Read the Book for Free

By Jeremiah Moore
The year 1964; I walked into a meeting of alcoholics, and stood in the
doorway for the whole hour-long meeting, and listened at a safe distance. I
didn’t want anyone getting behind me; from the doorway I could make a
quick egress if this group turned out to be a bunch of finger pointing
pontificators. They sounded rather sane, and tolerant of each other’s
opinions, and were discussing something called the steps. Each gave his or
her interpretation of their application or observation of the function of
whatever step they were expressing. Soon just about everyone in the room
had expressed their opinion about the step coupled with short excerpts, from
their downward spiral in the drinking world. The one man around fifty or so
standing at the front of the room leading the thing looked over the forty or
so heads in the room, and said to me fifteen yards to the rear of it: “Would
you like to say something?” “I… I don’t think I’m an alcoholic, I think I
might just be crazy, cause I drink when I don’t want to.” “Well you’re
welcome here.” Then he started to windup the procedures, which ended with
the Lord’s Prayer. I wasn’t too happy with that part, the Lord hadn’t done
anything real good for me in a long time, and I was downright pissed at him.
I was taught to fear God, and I knew I hadn’t done anything that bad in my
life to deserve to be this befuddled. It seemed God would answer my prayers
when I was really desperate, but he never made anything better, so I
wouldn’t be constantly desperate. The elixir used to make the world a fit
place to live in, no matter how bleak things were. If I couldn’t get a decent
job, at least I didn’t have to feel bad about it. I could have a few drinks, and
feel just as good as anyone who had money and all the trimmings. “After all
no matter what you got the only thing that really matters is how you feel,
and several drinks would make me feel equal to anyone no matter who they
were, and “No matter who you are; you’re mortal.” I would console myself
with the thought that maybe most other folks had more formal education
than I, but after four years in the Corps, I had an education of my own. I
was pretty good at Judo. So if you were bragging about how much money
you were making, or how well educated you were, I’d be thinking: “Yeah,
but I could end your career right now, if I was willing to pay the price.” This
line of thought stemmed from having to listen to my Aunt say to me
constantly: “If you don’t get a high school diploma, you can’t even get a job
as street sweeper.” The Irish were very into getting city jobs; Cops; fireman
2 bus drivers etc.. etc. The whole family and extended family was all
exclusively Irish. Drinking was part of the culture. My Mom taught me at
age five to like everybody, not just the Irish. The rest of my family was
somewhat chauvinistically Irish. There were parties with heavy drinking on
all the regular holidays. This is where I picked up my first drinks; I was
eleven. When the party was over around one thirty AM and all our guest
relatives were at the door saying goodbye to their hosts, I was in the living
room finishing off the drinks they left half full. I got a minor buzz off the
leftovers. No one even noticed the smell of booze on my breath cause they
were busy tidying up, putting the used glasses and ashtrays in the kitchen
sink. When I got older thirteen on up, I got access to more liquor. At age
seventeen I joined the Marine Corps, and did enormous amounts of alcohol
consumption, especially when spending six months hitting ports all over
South East Asia, then a year and half later I got to drink in places like
Panama City when we went through the locks, and headed on down to be
part of the Cuban Blockade; in the course of so doing we stopped off at
Jamaica, and an island off of Puerto Rico drinking all of my pay all of the
way. My money was only spent on booze and hookers, which were about the
price of two drinks. When I returned to Camp Pendleton, they were trying
to figure out where to send me after all that time in a line company. You see
they usually give you an easier job than climbing hills all day with sixty
pounds of equipment on your back, perpetually practicing war games. The
easier job is enticement for reenlistment. I was not liked by our brand new
platoon lieutenant cause; I took a couple of new boys down to Tijuana
Mexico just over the border, and left them there. They didn’t have the good
sense to leave the place when the weekend was over. They got drunk, and
stayed in T. J. with the hookers; came back a day and a half late, and told
the duty officer that I showed them the way there. I got back on time, or
almost. I knew the guy on duty logging in the returnees from liberty. I was
ten minutes late; he said: “You’re one of the guys that were overseas with us,
aren’t you?” “Yeah Second Battalion 5th Marines.” “No problem I got you
covered brother, I’m putting you in as fifteen minutes till. Not ten minutes
after.” “Thanks.” That was as close as I ever came to getting in trouble for
practicing my drinking pattern. I got out of the Corps, and decided to live in
Redondo Beach. Paying rent began to interfere with my drinking so I moved
into my car. I spent most of the summer days drinking Red Mountain wine
on the beach. It was a cheap high; fifty-three cents for a gallon. Shortly after
that, some old gal that owned a tackle shop, and hamburger stand on the
pier at the beach where I’d lay out, and drink all day, decided to give me a
job flipping hamburgers at her stand. She subtly demanded that I take the
3 job, inferring that she’d have me chased away from the area, if I didn’t take
it. I’d never underestimated the power of a woman’s influence. “She could
be bluffing. But I can’t take the chance that she isn’t. The winter’s coming,
so I’ll take the job. When she sees that I’m no good at it. She’ll fire me, and I
can make other plans.” Well much to my surprise, I was extremely good at
it. I thought I’d have trouble dealing with the ancient cash register, but I
caught on to how to make change, and cook ten burgers simultaneously; it
was simple, all you needed was rhythm. So I’d sing a song in my head, and
dance about with perfect proficient timing, and every thing got done. The
cash register was full, the old gal got to go to Vegas, and play poker. She
actually won when she went there. The woman came back with a smile every
time. I was her ticket to freedom. Then some young guy passing by saw me
doing my fast burger-flipping act, and mistook me for a cook.
“You know that big fancy Restaurant Tony’s at the far end of the pier? They
need a dishwasher. Are you available from ten to two PM?” “Sure, I got mess
duty every year when I was in the Marine Corps; you have machines for running
the dishes through right?” “Yeah they’re the same kind as used in mess halls.”
“Yep, I know how to handle the machine. The only thing I have to know is where
the on and off switch is; ok, I’ll give it a whirl and see what happens.” What
happened was I was the fastest dishwasher they ever hired. I finished the job two
hours early so I could go drinking before the bars closed. They were really
impressed with how fast and efficient I was. So the head cook tells me he wants to
start me as an apprentice cook. It pays more money, but now I have to stay a
little later, and that cuts down on my drinking time, so in order to build my late
night buzz, I tell the bartender to line me up five Manhattans in a row, which I
down one after another, then go to one of the bars on the pier, and throw some
beers and wine on top of that. It was getting harder to get off the launching pad. I
wasn’t high till closing time, at which I staggered happily home to a small room
in a boarding house on the knoll overlooking the ocean. Once I got high, the only
thing missing was a girl. One showed up now and then. Life was good, except I
was showing up for work three days late cause I was blacking out, and didn’t
know what day it really was. The fun part was that they didn’t fire me. I was
doing the work of three men when I did work. I was used to the high
performance intensity of running up and down those hills in the Marine Corps.
You gave it your all whatever you did. Most folks can’t handle that kind of pace.
In Paris Island we started out with 73 recruits; 33 graduated and went on to be
Marines; a good number were held back for another three months, but most just
were dismissed back into civilian life. To make a long story short; on my twentythird birthday I decided to have some 150 proof rum at the place where I
worked. It got me where I wanted to be. . . . . . launched; I was high again. I
4 hadn’t been able to get off the launching pad in weeks; I’d drink lots, but not get
high. Well now I was high, and loud. Tony’s was a low-key highbrow place with
excellent food, and exorbitant prices. It was sedate with low lighting; soft music,
and me disturbing the atmosphere. So the head cook made the mistake of putting
his hands on me from behind. I flipped him over two tables twice. He shouldn’t
have come back the second time. Needless to say that job was over.
“It’s time to leave this town. I’m going back to New York, there’s plenty of jobs
in the big apple, if I lose one, I’ll just get another.” So one more time I just left
what meager possessions I’d accumulated; packed my sea-bag full of clothes;
threw it over my shoulder and headed for the freeway. I’d hitchhiked across the
US eight times previously when I was on leave in the Marine Corps, so I knew the
way. Just take whatever freeway links you up with highway 66; it goes most of
the way. When I got there, I stayed at one of my sister’s house, and much to my
surprise, my other sister knew someone who had a job for me; maintenance at an
affluent co-op building in Gracie Square. Gracie Square is where all the New
York politicians were living. There were buildings that had Democrats in them,
and ones with Republicans. They didn’t mix. In order to get into the building,
you had to be voted in. Such was the life of the affluents’
Maintenance just meant janitor. There were three on duty daily, and two at
night. I had the night shift. This building had an archway which extended
directly through the structure, and out to the adjacent street. The archway had
three vestibules; limos would pull up, and drop the occupants off at one of the
three. I was sent downstairs to replace light bulbs in the sub cellar. The island of
Manhattan is one big chunk of granite rock, so if you want to build something
there you have to carve out a place for the basement; the basement in this place
was four stories deep. There were rooms for storage on each of the sub
basements; the last one had medical supplies and lots of cots. It was set up as
makeshift hospital, and living quarters. This was left over from the fear of
Nuclear attack during the Cuban Blockade. It was a pretty easy job. The night
shift didn’t have much to do. One of the doormen was a six foot four Irish
American ex Marine named Leo, He was one of the few red headed men I’d ever
seen in my life that didn’t resemble a ventriloquist’s doll. His upper portion came
to a V shape, which told me he’s done a lot of physical activity for several years.
You don’t get that kind of muscle without earning it. He said: “Where are you
from?” “Originally Bay Ridge Brooklyn, but the last year and a half I spent in
Redondo Beach California. Before that I put four years in the Marine Corps.”
“I’ve had some experiences in that outfit.” “You look old enough to have been in
the Korean War.” “You’re right! I’m thirty one.” I didn’t see Leo till two days
later. “Hay there’s something I wanted to mention to you. There’s an opening for
an elevator operator in another building I work nights at. If you’re interested, I
5 can set you up with an interview.” “An elevator operator? You mean one of those
old ones that you operate by hand?” I couldn’t imagine one where folks got in,
and you pushed buttons for them. “I guess I could do that.” Leo: “It pays two
dollars an hour, but you have to join the union.” “Two dollars an hour?” That
was twice what I was being paid as a janitor. The minimum wage was one dollar
an hour in 1964. “Sure I’ll join the union. What kind of dues do they extract?”
“Six dollars quarterly. You also get medical benefits.” This sounded almost too
good to be true. “The job won’t be open for a couple of weeks. I’ll let you know
when to go down and apply for it.” “Thanks.”
Meanwhile I was reacquainting myself with some of the kids from the
neighborhood. They were full grown young adults now, and drinking quite
heavily. I met up with Forster G. He’d joined the Navy shortly after I’d joined
the Corps. When I was sitting in a troop transport ship at Guantanamo bay,
Forster was in some aircraft dropping loads of pellet-like small explosives on
Russian submarines. “It wouldn’t hurt the sub, but if you were inside, there’d be
no way you’d ever get any sleep. They’d be in a barrel of noise for as long as we
tracked them.” Chuckling: “We chased several subs out of the bay when we were
there.” Meanwhile I’m thinking: “That sounds pretty nuts. What if someone
down there got pissed off, and started World War Three!” Forty-five years later,
I learned from a documentary that the Russians had tactical nuclear weapons,
for use in short range. They could have wiped out our whole convoy in minutes.
I wondered why we became eligible for the GI Bill; previously you couldn’t get
that, unless you served during a war. We got it because we came very close to
total annihilation, and didn’t know it.
Meanwhile back at the old neighborhood 99th street and Fourth Avenue in Bay
Ridge. I walk into a new bar that’s situated where the old luncheonette was back
in the fifties. You walk in, and there you are at the bar, which ran parallel to the
avenue outside. There wasn’t much more to the place; just somewhere to have a
drink in the early afternoon. How about that! Here was another of my old
associates who I’d actually call a friend. Forster at one time pulled a gun on me
and, from that point, I knew I had to avoid him, or I was going to have to cripple
him, and that would mean significant jail time. No one was worth scooping
blocks of time from my life, just to teach them a lesson. I just avoided him, and
was amazed to find that he had joined the navy instead of pulling that gun on the
wrong person, and doing five years for breaking the Sullivan Law. Well the guy
that I considered to be a real friend was Michael; Michael could kick my ass any
day of the week when we were growing up. He was three inches taller than me;
two years older, and punched me out with one blow when I was fifteen. I was
acting cocky that day cause in that week I’d used the jujitsu holds I learned from
my book, and beat two guys at once, twice that week. I was beginning to think I
6 was tough. Mike was being friendly and I was being cocky, and crass; so he said:
“What? Do you want to fight! I said: “Yeah.” like an idiot. We put up our dukes.
He threw a left jab; landing square in the middle of my face. I saw stars.
Thinking: “I can’t win against this guy, I don’t know how to block.” “Ok, I give
up. You win.” Michael: Ok, now that we got that out of the way; you wanna go
hunt crabs down at jetty?” “Ok.” I was amazed that he didn’t do a bunch of
posturing about how tough he was etc… etc. Mike always treated me fairly, and
never told anyone that he clobbered me that day; at least not in my presence, and
not to anyone who would repeat it; if so I would have to consider him an enemy.
Michael was a real friend I don’t think he ever mentioned it to anyone. But it did
leave him the impression that I wasn’t very tough. Well times had changed. He’d
put four years in the Navy, and knew the reputation of the Marine Corps. He
treated me like an equal when we met in that bar that day. I was back in my
“can’t get high no matter how much I drink” mode. Mike was in good spirits. He
was drinking in moderation for someone who’s having a few at two-thirty PM.
I knocked down twenty shots of 78 proof whiskey at fifty cents a shot in less than
an hour, and complained to the bartender that he was watering down the shots.
He was very insulted and told me so. In spite of the ongoing disagreement I was
having with the bartender, Mike and I were trading stories about the places we’d
visited over seas. He had been to Greece and showed me a picture of one of the
most beautiful girls in the world. “She’s Greek. Did you ever have a woman, that
when you were finished with her; you didn’t want to get off?” I was thinking:
“When I was finished with them, they always wanted me to get off. But then
again, hookers are like that.” My response: “Yeah, I know that feeling.” “Well
she was like that. She was nuts about me.” I’m thinking: “Why didn’t he just
marry her? Oh, Yeah! That’s right. He’s Italian; this neighborhood was
dominated by Irish, and Italian Catholics, and the elders didn’t encourage intermarriage between them.” The Italians had relatives; cousins or uncles in the
Mafia, and the majority of the Irish were in all forms of city government
primarily the police force. When I was a kid my folks would always say: “Don’t
talk to strangers; whatever is said in the house stays in the house, and don’t ever
take nothin from nobody.” Resultantly whenever I was offered anything for free
in the rest of my life, I always assumed there was a string attached. Some people
like to share with the less fortunate; a description that easily fit me, but I
couldn’t distinguish them from the rest of society, and even if I could, I’d feel
guilty for accepting anything from anyone. I was taught: “You work for
everything you get. That’s the only way you can be sure it’s yours, and “you
don’t owe nobody nothin.” And this one served me well: “Never put anything in
writing.” It made me just about never sign anything I felt wasn’t a hundred
percent true. Fudging on a job application didn’t count; I didn’t know one
7 person that hadn’t done that. You had to have experience to get a job, and you
had to lie to get the job, to get the experience. Anyway this is the sort of things
Alcoholics discuss while consuming their favorite elixir. I drank and made an
idiot out of myself a couple of nights that week, in some of the adjacent
neighborhood bars. I remember mustering up an effort to drink almost twice as
much one night, with the intention of being a perfect gentleman. It didn’t turn
out well. The next day I decided I wasn’t going to drink at all, and “probably not
for a week or more, and maybe never again! It’s making me miserable. The high
is never coming back! It’s not worth chasing any more!” So the next day I drank
a bottle of Pepsi in the morning and said to myself: “I think I’ll just drink Pepsi,
it tastes great!” When you’re dehydrated from drinking booze all night; the next
day Pepsi really does taste great. I never drank water.
So here I am walking down the street feeling good on a Saturday. The sun is
shining it rained the night before; it’s brisk and clean with the freshest of air
blowing in off the Atlantic Ocean. I walk by a liquor store. I remember passing
it; then I go blank, and the next thing I see is my own feet as I’m walking out of
the liquor store I just passed; there’s something up against my lips, and I’m
swallowing as I walk out of the store. I look down at what I have in my hand. It
ain’t Pepsi; it’s a bottle of wine. “How the hell! Oh God I’m fucken crazy! I’m
stark raving fucken nuts!” That night I went to the meeting of the support group
on Ovington Avenue described at the beginning of my sober life.
It’s two weeks later; I’m going to the Ovington Avenue group each week now. I
had tried looking in on other groups, but the format of their meetings were
different. There was all too much mention of how good their drinking felt when
they begin their journey into alcoholic hell. It made me start shaking and crave a
drink. “Fuck this, I’m not going to these God dammed meetings. They make me
feel like drinking! The hell with that; I’m going to the one that makes me feel
good.” I took one cliché off the wall, and repeated it to myself all week long.
“Don’t take the first drink.” for the first week. “Live and let live.” for the second
week. My brain was so scrambled that, that was all I could hold in it for the
week. Philosophical discussion of anything was out of the question. I was barely
able to think at all. Reading was another taboo. The words literally walked
around the page like marching ants. I didn’t sleep a wink that I can remember
for the first ten days. I just laid there and watched the pictures in my mind’s eye
for eight hours, got up out of soaking wet sheets; took a shower, and went to
work. Oh, by this time I’d gotten the job in the co-up building on 79th street and
Park Avenue.
I decided to go to see Mike at that bar he frequented. I arrived just as the sun
was setting, Mike was in attendance and getting very loaded. I drank Coke-Cola.
The bartender tried to hustle me a free drink twice; by the third time I got
8 emphatic with him. He walked into the back with rage in his heart. A very drunk
Mike: “Jerry let’s go for a ride.” “Sure.” I wanted to get the hell out of that
place; the bartender was fit to be tied. So we get into his new long jet black
Lincoln Continental, and head out in the direction of Queens, which I know
nothing about. I know Brooklyn, and Manhattan, and a little of Staten Island.
Queens? I ain’t got a clue. It’s dark as we drive down the practically deserted
streets. Thinking: “Did we talk in that bar for that long? It seems like it’s late at
night.” Mike starts going on about: “Angelina! I love her. . . . . . . That fucken
bitch! I’m gunna kill her!” He pulls a 45 out from under his seat, and waves it at
the windshield. “We’re going to her house, and I’m gunna kill her.” My
immediate response: “Pull the car over down one of these side streets!” He
continues driving straight: “Why!” “Cause if you’re gunna shoot your girlfriend,
and want me along for company, you’re gunna be wondering if I’m gunna rat
you out later. So you’re going to be thinking about killing me a lot of the time.
And I’m going to be thinking about you getting ready to kill me all the time.
That’s more tension than I ever want in my life. People get heart conditions, and
Cancer, and all kinds of tension related diseases from shit like that. Just pull
over, put the gun against my head and blow my fucken brains out! I don’t want to
live with that bullshit!” He was stunned into reality by my statement, and
became momentarily pensive. “You’re right. It’s fucken crazy! Here take this
gun, and hide it so I can’t find it.” I took the gun, and slid into the back seat. I
carried a 45 when I was in the Ontos Battalion, and every Marine had to qualify
with a M1 rifle and a 45 automatic, for each year of their enlistment. So I knew
how to disassemble his 45 automatic into eight different pieces. I took it apart,
and hid the pieces all over the back of the car. In the ashtray; under the seats;
under the carpet . . . etc…etc. Two weeks later Mike meets me on the street and
says: “Jerry, What did you do with my gun?” “I hid it all over the back of the
car.” “Where? I can’t find it anywhere!” “I took it apart, and hid the pieces.
Where’s your car I’ll show you where the pieces are.” We got in the car I took
out all the pieces, and wiped them down with a handkerchief. Thinking: “Don’t
want any of my prints on this weapon or any weapon. If someone uses it for no
good; you and them are the suspects.” “Could you put it back together?”
Thinking: “Jesus, does he really not know how to put this weapon together, or is
he just not wanting to bother to do it.” I could put it back together blindfolded.
But reassembling it without getting my prints on it made the process a little
slower. I was pleased that Mike was duly impressed, cause he was always a good
friend. That was the last time our paths had crossed. I always wondered what
happened with the rest of his life. Well my sober life was just beginning. Every
Friday night I frequented a nightspot called “The Gallery.” I didn’t know what
else to do with myself on the weekends, so I drank Thirteen dollars worth of
9 Coca-Cola on the rocks, at a cost of fifty cents a glass. Granted, the glasses were
filled with ice, and were six-ounce glasses. But that’s still a lot of Coke, to drink
in three hours. I was content to watch everyone’s behavior while sitting quietly;
sifting down my Coke. The guys were happily yapping to each other while the
girls, cruised around them conducting subtle probes to see if they qualified
for…… marriage. That’s the vibe I was picking up, and that’s what their body
language said. The girls, without exception, walked around with one drink in
their hand while reckoning the terrain, and picking out the assumed winners.
One or two of them finished a drink, and a half. I didn’t talk to anyone. It was
pleasant just to sit there, and watch them do their mating dances. Thinking: “I
have no desire to get involved with a woman, for now. I don’t like what I’m
seeing. And I’m not qualified to even talk to any of these people. I’m not well
enough; I don’t know if I’ll ever be well enough to put up with folks like these.”
I decided to look up more meetings of my support groups; I’d been going to the
Ovington Ave. group for ten months now, and the craving to drink had finally
left. Prior to it leaving a voice in my head would say: “Let’s have a drink!” My
mental response: “No!” Then two different voices said simultaneously: “Let’s
have a drink!” Again: “No.” Then four voices; then six; then eight; till I started
shaking like a dog-shitting razorblades. Finally I just said FUCK IT! If It’s this
bad tomorrow, I’m gunna drink! The voices stopped. It was like they were
satisfied that they’d get to drink tomorrow. Well I was always going to stop
drinking tomorrow, when I was out there practicing my alcoholic pattern; on a
drunk; recovering from a drunk, or planning the next drunk. Tomorrow never
comes. I used this technique of telling that part of me that wanted what it
wanted, when it wanted it. “You can drink tomorrow.” It was willing to wait. It
waited ten months. Then one day I got up, and the voices were gone. At first I
was alarmed: “What if they return in an unguarded moment.” They usually
came at the end of the day: the twilight hour; or as described in the movie
business: “The magic hour” and I was prepared to tomorrow them into a
dormant state. An interesting phenomenon ensued then, although I wasn’t aware
of it at the time. I turned my life over to something I called my Higher Power
while I was lying in bed just before sleeping. “I’m gunna do this for one second,
cause I don’t exactly trust you. So I reserve the right to take it back.” Then I
closed my eyes, and mentally let completely go. I fucken levitated. “That’s
enough!” I felt the mattress under me again. That instant felt fantastic; one
second of absolute painlessness, and levity. It was also terrifying to know that
there was something out there, that had that kind of supremacy, and you could
get into instant contact with it. “What if it decided to keep my will? Would I
become something like a drone, like in that movie ‘The Puppet Masters’?” You
feel great, but something is using you to it’s own end. Your right to be miserable,
10 and strive to eliminate your misery through great accomplishments, gleaning
approval and admiration from all, would be stifled by: “What’s the point? I
already feel wonderful.” Besides I knew my drinking pattern, after all I created
it. I made an effort to try not to drink when I was feeling sorry for myself, cause I
hated listening to folks that “cried in their beer.” I always topped off every happy
event in my life with a celebratory drunk. And I didn’t drink unless I had enough
money to get off the launching pad. Beer didn’t count; that was just something to
swallow instead of water. When I quit going to “The Gallery” I found myself
drinking eighteen bottles of 16 ounce Pepsi Cola daily. I later realized that’s how
much beer I had drank daily. The building that I was being the night elevator
operator at, had an office about the size of a small apartment, of which three top
dollar doctors shared. One of them was named McDonald, one day I stopped him
on his way out, and said: “Could you answer a question for me?” McDonald:
“What’s bothering you?” “This is in confidence?” He nodded. “I’m an alcoholic.
I stopped drinking eleven months ago. My hands always shake a little; I thought:
‘Ok, I’ve done nerve damage to myself. I’ll just have to live with it.’ But now my
eyes are blinking. It was manageable when it was just one eye, but now they’re
both blinking.” McDonald: “Do you drink much coffee?” “Er. . . . about ten;
twelve cups a day.” McDonald: “You know I’m a surgeon, and I have to have a
steady hand. I had to give up coffee. You stop drinking coffee for three days, and
your eyes will stop blinking, and your hands will stop shaking.” McDonald was
right! Only it took four days. I walked around the new meetings I was attending
showing my fellow alcoholics my hands. “What about your hands?” “They’re not
shaking any more!” “Oh, Were they shaking? I never noticed.” Newcomers’
interests are confined to themselves. It’s nothing personal, they’re just enthralled
with the animal they’re living in.
I was feeling more confident now, and decided to search out other meetings, to
see if I could find anyone in my own age group. The median age in the Ovington
Avenue crowd was around fifty. The only other male member anywhere near to
my age was thirty-three. There was a girl there exactly my age; one of the most
mentally sick folks I’d ever encountered drunk or sober. What made matters
worse; she was casting a predatorial eye in my direction all too often.
“I gotta find someplace to fit in. Maybe in Manhattan there’ll be some meetings
with younger people.” I’ll say this. They were more interesting than the folks at
Ovington Avenue in Bay Ridge Brooklyn. The people at the Brooklyn meeting
had jobs in Manhattan; some of them were Wall Street people, but they lived in
Bay Ridge. The Meetings I frequented in Manhattan were near Times Square.
They started at seven; ended at eight, and were in an old brown stone a few
blocks from the big hotels; the club was on a dark side street, so I was extra
careful when I approached the place. Getting mugged in New York was not some
11 romantic notion. It was a definite possibility if you didn’t watch your flank. But
once you entered the club, you were very safe, cause some of the sober members
that ran the club, were formally more dangerous than the populace you’d meet,
on the late night street. When I first started going there, I heard a rumor that
someone got shot there, three weeks preceding my arrival. The folks there were
interesting, and friendly to me. So I ignored the rumor and went there every
week. I was now a year sober. I didn’t know exactly what day in July I walked
into Ovington Avenue; it was somewhere in the beginning of the month. I knew
the critical side of my mind the “Mental Obsession” department would start a
daily debate over whether I’d given myself a couple of extra days of sobriety. So I
pushed the date up a month. “Now I’m sure beyond a reasonable doubt that I
was fully abstained from alcohol on, and before that day. So fuck off, mental
masturbation mind. This is my birth day August 8, 1964.” My mind didn’t give
me argument about it.
In the next week at Ovington group, I watched four guys of varying ages, be
given a one-year birthday cake before the whole group; who sang happy
birthday to them. Within less than a month, two of them went back to drinking.
Fred the 33 yr. old: “Hay Jerry. When are you going to take a cake?” “I’m not.
I figure taking a cake puts some pressure of some kind on you. Four guys took
cakes; two guys went back to drinking. That makes the odds fifty-fifty. I want
better odds than that, so I’m going to stick with ‘One day at a time’ I know I can
make it through one day without drinking. Taking a cake would complicate my
very simple system. I don’t care about years. I just want to get through today
without drinking. No other day exists in my life.” Fred nodded his head with
pensive approval. What it added up to was; I was too sick to take a cake, and I
knew it.
There was a greater diversity of characters in the club, at the brown stone;
anything from professional criminals to business men; off Broadway actors; city
workers of all kinds, and none of them came every Thursday like I did; they’d
just wander in tell their tales, and give advice after the meetings if someone asked
them. Also this was a meeting where anyone could raise their hand, and be
heard, should they want to share their experiences with how they stayed sober. I
got to hear a lot of unorthodox methods of approaching the same problems that
alcoholics worry about most: “What do I say to my friends, when they offer me a
drink?” One guy voiced my attitude: “Get rid of your friends. They’re all people
like you. You chose them cause you don’t trust folks that don’t drink! You have
to choose new friends that don’t drink; that would be us. You can find all the
friends and enemies you need to make it through life, right here in this room.”
Then there was the watered down version, for the business types in the expensive
suits, who insisted their living depended on being able to attend “social
12 gatherings.” “Just tell them you’re not drinking today. If they want to know why,
say you heard it’s a good way to keep your weight down. You read it in a
magazine somewhere.”
Then there was that midnight meeting on Saturday night in a large cellar
apartment in midtown Manhattan. It was run by a slightly overweight black
man, with a large ego, and a very white wife, who sat in the kitchen with the door
closed, drawing lineal designs with colored pencils. That’s all she ever did was
draw her line designs. I asked her if I could see her drawings after a meeting one
night. It kind of stunned me to realize she had a definite style, and might make it
in the art world. She was pretty good. Eventually I realized that the black man
wasn’t an alcoholic, who wanted to stay sober. He was just taking the money that
was put in the basket when we passed it around to pay for the rent and cookies,
of which there was none; no coffee either. No he was just raising some bucks by
renting out his place for a couple of hours on the weekend. I decided he was too
hip slick and cool, and egotistical for me to listen to for any extended period. It
was time to hunt up another meeting. So I decided to go up town, and see how the
“Silk Stocking district” did their meetings. I made sure I was wearing clean
clothes. “They may not be expensive, but they’re very clean, and so am I.” As I
walked into the room where the meeting was to be held; on the wall there were
some very familiar crèches, I’d seen them tacked to the walls at the brown stone
clubhouse, and on the walls at the Ovington meetings; but at this place they were
framed, and engraved in a thin layer of GOLD. The good news was that in this
place folks just raised their hand, and shared their experiences, just like down
town. It was fun to watch the faces of the affluent up-town-ers, when a of very
old NYC police detective, described an altercation he had with his partner in a
bar, when they were falling down drunk: “We drew on each other, and emptied
our guns in each others direction from just ten feet away. And neither one of us
got hit!” The horror in the faces of the affluents was of great amusement to me. I
detested people of privilege. They seemed to be lacking in grit. Well wouldn’t you
know, that my higher power would place me in constant contact with them. I was
working the four PM to twelve AM shift on the elevator. Amo was the doorman
who resembled Jacky Gleeson in stature, but lacked his grace. Al was the
elevator guy I was relieving. He was a congenial somewhat nurturing guy, who
had made peace with the fact that whatever big hopes he had for his life, were
past their incubation period, and he would have to settle for what small pleasures
and security, a menial job with a pension, could bring. He had a gal at home that
loved him. I could tell that, cause he didn’t have the lost hungry look of a man
with no woman, at middle age, or worse; the wrong woman. Before Al left that
day, he showed me how to get into that weird starchy collar thing, that went with
the uniform they gave me to where; the hat was the same dimensions as a Marine
13 Corps cover; so I kind of liked it. I was twenty-four with a year of being nice to
my body established; I looked good in that uniform. Amo had the twelve PM to
eight PM shift, and initially viewed me as an adversary. He reminded me of the
old dog, who resented the new dog. I grew a smart looking handlebar mustache,
and stood with Marine posture as I waited for the folks to enter the elevator, and
Amo to set their bags down for them. I could see by the looks on their faces, they
very much approved of the new addition to the building services. To me it was
like being in a play, where I was playing the elevator operator. The building was
a co-op, much like seven five thousand square foot houses; set one on top of the
other, comprising a fifteen story building one building away from Central Park.
The street we were on was 79th street. The last castle in the sky spanned three
floors, which were the 12th 14th and 15th; a high percentage of buildings in New
York did not designate any floor as the 13th. It seems that many of the people in
the building trades, had a case of triskaidekaphobia = Fear of the number
thirteen. I don’t remember the name of the people that lived there, but I do
remember what they looked like, the man was slim tall gaunt and eighty, with a
scowl on his face. The wife was short; fat; kind; and friendly. She lead the way
whenever they entered the vestibule always putting her hand out to shake mine,
and sincerely saying hello it’s good to see you. There was only one problem. She
always dragged her feet, as she navigated across the thick beautiful rug adorning
the entire ornate vestibule. Halfway across is when she extended her hand. On
that hand was a nine carat diamond ring with a very thick silver encasing band
holding that rock in place. For some reason I seemed always to be, a living
breathing lightening rod; I couldn’t figure it out. My feet weren’t wet, but
whenever anyone had static electricity built up in them; it would zap the shit out
of me. She’d touch me with that ring, and I would yap and jump two foot in the
air. As miserable as the old man looked; that was the one thing that would bring
a smile to his face. I bought a pair of leather gloves, and greeted her with them
on; that cut the current down considerably. Residing on the second and third
floors were the Walbergs; She was six foot tall slim tan and fifty, he was two
inches shorter bald, and content; they were a good match. He trusted me to carry
his Stradivarius cello in its case from the car into the elevator. I think he played
for the New York Philharmonic orchestra. Each co-op had a small landing with a
half table and sometimes a chair. It was just a couple of short steps to the front
door, which opened into what looked like a dining room. The whole room was
paneled in with one-foot square mirrors including the ceiling. Well that’s all I
ever saw of the Walbergs’ place. But one time I asked him if he knew a good
dentist. He said: “I guess I could recommend mine.” So I went to Walberg’s
dentist, and had to walk out on him. He was Walberg’s age, and wanted to drill
my teeth without novocaine. “Jesus Walberg could afford to have any dentist he
14 wanted. Why did he want this idiot? Hmm… They’re probably old friends.
Jesus! The guy wasn’t even a DDS. He was little more than an old fashioned
barber.” Then there was the folks that lived on the fourth and fifth floors. They
were the Mayers, He was a short guy around five-five in the neighborhood of
fifty, with silver gray hair; a theatrical attorney, I was told. His wife was a
stunningly tall graceful brunette with totally symmetrical features. She took very
good care of herself, being maybe ten years younger than him, but looking
twenty- two years younger. They had a pretty daughter, who would show up
during holiday breaks from whatever college she was attending. Mayer looked to
me like a raccoon, who’d married a deer. Anyway onward and upward, the sixth
and seventh floor belong to the Brei’ons. It’s a French name; don’t ask me to
spell it correctly. He was around sixty; she was three years younger. His stature
was six foot three, and when I met him he introduced himself as the president of
the building. He looked a little amused by the slightly befuddled look on my face
when he related this seemingly dubious fact. I didn’t know if he was just kidding
me, or he took that title seriously. So I didn’t say anything. If he wanted me to
know just how serious he was or wasn’t on the subject, silence was a good way to
extract the information. Thinking: “Just don’t look him in the eye while being so.
That would be challenging him.” When I just looked forward; waited till we
reached the seventh floor, then opened the door; he walked out without a word.
As I drove the elevator downward to the vestibule: “I’ll ask Leo when I see him;
What’s this bullshit about president of the building? Does that mean he’s the
richest guy in this joint? Or is he just retired, and wants to still have a title, so the
rest of them just let him call himself the president of the building?” Leo: “I think
he’s just lived here the longest.”
Ok, on to the eighth and ninth floor; The Rands I have no idea what he did; age
range late forties, he had an almost French sounding accent, in my later years I
would have recognized it as an Israeli brogue. The wife had a New York twang in
her voice ranging from an Upper East Side diction to a Flatbush base. She was
blond with somewhat pointy facial features and piercing blue eyes. I liked her,
cause she always looked me straight in the eyes when she said anything to me.
I didn’t show it openly, but I’ve always detested folks that treat people who aid
them in any way, like faceless underlings. When one of them would get mugged,
I would applaud. The cool thing about Mrs. Rand was, she would mention to me
the latest artist she was studying. I thought: “She probably doesn’t have anything
else to do with her time.” When she opened the door to the house the first thing
you saw was a bona fide four foot by three foot Picasso in oils on the wall just
inside the door. There was also a smaller one on the left wall of the little landing.
Anyone who came to visit was going to be stepping past some very valuable
paintings before they even got into the house. When I’d been there a while, she
15 mentioned that she was studying a sculptor called Giacometti who was possibly
going to take an upsurge in popularity, so she was considering purchasing some
of his work before it quadrupled in price. “Jeremiah, fine artwork appreciates
faster than any stock you could buy.” Today it’s obvious, that the woman was a
financial sage! Couldn’t help me none. I couldn’t afford to buy any paintings or
stocks of any kind. I was told that you had to buy them in blocks of a hundred. If
I could have bought stocks one at a time I would have started right then. But
that’s another story. Let’s get to the next house. The eighth and ninth floors, this
was without a doubt, the richest woman in the building. Mrs. Crane. From the
forties to eighties on the east coast and even parts of the west coast, if you were
male, and went into any public or private building of significant size and used the
urinal in the facilities there; when you looked down at the top of the porcelain
sculpture you were splashing into, you’d see the name CRANE. Her deceased
husband was non-other than that man. What was even more astounding is that
she was Japanese and he was a standard American type, I could be wrong; could
have been another Crane, or maybe she was divorced, but I couldn’t have
imagined anyone getting that large an alimony settlement. She had four large
estates; two in this country, and two in Europe somewhere. One time some of her
staff from her country estate somewhere within driving range, came to visit, and
drop off stuff. There was eight of them; the cook; the upstairs maid; the butler;
the groundskeeper; the stables keeper; the downstairs maid; the housekeeper,
and the chauffeur; who was almost falling down drunk. I was amazed that she
didn’t mind how stoned he was. “Hmmm…. This guy must date back to when the
husband was alive.” Her place was completely renovated before she moved in.
The living room walls were taken from somewhere like Burmese castle or
somethin, the actual wall was inlayed into the room, on which was an intricate
fresco of a jungle scene. It was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen. You
actually got the feeling like you were in a jungle, and I had been in a couple of
jungles so I knew what it was supposed to feel like. At a later date her
housekeeper; a blue eyed pleasantly plump Norwegian woman in her late forties
rang for the elevator; when I arrived she said: “Mrs. Crane heard a strange noise
in one of the rooms, and thinks there might be a burglar about. Could you come
in and look the place over, to make sure no one’s lurking anywhere?” Ok, but
you stay close to a phone, so that if you hear me fighting in there with somebody,
you immediately call the police. Are we clear on this? Cause if you don’t agree to
stay close to a phone, then I think we should just call the cops, and let them clear
the place.” “No, no. She doesn’t want the police to come.” “Ok, but you stay close
to the phone.” She agreed, and the lady of the house stayed in the dining room,
which had no obvious hiding places. I did check behind a couple of large flowing
curtains. “That room’s clear” then into her bedroom I had to make myself ignore
16 the opulence of the surroundings, to stay focused on looking for hiding places in
the room. I searched in the closets, and behind the thick ornate curtains in front
of the windows, then crouched down into a ground fighting position, to look
under the bed; in doing so my hand touched the floor, and I became prominently
aware that the rug was wall to wall sable mink. “Ok, Now I’ve seen it all. Hell
I’ve got to get that atta my head, and pay attention to what I’m doing.” I went
from room to room throughout all of the downstairs and upstairs rooms. The
upstairs bathroom attached to the master bedroom was another mind blower.
The rug covering the entire bathroom floor was ermine; it’s a fur of many white
weasels sewn together to make a garment for kings a few centuries ago.
Apparently the weasels were still around somewhere on this planet.
The place was clear. They felt safe now, and I was on my way down to check
the front door. Amo had left at eight, so there was no doorman; from eight to
twelve I was both. There usually wasn’t much traffic after twelve; the residents
were primarily day people.
Just before twelve Leo would arrive. He wasn’t wearing the Gracie Square
uniform; instead he wore khaki work clothes, and looked like a big redheaded
garbage man. The reason he dressed like that, was cause I would take him down
one floor to the basement, then he’d walk round to the freight elevator, get in and
go to each floor collecting garbage bags left by the cooks at the back doors of the
residents, on each landing. It hadn’t occurred to me that there was a stairway
running up the back of the building. Thinking to myself: “Of course there is
dummy. There’s got to be a way for them to get out of the building in case of
fire.” When he was finished putting the garbage cans out in the court yard, we’d
sit at a kitchen size table a few foot from the elevator, and have a late snack and
talk about life experiences. He was in the Inchon Landing in the Korean War as
a UDT man; UDT meaning Underwater Demolition Team; The forerunners of
the Navy Seals. He explained to me that there were three teams; nine men in each
team. “Only three men from each team came back.” They had to clear the mines
in the bay so the port could be secured, and troops could be deployed, to capture
Inchon, cutting off a major North Korean supply line. It was North Korea’s first
defeat in the war. Leo would always have a couple of thick old books to read
when I left. There was a large bell on the wall over the table we snacked at. It
was connected to the front door of the building, which was locked after midnight.
If a tenant came in at that time, and Leo was upstairs collecting garbage it was
loud enough for him to hear from one of the middle floors, so he always did the
top floors first, and worked his way down. Usually I would hang out till he
finished the garbage, and if the bell rang I’d take the tenant up. “Where’s Leo?”
“He’s here. He’s in the back, packing up the garbage.” Frank the superintendent
of this and a couple of other buildings was asking. He just wanted to see that Leo
17 was really there; he wasn’t bothered by me pitching in a helping hand for a
friend, on my own time.
Ok on to the tenth and eleventh floors; these were occupied by the
choreographer of “Hello Dolly” Gower Champion and his wife Marjorie
Champion. They were most deserving of my respect. They were self-made
millionaires. Nobody left them money; they earned it. They had one little blond
haired boy named Beigie around three, and another nine year old named Gregg,
and a Sheltie named Billy. They had a long list of folks that would come up to
their place to visit. Lots of aging film stars, and Broadway types like Mary
Martin; (“Peter Pan”) And of course Carol Channing the star of “Hello Dolly.”
One night Gordon MacRae and Janet Leigh arrived together on their way up to
visit the Champions. I remembered seeing her in a movie with Robert Wagner
called Prince Valiant at the huge Lowe’s Estate movie theater in Manhattan
when I was thirteen; Janet Leigh was twenty-seven when it hit the enormous
Cinema Scope screen at said location. I was awe-struck by the smooth splendor
of her complexion. It was now eleven years later as she entered my elevator with
a cigarette in hand. The woman had lots of lines in her face, and she was only
thirty-eight. I’d heard that smoking cigarettes dried out your skin. I was now
beginning to believe it. When she and Gordy as she called him, left; she was
dragging on another cancer stick. Thinking: “I’m gunna have to stop smoaken.”
I did stop, but that was six months later. Lee Remick showed up at the
Champions regularly; she looked exactly like she did in the movies, her facial
expression never changed; words would come out of her mouth expressively, but
the never ending look of mild surprise never left her visage. Her husband arrived
a half hour later. He was three inches shorter than her; a sturdy Irish looking
bald fellow wearing a black derby, which gave me the impression that he was
Irish American, and he wanted you to know it. He recognized another Irish
looking mug when he saw me, and always greeted me warmly when he entered
the elevator, even in the presence of other passengers, he’d ignore them and say:
“How’s it going?” to me. I thought he was just screwing with the other tenants
minds a little for fun. Then one day I was walking down seventy-ninth-street on
the south side of the street. The guy with the derby was going the other way on
the north side of the rather wide street. He waved in my direction. I figured he
was waving at someone he knew in this upscale area. After all I was told he was
some kind of producer; why wave to an elevator operator. About a minute later,
just as I’m at the end of the block I feel a tap on my right shoulder. I turn to see
the guy with the derby: “I was waving to you. Why didn’t you wave back to me?”
“I thought you were waving to someone else.” “No, I was waving to you.” “Oh, if
I knew you were waving to me, I would have definitely waved back.” “All right!
18 I’ll see yea in about a week. I gotta go out to the coast.” Thinking: “Guess he’s
coming back to visit the Champions in a week. He’s a really nice guy.”
One night I’m doing a pencil drawing of a model’s face in Vogue magazine, just
to pass the time; at around one-thirty AM. Gower appears at the front door; I
run over and open it, in so doing I left the drawing, and the magazine open,
figuring: “He won’t rat me out to the super: He’s cool.” Gower looks over at the
drawing, and the magazine with a look of mind shock. Thinking: “Oh, Shit.
Maybe I misjudged his coolness.” He’s looking down at it at a closer range now.
“You know, I could never do anything like that. That’s really good.” I was
impressed that he was impressed.
The next day I took my half hour break at five-thirty, around the corner at a
pint size bookstore called “Burlington Books” in the middle of eighty-first-street
and Madison Avenue. Jerry Mayro owned the place. He’d bought it from a
couple of little old ladies in their eighties, nine months prior to me walking
through its doors. The location was primo. The two old gals; bless their hearts,
were selling used books there for probably thirty years. Jerry was five foot two;
his eyes weren’t blue. He was a little Jewish gay man in his mid thirties wearing
forest green tights, and a sweatshirt to match. He had a makeshift little three-foot
funky wooden bookcase just outside the door filled with old books, and a sign
saying: “Any book, five cents.” He to me: “I’m systematically getting rid of all
the old books, and replacing them with best sellers.” Someone walks through the
always-opened store door: “Oh, Mrs. Mottelson! I have the books you ordered.
They came in yesterday.” As he’s tabulating the books; in walks another woman
in her late forties, they three have a powwow discussing the latest Broadway
show Jerry’s reviewed; he gives them his critique, and they decide if they want to
see it. Then they start up a chorus of: “Super suds Super suds, much more suds
with super suds…. . . .” Jerry looks over at me, and says: “We like to
sing old radio commercial jingles together.” I said: “How about: “L-a-v-a L-a-va L-av-a, the soap that gets out tough dirt!” They started singing that one and
added a chorus I didn’t remember. Then came: “Pepsi Cola hits the spot! Eight
full ounces; that’s allot!” Then it was time for the wives to get home to their
upscale houses in the sky, with their books and groceries. They were nice people.
Not the stuck up, nose in the air dip-shits I assumed would live in this area. After
being on that job for a while, I realized the folks that put on airs, were the
upstarts that were kissing the asses of the folks that had loads of money. I always
reminded myself: “No matter how much money you’ve got, you can’t take it with
you when you go-go-go.” Later on in life I realized that reincarnation wasn’t just
an intellectual concept. So if you didn’t do good works with your cash in this life.
Stand by; you’re gunna get your ass kicked in the next one.
19 Jerry has a gal named Elaine that works part time at the store, who just now
shows up. So he tells her he’ll be back in a few minutes. Jerry says to me “Comeon, Jer I want to see this art show in a small gallery a few doors over. I think you
should see it too. There’s this new painter who I hope is going to be very
popular.” So we enter this place that’s not much bigger than a very large hallway
to look at this guy’s paintings. They were rather ethereal. The ones with the
spring colors, kinda pastel-ly impressionistic I didn’t care for so much. But there
was one six foot long by five foot high painting all in variations of deep reds, with
pin prick splashes of chromatic yellow, and minute touches of almost
unperceivable short strokes of sky blue glazed into one of the corners, converting
it into a deep more meaningful passionate dream dimension. You’re not
supposed to touch the paintings. But there it was, three inches from my shoulder.
I turned directly to face it, and touched the painting with my index finger for two
and a half seconds. The next day Jerry informed me that, that painting
commanded the highest price of all the paintings in the room. It went for Fiftythree thousand dollars. This was Chagall’s introduction to New York. Two years
later when I moved into the all black projects behind Lincoln Center, I would see
Chagall’s murals covering Lincoln Center’s walls every day; but that’s another
story. Back to Jerry’s store on the following day: “Jerry I’d like to go to art
school, but I don’t want to have to take all the other subjects, just to be able to do
what I want to do.” Jerry to me: “Jerry you can go to the Art Student’s League.
They don’t give a shit about degrees. They just want your money. You pay a few
bucks, and get to be taught by famous painters, how to paint paintings, or
sculptures, or whatever you want to study.” “You mean, all I have to do is just
pay for a course and take it?” “Sure, anybody can go there.”
It took me a couple of days to get up the nerve to walk through the front doors
of the League. When I was a kid school was not my favorite place, and I was
forever told: “If you don’t finish high school, they won’t accept you in any other
school, and as bad as you did in school, will always be on your permanent
record.” The woman behind the front desk showed me a list of the classes, and
asked me which ones I’d like to take. “Can I take just one?” “Oh, sure!” “Cause
I have to work five days a week. I’m just going to try this out, and see if I can
learn more about drawing.” “Oh, Then you’d probably want to take life classes.”
“What exactly is that?” “You draw nude models.” She showed me a photo in a
magazine with an article about the League. There was a large group of folks of
all ages sitting in fold out chairs surrounding a wooden platform 12 x 12 in
width, and five foot high. There was a nude woman around thirty standing at it’s
middle in a pose, as if she was playing a violin. The photo was shot from the rear.
“Most of the students in this class help each other. But the teacher’s available for
pointers prior to the beginning of the session.” “Do I pay for the class now?”
20 “No, that’s not necessary; you pay at the door when you enter the room, it costs
three dollars a session which are from six PM to Eight PM six days a week.” I
wasn’t worried about getting to the sessions. I always worked the weekends, so I
had two days to go drawing at the League. I was late for the very first session;
there must have been sixty people in chairs ten foot back from the platform
completely circling it. And on it stood completely naked, one of the most
devastatingly beautiful girls I’d ever seen. What made this so, was she had the
stature, and countenance of an upper east-side-er who’d been to a finishing
schools, such as the ones in Switzerland. She was one of the privileged, and I was
getting to see every inch of her from afar. I made a point of getting to the sessions
early from that point on, but that girl never showed up again. I started having a
cup of tea and a Danish, at the cafeteria they had on the premises, or near by; as
I was sitting there a dishwater blond around nineteen or so walks in with her
snack; sits at a table to my right front, and starts eyeballing me with interest.
One look at her and I could tell she was from one of the Germanic states in
Europe. The girl was my height five nine, and her body was slim like mine; with
a proportionate bust line, and legs with not much muscle development. Her
complexion suffered from having a life somewhere where the wind blew dust in
her face. Maybe she was a farm girl in someplace dry. Thinking: “She’s got a
sweet smile. She needs to start putting lots of lotions and oil on her facial skin.
And get those embedded dust particles washed out. Then she’d be a very goodlooking girl. Well that takes money.” Admonishing myself: “No, it doesn’t, they
got shit in the drugstore for that. All she has to do is ask the gal behind the
counter. They’re always talking about moisturizers; lotions, and creams. Now
she’s looking directly at me, and smiling a lot. Jesus, if she did that with any
other guy in New York, they’d be on her like mustard on a Nathans hot dog.”
I gave her a quick polite smile just as I was leaving to go to class. I didn’t want to
start anything I wasn’t willing to commit to. At this time, my idea of casual sex
was you just pay a hooker, and you always use a rubber. If I got involved with
anyone, I was always faithful to them, and if they remotely looked like they were
still shopping, I’d made up my mind I’d be gone from that instant. Ok time for
class. This life class was in a regular classroom except there was a small stage at
the front of the room. I got myself the first seat front row center. There was a
wooden chair twelve-foot back, at center of the stage. I set my large drawing pad
on my lap; a charcoal pencil ready in my right hand, and out walks the girl from
the cafeteria in a shabby long bathrobe. The teacher tells the blond to take off the
robe. I casually reach down, and flick the top of my knob through my pants
material, so that it stings a little. This discourages my pecker from embarrassing
me. Then the teacher moves the chair right up to the edge of the stage, and tells
the girl to sit down in it. She gives me an embarrassed smile. My thought: “I just
21 stay blank faced.” He tells her: “Relax; sit back.” and places her hands
comfortably on her thighs; then he spreads her knees widely apart. “There! Hold
that, just like that! With this positioning you could draw a line from my eyebrows
straight into her crotch. I took a quick glance up into her slightly strained
smiling red face with her perky nipples and periodic quivers in her shoulders;
Jerry junior sprang to life, and metamorphosed into Mr. hard woody pants. “Oh,
God I think I’m gunna ejaculate right here at the head of the class! Don’t worry
about it. Just start drawing.” I made myself start with her face, and work my
way down her torso. I was now allowing myself to do a study between her legs.
There was the same colored hair in the triangular wedge; somewhat curly and
wavy, and rather thin by comparison with the hookers I’d been with overseas.
“I’m here to really focus on what I’m looking at.” I took a quick glance up. The
girl was now sitting there studying the people in the middle, and back of the
room; making mental notes of what they were about. I went back to her crotch;
something seemed to be missing. It was like she didn’t have a vaginal orifice. She
had that thing snapped so closed so tight, it looked like a baby’s mouth when
they don’t want to eat something.
I had finished drawing the thigh: knees and shins, and that stingy crack at the
bottom of the mystical valley; if you put your thumb flat up next to the bottom of
your forefinger, that’s what it looked like. The session was over. The blond put
on her robe, and was thrilled with her first ever modeling session, she ran over to
greet another girl who was just now coming through the door as the students
were making their way out. This girl was of comparable age voluminously
proportioned, with huge round breasts; clear smooth light pink skin; shoulder
length golden yellow hair. Her gaze focused only on the eyes of our former
model. Her own eyes were filling with tears. She obviously had been modeling in
the adjacent classroom, and was mortified with a wave of shame. It was
interesting to see when they got together, and discussed their experiences, in
what I can only assume was German tongue. The enthusiasm of the dishwater
blond transformed the other girl’s perception of the occurrence, and changed it
into a positive one. They walked out together sporting a frivolous camaraderie.
It’s another day at 9 east 79th street; we’re just off Fifth Avenue, which runs
parallel to Central park. When Marge Champion wants her son Gregg, to come
home from playing in Central Park she sticks an old-fashioned brass hand held
school bell out the window on that side of the condo, and rings it. Gregg and I
have something in common; we both like James Bond movies. This era is the
beginning of the Bond films; they’re all starring Sean Connery; I even took my
mom to one. She chuckled at the part where the bad guys throw a poor soul into
the pool, and let the resident shark eat him. You see part of the scene from a
reverse angle through the eyes of the victim, with the blood flowing up through
22 the water; she found this amusing. My mom always loved a good villain. “Mom
why do you always root for the villain?” “Because they’re handsome.” She was
right! In all those black and white cowboy movies I used to watch on TV, the
heroes were not good looking. Hop along Cassidy, was a dork, who rode off with
his sidekick, and, left the pretty girl standing there longingly. He could have at
least kissed her good-bye, the dumb shit! I didn’t know those words when I was
little, but that’s how I felt; Gene Autry was pathetically homely, and Roy Rogers
“The king of the cowboys” was kind of dumb. Tex Ritter was the only one that
looked like the real thing; masculine; lean, and strong, with a rugged jaw and no
baby fat on it. But he couldn’t act. He just recited his lines. My mom was right,
the villains made the story interesting. Their rationalizations for their behavior
were always over my head. But in later years when I was obsessed with the fear
that the Commies were taking over the world; She said to me: “You know; the
bad guy thinks he’s the good guy.” This stunned me into a quagmire of selfappraisal: “Could we be the bad guys? Na I don’t think so, but is everything
doled out in percentages? Do we have a higher percentage of good in our political
system?” I would ponder these questions for the next thirty years. Then I heard
the story of Siddhartha, when he was obsessively fasting in the countryside near
a slow moving river. A man in a boat was passing by with a boy he was teaching
to tune a stringed instrument. “If you tune it too tight. It will break! If you tune it
too loose; it won’t play. It has to be right in the middle.” From that point on
Siddhartha chose balance as his principal of life. Rabbis use this principal when
they debate a subject. They change positions, and debate the topic from
their adversary’s point of view. Somewhere in the middle is balance, which is
what the Buddha achieved. They called him the enlightened one, cause he had a
light around him. Whenever you go to an extended extreme, you’re going to find
yourself at war. If you go too far to the west, you’re going to end up in the east.
Balance is the answer to peace and prosperity. The same conditions that created
totalitarian Communism in the last century, and during the French revolution
are in existence as I write this book. Marie Antoinette said: “Let them eat cake.”
Today the corporate equivalent say: “Let them eat GMO’s.” Totalitarian
Corporations and totalitarian Communism are exactly the same thing. The
principal is simply the concentration of power to dictate. A long time ago, a guy
was talking about these obsessive-compulsive power hungry folks. He said: “By
their works ye shall know them.” All right back to 79th street. Amos’ talking to Al
about the horse he just won some money on. He’s forever studying the racing
forms, and the horses, and jockeys. Later on that night at the kitchen table snack
time, in the basement Leo says: “Amo knows a lot about those horses. I tried to
get him to tell me which ones he was playing. I’d have played them to place, but
he wouldn’t budge. His horses almost always place. You’re off on Thursday
23 aren’t you?” “Yeah.” “Wanna come up to Yonkers on Thursday, and meet my
family?” A part of me very much wanted to go to the League, and draw nude
girls. I was getting better at it. “Ok, how do I get there?” “I’ll borrow my sister’s
car; pick you up here, and bring you there.” “Sounds good to me.” So on
Thursday we go to Yonkers, to a two family house with a large yard. He
introduces me to his mother who’s about my height, but makes her bean shaped
body look shorter by slouching over, and looking at you like an uncared for pug
nosed dog; she was the living epitome of: “Poor me.” And she played that tune
throughout the six minutes we stood there. “Can I use your bathroom?” “Sure
it’s down the hall.” As I looked for refuge in the one place where privacy is
sacred in a Catholic home, I could hear her in the background: “Leo, I think the
attic needs to be cleaned up, and some of your old stuff up there should maybe be
thrown away.” “Remind me in three weeks mom. I’m gunna be busy for a
while.” “Well maybe you could fix that faucet in the bathroom. I think it needs a
new washer.” He didn’t bother to grace that one with an answer. I got to meet his
nephew; a dark haired twelve year old. Kids that looked like him were referred
to as Black Irish due to the black hair. His separated sister; Leo and the kid lived
in the mother’s house. At that time in New York it was standard for unmarried
Irish Catholics to live in large houses, with their parents till they were thirty.
They’d pay a minimal amount of rent to their parents, and save the rest of their
money for the day when they met a nice Irish girl who was doing the same, then
get married, and have enough money for a house, and bucks in the bank, so they
could start their own clan, which would amount to around seven children. One
would be encouraged to join the priesthood, another the convent. The rest would
be encouraged to join the police force; fire department, and any other form of
city job that was availed to them. The reasoning behind their actions, was that in
the great depression, the folks with the city jobs stayed employed. The Irish had
a tendency to get lots of scholarships, at least the ones that I knew in my
neighborhood did. So in spite of their city jobs, many of them had studied Latin
in grammar school right up through their Catholic high school. By the time they
got to college, they already knew Latin at a college level, and then some. This was
pretty standard, except when there was alcoholism in the family. Then all bets
were off. Nobody in Leo’s immediate little clan had the alcoholic gene but Leo;
He later confided it to me, that he held down two jobs to keep himself so busy,
that he didn’t have time to drink. He also told me what it was like to be at the top
of a hill in Korea in a foxhole with a case of grenades. “I just sat there pulling the
pins, and throwing them one after another up out of the foxhole, and down the
hill.” Then one night at one of our 12: 30 AM discussions at the kitchen table in
the basement he says: “For God sake Jerry, I’m a Catholic priest!” “No shit,
Sherlock!” Who else reads Latin and Greek books fluently every night? I knew
24 that six months ago. He told me that at age seventeen his mom put him in the
Dominicans novice program for priests. If I remember correctly it takes four
years to become a priest. So he was twenty-one, when he was privy to a
conversation a brazen visiting army Chaplain, was having with the elders of that
order. “That’s like putting boxing gloves on these clerics, and having them pick
fly shit out of pepper.” He was describing the fact that none of them had any life
experience, and were expected give to counsel the general populace on their life
situations. This man was an army Chaplain since the Second World War. “Do
you know what a man talks about when he’s dying? Almost all of them talk
about their mother.” He also related that he went on liberty with the troops, and
made use of the brothels, just like they did. “Celibacy is bullshit! There’s nothing
in the original doctrine of the Catholic church that supports it!” Needless to say
the elders of this Dominican order were relieved when he left the next day, but
he’d impressed Leo so deeply that Leo quit the priesthood; joined the service
during the Korean War, and was in the Inchon Landing, and re-upped for a
second tour of duty in Korea in the Marines. As he’s telling me this, I’m
thinking: “What, does this guy got a death wish?” “One time there was only
three of us left, when we were chased off a hill by the Chinese. A call came in to
take back the hill. So we charged up the hill, took out what was left of the
Chinese, and claimed the hill back: wish I had you behind me for that one, to
cover my flank.” “I came close, but I was never in a fire fight, so I’m not sure
how I would react.” “I know you, you’d rather die, than be branded a coward.”
“You’re probably right about that one.”
I’ve got a day off, and Jerry wants me to experience a Broadway Show. Come
on it only costs seven dollars. So we go to see my first, and only Broadway show;
“What makes Sammy Run” with Steve Laurence. It didn’t do much for me.
There was a point where Steve looks out at the audience and talks to them like
they’re part of the play: “What do you think?” Jerry’s thrilled that a celebrity
seemed to be talking to him and his friends. It’s like they’re all in one big living
room. Afterwards we go to Jerry’s place, and his next-door neighbor Norma is
there. All of his furniture was compiled from Garbage Thursday. “Every
Thursday I get up early and check to see what the rich folks have thrown out.”
The furniture in his apartment was worth a fortune. Hand made hardwood
masterpieces the whole place. And it wasn’t bric-a-brac; everything had a classic
theme to it. Norma a tall dark eyed Yiddish a mama, had eyes for me. But
couldn’t consider having anything to do with anyone, but a nice Jewish doctor.
Thinking: “She better not save herself too long. She’s already thirty!” My next
thought: “Alright, I know where to get furniture, and I’m not ignorant of
Broadway shows anymore. Let me the fuck atta here.”
25 The workday is over; I’m in the basement listening to how Leo got his silver
star. “I’m sitting in a ditch with two satchel-charges up on a hill overlooking a
bridge I’m supposed to blow up, but I can’t get near it. All we’ve got is two
platoons, and on the other side of the river the Chinese have a reinforced
company. So the best we can do is keep our heads down, with all the lead that’s
coming our way. I can hear the sound of tanks approaching from behind the hills
across the river. I’m thinking it won’t be long before those tanks come around
that hill, and start blowing the shit out of our positions, as they approach that
bridge. I decide it’s a good time to read my mail. I got one letter from my sister
and one from my mother. So I tear the first one open and it’s my sister saying:
‘Oh, Leo I wish you were here. Terry’s six now, and he’s a handful, I can’t keep
up with him; he’s wearing me out. Wish you were here to discipline him a little.’
So I tear up that one, and open the letter from my mother. This one says: ‘Oh
Leo, I wish you were here the faucets leaking and the roof needs shingling, not to
mention the . . .’ I ripped up that one; picked up the two satchel-charges, and
start walking towards the bridge, before I know it I’m halfway to the bridge, and
nobody’s killed me yet. Meanwhile my platoon buddies start giving me cover fire.
So I run the rest of the way, and blow the fucken thing up. So eight months later
I’m stationed at Pendleton, and get into a fight in the slopshute = base tavern,
and put a couple of guys in the hospital. The next morning in the brig at mainside; I can see out the window that the Battalion’s out there in formation with the
base band tuning up. An MP top sergeant comes in and says through the bars:
‘Mister, you’re in big trouble. You busted those guys up pretty good. You’re,
gunna be gong to Leavenworth.’ So I tell him: you’re in bigger trouble than I am.
‘Oh, really, why is that?’ You hear that music out there on that parade-ground?
That’s for me. And when that two star general who’s supposed to give me that
Silver Star, finds out that you kept me from being there. You’re gunna be shit
atta luck! ‘That music isn’t for you. That’s for a real Marine. That’s for Leo T.
Crag.’ Check my ID, mister shit atta luck. The duty corporal looking at the
arrest roster: ‘The name is the same, top. He is Leo T. Crag.’ They got me
cleaned up, and I got my star, then me, and the top sergeant went, and got drunk
together.” “That’s pretty cool, you got the Silver Star.” “Yeah, that and fifteen
cents will get you on the subway. There was one thing over in Korea; that was
pretty cool. We got hundred guys attending a mass on the runway of this airfield,
and here comes a couple of Migs strafing up the area. Everybody scrambles
including the priest leaving all his vestments, and the Eucharist standing there on
the makeshift altar. You know that once you start a mass, you have to finish it.
So I go up to the altar; put on the vestments finish the mass; fold the stuff up and
walk off.” “Yeah, well the Catholic Church says once you’re ordained, you’re a
priest forever; but I still think you should be allowed to get laid.” Leo: “Did you
26 know that forty percent of the clergy is homosexual?” “You’ve got to be kidding.
That’s a pretty high percentage. Is that your own personal observation? Or is
that the official word from the Vatican?” “No, really, that’s true.” “Like I said
that must be your personal observation.” What would you say if I told you I was
gay?” “I don’t see how it’s possible. You don’t act gay. I think you probably
haven’t met a real sensually powerful woman yet!” “Speaking of that. There’s
this phenomenal looking black Vogue model who wants me to be her man. She
says we’d look great together.” “If you don’t want her. Introduce her to me.” I
was kidding. “No, you’re not tall enough. She’s six foot one, and needs someone
to look good at openings with. When she wears heels we’re the same height.”
“Shit man; go for it. What’ve you got to lose?” “Nah… I don’t think it would
work out.”
To the right of the building I was working in was an old mansion; built with the
kind of precision that you only saw in brownstones, and mansions of the previous
century. It was the French Embassy, but now it was empty. The embassy had
moved across the street into a building quite similar looking; it was constructed
of dense stone, like a castle. The one next to us, stood at the corner of 5th Avenue
and 79th. The destruction crew expected to be able to tear down the mansion
next-door “Two weeks; three weeks tops!” said the foreman to the doorman. It
took them just short of three months. The place was every inch inlaid marble and
stone, clear down two stories deep. Then they started to construct a twenty-story
condo cluttered piece of shit in its place. “Oh well, C’est la vie.” Meanwhile it’s
the summer time, and just about everyone in our building is vacationing
somewhere. I’ve just come on duty, and I’m standing in front of the building,
while the doorman is sitting in one of the comfortable chairs in the vestibule
reading the Daily News.” The News had some news. “The Post” always had
sensational bullshit. I liked “The Journal American” cause it had news, and what
was more important, it had really good comics, with titles like “There Ought To
Be A Law” The author would draw annoying things people would do in public,
and complain about them, in a side bar. “Ripley’s’ Believe It or Not” was in the
Sunday issue, and my favorite “Beetle Bailey.” It was about a private in the
army, and all the trouble he always caused his platoon sergeant. When I was in B
Company overseas, we had a kid that fucked-up a lot, and his name was Bailey.
So everybody just called him “Beetle.” Hmm… Just now a slim man; five-five;
black suit; dark thinning hair; angular facial features, walks out of the French
Embassy, and is crossing 79th street. He walks up to the double yellow in the
middle of the street and stands on it while waiting for the traffic on my side of the
street to pass. In this city no one slows down, they just drive right by you. When
the light changes at the corner, and they all have to stop. Then you just walk
between the cars. You might think this is a little nuts, but when you grow up in a
27 concrete jungle, you get used to it. So as the Frenchmen’s standing on the yellow
lines waiting; our eyes meet, and we realize we know each other: “But where
from?” So I walk out; stand on the double yellow lines, and ask him: “Where do
I know you from?” The light changes, now the traffic’s flowing by both sides of
us doing thirty miles an hour while we have a seven-minute conversation about
all the places we’ve been in the world. We’re naming every place we can think of,
but neither one of us were ever in the same town till now. I’m standing there
trying to think of another place, when a car mirror whisks the side of my coat.
The breeze the cars and busses made, as they sped by me didn’t bother me bit,
but that mirror was too God dammed close for even me. The Frenchmen would
have just continued the conversation, but I took that mirror as a warning. So we
parted company without solving where we knew each other from.
Next day during a session at the Art Students League, I noticed a woman with a
unique, and effective system for drawing figures. “Where did you learn that?” “I
come here to see old friends sometimes, I’m usually over at Frank Reilly’s School
of Fine Art. This is the system of figure drawing that Frank teaches.” “Can
anybody go there? Or is there some special circumstances associated with the
place.” “No, it’s just like here, except you pay monthly.” “About how much is
that?” “Twelve dollars.” “That sounds reasonable.” “Get in now. They’re
thinking of raising it to fifteen for new students.” I went right over, and signed
up; paid my twelve bucks, and felt pretty inferior when I saw how well the whole
class could draw. Reilly was one of Bridgman’s students. I had a couple of
Bridgman’s anatomy drawing books, and Reilly was on the cover of one of them,
in a group of Bridgman’s students in a drawing class. With each of Frank’s new
students he would sit down next to you, and show you the right way to hold a
drawing pencil. I had bought a couple of #4 charcoal pencils. Reilly: “The first
thing we do is take a razor, and cut the pencil in two. Then we choose a half and
sharpen it. You should sharpen it so that it’s chisel shaped at about a 45-degree
angle. This is so that you can make the same continuous line become thin and
thick to create a flowing effect. Now, you never draw with your palm facing
down, because there’s two bones in your hand that will restrict the movement of
your wrist at that angle. You only draw like that when you’re doing minute
detail. Ok, you hold the pencil with your thumb; index and second finger. Go
ahead and hold it that way.” I did so “Now turn your arm and hand so that it’s
palm up……now move your wrist in small circles, now larger ones. Now lay your
hand on your drawing pad on the desk, and draw circles like this. He made rows
of perfect circles one right next to each other, kind of like a slinky. I tried it, and
couldn’t get it anywhere near as smooth as his, but with some practice I knew I
could do it. “You’re training those muscles to move in this direction. Get yourself
a clipboard like this one, and buy typing paper in reams of five hundred, clip
28 some on to the board, and practice those circles.” As he stepped on to teach
another student he said: “use both sides of the paper.”
At the Art Students League I meet a seventeen-year-old deaf kid. He had a lot
of confidence for someone with a handicap. He had more than me, but I was still
recovering from the damage I’d done to myself when I was drinking. My marbles
were coming back, but I’m not firing on all cylinders yet; there’s gaps in my
memory, when I reminisce about my drinking days. It’s one of the reasons I
never said anything at the Ovington Avenue meeting. People would tell their
stories, and what they learned not to do anymore. I didn’t lie; I didn’t steal. I just
drank all the alcohol I could get my hands on; ran out of money, and went back
to work. They were always talking about how they stole money from wherever,
and how they hid their bottles all over the house, so their marriage mate
wouldn’t find them. I never hid anything, I bought it, I drank it. Anyway the deaf
kid Frank, decides to tutor me on how to do sign language with one hand. He
teaches me twenty-six different ways to shape my hand to represent all the letters
of the alphabet, and a sign for separating the words. Prior to that we
communicated by me talking to him, and him reading my lips. That didn’t work
so well cause I used a lot of curse words when I talked; after all an ex Marine is
an ex Marine. And that’s how I acted with my friends on my days off. When
dealing with the tenants, I’d just act like they were in the clergy. Frank wasn’t
familiar with curse words; not only that, when I self educated myself, I didn’t
bother to teach myself how to spell. I could read almost anything, provided it
didn’t have French based wordage in the sentence. Latin and Greek based words
had lots of prefixes and suffixes-e that were always consistent, and easy to soundout, such as Philo = love of. etc..etc.. I invited Frank to go to the movies with me
on my day off. I picked out one of the foreign movies on 42nd street and
Broadway. In the afternoon there were first run shows there, that would cost you
four bucks around the corner, and up the block, at the big theaters. I knew that
the foreign movie would have subtitles, and Frank could read them. Frank was
already exasperated with me, cause my verbiage didn’t make sense to him, due to
my poor spelling and fluent cursing. On the way there I thought he didn’t want
to be seen walking in my presence; as I was showing him where the movies were,
just a few blocks away from the drawing class, he kept on walking six paces
behind me. With my questionable one handed signing I asked: “Why are you
walking behind me? Are you mad at me?” “No, If you yell to me in this crowd to
turn left or right, I won’t hear you. So I have to keep an eye on where you’re
going, and follow you there.” Thinking: “Hmm…. I never thought of how many
times one of my friends said to me: ‘Not that way! This way.’ Well we get to the
movie, and foreign movies had lots more sex in them than American ones.
Remember it’s 1965. The League of Decency was still fucken with our sexual civil
29 rights. Anyway Frank looks at the billboard, and back at me, and writes me a
note. “You want me to go to this sex movie with you?” Thinking: “Oh, great now
Frank thinks I’m queer. What a fucken nut case this guy is! He sits, and draws
completely naked girls in the life class all day, and thinks that a foreign movie is
pornography.” I wrote him: “You do what ever you want. I’m going to this
movie.” It was a really good movie, but it did have a lot of sex in it, with beautiful
golden blond Norwegian girls. I was glad I blew him off to see it. I had
introduced him to Frank Riley’s School of Fine Art, the day before the movie
incident. So the next day is Frank’s first day at the school. The model is already
posed sitting in a chair up on the stage, with all the students concentrating on
what they’re doing. You could hear a pin drop in that room. Frank shows up
late, and opens up his locker to get his drawing gear out. It sounds like somebody
dropped a garbage can down a flight of stairs. The head student; who helps folks
with their work; if and when they ask him; runs up to Riley’s office, and is
talking about throwing this rude student out of the class; Riley calmly tells him:
“It will be alright, as soon as he sits down…He’s deaf.”
It’s been a year and a half of working at the building on 79th street; my mind
and body, had returned to functionality, which made me feel somewhat trapped.
Thinking: “Am I gunna to be going from here to the League, and movies, for the
rest of my life? Is this it? Is this all there’s gunna to be?” I thought about what
Leo said to me the other day, when I asked the meaning of a word he’d used.
Usually I can tell by the context a word is set in, what it means, or dammed near.
He condescendingly said: “Look it up.” Thinking: “You were taught how to spell,
when you were a kid. I wasn’t, my eyes wouldn’t see the words properly, so it
was impossible, and those dumb nuns, just hit me for making mistakes. All that
knowledge you have in your head is useless, cause you don’t know how to share
it. Instead you say the same dumb phrase they were programmed to utter: ‘Look
it up!” I retorted with: “Should I look up how to spell it too?” He just blinked at
me, like a dog that didn’t understand a command; then changed the subject:
“I’ve picked up another job, doing some rooftop gardening. I’ll pay you five
bucks, if you give me a hand with it. It’ll only take us an hour and fifteen minutes
with both of us doing it.” “Ok, but I don’t know anything about plants.” “I’ll
show you what to do.” It was simple. We just put soil from large bags into some
large pots and planters, then planted plants in the pots; watered them, and we
were done. Thinking: “Jesus that was easy, and we were done in forty five
minutes.” Leo paid me the five; then I took a second, to look around. We were
high up enough, to see down onto other rooftop gardens. It was nice observing
green somewhere, that wasn’t just tightly cut hedges, in front of prestigious
buildings. New York was never wooded enough for me. It was time to go to my
regular job. “Well that helped break up the monotony” When I dropped off Mrs.
30 Briand at the seventh floor, I mentioned my life was seemingly stagnant: “and I
might end up here, for many years to come.” “Oh, don’t worry Jerry, you won’t
be here much longer.” That statement internally alarmed me, and moderately
relieved me, as I thought: “She’s the wife of the president of the building. Am I
getting laid off?” “You’re ambitious. The others that work here, don’t have a
drive in them pushing them along. You won’t be able to make yourself stay here
too much longer.” “Thank you for telling me that.” I had already started going to
a chiropractor, to deal with the kinks, the drinking life had left in my body; I was
well on my way to full functionality, and I wanted to do something about my lack
of self-esteem. Never feeling worthy of anything seemed to be a staple in my life.
The Champions told me I could use their private box to go see “Hello Dolly.” All
I had to do was go to the box office, and tell them my name. Marge told me she
left instructions to grant me entrance to it, on any weekday I chose. I never went,
because I had a scene in my head of the folks at the box office, taking one look at
me, and deciding I wasn’t worthy of sitting in the Champion’s box, and turn me
away. That would enrage me so badly, I couldn’t chance it happening, even by
mistake. The old folks on the top floor moved out, and a Broadway producer
moved in there. They offered me a chance to see their show. “All you have to do
is give your name at the box office, and tell them you work for us.” I liked that
offer even less. So I started to go to a therapist someone in one of the support
group meetings turned me onto. I got in on a sliding scale, and had a couple of
private sessions with this female psychiatrist in her late forties. At first I was a
little reserved and distrusting, cause after all she was a foreigner. How could she
understand the weirdness of the New Yorker’s cultural discrepancies? By the
second session she had gained some of my trust, then she told me she wanted to
introduce me into a group therapy session with an ensemble of five individuals.
Thinking: “Shit. I was just beginning to trust her, and now I’m being demoted to
just one of the goon squad. Ok, I’ll go to one session, then I’ll probably start
looking for another therapist, one that won’t try to fill a classroom; one who will
want to help just me, in my fifty minutes. Then again, I ain’t payin that much; so
maybe all I can afford is group rates”
Alright so, the group is already assembled in a larger room, and I’m ushered in
by the therapist to an empty seat in the circle. There’s seven people in all,
including the therapist. Three of them are women; two in business suits, one in a
conservative but expensive dress; all in their late twenties. Then there’s the two
men, each in late forties, attempting to look mid-forties. The taller of the two is
slim wearing a well-tailored black suit, which seemed to match his very thick
black hair and thick eyebrows. He’s a stern looking fellow a couple of inches
taller than I; the other guy appeared to me to be a well adjusted inch shorter
than I; he’s seemingly unthreatened by anything; which was not the general
31 feeling of the rest of the group. Nobody seemed to trust anyone. Then I realized I
was the unknown danger in the room. I’m going to call the therapist Dane, cause
I think she was Danish. Dane says to the black suit thick eyebrow-ed one: “Why
don’t you start. Considering how congested his body language was, I thought
he’d refuse to be first to talk. But talk he did, in an almost Shakespearean
delivery, all about how he came to New York from Scotland, to be a bagpipes
player in a Broadway show named “Brigadoon.” The show ran for four years on
Broadway, all of which he was employed their in, and was even picked up for the
movie version. But then the good job, and the big bucks stopped; at that point he
turned to drink. “I’ve ceased to drink, and I’m now putting my life back together
again. It looks like I’ve got a job in a new production.” All the girls were happy
for him. The congenial man gave him a conservatively positive wave of approval.
Then one of the girls said she’d like to share her thoughts, but she didn’t trust
the new member in the room. That’s when the casual guy says he’ll share his:
“Tale of woe.” He turns out to be some kind of broker or stock sales person who
got booted out of his job for showing up: “A little tipsy at an important meeting.”
I think he was pretty sure they were going to call him back in a couple of weeks,
when they were positive he’d had some time away from the sauce. Then one of
the girls opened up, and put her two cents in about the tensions in her job, and
whom she’d like to thrash. Dane could see that the suspicious one still feared I
was a spy from her office. So she asks me to tell something of my story with
alcohol; so I tell it like I would if I was sharing at my support group; what it was
like when I was drinking then, and what it’s like now being sober. And I’m real
enthusiastic about it. After three more sessions with this group, I’m feeling pretty
good. I’m putting my two cents in every time with glee. The casual guy, and I go
out to supper and discuss life experiences. We’re kind of breaking the rules, but
Dane doesn’t seem to mind, cause the broker’s staying sober. Bob and I go to
supper then to the session, and Bob mentions that he’s gone to a couple of those
support group meetings, and it’s starting to work for him. Then we listen to the
women in the suits complaining how tough it is making themselves not drink.
Dane: “Why don’t you try going to one of those support groups?” They both get
to their feet and point in my direction, and say: “Because I don’t want to sound
like him!” Then the door to the room opens, and slams loudly. It’s the Scotsman
with the thick eyebrows; he’s not wearing his suit coat, and that’s not all he’s not
wearing. He’s as bald as a cue ball, and cursing up a storm. Dane gets up, and
guides him into her office, where she inoculates him with I know not what. I’m a
purist. I don’t approve of giving alcoholics opiates to calm them down. They’ll
just take the opiates, and drink on top of them. Anyway that pretty much ended
that session. The next week I had a private session with Dane, I was telling her
about gardening on top of the roof. “Why don’t you do that more often, and
32 make more money?” She saw a moment of clarity in me, where I was susceptible
to a positive interjection: “Do you know how much a plumber makes an hour?
They make six dollars an hour. Half your brain could do that job.” This made me
realize that I hadn’t damaged my mental capacity beyond repair. My marbles
were coming back in a big way. I could think rapidly and clearly again. Dane:
“You’ve mentioned that you wanted to be a “fine artist” = (An oil painter or
sculptor who sells work out of reputable galleries.) Why don’t you get a job that
deals with art principals, such as commercial art?” “Commercial art isn’t
considered to be fine art, by any of the teachers at the League. But come to think
of it, the principals that Reilly teaches are applicable to both. He claims that if
you have no talent at all, he can teach you to be an excellent art illustrator
technician, who will make a very good living. ‘But if you have some talent, you’re
going to be a fine art illustrator, and make a fantastic living.’ So I guess you’re
right. If I want to go in that direction, I should move in those circles, and pick up
more of the rules of visual perceptions.” Thinking: “Renoir painted window
shades before his stuff started selling. Van Gogh didn’t make any significant
bucks on his works till the end of his life; he must have still got some fun out of
doing it. Rodin did facades on the outsides of buildings before his stuff started
selling. I have to take the attitude that whatever art I create, may not be realized
till I’m long gone, and if I’m having a great time producing it, and getting laid of
course. Most artists get laid a lot. If I can’t have money, I still want what money
can buy. There isn’t a woman in the world that doesn’t have a price, and she’s
gunna make the man pay it. Aspiring artists are exempt; they’re not considered
good mates; just good playmates.” Anyway when I left Dane’s office I was now
on a mission, I’d been in Reilly’s school for several months now, and had learned
some significant rules about perspective, and how to balance abstracts, all of the
things I was learning there were useful in the commercial art world. Or I hoped
they were, cause I was determined to get a job doing some kind of commercial
art. “I know what I’ll do, I’ll just go wherever they have this kind of job, and ask
them to start me in the business, somewhere anywhere! I’m convinced at this
point that I have above average intelligence. I had proof of that before I wiped
myself out with alcohol, and thought I’d done me some brain damage; the
hangovers you have in the morning, are brain cells dying. I’d recently read a new
book, which proved that the brain can generate new cells. That was a great relief
to me. As soon as I assumed this positive mind set, and systematically went to art
agency after art agency, inquiring about work, Charlie, a drawing buddy from
the Art Student’s League offers me his old commercial art job at a publishing
company. “What do I have to do when I get there?” “All you have to know is
how to do a Layout and a Mechanical.” I don’t even know what either one of
those are.” “I’ll teach you how to do them. It shouldn’t take more that an hour or
33 so.” There was a part of me that thought I was in over my head, and wanted to
run for cover. Thinking: “Your original plan was to bluff your way in to a firm,
and get a day’s work, then bluff your way into another firm, and get two or three
days work. Then by the time you got to the third attempt, you’d know enough
terms and procedures, to bluff your way through two weeks. Even if you got
fired from the third one you’d have enough knowhow to keep the next job, and
absorb everything there was to know about it. So Charlie’s giving you your first
step in the door. I’m gunna take it. When I initially fuck up, I hope it doesn’t
reflect on Charlie any.”
Charlie accompanied me to my dismal looking room in a tenement building on
the east side of 79th street ten blocks from 5th avenue. He had with him four long
sheets of paper, and four slightly thicker stiffer sheets of equal proportions.
Inside of each of the sheets of paper was a border, defined by a thin light blue
line traveling all the way around. Charlie explained to me that: “Inside that line
represents two pages of a magazine.” Oh, There was also a line through the
center that defined where the center of the magazine was; the point at which it
would fold. All I had in my room was a couple of chairs, and a queen size bed, so
we used my bed as a desk, as he explained the procedure to me. Charlie: “Did
you bring the old magazines from the trash?” “Yeah, I got a TIME and LOOK
magazine, I already had a VOGUE.” “Good. Let’s use the VOGUE one first.
I brought scissors a rubber cement, and a black magic marker to do the layout.
with.” I had no idea what the fuck he was talking about. Charlie: “First we cut a
bunch of these photos out of VOGUE. Then we cut a couple that look like they
could be related to the same story from LIFE magazine. Next we hunt up a title
from any one of these mags that looks like it could be the title for all of the pix =
(photos) and cut that out. Now you take all these pix and lay them out on the stiff
board, and paste them down in a balanced formation with the title, and by line
and blurb above them. So we did that on one of the stiff boards. “Ok now draw a
copy of this on the leaner paper of the same proportions with that black magic
marker. It doesn’t have to be fantastic, just sketchy, but recognizable as the same
thing.” So I sketched it out like it looked on the pasted up board. Now the last
one looked like the forerunner of the other. Charlie: “Ok now you see that the
layout is the rough idea of the design for each page. This is a two-page story in
the magazine. Just do the same thing over with the other boards and when you
go in to see Harvey; he’s the art director at Reese Publishing show him those,
and tell him this is the way you learned to do layouts, and mechanicals. You’ve
got an appointment to see him at nine AM tomorrow. He’s looking for someone
to replace me, and I’m recommending you.” “Jeese… Thanks.” “Ok, I gotta go,
so go ahead and do a couple more like these, but with a slightly different theme.
Maybe pick out the title first, and chose the pix that match that title. Oh, and
34 remember this in this order. There’s the title, and the by line, and the blurb;
that’s the five line explanation of the story. Then there’s the story, which is called
the text.” Then he left, to go do the layout, and mechanicals on a mag called
The next day I went to be interviewed by Harvey Hirsh, the art director at
Reese Publishing. Harvey was about my height but a fraction thicker in frame,
I showed him my freshly made layout and mechanicals. As I did so I was
thinking: “What if he asks me what school I went to Etc..” He studied them for a
second, then said: “You use the same descriptive terms we use on all of our
magazines.” Title; by line: blurb, and text” “text.” I said the last word
simultaneously with him. “Yeah, Charlie showed me your way of doing things.”
Oh! You’re Charlie’s friend. Let me show what we do here. He gave me the fiftycent tour of the place, and in the course of doing so, he said: “and you’ll be doing,
and you’ll be doing.” And I knew I had the job. As I went home I thought: “Well
I guess I’ll get to put in my one day tomorrow. The cool part of all this is that I
have another week left on my sick leave. I was just getting over the effects of an
operation for a pilonidal cyst. That’s a cyst at the base of your spine that’s
caused by your body trying to grow a tail, and the medical answer to this was to
cut up that area so crucially as to cause massive scarring in the affected area, in
order to make it impossible for the tail to continue to grow. If I knew what they
were going to do to me, over there at Cedars of Sinai, I would have opted for
letting the fucken thing grow, and cutting it off at the exiting point. One of
doctors in the office in our building volunteered to do the operation. I thought:
“This guy’s a foreigner from I don’t know where, but he’s gotta be good, to be
able to have a practice at this location. I’m getting top talent at my union
insurance prices. I asked him: “Is this going to cost me more than my insurance
can pay?” “No, don’t worry I’ll do it for you, no extra charge.” First an older
nurse interviews me a couple of days before operation, and I tell her, you can’t
give me opiates of any kind.” “Well they’ll be using Sodium Pentothal, and that
hasn’t given anyone any cravings after being operated on that I know of.” “Ok, I
don’t want to wake up craving a drink.” Well a couple of days later, I’m laying
on the gurney, waiting to be wheeled in to be operated room, and the same nurse
comes up to me with a hypodermic in hand and says: “Hello dear I’m going to
give you a little shot of morphine to calm you down.” I’m absolutely unafraid,
and totally calm. “Do I look excited? You are absolutely forbidden to give me a
shot of morphine, or any other opiate. Look at the chart, you wrote in your own
hand that I’m allergic to opiates. I suggest you put that thing away, unless you
want to be sued.” She left and didn’t come back. I felt pretty safe. They rolled me
in, and stuck the leads for the Pentothal into my arm, then told me to count
backwards from one hundred. I thought I would get pretty far cause I
35 remembered someone saying: “Alcoholics get to count more than the average
person. I got to eight nine and I was out. Then I thought I was waking up during
the operation but I was on the gurney in the recovery room with four other folks
on gurneys, all of them groaning a bit, and one women around fifty five with an
oxygen mask over her nose and mouth saying: “Mommy..mommy..mommy;
Mommy.. mommy.. mommy; Mommy..mommy..mommy.” In a little girls voice.
Directly above me was a blond goddess of a candy striper, with another angelic
looking brunette; both around nineteen years old. My first words: “My God
you’re beautiful.” The blond looks back at the other raving beauty, and says:
“Don’t you wish they’d all wake up this way? How do you feel?” “Excellent!
How do you feel.” They started laughing, and rolled me out of the misery room
into one with a nice fresh looking bed. “Ok, now we’re going to have to lift you
onto the bed. I could tell that they had no idea how to do this with precision. “No,
problem. Push me over flush with the bed. Now hold the gurney still. They did as
I asked. Then I just took on the posture of a table, and walked myself from the
gurney on to the bed like a crab. They were a little bit mind blown. “You could of
hurt yourself.” “Nah I’m fine. Not bleeding or nothin. They left with slightly
perplexed looks on their faces. A day later I boarded a cross-town bus to go to
the movies, and became aware that I was wounded back there, cause I was
flinching, like I wanted to punch anyone who came close to my back. I thought it
was like lancing a large boil; a week later I was to know just how deep the cut
was. It was time to take the bandages off. A different doctor lays me on the
gurney, and picks gently at the bandage. What I didn’t know was that they pack
the wound with a two-inch wide strip of gauze folded back and forth around ten
times. When this doctor has a good grip on the gauze he suddenly yanks his arm
straight up unfolding the dried blood soaked gauze out of the wound with a flair.
The pain was astounding. Then he says very gently there’s just a little…” “Don’t
touch me…. yet!” My whole body was involuntarily shaking. I waited till I was
calm. “Now you can try for the last piece. That is the last piece of gauze; is it not?
“No, that’s the last piece. I swear to God.” “Ok, I’m ready. Go ahead and take it
out.” It was closest to the tailbone and continued to hurt at that point, as he
ripped that piece out. Now all I had to do was mend.
It was now two weeks later, and I was just about completely healed when
entering the doors of Reese Publishing. Harvey had two new guys he was training
to do this job. One was his childhood friend named Erve; short for Erving. Erve
had something wrong with his system, or body, or whatever; when he tried to
draw straight lines with a pen and a ruler; triangle; or T-square, his hand would
shake, and they came out looking like the edge of a corrugated tin roof.
Everything else on the job he could do, and do well. When Harvey got mad at
him, he called Erve a cripple, I thought Erve was gunna stab him with his exacto
36 knife. Anyone could see they were life long friends. Harvey was truly one of the
good guys of this world. Half the staff in this publishing company were New York
liberal Jewish. Previously the only Jewish folks I’d encountered as a kid in Bay
Ridge was these folks who had money; they all drove Cadillacs, and would
tolerate so much sassy whining from their very overweight children, I couldn’t
believe it. If I even hinted I was going to disrespect my parents like that. I’d catch
one up side the head, pronto. So watching one of these kids taunt their parents,
cause they wanted this, or that candy, just made me want to swat the kid for
them. So I didn’t have much respect for this type, till I thought it out a little.
I was six years old when I was observing this pattern of behavior with several
Jewish families in the neighborhood. This was 1947, the Second World War had
ended just two years previous; there were people in the area with serial numbers
tattooed up the inside of their forearms, some of which would look at me with a
glare of disgust. I had blue eyes, and silky blond hair that hung down like a
curtain at the top of my face. I looked like a Nazi love child. I’d already seen
enough war movies to make it clear to me, what this guy was thinking. Plus I was
psychic, and didn’t know it. He genuinely wanted to kill me, but knew that his
urges were irrational. Thinking: “You know, the people that survived in the
concentration camps were probably the fat ones. Maybe these people are
fattening up their kids to ready them for the Nazis to make a come back. But
that’s impossible didn’t we kill them all in the Second World War?” Well that
was my thoughts when I was six. Then when I was sixteen I worked for an outfit
that supplied the diamond industry down on Canal Street, with solvents and
buffing materials. Hasidics dominated that business. I had occasion to bring the
supplies to their stores, in which they had numerous hunchbacks doing very
skillful work, demanding extreme precision. Thinking: “Why so many
hunchbacks?” Then it dawned on me: “These guys escaped from Germany
before they started collecting people, and putting them in the concentration
camps. The Nazis slew the handicapped. Even the prisoners had to be as perfect
as possible. The hunchbacks didn’t resent me; they just looked at me like:
“Here’s another one, we gotta to explain the business to.” In these situations
I never felt like I quite connected with these people. The feeling was: “You’re on
the outside. You’re not one of us.” But when I was being taught how to do this
job at Reese Publishing, the only thing that Harvey was concerned with was:
“Can you learn this job?” One of the artists already working there told me: “If
you’ve got talent, you’ll catch on. You’ll be able to do this.” I had to learn how to
handle a T-square; a triangle, and last but not least a proportion-wheel. Now
that’s the thing that confounded both Erve and me. It was two circular pieces of
plastic, one slightly smaller one colored green, and placed over the other; each
had numbers and lines on them, and were punched together by a metal stud at
37 their center. They were kind of like circular rulers, so to speak. The white bottom
one was supposed to represent that white stiff paper the photos would be pasted
on, and the green one, was supposed to represent the photos themselves. Well I
couldn’t figure how to use that thing, but I could pretty much do all the other
tasks. We were working overtime to learn this process for three days in a row.
I knew learning the proportion-wheel would determine whether I could work
there or not, or work anywhere for that matter. It was Thursday at quitting time,
and Harvey wanted me to stay late, to take another run at the proportion-wheel.
I was about to say “Yes” when I suddenly realized I hadn’t been to a support
group meeting in more than a week. Harvey: “Can you work late tonight?” “No,
I have something I have to do.” “What is it? Is it really that important?” “Yeah,
it definitely is. It’s personal.” “It’s that important?” “Yes, it really is. I’ll be in
bright and early tomorrow, and stay as late as you want me to. But I definitely
have to be somewhere else tonight.” “Ok, I’ll see you tomorrow.” I halfway
thought Harv was going to fire me right then. But I had to stand my ground,
cause without the meetings my mind didn’t work as well. I went to a good
meeting that night, and became aware that I was storing tension in my body,
which immediately dissipated as soon as I sat down, and joined in to the group
consciousness. Alcoholics have a psychic spiritual energy about them, that most
are not even aware of. It is the frequency we heal each other with.
It’s Friday morning I’m back at work, and for some miraculous reason I
understand how the proportion wheel works. Harvey is impressed, but now
wants me to do a board that has the designated areas for the photos already
mechanically drawn in on it. It’s not that complicated once you know what
you’re looking at. What it amounts to is a bunch of rectangular boxes randomly
distributed throughout the board. My task was to take the measurements from
rectangle A and crop that shape onto the photo designated A. and the wheel
would give me that exact same shape, but the shape would be smaller or larger
on the photo. The size doesn’t matter; you’re just showing the printer that this
shape from this portion of this photo goes into that spot on that board. I finished
the whole board filled with of nine photos, in twenty-three minutes. Harvey kept
a cool head. He didn’t congratulate me or nothen. He just handed me another
board and said: “Here do this one.” This board had a title where the words had
to be cut out, and pasted up on the top of the board, so that it waved like a ripple
in a flag; then spec the photos, which were much larger and some smaller than
the previous board. I did that one in twenty five minutes. So he just gave me
another. This board had circles where the photos were supposed to go. I had to
think about this one for a while; then I drew a tight square in light blue ink
around the circles. (The print machine at the printers can’t see light blue, it
reads it as white.) Then I specked the circles as if they were squares. This would
38 give the printer the dimensions to reduce the photos to, on the printing machine;
then he just modifies the circles slightly to fit. Ok now that board is done.
Harvey had already specked out the text for all of the boards I’d just done.
Each of them accounts for two pages of the magazine. So far I’ve completed six
pages. Now Harv hands me a board that has a big outlined question mark, that’s
just white in the middle, and on the layout it’s indicated that the text (like you’d
see in a book) has to flow down the middle of the question mark like Ritz
crackers in one of those long cylinder like packages. You have to figure the
height, and width, the letters are going to consume, and the spaces between them;
then mathematically work out which type face would match up, to fill that space
evenly, all the way to the end. Well I had an astigmatism when I was a kid, which
made it impossible for me to do math any way but in my head, and algebra’s too
complex to learn, and do it there, when you’re eleven. So I just looked at it, and
geometrically observed various bodies of type styles in my head, then decided 12
pica width Bodoni Bold would fit. I figured if I was close enough, I could cut, and
space the last bit of type, and arrange it to fit. It didn’t work out that way.
Instead it worked out absolutely perfect, down to the last word. This kind of blew
my mind. Harvey up to this point, had kept a very cool head, and didn’t want to
break my concentration by telling me how good I was doing. The fact is I was
having fun, every time I finished a board, I was enthused about getting another
one, and expected the same type of board, instead Harvey gave me one a little
harder, to do each and every time. When I finished this one, even faster than he
could have, he said: “How did you do that?” Well the truth is I just eyeballed it.”
“You can’t do that. You have to use Algebra and Geometry to do this kind of
work.” “Well I did kind of use a visual geometry in my head.” “How do you do
that?” “I’d have to put you in my head to show you.” Erve started giggling in the
background. Thinking: “That statement was in earnest. Erve’s laughter in the
background has made it into a wisecrack, and now I’m probably in trouble.
Harvey to Erve: “Will you shut up?” Erve: “Come on Harv, it’s lunch time.”
Harvey looks at his watch: “Yeah, you’re right.” So everybody breaks out bags
with their lunch in it. Mine was liverwurst lettuce and mayo. That afternoon
Harvey taught me to shoot titles on the title machine. There’s a strap of black
plastic two and a half inches wide, and 3/8 inches thick. On this strip of black
plastic at it’s center, is clear spaces, in the shape of letters of a particular
typeface. This belt is spread between two spools so that whatever letter you want
to use on the font is maneuvered into the center. Opposite the belt is a strip of
photo sensitive paper of the same dimensions as the belt or font; there’s two
wheels you turn to line up the letter you want in your sights so to speak, then you
press a button, and a light flashes through the font’s letter, and you’ve burned
your first letter of your title on to the photosensitive strip of thick shiny white
39 paper. You just keep on doing that, till you’ve got the whole title written in large
black letters. Then you go paste it up on whatever board you’re working on.
Alright I’ve got the job, and I’m loving it. We’ve got thirty magazines with five
artists to get them all put together, and shipped to the printer. The work area
was a very large room with plenty of space between the draftsman’s desks, which
had windows to our left so we could have the advantage of additional natural
light in the wintertime. In summer the sun was too bright, and would create
shadows. Across the aisle to our right were a couple of cabin size offices, which
housed two editors. Over a third of our magazines were created specifically for
Beatle fans. The Beatles were enormously popular. Bob at the first desk, was the
one who sketched out the layouts for the Beatles mags. He showed me how he did
it. “It has to be as childish as possible. On the cover, you put lots of stars and
bubbles, and different colors.” “Make it look busy.” “Yeah, but playful!” Then
he let me finish up part of the layout under his auspices. Thinking: “That was
kind of fun, but I don’t like the Beatles. That British horn they have in most of
their songs sounds like a cat screeching on a fence. When other people did their
rendition of their songs, and did them with some testosterone in lower tones, then
I liked their songs. “Sing from the balls once in a while! A little less tweeter, and
more woofer, and you might have me for a fan.” I liked Motown; you could
dance close and sensually to it. Then there was the men’s magazines, which were
always about the Second World War, They forever had a Nazi tearing the clothes
off a beautiful long haired girl, and a GI Joe type rescuing her, and killing the
Nazi officer. If it wasn’t a Nazi officer, it was a Japanese lieutenant with a
samurai sword getting ready to behead the beautiful blond with her clothes torn
to reveal as much as the censors would allow, and GI Joe getting ready to blow
the lieutenant’s balls off with a 45 caliber Thompson sub machine gun. That
batch of mags made up forty-five percent of the magazines we published; Bob
called them the blood and tits division, cause there was lots of illustrated stories
of the same nature as the covers of said mags, and they also had lots nude girls
pix. This especially appealed to me, and it worked out well cause that was what
Erve and I were working on most of the time. The layout was almost the same
every time, for most of the material. In this era it was especially counter climatic,
cause you by no means did you ever get to see a vaginal orifice, had I stayed a
devout Catholic I might have almost never seen one. I still took some of the old
mags home. Men bought them as masturbation aids at the local newsstands, and
I got them free.
Behind Bob’s desk sat the best mechanicals’ man in the business. His desk
faced the opposite direction to the rest of the desks. The window was on his right.
He was faster, and more accurate than anyone in the room including Harvey.
This guy was originally Indonesian, and the son of a Indonesian diplomat, who’d
40 been rumored to be a member of the original royal family, when they had one. So
they called him the Prince. Harvey was bragging about him: “He can’t hear
anything, so he has no distractions.” “He’s deaf?” “Yeah.” The prince didn’t
look up from what he was doing, till he finished. Then he looked at Harvey like:
“You need something?” Harvey wrote on a sheet of paper: “This is Jerry. He’s
one of our new guys.” The prince, a kid of about twenty-three shook my hand,
and went back to work. Thinking: “Dam it, I wish I knew how to spell, I still
remember how to sign with one hand, but bad spelling might make an enemy out
this guy.” Once I’d been there for a couple of months we were sort of silently
friendly. One day I was marking photos for placement in one of the “Blood and
Tits mags” and in one of the pix was a particularly sensually attractive blond.
The eyes looked out of the photo at you like she wanted to lick you all over your
body. I held the pix up; looked at her, and said: “I’d love to eat your twat!”
Suddenly I hear the prince slapping his desk, and laughing audibly. I never
heard the prince make any sounds with his mouth. So this was almost alarming.
He was laughing so hard he partially had tears in his eyes. “Oh, SHIT! The
prince can read lips. This is embarrassing but it could be really humiliating if he
tells Harvey.” As it happens there was nobody in the room but me and the
prince. I know he wanted to share the tale with Harvey. But he didn’t. For about
a week, he’d just laugh silently whenever I walked by him.
It’s a year later, I’m now living on 93rd Street near Amsterdam Avenue;
Spanish Harlem. You know; where the rose grows. I’m married to a Jamaican
girl; we have one child, and one on the way. I’m going to meetings up on
Amsterdam Avenue in a converted store front near 96th street. This support
group is made up of lots of folks who were on the relief rolls, and the remaining
core of the group was an insurance agent, and an AFLCIO union official: Bill, he
talked like a politician with bravado and overtones, that said: “I’m in charge.”
He wasn’t. Everyone in the place didn’t mind his pushiness; but I did, cause he
sounded like a Marine sergeant, and he didn’t have the training to remotely
qualify. I tranquilly knew I could take him down in the blink of an eye. I really
don’t like people that act tough when they’re not. He was a bag of wind, but he
was sober eight months, and to most of the people in this low-lit room, that was a
big deal. The majority of the twenty-two folks in the room had a month or two, if
that. I was now abstained from alcohol, for a year and a half. In one of the other
meetings I was frequenting in mid town Manhattan, an older man in his mid
fifties with five years of sobriety said in his pitch one night: “Nobody ever died
from lack of sleep.” He repeated it several times. It was a stupid statement, but I
thought: “He’s old; he’s experienced, and sober longer than I; he’s probably
right.” So based on that assumption, I overextended myself by accepting the
chairmanship of the of the 96th street meeting when it was offered to me by the
41 “Steering committee.” In the first couple of weeks I held up pretty good, in spite
of working full time: changing diapers; helping feeding the kids; making that
other meeting during the week etc… etc… Till one night I just barely got the
meeting started, and fell asleep in the chair. The steering committee thought I
was downered out on Valium. I never took a mind-altering pill in my whole life.
In the Marines I saw what happened to the guys that did. Alcohol was my only
mind-altering friend. Anyway they told me they thought it would be better, if the
loud mouth union officer was to take over the meeting. I reverted to just going to
my midtown meeting, and decided to not overextend myself at home so much.
Before we moved to 93rd street the Jamaican gal and I, lived in my single room
five blocks from where I worked, till I knocked her up and married her. While
we were there, I was attending among others, a meeting two blocks from the
Bowery; (New York’s skid row) it was in the old 24th street clubhouse on 23rd
street. In this dingy clubhouse there were three life size paintings of the founders
of this particular support group. All three of them were standing there in the life
size paintings hung high on the wall, looking down on the proceedings. The guy
who painted the painting did a excellent likeness of the three. The only problem
was he didn’t know one of the rules that Reilly had taught us at his school of fine
art: “You don’t add black to your oil paints to shade any part of them, because
as the painting ages, the black will dominate, and eventually turn the whole
painting completely black.” Well these three paintings were about half way to
that end, which made the there founders look like cadavers staring down at the
participants in the meeting. I learned something there from a guy around my age
named Burt. We were sitting on a sofa in the mid afternoon. In wobbles a skinny
trembling wino who was terrified: “I can’t sleep! I can’t sleep!” I’m thinking:
“Jesus! I don’t know what to do! This guy looks like he’s gunna die! Maybe we
can get him into a hospital. Then I thought, I don’t know about that. Hospitals
tend to string these guys out on pills. What should we do?” Burt calmly says to
the guy “Sit down here, on the couch next to me.” Then he pours him a cup of
coffee from the pot on the table in front of us; puts four tablespoons of honey into
the cup; hands it to the guy, then says firmly: “Now drink that.” The fellow takes
two large gulps out of the cup, and says: “But I can’t sleep!” Burt as he turns
back to talk to me: “Take another swig of it.” Then we finish our former
conversation. As it’s ending I remembered what I was thinking: “Christ, he’s
giving this guy coffee. That’s gunna wire him!” Then Burt says: “Look behind
me.” I look around him, and the skinny man who appeared stiff as a board, eight
minutes ago, is so relaxed asleep; he looks like part of the sofa. Burt says to me:
“Honey; their body needs sugar, and the bee has already digested it, so it goes
right into their system.”
42 Back at work I’d figured a different way of doing something on one of the
boards that saved me some time; Harvey was concerned that it might
compromise the quality of the finished product. He looked it over real carefully,
then said: “You’re right! And when you’re right! You’re RIGHT!” Up to that
time in my life I’d never had anyone give me credit for being right. When I was a
kid in the third grade I came home with a report card with all A’s and one B,
expecting praise from my mother, her retort was: “That’s how good you’re
supposed to do anyway.” In the Marine Corps the noncoms would constantly
rationalize a bad decision with: “There’s the right way; the wrong way; and the
Marine Corps way. The Marine Corps way, isn’t the right way, and it isn’t the
wrong way. It’s the Marine Corps way, and it always get’s the job done.” Nobody
I’d known anywhere ever admitted they were wrong about anything, except
Harvey Hirsh, and he gave me credit for being right. It’s fifty years later and I’m
still grateful to the man. Not only that, he invited me to a card game at his home.
The participants were him me; Erve and another guy from their neighborhood.
We were playing for nickels. It reminded me of the card game in the movie “The
Odd Couple.” Every Thursday night five guys would have their card game, and
nobody lost much money. It was a social event. This game was exactly the same;
no booze just soda and chips and sandwiches, which cost more than the amount
you could lose, in the game. I’d never felt this comfortable in my life. I had never
fit in anywhere. The only thing that made me feel like I could enjoy the company
of others was Booze. It had cut down on my sensitivity level, so that I wasn’t so
self-conscious, and affected by the feelings of others. I didn’t know that I have
empathic capabilities, and was susceptible to the feelings of others. If they were
feeling shitty, I felt shitty. If they felt good about something, I could tell them
what it was they felt good about. This threatened them. They deemed that I’d
infringed on their private thoughts, and they retaliated with insults. I didn’t want
to have to fight everyone who did this. So when I wasn’t drinking, I just avoided
social intercourse. My dealings with folks were short and sweet. Just go buy your
groceries, and get the hell outta the store. If a girl gave me a complement I’d say
thank you, and leave. But with booze in me when it was working, I was
charming, and a very good dancer. So women were lots of fun when I was loaded.
Then the booze stopped working, and it was time to die. I’d put off suicide every
day for ten days, before I walked into the doorway of the Ovington Avenue
I’m out of Spanish Harlem, and living in the projects directly behind Lincoln
Center. We caught a break, and got a freshly painted two-bedroom apartment in
good condition with no roaches, and utilities included for sixty-six dollars a
month. Just down the street in a comparable high rise, they were paying over a
grand a month for the exact same thing. I was enjoying my work, and didn’t
43 realize my Jamaican wife who had never experienced television: there was none
in Jamaica at that time, Yes it is hard to imagine. Anyway she’d gotten addicted
to the daytime soaps; or as they call them these days “The Novellas.” At first I
found it a little annoying. Then I thought: “Well it’s all new to her. She’ll see how
silly it is soon. She was particularly interested in one called “Dark Shadows.” It
was a Novella about vampires, and their difficulties fitting into society. Now this I
found fascinating, cause in this era in all the movies, they just killed the
vampires. They never tried to reason with them. It was a new concept.
I was off enjoying working at Reese Publishing, then I had to switch to Country
Wide Publications; Reese wouldn’t give me a raise; they said they were already
paying for my health insurance, and a raise was not in the budget. Countrywide
had no health insurance, but offered me a better salary; I was making eighty,
and they offered one twenty five, but when I actually arrived to go to work, they
said: “We’ll start you at a hundred, and in a month or so, we’ll kick it up to one
twenty five, when you’re accustomed to working here.” Thinking: “Ok, I’ve been
lied to, but I’m getting another eighty bucks a month, and my rent is only 66, so I
can afford to play this one through, to see what the outcome is.” The room in
which five of us worked was small, and the only source of light was the
fluorescents above us, and they sprayed the type strips they were pasting down
on the boards with scotch plastic coating spray, which made the windowless
room a den of toxic vapors. The others that worked there; two guys and one girl,
all in their early twenties didn’t seem to think this was a problem. Thinking: “Is
everybody just plain stupid? Breathing this stuff is going to affect everyone that
is exposed to it, later in their life.” Well I started coating my text strips with that
spray over in front of the vent, so that the vapors would blow out of the room,
and I wouldn’t have to breath them directly. That vent emptied out into the
bigger room with lots of windows, where the editors were working. They started
hollering about all those fumes that were dispersing in their huge room. So I was
told I had to spray the type in the claustrophobic art room, away from the vent.
I was banking the money we were saving on rent; saving up for the next crisis; I
knew I had to get out of that room, to a safer work environment. Well meanwhile
my wife had acquired a new acquaintance. I had no idea that a 22-year-old
woman could be raising two toddlers, and simultaneously be supporting a heroin
addiction. At this time there was no support groups for drug users. Maria was
my wife’s new best friend. Then one day my spouse came home and said: “We
gotta move, the junkies are hiding their hypodermic needles in the sand box,
where our kids are playing.” There was a fair amount of heroin addicts in this
area. By my calculations they comprised not more than one percent, and there
was no violence within the projects themselves. Nobody wanted to be asked to
leave this place. When we first moved in I thought: “We’ve got it made. We can
44 save money; all of our money isn’t going for rent and utilities! We have a chance
to save enough bucks to buy a hundred shares of a stable stock, and things will
likely get better, and better, cause I’m getting more, and more skilled at what
I’m doing. Not only that, when the kids are old enough to go to school, My wife
who has a degree for work in the lab-tech field, will be able to work full time. We
regularly hire the folks across the courtyard to watch the kids, whenever we go
anywhere. It’s inevitable that I’ll find the next better commercial art job; there’s
loads of them in New York.” Then the folks across the court started yelling insults
at my wife. Stuff like: “You slut! You filthy bitch!” “What happened? Why is she
so mad at you?” “Oh, She just get excited over nothing. We had a little
argument, and I insulted her, and now she’s mad at me.” “Does this mean we
don’t have anybody to watch the kids if we want to go to a movie once in a
while?” “It’s alright, I’ll get Maria to watch them for us.” I didn’t trust Maria
with my kids. “Ok, I’ll hitchhike cross-country to LA, and get a commercial art
job there. It shouldn’t take me more than two weeks, three at the most to get a
good job, and nail down a place for us to live.” I was a little surprised when she
didn’t object to me going. So I packed my pack much like I would if I was going
into the field in the Marine Corps; the training made you aware of all the items
you would need, if you got stuck out there in the boonies for an extended period.
A tall blond seventeen and a half year old kid from our old tenement place
wanted to go with me. I told him he’d have to bring a good sleeping bag: “Cause
sometimes you get dropped off in the middle of no place; then you need the bag
to sleep in.” Thinking: “I’m gunna miss the kids, but they’re going to love it in
California, there’s a lot of nice places to play. When I told the folks in my
support group what I was up to, several of them said: “Aren’t you afraid you’ll
drink?” “No, not at all. There’s lots of chapters of our support group, all over
Southern California. There’s some in every state in the union, but California has
a huge amount of them. I’ll be just fine.” I didn’t tell the kids I was going, cause
they’d act like they were never going to see daddy again. It would be better if I
took off when they were out with the wife visiting her new best friend. So Richie
and I took the subway to the edge of town, then got out at an inlet to the Lincoln
Tunnel, and put out our thumbs. We got some pretty good rides till we came to
Indiana; we stood in one spot with out thumbs out, for over three hours. I don’t
know what town it was we got dropped off in, but it seemed like everyone in the
whole dammed municipality were wearing crew cuts. Richie had let his hair grow
to a length that made him look like a six foot four Dutch boy. In this era only the
Beatles had hair that long. “I think we’re being discriminated against. I’m going
to shave off this mustache. Maybe you should get a hair cut.” “No fucken way
dude. They can kiss my ass.” I went in a gas station john; cut and shaved the
mustache off thinking: “When I get a job in LA I’ll grow it back. Some kids
45 looking rowdy pulled up, and said: “Hey fella, with that hair, you’ll never get a
ride here, get in we’ll take you to a place you can catch a lift.” Rich didn’t think
twice about it, he squeezed into the back seat with a wide cheeked happily stoned
girl, two other young guys. I got in the front with the bulky driver, and a slimmer
guy sitting between us. My paranoia was up, and running especially when we
took off through some dark woods. It was around a half hour drive, then we
came out of the dark forest on to a well paved road, but we were still in a heavily
wooded area “We’re here.” Announced the driver. As I got out, I was still careful
not to get anywhere near, the front or back of the car. They said good-bye, and
Richie waved to them with enthusiasm as they drove off. Rich: “They’re cool.
One of the guys gave me a good size joint.” “Get rid of that fucken thing; if you
don’t. Get the fuck away from me; I’ll travel on my own.” “I can save it for
later.” “Yeah and if you get caught with it in this conservative state. How do you
think they’re gunna treat you?” “Maybe you’re right. I think I will toss it.” “I’m
sure you can acquire pot in LA, if that’s you’re favorite poison, mine was booze.”
“I don’t dig alcohol. I like weed!” Five blocks down the pitch black road
headlights were coming our way; they got brighter and brighter, then whizzed by
our outstretched thumbs, and were gone with the faint glow of their tail lights.
“Here comes another!” That one went by even faster. A five-minute wait, and
lights in the distance. Another car flies past us in the darkness. I know they’ve
seen us, cause we’re right at the edge of the road; there’s a four foot earth
embankment behind us; one step back, and we’d be in a road side drainage
ditch. One second after the car passes, Richie yells: “Fuck You.....!” A block
away I hear the car screech to a halt. My response: “Shit!” I take off my pack;
throw it up on the embankment, then step back, and take a run for that
embankment heaving myself up onto it, enough to get a grip on a bush or two;
pull myself up; throw on my pack, and start off into the woods carefully feeling
my way through the shrubbery, this is no time to step into a clump of rocks, and
twist an ankle. Ritchie’s fate will have to be up to God, cause people get blown
away in places like this all the time, and sometimes the bodies don’t get
discovered till decades later. “I don’t intend to be one of them. If I can bury
myself deep enough in this underbrush, they won’t be able to perceive me, and I
have a knife. If they get too close, and it looks like I’m just about to be
discovered, it will be time to use what I was trained for.” I hear voices eighty feet
away down on the road. I’m listening for grunts, or a report of a firearm.
“Nothin yet; just voices.” Richie: “Hay Jerry, come on out! We’ve got a ride.” I
waited three seconds; then moved cautiously towards the end of the
embankment. Richie was leaning against the car talking to the guy sitting in the
passengers seat of the Ford convertible. Thinking: “So far nobody’s tried to
shoot me. They haven’t even gotten out of the car.” I jumped down off the
46 embankment thinking: If they’re gunna make a move they’ll make it now.”
Instead Frank says to me: “Where are you guys headed?” “All the way to
California.” As he opens the door, steps out and pulls the front seat forward so
we can climb in the back: “That’s an interesting coincidence, we’re going to
Santa Monica in California. Do you know the way there?” Sliding my pack and
myself in the back seat simultaneously: “I know exactly how to get there. It’s
only a few miles from where we want to go.” On the following day I explained to
Frank and his brother Jake that I’d already hitchhiked cross-country eight
times: “This will be my ninth.” These were Southern boys from Alabama; when I
found that out I thought: “I’m amazed they weren’t prejudiced towards a couple
of Yankees.” They treated us just like we came from the same town. Thinking:
“If the young-ins are all becoming like these two guys, there’s yet hope for the
South.” Just nine years prior, I was told by a deputy sheriff in North Carolina
when I wanted to go into the black section, cause I heard some good music
wafting out from that direction: “Boy, you go down into that zone. You ain’t
comin back. Why don’t you just go into that dance hall full of pretty white girls,
and have a good time.” I got back on the bus, and went back to Camp Lejeune,
then shipped out the next day for Southern Cal. and decided to never even pass
through North Carolina forever. Anyway we told each other stories for the two
remaining days of the journey. Just as we were getting out of the car in Santa
Monica and putting on our packs I asked: “Frank. When we were out there in
the dark in the middle of nowhere, weren’t you a little apprehensive about
picking up a couple of strangers?” “I wasn’t worried.” He reached into a fold, in
the ragtop just above his head; pulled out a 45 automatic and said: “I always had
Betsy right up here.” “Now that makes sense. Good luck we’re off to the valley.”
Thinking: “Come to think of it, when I approached the car that night, Frank had
his hand right up there, where he pulled the automatic from.”
I’d brought enough money to rent an apartment for a month. There were lots
of dwellings available, and you didn’t need to take out a lease. That bullshit came
with later years. The sun was going down, and we had to find a place to sleep;
Richie was getting concerned about that: “Shouldn’t we get a motel or
something?” “Ain’t got money to spend on that.” “Then where we gunna sleep.”
“Just follow me.” I walked down to a part of the freeway that was heavily
wooded; packed full of trees and huge thick bushes; bent down and pushed my
way under the bush to where the ground was covered with dead grass; rolled out
my ground covering piece of canvas; put my sleeping bag on it, and rolled the
bag out. Rich followed my example and did likewise. The bushes we were settling
under were on a hill with a thirty-degree incline. You just situate yourself with
your feet pointing down hill. I’d done it numerous times on training missions in
the field. When we woke, it was time to find a diner; buy a cheap breakfast; a
47 paper, and hunt up a job. “We should be able to find something in here for you
to do too.” The special, was two eggs; hash-brown potatoes, and a cup of coffee
for ninety-nine cents. If you wanted toast, then you had to buy the coffee for
another twenty cents, but there were virtually unlimited refills. The coffee was
pretty good; it didn’t become undrinkable till five years later. A law was passed
banning numerous pesticides the factory farm industry was using on all their
crops. Shortly thereafter the coffee that you could get at a Bob’s Big Boy café;
which previously was delicious for thirty-five cents a cup with three refills
suddenly turned rancid-ly; caustic. It amazed me that so many people still drank
it. I tried to make it palatable by drowning it in milk and honey then gave up,
and started drinking tea. But first I declared my suspicions to my learned
collegues from in the support groups: “I think they took all those insecticides
they couldn’t use here, and sold them for a song, to the coffee growers down
there in Brazil! I can actually taste insecticide in this coffee.” That’s when I quit
coffee. Ok back to the diner. Rich noticed an ad in the paper, for a place where
they had one room cabins for rent, for fifteen dollars a week. “There’s got to be
something very wrong with them, to go for that price.” Richie: “Why don’t we go
look and see?” “Ok we can hitchhike through Laurel Canyon, and be at this
place in North Hollywood within the hour. I don’t know why they call it North
Hollywood. It’s all the way out in the San Fernando Valley, twenty miles away
from the real Hollywood.” “Who cares? Let’s go see the cabins.” We step out of
the greasy spoon into the open area, and suddenly Rich looks up like someone in
the sky is stalking him; grabs his shoulders and tremors a little. “What are you
looking at?” “There’s no buildings up there, to protect me.” Thinking: “Holy
shit! Richie’s got agoraphobia.” “Comon we’ll get into the canyon and the hills
will protect you.” A five foot ten, twenty-five year old nurse, picks us up, and
brings us all the way to the cabins in North Hollywood; Rich and her were
discussing brands of weed on the way. The cabins are functional but barren,
except for a good well functioning bathroom with hot and cold running water.
“Good enough for me.” I close the deal and get a receipt, which the manager is
almost reluctant to forfeit. In the course of so doing I ask if it’s possible to pay
for two weeks. “No this place is going to be torn down in three weeks.” Thinking:
“Now I know why it’s so cheap.” As soon as I’d close the deal, and Rich and I
have some place to temporally live, the nurse says to Rich: “Would you like to
come over to my pad, and have a sandwich or something?” Rich to me: “I’m
going with her to her place for a while.” “Ok, I’ll see you if, and when you come
back. When he got back around four AM, I expected him to be smelling like
Marijuana, but had no aroma at all, and his agoraphobia was gone.
The next day I hitched to the other side of Laurel Canyon bought a Los Angeles
Times, and hunted through the classifieds for commercial art jobs. There were
48 more than I expected, but several were asking for folks that could do “color
separation.” I later learned that phrase meant cutting film into film. You cut a
shape; let’s say a bottle out of a piece of colored film; so now you have this piece
of film that looks like a bottle, next you have to take a 11x 8 1/2 piece of
kodachrome colored film of clouds with the sun shining through them as it sets in
the western sky, then decide on the perfect place to insert the brand name bottle
so that it looks like it just somehow appeared there like magic. Don’t forget at
this time there was no such thing as personal computers. You take the bottle and
trace it on to the sunset film with a razors pointy edge at a forty-five degree
angle; just as you had cut it from the former piece of film. So when you transfer
it to the sunset film it’s like taking a whole apple pie out of one of those beveled
pie tins and placing it in another beveled pie tin, except it’s not pie, it’s film. I got
a job trying out to do this work, and was quite successful at it. But the guy that
was teaching the skill, was to be replaced by me, and he didn’t really want to
leave this job, so when I did the first cut perfectly, he told me I wasn’t doing it
right, and directed me to reverse the angles which would weaken the edges and
make the bottle fall through. Then he of course told the boss I didn’t possess the
skill to do the job. I just completed the week, collected my hundred and twentyfive dollar paycheck, and thought: “Now I know how to cut film into film.”
Meanwhile Rich is over at the nurses house all week most of the day. Apparently
she goes to work; he stays home, and watches her TV, then she comes home; they
eat and, I assumed, smoked some pot together. One day they invite me in after
they’d smoked. “I don’t want to risk a contact high from the scent of that stuff in
your house. Nurse: “My house doesn’t smell of weed!” I step in the door and am
amazed that I can’t detect even the slightest hint of an aroma, which is pretty
astounding cause on the way down their street, I could tell you the exact three or
four houses on that block where the occupants were blowing grass, by just
walking down the side walk. Since I stopped smoking cigarettes, my sense of
smell was second to none. “I know you were smoking before I came here, I could
tell by the way you were sounding on the phone. What? Did you smoke in the
back yard or something?” The nurse Karen: “No. Come into the kitchen; I’ll
show you what we did.” She pulls out a bottle of Heinz vinegar sets it on the
counter; takes the cap off, and sets it down next to the bottle. I look dubiously at
her. Karen: “The vinegar absorbs all of the smell.” “How long does it take?”
“Fifteen or twenty minutes.” It’s amazing all the shit I know now, that’s never
been any use to me. The next thing that happens is Karen breaks out this book
that looks to be the size of a medium volume phone book, the title of which was
something like “The Pharmaceutical Hand Book” then she and Richie proceed to
go though it as if it was the turn of the century, and they were out on the prairie,
getting ready to order something from Sears and Roebuck. She’s reading from
49 the text, and explaining what kind of a high each of the pills she’s already
sampled will provoke. Richie is listening with great intent. I decide to make my
exit, and suddenly Karen turns caustic, like she’s another person; an older
condemning sort, then just as abruptly she switches back to her reasonably
congenial self. I couldn’t access it as a different part of her personality. It was a
completely different person. At that time I had no knowledge of “walk in’s” = A
person wandering on the Astral plane who cannot perceive the doorway to their
next incarnation; So when someone’s body is vulnerable they step in; say a few
words, and step back out before there is conflict in the body. It’s kind of like
when you pour oil into water; at first it looks like it’s going to mix, but then it
doesn’t. This would happen several times till I just avoided the pill-popping
nurse. So here I am walking towards the valley through Laurel Canyon, and I see
a Movie shooting company set up on the opposite side of the road. There’s one
lone individual standing at its edge, obviously part of the ensemble, but being
contemplatively introspective. He’s closer to the street than the others, and is
staring in my direction as the distance between us closes; we’re separated by the
width of the road. He gives me this look of: “What the hell is that?” I almost took
it as a challenge; like he was going to charge across the street, and accost me for
some imagined malady. “I’ve just left one nut case. What is this? Another one to
deal with. Hmm…. He’s about six-two, and lean; could be a real dangerous nut
case….. Wait a minute! That’s Clint Eastwood…. Oh I get it he’s practicing his:
“What…. the hell… is THAT!” look on me. I’ve seen him do it in several of his
movies. He’s just acting. It’s pretty chicken shit to try it out on an innocent by
passer, to see if you can get a reaction. Fuck him! I’m gunna discount him. I
walked the rest of the way through the canyon asking myself if I should have said
something to the guy. At present it’s forty years later, and after watching him
talk to an empty chair; I’m sure I did the right thing.
I found employment at a publishing company in the middle of the valley; they
were the principal company for the proliferation of pornographic crotch shots.
The law had changed, and everybody wanted to know what pussy really looked
like, especially teenagers. I don’t remember the name of the company but it
started with a P, Parliament; maybe, but I can’t be sure. One day I dropped a
meeting book from my support group on the floor, and someone picked it up
then said: “Whose is this?” I picked it out of his hand and said: “It’s mine.”
I didn’t think anything of it, cause he was the type no one I’d known in my life
ever took seriously; pudgy; white man; fop. But a day later, the boss gave me a
line of bullshit about: “This job probably has too much pressure for someone like
you.” He sent me over to another side of the building to paste up pages into
pocket books. I figured: “Fuck em they’re still paying me $125 a week I’ll just do
this for a couple of weeks, while I find a job where the pornographers are not
50 prejudiced against alcoholics. They fired me within the next three days. “Next
time I drop a meeting schedule I’ll say: “Isn’t that yours?” to whoever picks it
When I get back at the cabins, I’m warned that Martin, the knife welding
Mexican is in the area: “Stay away from him.” I’m no sooner warned, than here
he is sitting on the wooden steps of a cabin across from our own. Richie isn’t
back yet from Karen’s. Martin is whittling a piece of wood with a shop knife. It’s
much like a paring knife. He points it at me like a nun would point a pointer, and
says: “Hay you come here.” One look at him and I know what kind of a kid he’s
got inside of him; it’s someone who loves everybody, and when they act like they
can’t trust him, and don’t like him, his feelings are so hurt, he has to hurt them.
He’s seated three steps up on the stairs, with the knife resting on his knee pointed
outward. I walk directly up to him, and lean my stomach onto the point of the
knife; smile at him and say: “Yeah. What do you want.” He immediately says: “I
like you.” “I like you too!” This was said in all sincerity. Friends like Martin are
a good thing to have. He introduces me to all the other five or so alcoholics,
sitting there drinking slightly farther up the steps. One in particular stood out.
He was 55; lean; tired looking, with a skin tone of dark mustard, and a squirrel
monkey on his shoulder. The man had serious liver trouble. When I got
moderately familiar with the group in the next couple of days, I decided to tell Al
that I thought he should come to a meeting of my support group with me. He
declined saying he didn’t think they could help him: “But I do think I’m gunna
drink a little less this week.” Martin’s reaction: “Al. You worry too maaaach!”
“No, seriously Martin, he’s pretty sick. You turn that color when your liver’s
going. I know about it; I turned that way twice. But I still looked a little better
than him!” Al: “Nah” taking a swig: I’m not ready for no support group yet.”
Well the next day when I arrived at the cabin area, all the guys were sitting there
on the stairs with huge grins on their faces. Martin was sitting next to Al saying:
“Don’t worry about it Al.” Even Martin was having a hard time keeping a
straight face. My comment: “What’s going on. Did Al get hit by a car or
something?” Al: “No. I’m all right.” “You don’t look alright. You look like
you’re in pain, there’s tears in your eyes. Is your liver hurting? What’s goin on?”
“I’ll tell ya. But ya got to promise not to laugh.” “All right! I promise not to
laugh.” “Well……..I was really drunk, and decided to take a shower……..When
I got atta the shower I felt dizzy, and fell face down on my bed. I couldn’t move, I
was passing out, and my monkey tried to fuck me.” One of the guys on the top
row, suppressed a snicker. Meanwhile I’ve bitten the inside of my cheeks so hard
to keep from laughing that I can taste blood. “Al I think its time you went to a
meeting with me.” “Maybe you’re right.” So the next day we drive to a meeting
in a car I’d just purchased for a hundred dollars from a junkyard. Our
51 destination is a clubhouse owned by some members of the support group, it’s on
Radford street, a block from CBS studios. When you walk into the place there’s
a bunch of wooden lawn chairs on both sides of the rectangle shaped room. The
chairs are filled with older members of this club. The remainder of the room is
an aisle leading to a coffee bar. So we pony on up to the bar, and order a couple
of coffees. As were seated there at the bar Al looks intensely at the guys sitting in
the lawn chairs reading papers and having conversations about bit parts in
movies, and stunt work. We finish our coffee, and Al yellow as ever, wants to
leave. As we’re exiting the door, he looks back at the men in the chairs and says:
“These are real alckies! When I’m ready to quit, I’m gunna come back here.”
I’m thinking: “He won’t be alive to come back here.” I had occasion to go to
another meeting somewhere in the east side of North Hollywood; it was a good
size gathering of support group fellowship, and it was pointed out to me that a
particular member was there. His name was Sol; six two; slim; mid fifties; wavy
gray hair. He was a realtor, and was wearing what was the style of suit jacket
worn by plain-clothes cops. It was a pattern of browns some faded orange and
yellow large squares. It resembled some bad wallpaper designs. Someone told
me: “That’s the guy that started the saying” ‘Keep coming back’
As time and events moved on, I found myself divorced, and frequenting this
club. The twelve PM gatherings there had an open podium where you could just
walk up there, and share what your thoughts of the day were, in relation to
staying abstained from alcohol. I was putting my two cents in regularly now. I’d
just finished when a man of about fifty, but much younger looking; he looked
about thirty-five; a boyish thirty-five at that said to me: “Could I talk to you for
a moment?” “Sure. What would you like to talk about?” “Maybe we should go to
Carrols, I don’t want to disrupt the meeting.” “Sure.” I thought: “This should be
interesting.” I recognized him as an old actor, who was in a lot of Lone Ranger
movies. He asked me to tell him about my life. Well up to this point I’d been
through hell and high water. So I reiterate the events of my sojourning. “You
know I was part of the Fox star system, and I’ve met all of the big stars of that
era, but I’ve only encountered four people, who’ve had lives as interesting as
yours.” He said his name was Bobby. “Do you mind if I call you Bob?” “If you
like.” Whenever I met him at that meeting or others, we’d go to coffee and
discuss movies; I’d seen tons of them in NYC cause I had no peer group, and lots
of time on my hands on the weekends, before I was married. Now that I was
single again, most of my spare time was spent sniffing around the eligible young
women who were now frequenting support group clubs in much greater
numbers. There were dances, and after the meeting coffee shop gatherings now.
The last year of my marriage was void of sex, so I was like a guy who’s done a
year in prison. They come out very horny. I picked up a couple of girls here, and
52 there, and fucked their brains out. There were folks that thought that this sort of
behavior would cause the girl to go back out and drink again. That was fifties
and early sixties thinking. This was the early seventies. Terms like: “Make love
not war.” were taken seriously, and often. Many of the girls I encountered told
me: “I like that guy over there, but I’ve never made love sober.” “You know
what? He’s probably never made love sober either, he’s pretty new to the
support group.” And then I’d recommend them to get this one woman for a
sponsor in the group who’d be supportive for them to: “Go ahead and have some
sex, it’s not a crime.” There were some old bitches who fucked everyone they
could get their hands on, when they were drunken starlets in shows like the
original Star Trek of 1966, and later in the seventies when they joined the
support groups and got dry; they insisted on giving unsolicited direction to the
young, un-faded beauties of the assembly, such as: “We come to this group to
save our ass, not to show it.” Women like this reeked of jealousy, and would put
so much pressure on whatever flock of newbie’s they could gather; that within a
year, most of their group would be out in the bars looking for relief from the
guilt tripping that was cast upon them. My one and only sponsee at that time
complained that one of the older guys was bedding numerous girls from the
Radford club house: “They were all new girls.” “He’s performing a service. How
many of the girls that he’s slept with has gone back to the bars?” “Only one out
of eleven in this last year.” “That’s because he didn’t just bone them. He taught
them something about how to stay sober. Sure he had fun, but so did they. Most
of them would have gone back out to the bars looking to pick up someone to
scratch that eternal itch. None of them considered him marriage material. So
everyone got their needs met, and they’re all still sober. Nothing succeeds like
success. You’re just jealous cause you have a year abstained from alcohol, and he
has four. So the girls sense that he has something to offer in the way of sober
experience. When you’ve got four years you might turn into him. But I doubt it.
Your basic character is less superficial. You’ll probably have four affairs; then
find that special gal and marry her. To them this guy is a course in sexual
sobriety; nothing more. Women are very practical.”
I moved to the east side of Hollywood one block from the border of Silver Lake,
well away from the sparkly lit up area of the town. On this side of the
municipality were several meeting places of the support groups, one of which was
half straight and half gay. It was the most entertaining meeting I’d frequented in
that era. At the right side of the meeting was a gay clique, and the rest was all
mixed together. It was the glibbest meeting ever. Bobby would show up at one
infrequently, and mix with some of the gay men who were: “In the business.”
Show biz; most of them had drank their way out, just like he did. He’d sit next to
me part of the time, and then leave early. I knew that Bob found me interesting,
53 but was convinced that his only doings with me would be in the realm of intellect.
When we were talking in the chain restaurants after the meetings he told me he
was writing now, and say things like: “It’s simple to write a script; all you have
to remember is Present; confuse, and resolve. The movies they are making today
aren’t doing very well, cause they leave out the resolve part at the end. When you
go to the theater, you go there to be entertained. What these idiots are doing
today, is making protest films with no direction in them, and no role models to
fashion your behavior after. They just throw-up on you, and let you go home and
clean it up.” “Yeah I agree with you. A movie should entertain and inform, like
in the Godfather when he says: ‘One lawyer with his briefcase, can steal more
than ten men with guns.’ Never a truer phrase was spoken in this era. I already
knew that, but there were lots of people that never thought about it till that
movie came out. When I was having my education beat into me as a kid, I got the
impression that you weren’t allowed to write, unless you got good grades in
English. In one of the meetings I met a man named Shan who’d just acquired a
job paying forty thousand a year writing for I know not what? But that would be
the equivalent of one-hundred and twenty-thousand in today’s market. I asked
him: “How do you become a writer?” I think he was trying to be a little snide
when he answered: “You write!” It had the exact opposite effect. He had just
given me permission to ignore all the scholastic rules, and write my first book.
“Dam the spelling. I’ll get a secretary who is dedicated to structure, and let him
or her correct all my spelling, but change nothing in the way of my original
creative grammar.
Bobby’s convinced I have talent, and I’m going to this school called Theater
Arts on Wilshire Boulevard, I turn out to be one of the best at whatever they’re
teaching there, cause I can cry on cue; the advantage of having had so much
misery in my life. There was a part of one class where the guy teaching it says:
“How many of you have had such a down turn in your life, that you considered
suicide?” In that group of twenty-five, me and one other guy on the other side of
the room raised our hands, as the rest of the assemblage looked on in horror. He
and I looked at each other with a knowing nod.
I’m frequenting meetings of the support group on the west side of LA now, and
in some of the more youthful meetings all over the San Fernando Valley. There’s
an enormous influx of kids that are strung out on LSD (acid) and various pills
they could get on the street. They did some alcohol, but it was not as available as
these drugs they could buy, from other teens at their local high school. The oldtimer alcoholic support group members decided to compose a meeting for their
newly addicted offspring. I was invited to this meeting by those parents cause I
was relatively young, and had five years abstinence from alcohol, which was the
only drug I had ever used. The meeting was held in an indoor basketball court
54 with nice hard wood floors. The parents sat well back in the bleachers, and all
around the outside of a two-row circle of chairs at the center of the room in
which the youthful participants were seated. The kids started telling stories to
each other in turn about their escapades, ups and downs of their using, and
drinking careers. I chose to watch from a seat in the bleaches unaffiliated with
either group, while thinking: “This is never gunna work. They’re just saying
what their parents sitting out there in the bleachers want to hear, and as soon as
their folks’ guard is down; they’re off and running.” I was completely wrong;
within five years, only ten percent of that group went back out to using and
drinking. Within fifteen years they were the core of the horde that called
themselves the “New Timers” in the support groups, because they had as much
time abstained as the older people who came into the support groups at ages
thirty five to forty, and were called the “Old Timers” cause they had more than
20yrs abstained from alcohol, and now drugs also, cause just about no one in that
following twenty years, and since hadn’t indulged in both. Alcoholics have an
obsession of the mind; which is always planning their next drunk; it’s coupled
with a compulsion of the body to keep on drinking once you’ve swallowed the
first gulp. The ancient Chinese used to have a saying that described alcoholics
perfectly: “The man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink
takes the man.” An alcoholic cannot predict what his behavior will be after he
takes the first drink of alcohol. He can have some control in his younger years,
but the ability to sweat out alcohol in a normal manner from his body diminishes
with each aging moment. Someone who doesn’t have what I call the alcoholic
gene, can get strung out on drugs; get off of drugs, and drink alcohol socially,
and have no problem stopping at say the third drink. This is a physical
impossibility for a genetic alcoholic of thirty years and up. There are exceptions
to this rule, but they are on the down side. There are some young alcoholics who
are instantly unable to discard alcohol from their systems. It’s as if they were
aged prematurely; their body retains the alcohol for longer and longer periods; it
leaches out of the body much slower.
Ok back to me, and my sober journey. It’s been almost five years, and in all
that time I hadn’t had a sponsor; whom of which is supposed to teach you the
finer points of staying sober for life. Most folks that have one, seem to have a
much better chance of survival. After my first three and a half years in the
support groups, I asked an older fellow if he could sponsor me. “I don’t think I
could help you” was the response I got. So I waited another year before I asked
someone else. “I don’t think I could help you” This made me think: “Am I some
kind of extra special sick!” Then what you call a circuit speaker came to a
meeting I was attending. He was considered a brilliant oracle; always challenging
the assumed methods with a questioning mind, you might say he was the Socrates
55 of the support groups on our side of the nation. I caught him at a weak moment
and said: “Would you be my sponsor?” “No, but I’ll be your friend.” was his
response. “Ok, friend. Would you mind listening to my inventory?” An inventory
was the ensemble of your dastardly deeds, which you swore to yourself, you’d
never tell to anyone. They would set back there in your consciousness, weighing
down your self-esteem; cause who could be worthy of happiness, having done
such awful things. Everyone had something large or small, they wished had never
happened to them, and kept it as a secret, to be brought to their grave. These
things were the propulsion for the obsession of the mind. Eliminate them, and the
obsession of the mind became moot. That demanding voice in one’s head, that so
often would say: “Let’s have a drink” would be silenced. So it was an important
step on the stairway to survival. Artie accepted my challenge. Most inventories
are around four to ten pages long, and deal with what was commonly known as
the wreckage of the past, meaning the drinking period of the participant’s life.
And were usually done within the first six months of the participant’s period of
abstinence from alcohol. My inventory included the psychological landscape of
not only the period I’d drank, but also the period of the last five years of
abstinence thereof. I read him one hundred and seventy eight pages of my
inventory, which he listened to with a dreary visage till half way through,
I realized there was a pattern to my behavior. “I’ve been doing the same thing,
over and over!” Artie in a morose voice: “I thought you’d never see it.” “Ok, I
see it now, and thank you for listening to all that crap.” “You’re welcome. You’re
welcome.” Later in our association at a luncheon, Art was telling me about a big
convention that he’d attended. The groups were free, but this convention cost
money to get in, and I felt that violated the “For free and for fun principal.”
which was the way most of the main speakers were presented in the regular
meetings. Main speakers were folks that were really good at presenting the
principals of the support groups in an entertaining story form, from the podium.
At this particular convention the main speaker was one of the founders of the
support groups. His name was Bill. The guy that had got him started on the path
to initiating the first support group, was sitting on the curb outside the
convention, swigging on a booze bottle, while Artie and Chuck, tried to talk sense
to him. Chuck: “Ebby, all you have to do is pick up the ball, and run with it!” If
he had, he would have been getting credit for starting the movement. Ebby’s
response: “Fuck you Chuck!” This was Artie’s account of the most interesting
moments of the convention.
My line of work was slow in the summer, so I spent the time waiting for the call
back to my job, at a portion of Venice beach frequented by support group
people. One of the guys showed me how to throw a Frisbee; two weeks prior I
gave a ride to two separate kids on different days who said the exact same phrase
56 to me: “If I were you, I’d just go to the beach, and grow my hair.” Both said that
line verbatim. Well sometimes whatever rules the universe talks through people.
So I was frequenting the beach, and my hair was crawling gradually towards my
shoulders. The longer it got, the more young women noticed me. I also at the
direction of one of my psychic gay friends, stopped eating red meat; resultantly I
was getting much slimmer, and could leap for the Frisbees with glee and
gallantry. Back in Hollywood at two of the meetings, whenever I’d enter the
door, there’d be a couple of women sitting not far from that entrance, at the back
of the room. One of them was wearing a kerchief spiraled around her cranium so
skillfully, you couldn’t see if there was any hair on her head under it. Her eyes
were blue like the coastal waters of Hawaii, and they were locked on mine like an
advanced targeting system. “Target has been acquired. Fire at will.” I swore to
God she was going to cast a line to reel me in with. But she didn’t say a word, and
neither did I. If I did I would have been blocking the doorway, so I just stepped
in, and looked for a seat; when I found one, I looked back, to see if she was
peeking at me. Nope she was just looking forward with a calm appearance of
non-attachment. “She must be recovering from chemotherapy, and her brain’s a
little fried. She has a wonderful face, and a luminous soul within it. The exact
same: “Lock on. Target acquired.” happened at another meeting. She was sitting
in almost the same position in that meeting as I came through the door. This time
I said: “Hello, What’s your name?” “I’m not your type.” “I’m universal, I like all
types, except the fat ones.” Her girlfriend gave me a dark look. She wasn’t fat,
but she wasn’t slim. Well needless to say the next time I met her, nothing
happened, but the time after that we got involved; Sue was seven years older
than I, and taught me something I would never have believed. We’d been
together for a synergistically sensual six months, and numerous pretty young
girls in the support groups, were making passes at me: “Why do you suppose
they always do that? They can see that we’re preoccupied with each other, and
have chemistry. What is it? Are they just jealous, and want to destroy our
loyalty?” “No. They see a good relationship, and think they can steal the
relationship.” “You fucken kidding me. They can’t be that dumb!” “Shaking her
head: “Yes, they are!” In practically everyone I’ve ever known; if you scratch the
surface, you’ll find genius in some form or another; even if it’s just remembering
every minute fact about all the baseball players that ever lived. As a general rule,
everyone’s brilliant at something. The area that everyone seems to fuck up at is
human relations. Like I said we lasted six months. Most folks assume that men
succumb to the call of the next pretty body; I never did. “If you’re gunna start a
new relationship; first wear out the old one,” was my creed. Sue came to me one
day and said: “I’m going to go visit my mother.” After hearing numerous foul
tales about how her mother instead of supporting her; competed with her. I
57 related a psychic perception profoundly flowing to me: “I’ve got a feeling if you
go to see her, it’s going to be the end of our relationship.” She then applied all the
logic she could muster, for me to be convinced all was well: “Men willingly
believe that which they wish.” That’s a quote from Julius Caesar. When she
came back, she told me that she informed her mother that she’s in the best
relationship of her life. “You’ll find some way to fuck it up.” was her mom’s
retort. And at that point, as if controlled by an invisible force, Susan did
everything possible to make our lives out of sync. I finally decided that this
pattern that had hold of her was making me a victim; it was time to deal with it:
“You’re running a pattern that I can’t be a part of without being a victim; I
can’t do that to myself any longer. When you get this worked out. Call me, I’ll
come a runnen. There’s nobody on this planet I would rather spend my days
with, than you.” She never called. I saw her ten years later in a restaurant. She
was glad to see me, but I was deeply involved in a seven-year relationship with a
brilliant beautiful sociopath.
Back to my apartment in Hollywood, I read an article about meditation.
Meditation was mentioned briefly in the Support Groups textbook so I decided to
try my own method of attaining a trance. I sat in my chair in the living room, and
became as still as possible, then imagined myself flying up through the top of my
head into outer space; I kept on traveling up without concern about anything but
going on and on, centering my concentration on being farther and farther and
farther out; nothing else mattered but concentrating on continuing to move
further out. When I decided to come back, I felt the chair I was sitting in under
me, and my body was higher than a kite. I had to get up and look the house over
to make sure I hadn’t drank any booze. “I don’t have any booze in the house, so I
couldn’t have gone crazy and drank any thing. Then why am I vibrating like I
used to when the booze was working at its best? The book had said something
about being rocketed into the fourth-dimension. This must be it! I’ve made
contact with the fourth-dimension.” Well if a little fourth dimension contact is
good; an abundance thereof has got to be a lot better. So I began meditating four
hours a day every day. This made me susceptible to lots of psychic experiences.
My sensitivity level was considerably higher. I had lots of vim and vigor: at a
dinner with some young folks after one of the Support Group meetings. I was
feeling light hearted and frivolous, cracking jokes and being entertaining, then
suddenly I felt drained, like I’d lost a quart of blood. Thinking: “I don’t know
why that happened, but I think I’ll excuse myself, and go home.” A week later
one of the girls at the table that night said to me: “I owe you an apology. I was
feeling down the other night, and you were so up, and full of energy, I decided to
draw some of yours, and I took too much.” I said: “Really, You can do
that?............ I started to feel weak, and like I was going to throw up.” I looked in
58 her eyes, and believed her. This gave me a new perspective on women’s
capabilities, or is that only alcoholic women? I suspect all women can do this, but
alcoholic women can suck you dry like a shop vacuum. “Hmm…. I’ve got to go
deeper in my meditations, and draw more of that energy then ever. I thought I
was doing pretty well except when I showed up at my straight-gay- meeting. As I
sat in the middle of the room, for some reason, I could feel people drawing
energy from me, from all sides. I mentioned this to one of my Psychic gay friend,
and he said: “That’s why I never sit in the center of the room.” Thinking: “Yeah
Herb usually finds a corner away from most folks, and watches the meeting from
there, but I don’t want to have to do that. It’s too socially restricting. I know I’ll
meditate for an hour before I come to the meeting, and there should be enough
energy in my aura, to feed those hungry souls around me. Then I won’t run out
of ectoplasm, and have to start feeling what they can’t feel; how sick their bodies
are. Their minds have that blocked out.” It’s just part of getting well, alcoholics
haven’t a clue how badly they’re damaged; the mind mercifully blocks it out.
Conversely I was getting very in touch with my empathic capabilities, and not in
touch with how to shut them off.
The hour of meditation before the meeting didn’t work; an hour’s meditation
only forfeited me for forty-five minutes of ectoblasmic insulation, when I sat in
the middle of the group. “Fuck it. I’ll just do the hour first, then meditate right
there during the meeting; I can still hear the people sharing.” That worked! But
with all this extra meditation, my sensitivity levels went up to the point of
pervading into the buildings surrounding me as I drove down Hollywood
Boulevard. On the weekends I was now driving up to Santa Barbara to go sun
myself, and meet lovely looking women on the free beach= nude beach. The vibes
at this place were wonderful. Everyone played Frisbee, and no polluted
ectoplasm; all the folks up there were physically healthy. “I wish I lived up here,
it’s heaven.” Incidentally it was named by the Chumash: “Summerland” which
I’m told means heaven to that tribe. Anyway when our relationship was working
I brought Sue up there with me, and we built a tiny campfire cooked some
supper, and slept on that beach. It was purely magical.
When I parted company with Sue, and my domicile got ruined, by some dumb
guys sand blasting my apartment building; I packed up my Volkswagen bug, and
took off for Santa Barbara thinking I might be able to get commercial artwork
there; Too small a town for that. But there was a pretty good size support group
clubhouse across the street from the Greyhound Bus Station. I walked in; threw
a quarter in the coffee jar, and poured myself a cup of java. A skinny old guy
came running up to me, and said threateningly: “Are you an alcoholic?” “You
bet your fucken ass I am!” “Well, Ok, but you don’t have to be rude about it.”
“Well if you’re not emphatic, I won’t be.” He had one of those E names like
59 Ruddy or Roddy or Denny, wait I got it Gibbie! It was Gibbie. He lived in the
back of the place nights, and did maintenance on it during the day, so he would
get resentful if you didn’t use a coaster under your coffee cup. The guy had put
up a bunch of creepy clown paintings in the back of the room. Apparently he
collected them from the many thrift shops on lower State Street. I was thirtythree years old and I had ten years abstinence from alcohol; by this time my hair
had grown down to my breastplate, and I looked good. It took me a while to get a
steady place to live, but I found one that suited my needs. I got to attending
participation meetings at that clubhouse; it’s the kind of meeting where you raise
your hand get called on, and put your two cents in as to what you think of the
subject someone has chosen, which is always something pertaining to your
experience with alcohol, hopefully it’s about how you applied the principals
learned in these rooms so you didn’t have to drink it anymore. Whenever it was
my turn to speak I always used colorful language. Some of the men in their fifties
were devoted to being good, as opposed to getting well. They wanted me to speak
as if I was in church, rather than as if I was in a therapy meeting. I explained to
them that in order to get well, it is necessary to speak in the words that you’re
really thinking. “When you censor these words you censor the emotions that are
attached to these words. We’re not here to get good. We’re here to get well, and
anal retentiveness, does not foster good health, neither mentally or physically.
“You can’t talk like that. We have women in these meetings.” “You’re constantly
going on about your religion. Maybe my religion is profanity based.”
Consequently the old guys that resented my creative flow of obscenities, told a
young guy named Marty that they would tell the court, that he wasn’t living up
to their expectations, and he would be sent back to prison, if he didn’t beat me
up, the next time I entered the Friday night meeting. Marty casually mentioned
his predicament to me. That’s how I knew the plan. “So do me a favor, and don’t
show up at that meeting. Well that sounded too much like a threat. “Marty I’m
most probably going to show up, cause I can’t afford to let anyone run me out of
any of the meetings. My life depends on having them availed to me.” “Well if you
show up. I’m gunna have to thump on you.” “That might not be so easy to do.”
We parted, and Friday soon came around. As I’m approaching the meeting,
Brian a six foot four long haired fellow, and three more of his friends, all of them
having hair longer than mine, and of equal height to Brian, just happen to go
through the meeting door the same time as I did. The old guys swallowed hard,
and turned white, which was pretty amusing. Marty just made himself scarce.
Come to think of it. I don’t think he was even at the meeting. He probably
thought: “If I bloody Jeremiah, all he has to do is to go to the authorities and
complain, and I’m back in prison. So the best bet for me is not to show up, and
just give the old men some lame excuse.” Well on went the meeting, and soon it
60 was my turn to share my experience strength and hope: “Well when I used to get
fucked up, I always did it with alcohol.” Then the self-appointed ringleader of the
old men jumped up and said: “You can’t talk that way; there’s women in this
meeting.” I turned to the old bar drinker sober gals in the meeting and said: “If
you women want me to leave, I will respect your wishes.” They all said: “You can
say anything you want to. You don’t have to leave the meeting.” For the rest of
my share I only said fuck twice. I’d considered not saying it at all, but then I
thought: “No, if I do that. He’ll think he’s won, and these poor bastards who are
sitting in the back, thinking in the words that I’m expressing, will never get the
chance to tell their feelings in the words that are attached to them.”
Most of the next five years were pretty pleasant. There was no form of
commercial art work in the town, but it sure had a shit load of artists, and up by
the university there was an enormous free beach which I spent all my waking
hours at when I wasn’t doing landscaping; gardening, or some from of manual
labor to acquire enough cash to make the monthly rent: forty-five dollars. I’m
not going to describe the domicile, it’s too involved, but due to the fact that I
didn’t pay much for rent, all I had to do was get about four days work a month
to house and feed myself. Clothes were ridiculously reasonable. There were lots
of affluent folks up there on the Santa Barbara Riviera that would jettison
clothing to the charity-based thrift shops seasonally; So it was possible to get high
quality hardly worn clothing, for as little as 35 cents a garment. If you wanted
something that originally cost a couple a hundred bucks you might have to spend
as much as three dollars. Those same new garments of that quality today, would
cost you eight hundred dollars. Life was good in SB. I started frequenting a
support group clubhouse on State Street not far from the Santa Barbara News
Press. The clubhouse was upstairs, it was the size of a small ballroom with hard
wood floors, and had a rear entrance up a back set of stairs, which led right up to
the coffee bar, and kitchen. Most local folks came in that way. We had the
Harvard graduate professor but for all of his power of intellect could not stay
sober to save his life, and lived on the street long before Reagan became
president and, cut off the funds that kept harmless mentally incapacitated folks
off the streets. He used operation Star Wars (A plan for making a bunch
protective missiles to act as an umbrella over the US.) as an excuse to put these
people out on the street. We had no homeless before that man became president.
Anyway Bill was our brilliant intellectual resident derelict. On occasion I’d get
on his nerves when I’d tell him: “You know back in the town of Reseda at the
Alanest, they used to have a saying they’d repeat perpetually; Don’t analyze!
Utilize!” Bill would come in, and try to hustle a visitor for enough bucks to pick
up some wine. If that didn’t work, he’d just raid the coffee kitty, and get shitfaced. Then there was the guy with thirty years of abstinence who developed
61 cancer, and decided to drink about it. He’d come to the midnight meetings, and
go on for twenty minutes, about how he didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him.
I virtually never cross talk at any meetings, but this time I made an exception. He
was eating up all the other folk’s opportunities to share. So I said: “I don’t feel
the least bit sorry for you. I feel sorry for the people who want to share their
experience strength and hope, and you’re using up all their time, with how sorry
you’re feeling for yourself. After thirty years you must have learned something
besides how you’re feeling about having to die. How about helping some of the
newer guys, learn how to get thirty years.” Believe it or not that helped him.
Years later another guy who led the meeting talked to the newer people about
how getting sober, was like walking through the big slow turning cylinder at the
amusement park. He called it the barrel: “When you walk through the first time
you’re probably gunna fall down. But eventually you get the hang of always
walking a little to the left, with each step, and then you find your way through.
And the moral of the story is. It’s just your turn in the barrel.” I’m thinking:
“That’s not a good thing to say to somebody who’s just walked through the
doors.” Because I heard another side to that story, it refers to a novice merchant
seamen being shown around the ship, which has just pulled out to sea. After their
workday, each night the old salt would show the kid the shuffleboard night, and
the next night would be card game night; then lecture night with interesting
subjects about the places they were going to visit. On the way to the lecture, the
old guy says to the kid: “Put your dick in the hole in that barrel.” So the kid puts
his pecker in the hole in the barrel, and gets the best head he’s ever had in his
entire life. Then they went to the lecture, and the next night they went to chess
night, and the kid learned how to play chess. Then Saturday night came around;
the kid couldn’t wait to see what they’d have doing for Saturday night. “What’s
happening Saturday night?” said he to the old salty seamen. “Oh I’m going to the
movies.” “All right. We get to go to the movies!” “Oh, you can’t go.” “Why not?”
“Tonight’s your night in the barrel.” Thinking: “Ah, why educate the leader. Let
him tell his barrel story.”
It’s another beautiful day on the free beach, up by Hope Ranch, in Goleta. I’m
doing yoga on my blanket; ten dogs are racing back and forth between a couple
of college students playing Frisbee; lots of the girls on the beach, would say hello
to me on the days they came there, cause I was there, most of the time. Life was
calm; I had a serene routine; yoga and meditation for the first four hours. Then
in the distance I see: “Is that Todd? It looks like him. Whoever he is, he’s a block
and a quarter out, and headed my way” This beach is a half a mile long. “Yup,
That is Todd.” “Hi Jeremiah, I decided to take your advice, and leave that
halfway house back in Santa Monica.” “You’re not subject to a breach of parole,
are you?” “Naah… nobody’s lookin for me. My time of incarceration there was
62 up; I could have stayed there for another four months if I wanted to, but like you
said, hanging out with a bunch of old weight lifting prison junkies, is not a good
environment for a guy like me.” Todd was seventeen; six-foot two; with long
wavy light brown hair; light blue eyes, and a somewhat sand paper complexion.
He took off his pack, then his clothes, and sat back against the pack saying: “It’s
really nice here, and look at all those mammas!” “Don’t call them mammas.
You’re not in LA. What am I saying? Call them whatever you want. I’m not in
touch with the lingo of this era. They probably like being called mammas. How
the fuck do I know?” Yowzzer! Look at that one.” “Now I’m right about this.
Don’t point. What are you gunna do for money, and a place to stay?” I bought a
truck, and put one of those little camper shells on it. You know; the ones that just
barely cover the back. Cops don’t expect anyone to be sleeping in one like mine.
Most folks use them for hauling their tools around.” “Well you can use my
shower till you get it together to get a place to live.” “No problem, I’ll just go
down to the camper park, and sneak into their showers, like you did when you
first moved up here.” When he initially sat down in my vicinity I almost felt kind
of alarmed. He was so white, and I had just about gotten myself accepted as one
of the beach people here. “My God! Am I that superficial? When it comes to
pussy…….. Yes!” Several of the girls passing by said: “Hi Jeremiah.” “Hi Cindy,
Hi Carol.” Thinking: “Alright! No damage done.” Todd: “Yowzzer! When are
you gunna intro me, to some of these fine lookin mammas?” “When you’re as tan
as I am, but by that time, you’ll have met them all on your own.” I showed Todd
where the support group meetings were around town, and he asked me to be his
sponsor. “OK, You’ve already done what’s in the first part of the book, so get a
pen and a pad, and start writing your inventory.” He did as suggested, and I had
to listen to it. There was a part of me that didn’t want to have to sponsor anyone,
cause the sponsees, or babies as they used to call them back in LA, would usually
ask your advice, then immediately do the exact opposite. In New York they used
to call them pigeons. I asked one of the old timers: “Why do you call the people
you’re sponsoring pigeons?” “Because they shit all over you.” New York always
had a pigeon problem. After a rough patch for both of us was over, Todd and I
met a man with a double PHD, and two Masters degrees named Tim; dark
haired, what was left of it; slightly plump, and supremely confident that life was
his oyster. He hadn’t a worry in the world. “I know how to regress people back
to visions of their former lives” said Tim to Todd and I. Thinking: “Now this I
gotta see.” Todd who’d taken many acid trips, in his mind altering consumptive
life, and was now sober, didn’t hesitate: “I’ll do it.” I like always, retained a
respectable degree of paranoia. Tim to Todd: “Lie on the floor on your back.
Here’s a pillow for your head. Close your eyes.” Tim them waved his hand, one
foot above Todd’s body for its full-length, beginning at his head, then down to his
63 feet, and back to his head. Then he told Todd to imagine an elevator. “Can you
see it?” “Yes.” “Walk into it……….. Are you into it yet?” “Yes.” “In this
elevator the ground floor is number twenty; number one is as low as you can go.
Now I’m going to take you down.” Todd quietly, like he was already tranced:
“Ok” “ Nineteen….. Eighteen……… seventeen……. Etc….” down to thirteen.
“I’m stopping the elevator now, and opening the door. I want you to walk
through the door, and tell me what you see?” “Jungle,
everything’s…………v…ver….very… green.” “Ok, can you still see the
elevator?” “Yes” “Go back inside.” Tim brings him down three more floors, and
opens the door again: “ Walk through…………….. What do you see?” I’m
sitting at a long table……. There’s other people at the table…..I’m bald.” “How
old are you?” “Five… There’s all kinds of fruits in baskets, and clay bowls on the
table.” “What are you wearing?” “White robe” Tim looked at me and said: “In
South American ancient cultures, the royal children had their heads shaved, till
they reached a certain age. He then regressed him in stages through that life, till
Todd was describing his death. His body was put in a cave, then he described his
astral body leaving the cadaver, and floating towards the back of the cave: “It’s
cold; I’m scared.” Then his face brightened up like he saw something
magnificent coming towards him. “What’s happening now?” “It’s surrounding
me. I’m inside of it.” Just as Tim’s mouth opens to ask...... “It’s a
wonderful……a great light.” “Ok, I’m going to bring you out now; you’re in the
elevator…….. it’s going up very slowly.” Tim recited the floors slowly, when he
got to the fourth floor. Todd quietly said: “I’m back……” I felt that Tim should
have told him to wait, and listen for the last three floors, but he just said: “Ok,
you can open your eyes now.” Todd was still too deep in the trance. He couldn’t
get on to his feet. “That’s alright, most people experience not being able to get up
right away. Just lay there, and you’ll feel normal soon.” Something in my
consciousness said: “Sure he will; after the rest of his body arrives.” Thinking:
“Hmmm… Where did that come from?” I said: “Ok, do me.” “I don’t know that
I can do another one.” “I’ll give you the energy to be able to do it.” I had
energized numerous people by sending energy through my finger into their third
eye (the space between their eyes.) I approached him. “That’s alright, I can do it,
that won’t be necessary.” Thinking: “Hmmm…. Tim’s afraid of me. Why?” He
did the same procedure with me, but I was not going any deeper than I would in
one of my meditations, but we did go deep into the ancient past, of what looked
like the Arabian Desert. I watched whole cities rise up out of the sand, like they
were being built at super speed. I saw no workers just the rapid construction,
then I watched them decay, and on the same site another arise. This happened to
the tune of four civilizations. The first city was carved out of stone, the next was
of large beams of wood. Thinking: “Where did they get the wood? And where are
64 the people?” The next was stone again, and it had a building I instantly was
manifesting in, which had beautiful stain glass windows, all the way around the
place with just designs; no figures like in churches. Then I was in one with
hanging gardens. Thinking: “This could be Nebuchadnezzar’s place. Hanging
gardens, my ass. They’re just a bunch of giant flower pots made from clay,
hanging on ropes, from a very high ceiling; all at different lengths.” I was outside
now, watching that place disintegrate; then on to the last one, of wood again. This
wood looked kind of gray; might have been Cedar, and the construction of the
buildings, were like the wood was always side-by-side, rising length wise towards
the sky. Then that city disintegrated. Throughout all of this, at any time I could
have just opened my eyes, and got up. The trance was common to me. But what
was not common was the speed at which everything was clipping along. I would
have liked more time to examine all of the cities, and large structures within
them. When I came out of the of the trance, I realized Tim wanted to be out of
contact with my consciousness, and was speeding the session along, to end it as
soon as possible. “Hmm…. is sharing consciousness with me, such a scary thing?
Is he afraid I’ll invade his psyche, and find out his dirty little secrets? He feels
pretty harmless to me.” The good news was that later Todd told me he had never
felt any greatness in himself, and knowing he was a king in another life, made
him feel more confident. The fact was that in that other life he’d lost a great
battle, and his constituency, had stoned him to death for having done so. But that
part didn’t bother him so much. What did bother him in this life up to this time,
was that his parents deserted him and his brother, and they were put up for
adoption. Later I learned that he, and his older brother were adopted by older
couple in a town just north of SB, and was raised on ten acres of land. But feeling
abandoned by his natural parents left a gap in his self-esteem, which was filled by
this regression to the past life. He was now standing up straight, to his full height,
and held his head up, instead of with a slight bow. The projection was: “I was
once a king. Who knows? I might be one again.” Along with this assumption,
times ‘ed by his youthful lack of emotional experience, equaled a bit of
arrogance. Not so much as to make him disrespectful to me, but he was
constantly competing with me. I guess I’d become a father figure he had to best
at everything, before he could move on to full adulthood. He’d bested me at a lot
of stuff, and several he didn’t, before he decided to move on with his life, and no
longer seek my council, he decided on one last move. He smoked some grass with
my six-foot tall ballet dancer ex-girlfriend, as she had related the story to me; I
knew that wasn’t all they’d done, and when they were through, Todd brought me
up as a subject. Her reply was: “Jeremiah! The best lay in Santa Barbara, and
he’s so particular!” Janet to me: “Todd looked shocked when I said that.” Her
reasoning was simple; when I ejaculated the erection never receded, I didn’t
65 know it was supposed to, after ejaculating three times in a row, it would just get
harder, although the discharge was less fluid each time. By the third time it was
harder than ever. Susan had acted like that was normal. Other women
complained about it. I stayed that way till I was fifty-nine, and went through the
change of life. Then I experienced what everybody else was experiencing. It took
some getting used to. The up side is not getting angry so often. Todd had taken a
ride in his truck up into Los Padres National Forest just above SB. He went miles
back into the bush, and got out of his truck to take a wiz. In the course of so
doing, he walked deeply into the wooded area bare-footed I might add. Todd had
the toughest feet of anyone I’d ever met. He could walk ten miles through the
forest barefoot. Anyway he wandered in land, and chose a spot to his liking, and
while performing the act, he realized he was pissing into a large crop of
Marijuana. He related the story to me late. “You didn’t smoke any of that shit,
did you?” “Naah, I didn’t touch it.” He was lying, but I wasn’t going to call him
on it. It was enough that he realized I knew he was. He’ll come back to the
support group when he was ready”. That was my thought at the time, but Todd
left town, and I never saw him again. A lot of folks went out, and never came
back. Often they’d move to another town; get sober there, and stay there for the
rest of their lives. So nobody really knows how many folks that come into the
support group meetings, eventually stay sober for life. Forty years ago in the
meetings I attended, thirty percent of the circuit speakers in the support groups,
would talk about having gone into blackouts, and waking up in a different city, in
a strange bed, with someone they didn’t remember. Many of them just started a
new life, with new meetings. Today no one tells stories about waking up in a
strange bed. No one would consider romance with someone with that sort of
pattern. You have to ask yourself: “How many people in a blackout, wear a
rubber?” Probably none.
Life was simpler now; I got some back dough that was due to me for my
educational expenses,; bought a VW van; some gardening tools; put an ad in the
Santa Barbara News Press, then started gardening for a living; most of it was
simple. I just cut lawns; if things got more complicated I’d just say: “How do you
do it?” They’d tell me what portions of fertilizer to put where, and I’d just apply
the wisdom they’d already acquired; I got to learn, and everybody was happy.
Now I had money to take girls to the drive-in-movies.
This Saturday night was a significant one cause it was my twelfth birthday at a
large meeting in Goleta. The main speaker tells his story first. That takes an
hour; then comes the birthdays. This guy called himself doctor addict alcoholic,
and started talking about how, a voice in his head would tell him to drink: And
then another voice would say: “I think that voice is right! You need a drink.” and
another voice would echo the other two.” This pattern of voices was almost the
66 same as mine. So later in my meditation period I concentrated on identifying
whose voices I had heard in my head, when I was in my cups, twelve years
previous. The answer came quickly, it was the same people that would sit around
the kitchen table, and discuss my case as if I wasn’t there, when I was six years
old. The most legible one was my uncle, who was himself a periodic alcoholic.
That’s an alcoholic who only drinks on special occasions, and the occasions
eventually become any occasion. So I dubbed the kitchen table people in my
head: “The Committee.” and shared that at enough meetings for some circuit
speakers to pick it up, and make it a staple in describing The voices in the head
syndrome. I later heard a wonderful addendum to that theme. One youngster at
the meetings referred to it as, “K-Fuck” His head was a radio station he couldn’t
turn off. Then there was the most famous circuit speaker in the support groups
Chuck C. He was a multi, multi millionaire, who never had a sponsor, and never
did an inventory, but was sober well over twenty-five years. He came up to SB,
and spoke at one of our clubs. Right after he gave his pitch, he said hello to a
little Spanish gardener named Louie, who possessed an equal amount of time
sober. Louie responded with: “Hi Chuck. I see you still have to speak twice a
week to stay sober.” Another circuit speaker; Eddie C. came up to speak there, a
few weeks later. I knew him well. We attended the same small support group
participation meeting in Hollywood together; only fifteen people at two large
tables. Ed was without a doubt, the funniest speaker of all of the circuit speakers.
If he could find a way to do a pitch about anything outside of the meetings; with
his timing, and delivery skills, he could have been one of the best stand up
comedians in the world. I mentioned this to him, but he couldn’t see himself in
that picture.
I met a girl on the beach, and spent seven years showing her how to stay sober
by example. When we split up, she finally decided to go to the support group
meetings. I should have left her sooner. I had spent a year in Humboldt County
with her, with no meetings; I came back to the San Fernando Valley with strips
of white in my brown beard. That was a rough year; I just read stories out of the
back of the book, when I felt like I needed one. That’s what the guys in the
Second World War did. It worked for them, and it worked for me. I had gotten
myself a realtors license, and thought I was going to make lots of money; didn’t
work out that way, I couldn’t make myself lie. In order to sell houses you have to
tell people what they want to hear. I’d tell them about the pros and cons of the
house. Meanwhile I had to make some money, so I took a job as an electrician’s
gofer. I’d run back and forth getting parts from his truck, so I learned what all
the parts were, then he had me help him pull the wire, and taught me how to wire
the switches and plugs. We got very fast at rewiring old houses. Keylo was
making lots of money, but still paying me minimum wage; practically nothing.
67 “So what! I’ve learned enough to apply for another job.” On this one I was
taught how to bend EMT steel pipe. Most residential electricians don’t know how
to bend pipe. I was also attending support group meetings at that good old
Radford clubhouse again. On the way out the door talking with Jimmy; an
acquaintance from said establishment, he notices a very pretty gal around thirtyfive passing by us, and says: “Hi honey, what’s your name.” I was surprised she
responded at all: “I’m Julia. What’s are your name?” “Jimmy, I’m a Porsche
sales man. What do you do?” “I’m a union official at IBEW electricians union.”
“My friend here’s an electrician.” “We might be able to use you. Here’s my card.
You come down to see me, and I’ll see if we can get you set up with some work.”
The next thing I know I’m in the IBEW, which services all of the major movie
studios, and I’m making real decent money. Being of a frugal nature, I rent a
room in someone’s house on Point Dume, Malibu. My first studio is MGM, and
when I walk into the electric shop I’m a little stunned by all the oversized stage
lights they’re repairing in the shop. Thinking: “Christ! I don’t know how I’m
going to keep up. I haven’t a clue what most of this stuff is used for.” The
foreman “Ollie” a rather large Nordic looking man; six four; fifty-ish: slightly
thinning strawberry blond hair; an almost Santa Claus belly: “Ok, Moore, Your
job is to bring the cable out to the stages, and hook it up to the wall so the
carpenters can plug into the boxes at the end of those AC (Alternating Current)
lines and build the sets.” He walked me outside to show me what looked like one
of those large industrial looking bikes I’d see kids delivering big orders of
groceries to high end apartment buildings, when I was a lad, except these bikes
had about twice as much steel in them. The front wheel was half the size of the
back one, in order to fit the huge reinforced solid steel basket at it’s front. With
my assistance, Ollie packed the basket of the bike with two three inch thick fiftyfoot cables, with a red steel box at one end of it, which was full of round
receptacles. Then he dumped twelve tightly wound one hundred foot long thick
extension cords into the basket. “Put your tools in the basket too. Now peddle
that up to stage twelve. They’re shooting ‘Who’s Life Is It Anyway?’ there.”
Once the bike was fully packed, its cargo weighed a hundred, and twenty-five
pounds. If I filled it much more, the bike would just keel over frontwards. So I
peddled up to stage twelve; in order to do so, you had to stand on the pedals, and
pull on the powerfully reinforced handlebars to stay in motion. This built muscle
in my legs; arms and shoulders, so I began to look like the rest of the wellmuscled crew, working out of that shop. All of the other guys were a little
younger than me, and were really neat people, they showed me how to do my
tasks. Those red boxes with the fifty-foot reinforced rubber insulation cable were
laid outside the stage, alongside the wall, then the large round plug on the
opposite side of that cable, was plugged into an equally large socket in the stage
68 wall. It was necessary to plug it in and twist it to the right, until you heard it snap
into the lock position. This way you knew the electrical connection was firm, and
the line wouldn’t dislodge, when you moved the other end attached to the red box
with all the plugholes in it, close to the trailers that were going to be parking
there, and plugging their electrical lines into those boxes. Each of the trailers had
a specific function. One was called a Honey Wagon. I don’t know why they called
it that. It was really just a rather elaborate restroom on wheels, then there was
the makeup trailer, where the actors would get groomed for their scene, when it
was their turn to put on an act, next was the elaborate large motor homes, in
which the principal stars would spend their time studying their lines, and waiting
to do their next scene. The character actors with less prestige, would be given
those little nomad snail shaped trailers, to hide out in, and study their lines. It
was my job to run those hundred foot cords, which I plugged into the red box at
one end, and into the trailers on the other, so that they had power to run all their
appliances within the big mobile homes, or just power to plug a lamp, and an
electric heater in, for the little trailers. One of the occupants of the little trailers
was a petite lean dark haired pretty lady with a British accent, around thirty
years of age. I hooked up her little trailer, at a different location on the lot earlier
in the day. She had herself arranged in the little place, so that it was her meager
home, away from home, for the day. Then it was time to move to the main stage,
where her next performance was to be. They had me plug in another little trailer,
which was already at the side of the stage twelve building. She was very upset
when the second assistant director, told her she had to move to the trailer at
stage twelve. I felt sorry for her. She whined like a child, when he told her: “No
you have to move to the other one. They can’t move this trailer to stage twelve
for you.” Well later in the day I was called to stage twelve, to look over one
gigantic spotlight that was said to be malfunctioning. I hadn’t a fucking clue how
it worked, or what could have gone wrong with it; interesting thing; as soon as I
arrived, the light began functioning perfectly, but I couldn’t leave now. The red
light was on, and that meant they were shooting a scene. So I just sat there, one
floor above the shoot, in the rafters, and watched the scene. First the area was
wetted down with a light coat of water, then dried ice was put at its edges, with
fans blowing gently on the dried ice, which made clouds of mist that attached
themselves to the water on the surface of the stage floor. Later when I saw the
movie I realized that this was supposed to be a wet dream, that a paralyzed man
in the hospital was having, of his former girlfriend. Anyway the next thing I see,
is the girl from the little trailer pirouetting out into the misty stage completely
naked. She’s doing jumps, and flowing all over the place, till she slips slightly on
the watery surface she’s performing on. Then out comes of all people, Marge
Champion, the dancer who lived on the tenth floor at 11 Seventy-ninth Street in
69 New York City. I was her elevator operator. Whenever Gower was dancing with
Gene Kelly on the Ed Sullivan show, she’d invite me in, to sit on the couch with
her the kids and her friends, to watch him perform. They really liked me. Gower
was dead now; Marge had remarried, and there she was, as technical advisor for
this scene. Thinking: “Is the world really that small? Or is it the circles I’m
traveling in.” Well now the British girl’s off and running into her next attempt at
greatness, and I’ve got a woody. Twenty five minutes later, the shoot’s over; lots
of extras, and third tier actors, are asking Marge about all the old stars she and
Gower, knew so well, and the shows they performed in, on the “legitimate” New
York Broadway stage. She was answering with a “New York stage diction.” I
waited patiently for the worshipers to settle down some, then I said: “Do you
remember me? I was your elevator operator in New York.” She looked directly
at me, and said in a theatrical tone: “In what show?” I said: “Never mind,” and
walked away. Without missing a beat, she went back to her fair weather
entourage. I thought: “She’s a has been, and this might be the last time, Marge
gets some adoration from her fans. It would be selfish to bring her mind back to
a better time in her life, when Gower was alive, and they were the toast of the
town with Hello Dolly.” I must admit it did shock me that she couldn’t see past
the long ponytail, and the beard into my eyes, and know who was there. We saw
each other practically every day for two years, and always had something to say
to each other. I wasn’t just the elevator operator to them. I was an actual person.
Or at least I thought I was. The position at MGM lasted four and a half months.
The large studios took on extra electricians whenever a big budget movie was
being shot on their lot, or a lot of little ones simultaneously. Jim the head of the
department liked my work, and asked me if I would consider living in Culver
City a few blocks from the studio, so he’d have constant access to me in case
someone flaked out on him, and he needed a quick substitute. Thinking: “Lets
see, Malibu where there’s an ocean on one side, and I have a key to a private
access to the Point Dume beach; green rolling hills opposite to said beach; above
them is a huge state park wilderness, and everybody wants to live on the point
now. Naah… I think I’ll go back, and sign the book at the union hall, and wait
for the call to the next job.” “Ok, but this would be steady work.” “I think I’ll be
ok.” I was told by the other guys, that they never had to wait more that three
weeks, for the call to come for another gig. I had enough jack in the bank to pay
the rent for six months, so I felt pretty secure. Here’s the fun part. There was a
community center that used to be a grammar school right down the block. Down
the block, wasn’t just a figure of speech. We were at the top of a hill having a
twenty-five degree pitch. At the bottom of that hill was the community center, at
which was a couple of classrooms having fifteen support group meetings a week
in them, and a huge speakers meeting in the auditorium on Saturday night. I
70 seldom went to the speaker meetings, cause the people who ran that meeting,
weren’t from Malibu, just about all of them, were from West LA, except for one
chubby mailman who drove a hundred miles one way, just to be on the steering
committee. I think he lived in the desert somewhere. This meeting just about
always had some actor, who’d gotten sober six months ago, and hadn’t a clue
what it took to stay sober, but there he was, telling his story about how he was
sentenced by a judge to go to meetings, or go to jail, and what a good boy he is
now; of course he’d want to make a good impression. Significant producers and
directors were in the audience, cause they lived in Malibu. It was not infrequent
to see three or four academy award-willing thespians attending that meeting.
I liked the meetings where you got to put your two cents in; the participation
meetings. The sharing of experience; strength and hope in those meetings, is
where you learn how to stay sober indefinitely. When one of those judges
sentenced folks to these meetings, they’d send them with a little card with spaces
for the participant to list the meeting, and the date that they went there, and
something else; a space for someone to sign to signify that the participant was in
fact present. The support group wasn’t associated with the courts; the courts had
no authority over them, in any way; shape, or form. But some judge in Van Nuys
forty-five years ago, started this procedure, and at most meetings someone would
sign the guy’s card for him. Radford had a policy of not signing court cards. You
had to want to go there. In Malibu this one Irish kid with a thick brogue, came
around with one of those cards. He had a great sense of humor, but absolutely
hated having to go to the meetings; Johnny was drinking every night anyway.
I said: “John why don’t you have your friends in the bar, sign lots of different
names on the card? We keep no records. The court has no way of knowing who
signed the cards.” When I said this to most folks that complained about having to
attend the Support Group meetings, they’d always say: “No I think I’ll just do it
the right way.” and they usually stopped bellyaching from that point. But not
Johnny, he thought that was a good idea, and started getting his card filled out
that very night. Soon his court appearance came up; the judge looked at his card,
and said: “Mister John, I see you’ve really taken to this support group thing, in
fact according to this card, you’ve gone to meetings clear out into next month!”
The whole court burst out laughing. The judge gave John another chance.
Then there were the twelve PM meetings down the block in one of the
classrooms; around fifty people attended, many of which were out of work
actors. When you can’t show up punctually on a set every day, your career as an
actor is in serious jeopardy. There were lots of folks there like me, who were
awaiting the call from the union hall, telling them that they’d reached the top of
the list, and would they accept a position at this or that studio. I got a gig at Fox
Studios way before Murdock became a citizen, and bought it. It was fun most of
71 the time, and I kept learning how to be a better electrician, an ex Canadian
Mountie named Jean, was the foreman. He knew the job well, and showed me
what I didn’t know. Each studio had places where their electrical panels were
located; usually in areas you’d never have dreamed of, because these lots were
old, with lots of changes made in them, down through the years. So you might be
asked to turn a light on or off, for a scene some shooting company was doing, and
nobody knew where that light switch was situated on the building, but the
electricians that had been there for many years. They were teaching me where all
the panels, and switches were on the lot, so that if a light went out cause someone
overloaded the circuit. I knew where the panel with that circuit was. So I’d go
switch the breaker back on. If it blew again I’d trace the circuit back to where it
was grounding out, and fix it. If it was really screwed up, we’d call in the
construction electricians, and they’d put in a whole new line. I was doing what
they called production work. That meant maintaining the stages, by supplying
them with alternate current. The actual sets inside the stages where the actors
did their thing, where powered by direct current. Never mind why, I’m getting
too technical. On this job I kept meeting folks I knew from the support group
meetings in Malibu. This would confuse some of the electricians I was working
with, when a top executive would be passing by and say: “Hi Jeremiah, how are
you?” “I’m good, Bob it’s good to see you.” I didn’t give a hint of how come I
knew this guy, and I really didn’t hardly know him; I only knew him from his
shares, at the meeting, and was a little surprised he said hello at all. He must
have had a lot of confidence in my demeanor. He knew I’d let them wonder how I
knew him, and never indicate why. Not one of them ever asked.
I had gotten a reputation in the Malibu meetings as a mystic with strange
capabilities, and I’d bring folks that wanted to experience those capabilities, into
the mountains above Malibu. They would see spirits who still clung to those sand
stone rock formations three thousand foot up the mountain. From up there, you
could view all of the San Fernando Valley on one side, and the Pacific Ocean on
the other, then in the middle where we were standing, were the spirits of many
Chumash, who still didn’t want to leave this place. So I’d bring folks up to see
them; for a price. Not much fifty bucks. I would have done it just for the fun of it.
But my spiritual teacher wanted me to know, that the experiences I was giving
these people was very significant, and it would stay in their memory if they paid
something for it. Most often when they didn’t, they fried, and couldn’t remember
what happened on the mountain. “Ok, I got it! If they pay me, their resistance is
lowered, because the payment is a form of acceptance, and that cuts the
resistance down, and they don’t fry.” My teacher nodded “Correct.”
Then there were the Jesus-freaks in the meetings warning me that I was
messing with evil forces, and I should stop meditating, “It’s a tool of the devil.”
72 Some of them flattered me by thinking I was the Anti-Christ. “Wow, They think
I’m that powerful! These are some sick motherfuckers. They started calling me
up in the middle of the night, and not answering when I said hello. I put up with
that only three times. Then when anyone called me I’d just pick up the phone,
and wait four seconds. If no one said anything, I just hung up. The idiots
probably thought they were rattling me by calling me in the middle of the night;
fact is, when I was in between gigs I was up all night writing my books, or
playing with graphic software. When it was time to go back to work, I’d be
getting up much like I did in the Marine Corps 5:30 AM.
I got elected secretary at one of the night participation meetings; which means
you get to run the meeting. I declared a strict rule of no cross talking. “You only
get to talk about your experience strength and hope, not praise someone across
the room about what they said, because at some point they’re going to say
something you don’t agree with, and you’re going to tell them so. I’ve seen where
this goes. It turned into fistfights in some of the meetings in the valley. You can
talk about the subject that someone else brings up, but not about the person. This
is in keeping with, Principals before personalities.” The primary reason I was
being so dictatorial was, we had major movie stars coming to the meeting, who
were genuinely trying to get sober, and stay sober; they were subject to sick
alcoholic fans, telling them how much they loved them in their last movie. The
poor bastards couldn’t get a moment’s peace, to just fit in, and be another
alcoholic for a little while. Well pretty soon hardly anyone came to that meeting.
This made the Jesus Freaks gloat. But the ones that did attend it regularly were
mostly folks I was sponsoring. Every one of them had high psychic capabilities.
One kid still in his teens, who had a Chicano dad, and a Jewish mom, decided
that, that week he was just Jewish, and he resented us saying the Lords Prayer,
at the end of every meeting. “Ok, How about we do a nondenominational chant?”
So I taught the group, seven to nine people in all, a chant I’d picked up
somewhere along the way. I didn’t tell them it was a Sufi chant, cause I knew this
kid would bitch about that. So we just did the chant, and everybody got higher
than a kite on it. The frequency empowered them to make it through their week,
feeling happy; joyous, and free.
When I was working at one of the smaller studios, the name of which evades me
for the present, I met an old electrician named Ray who’d been to the Middle
East doing work in small villages. He didn’t say who he’d worked for, but he did
tell a tale about a band of Sufis that came to the village: “The Sufis began
dancing counter clockwise, swirling faster and faster as the village folks brought
their sick and lame people, to sit in the front of the wide circle, in which the Sufis
danced. When the energy got to a staggering density, they’d stop, and put their
hands on the sick and the lame, and heal them. I seen it with my own eyes.” It’s
73 moments like that, that made me enjoy my life. There’s wonderful people out
there. I want to meet them!
Back at Fox Studios again I was sent to check out an electrical panel someone
thought was overheating. There was nothing wrong with it, so I checked all of
them; nothing doing. So I get a cup of coffee and a Danish from Craft Service,
that’s the carts they have inside all the production stages belonging to whatever
movie or show that stage has on it. Some are better than others, but most have a
pretty good cheese Danish. Now it’s time to get through the small hallway leading
to the door. There’s just one slight obstruction; a full size tiger is lying quite close
to that passageway. A young man is holding a very thick chain that’s attached to
the cat’s collar, as they sit there waiting for their turn on camera. I’d overheard
the crew talking about how this tiger was so calm, that they couldn’t get her to
growl for the scene they’d planned. I thought: “That’s wonderful. He treats that
cat so lovingly that she doesn’t want growl.” So I walk over in front of the tiger
so she can see me; the owner’s looking the other way. “Now she knows I’m here.”
Cats tend to instinctively swipe at something foreign that passes by their
peripheral vision swiftly. So I walked casually past her, and into the hallway, as
her owner became aware of me passing, and giving a look of: “Who the hell was
Another cat story; another time: another stage. I’m at one of the stages at
MGM again, and on my way to mooch a cup of coffee and a sandwich from the
Craft Service cart when in the dark corridor between the set and the stage wall, I
see a group of nine people surrounding a large dark object they seem to be
petting. The ninth guy’s just standing there holding a leash in his hand; the
people in front of him were petting a full size large black leopard. As I looked at
the owner he said: “He likes people.” “May I pet him.” “Sure.” I ran my hand
over the most beautiful coat of fur I’d ever touched, and I’d touched a lot of
expensive coats, when I was an elevator operator for the ultra rich. I was forever
being asked to hold one; while the lady of the house jostled with packages she’d
just bought. The only thing that came anywhere close to that quality was a
friend’s live affectionate little Chinchilla. This leopard fur had circular
indentations where his spots would be, if he were a different color. Thinking:
“Thank you God. How many people get to feel this?”
One of the members in the nooner group of the support group meetings called
himself Liberty. That wasn’t his real name it was his way of trying to be
recognized. He was recognized much like a disease is, as opposed to a cure. He
was tall lean and homely. It’s like my Grandma used to say: “Handsome is, as
handsome does.” Liberty’d be nice looking, if he changed the expression on his
face. It read: “I look down on you.” The guy smoked incessantly; if you stood too
close to him, your clothes would smell of it. At this facility they had support
74 groups one night a week, which were exclusively male, and or female. They were
called men’s and women’s stag meetings. The woman’s stag meeting was just
before our meeting, in the same room. So when they vacated the place, we took it
over. We were punctual, or five minutes late in order to not overlap. Matt ran
ahead, and started setting up the coffee etc.. I was casually sauntering towards
the door of the classroom, when I see Liberty slide out the door; around the
corner, and up the stairs leading to a far exit. “Hmmm…. Wonder what that’s
about?” When I get into the room. Matt is laughing: “That crazy son of a bitch!”
“Who? Liberty?” “Yeah” He opens the wood closet door, and a huge cloud of
cigarette smoke exhales from the closet. “What the fuck, now the rooms full of
that shitty smell.” Matt: “Liberty’s been in there listening to the whole woman’s
meeting.” “You’re right! He is a crazy son of a bitch. If they’d caught him, they
might have beat him to death.” I was exaggerating. A couple of weeks later a
very well known newcomer actress arrived at our meeting ahead of us. We
arrived twelve minutes late, and she was appalled at how sloppily we managed
our meeting. By this time I had twenty-eight years sober, and I could give a shit
less what she thought. This was our meeting, and we had a good reason to be a
little late; to avoid the other meeting. “I don’t want to be in contact with women
who have just complained to each other, about their husbands or bosses; we gave
them space to enjoy the afterglow of their comradery.” Anyway the padded
redhead was ruffled. In spite of that fact, we began our meeting like usual, and
everyone got to share except the newcomer. Roberto was a few days sober, but
spoke nothing but Spanish; nothing more than hello, and a wave for goodbye in
English. I incidentally knew the woman this affected redhead, had chaperoning
her; a financial adviser who I’d last seen managing another falling star’s
accounts for her, at the Beverly Hills meeting on Rodeo Drive. “Hi Connie, how
are you this evening? She looked like a rat, assessing a cobra. Actually I was glad
to see a familiar face. I suspected Connie did a good job, and that this newcomer
was in good hands. But the star had over a hundred million, and that could make
an asshole out of anybody, till they get used to it. Soon everyone had shared, and
the meeting was winding to a close. “Ok, at this meeting we don’t do the Lord’s
Prayer. We do a non-denominational chant. Matt and I will demonstrate it for
you.” We did the chant, and explained how to harmonize with it, so a harmonic
would ensue. At this point I expected the star to leave, but she stayed seated, with
a slight look of determination on her face, she’d been in a lot of movies that were
supposed to deal with the supernatural, and was determined to not be frightened
away. So we turned off the lights, and started the chant; it was a good one with
lots of energy in spite of the slight gap in the circle at her side of the room, till
even that folded in, and completed the ball of energy engulfing the whole room
and energizing everyone who was completely open for said energy to flow
75 through. I came partially out of the trance, and went to the light switch: “Ok,
I’m gunna turn the lights on, keep your eyes closed so you can come up gently.”
I turned up the lights, and there was the redhead putting on an act. She was
squeezing Connie’s hand, while pretending to be deep in another realm. Connie’s
face was contorting with the pain, but she wasn’t about to ruin her meal ticket’s
performance. Thinking: “Idiot, You can’t fool anybody in this group; they’re all
empaths. They can feel what you’re feeling.” Some of them looked at me like:
“Do we have to sit here till this dip shit stops acting?” I just smiled, and walked
outside over to the area where the swings, and monkey bars were, and swung for
about eight minutes; the others followed suit. Then I walked back into the
classroom just as the redhead pretended to come out of trance. “Oh! Are you
back?” One of the group couldn’t suppress a smile. The redhead decided to
ignore all of us, and concentrate on pontificating to the little hispanic Roberto.
She went on and on, preaching to him as we locked the place up, and left. “Bye
When working at the studios, and many other residential sites prior, I was the
guy that would end up having to crawl through the attic, or under the house,
cause I was five nine and slim and trim, by comparison with the tall chunky
electricians I would frequently be working with. What I noticed is, that anyone
who accompanied me under the house, always put a flashlight in their mouth
every time they had to drill holes in a joist, to mount an electrical box. One guy
had a spandex headband he’d shove the flashlight into, and try to drill that way,
but it would always fall out. When I first started working at MGM Ollie taught
me to wire these large industrial machines they’d use in the studio lumber mill;
they operated on 360 volts of current, and had one white six volt light to read the
instructions printed on the machine. Thinking: “Now I know that the amount of
current coming through this machine would just blow that light up, If they didn’t
have a small transformer to transfer that voltage down to six volts to light that
little light. Why hasn’t anyone put a small transformer on a drill, and stuck a
light on the front, so this holding a flashlight in your mouth shit isn’t necessary?”
I’d get lots of ideas like this several times a year, but usually within eighteen
months or so, somebody thinks of it, and does it. Why didn’t I do any of the
inventions? I can draw, and can make quick sketches of whatever idea I perceive,
but I don’t draw mechanically, it’s too boringly restrictive. So rather than go
through the hassle of getting someone to draw it, and worrying about being
ripped off for it, as so many folks have been; I’d just wait, and sooner or later
someone would make it, and humanity would have another convenience. Well I
waited three years, and began feeling a little guilty about how many plumbers,
and electricians were injuring themselves drilling cause the light in their mouth
slipped. “All right God, alright!” I went down to a Starbucks early in the
76 morning, where most of the captains of industry, and studio executives in Malibu
got their cappuccino to nuzzle in their Mercedes cup holder, and head out to
work. I got in line behind a guy around thirty–eight wearing around fourthousand bucks worth of clothing; tapped him on the shoulder, and pointed out
that someone should put the word out, that putting a light on the front of a drill,
is a good idea. “I know somebody I can mention that to.” “Good, now I don’t
have to worry about it any more.” It was summer time when I mentioned the
idea; by Christmas all the new drills being sold had lights on the front of them.
Months later I’m thinking: “You know, that guy should have remembered what I
looked like, and at least bought me a cappuccino once in a while.” I just bought
myself a drill, with a light on its front, and dropped the resentment. “It’s
dammed nice to not have to put a flashlight in your mouth.”
Another day in Malibu; one of the kids I was sponsoring had been elected to
the secretary-ship of a support groups meeting, housed at a rec room of a savings
and loan bank, near Cross Creek Rd. and PCH. I got there early, and was bored
waiting, so I took out my Frisbee, and started playing Frisbee with myself. How
do you do that? You figure which way the breeze is blowing, and throw into it at
a forty-five degree angle, and the Frisbee will come flying back to you at quite a
considerable speed; the trick to catching it, is to relax your hand like it’s a wet
dishrag, and your fingers will just naturally wrap around it, due to the force of it
hitting the fold in your hand, and snapping it closed, without effort. There’s this
Academy award winning thespian; blond; tall; thirty-eight, and affected; but
only because he didn’t have a clue what role to play. He was a lone actor, like a
dog without a bone. “How do you do that?” So I showed him. It took the guy a
while, but no longer than I, when someone taught me. Soon I was having a good
time; when I wasn’t at work, I was always craving some kind of exercise, and I
never did learn how to surf, which was almost sacrilege in this community, if you
were male. Then the parking lot began filling up, and after bouncing the Frisbee
off of a couple of brand new Mercedes, it was time to go in, and have the meeting.
I was awe struck by Matt’s skills as a master of ceremonies. Before long that was
one of the very best meetings in Malibu.
At another large speaker meeting at the center of Malibu, on a warm Saturday
night, I got there intentionally late; sat outside on the retaining wall, and looked
through the windows at the meeting in progress, when up comes the guy I was
playing Frisbee with the other day, with a cup of coffee in his hand. He gives it to
me; goes back, and arrives with one for himself. Thinking: “What’s this about?
Does he think I’m his date or something? I can get my own coffee.” Then I
thought about it for a second. “Oh, shit. He’s been to that group over on the west
side of LA that is somewhat militant.” I don’t even consider them to be bona-fide
members of the support groups; they’re more like a cult. They say things to their
77 members like: “I have more time sober than you. Go get me a cup of coffee.”
And when they share from the podium upon taking their birthday cakes, each
one is expected to say something belittling about the guy who came before him,
till the guy taking the last cake with the most time sober, has the last caustic
word. Their leader got his start in an organization called Synanon, and that was
one of their customs. “I don’t like the feel of this at all.” The actor sat with me for
a couple of minutes. I said nothing; he said nothing; we just watched the meeting.
I didn’t touch the coffee he brought. I was doing tea this week. He popped up at
the break, and was gone. I hated being around these people; cause the general
populace treated them as American Royalty. If you were saying something, they
could just talk right over you like you weren’t important; what they had to say
was paramount, and most folks would listen to them with strict attention; even if
what they were expounding upon, was total bullshit! Many of them liked to play
this eclipsing game, I just described. A half a week later I was at another
meeting, passing through the crowd to find a seat, and this same actor was
directly in front of me; as I walked by him I said Hi what’s his-name; he puts his
hand out in front of my face and says: “I don’t have time for you, I have to give
my time to my son.” Thinking: “Who the fuck asked you to have time for me? All
I’m saying is hello as I pass. You’re putting on an act, you fucken cunt!” So I
look him in the eye, and say: “You pull this bullshit on me again, and I’ll deck
your ass!” Then walked by him without looking back. Everyone was so
boisterously gabbing with each other in the place, that no one over heard our
exchange. As the meeting let out, I was sitting on a retaining wall with Matt
discussing metaphysics, and blond actor guy is exiting, on the opposite side of the
road; he yells to Matt “Who’s that you’re talking to Matt? Expecting Matt to run
over, and talk to him, like most of the star struck members would do. But Matt
just stays seated, and says: “It’s Jeremiah!” “……..Well, keep him away from
me.” When the affected one was down the road a piece, Matt says: “What was
that about?” “He’s another egomaniac head case actor. What else is new? Are
you going to the Saturday meeting on the point this week, or are you still
disgusted with the people there, cause they’re so superficial?” “I had an
epiphany about that meeting.” “Really?”
“Yes, I thought: ‘who would all the superficial people identify with, if there were
no superficial meetings?’ “Jesus Matt, that’s a very good point.” They didn’t
seem all that superficial; mostly just immature. Alcohol postpones emotional
growth. Growing up emotionally is painful; when alcoholics feel pain, they just
have another drink, and the pain goes away. At least that’s how it worked for
me, at the beginning of my drinking.
Being between gigs, I’d often go to “The Pierview” restaurant around eleven
thirty at night. I really liked the place, cause right about ten PM they’d roll up
78 the sidewalks in that little town; there were very few places that stayed open till
two thirty, and none other than this place served food right up till two AM.
When I wasn’t working I’d always been a night owl. Much of the nights were
spent going into the mountains above the town, and finding power spots to sit in
the middle of and meditate. It was weird, and beautiful up there. Ok back to the
restaurant. I brought a friend with me, who’d built a little silk screen-printing
carousel, into his own clothing factory, with liquid assets of over a million and a
half, within three and a half years. A couple of years prior, I’d told him: “UCLA
has just started selling their sweatshirts online. Put your ensemble of sweat
shirts, and T-shirts on line.” “Oh, No!” Said he. “The internet will never go
commercial.” At printing he was, and is, a total genius; he showed me six
different methods of printing on fabric that he invented, that no one else knows
how to do. But the inevitability of human nature’s tendencies was not one of his
strong points. In this area he just didn’t possess a keen observation of the
obvious. So anyway he, and I enter this spacious restaurant with lots of large
comfortable booths sectioned right up next to a wall of picture windows, with the
moon glowing on the sea beyond them. I told him: “Sit here, I have to go to the
head. Tell them to give me coffee with honey, and heated milk.” As I marched off
to the latrine, a full eighty foot away, I looked back to see three beautifully
proportioned waitresses, rushing up with my order before he could utter it. I was
a regular there. As I exited the john, I saw the fourth bringing my customary
toasted bagel with cream cheese, to our table. Just as I sat down, my associate
Mr. K, says to me: “The weirdest thing just happened. As soon as I sat down, and
you went into can, all these people came flooding through the door, and filled the
place partially all the way up. One of the waitresses parroted by a second, says:
“Oh, that always happens when he comes here!” Thinking: “Hmm…no wonder
I’m getting such good service. Shit! I thought it was cause a couple of them were
attracted to me. Well it’s what you learn, after you know it all!”
It’s another fine day in Malibu the morning fog has burned off, and I’m on my
way over to a farm near Zuma Beach that sells organic vegetables. A friend’s
family owns the farm, and he’s organized a summer fair, inviting a lot of hippy
looking types to play their music, as well as a progressive jazz quartet, and last
but not least, a good size group of Tibetan Zen Buddhists, who assemble a two
and half story high, sixty foot wide backdrop, with a picture of Kathmandu on it.
The backdrop blended in with the large grove of four story eucalyptus trees
behind it so well, that it almost looked like Kathmandu was right there in that six
and a half acre piece of land covered with hundreds of varieties of fruit trees; not
in rows; totally at random, like nature would have them. In the front right side of
the property were rows of hundreds of huge sunflowers. Suddenly the sky on the
horizon above Point Dume became affixed with a murky light green mist, which
79 seemed to take on the shape of a tornado as the pointy part of it headed our way
it became a darker and darker green, then breaking up into a huge group of
individual objects. My friend said: “Oh, shit! Here come the Parrots!” There
were more than a hundred of them flying in like dive bombers in the Battle of
Britan; they leaped down with their claws and sharp beaks at the ready, then
tore into the defenseless sunflowers like a hundred Hannibal Lectors, enjoying
the absolute carnal mess they were making the field while their eyes spun like
little evil tops in their heads. Then suddenly they all rose up, and took to the sky,
cackling and screeching with delight, as they flew off to circle the point, and
announce their presence to all, before breaking up into smaller groups, and
settling in trees around the point. Their primary normal diet was acorns. No
other bird wanted that for a staple; so they as a new arrival were not a threat to
the indigenous bird’s habitat. They were just noisy. I wished I could have filmed
that scene, and scored it with the theme from “Apocalypse Now” but the iPhone
hadn’t been invented yet. First the Hippy types played their music, then the jazz
folks. They were pretty good, and for the finale came the Tibetans with their
bells and gongs, then best of all their eight minute long chant, which put the
audience in an altered state of consciousness. That was a joy to see them affect so
many folks with their first trance state. I’ve often wondered why they so
tenaciously clung to their concept of “Impermanence” They were forever toting
this concept, and also complaining that their home had been taken away by the
Chinese. Anything you keep repeating into universal consciousness (and it’s
always listening) will manifest. My uncle perpetually complained that everybody
was: “a pain in the ass.” When he died of rectal cancer, my teacher said: “Well
his word finally manifested.” “My mother called me and my sisters “a pain in the
neck” whenever we did something stupid. She died of throat cancer; she also
smoked right up to the last day of her life. She was totally addicted to nicotine.
Since their conception the tobacco industry has cost this country over one trillion
dollars in medical treatment.
With the introduction of treatment for alcoholism into the health insurance
system, mini treatment centers called rehabs, began springing up all over the
pleasant little hamlet of Malibu. The most expensive one I’d observed, was
38,000. Dollars a month, per person. Most were large houses converted into
living quarters for five patients. Soon these establishments numbered in the
double digits. The older residents in “The BU” were wondering what was driving
their inflationary equity higher and higher. My landlord’s house had at this time
risen in value to six times what he’d paid for it initially. No one seemed to be able
to observe the obvious. Malibu is a rather nice looking place, and affluent folks in
trouble for DUI’s were flocking to it from all over the country to get into these
rehabs, so they could appease the courts back home; the most expensive rehabs,
80 had lots of amenities. I went to visit one on the Riviera or the equivalent thereof,
with an astounding semi panoramic view of the ocean, beautiful pool and Jacuzzi
overlooking said view, a masseuse; a chef; maids came in to make up their beds,
and they would bus them down in mini vans to go to our support group meetings,
cause the courts were now using the “Get this card signed at the support group
meeting method” as a country wide system, because in the final analysis, the only
thing that kept alcoholics sober was whatever it was they learned in those
meetings, and nobody seemed to be able to teach them that, but other alcoholics.
Meanwhile the real estate prices kept on rising, cause a multitude of these
alcoholics were deciding to live in Malibu; where else can you have neighbors you
see on the silver screen, and better weather than the East Coast or Central Plains
of this country.
The downside of rehabs is the increased belief that you can’t get sober without
them. I’ve watched a multitude of people go to rehabs, get out; go drink; come
back; till the insurance runs out. It’s a place to rest up while they plan their next
drunk. In all fairness, the good ones supply larger reserved rooms, to invite the
support group members to establish meetings at that location, for not only their
residents, but they also are rent free locations, for Support Group members to
establish new meetings for all that wish to attend. The one horror story I listened
to was one kid around nineteen, telling his friends that after he’s drank up all his
rehab insurance allowances, his dad took out a second loan on their house, so he
could go to rehab one more time: “And then I got sober” said he. Rather than
scorch him with the truth, I had to remember a cliché I’d heard so many times in
the earlier meetings before the advent of rehabs: “It takes what it takes.”
I’d meet a lot of folks that quit drinking during the bell-bottom era, and were
still wearing bell-bottoms a decade later. It was sad to see a thirty-year-old onehit record rock star, still wearing his snakeskin pants; colorful vest, and rawhide
cowboy hat, wandering through the meetings hoping to encounter folks who still
remembered him. Country and western, is a segment of music I have never
followed, and know nothing about. But one realist who was prominent in this
field was telling me: “I’ll never get to do as well as I was when drink brought me
down, and crushed my career.” “I got a feeling this little gig you’re going to be
doing next week, will probably lead to another one about just a little bigger, but
you’re gunna get noticed in that second one; and go on to do a much bigger third
one; and by the time you do the fourth one; You’re gunna be a bigger star than
you ever were before.” At the time I said this, I felt I was just giving him some
encouragement. Two years later he took me aside, and told me that each and
everything I’d said two years prior had manifested in that exact chronological
order. “Fantastic! Well nobody deserves it more than you!” I felt that was true,
cause I was pretty sure he just needed a positive projection; instead of that
81 defeated picture of himself he had in his mind. You could tell just by talking to
guy, he was a decent human being, and deserved a good life.
Very often in the Hollywood meetings I’d see several young fellows whining
about how they “did it again!” Went out on a toot for the weekend. They seemed
to be punishing the group for not saving them, by expounding on how the
Support Group’s curriculum wasn’t working for them; in psychological circles
this is known as the “therapy game.” The patient comes to the psychologist, and
presents his problem. The counselor suggests a viable solution, but the patient
claims his problem is much greater than that solution, and any solution being
suggested thereafter, the councilor becomes disgusted, and tells him “I can’t help
The patient leaves his office feeling superior. Well these three young guys were
getting a lot of attention, and wasting talk time for folks that really wanted to get
sober. I was fed up with listening to them, so I walked up to each of them in turn,
at slightly different intervals, and said: “You’re about a chicken shit pantywaist
alcoholic! Why don’t you quit lollygagging around; get out there, and do some
real drinking and get it the fuck over with?” If you’re wondering why one of
them, didn’t try to just punch me in the mouth; around this time, I was working
at Universal doing full time construction ten hours a day, and that adds up to a
very muscular body. So all they did was stand there, and grind their teeth as I
walked off having said my piece. Two years later, two of them at different
meetings, stopped me and said: “You know I stayed sober waiting for two years
for you to drink, so I could talk down to, and condemn you. Then I realized. My
God! I’ve got two years sobriety!” “That’s great I was hoping you’d do
something like that.” “I wanted to stop you and, thank you.” The second one at
another meeting was the same response. Then three years later the third one
stopped me and said he’d been waiting for me to drink, so he could throw it in
my face. I said in all sincerity: “That’s great! You’ve got three years!” His
response was” “FUCK you!” Then he walked off into the crowd, and joined his
peer group.
It astounded me to realize that there were young actors mostly female,
attending the support group speaker meetings that weren’t alcoholics. Speaker
meetings weren’t just for alcoholics, anyone could come, and listen to a speaker,
and there was a small percentage of folks, that were there just to try to meet
people “in the business” One poor soul was being spell bound by celebrity
sucker-fish, until the sucker-fish saw me, and leaping up as if her prey suddenly
didn’t exist: “Jeremiah! It’s good to see you.” The celebrity; an extremely
excellent actor, whom I respected for his candidness about his psychic
experiences, was stunned to be eclipsed by anyone, especially someone he hardly
knew. She kept on talking to me like the man wasn’t even there. My response:
82 “I’ve got to get a hold of Matt right now. I’ll talk to you later, Ok." A week
earlier I’d taught her how to put herself in a trance, and she was still pretty
thrilled about it. I would have invited her to the meeting I was secretary of on
Thursday night, but that was a support group meeting for alcoholics only. It was
closed to the general public unless they had a desire to stop drinking. Only
alcoholics have a desire to stop drinking, and can’t. All normal folks just stop. I
felt sorry for normal people who would like to get the psychic spiritual
connection, availed through the support group’s curriculum, which was most
strongly exemplified in the closed meetings. So I wrote a book with the principals
of how to get this glow, that so many alcoholics had, after getting sober in these
support groups. It’s called: “The Process” Those that have read it in it’s entirety,
were altered spiritually.
On another night in the exact same courtyard adjacent to the meeting hall, just
before the meeting I was explaining my opinion of something to my entourage of
psychic alcoholics. When a fairly well known blue eyed blond actress starts
slowly parading back and forth behind me. The small group I’m talking to is now
pointing out the fallacies in my presumptions. Students aren’t worth a shit,
unless they become the teacher once in a while. Speaking of a while; meanwhile
this actress is moving closer, and standing there posing. I start thinking: “Is this
bitch trying to get my attention?” She’s directly behind me now, walking a short
distance back and forth, and stopping, then attempting to look nonchalant.
Finally I just turn; look at her and say: “Hi, Julie. (I changed her name) How are
you tonight?” She throws her nose in the air, and walks off in a huff. Thinking:
“My God that cunt is dumb. She was trying to eclipse me with her fading
celebrity presence. That’s like a cobra trying to get the attention of a group of
honey badgers. This speaker meeting probably takes the cake for being the most
superficial, although the one in Beverly Hills was a close second.”
In the wintertime our classroom meeting room would get closed down on the
weeks of Christmas and New Years. When this would happen we would just
show up, and walk out to the solid cement picnic tables ten yards from the front
door of the classroom. At this time of the year on the Point, the cold mist off of
the Pacific would blow in at around twenty miles per hour. So we had cold seats,
and a wind-chill factor to contend with, but the meeting must go on. At least five
regulars would show up no matter what. Our meeting was listed so alcoholics
from various areas would drop in, and learn our way of doing things. On this
night I brought some magazines to buffer the effects of that cold cement bench,
and I had on lots of layers, in addition to a winter down coat. I was almost
comfortable. We’re just about to start the meeting, and up comes a couple of
folks headed in our direction from the parking lot. I was surprised they could
make us out. The picnic table area is in almost complete darkness. But they
83 forged on directly towards us, and asked: “Is this where the meeting is?” One of
the group says: “Tonight it is, when the holidays are over, it’ll be back in the
class room again.” I half expected the older fellow to say: “Well maybe we’ll
come back then.” and head on back to the car and “get out of this infernal cold!”
Instead he sits down on that cold ass cement bench, and makes it all the way
through the meeting without saying a word about how frosty it is. I was very
impressed; another academy award winner. This guy was filthy rich; he didn’t
have to sit there in the cold with us. I’d seen him around, and knew that he had
more than thirty years sober. He wasn’t desperate for a meeting. He was just
well disciplined. If he was going out to a meeting that night, nothing was going to
stop him from attending one.
I’m going to jump back to a time when I attended support group meetings in
Reseda in the San Fernando Valley, It was considered a dangerous place cause
forty percent of the folks that frequented the place had done hard time; many of
them for manslaughter. The standard sentence for manslaughter was apparently
fifteen years cause that’s how long they said they did. One hombre with thinning
red hair, and muscles on his muscles would scare everybody in the place by just
walking in. He was an ex “Hell’s Angel” the most feared motorcycle gang on the
West Coast. This guy always had the most beautiful sweet young thing on his
arm. It was like beauty and the beast had just come through the door. I liked
him, he reminded me of some Marines I used to know. I would sit on a soft seat
by the brick wall, and meditate through every meeting. In the daytime meetings
there was this old timer named Larry who claimed he killed his sentencing judge
with “black magic” Larry may have had himself convinced that he could have
done it, but I could feel it if someone had significant telekinetic capability, when
they sat down next to you a foot away, it would feel like they were pushing you to
the side a little, or in some cases a lot. Larry noticed one of those winners that
would go out, and drink every weekend, then blame the curriculum for not
working on him. Larry was a mean looking old guy, who’d spent a lot of time
inside for violent crime. Larry to the winner: “You know, we have hit men in this
place, and if you go out one more time. I’m gunner tell one to press a button on
you.” The kid stuck around for a month to show Larry he wasn’t drinking on the
weekends, or at all. Then I think he moved out of state. Meanwhile I stop off at a
restaurant on my way home from Universal, and who walks in, and sits down
with me but the ex “Hell’s Angel.” He’s a welder and has put in a hard day.
What is it that you’re doin throughout the meeting back there by the wall,
Meditating?” “Yeah, I’ve been doing it for around fifteen years.” “Helps you
relax” “That, and it can also give you more energy.” “Could you teach me that?”
“Sure it’ll only take a couple of minutes. Ok I’m gunna put my finger right
between your eyebrows. Close your eyes, now you can feel my finger barely
84 touching the hair from your brows; I’m moving my hand back a fraction of an
inch, but you can still feel my finger there as a magnetic pull. Can you feel it?”
“Yes.” “Now breathe in through that space between your eyes, drawing the
magnetic energy from my finger into your head; now into your whole body.”
I can always tell when someone really gets this good, cause I can see their aura
thicken, and glow. Yes I can see auras. “All you have to do now when you want to
induce a trance is use your own finger to start yourself off. After a while you
won’t even need the finger, you’ll just concentrate on that spot; take a breath
and you’ll already be in a trance.” Ed has slowly opened his eyes; he looks at me
and very calmly says: “Do you feel drained, or anything like that?” “No, I feel
pretty good.” Ed continuing: “Cause I feel like I’ve just had twelve hours sleep.”
“Well one of the reasons I’m feeling good is I’m like a pipe, that gets to let the
water run through it; this way the pipe is never thirsty.” “Did you ever go out in
the desert; find a big rock and hug it.” “Believe it or not, that’s exactly what I did
this last weekend. I found this huge pink crystal stone sitting in a vast open
stonemasons yard, out in the middle of no-place. There was no one around, I just
walked in, and hugged that stone.”
My next unforgettable alcoholic; whom of which it was a privilege to meet in
my Hollywood days; was a man in his late twenties, named Walt. He was brought
to my attention by a guy who’d latched on to me named Bill, who was ten years
older than I, and twelve years sober, when I was eight. Bill seemed to want to act
paternal towards me. Thinking: “My role models for what a man is supposed to
be lies back there in the Marine Corps.” My dad died when I was one, and I had
no one to emulate till I got into the Corps. There were a couple of middle aged
Marines that I considered the best dad images I’d ever seen anywhere. The first
was Sgt. Cronin, by far the toughest Drill Instructor on Parris Island in 1959,
everyone feared and hated him but me. I feared him, but I didn’t hate him. If you
read my book “Uncle Sam’s Mismanaged Children” you’ll better understand
who I’m talking about. My attitude was that this guy was so hard on us, cause he
didn’t want any of his recruits to lose their lives due to lack of discipline, and
courage of conviction. He united the platoon in their hatred of him. We started
out with 73 recruits; after three months 33 graduated, and shipped out to Camp
Pendleton a month, later, but not without being poisoned by the drinking water
in Camp Lejeune, first. I wondered why my hair was drying up, and falling out
for a month or so after I arrived in Camp Pendleton’s Second Battalion 5th
Marines. Anyway I’ve gone on a tangent. Now back to Bill and I. After a month
or so of letting Bill condescend to me, I figured I’ve drained the coffers of his
additional years of experience, and wondered why he was hanging around with
me? So I asked him. “Bill why have you decided to associate with me? We really
don’t have that much in common.” “I just think we’re good for each other.” That
85 sounded a little gay to me, but I knew he wasn’t. “Nope, That’s not it. What is
it?” “Well…… You’re really sure you’re going to stay sober.” Now I knew what
he was thinking. He’d seen hundreds of people go out, and drink, never to return
again to that group, and he wasn’t stupid. He was calculating the odds; his
chances of survival was threatened by experiencing people he’d befriended, and
invested good memories of fellowship with, who would suddenly drink, and be
gone from his life. He had no buddies that weren’t suddenly dying, or being
swept away to another city. He couldn’t share his thoughts with normal people.
They don’t understand alcoholics. His chronological peer group had dwindled to
nothing. “It’s pretty simple for me Bill. I know that I don’t have another drunk
left in me. It’s a progressive disease. My ability to remove alcohol from my
system diminishes with every breath I take. If I was to drink again I’d last about
three days, and I’d be very dead. Before I got sober this voice came up from
somewhere, and said to me: ‘You’ve got four and a half months to live. What do
you want to do?’ I knew that it meant if I continued to drink, that’s how much
longer I would live. So I said to it: ‘I don’t care what I have to do to survive. I
want to finish what I came here for. I don’t know what it is, but I’ll wash the shit
bowls in the subways if I have to. I don’t want to die. I want to finish what I came
here for.’ Lots of folks think they can rest up here, and go at it, one more time.
Obviously those are not the ones to make friends with, so I guess it’s a good thing
that we’re friends.” Not long after that Chuck, the most sought after main
speaker in the support groups was to speak at our group that weekend. Bill:
“You know what Jer, Chuck isn’t that great a speaker. He’s just very rich, and
most of the main speakers are folks who got sober, and fell in shit. (Extreme
financial luck) so the people in the meeting, are hoping Chuck is going to tell
them the secret of how doing the curriculum, is going to make them rich, so they
can be as happy; joyous, and free!” “You may have a point there Bill I remember
overhearing him say: “It’s a curriculum of attraction, not solicitation, but there’s
nothing that says we can’t promote the attraction.” Thus the main speakers were
usually folks that had years of sobriety and money. I think this was why so many
members went back to drinking right after their tenth year. They were fed up
with being good, and watching others be rewarded with money; property, and
prestige by an unfair Higher Power. They never learned that the primary
purpose is to get well, not good. There’s an old saying the old timers of my youth
frequently touted: “When you sober up a thief. You have a sober thief.” I like my
own abridgment: “When you sober up an asshole. You have a sober dickwad.”
I’ve seen the biggest assholes on the planet; remain ostensibly sober for twentyfive years, before whatever secret they left out of their inventory ate its way
through them in the form of cancer, and ended their miserable existence. Ok I
86 realize this part of the book was supposed to be about Walt, so here comes the
Walt story.
Like I said Bill pointed out Walt, who was a very lean hollowed cheeked twenty
eight year old kid who’d done so much alcohol that he looked at least thirty-nine,
and not a healthy thirty-nine. Bill: “I tried to sponsor him for a while, but he
can’t stay sober more than a day and a half.” Walt would totter into the meeting;
give a half hearted wave to Bill, with an ever so slight a smug smile at the corner
of his mouth, then slouch on the floor against the back wall of the meeting, just
waiting for it to begin. Once it got going pretty good, Bill would take a look back
at Walt, who now had his face to the wall, and was curled up looking dead, but
just as Bill concentrated his focus thoroughly on him, Walt would raise his hand
up to reassure Bill that he was alive and resting deeply. I found this to be
somewhat intriguing, cause it proved that Walt wasn’t a young bum with a wet
brain; he had psychic abilities. When the meeting was over, and we were leaving,
Bill introduced me to him, as we were on our way out the door. Bill didn’t want
to spend any time with him at all. I figured Walt worked him over pretty good
with the therapy game. I would say hello to Walt, and hand him two or three
bucks whenever I’d see him. He was usually at the meeting to ask some of the
participants for a buck here or there. I figured: “It takes what it takes. This guy
probably won’t be ready to get sober for another ten years, if at all.” There’s an
old joke: “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? First the
light bulb has to want to change.” It was obvious Booze was strangely still
working for Walt. Thinking: “How the hell can he be in that kind of shape, and
it’s still working? I’d be dead! Ah fuck it; It’s not my problem.”
I’d gotten to know this guy. He was one of the first people to go to Vietnam.
They dropped his unit into the jungle; then dropped in the makings of a
structure like Fort Apache. Then they put it together, and defended it. Walt
explained to me what a star-scope was, which was still classified when he was
explaining it to me. He would describe how “Charlie was sneaking up” on them,
as they waited patiently till the Cong were all in the open, then “Smoked them
all.” He said it like it was kind of amusing. I guess they were seeing so much
action, that for him it was just another day in the jungle. I asked him if maybe he
had “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?” “Nah Jer, I just like to drink.” Walt
showed me his favorite spot to panhandle. It wasn’t even in an affluent part of
town; if anything it looked like one of the poorest parts of town. “On that spot
the other day I panhandled eighty-seven dollars in less than an hour.” “Did you
buy a better brand of booze that day?’” “No, I went to see Segovia; the best
flamenco guitarist on earth. He brought his chair down to the aisle between the
first two rows; set it down; seated himself, and played right there in the midst of
us. I was in the fourth row aisle seat.” Thinking: “Walt usually sleeps in the
87 park, and always issues an stench. Segovia could probably smell him!” “On
Thursdays I would usually go down this certain alleyway where there was a little
table and a chair, so I sat in it with the medical book I was reading, and the next
thing I know out comes this little oriental man with a full breakfast. He sets it
down in front of me, then brings out the coffee, and leaves. So I read my book;
eat the breakfast; get up and leave. A week later I sit at the same table, and he
does it again. So I just went there every Thursday for breakfast.” “Did you ever
say anything to him, or he to you?” “No never.” He later told me where he got
the medical books he was reading. “I’d get them from the UCLA medical library.
I’d just walk in; wave a piece of paper at them, and say: ‘Doctor Jonson, or
Carry or whatever.’ Then when they weren’t looking, I’d take the book out
under my coat.” “You were talking big thick books, with fancy illustrations that
cost a couple of hundred bucks!” “No problem, I always brought them back
when I was finished with them.”
Walt wrote the beginning of an article for Playboy Magazine. They sent him a
check for fifteen hundred dollars, with a promise to pay him another three grand
for the rest of the article. Two weeks later he sent them a letter saying he was
having some difficulties, and needed another fifteen hundred advance. They sent
it to him. Walt never finished the article. “Walt why didn’t you finish the article?
They would have probably wanted you to write more stuff for them.” “I don’t
know. They were beginning to annoy me.” Then he told me a story of some old
woman who hired him to build a little wooden porch and a flight of steps into the
back door of her home. “There was this old man watching me every day looking
very critical. He kept on scratching his head, and looking at me kind of sideways
from across the street.” “Well, did it all work out?” “Nope, I fucked it up, and
had to start all over again, and the old lady ran out of money.” I felt sorry for the
old gal; then I realized, she was probably just trying to help him. This was a time
when a kind and loving soul, had a few extra bucks to help out a struggling fellow
human being. Today everybody’s poor except the one-percent. That’s going to
change one-way, or the other. I wished that Walt could have stayed sober, and
alive to be my friend. I brought him down to LA County General Hospital. The
place was enormous. “Walt are you sure I’m dropping you off at the right
counter?” “I’ve been here fifty-four times!” “Ok, if you’re alive next week, I’ll
see you at the meeting.” Not long after that I left LA to live in Santa Barbara.
For a lot of years I wished that I would come down to LA and discover Dr. Walt.
You see Walt always wanted to be a doctor, and he had an IQ of 181. I miss him.
When you attempt to help another alcoholic get sober, that action will keep you
sober. This shouldn’t be confused with “commitments” such as making coffee, or
setting up the chairs for the gatherings etc…etc. Those things keep you from
isolating by giving you recognition in the “fellowship” it takes the place of your
88 former pattern of going to the bar, or wherever else you drank, and or, whoever
you drank with. You have a new set of homies. But if you want to get something
more substantial than that; something you can take with you wherever you go.
You’re going to have to find something; not someone; some thing, which you
accept as being a power greater than yourself. You see yourself is always
centered in your head. And your head houses a cyberntical system that works
exactly like a computer. And within that system is some faulty software that says:
“Let’s have a drink.” At any time that life seems overwhelming, and it often
suggests: You’ve broken a shoelace. This is overwhelming God Damit, Let’s
Have a Drink! It presents this solution for all life’s problems, large and small;
and you’ve followed its directives for years. So this pattern is so well engrained,
that it takes nothing short of a miracle, to change it. There is something called
Universal Consciousness. It doesn’t necessarily mean God; it just means
collective wisdom. Wisdom is intelligence applied, and proven. It’s all in a
universal mind in which we all share. Our collective mind not only has wisdom,
but also the psychic power to carry out the directives of said mind, because it
synergistically draws that power from every mind it’s in contact with. It doesn’t
care what you call it; like a computer, it has no ego. All you have to do is ask it
what to do? Or: “Please take away from me the desire to drink.” This Universal
Mind of which you are a part, is not just words; It’s psychic power. Ask it for the
power to stay sober, and it will give it to you. Walt couldn’t make himself
conceive of a mind that was greater than his own, cause he was so fucken
brilliant. But there is no one that can stand up to the collective wisdom and
psychic synergistical energy of our combined consciousness. When we ask that
consciousness to keep us sober; it not only shows you how, it gives you the power
to carry out its suggestion; That’s one of the ways you can tell that you’re in
contact with it. It only suggests; it never demands. And it will even keep you
sober, when you’re fucking up in every other aspect of your life. All you have to
do is admit that you’re powerless over alcohol, and ask it to help you to stop
drinking it.
Ok on to my next favorite alcoholic. I got to tell you the reason I’m mentioning
these folks; they’re some of the un-sung heroes of my life. They were wonderful
people, and no one will ever know how wonderful, unless someone says so in
print. There are numerous others, but they’re in my other books. The last one is
a kid I met on a visit back to Brooklyn New York; I hadn’t been there in many
years. I stayed at my oldest sister’s condo; I got two sisters; one five years older,
and one six years older than I; I’m there to visit my mom who’s in her mid
eighties, and living in a rather neat Catholic home for the elderly/ hospital. She
was on the third floor; sharing a room with a woman I didn’t like, I was glad that
a curtain divided the room; my mom had the side with one huge picture window;
89 a spectacular view of the narrows, and the Verrazano Bridge. If you owned a
condo in that area with that view, it would cost you no less than a million bucks
or more, to buy it. Anyway I was getting ready to go over to that area, which was
around seven miles away. If it was earlier in the day, I would have walked it, but
my oldest sister wanted me to have my nephews; her nine-year-old son, and my
other sister’s son; same age; go there by bus. “They know the way.” Thinking: “I
know the way, I used to live here. What she really means, is they know which bus
to take. No! What she really means, is she wants me, to bring these kids to see
their grandmother.” So I get on the bus with these two nine year old boys, one of
which, has a habit of contradicting practically everything you say, and wanting
to analyze it, to see if it meets with his approval. The other has a habit of landing
a combination of punches on the first one, whenever he gets caustically sassy with
him. The one with the fists was Richie. There’s an old tale of a sage in the
Himalayas who would visit remote towns in his wanderings. He was seen entering
a village from one of its side paths. “How did you get up that path without being
bitten by the cobra that lives there? We never use that path.” Said the village
elder. “Oh. Well you can use it now. I told him not to bite anyone.” The sage
stayed a while; healed some people, and moved on. A year later he was again
coming up the same path; as he entered the village he asked one of the natives:
“Where is the cobra, that lives on that path?” “Oh, The children stoned him, and
he died.” The sage went down to where the cobra’s hole in the earth had been,
and said: “Cobra… cobra..” And the badly bent cobra came out of his hole. “Do
you remember what happened to you?” The cobra had to think for a short while.
“Oh, Yes…yes! I remember the children stoned me.” He was pleased with
himself, because true forgiveness is when one forgets the offence. “You stupid
cobra! I told you not to bite, I didn’t tell you not to hiss!!!.....” I was remembering
this story, when kid number one gave me some shit. I leaped up close to him in a
very threatening manner and said: “You smart mouth me one more time!! And
I’ll throw you right through this FUCKEN WINDOW!” When I’d put a psychic
spin on an outburst, it stuck with people for days. The kid just didn’t say
anything to me for all of the rest of the day. Fast-forward thirty-five years I’m on
the phone to this forty four year old alcoholic nephew who no one wants to talk
to in the middle of the night, cause he’s very drunk, but rather coherent. Richie:
“You’re just like me! You’re a vicious crazy motherfucker! When you
threatened my cousin on that bus back in Brooklyn that day, I was sure you were
gunna kill em.” I didn’t tell Rich I was just hissssing… cause he seemed to need
to be able to identify with my rage. When Rich was a little boy his mom would
ask him: “What do you want to be when you grow up Richie?” “I want money.”
was his reply. “Yeah Rich, but how do you want to make money?” “I want to
make money.” was his only reply. Rich told me the story of his life while we were
90 on the phone for the next eight months two or three nights a week. Sometimes I
wouldn’t hear from him for three weeks, cause he’d stop drinking; use some
sedatives instead, and be able to work for a while. He was a security salesmen
and an extremely skilled one. If he could stay abstained from alcohol for a week,
he’d always pull down no less than fifteen thousand that week. The problem was,
at this point in his drinking career; he could spend that much on lap dances;
hookers, and expensive booze, within the following week. When he hit his
crashing point, is when I’d hear from Rich. When he first started in the securities
business in less than a year he cleared a mill and a half, then took off to Central
America, rented a bar, and spent all of the money drinking, and doing three gals
a day for the next six months. When he came back, his slightly older brother
asked him: “Why did you spend all that money? We could have started a
business together. Why did you spend all that money?!” “Cause it was mine to
spend!” was his retort. I was made to understand what Rich meant, many years
prior, by a drinking buddy of mine in Redondo Beach, Ray was a Ute Indian or
in more current terms Native American: “The Ute nation, got these three tribal
lawyers together, and gave them a collection of their old treaties. They presented
them in federal court, and it turned out that the Ute Nation owned the whole
state of Utah, and if the Mormons wanted to stay there, they’d have to buy it
back. My cut turned out to be three quarters of a million dollars. I took it down
to a town in Old Mexico and bought everyone who came to me anything they
wanted. I had a sixteen man mariachi band with me wherever I went.” “Did you
save any of it?” “Nope; took me a year to spend it all.” “Didn’t you regret
spending all of it?” “Nope, not for a minute. I wouldn’t trade that year for
anything. That was the best year of my life!” So I understood that Richie wasn’t
just being frivolous, he was actually improving the economy. How many people
go spend over a million dollars on the common people of a third world country
when they vacation? The only ones I’ve ever known were my nephew and my
best drinking buddy. Neither one of them ever got sober. Richie drank himself to
death last year. I was the last one to hear his voice on the phone. The last thing he
said to me was: “Tell it to somebody who gives a fuck!” Then the next thing I
know the dimmer switch on the living room chandelier, is turning itself all the
way up, then all the way down. “Richie is that you?” The fucken thing starts
flashing up and down more rapidly. So I make mental contact, and talk to him.
“I’m out, I’m out!” “Yeah, I know you’re out. Now you’re probably gunna have
to go reincarnate, grow up and get fucken sober!” He got a little testy when I said
that. My housemate was a little pissed at him for dying. She wanted to meet him,
and thought he would one day get sober, so after a week or more of him fucken
with the lights she was getting really mad at him, as did I, and I say to him: “Get
the fuck adda here, and don’t come back, I’m fed up with listening to your
91 unlearned attitude. Go hang out somewhere else. I don’t want to feel your
consciousness around me.” The lights stopped blinking, and I was pretty sure
he’d left.
So one night I go to a support group meeting, and this one kid comes in, and
he’s got some real grit, he tells the group, which consists of somewhat privileged
twenty year olds, that they’re not very courageous, and don’t have the balls to
tell the absolute truth; then walks out. Me after the meeting in the condo talking
to my roomie: “I tried to catch that kid. I wanted to talk to him. He’s got the
kind of guts it takes to stay sober indefinitely. I liked that kid.” The lights flash
an agreement. I look at the roomie: “Did you see that? Richie went to the fucken
meeting.” To him: “You know what? You can go to more meetings, learn the
principals, and with your mental influence help some of these fuckers; like for
instance that kid who left the meeting. He might think he’s talking to himself, but
he’ll really be talking in his head to you. Sell him on the idea of getting sober, and
your next incarnation will be a breeze.” I haven’t heard from Rich in a while, but
I got the feeling he’s changed.