensional transparent levels below me. They were spinning in different directions-then the room I was in began to revolve. I traversed the room and called my brother. As I was on the phone my body vanished.
On Sundays there were the free concerts in Golden Gate Park. Bands like Jefferson Airplane and Santana played for us while we got stoned and danced in the Meadows. Mostly I just hung out in the Haight finding adventure everywhere. Just sitting on the sidewalk with the other multitudes of pilgrims making fun of the tourist buses rolling slowly by was adventure. The scene as a hole was a mess but it held hope and I loved it.