Tuesday, April 2, 2013

California Radicals

Janis Joplin of Port Arthur, Texas (1943-1970)
Spending a wonderful week in the LA Area with my son, daughter-in-law and my little granddaughter, we of course went to Disneyland as my son works for the Big Mouse at corporate (he is a statistician and sadly does not play a character at the Park. More about that later.) I've been thinking about my first trip to California in 1970. Memories grind to dust or take on odd contortions in the mind. Sometimes there is a piece of a record to latch on.

Heading south from Seattle, we first saw a few of the tourist sites in San Francisco. That evening, we went to the flat where my uncle was renting a room while attending law school at Hastings. My younger brother and I were excited because we were heading for Disneyland and "Disney's Wonderful World of Color" was on the TV (in black and white just like at home) and the show was a Disneyland special!! How perfect could that be?

While we were watching, I was aware of the conversation going on behind us. My dad related the experience in a contemporaneous letter to his parents:
[His brother - my uncle] was over at [his girlfriend's place] so we spent an hour of delightful entertainment with Mrs. ___ and S___.  Mr. S___ had been a boy scout in India so we had a sparkling conversation. I could almost understand what we were talking about. Mrs. ____ asked if I could get her son in the Boy Scouts. He’s the one that blew up the mail truck in Seattle and will probably spend his next twenty years at McNeil Island. I’ll bet Jane Fonda looks a fright in another 20 years but she’s about the only one who’ll go see the kid.
While I was calling our friends [in Walnut Creek], still waiting to see [my uncle], the second son of Mrs. _____ blew in from Mexico where he has been ever since the mail truck thing (by the way both boys were students at our distinguished University of Washington, members of the S.D.S., and regular participants in the Seattle Liberation Front (the group of patriots who tried to tear down the federal court building over the Chicago Seven fracas) until older brother was arrested by the FBI for putting the bomb in the mail truck.)
It seems the younger Mr. ____ suddenly decided to leave the class room and take up Spanish first hand.  Well he blew in from Mexico with something alive that was all matted and shaggy and plays the guitar badly. The thing sat down on the floor and began a ballad.  ____ and Mrs. ____ got into a heated discussion with Mrs. ____ doing all the discussing.  ____ finally told her he had everything under control.  He would be in the States now, could find out who the Washington authorities had appointed as big brother’s attorney, and could keep his mother happy with all the news about brother’s trial.  Besides, he (younger ____) was going to rally some friends so he’d feel better about everything and move into the mountains at Chico. “Yiiiiiiii” shrieked Mrs. ____, “last week you lived in a tree house and next week a cave!” Seeing her collapse forthcoming, [my mother] got Mrs. ____ a chair. The thing arose from the floor and sat down on the chair before Mrs. ____ could get there.  Mrs. ____ ordered it back to the floor.

[My uncle] arrived. We met [his girlfriend] and spent just a few minutes more at the mad house.  [My uncle] said he’d like to live in trees and caves too but going to school, studying, reading, eating and sleeping took all his time. We asked why he didn’t move out. He said the rent was cheap (we could believe that) and that he and Mrs. ____ had an understanding – “She doesn’t listen in on my phone calls – very often” and “She doesn’t come into my room when I’m dressing – anymore.” He also added that someday he would write a great book.
Well he still hasn't written that book. I still try to encourage him as I did this last weekend as we had a great visit with him on our way down. He's done some writing in the past and has been published. He's a great guy, a former Marine who served in Vietnam, and a solid member of the LDS Church with five wonderful daughters - my cousins.

On this latest visit the subject of California came up as we were heading here. He talked a little about his experiences in California. He offered up, "Do I have any regrets about living in California? Yeah, one. I wish I had gone to the Monterey Pop Festival. That would have been great to see Janis Joplin."

Me too!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome. Feel free to disagree as many do. You can even be passionate (in moderation). Comments that contain offensive language, too many caps, conspiracy theories, gratuitous Mormon bashing, personal attacks on others who comment, or commercial solicitations- I send to spam. This is a troll-free zone. Charity always!