You Don’t Miss Them Til They’re Gone

I poked my eye
By trying to squeeze the
last donut
out of it’s cellophane cylinder
while driving
on the freeway.

The donut wouldn’t come out.
So I shook the cylinder and
rattled it and tilted it and
squeezed it.
Until the waxed cardboard
which had been inserted for
package rigidity I’m sure
went right into my eye.

And I howled and dropped
the donut pack
and the last donut fell
to the mat right around the
accelerator
and my eye was on fire.

For the rest of the day.

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vacuum

When we were dismissed from elementary school, many of us would leave through the back end of the playground where a dirt path established by a big earth mover gave way to a field which had three characteristics:

  • It caught fire every year and we were only to blame one or two of the years.
  • It was posted as an arboretum by some community agency, yet there were no trees to speak of, just huge ruts and dirt clods and tall weeds which (see above)
  • It adjoined the back field of our house and the Wells’ house, with an easement running down the two property lines lined by chain link fence: The Path

We could, since our field met the school field, skip the path and go home through the back gate, but we often wanted to linger along the path with our friends. This allowed us to spectate any fights that had been called out earlier in the day, trade the secrets children cultivate, claim to have read and completely understood page 28 of Mario Puzo’s forbidden novel The Godfather, arrange horse rides, sleep overs and make fun of Russell Wells’ shoes.

This was 1972. A couple years prior, my mom had distinguished herself at the local high school where my older brother and sister attended by establishing a drug clinic on campus that specialized in pro active education programs and recovery resources. Part of her research on this project involved massive deconstruction of youth culture, usually in the living room with my older brother and sister, plus the posse of their friends thrown from their parents’ homes and welcomed into ours, throwing platter after platter of pop music onto the magnavox and explaining lyrics, context, and, more often than not, just holding silent while ears filled with the sound of American psychedelia: swirly distortion pedal phase shifting mind curling music of the Doors, Vanilla Fudge and Iron Butterfly.

Iron Butterfly was sending pop radio into a crisis with it’s tremendously long and tremendously successful track: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, clocking in at 17:05 (a whole side of proper vinyl). After my sibs had abandoned it for Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears, my mom kept returning to this album and developing a monumental thesis about the work and its cultural significance, all the while enjoying, with a pure soul, the title track’s musicality. Listen! she would say. Listen to the arrangement! We’d listen,
and nod in complete agreement. She’d jump up and crank the magnavox to baffling point. Yes, mom. Turn it up as loud as it will go. That’s how it’s supposed to be heard. You can hear the arrangement! she’d shout. Listen to that! We were completely into it. The music was big enough for everyone, then: little kids, middle kids, scary teens starting over on methadone, and moms. All comers. All ears.

But as we walked The Path that day, a vibration that started right about the end of school property began to swell and articulate. It became rhythm right about the point where our old barn foundation was, and was definitely rock and roll by the time we passed the in-law apartment off the back of the garage. We all fell silent and turned our eyes to the main house at the end of The Path, spilling onto the blacktopped street. Iron Butterfly, my brother correctly identified. You could see the chorus pulsing in the plate glass windows. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, he completed, sullenly.

Ummmm, said Bradley Hart. When your mom hears that she’s gonna be mad. Oh yes, we agreed, quite angry, god save us, but we had to go at once.

The O’Kane children hopped the fence and streamed into the house, running for the magnavox and pouncing on it, snapping the volume off and whirling to face Mom, who looked up from her vacuuming with a look of disbelief. Turn that thing down, we shouted at her, hands on our hips. You’re
embarrassing us!

She explained: This is vacuuming music. I have to turn it up in order to
hear it over the vacuum.

This made quite a bit of sense. We put the record back on. We cranked it all the way up. We positioned the arm up on the turntable to insure infinite replay. The vacuum started up once more and my mom flashed an OK signal. Then we fled the house for the back yard, pretending we couldn’t hear the commotion, but falling into step with the beat during our play. Contagious. Big enough for everyone.

Church of the Wholly Sacred Billy Idol Cigarettes

A man I truly admire maintained the Church of the Wholly Sacred at Burning Man this year. It was a beautiful rectiliniear orange tent out the West gate of Central Camp, separate from its neighbors with four cardinal carpets leading to it. Inside, Black Rock citizens had installed objects of temporary, permanent, personal and global holiness. It was alarmingly quiet, moving, and effective.

The Maintainer mentioned that he only recently went through a box of altar offerings, assuming most of it was highly personal garbage until he spotted a small bundle wrapped in paper: a hindu deity, maybe, a medicine bundle.

I’m always dying to know what other people do in those tiny, private, sacred places. But was it appropriate to pry? would it offend the person who made it? Would it offend the deity(ies) it was made for? Naturally, I tore it open.
The Maintainer

Come to find out the bundle contained a small green bud. This knocked me out utterly. I was expecting to be told it contained a lock of hair, two subway tokens, a crinkly polaroid of a really good looking lover, and a bazooka joe comic. But no.

It was simply Found Bud.

This Story of Found Bud was such a relief to me. I had been carrying around my own Story of Found Bud and was really tired of it. It had none of this karmic richness,and involved stealing Billy Idol’s cigarettes. The Maintainer urged me to tell it anyway. To make room for the new Story of Found Bud, here’s the old Story of Found Bud:


It’s true: My wicked pal Brian Hanna was working at a restaurant (of course!) in the Village… Grove Restaurant, maybe, one of hundreds B. has turned upside down with his particular form of Waiter Patter. This time he espied Billy Idol in his domain, and served Billy and his mother a particularly glum meal. At this point in the story Brian goes on about everything Billy Idol and his mother talked about. I can’t remember it. I don’t have to. I just like the *idea* of Billy Idol going out to dinner with his Mom. Brings every thing right on home.

So Brian is really good at copping things, and especially things right out from under people’s noses. Palming Billy’s cigarettes (Marlboro Lights) was no big deal, even while Billy sat there patiently waiting for the regulations to change so he could smoke them.

Then two months pass and Brian comes to California for a visit and ends up in my studio apartment in the Heroin Subdivision of Downtown Sacramento. I was working at the time, but really available because I was on jury duty and was being ejected from every panel I was randomly placed on. The only thing I remember saying consistently to lawyers was: I think drugs are more of a health problem than a criminal justice problem. I digress.

Brian gave me the Billy Idol cigarettes as a hostess appreciation gift for all the good times I was showing him in Sacramento, California. We were dizzy with excitement. Before placing the Billy Idol Cigarettes into the House Shrine, I peered in to take inventory: two Marlboro Lights and a pencil thin bone that Brian was convinced was dangerous and lethal, because Billy was acting *very* strangely the night the cigs were lifted. Who knows? we kept asking. Is it more or less likely that Billy would carry around PCP in his ciggie box? Could Billy afford the good stuff or was this some trashy shake he picked up on his way through the park? Was the fact Billy Idol *owned* the drug an *endorsement* or a *big red flag*?

We forgot about it within the hour.

About a month later I went camping at Some State Park with my other wicked pal Juliet Musso. Right before we headed out, we scanned the studio in Heroin Subdivision and decided to bring Billy Idol’s cigarettes, just in case we wanted to have a smoke once we were in the great outdoors. Eventually we felt like smoking and smoked the Marlboro Lights, marvelling at how stale they were. Then we stared at the bone for about half a day before deciding against it.

Finally my not wicked pal Phil Dyer came round and smoked it during lunch hour in a single toke. Like I said, it was thin, and Phil was one of those himalayan lung-guys. It had absolutely no effect on him, yet he was very polite about it.

Brian found out we had consumed the Billy Idol Cigarettes, downed the bone and thrown away the box and became a little furious. It was a *trophy*, not a *dare*.

Fire that sacred object up. Easy come easy go.