Chapter Fifteen (Boulder Creek)

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Christmas of 1964, we spent at Ginny’s father’s house in Boulder Creek. Sandy was there, too, with a guy named Joel Pugh. There’s a long story behind Sandy and Joel — he was sort of bald is all I remember. You could find out more of the rest of the story on some of the Charlie Manson true crime websites, I suppose.

Ginny liked going to Boulder Creek. I’ll let her describe it. Here’s a long letter she wrote from there probably in around 1967 or so, maybe even 1968. It was Fall is all I can say for sure. Oh, oh, when you get to the part where she says, “ect., ect., ect.,” that was the way she wrote it…it’s pronounced the same way it’s spelled.

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“Dear Gerry: Your letter was far from stupid…on the contrary it shocked, pleased and enlightened me far more than previous epistles. However, I shall not comment too much on it because I’m happy…tra la. Reasons for it: (1) Grandmum’s death, (2) Mother’s acceptance of me whoever I might be, and mostly (3) Boulder Creek’s PEACE. There is no noise. Quiet! AHH! Pisces dig peace. Need it.

“Last night I almost really dissolved into the light. My arms went first, then legs, then somewhat trunk and head. It said, ‘A peaceful environment is NECESSARY.’ The light did. Daddy is lovely. He’s going to give me anything — even a jog to Europe. Maybe I’ll go. A Great Pyrenees! Can you imagine? If I go to Europe, you can take care of him and he will love you and you can take soft ethereal journeys in his warm white fur and remember sometimes me. Things are getting better all the time. I’m reading the latest Hesse, ‘Beneath the Wheel.’ Icky, so-so, but I like him anyway.

“There is something sad. The woods are dying. No water runs in the streams and everything is dry and brittle. There was ONE leaf that still had its colors — sitting in the harsh crisp dusty others. A month ago you or I would have disdained and UGHed it, so paltry it would have been in the others’ glory. It would have been, then, less than an ordinary leaf. Now, while far from gorgeous, it is pretty. And is a martyr — a humble testimony to the grandness that was — a slightly moribund but brave clinging remnant of a wondrous and glorious civilization! Oh little leaf! (I started out perfectly seriously.) And it’s true anyway!

“Please go to the library and pick up a copy of Gurdjieff’s ‘All & Everything: Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson’ You are in for a GRAND SURPRISE. It’s nothing like the Ouspensky crud. Also ‘Childhood’s End’ is neat.

“Grandmother’s funeral was quite nice. Requiems played all day. And beside her picture burned two lovely angel candles and there was a book of Kipling and ‘Br’er Rabbit’. Death! Did you write to your Grandmother? You’ll be sorry. She will HAUNT you. I will HAUNT you. You will be HAUNTED to the end of your days on this Earth!

“I think I’ll go out into the woods now. You should do the same sometime. It saddens me that you have to have your ass whipped (how’s THAT!) to go out to where you think, ‘Why haven’t I done this more often?’ And to where you learn fresh things — wood music, drum beats, daddy long legs, trunk monsters, ect., ect., ect. Get Yo ‘Lil Ass Out Into Them Woods and Dig Almighty Everlovin’ Mother Nature! (I’ve been associating with a rock group lately.) Oops, I’m sorry.

“OH, OH! Guess what just happened! I was deep in the woods. I went out there right after I told you to. And ran into a hornets nest and they chased me screaming all the miles home — in my hair and all over me and now I am just bumps — hurting, stinging bumps — and I was eulogizing nature at the time and an hour before that I said to God, ‘Oh, it’s such paradise. It’s too perfect. I know you’ll punish me, but how?’ NOW I KNOW and am more scared of bees than ever. It was like a cartoon, only I had no lake to jump into.”

(Picture of stick-figure girl being chased by bees.)

“And I had miles to go and made it in lickety-split and was screaming and brushing them off and I was even laughing because that incessant objective part was watching the hilarity and I brought some in the house and ran to Daddy and SAT DOWN on his stool to give him an account of it all while they were still in my shirt and hair! ’Til I realized and ran to the shower and tore off clothes and jumped in and then heard them in the bathroom and BUZZZZZ couldn’t come out for fear.

“And in the woods, running, with them on and chasing me, I took a wrong turn and bumped into a wall which gave them an advantage and I was thinking, ‘Oh, no — maybe I’ll die here and they will find me all stung out.’ And they were BZZZZING in my ears (I even bit one) and I’ve never run so fast or hysterically or long like that in my life, not to mention the screaming up hill and down. They stopped chasing me just as the beloved house came into view.

“It’s not the next day now. It’s the same bee sting night. I decided to tell you about it now. Good night. And may Allah protect you from the stings and arrows of outrageous yellow jackets.

“It’s the next morning and the mailman will be here any minute. Now bumps itch like hell. I wish you could have come here.”

— — —

Ginny’s father was around my age at the time. The age I am now. Old. After Ginny’s mother divorced him, her father remarried, had another kid, and ended up living in a big gray house on a golf course in Boulder Creek. He was a kind, generous, thoughtful guy. His name was George, George F. Good, as I’ve said, and he really did look a lot like Harry Truman. I mentioned it to him that Christmas, the Christmas of 1964.

“How many times do you get told you look like Harry Truman?” I asked.

George F. Good was fiddling with his stamp collection, but stopped for a second and looked up at me and said very slowly and precisely, as was his wont, “I’ll tell you a story about Harry Truman.” Then he went back to fiddling with his stamps, but continued the story. “Harry Truman was reading letters that had been sent to him at the White House. Bess was with him in the room at the time. Bess was his wife.”

“I knew that,” I said. “He had a daughter who played the piano or something, too, didn’t he?”

“Margaret, yes…who was actually better known for her singing…which reminds me of another story…but first things first.” George F. Good looked at a stamp through his magnifying glass and went on with his original story. “The letters he was reading were apparently not as congratulatory as he might have liked them to be. Most in fact were crude and critical. Harry Truman turned to Bess and said, ‘Why is it that only sons-of-bitches know how to lick a stamp?’ I always found that story quite telling.” He put the magnifying glass down and looked up at me again.

“That’s a telling story, all right,” I said. “What’s the other one?”

“Ah,” he said and smiled. His teeth were small. He waved his chubby hand through the air. “It’s more or less along the lines of an aside.”

“I’ve got nothing against asides,” I said.

“The music critic from The Washington Post wrote a review of Margaret’s abilities as a singer. He said she wasn’t very good.” George F. Good made a face. “The next day Harry Truman wrote the music critic a letter which said in part, ‘Someday I hope to meet you. When that happens, you’ll need a new nose.’”

“That’s kind of a cool thing for a president to say,” I said.

“He was a father, first and foremost — was the point I took from the story.”

“Hey, Ginny’s a really good singer, you know. Like, in case no one ever mentioned that to you before.”

He smiled. He thought I was amusing. I was. He thought I seemed to like his daughter pretty well, too. I did. On a shelf above his desk, there was a picture of him taken when he was around twenty-two — the same age I was then. He was in his last year at Princeton, reading a newspaper that had a picture of Charles Lindbergh landing in Paris on the front page. A few years after our conversation, George F. Good got overwhelmed with grief and fearful for his safety when he heard that Sandy had been living with the so-called Manson Family and not long after that, he died.

— — —

But, back then, during the Christmas of 1964, he didn’t know what to do about Ginny anymore than I did, anymore than anyone did. We took the family golf cart down to a little combination gas station and grocery store. On the way back, I told him his daughter was pretty seriously nuts. Everybody knew she was nuts, but nobody wanted to talk about it. He nodded and sighed and thanked me for telling him.

Christmas morning he gave her a hundred shares of stock in a company called Dental Supply, which at the time was worth five thousand bucks — which at the time was a lot of money. There were strings attached, however. That’s not a figure of speech — in keeping with the spirit of the holidays, there were three pieces of red thread attached with Scotch tape to the bottom of one of the stock certificates. Her father thought that would be a gentle, nonjudgmental way of saying that if she had to be hospitalized, she could use the money from the shares to pay for it, and if she didn’t have to be hospitalized, she could use the money for whatever else she wanted to use it for. It was like an incentive, a bribe to stay sane. He didn’t know what else to do. There wasn’t much else he could do.

He also gave her a diamond and ruby encrusted watch that had belonged to his mother. It was a pin, actually — a watch pin — which Ginny promptly lost that New Year’s Eve. The watch had been in the family for over a hundred years; it took Ginny less than a week to lose it forever.

Note:

The multimedia version has music by The Beach Boys and Vivaldi, but this voice only version ain’t bad all on its own. Watch it and see: