Sunday, March 26, 2006
In my relentless pursuit to be crowned #1 name-dropper, I promised a friend to tell how I slipped down the rabbit hole and found myself back in time in the land of LSD, Yippies, and Stanley Kubrick.
I was eighteen, and a freshman at a rawtha toney school in Rhode Island. My roommate decided to spend our Friday evening attending a debate between Curtis Sliwa, of Guardian Angels fame, the former Director of the DEA (whose name I forget), in one corner, and Abbie Hoffman and Timothy Leary, in the other. The topic was whether or not to legalize drugs, if that wasn't already obvious from the roster. Sliwa was righteous, Mr. Director analytical and secure in his facts, Hoffman was boisterous and clever, and Leary cool, detached, and possibly orbiting a different sphere altogether.
Afterwards, Beth and I walked out into the backside courtyard of the post office. It should be noted here, for amusement's sake, that the staircase lifting you out of the front courtyard (where we ritually held Thursday night funk dances), was comprised of sturdy slate steps, with one eensy yet precarious flaw. Three-quarters of the way up, the rise of one tread was slightly higher than the rest. Tripping over it was easy to do, and indicated two things. First, you were obviously a freshman, and two, because of its placement, you were seen by not only those behind you, but the entire college green above you. Most excellent.
Anyway, we were on the other flatter side, and saw a frizzy mop-topped pony keg of a man wandering about, lost. Realizing that this was one of the guest speakers, the most colorful one of the Chicago Seven, we approached him to see if he needed assistance. He could not, he said, find the campus guest house, where he was meant to lodge for the night. We made some calls, got the address, and escorted him a half block to the accommodations on Angell St.
Inside, Abbie was very chatty, affable. He was in no hurry for us to leave, though we politely tried to give him his space. He was, ahem, quite interested in talking to me, though I probably had a good four inches on him, and he was born a mere three years after my father, (now if he had been twenty years younger... I do have this thing for Jewish boys). Then he wanted to get high, but there were neither matches nor lighters to be found anywhere in the house. So we sent for reinforcements. Adam G. came by and saved the day, though if he'd been Abbie's kind of hero, he would have left as soon as he'd made the delivery.
We talked about so many things that night, but what I remember most clearly was him telling me this particular "highpoint" of his life: meeting Marilyn Chambers. Christ, the guy is a major cultural figure, has published, like, ten books (one of which he gave me that night, Steal This Urine Test), was a political activist and a fugitive from justice, was actually at Woodstock, and his fondest moment was the night he played pool with a porn star?
Later, Timothy Leary joined us. I don't actually recall him partaking of the herb, funny for someone who by 1976 had served more time for that infraction than anyone in US history. I don't think he said much, but then who could get a word in next to Abbie.
At some point, Abbie got this notion of phoning Amy Carter, who had flunked out of school, but was still living nearby campus. They were often seen on the news together, up at U Mass and protesting something I don't recall. So he gets on the phone and tells her we're all going to go see A Clockwork Orange at the Avon theater together.
Let's see - me and Abbie Hoffman and Timothy Leary and Amy Carter and Adam G., "The boy against whom all others must be judged," (I know I've mentioned him before), staring at a movie screen while Malcolm McDowell does unspeakable things while impersonating Gene Kelly, was it?
At this point, my world got just a touch too surreal, and I declined the invitation. Sometimes you just have to know when to say goodnight.
Abbie died about a year and a half later. Oddly enough, I do recall him indulging in some paranoid cant about how this Philadelphia utility company was out to get him. Maybe he was right - the guy was a major shit stirrer, and people with money and power have been known to dispose of people who want to upset that. Anyway, he was said to have killed himself, an overdose. The farewell note read: "It's too late. We can't win. They've gotten too powerful." I have trouble buying it - not because it smacked of conspiracy, but because I'm sure he could have written something funnier than that.