Lindy, Mike and Laurel
Now I come to a remarkable night in my life, one that changed it. I still remember it clearly. I recorded most of it at the time but added details later, as it played in my thoughts and loomed in my imagination over the years as the most ridiculous and improbable chain of coincidences. It was early November 1982, a Wednesday. These are my records:
“I just came home from work and got paid and had the next few days off, so I called Zan to purchase some speed. Zan and her husband Bob were a middle-aged couple, longtime residents of Berkeley and they knew a very competent chemist. Whenever he would cook up a batch they’d lay in a good supply and sell to their select friends. Thanks to Bone’s introduction a few months earlier I was now a member of that coterie.
On this occasion I was in luck. Zan drove to my house, I tried a line and found it so excellent I bought a gram. Zan departs and I sit and write at my table the very pages before me now and do a few more lines. After an hour or so, in the finest of ‘glows’, feeling thirsty, I walk to the Plough. It’s five p.m. and only six or seven people are sitting at the bar.
I'm standing next to this stranger, (Mike) sipping my beer and hearing him talk in a boasting manner to a pretty woman sitting on his other side also sipping a beer. It’s obvious they are strangers and he’s accosted her but she listens patiently. Seeing me close by he begins to address us both, wanting a wider audience I suppose. He tells us he’s just arrived from Phoenix, Arizona, a musician, and that what he has seen of the drugs here so far, the ones in Phoenix were far superior, especially the speed. That he should mention this very drug, of which I had one of the finest exemplars in my pocket as he spoke, I thought it such an odd remark that it beggared credulity. But I proceeded gingerly. I humbly interjected that maybe he just had a poor source, and that time and other trials might modify his view. This set him off on an even louder spiel, (and beginning to be embarrassing to us as the bartender was standing nearby) about the labs in Arizona, of which he knew a great deal, the cleaner air, the desert sterility, all contributing to making their speed the best in the nation. The ludicrous nature of these points and the fervent warmth of his assertions affected my usual reserve to the breaking point. I tap him on the shoulder to quiet him and calmly whisper that if he and his lady friend should wish to accompany me to my lodgings just a block away, I would give them demonstrable and palpable proof that his assertions were wrong. They both immediately downed their beers and followed me up the street.
So at my place, seated at my table, we started doing lines. Mike quickly agreed that my stuff was excellent. Now we introduced ourselves more intimately, telling our stories and becoming friends. Mike was my age and size. He even looked a little like me, a fast talker, sharp and eager to make friends. He’d just moved here from Phoenix, liked it here and was trying to convince his girlfriend, Laurel, to come here too. She was still in Arizona, an art student, extremely pretty and talented, as he described her at length. Our other guest, present and real, was Lindy. She was a few years older than us, very pretty, slim, our height with straight, long, light brown hair and thin rimmed glasses. She worked as a care giver at a senior’s home and was studying to become a nurse. She was recently divorced. She had a three-year-old boy shared equally between her and her ex, who lived nearby. She was from Missoula, Montana, went to university there and told us what a wild party town it was. She was educated and had some literature, some French and an interest in the French nineteenth century poets, Baudelaire and Rimbaud, so we hit it off very well, our first impressions of each other, and I immediately developed a fascination for her.
We talked away several hours, doing more lines, went back to the Plough thirsty, drank, came back to my place for more lines, talking ever more fervently and personally, then back to the Plough till it closed. Just as it announced ‘last call’ we somehow picked up another stranger, Mike Fahey, a very skinny, red haired kid straight off the boat from Ireland, with a strong Irish accent. He lived next to the Plough, had some relation to its owner and a case of beer in his room, so we dragged both to my place and finished off my speed. This lasted us till dawn. At six a.m. the bars in California open. We drove to a sleazy one way up College avenue in Lindy’s car, near where she lived. I remember being surprised as we walked in, as it was only ten minutes past six, yet there were already two customers sitting there. We ordered Bloody Mary’s, but Fahey was so loud and incoherent (he’d never done speed before) in his crazy ramblings to a T.V. news broadcast playing on the wall in front of us, he got us kicked out before we could hardly finish our drinks. He kept repeating that he was ‘loose as a goose’. He was in fragile health, allergic to alcohol and had never partied so much. We drove him home, exchanged phone numbers and hugged ‘goodbye’s’, promising to get together soon again, except for Mike Fahey who was going back to Ireland soon. He might not survive another ramble with us”.
That dawn, after we dropped Fahey off, and then Mike, Lindy drove me to my backyard driveway in the morning light, and told me what a wonderful time she’d had. She said this with such a lovely honesty in her sweet, feminine voice that I leaned over and kissed her, my arm slipping around her neck. She leaned towards me, face forward, and her lips were compliant. With that I was stricken, shot by Cupid’s arrow. I was in love, deeply so, for the very first time.
That’s the way it is in love. We love those who love us, because we see they see something in us which others don’t see, and we love them for that mutual perception, the dream that they might really admire and value us, as we admire them.
After that night Mike started dropping by my place on an almost daily basis. He would bring his guitar and try to teach me to accompany him. He had been to the Berkeley school of music in Boston a short while (or so he claimed). He was a patient teacher and with him I came as close as I ever would to being a musician. He had a guitar and a mandolin. I learned to accompany him with the guitar on the two compositions he wrote.
I introduced him to Bones that first week, but Bones didn’t like him, telling me he seemed dishonest and spelled trouble. He didn’t come to our poker games but he did show up for most of our parties, where all of my other friends liked or at least tolerated him. He boasted a lot which put some people off. But in one boast he wasn’t kidding, the beauty of his girlfriend Laurel. About a month after we met she finally did appear. I was with him to greet her at the bus station and we took her that night to the Pacific Film Archives, a fancy, modern structure right off campus, which was a movie theater and also a museum of modern art. We toured the museum and she was impressed. Also the patchouli girl had recently moved out and I talked to my landlord and secured them the small apartment in the back of the house. She had the money to pay the rent and deposit. Mike never had more than a few dollars in his pocket, probably borrowed from her (thus the missed poker games). So we became neighbors, to everyone’s delight.
After her arrival Mike’s estimation in all my friend’s minds rose considerably, from something near a crazy bum to a person with an amazing girlfriend. She was slender, blond, with a rare, beautiful face and a very feminine grace in all her movements and voice and was a very talented artist besides. There was a small landing or porch at the top of the stairs to their apartment which opened to the kitchen. It was just large enough for one chair, and on any nice day she would sit out on it with the door open and sketch for hours, sunning herself.
I noticed a distinct increase of male friends dropping by my place on such days, hoping to see her there. John Seebach absolutely fell in love with her. In her presence you always felt like drawing a chair from the table for her to sit. She brought out politeness in everyone. And she wasn’t shy. She’d come downstairs sometimes just to sit and chat with me. I showed her my poem ‘Ryan’s Day’ and she wanted to illustrate it, to help get it published. I still have a few of the pictures she drew for it, right at my table.
I also showed her some poetry, older stuff. Some of it she liked, but a few really moved her, like Thomas Gray’s “Ode on the Pleasure Arising from Vicissitude’, especially the last stanza. When I read it to her at one party, late at night, she begged me to write it out for her the next day. She came to my room the next morning. I copied it out on a sheet. I would have copied out the whole book for her, as she sat so close to me at my table, shoulder to shoulder, perfumed, glowing, and watched with curious delight as I transcribed it in the best penmanship I could manage:
See the wretch that long has tost
On the thorny bed of pain,
At length repair his vigour lost
And breathe and walk again.
The meanest floweret of the vale,
The simplest note that swells the gale,
The common sun, the air, the skies,
To him are opening Paradise.
She graced several of our most memorable parties. But she had to find work as soon as she moved in. She was lucky and scored a job she liked, as a waitress in the small restaurant at the Pacific Film Archives, four or five days a week, mostly weekends. She paid all the bills while Mike just talked. She loved my set of friends and musicians and our bohemian ways, charmed Steve S. and Larry and John, and all our poker crew, because besides being so feminine, she had no fear of men, a sort of Marlene Dietrich bonhomie. So she’d join us on a Friday evening, a room full of guys just getting started on our partying, join in on our conversations for a few hours then leave, to get her sleep for the next day’s work. She did do lines when the party was ‘right’ for her, no work the next morning, when she liked the crowd, the conversations interesting and with their ‘Siren songs’, drawing her in. But she always restrained herself and drank moderately. I never saw her drunk. She controlled her body.
I think all my friends had a secret crush on her, not so secret when she broke up with Mike a year later, sick of his boasting talk, his joblessness and erratic behavior, which just got worse as time went on. We all saw that coming six months before it happened. They’d argue upstairs with the door open and we’d hear it. I could never figure out why he ruined the relationship and lost such a rare, supportive girlfriend. Many of the hours she spent with us was just to forget about him, as he wasn’t there most often. He would disappear for days and not even tell us where he’d been, much less her. So as time went on the element of pity, of feeling sorry for her situation, crept in, making all of us even more endeared to her, for all she was going through. Even Bone’s showed her respect and hated Mike all the more more for his shoddy treatment of her. May would sometimes visit her for chats, guessing at that stage that she might be in need of a confidant.