To avoid the Draft, Steve who’d been my drama teacher in the Catholic seminary, suggested I move in with him in Sheboygan, Wisconsin on Lake Michigan. It seemed like the best way to save my 1A ass. If the Draft noose tightened, I could easily slip across Lake Michigan to Canada and safety. In my LSD-addled brain, I hallucinated myself wearing a leather-fringed jacket while felling a redwood on the shore of Lake Michigan which I assumed was an easily navigable, tranquil pond. I imagined myself hewing a canoe out of the fallen trunk then paddling across to Canada where the Indian maiden pictured on packages of Land O’ Lakes butter would await me – kneeling on a rock, her arms extended in wise, warm Native American greeting. We would then retire to her wigwam for some wise, warm, Native American fucking. When my squaw and I presented our papoose to the people of Canada, they would toss their Mountie hats in the air while Neil Young and Joni Mitchell serenaded the scene. Never mind that had I canoed across Lake Michigan I would have landed in… oops… Michigan. (So, okay, geography wasn’t my strong suit.)
In the spring of 1969, I dropped out of college and was instantly stamped USA PRIME CANNON FODDER – FOB VIETNAM. So, I did what any red-blooded, college dropout would do – I dropped a tab of LSD. Then I wrote a letter to my Draft Board. So, along with the FBI’s recording of my castrato voice in Casa Storta restaurant, there sits somewhere in the U.S. government archives my literary attempt at dodging death in the Mekong Delta.
My apologia was neatly handwritten and coherent until I peaked on the LSD at which point my penmanship and prose style achieved heights of evagination, opacification, introflexion, contusion and abrasion not seen since the automatic writing of the Surrealists. My text was pre-post-modernist in the truest sense while its semiotics encompassed elements of proto-Beat, neo-Symbolist and crypto-koan poetics. The last legible bit was a Socratic dialogue between Ho Chi Minh and The Electric Prunes. Then I reached for my Crayolas and lost all connection with coherence and sanity.
- My Draft Board read my cri du cœur.
- My Draft Board told me to report.
I reported and, with knees knocking, told my Draft Board to their astounded, furious faces that they could go fuck themselves. Then, with knees knocking even louder, I wobbled out of the room.
Single proudest moment of my life.
And, I remain proud that I was a Draft resister, not a Draft dodger. I publicly proclaimed myself opposed to the unfair Draft system. LBJ and Secretary of Defense McNamara had become so desperate for fresh meat that they were drafting men who were physically deficient and mentally defective. (Look up “McNamara’s Morons” if you don’t believe me.) Meanwhile, Bill Clinton and many other politicians of the Left and Right were Draft dodgers. They did not publicly oppose the Draft lest it harm their political futures. Instead, they had influential people protect them from present and future harm. I had only my Crayolas.
In the 1960s, we knew that the C.I.A. had used L.S.D. as a truth-serum. We even joked as we toked that Timothy Leary was probably a government agent. We wondered as we got stoned – “What if the entire ‘counterculture’ was created and controlled by some shadowy element in the intelligence world for who knows what purpose?”
Welp… crazy as it sounds, we now know that the C.I.A. funded the Abstract Expressionist art movement, influential literary journals and Ms. Magazine. And, there is intriguing evidence that Leary and Gloria Steinem were indeed (consciously or not) being controlled by the C.I.A. And, this’ll blow your mind – members of the Grateful Dead now attend the ultra-secret Bohemian Grove – the summer camp of the ruling elite that’s linked to the (gulp) C.I.A. So, like they say, “Just coz you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you… man!
In the late 1960s, the Lower East Side and especially St. Mark’s Place is the epicenter of New York’s hippie-yippie-trippieworld. It is Haight-Ashbury East. It is lined with head shops, record-shops, bookshops, poster-shops and vintage-clothes shops. The sidewalk is packed with freaks, frauds and fools. It’s fun. But, by the early 1970s, when Rob and I move in, St. Mark’s is lined with strung-out hippie-junkies and emaciated speed-freaks – the kids who forgot to get off the train before it hit the wall. They are gawked-at by tardy tourists in from Omaha and Osaka. (“Is this where the hippies live?”) In 1968, I see a Black hippie digging for food in a macrobiotic restaurant’s garbage can. Fifty years later, I see him doing the very same and he looks remarkably healthy. I’m astounded that the macrobiotic manure hasn’t killed him.
In the early ’70s, now that their patchouli-oil bubble has burst in an explosion of exceptionally sour disappointment, the hippie-junkies and emaciated speed-freaks feel it is their right to “liberate” money from others – “This is a stick-up… er, I mean, this is a revolution, man.” Young actors are easy prey. So, when returning home late at night, Rob and I avoid the sidewalk and practice our broken-field running down the middle of the street. We figure this gives us more chance of evading any muggers or bullets headed our way.