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 Part V - Part I

9-17-11 - Real Cream in Rio - Part Six

Pat and I took a taxi from the airport to Chalupus Y Pollo, the Mexico City restaurant where, on my way to Brazil, I'd met with my buddy, Leonel Lopez, Leonel who wanted to meet his father. Rain was cleaning up the smoggy air of the mile high semi-tropical city. I liked it there, was sorry we were flying out that eve, but knew I'd be back in a few weeks for the next quarter at the University of the Americas.

Images of the year spent there parade through my mind. Jeff and me debussing at Laredo and training it to Monterrey where I inquired about a boy I'd known one summer at Blue Mt. Ranch in Colorado when I was ten. His name was Roberto Sada. Back then Monterrey had almost a million people but the first I asked knew just who he was. The Sadas, I was told, were the wealthiest and most prominent family in the city. This was corroborated twenty years later by my dear departed friend, the SF Zen Center's resident Mexican gambler priest from Monterrey, Idileo Ciniceros. Roberto was to return the next day from a hunting trip. We got our own rooms. His mother was involved with the Baptist church and friendly. So was their pet cheetah which penned me down in its ample cage with no one near and looked me in the eye before finally letting me go vowing never to play with a cheetah again. We got a tour of their bottling plant from an employee who drove us into the rugged countryside and showed us a stone home occupied by a writer. Roberto returned and was sad. A friend had died from a rattlesnake bite on the hunting expedition. Roberto took me flying (I guess Jeff didn't want to go), choosing the smallest of the three planes at their private hanger. He went way back into the mountains and buzzed a little village so close to the ground that I remember a man hopping off his burro.

I'd had a crush on Roberto's cousin Robin who had gone to the neighboring girls camp. She'd sent me a note to meet her by a tree outside where we were dancing. She'd thrown me a ring from their bus when they departed and I couldn't find it in the gravel. I was eager to see her again. We met next door in her father's trophy room with high up stuffed heads of a lion, gazelle, and other African trophies. Was there an elephant? I was sad for the animals but happy to see her. She said she didn't remember me and was busy.

San Miguel de Allende, picturesque little town in the state of Guanajuato, lots of foreigners. Jeff and I had our own bungalow with two beds and kitchen. We met hipsters with long hair and stories of Beatniks, Greenwich Village, and San Francisco. We smoked marijuana. My 2nd time - first was with Sarah in San Antonia a week or so before. This stuff did it. It was great. I loved it. I read Buddha's Law Among the Birds, one of the very first Buddhist books I'd read. There were people who had ideas about enlightenment and life far beyond the square fare offered us on the established path. There was a guy who had been the source for LSD but he'd had a terrifying trip and flushed it all down the toilet so there was none to try. I took speed one night and stayed up cackling and writing slogans on cards which covered the walls by morning. I'd love to get hold of them - they were all nonsense of what seemed to me at the time to be a higher order of mirth. Jeff thought I had gone completely crazy which was a sort of goal I'd been working up toward. One of our hip friends came by and shook his head as I rolled on the floor, unable to stand and read the zany messages.

My crazy was happy crazy. Jeff's was miserable, existential, poetically beat crazy,  a romantic insanity which bordered on the dread psychosis of the horrors which he spoke of with foreboding. I'd met him in Dallas and had hung with him and his similarly minded friends who spoke of mental institutions and wine, Kerouac and Sartre. I loved Jeff. He was smart, gentle, steered me toward the path I sought while he tended toward paranoia. One day he was blubbering about how worthless he was, how he wanted to take every word he'd ever said and cram it back into his mouth, how everyone hated him. I teased him, saying no one hated him, that he was just making all this up. It was his little drama that gave his life meaning. I left him there groaning and mumbling "everyone hates me" and went to visit the nice woman with her nine year old daughter next door. She told me about a new night club that was opening that night. She was looking forward to hearing the piano player. Jeff and I had met the piano player. He was flamboyant, older, dressed in white, took us to his apartment to show us his record collection which was rather disappointing - all Broadway musicals and wedding music - not at all as he'd described it. He kept plying us with alcohol and making us uncomfortable.

I asked the woman's daughter if she'd like to play a game. We went up to the door of the place where Jeff and I stayed and I knocked on it. Jeff answered, stood there groaning, not diminishing his tragic drama one bit for the little girl who stood before him. He looked at her. "I hate you," she said, perfectly reciting the line I'd fed her, and she walked off. I fell over laughing. Jeff groaned loudly like an old man and fell back on the bed saying he was on the verge of getting the horrors. I ran in and jumped up and down on the bed and demanded he come outside and walk around and enjoy the glorious day and later go to the opening of the nightclub.

We did that - with the woman next door who was dressed up. Jeff's groaning had diminished. Everyone we'd met was there, the hip and straight, the old-timers and newcomers. The piano player proudly walked up to the piano and started to play. I grew up around piano playing but one didn't have to have done so to immediately wonder how he had applied for this job, how he'd gotten it. It was shocking. He couldn't get through one song. It was like some clanging off-key joke. I couldn't stay - it was too painful. And he'd been going around town all week bragging about how he was going to be playing that night. The next day he was on the streets with both hands wrapped in giant bandages and he said he'd broken them. I marveled at him. He'd gone straight into humiliation willingly in order to have a brief period of  pretentious fame before the fact when others could join with him in his fantasy that he could fluidly dash off Gershwin and Porter.

A caravan of like a hundred silver airstreams came to town and we followed their stream into the soccer stadium where they parked. As the crowds came walking toward the plaza, Jeff and I ran at them (I had to force him to do this, told him it would be good therapy), ran at them screaming, "Run! Run! The poisonous butterflies are coming!" over and over. We didn't convince anyone.

There were a couple of gay guys before the word gay was used like that in one of the bungalows whom I'd spent time talking to. They were both poets. One was a professor at UC Berkeley (or somewhere) and he introduced me to the poetry of Robinson Jeffers. I read one poem called Hands which began:

Inside a cave in a narrow canyon near Tassajara
The vault of rock is painted with hands,

One day I came back from visiting a bearded guy who told me about getting high on opium and how it was okay to steal books from City Lights in San Francisco, that they let you do it, and found my two literary friends walking Jeff around in the courtyard. He was shaking and sobbing and told me he'd had the horrors.

After a month we left for Mexico City. Maybe we hitchhiked. Maybe a bus. I remember we got stuck in a little village one night and went to a bar where they were serving pulque to poor farmers and laborers. It was white, made from the sap of the maguey plant, an acquired taste for sure, but we drank it. A farmer took us home and gave us his bed. He and his wife slept with their nine children and fed us a big breakfast the next day.

Jeff was with me for a while in Mexico City, long enough to show me around, but I was soon alone. I remember taking four Dexedrine pills at four in the morning hoping they'd awaken me early to get to the school for registration. Four hours later I woke like a speeding train. The school got me a room in a home with a retired bullfighter, Miguel Angel. There were posters of him in costume in the home. He was an alcoholic. I remember studying for a final while he was suffering from the DTs. I sat by his bed holding a bottle up from which fluid flowed down into his arm. It was on one of those rolling stainless stands you see in hospitals but if no one was there he'd tend to knock it over and get unplugged.

A professor at the school was said to have been one of the kids in the wonderful Our Gang (Little Rascals) shorts. Anthropology and Spanish were my favorite subjects. The logic professor was a sad and boring chain-smoker - lighting one from another through the whole class. Right away I teamed up with two guys from New York City with the long hair, Ronny and Kenny, and soon we were getting stoned on grass all the time - and taking Romilar now and then which with grass made the most insane, disorienting high.

I was only going to school at all to avoid being drafted. A year before I'd dropped out of the college I'd briefly attended in Texas. This college was known to take just about anyone who had the money and that was me. There was a guy at school who'd been in Vietnam fighting, an advisor to the Vietnamese soldiers there but he said he did more than advise. He said that when you're in the jungle and they start shooting at you and you can't see them for all the foliage,  that the best thing to do is to charge them shooting back. He said that there's nothing better than having another man in the sights of your rifle. He made the war in Vietnam more real to me and my opposition to it stronger.

My first real going all the way lover Sarah in San Antonio on the way to Mexico had a friend in Mexico City, the daughter of the Italian Ambassador maybe, Alba, who, like Sarah, was ten years older and wild. At Alba's suggestion  I brought another guy along, one who'd marched into Havana with Castro. He was for her friend, me for her. We listened to flamenco guitar and ate higher class food than I was used to and went to bars where people were dressed up. She wanted to see me again. But I wasn't interested in being a playboy. I just wanted to get back to my friends, our discussions of the utopia to come, and the new dimensions brought to us by the glories of pot.

I'd smoke pot by myself in a dark room and meditate, receive revelation - I found it was good for masturbation too. One night I spent stoned and seeking the self. I thought I'd found it in a spark of light. And then there was speed. I'd buy a bottle of Dexedrine at a farmacia and take a couple, drink a cup of coffee for the synergistic effect, and start walking and I'd walk all over town for days meeting business men, artists, taxi drivers, bums, going to brothels where I'd end up playing the guitar and go off with someone else, wind up with no money ten miles from home. It never mattered. I always got back. The Dex was bad for me though. And habit forming. It hurt my complexion and I got a boil on each temple. Had one of them removed in BA.

One result of the Dex I took is that I wrote a lot - like fifty pages in a day. I'd mainly write letters to my mother. I wonder what I said. Explaining my insights and wanderings I guess. Good lord. She saved them all. They're in my room in Fort Worth or maybe in a big box I've got labeled Early Writings. The poor woman. What did she think? She'd say she was sure I was on a good path overall and believed fatalistically that a promising future awaited me. She was certainly tolerant and optimistic.

One day in Mexico City the curtains started to sway which puzzled me till the building started to creak and jerk. It was an earthquake. There aren't many tall buildings in Mexico City because of the slippery faults. I'd heard the tallest one was built on a ship-like foundation below the surface. Mexico City was said to have been built on a lake and the ground wasn't so solid. On the elevator to the top of said building I met an interesting man named Mac Edward Canipe. He was from Virginia Beach where the Edgar Casey foundation is. I knew about that from my mother. Mac was interesting. He was looking for a place. That was when I was living with the family of the retired matador. Mac got a room there. He had been a test subject for tranquilizers as a kid because he was so hyper. He'd lived in the People's Republic of China when it was still closed. Got married there. Finally they kicked him out - I think. He borrowed five books and returned them  the next day. I asked why he decided not to read them and he said he'd read them all. Did you skim them? Nope, read every word. Do you remember much? I remember everything, he said - what I want to and what I don't want to. He told me he'd enjoyed homosexual sex and asked if I was interested. I declined as I had to a few other men in town I'd met walking around, but I offered him some pot. He'd never smoked it. He loved it.

One thing my friends and I used to do when we were stoned was to try to fool others with outlandish stories. I said something about vampires and Mac laughed and I said, well there are vampires, matter of factly, and he said, don't be silly, and I said with dead seriousness that I'd had a vampire as a college roommate and spun some tale that got him all spooked. The next night we got stoned again. This stuff was strong and I wasn't smoking all the time so it got to me. Mac said he had something to tell me. He wasn't human, he was an alien in human form here to do some reconnaissance. Beings from his planet had planted intelligent life here on earth long ago. They need an enzyme we produce in our frontal lobes he said. When the population of the planets they plant thus get optimum or when they look like they're going to destroy themselves, they are harvested. We were ripe for harvest. Harvest was to be the next day. He would save me. I could go with them back to his planet. Only me. I believed him. It would be a shame to never see my friends and family again but there was nothing I could do about it. Sorry mom. Finally I realized that he had tripped me out. Touché. My friends and family had longer to live. Wonder what happened to him.

I took Mac to the Cuban Embassy where I'd go now and then to talk to a consulate. I wanted to go to Cuba. The consulate said they had no poisonous snakes. When we left I stood at the door and posed for a moment then waved and walked down. Mac asked what that was about and I said so the CIA could get a good photo of me. Took Mac to the Communist bookstore and magazine stand and showed him what was coming out of the People's Republic which I called Red China back then - ridiculous idealistic colorful propaganda.

There was a guy I met at that bookstore whom I became friends with. He was a general leftist and had a club arm, an arm that ended at his wrist. It had been an aid in his business as a hetero male prostitute. He talked about politics in Mexico and Marxism. I really wasn't very political, at least not in supporting foreign communist governments. It was just out of the ordinary and I wanted to see what they had to say. I did go to a big demonstration downtown - tens of thousands of people denouncing the way rich countries and people take advantage of the poor. Somewhat to insure I wasn't identified with what they perceived as the bad guys, I stood near the speakers platform holding one end of a wide banner that read, in Spanish, "Don't believe imperialist lies!" In the distance I could see plate glass windows of fancy stores and hotels getting smashed.

My mother and sister came to visit and stayed in one of those hotels. My sister spoke some Spanish. I took them out on the street and demonstrated how to ask for directions. I loved Mexico and the people there but their directions often tended to lead one astray. You couldn't believe anyone, I said. I had them make up an address and then stopped people on the street and asked them if they knew how to get there. They all had an answer - go down that way for two blocks, then turn left etc. I told Mother and Susan that what I did was to wait till two people gave the same directions and, if there was time, get a third to make sure. Another problem was in making dates. I introduced mother and Susan to a Mexican couple I knew and when the time came to part they said let's meet again tomorrow for lunch and we agreed and then mother said oh that means we'll miss going to the pyramids and I said, no, we'll go there - that that couple won't be at that restaurant and neither will we. It took me a while to get used to people not showing up or, if they did, being very late. It was just a different approach to time. I no longer understand it but I did then. I'd know when to go and when not to.

I remember asking mother for a little bit of money when we parted the first night. She didn't know what the bills were worth so I got enough to take a taxi to a brothel and to pay for an intimate visit with a woman I'd been hanging out with when I played the guitar with them. That was the only time I did that. She had to go running out to get a friend to come back and look at my John Thomas. That was flattering but also rather embarrassing. While we were doing the two-backed beast, her friends remained peeking in at us and giggling. Or maybe that show and tell thing happened at another time in the apartment I was living in with my friends Ronnie and Kenny from New York City. There were two young women whom we met in Acapulco who came over and dragged Pat and me into our separate bedrooms. We were shy but they steamrolled us. It was nice. I think they were doing that with other guys elsewhere, were going through a libertine period in their lives. After a few times we didn't answer the door when they came. I remember them banging on it for a while and calling out before they gave up. As I hear it in the past now I want to go answer the door.

That was the same apartment where we'd bring innocent young straight, preppy college kids and turn them on to pot. We were zealous missionaries and we were successful. I remember one cute blonde getting high and seeing how meaningless the life she was living was and sobbing and saying how they were all blind and she had to save her friends. Wonder how that worked out.

My class attendance was poor and grades were bad and the administration knew about what we were up to. I had a talk with the dean of men one day who was concerned I was living in unapproved housing and that my last landlady, after the matador who had relatives move in so I had to move out, that last landlady told them she'd smelled yerba del caballo in my room. That's herb of the horse - first time I'd heard that phrase. As with the previous school I'd been at, I was asked not to come back. No problem. I wasn't really in the mood for school anymore. I was ready to take on the draft.

Much of the aforementioned transpired after the trip to South America and the stopover in Mexico City at the beginning of this chapter. I will go even further into the future to wrap up the whole Mexico back then memory shtick. After that last quarter, I went back to the Texas for a visit and then hitched to New York City where I stayed with some friends I'd made in Argentina. What I wonder now how did we stay in touch? I guess they wrote to me in Texas. Everything's so different these days I can't conceive of how my friends and I kept in touch even twenty years back. My Argentine friends said that people were disappearing, that some of my friends from there were dead. I wondered about Diana. Her family had some money. That might help. I wrote her and later learned she was okay.

My dear friend Frank from Fort Worth came all the way to New York to pick me up and we drove from there back to Fort Worth where we changed cars, got my grandmother Chadwick's 38 Plymouth which she couldn't drive anymore. That seemed like a good idea. I remembered a few years back sitting at an intersection and watching her zip straight through it and a red light completely unaware. It was an uncomfortable little car with small windows, but it got us there - to Mexico City and then to Acapulco where we met up with some friends from Missoula who'd gone to the University of the Americas. Or one of them had or something. There was Mike and Colleen and Rose who paid for everything as I remember - like three rooms all tied together with glass doors in front leading out to a little patio. Rose was in biggest room on one end with Frankie from the Puerto Rican section of the Bronx - I think. I visited him there later - god, when was that? Must be before going to California. He was a bit of a pimp. He offered me $100 to sleep with an 80 year old woman. Colleen was a quiet, beautiful, tall blonde. Many Mexican men whistled at her and called out when she walked by, would be weak-kneed in her presence. Mainly what we all did was get high and go to the beach and go body surfing.

I remember one day I was going back to the beach by myself and a cop who was standing on a corner motioned me to pull over. He wanted some money - I don't think he even accused me of breaking a law. I said I didn't have any which was likely close to true. He kept suggesting I'd go to jail and I said for what? Finally after standing around for a while he had me drive him to the jail where I sat there and I guess he was waiting for me to break. He didn't seem to know what to do so I made a suggestion. Let me introduce you to my beautiful blond friend, Colleen, I said. He said okay so I drove him back to near where we were staying and left him by the car. It was hot and he was happy not to walk when I said I'd go get her. I was lucky. She was there. I asked her if she'd come say hello to a policeman and she said okay and so I took her down to where the policeman was waiting, introduced him to Colleen and walked away. After that he'd wave at me when I drove by.

Frank and I had The Psychedelic Experience, a book by Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and Ralph Metzner, a guide based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead to use when taking LSD or other strong psychedelics. We studied it and meditated and fasted and, with the agreement that we'd keep quiet, took LSD and were going to mediate all day but then I suggested we go to the beach so we did that and what a drive it was as the acid came on. After an aeon filled with wonder we got there. We parked and Frank saw a cop and said oh my god he can surely tell we're high, look at us, our bodies are disintegrating and he'll arrest us and take us to jail. I went over and said hello to the cop and bummed a cigarette and then Frank and I went fearlessly to the water and rolled with the waves for eight hours with the whole universe. We were never the same again.

Time for everyone to go. We took the last of our grass, about a kilo of potent Acapulco Gold we'd paid about ten dollars for, put it on a chair in a closet, lit it, and took turns standing inside the smoky room. Frank and I drove back on bald tires. It was 3360 miles getting there from NY City, but the trip back to Fort Worth was only 1836 miles. We got stopped by one cop standing at an intersection in a little town who wanted some money. I could have driven on. This time we pretended not to speak Spanish or English and the cop finally got tired and gave up. We made it back and the car died as soon as we arrived in Fort Worth. Frank was to return to Mexico where he'd end up in jail for a year for growing one marijuana plant in Guadalajara. I had other ideas. Ronnie had written. He and Kenny were waiting in San Francisco. That's where it was happening he said. Come. I was on my way.

Back now to Mexico City on our way to the States from BA. Pat and I arrived at Chalupus Y Pollo. Leo was there. He knew Pat. We all sat down. He asked how the trip was and we rambled on about that. You must be tired. Wired would have been a more accurate word. Wired and tired.

"Tell me David," he asked. "Did you have time to look for my father?"

"Yes I did. Pat was with me."

After we'd been in Rio for about ten days I figured it was time to get to Leo's request. He'd given me a name. I can't remember it. I think it wasn't Lopez. Maybe his mother had remarried and he'd taken his new father's name. So I had a name. Leo gave me the year his father had run off with the French woman to Rio - 1936 I think it was. He was from Spain. He'd been a refrigerator repairman. That's all I had. So I got the phone book and looked up the name. There were five of them. I called the first one, asked for the man in Spanish, and said I was an American who lived nearby and had a problem with my refrigerator and a neighbor had suggested you might be able to help me. He couldn't understand me and eventually hung up. The second number was busy. The third didn't answer. On the fourth call I once again asked for the mister when a woman answered and when he got on the phone I said hello and asked if he spoke Spanish and he did. I again said I was an American who lived nearby and had a problem with my refrigerator and a neighbor had suggested that he might be able to advise me what to do and can I come over and ask you about it. That would be easier than on the phone with my poor Spanish. He said he'd be happy to help out. I said I'd be there in about an hour.

Pat and I got a taxi because I didn't want to tarry. We were sure this was Leo's father - spoke Spanish, was willing to answer questions about my fridge problem. But how would he react? I was nervous. Nice neighborhood. We went up to the door and a woman answered. She said her husband was upstairs waiting. Pat stayed and talked with her while I went upstairs. An older, dignified man greeted me in a parlor, offered me a drink which I declined. He offered me a chair. We sat. I introduced myself and got straight to the point. I said I didn't really live nearby and didn't have a problem with a fridge, that I had come from Mexico City. I told him about stopping to visit Leo on my way, what a good man Leo was and how he was longing to meet his father. I emphasized that he didn't want anything from him, just to meet him. The man sat and listened patiently. When I was through he asked why I thought he was Leo's father and I said that he had the right name, he spoke Spanish, and knew about refrigerators. He said he didn't know anything about refrigerators, that he'd just said I could come over and talk because he didn't want to be rude to a neighbor. But anyway, he said. He had never been to Mexico and had no son.

I realized then I'd made a mistake, had jumped to a conclusion, and was so embarrassed. I apologized and said I appreciated his time and was sorry to have bothered him. He was most gracious and thought it was noble of me to try to help my friend in this way. He wished me good luck. I said goodbye. We shook hands. I walked downstairs and met Pat who was still talking to the man's wife.

As Pat and I walked away, I told him what had happened and how embarrassing it was. The man knew nothing of refrigerators and had never been to Mexico. I suggested we get a phone book and try that last name.

"That's interesting," said Pat. "Did you ask him if he was from Spain and had a French wife?"

"Oh no. I didn't think of that. It was all over anyway."

"Well," he said, "while you were upstairs I was practicing my French with his French wife and she told me how he was from Spain and they'd met in Mexico City where he was a refrigerator repairman and they'd left there in 1936 to come to Rio."

Back at Chalupus Y Pollo I told Leo the story and said I was sorry.

"You did what you could. I appreciate it. I know now that he's there and that he doesn't want to meet me. It's sad but it's final. Thank you so much. You've been a true friend." He sighed. We sighed.

The next day Pat and I arrived in Miami and walked through customs zonked, me out of my head on sleepless days of Dex, long hair, bloodshot eyes, dizzy, dirty clothes, an old coat with sixty bottles of Dexedrine rattling inside the lining, something that still makes me shudder to remember. They just let us through without paying any attention. We tried to hitchhike. Got a ways out of town. A guy in a snazzy white convertible picked us up. He was cool and preppy looking, reminded me of Tab Hunter. He drove for a minute and asked if we'd like to go to a motel and get blow jobs. We politely declined and he apologized for letting us out. No one would pick us up. I was so tired I went to sleep on the road till a highway patrolman stopped and told me I was going to get run over if I didn't get up. Pat and I gave up, went back to the airport. He flew to Baltimore and me to Dallas,


Part V - Part I

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