George the 1st

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I met George in the autumn of 1971 in San Francisco. I was staying with my buddy Bear in a fleabag hotel- the Manx- above a strip joint on Powell Street a couple of blocks south of Union Square. Bear had come back from Vietnam minus his right eye and wore a black patch over his empty eye socket, along with shrapnel and powder burn scars from the B40 rocket that had obliterated his backup man They were walking point in a recon squad when they were ambushed. Bear was of the opinion that if I allowed myself to get drafted I was a sap with outstanding odds of coming home in a body bag. As we had four other childhood friends who came home with their own versions of Bear’s scars, I was inclined to concur with that opinion. Bear’s plan? Just hit the road and be on the move when the summons came and then simply fade into Canada under the radar. It was a simple plan and that simplicity had a lot of appeal in complicated times. I wasn’t sure I wanted to turn my leave my country even though that country seemed willing, if not positively eager, to feed me into the meat grinder.

I had been sort of aimlessly wandering the streets of San Francisco with vague and unformed ideas of finding some kind of work. It was appropriate. I was pretty much a vague and unformed kind of young man. The result was easily predictable. I didn’t find any work, but I had been in the city less than a week and I had the naive and uninformed hope of youth that things would work out and didn’t care to dwell on the greater likelihood that my plans would come to nothing or worse yet, to disaster. I made my way home one afternoon by jumping on cable cars and riding until the conductor asked for my fare and kicked me off for not producing one. I’d then hike awhile until another car presented another opportunity. It was a slow way to travel and made me unpopular with the other passengers who correctly sussed me out as a mooch. I wasn’t much bothered by that assessment. They were chaotic times, as polarized culturally then as they are now, if not worse, and I was easily identifiable as counter-culture and a dropout with my long hair, scraggly beard, ratty jeans and an old black leather motorcycle jacket.

When I let myself into the hotel room Bear was there sleeping off a high. Bear liked nothing so much as sleeping these days and he did a lot of it. He facilitated that objective by getting high at every opportunity. I woke him briefly and then headed down the hall outside our room for the payphone to call home to my little sister. My folks didn’t care much about hearing from me but my two sisters still liked it if I kept them appraised of my whereabouts and general condition, which I always emphasized as being cool. Everything’s cool. As I approached the telephone it began to ring, so I answered it. The caller was some guy from Chicago phoning for a girl in the hotel, his girlfriend it soon became clear, and he was none too impressed that I had picked up the phone in what he believed to be her room. He expressed his distrust and contempt openly and clearly. I explained that there were no phones in the rooms in the Manx, but every floor had a pay phone in the hallway. He calmed down a bit but didn’t seem entirely convinced.

“Can you give George a message for me?” he asked. I thought this was a bit cheeky since he’d been quite abrupt and obviously irritated that I was drawing breath in the same hotel as George, which prompted me to reply “I thought you were phoning for a girl?”

“George IS a girl- her name’s Georgette.” he snapped. Accomplished raconteur that I was I responded “OK, cool. Yeah, I’ll give her a message. What’s her room number?” And the dumb son-of-a-bitch told me she was in 204. Obviously George’s boyfriend was not practiced at thinking on his feet. I pretended to write down his message. I had nothing to write on although I suppose it wouldn’t have been too hard to find something. But I had little interest in furthering the relationship between Georgette and this insensitive and ill tempered clod. I felt she deserved better. So I pretended to write, stopping him a couple of times to make it sound like he was talking too fast for me to keep up. When he finished I told him “All right buddy. I got it. Your missive is safely on it’s way to Georgette.” And I hung up. As I did so I could hear him still chattering away at me. He was not done. But I was done with him and thought I might have a go at Georgette myself. For his part he had no idea how done he was.

I found room 204 pretty handily and knocked. Apparently Georgette was not in, so I found a piece of paper in my wallet and wrote her a note.

“Frank called and is concerned about you. He wants you to call him. My name is Bill and I’m in 216. Stop by and say hello, neighbor.” I felt I had more than done my duty to Frank by mentioning his name. I honestly never figured to hear from Georgette but it was worth a shot.

I went back to 216 and dumped a can of baked beans in a pan and plopped it on the illegal hotplate. No cooking in the rooms at the Manx. There wasn’t any pot smoking allowed in the Manx either so I rolled a joint and fired that up too for good measure. Bear woke up. Even asleep he had a nose for reefer. In this case it was HIS reefer, Zonguldak Escort so it was a useful talent he had there. We shared the spliffy. I actually can’t remember if the term spliffy had been adopted for a joint back then or not. It might have been even too early for doobie. I’m getting old and I can recall the lovely shape of a particular woman’s labia vividly, and I can savor her unique scent now, fifty years or so later, but my memory gets a bit fuzzy on extraneous and irrelevant data like the etymology of spliffy. I did some brief research on the term but I can’t find my slang dictionary and my internet search drifted into erotic literature and inevitably into pornography as so often happens. I ended up with fifteen windows open at once and had a bit of difficulty remembering what my original search had been about. But I digress. Which is of course the entire point of this manuscript, a pensive digression relating the details of my long ago and long lost love affair with George.

Anyway, I shared the beans with Bear. After all, he had shared his weed with me, and we passed a quiet evening listening to the radio. “Sweet City Woman” by The Stampeders was all over the radio waves at the time. It was a three minute and eighteen second song and I swear they played it every two minutes, but it was a good song and we didn’t bitch.

In the morning, or at any rate when I woke up if not technically morning, I scraped up the dregs of the beans and thus fortified I headed out to Fisherman’s Wharf with Bear, who uncharacteristically arose from bed and girded his loins to face the outside world for the first time in three days. He promised to show me Fisherman’s Wharf as if it were some exotic San Francisco treat not to be lightly passed on, and clearly needing an experienced and knowledgable guide to be enjoyed properly. We employed our customary cable car hop over the Powell Street hill, and after that, well, it was a downhill walk to the harbor front. The city has long had a large population of folks of Asian descent and Bear, fresh from Vietnam and being blown up by what he referred to as “a slope with a rocket launcher” was having his issues with that fact. He muttered and mumbled his displeasure and as long as he was mumbling and muttering it wasn’t too embarrassing, but I was cringing at his more graphic monologues as we walked along toward the Wharf. This was not the Bear I remembered from our school days, who had been a gentle if loquacious sort tolerant of everyone. I was beginning to understand that Bear was damaged in more than the obvious physical ways. It was more than embarrassing. It was disturbing in a sinister way. I feared for his sanity and I was at a loss how to deal with it.

Anyhow we made our way to the waterfront and Bear, who had the regular paycheck of a wounded U.S. Army Sergeant, Retired, treated me lavishly to the seafood on offer, and we drank cheap wine and dined on fish and Italian ices. After three hours of this Bear was ready for a nap, and he left me sitting on the dock of the bay while he headed back to our humble abode at the Manx for a joint and returning to whatever reveries he was regularly visiting these days. I killed a couple more hours watching women, none of whom reciprocating by watching me, and headed home. I didn’t have much luck hopping the cable cars that afternoon and walked a good deal of the way. As I trudged down the sidewalk along Union Square I spotted a newspaper on a bench. The headline screamed “Nixon Cancels Draft!”

I might write at this point that, reeling, I grabbed the paper and slumped on the bench. It makes for pretty good copy. But I didn’t reel or slump. I did however snatch that abandoned newspaper like coins thrown to a Calcutta waif. The meat of the headline article was that President Nixon had cancelled the draft for the remainder of 1971, thus increasing his popularity preparatory to his re-election campaign next year. The old “I have a secret plan to end the war while revealing to no one what that actual plan is” gambit. The draft lottery numbers had reached number one hundred sixty eight the first week of October and the military had been taking one number per week. My own lottery number was one seventy two, so I was four numbers and four weeks away from being called up. As my Selective Service rating was 1A, it was a cinch that I was headed for basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky and then to jungle training at Fort Polk, Louisiana before the year was out. Bear had assured me that this would happen. It had happened to him in December of 1969. Now nearly two scant years later he had endured a year of hell in the jungles and rice paddies of Southeast Asia and come home irrevocably changed. And I was getting a pass! The significance of that was indeed reeling in my head.

There would be no quiet flight to Canada. Conversely, there would be no last minute case of jitters, no change of heart or loss of nerve and getting on that bus to Fort Knox, my principles washed away by guilt, an attachment to convention or the simple fear of the unknown of life on the run. I was stunned. I quietly made my way to the Manx and climbed the stairs to the second floor. Letting myself into our room I found Zonguldak Escort Bayan a note on the floor that had been slipped under the door. I picked it up and read “I don’t know who you are or who you THINK you are but I am not going to lie up with you. G.” It was a surreal non-sequitur to the tumult of feelings boiling around in my head. But I dismissed it pretty quickly. “No, G,” I thought. “I never figured there was much chance of you lying up with me. But I took a stab at you and extended the loving hand of friendship. This will be your loss.”

I roused Bear and told him the news, proffering the newspaper as proof of my last minute reprieve. He silently read with his unpatched eye and solemnly contemplated the import of these latest and most unexpected events. Finally he looked up at me with his one red eye and said “What’s that in your other hand?”

I grinned and showed him my note from George. He grinned back. “Well, that’s what she says now, right? Why’d she have to leave you a note to tell you that?” I shook my head and grinned back. Bear: “We need to get drunk.” I agreed. There was entirely too much grinning and not nearly enough drinking going on. He handed me a ten and said “Go down to that chink grocery and buy us a couple of bottles of Boone’s Farm.” I gave him a look and palmed the sawbuck. Fuck it, I wasn’t in the mood to quibble over his racism at the moment. I wanted to celebrate and he was my only friend in town. He was the only person I KNEW in town. As I opened the door, nearly walking on air I felt so light, Bear unexpectedly said to my back “CHINESE grocery, Bill. Sorry. I don’t mean to be like that.” I didn’t answer but I smiled and headed out on my mission. Nothing was going to keep me from smiling that night.

It took me most of half an hour to walk down to the the corner grocery and back, but not much longer. I picked up a bottle of Boone’s Farm Apple wine and a bottle of Strawberry Hill and when I sauntered jauntily into room 216 again there were two young women sitting there with Bear. The first to capture my attention, and hold it, was a skinny brunette with a wild bush of curly black hair and scholarly round horn rimmed glasses. This I surmised was Georgette and it was the very first moment I laid eyes upon her, she who was to consume so much of my attention… no, devotion, over the next decade and more. Hell, it’s been fifty years since and I’m still thinking about her. Her companion was a pretty blonde with a boyish bob haircut and nervous eyes. She seemed uncomfortable and fidgeted as I stood there taking them in. The brunette however seemed the master of the situation, and confident.

How’s the boyfriend Frank?” I asked, unavoidably smirking against my will. I generally and on principle despise smirkers.

Clearly disapproving of my smirk, and rightly so, George declared “Frank is NOT my boyfriend! He’d like to be, but he isn’t and never will be. My father approves of him but” she decreed haughtily ” he makes my skin crawl.”

Bear snorted.

The two of them glared at Bear, who was trying his innocuous best to be… innocuous. I could see it in but a glance. I had to admit his might be seen as an intimidating presence. He stood six two in his bare feet and but a hair more in the ratty and many holed socks he was sporting, tortured socks Kerouac would have called them, propped up on the bed in front of him. As befitted his nickname- Bear, not Kerouac- he was a bear of a man with an unruly shock of strawberry blonde hair- he was trying desperately to grow out his military cut- and a positively majestic deep red beard. He wore a dashing black patch over his right eye…anyway I thought it was dashing and I coveted that look. I thought he cut an adventuresome figure, very romantic in no small part. His good eye darted back and forth between the two girls and I, a tad more nervously when contemplating the pretty blonde. I think Bear made her nervous and my entrance into the room had done nothing to reassure her. Her face had a disdain for scruffy hippies all over it.

“This is Georgette and Bonnie” he lisped. Bear had just a hint of a lisp in his voice but when he was high or nervous, as he now was, it got a bit more fruity. I, however, only had eyes for Georgette, God help me. I managed a hello and held up my prizes, the two bottles of cheap vino. “We’re celebrating tonight” and I punctuated this announcement by tabling the wine and brandishing the newspaper. “Today I learned I won’t get drafted.” Georgette for her part nodded sagely and regarded me cooly.

Georgette was not pretty and would not be considered comely by many peoples’ accounts. She was short, maybe five two or three, and skinny, with a round head and one continuous eyebrow, very black like that wild tropical tangle of hair that overgrew her head. Her well hidden curves were subtle and as I was to learn later, delicately sensuous. She had no perceptible swells on her breast and her milky white arms and legs were quite straight and slim. She wore a drab print sleeveless dress that came to her knees and she had her legs crossed like a man, one ankle upon the opposite knee. She had not shaved her armpits or her legs, obviously did Escort Zonguldak not pluck or trim her eyebrows, and flaunted that in a statement of indifference to mere feminine physical beauty. She looked for all the world like a fourteen year old girl who had not quite matured yet. Gangly without being tall. The haughty demeanor betrayed by her sharp eyes dispelled any notion of diffidence though. Her crisp speech set you straight as to who would be steering not only the present but any future conversations. The comic character Olive Oyl came first to mind when I saw her, but it was soon replaced by the realization that she was the living breathing incarnation of Pepsi, the feminist nut case girlfriend in Shary Flenniken’s comic strip “Trots and Bonnie”, she of the Air Pirates collective. I wanted to fuck her instantly. Georgette, I mean. I never met Shary Flenniken. Shary was not present. The girl Georgette was a challenge.

Look- I recognized from the start that my attraction to Georgette was…well…hopelessly romantic and oddly spiritual, in a way. I saw that she wasn’t conventionally beautiful. OK, she was if anything sort of homely. But she had a fire in her eyes and command in her voice. All right, she was bossy as hell and suffered fools with an ill humor creeping into intolerance, and she figured most everybody to be a fool in one way or another. Except her. She was confident…OK, arrogant. Why do I call it spiritual, my attraction? I’ve given that some thought over the years, believe me. We connected on a different plane, maybe even in a parallel universe. The nearest I can come to explaining it is that somehow the pheromone feelers broadcast by George were exactly tuned to appeal to my own receptors. I was earmarked by a mischievous nature’s chemistry as hers to command. I was a sucker for her scent, her aura. I had to be or I wouldn’t be writing this sappy shit. But let me tell you, I wanted George from the moment I saw her and I put up with a lot of crap from her over the years to keep her. I went to great lengths to accommodate this hairy young Aphrodite.

George broke into my reverie by announcing that they were leaving the Manx, having engaged more spacious and luxurious accommodations in an apartment a couple of streets over. On California Street. “You two come over tonight and we’ll celebrate there.” She liked me! My heart sang. I’m gonna get laid! My gonads joined the chorus. Bonnie meanwhile was sputtering like a kerosene lamp guttering on the last fumes of fuel. “Bu..bu..but…we haven’t even unpacked. We aren’t settled in!” she finally managed to croak out. George handed me a slip of paper with the new address on it and dismissed Bonnie’s complaints by completely ignoring her, grabbed said Bonnie by the arm and marched imperiously out. “Be there at eight” she called back over her shoulder. I watched them as they advanced down the hall, George Napoleonic, marshaling her troop and Bonnie protesting incoherently, and ineffectively. I knew then how Marshall Ney must have felt at Waterloo. I think Bonnie was not taken with us at first blush. I was not worried. Bear and I would grow on her, I was sure of it.

Springing but a few hours ahead from our meeting in the Manx, Bear and I buzzed George’s room at the fancy oaken door of a very nice old stone apartment house. We were buzzed in. This was high security for us those days. Well, any security was a novelty for us. I had hitchhiked to California from Michigan and slept under overpasses when it rained. Bear had, in the not too distant past, spent the monsoon season huddled under a couple of poncho liners strung over a rope, hoping not to die on this particular night. This place looked like a step up, and we were determined to live up to expectations. I buffed the toes of my boots on the back of the opposing leg, and we sallied forth, bearing our wine like an offering to Venus.

I banged on the door of the designated apartment and heard the command “Get that, Bonnie!” The door inched open, Bonnie confronting us with panic in her eyes. Christ, I knew we were a little rough, but panic? We didn’t rate panic. I was a young history major dropout and Bear was a wounded returning veteran. Granted we weren’t suitably attired for the country club but we were more or less clean and there were no visible blood stains on either of us.

“I wasn’t sure you’d show up” Bonnie said hopefully and as I pushed back the door and entered her face fell considerably. (I had not thought it could drop much further. And yet it did.) I was beginning to think I might dislike this young woman. The activity in the apartment was frenetic for at least the first minutes. Those two girls were a whirlwind of activity, sweeping around arranging and rearranging what couldn’t have been more than a couple of suitcases worth of stuff each. They were demonstrating pride of ownership and showing off a bit. It was a small furnished place with a main room, a kitchenette and another room off to the side opposite the kitchen, perhaps a shared bedroom. This might present a minor logistical problem for me. Bear opened the bottle of Strawberry Hill and began to lift it to his lips when I stymied him by asking “Got some glasses for the wine?” Reluctantly he lowered the bottle but continued looking longingly at it. “Sure!” George piped up, and she plucked four mismatched glasses from a cupboard and set them on the small round kitchen table. Bear dutifully poured all four glasses full, set the bottle in the center and downed his glass in one gulp.

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