Chapter One: Another Time's Forgotten Space
Page 1; more on La Coruña:
If La Coruña has a somewhat infamous place in Spanish history, it is because
in July 1588, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella's supposedly invincible Armada
— 130 vessels and 20,000 men strong — set sail from the port for what was to
be an invasion of England. The quick English fleet, led by Sir Francis Drake and
aided by storm-tossed seas, roundly defeated the Armada near Calais, and a year
later Drake's forces attacked La Coruña before they were repelled.
Tiff's recollections of his grandfather are considerably more positive than Jerry's. "I liked him a lot. He was basically my male role model," he says. "He taught me how to putter with hammers and nails and all that. Back then they didn't have handymen, so he fixed everything that was broken. Jerry was never into the stuff he was into, basically. He always inventing weird, strange stuff, and I appreciated that part of him. He loved to putter down in Lompico."
Page 13, bottom; more on Jerry's Mom's bar:
"I grew up in a bar," Jerry said. "And that was back in the days when the Orient was still the Orient, and it hadn't been completely Americanized yet. They'd bring back all these weird things. Like one guy had the largest private collection of photographs of square-riggers. He was an old sea captain, and he had a mint condition '47 Packard that he parked out front. And he had a huge wardrobe of these beautifully tailored double-breasted suits from the '30s. And he'd tell these incredible stories. That was one of the reasons I couldn't stay in school [later]. School was a little too boring. These guys gave me a glimpse into a larger universe that seemed attractive and fun and, you know, crazy."
Page 16, middle; Tiff Garcia on the family dynamic:
"Wally was pretty supportive of me, and at the time I thought he was more supportive of Jerry; I don’t know. He and I worked together as seamen later on for a couple of months. He wasn’t the kind of role model my grandfather was because he was always working the bar, and if he wasn’t doing that he’d go out to sea for a month or two. He did what my mom wanted him to do; she was paying the bills. But he really loved my mom; he was crazy about her. More so than Ben Brown, who didn’t want to be a family person. Wally did."
Page 16, bottom; Jerry on how the move to the Peninsula affected him:
"It was kind of interesting for a few years, socially; it was very different. In San Francisco, the school I went to and the neighborhood I grew up in was very Catholic. Down on the Peninsula, Catholics were in the minority and I was surprised to learn that there were other religions; that was big surprise. 'Oh that's interesting.' And whole other ways of doing things. And the whole thing of boys and girls was much easier. In the city, boys and girls were like two different worlds; they really didn't see each other almost. Even though we were in school together, there was no social context in which anything could happen. But down on the Peninsula there were all these things built in—schools had dances and all this stuff was part of a socializing program of some kind."
Page 20, middle; on Garcia as a teen:
Dennis Clifford, son of fireman Bill and Ruth Clifford, and eight years younger than Jerry, says that his cousin was "a typical teenager into James Dean-kind of things, but at the same time he was always really mellow. I was at an age where he kind of thought of me as a pain in the ass; he didn't really want me hanging around him and his friends when he was 14, 15. But there was one time down at Lompico when he was going to go to a dance at the Lodge and he had a white sport coat on and he didn't know if that was too flashy for that crowd, because it was a summer thing. So I had to go down and check out what everyone else was wearing and report back to him. The jacket was a little bit overbearing; everyone else had button-down collar shirts and Levi's on and so Jerry ended up not going, and we just hung out underneath this cabin until it was time to go home."
Page 22, top; Jerry's early pot adventures:
"Jerry knew about pot before I knew he knew about it," Tiff says. "Being in San Diego and down at Camp Pendleton we got pot from Mexico, and I brought some home sometime in '58. I had a kilo that I brought back from Mexico and I had it under the seat of this custom car I had. I was at this drive-in burger place and an old man smashed into my car. They towed away my car, with the pot in it, and then they called up my stepfather. I don’t know what they told him, but he told me the next day, 'You know I used it when I was your age. I haven’t had any since Prohibition.' He bailed me out — a thousand bucks — and he didn't even tell my mom. She would have been really upset. And I could’ve gotten a court martial. I got my car back and I thought I was going to have to go to court, but nothing ever came of it.
"Jerry and I smoked pot a lot. My grandmother used to have this matchbook collection. Being in the union she used to travel around and go to all these conventions and she'd collect matchbooks. She smoked, but she usually used a lighter. By the time Jerry went into the service, all those matches were gone, from us constantly lighting roaches. She had shoeboxes full of matchbooks, literally. Back in those days, nobody knew how to roll joints properly and there’d be seeds in there and you’d use a dozen matches to get a toke. This is pre-Bic lighter, of course."
Page 23, middle; more on the CFSA social world:
Wally Hedrick says, "It's a little self-serving for me to say that [the CFSA] was a scene, but yes, it was. We were in it, so we didn't realize we were part of some kind of great historical hysteria, but it was quite a scene in the sense that the school was sort of the center and home base, and people would meet there and then go off to their own little places and carry on.
"Where I lived and where Jerry knew me was at 2322 Fillmore, in a four-flat building [once described by art critic Thomas Albright as "a sort of Grand Hotel for painters"]. Mike McClure lived upstairs and we were running the Six Gallery at the time, and lots of things were going on. I didn't have that much contact with the poets directly myself, but other members of the Six Gallery did. Since Jerry was part of this social group, I'm sure he was even more cognizant of them than I was. I was so busy doing what I was doing—painting and teaching." (In 1959, Hedrick and his artist-wife, Jay DeFeo, were among an elite group selected for an influential exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York called "Sixteen Americans.")
Although Jerry once said in an interview that hearing a record by blues great Big Bill Broonzy in one of his art classes opened his ears to acoustic blues, Hedrick says, "I had no idea Jerry was even interested in music; he never said a word to me. I remember distinctly once asking him where he lived in town and he said, 'Out in the Mission,' and somehow it got to how his father had run a bar and played in a band. I knew that much about him. We had a band at the school that was a traditional jazz band called the Studio 13 Jass Band, which still plays today. At that time, Elmer and David Park and I were part of the band. We would play at social functions and I remember one night we were playing and Jerry came up to me and said, 'What is that thing you're playing?' And I said, 'It's a banjo.' And he said, 'What are you doing?' I said, 'I'm playing chords for the tune.'" That's hard to imagine, but at 16 Jerry was a rock 'n' roll kid through and through.
Page 23, bottom; a Cazadero adventure:
"I remember one time we were playing guitars and fixing the house up and doing little chores for my mom and it was raining every day," Tiff recalls. "Every day we’d get in my mom’s car and try to drive to town, and we’d drive as far as the tailpipe would let us drive. If it got under the water, we had to stop the car and push it back. This happened for about two weeks. We thought we’d never get out of there. One day we were walking around there, down the beach, and we found this giant raft made out of telephone poles — heavy lumber and shit — that was chained up. We decided, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be fun to ride the raft down the river?' which was really going. So we spent half a day getting through the lock and the chain and whatever was holding it to the tree and we nudged it over to the river bank with some two-by-fours or something. We managed to get it into the water and I got on it, and I talked Jerry into getting on it, too. Well, we knew instantly we’d made a big mistake. We didn’t have any oars or anything to steer it, so we rode about 20 feet through this heavy wave action and jumped off, said 'Sayonara,' and we watched it crash up against these trees sideways and turn upside down and keep floating down the river. It would have really been a thrill, but we probably would have been killed in the process."
Page 25, bottom; Jerry on his Army assignment:
Fort Winfield Scott, in particular, was not a good place for someone with a bad attitude. "It's absolutely the top of the elite," Jerry said. "It's the nicest place to be stationed; all the guys who are there have jockeyed and manipulated to get in there. They don't want no trouble, you know what I mean? Every single guy there is a guy who's got gold-plated service. They love it there and they don't want to hear about nothin'. So if there's anybody who's making any trouble — you know how that stuff works: whoever the superior is, is the person who gets into trouble. So there I was going AWOL on the weekends and screwing up left and right, and just doing my stuff. I wasn't committing crimes or anything like that. I was just living my life. And even doing things that I thought were important.