I have lived a long time, though sorry to say I have not seen it all. As for the people I have met, virtually all are worthy to be written about. But here I have chosen to write about two of the more notable ones.
Soon after the birth of the 1960’s I was at a popular bar in Midtown Manhattan. While nursing a Scotch I slid into a conversation with a fellow drinker. We were about the same age, and were both from Los Angeles. He went by the name of Moon. He was of average height, trim and handsome, with blond hair and serious blue eyes. Moon was a good person to be with: his looks drew the women to us.
We left the bar after a couple of drinks. Neither of us could afford much more than that, and we had each roped in a phone number belonging to a future date. We had accomplished our task.
As we strolled the late-night streets Moon told me he knew someone who had a band, and that it was about time for their last set. We walked over to West 46th and entered the club, which had a descending staircase that led us into a large grotto with a small stage. The band was playing to a near-capacity crowd. It was a relatively unknown group. Hearing them for the first time I had thought them pretty good. They called themselves The Doors.
At the end of their last set I followed Moon backstage. We went into the dressing room where Moon introduced me to his friend Jim and the other band members. We sat chatting while drinking Jack Daniel’s in Dixie cups. I sipped mine because of my moderation principle, never to overdo.
A while later the room had filtered down to just Jim, Moon and me. We talked about anything and everything, which somehow led to a discussion about the mystery of the universe.
Needless to say, the mystery went unsolved.
A chubby man with a warm smile stepped into the room. He acknowledged Jim and Moon, and then put his hand out toward me. The handshake was peculiar. The offered hand had a thumb and forefinger with tiny brass symbols attached. The same with his other hand, I had noticed. When he said his name, it jogged my memory. Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl had been published some years before. I had not read it and told Allen I surely would.
Jim wanted to go for a walk. Allen, Moon and I thought it a good idea. It was around 3 a.m. when the four of us left the club and hit the streets. We stopped at an all-night hash house and had what was for me a very early breakfast. As the busboy cleared the table, Jim leaned toward me and asked if I wanted a tab. I thought he meant the breakfast bill. Jim gave out a gentle, deferential laugh. Allen and Moon did the same. “Naïve child,” Allen said as he clinked his tiny brass symbols.
Jim explained what a tab was. Then said, “You’ve never dropped acid?” I told him I hadn’t. He said, “Okay, how about just a quarter of one to grab some of the experience.”
I thought a quarter of one would be all right. It fit in with my moderation principle. Jim’s eyes patrolled the other occupied tables. He then pulled a card from his leather jacket. On it was a row of tabs. Allen and Moon took a half each. Jim took a whole one. I took my quarter part.
We left the hash house and I could swear I felt no different, questioning what was supposed to be so good or bad about LSD. Though I must say the darkness of night seemed darker than usual, and the lights of the city shone like a mass of stars. Lost in thought, about to solve the mystery of the universe, I heard Allen holler “Hey!” He and the others were near a block away while I stood frozen in the middle of the street.
We ended up in Central Park, where we stretched out on the grass. Except for Allen. He sat cross-legged, tapping together his symbols while chanting in a language I presumed to be Asian. Whatever it was, it was a peaceful sound.
Jim asked me how I felt. I said fine, quite fine. My attention went toward Manhattan’s Eastside, where I saw the arriving dawn create long shadows over the buildings. I could not take my eyes off the scene. When the sun edged above the horizon I settled back on the grass, closed my eyes and dreamed I was a stage actor performing in Hamlet with Jane Fonda.
Jim nudged my shoulder and said, “Take a look at this.”
I sat up and found myself before the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen. After a while, the four of us left Central Park. At 59th and Fifth we parted. Jim and Allen went one way, Moon and I the other.
The quarter of a tab I had taken was the first and last time I had dropped acid. After all, I do have my principles.
The next time I saw Moon was a number of years later in Los Angeles. We were both pleased to see each other. I told him I had read Allen’s Howl, was quite impressed with it and understood why it had become a landmark poem.
That was the last time I saw Moon. Possibly my fault, being the loner I have always been. I still wonder what his real name was, and still wonder why I had never asked.
I never again saw Allen Ginsberg. I suppose if I had sought him out we might have become friends, or something like that.
I never again saw Jim Morrison. Back then, I’m certain if I had gone to a Doors concert and seen him backstage he would have been friendly. I have often thought that if I had seen him again, I might have thrown my principles to the wind and not be alive today.