Chapter Twenty-Four (Speedway Meadow)

— — —

Back in the main part of the park, crowds of people were still heading toward the ocean, toward the muffled sound of music coming from the bands. When I got to a conspicuous place along the path, I put the shoebox down where someone would be sure to find it. Another path converged into the one I’d been on, and all of a sudden there was a cute little black chick in a pair of red cutoffs walking ahead of me. Her hair was dyed amber-blond and cut in a short Afro. The cutoffs were as skimpy as they could be and still have had a crotch. There were calluses on the backs of her heels. Her calves glistened in the sun clear up to where her ass disappeared under the frayed cutoffs. If I dumped Ginny, there were plenty of other chicks around. There were plenty of other guys, too. We wouldn’t die without each other. None of them was her, however; none of them was me. The only way you ever know what’s going to happen if you do something or don’t do something is to do it or don’t do it and see what happens and what doesn’t happen.

I turned into a trail that led through the bushes. The black chick kept heading toward the ocean. I walked and walked. The trail came out by the buffalo paddock. Except for one of the calves, the buffalo were far away, under their trees, munching on a broken bale of hay in the dirt around their shelter. The calf was scratching itself against the rough bark of a scrub oak by the fence. Its coat was half growing in for the winter and still half falling out from the summer. It looked hot and itchy and miserable and prickly. As if to emphasize these conditions, the poor thing stuck out its tongue and moaned. Its tongue was thick and purple and cracked — the way Ginny’s got when she drank too much red wine. Maybe I’d see her through one more Christmas. Who else could? Nobody. Fuck.

The music kept getting louder — guitars, feedback, amplifiers. A woman was singing. It sounded like Janis Joplin. Through the foliage I could see thousands of people fanned out in front of the makeshift bandstand. I cut through some bushes and ended up behind the stage. It was Janis Joplin. Guys from other rock groups were lying in the grass, waiting, resting, talking to women, picking at the strings of guitars that weren’t plugged in. There was a tangle of cable and wires that hooked the sound equipment together under the stage. It all looked like a giant mess to me, everything hanging in great loops and knots under the planks of the platform. I had no idea how people ever got it put together in a way that made sense, and I especially didn’t see how they ever got it taken apart again — but they did, they must have, there was always another concert again the next weekend. I felt lighter, freer, relieved, encouraged. Things would figure themselves out.

Speakers throbbed. My eardrums throbbed along with them like we were all plugged into the same sound system through which Janis was wailing out another little piece of her heart. The music shook into me from the ground up and made my dick tingle like my legs were a big tuning fork.

I knew some of the musicians from Thulin or Ginny or Brenda. I didn’t hang out with them — mainly because I didn’t much care for the scruffy motherfuckers — but some of them had been over at the apartment on Shrader Street to buy drugs or to sell drugs or just to get loaded. They nodded at me and nodded among themselves and sometimes just nodded. Nobody knew anybody’s name.

A couple hundred yards out beyond the platform, Speedway Meadows was wall-to-wall people moving like a big, colorful, symbiotic extension of the band, like a time-lapse garden of wildflowers opening up in the morning sun. Farther out, the crowd thinned into smaller groups sitting on blankets.

I started making my way back home. I still had some thinking to do. I picked my way through the crowd, touching people inadvertently. People smiled at me. They danced around me, breathed on me. I was jostled, toasted with wine, stepped on, ignored, excused, forgiven. The people in the crowd were from all over the place — some kid’s Madras shirt with the sleeves torn off had come from the J. C. Penney’s in Yankton, South Dakota; the chick with horn-rimmed glasses and thick braids got her tire-tread Mexican sandals from a street vendor in Brooklyn.

I came to an area where the crowd had formed a circle around a woman who was dancing obliviously, all by herself. She was wearing a thin, faded, blue and white pioneer dress. I could see her breasts through the loose armholes. Her hair was long and straight and streaked lighter and darker shades of blond. The sun shone on her throat. Sweat glistened on her forehead. Blades of grass poked up between her long, narrow toes. She didn’t shave her legs.

Janis Joplin stopped singing. Silent, twangy reverberations from the sound system hung in the air for about a tenth of a second, then people screamed and yelled and clapped their hands, and the dancing chick fell into a heap of arms and legs and blond hair and faded blue fabric on the bright green grass.

Way at the back of the crowd, Ginny was sitting on a blanket with Kirk. They were drinking wine and talking about Nepal. He and Ginny had the hots for each other but hadn’t done anything about it yet — usually she got drunk first. I sat on the edge of their blanket. The concert was over. People were dispersing. Fog was coming in from off the ocean. The wind had begun to blow. Leaves were falling.

“Let’s get a bottle of champagne,” Ginny said, like it was an unusually brilliant idea — a new idea, something she’d never thought of before.

“Sounds cool,” Kirk said.

So we did that. Ginny and Kirk and I cut over to a liquor store behind Kezar Stadium and got a bottle of champagne and a couple of plastic champagne glasses. Ginny and Kirk were yucking it up, charming the pants off each other. I’d seen it too many times, but it was all so new to Kirk. He was enthralled. He’d forgotten everything he ever learned over in Tibet and Nepal and India, and all he wanted out of life from then on was to fuck Ginny. I’d seen that too many times, too.

— — —

By the time we got to Stanyan Street, the champagne bottle was empty. We turned the corner onto Haight and were just about to the bowling alley. Ginny still had a little champagne left in her glass. It was dark by then. Fog diffused the light coming from street lamps. Two cops were walking toward us. One of them was swinging a nightstick. They were smiling, chatting, talking cop talk. Ginny laughed.

“What’s funny?” one of the cops asked.

“Oh, I don’t know. Just cops, I guess.” Ginny shrugged and got that impish, Pied Piper of Cops look in her eye.

“Yeah?” the cop swinging the stick said. “We were just thinking the same thing about you long hair hippie freaks.”

“How fortuitous that we’re able to entertain one another,” Ginny said.

“Ain’t it though? You got some ID?”

“What for?”

“Just show me some ID.”

“How’s this?” Ginny gently flipped him off.

“That’s not good enough. Diver’s license, please.”

“I don’t have a driver’s license. I’m not driving.”

“How’d you like me to run you down to the station?”

“How’d you like my father’s lawyer to sue your ass for harassment?”

It was an offhand remark. She sidestepped the cop standing directly in front of her and kept walking. Kirk and I walked around the other cop. When the three of us were safely past the cops, Ginny turned around and tossed the last few drops of champagne toward them. None of it actually got on either of the cops, but that was that, she had assaulted a police officer. She was under arrest.

Kirk ducked into the bowling alley. I reasoned with the cops. I told them she didn’t mean anything, that she had a thing about cops. She was working on it. She was seeing a psychiatrist. “She’s legally nuts,” I told them.

“I don’t think there is such a thing,” said the cop with the nightstick.

“Hey, if you don’t believe me, call her shrink,” I said.

The cops looked at each other. Then, to my astonishment, they agreed to talk to her psychiatrist, like “legally nuts” might have been something they’d vaguely heard about in cop school.

Ginny and I got into the back of the police car. Officer Garrens was in the passenger seat. He stretched his arm across the back of the front seat, turned sideways, readjusted his girth, looking straight at Ginny, and asked her in a calm, informative, lighthearted, jovial tone of voice, “You know what happens to little hippie chicks when they go to jail, don’t you?”

“They get raped by fat ugly fucks like you?”

“Hey, you’re quite the little spitfire, aren’t you?”

“Suck my dick,” Ginny said.

“First you get strip-searched. That means we take off your clothes and check your orifices for contraband. Then we have to hose you down to get rid of the lice and the bed bugs, and you get put into a holding tank with junkies and drunk street whores puking their guts out. There are snakes on the floor, bugs, cockroaches big as my thumb. All kinds of pesky little critters creep and crawl and slither around on the naked, shivering bodies of smart-mouth hippie chicks who get their butts tossed in the can.”

To give him the benefit of the doubt, Officer Garrens may just have been trying to steer Ginny away from a life of crime, but I doubt it.

The cop who was driving stopped in front of our apartment building and left the red and blue lights spinning silently on the police cruiser while the four of us went inside. I dialed Dr. Crockett’s number and got the answering service. I knew I’d get the service, but they’d track him down.

“I have to go potty,” Ginny said.

“Hold it,” Officer Garrens said.

Ginny crinkled up her nose and frowned and said, “You big meanie.” She was a little unsteady on her feet. Then she said, in a more forceful tone, “I’m going to go potty now,” and took a couple steps down the hall.

Officer Garrens grabbed her arm. “Hang on there, missy.”

“Don’t touch me.” Ginny pulled her arm away.

Dr. Crockett came on the line. “Okay, I’ve got her shrink on the phone.” I covered the mouthpiece. “He wants to talk to whoever’s in charge.”

“Tell this jerk cop to get his hands off me,” Ginny called across the room.

“Nobody’s got their hands anywhere,” the other cop said and took the phone.

“Tell him I’m going to the bathroom,” Ginny said and turned on her heel and started to march in a huffy sort of way down the hallway again.

Officer Garrens grabbed a handful of her hair and yanked her back.

“Ow,” Ginny said. Then she wheeled around and slugged Officer Garrens square in the jaw and brought her knee up into his crotch, and when he bent over from the pain, Ginny butted her forehead into the bridge of his nose. He made a sound like a moose and started sinking toward the floor.

I heard gurgling somewhere deep in Officer Garrens’s throat. Ginny kicked him in the leg, just below the knee. Then she tried to kick him in the neck and in the head and to kick his red, huffing and puffing face, but the other cop was pulling her away by then. The three of them ended up in an awkward looking pile of arms and legs and bodies on the floor.

The other cop managed to get his handcuffs clicked around Ginny’s wrists, but her feet were still free. She kicked without aiming. She kicked and screamed while they were dragging her out the door of our apartment, and she kicked and screamed all the way through the long hallway, and she kicked and screamed as she was being yanked through the front door of the apartment building.

Out on the stoop, she caught her foot between the iron bars of one of the railings and lost a shoe when the cop twisted her leg loose. Officer Garrens had a towel over his nose by then and wasn’t helping much. I saw Ginny’s head bash against the doorframe of the police car when the cop finally managed to get her pushed through the door, but she didn’t seem to take much notice. She kicked at the screen between her and the front seat. Every time she kicked the screen with the foot with the missing shoe, Ginny let out a yell. It hurt. You could tell. But that didn’t stop her from kicking the screen again and again.

— — —

The next day I met Ginny’s father’s lawyer by the elevator at the Hall of Justice. He was a businesslike Boalt Hall kind of guy, fifty-five or so, getting ready to retire. When we got off the elevator at the jail, he went to the counter and filled out paperwork and after awhile, Ginny came out.

Blood had soaked through gauze taped over her upper left arm. Her hair was matted. Her face was splotchy under the fluorescent lights. She had an Ace Bandage around her right ankle. She couldn’t see very well. The skin had peeled away from around her eyes. She looked like a raccoon.

“You look like a raccoon,” I said.

“Thank you, dahling,” she said in that brave, shaky, embarrassed, ironic tone of voice she used when she was getting out of one of the scrapes she’d gotten herself into. “I feel like Oedipus.”

“You don’t look like Oedipus,” I said and smiled.

“I thought I was blind. I was blind! Then I could see — amazing.”

“What happened?”

“I’d like to hear that myself,” the lawyer said. “We might have a problem. The cop you kicked is in the hospital.”

“I kicked a cop? Good,” Ginny said.

“His nose is broken. There may be other serious injuries.” Then the lawyer looked at her carefully for the first time and said, “My God, Ginny. What happened to your face?”

“The guards at the jail did it. They kept calling me over to the bars, then kept squirting mace in my face, right into my eyes. ‘Come here, little girl, we’ve got something nice for you.’ Squirt, squirt. They thought it was hilarious.”

“How long did they do that?” the lawyer asked.

“For aaages and aaages.” Ginny’s eyes grew wider and wider.

“We need to get you to a doctor,” the lawyer said.

— — —

Her father’s lawyer got Ginny off on the assault charge. Then he sued the City and County of San Francisco for police brutality — or rather, to be precisely accurate, he counter-sued the City’s suit against her for kicking the cop. The lawsuit went on for years. I had to have my deposition taken.

The main thing the City Attorney wanted to know was how many times I had taken LSD. I couldn’t give him an exact figure. Then he asked me what color my jacket was. I told him it was green. He said it looked more like brown to him. I looked down at one of the sleeves of my jacket and could distinguish fibers of both brown and green, along with some orange fibers and black fibers and even a few red fibers. I told him that maybe he ought to take a sample of the fabric and send it to the FBI to see if they could tell him what the hell color it was. It looked green to me.

Eventually, the city settled the lawsuit. They didn’t like their chances with a jury. Officer Garrens was a big son of a bitch. Ginny was barely five feet tall and had never weighed more than a hundred and four pounds in her life. The settlement money didn’t quite cover attorney fees.

Note:

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