I lived in a ten dollar a week room in what was essentially a hotel above the gay Rainbow Cattle Company at the corner of Duboce and Valencia. It was full of hippies, drag queens and drug addicts.
I was putting applications in for work as a Licensed Psychiatric Technician at various hospitals around town. My hair came down to the middle of my back but when I went on job interviews, I would pin it all up on top of my head and wear a short haired wig. I don't know if it was obvious to anyone or not but I thought it looked pretty realistic. Eventually I got a job on the psychiatric unit at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital. I don't think most people were expecting a twenty-something year old to be wearing a wig and so they didn't tend to look very close.
The phone at the Rainbow Cattle Company was a communal pay phone down the hall and I remember being shocked when I received the call from Saint Francis that I had actually been hired. Somebody would have come to my room and I would have gone down the hall to the communal phone to discover I had been hired. I was 24 years old.
My room was probably about ten feet by ten feet. I bought an electric skillet to cook in but I mostly ate out. There was a communal kitchen in the hotel but I never used it. Each floor had a bathroom and showers that were shared by everyone on that floor. Bands would play in the bar below on Friday and Saturday nights but I never went to sleep before three in the morning anyway. I was working from about three in the afternoon until midnight and then would go to the bars or the baths.
Initially, I pinned up my hair and wore the short haired wig to work every day at Saint Francis. Nobody said anything about it initially. Finally, after working for about six months, I took it off at work and people were shocked at how long my hair really was. The manager of the psychiatric unit they called 4-East at the time was a woman named Pat. She seemed to take a liking to me and even invited me to go see The Who at the Oakland Coliseum. Here is some video that I took that day:
There were several people on the unit that were into paganism and referred to themselves as witches and warlocks. For being relatively educated people, they were into a lot of superstition and other nonsense, but they were all accepting of homosexuality. The American Psychiatric Association had just decided that homosexuality was not a mental disease and San Francisco was becoming a magnet for gay men.
4-East was a locked psychiatric unit. Some of the patients were there voluntarily but many were there involuntarily because they were a danger to themselves or others or could not provide food, clothing or shelter for themselves. Some of the patients were so depressed that the only thing that was thought to be helpful was electro-shock therapy. There were two doctors that specialized in this type of controversial therapy. Some of the patients were violent and there were three rooms called "seclusion" rooms where patients could be isolated from the other patients and locked up and restraned if necessary. It was often left up to the males to handle the violent patients. Most of the female staff wore high heels at that time.
It was while living in this small room that my sixteen year old brother came to visit. Actually, I think at the time he was running away from the police in Washington. I think his girlfriend was with him. She left but he stayed and we got some wood and built a loft in the room. One of us could sleep above, while the other slept below. I would come home from working and find my sisteen year old brother partying with transvestite, transexuals and other various freaks that lived in the hotel.
I was finally getting real paychecks for the first time in my life and David was going to stay in San Francisco with me and so we started looking for a bigger apartment and found a two bedroom on Larkin Street. I think that it was about the same week that we were going to move, that I was hospitalized with Hepatitis B. I had continued to be promiscuous and made regular visits to the "clinic" for antibiotics but wasn't sure what was happening when my eyes and skin turned yellow, my stools turned white and I had no energy. One of the guys in the hotel knew what it was immediately. I was hospitalized on the same day that my healthcare insurance had kicked in at my new job.
As I mentioned previously, live bands played in the Rainbow Cattle Company and so it never got quiet before the bar closed at 2am. Most of the time it didn't really matter since I got off work at around midnight. After David came to live with me, he would sometimes have a little "party" going when I got home and I had to throw out the drag queens and freaks he had invited in.
The band that I remember hearing the most while living over the Rainbow Cattle Company was Pearl Heart. He was essentially a Janis Joplin impersonator... although I guess impersonator is not really quite accurate. He mostly sang Janis Joplin songs at various venues around San Francisco at the time. He was also in the Bette Midler film, "The Rose" in a brief scene with Sylvester. I have some video of him on a float at one of the Gay Pride parades of the seventies. After all these years, I found these videos of him on youtube from 1989 which was over ten years after I had last seen him in the seventies. Apparently he had passed away a couple of years after these videos were taken at the Full Moon Saloon.
When I first lived at 3727 College Avenue in San Diego, it was with mom and George. I was taking adult school classes at Hoover High School evening adult division by this time and trying to get high school credits. I was taking a creative writing class, philosophy class and a drama class. The Philosophy class was where I first learnd of the Bhagavad Gita. The Drama class led to my being in my first play in San Diego. I had done a little theater in high school in Seattle. My drama teacher at Hoover seemed to take a liking to me and cast me as the thief in Jay Friedman's play, "Scuba Duba." I was on a macrobiotic diet for a while during that time and she complained that it affected my performance because I had no energy. After about a week of eating nothing but raw brown rice and water, I was hallucinating and I am sure she was right about my performance!
Mom and George moved to an apartment they rented in the Los Angeles area when George got a job there and left Roger and I to live in the College Avenue house in San Diego. I had several significant events in that house. One was reading "The Psychedelic Experience." The second was going to the Newport Pop Festival. The third was coming to terms with the fact that I was gay. The fourth was going before the San Diego Draft Board to explain to them why I was a Conscientious Objector. I don't remember the order of these events though.
In June, while living in the house on College Avenue, I heard about the Newport Pop Festival that was going to take place over a three day period between June 20th and 22nd that year. I suppose this was a precurser to the Woodstock Festival that would take place later that summer on the East Coast.
Although not as widely reported on and without any theatrical release, the Newport Pop Festival was attended by 150,000 fans and was the largest pop concert up until that time. It took place at Devonshire Downs ractrack. I know that April Nellans came and I think Rosie Flores attended as well. I think that April had a Citroen car at the time and drove up but I thinik I actually hitchhiked there. I'm not sure that I brought a sleeping bag and I don't know that I slept much that weekend anyway. If I did, it must have just been in sleeping in the dirt which is entirely possible.
On Friday, June 20, 1969, Albert King, Edwin Hawkins Singers, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Joe Cocker, Southwind, Spirit and Taj Mahal all played. If I remember correctly, Jimi Hendrix was in a fowl mood and gave the finger to the audience and walked off early.
On Saturday, June 21, 1969 Albert Collins, Brenton Wood, Buffy Ste. Marie, Charity, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Eric Burdon, Friends of Distinction, Jethro Tull, Lee Michaels, Love, Steppenwolf and Sweetwater played. (I don't remember all this from memory but was findable on the internet).
On Sunday, June 22, 1969 Booker T & the MGs, Chambers Brothers, Flock, Grass Roots, Johnny Winter, Marvin Gaye, Mother Earth, Buddy Miles, Mother Earth, Eric Burdon (jam), Poco (formerly Pogo), The Byrds, The Rascals and Three Dog Night. Jimi Hendrix played again and I think he apologized to the audience for Friday and wanted to make it up to them for his being in such a foul mood previously. .Of course he was incredible. There is video of his performance on youtube.
Up until this time, I had been having intermittent sexual encounters with men. This would often be related to hitchhiking. Back then, there was no such thing as a "gay" consciousness really and most of the men that I had these enounters with were closeted and I think most of them felt ashamed and guilty. What was typical of the time was to be picked up hitchhiking and be told that I would be taken to wherever I wanted to be taken after I agreed to have sex with them and had allowed them to take me elsewhere first. Usually, the sex was oral and afterward, once the man driving had their sexual needs met, I would often be left in the middle of nowhere and had to find my own way back. Sometimes I would be further away from my destination than when I had first entered their vehicle! There was no sense of camaraderie or brotherhood or pride that would come in a couple of years after that when the "gay" movement started coming together at the end of the sixties and beginning of the seventies.
The American Psychiatric Association still considered homosexuality a mental illness until 1974, a full five years away. Occasionally I would become depressed about my sexuality. At that time, I had not really come out to anyone. I had experienced my first actual "relationship" with another man that went beyond just adolescent play or quick, meaningless hitchhiking episodes. There came a time that I was realizing that I really was a homosexual and I was realizing it was something that I couldn't change and that this was who I had always been and was who I would always be. It scared me to come to that realization. I had always been able to rationalize that I was just going through a phase or something but now I know that it was more than just a phase. There was no one I could talk to about my feelings and what was going on in my life. I was becoming pretty desperate and possibly suicidal. I think I called a suicide hotline or something but somehow I got the name of a psychotherapist. He had his office near Balboa Park and I made an appointment to see him. I remember being pretty distraught at the time and having much difficulty getting the words out to say why I was even there. When it finally did come out that I was homosexual, he asked me if being homosexual was what bothered me or people attitude towards my being homosexual. He let me see for the first time that being gay was not the problem. The problem was with the attitudes of others. It changed my life.
During this period, while living on College Avenue with Roger, I read "The Psychedelic Experience," a manual based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead By Timothy Leary, Ph.D., Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., & Richard Alpert, Ph.D. It was during the same period that I was studying the Bhagavad Gita in the philosophy class at Hoover night school. I made plans for a "guided" trip using Leary, Metzner and Alpert's book. I taped all of the verses from the book and planned music that I would listen to including the song "Tomorrow Never Knows" by the Beatles that had the lyric "turn off your mind, relax and float downstream..." I planned each thing I would eat during the journey.
I obtained some mescaline and one night when I was alone in the house, I proceeded on the trip. I swallowed the gel capsule containing the tan colored powder that was derived from the peyote cactus. The effects were similar to L.S.D. for me and, of course there is never any way to know what you are actually getting with street drugs. It may have been L.S.D. and just sold as mescaline. Psilocybin was another hallucinogenic drug that had similar effects to L.S.D. and mescaline. The differences were subtle but, for me, with L.S.D., there was always kind of a chemical taste in the mouth. I was told at one time that L.S.D. was cut with strychnine and that it what caused the taste. That never made since to me since strychnine is a poison and I recently looked it up and apparently there is no documentation of L.S.D. every being cut with strychnine so maybe it was just an urban myth.
Most of the night went accoring to plan except when Roger and Steve Arnez came in. There was some disruption but the trip itself seemed to account for such disruption as the entire point was to let go of all positive and negative and to go with the flow and not get attached to either positive or negative. It was another life changing event in that it illustrated the nirvana and enlightenment of non-attachment and letting go. I felt that it was made clearer than ever to me what my ego was and how it was possible to let go of some of that as well.
The Viet Nam war was escalating by this time and when a young man turned eighteen, you were expected to register for the draft. I had known a couple people that had served in Viet Nam and they were never the same afterward. One was a close friend I had when still living with Darlene and Chuck in Seattle. I know it's strange that someone could be a close friend at one point in one's life and then you are not able to even remember theri name forty years later but that is the case. His mom had an answering service and had a big switchboard in their big purple house. She was the first person I had every known that was into Yoga and she brough her son and I to classes in Seattle. I learned progressive relaxation in those classes. After I left Seattle, her son either joined the service or was drafted and I didn't see him for a couple of years. The next time I made contact with him, he was cold towards me and seemed to be seething with anger toward the world. We never did get together after that.
Mark Heideman was another close friend that served in Viet Nam. He had been the bass player for the Luv Please and I don't remember whether he joined or was draftered either. It seems like there was some advantage to joining if you thought they were about to draft you anyway and so it seems like a lot of guys would panic and join rather than waiting for the draft. Mark was shot by friendly fire while in Viet Nam and was disabled after his return. He seemed to have some bitterness as well but was still friendly to me. For some reason, instead of continuing to live in Southern California where we had known him from, he settled in Oregon. Maybe it was because of his wife? I believe he was in Salem at one point. I saw him when hitchhiking through one year and he was single and another time he was married with children.
Zutter was a friend that we met in Toppenish that was in the National Guard already when we met him. He would serve a weekend here and a weekend there and I think he had thought that he could avoid going to Viet Nam but serving in the Guard. At some point that no longer was the case and his unit was being called up and he was going to go. I think that he just didn't report for duty which made him A.W.O.L. and he got arrested. Somehow he escaped though, and fled to Canada. A couple of years later Henry, Leslie and I went up to see him in Calgary with his wife and I think he might have had a child by then. That was the last I saw him although we corresponded for a while.
Roger considered shooting off a toe. I'm not sure if he was just kidding at the time but I actually think he was serious. By the end of the sixties and the beginning of the seventies, it had become evident what a debacal and waste of lives Viet Nam was.and young men were scrambling to escape this meat grinder. At some point during this period, I was in Toppenish and would drive Roger to a quack psychiatrist in Yakima that gave him shock treatments. This same doctor had also given these bogus, useless treatments to both Irene and Darlene and various time.
The truth is, I don't remember ever seeing Roger depressed about anything up until that point in his life, and believe the initial intention of the electro shock treaments was to avoid unnecessary death or maiming in a foolish old man's war. I would drive him to the doctor and then pick him up afterward, dazed and confused with his eyes bright red. Although shock treatments were then and continue to be a controversial treatment for depression, it seems to me that in Roger's case, they were the initiation of problems with depression rather than a cure.
I had known since I was a small child that I would never serve in the military. When Roger would play with is little army men, and wanted to see John Wayne World War Two movies, I had absolutely no interest. When adults would be sitting around discussing their wartime experiences or anything related to combat, I knew that this was something that I would do everything I could to avoid.
I started working on my conscientous objector status long before I turned eighteen. I had written a paper explaining my philosophical beliefs at the time and why they were not consistent with the military. I documented every war protest that I participated in which was only a few by that time. You might ask why I didn't just tell them I was homosexual. The answer to that is that I really wasn't that certain myself up until just about the time I had to go before the draft board. I knew that there were many young men that were heterosexual that were trying to get out of the military by saying they were homosexual and many were drafted anyway. Regardless, I prepared for consientous objector status.
The entire process eludes me now but I know that there came a time that I had to go before the draft board in San Diego and present my case and defend my beliefs. I believe that you submitted forms and your rationale for why you could not serve militarily and then an appointment was made and you went before the board. I think there were about six people that I had to talk to. I did add at the last minute that I thought that I might be homosexual just as insurance although ultimately, the deferment I was givan was a consientous objector status. This did not entirely exempt me from service though. I could still be called up to serve as a medic but at that time, you were also given the option of finding your own position in a non-profit, community service type job and that would be what I would attempt to find for the next couple of years.
While living on College Ave, I know that I traveled to San Francisco for a visit. I don't remember how I got there that time. Possibly I hitchhiked. Somehow I found Leslie and she was essentially living on the streets at that time. I must have gone there for the holidays as I remember drinking champagne with her in Northbeach. At that time, the streets of Northbeach were closed off for New Years Eve and there were thousands of people in the streets. By the end of the evening, we were pretty much falling down drunk. What was amazing to me was that you could actually be falling down drunk in front of the San Francisco Police and they didn't seem to care at all. In San Diego, if we had been acting that way, especially as young as we were, we would have surely been arrested.
I think it was on that trip that I had my first real gay "affair." Leslie and I were hanging out in the Northbeach area and we met a guy whose name eludes me now but it seems like it was Don. That would be strange since my name was still Don at that time and it seems like if his name were Don that I would remember it more easily? Regardless, he was staying in what could probably best be described as a flop house. It was one of those hotels where you could get a room for a couple bucks a night. The bathroom was down the hall. There were a lot of those in San Francisco at the time. Later they would all be torn down and the Transamerica Pyramid and the Holiday Inn would be built.
This guy was an admitted homosexual, ex-heroin addict and somewhat of an intellectual in my eyes. He was probably in his late twenties or even early thirties. I know he seemed older and so much more worldly. Leslie and he slept on his full size mattress which I think was on the floor with no frame under it. I slept on the floor in my sleeping bag but with my feet exposed. Sometime during the night, I felt something wet on my toes. It startled me at first but either he hushed me or I was just too stunned to make any sound. He was actually sucking on my toes and I, in my naivetae had never heard of such a thing before. I enjoyed it and I think he may have actually done a little more beyond that but it was long ago and I don't remember all the details. I do know that Leslie left the next day and I remained with this man for a several days or maybe a week or a little beyond a week. I was pretty infatuated with him. Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" played on the radio.
During the day we would go to City Lights bookstore and he would steal books and we would walk around the block and he would scuff up the books on the sidewalk and then bring them to the used bookstore which was practically next door to City Lights bookstore. He would sell the books at the used bookstore for a few dollars and then we would go to Clown Alley and eat. During the time I spent with him, I was introduced to some new variations on sex which had never even occurred to me. In my innocence, I would have thought that some of the things we were doing would cause immediate death!
There are a few people in your life that make a big difference and even though I can't remember this guys name for sure now, he was a person that made a difference. The reason that I feel like he made such a significant difference in my life is that he gave me a reading list. On the list were Sartre's "No Exit," and "The Stranger." Albert Camus, Alduous Huxley and Kafka were on the list. It was a list of probably twenty or more books that I probably never would have read otherwise. It was like he opened some new doors for me and I always apprecieated that. I tried to stay in touch after returning to San Diego but he didn't encourage my romantic fantasies. Years later, I saw him for a moment in front of San Francisco General and he had started shooting up heroin again and somehow a needle had broken off in his arm.
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.