Sunday, September 18, 2011

Last Heard From

The Snake Charmer, Henri Rousseau, 1907
When I was a young man, having returned from a two year drug induced exile in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), I started back to school at university in San Jose, California. The year was 1969. Things were popping and people were interested in changing the world in ways fresh and new then but familiar to us all now. I began in a rooming house but soon met my friend down the street. It was not long before I moved in there when the old dining room became available as a bed room. This was the quintessential college dope house. The students were serious enough that people were going to graduate and they did, though I did not. When I left this third run at a college education behind it was not bad grades that stopped me. My friend was serious about funding his schooling and he chose to deal to do it. So did I, both on my own and also with him. He hooked up with a guy back from Viet Nam, a veteran who decided to get even more serious. That was my friend's main partner. My friend and this guy had the capital to buy a boat and started to smuggle in pot from the Mexican groups but before that we were transporting their dope up from LA.

The way to make any money in those days, you had to move volume because otherwise you would party up all the profit. Also, you had to do it with elaborate protection schemes of the kind the Vet had devised for himself. He was virtually inaccessible without an invitation and from a bar, which was a successful out of town music venue he supplied parts of the San Francisco music scene. He lived in the Santa Cruz mountains, more than fifty miles from the city. This was of course the hey day of that whole scene. Or if you did not protect yourself that way you got in and got out and then stopped for unpredictable lengths of time. When the vet was last heard from he had retired and bought his sea going sail boat. It is not true that no one succeeded at the business. His goal had been to sail the world. My friend had much less elaborate goals. He succeeded too.

Many years before him, Henri Rousseau painted scenes like the one above. Wiki says:
Henri Julien Félix Rousseau (May 21, 1844 – September 2, 1910) was a French Post-Impressionist painter in the Naive or Primitive manner. He was also known as Le Douanier (the customs officer), a humorous description of his occupation as a tax collector. Ridiculed during his life, he came to be recognized as a self-taught genius whose works are of high artistic quality.

His best known paintings depict jungle scenes, even though he never left France or saw a jungle. Stories spread by admirers that his army service included the French expeditionary force to Mexico are unfounded. His inspiration came from illustrated books and the botanical gardens in Paris, as well as tableaux of taxidermied wild animals. He had also met soldiers, during his term of service, who had survived the French expedition to Mexico and listened to their stories of the subtropical country they had encountered. To the critic Arsène Alexandre, he described his frequent visits to the Jardin des Plantes: "When I go into the glass houses and I see the strange plants of exotic lands, it seems to me that I enter into a dream."

Last Heard From

It is my lagoon
after all, the big reward
of all those risky
times, tree top fliers
and blue gray cigarette boats
all leading to me
here, naked with flute,
black from days at sea and sun
surrounded by snakes
that have slithered out
of my apocalyptic
drug run memories.

September 18, 2011 9:30 AM

Written for Magpie Tales Mag 83 of this date Visit there and delight.

19 comments:

  1. very informative and

    poetic piece.
    amazing tale.

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  2. Excellent, personal write...lifted straight from your diaries...nice post, Christopher.

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  3. ... and all that's left is but a memory and a vivid one at that. Thanks for sharing a piece of yourself with us, Christopher.

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  4. amazing story (if true or not) and perfect capsule of a sea-going poem

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  5. Nice poem, and an interesting back story.

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  6. Tess was right about this one, lifted straight from my diaries, if I had them. My first life commitment and the one that arguably permitted me to quite literally survive through my transition from adolescent to young adult was this commitment to what some of us called the "counter-culture". When I lost my way after six years of trying to make it work, it was all involved with also losing a lover and was a passage full of survivable pain. It led to reorganizing my insides and ultimately to leaving California for Oregon in 1973 with the woman who would become my first and only wife in 1975.

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  7. That must be a very difficult page from your diary of memories...
    Very well written:)

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  8. This is immense ... amazing.

    I have had my share of
    counter-culture adventures with offspring. A gutsy write, my friend.

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  9. damn. intense for sure...there werethings i saw that i never want to see again from my drug induced days...

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  10. Interesting and informative. Amazing period of time, to be sure.

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  11. wonderfully evocative, this brought back memories of a similar past not recently visited. it was an intense period of time. the rousseau painting conjures up flashbacks. yes, survivable pain. describes much, that phrase.

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  12. A very interesting and self-incriminating read. I'm not anti-drug, nor am opposed to free enterprise, but I, for one, would have to had written this in third-person with a well-versed disclaimer. I enjoyed the read, though ... smuggling must have been very exciting back then ... the Amigos have gotten very personal and vindictive about that these days!

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  13. It is hardly a self incriminating post now. This stuff happened 1969-1971. I have actually been off drugs since 1972 except for some very occasional stuff until maybe 1979. I started a straight career in engineering design in 1973. I drank hard til February 1983 and then quit drinking. I quit all tobacco (I chewed leaf mainly, sometimes snuff) finally in 1991, but I had quit smoking in 1981. I quit coffee in 2002 because my homeopath said his remedy would not work if conflicted by the essential oils in coffee or mint. Now it looks like I have quit sex too. :(

    Actually everything is a lot simpler now. Heh.

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  14. Not quite so much fun drug smuggling these days, I guess? Your revelatory post and poem much appreciated. Thanks.

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  15. That was the point of the post. Three were spoken of and three got out and no one went to court let alone jail.

    Over the long haul I think a brush or two with John Law is inevitable and in the early days I did spend a weekend in jail for walking down the street in the wrong company. The other guy had some trouble but I did not. To my knowledge neither of the boat owners ever got popped. I came close near the end of my time in the trades but I never got popped either. I divested myself of the life, retired from my scene abruptly and in a matter of weeks was living completely differently.

    This was a painful moment in my life, completely life defining and far too rapid a transition to be anything but a horror. In twenty months I completed a metamorphosis from Christopher the modestly successful California dope dealer to Christopher the apprentice Oregon engineering designer. My lover had transformed herself from a day shift California hotel front desk clerk to a master's degree candidate in Oregon social work.

    Since we met working at that hotel, she and I both put the lie to the song (as did so many others in those days). The Hotel California song goes "you can check out but you can never leave". We both checked out and we both left. In Oregon people had begun to say, "Please don't Californicate Oregon!"

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  16. A serious Magpie with worthwhile things to say.

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The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.


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