6 A Happy-Go-Lucky Twenty Something
How did I insinuate myself into this scene? And what took me so long? Well, in the summer of 1970, my friend John Neulinger and I had set off from River Vale, our bedroom community in northeast New Jersey, to hitchhike across the country. We made it about two thirds of the way across―or until we realized that the hippy scene in Boulder was so complete that we couldn't think of a single reason to continue the expedition. After hearing us rave about it from afar, friends and friends of friends from the Jersey burbs began coming out to see what all the fuss was about. They, too, found all the love, peace, and understanding they could ever want, saw zero reason to leave, and never did. At Thanksgiving celebrations, there'd be like two dozen humans I knew at least reasonably well who'd moved from Bergen County, New Jersey to Boulder, Colorado.
A decade later, I'm a happy-go-lucky twentysomething living within a few short blocks of every Naropan leased or owned property. I edit The Rocky Mountain Musical Express, writing most of it under a half-dozen nom de plumes ranging from the aforementioned Claude Feet to Buff Oklag to Dudley Ravensworth. I also sell most of the ads and supervise the layout, which consumes huge chunks of time. Sixty and seventy hour work weeks are par for the course. We'd put one monthly issue to bed and have to start in on the next one with no break whatsoever. The pace was unrelenting.
I also play in a up and coming rock band called The Milkmen. Our tight little ensemble consists of three Scorpios and a Leo. That's four out of four fixed-sign, full-fledged egomaniacs. I mention the fixed signs because they're one reason we're laser-focused on becoming as great as we tell people we already are or we're going to be. A high level of ambition like that requires a corresponding time investment. Accordingly, we practice constantly.
Then there was the not insignificant matter of my burgeoning pot business to attend to. It can take a whole afternoon to break up 10 bales or about 500 pounds of Colombian weed, spread it out a few inches think all over your shag living room carpet so you could find and get rid of the sticks, weigh it, and seal it inside one-pound Ziploc bags. You also had to be careful about distributing the seeds evenly. It was almost like real work or something.
Add it all up, the newspaper, the band, and the weed, and maybe now it's obvious why there was zero time to infiltrate the Naropa scene no matter how enticing it might have seemed from afar. But lately the music rag had been sold to new management. Reinforcements were on the way, which meant I wouldn't have to do most everything myself. I could finally cut back on on my hours, freeing me to be a man about town with time to take in new and different diversions like poetry readings, dance classes, and further refining our stage show's already elaborate mise en scènes.
Regarding the latter pastime, to amuse our fans, we happily plowed our paydays and weed proceeds into queer stage props like dairy murals, stainless steel milking apparatuses shaped like sausages, and robotic bovines fashioned from papier maché, chicken wire, and spare Erector set parts. By virtue of placing second in the 1979 KBCO songwriting contest, our theme song, "Late Night Delivery," was still in the station's constant rotation. The "blowtorch" Boulder radio station radiated across the Rockies. After we'd shockingly taken first prize in the 1980 contest earlier in the year for "Lolita," a catchy three-verse condensation of the risqué Nabokov novel, KBCO's saturation coverage propelled us into semi-stardom. We were getting the same amount of airplay as The Eagles, which was miraculous. All that airplay served as kindling, the better to ignite conversational conflagrations at, say, poetry parties.
Various Naropan and Beat figures could be been spotted on the dance floor whenever The Milkmen played "New Wave Mondays" at Boulder's top club, the Blue Note. They've also been known to scan my scribblings for the Musical Express when they're stuck for something to read at preferred stomping grounds like the New York Deli and the Trident Cafe. I'm viewed by more grizzled literary lions as young and talented―albeit given to hyperbole and a predilection for cleverness over substance. There's always the chance I'll see the light, pony up for Shambala Training, and become young, talented, Jubu and humble. If I really apply myself, eventually I, too, may become present enough to riff on the transcendent aspects of my own anus.
As I appear to be having the time of my life, those older and wiser haven't the heart to spoil what they know from experience will be a fleeting phase that the universe will recalibrate at a later date. At least I don't seem to take myself too seriously. As it would appear that I exploit my ego for the entertainment of others―like them, for instance―my unusual surfeit of self-esteem is tolerated.
One day I'm at the Musical Express offices helping new ownership flog full-page ads to record companies like A&M, Warner/Reprise, and Atlantic. It takes constant paddling to keep the shaky enterprise afloat. A caller identifies himself as one Jerry Aronson, professor of film and photography at CU. This Jerry fellow tells me he's working on an Alan Ginsburg documentary (which would be nominated for a Best Documentary Academy Award). I mention the Beat god just happens to live two doors down from me in the Boulderado. Now we've got one thing in common. There's about to be another. No, it's not the ability to match his prowess at a feat Jerry took substantial pride in: "I'm forty years old and I can still hit the ceiling!" Rather it's we're going to be working together. The dashing gay lensman makes me a proposition I can't refuse: passes for pix. He and his photography students are dying for backstage passes to bigtime concerts. CU has a fully-equipped lab to print their shots (in this pre-digital world). They'll even shoot the shows for free.
He was asking the right guy. I did in fact control dispensation of precious backstage passes. Those flirty PR foxes, I mean those efficient public relations specialists, always made sure I received one pass for a writer and one for a photographer. Recognizing a gift horse when one whinnies, I immediately accepted Jerry's offer. I'm rewarded with one great shot after another. Better still, I never have to dip into my meager budget to pay for them. If there's a major act Jerry wants to see, like Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Review or Bette Midler, "the Divine Miss M," he shoots it himself. Those pix invariably become cover shots—like the one of Bette singing from the palm of a King Kong replica's hand at her flamboyant stage show. After one memorable Elton John show, Jerry invites me to go dancing at a gay disco on Denver's South Broadway. While I'm never going to win any sympathy for my white bread, upper middle class suburban upbringing, which saw me graduate from high school without having the remotest idea what "gay" was, mixing with Village People lookalikes represents another small step in my continuing quest to shake off its anaesthesizing effects.