A Trip To The Farm (E I E I Ohhh)
“Yeah?” “Who is this?” “Fine thanks. Who is this?” “I’m okay. A little low.” “You wanna talk about it?” “Just so many deaths. So pointless.” “Someone you know?” “Someone I knew. A sweet girl. Just a kid.” “That’s hard. Drugs?” “Heroin.” “Bad stuff.” “It’s just confounding to me how about six years ago this dirty, destructive drug went from pariah status to become the new hip rage.” “Rock and rollers. Ruinin’ everything.” “I find it hard to believe stoned out, vapid rockers are behind the sudden heroin epidemic decimating our inner cities and leaching deadly into the mainstream. They’re not that smart.” “Who is this?” “Who is this?”
The six months following Edie’s death I went on the wagon. Alcohol was leading me to an almost suicidal depression, not a good thing for one in the habit of carrying a loaded firearm. My isolation kept me from psychedelics, as set and setting are imperative for an enjoyable journey there, and my Zeppelin shenanigans had led to Jimney Clud being fired for recommending me which dried up my pot connection. I needed to dry out, clean up, get my shit together. Sadly, it often takes a great loss before we can find it in ourselves.
I had volunteered at some heroin rehab clinics in the Village, even a couple near Harlem, which didn’t turn out any better than I had imagined, but I felt at a loss – they were treating the symptoms, not the cause. This struck me as an exercise in futility for as the cause remains so remains the effect. I didn’t understand it then; it escaped my cognition because I was driven by passion and fury, not reason. The reason they didn’t address the cause, the reason they couldn’t address the cause, was that the cause was beyond their capacity to treat. How does a shit poor rehab center staffed by mostly ex-junkie volunteers deal with widespread human despair? How does one person barely scraping by save another person who has no money, no job, no home, no hope? How many trips to that well before it is sucked dry?
In the many hours I spent alone, I read and wrote – I needed to come to grips with some issues about this whole life thing and realized I needed to be a whole lot smarter to even begin to hold on. I kept quiet, except when Lynn was about, and maintained very few associates and no friends. It was too risky. I did some work for cash, even played the ponies a couple of times, winning both outings, $1000 on one. Because I didn’t socialize, drink or drug during this period, I tended to not spend much money, which proved useful as occasionally money was required in New York and it was hard to keep around when drinking and drugging led me to socialization.
Then my reprieve: May 2, 1972, John Edgar Hoover (Grimebiter) died of his diseased heart. His wretchedness had welled in him so long that he finally filled up and it had no place else to go, so it killed him. This man who had caused so much pain, done so much damage to this nation and the world, who had killed so many people and ruined so many lives, was finally dead. Heart disease – hard to believe he had one. But now that it had stopped, I was free. I could live again.
I realized that the Company’s minions and masters had always contacted me, that I had no way to reach them. But then it occurred to me that perhaps I did. It was clear I was going nowhere with Mr. “Who is this?” but then I remembered what started this whole saga, remembered the man, Captain Al Hubbard, he who had unwittingly turned this lighthearted Hollywood romp into a goddamned spy novel. I never even saw it coming.
I flew out of La Guardia to San Francisco Airport with a pocketful of cash but again no luggage. Owing to the new restrictions implemented in February, luggage and luggers were now searched for contraband and weaponry, which left Walther stashed safely in my room in the Village and me almost like normal people, able to walk about comfortably unarmed. It felt good – I had battled terrible holster chafing along with pit pinch and felt lighter, less defensive, devoid of the little death spitter and its periodicals. For the first time in years, I no longer felt like a target, no longer felt marked for death. I felt young and free.
But I still had to make it right with the Captain. He could answer some of my questions; let Ted know that I was still vital and not ready in the least for any of his work. I had had enough of that fun – for a lifetime, or ten. But I had to find him; where to start? After a painstakingly detailed investigation (I looked in the phone directory), I tracked down his new address in the Southbay.
Captain Al opened the door of his Menlo Park apartment and looked at me startled, “Arturo. Imagine my surprise.” His gaze softened and he pulled open the door, “Come in.” I considered him then smiled ironically, “Imagine mine.” He looked as though he would frisk me, but upon giving me the once over, forwent the formality and ushered me in. “Seems you’ve been having quite a trip.” I shook my head very tired. “I’ll say. A hell of a thing. I’d like to return to a simpler time – one where people aren’t trying to kill me.” He placed his hand on my shoulder, paternally, “I appreciate that. I’m frankly surprised you’ve held out so long. Impressed.” I looked at him, realizing he was frisking me anyway. “Though frequently bent, I’m pretty hard to break. Resilient.”
He grabbed a coat from a coatrack in the foyer, “Let’s take a walk.” Fog rolled in as the day turned to dusk and we walked along one of the trails off Marsh Road in Bledwell Bayfront Park, a series of sloughs fed by the San Francisco Bay. Seagulls and pelicans were abundant and occasionally quite annoying as they would squawk loudly or fly over low and bomb us with nasty white birdshit. Delightful creatures that view nurture as puking down baby’s throat, then kicking it out of the nest before it knows what the hell’s going on. Thanks, Ma!
The Captain leveled with me, “You realize, of course, they know about you because they listen to me.” This much I understood. “Certainly. Why I’ve returned to your loving embrace.” He fixed me with an almost sympathetic stare. “This is a good place for us to talk alone.” Some seagull shit glanced off his left shoulder and splattered us. “A good place, not a great one.”
As we walked, he outlined his understanding of the callous and unforgiving road of narco-politics and of what he described as the chemical warfare which was expanding around us, escalating. His exuberance was diminished from our earlier meeting and he seemed tired, beat down, though not beaten. He had played the game a long time and the long view was exactly what I needed. While his honesty was refreshing, his story was distressing.
Al: Prohibition’s when it started. I didn’t realize it at the time, hell, I doubt they even realized it – at first. It was never about outlawing drinking. The power structure loves drinking. It’s been used as a force of social control since, hell, probably prehistory, certainly against the Indians. It fires us up while dumbing us down. Makes us stupid while convincing us we’re brilliant, witty.
Art: If it wasn’t about outlawing drinking, why did they outlaw drinking?
Al: They didn’t. They couldn’t, legally or practically – the only way to control a person’s intake is to imprison them and monitor them 24 hours a day. That would be unconstitutional. They outlawed importation and distribution with the understanding that they were creating a built in black market. FBI came in with Prohibition.
Art: Prohibition ended, the FBI stayed.
Al: Prohibition changed, the FBI expanded. Specific social demographics were targeted. Everybody drinks.
Art: Not everybody smokes pot.
Al: Or takes cocaine or even heroin. With introduction into certain areas, as well as the given realms like music and entertainment, certain ethnicities could be counted on to provide an urgent need for strict law enforcement. With opiates, the enemy kills themselves.
Art: Insidious. Our engineers are cruel and clever, never a good combo.
Al: Definitely got the cruel part but with a broad view, they’re not that clever.
Art: I dunno, getting the enemy hooked on dope seems pretty clever to me.
Al: As original thinking, perhaps. But as with so much in social politics, a retread.
Art: The Opium Wars?
Al: Exactly. The Brits wanted unfettered trade access, the Chinese wanted to maintain dynastic controls, so the Brits brought in opium from the Indian Raj and before the Qing could stop it, they were hooked. The Brits got their trade and Hong Kong with the deal.
Al: Chemical warfare, not to put too fine a point on it.
Art: So why acid?
Al: Why indeed…Booze kept the rabble anesthetized but still fueled for violence. But too many judges and pols enjoy it, so limitations on its restrictions had to remain in place--
Art: Limitations on its restrictions.
Al: Yes, accessibility is key. And affordability; keep it easy to find and inexpensive to acquire. Easy enough to get hooked on but being hooked on it isn’t illegal, though, strictly speaking, it isn’t illegal to be hooked on anything.
Art: Pardon me?
Al: The Supremes have ruled--
Art: The Supremes? All of them or just Diana Ross?
Al: The Supreme Court has ruled, twice that I’m aware of, that as addiction is an uncontrollable compulsion, the state cannot legally take action against those who fulfill it.
Art: By taking drugs.
Al: By taking drugs. Robinson vs California was a big one in regard to our civil rights.
Art: The executive seems to have rescinded the judicial’s edicts.
Al: With the help of the legislature, yes they have. Nixon appointed Ray Shafer head of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. He among other things said, and I’m paraphrasing, “The actual and potential harm of use of marijuana is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior...” Ray was Nixon’s guy and yet with the full force of the government’s scientific capability and a budget as big as he needed, he couldn’t find anything wrong with cannabis.
Al: Nothing. Dick was pissed. I heard he told Ray something like, "You're enough of a pro to know that for you to come out with something that would run counter to what the Congress feels and what the country feels, and what we're planning to do, would make your commission just look bad as hell."*
Art: So what did he do?
Al: They published their findings and Nixon promptly ignored them and declared in-country war.
Art: Shafer felt ambivalent about defining US citizens as the enemy?
Al: Over grass, sure. Listen, the whole drug thing, at the beginning, was about the blacks. Dope prohibition worked for those already into it, they could be stopped and searched at will – You on drugs, boy? But like most people, most blacks weren’t on drugs. So they changed that. The Company was in ‘Nam in ‘50, they opened Air America as a cover and transport operation. They financed it through any means available and Indochina had a lot of opium available. By the late ‘50s the Civil Rights Movement had taken off and it appears some of the geniuses in charge decided a massive influx of heroin into the inner cities would incapacitate the enemy or at least discredit them. Maintain black and criminal as synonymous.
Art: It appears to have worked.
Al: Helps killing off their sober leadership – deny sobriety and leadership’s incentive in a single overt action. Make it too scary to get political and pointless to remain sober. Make the dealer the big shot in the community, lots of money to flash around.
Art: Community outreach.
Al: People are manipulable. Easily impressed by money, authority.
Al: Listen, nobody wants to die, get hurt, go to jail, any of that stuff. So the guy with the gun pretty much calls the shots. In most cases, the guy with the gun is in uniform, so the uniform becomes the symbol of the guy calling the shots.
Art: And acid?
Al: Acid was a fluke. The Company wanted it for mind control, brain washing, torture and such. Didn’t work, a colossal failure. But then Huxley wrote “The Doors of Perception” and all the sudden acid became to smart people as smack was to blacks – a way for the system to control them through their excesses. Leary got too political so they took him out by locking him up. LSD and other psychedelics give the system a legal means to persecute wrong thinking intellectuals.
Art: And you helped make it happen. Fine work.
Al: As stated, they didn’t know what they had; most of them were too cowardly to even take it. I didn’t know all this back then. In fact I was only coming to understand it when we met before. I’m pleased I brought LSD to so many people. Very unhappy at what this country has become.
Art: Booze thinking in the age of Acid.
Al: We need more open minds and closed mouths but booze only offers closed minds with open mouths. We are entering the age of pharmaceuticals. Our social dynamic is about to change dramatically. Not for the better.
Art: What should one do?
Al: Reject addiction. Avoid drugs that are legal, they tend to come with a body count. Definitely avoid opiates. Pay attention. Have a good life. Is there more?
When he put it that way, it made perfect sense. I understood that at the end of the day if one didn’t have a good life then none of the rest of it mattered. There were bad people in positions of power – but there were always bad people in positions of power: bad people tend to gravitate toward it. Mostly because of what it allows them to get away with in regard to passive or disinterested people. It became incumbent upon me to never be either – there is too much to do and experience to be passive or disinterested in life. There is too much to learn.
The best way to thwart the bad people in this life, or even the bad in people, is by being the best person one can be: honest, trustworthy, compassionate, generous, dependable…Always living up to one’s promises, obligations…Oh, shit.
I got Elena on the phone. “Mom…I promised them a terrible secret in the first chapter! You gotta…You gotta give me something.” Elena was reticent. “Why the promises you make to your friends is a problem of mine, I don’t understand.” I responded, the disappointment palpable in my voice, “They’re not my friends, ma. They’re readers. My audience.” She got snarky, “I’ll say they’re odd!” I sweated it. “Audience, Mom. And I owe them a terrible secret. I promised.” She could not be budged. “Well you’ll just have to come up with one of your own.”
I pleaded, desperate, “Mom, you’re supposed to give it to me!” That didn’t come out well at all. “Yeah, well, I don’t think we’re sticking any of that out there now.” I was at an impasse. I had made commitments early on and now I couldn’t deliver a terrible secret, which was an embarrassing admission. But that wasn’t what I’d stupidly promised. The legal implications loomed large.
“Mo-om..!” Not even my whiny exasperated grown-up kid voice budged her. “Listen, the only terrible secrets I’m delivering will be on my deathbed and I’m feeling just fine. When are we?” “Mid ‘72.” “Nixon reelected yet?” “Not yet…couple-a months.” “Yep, feeling just fine.” Shit, this was trouble. Would my terrible secret be that after all this, I had none left? I had so bared myself on the altar of social self-aggrandizement that I couldn’t squeeze out a single secret; it didn’t even need to be terrible. I’m a good enough writer, I could make it so. A mediocre secret would be fine.
After all of this, it was clear this book was out of my hands.
Then it hit me: I no longer owned the first chapter; it had been taken over in a footnote by my grandmother’s legal team. Grandma June* was the owner of the promise and all obligations appertaining to it, owing to my disparaging attempt to throw the collapse of the familial unit on her in my youthful exuberance. In actuality, it was her promise, not mine. I was in the clear.
My counsel agreed, “The party of the first chapter is not liable for promises made in the chapter of the party of the second part…”
Elena was petulant, “Frankly, I’m not happy about the way we’ve been glossed over in this.” I was astounded. “Glossed over? You’re the whole first chapter. You’ve got full bios. Hell, I don’t even have that.” She was particularly pissy. “Beyond this.” How could I reach this woman? “Well sure, but that’s what this is.” “It doesn’t matter. You act as though we didn’t even exist in your life over the last 15 years.” She was doing it; she was making my book about her. “Ma, this is about my pathetic relationship with reality, not my pathetic relationship with you.” She played it for all it was worth, putting on the edge of tears, hurt little girl voice. I was in trouble. “Even this, you’re less than a hundred miles away, you could write yourself here in a sentence. But instead all I get is a phone call,” and then came the edge, “and don’t even get me started about the way you portray us.” Jesus.
Captain Al made a call of greater pleasure for me, to his friend and druggy cohort, Sasha Shulgen. Sasha, you’ll no doubt recall (yeah, right), was the science guy who synthesized all manner of entheogen and other psychotropic compound with the full approval of the U.S. government. His lab was across the bay in Lafayette: The Farm. He invited me for a stay.
*Month changed at insistence of counsel’s counsel.
Sasha’s farm offered respite instead of unyielding labor, joy rather than toil. He appreciated what I had been through, understood the forces arrayed against me and marveled that I was able to maintain a positive disposition in the face of such calumny and calamity. A compassionate man, he offered me a cocktail of pure MDMA which he had synthesized for an unspecified application. He had synthesized a lot of it. He gave me 100 hits for my personal enjoyment along with numerous other compounds he had synthesized and which were, as yet, still legal. Or more realistically, not yet illegal. I was pleased to again have a collection and utterly ecstatic with his current batch. I felt amazing, as did Trinity, who had joined me from her dance gig in San Francisco at the Thirsty Ear on Nob Job Hill.
I had come fool circle – I started on the farm, how appropriate that I should end there. We sat on a shaded hill overlooking the bay, rolling joyously, loving the perfect day. I considered my journey – my adventure – thus far: the people that I had met, the friends I had made, the love and laughs that we shared, the heartbreaking loss of good people for no good reason, how the worst of luck combined with the best of luck on occasion leads to the most fascinating of times.
Amazing. I put my arm around Trinity’s shoulders and smiled into her intoxicating eyes.
I was glad to be alive.
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