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“Secret Sex, A Book Alive Online,” written and lived by John Scott G.
Chapter 27 – “College Daze.”
“What’s your major?” At various times in my college career, I was able to give at least four authoritative and definitive replies: “Theater Arts,” I said. “Filmmaking,” I said. “Art,” I said. “English,” I said. None of these responses were lies; I just kept switching my major.
Never once did I say “Undeclared.” Obviously, I had declared. And then a few weeks or months later, I would declare again. I kept on declaring until I found a department where they would let me create my own courses.
It’s called Independent Study, and it enables you to substitute work you want to do for quite a lot of work you’d prefer to avoid. I eventually obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Art and a Master’s degree in Film, but I am the very first to admit that both of these accomplishments took a lot of Independent Study, not to mention a lot of luck.
We’re going to skip over most of the undergraduate stuff, primarily because it was so boring. I wasn’t involved in student politics and I wasn’t dating teachers, so there are no terrific stories or shenanigans to tell you. Unlike my dad, I didn’t join a fraternity. Too bad, as it turns out. Long after I graduated, my dad told me that his fraternity created an imaginary student, enrolled him, arranged for their members to attend classes in his place, took turns doing all the coursework, and completed the final exams. After four years of this, they had one of the frat brothers step up to the podium to accept a diploma for the nonexistent guy’s “graduation.”
I was neither that creative nor that industrious during my first four years of college. The first two years were at a community college followed by the state university but all 48 months were unexciting to the max. I took a full course load and tried to work as much as possible in order to have money for a car, an apartment, and the largest stereo I could assemble.
Note to iPod users: this was back in the day when there were people who appreciated the sound of recordings. At one point early in my college life, my entire music collection consisted of seven albums: Jeff Beck’s “Truth,” Bill Evans Trio “With Symphony Orchestra,” Stevie Wonder’s “Talking Book,” Charles Ives’ “Three Places in New England,” Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly,” Erik Satie’s “Three Gymnopedies and Other Piano Music,” and Miles Davis’ “In a Silent Way.” But I had a rather nice 400-watt sound system on which to play them. In a 600-square-foot apartment. But there was one other factor: back then, San Francisco had excellent free-form FM radio, so I was never without good tunes at my place. Oops, I meant to say “my pad.” (Which became “my crib” and will soon be something else, like maybe “my Occupy sleeping bag.”)
Grad school for me was an art college perched on a hilltop in The City, and it was a trip, both literally and figuratively. The Master’s program in Filmmaking met in the basement of the school. They had classrooms and editing rooms on the main floors, but sunk deep within the building was their own cozy little theater with a well-equipped projection booth and a pretty damn good sound system.
I showed up early for my first class and just hung out. Everybody was friendly and they were playing music through the theater’s big speakers. People took turns putting vinyl on the turntable in the projection booth, which resulted in a wild conglomeration of sounds: Lou Reed, Charlie Parker, the Mills Brothers, Merle Haggard.
A couple of the girls put on Isaac Hayes’ “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic” and performed a dance they had choreographed. Someone put a 16mm loop of a porn scene on one projector and this played continuously on the theater’s big screen. Nobody paid much attention to it. A bearded guy handed me a joint. Friendly people here!
We were all having a very nice time, although I couldn’t help wondering when the professor would arrive. Forty minutes went by before I discovered the bearded guy was the professor. Wow, college in San Francisco was cool!
A word about the porn. One of the undergrads worked in the District Attorney’s office and he regularly brought in the porn films that had been seized by the police because of community complaints. Right, the students at our college were watching porn so alarmingly depraved that even some people in San Francisco had tried banning it.
I could hardly wait to attend classes each week and I’m sure you can guess why. You are correct: that great music! Oh, and the marijuana helped a little, too. The porn I could live without because it was too poor, with bad writing, bad acting, bad photography, etc.
With the fun of the music and maryjane, it soon became apparent to me that classes didn’t come around often enough. Besides, the chance that someone would bring some of the good stuff to class was not something on which one could rely.
To avoid being one of those people who was always borrowing puffs of fantasy, I decided to purchase my very own pipe dreams. And it seemed to me there was nobody better to ask about sources and prices than the professor. After all, he was our leader. The head, if you will.
I found him in his office, knocked on the open door and walked in to ask him my socially improper and possibly illegal question. Without batting an eye he told me to talk to a guy at school named Katt. (Advice from the eNewsChannels attorneys leads me to turn this man’s name into a pseudonym, so from now on we’ll just call him Cat.)
Cat turned out to be relatively easy to find, primarily because he was lying on the couch in the professor’s office. Cat rolled off the cushions, stood up, scrawled a phone number on the inside of a matchbook cover, handed to me and said “Call me Wednesday night, after the next shipment comes in.”
“Wednesday night,” I said.
“Oh yeah. Any time after one.”
“Oh yeah. One a.m.”
“Wouldn’t that be Thursday morning?” I asked him.
“Oh yeah,” he said with a smile as he wafted out of the room.
Cat was cool. I mean, you know, besides the whole illegal drug distribution thing. Oh, and the fake driver’s license thing. He had a Texas driver’s license with what appeared to be his photo and the name Henry Lee Woralitz. It was that driver’s license he gave to the police when he was questioned later in the semester for allegedly placing anti-war bumper stickers on cop cars. I don’t think he was ever tried for that offence, primarily because there was no such person as Henry Lee Woralitz. Or, if there was such a person, it was not Cat.
The guy was never brought up on any charges, as far as I know. He was questioned many times, but he was basically untraceable since he had had the foresight to obtain, don’t ask me how, a number of extremely official-looking driver’s licenses using a number of ordinary-sounding names of people who were from a number of extremely official-sounding places (“Utah” and “Kansas” were among the names — they sound so real, don’t they!)
I caught up with Cat in one of the school hallways and we had a quick discussion about my intention to conduct a business transaction with him. I mean, “make a buy.”
Cat dealt hash, mostly. That’s hashish, which comes from the resin in the flowering top-most parts of the hemp plant. So it’s like goosed-up marijuana, kinda-sorta. He sold in what he called sub-distributor sizes. He explained to me how I could make money on the deal by selling three-quarters of my purchase for way more than the price he was charging me, and I’d still have plenty of product left over for personal use.
He described the two smallest allotments he offered. “When you phone me, let’s just call the super-small size a ‘cassette’ and the regular-small size an ‘eight-track.’ Just tell me how many cassettes or eight-tracks you want.”
Tempting, but no. I had no intention of going into the drug distribution business. But I decided to purchase one of the super-small allotments and figured it would last me the entire school year. I called Cat and felt like such a small-timer by ordering one cassette but he seemed fine about it. “Okay,” he told me. “Meet me at the college tomorrow with the money. Make sure it’s cash,” he said. “This is American Express quality but it’s not an American Express operation, if you know what I mean.”
Next day at school, I came up to Cat as he was talking to a pretty girl. They were discussing a new tattoo she had on her shoulder, something that was then more unusual than today. You could tell what a great work ethic Cat had by the fact that he immediately broke off his conversation as soon as he saw me. “Sorry babe,” he told the lovely lady. “Business.” He motioned for me to follow him.
“Where we headed?” I asked him.
“Up on the roof.”
I went with him to the school cafeteria at the far end of the campus. The hillside end, which gave it a spectacular view of San Francisco Bay. Nonchalantly, Cat moved over to a door at the corner of the room where the windows ended and the kitchen started. He paused at the door and then turned to look back at the cafeteria. He nodded to someone across the room and suddenly there was a crash of plates on the linoleum floor. Everyone turned to look but Cat tapped my shoulder and said “Follow me.”
We went through the door and closed it. In front of us was a window with a sliding pane. He opened the glass, put one leg over the ledge, grabbed the window frame, and swung himself through the opening and out of sight behind the wall. It looked dangerous but it also looked like fun so I followed him. There was a fire escape fastened to the outside of the building.
The first thing I noticed was that it was about a fifty foot drop to the hillside below. “Don’t look down!” said a voice from somewhere inside my cranium. So I looked up to see Cat’s shoes as he disappeared over the edge of the rooftop. I climbed up after him and made it without falling off the side of the college.
We moved to a spot in the center of the roof. Everywhere you looked there was an image that would be terrific on a picture postcard. The Pacific Ocean. The Bay Bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge. Alcatraz Island. Coit Tower. The college’s HVAC system. Well, okay, almost everywhere you looked.
Cat took out a small metal pipe with a leather-covered handle and a small box of wooden matches. He observed proper drug etiquette and lit up before me. Dealer goes first to show that the product is good. I’m assuming that there are exceptions for crack, heroin, and the like, but I don’t move in those circles so I can’t tell you for sure. Cat handed me the pipe and I nervously took a puff. I held the pipe out to him but he just nodded at me, so I took another puff.
It was very pretty out there on the roof. A breeze swirled around us, and the sound of the wind became a lovely, soothing blanket-on-the-brain whoosh. Then the breeze became a bringer of nature’s soundtrack, with the seabirds standing out prominently amidst the rustling of leaves that were scurrying across the rooftop. When I concentrated on a single sound, I heard it with exquisite precision. Hell, if you want the truth, I could hear the trees growing and the clouds moving.
The City shimmered in the distance. Buildings jumped into focus with crystalline clarity. The molecular structure of the steel-and-concrete-and-glass became magnified and was superimposed on the design-plan of each floor, the whole of it appearing like a three-dimensional blueprint in space.
Not only was I seeing these sights, I was also floating above our two bodies. I was watching us hunkered down on the roof, experiencing all and nothing at all, caught up in the scheme of things, yet apart from it, observing it, framing it, composing it, editing it, just like when you’re watching a movie but you’re really watching yourself because it’s like you’re in the audience and in the movie at the same time and —
“Good stuff, isn’t it?” Cat’s voice was serene, reflective, and happy.
“Whoa,” I said.
Cat grinned. What a nice fellow he was to appreciate my conversational abilities. This guy gets what I’m saying, almost without my having to say anything. I blinked and the blue sky turned green. I blinked it back to blue. Hey, that’s fun! I glanced around at the Bay, the hills, the houses, the trees, the Bridge, the sky. Blink green blink blue blink green blink blue blink RED. Wow! This is nifty. I was working on a strobe effect when Cat spoke again.
“So, what do you think? Do you want to make the buy?”
The implications of his first question were too awesome for me to handle right away. What do I think? I hadn’t even stopped to register what my brainpan was doing to me. What do I think? Me? I’m just one lone person attempting to handle this wondershow of perceptual truth vs. illusion. What do I think? I think this stuff is helping me create a baroque display of colors and sounds not normally found in nature. What do I think? I think these impulses and images are remnants of ancient civilizations that have mysteriously and wondrously returned to lift all of humanity to a new level of —
“Take your time,” he said gently.
“Oh,” I said. “Right. Sure thing. I’ll take this stuff.” I reached into my jeans and pulled out my carefully-folded currency and handed him the wad of bills. For one instant, I saw the breeze whip it out of my hands, sending the cash cascading and spinning and flapping out over the entire peninsula. Then it was all right and Cat was calmly doing his count. He nodded and pocketed the money.
“Nice up here today,” he said. We looked at the scenery in all its various and changing colors. About a week went by and then he stood up, saying, “Well, gotta go. Enjoy.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll try.”
“Oh yeah,” he said with a grin. I watched him disappear over the edge of the roof. And that’s when it occurred to me that I had to go back down that fire escape and crawl through the window. What if someone had closed and locked it? I decided to follow Cat immediately.
I would love to tell you that I made it back off the roof but I have no recollection of that. Since I am here now typing this, apparently I did. I think. Dunno. Maybe it’s all an illusion. Are you there?
• To read the next chapter or pick up where you left off, visit the main index at: https://enewschannels.com/tag/secret-sex/ — or visit the Table of Contents for “Secret Sex” at: http://johnscottg.com/secret_CHAPTERS.htm
“Secret Sex, A Book Alive Online,” written and lived by John Scott G, is Copr. © 2011-2012 by JSG, all rights reserved under U.S. and international copyright conventions. Commercial use in any form is forbidden without express written permission of the author. Originally published on eNewsChannels.com with permission. Credits: Book cover design: Phil Hatten. Photo: Brian Forest.