I don’t think we were really in the Castro Street flat for very long. At some point, Leslie moved back to the Market Street building but this time was in the upper flat. I think that she must have had a good relationship with the landlord there. I was given a tiny room in the front of the building over the doorway. It was barely big enough for a full size bed and even then, there was not enough room to walk around the bed. Partly because of my romance with Leslie’s boyfriend, Jim, some tensions began to arise between Louise and I.
PCP had become popular by this time in both a tablet form and a powder form that was called “angel dust.” I did not particularly like the high because it had a stong chemical taste and made me feel stupid and slow and made it difficult to walk because I couldn’t feel my legs, but a lot of people loved it. Louise had a lot of it and thought it was funny to “dose” people in the house. Without them knowing it, she gave a couple of the people in the house large amounts of the drug and although, they didn’t seem to mind, it terrified me that she would do this and I lived in fear that she might do this to me sometime. While these others were “dosed” on the drug, all they could do was crawl on the floor and drool. For some, I guess this was enjoyable but I wanted no part of it.
By August 24th, 1971, I had left the room in Leslie’s flat on Market to move in with Jim on 24th Street, across from the public library.
Jim lived in a sort of “commune living” situation that was popular at the time with young hippies as it was very inexpensive. Most hippies shared flats in San Francisco with several room mates to cut down on costs. Every room except the kitchen and bath, would be made into a bedroom and everyone would share the expenses. Usually everyone got at least food stamps if not general assistance. In some situations, everyone would pool their foodstamps and food would be purchased for the entire house, while in other situations, each person would have their own space for their own food. In some houses, housekeeping chores would be distributed or assigned, while in others, they would get done by whoever the martyr was that was bothered by the dirt or mess the most.
Jim had several room mates when I moved in with him. I really only remember the name of Shelly. I think that Jim’s brother Lee or sister Myrna might have been there at the time or visited too? I think his old army buddy Kenny, might have lived in the house. Later Kenny would live with us and end his life in the flat on Shotwell street.
I was pretty emotionally immature at the time and socially inept and very dependent on Jim. It was my first “lover” relationship and I was insecure and jealous of anyone that took Jim’s attention from me. I didn’t really know the other people in the house and isolated myself much of the time in Jim’s room when he was at work. Marijuana always made me feel anxious and a little paranoid too and there was always a lot of it around. Somehow I got some oil paints and a canvas and started painting a picture of Jim and I and this occupied me for a while.
Shelly was older than Jim and I and was an avid fan of Busby Berkely and old movies from the thirties. I don’t think that I had much awareness of some of the classic movies of that era. I knew who Groucho Marx was because he had a television show, but I had not really seen all the Marx brothers movies at that time. I don’t think I had really heard of Mae West until then. Shelly turned me on to a whole new era of film making and gave me some appreciation of these earlier films.
Living in a house with room mates can be stressful. There are always fights about dishes being left in the sink or someone not pulling their weight or paying for their share. Jim and I finally moved to a small one bedroom apartment on 14th Street. I had a Bell and Howell “sound-o-film” super-8 camera and have some footage of a Christmas with Jim on 14th Street and a Halloween there.
Most of the furniture in the apartment on 14th Street came from what was salvaged by Jim from the San Francisco sidewalks. People would often just put their discarded couch or table out on the sidewalk and others would collect it for their own. One of our coffee tables was nothing more than a huge spool that had contained some sort of telephone or other wire in another incarnation. A couple of pieces may have been bought at Purple Heart or Goodwill. One of the only things that was bought new was our big queen size waterbed.
Jim and I had two cats. Sadie and Psychedelic. There was another cat named Blacky at some point but that might have actually belonged to Leslie. Jim and I also had some gerbils.
On Christmas, we stole our tree out of a lot, late at night and ran through the streets with our booty. We blew out eggs and decorated them with glitter and made strings of popcorn.
We were deeply in love and were young and discovering that many men that had identified themselves as “hippies” previously, were not beginning to identify themselves with a new word, “gay.” It may not have actually been so much a new word as it was a new identity for us. In the past, homosexuals had been defined as prancing, mincing, pathetic and desperate. Now there was a new identity as activists for sexual freedom. We frequented a bar on Folsom Steet called the Stud and it seemed like new bars were opening all the time that catered to our growing community. . I was only eighteen at the time but it was easy to get into any of the bars just by ignoring the doorman and walking past them.
Through the 1970’s, the gay scene in San Francisco was exploding. It seemed like new bars were opening all the time. In The Castro, there was Toad Hall that opened in 1971 that had a small dance floor. The Midnight Sun also opened in 1971 and was a “stand-up” bar with video. .Moby Dick would come later with it’s large aquarium, Badlands with it’s rough wood interior and license plates on the walls from all over the country..The Pendulum was the place for gay men of color and those that admired them. Alfies was a hot dance club on Market for a while as was The Shed and the Mind Shaft. Nothing Special really was nothing special for me. The Balcony seemed to come and go pretty quickly.. The Elephant Walk opened in 1975 and I remember Sylvester playing in a corner and the music blasting out into the corner or 18th and Castro. There were many other bars that opened in the area but these are just a few that I actually went to.
Polk Street had Buzzbys and the Giraffe and others in the 70’s.
Folsom street had the Ramrod which opened in 1971 and I remember going their with Jim. Leather was becoming a subculture of the gay scene. There were many other bars, baths and sex clubs in The Folsom, some of which I visited, while others I just heard about: The Bootcamp, The Barracks, The Red Star Saloon, Folsom Prison, End Up, The Ambush, Hombre, The Catacombs, The Slot, The Hotel (later renamed The Handball Express), The Brig, The Arena, The Roundup (later renamed The Watering Hole), The Quarters, Black & Blue, Folsom Street Baths (later renamed The Sutro Baths). The Stables, The Trench, The Hothouse and later The Eagle.
There was a gender bending group called “The Cockettes” that were doing a new kind of theater midnights at the Palace theater in North Beach. It was a very exciting time.
Psychedelic drugs were prominent in the youth culture in the late sixties and early seventies but I was becoming weary of them around this time. I remember one particular psychedelic experience that took place when living with Jim on 14th Street. It was in the evening and after iingestion, we had gone to Frankllin Square at 16th and Bryant. It was a little cool that night so I wore my brown leather jacket that had the fringe that was popular at the time and unique deer antler buttons that Louise had sewed onto the jacket to replace the original buttons that were not nearly as interesting.
There is a point after ingestion when you first felt the effects of the psychedelic which was called “coming on.” We arrived at the park which was just a few blocks from our apartment and in the dark of night, we sat down on the grass in the park. I started to feel I was starting to “come on” to the psychedelic and I leaned back in the grass to relax and start enjoying the effects. When I leaned back into the grass, I felt something slick on my elbow and sat up and realized what I had leaned into– a big, fresh mound of dog excrement. I panicked.
We immediately went back to the apartment as the night started vibrating. Rainbow colors flashed through the night air. We got back to the apartment and I quickly started running some water in the bathtub and got some detergent and put my leather jacket in the water. Just at the time that the effects of the psychedelic became more intense, I realized the mistake of putting a leather jacket in water. The night pretty much went downhill from there.
At one point, I remember sitting on the water bed observing patterns of kaliedescopic light and color pulsating in front of me. I couldn’t see anything else but the patterns at one point. Then I became I part of the pulsating light and color. I was just a part of the pattern, pulsating. I no longer existed except as a pulsating pattern within the pattern I had been observing.