Thursday, July 03, 2008

Lives of Drew Dobbs, aka Robo, Mindwrecker, Double D ---------part one 1961 to 1990

I was born in Coronado, California. My father was in the Navy and stationed nearby in San Diego. I'm an only child. Both of my parents were arty, bohemian, funny, musical, against the stream, bookish, seekers. I weighed eight and a half pounds. I am still just over eight pounds today.
A 'stained glass' window painted by my mother for our house in California.
Being held by my father's father, Fillmore Munson Dobbs.
Christmas 1962, with my toys
Mr. Chang, Quigwood, Miss Red, Hokey, Teddy, Big Ted, Clown Prince. I'm freakin' buried in toys. I'm sure I beat the heck out of all of 'em. The only one I remember is that weird Mr. Chang sponge-guy, as he survived and turned up in our stuff years later. The others met a horrible child-inflicted fate.

Caption: "Doin' the twist." 1962. Der twist beginnt. I had a nice lil' wicker rocker.
In the backyard on my grandparent's farm in Stet, Missouri, 1962, with the chicken house visible in the far background, and another outbuilding. This little one I remember later on was used to house the corn-shucking device, also used to process walnuts.
On the back porch at the Stet house. It had been a screen porch and at some point they 'modernized' it (and some felt, ruined it) with fancy glass louvers. The louvering used to fascinate me as I grew up. The dairy barn and the larger regular barn are visible in the background. I spent many hours years later on summer vacations reading comic books on this back porch. I also once saw a tornado form and touch down, about a mile away or more, from this porch. Funny that I have a hat on indoors in this shot, but in the outdoor one I'm hatless under the blazing sun.
MIDWAY ISLAND from the air, 1962. Sometime that year we moved there when my dad was stationed at that base. This shows just how very tiny it is, in the middle of nowhere, really, in the vast Pacific.
On the beach at Midway, 1962.
There are a lot of photos and movie film of me interacting with those great big Gooney Birds. They're a major problem on Midway nowadays on the airstrips. Tolerable back then, but still pretty thick. It was hard to pick which pictures to use of me and gooneys- they're all kind of funny. These show the architecture of the apartments and stuff there, such as it was.
While we were there some fellow also stationed on the island went mad and killed his family and himself, I believe, and it was briefly locked-down while they hunted for him.

Rocking out on the air-organ. Apparently I could read music then- I wish I could still do that, I have to re-learn it now. Good thing there were no bass pedals on it, or I would've been in trouble.
With my mom on Midway. On the right, at Rocky Point, by the harbor.
In the fall of 1963 we visited Australia, where my grandfather had set up the Honeywell Information Systems office in Sydney.
From the caption: "View from the picture window at night in the suburb of Kirribilli. Apartment cost $235 a month, for this view I guess. Few if any buildings have central heating, the electric power is all 240 volt and we cannot use U.S. appliances."
Photo-holder/brochure for the hotel where I celebrated my 2nd birthday, shown in next picture below.
I'm the guest of honor! September 22nd, 1963.
Left to right: Martha and Fillmore M. Dobbs, Fillmore V., me, Ruth Ann Dobbs, Allen Nielson, manager of the Melbourne office of Honeywell.
Montage from 1963. Interesting that there is the same floor-covering and chair as in a much earlier shot of me, I guess we must've taken some household stuff out with us, or we moved out to the island earlier than everyone remembers.
I had an early appreciation for good literature. Doing some art studies in 1963.
A very pretty shot from Midway, November 1963.
The patch that Fill designed while stationed on Midway.
March 1964, on Midway. I remember those basket tables! We did move back here with those, we had 'em for years.
With my birthday trucks, September 1965. One of the few pictures I have of me inside of the Luke Wilson House, Warrensburg Missouri, which we rented over two different periods of my life. My earliest childhood memories come from this first year in this place. It had very high ceilings, elaborate woodwork and mouldings, two Italian marble fireplaces, a cupola, and a huge spooky basement, with the traditional outdoor slanted-door entrance, as well as an almost straight-drop set of stairs just off of the kitchen. Our first haunted house.
And the next haunted house that we lived in, below.
This one we moved into to buy. A very early and deliciously sort-of-scary memory is of exploring this house on my own once when we were visiting it prior to moving in. At least I think we weren't yet moved in, it seems that I was roaming about a strange house, not yet familiar.
This place is huge, three floors of old architecture and fixtures, high ceilings, even bigger, spookier basement, very big yard all around, and an enormous carriage house, visible to the right.
This was the place where we eventually had pet rabbits in the back yard, some ducks, I believe, and a pet skunk (ODIE, short for odiferous) that lived in the house. My folks used to joke that it was great for getting door-to-door salesmen to move along when they would see it coming up behind one at the front door.
I loved exploring the tall, dirty, leaning-over carriage house, and the deep apartment-sized closets and many rooms of this house. I can still picture certain aspects so well, the closet that held piles of all of the fascinating toy-like board games, including the old-school style COOTIE game, with it's frightening and Satanic bugs, and the large jar of cobalt-colored marbles that lived in there. That room is probably imprinted so well since I was occasionally locked in there when I was bad. Hmmm, supposedly I was such a good child, too. It's said that on long flights, like going to Hawaii or Australia, that I was extremely well-behaved.
The basement was vast, and remember there being a lot of styrofoam balls and crafty-type things down there, probably my mom's arts and crafts lair.
Once, in that house, I went into my mom's visiting friend Poogie's room and ate several little red things that looked just like red-hots. They weren't, and yet I don't remember getting my stomach pumped, either. Mysterious old memories that sometimes don't resolve into a proper narrative sequence. But I remember people being horrified when they somehow realized what I'd done.

There was a big Hollywood-movie-style stairway sweeping up to the middle floor, where there was a big room that we eventually rented out to college students (Warrensburg being then a college, now a university town). I liked to go up there and pry into their things, such as the awesome comics books that they had, I couldn't quite understand all that they were about, yet, but I was seduced by comics bigtime.
Later on, even magazine-like comics such as MAD were pretty irresistible. Actually, due to Alfred E. Neuman, MAD sort of spooked me and attracted me at the same time. I always loved regular books, but sequential art exerted a strong pull. I like high and lowbrow art equally.
The allure of the big old house full of history has been a big part of me all along, and even though my grandparents house wasn't huge, the old family portraits there would still watch you at night, and the stains on the ceiling might have a rather sinister aspect sometimes. And then someone would be on the AM radio talking about Beatle records with hidden messages, "Paul is dead...I am dead...I know what it's like to be dead."
I liked that room, it drew me in.
That room became infamous, as that's where the unfriendly spirit was. My mother once tried to spend a night there, innocently, or experimentally, I forget, but she couldn't even stay in it all night. It wasn't nice, I found out later. No one ever mentioned that stuff then.
I recall watching TORY, the local cartoon show host who was on when we lived there. But really, thankfully, not much TV absorption for my first eight or so years.
I was left to myself enough that my imagination got a good workout on the regular without excessive TV influence, that came on stronger later- post 1969.

This house just fascinates me still, it was so big, and so old, so full of character. The town had a lot of crumbling old mansions in those days, mainly on the old west end of town. Plus we owned and accumulated so much cool stuff in those days.
The people we sold this to in'67, The Goods, still own it, and now it's a bed and breakfast place: The Good House. I keep meaning to get in touch with them, I'd love to look around it sometime, even though I know that they've changed everything a lot. Plus I'm curious about their experiences, if any, with the room upstairs.
What I didn't know, but found out much later, was that my dad was gay, and like so many gay men- trying to live out a straight life, with family and all of the trimmings. Once I was in the picture the stress must've grown for him, neither he nor my mother was really that into the nuclear model sixties family, and he thought that somehow he could work this out, but I imagine the call of boys in nearby Kansas City was too much for him. My folks split up and divorced in 1967, when I was six, and it was finalized the next year.
I had reached this peak of the huge house, loads of animals and things, and that was all to completely reverse soon.

For a time we moved out to STET Missouri (population, almost none) to live at my grandparent's place in the country. they weren't farming as much at that point, just some cattle around, Ray, my grandfather, no longer plowing the fields. Lucille, my grandmother- the awesome cook. I'm learning all of her recipes (that were written down), now that I've moved back to Missouri, which is strange but nice. I loved that place- so many barns, outbuildings, so much acreage to explore. A huge vegetable garden, many fruit trees and all kinds of berry vines, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries in the garden.
Below is the school building that I attended, about a mile away, which was on a rise that we could see out of the front windows of the farmhouse. I'll never forget waiting out at the end of our long driveway for the school bus, during the winter, back when they were heavy. Lots of snow, very cold. This school where I went through first grade was an all-in-one school, kindergarten through high school- all in the one place. Man, I hated that place. I had really enjoyed kindergarten in Warrensburg, and I couldn't connect with these really country kids at all, even at six and seven years old. I still have vague memories of hanging out by myself during recess in the large playing-field, wishing to be anywhere else but there. It was such a come-down.
At least back at the farm, I had a room of my own, I was always lucky as an only child to have a nice room in every house, in this case the farm was full of cool old antique things, and an attic stuffed with old things, that I pawed through over and over, digging in deeper into the spooky, dark depths more as I got older and bolder. And there was the corn crib in the big barn where tons of our family stuff from Warrensburg was stored, actually it was piled up in boxes in many places there, such as the dairy barn, and the brooder house. So I spent years as a kid, even after we lived in other places, on my summer vacations, traditionally placed for a month or two at this farm, going through and processing and figuring-out all of this weird stuff that my parents had acquired. They had expensive, classy, boho tastes, and there were a lot of unusual items and books.
I also did some noise-experimenting back then (1967-69), I dug out a tiny, portable reel-to-reel recorder, of a size that would only hold the smallest reels, and I would utilize the natural echo-chamber of the dairy barn, and a nearby metal grain silo, to record weird things. The dairy barn held our old air organ (or chord organ, as they're also called) and a zither, and some percussion stuff. So I often would go in there and while away hours riffing out on the organ and zither, perhaps rolling some reels of tape. Boy, I'd love to hear those now! I wish I'd kept 'em.
We always had upright pianos in our houses, at the farm and at the Wilson house. We got rid of it by the time we moved to the Market street house. I tried to learn piano when we lived in the Wilson house, coming up here in a year or two- but I couldn't stick with it. Too bad. I could use the experience now, even though I can sort of play rudimentary keyboard stuff today.
Next we moved to nearby Richmond. To this place at 202 Hickory, at the end of a dead-end street, on the edge of town, it quickly segues right into pasture on that side of town. My mom hated this burg. Didn't care for the people there. I really dug the library that she worked at in town though- I used to get cool antique deleted-from-the-system children's books there. That was also where I used my first copy-machine, which I though was pretty swell, that they had one in the library I could just fiddle with.
This town had a complete fighter jet sitting in a park that you could climb about on (nowadays this would be fenced-off, we could have totally fallen off and gotten hurt), and an antique fire truck and civil war cannon, all of the accessories a kid would like.
At this house I started to really get into comic books heavily, particularly Jack Kirby. He's one of the first artists I can distinctly remember being really turned on by. I bought all kinds, though. Liker a lot of kids, I had ones like Archie and those Harvey comics like Richie Rich and that type, even though I wasn't as into them as the superhero stuff-- just any comics were seductive.
We got our first color TV in those days- a big deal, I sure remember when that happened! I could finally see afternoon reruns like Batman in color. This place was small, but had a neat back yard. I remember I began to get more hippie-junk collected in those days-- that cool Avedon Beatles poster, the solarized one, for one thing.
It was while we lived in this place in Richmond that I recall visiting my dad at his very cool hippie apartments in California, over my Christmas vacations. Which was a whole new world of culture and imagery to me. I would come back with memorable toys, props and visions of California from these trips. The effect of his posters, the smells, the sights, the whole package, was really intense, compared to Missouri.
Also in these years, I began to really draw and paint more. I'd always had an arty streak, and I kept at it at this point.
After Richmond we managed to get back into Warrensburg, and moved into our smallest, crappiest house. A tough period. Ironically it was just down the street from the Wilson house where we'd lived before. It did have a huge yard, one mitigating factor, but i recall this as a sad and frustrated period. I really hated staying with the elderly couple across the street sometimes when my mother couldn't be around for a day. They had really country ways (not a terrible thing, but it didn't agree with me then), were tough disciplinarians and were always trying to get me to like buttermilk (ha), putting me off of it forever! Now I cook with it, though, so I'm coming around.
At some point around 1970 or '71, we moved back into the Wilson house. The big ol' place with the cupola.
BELOW: At the farm in 1970.

LIfe in the Wilson house years was sweet. The back yard on that place was tremendous- like an acre or more. Eventually I set up a basement playroom to supplement my upstairs lair. I installed a 1940's pinball machine down there that we got at a yard sale. That was funny, too, as I'd seen it and really coveted it, but it was $50 whole dollars, a huge amount. We came back home from the sale, which wasn't too many blocks up, and my dad had sent fifty bucks which had just come in the mail (we didn't see money from him very often). So I got permission to get that crazy half-broken pinball machine, and by golly, I fixed a lot of it. It was a training course in elementary electronics in some ways. You'd put the lid up on it and just start figuring shit out. It was called Buccaneer, and had nice scantily-clad lady pirates on it.

Upstairs we had these fantastic, arty hippie neighbors- Peg and Ted Hain. They were super nice, did part-time furniture refinishing, picking up stuff at sales and auctions (all of us were going to sales in those days). The big garage/former carriage-house there was half work-room for their furniture work. Peg was a very gifted painter, and taught at the college. She was in a way a surrealist, she could paint hyper-real style, but was very experimental, and used lots of found materials and unusual plastics. Their whole apartment upstairs, with it's homemade arty furnishings, and trippy design, was very influential on me. For instance there were different themes for the rooms- one had brown plastic on the ceiling stapled into log-like shapes, another room would be tentlike, having mirrored panels on the walls, all of them crammed with fantastic antiques and art projects of hers, such as a little box on the wall full of dayglo-colored scenes in it, a tiny diorama thing, almost impossible to describe, their whole setup was so creative, and the upper floor there was much smaller than our downstairs, so the effect up there was really compressed and intensified. They had all kinds of interesting characters as friends, and they all put up with precocious me being around so much, playing Yahtze, playing records, partying. I spent a lot of time with arty adults as a kid, up there, and at other folks places. Eventually they took a place out in the country, which I visited at least once. Sadly they're both gone now, and they weren't all that much older than me, just ten or fifteen years or so.
I tried learning to play guitar, at some point in those days, but my fingers seemed to soft and thick to chord correctly- it drove me nuts, and I didn't stick to it. No patience to learn proper playing technique- I always wanted to be the self-taught savant. Nowadays, I finally have callouses on my fingers so I can hold strings down, but on that great big guitar, with probably a high action on it- I hated that thing! It put me off of guitars for a long time!

I began to really rut in my folks records in these days- discovering Beyond The Fringe, Stan Freberg records, Martin Denny, all kinds of Classical and Jazz stuff. And then Fill sent me a package of records that really flipped my lid- the Beatles Let It Be and Hey Jude lps, Led Zeppelin IV (I think that's the number- it had the big Zeppelin on the front), and Firesign Theatre's How Can You Be In Two Places At Once, When You're Not Anywhere At All?, among others. Wow. I'll talk later in the blog below during a Fill section about listening to records out at his place in California; and getting this care package, back when I wasn't yet going out and getting many of my own lps ...Well, it was only a matter of time until I began to collect/dissect a LOT of music.
And, as always, I did visual art, and studied illustrators and cartoonists and painters.

Below: Roy Erdman and Ruth in front of the Wilson house, and me inside of it. 1971 or so. Roy was a dear family friend, and an ex-hunter, a construction contractor/carpenter, pilot, taxidermist, float-trip enthusiast, birdwatcher, beekeeper and health-food fan. Awesome and sweet guy. I wish I had enough info for a whole chapter on him.
He used to bring me antique marbles that he would find under houses and so on at construction gigs, so I had a fantastic collection of all different sizes and types of old marbles, supplemented with some perfectly-round, naturally-formed sandstone marbles that I'd found our in an old fossil-filled streambed. Oh, man- I wish I had that marble collection now! Not only would they be worth a lot- but I would enjoy wallowing in them so much.
It was while we lived here on Gay street, on the west/old side of town that I remember the rough brick street being paved over. It was one of the last brick streets in town, with the really tough, thick, hard-baked paving type, I can still recall how bone-jarring it was driving on it. I imagine biking on it was pretty interesting. Brick streets! That seems so antiquated now.
If you kept on driving west, up over the hill on Gay street, you would pass through the black, poorer part of town, and eventually hit the city dump. We were dump-pickers, and used to go out there regularly and poke around for good stuff. There were some local industries that would dump interesting raw materials there, and there were often semi-broken toys, and store display items (yay!) and one-of-a-kind things there, one only head to dodge the occasional bulldozer.
On top of that first hill was a run-down old building that was used for a while by a Unitarian fellowship, which my mom went to for a bit. They had odd antique items kicking around in there, such as a hand-made scale-model train on a three-foot section of track, of the Dummy Train. That was a cool toy! It was much larger than ordinary 'O' train scale, and sat upstairs in the dust. Years later, this old general store building was made into a local history museum, and the Dummy Train model was rescued and now holds a place of honor, but it was just junk sitting about when I was a kid. As a model train enthusiast (I set up a huge tabletop environment with roads and mountains and tracks in this house) I loved scale models of anything.
One model that I really dug, and eventually owned (wish it was still around!) as a kid was my friend David Forgey's PIZ GLORIA model. He and his family would take periodic trips to Europe, and they had all kinds of amazing toys and models that were way cooler than U.S. things available locally. One of his unusual kits was a model of this Swiss Alps mountaintop restaurant/club (I forget it's real name), which was used as a location in the James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service (one of the best ones, by the way, and, as I discovered recently, very faithful to the original novel). It has just been completed when the movie was shot, the model was from around the time of it's release, and looked exactly like it. I didn't know the history of the building then, I just loved the weird circular building with windows all around, it was a unique piece of architecture.
Through the seventies I built all of those Aurora Monster Kits, of the famous movie monsters, and every sci-fi movie spaceship kit I could find, and also those macabre Pirates of the Caribbean kits of the Disney ride. The sixties and seventies were when we all did those. I sure had shelves full of those darned things gathering dust, and occasionally getting blown-up and tortured, like my GI Joes and good ol' Major Matt Mason. Those guys suffered hard, man.
Theirs was also the house that had a copy of Magical Mystery Tour, which I didn't own for a long time, and as a little kid, that cover and booklet and those songs were fascinating and puzzling. So colorful and such bizarre music. I didn't know of course until much later how much prettier the original British EP version was, or how that cover is considered a classically ugly cover in the states. I loved a bunch of the usual pop bands in those days- Paul Revere and the Raiders, and the Monkees, but the Beatles held a special place, as their stuff was more mysterious, somehow.
Missouri for me is full of spotty memories of OLD stuff, Civil War-and-before-era weirdness sitting about to puzzle out.
My uncle and aunt on my mother's side lived in Lexington, and old-style town on the Missouri river, which has a courthouse with a cannonball embedded in one of it's columns, which I used to think was interesting, the streets and houses in that time seemed very antebellum and full of character, compared to a lot of other towns around there. The bridge across the river in Lexington was narrow, model-T width, crumbling even when I was a boy, and scary. It was rather long, and really tall and skinny. When I was there in the mid nineties on one of my first visits back to Missouri in years, we drove across it, and I was shocked and terrified at how decrepit it had become- and that they were still using the thing! Sort of like the Golden Gate (which I used to bike across all of the time, and by the way- the nerve of them in SF- threatening to charge bicyclists to cross it, to drum up revenue!) but without any paint or upkeep- just rotting and rusting away. Amazing.
There was the Winking Eye House (to which I must drive out and see if it's still there), somewhere between (?) Lexington and Richmond, there was a little burg we passed through, I forget the name right now- too lazy to pull the map out- but on the outskirts of this tiny town, was this strange modernistic-looking house which, from way back on the road, quite a distance off, you could see a giant winking eye. It was inset into a special brick or stone circular spot in the wall of the house, an it was obviously made like one of those ridged-plastic 'changing picture' doodads, I forget the name for those, there's a name for that type of technology, it looks similar to the 3D-style postcard, but the image has several 'stages' that flicker by as you move past it, now imagine one of these things about two or three feet across, in the image of a giant winking eye! I'd sure like to know who those people were! Now that I live around here again, I intend to try and find out, that kind of thing would be unique now, but back in the late sixties/early seventies...those people must have been interesting!
And of course in Warrensburg we had Old Drum, the hunting dawg statue in front of our courthouse (which was kind of unusual-looking as well) that has a long story attached to it. Old Drum's shooting led to the saying "Man's Best Friend". One often finds that some wag has painted the dog's penis some color or other. People get bored in these little towns.

It was here that I first saw Monty Python's Flying Circus on PBS in 1974.

John Cleese, on the passion of Python-fans in America:
"I kind of understood it because when I was young I had a similar passion for The Goon Show. I've come to the conclusion that what it's really all about is that younger people looking at the adult world that they're about to enter can't quite believe that it is to be taken seriously- at least as seriously as the people in the middle of the adult world take it! And I think over and above the fact it makes people laugh (and you always feel great affection for anyone who makes you laugh, even if they do so with an appalling persona, like W. C. Fields or Basil Fawlty), I think the emotional connection is something saying, 'You know, there are people out there who are simply telling us not too take it all seriously.' And I think that strikes an unbelievably loud chord, and that is what people respond to."
Douglas Adams:
"Growing up in the sixties two things had a huge impact on my imagination: one was the Beatles and the other was Python."
( from: Monty Python Speaks, David Morgan)

I wish I had photos of the outside and grounds of the Wilson house; it had interesting architecture, and when I revisited the spot in 1995 for the first time in 15 years I was shocked to find that the entire house was gone. No one had even rebuilt on the lot. It's on a corner of two streets, and the whole lot had been scraped and reconfigured- the backyard had lost it's beautiful layout, and they'd even taken out the three lovely trees in front. Talk about 'you can't go home again'! Luke Wilson was cranky and old when we lived there in the '70s, and was letting the place run down some, then, and it must have slipped too far at some point, he probably died and the family said, 'just pull it down'. Sad, though, when I looked up and down the street, much of the neighborhood was the same- some really run-down old two-story, high-ceilinged fudged-up houses, but the one I wanted to see was gone. My old grade school around the corner looked just the same, though.
Below is our next house, at 413 East Market street, in 1975. Sort of on the other side of town, close to my next two schools, though, the junior and senior high school buildings. Back in these days I used to hang out a lot with my older friend Larry Criss, who was into noodling catfish, which involves illegally wading into creeks and going right after the catfish in their holes, and poking your arm in and pulling them the heck out. Scary! They're big, and like to chomp down on your hand and arm when you do. And you don't want to flinch or pull back too much, as their teeth are angled inwards, so you'll get ripped-up more if you resist. You kind of want to grab 'em through the mouth and gills and haul them out. In a way, it's a fairer contest than rod and reel, I mean, you're in there with them and we used to pull out really big suckers that could really put up a fight. Larry was a fun character and we did an awful lot of mushroom hunting and and outdoor stuff over the years. Also a lot of drinking and pot smoking and later, acid tripping together.

I forget who they were, unfortunately, but I had a friend who I learned about a lot of cool records from, who had a whole bedroom-full in his little trailer, which is saying a lot- that takes dedication, to give over as much space as he did to rows of carefully-filed records, when you're living in a little trailer. Anyhoo, I loved to go over and root around and listen to stuff and discuss it and tape it, very educational. He was the only one I knew with the FUGS and lots of Zappa/Mothers lps . However, later in the '70s, I was the only one who went out of town and bought RESIDENTS lps (which everyone I knew hated) and punk albums. I would have to go all the way up to Kansas City to get the really good imports and hard-to-get lps like stuff on Ralph Records. Eventually I had all of those, every Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Eno and Zappa lp, and loads of other full sets. I was lucky on the Zappa stuff, in that Warner Bros. stopped pressing a bunch of his lps then, and they all went to cut-out, or were marked-down, so you could fill out your catalogue. I did have trouble getting the early Mothers things though, like the first five records, mainly I taped those from that fella with all the records.
I also obsessively collected books in these days, loads of sci-fi and fantasy, read everything by Vonnegut (gawd, I loved Vonnegut!), and Bradbury (ditto) and the masters like that, Poe, Lovecraft, books of old engravings- I loved 'Isadore Grandville' before anyone really knew who he was, and especially books on comic book and newspaper comic art and history, which were so slow in coming over the years, and hard to find. Gosh, I would have killed for so many of the books that have come out in the last fifteen years about newspaper and comic book artists! They were like hen's teeth, and often not too well-written. Same goes for old genre-movie fandom. I was mad about monster/horror/sci-fi movies, like a lot of kids of my generation, and, also like many others, I sought to research that stuff with the few books that would crop up over the '70s. One had to also collect the Famous Monsters Of Filmland and Castle Of Frankenstein magazines, for information, or to at least get a look at tantalizing stills from movies that I sometimes didn't actually get to see for another 25 years.
Cable TV came in while I lived here, and that was wonderful. Uninterrupted movies! With boobies in them! All kinds of stuff!

Actually, that reminds me, I should mention a couple of TV shows that made a HUGE impression on me back in the day. First: Monty Python's Flying Circus, which of course was on public TV, and I used to see it at the Wilson house (one house back) when it was first on TV in America. I already appreciated British humor, thanks to my parent's record collection, so I was ready for the Pythons, even though I imagine a lot of it went over my head- lots of kids liked it, and still do. We also used to get a real kick out of ULTRAMAN, back in those days, which I used to actually watch as a comedy show, and stuff like Davy and Goliath, and of course it's accompanying Gumby show. I'll never forget those creepy cartoons with the live-action mouths animated-into flat cartoon faces, Clutch Cargo-style. Those were super-weird. I was a huge Spiderman cartoon fan (I really enjoy my boxed set of these on DVD- the Ralph Bakshi-produced ones are so freaking bizarre, later I discovered one reason why- they were recycling cells and drawings from another show that they did, Robin Hood in Space, or something like that, a Canada-only show, and they re-used a bunch of weird art and plots from that on Spidey, where they didn't really fit at all. Later on in the 1980's, das and I used to watch Spidey reruns and bust a gut, they were so stony and messed-up and odd, and had terrific music cues), and dug the Fantastic Four cartoon and Johnny Quest, when they were new-particularly the music and sound FX on those shows, Hanna-Barbera had a great sound/music department.

One of the biggest surprises, though, was when public TV started rerunning The Prisoner in the mid-seventies. That was an eye-opener. It was the deepest and best TV show I'd ever seen. I loved my Star Trek, but the Prisoner was in a class all by itself. Still is! They had a stuffy, pretentious announcer as part of the syndication package, who would come on afterwards and discuss what that episode was all about, he was funny.
Another show that hit hard in the seventies was Saturday Night Live. You really can't imagine what a big deal it was to get together every saturday night to see a new one of those, back when it was new, unless you'd lived with the dreary state of commercial TV in those days- everything else on TV was so dreadful! There were some neat rock and roll shows on late at night, though. But as a science-fiction fan, in particular, the stuff that they made for TV was terrible. A few exceptions: I loved Night Gallery, even though a lot of it is really bad- when they started it up I was the perfect age for it, and many of them really creeped me out. A few odd TV -movies now and then- The Questor Tapes, Gargoyles; oh, gosh- one series that comes to mind that I'd totally forgotten about- Voyage of the Starlost ! That starred Keir Dullea, and was made in Canada, I believe. Wow, what a memory, a cheap show, not great, but trying to be serious, and interesting. I watched Space:1999 because I liked the models and hardware a lot, but the plots and actors were terrible! Even though I love Martin Landau now, he and Babs back then seemed really too serious and stiff and awful. And those plots just got worse and worse. Amazing stuff they used to get away with as the show wore on. But then, American 'sci-fi' was even worse.
In 1974, at age 13, I had my first beers and smoked my first grass. I used to party out at the trailer park, where all of the really high-toned people (and dealers) lived. We had good times, actually, lazing about and playing records really loud.
That would have been right before, or right around the time that we moved over here to the house above. The room I had there became party-central, eventually, for a lot of people. My mother preferred to have it happening close by, where one knew what the hell was going on and where, I imagine.

Below, hard at work on my first extra-large-size painting, a beautiful, colorful mural at my former junior high building (along with several smaller ones as well), that was documented in this local story, and picked up by the wire service and appeared in papers all over the state. Stupidly, they later painted-over the thing, and I have no color photos of it, which is sad, as it looks like it was pretty nice, compared to a lot of my other early paintings from that period. It's actually about 20 feet behind me in this shot, and much larger than it looks at first. They paid me in acrylic paint, so I was stocked-up for years afterwards.
Here I am at the Market street house in 1977, with Lucille and Ruth Ann.
It was around this time that I got sliced by the glass from my pinball machine. I got tired of it taking up so much space in my bedroom, and decided to move it into the basement. The top-glass on it had gotten a slight crack in one spot when I'd stupidly put a pile of books on it once when moving stuff around. When I slid the (almost three-foot long) glass off and picked it up to carry it out, as I got to the front porch it very suddenly sheared in half, from the crack down, and the half in my left hand dropped onto my right forearm, opening me right up, with a really big hole. Later examination showed that the real cut came from a nasty hook-shaped barb at the end of the split piece which grabbed me. I was super lucky, in that it just glanced off of my artery and muscle in that area, plus a friend had just happened to roll up to visit then, so we sped right off down the street to the hospital. I still have a nice scar from that pinball glass, which unfortunately always looked sort of like a suicide-gash.

My goodness, but we smoked up a lot of (usually Mexican or Colombian brown and gold, with a rare care package or green Californian) weed and dropped a lot of acid in those later '70s days. I was good at tripping and we had a blast, for the most part. A couple of us had great rooms for it (later, in California, I hated tripping indoors, and always did it outside) and perfect records and pictures and so on. Those were long, slow winters, and blowing days just laughing and fiddling around on acid was pleasant.
It' also funny now, in hindsight, thinking about all of the potentially-delicious sex that I could have had, if I'd been bolder and less shy, but I was pretty scared of some aspects of sex, and so only did a lot of nasty fooling-around. But my gosh, there were some lusty hotties around that I should have taken advantage of. Sigh.
Missouri seemed more dull and oppressive as time wore on, and it seems to show in my face, here. I longed also for ocean, and mountains and something other than the flatland I'd seen for the last decade. I felt land-locked.

As a super-close follower of Brian Eno and Robert Fripp (I loved Eno's No New York compilation, with that scary back cover and all of it's portraits of creepy New York art-punks, and I subscribed to MUSICIAN magazine, which at that time had an outspoken monthly column by Fripp), I was excited to see Robert when he came through the area on his Frippertronics solo tour. But, darn it, I didn't get a ride together to Kansas City to see him! Below is the letter that they sent confirming that I'd have gotten in. That show must have been something, I'd have loved to have gotten some of those records of his from that period signed. I also had the Peter Gabriel and Daryl Hall lps that were part of his whole 'trilogy' thingy. I did seem him on the Midnight Special show around this time, sitting by himself and playing with those crazy loops. I taped it on my eight-track cartridge recorder (which I used for a while before I could afford a cassette recorder). The eight track recorder was fun, by the way, although goofy, of course when one taped albums on it there would be track-jumps between the eight sections in bizarre places; and then you would get used to hearing the lp with a break in an odd place, and it seemed natural.
Moving to California- with only a suitcase.
After a couple of trips out to my dad's new place, caretaking a 60-year-old logging cabin in the mountains, rent free, with no electricity, but a propane waterheater and 'fridge, I was offered a chance to come out and live there, and help him keep the place up, and tend the large pot garden. He needed someone he could trust, as he wanted to live half of the time in Santa Cruz, at a house there. So I moved out there, sadly leaving my huge comic/book/record collection behind. And we rotated shifts at the cabin and in town.
He didn't have the burro and the goats up there anymore, but the time I moved in. Although, I do remember milking the goat, so maybe we did have them for a while. There were ducks and geese, peacocks, chickens, many muscular Siamese cats, and a couple of dogs.
The place itself was fantastic- hardly changed since it was hand-built in the '20s, there was a spring-fed fishpond, with giant goldfish and salamanders, two guest cabins, lots of antiques in the house, and all sorts of built-in things, old pictures in the walls, log tables and benches out next to the kitchen, big swings in the yard that were hung from redwoods, for lounging, trails, a footbridge, and acres and acres of state-park-like forest to ramble in.
That was an awesome place to trip in, I must say. Eventually I phased that out, thank goodness, but I certainly had many absolutely idyllic experiences up there, on Love Creek.
And one got to farm 12-foot high Marijuana plants. Pretty nice. It was actually a lot of work and tending, in the late fall it would get sort of nerve-wracking, trying to get the maximum growth out of the buds, while the branches were getting too heavy to stay on the plant, and they'd all be tied onto the main stalk with plant-ties. And when the rains would begin, we had to watch like hawks for mold, or just limbs getting too heavy and shearing off.
The place was owned by three different families, and because of the crudeness of the house, and the large cost of bringing it up to code (you'd basically have to build a new house- and there wasn't much level ground on the property), and the fact that you couldn't log it to get money, as the forest was protected, they just kind of let it lie fallow, and somehow my dad hooked up to care for it- a perfect choice, as he really respected the great character that the place already had, which, unfortunately, we saw eroded right away when years later we finally turned it over to some friends to live there and manage it, when we both had new lives in Santa Cruz, and couldn't deal with it anymore. They began right away to move stuff out of the house that'd been there all along, and do drastic changes to the outside grounds of the place, it was painful for Fill and I to see, but we couldn't really do much, it was theirs then. For a long time after I didn't live there, I would go up and take friends along overnight to visit and experience it, girls up to run wild with them, and even a RESIDENT eventually came to spend the night, as detailed further ahead in this blog.
We did have a phone line run up to the place, our one big modern convenience but the power company weren't going to hook it up, no way. The bathroom was in a separate outbuilding, and that was where the waterheater lived, which made winter washing tough, as one would have to go out in the cold and rain, walk out to the bathroom and start up the kerosene space-heater, and fire up the waterheater, come back to the cabin for 20 minutes or so, then go back out for your shower. I did all of my cooking on a big old woodstove, and between that and the other pot-bellied stove we used for our main cabin heating, we were plenty busy in the summer and fall, taking trees down and getting the four cords split up and stacked for winter.
Woodstove cooking is actually really fun- it grows on you. You have to get good kindling wood, and become good at splitting it down nice and thin, and keeping up your supply. It's tiresome in a way to have to get it going every morning to make the simplest coffee and eggies, but I had lots of free time. You washed dishes either outside under the cold tap, or boiled water on the stove.
We had a terrific spring there, and it ran down the mountain a ways from an ancient spring box up at the source. Across the road, downhill in front of the cabin ran Love Creek, which was refreshing in the summer, but not really deep enough to wade much in. There's a nice picture a ways below this of Loretta Jean in Love Creek, from a naked and idyllic roll of film shot there. The giant ferns and flora there were incredible.
Ben Lomond, our nearest town, was a charming place, I loved hanging out there. Not much to it, really, but nice.
One winter we had an enormous rainstorm ('81/'82 winter, I believe) that brought rivers of water running down the mountain- it was just ankle-deep everywhere you went, usually it would run down in the valleys and cuts and runoffs, but this storm held danger that I didn't realize until after it broke the next day: mudslides.
Apparently, the lake on the other side of a ridgeline below us a mile or so, got so full, and the water table so saturated, that an enormous section of mountain came loose and slid down on top of the bedrock, just like a carpet. It destroyed a whole neighborhood, down the road from me, killing several people and destroying many houses. I walked down the road that morning, as we always had dramatic road-washouts and mini-slides during the winter months, and I could hardly believe my eyes when I got to where the neighborhood had been. the whole mountain had come away, 200 to 300 feet up, and a 20 acre or more area was unrecognizable. I seem to remember meeting neighbors coming up from down the road at that sight, saying- "go down the road, you won't believe what happened." It chopped our road completely out- it took a couple of months for them to punch it through with heavy equipment again.
Fill called from town to find out if I was alive, luckily the phone was still up, or perhaps it was out for a day or so-I forget, I remember that he and Tyler tried to climb over the ridge to find out if the cabin was still there, from another road and angle, but couldn't get through, and didn't know what was happening, so there must have been a blackout period on the phone. Anyhoo, I had to backpack everything in for a while. We had a bull mastiff dog, and he ate a lot, for instance, you had to keep up with that fella.

Below, I'm standing beside the cabin, with it's wrap-around front porch, in my ranger's hat. I see that's before I got the little Saturn-pin at Lily Wong's that later was on it.
So much hair! This was certainly the fullest it ever got. And it was soon to go.
Two more of my sadly scanty collection of pictures from The Lantern, as it was called by the builders, it was written into the fireplace, and appeared in a few other places, such as on the fishpond, I believe. I wonder how much of this is still there.
On the top- looking from out by the bathroom outbuilding towards the kitchen door, just under the grape arbor. This is after our friends had taken over, and they had put down a wooden walkway to the bathroom. Can't blame 'em for that- it got pretty muddy in the winter. There are built-in log-leg tables and benches to the right, really long, where you could seat a couple of dozen people. Below that is a sort-of obscure shot from the other side of the cabin, standing by the spring-fed fishpond and looking over the roof of the cabin, which has a cat on it, and Tyler, my dad's long-time companion, probably tending the gardens in the foreground. The place was so lush, with so much thick redwood growth, it would be hard even now to shoot it, I would have to take a lot of shots, and always with flash- to fill in the deep shadows, which I didn't have back then. I have always had a great 35mm camera, but for some reason, always had trouble keeping up a working flash unit! I sure love digital cameras! Although I'm not getting rid of my metal-body Pentax K1000! It's a workhorse.
The 13 or so acres of mountain was clear-cut, for the most part, when they built the cabin, and for every huge old-growth redwood and Douglas fir that came down, dozens of new trees came up- choking the woods up, and stunting all of the younger redwoods. There were still some mighty big trees all around the area. Most of the woods around us topped out at 100 feet or more. Pretty dramatic in high winds. I hated to hear that snapping and cracking late at night, in the intense dark under the trees, of huge normal-tree-sized limbs crashing down- where is it going to fall-? Will it come right through the roof on my head?
An incredible place, an amazing experience, to have lived that way, and to have that huge redwood forest to play in. With those four and five-foot-high ferns and owls and trees it was like the land of the lost, somewhat primeval.
Below: a postcard of the Ben Lomond swimming hole, part of the San Lorenzo river, dammed-up, I believe. Or maybe it was a smaller tributary.
Below: With a plastic pizza slice from Lily Wong's and some seriously shaggy hair. Probably 1981. The laser-etched multi-color belt was pretty awesome, I wish I still had that.
{There was a small section right HERE which has since been self-censored}


The young lovers, at a friend's apartment in SF, 1983.
In Love Creek, just downhill from the cabin.
That Alien toy was so cool- wish I still had that. (Man, there's truckloads of stuff in this blog that I "wish I still had", and here today I'm supposedly trying not to accumulate stuff!)
A pretty classic wedding picture. 1984. I hated my hair that dark red color. Dreadful. We were always coloring and teasing and chopping our hairs. It was the '80s!
On our honeymoon in LA. Riding the jungle boat ride in Disneyland. Fillmore in the background.

Our Europe trip begins, 1985. A typical NYC subway scene on the left! Sweet. I'm hanging out with some African human-skull instruments at the Metropolitan on the right. Let's pull out the trip diary and see if there's anything interesting to use from it:
"Particularly memorable were the Whitney museum of Modern Art and Yonah Schimmel's Knishery." {oh yeah- that place was the diggins!}
"Flight to Madrid was awful, sat in smoker's section so we could be together." {smoker's section-??? wow.} In Madrid, below.
We landed in Spain, went west to Portugal, (Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra), then back to Spain and into Seville. That city had our favorite park and sights of the first leg of the trip. Headed south towards Africa, stopping in Marbella, on the beach, where Sean Connery lives.
Then we headed down to see the in-laws in Morocco. Loretta's sister was married to a Moroccan guy, and the family down there insisted that we had to come and stay if we could.
"Took the boat from Spain to Tangiers {I remember that 75-foot-tall Michelin Man (Bubendum, as he's known) statue that we saw in southernmost Spain as we bussed down to our boat connection. He was scary!} and then took a six-hour train to Casablanca. Met two nice Canadian girls {they were so innocent and sweet and naive-seeming that Loretta and I were surprised that they could travel alone without being hassled a lot} and a Chicago doctor who got some weird shit thrown on him in the street in Tangiers. We were greeted as soon as we got off of the ferry in Tangiers by six men trying to show us around, one of which refused to go away for blocks until I insisted we duck into a restaurant and wait him out. The family is really nice and hospitable, but I don't speak French or Arabic so they find me rather quiet. The food is fucking great." {This family made a delicious concoction that Ive never been able to replicate here, out of carrot juice and avocado, mixed in a blender into sweet drink. I can't get the proportions right, but it was terrific there. They thought that the Californian's idea of just popping avocado into your mouth and eating it was extremely nasty. Come to think of it-- all of the food in Morocco was great EXCEPT for the cold, stinky fish leftovers that they offered for breakfast one morning- lol, but then I'm pickier about what I find palatable in the morning. There was also the time that one of our Moroccan pals found a mystery chunk of - raw meat(?) or something in a salad, but that was in a restaurant, and he chewed 'em out-"Shuma!" (for shame!)} We went on to Marrakesh. Went with Brahim to Le Souk, "Got a cobra draped around my neck for my efforts." The sounds and sights there are exactly like the most exotic movie version one could imagine. We had a blast in Moroc. The chanters at night in the towers, the old markets. Total Hitchcock movie. A couple of the younger family guys took me out to score some hash. After he came out with it rolled up with some tobacco, we strolled along in the street smoking it and I found that it was incredibly strong and was absolutely melting me down. Indeed, the hash they got for us was a big chunk of dynamite- like nothing I've ever had before or since. Hallucinatory. I'd avoided trying to get getting hash while there, as I could tell that the family felt like it was lower-class people who used that (just like home!), but eventually I figured out a hookup. Walking down that street SO baked after they lit it up was an incredible moment.Loretta and I's resistance was low from traveling, but still this stuff was so potent we couldn't even finish this chunk in time to leave the country...I don't know what I did with what was left. It was so strong that we'd get too giggly and incapacitated to go outside- like we were tripping hard. Ridiculous.
We enjoyed a lovely sidetrip out of Marrakesh to the Ourika Valley. We hired a driver of a really beat-up, thrashed Chevy to drive us out there. We had intended to stay at a house once there, but the one place that we found there was so filthy that we said no way. And we'd slept in some pretty gritty cold-water places up until then. A man on the street offered to let us use his tent and have him cook for us.The host offers to "separate or guillotine the chicken in front of us, but we decline."
We took a train to Fez, that may have been the one where we got into the wrong car and ended up in SIXTH-class. Hmmm, we thought those wooden seats were pretty hard! We were stunned that there was a 'sixth class'. Great Scott- how low do they go?

The next diary entry is from NICE (we had already come through Barcelona on the way back up from southern Spain, doing the east coast as we went north. Barcelona was totally fun and of course visually great). Ahh, this is where we saw the punk-mom who was holding her baby by the arms, making it poop by a tree, just like a leetle doggy. We got a kick out of that.We went to the Casino Royale with Zenobia the Iranian stand-up comedienne. Played the slots. Loretta started with 400 Francs and lost most of that, then I took a turn and got us up to 560f, where I stopped! Fifty bucks! Not bad for a night's work! Next stop- Florence. Went to the Uffizi, ate tons of gelato, had a drink and pizza with the female brain surgeon and her Italian friend there. Then on to Roma. We enjoyed a huge Flea market there (it seemed to literally go on for miles), saw Klaus Kinski, and would have followed him into the restaurant he went in, but it looked too pricey for us. The Vatican museum had a splendid Egyptian collection and very fine mummies! There were the most incredibly tacky gifts and 3D Jesus clocks and things in the Vatican gift shop- just the most blasphemous things, you wouldn't believe! Then we head to Venice.

Below: Next four panels, from a Paris Exterminators (or Ex-verminator's as Alan Moore would say) shop window.




Rodin Museum garden, Paris.
We stayed in Florence again on the way to Venicia, due to a train layover. While we were at San Marco cathedral in Venice we saw banners for a Futuristic Space and Robot show, which we checked out, and it was very nice. Funny to see gobs of cool toy robots and space toys in Venice. They had a bizarre antique fortune-telling robot that was like six feet tall and gave out fortunes for some coin, in three languages other than English. From dirty and creepy old Venice we left for Switzerland.
We stayed at the coed hostel Balmer's Herberge in Interlaken, where one night's movie was The Sound Of Music, which I had never seen, and it was funny to see it in the alps, while drinking Goat-Hell Beer. The train trips in and out and around Switzerland, and in fact everything there was like Morocco, in the sense of being sort of unreal, highly visual, a heightened level of reality. Went up to Grindewald (seen below).
And from Switzerland we went on back to Paris, where we had good Chinese and Mexican food and got our tickets home.

Below:
In Venice, with my new Jack Kirby shirt. That thing was funny- a pirated Kirby shirt, beautifully screened, but put together by someone who barely spoke English. It, oddly, used panels from different books mixed together, with new broken-English captions. We actually found two of them on the trip- in different countries and with different colors screened on 'em. Pirated American media images were big there, printed onto stuff, as they probably always will be.
From the diary: "On the first night in Venice I was in the shower and Loretta was lying on the bed in her panties and a t-shirt and picking her nose, wiping it on the bedspread, and she looked up and out of the window at the hotel manager staring at her, who of course hastily looked away. The next day we got a new bedspread. The moral: always look before you pick."
Saw Star Trek in Paris, dubbed into French, and they had such wonderfully inappropriate voices, Spock's was kind of high-pitched, and so on.
The best picture from Morocco- The Ragman. Sadly I've lost the original photo, but at least I finally located this color copy (iron-on!) version of it. You can barely make out his broken sunglasses.
And finally, a short stay at our friend Tiger Ward's place in East Finsbury, outside of London, where I got to hear Jon Peel's radio show live. Below I'm posing in some new shoes in front of her Wurlitzer Jukebox (just like the Young Marble Giants song!). Then we went back up to Paris again for our flight home.
Once back in Santa Cruz, we began apartment-hunting in SF, moving up there in July, 1985. I started right away on my 13-year stint managing a copy shop, and Loretta Jean worked at Pacific Stereo, among other things, which was good, as it got us some cheap audio-visual equipment.
We raised Siamese cats at our three different apartments up there, and eventually split up around 1987. This led me into a sort of 'Dark Ages' period of my life, between '87 and '89 of general unhappiness. Her Italian/Jewish family were a lot of fun- I missed them, too. We married 'young'-- which dooms a lot of couples.
Below, we see the SF Market street NO SEX guy, a permanent fixture downtown. I found a picture of him in my files, and so here he is. Quit your whoring now!
Some of our many litters of kittens, their car, and their dad, looking in.
With Fill in Santa Cruz, wearing my Elemental Music t-shirt, 1989. More about Elemental in the BCO chapter. Fill and Tyler were always great fun to visit in SC, a great getaway from the city grind.
A photo by Your Host Bobby of me on someone's radio show in 1989.
One very little-known art commission of mine is the cleanup/slight redesign that I did for the original Amoeba Records logo. Actually, it's confusing now, didn't it used to be Amoeba Records--not 'music'? I can understand dropping 'records' nowadays.
I played music for years with (and bought a four-track recorder from, later used on many BCO productions) Lucija Kordic, who lived with Marc Weinstein. He originally worked up the street from me at Streetlight Records, in Noe Valley, and founded Amoeba with a partner in 1990.
Later, in 1993 the band Chotchke also shared a rehearsal space with Marc.
In August 1990 he asked me to work on their new store logo. The original artist had disappeared and they only had one crummy Xerox of the logo in their files- no original clean art at all. I was to fix and tighten it up. I basically re-drew the entire thing, following the original design, but smoothing out the other artist's shitty curves and angles and points, making it much more attractive, and adding some subtle new features. If you could put the two side-by-side, they're quite different.
Anyhoo- it's probably become one of my most widely-seen (and most anonymous) pieces of art over the years, even though closely based on another graphic design, lol. They're still using the same exact drawing 18 years later! I wish I had saved one of their shopping bags or something---I have no copies of the art I drew for them, it was just a quick gig, I was probably paid in a lump of store-credit.
So, below, just for the purpose of illustration, we see the current version of the logo online, a poor copy- but it's all I have to use as a picture for this section. And to think- my friend Rob must have 500 of these bags sitting around, with segregated stacks of records in 'em, and I didn't move out here with one.

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23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good, flowing writing.

Enjoying seeing where it's going. It's fun to check in and see new writing.

--J.

3:02 PM  
Blogger mindwrecker said...

AND new REwriting.
Thanks, though- I'm having a hell of a time with it. It flows, alright, but it's hard to keep any form or interest in it. I AM coming up with a lot more text in some of these sections than I had thought I would, though. A big Memory-Dump.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm. Comes off like cogent free-writing, guess that's what I mean by flowing. The editing is invisible which is a very good thing. Keep it up!

--J.

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