Only a God Can Love a Twenty Year Old
April 15 1967
The day of the big demonstration against the war had finally come. It was to be the biggest one yet. The march from the college to memorial park, in the light drizzle of early spring. The war was accelerating and President Johnson, that bastard, was callous to any viable commentary to the continuing immorality of a foreign policy that was bloodthirsty, misanthropic and opportunistic. Mr. Johnson that malefactoring defiler was invulnerable to any question of his policy because of his cracker male testosterone psychosis. We started out sing “LBJ, LBJ, how many children did you murder to day”. Ebullience of rightousness in our cause. Our joy of coming together was only matched by our indignation over Mr. Johnson’s war. There was a visible blistering fever through out the throng. Devotion to cause and a pulsation of struggle extended and escape through the crowd, we had an evil to overcome. The evil was Mr. Johnson, the son of a bitch, capitalism, the US government, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party all the above represented. We had our heroes the old time wobblies, reds, 1930’s peace activists and all that represented. We had the people we were fighting for the children in Vietnam, the Peasant in that distant land fighting for freedom against the evil imperialist and the American worker called on to fight Mr. Johnson’s war, that “southern son of a century bestial forbears”. With the evil son of a bitch Johnson and the saintly Vietnamese peasant thing were so simple in those days.
The marching and signing and the total moral outrage created a spiritual union that transformed the ordinary mizzle of a colorless April day to extraordinary tangible joy of the epiphanies of revolution. We were right and we the David of righousness were lock in combat with the evil giant corporate America. Crowds on the side walks shouted their abuses, ridicules, and taunts. Shouts of go home you Commie trator was countered with with our songs of defiance. One of our signs read “Amerikkka kill a komie for krist”. When we reached the park speeches of the peace activists soothed the crowd’s anger, while those on the side lines rage only grew, a man with three dogs supposedly attack trained, turned them lose on the peaceful assembly. The dogs demand affection from the demonstrators and after being petted by a dozen or so of the anti war crowd the dogs napped passively at the feet of the speakers. The dog owner left his dogs in disgust and went a way as did most of the hostile crowd.
Always at these things was the man with the camera. Not the news guys we knew them, the news guys took pictures of crowds the man with the camera always took pictures of individual faces. He was one of those cold damp men who could sweat even in the chilly April mist. Always the man wore the same tan polyester suit that was too short and too tight. Always out of breath and at a distance he used his zoom lenses to get close ups without being close up. He always tried to act clandestine while we shamelessly posed. When the wind was right you could smell him, cigarettes, beer and cheap cologne. The other regular attraction at all the demonstrations was a short thin middle age man. This man only showed up to these things, and had no friends. He always made absurd proposal like lets burn something down city hall, the courthouse, the federal building, the post office, the public library. The thin man, no one really knew his name, looked witless he had short brown hair and a short black goatee. Wore some off color faded paisley shirt , stripped pants, black oxfords and whit socks. He kept hitting on all the young women, and kept asking who organized this activity? He was the only person who called a demonstration an activity. We always told him to talk to Willie. Willie loved talking to people, so we sent him to Willie. Willie said “everyone here did there part we are all leaders”. He asked Willie who gives you your orders, Willie being a minister would say “God”. After two or three times he asked to talk to some one else. On this day in April we had him talk to Laura, she told we got our “orders from our hearts”, she said she couldn’t say God because she was an atheist. After that he walked around confused telling people we should burn something down. Because he smelt like camera man we thought they were either brothers or they worked for the same government agency.
After the demonstration I decided I wanted to do something more. I would do a three day vigil on the court house steps. I would stay awake the whole time to talk to passerby’s, and only ingest water, juice or broth. Many people came by to stop and talk, hecklers as well as supporters. The visitor who spent the most time with me was a woman named George. I never met her before the demonstration. During my vigil she kept me supplied with broth, coffee, and juice. We talked endlessly about everything from US imperialism, the Greek civil war, existentialism, anarchism, and Marxism, to what is the meaning of love. In the dark of early morning we would sit quietly and listen to the empty sounds of a city at sleep. The wind would catch a scrap piece of paper rattle it down the gutter. The paper catching on broken bottle shards would warble like a boogie-woogie brass wind. The sound of her breathing quietly in the cold chill, reminded me of how little on any subject I had to say, and that was all right.
At the end of the third day after dark I ended my vigil. George invited me to supper, we talk about blues, art, female pronouns and the meaning of sensuality. In the morning after breakfast she told she had to leave that day to meet her husband who was on leave from Vietnam and she to join him in Hawaii for two weeks and then he would return. Afterward that if I could meet her in San Francisco, that would be nice. All I knew was that I was going to San Francisco. This was the closest thing to a girl friend I ever had, opportunities like this don’t come very often. Comrades, friends and lovers there had to be a poem in there somewhere. So much to do, so much to do. Drop out of school, quit my job as a janitor at the high school, Gab would understand. This may be the last chance I’ll ever have. My mother never told me that women were this much fun.
My friends decided to have a party to celebrate my new life. We traded whisky for peyote. Twenty four buttons that was the typical dose, we had no idea what we were doing. If you could not get sick long enough you could have nice visions or at least see good colors. LSD was my answer, if you took enough it could cure any hang over. Also in large enough doses it could keep you from getting sick with peyote. Some people say you could see Mescaleto, I saw damn near everything but a dude named Mescaleto. Any way I don’t remember much of that nite except black opal stones and white light.
The next day I was ready to start my new life as a hobo. It was time to say good by to my family. My uncle told me where I could catch a flat car to Winnemucca. My Nono kept crying and saying ” this is no life”. My Nona kept throwing holy water in my face and chanting her prayers Santo Benedetto Madre de Diio***, translated into English it would mean something like this, “Holy Mother of God protect this booby blockhead, because if you don’t no one else will”.
As my mother drove me to the yards south of town, she kept asking me why? How about school. “If you don’t finish they will draft you, don’t you kown”.
“I am on academic probation any way, now I don’t have to worry about the work they want me to do. I wouldn’t worry about the draft, they have to catch me first. This is my education at the University of Revolution. I want to make love to America. Hold America in my arms and have sensual intellectual intimacy with America. I mean not the America of Mr. Johnson that sleazy bastard. I mean not the America of the jingoistic patriot, or the xenophobic cracker. Not the imperialist, corporate capitalist of a malfeasance government bureaucracy and capitalist corporate alliance of avarice, abomination of every description, profligate of crime, avidity and craving for cruel domination. I want the America of the ancient Wobbly sowing the seeds of insurrection and fanning the flames of discontent. The America of comrades singing the songs of revolution, while organizing for the Trade Union Unity League or the CIO. I want to make love the America of Harry Sims dying in a ditch in Kentucky, trying to organize the miners into the National Minors Union. The America of the Communist, Socialists, Industrial Workers of the World and the Anarchist-Syndicalist. The comrades that slept, ate and agitate with the poor, exploited and oppressed. As the Black Flag teach us upon the ashes of the old we will build anew. The red flag teachs us how Varinia pick up the blood soak rags from the foot of the cross of Spartacus, her martyred husband to give rebel slaves of all ages hope and taught us to sing “we’ll dip our banner in the blood of our fallen comrades and continue the struggle”.
I stopped at that point because I could tell my mother had no idea what I was ranting about. I could see she was only distressed and bewildered as she let me out the car to catch the train to Nevada. As I look back at it more than thirty years later, the only conclusion I can come to is only god can love a twenty year old.