13 My Dad Sells Holes
Naropa's summer session is almost over. The Milkmen have graduated from playing clubs to headlining more palatial venues like the recently reopened Boulder Theater. The powers-that-be love our demo tapes in El Lay. Recording at Northstar, striking rock star poses at Ballet Arts, and allowing myself greater lyrical leeway thanks to being around the Beats have all paid off. It seems written on the wind that we'll make a career move. Our industry connection, Victor Levine, Alex Major's brother-in-law who managed Northstar Studios before moving on to manage Crystal Studios in the heart of Hollywood, has a vision. We can record an entire album there for free. Sell it to the highest bidder. Coat the continent in milky effluvium and all that.
I fly out there to get a feel for the lay of the land. Crystal lacks the Architectural Digest pizzazz of Northstar. However, it does have something distinctive going for it in the decor department—the place is literally wallpapered in gold and platinum albums. The engineer selected for our project is responsible for mixing half the gleaming hardware. Seems like a proverbial marriage made in heaven. All we have to do is bring our selves, our costumes (space milkman and milkman classic) and Bessie, our beloved robotic bovine that introduces the band and gives milk on stage. In return we'll be loosed in a world class studio for as long as it takes to complete a masterpiece, a piece for the masses, or, better yet, an album that combines elements of both.
What have I got to lose? My small but advantageous cubbyhole in the Boulderado. Infiltration of the beat world. Girls, girls, girls everywhere—a steady supply of Naropan babes there for the taking, the tremendous availability of whatever the Buddhist equivalent of "shiksa" babes is strolling the Pearl Street Mall, ballerinas galore, the insane amount of pretty young things "fountaineering" outside the CU Student Union. Popularity that a high school reject could barely imagine in his wildest dreams; I couldn't walk ten feet on the Pearl Street Mall without running into someone I knew or someone who wanted to know me. All the organic food I could scarf down for $3 at Hannah's New Age Foods. A town where I didn't even need a car to hook up with hundreds of well-marked trails leading up Flagstaff Mountain or along Hogback Ridge. Playing to receptive audiences now numbering in the thousands. Controlling dispensation of precious backstage passes. Come to think of it, that's quite a lot!
Yet exchanging these niceties for the very real promise of A-level fame and fortune proves too enticing to resist. With a chance to grab the brass ring, I resign my Rocky Mountain Musical Express editorship, halt fiction production, and concentrate exclusively on songwriting.
A bittersweet last night in the Boulderado. At dawn, The Milkmen will ride west, with all our earthly possessions tightly packed inside a cube van. That's the backdrop as I faced the question of the ages—can I get lucky one more time?
My favorite Beat Central den of iniquity has long been The Mezzanine Bar, a superb pickup spot if ever there was one. Patrons sink into reproductions of Victorian period furniture, bathed in shafts of soft amber light filtering through its one-of-a-kind stained glass canopy ceiling. The preferred second-floor vantage point is also an ideal spot to scrutinize all the new talent wandering in the front door, slinking around the lobby, ascending the stately cherrywood staircase. I'm in the habit of reconnoitering the territory for signs of life before repairing to the 5th floor.
I'm making a last lap around the mezzanine level when who should beckon me over to her faux blue velvet fainting couch but Carol Zussbaum, main squeeze of that man again, John Steinbeck IV, grandson of the esteemed Of Mice and Men author and still a big man on campus. Interesting. Carol's one Jubu it never occurred to me that I had any shot with. Hmm. I mull over a possible coupling for a millisecond before concluding that one can only be so deferential to the male children of illustrious littérateurs.
A couple of Kamikazes later, Carol and I are clawing each other in Room 509. Things are going swimmingly when the old-time black rotary telephone springs to life. It rings and rings and rings. Finally, I tear myself away and pick up.
"This is John Steinbeck. Is Carol there?"
"John Steinbeck? Back from the dead?"
"John Steinbeck the fourth!" bellows he. "Where's Carol?"
"Carol who? How should I know?"
"Are you sure she's not there?"
"Are you reading for the part of Lenny? Get it through your head. I have no idea where she is."
Clang. Pause. Resumption. Giggling. Wriggling. I'm reminded just how much redheads rule when BAM BAM BAM, it's Steinbeck IV, pounding furiously on the door.
This interruption could have spelled real trouble, that is, if the Boulderado's architectonic features didn't include a well-wrought set of ornamental iron fire escapes thoughtfully provided for emergencies just like this. I take a mental snapshot of Carol's taut Jubu buns scampering out the window, preserving the moment for posterity.
By the time I admit the literary scion, I'm calmly handing him a lit joint.
"Can't a guy roll a doob in peace? There's nothing to see here."
"Oh. My mistake."
"Perhaps Carol's at calligraphy practice with the Great Master," I suggest, modeling helpfulness. Dharma art was an accepted pathway to, forgive my pidgin Buddhism, "true perception." I was missing Carol's truly perceptive pathway already. Despite the small sample size, IV's protective streak seemed entirely justified. No wonder he had spies tracking her movement.
"I apologize. I'm really sorry to have bothered you."
"It's cool. We're good. Hey, I wouldn't know, but I imagine it must be hard to labor under the burden of a famous father?"
The future author of the Naropa exposé The Other Side of Eden nods in assent.
"I feel for you. I have the opposite problem. My dad sells holes."
"Whaddya mean, he sells holes?"
"He's a wholesaler. Small appliances. Electric shavers and Mr. Coffees."
I'd had about all the merriment free love on the fringes of Naropa had to offer.