Chapter Two (Del Mar)

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Note: Here’s the voice only chapter of the video book, in case you want to watch while you read. The multimedia version has music by The Beach Boys, Eartha Kitt, Mozart, Nancy Sinatra, The Beatles and Patsy Cline, but this version ain’t bad all on its own:

Virginia Dixon Good was born on March 5, 1941. She spent her childhood in one or another of those sleepy little seaside communities down along the Southern California coast, north of San Diego. Her mother was too busy for kids. She had three daughters. Ginny was her second daughter. Sandy was the third. I forget the first daughter’s name. I can’t remember Ginny’s mother’s name, either. I might have blanked it out. Her father’s name was George. George F. Good. I never knew what the “F.” stood for. There were so many things I never knew.

Ginny’s mother couldn’t have said for sure why she’d even had kids except that having kids was what one did. Kids were annoying. She couldn’t understand what the hell they were talking about, for one thing. She didn’t know what the Salvadoran maid was jabbering about half the time either, but at least the maid understood what she was saying: “Rosalie! God damn it! If I find one more grain of sand in this kitchen, I’m going to kill you! Do you understand?”

As long as it had just been her and her husband, Ginny’s mother had always been the center of attention but when she started churning out daughters one after another, the kids seemed to think that they were the center of attention. That got to be god damned annoying after awhile — and that it wasn’t their fault just made it all the more annoying. Here she was, a bright, attractive, capable woman, stuck in a marriage she had known wasn’t going to last before her first daughter was born, but who could she blame for that? Herself? That would have been absurd. Her husband? He was happy. Her parents? God? So Ginny’s mother took her wretchedness out on her children and disguised it as altruism. She wanted to be a lousy role model. She wanted her kids to rebel. The way she seemed to have it figured was that the best thing she could do for her daughters in the long run was to see to it that they hated the idea of ever getting married and having kids — and if by some silly extension of childish logic that made them feel somehow unwanted or unloved, well, so be it, it was a small price to pay.

Ginny’s mother simply had more important things to do than dote on her daughters — her commitment to the local theater group, for example. Who else in Del Mar could act worth a damn? And who was better suited to preside over the Junior League? Ginny’s mother had responsibilities to the state, to the country, to the world. Staunch Republican causes kept cropping up all the time — the struggle for freedom in Hungary, circulating petitions to impeach Earl Warren — so that, all in all, Ginny’s mother stayed too busy to be bothered with kids, and Ginny and her sisters were mostly raised by their father (while he was still around), by Rosalie Rosales and by Jolly, the good-natured black Lab who followed them down to the tide pools and barked at fiddler crabs and whipped his tail like a stalk of seaweed and panted and drooled and shook salty water off his shiny wet coat into their flushed, sunburned faces and carried sand between his toes into every corner of the house, which, needless to say, pissed off Rosalie Rosales beyond her ability to express in English.

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When she was old enough, Ginny went to a private preschool. They could afford it. Her father was rich. That was why her mother had married him. He also worshipped the ground she walked on, of course, was educated at Princeton, had his own plane, was quiet, thoughtful, soft-spoken and kept to himself for the most part — all of which had seemed like good enough reasons to have married him at the time, but none of which would have been worth a damn if he hadn’t been rich.

The marriage lasted until Ginny was five. What finally ended it was that her father was simply too nice. He loved his family. He loved his wife and his house and his dog. He loved reading to his daughters at night and listening to what they had to say during the day and was patient with the tangles in their hair. It was all too much for Ginny’s mother to bear. She divorced him for mental cruelty.

Ginny’s father didn’t contest the divorce, which exactly proved her mother’s point — the guy had no balls! How could she bear to live with a man with no balls? What she wanted, he wanted. He suffocated her. So what if he went to Princeton, he was a fool. He was short and stocky and wore coke bottle glasses with wire rims like Harry S. Truman, the haberdasher — and, on top of everything else, he collected stamps, he was a stamp collector, a philatelist!

Ginny’s mother had long since chosen to forget that she had felt truly comforted and loved and relieved when she had allowed Ginny’s father to think that in his quaint, quiet, soft spoken way, he had talked her into marrying him, for better or worse, and chose instead to remember only that she’d had her whole life ahead of her when along came this soft-spoken guy with a two-bit Beechcraft Bonanza who had charmed her mother and had played golf with her father and had utterly fucked up her life but good with his unremitting niceness! This twerp!

Her mother chose to forget all kinds of things and remembered only what it suited her resolve to remember in order to divorce her husband without regret. Her father sadly loaded his books and his golf clubs and his stamp collection into the trunk of the second car and drove away two days before Ginny’s fifth Christmas…and left the sound of the car driving away reverberating in her brain and rumbling through the pit of her stomach for the rest of her life.

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I used to have a picture of Ginny when she was a kid. I had it for a long time. I don’t know what’s become of it. I’ve looked for it. It was just an ordinary, black and white snapshot taken in front of the house she and her family was living in when she was four. It’s probably good I lost it. I kept it in my wallet so long you could hardly make out what she even looked like anymore, but the way I remember it is as fresh and crisp as the day she gave it to me.

She was sitting on the bottom step of her front porch in a pair of bunny rabbit bedroom slippers and a pair of overalls. It was hard to tell they were still even bunny rabbits anymore; their ears had fallen off and their eyes were mostly missing and they had no noses. Ginny’s face was tan. Her hair was streaked blond and curly. She was squinting up into the sun, smiling a shy, cockeyed smile and holding up some imaginary something for whoever was taking the picture to see — her father, I presumed.

Ginny’s father took off two days before her fifth Christmas and never came back. He was gone. Period. There was no changing that fact. But that didn’t stop her mind from trying to change it. Minds are a determined bunch of neurons and ganglia and unknowable stuff. They’re like skin or bones, they get cut or broken, and right away they set about the mindless task of making themselves whole again. Skin and bones grow new cells, scab up, scar over; minds blank things out, compensate, make things up, and pretty soon they’re as good as new — and that was what Ginny’s mind did. There was no stopping it. Somewhere along the line, she hit on the idea that if she stayed four years old, her father wouldn’t be gone! It was simple and logical and elegant and unassailable. So she did that. Somewhere in her mind, Ginny Good stayed four years old for the rest of her life, and somewhere in her mind her father read her books at night and listened to what she had to say and was patient with the tangles in her hair, and when she grew up and got cute as any girl you’ve ever seen there were plenty of guys who were willing to perpetuate the idea that she was still a four year-old kid. I was one of them, sure, but I wasn’t the only one.

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I’m not explaining this well. There’s a reason for that. I never really knew Ginny’s mother, see. I heard a lot about her but never met her. I lived with Ginny on and off from 1964 to the beginning of 1969 and kept in pretty close touch with her for a long time after that, but never laid eyes on her mother except in pictures. Elliot knew her. He and Ginny’s mother were buddies. They hung out with each other while he and Ginny were living together in L.A. Ginny’s mother and Elliot hit it off. They laughed at each other’s jokes. La dee dah. He thought she was funny and smart and entertaining and charming and arty, so if you really want to know more about what Ginny’s mother was like, Elliot’s the guy you should be talking to — go dig his dead ass up and ask him. If I knew where he was buried, I’d dig his dead ass up and ask him myself.

But, wait a minute. I’ve got a letter Ginny wrote me — I’ve got a small pile of them, actually. I used to have hundreds. I don’t know what the hell happens to everything. There’s this one letter I’m thinking of in particular, though. Ha! Got it! Okay, here’s what Ginny had to say about her mother:

“I can’t write long ’cause I’ve got to write a paper. I had a neat fantasy with Dr. Crockett’s doll house. In the living room (this part’s real) the Little girl doll was upside down in the playpen. The Mummy and Daddy doll were headed toward the door that leads to the bedroom. There were two mirrors on the walls and a picture of a rose. There was a door and two windows. I looked and said, ‘Why’s that girl upside down in the crib?’ Laughed — ‘Oh my God — she’s me. I can’t get out. But I should be the woman. I’m not. I’m still stuck in the crib.’

“Then I really started in…The Mummy and Daddy bashed her head in, she’s five, and threw her in the crib. The dad is going to leave forever. He does. What can the girl do? She must escape. She can’t go through the door, nor through the windows. The only way out is through the mirrors or the rose. If she goes through one mirror she will be in cavernous labyrinths underground. If she goes through the other, she will be in a wondrous garden. If she goes through the rose she will go through the stem to the caverns, which she may explore and eventually she will emerge, into the garden. She picks the rose.

“Here I proceeded to minutely describe the sensuous qualities of the rose. She then went down through the stem. It was moist, gooey and smoothly fibrous. She slipped down in the direction of the fibers. She found herself bedded in the moist black fertile soil. She stayed there for a while and then began to grow. She grew right up into the garden — her face the center of the rose. When her feet were on the ground the petals fell away and she could walk. How beautiful it was! She followed a melodic path until an acorn dropped upon her shoulder. Dink! She opened it up, half from half, and there sat a little man. ‘Hello.’ ‘Hello.’ They exchanged. ‘I’m so glad you found me,’ he said. ‘An old ogre imprisoned me long ago and I have been subsisting on the inner substances of this acorn.’ ‘Oh!’ said she, ‘May I have a taste?’ Here I stopped and went back to say what I felt.

“Obviously, the first thing was I was bashed when Daddy left. I had to escape but couldn’t face reality way outs — the door, the windows. It had to be fantasies. What the caverns and garden is is too much to explain. It’s probably obvious anyway. Most of the thing speaks for itself, except the stem is really interesting. I associated it with anal tubes and a penis both at once. ‘Why?’ I asked. Of course! I came from a penis — the sperm that grew. My dad is both my father and mother. Why an anal tube? I reject the idea that I came from a mother. The anal tube was a woman’s. Mother’s. She is doo doo — and I, if born from her, am doo doo too. Of course the soil is obvious and the garden and me. Pretty optimistic, Huh! I can hardly wait for the next session, it’s like tune in tomorrow?”

As something of an aside, here’s part of that letter I mentioned earlier, the one that talks about some of Sandy’s “adventures” with the so-called Manson Family:

“Sandy is a total hippie who was living with the Beach Boys in Malibu and now is with prospectors in the desert teaching Dean Martin’s daughter how to lose her ego. They cluck their tongues about what bad shape Mia Farrow and Nanci Sinatra’s heads are in, altho Miss Farrow gave away her clothes and is living ascetically, ‘she just can’t give up her image.’ I would certainly like to see my sister after reading her letters. She hikes barefoot in the desert forever, and she used to deride my mystical propensities. She is an Aquarian — Pisces cusp — which goes right along with what she is now doing. An absolutely rebellious, unconventional mystic. I sort of envy her.”

All I personally remember about Sandy is that she used to work as a sales clerk at the Emporium on Market Street. She sold scarves and plastic headbands and was a lot less charismatic than Ginny — less compelling, more drab. That was before she shaved herself bald, carved a swastika into her forehead and hung out with the rest of the Manson chicks chanting spooky stuff outside the Hall of Justice in L.A., and way before she and Squeaky set up their own website.

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After the divorce, Ginny’s mother was rich all by herself, and Ginny went to a private grammar school. Then her mother married some other rich guy, some military-industrial rich guy, and they were even richer still. Ginny went to a well-to-do high school, stole a bulldozer, lost her virginity, was raped by the cop investigating the incident of the stolen bulldozer and got dumped by the guy to whom she’d lost her virginity as a consequence of telling him she got raped by the cop.

Then she went to Sarah Lawrence College…briefly. She was, after all, bright and talented and slightly crazy — a poet, an actress, a dancer, an incisive, witty, sparkling conversationalist — and her parents, all three of them, had more money than God. While she was at school she hung out with Jill Clayburgh and fell in love with a guy who was in grad school at Brown. His name was Roger Singmaster. She went too nuts one Christmas and he dumped her. That broke her heart.

She cut her wrists, quit school, went into a private psycho ward in La Jolla, lived with her father in Piedmont for awhile, then moved to San Francisco, got an apartment on 45th Avenue, enrolled at San Francisco State College, had a date with two different guys on New Year’s Eve of 1962, and the three of them ended up at the Jazz Workshop. Jimmy Witherspoon was there. So was I. So was Elliot.

Wait. Now that I think about it, I probably ought to have started with Elliot. Damn. It was actually Elliot I knew first. But, you know what? In order to get to how I got to know him and all that, I guess I have to start with me — which means that I have to start in Michigan. Crap. Okay, I’m starting in Michigan, but go ahead and remember all the stuff I just got done saying about Ginny. It’ll come in handy later.