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Member of the Family: Manson, Murder and Me

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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I was slightly buzzed, and as I wandered through the throng, a guy flashed me a peace sign as his girlfriend handed me a flower and gave me a hug. Next to them was a cute boy who had caught my eye.

“Hey, pretty,” he said. He grabbed my hand and invited me to sit with his group. They were definitely older than I was, but without my parents, I am sure I looked older than my age to them.

“Hey, you hungry?” A dark-haired girl in an Indian-print dress handed me a bunch of sunflower seeds. I eagerly accepted them and proffered money for some sodas. The boy who brought me over volunteered to get them for us, and without thinking I gave him what was left of my babysitting money. In a few minutes he returned with sodas, hot pretzels, and candy.

“Thanks, Red,” he said and squeezed in next to me.

I felt myself blush. I hadn’t realized how lonely I had been. I wasn’t seeing anyone anymore, not even the boy who got me fired from my babysitting job. I wanted someone to touch me and think I was pretty. We were now fairly stoned, and instead of getting the munchies and craving food, I fixated on wanting to be kissed. I longed to be wanted, and this boy did not disappoint. He brushed his lips softly on mine and I felt a twinge of desire. He pulled me up and we danced. I wanted to find a place behind a tree so we could explore each other’s bodies. I knew the warmth of his body next to mine would make me feel the love that everyone was talking about.

We danced and kissed and I noticed it was getting late. I told him I needed to find my parents, which probably made him aware just how young I was. I hinted that he might walk me back, but he seemed to lose interest, so I just gave him a halfhearted wave and took off.

The sun was low on the horizon. I moved through the late-afternoon shadows, dizzied and energized by the mass of people around me. Stepping over tangles of bodies and around those who were still dancing, I understood, perhaps clearly for the first time, that I was on the periphery of something—not just the spectacle in the park, but something larger than all of this. What had been going on in my house, with my parents and their friends, was happening all over California. It wasn’t just my parents, and it wasn’t just my father—it was a moment, it was in the air, and everyone in that park seemed to sense it, moving in unison to its rhythm. I didn’t understand what it was all about, but I wanted to. No one asked too many questions. They were going with the flow. And even though I was younger than the people around me, I was old enough to see the power of it all and didn’t want to be left behind.

My thoughts about the day were interrupted when I returned to where my parents had parked our car and found it wasn’t there. I retraced some of my steps to make sure I hadn’t miscalculated, but I am always careful to find landmarks in an unfamiliar place. As I realized that I was definitely where the car had been, reality set in: They had left without me. At first, I was angry that they would do that to me—it wasn’t even that late and I’d told them I would catch up with them. Quickly, though, my anger turned to fear. I had no idea how I was going to get home.

I held back tears and thought about it logically. I had just turned fourteen and didn’t want to look like a baby, but I had never been completely on my own. I had never feared the police, even though people would joke about them and call them the fuzz, so I headed right for the station, confident they could help me get home. As I was walking to the police station in the park, an older-looking boy stopped me. He must have seen that my eyes were tearing up.

“Where are you headed?” he asked. “You look lost.”

“My ride left me,” I squeaked.

“You mean your parents?” he chided.

He told me that he was in college and that he would be happy to give me a lift. He was so disarming that it didn’t occur to me until later that he might have wanted something in return. I was so upset at the fact that my parents had apparently abandoned me that I wasn’t even thinking that going with this stranger could be dangerous.

“You better wipe your eyes before you go in,” he said as he pulled the car in front of my house. He opened the door for me and handed me a handkerchief. I wiped the salt and dirt off my face, thanked him for the final time, put on my best glare, and walked inside.

When I got in, my mother burst out crying. “Dianne, I was so worried about you.”

“I told you she would find her way back home,” Clarence interjected before I got a word out.

“We needed to go and couldn’t find you,” my mother blurted out.

“She’s fine, Shirley. I told you she would be. She is resourceful,” my father said.

“I was praying that the universe would protect you and bring you home.” My mother sobbed.

All I could do was stare at her. I didn’t know how my parents’ words were supposed to affect me, but they certainly didn’t make me feel better. I grabbed a Coke and went to bed.

Their decision to leave me there was not easy to forget. It was obvious from their reactions when I returned that my mother had known leaving me was a bad idea, but she had let my father talk her into it anyway. He’d been right that I would get home safely, but that was beside the point. Like any teenager, I wanted my freedom; however, I also wanted my parents to act like parents. At heart I was conservative and shy. While I liked the colorful clothes and the music at the “happenings” I attended with my family and they were fun, I would have been just as happy staying at home and helping my mom cook and clean the house. It wasn’t my idea to become a hippie.

Ever since we’d moved to California, my father’s more impulsive instincts had been largely absent from our lives, but after the love-in, I realized they’d been just below the surface all along. I loved my father, but as had so often been the case back in Minnesota, my mother still deferred to him. Only this time it wasn’t about our house, our stuff, or a hi-fi. It was about me.

With each day, my family became more and more enmeshed in hippie culture. Our home was filled with the sounds of Buffalo Springfield, the Doors, and other new bands. In particular, the Doors were becoming more popular, so when I noticed that they would be playing in Santa Barbara, I asked my father if he would take some of my friends and me to the concert. As it turned out, no one could go with me, but my father wanted to go. It was just the two of us at a concert at the Earl Warren Showgrounds on the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend, 1967. The lineup was the Doors, Country Joe and the Fish, Andrew Staples, Captain Speed.

It was strange being with my father by myself for the drive to the concert. I was typically never alone with him for very long. If I visited him when he was working on something he would talk to me, but we were now stuck in a car for well over an hour and a half of awkward.

I listened intently while he droned on about his new philosophies. Some of his talk seemed circular, but I liked hearing him describe his thoughts even when they confused me.

We were driving along the coast with the windows down. He had his hand with its ever-present cigarette dangling loosely out of the window while I rested my elbow on the armrest. I was humming “Light My Fire” from the new album by the Doors when my father cleared his throat.

“It’s okay for people to have sex, you know that, don’t you?”

I felt nauseated.

“If you have a boyfriend and want to have sex, it can be a beautiful thing,” he said matter-of-factly. I wanted to stop listening. I had no idea why he was telling me this. He probably figured sexual activity was inevitable in light of everything that was happening around me. “Just make sure the boy uses birth control.”

I was glad that was the gist of the discussion. This was the second time one of my parents had offered either birth control or advice about birth control. My mother had brought it up out of nowhere when I was in seventh grade. I had been going on some dates with a Jewish boy I met at the beach. I went to his house a few times and he came to mine. We did a lot of closed-mouth kissing and we talked about how much we liked each other, but that was where it ended. It never occurred to me to do anything other than kissing, and he’d never even tried.

My mother must have assumed something more was going on at the time because she asked me if I wanted to go on the pill. I was so embarrassed that I simply said no. I have no idea why my parents thought I was having sex or even wanted to. They never discussed anything with me other than birth control. I figured there must have been more to it than that, but I wasn’t about to ask.

It was hard to see it at the time, but the love-ins and rock concerts were just the start of some radical shifts in our family life. As eighth grade wound down, my parents became more enmeshed in psychedelic culture, though I didn’t realize just how much things had changed until my father gave me LSD for the first time.

It was in early June, and Jan, Joan, and I were sitting around the shortened table with my parents and a bunch of their friends. We’d just eaten a great home-cooked meal.

My father got a twinkle in his eye. “Dianne,” he said dramatically, “it is time for you to know more about who you are.” The pronouncement, especially coming from him, was mysterious, but I figured nothing could be worse than our sex discussion.

My father walked around the table passing out tabs of acid to the guests and giving smaller tabs to me, Jan, and Joan.

“Put the tab on your tongue,” he said. “I have some surprises for you.”

I was already surprised, but since my father was giving us the drugs, I didn’t hesitate to accept. He told us he would be right in the next room and that it would be best if we didn’t leave the house. He beseeched us to stay inside where he could see us if we needed his help. I had no idea what to expect, but my father’s obvious concern made the expectation exhilarating. I felt a buzz even before the drug took effect.

My father put on the new Beatles album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and at first I didn’t feel anything. Then I started to feel the music. I laughed and had to lie down. I couldn’t imagine wanting to leave the house. I had a realization of being a me that was more than me. I would never be able to put it into words, but somehow I knew in that moment that everything I would ever need was with me and inside me. When the song “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” came on, I was enthralled.

“Jan, Joan, do you see the notes?” I asked. They had to see them. They were everywhere. The notes were alive. Then I heard the calliope. It took up the entire room and filled me with ecstasy. I never heard anything so beautiful; it penetrated me from my fingertips down to my toes.

My father came into the room to check on us and handed us The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. He treated it as if it were an ancient tome. He described it as sacred writings that would give us the key to everything we ever wanted to know and ever would. I focused in on the writing on the cover. It was written by my father’s hero Timothy Leary and dedicated to the psychedelic explorer and author Aldous Huxley.

I read the title aloud: “The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead.” We each looked at each other and repeated the word dead as if it held special meaning. Then we took turns reading passages to one another.

It began:

A psychedelic experience is a journey to new realms of consciousness. The scope and content of the experience is limitless, but its characteristic features are the transcendence of verbal concepts, of space-time dimensions, and of the ego or identity.

In that moment I understood why I would never be able to explain what I was feeling. There were no words.

We decided to walk around the house in our state of altered perception, stopping to look at some of my father’s paintings on the walls. His art was now reflecting the change in his interior world, and he had many of what were now being called psychedelic abstractions hanging in our house. They were very colorful and visually symbolic. We paused in front of each of the paintings and stared as the colors blended into a kaleidoscope of pattern.

When we all returned to earth, Jan and Joan went home, leaving me alone to contemplate what I’d experienced. During the acid trip, I’d seen a physical cable connecting my head to the heads of my parents, but at one point, I felt a strong sensation that this cable had been cut. In hindsight, I find it hard to say how much of this was just the acid exposing emotions that most teenagers experience as they try to separate themselves from their parents and understand who they are becoming. But in light of my parents’ behavior toward me, the experience was potent, the symbolism impossible for me to ignore. More and more, they were showing a desire for me to grow up, to consider myself an adult, to think and act independently. Whether I felt ready for that seemed irrelevant. What had started with my mother’s telling me I was too old for a good-night kiss, and continued with my parents leaving me at the love-in, had progressed to the point that both my parents were assuming I was already having sex. As much as I wanted to stay a child in an uncomplicated world, I now understood that I had to grow up.

After that first trip, my sense of self was unmistakably different. From then on, I was an individual taking a journey that was all my own, not a child lingering in the shadow of my parents. They wanted me to mature, so that’s what I would do. Though I didn’t fully understand the ramifications of that vision, some part of me was aware that things were shifting in our family and those changes seemed to be speeding up, building toward something. The sense of normality that had defined my life a few short months ago was rapidly coming undone.

6 (#ulink_efb1b331-4e07-5fce-b83a-b28c6a142d2c)

HIPPIES IN NEWSPRINT (#ulink_efb1b331-4e07-5fce-b83a-b28c6a142d2c)

The turbulence my family had been experiencing during the spring of 1967 was magnified when my parents became involved with an underground newspaper called the Oracle, run by a group of like-minded hippies.

At the time, the landscape of the counterculture was changing rapidly, and the Oracle was at the forefront of these shifts, appealing to people like my father who were already prone to questioning societal norms. Every few months it seemed that new ideas arrived and were quickly adopted by this pioneering fringe, creating a shifting cocktail of philosophy, spirituality, faith, communal ideas about property and love, and drugs that pushed the boundaries further outward. The Oracle was instrumental in preaching about much of this, drawing in my parents and others like them, and eventually shaping the beliefs that would alter all our lives.

The Southern California Oracle was the offspring of the San Francisco Oracle newspaper, which had started as a small underground rag but eventually boasted a major circulation. Here is how they described themselves in their second issue in 1967:

The incredible growth of the SF Oracle from 1200 copies to over 60000 in only six issues suggests that it meets a tremendous need for some form of spiritual communication that young people can accept. Nowhere is this need more obvious than right here in Los Angeles. It is with the blessing of the San Francisco Oracle that we now exist.

The Oracle is a newspaper, but it is more than that. It will shortly be incorporated as a religious association dedicated to sharing the insights gained from the psychedelic experience that others may ennoble their lives and place these in harmony with the forces that animate the universe. The Oracle is interested in any style of living that provides greater satisfaction, greater self-awareness, more joy, love and fulfillment. On these pages, we will explore the many roads to life enhancement, the many ways of centering one’s consciousness of releasing the joyous spirit within.

The Oracle is dedicated to making life a wondrous experience for all. In keeping with that notion, we will originate gatherings, parties, dances and other excuses for the tribes to gather and celebrate.

The paper itself was pieced together like an artistic acid trip. Each page had a different-colored font, and the artwork pushed the parameters of what would have been considered decent by the standards of the “straight world.” However, some of the writers were very serious and discussed the topic of chemically induced mystical experiences. In one issue, they did an extensive interview with Alan Watts. They took themselves seriously, and so did my father.

The paper and the people dedicated to its cause were perfect for my parents and their changing sensibilities. I don’t know if the Oracle newspaper inspired my parents’ thinking, or how much my dad had any influence on the content and artwork beyond his credit as an artist in the June 1967 edition, but those dedicated to the paper became our new community, and as a family we began to attend some of the “tribal meetings” mentioned in the paper.

The Oracle staff had an office where they put together the paper, but they also lived communally in a house in Laurel Canyon. Laurel Canyon itself was a melting pot of musical talent; hippies and artists were drawn to it as if by a gravitational pull. The house itself was described in many accounts as cavernous and was dubbed the Log Cabin, but only because it was made of wood and nestled in a forest. Any other resemblance to a cabin was greatly understating its grandeur. It was on five different levels, with a bowling alley in the basement painted in Day-Glo colors. The living room where they would hold their meetings must have been at least two thousand square feet, which was bigger than our Santa Monica home. It had fancy chandeliers and a fireplace that took up an entire wall. The thing I remember the most was the glassed-in addition, which looked like a tree house. It was more like an atrium, and during the few times I went there with my parents, there were always musicians jamming in this space. It overlooked water, and staring fixedly into the reflections of trees on the still water below, I could ignore the odd people who used the place as a crash pad.

The Log Cabin would later become the home of Frank Zappa and was legendary in the lore of Laurel Canyon and the music scene in the 1960s, but when we were there, the Oracle commune shared the space with another hippie commune led by Vito Paulekas and Carl Franzoni. They ran a free-form dance troupe and liked to refer to themselves as freaks rather than hippies. Vito was an ex-con who shared many qualities with someone else I was destined to meet, especially his almost hypnotic methods for attracting nubile young women into his sex-fueled lair. Vito was a common sight at Venice Beach, and even though he was already in his early fifties, he was considered one of the inspirations for the fashion and attitudes of the hippie movement, including his reputation for sex orgies.

I went to the Log Cabin with my parents on at least three weekends and witnessed a circus of people all doing their own thing. My parents had no problem with my seeing the goings-on of the movement regardless of whether it was technically appropriate, and now that I had taken LSD, I could tell those who were into their own trip from those who were simply hangers-on. Being older than the children, I was once again stuck in the middle, where young teens are forced to dwell; I found myself attracted to some of the men who were partying at the Log Cabin, but they hardly noticed me because they saw me as a kid.
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