We were all literate people and everyone I knew read a lot of books. Books were amazingly inexpensive, you could buy a new paperback of a classic for 35 or 50 cents. The New Directions books were priced slightly higher. Even so, we'd pass books around like a private lending library to share with each other.
At this moment in time, I was reading some Carson McCullers in Venice when I met David Carradine, and he seemed genuinely interested. I was a little selfish, because I was racing my way to the conclusion, or I'd probably even have given him my copy of "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter". I told him where I was in the book, though (which was hard because the book just went on and on and on with conversations and everyday events, like everyday life, and I had to carefully bookmark the pages with a matchbook cover.) "They're having a coca cola together," I said. And we talked about poetry and such. That was long before any movies, or the television show that made him famous, or any that I knew of. He went on a few years later to make a folk music record and use the book's title for a song. I met David at Jeff Bridges house, and got to know these people a bit because the fella who eventually became the Beefheart manager knew Jeff from high school. Everyone had heard of John Carradine, famous character actor and difficult man, and even something of how his life and personality had traumatized and scarred his children because of old gossip newspapers.
These young men were not like me, nor really were they like my other friends. One of the people I'd gotten to know a bit up North was putting himself through Berkeley by working in the peach canning factory down in Hayward, and he'd also had buy a car to drive all the way there because jobs were so scarce in Berkeley.
These guys weren't like that. They came from wealthy families in the Valley. The fella who became the Beefheart manager was just slightly past 21 and even before that he had a fancy English sportscar (1954 MG TA with ragtop) painted the usual English racing green, a fancy imported motorcycle (BMW R-69), and a Ford Model A that he had rebuilt and restored with his Dad's help or interest or pocketbook. Until he turned 21, he lived with his parents in the Valley in private cottage or guest house they had on the grounds of their home. The Dad had been in "business" of some kind, though my friend pointed out that his Mom had helped his Dad a lot with that business, whatever it was. Now, the Mom worked in a gallery on Melrose, the same gallery that brought Andy Warhol's art to Los Angeles for the first time, so there was a familiarity with artists.
I'd met his parents once, at their home in the Vally, and truthfully they were a little rude to me. Even the St Bernard was growly and snappy towards me. This after my family was kindly to the Beefheart manager, and he felt comfortable enough to call in the middle of the night after leaving our home because he'd had a car accident on the way home. My Dad, who had to get up at 5 am to drive to work in Los Angeles, had answered and drove almost all the way out to LA to rescue the young man, and return him to our home where he spent the night. At 2 am my Dad and he were talking in the kitchen. And the young man didn't seem to think a thing of asking for a special favor, or even consider this request might be a little bit out of somebody's way. So I wondered why he didn't call his own family to be rescued. I understood why his dad couldn't come for him, but he said his mother was at her boyfriend's and he didn't want to call her there.
He did at least shake hands and thank my Dad in the morning as he was leaving for work. I think my Dad even carried him along and dropped him off to tend to his vehicle. This was not his first car wreck. Sometime later he got in another accident, this one a motorcycle wreck, and he had a terrible red scar on his face when I encountered him in Venice.
And even at 21, though he was a personable young man, he seemed a bit "young" to me. When he shaved off his moustache at junior college, before he dropped out of school, he shaved off half and walked around for a day because he thought that was "cool". And he'd even taken photos of himself for a quarter in one of those photo booths with half a moustache. And when he was much younger, let's say 20, he'd gone surfing nude because he thought it was a "cool" thing to do. He walked around on his tip-toes, too, never seeming to set a heel on the floor, perpetually alift, a little like I'd seen the engineering nerds do on their way to classes at Harvey Mudd.
So these young men came from completely different backgrounds, and they weren't too much like me or my friends.
I'd only encountered these people because I was walking down Wilshire, poised midstride somewhere between the liquor store and the bell jar. I happened to glance in the window of a western wear shop and spied someone I thought I recognzied. He was standing and giving the once over to some clothing laid out on some tables. So I just wanted to say hello to a friendly face in a new and unfriendly town seemingly too full of Nazis and leatherboys, so I walked in just as he was scooping up a tan cowboy shirt with pearly snaps and matching gabardine trousers. And as he was about to rush to the fitting room, he hadn't time for a proper hello. He just didn't seem to want to talk to me, and acted somehow embarrassed. His friend appeared, who as it turned out was Jeff Bridges, though I didn't find that out til a few days later. I didn't want to embarrass myself, either, so I just left.
Then a few days after that, I'd been riding my bike around Venice and wrote a poem for a big black saloon Jaguar and stuck it under the windshield. It turned out that was Jeff's car, and he and my friend who wasn't speaking to me walked out to see what I was doing.
So they eventually invited me in after we chatted a bit. And I found out why my friend had been buying the cowboy suit, although a bit later. He was going to go to work for the Byrds doing something for them, as he lived near them and thought they were "cool" guys. It was the manner in which he said "the Byrds" that irritated me, like I should fall down and worship them or immediatey be impressed, which as I had heard their version of "Mr Tambourine Man" by then, I wasn't, not really. And though he did not to my way of thinking have a single musical bone in his body, he wanted a career in music biz.
And he at this critical juncture in time wanted a career in music business because of a news broadcast. The Rolling Stones were reported to have gone down in a plane accident (just like Buddy, Richie and the Big Bopper, though members in our family especially mourned the passing of Richie), and though this was completely untrue he was riveted by the major news story, and followed it on the LA radio as he drove along until it was announced the Stones were alive and well. He told me all this because he'd realized how "important" the Rolling Stones had become in the short year since we had seen them at their first show in the U.S. And I confess at that moment I was thinking if that plane HAD gone down I wouldn't have had to experience that creepier feeling at Scorpio Rising.
Anyway, he was telling me in his own way that I had introduced him to something that was becoming important in his life.
These people, none of them, not a single one ... they were not like me and the people I knew. The ones I knew were fun, arty, and more like regular people I'd want to be around. Frank Zappa and I already had some wonderful adventures and he hadn't even made an album. And Don, his friend, was even more understandable to me, too, really. He'd bring some of the band over to my folks house in Claremont (I remember making fun of a guy named "St. Clair" as his name had the French pronounciation "San Clair") and we'd do things that people would do -- although I admit they sometimes they stole small tins of food from my mother's cupboard that I would have to replace because my parents kept tally and counted each banana.
We'd take walks around town, and once we hopped in the car and drove far into the mountains behind town just to sit by the river at night, amidst the tossed boulders and the small white pebbles leading to the river contained some quartz and sparkled slightly even under the night sky. While some of the guys were just like musicians and seem to be happy with a can of beer for the moment, I would try to push them a bit, "Be more like Superman, be a little bolder." I said these things to encourage them.
When I'd got to know Don a bit when Frank brought him by, we'd talk about books there, too. I'd describe what I was learning from J.P. Donleavy's "Ginger Man", which was part of the new English/Irish wave of literature coming across the waters to us at the time. And I'd even read from the critics who were writing about Donleavy, as they all seemed to promise in some way a guidebook or story on how to better get through life.
When my friend eventually got the job as Beefheart tour manager, he came by and asked me very nicely if I would help him, and I turned him down, and he was pressing me to accept and I turned him down for a number of reasons, and I told him he should probably get his mom to help. Which he did do.