I wrote California Dreamin.’ You know the one, by the Mamas and the Papas. I ran away one day in ‘65 and went north where I met Mama Cass outside a tent commune somewhere near Monterey. She put a stamp of acid on my tongue and sang me hymnals until the sun rose. That’s how I know God is real.
It’s also how I became the around town roadie for the quartet before they’d even recorded a song or settled on a band name. It didn’t last. Being sixteen and all I wasn’t any good at keeping tabs on guitars and tambourines, high-hats and strings. Then one night I turned off the power mid-set while tripping and Mr. Graham from the Fillmore was in attendance looking for new acts. That was the end of the road for me as around town roadie. A voice told me to do it. A deep and convincing voice that tickled my ear.
John understood that enough to give me a ride to the train station the next morning as I read him poems. That’s when he asked for a copy of what I called “Stopped into a Church Along the Way.”
“Hey that’s real nice,” John said. “Reach into the glove compartment there and pull out a contract.”
I signed on three dotted lines against the dashboard waiting for the light to turn green somewhere near Post and Divisadero. We got it notarized at the train station post office, hugged liked brothers and parted ways. 10 percent was the cut. Now I got two houses — Malibu and Maui — a number one, three more top tens and four books of prose poetry. I got stocks and bonds and trust funds for all four of my kids from three marriages. My kin has generational wealth now because I was handy with words, dumb enough to read them out loud and smart to get away from the terror of my father’s fist. Isn’t that nice?
No, down on Post and Divisadero I gave that poem over for the rest of the weed John and I were smoking. I never saw a dime. Heard the song a year later in the back seat necking with soon-to-be wife number one. That was one hell of a high.