1966- Living with Darlene & Chuck in Seattle
Either before going to Toppenish High or after going to Toppenish High, but definitely November 30th, 1966, as evidenced by an old letter from the time, I lived with Darlene and her husband Chuck at 239 S.W. 132nd Avenue in Seattle and attemded Evergreen High School briefly. It was a tiny little two bedroom house and I had my own room. I think Chuck was out of the navy by then, but I don't remember where he was working. I don't remember if Darlene worked. I know she was on diet pills at the time because I would steal some out of her bottle and Dan would come over from Toppenish and we would get a carton of cigarettes and chain smoke and play gin rummy and talk a whole lot about absolutly nothing.
I don't want to sound cavalier about the substance use in my life. Like most kids of the time, and maybe most kids of any time, I was naive about the possible consequences of substance use. I knew well the consequences of alcoholism from watching my dad and Irene and the drama of their lives. I was just then becoming aware of drugs in 1966. I don't really remember exactly how my awareness developed. It seems like it was just part of the "cultural revolution" that was spreading across the country and the world. Musicians were the messengers and youth were receptive to the message. All I knew about drugs initialy was what I had read in our Time-Life books that we had at home. I didn't really know much. The first people that I ever knew that actually used substances other than alcohol to get high, were Leslie and her friends from San Diego. They were a few years older than me. Leslie was an unattractive, overweight extrovert that seemed to have a volatile relationship with her parents. Her mother was middle class and pretentious. Leslie had a sllim, attractive sister that she seemed to be in a losing competition with for her mother's attention and approval. Maybe realizing that she could never get her mother's attention and approval, she seemed to decide to go the other way and form her own circle of friends.
Marnie was Leslie's sidekick. I think the two of them might have gone to school together and maybe even worked together briefly. Marnie was much more conservative and introverted than Leslie, but I think that she was attracted to Leslie's outgoing personality and daring. She was pert and preppy and employed. There were others in Leslie's group of friends when we first met them. Leslie and Marnie and their friends, like most kids at the time, were interested in music. I think that everybody respected Leslie because she actually worked at a radio station. She seemed very hip and sophisticated. Leslie and her group of friends, were into rock bands. The Luv Please, met Leslie and Marnie and her circle of friends at a car show at the San Diego concourse. Arnold Green and his band were playing there also and I think that Leslie and Marnie were initially more friendly toward that band. Other than Roger's guitar playing, I can't really say that the "Luv Please" were great musicians. I think we were probably more cute than anything else and Mark Heideman and I could follow Roger's lead to some extent and get through the songs, while Arnold and his group were more serious musicians, if I remember correctly. I had only been playing drums for a year or two by that time and I think Mark had played bass for even a shorter time, while Roger had already been playing guitar for a few years and actually took lessons. While the "Luv Please," attempted to reflect the bright and bubbly manner of "The Beatles," Arnold's group was more dark and reflective of groups like "The Rolling Stones." It was through Arnold and Roger Flores and others in that group that I first became aware of Jeff Beck and others that were known for being great guitarists.
Arnold Green went to Orange Glen High with Roger. I don't know if they were already friends before the car show in San Diego but at some point, they became part of the same circle. They took pride in being the musician outcasts at the school and being outrageous for the times. I think they all respected me because I had actually been expelled from school. Since I had been in the newspapers and was a mini-celebrity to some extent, I think this also have me cache with Leslie and Marnie. I was the youngest of this group of kids, though. When I first met Marnie and Leslie, I was about 14. Roger was 16. Roger and Mark would hang out with Arnold and his group and they would all hang out with Leslie and Marnie and their friends. In my memory, it was Leslie and Marnie and their friends that had access to marijuana. If I remember correctly, they would also take trips across the border to Tiajuana and drink alcohol and get rolls of what they called "bennies" or "criss-cross" tabs.
Benadrine was initially marketed as a bronchodilator but was found to have a stimulant effect which led to it being produced in tablets to treat narcolepsy and because of the euphoric effect, was then sold on the black market as a recreational drug and could be purchased easily in Tiajuana. Criss-cross tabs were another form of amphetamine readily available at the time. In the early 60's amphetamines in the form of diet pills were fairly common as well. Although I was aware of the drug use of Leslie and others, I did not indulge myself until later, when living with Darlene and Chuch in Seattle.
I knew that Darlene was taking diet pills to lose weight and somewhere along the line, I had heard elsewhere that diet pills could make you high. I don't think we even had to take much more than the same dose that Darlene was taking to lose weight, for Dan and I to feel awake and chatty. We didn't want to be discovered stealing her pills, so I know we couldn't have taken very many but diet pills back in those days were pretty strong. I don't think that people had really figured out how dangerious and addictive amphetamines could be back then. I had known about the use of others in San Diego and how the older musicians and Leslie's circle had seemed sophisticated, and now in Seattle, I knew about something that I could now share with Dan and feel sophisticated myself.
On March 19th, 1967 of that year, Seattle held its first "Trips Festival" at Eagles Hall and I am pretty sure I was there. I think Dan came with me with a couple of girls I had gotten to know, who had also turned me on to Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. All these years, I had assumed it was called a "trips festival" because people were starting to use psychedelic drugs at that time but when I did a little research on this, it was called a "trips festival" partly because one of the promoters was named Trips Lansing. I seem to remember face painting and this was the first time I had seen a light show. We paid three dollars and sat on the floor. This was similar to what was going on elsewhere in the country, originated by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. I think this is where I bought my first "matchbox" of marijuana. A "matchbox" was exactly that, a small box in which wooden matches had come but the wooden matches had been replaced by enough marijuana to roll a couple of joints. At this time, I must have been about fifteen. There would be other shows at the Eagle auditorium we would attend, the Chambers Brothers being a memorable one.
I didn't do very well at Evergreen High School. I got into trouble with the priciple for wearing a peace sign around my neck. He was anything but hip and thought the peace sign was a symbol for marijuana rather than peace and so he brought me to the office and forbid me to wear it. I don't remember ever interacting much with the other kids at the school except for when I had taken one of Darlene's diet pills the night before and had been up all night and went to school still buzzing. I did get a part as the genie in the school play Aladdin and His Lamp and loved doing it and I think Darlene might have even come to see me in it but then one weekend we went to Toppenish and due to the usual chaos, I wasn't able to get back in time for the play and felt ashamed and humiliated, although there was no way it was my fault or any way that I had any control over any events at that time. My priorities or needs were the least of anyone's concerns.
Darlene had her first son, Chris, while we were living at that address. Dad gave me his old car, which I believe was a Ford Galaxy, but mom wouldn't sign the papers for me to get a drivers license because my grades were so bad and so the car just sat there and deteriorated. I think that Chuck used the tires for his own car. I never once drove it after it was given to me. Eventually, we left Seattle and I remember driving back to San Diego with Darlene and Chuck.
Besides Dan, who would come over from Yakima from time to time, I made a few friends while living with Darlene and Chuck. As close as felt to them at the time, I can't even remember their names all these years later. It is the same with so many people I have had in my early life. It was just so chaotic and we moved so frequently, relationships came and went. As children, we had no control over the chaos and the many moves from place to place. As I have said many times, the needs of children were not considered like the are today. Or maybe that was just the case in my family.
One of my friends lived with his mother, who ran a telephone answering service out of their home. Their house was painted purple and stood out from the others along the road. There was a bank of telephones from which she operated the business. She took her son and I to Yoga classes in Seattle a couple of times. Later, after I had moved away, my friend went into the service and served in Viet Nam. I had one telephone conversation with him after that and he had completely changed and was hostile on the phone and we never spoke again.
I also met a couple of young women that I think I actually knew for a few years and it seems like one of them was kind of my girlfriend for a while and came to San Francisco. I just wonder how it is possible. I don't think we were serious boyfriend and girlfriend. I think she wanted to get a little serious but I had no interest in sex with her. Now, I can't remember her name. I think it was with her and her friend in Seattle, that I first learned of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.
Dylan and Baez became more important in my life as time went by but the album that stands out for me for that time more than any others is "Freak Out," by The Mother's of Invention with Frank Zappa.
I was about 12 or 13 when we moved to Escondido, California from Abilene Texas. I remember we looked at several houses before "the barn house," as we always called it, was selected. It was the nicest home I had ever lived in up to that point and since that point. It was a spacious four bedroom with probably twenty-five to three thousand square feet. It had a laundry room and a separate garage. The living room had beautiful hardwood floors and there was even a small room between the living room and the kitchen which could be closed off which we called "the telephone room" as that was the only thing anyone ever did in there. Of course, it was a very different time from today, when everyone has a phone in their pocket. Back then, most people had one land line in the home that was either black or white. A few years later, the "Princess" phone would be the first to come in other colors.
We had a lovely brick patio in the back and a small slope covered in ice plant that led into an avocado grove. I had never seen an avocado before then and didn't care for them initially. The front lawn was huge and required regular mowing which Roger often did. We had a wood fireplace. We all just loved that house. I don't remember what they paid for it, but eventually, a couple of years later, Mom and George would sell it for about $30,000. Forty years later, I revisited the house during the real estate boom and am certain that the house was worth over a million dollars by then.
Roger and I enrolled at Orange Glen Elementary and Darlene must have enrolled at Orange Glen High School. I know Roger and I rode a school bus although there were some days that Roger would actually choose to run home instead of riding the bus. He was very athletic at the time and broke one of the track "records" at Orange Glen Elementary. That would haunt me later when the coach and other students would have some unrealistic expectation of my competing with Roger's athleticism. I was much more interested in playing games with the girls like "four square" or "tether ball." I had no interest in basketball or football or track or any of the rest. I also didn't like having to change clothes in a classroom with other boys and then come back to the class all sweaty as there were no showers at the school at that time.
I was terribly allergic to pollen in Escondido and lived on Dristan which had terrible side effects and was totally ineffective for controlling my symptoms. There were times of the year that I was constantly sneezing and would carry a handkerchief that would be soaked through by the end of the day. It was pretty miserable at times, but still worth the misery to be out of Texas and somewhere that people were a little more civilized.
Life was almost "normal" for the first time in years when we lived in Escondido. We no longer bought our clothes at Goodwill or Salvation Army. We actually got to buy new clothes. We actually lived there long enough that I was able to establish relationships and have real friends for the first time in my childhood. I think Roger must have felt the same way, although I'm not certain how Darlene felt as she was starting to have more difficulties by this time.
Roger seemed to be George's favorite. He was athletic and would go with George on mountain climbing trips. George was not interested in most other sports though. Roger was popular at Orange Glen because he was a musician and was on the football team and had a letter-man jacket with a big O.G. on it. It is odd that in spite of his accomplishments in high school sports, I don't remember Mom or George or any of us ever attending any game he played in. Nowadays and even back then, I think most families would try to show support for their kids and accomplishments but as far as I can remember, Roger's athletic accomplishments were essentially ignored. On the positive side, we were given a lot of encouragement and support for playing music.
One of my favorite things to do back then was ride my skateboard. It was tiny by today's standards and we didn't do the kinds of tricks that kids do now. It was called "Sidewalk Surfing" made popular by the Jan and Dean 1964 hit. We loved living in Southern California which seemed like the center of the universe for young people at the time.
Another favorite activity back then was reading. I read my first real "adult" novel when I was about thirteen. I started reading it while visiting Spokane and staying with Billie and Joe. I remember being in an old trailer they had on their property and coming across a book called "Peyton Place," by Grace Metalious. I think there may have been something on the cover about it having been banned and so that probably got my interest. I started reading this melodramatic soap opera where people actually had sexual desires and secrets. I loved it and when I returned to Escondido, I got the sequel, "Return to Peyton Place" and then Harold Robbin's "The Carpetbaggers" and then other Harold Robbin's books. I was hooked on reading and I continued to enjoy reading for many years after this. To
this day, I remember a line from Peyton Place- the rich get richer and the poor get children. How true!
From the time we had lived on Broadway in Spokane, before my Mom married George, to Abilene and now in Escondido, I enjoyed going roller skating. This was before the modern inline s
kates that kids use now. Back then, the roller skates had four wheels and you went to a "rink" to skate. Sappy organ versions of classic songs would be played that you skated to. In Escondido, I continued to enjoy roller skating and it was there that I would eventually meet Kathy and Karen. They were best friends and flirted with me and Kathy became my girlfriend and we "went steady" and almost "all the way" a few years later.
There was a neighbor boy that was a year or so younger than I that I spent a lot of my time with outside of school. Although he was a year younger than me, it seemed like he was less naive than I was in many ways. He also had an older brother that was more athletic than he was and I think he related to the same situation with Roger and I. When I got a little older and realized I was gay, and I looked back on this relationship in Escondido, I wondered if this boy may have turned out to be gay too.
While living in Escondido, George's girls, Sandi, Barbi, Carol, Connie and Georgie would visit regularly every other weekend. I got along well with all of them for the most part. Georgie and I were close to the same age. George had bought Mom a sewing machine that had a lot of bells and whistles that seemed to frustrate my Mother but George used it to make all of us back packs to take on camping trips. I would use mine for many years to come after that when I was hitchhiking up and down the West Coast and elsewhere.
Years later, Milton and I would take a trip to Southern California and we stopped by Escondido to see the old Barn House. By this time, it had been painted white and what had been the garage must have been converted to more living space and a detached garage had been added. It was now surrounded by homes and the orange groves and avocado groves were gone.