As this is Yom Kippur, I'll tell you now that another thing Frank learned from my family, as he was learning elsewhere throughout Los Angeles and show business everywhere, was that he would need a Jewish manager to make inroads into the business. This is before Freak Out! now. He would listen to the tales my grandmother told of being on vaudeville, and even though she and her husband divorced, her ex-husband maintained his act and even he had a "10-percenter" all the way to the end of his career. So now if I say that Lowell George liked hearing stories and telling colorful stories about people in show biz and he would collect these anecdotes and repeat them often, and sum up that observation by saying "He was a real yenta sometimes" you might understand what I am driving at. He was speedin'!
So that naturally makes me think of how Linda Rondstadt would drive, she'd learned to drive in the desert and we'd round the mountain corner with cactus flying by on the side of the roads with her ahead of us in a bright red car ... and suddenly she'd just veer off through a pile of soft sand, and her wheels would spin and jump a bit when bogged and bagged by sand that way but she knew right when to pedal the metal hard to get out of the sandtrap and continue on up the driveway to her place. She drove fast! She was speedin'!
Along the way to Tucson once, I'd picked up a hitch hiker asking me for a ride at one of those truck stops that had telephones on the wooden picnic tables for truckers to call home, just the kind of girl that Lowell sung about in "Truck Stop Girl." She was an older "girl", just checked out of a motel where she'd spent the night. A bit large, she was, though she dressed in bright yellow, polite, and had a drawl when she said "I like to look clean." Bright sun yellow, she wore, and held a straw hat with a flower on it, and the yellow in the center of the plastic daisy complemented her ensemble, she was color co-ordinated. I told her she had a good appearance. She originally wanted to go farther up the road, to Pahrump maybe, where there was a big truck stop, but we spoke a bit as we powered along the long immensely black desert highway .... she told me of a recent visit with her kids who someone else (probably a relative, I thought) was tending to and how they missed their mom but they were all coping. I'd turned the A/C up to full blast, and advised her to turn the outlet towards her if she wanted some air. Suddenly she asked me, "Aren't you afraid to give strangers a ride?" and I assured her I wasn't, I was careful who I picked up, "for a ride," I felt the need to add. She said she made her living cleaning out trucks for the truckers and could earn a little money that way, too. We were approaching another truck stop at a high speed, perhaps more than quite a bit over the limit, and I'd lit a cigarette after asking her if she minded if I smoked ... that was a dangerous maneuver at that speed, and given the curves, so she'd powered the passenger window down a bit. She began arching and staring through the crack in the window opened for wind breeze and exit of smoke ... when she said, "Turn here!" Which I did do, I blasted off the offramp and swirled and even had to apply the brakes a bit harder than usual when coming to a halt at the bottom of a steep pitched drive entering the truck stop gas station with adjoining eatery. Big rigs parked everywhere. She'd recognized a friend's truck while moving along the freeway towards the place and had decided to get off here instead. Later in the trip, I went to a fancy restaurant in Tucson, the "Overlook", the one where Graham Nash once had his photo taken in that weird basket chair. (Seemed fitting, given who he was associating with, he could easily become a basket case himself).
This kind of song was brand new on the radio
I was playing at the time ...
As Lowell got deeper into drugs, there were so many "coded" allusions to them in his songs ... "Mercenary Territory" ("While your nights turn into my days") and "snakes on everything" and on and on ... til he fell totally apart and was gone, man, gone. And speed effed up his metabolism, so he got fat and fatter believe it or not! And fat guys shouldn't use coke, because it's so hard on the heart, really causes a lot of wear and tear and leads to permanent almost irreparable damage, you see. And the way coke pulls calcium from your system, your teeth can fall out and you can end up like "rubbermouth Danny" (a whore I heard about in Compton when I was a kid, who'd had a coke habit dating from WAY back, maybe even from the '20s, and I don't have to tell you her specialty when she was workin' (and this was the middle 50s I heard about her, she was old
by then. She'd be out in the parking lot near the Candy Store that was rumored to sell drugs to the school kids). And oh my god, she had even been obliged to go in to the hospital for a coke cure in the '20s. But people, and I mean almost everyone til they gained a bit of firsthand experience, would ignore my stories when I told them. I was "square" about drugs, because I knew the damage that could be done. Still, drugs were almost an occupational hazard in the music world, especially given tour demands and recording demands and busy schedules. I found myself wishing everyone could just slow down. (And they'd wish it, too, so then they'd drink to cool out, or use some other kind of downer or depressant. There's just no winning sometimes, you see.) All I could every hope for is people would pull out of the dangerous spin before they spiraled down and crashed and burned, and there was enough evidence of that everywhere, so you'd think they'd bother to notice the burnt out rubble, car wrecks, and crawl their own sweet asses from the wreckage.)
Me, I was happy when the rains came at a certain time of year in the desert and an unbelievable clump of mushrooms would pop up overnight ... and you could walk around and jump on them and they'd throw a puff of spores in the air. They'd grow in a line, all along the fencing. Say, remember the time the guys were installing new fence posts and found a stash of weapons hidden in the ground just outside the border of that old rancho of Linda's? That was crazy! Mercenary Territory indeed!
(Was that a drive originating from San Diego, I ask myself now? I remembered seeing the historic Mexican saddles on display in the square, the leather decorated nicely with stitches heavy into the leather, to provide a bit of cushioning over the hard wooden frame on those long rides herding cattle. And I would be saying something about how the Queen of Tonga uses an old wooden colonial saddle like that, but with a high horn and without the stitching, and with barely a pad for the seat 'cos she tough! And she'd ride down the ravines of the mountains on her island kingdom on a horse to survey her realms. (They'd usually ignore me, and figure I was too "San Francisco" for them).
I skated around the periphery, but I knew of Linda early on, when she first came to LA and Kenny in 1965 had tossed over the first version of Canned Heat to make time for her. He told me she had "big tits", and that meant he was wary of playing backup for yet another woman who was nearly guaranteed to be be paid more attention to. And I knew as early as 1965 THAT (the male response to being sidelined, playing back-up, when a woman took center stage) ... THAT ... was nearly guaranteed to be a problem for the entire future of such a woman's career.
Circling about the edge, Linda had a boyfriend named John Moon Martin. And I'd even recommended he get a copy of "The Journal of Albion Moonlight" and read it! all 300 pages! as he was collecting poems and song titles that referenced his name "Moon", as I tried to be genuinely helpful to people when I thought they would listen. (And "Moon" ... just given the company he'd keep, and all the literate people all around LA, I figured he'd soon finish that book, in like an hour and a half because he'd be speed reading!")
Linda, and everyone else then, were very well read. Later on, when she succumbed to the rite of passage nearly obligatory to conducting a busy life on the road and studio, Linda, who always tended to dominate any conversation with women anyway, would learn forward and rap! Every thing was so important, every word! every thought! every everything! All had to be communicated with a sense of great understanding and urgency before the thought flew away ... The iris of her eyes were large, nearly consuming the whole of her eye color, almost bedroom eyes, as she would lean forward in animated conversation. And whenever I happened to be around such people in such a state, because I was moving a little slower than they, an old song would pop! like a cartoon balloon into my mind: Like, "You Talk Too Much
" (and I would start laughing a bit in spite of myself during this very very important! urgent! string of verborhea I was being dosed with by the immensely important! person imparting the current wisdom)
This has everything to do with Frank. Because he never used drugs, and for a musician in the 60s in LA that alone was an unusual achievement. Nor did he drink. Aside from a glass of my grandmother's white zinfindel (which she pronounced "zin-FAN-del") one time, which she served chilled from the fridge as the weather was warm in the summer where we lived, to my knowledge he probably never took another drink in his entire life. And he probably only had that because my grandmother offered it to him once and he liked the song "White Port and Lemon Juice".