Sections Above and Below This Page:
"mod monk, hippie, social workers." Both assumptions were wrong, but did provide them with the cover they needed, at the time, to continue their work.
"However, now it's gotten to the point where everyone's missing the point and that's why we come here--to let you know the truth of what we're doin' in San Francisco, so's you can understand and tell your comrades, and only them, that we ain't what everybody says we are, but just what we've now explained to you. We did this 'cause what we're doin' in Frisco needs to be done everywhere and done right! Not like no Salvation Army or no bunch of romantic Robin Hoods, but like, and by, plain and simple free men and women who do it 'cause they love the people! Love the people, not with the slop-bucket love of liberal do-gooders who've got false commitments to humanity, but love with a muscle 'n gut love that sweats and lives and dies for the people. The people who need to be doing what the Diggers in San Francisco are doing and nowhere else. Let that be clear--nowhere else! The people need to see other people giving it all away, before they can dig the basic absurdity of this goddamn parasitical society! It heightens the human contradictions of existing within this inhuman capitalistic system where the best man wins if he kills his brother or sister or a couple of hundred thousand faceless, yellow people in Asia. It heightens the human contradictions of surviving within or under any system of government that's now maintaining some form of social order in the world today. It heightens the human contradictions to such a degree that a person, if he's really a good man or a good woman, will have to refuse to acquiesce to any society that doesn't fulfill its social responsibility to every human being in it!
"Now, when you go around liberating stuff to give away to the people, you gotta watch your ass 'n stay as invisible as possible! You gotta be and remain anonymous, because the society you're fuckin' with is, sooner or later, gonna start flexing its muscles in anger at the thought of swallowing the bitter, Digger pill of 'It's free, because it's yours!' And their police lackies are gonna slam your ass away! If you ain't anonymous, if you got your name written all over everything you do, you ain't doing nothing! 'Cause if you was, and you had your name on all of it, they'd lock you up forever or blow you away for good!
"In other words,Best Replica Watches if you're really serious and you're actually doing something serious, ain't nobody supposed to know what you look like except the people you're doin' it with and some, never all, of
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the people you're doing it for. And, of course, the police--they always know what you look like, but if you're really slick, they won't know who you are or what you're doing. And if you don't get what I mean, that's your blues, 'cause that's all you're gonna get from me except my best wishes that y'all don't get got."
The younger, hipper ones laughed as Emmett stood up straight on top of the table to stretch his legs. There was some loud movement behind and to the left of him, and when Emmett turned, he saw that Abbot Hoffman raised his stumpy body, instead of his hand, to ask a question or say something.
"Emmett, you know, whether you like it or not, you're going to get co-opted, because you're too together, too singlehanded, and they're gonna make an image out of you and steal your anonymity and sell you across the country as the 'new antihero'! Before this year's out or sometime in 1968, they're going to put you on the cover of Time magazine or Life or Newsweek and sell your charisma as the fashionable way to be. Whether you like it or not, within a year you're gonna be on a lot of posters on a lot of walls!"
It was the same riff that Paul Jacobs used, to try to cancel Emmett and the Diggers out months before at the Theater for Ideas in New York. This time, however, Emmett was determined to handle the always-the-same challenge of his probable co-option differently. He could feel the whole load of the past year's slave labor and solitude swelling up inside of him and taking the love right from his eyes, leaving them dead cold. He was going to blow it, but he was going to do it his way, for his own reasons, and not as an emotional response to a punk's lame remark.
As he squatted slowly back down, Emmett ran his eyes into those of Tumble, the Hun and Billy, giving them the sign that it was time to effect the epilogue to their already disruptive performance at the SDS conference. Then he sucked the audience into the eye of the storm that was squalling inside of him by speaking softly.
"Abbot . . .
"It's Abbie, Emmett!
"Abbot, you're wrong. I'm not goin' to be on the cover of Time magazine, and my picture ain't goin' to be on the covers of any other magazines or in any newspapers--not even in any of those socalled underground papers or movement periodicals. There ain't gonna be no posters of me anywhere, and I ain't goin' to put me on sale this year or next year or the year after that, until I feel it beautiful to stop.
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"Now that's probably very difficult for you here to understand, 'cause you're always jumping up and pointing at yourselves on TV and in the press to show everyone that you were there, too! But not me, nor my brothers and sisters, understand? And do you know why I'm so sure of that? Do y'all know how I know that what I'm sayin right now's the truth? Huh?
"Well, it's simple. You see, I'm not kidding! I'm not kidding you, me or anyone else about what I do to help make the change that has to be made in this country of ours, here!
"Must be real fuckin' hard for you motherfuckers to understand that, huh! Most of you suckers'd give your rectums to get yourselves plastered all over the cover of any one of them magazines as the Big, Bad Radical! Huh, wouldn't ya! And now you're all lookin' at me-- me who's more beautiful 'n heavier than any motherfuckin' man or woman in this room! And you're wondering why I don't let 'em take my picture 'n become the big, bad radical of the year to all America, ain't ya!
"Why such a beautifully muscled, aquiline-featured, rough 'n ready, romantically hip, heavyweight, handsome cat like me who's got more style in the heel of his motherfuckin' foot than any of you'll have forever--why ain't I coppin' the front pages of all them fuckin' rags that'd just gobble up everything I said 'n make me the national, hip, radical Hero Number One overnight?! Why? Why? 'Cause I ain't kiddin', you ugly, motherfuckin', Iyin' cocksuckin', purlk-faced, pussy-whipped assholes!"
Emmett jumped off and suddenly flipped over the Formica lunch table on top of the seated crowd as his words erupted throughout the room, and Tumble watched Emmett's back so nobody would hit him with something from behind. The Hun sat on a windowsill looking at the mad spectacle of Emmett Grogan knocking down girls, punching cats in the face, slapping the older SDSers left and right and all over the fucking place, screaming that they were all "Cowardly ugly!" while Billy Landout giggled into his flute and kept right on calmly playing. It was good theater, with people scurrying all around to get out of Emmett's maniacal way, and him screaming and them screaming, but only passively resisting the oneman, violent assault against the dignity of their Workable Lie.
It lasted a full few minutes and ended with Emmett throwing a black cat out the front door because he was the only black person there. "You goddamn nigger, you shouldn't be here! Your people need you! There's a war on, so get your fucking black ass back to
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your black brothers and sisters where you belong! And the rest of you motherfuckers, get outta here 'n go to bed! Go on, it's past your bedtime! But not you, lawyer man! Not you! You're going to drive with us in your car to get something to eat in the all-night diner in Denton town and, later on, to Kalamazoo where we're going to pick up a brand-new car from the nice Hertz man. Won't that be nice, huh? Get goin'!"
Emmett awoke the midmorning of the next day stretched out on the rear seat of a fresh sedan he vaguely remembered getting from the Rent-a-Car company to replace the one he totaled the night before. He sat up to discover that he was alone and the car parked next to the curb of Wells Street in the Chicago neighborhood known as Old Town. It took him a while to figure out how to open the rear door of the car because of a jackhammer, hangover headache and because there wasn't any rear door. It was a two-door sedan and, when he couldn't find the catch to release the back of the front seat, he slammed against it hard with both feet, and it snapped free, bowing broken toward the dashboard and giving him the access he needed to climb out the front side of another moronically designed Hertz wreck-a-car.
He stood for a moment with both his legs spread wide and planted firm on the sidewalk to get his balance and let his dizzy spell pass. Thoughts of the previous night's SDS meeting and the role he and his brothers played in its disruption competed with the pain and filled his brain. "The Diggers are an avant-garde gang of a new kind of status-free people! Basically young, hip, ageless, street-wisesavvy, ballsy, macho, righteous, with chutzpah, flexible in that we can do almost everything to the degree that we are capable of doing anything, resourceful, beautiful, courageous heroes of history! Romance is the routine of our daily lives--uninhibited, unpredictable lives without fear of spontaneity! Unordinary, mystery individuals collected together in a bonded union of commitment to muscle 'n gut love of the people! Our inevitable deaths will be the products of the lives we've chosen to live with a healthy respect for both history and eternity!"
"Ooooeee!" Emmett emptied whatever other thoughts were coming up next by blowing them out of his mind with a whistling sigh, as he walked toward the two plate-glass windows of the shop in front of him. It was a bookstore, "Barbara's Bookstore" read the sign, and Emmett glanced back at all the things he'd just said to hirnself for the umpteenth time and muttered a line from one of
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Texas black-bluesman Lightning Hopkin's songs, "It's kinda crazy to keep on rubbin' at that same ole goddamn thing!"
Then he entered the bookstore where everyone was frozen still, except his three brothers who'd taken it over for a while. Billy Landout was sitting up cross-legged-lotus on the checkout counter with his back against the cash register, playing a sweet, close-youreyes tune on that wooden, penny flute of his. The Hun had Miss Barbara, the owner, pinned in a hypnotic trance which he induced with his deluxe-special, super-hip-riffster, rap-elixir that had her narcotized and mesmerized into the magic of his flash-brilliantspinning web of words. The customers, an employee, and whoever else was in the store, were all in the back-left side of the room where Tumble, unconcerned with their presence, was scratching an on-thespot-inspired poem with a black crayon on a plasterboard wall that partitioned the stock storage room from the rest of the place. It was a long poem, eventually filling the entire, empty, top-to-bottom space of the wall with Tumble's articulation of his own sense of the reality in which he lived and worked with his Digger brothers and sisters. Emmett watched Tumble on his knees painstakingly writing down what was on his mind and read:
STATE OF THE SOUL PREPARED FOR WAR
A document using the word love-life. Not using the word hate. But by implication incorporating negative energy as incisive scalpel wielded by brains, hands, hearts of loving brothers.
CHOOSE YOUR WEAPONS
Flowers or guns--stand by them; learn their essential energies. Apply them as the use permits. You can have both; only you can't shoot flowers and guns make lousy flower pots.
PREPARE TO SURVIVE
America throttles herself in ab-
stract property wars, consumer ves-
sels floated on the blood of our
own. We wear flowers in our hair
because they're there and beautiful.
SUICIDE OR MURDER?
(What are you thinking about)
(What are you thinking about)
Machines of death
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We prepare our minds with. To perpetuate life. Protect Our women and children. Machines we intend never to use Except in defense. And when those of you who would Strangle our only human possibility Die by our bullets--they will have been fired Into your brains thru eyes of our loving you. Your blood soaking the ground will be our blood-- Your death our death. But we shall pass gently on from there in this body To tend further children and other flowers; and Your body shall rot and nourish the planet's new Seeds long before ours.
/?/ ! /? And the winner shall be man; and man shall survive. My people shall live because they know--each one-- Unto himself IS THE LEADER--and every invention Of slave politic trickery will fail and crumble, IMMEDIATELY, in this source dialectic of one to one Confrontation with all things.
THE FACE OF THIS INDIVIDUAL'S REVOLUTION:
Later that night, the four of them were in a diner in Drag City, Kansas, eating the last hot meal of their trip back to Frisco. There were some hot-rod country boys in the place, hanging on the jukebox and posing for their girl friends. They were big, but there wasn't going to be no fight or trouble or nothing, because they were only as big as high-school football players are big and just as young. The food was good, and the four brothers were glad it took the youngsters a long time to come over to ask them questions about Haight-Ashbury, because they wanted nothing to distract their attention from enjoying the savory meal.
The kids were nervous at first, because Tumble answered their questions, and he was nearly twice their age and hard-fisted tough with a face to match, the kind of a man who would've been a very big fish in the little pond of their small town and someone who would never have even spoken with them, much less politely answered their queries. The boys asked all kinds of things about San
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Francisco persons whose names they read or heard somewhere. Then one said, "Y' know me 'n a few others are goin' out there in a couple of weeks t' join up with Emmett Grogan 'n his Diggers. Did any you fellas ever meet him?"
The statement made Billy Landout laugh and the Hun drop a dime into the jukebox to play a Hank Williams record. Tumble looked at Emmett who was sitting next to him and slowly turning around toward the seven or eight kids to ask them something. "Where'd you fellas hear about that guy and what-did-you-call-'em, the Diggers?"
The kids sort of looked at each other with a mild disbelief that four grown-up, longhaired, on-the-road, real-live Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco hippies didn't know everything there was to know about Emmett Grogan and the Diggers. The one who seemed to be doing all the talking started up again saying, "Man, everyone knows 'bout Emmett Grogan 'n the Diggers, even 'round here! Why they run the Haight-Ashbury 'n make sure everyone gets 'nough to eat 'n a place to sleep 'n clothes to wear 'n everything a body needs to do his thing! Why there's a girl livin' less than a mile away from here right now who ran away 'bout six months ago when she turned fifteen, 'n went to Frisco where she lived with the Diggers 'n even made it with Emmett Grogan himself. Swear to God! Right, fellas? And talk is she's carryin' his baby right now, but nobody knows fer sure, so's it could be just talk. But she was there all right, 'n she stayed with them people, 'n they done right by her, too. Otherwise, even she said, she'd never of made it alone through those three months she spent out there 'fore the fuzz picked her up. Man! You fellas just gotta know 'bout Emmett Grogan and the Diggers, if you're from Frisco!"
"Oh, we do! We heard about 'em, but we'd already hit the road, drivin' around the country by the time they really started their operation in the Haight. Good people! What's the check, chief, 'n put it all on one, okay? Well, I guess we'll be seein' you fellas out on the coast soon, huh?! Been nice talkin' with you. Be seein you."
"Yea, later, man!"
An unexpected and strange phenomenon began to take place among the four men inside the car as soon as they were on their way. The brief encounter in the diner with the young teenyboppers, and the way they spoke about "Emmett Grogan" and "his Diggers" and
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"their leader" set Emmet apart from his three brothers, not as a matter of his choice, but rather theirs.
Billy Landout thought that Emmett's underground-superstardom as an invisible American cultural hero was mildly hilarious. "They've already got you in the Hipsters Hall of Folklore Fame, and they don't even know what the fuck you look like! You're just hearsay, Emmett. Just a whole lotta hearsay." Then, Tumble suddenly became sullen toward Emmett and showed signs of remaining glum for the entire last lap of the journey. The Hun was predictably bitter at so outrageous an assault on his ego. After all, he was one, too, wasn't he? He even began to make insinuations that Emmett had been using "him" and "his" Free Store all along and was further conspiring to employ "him" and "his" thing as the main rung in the ladder that he was planning to climb to success and fame !
Emmett remained jocular about the whole absurd affair, assuming that his brothers knew it was all a ridiculous matter and he had nothing consciously to do with a media image which he himself had done the most to liquidate. "I mean, look! They were just a bunch of kids who are still a year behind in history and haven't heard yet that I don't really exist. That's all!" But when the Hun went on to insist that "No!" that wasn't all, with his wild-eyed, paranoid, conspiracy-against-him fantasy, Emmett felt like an asshole apologizing for something he could only control by dying.
So he blew it, and started over the front seat for the Hun, to maybe slap some sense into him or at least crack him in his mouth, but Tumble grabbed him, pulling him back down into the rear just as Billy almost lost control of the ninety-mile-per-hour speeding car, driving it along the metal guard rail for a few yards before being able to swing it back into the lane and down on the highway. All of them knew at once that very little was ever going to be the same between them again, and Emmett, especially, felt it was the beginning of the end for their always more or less tenuous solidarity as brothers, and for the name "Diggers"--just a word meaning "Free" --which had somehow already gotten out of hand and onto the charts.
The proof of this pudding came in its eating early the next morning, when the four men pulled into a service station alongside the Route 80 Freeway that bypasses Sacramento. This was to be their last stop, because they were in the home stretch with only eighty-five
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more miles to go to San Francisco which they left back-to-back tc;gether, but to which each of them was now returning somehow alone in the same car.
While the attendant checked out the radiator water and put four or five dollars' worth of gas in the car, the four men used the facilities in the separate ladies' and gents' bathrooms to wash away the sleep none of them had during the night, especially Billy. He had driven the past dozen hours, only stopping here and there for gas and never saying a word, just softly playing a tune on a ten-cent harmonica that appeared from his same old floppy jacket somewhere along the way. He didn't trust any of the other three with his life anymore, since the deal between all of them had gone down in the diner, and he wasn't going to put himself in any of their hands by riding in a car that one of them drove. So he hadn't, and even though the Hun complained that he wanted to share some of the driving to relax his nerves, Billy Landout silently refused with Tumble fully backing him up because his eyes could see that it was the only sensible thing to do with a strange, unknown road blanketed in the darkness of a night filled with tension. Emmett didn't say anything, for as long as Billy Landout was behind the wheel, he knew he was safe.
The four of them were standing by the coffee-dispensing machine, sipping the boiling hot, tan-colored water, when the Hun went into a sarcastic riff, asking Billy if he could please drive the rest of the way home, now that it was daylight and the freeway was jammed with traffic, making it impossible for him to endanger any of their precious lives by speeding. Billy said he didn't mind a bit, if the others didn't, because he was going to lie down on the back seat and sleep the last leg of the journey into the city. Then he walked toward the car and began unlacing his shoes for his nap.
Tumble walked over to the attendant, paid him the money, and chatted about what the traffic was probably going to be like at that time of the day. Emmett took a minute or two getting change of a quarter, so he could buy a couple of packs of Dentine gum to get the taste of the watered-down coffee out of his mouth and also make believe his teeth were clean. The Hun was already behind the wheel, gunning the engine to announce that he was ready to depart, and Emmett ran over and climbed into the front seat with Tumble after they tossed a coin for who was going to ride shotgun.
The three of them had more than enough room in the front seat. Emmett, in the middle, fiddled with the dials of the radio, tryin~ to
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locate a San Francisco station, and Tumble leaned his head out the window to catch the breeze that would hopefully resurrect his face from the exhausted numbness of his head. The Hun pulled into the middle land of the freeway and was driving unusually smoothly, only using the express lane now and then to pass a Sunday driver, being careful not to draw the attention of a state highway cop.
They had been driving nearly two hours and had just bypassed Berkeley, swinging off the freeway and onto the entrance ramp of the bridge to take them across the bay to San Francisco, when Emmett turned around to wake up Billy Landout in the back seat, only to discover he wasn't there. "Billy! Billy's gone! He's not there!" Tumble jumped around surprised, then up on his knees, bending over the back of the front seat to check out the rear floor of the car. "Where the fuck is he?! Billy!"
As soon as they crossed the Bay Bridge they turned off an exit and pulled the car onto a city side street, double-parking it for a moment to finally make certain that Billy wasn't there. His shoes were there, underneath the woven cotton blanket where he was supposed to be, but wasn't. The three of them looked at each other, and at the same time each realized that they had left Billy Landout back at the Sacramento service station without his shoes and with no money. They left him there, and whether they did it consciously or unconsciously it didn't matter. It was all the same. They left him there, and it didn't make any difference who was driving or who wasn't. They all left him there.
They left Billy Landout back there in a service station nearly one hundred miles away without his shoes, because they really didn't care about each other anymore, and now everything was finally different. Everything Emmett imagined the night before had just proved itself to be brutally true, and he was more sad than angry because he instinctively knew that his brother Billy Landout would never forgive him for having left him behind like that without even his shoes, and he wouldn't be his brother any longer and would never speak to him again. And he never has, not even to listen to Emmett simply tell him, "Sorry, Billy. Sorry."
After that real and symbolic purge of one of the brothers, only the Digger women remained a united front while the men took care of what they had to in their separate ways. Emmett did practically nothing besides work with Free Food, picking it up or stealing the meat and delivering it to the women who cooked it for the now outrageous "Summer of Love" hordes who crowded into the Pan
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handle every day at four in the afternoon. He did the Free Foodwork mostly by himself, but whenever he did have a partner to help him with the operation, it was usually a woman. Women who weren't on the make to become "Emmett Grogan's old lady" or looking for a chance to play a role in a romantic, Robin Hood-adventure trip--rather, women who were strong, sincere, loyal and brave in their determination to serve the people and help liberate them from the oppression of their poverty.
These women were only girls to most men because the majority of them were still in their middle or late teens or had just turned twenty. To Emmett, however, they were always women and will always be women--every one of them more beautiful than the rest. It wasn't long before he came to trust them more, much more, than he did most men who claimed to be his brothers.
The Hun was involved only in the theater of the Trip Without A Ticket free store and spent the rest of his time developing the guerrilla theater possibilities of the streets. Tumble managed as many trucks as he could get hold of and used them to deliver goods to the free store, transport garbage from the crash pads to the dumpj bus people around the city, and every other conceivable usage he could think of. Coyote kept himself busy performing with the San Francisco Mime Troupe for what he promised would be the rest of the summer. Billy Landout split from the city and never came back there to live or work again, just to stop on his way to someplace else.
Emmett seldom regularly saw anyone but the women, and he would only get together with the rest on special occasions, as when they'd all work with each other to stage a celebration for something like the summer solstice or the Fourth of July. His job, which he usually did with Tumble during the production of each of these freefor-all extravaganzas, was always the same: to arrange with the leaders of the rock groups, like Janis Joplin or Jerry Garcia, for them to play; to get enough eighteen-foot, flatbed trucks to use, coupled back to back, as stages for the bands--of which seldom less than two were ever set up in one of the expansive meadows of Golden Gate Park; to supply the meat or poultry and to make a deal with a special group of elderly black men from the Fillmore district to prepare a huge vat of barbecue sauce with which they'd baste the meat they cooked over an open charcoal pit all morning and afternoon of the day's event, giving each piece away to the hungry crowd
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as soon as it was browned and the unhurried black men felt it was ready to be eaten.
They were always monstrous affairs with thirty to fifty thousand people attending, even though they were always purposely held on a weekday to keep the crowds down. There were at least twenty-five or thirty such "parties," as they were called, which were all paid for by money hustled for whatever was needed, like the flatbed trucks, and arranged, produced and given away by Emmett, Tumble, the Hun, Coyote, the women--by all the Diggers! Everyone else simply took care of incidentals or offered their services, like the rock groups. Only a handful of intimate outsiders knew at that time that the Diggers were entirely responsible for practically every free party ever held in the Golden Gate Park of San Francisco during those years of '67, '68 and early '69. Almost everyone else assumed that the rock bands, like the Grateful Dead, the Airplane or Country Joe and his Fish, put on the affairs to show people how much they appreciated and loved them for buying their albums, and also concluded that the various record companies paid the expenses for everything like the free barbecued chickens or ribs, as well as the salaries of the half dozen or so "old, nigger cooks."
The reason no one knew who was responsible was that the Diggers wanted it that way, since "free" means not copping credit. What began to make Emmett and the others bitter and crazy was that, after each of these events, some of the musicians in the bands, as well as several well-known HIP figures who considered themselves spokesmen for the Haight, made statements to the establishment and underground media which more than just suggested that they were responsible for the entire organization and cost of the celebration, because they wanted to express the love they felt for their brothers and sisters in the community, and "Blah, blah, blah!"
It was a burn all right, but neither Emmett nor anyone of the people he worked with said anything or did anything to set the record straight. Eventually, however, after all the bands made it to the big time, the one group whose manager claimed most of the responsibility for most of the free parties most of the time, found themselves in New ~ork--facing an angry East Village community who were duped by their own stupidity and plenty of publicity about "the hip people's band" into believing that the only live music this particular rock group played was always heard for free. It got to a point where the leader of the band had to make a speech
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explaining the reason they were actually charging an admission price for entrance to their New York concerts. He was forced into all sorts of strenuous positions, trying to defend his group's right to earn money from the hippie community, until he obviously was stretched to a point by all the interviews poking the same old "But we thought you always played for free . . ." line at him, that he finally screamed something like, "There's no free lunch! No free lunch! No such thing, okay?! We play music for money, and a long time ago, when we felt like it, in the park with our friends, okay?! I mean, we're professionals and this is a business, man!" And that was that, but it sure took a long time for it to go down, and it still didn't come out like it really was.
It was right after one of these free parties celebrating the Fourth of July, '67, that the Diggers finally gave the last thing they collectively had of themselves away--their name, the Diggers. No one knew it had been given away until the moment it happened. Heavyweight scribe and poet Kirby Doyle, author of Happiness Bastard, the first free novel published by the Communication Company, broadcast the news to the people in this street paper:
THE BIRTH OF DIGGER BATMAN
O sky glorious, O sky divine--People--dominions--nations-- Heavens--door--O walking deliverance--O Passage--People--O People--Machines--Animals--Trees--Towers & Bridges--O Seed --O colors--Faces--All Moving Things--Li*, hello . . . I want to tell you of the birth of Digger.
Morning, about 9:30, July 5th, 1967--clear and sunny upon the city, the sky echoing with happiness, the streets still and clean and just to walk on them is to be silent in the bright rising from the night after a big 4th of July electric music and free feed celebration out in the park where Emmett and the cooks from the Fillmore had made barbecue for about 4,ooo people.
I am up early and out into the street from Coyote's on Pine Street where the Communication Company lived--out and standing in the good day with the smiles all over me, just letting the warmth and the light honey about on me, my clothes glowing and the fine feeling seeping to the skin and a touch tasting to my innards, and O the head is just wanting to face with smiles in all directions. I had driven Susan Parker to the airport a couple days before and still had her car so I swings over a few blocks to Geary thinking to have coffee and a morning smoke with the Jahrmarkts, Billy and Joan and the kids.
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Up two flights, rap rap on the door and Bill answers to my hello halfdressed and happy. "The baby's coming," is what I remember of him having said. And there is Joan sitting in the sun of those bright windows looking out over downtown and the bay, sitting on the bed, the mattress inevitably close to the floor, and the three kids--Jade, Hassan and Caledonia--kind of hushed and happy because they know the baby is coming and have been waiting too.
So Joany's been in labor since the night before and now sits very calm with a $3 tin watch in her hand timing the contractions--about every 7 minutes and getting closer together. So me and Billy just standing there kind of stunned and sunny, not thinking too much about what to do. "You got any arrangements made?" I says, and "no" is his reply.
It kind of goes like that, having a cigarette and a cup of coflfee in the warmth of the morning in the corner room with just one fact we're standing in--the baby's coming and we are smiling and blinking lumenant with speech in soft sounds. Nobody is thinking too much about hospitals though we figure lightly first about getting Joan into one of those places, but not too serious.
I sound on Joan if she thinks she got time for me to go phone around and see what I can do, get help I guess is what I meant, and she says there's plenty of time, so I cut out and drive over to Margo St. James's place on Nob Hill and start phoning.
I get ahold of Kaiser Hospital and after about seven switchings back and forth, I get ahold of some voice that says No, there is no chance of getting into their facilities without two hundred and fifty dollars in front even if the baby is on the way right now, and that the only thing that They, this voice can suggest is to take The Expectant to County Hospital, which said set of instructions vis-a-vis that exhausted brick pile of agony so oflends my ear I come near to throwing the phone across the room.
So, I phone Tumble to let somebody else know what's happening (who tells Emmett who sends an ambulance which nobody quite knows what to do with except send it away). So I clean out Margo's refrigerator of all its food and drive back over to the Communication Company where is lovely Sam and Cassandra and Claude and Helene who I break it down to.
Right away Claude is on the horn talking here and there. I get Cassandra and head back to Billy's, drop ofl Cassandra and split down to the store to get some smokes and am just rounding the corner on Geary when Claude pulls up to tell me he is on his way to Bolinas to get John Doss, a friend and head of pediatrics at Kaiser.
Upstairs is Cassandra cleaning the kitchen, making coffee and a bit to eat for the kids. It is late morning now and we relax--everything seems to be going along unmolested by even the quiet logic of time-- Cassandra softly busy in the kitchen, Billy sitting with Joan in the sunny
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corner room, the kids hushed and talking among themselves in their room, and I with the stillness of no thinking in my head gazing out the window under the Bat flag at the greenish dome of city hall.
Rap rap on the door and I go to open it to Richard Brautigan who comes in under a soft tan hat, checks out the action, spots Cassandra in the kitchen, decides everything is cool, walks once again through the rooms, tall, slightly stooping like a gentle spider standing up (we are all spiders, or ants, or something, I remember wondering, watching Richard putting his hands in his pockets and taking them out), decides to split. "Be back in a while--need anything?" "No, nothing." Out the door he goes.
It's early afternoon now. Quite suddenly Joan gets up, walks into the kitchen and squats down flat-footed on the floor with her back leaning to the wall, contractions coming quicker, Billy kneeling with her, Cassandra calm, me getting nervous--smoking cigarettes.
Knock on the door and in comes Claude and Helene with John Doss, way over 6 foot, a tower of a man with those huge gentle hands that by mere holding can take the panic from a hurt child. All of a sudden it seems we got the best. Right away he's with Joan, coat off, talking real easy, squat'd down, laughing with the simplicity of things. Claude asks me if I want to smoke some gold and lays a joint on me--I take it and put it on Billy.
People begin arriving--Tumble and Lenore, Tumble much calmer than the day before in the park loaded on acid and telling Richie Marley real anxious, "There's a warp in the continuum!" Emmett arrives. Diggers start coming.
By now the kitchen is a place of prayer--Joan in labor on the big patch quilt now in the middle of the kitchen floor and around her kneeling and sitting silent people--silent and back within listening to what silence says at self to birth.
John Doss moves in from the crowded front room every now and then and kneels his huge person down to speak quietly to Joan as he feels with those giant hands across her belly for the baby within. Billy squats Arab-silent flat-footed beside Joan, his hair long about his shoulders, staring into the thick air that holds the deep flux of his unspeaking Arab Prayer.
Now the city has darkened for night, and Geary Street outside the window crawls alive with the homeward bound. Across the street the huge sign of an auto-agency--BOAZ, in Hebrew "the lion-hearted"-- in black and white and red letters sends ancient benedictions into the rooms, and the green dome of city hall is alit as if it were a mosque removed one world and glowing not with bulbs nor candle but rather ringed with another light.
Now from out the night John and Sara and Coyote and Sam and Gandolf and Natural Suzanne and more Diggers arrive like a troupe or
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miming chorus bearing brown paper sacks filled with sandwiches--huge Poor Boys from some ecstasy delicatessen--the picture: Joan about to give birth on the kitchen floor, one dim shaded desk lamp by her feet, and a dozen people encircling her eating sandwiches and smoking weed, faces all in shadow of the only lamp.
The contractions have begun to quicken and Joany is saying over and over again softly, "Come on little Baby . . . come on"--a little song over and over again directed inside as if by this time the intelligence of the as yet enwombed Baby was beginning to be focused on its birthing passage by the soft speech of Joany's song--"Come on Baby . . . come on little Baby . . . come on."
The labor was becoming long, more than 24 hours now and the concentration of Joan's song had drawn the muscle lines tensed above her eyes pointing to a spot between them, slightly above them, and directly within.
John Doss had a slightly worried look as his hands felt over her belly. He seemed to be trying to gauge the position. Reaching within he felt for the baby's head which seemed to be turned in a wrong direction. The contractions were now great visible waves that moved down across Joan's belly and with each one her tightened face appeared to have the full focused power of everything behind it pouring down through her body toward the slow and heavy workings and waves of force that carried the baby in its passage.
"I need an instrument," he said mentioning some sort of birthing clamp. "I have to turn the baby's head." He turned to someone there and told them to go across the street to the hospital and get an instrument and an intern.
Meanwhile John begins instructing Billy in how he, Billy, is going to receive his baby. Beneath the belly skin you can see the baby making its movements. Around Joan about a dozen Diggers and Digger ladies looking like all the accumulated faces of the Universe, the Divines of Ever pouring from each eye.
Like no time there is a bang on the door and two white coated hospital guys come in stiff and important with shiny metal in their hands, take one look at the scene and decide it won't do for them to have anything to do with it. John Doss goes to meet them and they start backing off real quick. John grabs one of the guys by the lapels and starts to jerk the doctor's jacket off and gets it down to around the guy's elbows.
"Take off that coat and get to work in here, for Christ's sake. Be a doctor for once in your life!" he says to the guy.
"Take it easy, John, take it easy," the other guy tries to soothe. "This can't be done here . . . it's not sterile. She must be moved to the hospital. "
About this time I start to ride up. "She isn't going anywhere," I says leaning across Joan at the guy. "Cool it," Bill says from the floor. They
[end page 415]
split threatening an ambulance, and for all we know, the Heat, so everybody settles down again with "Come on baby" going very strong.
So John is back down with Billy showing him how to receive the baby, when it starts to come out and so quick and easy it seems a miracle but Billy has the baby's head in his hands and it looks like throughout the whole scene of deliverance the baby had turned its own head and decided to come on out and with a thick liquid whoosh is right in Billy's hands. I am on my knees by Joany's head and I lean down with little more than a whisper, "It's a boy."
With some cotton string John Doss ties off the umbilical cord and cuts it with a pocketknife and the baby is born, out, free, alive and beautiful crying in his father's hands so fast that it was not a process of birth at last but life occurring.
John Doss begins cleaning up Joany and places the afterbirth in basin.
"Eat!" he says to the circle of joyously lighted faces holding out the basin. "Everybody eat!" and starts carrying the basin around from one to one and each dips a hand to the stuff of birth and blood and tastes and never, from no dope I have ever taken, have I got so instantly high. Somebody marks the time, 10:41, and asks Billy the baby's name.
"Digger!" Billy answers back with a voice loud with single word as its own rising song.
The bloodied ends of the umbilical tying string Billy takes and wraps up in a poem I had made that afternoon to lay on the kitchen floor:
Velvet kneeling meat--
Crazyblood in his prayers.
is all I remember.
At the instant Billy Batman called his child by their name, the Diggers knew it was given away and they never used it to refer to themselves again. Of course, it was a slow process to hip the San Francisco community to the fact that they were no longer to be known as the Diggers, but rather as the Free City Collective or Commune or whatever. Within a few months, however, no one in the Haight-Ashbury, except the press, used the word that is now simply the name of a burly, blond-haired boy who's already demonstrated that he's got the strength and the vision to go with his birth tag.
Emmett only left the city one more time that so-called Summer of Love to go to New York again to take care of some business and also on to London for a few days to take part in a conference billed as
[end page 416]
"The Dialectics of Liberation." As usual, it turned out to be a mistake and a waste of time for him, especially since he was now alone and traveled that way. It was quite uncomfortable at times, when all around him were apparently surrounded by their "brothers and sisters." He hadn't as yet resigned himself to the fact that he was, once again, the loner he had been for most of his prior life, and it was still hard and confusing for him to be working with and for men who didn't particularly care about him or each other as brothers anymore. The hard, nitty-gritty reality of this wouldn't directly strike him with its naked cold-bloodedness for another six or seven months. And so he went on about his business, as if everything was the same between him and his people and without letting on to even himself, much less anyone else, that the San Francisco family of which he was a member was coming apart at its seams.
The business that Emmett went to take care of in New York had to do with money. He fortunately didn't have to spend much time getting what was needed together and sending it back home, using a dozen different money orders to make sure that the few thousand dollars was spread evenly among the people he wired it to--the Free City Collective.
This money he posted back to the people with whom he worked was not raised at any benefit function or charity ball. Even though times were often harder than it was possible to endure and the pickings were nowhere to be found, much less slim, the Free City people never broke their word to themselves by holding a rock concert benefit that would probably have raised enough money to bankroll all their operations for an entire year or more. They never did it, because it was too easy, and more important, they didn't want the common, low-money people or even their children to end up paying for their trip.
The money they always needed was always gotten in the same various ways that Emmett was able to get it during those few July days in New York. That is to say, it was sometimes stolen or sometimes hustled from persons or corporations that didn't miss it anyway. Some of the dollar energy they needed to operate was simply given to them, however, through a tax-deductible middleman by friends who'd made it in a legitimate business enterprise or in one sort of larcenous activity or another, in which case the necessity of using the tax-deductible middleman was eliminated. This money, given to them without any stipulation as to its use, was only taken
[end page 417]
from friends, never from strangers, because these individuals were sincere and had no other way of participating in what Emmett and the rest were doing.
It was only after he sent the money back to the West Coast and was getting ready to return there himself that Emmett was invited to the conference in England by its London organizers. From the moment he found out the details of "The Dialectics of Liberation," Emmett felt he had a responsibility to attend because the forum was packed solid with hard-core-radical-political careerists, headlined by Stokely Carmichael, and including John Gerassi, Paul Goodman and Herbert Marcuse whom Emmett regarded with a respect he holds for few men. Also in attendance and representing their various fields of endeavor were the brilliant, vanguard psychiatrist, R.D. Laing; ecologist and student of mammals, Gregory Bateson; poet, scribe and the kind of good person that is hard to find, Allen Ginsberg.
He was the only one invited, however, to lay out what was going down among the young people for whom he apparently was selected as representative. So Emmett decided he had to go, but he didn't have any money or means to get there since he'd already mailed nearly all of what he had back to San Francisco. He was standing in Greenwich Village's Sheridan Square at the time, right in front of the Village Voice newspaper offices, and that was just about the only reason he had for entering and asking the receptionist if he could please speak with the publisher.
"Is he expecting you?"
"No, but it's an important personal matter, you understand. Just ring him up 'n tell him Grogan, Emmett Grogan, from San Francisco's here to see him, and I'm sure everything'll work out."
The secretary did just that, and, when she put down the phone, she told him that Mr. Edwin Fancher, the publisher, would see him in a few moments, as soon as he was finished with whatever had him occupied. Then she asked Emmett with a phony, rich-man's-daughter shyness, "Is it true?"
"Is what true, pretty lady?"
"That part in the Ramparts story--did you really get away with the meat after the butcher hit you over the head?"
"No. Sorry. Next time I'll try harder. Just for you."
A jovial man whose looks Emmett immediately forgot came forward
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from the rear, introduced himself as the publisher, and after shaking hands invited him into his office which was stuffed-cluttered with political rhetoric printed in every shape and form. It was in that cramped, stocked-with-papers office that Emmett made his lessthan-five-minute pitch about how he had to go to England, and Mr. Edwin Fancher listened as the touch was put to him in the form of an exclusive writing proposition which both men knew would never be fulfilled. But he came through, anyway, like an old gambler staking a young fighter to his first main bout or playing a long-shot hunch.
Emmett left the Village Voice with a five hundred dollar personal check and was escorted across the street to a bank where he exchanged it for cash. Afterwards, he stood alone in Sheridan Square, counting the money and hoping that the publisher man didn't feel he'd been messed over with a smile and a grin or had come out on the short end of a dirty deal. For that wasn't the case. Emmett didn't hustle him; he simply asked and was given. But just the same, as he walked away, Emmett peeled an eye over his shoulder back at the newspaper office, thinking to himself that if he got any bolder, life was going to end with him being treated a hell of a lot colder. Amen !
At the Fifth Avenue office of the British Overseas Airlines later in the day, Emmett bumped into Danny the Riff, the twenty-fouryear-old co-manager of the Grateful Dead rock group. He, too, was buying a ticket to London, and they on-the-spot decided to travel there together on the same flight that night. Both of them had some loose ends to tie up around the city before they left, so Danny suggested they meet around early evening in the Park Avenue apartment of a friend of his. He gave Emmett the address with a "See you there later, brother!" before bouncing away, looking real good, dressed in tattered-patched jeans and carrying an attache case in one hand, a real, made-in-Africa, cast-iron-tipped spear in the other, and an enormous, kinky, Afro-like hairdo flopping all over his head, covering up most of his gentle Moroccan-Jewish face. Emmett watched him trip down the avenue past Saint Patrick's Cathedral, freaking everybody out, stopping them in their tracks and forcing them to turn their heads to get a better look at this costumed monster who was one of their children. He was a peaceful, gentle guy who never intentionally hurt anyone. Maybe that's why Emmett liked him and they were friends. Danny the Riff was a sweet cat.
[end page 419]
Emmett shot into Brooklyn on the subway to see his family, and they were glad he did. His parents couldn't for the life of them understand the length of his hair or his name change or the things they heard or read about him and what he was doing. But they were happy to see he was healthy, except his mother commented that he looked a little thin, and his father was a bit disconcerted by the gold earring pierced through his son's left ear. "What does it mean, anyhow?" he finally asked.
Usually, when he was asked this sort of question, Emmett would reply, "It means that you don't know what it means, and I ain't never gonna tell you, ever!" But this man was, after all, his father, and he wasn't being in the least bit arrogant, just curious as to why any young man, especially his own son, would have a thing like that done to him. So Emmett told him, simple and clear, that his brother named Tumble put it there, and all it really meant was that there was going to be a hole in his ear forever which would never let him forget who put it there and what they had both been to each other. The gold earring that was fitted into the hole was given to him by another of his brothers, Coyote, for more or less the same reason. The only difference being that the earring could be removed or changed or lost, like in a fight, or even stolen, but the hole was going to be there for as long as he lived.
His father understood. It all sounded like a story he once read about a group of Rumanian gypsies, but he understood and thanked his son for explaining the matter to him. Then they drank some beer together and reminisced about Grandpa for a while before Emmett felt comfortably certain that he wouldn't offend his father by asking him about his own job and how it was treating him. His father was a proud, sensitive and extremely gentle man, and, even though he was his only son, Emmett wasn't exactly on familiar terms with him, having been away from home for most of his life, ever since he reached puberty.
There was still a bond between them, however, the same kind of bond that's always between two men who are father and son, regardless of whatever else they might be. And so Emmett heard that things weren't going as well as they should be and that his father was quitting the firm he'd been with for over twenty years to accept an offer from a long-time Greek friend of his who was about to open his own stock brokerage house. Leaving Delafield and Delafield, the place he worked at for half of his life, was a difficult decision for his father to make, but it was made easier by his friend who showed him
[end page 420]
that his seniority and devoted service in that firm's business meant little in actual terms of pension or retirement benefits. In fact, it meant absolutely nothing at all, except maybe a thousand dollar kissoff when he reached the age where he'd be too old to work.
Therefore, the next week was going to be his last at that house, and he'd be getting a lot more pay, future benefits and an executivelevel managerial position where he wouldn't have to take all the orders, but give some of them, when he made the move to the new brokerage business owned by his Greek friend who he was sure would do right by him. "Good!" Emmett said to his father, and he was very glad that he might just be catching a break for once in his life.
He left shortly after that with a kiss for his sister, who said she'd be out to the West Coast soon, which for some reason didn't make Emmett happy at all, but he didn't have time then to discuss it with her. His parents walked him to the elevator and asked that he return soon and maybe stay awhile. They waved to him and shouted "Goodbye!" through the small window of the door as it closed and the car began its descent to the ground floor. It didn't matter to his mother and father that the window wasn't the porthole of a ship carrying him out to sea or the rear windshield of a taxi driving him to some air or bus terminal. It was still the window of a vehicle that was again taking their son away from them, and they couldn't care less that it was just an elevator bringing him downstairs. It was still taking him away, so they waved and said goodbye, and his mother began crying as she walked the few yards back to the apartment with the man who still made love to her in the same beautifully gentle way he had when he sired their son who, once again, was gone.
It was nearing five o'clock when Emmett entered the Park Avenue building, and the doorman showed him the way to the velvetlined private elevator that would take him where he wanted to go. The difference between the funky, graffiti-scratched, slow-running elevator that his parents had to use every day, all the time, and the fine, delicately exquisite, smooth flowing quickness of the elevator in which he was now ascending, was maybe what it was all about: the difference between the way the inherited or chosen few live and the way most of the rest are made to live their lives. It was definitely one of the differences that Emmett wanted to eliminate somehow not only from his life, but from life itself.
The double steel outside doors rolled silently open, and Emmett gently slid apart the two glass-windowed, wooden doors of the car's
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interior. Before stepping out of the elevator into the red-carpeted, satin-lined foyer, however, he looked down at the polished brass edge of the car's floor and saw that the name of the company that designed and manufactured both the elevator in his parents' building and la creme de la creme of lifts in which he now stood was the same, Otis. He silently congratulated Mr. Otis on his ability to touch all the bases and, smiling to himself, left and sealed up the car.
The door chimes were answered by a blond woman who obviously refused to accept the fact that she was approaching her middle thirties and was rich enough to purchase things which enabled her to fake her twenties. The moment she shook his hand at the door, Emmett knew how old she was, even though he was fooled at first. He could feel the years in the skin covering the fingers and knuckles of her hand which still clasped his, coaxing him toward the large salon that was the rear of the apartment, with a skylight for a ceiling and an immense, articulate, psychedelic painting drawn on one of its otherwise orange-red walls. She introduced herself to Emmett and, upon hearing her surname, he immediately assumed that she was the daughter of a famous film director who hadn't made a good movie in years. But she wasn't.
Danny the Riff was late and had phoned, saying that he'd be by within the next hour which would have left Emmett quite alone with the lovely, good lady, if it hadn't been for the seven or eight men seated around the comfortably furnished salon. Emmett forgot each of their names as soon as they were introduced to him, except for one who was apparently the woman's brother because he had the same surname, wore no wedding ring and looked a lot like her.
Emmett couldn't get over how difficult it was for him to handle people's names, especially when they had two more besides their first. "No big deal," he concluded as he sat down in a billowy armchair to wait for Danny the Riff in a room full of strangers who had already given him a large snifter half-filled with good brandy, because it was what he wanted, and were now trying to get him into their cocktail conversation. But that he didn't want and made it clear by playing spaced and not answering or saying anything. They finally left him alone and returned to what they were talking about among themselves which was business, the stocks and bonds business.
Emmett listened attentively, but unnoticeably, to everything that
[end page 422]
was said, trying to make something out of the abbreviations and figures being tossed around. He'd been there about thirty-five or forty minutes and had only really spoken a few words to the good lady hostess, when something added up and he began to realize what it w-as: within the web of numbers and abstract letters of the alphabet that was most of the men's conversation, there was a message signaled to him, and he suddenly found himself decoding it.
The realization started slowly to build itself up inside of him and quickly became more visible and full. It had to do with the younger brother of the good lady. It had to do with who he was and what he did in the stock market and how he was connected to a pair of names that were mentioned during the course of the conversation. The names were Delafield and Delafield, and, as soon as Emmett heard them, he listened to everything real good, until he was able to figure out that the brother, the man in his very early thirties who was sitting across the room from him, was an allied-member partner of Delafield and Delafield, and was Emmett's father's boss and had been Emmett's father's superior, ever since he graduated from whatever college he attended.
It was immediately after that discovery that Emmett sat back in his chair, astounded at what he was beginning to understand about this brother and sister and about what they really had to do with him. You see, not only was "younger brother" over there Emmett's father's employer, but the guy belonged to the family who owned the Pennsylvania coal mines in which Emmett's grandfather had gone to work when he was eight years old, ninety or so years before. This sister whose penthouse he was sitting in and her younger brother were the children of the family for whom Emmett's father and grandfather had worked their entire fucking lives! They were the children of the men and women who owned It! Who still own It! Who bought and paid for the last two heads of his family!
He couldn't believe it, even though he knew it! He was fired with an immediate impulse to leap across the room and scar someone for the rest of their life with his glass. It was all so goddamn, overwhelmingly, unbelievably real that it was, at once, surreal and absurd. He began to calm himself with the thought that he'd never end up working for them, the children. The children who inherited his father's employment would never salary his son--or would they? Their family owns so much that one could end up working for them without even knowing it. The only way to be sure, certain, Emmett
[end page 423]
thought, was never to work--never to take wages from anybody as long as he lived, which was preposterous, but probably true just the same.
Emmett was still in the exploding throes of this startling revelation that their family owned his family, and he was really working himself up toward something, when Danny the Riff showed, and they had to go right away or miss their plane to London. Danny seemed to be very tight friends with the sister and brother pair, or at least he was acting that way, so Emmett decided not to blow it, but simply cool the message that was boiling inside his brain.
He began shaking everyone's hand goodbye with a "Be seein' you!" and making damn sure that he didn't come up on younger brother too fast, rather saving him for last. When he did reach him standing at the end of the half-circle of men, Emmett listened to him say something like, "If there's ever anything I can do for you when you're in New York, don't hesitate to call. My sister always knows where I can be reached, okay? Good! Nice meeting you and have yourself a good trip. Bye now." Then he released Emmett's hand from his clasp, but Emmett grabbed his right back and held it tight, looking straight-eyed and softly telling him, so that no one else could really hear, although they knew that something was going down.
"There is one small thing you could do for me, if you have the time and would?"
"Sure, what is it? If I can do it, I certainly will."
"Well, there's this friend o' mine, see, who works at your place there, Delafield 'n Delafield. And I was just wonderin' if you'd say hello to him for me?"
"Of course, what's his name and what does he do at Delafield?"
"I really don't know what you call what he does. But he's been doin' it for over twenty years in one of them margin clerk's cages, you know what I mean?"
"Yes . . . uh, what was his name . . .?"
"His name's Grogan. Mister Grogan. He's my father!"
As soon as he said it, Emmett instantly knew that he did the righteous thing and that whatever it was he meant before, he meant it more than ever now.
In the elevator on their way down, Danny asked him what his whispered t?te ? t?te with the brother had been about, commenting that it looked serious. Emmett told him that it wasn't nothing,
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really. "Just wanted to let the man know that the both of us inherited the wrong side of the tracks."
"Who? Me and you?"
"No, me and him."
They landed in London before noon the next morning, and after taking a coach from the Heathrow Airport to the Piccadilly Circus passenger terminal, they hopped in separate cabs with Danny confirming where they were to meet that evening, before driving off to take care of the business end of music with a promoter in whose house he would also be staying for the next few days. Emmett read the address which had been given to him by friend and poet Allen Ginsberg, who told him that was where he'd be, and where Emmett could stay if he came over for the "Dialectics of Liberation."
When Emmett told the driver where he wanted to go, the man turned to have a look at this longhaired bloke sitting in the rear of his MacNab and asked him if he was certain he had the address right. Emmett looked again at the piece of paper to make sure and repeated it to the cabbie, assuring him tha~ was where he wanted to go. There was a long pause during which Emmett was given a more careful once-over, and, only after the driver was satisfied that his scrutiny hadn't detected whatever it was he thought might be wrong, did he put the roomy sandy in gear and pull away in the direction of Regent's Park with his passenger enjoying memories of the view from the window, while dropping a questioning line or two about the July cricket matches at Lord's Ground to let the cabbie know that he knew London and didn't want to be driven around to fatten the meter.
Emmett had never heard, or at least couldn't remember ever having heard, of the street that was the address he repeated to the driver. He understood the reason behind this unfamiliarity when they finally got through the thick traffic and arrived in front of one of only four brilliantly white, Grecian-columned houses, standing side by side with a dignified magnificence that was designed to accentuate the exclusiveness of what was not a street, but a "terrace" bordering the rolling green splendor of the very private northwest side of Regent's Park. It was then that the driver again asked Emmett whether he was still sure that this was where he wanted to be let out, because, he explained, he knew for a fact that at least three of the four imperial houses were presently occupied by members of the Queen's royal family and, " 'Scuse me, mate, but you jus' don't
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look the type t' be visitin' them class of people, 'less you're goin inside to fix the plumbin' or something. Ya know wha' I mean?"
The fact of the matter was that Emmett did know what he meant and wasn't really certain any longer, and, after showing the driver the slip of paper with the address on it which they both agreed he could have written down wrong, he told him to wait a minute, until he found out if he was in the right place by ringing the doorbell to see whether the residents were expecting him.
The door was opened by Marietta, the young, stoically tall woman of pale silence who taught Allen Ginsberg this and that about Indian music, prayers and mantra chants, whose mere appearance in the doorway all dressed in a cotton sari, wrapped warm with a bulky wool sweater told Emmett that this was where he was supposed to be, and he kissed her.
After paying his fare and reassuring the MacNab driver that he was home, Emmett took his small bag filled mostly with notes, papers and an extra pair of socks and walked back up the marble stairs, under an archway, and through the front door. He felt as if he were entering a palace, and he was. A small palace, but a palace just the same, lightly decorated with antiques and furnished with sparse but deliciously mellow Louis XIV furniture to avoid cluttering up the elegant space of walnut-paneled floors and ever-so-grand rooms.
Everyone was there and Allen introduced him first to two of the men who'd affected his life and whom he'd always wanted to meet, William Burroughs and Alexander Trocchi, both writers, poets, prophets and seers. The woman whose place it was came forward with the grace and beauty of years of wealthy refinement and with a delicate whisper greeted Emmett and sincerely expressed hope that his journey across the sea had been a pleasant one. Her name, strangely enough, meant "bread" in certain dialects of Italian and that was exactly what she had to offer and had been offering to poets for years in her role as the chief benefactress of dozens of artists throughout the world. She was a good, gracious woman of whom very few unkind words have ever been spoken. She showed Emmett to his room.
The giant main event of the week-long "Dialectics of Liberation" conference was to occur that night, beginning at 8:oo P.M., and a few short hours before that, Emmett made a mistake. He went with some of the men, whom he considered his elders because of their "beat experience," across town to a communal house where many of the old-timers and founding fathers of white hipsterism lived to
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gether as expatriates from their various countries or simply as British artists who felt outcast in their own land. It was a spectacular place full of singular originals--the men and women artists and their work. There was also plenty of dope, but unfortunately only two varieties of it, Lebanese hashish and pure London, drugstore heroin which was, of course, legal there for any registered addict.
The group sat in a quick cluster on the thick, Persian-rugged floor of what appeared to be the living room,--all the rooms looked so much alike it was hard to tell any difference between them with the exception of the kitchen and W.C. There was a tray on the floor, and Emmett helped himself to the papers, cigarette tobacco and hash, using about six or seven papers and mixing the loose tobacco with lots of hash to roll a "splif" which is a joint about as fat as a cigar and just as long. It took him nearly half an hour to smoke it with no help from anyone, because they all had their own or were not interested in anything else but the high-grade pharmacy scag. So was Emmett, and by the time he was loaded on smoke, he started getting a real yen to get off behind some of that fine A-l stuff, and he did, doing himself up as if he had his last fix the day before, instead of a decade ago.
The moment the rush hit and the dope ran through his veins, every cell in Emmett's body snapped with remembrance of the sensation they had never really forgotten during the ten, long, clean, past years. He nodded out right after what was only a cellular memory became again a real feeling enveloping his body in its own erotic warmth. He didn't even have time for any regrets--if he had any--just enough time to nod his head plop! down on his chest which wasn't heaving with its asthmatic wheeze any longer.
Emmett's nod became a deep sleep with him propped up in the corner of the room, leaning against the interesting walls undisturbed by anything or body. One of the poet elders in the house woke him up after three or four hours, because night was rapidly falling, and Emmett had to get to the "Dialectics of Liberation" conference being held in a gigantic, fantastic, huge dome of a building appropriately called the Roundhouse. It had once been the warehouse, storage depot and garage for the numerous vehicles of London's Metropolitan Transport system.
When Emmett arrived there a little before eight o'clock that Saturday night, he liked the industrial, working-class smell and leftover accoutrements of the brilliantly designed, hollow-mammoth Roundhouse, but he didn't particularly like the look of the weekend crowd
[end page 427]
of four or five thousand sitting in row after row of collapsible wooden chairs and drinking beer from large gallon cans which was the only way to juice that Saturday night, because all the pubs would be shut down by the time this main session of the conference ended.
Emmett was still loaded with the sleepiness of heroin and very much on the nod, his eyes pinned and glassy and all the love taken from them by a heavy look of coldness. He kept himself together, though, knowing that he had to, because in a few minutes he'd be sitting on the stage with all the left-wing superstars and would make a ten-minute speech. A speech he planned and even researched, but now was too fucked up to deliver properly. He had even forgotten his notes back at the house, but it was no big thing, really, because he'd have another chance the following day when the only speaker billed for the afternoon was him, and he had been assured that the response to hear him rap was well worth his having traveled there. So, tonight he figured he would relax and tomorrow do what he came to do.
They were all standing backstage, and Allen Ginsberg fulfilled his usual sincere diplomatic role by introducing him to everybody, one at a time. Suddenly she was standing in front of him, an elegant, gracefully tall black woman with a coiffeured Afro and dressed in a West African robe. She said her name was Angela Davis and that she had been hearing about Emmett and the Diggers in San Diego where she was a student and teacher in the philosophy department at the University of California. She invited him to look her up whenever he was in that part of the state and then let him go as Allen pulled him away towards the cluster of black people surrounding the man in whose entourage Angela Davis was traveling at the time--Stokely Carmichael.
Allen excused and pardon me'd his way through the group, holding onto Emmett and dragging him toward the center and the man who was all decked out in a bright orange shirt. When they reached him, Allen treated the introduction with the decorum he thought appropriate for a historic meeting. The two men were standing face to face only a few feet apart, and the backstage crowd quieted down to maybe hear what was going to be said as Stokely Carmichael stuck out his hand, his face broadening into a smile, intending to say something like "Glad to meet you, brother." But he didn't, because Emmett didn't raise his hand in greeting or change the cold, hard expression on his face or even give any sign that he intended to. He
[end page 428]
just stood there, deadpanning Carmichael and his outstretched hand and the smile on Carmichael's face quickly dropped into a frown as he began to realize that this longhaired Digger dude, Emmett Grogan, was making him look like a goddamn fool in front of everybody.
Stokely Carmichael was obviously outraged by this stone affront to his dignity as one of the proclaimed leaders of American radicalism, and he did an abrupt about-face, stomping away and huffin' 'n puffin' thunder and smoke about "Who's that longhaired, motherfuckin' hippie punk think he is . . . !" He walked away fast and furious with his bodyguards and fellow Black Power advocates following him and glaring back at Emmett, mumbling to one another that they should've guarded their leader better and not have permitted that "white motherfucker!" to insult him.
The rest of the backstage groupies were whispering hard and heavy about what they just witnessed, and reporters were asking around about Emmett, like who he really was and why he didn't shake Carmichael's hand. A few even concluded that he was a racist and didn't want to touch black skin.
Someone finally asked Emmett himself, and he told them he didn't like Stokely Carmichael and hadn't wanted to meet him, but somebody unwittingly brought them together, and he felt he would've been Iying the way all politicians, be they radical or conservative, lie, and so he simply refused to smile back at and shake the hand of a man he disliked extremely. "But it was nothing personal, you understand. In fact, very few things I'll do here or ever do anywhere are personal--they're political."
Shortly afterwards, Emmett was led onto the stage where he sat on the same kind of a wooden folding chair in which the five thousand or so persons in the audience were also seated, facing him with their ten thousand eyes, and he was suddenly very glad that he'd worn his wire-rimmed sunglasses to shade the pinning of his eyes.
The speeches were routine and predictable and were all sponsored by token honorariums from the London Institute of Phenomenological Studies, except Emmett's which was free. Psychiatrist R. D. Laing said everyone was crazy, including himself; John Gerassi had recently returned from Cuba and spoke about the necessity for a violent revolution; Gregory Bateson talked about the scientifical apocalyptic aspect of the anxiety syndrome from which everyone was suffering; Allen Ginsberg insisted that the best tactic of psychopolitical action was to "make public all the private hallucinations
[end page 429]
and fantasies of our priest-hero-politician-military-police leaders, like those of John Edgar Hoover, for instance"; the keynote speaker, Stokely Carmichael, still very upset with Emmett, lashed out at the longhaired hippies who, he claimed, were advocating peace in time of revolutionary warfare and were traitors to the radical movement, because their upper-middle-class affluence afforded them the choice of nonviolence and the means with which to drop out of the fight for liberation which he quoted as "only coming through the barrel of a gun!"; Paul Goodman suggested that governments might begin applying immediate social welfare ideals and principles by paying, for example, people on New York's welfare rolls to live in the country, instead of in the city. "Give them the same money, and say, 'You don't have to live in New York, you can live out of New York!'"; Herbert Marcuse didn't say anything because he wasn't there, having hopefully found something more important to do with the time; Emmett spoke last.
He had been sitting on the stage for over an hour, wavering in and out of the focus of his consciousness behind his tinted, pennybun glasses and every once in a while listening to what someone had to say. The only one he was hardly able to hear was Stokely Carmichael who yelled so goddamn loud that the tone finally became the point of his speech rather than the words. The crowd had given him an enthusiastic round of applause which they directed at the singer and not his song. Then, all of a sudden, Emmett found himself standing stage-center in front of the microphone and removing his shades for want of something to do and because none of the other speakers who were wearing them had taken them off to address the audience. It took him a moment to adjust his eyes to the startling lights, and, when he cleared them of the brilliance he focused on one individual out of that whole crowd of five thousand-- William Burroughs, seated in the fourth or fifth row way over to the left of everyone with his tortoiseshell glasses, and his thinning hair combed flat to one side of his head, and his black, porkpie hat of ten years resting on his lap with his bony hands holding on to it so it wouldn't be snatched by one of his old-time pals and sold or exchanged for a nicer cap. He looked like an aging Hitler youth, sitting there erect and waiting with his thin lips pressed together and all dressed in black, waiting to be impressed, his narrow, Missouri face turned upwards, looking dead at Emmett with the wry knowledge of its own evil presence.
They locked eyes together for the longest moment as Emmett
[end page 430]
remembered that this was the writer-poet-genius man who got his wife to place an apple or avocado on her head at a stoned-tequiladrunken party in Mexico, because his marksmanship was challenged by one of his pals or somebody. Then he carefully aimed the .45 pistol or whatever it was, firing a slug point-blank into the center of his wife's forehead which made her cerebrum hemorrhage and the police gasp. But they quickly called it an "accidental homicide," and everybody else said, "Wow!" except Bill Burroughs, who just sat there, like he was sitting there now, knowing full well that no one was ever going to know the secret that lies hidden in his brain.
Bill Burroughs and the rest of the audience were going to have to wait until the following evening to be impressed by Emmett, because he was too tiredly stoned to say what he wanted. What he did do, therefore, was to open his speech with "Today is the first day of the rest of your life!" which was a line he either made up or picked up somewhere during the last year. Shortly after he said it that night, it began appearing on posters and postcards and everywhere, not as a quote attributed to anyone, but just as a simple, declarative sentence to be sold by persons who never had an original thought in their dollar-billed lives.
He kept his speech short and to the point, which was to say, he refuted all of Carmichael's screamed remarks, not by giving away any secrets about himself or the people with whom he worked, but by simply explaining that the work they did together wasn't any Salvation Army trip, and concluding that neither he nor any of his people were so-called flower children, because they'd known ever since they were little boys and girls that ". . . flowers die too easy, even when they have thorns!"
Then he left. He walked off the stage and down into the audience where he sat and spoke with Michael X, a London black man whom he'd known when he was in London the first time around. Michael X was also the West Indian black leader who was going to end up paying for Stokely Carmichael's bottomless rabble-rousing against "whitey." Michael X was going to pay by being arrested for Carmichael's inciting the residents to riot in the streets of London's black ghetto of Brixton after the conference, creating hysteria and then immediately splitting the country with the promise that he'd be right back, knowing that he'd never return and thereby leaving Michael X to hold the bag which he was to do, for over a year in prison.
Emmett talked solely and briefly with Michael X about money
[end page 431]
and how and whether he was getting enough to sustain the politicaleducation operation that he and his brothers and sisters had organized and were attempting to maintain for the black people of Brixton. When he heard that money was very scarce and particularly hard for them to come by, Emmett gave Michael X an angle which eventually financially supported the work he and his comrades were doing for at least the following twelve or thirteen months. It had nothing to do with stealing or hurting anyone, and still has nothing to do with you, no matter who you are.
Early the next evening, Emmett found himself standing in front of the same microphone before about one thousand of the younger, heavier members of the same audience. This time, however, he was alone with no one else on the stage. He also felt a lot younger than the previous night, when his chippy shot of drugstore scag made him feel as old as the hills and as numb-dumb-cold-dry as a dead dog. He still couldn't figure out why he hit himself in the vein with the poison of his youth. Had it just been for old time's sake or had he been trying to impress his Beat elders with his own down hipster style? He gave up attempting to answer himself with a vow that he'd never chip again.
The rows of radicals who came to hear what he had to say were anxious but attentive, and Emmett was ready for them. He had memorized his speech the day before and had thoroughly gone over it that afternoon, blocking out its dramatic pauses and polishing up his delivery. When the moderator of the day's symposium of "Liberation," or whatever it was supposed to be, finished introducing Emmett as a "Digger, a hippie, an acidhead and a living mythical legend in his own time," he stepped forward to the applause and waited for it to subside, feeling ". . . righteously righteous and stone justly just," as his good friend and family doctor once said in a song.
The handclapping died down, and Emmett spoke strong and clearly into the microphone like an actor delivering a soliloquy, and the finger-popping revolutionaries listened to what they wanted to hear:
"Our revolution will do more to effect a real, inner transformation than all of modern history's revolts taken together! . . . In no stage of our advance, in no stage of our fighting must we let chaos rule! . . . Nobody can doubt the fact that during the last year, a revolution of the most momentous character has been swelling like a storm among the youth of the West. Look at the strength of awareness
[end page 432]
of the young people today! Look at our inner unity of will, our unity of spirit and our growing community of thought! Who could compare us with the youth of yesterday? We are unanimously convinced that strength finds its expression not in an army, in tanks and heavy guns, but rather ultimately expresses itself in the common working of a people's will! The will that is uniting our groups with the conviction that men and women must be taught the feeling of community to safeguard against the spirit of class warfare, of class hatred and of class division! . . . We are approaching a life in common, a common life of revolution! A common life to work for the revolutionary advancement of peace, spiritual prosperity and socialism! Toward a victorious renewal of life itself! . . . Our job is to wake everyone up and do away with illusions! So that when the people are finally awakened, never again will they plunge into sleep!
"The revolution will never end! It must be allowed to develop into streams of revolutions and be guided into the channel of evolution . . . History will judge the movement not according to the number of swine we have removed or imprisoned, but according to whether the revolution has succeeded in returning the power to the people and in the bridling of that power to enforce the will of the people everywhere! . . . Power to the people!"
The entire speech lasted for over ten minutes, and Emmett was satisfied with his convincing delivery that now had the whole audience up on its feet giving him an enthusiastic, standing ovation. He stood motionless by the microphone, where seconds before he was gesticulating like mad, dramatizing every word. He stood still, not bowing, or waving, or moving his lips to say, "Thank you! Thank you!" He just stood there and waited for the crowd to settle back down, so he could finally tell them what he really came there to say.
It was a couple of minutes before it was quiet enough for him to again place his mouth near the microphone and say, "I can sincerely appreciate your enthusiasm and honestly understand your excited applause, but, to be perfectly truthful, I can accept neither. You see, I neither wrote nor was I the first person to have ever given this speech. I really don't know who wrote it. I have an idea, but I really don't know. However, I do know who was the first man to make this speech. His name was Adolf Hitler, and he made his delivery of these same words at the Reichstag in, I believe, 1937. Thank you, 'n be seein' you.
[end page 433]
There wasn't a sound in the huge main hall of the Roundhouse for a full thirty seconds or more. Nobody even moved. Then, all at once, it exploded with the fury of one thousand persons who thought they'd been had, been messed over, come out on the short end of a dirty deal! They directed their rage at Emmett who got his ass out of there real quick, and then they completely flipped, breaking things up, setting stuff on fire, and spilling their anger outside onto the street where they began fighting with those few who thought that Emmett Grogan had showed them just how jive rhetoric really was by putting them all on, beautifully.
Emmett was still laughing the next day when he returned to the Roundhouse for a discussion workshop that was arranged by those few hundred radicals who dug what he taught them about themselves and revolution. They wanted to learn anything else he could teach them before he left later that afternoon on his week-long return trip to the United States through more than a dozen cities in six or seven countries.
So he opened up his bag of experience, showing them everything he knew that wasn't supposed to be kept secret, and closed the bag by advising them that some of Adolf Hitler's early speeches weren't bad or wrong at all. It was just another case of people ". . . picking up on the singer and not the song, which, of course, usually blows the singer's mind, like it did Schicklgruber's who began to take seriously the lunacy of his own fantasies and proceeded to actualize them, using the people as his pawns. I mean, the cat knew they were digging him and the way he said things, rather than what he had to say. He was all he had to say, as far as they were concerned! You can see that in any old newsreel film clip of him standin' up at some podium in the middle of a few hundred thousand screamers and all he's sayin' is numbers! EINS! ZWEI! DREI! You know what I mean?"
What Emmett did best was advise communes or collectives of black or white or yellow or brown or pink radical street people on how to get whatever they needed, how to get themselves economically together to continue their work. After the conference, he spent a rush-hour week, flying around to all the different countries of Europe on the same tourist class ticket for his return flight to New York. He visited every city where he knew something heavy was happening to meet the people responsible, like the Provos in Amsterdam; Joe the Fever in Prague; Communes #1 and #2 and the Free University in Berlin; the Mistral Bookshop and Post Office and
[end page 434]
a whole lot of young heavies in Paris; everyone from the Exploding Galaxy to Peggy Duff to the Co-op Printing Society to Bromley by Bow's Kingsley Hall in London; and ten more cities on the continent in wllich there were groups of sincere, serious people at work, trying to lay the foundation for an intercommunal planet where there would be no boundaries dividing up the world, just different tribes of people free to live their lives the way they want, instead of have to--which is the only way to keep it all from dying.
Emmett got back to New York completely wiped out and totally exhausted from his fierce, whirlwind tour through Europe. His repeated discussions with the many different communal groups had him drained, demolished and half crazy behind "rubbin' at that same old goddamn thing!" He had rejoined Danny the Riff somewhere along the way, and they returned to New York together where most members of the Grateful Dead rock family met them at the Chelsea Hotel. It was in a room at the Chelsea that Emmett finally collapsed with exhaustion and slept for thirty straight hours.
It was almost the second week of July when he eventually woke up and a Wednesday he'll never likely forget. The sun was already waning as he had a shower and shave, putting on the same clothes, except for a change of socks, and bopped out to 23rd Street and down Seventh Avenue toward Greenwich Village. He had about fifty dollars in his pocket, and his stomach was craving with the hunger of a man who went to bed hungry and overslept. He wanted to eat a steak, a big, juicy piece of rare meat with some boiled potatoes, maybe, and a green salad on the side. He got exactly what he wanted and more in a Sixth Avenue Italian restaurant and gamblers' bar named Emilio's. The place was across from the corner of West Third Street, meaning Emmett walked a full twenty blocks or a stone mile without even realizing it until he sat down to eat and felt a bit dizzy. He lifted up his feet to look at the soles and heels of his Tony Lama, black Western boots that the free city women bought for him with a hot credit card and muttered something to himself about how they were made for walking on dirt and grass, not concrete and grime.
The food and half bottle of red Bolla wine was just what he needed and the pizziaola sauce covering the thick porterhouse was an added delight. He paid the waiter, but had a little difficulty getting himself up from behind the table and out of the booth, because the food added a good five pounds to his stomach and momentarily made him sluggish and awkward. He finally squeezed
[end page 435]
himself loose, however, and walked over to the end of the long bar where he ordered a Liquore Grappa to light the burners of his digestive system and lessen the load in his stomach.
He had two more quick shots of the Italian white lightning before leaving Emilio's and slowly walking over to Tenth Street, past the Women's House of Detention where all the boy friends and pimps stood on the sidewalk yelling up to the faces of the inmates in the wire-meshed, pigeonhole windows "Everything's all right, baby! You gonna be back out on the street soon! Don't worry, okay?! Trust me!" Sure.
Emmett walked into Casey's bar where he'd been once before with Candy Sand at that literary party during the early part of spring. He remembered that they made a very good Irish coffee in Casey's, and he wanted one and possibly two or three. He stood in the front corner of the room where the bar curved in toward the wall. The tables were crowded with eight o'clock diners and the bartenders busy, tending aperitifs or sour, before-supper drinks. There was a very solid, strong-looking black man dressed in a gray suit and charcoal tie with his polished Florsheim shoe up on the bar rail next to Emmett's funky boot. He was in his late forties and, glancing at his reflection in the behind-the-bar mirror, Emmett saw that the cat was very happy about something.
The two of them began talking about nothing in particular, and they felt relaxed with each other as only men who have very little to fear or lose can relax with other men. They'd been rapping for about a quarter of an hour and had bought each other a round, when Mercer McKay, as he introduced himself, invited Emmett to follow him outside to the car he had parked down the street. Emmett did so without hesitation and pleased by the invite, because he instinctively knew he was going to find out what this black man, Mercer McKay, was smiling so much about.
The car was a practically brand new Cadillac Coupe de Ville limousine, all black shiny outside and luxurious leather upholstery inside, with one-way tinted windows, so no one could see into the spacious interior. Emmett slid into the passenger's side of the front seat and immediately noticed the gray hat next to him. Mercer was the chauffeur for whosever car this was.
"Lock your door back up, 'n take a blow o' this!" Mercer was handing Emmett a clear plastic vial of pharmaceutical cocaine and an ei~hteen-carat gold spoon to ever so delicately scoop out the snow
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and snort it into his nostrils. It was very good coke, and Emmett no longer had to wonder why his man was smiling.
They'd been sitting inside the air-conditioned boat of a car, rapping and listening to music, when it suddenly came over the radio that there was "a riot erupting in Newark," an incredibly corrupt, deadbeat city where everyone is shortchanged, particularly blacks. Both men looked at each other, and Mercer turned the radio up louder to catch the news they were reporting. Then he started the engine and pulled the car away, swinging it toward the West Side Highway. When Emmett asked him where they were heading, Mercer McKay told him straight. "We're goin' t' Newark! I got my woman's there, 'n she ain't good for much, but what she's good for's plenty 'nough for me, 'n I don' want t' lose her in no goddamn police riot! This here car'll get me through, all right. You don' wanna come, you just say so, 'n I'll drop you off at your hotel. Well, what's it gonna be?"
They were in Newark a little more than half an hour later. The city was an explosion of flashing lights, flickering flames and fast moving silhouettes. The sound of running, laughing, screaming, glass-breaking, bottle- and brick-throwing young black bloods was a constant uproar. The gunfire, crisp commands and crackling radios of the police were scattered, but pervasive. The noise was overwhelming and the scene visually surreal.
Mercer drove into an alley where everything else seemed very far away, and he honked the horn twice. The bottom-floor door of a twostory wooden frame house opened cautiously, and out ran a fantastically beautiful black woman in a gold lame mini-dress. Her name was Lucille, and she was around twenty years old and Mercer McKay's old lady. She hugged him and kissed at his face through the open window of the car, until he stopped her and said that things were getting too hot for them to waste time. "So go back inside 'n get the others, 'n let's get outta here!"
The others were Lucille's four equally beautiful sisters and her mother who wasn't bad looking herself. Emmett was literally dragged into the back seat by the four sisters, leaving the front seat to Mercer, Lucille and mama. The jug of coke also found its way into the rear of the car, and the fun really began, with the girls giggling and howling and grabbing at Emmett's body and him running his hands all over their legs, until he found the one who wasn't wearing any panties. Then he put his fingers to work, and Mercer
[end page 437]
pushed a button to roll up the window that divided the front from the back part of the car, so Mama wouldn't hear the sound of laughter turn to the sweet soft sighing of sex.
The Cadillac took them right through Newark that first night of the riot and passed the roadblocks the state police had set up, to cordon off the "trouble area." Some of the cops even saluted the limousine as it went by, probably figuring it was carrying a high political official or somebody equally important to their careers. The rest of the night was spent partying in Mercer's downtown pad with Emmett finally returning to the Chelsea Hotel around dawn, the sister who didn't like to wear panties hanging on his arm, happy for a moment away from home.
The Newark riot lasted five more days with Abbot Hoffman getting into the act by callir~g for "Food for Newark Spades" to be donated at a specified time in Greenwich Village's Washington Square Park. Abbot and his cronies collected about seven or eight cardboard cartons of canned food and brought it over to Tom Hayden who was in Newark, heading the Newark Community Urban Project, facing at that time the terribly difficult decision of whether or not to join the federal government's War on Poverty program. The war on poverty is now, of course, over. Poverty won.
Anyway, Hoffman later exploited to his benefit these few cartons of canned goods which nobody ate, but used as missiles when they ran out of bricks. He claimed in several press conferences that he and his comrades were "Diggers" and that "Diggers are niggers," and, therefore, they smuggled in ". . . seven truckloads in all" to their ". . . underground soul brothers SNCC and NCUP." By using the name "Diggers" which the press had long associated with "Free Food," Hoffman changed a few boxes of Campbell's soup cans and several truckloads of tripsters sightseeing the "riot" into "seven truckloads" of loaves and fishes which they ". . . had a ball passing out! "
The last night Emmett stayed at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, he was talking with Danny the Riff and some of the Grateful Dead people about a "Trip Without a Ticket to Europe" to be completely "free" and unexploited by the media. It would not be for sale! There happened to be a reporter for the Village Voice in the room at the time, the late Don McNeill, and he wrote an article entitled "Trip Without a Ticket to Invade Europe" with no one's permission and blew the whole thing out the window. The avarice of film companies like Warner Brothers made it impossible for the
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trip to happen for "free" by blocking most of the financial possibilities. Years later they would cop the idea and make an obnoxious film with a fat disc jockey and a bunch of no-account, lame panhandlers, entitled Medicine Ball Caravan which, as one reviewer put it, "added up to no experience."
Emmett returned to San Francisco sick and tired of having been so long away from the city where he belonged. But very few things were happening to increase his gladness at being back among familiar faces doing his work with the Free Food. One thing did happen, however, that was enough to make him think that things weren't all that bad and even gave him a bit of optimism. Coyote had finally gotten down off the fence, resigning from the Mime Troupe to actively join the Free City Collective as a full-time brother, instead of simply remaining a part-time, lend-a-hand man. What made him decide to choose to play for keeps, only he knows. But when he'd made his decision, he didn't just come around. He came full around, and Emmett was back in time to embrace him.
Coyote had found a middle-aged woman who'd inherited an old hotel that she didn't know what to do with. It was a fifty-year-old, 482-room, huge place that used to cater mostly to prizefighters, like Jack Dempsey, but now was a waterfront flophouse for itinerants called the Reno Hotel. Coyote knew exactly what to do with it, as did his partner at the time, Golden Gloves Davey, a college-graduate boxer and stout worker: they were going to make a free hotel out of it. They intended to renovate the rundown building and redecorate it all in a modern, funky style including in it a free theater, movie house, restaurant and hospital. The woman who owned the hotel was thrilled with the idea and set her lawyers to draw up a nonprofit corporation to cover the turnover of the Reno to the Free City Collective. Unfortunately, their enthusiasm about the possibility of a well-run, free dwelling was not at all shared by the city hall bureaucrats and various police agencies who denounced the planned project as a "bed of evil" and pressured the fine woman into boarding up the hotel and terminating her role in the "free" venture.
It was a heavy disappointment for everyone connected with the Free City Collective, but especially for Coyote and Golden Davey, who thought they'd succeeded in solving at least a portion of the overcrowding dilemma of the Haight-hipster community. They both worked extremely hard to get the undertaking going and gathered large crews of carpenters, electricians and all sorts of skilled
[end page 439]
persons to reconstruct the Reno when the police forces and city hall powers said no. Of course, they based their veto on the absurd argument that the existence of a free hotel would draw "hippie undesirables" to the city of Saint Francis. Naturally they neglected to mention that San Francisco was already overfiowing with more than one hundred thousand "hippie undesirables" who had no permanent or temporary place to reside, except the downtown jail.
The members of the Free City Collective were disgusted, but rather than vent their animosity for the fat cat establishment by blowing up a bank or two, or by protesting with demonstrations and press conferences, they returned to their work. They all knew what no one had to tell them: reactionary terrorism or a few childish tantrum marches would only temporarily relieve their own private frustrations with the so-called government, rather than help the people.
It was at about this time that Emmett began his "Free Food Home Delivery Service" and left the daily, Panhandle, 4:oo P.M., free feeding of the street folks for the women to cook and men like Tumble, Butcher Brooks and Slim Minnaux to deliver. Emmett's idea was exactly as he announced it in the Free City News, a service that took over the daily newspaper role of the Communication Company, incorporating the same machinery and people. Free City News was an enlightened, efficient and graphically superior news agency operated solely by members of the Free City Collective, which meant practically anyone who wanted to work and wasn't kidding.
It was a truly informative and beautiful newspaper. So beautiful, in fact, that the research department of the Gestetner Corporation, from whom the mimeograph machines had been stolen, couldn't believe that their equipment could produce such technically fine and attractive color combination graphics; which was probably why they didn't call the cops. Instead they politely asked the publisher of the Free City News to let them subscribe to the paper, or, at least, mail them a copy of everything that was printed and drawn with their machines. They were astonished that Billy Batman, who put together several of the most beautiful issues, and Golden Gloves Davey and House-Be-Nimble, who kept the news service from simply becoming a brilliant one-shot review, were using their Gestefax stencil maker to paint. It blew their minds!
The announcement that Emmett published in the Free City
[end page 440]
News was only a beginning, but it really started things off right and in a hurry. It read:
LION MEAT SOUL VEGETABLES BLUE CHIP DAIRY GOODS
Everymorning Delivered to your Commune.
FRESH FISH RIPE FRUIT SOLID GREENS
Everyevening Feed the Brothers and Sisters in your House.
IT'S FREE BECAUSE IT'S YOURS
Give Your Address and the Number of Peo-
ple in the Commune to the Behind the
Counter Cousin at the Psychedelic Shop.
. . . MUST BE DONE NOW . . .
At first Emmett found himself delivering only to communal houses filled with young people who came to town looking for what they couldn't see back home. But that was only for the first few days. After some of those matriarchal black women and welfare mothers who hung around the Trip Without a Ticket free store heard about it, as well as some of the young Chicano women who were into the activities of the Mexican-American Mission Rebels--the predecessor group to what is now known as La Raza--after those women heard about his Free Food Home Delivery Service, Emmett was given a whole bunch of names and addresses with the number of children and adults in each household marked clearly on a whole lotta slips of paper.
If he had any intention of sliding along, gradually and calmly developing his operation, these women didn't want to hear about it. They wanted it to happen all at once, now! And if he didn't come through, like he was making out he would, Emmett was going to be called to answer by these women who didn't want to hear nothing about how much time anything takes, but wanted what he himself had said was theirs, and they wanted it today!
"You say that 'it's free because it's yours,' don't you?! Well, I want mine! 'N we all wants ours! Just give us what belongs to us, 'n listen to your own poetry! We wants the food!"
Within ten days of his announcement, Emmett found himself all alone with a list of over a hundred names, addresses, and sizes of families living in slum tenements--from the black Fillmore ghetto all the way across town to the Chicano Mission district ghetto. He
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looked at that list, and he knew he either had to throw it down the sewer right away or come across for those mothers who used their children to call his hand. He decided to play out his hand, simply because he dealt the cards to himself.
As soon as he committed himself to backing up his own words, the enormity of the task became more than obvious. After a six-day week of stealing and delivering meat on Monday and Wednesday, vegetables on Tuesday and Friday, and dairy products on Thursday and Saturday to Viola on Webster Street with eight kids, Bertha on Lily between Buchanan and Laguna with ten, to the Jasons on Seymour Street with nine, to Baby Jesus on Washington with nine, to Paita Bye on Waller with fifteen, to Carmen on Mission and 22nd Street with eleven, to Ligette and Ward on Ellis Street with nine and six, to Terrell on Hayes Street with seven, to Carlos Cavaze on Treat Street with eight, to the Aurora Glory Alice commune on Cole with nine, and on and on, with ninety more names of families with people to feed--after that week, Emmett understood it was going to be sixteen hours a day, six days a week for as long as he could do what he said he would.
The Free Food Home Delivery Service became not only the most difficult thing Emmett had ever done in his life, but also the loneliest. Seldom would anyone ever accompany him on the daily, except for Sunday, day-long runs. He did most of it all by himself. Whenever someone did help him out, it was usually one of the women, but only a few, and even they would rarely stick it through with him from dawn till dusk.
Even though it was, without a doubt, the most essential aspect of their survival as a communal group, there was just something about the operation that made it unattractive to most everyone within the Free City Collective. It wasn't the tremendous burden of the work, or the length of the hours, or the likelihood of arrest and jail that made the Free Food operation undesirable. It was the thanklessness, the unromantic, unrewarding exhaustion of the cheerless, dismal anonymity which was the basic premise of "free" and the very essence of "Free Food." Anonymity is what made the food "free" and kept the "Free Food" coming right to those families' doors. Kept it coming for not just a week or a month, but every working day for a straight nine months. Kept it coming to people who didn't even know where it came from. They just had an idea, and most of them simply thought Emmett was a delivery driver, salaried by some rich man who wanted to ease his conscience by giving away a little food.
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It was the nearest Emmett has ever come to making himself insane, remaining lonely in a way that few men ever have a chance to be lonely.
He not only had to ride with the fact that most of the people to whom he delivered the food thought of him as just a hired driver; he also had to contend with the incredible phenomenon of having his own Free City brothers put him down, bad-mouthing him, and begrudging him even the slightest bit of credit for having accomplished anything, much less acknowledging that he put the food on their table over which they discussed his shortcomings! It had him crazy! Crazy, because he knew he was doing it to himself. He didn't have to continue the Free Food. He didn't have to do any of those things! But he did, and that made it a matter of choice. Though he really didn't need the food himself, he somehow, deep inside himself, needed to free the food for those people who needed it. And in that sense, he probably needed it more than they did. He definitely needed it more than he ever needed anything else.
And so, Emmett remained an anonym to most people and allowed those close to him to drive him nearly out of his mind with their maddening insults to his sense of brotherhood. Some members of the Free City Collective resented his rigid insistence that everything be carried out anonymously, while anyone who wanted to could and was taking credit for "free" things they'd never done and words they'd never spoken or written or thought.
The Summer of Love was mainly the result of such a lie. The Haight Independent Proprietors' Human Be-In lie and its result bore witness to what would be in store for a nation that allowed its children to be lied to by comical, fake-radical politicos whose masquerade they nurtured by giving them profitable access to the mass media. The adventure of poverty by young white people in love ghettos throughout the country, like the Haight-Ashbury and the Lower East Side, was pleasant fakery for most of them. But in the same way that real poverty has always given birth to real revolution, this feigned poverty of the adventurous would breed a false-bottomed, jerry-built revolution in which the adventurers would continue their make-believe and be followed by the rock-concert lumpen, tired of their own voyeurism.
Of course, the "Summer" really ended before it ever started, but the sound of the tolling bell only began being heard in that last week of August when one of the most beloved men on Haight
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