Before I describe my final days at the warehouse and the events that led up to my necessary, lucky departure, I’ll paint a brief picture of what it was like to live there those two months, because it was so different any scene I’d experienced before. Only a few scattered details are in my notebooks, most pages are filled with book thoughts. I spent many hours in my strange room at one of the two desks.
I spent many evenings with Bruno and Claire, talking away the hours with John. It was a big room with a sofa and cushioned chairs at the back where John and I would sit in dim light. At the front Bruno was at his desk and Claire hers. They would go about their business (I think Claire was going to school at the time and Bruno had just finished or was finishing a degree in journalism at Berkeley). But they seemed to like us there. We weren’t in their way and spoke quietly, and we relished the quiet, undisturbed escape from upstairs. Sometimes they would take their own breaks and join in our always interesting conversations. So we became close friends.
Of the other residents I only befriended Tina and Jim. There were some younger kids down the hall in their early twenties with little in common with me, present at some parties but that’s about it. With Rob C. I had a few interesting talks. But he stayed in his room mostly and didn’t socialize, (except with the shady girlfriends late at night). The only other resident I remember was a Scott, halfway down the hall, our age, a loudmouth and bully.
But let me remember someone pleasant, Tina. She was a tall, slender woman, my height, (five foot ten), my age, with very light, slightly freckled skin, carrot-red hair cut short, a German accent but with perfect English. She rode a large motorcycle and was masculine in some ways and self-assertive, but a woman in others, delicate in her emotions, which only burst through on occasion, like sunbeams on a partially cloudy day. Like all of us there she enjoyed speed. She was good friends with Jim and Bruno (they were the three that came to my barbecue party at John’s invitation a year earlier).
One evening, probably in Jim’s room, (she lived next door to him) I got into a conversation with her and we talked a good while. She had no boyfriend then and I wanted to get to know her more so I asked her out on an informal dinner date, somewhere cheap and nearby. We drove ten blocks up San Pablo avenue to a just-opened Thai restaurant, (a hole in the wall) I on the back of her motorcycle. They had maybe six tables and we were their only customers. But they, a family, were delighted to serve us. Sitting down we found out they had no liquor license yet and this almost made us leave. But there was a small liquor store right next door and the owner said he could uncork any bottle for a slight fee. That was the law. Problem solved. We bought a bottle of red wine and enjoyed a fine, spicy meal. This is where her other side shone out. She was visibly pleased at being taken to dinner and our talk, like the food, was very good. I had no ulterior motives but enjoyed her feminine company. It was the only date we went on but we were closer friends from then on.
I don’t know what she was doing here in the U.S., perhaps just enjoying life. I don’t think she had a job but she stayed in town awhile because we met sometimes at Bruno’s house much nearer campus a few years later (after the warehouse was vacated). Later she went back to Europe but returned for a visit in 89 with a fine husband, Lassa, a famous, successful photographer and I was delighted, (with Sanita and Willie, 1 ½), to be their host and put them up in our house for two weeks. If you want an image of her, she looked very much like Julia Stiles, the German girlfriend of Jason Bourne in the ‘Bourne Identity’. Even in the character she portrayed, the voice and the mannerisms, you could see Tina exactly mirrored.
Jim was six years younger than me, just finishing up a science degree. I spent many nights in his room talking, even months before I moved into the warehouse. I steered him into the Greek course and ended up writing most of his final paper for that class at the last minute, an all-nighter. He was about four inches shorter than me, blond-haired, smart and very likeable. Sanita liked him so much that the three of us traveled by car on our first trip to Texas, for me to meet her family in April of 86. He took great pictures and we got along perfectly.
Upstairs I still had the once a week poker nights. I remember Steve was late to one of them, ran in the door ten minutes after we’d started, opened a louvered window not two feet away from where I was sitting and puked violently out of it onto the street. We all turned and watched with surprise and concern. But after that one quick heave he turns to us, wipes his mouth on his sleeve and with a big smile on his face, and says: “I feel great now”. He not only joined the game but partied afterwards as two relatives of his, a couple from S.F., showed up with a bag of cocaine, while we had speed, my coffee table spread with lines of both for many hours, with six or seven of us sitting around it, the only time it saw such variety.
Steve had ridden his bike there swiftly and vomited on purpose. He had this talent of being able to party with the best of us all night and though ten years older, get up after a few hours’ sleep and ride his ten-speed up the steep lanes behind Berkeley into the hills at a racing pace and after two hours of this exertion sweat out all the poisons from his system and feel restored and ready to party again, while we woke up the next day and moaned and groaned for hours, lying in bed awake or lounging in chairs, drinking coffee.
My last two weeks there were crazy, to say the least. In that short period I wrote voluminously, filling forty-five pages in a new, larger notebook, each page nearly double the size of the others. It preserves a detailed picture of my life right then, with its pinnacles of insights and self-discovery and the pathetic overtaxing, over- intoxicated, unravelling of my health and even sanity. I’d been overdoing it all summer, bad sleep, bad diet, too much speed and at the end, bad company. It was my one last, fullhearted, poetic, bohemian attempt to fully experience Arthur Rimbaud’s:
‘Dereglement de tous les sens’.
That means, ‘the derangement of all your senses’. And I think I achieved it.
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