) It’s a little bit messy, but you can read the first four chapters of a rambling but true memoir on Google + (
Before I dropped out of grad film school, guess what – I dropped out of college. I had one semester left at the SUNY at Buffalo. I just couldn’t see any purpose in having the diploma, and I always wanted to be somewhere else.
And so, I dropped out. I had no money (as usual) and decided to hitch back to New York from Buffalo. If you don’t know the state, Buffalo is about as far from the Bronx as you can get and still be in New York.
It was a cold gloomy day, typical for a Buffalo winter. I had my things in a duffel bag. No computers or cell phones back then. Just clothes and a few books.
I got a ride to the Thruway pretty fast and a few rides further I was near Oswego and then my luck gave out and as it got dark, I was shivering on the side of the main highway, praying for a ride.
And so I was thrilled when a big black cadillac slowed down and then pulled over ahead of me. I grabbed the duffel and went running towards it.
Just one guy in there and he looked friendly enough, although at that point I might’ve gotten into a car with anyone. And he introduces himself as – sorry – whoever you were but I don’t exactly remember names 30 years later. But let’s just say his name was Joe. And he’s going another hundred miles or so.
Long story short – I don’t remember much about the ride – but he invited me to stay at his house overnight and get a fresh start in the morning. Sounded good. Car pulls into the driveway of a green (that I do remember) wooden two-story home, maybe from the thirties. I hear dogs barking in the backyard.
We come in – and walk directly into the kitchen where there are three girls (yes, we called them girls in those days) about my age, that he says he’s renting rooms to.
I was very shy around girls in those days and they were doing most of the talking – I was just listening. I do remember, and this is strange after all this time that the girl next to me was called Gloria and that she had done all the cooking. I also remember that they had my favorite food for dinner – beef stew. Strange to remember that.
Okay. Forget all that. I’m trying to get to the point of the story, if there is one.
And yes, there is one.
When I left college, I was about 20 years old. I had told my father the day before, and they had tried to talk me out of it, but I had my mind made up. I was going to come back to New York and be a writer.
What, you say? A writer? What’s next, a ballet dancer.
No. It’s true. The first thing I wanted to be was a writer. And unfortunately for me I found myself hanging out in Buffalo with other kids who wanted to be writers and this one kid Glen (that is his real name) who was already published.
I believe, that’s what set me off. And anyway, they say that guy’s brains aren’t really fully formed until they’re in their late twenties and Socrates wrote that you should never allow someone to be a philosopher until they were in their forties.
So it was really Glen that kept saying things like, “man, you’re just wasting your time here…” or, “any writer worth his salt would be doing interesting stuff already…”
The whole hitch hiking thing was big back then. We didn’t worry about maniacs behind the wheel. We really didn’t.
I probably could’ve afforded to take a bus back to the city, but I did want to be a writer and a writer needed to get a lot of experience. That was common knowledge.
Well, I did have an experience that night. Joe showed me up to a small room on the second floor near the stairs and I remember thanking him and he was saying that he’d be gone early…
Actually, now I remember – it wasn’t a room – it was the attic, and yes there were stairs that lead up to it (let the editor cut out the other stuff later about the room) and a small window and a cot and it was dusky. And guess what – I was keeping a journal at that time – to be a writer – and I still have the journals from back then. So just to refresh my memory – I found the day, and what I wrote about coming back to New York.
“January 4, 1972 – Miserable ride home. Wet. Cold. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.”
Then I write about the fight with my father the night before and it just breaks off in the middle with a big dash and…
What happened was this. While I was writing, I heard low chanting that sounded as if it were outside my door. It wasn’t really scary, but there was also some sort of aromatic smell and a very very slight scratching on the ladder that lead up to the attic opening.
Frankly, I was afraid to turn the light off. I still had my clothes on and I basically sat on the edge of the bed straining to hear what the words were.
Somehow, given how tired I was and the chanting faded out, and I managed to fall asleep, though I kept the lamp on.
Of course there’d be no point in telling the story if that’s how it ended, so what happens next? I awakened, around midnight I would guess by more chanting. Whereas before it seemed to be mostly female, now there’s a male voice as well that I recognize as Joe’s voice.
Okay, well, that’s enough for me. One thing I know is that I won’t be staying there that night. I throw the journal (got have experiences, right) in the duffel and as quietly as I can, damned creaky floorboards, look down the ladder to the second floor which is empty and before you know it I’m on the second floor.
It’s obvious that the chants are coming from the living room which is just near the kitchen and that in order to sneak out of the house, I’m going to have to walk right by where the chanting emanates from.
I creep down the stairway, as slowly and quietly as I can and as I’m halfway down I pull back a little because I can just get a glimpse of whatever is going on in the living room and the glimpse I got scared the crap out of me.
I don’t know if what I saw was really that scary; I see many similar things on t.v. today and they don’t’ scare me; but in 1972, it was scary to see a bunch of witches and a warlock (if that’s what you’d call him) sitting around the pentagram chanting.
Maybe if I knew them better it wouldn’t be so scary but in those days – you did have Manson and some other horrors in the back of your head; and I was frozen on that step.
I wasn’t sure what to do. To get out of the place, I’d have to pass them. Two of the girls would surely be facing me.
There was a screen door, and the main door to open. A lot of wood to walk by. And even once I got out to the driveway – what then? What was I going to do? I didn’t even know how to get to the highway.
On the other hand, they hadn’t really done anything to me; and actually they had been the friendliest people I had met all day.
So, like I say. The male mind isn’t fully operational at that age. I turned around quietly and went back up to the attic.
I can tell you this. That was one long night. I began to explore the attic and found the usual stuff – a baseball bat (which I kept by my side), there were a lot of records with rock music. A lot of what I’d call hippie stuff.
So. Nothing happened. It was just a very long night and I didn’t sleep at all.
Around dawn, I got up, and was preparing to leave when one of the girls – the one I remember as Gloria – called up that breakfast was ready.
Joe was already at the table, wearing overalls. Last night I had seen him in some sort of dressing gown. Gloria was wearing a flannel shirt and jeans. I probably remember her because she was the prettiest. She was at the stove making pancakes and sausages.
It was as if the whole thing had never happened.
Gloria brought the food over and Joe was talking about how fresh orange juice was better than this frozen stuff but that it was winter… in other words, banal bantering… and my duffel bag was in the hallway behind me and I sat down to eat.
Witches or not, I was hungry. I asked if it would be okay if I used their phone. My father must’ve been worried sick, expecting me to be home already.
Joe said no problem, though if it was long distance he would charge me. I made a collect call, telling my dad where i was and surely I would be home that day, and that I would call him when I made it to the House of Pancakes near Yonkers Raceway. (That HoJo’s closed a long time ago).
Back to the table to finish up breakfast. I offered to help wash the dishes but they said they’d take care of it.
Joe was on his way into town to pick up wood for the stove and said he’d drop me off by the thruway. And so, with my nerves settled, I got into the black caddy with Joe and off we went.
As soon as the car door closed, Joe reached into the glove compartment and Joe found a small bag of grass and rolled a joint. While he was rolling it with expert fingers, he wanted to know if I had slept well.
I lied – yes.
He comes right out and says that he and the girls are all witches – and that they don’t use their powers for evil or anything like that and they take people in all the time – usually hitch hikers – which is how he met the three girls that were there now – and then he says something that I’ll never forget.
“You know,” he says, as he takes a long deep toke on the joint, “you look like a writer.”
I was taken aback. And as the car filled with smoke, I had a few hits with him, and began to tell him the story about how I was leaving college to be a writer. And he was telling me that it would take a very long time. Maybe a few decades. But eventually, whatever I set my mind to, if I stuck with it – it would happen.
I eventually made it home of course. Drenched by more rain. Met my father by HoJo’s and went forward to meet my destiny. Okay, maybe that’s too dramatic but nevertheless true.