Down in Monterey
Our agent set us up with a gig for the weekend in Monterey, California, which is down the coast a few miles from San Francisco. I loved the waterfront area of Monterey. The scene was exactly as John Steinbeck had described it in his novels Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat, and East of Eden. The club was in a crappy little building on the waterfront that must have been his inspiration for The Palace Flophouse and Grill in Cannery Row.
Steinbeck was one of my favorite authors at the time. I read “Cannery Row” something like five times. I do that with books that I like. I always pick up things I missed in previous readings. The Grapes of Wrath ranked among the best novels I’d ever read. He may well have been the best American author of the 20th Century. There I was wandering the wharf where Steinbeck created his masterpieces of literature. I was totally in awe.
The gigs went well that weekend. The chicks were way different from the hippie girls in the Haight. I met a girl named Julie who was quite literate and had actual thoughts. We hit it off from the start. She was also a voracious reader and we had read many of the same books. She told me that I had to go to City Lights Bookstore when I returned to Frisco. I assured her that a visit to Ferlinghetti’s store was high on my list.
Julie was also full of information about the Monterey Pop Festival that took place a year previous in June of 1967. She spoke of the cavalcade of rock stars that played the festival. Her favourite was Jimi Hendrix. She was within 50 feet of Hendrix when he doused his guitar with lighter fluid and lit it afire. She went on and on about how great Jimi’s set was. She also raved about the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. I told that we heard people rave about Butterfield when we saw The Doors in Chicago.
“You saw The Doors? Live?” she said with gaped mouth.
“Yes, the best concert I’ve seen or played at,” I replied.
“Who has your band played with in concert?” she asked, acting significantly more interested in me.
I ran down the list and she stopped me when I got to Who.
“You played with the Who?”
“Yeah, it was a cool concert. The Blues Magoos played that show, too.”
“What was the Who like?”
“They were great onstage, but they didn’t mingle at all backstage, not a word.” I confided. “They acted like they were too big to talk to a lowly opening band like Dynasty.”
“That’s too bad. They’re not going to get very far with that kind of attitude.”
“I agree. They’ll be a flash in the pan and gone before you know it.”
(Boy, were we wrong. I love irony.)
Julie stayed until the end of our show. “I’d like to talk more,” she said. My hopes rose that I might get intimate with this fascinating gal. “See you tomorrow night.” My hopes dropped like an unopened parachute.
Saturday night Julie returned. We talked before the gig and on each break. At the end of the night she asked for my address saying that she would write me. That was it. Not even a kiss on the cheek, which made me want her all the more.
Back to the Haight late that night Rock and I returned to the hippie chick’s pad. When we walked into the dense fog of marijuana and swirling lights Magnolia said to a girl I hadn’t met in our previous stay, “That’s him. He’s the one.” Apparently, I had become a minor legend among the girls of the neighborhood.
The chick approached me and said, “Hi, I’m Holly.”
“Hello, my name is Armond Blackwater,” I returned.
“Wow,” she said in that airy, bobble-headed way that was becoming all too familiar. “Are you a Native American?”
“Yes, I’m a Nakota Sioux,” I replied.
“That’s so cool,” she said slowly.
This was new. I hadn’t met many people that thought being an Indian was cool, other than other Indians that is.
“Native American’s are so beautiful,” she said. “You’ve got a great aura, man.” Really? Say more!
“Hey do you want to do some mescaline with me. I hear that you’re a real trip, man.”
“Sure, I’d love to do mesc with you,” I replied.
Holly was another small girl with long golden hair, thin with small pert boobs, and had pink hearts painted on her face. She wore the standard issue sun dress and obviously nothing else. She led me outside and up a ladder to a flat roof with a great view of the city and stars. She carried a jug of red wine with her.
Once on the roof, we dropped the acid and washed it down with the tastiest red wine. I complimented to her on the wine choice.
“Yeah, man,” she started, “my parents have a vineyard in Napa Valley. This is from our very own grapes. So, do you like it, man?”
“Very much,” I said.
I told her about my Ojibwa friends and the wine they made. She asked tons of questions about Indian life and my experiences as a musician. She proved to be less airheaded than I original appraised. She was very interesting to talk to and I was talking a lot. The mescaline kicked in and my tongue was wagging. It was a surprisingly warm night for San Francisco with wind blowing from the east instead of off the frigid bay.
We talked for a long time before she rose, twirled, and shed her sun dress. “I feel so free,” she said. “Join me.”
She didn’t have to ask me twice. I was out of my sweat pants and t-shirt in record time. We danced close together while Procol Harem sang “A Whiter Shade of Pale” faintly from inside the house. Once again, the acid made me horny as the devil and gave me superhuman staying power.
“We slipped the wide fandango,
Turned cartwheels across the floor
I was feeling kind of seasick
But the crowd called out for more
And the room was humming harder
And as the ceiling flew away
We called out for another drink, oh yeah
The waiter brought the tray
And so it was that later, yeah
As the miller told his tale
That her face at first just ghostly
Turned a whiter shade of pale”
I got it. I finally got the crazy lyrics to this song. The guy was tripping when he wrote it. He was describing an acid trip, had to be. It was the only explanation that made any sense.
We finally tired of meshing our parts together, which is all it was at that point, numb sex having lost all meaning or purpose. Even meaning didn’t mean anything anymore, nor did it have a purpose. We sat swaddled naked together gazing west toward at the Golden Gate Bridge. We were waiting for the Sun to rise over the water. I described sunrise in Biloxi, Mississippi to Holly. How the burning red globe would seem to rise up directly out of the water as palms fluttered languidly in the ocean breeze.
It was getting lighter yet there was no Sun. There were no clouds yet the Sun did not appear on the horizon. We puzzled over these phenomena deeply. What was wrong? Where was the Sun?
Simultaneously, we looked at each other and burst into laughter when we finally realized that we were waiting for the Sun to rise in the West.
“That’s some really great acid y’all have,” I said.
“Yeah, it rocks hard,” Holly agreed. “But, it’s not as good as the shit we had in ’65. Man, you should have seen the Haight in ’65 during the Summer of Love, man. It was beautiful, man. That was such a groovy time with groovy people everywhere, man. Kesey was here, man, right here in the Haight.”
“Kesey?” my antennae went up. “Do you mean like Ken Kesey?”
“Yeah, man, that’s him. He was here, man, right here in this house, man. He was such a groovy guy and a great lover.”
“You’re telling me that you balled Ken Kesey? I mean, the Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Once A Great Notion? That Ken Kesey? One of my literary heroes? He was here and you fucked him.”
“Yeah, man, so did Magnolia and Juniper and Orchid and Willow. Everybody was balling back then, man. Free love, that’s what it’s all about.”
I detected a trend, “Are all the girls you know named after flowers?” I also wondered why I hadn’t met and banged the other flora and fauna in the house.
“Flower power, man, that’s what it’s all about. We shed the names we were given, man. We found our true inner beauty and assumed names that fit our true nature, man. It’s like, man, you know, we cast off all of the shit society and found the real truth, man. do you dig it?”
“I dig it,” I said. “All I want to do is go back to nature, back to how my Sioux ancestors lived for centuries. Can you dig that?”
“Far out, man,” Holly said. “I totally dig where you’re coming from, man. Like, you Native American’s have gotten the shaft, man, all the way. The man has fucked you over ever since we landed here. And I apologize, man. I really do.” She sounded near to tears.
“Well, Holly,” I said. “Sweet beautiful Holly, you had nothing to do with all that. You have nothing to apologize for.”
“Yeah, but man, you know, man, sometimes it’s like I feel like I should apologize for the whole fucking white race, man, because we came to your beautiful country and have done nothing but fuck it up and I’m sorry, man.”
“Hoka hey,” I said to her. “Hoka hey. Do you know what that means? It is a Sioux expression.”
“Oka hey,” she tried to repeat.
“No, the term is hoka hey. In Sioux it means ‘This is a good day to die’. It reminds us that we must enjoy every day of our life because any could be our last. Hoka hey.”
“Wow, man, hoka hey,” she mimicked, “It’s a good day to die. Man, that is deep, man, heavy. Ya know, that is really deep. Groovy, man. Thanks for sharing that with me. Wow, hoka hey.”
“So, you really balled Ken Kesey?”
“Yeah, man, it was groovy.”
“Did you meet Cassidy or Kerouac?” I asked.
“Naw, man, they weren’t around. I hear they hooked up on the bus trip they took across the country.”
“Bus trip, what bus trip?” I was envisioning a Greyhound bus.
“Oh man, you don’t know about the bus trip? It was wild, man. Wild. Kesey got this old school bus, ya know, and gathered a bunch of people together that Kesey called The Merry Pranksters and they tripped across America. I mean, really tripped. They had like gallons of acid and they just tripped to the east coast and back, man. Isn’t that wild, man?”
“That is wild,” I agreed. “Merry Pranksters is a cool name.”
Fog rolled in off the bay as if it were boiled by the Sun. With the fog came a chilling wind that reminded me of the Land Beyond Reality whenever the wind would switch to coming off Lake Superior. The temperature dipped forcing us to abandon the roof and slipped back into the house where I collapsed onto a mattress. Soon, blessed sleep came. I tripped through my dreams or my dreams tripped through me. Either way, it was groovy, man.