I don’t want to dwell too much on this place, this wet coast city; needless to say I got a job at a paper, cardboard packaging company that had an international flavour to it. My sister and her partner welcomed me with open arms and made me feel at home. In their old beater, they took me on day trips around the city and surrounding country side. I must admit that when the sun did come out on those rare occasions, the city’s natural, geographical setting was spectacular. Only problem was that these occasions were as remote as a west coast hippy’s tendency to find a job. Me, I worked.
I also met Sandy, my sister’s best friend and our next door neighbour’s oldest daughter. She and my sister decided to come out to the west coast with all the other hippies of this so called summer of love. Go west young dude, and dude-ess was the hippy siren call of the day. So, with a suitcase full of “tie dyes”, with hope upon hope and a restless thumb they all hitchhiked to the promise land.
Sandy lived in a commune in the south east end of the city. It was so cool she told me. Yes it was sooo cool, figuratively and literally, but also run down and shabby: ten of her closest friends living together under one roof. The only enterprising dude in all of this was the landlord. Yet his dependency of course was not the free spirited, enterprising skills of the inhabitants of his run down abode but the municipal government’s largesse of the day affectionately known by all of the caterers of the hippy commune crowd as “Welfare Wednesdays.” And commune is just a hippy expression and a Latin word for shithouse!
Sandy showed me her space, which was in the corner of a large open basement, damp, dark and dank, with just a dirty mattress and a blanket curtain marking off her personal territory: a bare incandescent light bulb her only means of artificial light. It was sooo cool she told me. And you’re so square, uptight, so un-cool she would criticise me to no end. Get with the program she would insist. Her limited vocabulary was only limited by the amount of drugs she imbibed. The letter “C” was a predominant determinant of their nondescript and boring alphabet and part and parcel of the hippy dialogue and cultural landscape. What she didn’t tell me of course was the amount of times she was robbed of her food and money by her cadre of close but oh sooo cool family of friends.
But what did it for me in this run down abode of a dwelling was an incident that occurred while visiting Sandy. Sitting in the kitchen on the main floor, Sandy was making me a cup of coffee when suddenly the front door was kicked in by some scruffy looking Manson like figure dude of hippiedom, stoned out of his ever lovin but lifeless mind. His eye balls rolling and puffing out of his skull; his dirty unkempt beard gave him the impression of a crazed out Sasquatch, or a mountain man. Someone who hadn’t seen soap in a very long time! Foam seemed to be frothing out of the sides of his mouth. He was cursing to high heaven, tripping out I would assume, in the hippy vernacular. Paranoid perhaps. But what was really scary and sooo un-cool, was the sawed off shotgun that he was wielding in his left hand and forearm. I do hope to God he is right handed I prayed. I couldn’t move. I was gobsmacked. Just as well, as any movement by us in his direction probably would have triggered his aggression, and not in a good way.
And just as quickly as he entered, he turned and left, exiting out of the now damaged front door. Perhaps he had the wrong address I thought. I almost shit my pants and when it was deemed safe I high tailed it out of there but not before I pleaded with Sandy to come with me. She declined. “But Damian is sooo cool” she told me. Damian? Damian? Damian is sooo cool? Isn’t Damian a name for a devil? Like a Griffin, a devilish name? I thought to myself. And with a sawed off shotgun as his calling card? These hippies are sooo prone to self delusion and self destruction. It must be the drugs I thought or the drinking water or the raindrops pounding relentlessly on their noggins. More than likely it was the Purple Haze in the shallow recesses of their minds or the West Coast Bud where everyone, everybody, crazy or not, is your best friend forever, or buddy. I never returned to Sandy’s commune.
I do believe that in the two month period that I lived there, 60 days I think, that it rained for 59 of them. Exaggerating perhaps but it just seemed so. It was either raining or about to rain or had just finished raining. And with the rain came the melancholy. And with the melancholy came the empty feeling of loneliness and with the loneliness and melancholy, and vitamin “D” deficiency, came depression. The suicide rate in this city was through the roof.