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Banana Boxes & Guardian Angels Part 2, Chapter 1


My Brother Richard

Chapter 1

Vincent

In an effort to fit in and to hopefully garner the attention and affection of my Brother I tried sex with a man. I picked someone that seemed nice and gave it a whirl in Stephen's bed, which really pissed him off. I was already borrowing, without permission, his homemade, very flamboyant clothes and wearing them on the streets. White pants with multi-colored knitted bell-bottoms with billowing satin shirts. The next day I couldn't wait to tell Brother. I entered his bedroom and told him the news, "I'm Gay Now!". He looked at me confused and said "oooK" and went back to reading his paper.

My portrait of Vincent

There was a man living outside my Brother's place in his VW van, and using the facilities. His name was Vincent Rossi. He was different than the other Gays, he didn't dress or act gay. He talked about books, art, theatre, dance and read poetry out loud. The gays were all enchanted by him. He had left his wife and son and a Hollywood career as a stage manager. Stories of dining and working with Vincent Price and Marlene Dietrich among others. He was an aspiring poet with hopelessness in his heart. He had this worn out paperback that fictionalized the life Arthur Rimbaud. The book "Day on Fire" changed my life, it sits on my bookshelf even now. A whole new world opened up for me. All I've ever desired, ever wanted was adventure, a life worth living. Perhaps that's why I can't stay still for very long. I started hanging out with him.

Vincent was someone that I intuitively felt I could trust which had been lacking in this 15 year olds life. I was not attracted to him (or any men) but I wanted to attach myself to him. So one night while we sat playing records I kissed him, which surprised him, a lot.

San Francisco was a stop on his way, he was headed north. He told me much later that his plan was to end his life somewhere up the road. He asked if I wanted to come along and I accepted.

First we drove down to El Monte. Stopped at the city park where I used couvort with other delinquents and such. They were suspicious of Vincent, being ten years older than me. We managed to score some drugs and then off to see my parents. As I remember it was all very civil. We had come to get a letter allowing Vincent to have custody. Mother saw him as more of an adult so at least I'd be safe, she wrote the letter. Orvel remained mute. I'm sure he would agree with anything that kept me away. I just turned 16

We stayed with a friend of Vincent's in Hollywood for a couple of weeks and then drove back to San Francisco were I said goodbye to Brother and we were off. We took the coastal route through California, Oregon and Washington. When we reached Vancouver, Canada I produced an address that I acquired from one of the men that came to visit my brother. He had said in passing that if I ever found myself in Vancouver I should stop by, never thinking that I would, so we showed up on his doorstep. The man and his lover were kind and let us stay. We took LSD that night and Vincent had a horrible experience. It was new to him and he got scared. The next morning we were off, to the great relief of our hosts.

We crossed British Columbia and the Rocky Mountains in that rickety bus. The most amazing scenery imaginable. Somehow I had this guitar with no clue how to play it, so I improvised. I later found out it was un-tuneable. Even at a young age I wanted to be a musician. My stepbrother gave me a beautiful acoustic Gibson when I was about 10. I loved that instrument and I would strum it while singing Elvis songs. Begged my parents for lessons but they insisted on accordion lessons instead. Couldn't get jazzed about it and gave up the accordion. The Gibson was given back to stepbrother. Somewhere on the plains of Saskatchewan Vincent asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I had always loved drawing. Teachers complained that I drew all over my homework. The Intermediate and High School Art classes were the only classes I got decent grades in and loved going to. So for better or worse I chose - Artist, a Painter! That decision directed the rest of my life. I wish now I would have chosen Rock Star!

Driving down through So. Dakota we stopped in some small, small town and got a room. It was out of some very real horror movie. Torn shades, filthy glasses on old dusty dollies and dismal lighting, and this was Main St. We lived thru the night and the next morning went to a cafe across the street, the place sat maybe 20. We ate breakfast with the looming, menacing stares of the few customers. I found a song on the booth jukebox by the Youngbloods "Smile on Your Brother" and played it over and over as we ate our food. Were lucky we didn't get shot.

The next day the bus died.

On a Greyhound bus we now headed for Brooklyn and Vincent's, Grandmother's place. We stayed with her for a few days. While there we took a train into the City and had lunch at the Russian Tea Room. I loved NYC even in the state it was in, back then. That night on the subway back to Brooklyn a man waving a $20 bill between his legs confused me at first.

We took a bus for Boston. Vincent was friends with an Irish artist living there with his family, that was our first stop. Eventually we found a very small, dark studio on the 1st floor of a townhouse on Beacon Street. It was 1969 and Boston was an exciting place to be. The counterculture was still alive and well.

Vincent treated me with kindness, patience and respect. Over the next few years he introduced me to the world of classic literature, theater arts, classical music and ballet (saw Nureyev dance with Fonteyn). I introduced him to Rock & Roll, petty crime and drug culture. I was always a reader but now I was insatiable. I read all of Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Thomas Mann, Camus and Hesse to name a few. Poets I loved like Baudelaire, Rupert Brooke, Lautreamont and Rimbaud were my inspiration. Some of my fondest memories of this time was reading in the Boston Gardens on sunny days.

In an attempt to score some drugs I introduced myself to one of the students living in the building. There were several at the time and they were mostly Optometry students. Joseph lived on the top floor. He would get me stoned and I'd sit in the window staring down on the beauty that is Boston. Eventually everyone in the building got to know each other and we would eat, get high, go to concerts and play together, tripping and playing hide-&-seek throughout the building. There was a girls dorm a few doors down and some of them became part of our little scene. Joseph had a girlfriend, her name was Donna. She was my first crush since Dolly. I made some great friends, some of which I'm still friends with today, including Joseph, some have passed.

Donna

Vincent and I were no longer wholly intimate, we were close friends, that lived together. I unconsciously felt dependent on him like a parent and child. I can only guess as to what motivated him to live so closely with me. We did everything together except when I availed myself of all the beautiful female students all over Boston. Sneaking into dorm rooms, when invited and bringing them home when needed. It was a great time. Vincent was working at a bookstore on Boylston and I would write Mother for money when needed. Eventually I got a job at the bookstore, shipping & receiving. It was like something out of Charles Dickens, dusty and old with ornate decay. To add to the picture there was David, he worked in sales. He had an english accent with an English attitude. He was attracted to Vincent and joined our group of friends. For reasons that I can't remember it was decided that we would move back to California.

But first Vincent and I would sojourn to Europe.

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