Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Circle of Eight

Another customer from the store expressed interest in the house. Her name was Dorie. I knew her from her reading habits. She had done EST training and was into Bagwan Rajneesh .That made six of us. Then Susan told us that Jackson was also interested. Now as I mentioned before, Jackson ,who was in his 60's, (he seemed ancient then) was Susan's mom's boyfriend. He was a born New Yorker and wrote New York detective stories. He had no money, but he told us tales of working for a magazine in New Mexico in the 1950's, where the staff kept a full basket of peyote buttons on a table for public consumption during work. Great credentials, no? Actually, Jackson was a really good person and perfect for our strangely eclectic group. He made our number seven. On the morning of July 15, 1975, Richie and Sylvia drove up to our West End Avenue apartment in a rented truck. Their things took up a corner of the back. Into the remainder of the truck, we emptied our two apartments, bid a fond farewell to our doorman (and pot dealer), and started out for Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

Arriving at the house with this enormous truck, we began to unload our belongings. Within minutes a group of seven or eight local teenagers discovered us. Now let's face it. These kids did not know any adults who looked quite like us. So when we told them we were renting Dr.H's house, they became captivated by our presence, you might say. (My guess is as friends of the Doc's eldest son, they were into the secrets of the family). They unloaded the entire truck for us. Later, fifteen of them (they multiplied) gathered on the porch where basically, they remained a constant presence for most of our first year, greeting our comings and goings. (Richie talked about starting a" boy scout troop "with these kids as the core. He suggested the loft of the garage as the meeting house, but after a few smoky "meetings", our neighbors registered a strong protest.)

We sat together in the hallway on top of crates and sofas and someone said, "Which rooms do you want?" Immediately, we all got up and climbed the stairs to pick out the rooms we wanted. There was no hassle and no discussion. Everyone got the room they wanted. We set aside the parachute room (where Dr H and his son still were still parked) as our living room. The downstairs parlor seemed too public with its windows open to the porch and our gang, so we opted for the much more private third floor room as our living room, or as we came to call it after hauling crates of books into it, the Library. The house was not yet empty. Mrs. H, her mother and three of the kids moved that same day with the contents of a huge van, but Doctor Harry and his eldest son stayed behind to fill a big station wagon to overflowing with the rest of their stuff. They were still there a week later as the doctor made final arrangements and his son bid tearful farewells to his girl friend across the street .We asked Harry during the week when he intended to leave, to which he replied, "I don't travel in your time and space. "

I of course, immediately went for the second floor bedroom off the stairs, because it had the window onto the roof. Through the years, that roof became a great place to be away from the hustle and bustle of the house (not to mention, a great escape route during one of our hide and seek marathons).The "Vision Ledge", I called it. I remember Jaime demonstrating Aikido to a whole group of us out there in 1976, and I had long conversations with Brenna (our youngest ever member) in 1995 while she sat out there smoking cigarettes. Mostly though, it became a place to see the sun set and to pray to the gods for guidance.

Within a few days, things began to change. Dorie expressed feelings that the long trip into the city might be too tiring. In those days the R and N trains would get you to Times Square in 45 minutes, and she was complaining! It was a hassle if you worked on the East side. At some point, Jackson moved back to Manhattan for a time, I forget why. Meanwhile, I had submitted our names to George. I could see that all this changing might look a little unsettling to a landlord, so I talked him into letting us pay for the rent with one, rather than 5 or 6 or 8 different checks. We went straight to the bank, and opened a free business checking account in the name of Big Gray Community. That way, I didn't have to tell the landlord about all our changes, and we had an official presence. It took some doing, but by Labor Day we were still there and holding our first party.

No one from Manhattan came to our party, except Sylvia's crazy family from East Harlem, but all of the teenagers in Brooklyn with their friends were there apparently under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. S----- arrived in the middle of the party. She was answering an ad we placed in a free guide to finding room mates and stole our hearts. She was a sweet flower child from Brooklyn who was really into our idea. We took in S------ and her carton of New Age remedies, and a few days later Jaime walked in having read the same paper. Richie and Jaime were rivals from their first day. Jaime was a smooth talking rich kid from Long Island with a taste for wildness. I was settling into the "Peace Chief" role in the house, but Jaime and Richie would always fight for the dominant "Fire Chief "position. A few weeks after Jaime and S------ arrived, Richie introduced us to Kim, his cousin's brother- in- law. A red headed and red bearded hippie with John Lennon style glasses, Kim was an accomplished musician, artist, handy man, mechanic, and much more, I would learn. He showed up for his first visit with a steel drum he had rescued from someone's garbage. He was a unanimous choice- no discussion at all.

Going into the fall, we were Alan, Susan, Richie, Sylvia, S------, Kim, Jaime and me - the Circle of Eight.

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