19 November 2011


The next few days - perhaps a week - are a bit of a blur.  Edna - with Kathy?? - came over to our apartment at least once, maybe twice.  I was, I am afraid, scarcely coherent.  I talked - and made things worse.  Edna was not, so far as I can remember, angry at all - and I think she was probably afraid for her own ability to make stick what she had decided - but she was clear.  She spoke of a month's trial separation.  I do not think either of us imagined that there was a possibility of our getting back together.

Clearly she and Kathleen could not stay indefinitely in a hotel room.  I had to move out.  I moved into Mrs Yap's boarding house - nice coincidence about the lady with the Korean name :-)  Mrs Yap's was on Thurston Avenue, on the slopes of Punchbowl.  There were two choices: private room, $25/week; shared room, $15 - both including dinner (made by her and at table together) and (make-it-yourself) breakfast.  I chose the $15 option.

I was in pretty bad shape.  I had had the foundations of my intellectual world knocked out - but I had never imagined that the people in my world would not simply always be there for what I wanted, when I wanted, as I wanted.  I blush to express my arrogance so bluntly, but there is no other way to express it.  I had already enrolled as a student for the fall semester of 1968.  This included money from scholarships and fellowships, and (I believe) I had a part-time graduate assistant job at the University as well.  I had, therefore, some income - enough, at least, to pay for my room and lunches.  It was a good forty-minute walk to campus - or perhaps I took the 'bus along Wilder Avenue.  But the fact is that at first I did not spend much time going to the University.

Instead, I anaesthetised myself.  I devised techniques of putting myself to sleep, by a sort of self-hypnosis.  That managed to keep me asleep 14-16 hours a day.  For the rest of the time - since I was still officiously a student - I took out piles of light reading - Agatha Christie mysteries, mostly - and read.  I was seeking the same end as with the rock concerts: stopping thought.

My $15/week room included a roommate.  His name was John Burke and he was from New York, which was borderline exotic to me, being a Californian, and now a transplanted Hawai'ian.  Poor Burke!  He was an engineering student.  He found me a pathetic puzzle.  I told him, of course, what was going on.  One day he took pity on me and introduced me to a better anaesthetic.

Mrs Yap's house was a very large, probably late-nineteenth-century, house, with basement, ground floor, first and second floors, and attic that had also been converted into a variety of rentable spaces.  I don't know how many people lived there - a great many, I think.  One day - I don't remember exactly how it happened - Burke took me to visit a very nice Filipino girl who lived in one of the attic rooms - one of the private rooms, which was, in fact, not much larger than a walk-in wardrobe.  There he introduced me to marijuana.

The girl - who did not, herself, smoke the stuff, nevertheless allowed Burke to use her room for the purpose.  I suspect she was a nice, well-behaved Catholic girl who would never have done such a thing - but she was friendly, and tolerant - and had a room located where, Burke hoped (such worries never occurred to me), Mrs Yap would not smell the evidence of nefarious goings-on.

It also never occurred to me to think about the fact that Burke actually had to pay for his grass.  To be sure, marijuana, in those days, was relatively cheap compared to what I have heard prices are like today (I hereby affirm that I do not know from personal experience how much it costs!) - something like US$10/1 oz (30g) bag - but, when you remember that my room - with two meals - cost $15/week, you can see that it is expensive.

Burke rolled a joint for me and taught me how to smoke.  I had, in fact, once (in 1964?) been offered marijuana, by Harry Frank - my best man when Edna and I were married.  I had been terrified, took one or two puffs - just inhaling and immediately exhaling, as with tobacco cigarettes - declared myself 'stoned' and quit.

This time I did not quit.  One.  Two.  Three of Burke's marijuana cigarettes - whilst he and the girl looked on in wonderment.  I had never known such a thing.  I knew what I wanted now.

This anaesthetic did, at least, get me back to the University.  I now did not need 14 hours of sleep a day, nor to read endless mystery novels.  I am amazed, in retrospect, that (a) I never was caught by the authorities, and that (b) I managed to function sufficiently at least to keep doing my University paid work, and some of my studies.  I started going back to classes.  All my classmates knew what I was doing.  At break times I would go onto the roof of the library and smoke.  I was rarely really straight.  Of course I had to buy it - I suppose the money must have been enough.  Did I, yet, send any money to Edna and Kathleen?  I doubt it.

How long did I live in Thurston Avenue?  I don't know, but I don't think it can have been very long.  I remember Edna saying - quite understandably! - that she wanted me to get my junk - some hundreds of books, my home-built stereo (and television?  ham radio gear?) out of the apartment.

I suppose it must have been something like November when I moved to what Susan, later, referred to as the 'bug-ridden tenement' - 2117B Young Street.

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