The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
From The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams Collection
Unemployed in Camelot
Dewey sat down. California- God, what a climate. Here it was November and the weather was still delicious. Was still? It never ended. Storm clouds were merely a break in the sunshine, scarcely noticeable, even welcome. Even in dark San Francisco the sun shone brighter, the air was more clear, more fresh, more balmly than anywhere.
It was almost a delight to be unemployed as Dewey took a seat on the bench to wait for his two o’ clock interview. Almost a delight but not quite. Dewey’s career, his assualt on the world, was going nowhere. He knew his situation was very precarious. The worst was that the persona he projected was not well received. He sensed that there was someone, a part of a group, that defamed him wherever he went. He was conscious of being stalked but that could be overcome if people liked him, if he knew how to ingratiate himself. But he didn’t. The blows of his childhood had made him a cross between servile and obsquious combined with an attempt to assert his self-worth that came across as arrogant.
Even now as he sat on the bench on Montgomery just off Market a man stood across the square staring at him steadily. He was waiting to follow Dewey wherever he went. He would then report Dewey’s whereabouts, a phone call would be made and whatever chance Dewey had would be dashed.
There was no sense approaching the guy, he would only retreat before Dewey leaving Dewey in the awkward and humiliating position of chasing him down the street. All Dewey could do was endure him.
Dewey opened his copy of ‘Troubled Sleep’ by Sartre so as not to waste valuable time while he waited. His copy was from the Bantam series of World Classics. A fine collection of titles that he bought wherever he found them. He gazed up from his book from time to time to wonder who the guy came from. Dewey thought he must either report to Capt. Leon Douglas of Ocean Services or Barney Dolittle from Statistical Tabulating. Those were Dewey’s last two employers.
He knew that Douglas was following him because he had seen him enter Statistical Tabulating during lunch break. Did the dirty work himself which was somewhat unusual. But if you do want the job done right, do it yourself. The attitude toward himself at STC had changed after the visit.
Dewey could guess what Douglas had been about. He had had several hints that he was being slandered from various employment agencies. No one openly accused him but he was treated as though they assumed he was a thief. The companies he had been sent to were also of low quality, not career opportunities. Dewey had been forced out of Ocean Services when he had discovered a major graft scheme, they were now turning around the charge of theft in self-defense. Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars were being systematically plundered from Ocean Services. Dewey, who was a Jr. Accountant, had stumbled across it while auditing invoices.
Ocean Services ran a fleet of tankers on a triangular trade from Peru to Japan down to Indonesia and up to San Francisco and back to Peru; iron ore from Peru to Japan, oil from Indonesia to San Francisco. The seamen employed were Japanese; thus supplies were appropriate to Japanese tastes. As he audited the invoices Dewey thought from the amount spent that the seamen must be getting luxury goods. He didn’t know what the supplies were as the terms were Japanese and the prices were in yen but they converted into hefty sums in dollars. These guys were eating one heck of a lot better than Dewey had in the Navy. Then one day Dewey came across an item for cathartics at $10.00 U.S. per tablet. Dewey stared at the item. Cathartics? He knew he was right but he checked the dictionary to be sure. He was right. The firm had been charged $10.00 for an Exlax tablet.
When he presented the discovery to Capt. Douglas, the president of the company, he had expected to be congratulated. Instead he had been informed that it was his job to merely extend the lines not to analyze them. He was told to get back to his desk and forget about it.
Shortly thereafter it was made apparent to him that he was not only superfluous but unwanted. They tried the classic ruse of transferring him to another company that would be more suitable to him. As he had only been on the job six months job changing would be a perilous undertaking. Although he had held his previous job for two years, leaving to better his prospects, his employability would be suspect on leaving Ocean Services. If he were released from the successor job shortly after being hired which he suspected was their intent he would be unemployable. Ocean Services had a prestigious location at Kearny and California. Dewey wasn’t going to be sent to any more prestigious locations.
He had then taken a job at STC which as it turned out was owned by a Mafioso from Chicago. The staff had all been sent out from St. Louis. Dewey’s luck was still bad. His boss was Barney Dolittle. Dolittle had been fired as a young man just after he had married and was with a pregnant wife. Dewey married in September of 1963. A week later he was back on the street. Dolittle had been very upset that Dewey’s wife wasn’t pregnant. He had vowed to keep Dewey from getting another job. Dewey thought that the guy staring at him might be from Dolittle. He wasn’t, he was from Capt. Douglas.
Even though Dewey didn’t know it he was the possessor of a dangerous secret. He knew of the corruption at Ocean Services. He didn’t know what Douglas thought he did. Dewey thought the culprit was the purchasing agent, Dean Mangeon. He wasn’t aware that everyone in the company was in on the take, nor that Douglas was receiving the lion’s share. Douglas in his guilt gave Dewey too much credit. Dewey was still too inexperienced to understand the pervasiveness of corruption in society. The Captain to protect himself found it necessary to hound Dewey out of Baghdad By The Bay. Douglas had quietly become a millionaire, he would to to great lengths to protect his ill-gotten gains.
Dewey looked down to see a Chronicle on the bench beside him that wasn’t there when he sat down. It was folded to the want ads. An ad was circled in red pencil. Stanford University was advertising for psychological subjects for testing. Dewey read it. The pay was very good. He thought that he might be able to pick up some money and also learn something about himself. But then he decided that it would interfere with his job hunting. Had he answered the ad and been accepted he would have been destroyed. Like Harvard, and over over at UC in Berkeley, Stanford was doing drug experimentation. In this case they were shooting subjects full of methamphetamines- the very best and purest speed- just to see whether the subjects would flip or flop.
Dewey laid the paper down. The clock opposite said five to two. His appointment was just across Market. He slipped ‘Troubled Sleep’ into his inside breast pocket. The building was a great Art Deco piece from the 30s. It looked better from the outside. The marble inside was OK but the entire core of the building was a lattice work iron cage. The elevators even were iron cages pulled up and down on the exposed steel cables. The building would give him nightmares for decades.
He was made to wait half an hour. He saw his prospective employer hang up the phone. ‘The job’s already been filled.’ He called from his desk. ‘Sorry.’
As Dewey left he saw the guy from the square enter the elevator. ‘Just as Well.’ Dewey thought as he cruised around the floor for a better look. ‘I don’t think I could work in this place, much too spooky and weird.’
How much difference in your life can half an hour make? As the elevator reached the ground floor the building erupted into surrying activity. Office doors opened, people ran out staring at each other in disbelief. ‘Oh, my god! The President’s been shot.’ November 22, 1963. An old world when Dewey went up the elevator, a brave new one when he came down.
Jack Kennedy had been shot. A great weight lifted from Dewey’s shoulders. The shooting didn’t come as a surprise. He had been expecting it. Hoping for it? Ah well, Jack Kennedy aroused deep antagonism. And then there had been the Bay Of Pigs. Half the country had been sullenly resentful. The air of oppression had lain heavy on the nation. Now it was over. Dewey heaved a sigh of relief. But he felt guilty about it. His attitude was so complicit that he almost feared discovery as an accomplice.
Things had changed, now the darkness was not all below the top of his head. He had been given new life. As he moved out the door in slow motion it seemed that above his eyebrows all was light while below he moved in darkness. How strange. The killing of Kennedy had freed his conscious mind from the control of his subconscious. He was on his way to freedom. How strange. Yet it was true not only for himself but for the country. The pall that had descended on the nation with the anti-Communist struggles beginning in the forties had been lifted.
He passed through the revolving doors to flatten himself against the wall slipping down Market like a fugitive. Auto traffic had stopped and loose paper was swirling in eddies down the street. People were running every whichaway shouting: ‘Hey, President Kennedy’s been shot. They killed Kennedy.’ The mood was not one of dejection but one of elation. Kennedy was gone. The land was free again.
Dewey looked up at the blue November sky, felt the warm bright California air walking up toward Powell and the center of things.
All the street characters for which San Francisco is so justly famous were running, jumping, shouting: ‘Hey, they did it, they shot him. Kennedy is dead.’ So they had. Many walked as though zombies stunned that the President had been shot. Dewey, too, was amazed. His belief that the United States was too civilized for assassinations was disproved. The last time a president had been shot was at the turn of the century. Even then the assassin had been a crazy foreign anarchist. Now Dewey would have to reassess his country. He would find that it wasn’t even civilized and becoming worse every day.
There was no doubt in Dewey’s mind, he didn’t even ask himself why, that Kennedy had been killed by the conservatives. Ask who? He wondered why it had taken them so long. Threats had been heavy in the air for months. Hadn’t Kennedy been warned not to go to Dallas? Hadn’t the threat been, stronger than an implication, that the cowboys would kill him if he went? Hadn’t he publicly said that he would not be deterred by threats?
As Dewey looked around he saw shock on the peoples’ faces but he didn’t see dejection. He even saw men shaking hands in deep satisfaction. ‘Hey, didja hear Kennedy, the President’s been shot?’ Having heard Dewey walked wonderingly down to the Embarcadero to catch a bus home.
The ride to Larkspur in Marin County was unusually quiet. Everyone seemed lost in their own reflections. Dewey himself, was breathing heavily. A great and oppressive weight had been lifted from him. ‘Free at last.’ He thought. Free at last. God almighty, I’m free at last.’ He was premature but at least the stone had been rolled away and he was free to be born again.
As In A Dream
‘Hi, Honey. You don’t have the TV on, you haven’t heard?’
‘Haven’t heard what, Dewey?’
‘They shot him. They killed Kennedy.’
‘Who shot him?’
‘I don’t know. Them, you know, his enemies. Turn on the TV. We gotta see this.’
See this they did. The coverage was non-stop and in living color. The TV reporters were agog. They even interviewed demented drunks who claimed they were the good friends of John F. Kennedy. The reporters of the various channels were actually shocked when they discovered a guy on a barstool who claimed to know Kennedy was a fraud. Unless you consider ‘He was a real good guy’ as proof of acquaintanceship. Oh well, it was the first time; the reporters would get a lot of practice in the ensuing years.
‘Wow! I wonder why he was riding in an open car?’
‘Well, he was warned not to got to Dallas because they were going to shoot him. Jackie pleaded with him not to go. Everybody knew he was going to get it. Why make it easy?’
‘Why did they want to shoot him?’
‘He’s a Catholic. He betrayed the American ethos. We hate him.’
‘What do you mean he betrayed the American ethos, Dewey? What’s that got to do with being Catholic? America’s a land of religious tolerance, isn’t it?’
‘Well, Honey, it’s a land where Protestant Anglo-Americans tolerate everyone else but they don’t tolerate us. Where to start?
First off, Kennedy’s a liar and a cheat. Second, he’s got an unholy alliance with the news people. I couldn’t stand the way he tricked and lied to the people to get their votes when he was nominated and then blatantly and openly betrayed them. Not only that but the newspeople justified his chicanery as just politics. Since his election, and there’s people that say that was rigged too, they have been singularly uncritical. They even treat his failures- really gross imcompetent failures- like the Bay Of Pigs and the Missile Crisis in Cuba- as successes somehow. Anybody else they’d fry.
Then they started this Camelot thing- that stupid song The Impossible Dream- as symbolical of some fabulous new era he was inaugurating. Some kind of Irish King Arthur come again in triumph over the bad Anglo-Saxons. For Christ’s sake the guy was the Grand Inquisitor- a new Torquemada. That’s why I say they shot him because he was a Catholic. Not because he was a member of the Catholic Church but because he acted to enforce the same kind of orthodoxy rather than freedom of conscience. He thought like a Catholic, he thought like a Pope. Anyone who didn’t back his program was a heretic. Not just misinformed or even wrong, but a heretic. Outside the pale. There was no room for discussion or another opinion.
That’s the real reason Americans have never wanted a Catholic president. The fear was always that he would be more loyal to papal ideas than to the American Constitution. That’s exactly what he did. That’s what he had to do. You can only do what is in your brain. If you think in terms of freedom of conscience then you can’t help but act on the basis of freedom of conscience. It’s the way your mind is organized. If you think in terms of orthodoxy and heresy then you cannot help but act that way. You must act out your education, your brain is organized to think that way. You can’t will such thoughts out of your mind. Kennedy was Catholic; he was orthodox and if you didn’t agree with him you were a heretic. I’ve been living in fear for four years.
You never understood why I got so upset about General Walker- you remember him- they were grooming him as the conservative presidential opposition, but, at the time I thought it was that they were imitating the Russians in saying anyone who didn’t agree with them was crazy. That wasn’t it. They weren’t imitating the Commies; the Commies and the Catholic Church treated the problem of freedom of conscience in the same way. If you’re not orthodox you’re a heretic or, as the Commies put it, you’re insane. Same thing. So what does Kennedy do? Since the newsboys are his dogs they portray General Walker as being insane. They destroyed him with stupid pictures that could have been taken of anybody. Walker was an American. He just disagreed with them which was his God given American right. But Kennedy said: If you’re with us you’re OK; if not, you’re insane.’
I couldn’t explain my reaction at the time. Then, right after that, they announced that they were going to let the crazy people out of the asylums and establish a house on every block where the crazies would have to report. You didn’t take that serious either but all that meant was that if you weren’t orthodox you would be crazy and everyone in the neighborhood would know it. That way the opposition would be isolated and rendered ineffective. They were crazy. You would have to go along with the program or else. Very Jesuitical. The Spanish Inquisition would then be established in America.
You know who the busybodies are that would have empowered. No, I’ve been living in fear and that’s gone. I’m not for killing people but now that it’s done it’s the best thing that could have happened to the country. I’m glad. The son-of-a-bitch deserved it. I could never be orthodox. Anyway that’s why they killed him because he was a Catholic inquisitor. Not because he was a member of the Chruch but because he wanted to install the inquisitorial attitude over that of freedom of conscience. The Inquisition is part and parcel of Catholicism.’
‘Oh, they just arrested the guy.’
‘Oh yeah? Who?’ Dewey asked, who had already guessed the course of events.
‘Some guy named Oswald. Lee Harvey Oswald. Oh, wow, I guess you were wrong Dewey. He’s a Communist.’
‘A Communist, huh? Boy, that’s convenient, isn’t it? Next thing they’ll say Khruschev sent him.’
‘He was in Russia for a while. Left here, went there and then came back.’
‘What’d they say they picked him up a mile or so from this book store where they think the shot came from? How’d they know it was him? Did he just look like the kind of guy who would shoot a president? Now, that’s rigged; too convenient. I’ll bet they kill him before he ever gets a chance to say anything.
No. No Communist did it. Why would they want him dead? He was giving them everything they wanted. He was just a big talking back peddler. Did you ever read about their father, Joseph P. Kennedy? I mean, Jack’s not the first one they got; they killed his first son, Joseph Jr. during the war. the Old Man has lots of enemies. The guy’s a crook.
He makes his fortune during prohibition in the liquor business. Gives him the advantage of having connections on both sides of the law, I guess. Twice as many places to make enemies. So after prohibition he tries to go legit. He even gets the Superdip, Roosevelt, to make him ambassador to England. Roosevelt sends an Irish Catholic as ambassador to Protestant England. So what does Kennedy do? As an Irishman he hates the English so he’s pro-Nazi and openly anti-Semitic. Boy, the soul of descretion. England’s at war with Germany and Hitler’s killing millions of Jews and this guy’s a pro-Nazi and anti-Semite ambassador to England.
So, at this point, it’s not who doesn’t like this guy but who does? Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. is a flier. He has a mission to fly over Germany. Just like Jack people tell him not to fly because he wont’ come back. He flies it anyway. What happens? His plane blows up just after take off. Nazis got him, right? Maybe the load wasn’t properly balanced.
Anyway the warning was clear. Joe Sr. wasn’t welcome in society.
Look at the place he lives, a compound. The whole family has to live behind a fence. They need a lot of security. Why? Because a lot of people must want to see them dead. Who lives behind walls? Criminals and orphans, that’s who. The Kennedys weren’t orphans. So he’s told to lay low and he makes his son the first Irish Catholic president of the United States. Who wanted to kill Jack Kennedy? Lots of people. Probably if they discovered who killed Joe Jr. they might discover who killed Jack. And if Bobby knows what’s good for him he’ll lie low too. Cause if he runs for president they’ll kill him too.’
The world doesn’t stop, not even for dead presidents. Dewey was out looking for a job the next day. He returned home to turn on the evening news. What to his wondering eyes should appear but the assassination of the supposed assassin. Who shot Lee Harvey Oswald? The super-patriot, Jack Ruby.
‘Well, imagine that.’ Dewey said to Angeline. ‘Imagine that. A Jewish low life criminal shot Oswald. If you don’t dislike him because he’s Jewish you can hate him because he’s a criminal. Now, watch this, if Ruby doesn’t die of food poisoning or some such, they’ll certify him as insane so they can discredit whatever he says. Jeez, this is embarrassing.
But, what do I care? I’ve got to get a job, we’ve got to pay the rent.’
Living Water In A Stagnant Pool
If Dewey hadn’t realized it before he now quickly grasped that he was not going to be referred to top flight companies or even good jobs. He saw that he was never referred to a single major company of which, it goes without saying, San Francisco was full of. The realization gradually dawned on him that he had been demoted from the first rank of employability.
None of the agencies would tell him so but as he saw inferior people sent out on interviews denied him he had to alter his attitude. Talking did him no good; thus when he was handed an address with a shrug of the shoulders that said: You can have this or nothing, he accepted the interview.
He was sent to a mortgage banking firm called Lowell, Smith and Evers. Mortgage banking firms contracted with lenders to manage their properties. The big money was still in the East. The terrific expansion in California was financed by them. In California entire cities were thrown up overnight or so it seemed. When the City of Fremont consolidated its five burgs an entire metropolis sprouted within a few years. Giant tracts of hundreds of house were financed from back East.
In order to sell the houses quickly the builders took in anyone whatever his qualifications. Thus the first few years of a tract was a sorting out process. Those who couldn’t or wouldn’t meet their payments were eliminated to be replaced by those who could or would. The result of such building and selling was chaotic. The mortgage banking firms in an attempt to keep the deliquencies low hired people to go in and bully the mortgagees into paying. This is the job destined for Dewey.
Dewey considered himself an accountant. He wasn’t. He didn’t even have an inclination for it. Even in Jr. College night school he veered away from business courses as soon as he thought he had enough, which was too soon by far.
He saw this job for what it was; an undesirable position which could only be filled by the desperate. He was aware that he wasn’t going to make it in a highly structured office. He’d been in three now. He’d been a social success in none of them. Further, he knew it was impossible for him to be a social success; he was too unbending in his moral views. He couldn’t tolerate the petty thieving that formed the basis of that society. He worked too hard; wanted to get ahead too much and didn’t realize that socializing was more important that working hard. He was too deficient in office politics. He was in a quandary.
If Lowell, Smith and Evers was a step down for Dewey he was a prize to them. He was much better than what they usually got. Whatever else was said about him he never missed work nor was he ever late. He dressed well, talked and acted knowledgeably.
He was interviewed by Bill Masters to whom he would be responsible. Art Carson sat in on the interview. As Dewey never saw Carson again he never learned his function. It was apparent from the beginning that he was going to get the job. Masters was selling hard, Dewey was a plum to him. Dewey was against the wall; he had to accept.
The financial terms were quite good although the job would lead nowhere. Four hundred eighty was a good salary for the time plus he was given a ’63 Chevy to drive which was always in his possession. That was probably worth a hundred dollars a month extra. Still he was acutely aware that he’d not only been exiled but cast out.
He took his exclusion as a door closed. There was no way back in. He did not take it as a reflection on himself. If the others thought little of him he thought less of them. For him to have felt rejected he would have had to have respected the others. He didn’t find them admirable; he found them contemptible. Still, they occupied the citadel and he didn’t.
At work the next morning Masters introduced him to his cicerone, Darby Ramme. Ramme was another plum for Lowell, Smith and Evers. As incredible as it may sound Ramme was a graduate of Stanford University, a year younger than Dewey. He was only five-eight but he had a cheerful, bright countenance. Stocky and bouncy he had an open and direct manner which belied his sneaky and malignant self.
As yet unaware of his negative side Dewey thought that they might become friends. This was not to be as Darby had a rather exalted notion of himself. What flaw in his character led him to this job was difficult to discern. Darby had majored in Political Science at Stanford. College education in America is little more than vocational training thus upon graduating Darby found that he had a BS degree and no vocational training. The only jobs available to him were sales jobs.
Darby expected better having his sights on rising to the presidency of, perhaps a bank. He was of good family, got a degree from one of the top universities within the alloted four year period, looked good and had excellent manners. He was brutally disappointed. He was compelled to accept a job selling coffee in Chicago. The job paid well but was a terrific blow to Darby’s pride. He was a Stanford graduate and here he was going from supermarket to supermarket having to talk to managers respectfully who maybe or maybe not hadn’t graduated from high school even. Darby felt, rightly or wrongly, that their manners were atrocious. He very likely was right. He also suspected that to be accepted he would have to jettison his own excellent manners and adopt theirs. He was probably right about that, too. His mind revolted at the idea.
Darby didn’t actually have to stock the shelves himself, but even going into the markets, having to greet the clerks and all; it was a shattering blow to his self-esteem. Not to mention that as a West Coast boy he hated Chicago.
Darby chucked it all, came back West to take a job dunning delinquent mortgagees at Lowell, Smith and Evers. Dewey sympathized with Darby but as he soon found out, he was placed in a class beneath the supermarket managers. Darby had made a positive impression on Dewey which he now destroyed. Dewey turned his back on him.
Where he had listened attentively he now became critical. Darby gave him much to criticize. Darby’s psychological reaction to his coffee job was to work at Lowell, Smith and Evers so he could work off his frustration on the mortgagees. He carried on vendettas with them. In addition he spent half his time spying on the junior collector.
The job was an emotionally tough one. The mortgagees hated you. They were openly resentful. If you were susceptible, the treatment could be very demoralizing. It had been to the fellow Dewey replaced. He had been unable to perform the work. Darby had tracked him down to a movie theater one afternoon. The delighted joy Darby related in catching him and having him sacked offended Dewey.
Darby explained the job to Dewey: ‘We’re dealing with a lot of deadbeats. These people just don’t want to pay their rent.’ He said, with obvious relish. ‘So our job is simply to remind them that they haven’t made two monthly payments. We don’t collect anything; we don’t take any checks; we just tell them they haven’t paid. That happens after the tenth of the second month.
The company manages thousands of houses all over Northern California but expecially here in the Bay Area. On the eleventh of each month we get a stack of computer cards of the delinquent mortgagees and then we go to work.
The Bay is divided into several areas. Right from the start, no arguments, I get Contra Costa.’
‘Concord, Walnut Creek and all that? You can have it. I don’t like it out there. Too dry and hot for me.’
‘All right. You get Santa Clara County and Tropicana Village. You get the East Bay and I get the Peninsula.’
Stanford is on the Peninsula.
‘Wait a minibite. You live in Berkeley so I can see why you want Contra Costa County but the East Bay’s a natural for you. I live in Marin…’
‘You live in Marin? County? Really? That’s a nice area, I wouldn’t have thought that.’
‘Uh huh. We like it.’ Dewey said resenting the implication that he wouldn’t live in a nice area. Dewey began to think there was more to fine manners than just manners.
‘I live in Marin,’ Dewey continued, ‘so why don’t I take Marin and Sonoma, the Peninsula and Santa Clara. You can have the rest, which isn’t much.’
‘No. I’ll take Contra Costa, Marin and the Peninsula and you can have the rest.’
The question was moot to Dewey. He just wanted to show he couldn’t be pushed around. Within a couple months he would end up with everthing except Contra Costa County itself anyway.
‘All right, why don’t you go home for the day. Come in tomorrow. We’ll get organized and I’ll start showing you the ropes.’
Lunch Without Nourishment
Capt. Douglas now lived in fear of exposure. His feeling of guilt was immense. The extent of the corruption he controlled was virtually worldwide. It involved dozens of people in the home office, Japan, Indonesia and Peru. Douglas was negotiating for Chinese crews from Hong Kong for which the amount of graft was even greater. Even if he didn’t go to jail his loss of prestige would kill him.
The Old Sea Dog’s connections in the sleazy maritime world would be destroyed as well as the reputation he was busily constructing in San Francisco society. His own vision of himself as an international mastermind would vanish like smoke on the water. His carefully cultivated facade of respectability would look like a bad con job. He would no longer be a fixture at the brokerage house that Charles Schwab was establishing just down the street.
His guilt drove him to deplorable lengths. His fears were baseless. Trueman had no intention of making a fuss. Capt. Douglas’ criminality, if Dewey had suspected it, was no concern of his. It was bad enough that he had lost a good job. It was worse that his future had been made uncertain.
What could Dewey hope to achieve by accusing Douglas? There was no case for the police. The situation was beyond their concern or even jurisdiction. Dewey might go to the parent company, Marcona Mining, but what would that effect: They would undoubtedly consider him sour grapes because he hadn’t been able to cut it if they they weren’t in on it. Was Douglas afraid of blackmail? No, Dewey had nothing to warrant suspicion for interfering with Douglas. It was simply that Dewey knew and by knowing prevented Douglas from glossing over his crime to himself. He couldn’t give it another name; he stood exposed to himself for what he really was- a thief.
The Kennedy assassination set a train of thought in motion that made murder a viable solution to dilemmae. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King would be eliminated as political problems over the next few years. People were murdered on all social levels. Richard Speck and Charlie Whitman would appear in the summer of ’66. The Zebra killings shortly thereafter. Serial murderers became commonplace. Had this been the seventies Dewey would undoubtedly have had an accident. He might have been run down by a car going the wrong way down a one way street. Perhaps a brick might have fallen on his head as he walked down the street.
Or perhaps, once the Black Zebra killer started shooting White people in drive by shootings on street corners, Dewey might have been dispatched by a hired Black thug. A mugging, innumerable ruses could have been employed. But this was 1963. America had not yet been turned into a nation of murderers who solved their problems with guns and bombs. Or even insane weirdos like George Carlin who advocated gunning down anyone who disagreed with you on his TV show.
So long as Dewey remained in San Francisco he remained visible evidence of Capt. Douglas’ guilt. In the Captain’s eyes an honest Dewey remained a symbol of Douglas’ dishonesty.
At present Douglas saw no way to expel Dewey from the City, but perhaps he could reduce Dewey’s moral superiority beneath his by inducing Dewey to commit a crime and actually go to prison. Douglas thought that then his status would be restored in his own mind.
Dewey turned up for work the next day. Darby Ramme whiled away the morning showing Dewey some of the ropes. Dewey was a quick learner, he was able to readily understand things. This disturbed Darby whose need for superiority required less intelligent people not more. Like all such people in such circumstances he had becoma an obscurantist. He gave out conflicting explanations to as to confuse issues allowing himself to appear superior as he had to explain details over again.
Dewey who had been dealing with difficult accounting problems for three years saw through the whole thing. He just patiently let Darby go through his paces. When lunchtime came Darby, to show his disdain for Dewey, airly dismissed him to have lunch by himself as it appeared it would be beneath Darby’s dignity to lunch with him.
Dewey had no problem with this. Darby had revealed his identity to Trueman. If Darby didn’t like him, he was not offended. As he saw it Darby had started with all the advantages. If a guy with a degree from Stanford could sink from a job selling coffee to supermarkets to badgering mortgagees for payment then that meant to Dewey that the guy had nothing going for him. He wasn’t offended by Darby’s attitude.
Other problems concerned him; he believed, not incorrectly, that he was being exiled from San Francisco. He found San Francisco a delightful, pleasant place. It hurt him to be kicked out. True, he would report in every Monday for news and assignments but that was no compensation at all.
As he considered this his last day in Baghdad By The Bay he wanted to make the most of his lunch hour. There was a little hamburger bar down on Kearny and Market that he had found while working at STC. The place was run by a North Beach Italian guy who really knew how to cook a hamburg. With a heart full of nostalgia for a lost paradise, Dewey walked up Market to Kearny.
Capt. Douglas had not let him out of his sight. He had known Dewey had gotten the job almost before Dewey. As the job was a serious demotion from what Dewey had been doing the employment agencies believed they had done their job; he had been removed from socially acceptable employment. Captain Douglas was still not content.
When Dewey had gotten the job he realized that he would not be content to merely have Dewey out of town. Dewey had to be a lower criminal than himself. As said before the Captain had friends on the waterfront. ‘Captain’ was not an honorary title for Douglas, he had commanded ships at sea for twenty years before assuming the presidency of Ocean Services. He knew corruption as only those who have worked the waterfronts of the world can know corruption. He had been complicit if for no other reason than if he hadn’t he would never have had a cooperative crew. Accidents would have happened; thing just wouldn’t have gone well for him.
Thus having conceived his plan he had no trouble finding an agent to implement it. As Dewey was a dutiful husband and respectable citizen abjuring the nightlife where he would have been more vulnerable the Captain would have to catch him on the fly.
As Dewey left his building his Shadow followed his movements. At that time lower Market was a semi-slum. All the condos and modernization was yet to begin. The streets were virtually deserted at any time of day. As soon as Dewey entered the diner a phone call was made and the plan was put in operation. The Shadow stationed himself outside the diner on the curb to keep control of the situation.
Dewey had eaten there many times while at STC. Jim Solieri who owned and operated the place knew him at sight. He was interested in Dewey but had never struck up a conversation. But as Dewey hadn’t been around for a couple months he thought he would have a chat.
A peculiarity of Solieri’s place was that he refused to make french fries. As some form of compensation he always placed a couple Italian pepperoncini on the plate. Pepperoncini are not hot peppers but it is necessary to cultivate a taste for them. For a while Dewey had disdainfully left them lying on the plate. But then one day by some magic of the chemistry between pepperoncini, the hamburg and his taste buds the little peppers had really hit the spot. From that point on Dewey had asked for seconds; he even bought a jar for home.
Today he took a big bite from his hamburg, following it with one of his two pepperoncini with obvious relish.
‘I remember when you sneered at those things.’ Solieri offered. ‘Now look at you, can’t get enough. I knew you’d come around.’ He flipped a couple more on Dewey’s plate. ‘Haven’t seen you for a little while.’
‘No. I had to get another job. Haven’t been in the area.’
‘Another job, huh?’ Solieri said appraising Dewey from another point of view.
‘Yeh.’ Dewey said ruefully. ‘Be my third in little over a year. Fourth in three years. Damn.’
‘I know what you mean. Been there myself. Maybe you’re just not the corporate type.’
‘Maybe. But, you know, what am I going to do. I mean, you know, I’m somebody too. I’m at least as good as they are, maybe better. I gotta lotta talent, I think, abilities, you know, I don’t want to get left behind. You can dig that, I suppose.’
‘I can. And I’m not putting you down, as you can see I’m flippin’ burgers. Of course, I own the stand.’ He added defensively. ‘Didn’t start out that way. I used to be like you. Don’t know what it is but I just didn’t fit in. I’m thirty. Went from job to job, no offense and I’m guessing, but just like you they kept getting worse and worse until I couldn’t stand it anymore. So I went off on my own. Started a nice little Italian restaurant. Good food, well prepared, nice place. But, you know, I just couldn’t manage the employees. Like a lot of guys I thought that employees acted up because they had bad bosses. Well, I’m a good guy so I didn’t think I ‘d have any trouble. Boy, was I wrong. You give ’em an inch and they’ll take the whole hundred yards. Any boss is their enemy; they just resent working for anybody. In point of fact you gotta know how to be tough to make them do their work.
How much detail you want? As you can see this is a one man operation’
‘Really, huh? Well, um, do you make enough money here.’
‘How much is enough? I do OK. You’d be surprised what kind of profit a place like this can turn out. But, no, I don’t make enough. I live comfortably but frugally.’ Solieri was actually cheap. ‘Invest as much as I can. Done OK there. So if I keep it up by the time I’m fifty I should be OK. Just in case I reach fifty. But, you dig, I have to work for myself. You might have to do the same.’
‘Might have to do something.’ Dewey said reflectively. Notions were already circulating through his mind as he apprehensively viewed the blight placed on his career. But as he wished to raise himself in his own estimation as well as the world’s his thoughts gravitated more toward attainments in the scholarly world. He aspired more to the dignity of the college professor than the merchant prince.
‘You’ve got a good thing going here but I think I’d rather get a PhD and be a college professor.’
Solieri smiled indulgently: ‘How much chance is there for that?’
‘Well, I don’t know. I’m going to night school at Junior College.’ Dewey confessed, naively raising a silent laugh from Solieri. ‘I’d have to find a way. Don’t have one now.’
‘So, you learning anything in Junior College?’ Solieri asked sarcastically.
‘Oh, sure, hard to believe you’re getting anywhere sometimes but it’s all required classes so what do you do? I read a lot on my own, too.’
‘Oh yeah? You got any great wisdom you can share.’ Solieri was one of those who considered books one of the worst things in the world.
‘Well, I’ve got a theory on the origins of the solar system you might like.’
‘Um. You ever heard of a guy called Immanuel Velikovsky- ‘Worlds In Collision?’
‘I saw the movie.’
Dewey laughed: ‘Naw, that was ‘When World’s Collide.’ Good movie though. No. Velikovsky’s got some pretty weird ideas. Hard to believe a lot of it. But he makes an issue between the gasseous planets like the Sun, Jupiter and Saturn and the five rocky inner planets.’
‘Only four aren’t there.’
‘He includes the asteroid belt as an exploded planet. To explain the rocky planets he thinks that a live intelligence ejected them from Jupiter. Well, I don’t think there’s live intelligence on Jupiter but I think it’s possible that the planets were ejected by natural causes.’
‘Oh yeah? How’s that?’
‘Well, I’ve never heard a good explanation where the gaseous planets or the rocky planets came from except that the solar system was once a huge swirling mass of gas that formed the three gaseous planets but you have to take the view that all matter is one. For instance, the Sun the Earth and Jupiter although they exhibit different external characteristics are all made of this same material. The external differences are only the result of size and gravity. The sun being huge, the gravitational force pressing in on the center makes it incandescent.
Jupiter being very large but nowhere near as large as the sun must have a core that is more than molten but less than incandescent so that the heat produced combined with gravity vaporizes its outer matter into various densities of gases. OK?’
‘Yeah, I’m following you.’
‘Now, the Earth being smaller yet has a molten core but the gravitational pressure in relation to its size allows the exterior layers to cool forming a crust. So all three are of identical composition but different form.
So, if that’s clear then your next problem is how the planet got here from Jupiter. Like I say, Jupiter has various layers of gases moving, I hypothesize, at different speeds. So, as these various layers rub together globules of solid matter form, kind of like a pearl in an oyster. When they get large enough they are ejected by centrifugal force. Like, there’s actually an asteroid belt on either side of Jupiter. Why would a planet explode on either side of Jupiter and nowhere else? So, I don’t think these are exploded planets but smaller ‘pearls’ ejected over the eons.
Really big ‘pearls’ are developed and they were ejected with enough velocity to enter the sun’s gravitational pull where they find orbits far from Jupiter. Probably the moon was ejected too but was captured within Earth’s gravitational pull. It’s supposed to be moving slowly further from Earth so probably the Sun’s attraction is greater than Earth’s. So what do you think?’ Dewey asked, fearing a burst of derisive laughter.
‘Not bad. Not bad. I don’t know whether it’s true of course. But it’s at least as good as the cosmic dust theory I’ve heard.’
‘Oh yeah. That’s the official scientific theory, that the solar system was filled with dust and then the dust particles were attracted to each other bonding into ever bigger agglomerations until the rocky planets as we know them were formed. Hard for me to believe too. Sure hope the magnetic polarity isn’t reversed or we’ll all become comets.’
‘One problem though, so why isn’t their life on Mars or Venus?’
‘Oh, Venus probably because it’s too close to the sun, way too hot. Although since it’s about the same size as Earth it should have a molten core. Mars is too small for a molten core to sustain itself. Probably just warmish in the center. Same with the moon.’
‘Sounds like you really thought that one out.’ Solieri began when a Beatnik type burst through the door. He was the agent from Capt. Douglas. The two best ways to destroy a man’s reputation are sex and drugs. If it’s possible to project a man as a homosexual he will lose all credibility. For that reason the charge of homosexuality is projected on nearly all great men from Caesar and Napoleon on down. Great men can survive the charge, lesser men may not be able to do so. The charge of drugs destroys a man’s respectability entirely. When a man is free of either curse then the possibility of entrapping him in overt acts or the appearance of such acts exists. A charge of homosexuality would reduce Trueman to a station far below that of Captain Douglas, allowing him to reassert his own sense of dignity. A charge of drugs which at that time meant marijuana or heroin would result in a prison sentence, especially if Capt. Douglas came forward to put the bug in the ear of the police with his claim of theft. Capt. Douglas would do anything to reclaim his self-esteem.
As far fetched as his plan may appear, more far out plans have been attempted and succeeded. There is only one thing that can protect a person from the assaults of stalkers and that is character. Things happen so fast and come from such unsuspected quarters that only a firm set of ideals can save one.
The guy who had burst through the door was Job Seth, the agent of the agent selected by Capt. Douglas to place temptation in Dewey’s path. Having made Trueman his enemy Capt. Douglas had assigned what to him was the most despicable character he could think of- a Beatnik- a hipster. Douglas who was dapper nineteenth century style with a pencil thin mustache from the thirties projected the lifestyle on his opposite member- the Beatnik- on Dewey.
Job Seth was of course an imposter. His impersonation of a Beatnik was hilarious. Not being part of the culture he chose as his role models the Maynard Ferguson character from the Dobie Gillis TV show and Jughead from the Archie comic book series. He didn’t wear Jughead’s beanie but he mussed his hair up for the disheveled Beatnik look. But he was careless so that it was easy to see that a single combing would give him a conventional appearance. He had on the black vest, the horizontally striped T-shirt, black and white, and a dark pair of baggy cotton pants actually secured be a rope for a belt. He wore the obligatory Beatnik sandals with the wide leather straps and studs. But, not only was he wearing socks but they were socks no self-respecting Beatnik would own, the black ribbed knee stocking of the middle class employee. Even as the bell was still jangling above the door both Dewey and Jim Solieri exchanged an amused and knowing smile.
‘Check this out.’ Solieri said from the corner of his mouth.
‘Seth wasn’t clear as to which diner was his target. He first rushed to a diner at a side table, looking out the window at Dewey’s shadow for confirmation. The man shook his head and pointed at Dewey. Both Dewey and Solieri caught the motions. They gave each other signficant glances.
There was a stool empty beside Dewey. Seth rushed over in what he thought was the best hipster style plunking himslef down leaning bodily against Dewey.
Dewey shoved him over.
‘Hey, man. Didja hear me?’ He said leaning over the counter so as to look directly in Dewey’s face.
‘You talking to me?’
‘Hey, man, like, I’m looking ya right in the eye, ain’t I, man.’
‘Say what and git.’
‘Like, don’t get sharp, man. Like, maybe I got something to say you might want to hear. Be cool.’
‘I’m so cool ice cream wouldn’t melt in my hand, man, but, like, you know, like this, I’ve got my own thing going. Somehow you’re not part of it. So, buzz off.’
Solieri interrupted: ‘What’ll ya have?’
‘Hey, don’t bug me, man. Like, I’m talking to this guy here. Alright? What’s your name, man?’
‘You can call me Jack, Joe.’ Dewey said, realizing he’d have to humor this guy until he finished his hamburg or just leave it. His situation wasn’t so prosperous he could just get up and leave it.
‘Like, man, like what do you think of this Viet Nam war thing.’ Seth said, launching into what he considered a hep topic which he projected as a major concern of Dewey’s.
‘Little.’ Dewey replied, hoping to shuck Job off. Out of the corner of his eye he was watching the Shadow who stood in rigid attention leaning forward on his toes.
‘Aw, man, how about the way Diem treats those Buddhist monks. Disgraceful. You call that freedom? So bad they have to pour gasoline on themselves and burn to cinders. Huh, man?’
‘Yeah, well, like they better pray the Commies don’t get them or they’ll find out what. Did you ever notice there aren’t any monks in North Viet Nam? I wonder why.’
‘Yeah, man, well, maybe you’re right. Why trouble your head about some gooks. We got problems right here, right. I mean, like, good thing there’s some escape routes, right?’
Dewey was munching fast on his hamburg, in a hurry to get away. He tried to ignore him. Job grabbed his arm, Dewey pulled away.’
‘Like, what I got is something you won’t ever have to worry again.’
Dewey was down to a couple bites glancing at Solieri who was staring down at Seth with a contemptuous glare.
Seth leaned over whispering into Dewey’s ear: ‘I got a couple high tension reefers in my pocket. Let’s go up to my place and ingest ’em. My old lady and her girl friend are waiting. Come on, man, let’s go, you ain’t got nothing better to do.’
‘You’re right I don’t have anything better to do but I gotta go to work.’ Dewey said, washing down his last bite with a slug of coffee. ‘Late already. Gotta go.’ He waved to Solieri.
‘Hey man, don’t be square, be cool like me.’ Job yelled.
‘I’m too cool to fool pal. See ya around.’
Dewey’s shadow had disappeared as Dewey emerged into the street. The Captain’s rather far fetched plan had been to give Dewey the two numbers and let him into an apartment where a naked eight year old boy waited. The police would burst in immediately leaving Dewey with a lot of fast talking to do.
As Dewey hurried back he passed a drug store with one of those columns of mirrors on all four sides. A sullen, morbid face met his. He started back in disgust then realized that he was looking at his own reflection.
He was quite startled because for a moment he had seen the image that he was projecting to others. His conscious image of himself was nowhere apparent. Instead the face that he had been given by his tormentors stared back at him. Seth had activiated the morbid loathing of Dewey’s subconscious self. Of the two Dewey’s, the worst, was what people were seeing, the bright cheerful Dewey was not visible.
Trying not to be conspicuous Dewey took a moment to brighten up his countenance and tried to stroll back nonchalantly rather then aggressively marching.
Rather than going out as promised Darby dinked the afternoon away then told Dewey to meet him the next morning at his house in Berkeley.
The Medium Is The Message
And The Mediator Is Its Prophet
Dewey got up on the San Rafael Bridge for the drive to Berkeley and his appointment with Darby Ramme. The sight of himself in the mirror on the previous day had had an unsettling effect on himself. He knew the poisons that had entered his mind from childhood. He knew how potent they were and he knew where they came from but he couldn’t identify the fixation of his life hidden behind a massive wall of fear.
Dewey was aware that his actions were controlled from his subconscious. He was perpetually at war with himself trying to impose his conscious rational goals on his subconscious opinion of himself; an opinion that had been imposed on him from outside evil forces. In the terms of hypnosis, the suggestions given him. The evil force of ill-wishers and his mother.
The evil forces had inundated his youthful consciousness. He had been too young to reject or manage their influence. He had been trying to break free since he left home at eighteen and realized the hole he had been placed in. He had actually made wonderful progress but he had begun from such a low level that his progress was scarcely discernible to himself, let alone others.
Dewey had never sought professional help but he had taken to reading various tracts of Freud. His understanding of Freud was that the individual himself was sick, that is, that the pathology came from within. It seemed that Freud believed that the individual was responsible for his own malaise. Dewey didn’t think that was necessarily so. This was tantamount in his mind to saying that a small fish gulped down by a larger fish had the fish eating disease. To Dewey this ignored the Field itself as well as the fact that the smaller fish obviously was not prepared to face the dangers inherent in the Field. Properly informed the smaller fish would have been able to avoid the larger fish. No, Dewey knew he was an innocent man. He knew that he was responding to something that had been done to him but he didn’t know what.
He had come to terms with his mother’s contribution to his malaise. As far as he knew there was nothing in their relationship subconsciously concealed. He did not love or respect her. He considered that the crimes she had committed against him were the result of ignorance. She just wasn’t a responsible mother, not every woman can be. All women have the physical apparatus to become mothers but not all women have the emotional requirements to actually mother a child. As someone put it: Some girls just want to have fun. That had been Dewey’s mother.
She had been a silly woman. She had never understood the worthlessness of men. Rather than devote herself to her two sons who should have been her treasures she was always willing to sacrifice their interests for men who had no respect for her. Miserable luck to have gotten her, Dewey thought, but the luck of the draw.
Of the two influences he was most concerned with those who had given him his face and his body language. He had somehow to eliminate their influence. He could not, under any circumstances, allow them to triumph over him by accepting the character they had tried to impose. Unable to free up his subconscious he could only resort to Emile Coue’s autosuggestion. Suggest to yourself a course of behavior and then let your mind bring your actions in line with your wishes.
As he pulled up in front of Darby’s house he was a little disappointed. The Bay Area, especially Berkeley, was filled with romantic, quaint, secluded houses and apartments. Dewey’s flat in Larkspur was one such, nestled against the hillside of Mt. Tamalpais. Darby lived on one of the those straight avenues well West of the California campus.
The street was all rentals, filled either with students or the innumerable campus hangers on. Darby was in the latter class. Unable to accept the consequences of his graduation and the disappointment of his first job Darby had retreated to the security of the college atmosphere where he had done so well and found so much contentment and happiness. In so many words, he had retreated to the security of the womb.
Luckily there was a parking space right in front of the house. Dewey eased his big ’56 two tone green Chrysler into the space. The used car salesman had had a field day with him.
Dewey often wondered why he had bought the car, other than that he needed a car, of course. It didn’t seem to represent him at all. It might have been that he had been a push over for the salesman but, no, he had been drawn to the car. Consciously he would have chose a ’56 Chevy, he really did love the ’56 designs. The ’56 Chevy was a fantastically good looking car. He had always loved the extravagant two tone coloring of the year. The Chrysler had a light green top with a dark green body. Like all the cars of that year it had enormous fins. Perhaps that was it. The Chrysler had fins that swelled up from the body like the belly of a reclining woman from the Mound of Venus. An additional echo of the motif was repeated in a quiet reverberation contained within the two strips of chrome. The light green of this strip across the dark green of the body was enclosed in a graceful swell of chrome strips repeating the swell of the fin of the fender. Perhaps Dewey had been seduced into buying a sexy car.
Not least of the subconscious appeal had been the Chrysler ads of those years in which a busty woman opened the driver’s side door and thrust her enormous breasts into the viewer’s face. The ads had certainly gotten the attention of the male population of the country. Anyway the car was a good buy; it had never given him any trouble.
Darby let him into the house. The place was done up in admirable minimalist taste. Not what Dewey had expected. Maybe there was something in the location of the place he didn’t know about. On a table sat a bowl with what looked like a couple dozen aspirin tablets in it, blue on one side.
‘What are those?’ Dewey asked curiously thinking that they couldn’t be candy.
‘Oh, you can have one if you want.’ Darby said with a mischievious smile.
Darby’s wife, Selene, bustled busily into the room. She was a very attractive tall slender woman. She had a very superior attitude as they all did.
After introducing them Darby said mysteriously: ‘See. Didn’t I tell you so.’
Selene muttered something, then banged out the door.
Dewey and Darby followed. The company had given Darby a ’64 Chevy to drive.
‘Is that your car?’ Darby said pointing to the Chrysler. I wouldn’t have thought it.’ He said to Dewey’s reply.
‘I wouldn’t have either.’ Dewey replied, himself mystified by his choice. As he spoke an image of a laughing big busted woman thrusting her bosom from behind the wheel flashed through his mind. The ad had apparently imprinted itself on Dewey’s mind because he would buy Chrysler products the rest of his life as the image flashed across his mind.
‘I’m from Chevy country,’ Dewey continued, nevertheless looking at Darby’s Chevy disapprovingly, ‘back there they’d string you up for buying anything else. I hated them.’
Obviously there was a conflict in Dewey’s mind. the mind is a funny place to live. The pain of growing up back in Chevy country had contributed to his rejection of General Motors’ cars. He always felt vaguely uncomfortable in them. He sought to remove himself from his past by rejecting Chevys, even though he thought fifties Chevys the best looking cars on the road. But, heck, Louis Chevrolet couldn’t even pronounce his name right. He said: Louie Chevrolay.
As they headed into the tunnel from Alameda County to Contra Costa County Dewey remembered the pills in the bowl.
‘How come you keep aspirin in a bowl in your living room.’ He asked bluntly.
Darby smiled enigmatically: ‘Oh, those weren’t just aspirin.’ He tried to change the subject but Dewey brought him back.
‘Well, Dewey, there’s a lot happening in the world these days and, well, I think it’s just beyond you.’
‘Oh yeah? Well, you offered me one and if I’d taken it, it wouldn’t be beyond me now, would it?’
‘I suppose not.’
‘It’s gotta be some kind of pill, what is it?’
‘Lysergic acid diethymalide.’
‘Oh, that’s all. LSD?’
‘You’ve taken it?’ Darby asked incredulously.
Darby thought he was on the cutting edge. Even though LSD had been relatively common for at least ten years by 1964, (It was actually isolated in 1938) the academic crowd seemed to believe it had just been discovered. Dewey now understood at least one of the reasons Darby and his wife believed themselves so superior. While the Beatniks and Hippies were wallowing in the stuff the college elites treated LSD like a sacrament. Having once taken it they invariably thought they had been raised above and cut off from the rest of humanity- a new chosen people. They were amusing to watch if you knew what was happening.
Darby had gotten his tabs from a psych major, or rather his wife had, who was involved with the experimental program at U.C.. Stanford and Berkeley as well has Harvard had extensive government funding to test the psychological effects of the various pharmaceutical drugs for military applications. Timothy Leary had been a wild card at Harvard who the system had not been able to control. Media attention had blown his situation out of all proportion. It turned that he was only the fall guy.
‘No, I’ve never taken it. I don’t believe in drugs.’ Dewey said.
‘How could you possibly know about LSD then.’ Darby asked in wonder.
‘What do you mean how could I know about it. I read TIME magazine for Christ’s sake. How In do you have to be to do that? They’ve had big write ups of the Leary guy at Harvard. How secret can it be?’
Darby’s pride of place insulated him from what he considered the lower classes. There was no reason for him to be surprised at Dewey’s knowledge. ‘You know about Leary, too?’
‘Well, Darby, none of this stuff is new. I wrote an essay on drugs in high school that included a reference to LSD and that was in 1955. I mean Peyote buttons…’
‘How do you know about Peyote?’ The manner in which Darby emphasized ‘you’ offended Dewey.
‘Well, Jesus, Darby, I was in the Navy.’
What’s being in the Navy got to do with it?’
‘Jeez, Darby, there were guys into everything. We had it all- morphine, heroin, speed, peyote buttons, all kinds of little pills that I couldn’t even identify. I mean, one time I was hitchhiking down on 101 outside San Diego and this Marine from Camp Pendleton picked me up loaded on all kinds of things that he freely offered me. I refused it, of course. For Christ’s sake we even had to stop for road blocks between San Diego and LA where they were checking for marijuana smugglers from Mexico. You should have seen it. A couple cars even jumped the meridian, turned around and went the other way. What did they have in their cars, I wonder?
So, anyway, this Jarhead is telling me about all the drugs they’re using at Pendleton. He named a whole bunch of stuff, maybe LSD was in it, but he’s telling me about this guy at camp who ingested a whole bunch of Peyote buttons and got way up there, as he said. Well, the guy thought that was pretty alright so the next time he ingested twice as many. The driver turns to me with a smile and says: ‘He’s still up there, he hasn’t come down yet. Maybe he doesn’t want to.’ Good story, huh?
The driver himself was loaded. 101 was bumper to bumper, wall to wall that day and this guy is cool and relaxed, he’s just slipping back and forth from lane to lane trying to inch ahead a little faster. He’s slipping into gaps no bigger than his car. Everybody on the freeway is staring at us open mouthed. So, I am, quite seriously, a nervous wreck. I can see myself a corpse by the side of the highway. I’m hoping they say something kind in the note they sent to Mom.
He looks at me with a very benign smile and says: ‘What’s the matter? Why are you so nervous?’
I mean, while he’s looking at me to the right, he slips into a car length gap in the left lane. Am I nervous? I am terrified. So he reaches into his pocket and hands me a black triangular pill.
‘Here, take this,’ he says, ‘you’ll feel better.’
‘Well, I don’t take it. The guy was crazy anyhow. Well, but that’s another story. But, we had this guy, I used to ride with him up to the Bay Area alot. He had a car. He lived in Marin, still does apparently, I saw him, believe it or not, the other day. He was still loaded. This guy was a heroin addict, a morphine addict, plus he took everything else there was to take. Didn’t interfere with his functioning at all. I’d have been dead.
I mean, this guy could probably have saved Leary hours of research on LSD or anything else. He probably tripped from here to the moon before Leary ever heard of LSD. So, I mean, this stuff is new?’
Darby was stunned at this difference between the street and the academy.
‘How come you haven’t taken it? It’s awe inspiring. You can see God. It’s a tremendous religious experience, a sacrament.’
‘Aw, really? Well, if that’s what you saw, that’s what you saw. Here’s the catch, there isn’t any God to see. If you saw him, he was of your own devize. All you’ll do is mess up your own mind. You can’t get out of it what isn’t in it, and you can’t put anything in it with a pill. So, the way I see it you have to organize what’s in it, if you can, then add only the information that’s going to be the most beneficial, if you can, but that’s hard work.’
‘You don’t think you can expand your consciousness with drugs?’
‘No. I don’t even know how you can expand your consciousness, whatever that means, unless you mean by adding experience you broaden your understanding. The only other thing you can hope to do is absorb your subconscious into your conscious; that is to strip away the debris hiding your subconscious motivations from your conscious mind. Thus instead of being of two minds, you become of one mind. Beyond that I don’t there’s anything. Period.’
Darby had never heard anyone talk this way. The ‘greatest minds’ of his generation were sold on the efficacy of drugs.
‘Have you ever tried any drugs?’ Darby asked caustiously.
‘I had something called Nembutal last year when I had a couple wisdom teeth pulled out. Shouldn’t have done it.’
‘No. I mean the wisdom teeth. There wasn’t anything wrong with them. All I did was gratify a dentist’s greed. Hmmm. The Nembutal. No, it wasn’t a bad trip for me. I might have been for the other patients in the office though. How so? Well, man, all my inhibitions went out the window. I became totally self-centered. I didn’t respect any social conventions. I was just looking through people, bobbing and weaving, telling them what was on their minds, explaining them to themselves. No data, I just knew. No, I didn’t have a bad trip; I really enjoyed myself, you know, but there wasn’t anything there, no reason to go back, you know what I mean. You ever read ‘Troubled Sleep?’
Darby pulled up in front of a house in Concord. One can only imagine the effect on a housewife when a new white Chevy pulls up and two guys in suits get out holding clipboards and gesticulating toward the house. It’s amazing that anyone opens the door just because there’s a knock on it.
Darby’s style was magnificent. He exuded warmth and compassion while keeping the edge of a threat in the background. He chatted the woman up with a style Dewey envied. He explained that there was no problem with Lowell, Smith and Evers that the payment of the rent couldn’t cure. He inquired about her and her husband’s financial condition. Oddly enough she told in some detail. He was affability itself. Then he admonished her to get the payment in and bid her a cheery adieu.
Dewey was astounded. He couldn’t believe this was the same guy. Suddenly Dewey realized how uptight he himself really was. He couldn’t even relax his vocal chords; he barely opened his mouth to speak, releasing his words through clenched teeth. A wave of admiration rushed from him to Darby. He would have given his other two wisdom teeth to be so affable.
‘Wow. That was terrific.’ He said admiringly.
‘Thank-you.’ Darby said with sincerely felt complacency.
‘You’ve got to know how to talk to these deadbeats.’ He said with the self-satisfaction of innate superiority.
‘Boy, I’ll say. I don’t know if I can do it like that.’
‘Oh, you may be able to learn. Just watch me.’
Darby, to put it on the positive side moved deliberately. On the negative side, as Dewey saw it, he wasted a lot of time. For the whole morning they only made three calls. Nor did Darby move systematically or in a straight line. He seemed to have some mystical way of selecting a card, shuffling though his deck until the right one popped out somehow. While engaged in this he was lost in absorption. Dewey sat silently observing him.
After having driven all over Contra Costa to make the three calls it was time for lunch.
‘Why don’t we get a sandwich and drive to the top of Mt. Diablo and enjoy it there?’ Darby asked with the amiability with which he approached ‘deadbeats.’
‘You mean go all the way up Diablo to eat lunch?’ Dewey asked incredulously.
‘Sure, Dewey. Great view. You’ll love it.’
As Dewey was to learn Darby knew how to make his days as delightful as possible. He knew the most interesting way everywhere. He found rusticity in the midst of the concrete Californians love so well; even the concrete took on rustic dimensions when Darby drove through it. He didn’t even have to point it out to Dewey; it just appeared. Darby’s whole day was a magic carpet ride; he was just relaxed and paying atttention. Compared to him Dewey felt as tightly wound as a baseball without a cover.
Darby drove ten miles to seek out a little deli he had found somewhere in the depths of Concord. The place was charming, the people were terrific and the sandwiches were unbelievable. As they walked out Dewey looked back to see nothing that would distinguish the shop. All he saw was another sandwich shop in another shopping strip. As he sat in the car he studied the shop trying to see what Darby obviously saw. He couldn’t see it.
He studied Darby in a new light as they wound their way up Diablo. Locating what was apparently his favorite spot, Darby eased the Chevy into a parking space and they sat gazing out over Contra Costa County to the North.
Diablo is a low mountain rising alone in the middle of Contra Costa. The county begins in the Oakland hills in the West, bordering the Bay in the North and against the San Joaquin River on the East. From the relatively lush hills of Walnut Creek it turns into the hot burning desert of Byron. It was all laid out before them.
As this was in January the weather outside was frightful but inside the car the radiation from the sun through the windows made it warm and cozy. Darby was in to the mood to impart lore and instruction.
From the look on Darby’s face he might as well have been in heaven. Smiling is not the right word. He, beaming beatifically, so at peace with the world that the notion of unpleasantness didn’t exist for him. The notion that he was high on LSD didn’t occur to Dewey, but Darby was. Dewey just thought that he had to learn this attitude.
Despite his beatific appearance he began the conversation with a ‘deadbeat’ story. ‘Very few of these deadbeats have a college education. They’re ignorant people. They don’t think. Some of the things we’ve come across are scarcely believable. There was this fellow in Sacramento. Never paid. He let it go to the max every time then caught up. By max I mean the full six months. Finally he slipped past the limit and we got to foreclose on him. Naturally he just abandoned the house. I’m surprised how many people will do that. Instead of selling the house, which in nearly every case has appreciated a little, they just walk away. Not very intelligent. You wouldn’t believe what this guy did, except that it’s me telling you. His garage was connected to the house and in order to save money, I suppose, he just opened the kitchen door and chucked the garbage into the garage. Garbage was piled higher than your head. The entire garage was full. Gosh, there were rats as big as beavers. It cost several hundreds of dollars to haul the stuff away. You wouldn’t believe how some of these people live.’
‘Jeez, I guess I’m about to find out.’
‘Uh hum, you sure are. Now, listen Dewey.’ Darby said in his warm patronizing tone. ‘We’ll get your car to you tomorrow morning, so take the bus to the office. One good thing about this job is that, if you’re careful, you’ll never have to buy your own gas. You can buy gas anytime during the week with no problem. But never buy on the company credit car on the weekends. Always fill up the last thing Friday night wherever you’re working and then the first thing on Monday morning. You’ve got to do it this way or you’ll ruin it for all of us. If they ever say anything just shrug your shoulders and pretend not to understand.
One other thing. Once a year you have to go down to Fresno and again up to Ukiah. You have to stay overnight.’
‘Oh no.’ Interjected Dewey. ‘I can leave early in the morning and make it back by night. Neither of those places are that far.’
‘No. No. You’re not listening to me. You have to pay at least fifteen dollars for your room. My first time, with my love of the extraordinary I searched out this place in an old mill by a stream outside Ukiah. They only wanted a dollar and a half. I split the difference with them up to fifteen dollars. You can’t ruin it for the rest of us; you have to do these things this way or else.’
‘Yeah. Yeah. OK. How did you find the mill for a dollar and a half? That sounds wonderful, sound of water running by and all. Did someone tell you about it?’
‘Oh, uh uh. When you get to know me, Dewey, you’ll find that I have a real nose for the picturesque. We better get going now. Did you enjoy your lunch?’
‘Oh yeah, Darby. This was terrific.’
‘Too bad you don’t have a degree. Stanford was terrific.’
‘Been on the campus. Liked it a lot myself.’ Dewey replied, as they wound back down Diablo after an hour and half lunch.
‘That’s one of the good things about the job you can set your own pace.’
They made three more calls that afternoon. At four Darby turned the car homeward.
‘You’re off work at five o’ clock so always leave early enough so that you’re in your driveway by five.’
‘Not so bad.’ Thought Dewey. ‘You don’t have to knock on doors before ten and you’re back home at five. An hour and half lunch. I might be able to dig this.’
Quite unaware of himself Darby had become a role model for Dewey.