Saturday, July 17, 2010

When the road was sometimes longer than the love

Creamcheese didn't get to come to the Wadena Rock Festival, 40 years ago. But we had one hell of a great summer anyway.

Creamie belonged to my girlfriend from the summer of 1969. We had broken up in typical 19-year-old fashion: She took up with my roommate, and disregarded the old folk tune, "Tis best to be off with the old love, before you have on with the new."

It was a spectacular break up in which everyone behaved badly, me no better and perhaps worse than some others. As one of the collateral damage people remarked to me, with no little bitterness, "You could have come out of this with everyone's sympathy ... "

But I didn't, because nobody is that self-contained at 19. And a few weeks after the dust had settled, my now very-much-ex called to say that she couldn't keep her dog on campus and her (new) boyfriend couldn't keep him either because he wasn't a real man. She didn't phrase it quite like that.

In any case, I ended up with Creamcheese as a roommate, and he was a great guy. She'd gotten Creamie from the boyfriend before me, down in Clearwater, Florida, which is where he lived. But when they broke up, she demanded, and received, the dog, and so he ended up in South Bend, Indiana, and then he ended up living with me. Creamie was a great dog, in no small part because he had survived being named "Suzie Creamcheese" by college students who weren't sure how to roll a dog over and examine the evidence.

So Creamie lived with me throughout my junior year, and a very good year it was. And so, at the end of the 1969-70 school year, I called my by-then-long-ex several times, to find out when she wanted to accept custody of the dog. And she didn't return my calls, so, when I was ready to pack up and head out to Boulder for the summer, I said to Creamcheese, "Get in." And, behold, he did, and we drove out to Boulder for a writer's conference at the University and had a great summer.

On our way to Boulder, we picked up two guys who were hitching to Oakland, California. One of them had just completed his masters in marine biology diving for brain coral off the coast of Aruba, and the other had just shot Tricia Nixon for a photo layout in Ladies Home Journal. And none of it seemed strange, in that era. If you weren't there, it's impossible to explain. If you were, it's unnecessary. Onward.

So we got out to Boulder and the two hitchers hung around for a few days and then continued their quest to Oakland and I tried to figure out what to do next. I had about 10 days before the writer's conference began and didn't want to spend it sleeping next to the car, so I found a house with a great many very friendly people, because that was how Boulder was.

It was not a commune. Communes had philosophies. What we had was ... well, not a philosophy, except to the extent that having a good time is a philosophy. Which it isn't. Which we knew. So we referred to ourselves as "a house" and not "a commune."

And, behold, it was a blast.

At some point in all this, I went off to the University of Colorado for my writer's workshop, and I was something of a curiosity, but I survived it but spent most of my nights back at the house, because the dorm room at CU was a little strange, with a roommmate who kept calling his wife to tell her how it was going. It was fine, man.

And I went out a few times with Annie, who had lived in the basement apartment at the house before I showed up, and who was gorgeous and militant and under active FBI surveillance, and who insisted on splitting the bill down the middle, though, I have to say, she was willing to let one person pick up the meal and another person pick up the movie.

We did a fundraiser for the striking farmworkers in the San Luis Valley one night, when poet Denise Levertov was doing a reading for the community. Denise, who was a lecturer at the workshop, was very supportive. But we couldn't make love because Annie had "the Revolutionary Clap" which she had gotten from a Black Panther, and which she was taking medication for, but had to abstain from everything for a few weeks.

Later, she joined the Weather Underground and left Boulder with a load of explosives. Some time later, I found out that the fool who gave her the clap was a poseur who was no more a Black Panther than I was.


It became clear that Annie was far more political than I was, and I was far more apolitical than she was. I called her my Maude Gonne while I was poor Willie Yeats, but, in any case. we moved on with genuine regret. And somehow, I met Ina through her. Which is strange, because Ina was hardly in Annie's flow. But that was the Sixties, where friendships overlapped political lines.

So I ended up asking Ina to go with me to the Wadena Rock Festival, which took place between August 1 and 3, 1970.

Ina was stunning. She had auburn -- not red, but auburn -- hair, and was probably 5'8", with broad shoulders and the accoutrements thereof, and high cheekbones with a light scattering of freckles. Ina was a babe and a half. And everyone who heard I was taking Ina to the rock festival was somewhat jealous.

Which is to say, they said, "Oh, you're taking Ina?" and then kind of chuckled and gently backed away. Okay, "jealous" might not be the exact word here.

Let me be clear, however:  Ida was gorgeous. Whatever they thought of her, nobody ever disputed that she was gorgeous.

So Dean and Linda, and Ina and I, set off for Wadena, Iowa, leaving Creamcheese to sort out his own world in our absence.

Stay tuned. The story is far from being told.


Sherwood Harrington said...

Your mother reads this, you know.

And I'm sure you also know that there's a whole class of us out here who can't read this wonderful post more than once without hearing it in Arlo Guthrie's voice and cadence.

Keep it flowing, brother.

Ronnie said...

His mother has been his mother for a long time and has heard a lot of stories - or parts of stories. Always filling in the blank patches...

ronnie said...

You ever thought of writing a memoir? You have a great voice for describing the tenor of the time to those of us who are too young to remember for ourselves. As Sherwood said, keep it flowing.

Ronnie said...

Someone needs to publish "The Collected Works," imho.

Brian Fies said...

You're a good writer, but you knew that. I just hope you still have that bitchin' hat.

Mike said...

Best hat I have ever owned, but it was a magical hat and its power was that, if anyone admired it, you had to give it to them. I only had it for about two months. I brought it from Colorado to Indiana, where it was admired and passed on to a construction worker/bluegrass musician. He had it for several months and then passed it on to a mad scientist, and I don't know where it is today. As you will see in the photo for the next exciting episode, I attempted to replace it but it was irreplaceable. Magic things tend to be.

And, ronnie, this IS a memoir.

Sherwood Harrington said...

I always wondered where that hat came from.

Sandra said...

I'm enthralled.

...I hope someone took responsibility for feeding the dog...

Mike said...

Hey, Newman -- better not let Sandra catch you posting from her computer!

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Somehow i suspect that Creamcheese got the best of the 3 boyfriends.

Jean said...

Love the story, and love the comments here. :D