Tuesday, October 28, 2008

America here I come!

I made my way to the office of our 'lawyer.' He handed me a letter from my Mother - I read it with mounting horror - she declared that prison would do me good - it was a wonder how I had escaped it before; on and on - finally ending "that you Americans are so crude!." Guaranteed to help! I had given her name as next of kin - she had her own big house, the well paying shell dividends, and all the rest of my fathers' family investments. Royal Dutch - Phillips - even a private bank. It was a vain hope - but maybe it would work. Hastily I stuffed it into my jeans "you won't be needing this now" I muttered before accepting a brown paper bag containing a ticket on a plane for N.Y.C - my passport with green card still attached and nothing else. Still, one gets food on flights and I really enjoyed the first one to St Louis - where I had to change. So I went and sat at the bar and sure as eggs are eggs a little President Truman lookalike invited me to have a drink - yes - brandy please. I needed something fairly strong by that time. He remarked on my lack of luggage - "you travel light" - well yes, a brown paper bag doesn't weigh much - I've just left prison - I told him. Uncaring of his critique - what for - I almost said "the Mann Act" to tease - but instead 'Marijuana' came out truthfully - oh that's nothing, want to come to New Orleans for the weekend?' Ha ha ha! Sorry but I am on my way to my husband,' and glory be, I WAS.

I took a cab in New York City and really basked in the comfort and freedom, then sleeping out in Jefferson Street - there was Ira with Teddy bear eyes on the lapels of his jackets and a beaming smile on his face. He paid the fare and I was home, Angus was in the loft and a few days later I conceived Ossian.

I did not leave Iras wonderful loft with the Mylan Chamber, and people coming round - I was afraid. Gerrard Malamga arrived and he and Angus persuaded me to go out. "Come and see Andy - he has a new 'factory." 'You're sure nothing terrible will happen" I pleaded. I was reassured and on either side my guardians held me dear, and I, though fragile as glass, went with them. After all there were many people to thank, and at least I knew Andy.

The lift opened straight into a vast whiteness - toward us ran a man with an english accent and a bloodstained white shirt. "Shooting" he shouted - we shrank back against the lift door - not to be in camera - I saw to my right Morresy cutting film. As they were constantly filming it all seemed normal until I looked further and saw a pair of feet pointing up like the witch in The Wizard of Oz when the house full on her - we ran over and there lay Andy. He was whiter than usual and five lines of blood veined his face like marble. He looked up and said "get Hetty out of here before the cops come" - what a wonderful man. I mean he had been shot, yet thought of someone else - this I have never forgotten. So we fled down the stairs as the fuzz came up in the lift - we were following the crazy woman who had shot him - I heard that she believed in a world without men - how odd that she would choose Andy as a victim! There was more to it of course - something about a film. All I wanted now was a cup ot tea - so as Gerrard went to see Andy's mother - Angus and I had one of those cups of American tea - they can't make it - but it was better than nothing.

Then we went back to Jefferson Street.
Of course Olkahoma was not over - we had to return alas, for numerous court appearances. To pay for these we held benefits - the biggest and best was Brain Damage in Olkahoma city.

Louden had the nerve to show up - oh - I thought Angus - who had been a military police man - was going to strike him down.

Somebody intervened and he was let go.
Why bother with a twerp like that - and when I saw our 'rap sheets' they were identical, but along the top of Loudens read in type written letters *Dismissed in the interest of Justice* - how really staggering. He came once and tried to take pictures of us - this Angus would not allow. I still wonder what could he have wanted them for, we looked very neat and pretty (at least I did.) The district attorney was totally grey, a man made of ash and he wanted to touch my swelling belly to see if I were really pregnant or not - OH NO YOU DON'T. I reared back and smothered a snarl. Whew what they had planned for me unless we stopped protesting our genuine innocence, was death for me and my baby.
There are not many women survivals in MacAlister jail during labour, and should one be lucky - after ten days they take the baby away and put it into 'care'. As one is now and ever shall be, a foreign drug felon, one cannot get ones child back.
So - I had to lie - lie with my hand on the good book. I looked at the carving of the eagle above the judges head as he pronounced sentence and begged Towakatchis parden. We got three years suspended sentence which we served without incident - even went to Canada with our probation officers permission - but the felony remains on the books and I can never now return to America.
No thanks to you Louden, your craven cowardice will never be forgotten nor forgiven. I managed a few more years here and there as you will see, but it always came up like a barbed wire fence, separating me from those whom I love. It was true - in 1968, in the state of Oklahoma, one seed constituted a felony, and that is the reason that no amount is mentioned.

I have mentioned before my obsession with Tibetan music and the baby's response, so no need to go into all that again. Instead, how about the third part of Thunderbolt Pagoda.

Really it came because both Ira and I were in the doldrums - it was very hot climatically and cold creatively. I was lying down under a superb drawn threadworth linen sheet given by Iras mother, dear beloved Faye. Ira was grumpy and sad - Rosaling had suddenly gone to India with Blind George which was hard to bear. One afternoon I had suddenly had enough and sick of the prove position sat up and told Ira, fidgeting with books on the shelf, that we had no business being like this and should DO SOMETHING. So we did. Talked it through at the wooden cable drum table and collected a cast to pay Sheldon and Diane a visit at a new pad they had in Bucks County Pennsilvania I think. A lovely spread, Sheldon was very good at obtaining superior dwellings. This was on a couple of acres - with a meadow,
a separate studio and a water feature. Sheldon was testing the cameras and lights so we decided to make a production out of it.
Firstly Sheldon wanted me to swan down the water feature - as I had come to that unlovely part of pregnancy - before becoming the earth mother one is mearly stout! I begged him to use slim Zisca all gauzy and svelt - no, he had a kind of Griffith idea I think because i looked truely absurd bandaged into a white sheet trundling down and then standing with one arm in the air as the others marched along a wall. The next day the water feature had become a pool of mud - no doubt due to my heavy trampling - but - make the best of it by Angus wonderfully burying Ira in it and then Ira resurrecting wide eyed. Very funny in black and white and can be seen on the Ira Cohens C.D 'The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda', produced by Saturnalia/Arthur.
We continued to play in that pretty meadow and the third part slowly unfolded. A green Angus wandered around playing his flute - I painted him with food colouring and his hair red, very fetching.

All the others cavorted,

Beverley in an amazing black and silver strap outfit - kind of Cretian Goddess. Hetty rather stout in a white lace Kaftan -

- staying out of sight as much as possible, but arranged the finale - the reflexion of the blue sky - traversed by the silver Mercury. Make of it what you will.

Here is what Angus had to say:

Ira had a friend Called Benno who lived in Massachusets - something in Hetty pricked up its ears at the name 'Great Barrington' why? What was with Great Barrington? Nothing too much I heard but nevertheless I knew I had to be there whatever it was like. The only way was to make Benno a friend and I had one weekend to achieve this. As it turned out I did not have to try at all because he was a pet of a person, and, oh joy he invited us for the weekend, and off we went in his red Mustang. Ride Sally Ride.

From the moment of arrival at this beautiful house, best New England style farm house - a huge kitchen - fire places - antiques everywhere (Bennos mother had been an antique dealer and very successful by the look of it.) Also a group of perfect people. Jim the Mushroom man - dear Ann McCord and her little daughter. Bennos big property had three houses - the large one just mentioned and two smaller ones inhabited by Liza and a nice young man Jimmy, in the farther one dear Mikki and Don Snyder with their baby Degin. A meadow dotted with metal sculpture and - alas - a poluted river - Hettys' first experience with such a sad thing, no life in it at all - nothing - and we were not allowed to swim in it. Apart from this, Bennos place was heaven, he kindly let Angus and I have his mothers room with a wonderful bathroom with a big victorian tub. Jason arrived and we settled in - accepted by unanimous vote.
There was vague talk of a film to be made about a song Arlo and Jimmy wrote about a garbage disposal disaster at 'the church'. This was a small New England desanctified church belonging to Ray and Alice-May Brock. He a biker - she a wild strong lady with a diamond embedded in a side tooth. The director had just made a big box office hot with a film about the 1920's bank robbers Bonny and Clide, and it was his idea to follow that with a popular classic. His name was Arthur Penn and he was a charming little man with real talent - but the film was a flop. We noticed that some, maybe all, scenes were shot three times - in one we would be angry - another all streetwise and sharp or yet again stoned out - mm we wondered how. We were to be portrayed in the end - known as 'the Cadre' pronounced 'Cad-rey' we were ourselves - a psycho drama for sure - made more surreal by the fact that Alice and Ray were divorcing whilst the film portraid the previous year when they were renewing their wedding vows. Ann McCord got a line or two but otherwise we just enjoyed thanksgiving feast and a wedding celebration as well as entertaining ourselves in one way or another. I had a close up during a funeral scene shot in a blizzard - the real New England variety - I had said that if Arthur called off the shoot I would be disappointed - so I stood in furs with young Jason at my side and cried freezing tears - oh it was fun. Of course all this time a baby was growing and I think you have read most of those details in the chapter 'The Namtar of the wee lama boy', so I won't bore you with repeats.

All the same life went on in Sheffield - a lovely place in every way and I was happy but of course it had to end and Angus, who had really lost it big time when Ossian was born and ran off to care for a woman with several children sleeping on heaps of rags - he looking totally unlike himself - rather a conservative dresser - but now all in black vinyl - boots an all, it ended in a coma but after a change of white blood cells he recovered in the Albert Hotel - Ossian had his name calling ceremony there - conducted by Benno who was a Booho of some weird denomination - they abound in America, Ira stood Godfather and we were happy, Jason too because at last he was in a good NYC school.

I remember the snow on the statues in Washington Square park - they looked so beautiful and I talked with them - very edifying and somehow Angus seemed to be a wounded veteran of the American Civil War, so romantic - however he became very demanding of rare books , so a lot of my day was spent sloshing and sliding round slippery cold streets to innumerable book stores. He was never satisfied with what i bought but I thought of 'Gone with the Wind' and forbore to reply. After a while though we had to return to the trough of N.Y.C - various ghastly living quarters called very aptly 'cold water flats' where the buildings are so close (and mostly empty) as to enable old dirty tramps to climg into ours and crawl into bed with Jason - oh my clean sheets i mourned hugging poor Jason. Well it was enough and I decamped to the office of the East villiage other where I was still working. Something out of Dickens we were and it stirred their hearts to pity. That's how we got the loft in second street between B and C - if you know N.Y - you know how far down we were. With a little bit of hard work, Angus and I had it clear -uncluttered and cosy with a shining blue floor - achieved with blue deck paint - very hard wearing. We were protected out front by funny N.Y firemen and the boys adored the big red engines of course - so we were lucky again.
This was a productive time - I worked three jobs and Angus did some fine recording.

Poor Jason had to move schools, the posh one not in the area - I tried to no avail to keep him there but it did not work - the school was like a young offenders prison but he got himself a job at the Philmore East running errands etc and practicing drums. So we were happy on the whole. We did the shows in St.Marks Church in the Bowry - the best one was the Epiphany

when I played away in the organ loft whilst a pretty wild scene went on below - I remember being quite shocked when I saw a couple copulating near to where the high altar was - now adourned with a wooden clenched fist cross. The vicar was very liberal, and allowed me to play the organ which developed a high pitched whine due to young puerto-ricans peeing in the pipes - to drown it out I had to play in a very strange key - transposing 'Bach' is no mean feat!
During the summer of 1969 we partly moved up to Mass: to a blue house by a magical stream which we shared with Mike McClanathan, one of the Alices Restaurant buddies.
That summer! The first of my younger sons life. What a thrill, what with woodstock and the moons designation. Truly this is how I mourned looking up at the radiant full moon in my garden in Mass: 'ah - you will never be the same again' and the next day - well we all know that one.
Folk seem to think that the 'Woodstock 69' took place in the small upstate N.Y hamlet of the name - of course how could it! Tiny place hemmed in on all sides by wooded hills - no - it took place in a faraway farm and near a town called Bethel - nothing but death'l part me from Bethel (Ethel of song) ! Indeed some local people visited that site for years - probably still do - even though not allowed on the hallowed ground. When Mr Askgar died the land was split up and utterly changed - when I went to the celebration of '21' I could not find where the Hog Farm had been and that was where I spent most of my time there then.
Angus and I rode there early with Ann McCord leaving Ossian with Angus' mother and many friends - they had a lovely time as did we.

The week before the show started was spent in glorious summer sunshine putting up the Hog Farm field. The boys did wonders building a wooden deck for an acoustic stage, a line of open wooden canteens and to top all that, an amazing flat rock balanced on another and propped by poles - a work of engineering genious. The huge top stone rocked gently - I thought it the most beautiful thing there.

Angus helped a man erect a framework for many beautiful bells and gongs - imagine Angus' delight! Some lent museum pieces - he was going to ring in the dawn - something we never really heard because of the rain - the whole contraption lurked under clear plastic, no ting a ling alas. I helped Tom and Lisa Law with all sorts of this and that, making small stone round fireplaces in front of every tent space. I enjoyed it very much, stone is so satisfying. Two tipis went up white and glorious. Tom, Lisa and family in one, which was also the chill out space where I droned on and on and on and on the big tanpoura I had brought with me. In the other was chaparitto - what a super surprise, I had not seen him since Mexico in the el Tuito hovel with Tom. All was set fair, and Fred the Fed round around on a white horse - a stunning girl with rippling corn goddess hair up behind him. Idyllic. Busy with something when Lisa came up and said the strangest thing "You can't leave Hetty!" Parden? was this the bullet, but why and from her? Had I said I wanted to leave - definately not. So? 'I don't want to', "well go through the wood and see" most mysterious - so I did and a pleasant walk it was - a few people setting up in garden hut shops, and some with trays displaying their wares! As I emerged from the wood and looked down - AGH - WHAT THE ... millions it seemed - people and cars as far as the eye could see and that was far - I was on a bluff - dear me a helicopter landing near to the just finished stage area which we had seen grow - huge and kind of horrible, girder by girder through the precedy week. This was monstrous and suddenly terrifying. I ran back - 'where are we going to get supplies?' We needed fresh veggies for the soup we planned to make - plus milk - we had plenty of muesli! In the end our old truck was able to back up and down a little lane and reach 'civilisation' and that's where sensability ended for me my dears - I peeled more carrots and potatoes and had more people sleeping in the tent big enough for four - it was more of everything - and the banner over them was love.

Rain, mud and music, friends from all over and have fun fun fun. Angus and I got to the stage in time to hear Jimmi sing Star Spangled Banner - I think it was dawn - the downpour had set everything back - electricity and water don't mix!
Mr Grossman - Bob Dylans manager and I saw a tremendous electric sign in the blackest cloud ever - a giant green neon hand - like 'Gents' pointing downwards

as Lenny Bruce blew off Alan Douglas' tent and flew across - what a meterological circus! The singers sang - from the moment when Richi Havens opened - non stop, amazingly brave as it was really dangerous. All in all I am glad I went. Of coursee we had to clean up afterwards - the only really disgusting area was the concession stands where hot dogs - hamburgers - fries and cocacola was sold - it was truly vile.

Of course during the time in NYC we had fun times, and Jason took his mum out for the evening to listen to Tommy from a front seat in the sound box, and after the show he ushered me backstage - "nono" demured "The Who have stated categorically that they don't want backstage visitors" - 'come come up here' - o.k - then into the dressing room - 'he's your boy is he? "Yes she's my mum", 'you're english he says' - "well yerse" - Mr Daltry 'why aren't you at home doing yr fing' - rather taken aback "because i'm doing m'fing here." Best Londonese followed with talks about dogs mostly and I enquired if Jason was aquitting himself well. 'Great guy, very helpful.' We left feeling somewhat chuffed. Jason deserved it and I had touched London. Another musician springs to mind for at that time I was working (three jobs I held down) in a fun shop on 9th street run by two beautiful Moroccan ladies Collette and Stella, she was Douglas' wife - he had Douglas records and gave me a full back page ad in the East Villiage other - a cover - needed a vision a week and just his logo in a corner so i went to town on that - my second job, the third was paste up at said paper - an allnighter, great fun - one night I was kidnapped by some Wormens Libbers who did not think it right that I was the only girl on the paste up staff. Dragged me into a car outside the office over the Philamore East and took me to an empty room where they expected me to paste up their sad nag - I sat on a wooden table, swung my legs and told them to take me back to work - that i loved 'my boys' and that they never exploited me but treated me with courtesy at all times - I was returned to rousing cheers from 'the boys.'
The job at 9th street shop was much frequented by musicians - Santana came mob handed very often and Jimmy Hendrix used to pretend to work there. He was, at times, a good salesman - and always a laugh.

Photo by Ira Cohen

A subsiduary job was cutting fringes for two lovely guys who ran a leather workshop in the basement called Wisdom and Folly - all their fringes were mitered at the end - won - much cutting and the binding bead decoration I did has its moment of film - at the neck of Jimmy at Woodstock and close up too! The one we made for Rogen Daultry was entirely fringe - two entire cow hides.