Days of wine and roses
My diary continues: “I wake up with a terrible hangover, 8 a.m., deathly ill. No work. I visit my car, getting a ride from Jim and I decide to keep it. Dinner at ‘La Pena’ again with Dale. We plan a walk but step into her place at 9 p.m. and by chance check out channel nine where ‘Brideshead Revisited’ is just starting, the very first episode. The previous day we’d talked of catching it but we had no T.V. guide to find out when, so this was quite a lucky coincidence. (another miracle) We watch it drinking Brandy, lying beside each other on her bed. Much delight in the show, much commenting on it. Afterwards we start kissing and hugging to a half-watched Western. I go home at two”.
“Tuesday: I tow the car with Steve and his truck. Dale comes to my place at ten p.m., wine, omelettes, talk and kissing till she walks home at two a.m.. Wens. Thurs. Friday hard work digging a foundation under a house for Robert Malone, me and John Seebach. Friday night Dale and I go to the ‘Omnivore’ restaurant, excellent dinner, Muscadet, then to her house with cognac and we make love. Sat., a ‘James Bond’ movie (at her house, in bed with her. I had no T.V. and she had no chair). Sund: at the bar with her at ‘Larry Blakes’, upstairs on the couch, fondling. Mond. Tues. Wens. hard work. It’s July 20th Dale comes over to my house at 9p.m.. We buy a pint of whisky. Mike and James drop by, then some music playing, Mike very drunk and obnoxious. We get speed at midnight from the warehouse. Jim and John bring it and leave after ten minutes. Laurel keeps coming in and out, (for lines, but not wanting to be around Mike in his boasting, incoherent, blathering state. She’d seen too much of it and was sick of it. Everyone could see by now the beginning of the end) Mike and I and Dale get high and happy. Dale and I go to the ‘White Horse’ (just around the corner, a sleazy bar) for drinks and beers for a half hour and intimate talk. We go back to Mike’s and Laurels pad, listening to him strum (incoherently), more talk and lines till 5:30 a.m.. Dale and I finally alone together, much talk in bed, I call in sick for work, more lines and blissful embraces all morning. This afternoon I walk to the Med., and write this account, (the last five pages), still high, very happy, with many pleasurable prospects ahead. Before Dale leaves she runs into Ed and Brigitte and agrees to house sit for them for four days as they’re off on some trip”.
I finish off the entry with a bit of reflection: “This cannot happen to me often, this deep falling in love. I hope the violence of it” (we were having good sex each night, the drugs of course assisting), “unlike I’d ever experienced before or since will not mean it’s short lived. I hope it may mellow into a long relationship, close and radically different from my life of the past six months”.
So here we have the first impressions from the very battlefield of emotions and my present hopes recorded, to be re-read with pleasure or with pain a year from now.
(My fears were true. It was too passionate, or ‘violent’ to last, and I did re-read it with ‘pain’. But the affair did inspire my few good love poems. I never showed her these poems but wished I had, because in every sense they belonged to her.)
I add one more quote which shows again that my love was moved most of all by something very akin to ‘pity’. “Her fading youth, her fragile health, (she had spent years in India in the late sixties, studying meditation and had suffered from serious gastrointestinal disorders ever since), her reckless partying, as if grasping at one last, desperate straw of youth, and her sometimes sadness, crossing her face like a cloud for a moment, for no reason I could discern, all contributed to my total infatuation with her”.
I remember how she lay beside me, in my arms that morning and her favorite music, Beethoven’s 7th was put on and we turned it up loud, caught up in the emotions. Then the second movement began and her ‘flentibus lacrimis’,(crying tears) and my sympathy for her, her tears wetting my shoulder, and nearly evoking my own.
I think I meant to say ‘fluentibus lacrimis’, (flowing tears) but so it was written. Grammar goes all to hell when one is love-struck.
I wish the record of those past days were longer. It’s such a priceless treasure, and amazing in some of its details, like Steve pounding his fist on the dashboard as he drove me home, after the best twenty-four hour long party either of us had ever experienced. It was an ineffable expression of joy, a happiness so strong there were no words for it.
I’ll continue with the extracts from my journals at the time. They don’t tell the whole story of the ‘Dale saga’ because they describe just the events, not the reasons behind them. It’s a story and has a clear beginning, middle and end. The beginning is done, the middle begins and the ‘end’ is not far off, happening with the end of August and her leaving town. So here it is in full:
“Friday July 26th 8 p.m. At the cafe Med, upstairs, drinking strong coffee. I hope I’m done with the hard labor of ditch digging for a while. The last few days were bitter. I had mornings full of thoughts, in the cool fresh air, which evaporated like the morning dew as I sweated and dug. And I felt them fading as my body tired, wasted for eight dollars an hour, such precious thoughts as would have flowed and flowered into books.
I must contrive to do no more work for a week now, enjoying the summer as I used to, with study…I am still in love, but shall see her perhaps every other day for long hours. My intellect demands to be alone, reassessing my life and potentials…I feel like I’m on to the solution of some great question, so close I can’t desist in the inquiry”.
I can see by these notes that I’m starting to evaluate my situation with Dale, and limit it, which puts an end to the first blind and complete love I felt, and spells trouble. The next entry is some thoughts on women in general, Dale inspired, but a qualifying assessment of her also. Once you begin to examine your relationship to your love mate, you slowly kill it, just like a scientist examining some new species in his lab, with a scalpel. He cuts it open.
“There are certain women so chic and beautiful that they will always be worshipped, and they will pass their lives like priceless cats in ease and jewellery and adoration. They may either take to this lifestyle or be miserable and unfulfilled, but it’s their lot and very hard to escape.
Every man seems relegated to a certain class of women by his looks. And only a few rich or brilliant men may cross boundaries. Our talents are always employed in trying to get better than we deserve. But how often is it that that we see one ugly man or woman with a beautiful partner. The wisest of us operate within these almost natural boundaries and choose the best they can within their class. For we’re dealing only in looks. Character seems not so much a concern to us in searching for soulmates”.
Although I didn’t see it at the time I wrote this, I was obviously assessing our relationship, especially if I was worthy of her. And the first part hints at my poverty at the time, (from buying the dammed ‘Dan Electro’, and my car breaking down and having to be fixed) so that I couldn’t wine and dine her every night like I thought she deserved. But for the next few weeks friends did us great favors, especially Maggie. So we lived in borrowed luxury and enjoyed even richer love sessions in other people’s beds, though it couldn’t last. They were temporary loans. But it was sweet.
“Sat. August 5th. Not working and being in love, (in an ever more increasing frenzy) and doing odd things, going new places, without attention to day or night or regular sleep, has not a little unsettled my psyche. Now I will be dressed in strange clothes, (which she bought me, as I had no proper clothes for nice restaurants). She has cut my hair, my mirrored reflection owns a trace of unfamiliarity and my broken sleep is punctuated with mad, dissonant dreams”.
“But it was a most pleasant week, perhaps the most pleasant I’ve ever spent, (a strong contender at least) and it seems to have lasted eons. I can hardly remember all of it. It was a myriad of changing moods, places and thoughts”.
As for places, we spent Sat. night to Monday at Maggie’s house, an island of paradise, the garden, the blanket under the trees, our dining in, the records and drinks and soft bed, all in quiet and free of cares. It was enjoyable to me, up Friday night till 5 a.m.. The ‘Natives” party after the Plough closed, the cake, then Steve’s house, then our serious talk here, her hangover and missing work, her worries all forgotten after food at ‘Kips’ and then retirement at Maggie’s”.
Now Maggie and her ex-husband Mike Huston had a charming house with a back garden on a quiet street in a nice part of Oakland, which they let us use this weekend, (actually four days) being away. People were always wanting to bestow favors upon Dale, like Brigitte, soon after meeting her and offering her the house while she was gone. Dale’s beauty and charm seemed to elicit favors from her female friends, the same way those same qualities stole men’s hearts. Her place at the Plough was a dump. Maggie also had a small apartment in Berkeley, to which she’d escape for weeks, every time she had a bad argument with Mike. They were both schoolteachers and well off. Mike would frequent the Plough after work for a few beers, and I got to know him well over the years before. He was handsome, soft spoken, levelheaded and one of the nicest persons I ever met. Maggie was the tempest. I’d heard of her but never met her till I met Dale. They were best friends.
He’d gone to Ireland on a visit and met her in Dublin, brought her back and married her, helped her get the green card and a job, and they had a beautiful child, ‘Oona’. Then their relationship became turbulent for many years, apart for months then together again, their four-year-old daughter in the middle. This month she was back with him and lent us the house.
“I felt grand the next day (Sat) still high, unsober but carefree, a champagne party at Jared’s, leaving her here but then the sweet returning I shall not forget”.
“Monday, a drive and sunning at lake Temescal, returning home to be alone after four fine days with her, and how good that too!”
“Tuesday night with her again, midnight dinner at Maggie’s with Django Rhinehart music. Wednesday I spend at the Med., but the evening at the Plough with her to help arrange housing with Bear and Sally. Thursday a heady day, up, coffee, Chuck comes over for a two-hour philosophical conversation. Mike is over in the afternoon with a bottle of Jack Daniels, doing lines, a high pitch of enthusiasm. We discuss life philosophy, feel great. At 5 p.m. I take him to finish up a little electrical job I scored at a doctor’s office, nurse call buttons. Then poker night where I win 15 dollars very drunk and stoned. Then to her at 10:30. We do lines, talk in Plough, an old acquaintance met, then to her place again for more lines and gin and tonics. We drive and stroll through the Berkeley Marina at 3 a.m. then back to her place for talk and repeated lovemaking till 10 a.m. Then we go on an errand to buy me pants, then to Tilden park summit to lie in the sun. By late afternoon we’re at my place. We do laundry, drink beer and rest and make love. We’re up at 9 p.m. for food and to prepare to pick Maggie up at the airport at midnight. We get back to the Plough at 12:30 for one last hour of drinking. I’m home and in bed at 3”.
On the following page of my old journal is my first attempt at a love poem for Dale. In the following months, after her departure, she inspired many more. The thoughts, the memories of her became an obsession in all my private hours. I spent my time off work alone in the chair by the window. If it were daylight, I’d shut all the curtains, ‘to fabricate a gloom’ and spin ideas, jot lines, with starts and stops, some fine lines composed, but most of those around them crossed out. At night I’d take them up again, by my bed with the lamp on, and fill more pages.
If I couldn’t have her at least I could dote on her. It was a bitter-sweet labor. It was my attempt to sum it all up, a finalization of that love, and a ‘goodbye’ to her, in as pretty thoughts and words as I could conjure up, a prettiness that matched her beauty and which she deserved. That’s why I pummelled my brain so many hours over each word, to create the fairest and most succinct summation I could. She inspired it. In some poems it was a eulogy, a ‘farewell’ to our love, framed in the kindest phrases possible. In others it was that elusive attempt to capture the moments of pure bliss we chanced to share for a fleeting minute, a unity of souls. The Greeks call this process ‘Catharsis’. It’s hard work but it does heal one. Some poems coalesced to my satisfaction. You can judge for yourself as I’ll insert them in this account where they fit.