Welcome to My Autobiography
Chapter Ten†† ©
††††††††††† The Weak and Hungry Lions
The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing (Ps. 34:10)
Seen Your Ear
††††††††††† I had a hard time getting through my senior year in high school. I was studying German, Mythology and Shakespeare. Three of the most boring subjects I had ever confronted up to that moment. I didnít think I was going to make it through to graduation and I almost didnít.
††††††††††† Why is it, of all the good books on the market, schools seem to pick the most boring, hard to understand, books ever published? Just because a book is called a classic, doesnít mean itís a good book. The way the English used to write, who even knows whatís going on? I guess thatís the reason Cliffís notes are big sellers. I know thatís why thereís a New International Version of the Bible. Why doesnít someone make an NIV of Shakespeare? (Huge gasp escapes from the literary snobs.) It seems that if you donít like the literary works of a four hundred year old English writer of soap operas then youíre un-American.
††††††††††† Now, I will admit, every once in a while schools will pick a good one, like To Kill a Mockingbird. But with most of the required reading, you just stare at the page and think about the weekend.
††††††††††† Miss Holly almost made Shakespeare bearable. I actually got to class early and sat right in front of her desk. She was just out of graduate school and drove a baby blue Mustang. She had long brown hippy-girl hair and wore a short dress that got even shorter when she sat on her desk to discuss Julius Caesar. Every boy in her class participated. She even took the class to see the play. By the end of my senior year, I knew Julius Caesar. He was a beautiful man with long shapely legs.
††††††††††† Miss Holly broke more hearts than mine the day she introduced the class to her fiancťe. I soon got over it, but Iíve got to tell you, Miss Holly, we all thought he looked like a nerd. You could have done better, but I wasnít old enough.
††††††††††† Have cheerleaders changed or are they still snobs to the non-athletic types? They were so cheerful and perky; I just wanted to throw up. But that was probably because they werenít cheerful and perky to me.
††††††††††† Ken, cool kid, had to cut his hair and come to public school our senior year. I figure his mother was running out of money for private school. That was the year a lot of guys tried to keep their long hair by slicking it down with Dep and sticking it to their necks and hiding it under their shirt collars. The wallflowers got away with it. The rest of us kept getting sent home and told not to come back until we had a haircut with white-side walls showing over the ears.
††††††††††† That was the year I discovered I had a drinking problem. I couldnít swallow anything with alcohol in it without throwing up. The other guys would get beer and I would pretend to drink it with them then, when they werenít looking, I would pour some out. I would even pretend to be drunk to fit in. It was a pathetic display of non-alcoholism. I was yearning for something to numb my mind, but it wasnít going to be alcohol.
We Want What We Havenít Got
††††††††††† The wall between my mother and I was getting taller and wider and thicker. Our main problem was we were just alike. I wanted to run my own life and so did she. I couldnít see her point of view anymore and she couldnít see mine. And then, there was my Yankee stepfather, the fake Mick.
††††††††††† So, in January 1967, I moved out of my motherís house and moved in with my boss at the Burger Chef and his family. That situation lasted about two weeks until the school, mysteriously, found out I was no longer living at home and informed me I had to be living with my parents or a legal guardian or I couldnít go to public school. So I moved back in with Mommy and Paw-paw. They didnít realize it at the time, but they were about to enable me to live a bad and harmful lifestyle. I donít even think I realized at the time.
††††††††††† Grandparents, if your grandchild is living a harmful life, abusing drugs or alcohol, wonít work, etc. Donít give them money! Youíre enabling them to live a lifestyle that may get them killed. If theyíre hungry, give them food. If they need gasoline to find a job, follow them to a station and put gas in their tank. If they need a place to sleep, give them one, but donít give them money! They will spend it on drugs or alcohol. Trust me on this.
††††††††††† I never had a father, good or bad, who stuck with me very long. My real father left me when I was nine. My adopted father left me when I was twelve. I left my stepfather when I was seventeen. But Paw-paw was always there. I just wish I had treated him and Mommy better during the next four years.
††††††††††† By our senior year Jimmy (the one with the really bad hair-lip) and I had become very close friends. Outside of his immediate family, I was about the only person who could understand him. I was his interpreter during school.
††††††††††† Jimmy had really kinky hair for a white boy. It looked like a million tiny springs all over his head and he was constantly trying to straighten it out with some method or other. On the other hand, my hair was fairly straight and I was constantly ratting and teasing it to make it look like an Afro. Why is it people always want what they havenít got? No matter how a person looks, they want to look different. Of course, if a person is satisfied with the way he looks then we call that person an egotist.
Turmoil in the Midst of Chaos
††††††††††† Within my mind was turmoil and frustration and it was coming out in the volumes of poetry I wrote during my junior and senior years. They brought out the basic theme of my life: rebellion, although I do remember writing one poem about the three astronauts who died on the launching pad Jan. 27, 1967. I also wrote a few love poems, but they were basically rebellious, too; except for one about Della.
††††††††††† The first time I saw Della was at a dance at the local Elkís Lodge. I was there with T-Bone, a lead guitar player, who was usually in every band I put together. We werenít playing that night. They had decided to hire somebody good, instead.
††††††††††† Across a crowded dance floor, I saw her. Her long blonde hair stopped just long enough for her long blonde legs to start. I watched her every move. Unfortunately, I didnít dance and was just too shy to go over and start talking to her.
††††††††††† T-Bone didnít have that problem. He just walked over to a girl he didnít know and started talking and they danced, even though he couldnít dance either, but that didnít stop him. When the Elkís lodge was about to close up, he asked if I would give the girl he had met, a ride home. I was glad I said yes, because she asked if I would give her friend a ride home, too. Her friend turned out to be the girl I had been watching all night. She said she had been watching me all night, too, but I have since discovered that women lie to men.
††††††††††† Romance budded real fast between us, even though I was a little shaken when I found out she was only thirteen. I would turn eighteen in March, before she turned fourteen in May. Her stepfather, who was a lawyer, and her mother, who married a lawyer, werenít happy about me, and I donít think it had anything to do with my age. I think their main problem was that I didnít look like I was going to be a lawyer or a doctor or a success.
††††††††††† Most of the time we had to meet places incognito. Her parents would, reluctantly, let me come over and watch television with them, when they didnít have company over. I think they were ashamed of me, although, I canít imagine why. I was a rebellious, punk, who had no aspirations about anything to do with reality. I had a dream, though. I was going to be a rich and famous rock star. Who wouldnít want their daughter dating me?
Welcome Back, Son
††††††††††† After my eighteenth birthday I began to think about the man who had given up his rights as my father. I hadnít seen or heard from him in nine years. Nine years doesnít seem like much time to someone over thirty, but it was half my life.
††††††††††† I knew the man used to live in
††††††††††† Jimmy drove me to
††††††††††† He had remarried while I was still seeing him on the weekends before the adoption and met my half sister, who was a baby the last time I saw her. I also had a half brother I never knew I had. I guess legally they werenít kin to me, but the blood doesnít change with adoption.
††††††††††† Me and Ronnie and Jimmy only stayed a couple of hours that night, but I went to see the man formally known as ďmy fatherĒ off and on for the next three years and that added a whole bunch more bricks to mine and my motherís wall.
The Mary Jane Band
††††††††††† The Mary Jane Band was always me
and T-Bone and an array of different bass and rhythm guitar players and drummers.
We even played a couple of times at The Cellar in
Rebel + Hellion = Rebellion
††††††††††† I barely graduated high school and it had nothing to do with my grades. The vice-principal, who rode me like a prison guard in a cheap movie, came to my class two weeks before school was out and told me to get a hair cut and not to come back to school until then. I stayed out for two days. I knew he just did what he did out of meanness and I didnít want to give him the satisfaction. He just wanted to get one more haircut out of me.
††††††††††† My stubbornness and my common sense struggled with each other, but common sense prevailed, probably for the last time over the next few years. I got a haircut and finished school, but I didnít go to my graduation exercises. It was my last rebellious act before I left the academic world. Jimmy told me they called my name several times before they realized I wasnít there. I thought, at the time, famous or infamous, just as long as they remember you. To this day my classmates remember my name being called several times and I wasnít there. Iím not so proud of it now.
††††††††††† My family was upset about me not going to my graduation. They wanted to see me in my cap and gown receiving my diploma. All I wanted was that diploma and I got it, several days later, in the mail.
††††††††††† Do I regret not going to graduation exercises? Of course I do. But mostly I regret embarrassing my family, even though I did many other things to embarrass them, so much more, that Iím sure they forgot all about the graduation incident.
††††††††††† With that grand display of rebellion, a hippy was born. I donít usually support abortion, yet perhapsÖOh well. What Satan meant for evil, God can turn for good. But He allowed me my freewill. He was going to let me learn the hard way and I surely did.
††††††††††† Della and I would break-up and get back together, off and on, over the next three years. When I was with her, I wanted to be free and when I was free, I wanted to be with her. Satisfaction was an illusion to me. I didnít stay with one girl or in one place for very long at a time. I got bored very quickly. I was looking for happiness, but I couldnít find it because of the battle going on inside me (Gal. 5:7). I had asked Jesus into my heart and I believe He was still there, but I had let Satan into my brain. My brain wanted to do what was wrong and my heart wanted to do what was right. But guess what? My brain was in total control. I did not consider my heart.
††††††††††† My rebel spirit had driven me through my senior year and it was growing like the ďBlobĒ chasing Steve McQueen. If an adult told me to do something, I just had to do the opposite. It was me against them. They wanted my hair short, so I wanted it long. They wanted my shirttail in, so I wanted it out. They wanted me to do this, so I would do that.
††††††††††† If they liked it, I hated it. If they hated it, I liked it. I was anti-establishment for the sake ofÖahÖI donít knowÖsomething. I just didnít want to, one day, be mowing my Bermuda lawn in Bermuda shorts with black dress socks up to my knees wearing shiny dress shoes. In fact, I didnít even want a lawn to mow. I didnít want possessions. I didnít want money. I didnít want responsibilities. But I wanted a place to sleep and food to eat andÖYou know life just isnít fair.
††††††††††† I hated my life and I hated myself. I just wanted to have fun, but my life wasnít fun. I had turned my back on God, Christians, my family and my country. And just when you think things canít get any worse, a restless spirit was beginning to join the rebel spirit and the two were a force to be reckoned with.
††††††††††† I had completely turned my back on God. I am just so thankful He didnít turn his back on me.
The Measuring Line of Chaos (Is.34:11)
You donít even realize youíre digging a hole, until one day you look up and you canít see the light anymore. Not very long ago you were talking to God.
Now your silence is crying out in your obliquity. Can you hear it?
Ubiquitous, omniscient God of mercy,
If Heís everywhere, why canít you find Him anywhere?
Maybe youíre not really looking for Him.
††††††††††† School was the last vestige of organization in my life and I was leaving that behind. I was just like an animal loose in heavy traffic. I was in danger and didnĎt know it. All I knew was, I was loose and I was free and there wasnít nobody gonna tell me what to do.
††††††††††† There may have been a struggle going on inside me, but outside there was no struggle. I just wanted to have fun. But I soon discovered the only way to do that was to be high, because I didnít like myself or my life when I was not high. My life was exactly what I had made of it: mundane and depressing. I had nothing to look forward to when I woke up. In fact, I had no reason to wake up. But I couldnít sleep forever, not and stay alive. Iím not even sure why I stayed alive, as much as I hated my life.
††††††††††† I was no longer a double-minded man. God was completely out of the picture or so I thought. I didnít believe Satan was controlling my life. I believed I was in control.
But I had to get high so I could stand myself and this life I was in control of. I couldnít drink alcohol without throwing up and I couldnít find any of that marijuana I had been hearing about, so I started sniffing glue. It was quite the rage until they started making glue without toluene. We would buy boxes of tubes of glue, pour the tubes into a sack and breathe in the fumes until we blacked out and then began to hallucinate. People of like-kind hang out together and glue-sniffers are no exception. All my friends, at that time, were glue-sniffers. We would go out together looking for glue then a place to sniff it.
††††††††††† Just to be sure we were at the very bottom of the pit, my friends and I started going to X-rated movies, too. In order to have the wonderful, uplifting music I was listening to and the glue to get high on and money to watch porn, I had to get a job. I didnít want to work, but even more, I didnít want to live my life without the essentials.
††††††††††† So, the summer after graduation I
went to work for the City of
††††††††††† I guess the reason that first summer was fun, was because I was still equal to the other í67 graduates. I wasnít really a loser until the fall, when everybody, including Rod, left for college then I suddenly felt cold inside.
††††††††††† I had spent the summer at work
painting crosswalks at all the
††††††††††† My peers, who were doing the right thing, just reminded me of what a loser I really was. So I just hung out with other losers who made me feel better about all the wrong decisions I was making. Hey, they were making them, too. The first thing I found out about somebody I met was if they got high. If they didnít, I wouldnít hang out with them. The truth was they wouldnít hang out with me.
††††††††††† So parents, just so youíll know, people who do drugs donít hang out with people who donít do drugs. So, if your child says they are not doing drugs, but they are hanging out with someone you know is doing drugs then your child is lying. Itís that simple and believe when I say I am dead serious.
James and James on James
††††††††††† That summer Jimmy and I rented a
room from a lady on
††††††††††† When I quit my job in October I couldnít pay for the car anymore so the bank sold it. Jimmy didnít go to college, but he was working. Ron went to Jr. College and stayed at home, but he was working part time. I wasnít working. I wasnít going to school and I was sponging off of my grandparents. I was a true loser.
More Turmoil in the Midst of More Chaos
††††††††††† I had a girl friend (not Della. IĎll get back to her later) who was still in high school, so since I wasnít doing anything else, I would walk up to the high school each day at noon and meet her for lunch, off the campus. I soon discovered the vice-principal hadnít forgotten me. One day he and a football coach called me across the street onto the campus then they wanted to know what I was doing on school property? They told me not to come back or they would call the police.
††††††††††† Being true to my ďpunkdomĒ I told them I was on school property because they called me over and I would be back the next day, but not on school property and they couldnít stop me from being on public property.
††††††††††† They were aneurysm angry. I actually thought the coach was going to hit me. Looking back I canít say that I would have blamed him. I was a punk. I think they were just scared of change, like their parents when the swooning Frank Sinatra made the younger generation want to touch one another. The goal of every teenage generation is to out do and be more outrageous than the one before it. I was just doing my part to reach that goal.
††††††††††† The next day I was across the
street from the high school to meet my girl friend and I didnít see the
vice-principal, the coach or the police. I got bored with the girl friend. I
got bored with the high school. I got bored with The Land of the Gar. Even
the state of
I was California Dreaminí
††††††††††† I constantly had the urge to be
somewhere other than where I was. I had been hearing about the hippies in
††††††††††† A man in a truck stopped and gave
me a ride to downtown
††††††††††† A ride let me off around 1:00 a.m.
about three miles east of
††††††††††† I stood in the darkness for about an hour as three cars whizzed by then I decided to walk. It was getting rather cool and the walk warmed me.
††††††††††† One of the twinkling lights soon
came into focus and I could see it lit a sign that read, ď
††††††††††† I still couldnít see the lights of
a city, which is what I assumed
One thing I
learned about truckers, that night and the next day, is they go a long way
between stops. When he finally let me out, near the chain link fence between
††††††††††† Back on the highway, north of
††††††††††† When we got into southern
††††††††††† We saw it several more times
before we learned that it meant ďpeace.Ē When I later got back to
††††††††††† It was fun for the first few days. I played my guitar and everybody sang protest songs. Even with my six chords, I knew more than anyone else there. I was like somebody special to these people. I felt like I belonged. Every time I played my guitar a girl there would take off her shirt and dance around. I always drew a crowd. These people loved me.
††††††††††† But the new soon wore off. As all sin does, it got old real fast. The Diggers wanted us to go out and get some money to help them out. After all, they were feeding us, even if it was just beans and old bread. I tried panhandling, but begging wasnít my style. My pride would have let me starve to death first. When street people tell you, you donít belong here, listen to them. Theyíre probably right.†
††††††††††† At night we would wander down to the Sunset Strip and just walk up and down. There was activity on the strip all night long, even on Tuesday nights. There was nothing like it back home. I tried to hang out with people who didnít mind begging for money and food and would share what they got without me having to ask.
††††††††††† I heard people talking about drugs, but I never saw any, nor did I meet anyone wanting to sell any. Which was fine since I didnít have any money and wasnít about to beg.
††††††††††† One night while walking around with two other guys from Diggers, I went to use the rest room at a service station. In less than a minute there was a pounding on the door and a voice yelling, ďPolice! Open up!Ē I thought it was the guys fooling around, but when I opened the door a cop grabbed me and threw me against the wall and frisked me. They didnít find anything, of course, because I didnít have anything, but now I know that doesnít always stop them from finding something.
††††††††††† I met my first Hellís Angel on The Strip. I was at another service station. You would think by this time I would have stayed away from service stations. This guy with long hair and a long, straggly beard, wearing sunglasses at night, sitting on a Harley, called me over and wanted to bum a cigarette. I didnít have one. He asked me directions to some place. I didnít know where it was. And to make a bad situation worse, he sneezed and left a string of snot clinging to the front of his cracked leather jacket.
††††††††††† Now, I was trying very hard not to make him mad. So what was I supposed do? Tell him heís got snot on his jacket and maybe he gets mad or not tell him and, when he finds out itís there, he gets mad because I didnít tell him? I did the latter and hoped I never saw him again. The fact is he probably knew it was there and just didnít care.†
††††††††††† I met a girl one night, who sang in a band called The Rubber Highway. They were apparently a local band, because I had never heard of them before that night. But, the important thing is, she was really cute and she was talking to me. It was her night off and we just walked up and down Sunset Strip until about 2:00 in the morning then she invited me to her house, which she shared with the other members of the band; all guys.
††††††††††† I slept on the couch, alone and
the next morning I walked back to the Diggers and I never saw her again. I
always wondered if she became famous, because I donít remember her name or
what she looked like. I know the band,
††††††††††† On November 18 a man came by the
Diggers and gave out some free tickets to a concert at Hollywood Bowl that
very night. We just had to get
there. I think we took a bus. I saw the Association, The Animals, Sopwith Camel, The Everly
††††††††††† After a week in
††††††††††† After I got back, in a moment of weakness, I asked her if I could move back home, but she said, ďNo.Ē Jim didnít want me back in his house. It was just as well, because in order to come back into the fold, you have to have a truly repentant heart and really want to change your life style. I didnít and I wasnít. I was still the rebellious punk I had been a year earlier and things were bound to wind up right back where they were.
††††††††††† I returned to my ďenablers,Ē Mommy and Paw-paw.
Iíve been running, since I learned to walk.
Iíve been screaming, since I learned to talk.
Iíve been sad, since I learned to rejoice.
Iíve been lost, since I learned I had a choice.