Nobody knows I wasn't in Da Nang in late '67, early '68.
Because I was in Echo Park, LA , west side.
There was a group playing some of the clubs then, called Blue Cheer. I think they made one and a half albums, just like I wrote one and a half stories at about the same time. It was then that I met Bukowski, the drunk who wrote great stories and greater poetry, and who never apologized for what he was.
But this is really more about Blue Cheer. They were a cheesy rock band. I could identify. I was a cheesy writer. We all enjoyed getting high.
Anyway, Lynda had just come to town. I was desperate and afraid. I'd just been kicked out of my girlfriend's apartment. This had been a pathetic relationship, consisting of my pathetic needs projected onto someone who used my needs to accomplish her agenda, and little else.
When Lynda called me (this, I swear, is true) I asked her immediately to marry me. She didn't accept. How would things have gone?
But we did set up house in Echo Park. Between the time she called and we found a place, we stayed with a friend named Roland and his friends, who included Blue Cheer (I don't think they were even using that name yet).
And I was never in Da Nang in '68, because this is where I was (someone has to forgive me for these discrepancies... I can't).
I've never killed anyone. I tried once. I mean, I actually used my car to attempt to kill people who had attacked a buddy of mine at a bar, earlier that night. These people, following my failed attempt, tried to kill me. They very nearly succeeded. I remember fists and boots, and that broken bottle.
Well, I might have killed that guy in the rice paddy. But there was so much incoming ordnance and surrounding small arms fire. Fuck... that shit-piece Takarov hand-gun I'd bought in Da Nang (where I wasn't) had nothing to do with it. But what the fuck was he carrying in his hand?
Back to the house in the park. It was a wreck. I know the place was pretty shitty, but in retrospect, I've seen and lived in worse. It was down in a kind of glade, sort of ...surrounded by foliage (typical So Cal yucca, anorexic palm trees, etc.).
It was a large house -- two-story, up on a hill surrounded by larger foliage and some abandoned foundations. These foundations had the ominous look of places used to bury unwanted garbage of an ominous variety -- this is retrospective view, of course. Today, I think... were there bodies in those foundations? Then, it was... '67?... '68? I didn't think in those terms at the time.
The living room, or whatever, was large -- at least twenty by twenty feet. There was a large table in the center. Sometimes (most of the time) there was a mound of powder shit in the center of the table. It must have been six inches or deeper (no Freudian slip intended) or higher, sometimes.
Pieces of it would disappear.
Sometimes it was a foot or so around (and deep as indicated), sometimes there was virtually nothing there. But anyone in the house could put a straw or spoon to it. There would be a nose at the end of the straw, sometimes a match, water for solution, a needle waiting at the other.
None of this happened in Da Nang, or surrounding provinces (ha). There everyone was dipping heavily into dispensary uppers or downers, good weed (the best was further south... it was still easy to score in Saigon, so it was said) or some of the best grade A+ China White smack on the planet.
No... the pile on that table in Echo Park was probably (at any given time) 50% methamphetamine hydrochloride, 40% shifting buffers like cocaine, LSD, STP, mescaline (alkaloids from various mushrooms), psylosibine (alkaloids from various cactus buds) and 10% fillers like baby laxative, talcum powder, powdered sugar... whatever was on hand.
The story was that one night, under a certain light, and under a certain state of mind, everyone present saw the color of the powder as blue, even when they later put it into clear gelatin capsules. Someone called it Blue Cheer. It was the perfect mix, and since most of the original band members were there on that particular night, as a kind of psychic bond created by the high and their music, as they later jammed... loud, hard, high.
There were young and beautiful girls there... thin and athletic looking, in spite of their own dissolution. They had been using a variety of drugs for some time. They talked to me and to my friends, including Lynda, but they fucked the band.
One night, when I was there and Lynda wasn't, four girls began fucking the band right there in the living room. Roland and I were smoking a joint and watching while the girls (six of them) fucked the band (four of them... I wasn't even getting one of Lynda's legs at the time, but these guys were getting a little more than one of everything the ladies had). The bodies were fucking on top of the amps and under the drums and they pulled over one of the mike stands, which knocked over some other shit and made great banging noises (ha... a natural pun).
My friend and I were disappointed they weren't fucking us, but we were too stoned to move from the frayed and dirty couch on which we were sitting. Later, we managed to get up and leave, having to step over naked bodies that were a luminous blue... moving, as if they were underwater, like drowned bodies, shifting with the current.
I ended up back in the apartment Lynda and I were sharing. I looked out our rear window at the traffic on the Pasadena Freeway (I think it was that freeway).
Lynda was out somewhere. She and I had made love before; sometimes on my bed, sometimes on hers. But we didn't do it in front of strangers.
We were free of attachments and artificial arrangements, so we called it free love. I don't know; sometimes I wondered about that. While I watched the freeway I wondered how free I was -- there was a desperation about my freedom sometimes, it seemed, so I wonder if it was free.
I watched the lights appear and disappear, and that was that night. Like a thousand others, it had been unusual and cruel.
But in Da Nang, all of the love was happening on a different plane of existence. No girl-friends... just a series of young Asian faces, some incredibly and sadly beautiful; one could see (I could see, even if I didn't want to) a girl of fourteen who would look forty a few weeks later, sixty a year from now, if she survived that long -- not old-age, but overdose, or executed by one side or the other, because so many of them were interrogated by intelligence on both sides (God, what a crock of shit... sides for Christ's sake... whose side were their children following); but many were mercifully ugly... somehow they were more often spared. You were convinced you saw them working in the rice paddies later, but still you'd find a familiar looking body lying face down in the mud sometimes... Don't touch that body soldier... could be wired to some dee-vice dee-signed to blow your balls away! Fall in, asshole!! Fall in. An apt term for a totentanz. A dance with the Black Widow.
But keep in mind. This shit never happened. Not to me. Not to anyone. Especially not in Da Nang.
No one killed or was killed, zipped in bags like saddest luggage, a grisly reminder best forgotten -- so, it didn't happen.
Meantime, in LA, I settled for an oasis here or there... or an island in a cold, black sea that was beating everyone senseless. Lynda was an island, her arms reaching out for me, and mine for her, her mouth accepting mine (mine grateful), and in the howl of deep night the shakes and screams that almost reached the surface didn't. Her presence comforted me and I would wake with enough breath to continue on what seemed a senseless journey. And I can only hope that I did as much for her.
Days or weeks later she and I said good-bye to each other and that part of our lives. She went back to college and I went to Santa Fe, where the sky and earth were beautiful, but life had ugly plans for us both.
I often wonder whether we deserved such things, the good as well as the bad. But that's a bull-shit question, you know... and no one asked it in Da Nang.
back to the Short Story Page.Not in Da Nang, 30 May 1996