Days of Change...
The Summer Of 77/visiting the old digs… Westwood:
1976 – 1977 “Snippets”
So much happened in these two years. I can only give is an over all snapshot of the huge changes that occurred, both with myself, and society at that point. As I came out of a self imposed daze of several years, I started to discover who I was once again, and the possible new self. In this, I am sure I was not alone. I started to meditate again after several years. I still over indulged, but projects started to form in my head. I began work on a book. I start to examine my life again... and find that it needs more than a little bit of work.
One would think that the theme for the 1970's was Sex, Drugs, & Rock n' Roll. Truly. Writing about it years removed...
How much detail does one go into about sex? It is a fair question. I mean, the times were wild, and penicillin was king as the saying goes. I have yet to figure how to write about those times in such a way to express the beauty of it all.. Liberation after all was in the air. Perhaps later. Your feedback would be appreciated…
It really was a party that lasted from the mid 60's until the early 80's in all truth. Drugs were to be had in infinite variety (more so now from what I hear as of late), and there was certainly amazing explorations of sexuality and gender fluidity going on. It was an awakening... Yet little did we know of the storm unfolding that resulted in HIV/AIDS bursting on the scene in the waning years of the 70's. Looking back, my first friend died in 1975-76 from what now seems to be AIDS. The following years would see a terrible toll among our community in London, L.A., San Francisco. What started out as outrageous, turned tragic for so many...
So much drugs... and so many people using them. It seemed on the main that the idealism of the 60's had completely morphed into hedonism, looking back, yes this was the situation. It was as if a great dam of repression had broken, and people were indulging more and more. Drugs were breaking down social structures and mores, in tandem with sexuality and other social experimentation.
The music was mutating. Much of it was good, lots of it was dire. The revolution that began with Iggy Pop, David Bowie, The New York Dolls morphed until 1976 hit and then it was a watershed moment. Patti Smith, Television, The Sex Pistols, Talking Heads, Ultravox, Ian Drury... it was, a moment. It seemed a dividing line to most of us, abandoning what had transpired in the 60's for a new reality. I absolutely loved the change. Chris Spedding playing Garland Jeffery’s Signature tune exemplifies it:
It was a time of excitement, of hope, and transformation. Here are snippets of these years, and I mean snippets... Will write more fully later on:
November 1976 into early 1977:
Puna Lu'u on the North shore of Oahu. Early in the morning, the sound of the ocean rises in my consciousness as I awoke from a dream in which I am being told that I must leave Hawaii, to go back to Los Angeles and take a job, save the money earned and get to London as soon as possible.
I have always been one to take dreams seriously….
The job I had in Hawaii was near perfection. Working on an estate with a private lagoon and one half of the old Hawaiian Royal Palace that was moved in the early 1900s from Waikiki to the North Shore. It is the main residence of the rectory of the 4th way school (in which I had studied with off and on since 1966.) My job was simple here: pick up palm fronds, do some office work, serve drinks in the afternoon and help with dishes.
Yet here I was going to talk to the dean of the school at his residence. I let him know that I had a dream and that I must follow it. He sat there listening to me very intently. A student of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (at Fontainebleau, south of Paris) he had the presence of mind to listen and said to me, "You must follow your dream, but remember you will always be welcome here if you want to return." I took that as a good sign.
Two days later I am back on an airplane heading to LA. I had planned to stay in Hawaii, yet the dream was so insistent... It hung on with me, although I have wanted to go to the UK and Europe since I was a child. A persistent theme in my life, these dreams.
Arrived in L.A., early evening. David T. picked me up, drove me to our old shared flat on Westwood Blvd, above the dance studio & childcare center. It was good to see friends, but I was curious as to where this all is going. I stayed for awhile with the old roommates, eventually finding a nice flat with my friend CJ on Euclid Avenue in Santa Monica off of Pico Blvd a block or so. Top of the hill, looking down from the rear of our place towards the Ocean... CJ is a bit of a wild man from Texas originally, one of the sweetest people you would ever meet and what's great about him as well is that he's very clean, a good roommate and he puts up with my craziness. Then again, his craziness is something to behold. Our flat becomes the by-word for wild going ons. Yet, we keep it to a low roar on the main.
CJ was in his cocaine period. I was not the enthusiast that he was, having other demons to contend with. I am often woken up in the middle of the night by CJ to come out to the living room and test the latest batch, which I do of course. It seems I have a discerning nose... Ha! CJ runs with a few iffy people, including one lawyer who as a dealer flies to Washington DC monthly with a kilo of the powder, making visits to various Congressman, Senators, and others. I consider him a bit... off. You could feel bad juju just roiling off of him. More than bad juju, I know that he is dangerous. His aura radiates less than healthy appetites. I usually find an excuse to leave when he shows up.
Looking for work I first found it at Chanin's clothing store in Westwood. It was a bit of a hoot. Luckily there is a bar next door so I can have a drink at lunch/break time if it is too boring, or for after work. I bump into Bonnie Raitt there one afternoon as she is getting plastered with a young man. She is hugging him, and flirts over his shoulder. I had to laugh... so outrageous. The male members of Fleetwood Mac come in to Chanin's one afternoon for jeans. The women sales staff went crazy around this, understandable really... but this is Los Angeles after all. Mick Fleetwood seemed a nice soul as did John McVie. Lindsay, I can't really say... Great place to work, but too far from our flat, and frankly I needed more money for the coming trip to the UK/Europe.. I look for work closer and find waiter work at The Sidewalk Café in Venice.
1977 for sure:
The Sidewalk Café sparked a renaissance in Venice. It was an amazing place. The owners, Bob & Skip were two incredible people, visionaries really, (but still...). I was in the first group of waiters and staff to be hired, having worked at Café Figaro years before in West Hollywood. Bob's wife had opened Small World's books first in 1/2 of the old building. (I was later to find The Hasheesh Eater there, but that is another story). It is pretty much a dream job. My regular customers ran the gamut from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Julie Christie, and other actors, to the old Beats still hanging on in Venice from the 50's, to skaters, and always the party crowd. People queued up in the morning 1/2 way around the block. It was a brilliant crowd most days.
The staff was always nipping off to the store room for coke, speed, a joint, whatever. Regardless of how high you were, it worked, worked beautifully. A favourite memory often repeated: The sunset elicited a standing ovation from the guest and crew. Time and again. Golden, golden. I became a skating waiter 2 or so months in, no seriously. I would get up in the morning at our flat on Euclid, put on my skates, skate down to the Sidewalk Café, skate afterwards, until late in the evening. I was in great shape from the constant exercise which also kept me really focused...
Restaurant workers being dreamers on the whole... We had actors, comedians, musicians, writers on the staff. Some went on to be quite famous (Rickie Lee Jones as an example). Great people, one and all.
One of my faves was James. James was from NY, and on the first day he admonished me, "Don't steal my tips"... This was really weird to hear, as it wasn't something that had crossed my mind of course. Over time we become friends. Through him, I meet Philip Lithman, his roommate... known to many as Snakefinger, who co-founded the great Pub-Rock Band, Chilly Willy & The Red Hot Peppers and who worked as guitarist/collaborator with the San Francisco Art Band, "The Residents". Phil and I took to performing around L.A. together, doing covers of Eddie Cochran & Buddy Holly, with the occasional Who & Kinks covers. Good times. (This relationship with Phil helped propel me to London later on.) We hang at James's and his house frequently, and go often to The King's Head, the local British Pub up in Santa Monica for wild nights with British Ex-Pats, and the associated gang of friends.
Phil Lithman/Snakefingers & one of his sweeties…Rebecca if I recall. I remember this being at a Chinese Restaurant but whether it was in L.A. in 1977, or a couple of years later in San Francisco… hard to say. Miss the man.
So, I was getting up to much mischief and along the way reentering the world of psychedelics again after a nine year hiatus. Attended the Pink Floyd concert for their "Animal Tour" in Anaheim on Acid with a couple of friends. It was a remarkable reintroduction to this wonderful chemical. The concert was mind blowing. I touch bases with Acid after that every week or two afterwards until I leave for London. It is a happy home coming, and keeps me away on the main from harder stuff. At this point Acid was everywhere in Venice. It was like the second coming. Nothing like getting off of work, dropping, and skating until midnight before I headed to parts unknown or unexplored.
As much as I enjoyed Pink Floyd’s concert, the best show of the year was seeing Iggy Pop/w David Bowie as back up vocalist/keyboardist with Blondie opening. Amazing. My old neighbor from West Hollywood, Ray Manzarek was sitting next to me, and just in front of us “The Germs”…. dressed in a concoction of glitter & punk paraphernalia... They were highly enthused much to Ray’s dismay. Blondie was great, outrageous even. Iggy and Bowie tore the house down. Great memory
I'd been meditating quite seriously and practicing yoga. One morning I awaken and I find that I am sitting up in a full lotus position in bed but not actually in bed hovering over the bed about 6 in I looked down see the situation run my hand underneath myself to make sure and laid myself down and I slowly floated back to the bed. I fall back to sleep and awaken again shortly after floating once more above the bed. I will myself out of the state and I slowly sink into the bed I considered the situation and sign up and resumed full lotus position and meditated for an hour.
Was it a lucid dream or was this actual reality? I didn't know then and I don't know now what exactly was going on but I was having multiple dreams of places I've never been to and travels I hadn't made yet. During these days I dreamed of places in the UK where I later stumbled on with Mary.
Early in 1977 I reconnected with Don Roberto (who was) a classic mystic (I first met him in 1967) with a wonderful backstory. His great grandfather had come over to Mexico with Napoleon III, promptly deserted and moved to Northern Mexico and intermarried with an indigenous family. Roberto's Grandfather was one of Pancho Villa's scouts during the revolution. His family crossed the border and moved to the San Diego area in the early twenties where he was born.
I had this dream about Mexico… riding down into a valley from the mountains on a train made of silver in a a freight car with Bob Dylan sitting across from me playing a harmonica. We see two volcanoes and a pyramid with a rainbow stretching out of of the volcanoes as they belch smoke. I describe it Don Roberto, and he says “I know this place. Mexico is calling you you must go there sometime, it is calling you!”... I go to visit him frequently, having long discussions while his giant parrot walks on your shoulders and grab your ears... well, Don Roberto laughs as I just freeze in terror as the bird intimidated me.
At this time I start having flying dreams... In the dream I start of by running, stretching my arms out occasionally beating the air with my arms and in doing so rising above the Earth, soaring into the heavens. Sometimes these dreams are so real; I am incredibly free in these dreams and when I woke in the morning I felt profoundly grateful. Don Roberto thought that all these dreams were a good sign and I have to agree. My spirit was soaring as the year wound down. London was always on my mind.
I ended up another job, working at a pizza parlor (Pete’s) in Santa Monica during the evening to put my money together. )I met our future bass player, who was washing dishes, a young Tim Ferris, who later went on to work with the remnants of The Germ’s Pat Smear and others.) Combined with the job from the Sidewalk Café, I soon reach my goal, and more.
During this time I learn how to regulate my drug use so as not to overwhelm myself. Here is the deal: I can use anything up to 2 to 3 days but I have to take a break away from that substance for at least a week. This works remarkably well and it balances me out...
Finally at the near end of September 1977, I say goodbye to friends, and lovers; I depart first for New York to see my friend Chris and have a few adventures there with him as he knows just about everybody in New York working for several authors and musicians as a typist…(Truman Capote, Gore Vidal among others…) We hit the East Village and Greenwich Village nearly nightly. I run into friends from LA… a couple of models who are in New York to work and they invite me to Studio 54 for night of dancing and what turns out to be debauchery… (in the next post)
New York, 1977, Early October. Beauty… Beauty… Beauty…
The Back Porch, Westwood Apt. Summer 1977
A watershed time. Moving past what I couldn’t change, discarding what I could. Finding some balance, but blazing with ideas. I had made it so far on dreams, more of course to unfold.