36. CATHERINE BLAINE JUNIOR HIGH part III 1968
I had the same homeroom class the following year. Joe was hip to where the latest Be-ins and political rallies were being held. There were more concerts going on and we’d hang out in front of Eagles Auditorium in downtown Seattle before the shows even if we didn’t have a ticket just to be a part of the scene. On other occasions we’d knock on a fire escape door and get someone to let us in. Once inside, ramps led off in either direction and the main hall was bathed in a darkly psychedelic glow. The Retina Circus Light Show cast multi-projections, kaleidoscopes and strobes to create a hypnotic rhythm to the beat of the bands on stage.
The scent of grass was ubiquitous and many in the room were trippin’ on acid. One night Moby Grape had completely exhausted their playlist but didn’t want the party to end. “Should we go over a few songs again?” suggested a band member from the stage.
I swiped a couple of my brother’s joints and had to find out what it felt like. “Maybe he got burned?” I thought after several long hits. Gradually, the euphoria snuck up on my consciousness without any of the paranoia that I had feared and I let my mind drift to that indolent cosmos. It was such a different feeling from the nicotine that I’d been smoking and sharing it with my mates was akin to the American Indians passing a peace pipe around.
Alcohol was a rite of passage. I got together with a few of the guys one night and had an older brother get us a case of beer. Sitting around in a park gulley drinking them too fast and getting nauseatingly sick. Stumbling towards the basement apartment of Roy’s house where no one was home we saw police cars on the prowl and hid behind some bushes. The ferocious hangover in the morning caused me to swear off that method of consciousness expansion for a while.
The teacher’s assistant in our homeroom wasn’t kidding anyone. Even though his hair length was well within regulations, he had a Zapata-style mustache and liked to wear a bow tie. His name was Marv Rush and we soon came to call him by his first name rather than the more formal address of the other teachers. The class was Social Studies and we discussed the events of the day with a determined passion.
It was difficult not to. After the death of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the country was in turmoil. The war in Vietnam raged with hundreds dying each week. Even Andy Warhol had been shot. To me, violence seemed only lead to more violence and it was crippling our spirit. Outrage and injustice however, motivated me and I eagerly participated in demonstrations that expressed solidarity with the oppressed. Picketing, boycotts, marches and pamphleting were an expected sign of harmony with the movement and the militant attitude was: “Help or get out of the way!”
Joe, Marino and I happened to be on school grounds early Saturday morning and the door to the portable homeroom class was open. We could see Marv getting some things out of the desk drawer and filling a box. “Hey Marv! It’s a weekend. What’re you doin’ here?” I said. “Oh, just getting a few things for next week’s lessons”, he responded casually. “How about you? Can’t get enough of school during the week?” “Naw, we’re goin’ over to the bowling alley to shoot some pool”, said Marino. “I’m almost done here”, said Marv. “If you want, you can come over to my place and listen to some music and hang out. You’ll have to take the bus home though”. “Sure”, said Joe. “Why not?”
There was no reverse gear in Marv’s gray panel truck, so he had parked it on a hill where he could back out of the teacher’s parking lot. Someone had painted paisley designs around the inside trim of the truck and a Yin Yang symbol hung from the rear view mirror. He turned the radio station to the classic music and turned it up when Maria Callas started singing. I was lying on the makeshift bed in back while they sat up front. “Do you go camping in this or what?” I asked. “Something like that”, he said enigmatically.
Marv’s home was above a shopping center near the University of Washington campus where I’d spent a fair bit of time attending rallies and roaming the shops along the “Av”, University Avenue. His narrow, hedge-lined driveway was off any main street and wound its way back to a small house with an ivy covered chicken coop off to one side. A rusting 1955 Chevy Belair was partially draped with a blue tarp was in the carport. Marv pulled the van sideways to the house so he wouldn’t have to back up and said, “Welcome to Shangri-La!”
“Monica grows them”, he replied after I mentioned how beautiful the climbing white roses were that framed the porch of the house. Wind chimes sounded as Marv opened the door. The inside of the place was dark. The windows were concealed with curtains of multi-colored beads and Turkish carpets covered the floors. A floor to ceiling bookcase comprised their library that had many volumes relating to esoteric religious theory. The only straight back chairs were around the kitchen table. What looked like a laboratory was along one side of the kitchen with a sink, labeled cabinets and a long metal countertop with Pyrex glassware of differing sizes laid out with precision. “Science projects”, Marv explained.
All the seating in what had started out as a living room was big cushions and a black Naugahyde beanbag chair in one corner. Marv put some water on the stove for tea and I went over to his record collection while Marino and Joe lounged on the cushions. Marv or Monica had suspended a tie-dyed parachute from the ceiling and made the room feel like a Bedouin tent and their collection of brass bells and flutes enhanced the effect. There were several Miles Davis albums I’d never heard and looked around for the turntable. “This one okay?” I said, holding up “Kind of Blue”.
I plopped into the beanbag chair and took the teacup Marv offered. A spicy cinnamon smell greeted my senses. Lying back, closing my eyes and letting the music transport me, I felt a kind of initiation, like I might’ve entered a cocooned state and required further gestation to develop into the new creature I hoped to become.
Marv had several alternative newspapers around and Joe picked up a copy of the Helix and was leafing through it. “Check it out! He said. “Charles Lloyd is giving a free concert in Seward Park next weekend.” I loved the jazz flutist and hadn’t been to a concert in the park before. “We’re going”, said Marv. “You can join us if you’d like. Just be here before ten in the morning. It starts at noon.” He got up to change the record and picked out Procul Harum’s “Lighter Shade of Pale”. “Hey Brom, said Marv, “Would you go out to the van’s glove box and bring me the tobacco pouch?” Naturally, I checked the contents of the pouch. Sure enough, it smelled to be some quality Mexican grass.
Like I did, Marv had the famous Dylan poster, designed by Milton Glaser on his wall. Its sharp downward profile and swirling, brightly colored hair evoked an expanding awareness of dimensions past and present. Incense and a candle had been lit. I tossed the pouch over to Marv and he gave me a wink.