Damage Control

The first thing I did upon my return home was call Patty. I was exhausted and in crazy wild need of sleep, but I called Patty first. Her phone was busy. I dialed again. Still busy. Shit. I wasn’t sure how she would react, but I wouldn’t have been able to sleep anyway with that worry hanging over my head. I thought about what I would say over and over as we drove straight through from San Francisco to Duluth in about 35 hours. We were all beat, partied out, drugged out, and desperately wanting to be home in our own bed.

“Patty?” I said tentatively.

“Armond? Thank you so very, very much for your letter,” Patty said when she heard my voice. “I’m so sorry I put you on the spot like that. I had no right. I didn’t mean to, but things had gotten so crazy around here.”

“No, I’m sorry. I was too caught up with myself,” I began.

“Let’s not talk about it over the phone. You’ve got perfect timing; Mary and I were just heading to Shamrock. Do you want to come with us? Will you come with us? Please? Please?”

I hadn’t slept since… I couldn’t remember the last time I slept. I may have dozed on the trip back but it wasn’t a restful sleep. It was road sleep where you are bounced and jostled the entire way. And all I could think or dream of was what I would say to Patty if she would ever talk to me again. I was having trouble focusing my eyes and brain. I needed sleep so badly that a coma sounded good to me.

“Of course, I’d love to go. I can’t wait to see you, Patty. I’ve thought of nothing but you since I left.” There was no way I could refuse her request after all that had happened. Dad wasn’t home when I arrived. I presumed he was at one of his favourite watering holes. I left a note on the dining table for him and waited for Patty and her sister to pick me up in the cool, crisp air of a summer night in Northern Wisconsin.

Patty ran from the car to my front door when they arrived. I didn’t know she knew how to run. It was the fastest I’d ever seen her move. We embraced tightly and kissed deeply. Overwhelmed by emotion, tears flowed from my weary eyes like Big Manitou Falls and that got Patty started, too. We blubbered apologies to each other until her impatient sister honked the horn. “Plenty of time for that shit when we get to Shamrock.” We broke off, wiped our eyes and hopped into the car.

“Ted Anderson called me as soon he got home,” Mary O’Leary announced. That explained why their phone was busy when I first called. I was confused, though, if she talked to Ted then she must know that Rock took the train and wouldn’t be home for another two days. So, why was she so all-fired hot to get to the Shamrock?

“He was so sweet,” Mary continued, “telling me how much he missed me and…” she rattled on and on. I gave Patty my what-the-fuck look.

“Mary got to know the real Danny,” Patty whispered. “She dumped him and took up with Ted about five weeks ago.” This was all breaking news to me. Ted hadn’t said a thing on the tour, not one word.

“Ted is just so sweet and nice, so much fun to be with, tall and then there’s his big… um, feet.” We all burst out laughing. We knew she wasn’t talking about the size of his feet. Well, Ted, you sneaky bastard, I thought. He was tapping my girlfriend’s older sister and hadn’t said a word to me.

Ted Anderson had a table, two pitchers of Leinenkugel’s, and glasses waiting for us. He was smiling that sheepish, ah shucks, smile of his as I approached shaking my head. We all exchanged small talk for awhile among us. Ted and I shared stories of the gigs we played while on the road – none of the sex-while-tripping tales, of course – just remembrances of the gigs, the songs, the bands, and the crowds. Then, the conversation took an unexpected turn.

“Armond,” Ted started. “I can’t take your cousin anymore, man. This trip was it for me. I don’t want to play with the cat anymore.”

“Your cousin is a dick,” Mary piled on.

“How is that you’re so cool and he’s such an incredible dick?” Patty asked. “He really hurt Mary the way he treated her. He doesn’t give a fuck about anybody else does he?” My cousin had trifled with the affections of an Irish girl gaining him scorn and derision. He was lucky she wasn’t a Cajun girl or he’d have wound up gator bait on the end of a Hebert cane pole in the bayou.

I was startled at this development. Yeah, my cousin was a bit self-centered, ok, a lot self-centered. Apparently, shit had gone down in San Francisco that I didn’t see between Ted and Danny. Ted was one of the easiest going cats I had ever met; to get him upset really took some doing. I’d have asked what it was but I wasn’t about to stir this boiling pot of Polish gumbo.

“I don’t know quite what to say,” I said. “I know he’s a dick, but he’s tribe. I don’t condone what how he treats people, but I really can’t condemn him. He’s tribe.”

“No, that’s not what this is about,” Ted corrected. “Danny told me that he is bored with playing in the band and wants to do something else. He’s quitting the band, man. Didn’t he tell you about this?”

“No, he didn’t,” I admitted. Then I said, “What a dick!” Everybody laughed. “So, what do we do about a lead singer?”

“Nothing,” Ted said. “We split the songs we like among us and drop the rest. I can sing most of the tunes, Jack’s got a good voice, and you sound great on the Doors songs, man. Maybe we can pick a few more of their tunes up.”

“I’m all for that,” I said. “Does Jack know?”

“Yes, he knows,” Patty said. “So, does Teamo.”

What the hell was going on? My girlfriend and her sister were more in the loop about band happenings than I was. I was too tired to care. Frankly, I was pretty sick of my cousin’s attitude, too. If he didn’t want to play in the band anymore, then so be it. But the dick should have at least told me. I was tribe. What a dick!

“Ok, then,” I said. “We can start working on a new song list right away.”

“I need a few days break,” Ted said. “Mary and I are going camping in Canada.”

“Cool, sounds great. Patty and I have a bunch of catching up to do anyway.” I said boldly, followed by a sheepish, “Don’t we?”

“You bet your sweet ass we do,” Patty replied snuggling into me.

We retreated to talking with our mates after the Shamrock House Special pizza arrived. We munched and talked and drank and munched and drank and kissed and talked.

I recounted the day that I spent wondering around Berkeley and The Haight thinking about Patty and composing the letter to her over and over in mind and on paper. I painted a grey canvas of a tortured soul searching for the right words to express regret and remorse. It was the portrait of the artist as a young man paraphrased from James Joyce to describe a 60’s beatnik musician lost in the land of hippies.

Ted added the seasoning to complete my dish, “He wasn’t fun to be around, and then he disappeared for nearly a day. When he returned he seemed to be at peace and went on to play one of the best series of sets anybody saw out there. You were incredible, man.”

I was astounded by Ted’s observation. I unassumingly agreed. Patty hugged me tightly.

I finally broached the subject that we all seemed to be avoiding. I whispered to Patty, “How’s your mother?”

“She’s doing pretty well, considering. They’re going to put her through some new chemo therapy that has some promise. There have been cases of total remission. It’s something to try, anyway. She’s taking the whole thing so well, almost too well. There is a serenity that has come over her that is more than a little spooky. I’m scared.”

“You know the Sioux saying, ‘Hoka hey – it is a good day to die,’ which reminds us to live every single day to its fullest. It sounds like she has taken that lesson to heart. She is appreciating Mary and you and your dad like never before.”

“I don’t know what I would do without her,” Patty said. “I’m hoping I never find out.”

“Me, too,” I comforted, though I sensed that the end was near for Patty’s mother. I was sure that Patty knew it, too. She was radiating that message. She just couldn’t say it out loud.

“Change the subject, what was San Francisco like?”

“I talked to Lawrence Ferlinghetti,” I announced.

“No shit? You actually talked to Ferlinghetti? That is huge. What did you talk about?”

“He asked me if I needed help finding anything. He was in the store filing books onto shelves like a stock boy. It was so weird. I could barely speak. What do you say to a literary giant? I felt so totally inadequate to be breathing the same air as him. I stuttered a lot. He was warm, gentle, almost regal, and at the same time just a simple person like the rest of us.”

“Did he make a pass at you?” Patty asked out of the blue.

“No,” I replied with a downturn in my voice.

“Were you disappointed?”

“Yeah, a little,” I blushed. “But then I told him that I was looking for a book for my girlfriend.”

“Really? That is so sweet.”

I pulled the copy of “Here and Now” that I had purchased for Patty at City Lights and handed it to her saying, “Ferlinghetti recommended this book for you. It’s by Denise Levertov.”

Patty burst into tears. “It’s a first edition copy…”

“Yeah, purchased from the guy that published it,” I added.

“This is the best gift you ever could have given me,” she purred through the tears.

“What’s going on over there,” Mary O’Leary asked.

Patty showed her the book, “’Here and Now’ by Denise Levertov,” she choked out.

“Now, that is a cool gift,” Mary said.

“Who wants to go to Cleveland to see The Doors on August 3rd?” Ted asked.

“I can’t,” I said, “That’s my dad’s birthday. I can’t let him to spend it alone.”

“We can’t either,” said Mary. “Mom will be going through the new chemo therapy and we’ve got to be here for her.”

“They have to be here for that and we have to be here for them,” I replied.

“I can dig it,” Ted said. “It was just a thought. We’ll have plenty of opportunities to see them. The Doors are going to be around for a long time.”

“And, we’ve got a new show to put together. To the new Dynasty,” I toasted. Our glasses clinked and we all drank with a great sense of relief, contentment, and hope for the ever changing future.

The relationship between Patty and I was healed. Our love affair would continue. It felt great to bring joy to Patty’s life while she was in the midst of her toughest trial. We made love that night, real love; two souls touching each other with tenderness and care like never before. I saw a clear delineation between making love with someone that I truly cared about and fucking a stranger. They were both fun, but were two completely different acts with the only common connection being sex.

My concept of “cheating” was evolving into the belief that it had nothing to do with sex. I could have meaningless sex with an anonymous girl and it meant nothing; animal lust acted out. It was merely a physical act that did not violate the emotional commitment to my mate. It was like having lunch, or riding the bus with another girl. As long as I didn’t surrender my innermost emotions to her it wasn’t cheating to my mind.

The sexual acts performed in San Francisco with various hippy girls were just a part of the trip, like peanuts on an airplane, or free towels in a hotel room, or the scent wafting from a carefully tended garden. They were all a part of the total experience. The experience wouldn’t have been complete without them, like going to Disney World to watch the roller coaster when the complete experience is in the act of riding the roller coaster. Sex was merely part of the mescaline trip with the girl being the roller coaster. And I liked riding roller coasters. Group sex was just part of the LSD trip, like square dancing with other couples at a hootenanny, naked and sweaty and lusty.

The sunrise wouldn’t have looked the same if I hadn’t been snuggled under a blanket with a flower child. The candles would have glowed differently if not for Pubic-Bald Tulip. In fact, tulips would never be the same again to me.

We wouldn’t have connected with the crowd at the concert as completely if not for the preceding acid trip copulations. Hell, wearing clothes even became a different trip after Naked Tuesday.

The rabbit fucking I exchanged with those girls meant nothing more than the fry bread I cooked up for them on Independence Day. In fact, the fry bread meant more because I was sharing a part of my heritage, my soul. Sex was just sex; an intensely sweaty path toward ejaculation.

I didn’t delude myself into thinking that a chick would buy this logic, but it was sufficient rationale to sooth my conscience.