Archive for desert

Getting Home

Posted in nature, socialization with tags , , on November 2, 2008 by darcyarts

It was sometime in the 70’s. I had been visiting my grandparents at their mobile home in Hemet. The had a space across from the park’s man-made lake. it was quiet and serene.

When it came time for me to leave my grandmother suggested I get a lift back to Orange County with my father, Jim. He’d stopped by for a visit, too.

I never experienced Jim as a real dad. He occasionally visited his parents, my grandparents, starting about the time I hit my teen years. It was always weird. His self-absorbtion dripped off him like sweat.

I took the ride. Bad idea.

One of the least pleasant things about my father was his love of playing mind games with people.

Mental power-tripping was no doubt something he learned while incarcerated.

He’ s the one who said of Charles Manson: “I knew Charlie before he was a heppie.”

I climbed into Jim’s station wagon with his wife and small children. We hit the back road that cut through what them was lonely, desert territory. Jim decided to take a side trip deep into the scrub. Probably wanted to guzzle a couple more beers, stretch his legs, strike fear into the hearts of the innocent.

We all got out and stretched. I was anxious to get back to town but beggars can’t be choosers.

It wasn’t long before he began his routine.

“I could shoot you all and bury you out here in the desert. Nobody would ever find you,” said Jim.

This was before CSI and the modern technological improvements in forensics. They’d definitely find some part of us now, eventually.

The desert preserves. Time and the desert are old friends. The heat and the wind work a body until it’s just dry bone.

It was a chilling thought. He could shoot us all. It was true.

He had a shotgun with him. It was definitely within the realm of possibility. He probably had a little brain damage by this time, what with the previous two decades on a near constant diet of bennies, reds, pot and Thunderbird. I had no real idea where he drew his boundaries.

I might look back on this stunt a bit more kindly if he had some sort of point. If it had behind it was some weird lesson I could only learn from being shocked out of my normal senses, like a Zen thing. But it was just bullying. He wasn’t trying to enlighten anyone. His wife and her young daughter were along for the tide too. Just another cheap power trip.

I wish I had more charitable things to say. I guess he was kind of funny sometimes.

I wish he could have taken himself more seriously and found a way to be freaky without attaching his rebellion to criminality and cheap thrills.

His conscience ached a little in his last years but probably not much. I think life was joke to him and he wasn’t going to be a chump.

I don’t believe Jim would feel bad about my revelations. He enjoyed notoriety and I know he consciously sought at various times to be infamous. I don’t think he ever grew up. Sometimes that’s a good thing. If you’re stuck in the pulling-the-wings-off-flies stage of masculine development it’s not.


Getting to Words and Art

Posted in Art, dreams, music, nature, socialization, television with tags , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2008 by darcyarts

It’s 1969. I’m 16 and living on a commune.

One minute history lesson: A collective dream was shared for a very short period in the mid 60s. Then people decided to live what they thought might be a more creative and authentic existence. When political turmoil led to the murder of leaders who called for change and justice, the shock caused some to try to simplify life and get back to the country.

Nostalgia for the mud, Tom Wolfe called it in “Electric Koolaid Acid Test.”

If you have not read his poetic masterpiece of creative nonfiction, get thee to a bookstore!

There must have been hundreds of “farms” all over the country.

On “The Farm” down in the clean-dirt desert we lived very simply. Young men and women gatherd to throw off the rules with which their parents had saddled them. They adopted new, old ways — pooled resources, free love, herbal remedies, gardening, goat’s milk, fresh eggs, home-baked bread and the peppermint cleanse of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap.

The commune dwellers on “The Farm” where I lived were bright and energetic. They possessed an adventurous, questioning spirit. They were all older than I and they had been to college.

Kathy from Ohio had grandparents who retired to the California desert so it was she who found this particular farm. She and her east coast college friends came west and tried to create an unfettered, free and loving environment.

Back in Orange County, I spent a childhood filling my head with romantic, glamourized visions received from Hollywood films of the 30s and 40s. 

Leaving behind the television and replacing that cultural input with other people and their cool records was very good experience.

I’d been a gifted child but my befuddled grandparents did not know what to make of it.  In our house we had cheap mass-market astrology texts and endless piles of movie magazines. The bookmobile came by each week. I borrowed books written in the 30’s by Helen Dore Boylston, a series about a woman who becomes a nurse.

In those formative years I learned everything from the media — TV, movies and radio– and from the lyrics of songwriters. I guess that explains a few things doesn’ t it?

I was a natural autodidact. I soaked up everything around me and went looking for more, more, more. What I learned in my one year of high school was that smart, creative nonconformists are ostrasized. It is a rude adolescent melting pot, not a place for the sensitive.

I left traditional school behind for the desert, travel and stimulating conversations with interesting people like these:

The young man beside the red van was called, Ed, Red Van.

On the Farm we had descriptive nicknames for people. This prevented confusion and helped everyone easily pinpoint someone being discussed. 

He was a Virgo and had the group’s most commendable work ethic. He organized the men into a work-for-trade unit and took them out into the community to mend fences, build and repair things. He organized the selling or trading of our homemade bread to “straight” people in the community. It was good PR.

There were always lots of visitors or new people joining the group. The descriptive nicknames came in handy and helped avoid conversations like this:

“Ed is going into town,”

“Who’s Ed?”

“Oh you know, that guy with the red van.”

“Oh, yeah.”

Flute John was from Massachusetts. He was an Aries. Young and still growing out of his adolescent clunkiness. He didn’t say much and didn’t stay with us long.






Jerry, in the red headband, actually lived in Aguanga, the nearest little town to Sage. He was identified by being linked with his sister Sue. 

SuenJerry, or Aguanga SuenJerry.

A very sweet and sensitive Cancerian soul, he was AWOL and hiding out.  He had been drafted and was determined to avoid being sent to Vietnam. He didn’t go to college.



Alice Marquez (the woman who resembled Paramahansa Yogananda) and Bill Lashbrook in the garden doing the American Gothic pose.

Alice, the Aquarius, was a uniter of all levels, types and classes of people. She was uber friendly, bright and accepting. So, she was just Alice and everyone knew her.

Bill was very shy and had the sweetest dog, a chocolate lab named Cocoa. He and the dog were the mellow squad.

Alice checked out everybody’s action and finally settled into a domestic partnership with Bill. They became, then, AliceandBill.

Alice called me masa harina. In Spanish it is corn flour, the dough that tortillas are made of and sounds like masarina when the vowels are run together.

Alice’s family owned a Mexican bakery in Santa Paula. I don’t know why she called me that but I assumed it was an affectionate nickname. It could have easily been a reference to my soft, bland, innocence. I would change.

Words were magic, charged with romance and a little mystery that enhanced our newbie self-identities.

At this point, I believe Leonard Cohen, was my English teacher.

On quiet days I would sit alone in the white farm house and listen to this record.











Taj Mahal taught me about Americana and roots music when I listened to this sublime recording: