The Free-Fall Chronicles
I had met Carla in 1968 when she was 17, a big voluptuous
teenager with a throaty laugh and a baby. I was 27, the de facto
leader of the Free Family commune in Olema. I lost track of her
around 1971 when our truck caravan broke up in Boulder. My father
had just died and I went East to help my mother. Others scattered
to their own needs and purposes, Carla with them.
I ran into her once briefly around 1975 or 6. I had returned
to California and saw her in San Rafael by chance. We went back
to her room together to share a bag of dope and catch up. After
that, I lost track of her for sixteen years until she called me
out of the blue one day last winter. We met and talked for hours,
breathless with the good fortune of having found one another
again. This is largely her story, but also mine.
* * *
It was Autumn. I had moved my lady, Sam, and our daughter,
Ariel, out of the overcrowded Olema ranch house into a small,
abandoned outbuilding; a cattle shed, which we had tar-papered
against the winter, insulating the windows with plastic and the
rough wood floors with old carpets. I had put in a wood-burning
stove, and built a loft for sleeping. Though the shed was only
ten by ten feet, it sufficed for the three of us and our two
It was a low-rent shanty with wooden battens nailed across
the black, tar-paper skin outside, but it was warm and dry. The
old wood glowed by kerosene lamp- light, and it was quite lovely
to lie there and listen to the dull comforting murmur of the rain
spatter on the slate roof. The stage was set, the play was cast.
According to Carla, I was away at Black Bear Ranch, another
Free Family site deep in the Trinity- Siskyou wilderness in
California's far north, when she and her gangly, boisterous
boyfriend, Jeff, arrived. Jeff had already been living at Olema
and had been introduced to Carla through a mutual friend from one
of Carla's foster families. Carla gleaned that I was a
significant person and that she would somehow need my okay to be
able to stay. I suppose I was the nominal "head man" by
virtue of having been the first to colonize the place, and
perhaps having the overarching vision of how Olema dove-tailed
with the rest of the Free Family, however my authority was
strictly based on persuasion and personal regard. People came and
went at Olema, were accepted or rejected according to mysterious
consensus. It was commonly agreed that Olema was "free
turf"; that one could do and be whatever one chose to be: an
anarchic social experiment designed to discover alternative modes
of living and working together based on personal authenticity
rather than economics.
"I didn't understand how it fit together", Carla
remembers. "Someone always made dinner. It got cold, someone
made a fire. Things just seemed to get done, but I didn't know
what my responsibility was. No one told me to do anything. I'd
never had that kind of freedom before."
She kept her mouth shut and her eyes open. She watched the
naked people tending the mounds of corn and beans, the rows of
tomatoes and the pretty and edible nasturtiums; watched the Gypsy
truckers detailing their elaborate Victorian houses fixed on the
old 1940's Reo and GMC flat-bed trucks dominating the yard and
corral. She tried to discover the secret of these people who
seemed to understand some common principle of existence without
While she learned, fate sent her a guardian angel in the form
of smiling, energetic, Phyllis, who helped her care for her baby,
Malachi. Carla's deficiencies as an immature mother were absorbed
by Phyllis and other members of the community who would grab
Malachi and take him off with them on their errands and whims for
hours at a time. Carla was stupefied and relieved at this display
of group concern and generosity. Her own family had been a
war-zone where nurture was a rare commodity. She assesses her own
parenting skills candidly by asserting, "I didn't know
It's not surprising considering Carla's memory of home. While
both her parents were teachers and her mother was a fairly
talented painter of portraits; the type that grace middle class
homes, implying status and disposable income, her step-dad was
discovered with pornographic photos of some of the girls in his
class. Carla remembers him as a "sick son a bitch."
Carla's mother walked into the living room one day when Carla was
fourteen. Her husband had ripped Carla's blouse off and was
pinning her to the floor with his body. Her mother regarded this
vision for an instant, then continued walking to her own room,
slamming the door without a word. That was when Carla began
The night I returned, there was a big feast and lots of
music. When people came home after a trip, they brought gossip
and adventurous tales, presents, new goods, and staples, news of
friends and enough energy to generate stupendous parties.
The men would gather wood and build a fire, or set up a
barbecue if there was meat. Sometimes a cattle trough would be
pulled over a fire-pit and filled with water to serve as a
primitive group bath. Depending on the scale of the event, we
might dig a sweat lodge. We would drag out the home-brew and hash
brownies. Divisions of labor were never strict, but the kitchen
was generally the domain of the women: skirts rustled, metal
bowls clanged, flour dust hazed the air and the house was
permeated by an incense of lentils and cardamom, marinating meat,
clean hair, and rising dough.
Carla remembers that I made her feel right at home that night
and being awed by my lady, Sam, who appeared to her as
omni-competent and everything she might ever want to be. Sam was
ten years older than Carla, a tall, blonde girl whose family had
once trained her for beauty pageants. She was imposing, could
fill a room with her entrance, but was afflicted with a self-
confidence that oscillated between impenetrable and absent. She
had grand style and witchy powers. Though, like most of us, she
was picking her way through the rubble of her own psyche, to
Carla she appeared as a goddess, fully formed and worthy of
Sam taught her to the tan deer-hides we retrieved in numbers
from the Pt. Reyes garbage dump during hunting season: to make an
oatmeal-thick mash from wood- ashes and water to slip the hair;
to pickle the skin in sulfuric acid and water or rub them with
brains, then break them to softness over a fence-post or over the
back of an ax jammed into a stump. Though the ultimate utility of
such skills might have been marginal, they contributed to a sense
of independence from the larger culture and supported our
intentions to be in continuity with indigenous people who had
lived where we were living, centuries earlier. Such skills also
enabled us to create trade-goods and currency from found objects,
personal skills, and time. One could create wealth by re-defining
it in a game which was not stacked against you.
Before long Carla was invisibly stitched to the rest of us,
and a seamless part of our family. She joined the dancing around
the bon-fires when we roasted deer that Fosmo and I periodically
poached from the Coast Range hills. While we waited under the
dripping Coyote-brush, living on trail mix and tea, Carla was
laughing and joking in the kitchen, chopping and kneading,
confident enough now to help other mothers with their babies.
She was the inspiration for one of Lew Welch's best throwaway
lines. A tall freckle-faced, sad-eyed Irishman whose face was
often suffused with childish wonder and delight, Lew was already
famous as a Beat poet. He lived sporadically and stormily with a
thick, powerful, Slavic woman called Magda and when she would
tire of his drunken escapades he would move out of their Marin
City pad and in with us. He loved jazz and Magda's two children
and was proud of tutoring their musical abilities. He introduced
me to Magda's oldest, Huey, when he was ten years old. Lew beamed
with delight at me as the child scatted tricky jazz riffs Lew had
taught him. He might well have been, proud. Magda's Huey became
his own Huey Lewis and the News, and honors Lew's memory to this
day by maintaining his stepfather's bardic traditions.
I was pleased to have him at the ranch, because I felt that
his presence conferred on us a legitimate descent from the Beats.
I was extremely proud that Lew had dedicated a poem called
"Olema Satori" to me.
On the day he honored Carla, Lew was sitting on the floor of
the Olema living room holding cradling a gallon jug of Cribari
red-wine in his lap. He was deep in his cups. The room was
pulsing with music and dense with marijuana smoke. Carla was lost
in sinuous dancing, naked from the waist up, and Lew was watching
her with undisguised lust. He turned to me, grinning crookedly,
raised one finger, and said, very slowly and very clearly,
"The ... worst ... Persian ... voluptuary ... could ... not
... imagine ... our ... most ... ordinary ... day." Having
managed this, he pitched over, unconscious.
There was no clue in Lew's joy that day, that not long
afterwards he would leave his wallet and a note in Gary Snyder's
kitchen and walk into the Sierra foothills with his rifle, to
commit suicide. If he hid his private griefs in life he remained
consistent in death. To this day, his body has never been found.
* * *
About this time, Rick "Doc" Holiday, a small,
delicate, junkie with black hair, a con man's politesse and a
soft, smokey, voice, showed up with a tall, androgynously
beautiful girl who might have been Mick Jagger's sister. This was
Daney. Junk-sick as she was when she arrived, she radiated sexual
energy and Carla took to her immediately.
Basically, Doc had abandoned her with us to clean up. Daney
did her best, and before long she was baking bread with the best
of them, laughing, throwing sparks off her cat's-eyes, and
radiating a feral energy that made it apparent that she would not
linger in the land of brown rice and black beans for too long.
Both girls were ready for a break from the poverty of ranch life,
when Carla came and asked me for some money to get high.
The reason she asked me was because, that day, I was in
charge of the Free Bank, a Digger institution: everyone put their
money, food stamps, or personal wealth into the kitty, to be
divided up at group meetings according to consensual priorities.
What was left after the kids, trucks, and groceries had been
covered, could be taken out on as "as needed" basis,
and simply recorded in the Free Bank-book.
My entries in the Book might read: "Auto parts, $14.95;
sandwich $2.67, gasoline $5.00", but Emmett might enter,
"truck, $20". day after day. Everyone knew that his
money was going for drugs and he could have said so without
weakening his claim to the funds, but it was Emmett's nature to
be evasive so everyone let him slide.
I tried to talk Carla out of doing drugs, but she and Daney
were already gassed and ready, idling at half- throttle. They
left together, money in hand, Carla in her work-boots,
floor-length skirt, and flannel shirt, baby on her hip, and
Daney, "reeking of sex" as Carla remembers, dressed to
the nines and looking fabulous. Daney did not have any money when
they left and Carla overlooked her assertion that she would
"get some" when they arrived in Sausalito.
The two girls and the baby hitch-hiked to the Trident
Restaurant, a favorite hangout for drug-dealers and wanna-be's.
Daney was in her element there gliding into the room like a
shark, leaving Carla at the bar while she went "to get some
"I couldn't figure out how," Carla said
incredulously. "Even when I saw her crawling out from under
a table-cloth and some slickster handing her some bread, I still
didn't get it!"
The girls left with an archetypical dope-dealer in tight
leathers, roaring through town in his BMW-with-
sound-system-to-blow- out-windows. In his bachelor pad in the
pricey Sausalito hills, Carla filled the sunken tub while Daney
went into the bedroom and fucked the guy into unconsciousness.
After putting him to sleep, she joined Carla for a luxurious soak
while they waited for their heroin to be delivered. While
lounging in the suds, Daney confessed her occupation to Carla,
who, far from being shocked, was impressed.
"Hey, it didn't sound bad to me at all!. Great pads,
good cars, easy money and all the dope you want, being
delivered!. I couldn't believe it." She lay back in the
luxurious hot water, playing with the baby in the shimmering,
scented bubble bath and put that idea on unconscious hold for use
at a later date.
* * *
In April of 1970 we were all evicted from Olema. A new cowboy
had leased the pastures and didn't want to share it with thirty
hippies. Carla helped us clean the house and grounds, spic and
span, down to the last cigarette butt and bottle cap. We left the
Olema ranch as meticulous as an altar as our way of expressing
our appreciation to it.
We paid every outstanding bill in the town of Pt. Reyes
Station, even those committed in our name by transients. The
citizens of the town understood and appreciated the gesture.
While we were definitely "outsiders" and freaks to the
local people, they had liked us. We had been honest in our
business dealings with them and had certainly supplied them with
ample entertainment and gossip. Tom Quinn, the brother of the new
lessee of the land, was a local commercial artist. He made an
elegant wooden sign with a Coyote footprint on it. Under the
footprint he wrote "...and company have gone." As we
drove out for the last time, I wrote the word "on"
after the "gone". Six months later I returned and took
the sign itself. I still have it.
The Free Family was preparing the Caravan at that time. The
idea was to travel to far-flung locales and use our neutrality as
newcomers to create meetings, detentes, and political alliances
among people who should but did not know one another. It was
apparent that the counter-culture was growing; every state had
pockets of people living like we did; creating relationships and
new communities within their regions. Everyone had a friend
somewhere else, so it seemed organic and evolutionary to begin
weaving these places together, expanding the base of our economy
and spreading the cultural word.
Things were to commence with a road trip to southern Colorado
for a peyote meeting with members of the Red-Rocker's and the
Triple-A communes in the Huerfano Valley, near the New Mexican
I loved the act of preparing my truck for such trips. Each
task I accomplished inventoried a useful skill I had assembled
since leaving college with a degree in English literature. I had
developed a passion for the deductive, problem-solving capacities
required to keep one's life in working in a world without the
money to hire professionals to do it for you. My engine had been
lovingly re-built on my kitchen table; each bolt torqued to
specifications and glued with Loc-tite to prevent its vibrating
loose. I had even balanced the fly-wheel and clutch
pressure-plate together so that it idled like a whisper, without
any perceptible tremors. Metal strapping from the bed of an
abandoned truck had been bent over the sideboards of mine and
covered with canvas, so that my '49 Chevy 2 1/2 ton, resembled an
old Conestoga wagon. In honor of the scars and lacerations I
incurred during its construction, I named the truck Dr.
My oxyacetylene tanks were chained to the running boards and
had become an indispensable tool I had learned to operate with
modest skill. All around me similar torches roared, hissed,
snapped, and spit as school bus tops were opened up and frames
for sky- lights and second-story sleeping lofts were jerry-
rigged in place, formed from old bed frames and brazed together
with wire coat hangers. The Caravan was preparing for the road.
Nineteen adults and eleven children, trundled our nine
home-made house trucks across the width of California, over the
Sierras and on through the sage and scrub of Nevada. In
Strawberry Valley, Utah we were run out by Range-Riders. That
story is instructive to repeat because it highlights the
ambiguity with which we were often treated by locals.
We were camped in a broad flat meadow outside Provo
overlooking the Strawberry Valley reservoir. It was an idyllic
spot: groves of aspens made pleasant shelter from the wind, the
grass was thick and long, the weather balmy, and everyone was
having a great time. Everyone but Simon. Simon had joined us from
Black Bear. He was a tall, skinny, fellow with red infected
pimples all over his body that were painful, so he took to
walking around naked. At this time, he also had a huge boil on
his tongue that made speech impossible. I had some Oregon Grape
root and smashed it up to make a blood-purifying tonic for him.
It seemed to be helping, but he decided he needed Vitamin C and
went to town to steal some Oranges. He was brought back by an
apologetic sheriff. The sheriff had tried to be nice to us, had
not hassled us during our stay, but now we had embarrassed him.
We told Simon to shut up and stop his blubbering explanations,
which were unintelligible anyway due to the festering golf-ball
in his mouth. We apologized profusely to the Sheriff and promised
to keep Simon confined to camp. That was our undoing.
One day as Simon was wandering around bare-assed naked, a car
nosed along the trail and around a clump of aspen. The driver
could see Simon, but his passenger could not. He gestured at
Simon to get the hell out of the way, but Simon was either too
stupefied from poisoned blood, or too arrogantly proud to pay
attention. After a short while of gesticulating, the fellow,
angry now, floored his car and raced past Simon. There was a
woman in the passenger seat next to him. As we discovered later,
the angry man was the owner of the property and the woman he was
trying to protect from the exposure to Simon's gangrened body and
weeny was his wife.
That night, at around 11 , the sheriff woke us, apologetic
again, and informed us that the Range Riders were coming and if
we were still there when they arrived we would be arrested and
fined for trespass at $400 a person.
We thanked him for the warning and broke camp by headlights.
Only a little trampled grass showed we had been resting there
almost a week. We drove down the road a-while and pulled in at a
diner and bar joined at the hip to a small gas-station. A
Saturday-night cowboy frolic was in full swing when we entered
the diner and lined up two deep along the counter, galvanizing
the attention of the room. Our women were wearing their
floor-length knitted skirts, cowboy boots, and tinkling
bracelets, bundled against the cold in colorful blankets and
shawls. The kids were stuffed hastily into clothing over their
pajamas, bursting like potato skins.
"Watch the women, they all have knives," I heard an
old-timer instruct someone judiciously. While we filled our
thermoses and gave the kids hot-chocolate, the men parlayed and
tried to decide where to camp at such an hour, keeping wary eyes
cocked on the bar next door. From time to time a cowboy would
wander out, survey us drunkenly, then disappear back into the
whining maelstrom of the dance. A few minutes later, he returned
with a buddy. Each time a group disappeared into the feverish
darkness, they would re-emerge in greater numbers, and I was
beginning to get nervous.
We got everyone loaded into the trucks, were lined up at idle
and ready to go, when I noticed that Peter Berg, and his truck,
The Albigencian Ambulance Service, was not among us. I began
searching for him, nervously, then frantically. Cowboys clutching
pool cues were beginning to cluster in the doorways and you could
see that in moments, their flat eyes and hip-cocked bodies would
spill out onto to the gravel, and when that happened, there would
be serious trouble.
I spotted Berg's truck at the gas station next door and ran
over. He was nowhere to be seen, so I pounded on the rest-room
door. It was flung open and I was greeted by a sight that I was
certain would be my next-to-last on earth. Peter was back-lit in
the doorway, in his brown leather trench coat, still bald from
where his head had been shaved by the Nevada police during a
bust. His eyes behind his rimless glasses were crazed by
stimulants, and in his hand was a large and bloody butcher knife.
Behind him, half in and half out of the blood-stained sink, was
what I took to be a flayed human baby. All I could think of was
one of the cowboys peering over my shoulder and seeing this, and
knew with paralyzing clarity that we would all, men, women, and
children, be lynched, on the spot, strung up alongside the
winking bar lights as a warning to others, in the same way that
locals in that country kill Coyotes and casually hang them from
the fences along the highway.
It was a jack-rabbit that Peter was skinning in the sink. He
had run over it on the way out, and had not wanted to waste a
tasty addition to a stew. I regained enough voice to convey my
urgency to him and Judy and they gathered up the remains and fled
After four months or so on the road, Carla was "ready
for a hot bath and some dope." She and Jeff traded their
Chevy for a little red MGB and piled themselves, Malachi,
"Owl" Pickens, JP's ten-year-old son, and all their
gear into it and drove straight back to Church Street in San
Francisco where they moved in with Little Paula and the
Little Paula was a short, effervescent brunette from the Mime
Troupe who used to do baton twirling and tap numbers in spangles.
She was one of those girls who substitutes aggressive personality
for physical beauty. She wore thick-lensed glasses that made her
eyes appear large and manic, independent of the rest of her face.
In another time she might have been a booster for a civic
organization, but now she was another kind of booster.
Since leaving the Mime Troupe, Little Paula had become a
skilled criminal, working hot credit cards with a vengeance and
using extraordinary amounts of drugs. She also owned a gargantuan
tom-cat who had been trained to crap in the toilet, a feat which
kept the house odor-free, and was also guaranteed to stun brain-
numbed stragglers who stumbled into the bathroom and confronted
the cat spread-eagling on the toilet bowl. This was the
atmosphere that Carla had been seeking and it was not long before
she had a jones going.
Paula was strung out as well. In fact, the last time she came
to Olema it was with her six-week-old son, Omar. Omar's father,
Marcus, was already dead of an overdose, and, not surprisingly,
the baby itself was addicted. It was too much for Paula, who
simply abandoned him with us as a surprise when we awoke one
morning. Luckily for everyone, old "Family" friends
from the Mime Troupe David Simpson and Jane Lapiner were there at
the time and took Omar in, holding and walking him almost
constantly for weeks while he screamed through his withdrawals
and a bad case of the colic. He landed with the right people
though, and today is a cheerful, musical, hard-working young man
with an unusually rusty voice and a strong fearless body.
Paula's roommates at this time were the Cockettes, a male
drag-queen review led by a bearded fellow named Hibiscus. They
favored Shirley Temple crinolines and tutus and made no effort
whatsoever to shave their legs and beards for their stage
spectaculars like the one that featured Hibiscus singing Jeanette
McDonald numbers while being pushed on a large flowered swing.
They loved to shock straight people by walking around sucking
popsicles in the shape of penises.
Like most everyone else in the counter-culture, the Cockettes
were left-wing, anti-war activists, and they invented a unique
brand of draft resistance. They would pull their van up to the
Oakland Army depot and offer free blow jobs to inductees about to
face their physicals. Afterwards, they would give each sheepish,
shit-faced young man a Polaroid as evidence to present to draft
officials, who deferred them, generally believing that either
homosexuals were not murderous enough or that heterosexuals were
too easily corruptible.
Jeff started hanging around as a wanna-be with the Hell's
Angels. I don't know whether he was an active prospect for
admission or just waiting around hoping to be asked. He was doing
B & E's (breaking and entering) and fencing stuff to get by,
when Carla became pregnant with their child, Willow. They moved
out to the suburbs of San Anselmo, where they sold dope for a
fellow named Kelly, a sweet guy with a rotten old lady named
Kelly controlled all the Mexican salt-and-pepper heroin in
Marin. He was a stand-up and decent guy. No matter how many times
he was ripped off or beaten out of money, he took it as dues that
came with his line of work. His counts (weights) were always
fair. He would extend credit easily and everyone liked him, among
other reasons, because he never ground up the nuggets of brown
heroin into the material that it was cut with. Customers could
pick out the active lumps and throw away the lactose to get a
more potent high.
Kelly's old lady, Carol, was hated and feared. A sultry,
flashy girl with thick blonde hair, Carol rode rough-shod over
Kelly's undying affection for her. Junkies who got into arguments
with her would get cut off their supply, and she was famous for
leaving people dope-sick and waiting while she shopped for
clothes. Kelly adored her and she used that power ruthlessly. She
was not a girl who liked men very much. Her mother had been a
hooker, and she had eight brothers and sisters each by a
One day, while Carla and Jeff were selling for Kelly, the DEA
raided their house and raided badly: one of those B-movie
blitzkriegs where all the spices are dumped in a huge pile in the
middle of the rug; the drawers upended on top of the spices, the
couches turned over and ripped apart. Baby Malachi sat in the
middle of the floor with his crayons, coloring diligently while
the house was being dismembered around him, and Carla was
screaming caustically at the cops, "Would you like me to
open it for you?" Oblivious to her ironies, they railed on,
smashing down doors and shredding pillows, having much too much
fun to slow down.
One cop, a handsome Kirk Douglas look-alike with
shoulder-length hair, named Jerry, was obviously embarrassed by
the whole procedure. He sat in a chair covering his forehead with
his hands and repeating over and over, "Guys, you can see
they're not scared of us. There's obviously nothing here."
Carla noted and appreciated his mannerliness and demeanor, and
coincidentally he figured prominently in her life a few years
The raid helped Carla decide that the specter of imprisonment
was becoming increasingly probable. Because she could not even
consider "the possibility of life without dope," she
entered the methadone program in San Rafael, and moved in with
Nichole, sweet Nichole an occasional girlfriend of mine who had
joined us, much to Sam's displeasure, on the Caravan, and some
years later lived with me, after she had come to Pennsylvania at
Sam's invitation, and soon displaced her as my lady.
Nichole was and still is a great singer and was dating Steven
Stills at this time. This would have impressed Carla inordinately
since Steven was a big star, if Nichole had not also taken a
shine to Jeff. Ubiquitous sexual generosity, as well as great
personal charm were two of Nichole's endearing qualities however,
so no one ever stayed angry with her for long.
Things went fairly well for a-while. Willow was born in that
house with Baby Malachi in attendance holding his little red
wagon prepared with a pillow and blanket to take his baby sister
for a ride. "Malachi was the adult in our
relationship," Carla used to say. "He adored his
sister. Told me when she was hungry, when she needed her diapers
changed. He took her everywhere, God bless him, because I could
barely take myself anywhere let alone take care of them."
Malachi was three.
With a larger family now, Carla moved out to a spot on C
Street in San Rafael. Jeff was hard at work building trucks with
fake compartments for Kelly's drug runs to Mexico until the
Mexican networks became established all the way North to Hayward
and that became unnecessary. Jeff's fascination with the Angels
remained undiminished, and he had attached himself to Moose, a
big, burly, blond guy who looked a bit like the Grandfather on
Moose was a gregarious rogue with a quick temper and a
steel-trap mind. He was everyone's uncle and came to Olema often
in his huge white Cadillac. His Harley- Davidson was painted
white with a large red-cross on the gas-tank. I always assumed
that this was because Moose never traveled without medicines for
aid and comfort, primary among which was high quality methedrine.
He enjoyed "kidnapping" me as he called it, taking me
away for runs of several days at a time. On one occasion we left
so rapidly that he had to stop at Tattoo Larry's place and
commandeer a pair of boots for me, solid black Chippewas which I
Moose's real name was Lorenzo and he intimated that the
Italian connection implied in his name was the Mafia. He had,
according to his own mythology, been imprisoned for life without
possibility of parole at 19 for killing three guys with a
screwdriver after they'd made the mistake of jumping him outside
a waterfront bar. To what degree the story was completely or
partially true I don't know, but I had seen Moose become lethally
ballistic often enough to consider his story at least probable.
He was explosive and surprising when violent, cunning as a fox,
provocative and generous, and a good teacher.
Once, as we were leaving on one of our runs, he asked to look
at my scarf. When I took it off and gave it to him, he returned
it without regarding it at all, warning me, "If I can get
that from you I can get everything you own." He was full of
little lessons that; epiphanies that one could muse over for
He was a contradictory fellow in many regards: a Hell's Angel
with a beautiful black wife. That was highly unusual for an
Angel, for the Hell's Angels is an all-white organization. Moose
had black friends, guys he knew on the street and with whom he
appeared chummy and easy. But they never sat with him at a table
in a coffee shop when there were other Angels present, nor could
they expect any quarter from Moose's brothers if trouble erupted,
as it did one night in San Francisco when some Angels and black
men got into a dispute in an all-night coffee shop. The affair
ended with Moose emptying his .45 automatic at their fleeing car,
blowing out the back window from where he stood firing fearlessly
in the middle of Fourth street.
Jeff thought he could slide by the Angels' prohibition about
needles, and with anyone but Moose he might have, because he was
glib and charming. The Angels don't brook fools lightly however,
and more importantly want to know exactly who they are allowing
into their blood brotherhood. When Moose discovered needle tracks
on Jeff's arm, he beat him so badly that he broke a baseball bat
over his body. It was a warning that Jeff should have attended.
Carla and Jeff were best buddies by this point, but living
separately. Jeff claimed that he was being paid by the Angels,
but whether or not his status had actually been elevated to
"prospect" was unclear. He was making many trips north
to Oregon, and he would appear on Friday nights to eat and sleep
with Carla, play with his kids, and leave her rent money.
Moose suggested that Jeff prospect in San Rafael instead of
Oakland, said that it would be closer to home and less of a
strain on him. Moose was always subtle, so in retrospect it's
hard to know whether he was considering Jeff's well-being or
grooming him for his death. He was put under the charge of a guy
named Red, who ran a gas station, and hung around with pals Rick
One Friday Jeff came to Carla's truly horrified. He couldn't
sit still, couldn't concentrate, couldn't focus his attention. He
spoke agitatedly, with big gestures, gulping for air. He kept
alluding to something, but all he could actually say was,
"I'm freaked, Carla. Really, I'm freaked."
She could only determine that Jeff had been wheel- man on an
errand with Red and had seen something that scared him beyond
measure. He was definitely in over his head. He told her that he
was going to talk to Red in the morning and that he'd get back to
her. That was the last time she ever saw him alive.
The next day, Carla's temporary roommate pulled a robbery
that went sour and had to leave town, leaving Carla without
one-third of her rent support. By the second Friday, without
Jeff's contribution, she was down two-thirds and nervous, so she
went to the garage to see Red, Rick, and Boneyard. Inquiring
about Jeff, the three men looked at her blankly and said,
"Jeff who?" She knew then that Jeff was dead. She
called Moose, her only ally in the Angels, but he gave a her a
song and dance about Jeff just being gone for a few days.
"I knew this was bullshit," she said, "and I
freaked." She went to the police and tried to convince them
that her husband had been murdered, "but all they saw was
some hysterical biker's broad and laughed me off."
They must have laughed all the way to Red and Rick's as well;
laughing to the guys at the gas station about the crazy broad who
had just been down to the station fingering them as killers,
because the next day an unlit Molotov cocktail crashed through
Carla's front window with a note attached to it warning her about
not going back to the police. "It got my attention",
Carla remarked dryly.
The next day, Carla left the kids asleep in the house to slip
around the corner to the market. When she returned, all her
furniture was piled in the yard with the kids sitting on it, with
her clothes in a big puddle at their feet. Despite the fact that
her rent had always been regular and there had never been any
trouble, the landlord's only response to her was, "You're
Carla took what she could and left. Despite the help of
friends who took her in and gave her dope to stave off sickness,
(without a phone she could not service her regular customers) she
slept on the streets, in Goodwill boxes, for weeks. Finally, two
of her friends, Mitchell Brothers porn stars who had "done a
geographic" from some trouble, took pity on Carla and
offered to take care of the kids, until Carla could get her scene
Carla was grateful, but unfortunately, the friend got hurt in
an accident shortly afterwards. She gave the kids to the other
girl, named Barbara, who promptly moved them to far-away Coos
Relieved of the children for the moment, Carla was scuffling
determinedly now, trying to grubstake a house and a means of
supporting her drug habit. Hitchhiking over the Wolf Grade one
day, a fat-cat in a big Mercedes picked her up and offered her
$50 for a blow- job. Carla was stunned.
" Fifty fucking dollars", I thought, "now
that's something I can do." So she did, and not only loved
the money, but "the rush of it," that accompanies
dangerous activities. She liked the rush so much that in later
years, even after she and her friends had established a solid
house and a fat client list, she confesses that they would
sometimes sneak off into San Francisco and "work guys in
cars, for the adrenaline."
She started meeting people and putting together a client list
and a bankroll. She rented a sweet little house in San Rafael,
and between selling dope and turning tricks, paid for a cozy
nursery with fresh paint and sweet pictures. She stuffed it with
as many toys, books, and pictures, clean bedding and clothes, as
her wad could cover and her guilt would demand, and prepared to
get her kids back.
When she got to Coos Bay, and finally located Barbara and her
children, she was horrified. The kids were living in a filthy
teepee. They had runny noses, chapped lips, and were covered with
mud. Barbara had fallen in love with them and was not about to
give them back. She had alerted the town to the threat of Carla's
arrival and everywhere Carla went she was tailed by hostile
people who had been told God-knows-what-story about her
relationship with the kids - maybe the truth.
Carla finally struck a deal with Barbara, who agreed to give
Carla her own kids for 30 days. If the children didn't want to
live with her after that, Carla agreed that Barbara could have
them back. Carla returned home with Malachi and Willow. Two days
later Barbara appeared at their San Rafael doorstep and moved in.
Carla knew that she had to hide her habit and business
dealings from Barbara. To meet her various customers and keep the
money rolling in, Carla was forced to make ten and eleven trips
to the store, pleading absentmindedness. She would lock herself
in the bathroom and take half her normal doses of heroin so that
she would not nod out and drop burning cigarettes into her lap.
Finally the wear-and-tear of inventing excuses and juggling
schedules got to be too much, and a week later Carla demanded
that Barbara leave and come back at the end of the agreed upon 30
days. Barbara agreed but asked to be allowed to take the kids to
visit her own foster mother first, who lived in nearby Fairfax.
She said she would return with them that night.
It was not until the next morning that Barbara ended Carla's
all-night vigil with the chilling news that she had given both
children to the police and told them about Carla's prostitution
and drug business. Carla became hysterical and instead of simply
going to the police, picking up her children and telling them
that they'd been taken by a crazy babysitter, she made the
understandable, but stupid, mistake of going to see a lawyer.
Marvin the Con, as I'll call him, had a penchant for young
hookers, and in lieu of money (although Carla estimates that she
gave him about twenty grand in cash over the years) he was happy
to fuck Carla himself and pimp her to his friends as a
promotional gift. He gave her a lot of lawyerly advice which,
"If I'd of followed, I'd probably have my kids back
today," Carla confesses fairly enough, " but he's still
He sent Carla to a social worker named Jane, a kindly,
understanding-looking woman that Carla fell in love with and
"just trusted! I told her everything," she says.
"I came clean: the drugs, the tricks, the selling,
everything, because I thought she could help me." She helped
Carla by going to a judge and having both children made wards of
Life was grinding Carla fine at this point, but like most
teenagers, she never considered the utility of reflection. She
continued turning tricks, using and selling drugs and augmenting
her supply of street-dope with the government's very own
methadone which she received at a de-tox clinic daily.
She met and moved in with Clint, a muscular six- foot-six,
two-hundred-thirty-pounder who handled Kelly's drug deliveries.
The next two years became a blur of moves between every low-rent
hotel, motel, and rooming house in Marin, until their personal
dust settled in a fairly new condo development called Harbor
Point. It was here that Carla picked up the San Francisco
Examiner on November 11,1975 and saw the front page photo of a
large, algae-covered 50 gallon drum, dripping wet and wrapped
with chains, which had just been dredged up from beneath the
Richmond Bridge. The photo's caption identified it as her
husband's coffin. The police had caught Boneyard on that bridge
with a car trunk full of cocaine. In searching around for
something to deal for his freedom, Boneyard turned over his
friends and Jeff's final resting place. Jeff had died before he
The next night one of Carla's customers told her that the
Angels were looking for her. So were the police. Carla figured
that if her customers knew the Angels wanted her, it would not be
long before she crossed paths with the boys themselves. So, for
the next month, she and Clint slept in a different place every
night. It was nerve-wracking trying to service customers and
never knowing each time she made and appointment, whether or not
she might find an Angel awaiting her at the rendezvous. Clint and
Carla drifted that way for months, skimming the nether-world of
Marin like fallen leaves before the wind.
Malachi and Willow, were by this time ensconced in a lovely
foster home in San Anselmo. They were thriving with a wholesome,
nurturing couple who had a yard, rabbits, swings and all the
ingredients necessary to raise healthy children. Carla's visits
to them were becoming more and more traumatic. On her final
visit, Malachi had clung to her leg screaming and begging
"take me with you, take me with you Mommy." Not even
heroin can dampen that kind of pain. Carla recognized that her
life was a shambles, and believed, with good reason, that she
could quite possibly be dead very soon. Reluctantly, she signed
the adoption papers delivering her children to these good people.
"I cried for five straight days," she remembers. Clint
and Kelly held her, rocked her, fed her, kept her stoned and
never left her alone for five minutes. She was gone!
Carla's economic mentor, Kelly, was on his way to jail at
this time. Even the brilliant Terry Hallinan, friend of civil
liberties, radical causes and underdogs, a man who had often
helped the Diggers without charge, could not help Kelly this
time. Kelly didn't help much, either. At his trial, when the IRS
compounded the charges against him by over-valuing the
street-price of his dope and demanding $45 in unpaid taxes for
each $20 bag of dope he'd ostensibly sold, Kelly became irate,
jumped out of his chair, and yelled, "If you can get that
kinda fucking money for it, I'll sell it to you!"
Kelly owed Carla and Clint about 80 grand for bail and
lawyers they had extended to him during the course of his
troubles. As recompense to them, he introduced them to his
primary connection in Mexico, so they could take over his
business. All he asked, begged for actually, was that they
"take care of Carol."
This was a lot to ask, because, as I've mentioned earlier,
everyone hated Carol. Clint and Carla agreed for Kelly's sake,
though, so that he could go off to prison without worrying.
The night before he went to jail, Kelly rented a grand
sailboat and catered a haute-cuisine candle-lit dinner with fine
tableware and sparkling crystal. He bought matching, hand-made,
white doe-skin outfits for himself and Carol, and some fabulous
jewelry for her. He had prepared a magnificent romantic farewell,
but Carol never showed up. Kelly spent his last night of freedom
lying on the bed of the boat weeping between Carla and Clint. At
dawn, he delivered himself to San Quentin Prison.
After Kelly had left, Carol finally appeared, and Carla,
infuriated at her cruelty to Kelly, beat the girl bloody. In
tears, Carol recounted her side of the story: the details of her
life with a man rendered impotent by junk, and her increasingly
desperate attempts to provoke his attentions.
Carla was certainly sympathetic to the idea of sex as a basic
need and Carol's tale mollified Carla and Clint just enough to
guarantee Carol that they would deliver her maintenance-level of
dope every day. She would have to cover her own rent. Even this
was a tall order for Carol, who had grown lazy and dull after
years of Kelly's largesse. Carol was desperate and begged for
help. Carla gave her the phone numbers of some tricks and told
her to go to work and see if she liked it.
Not surprisingly, Carol turned out to be a phenomenal
hustler. "She got more outta those guys than I could,"
Carla reports. Carol moved in with a girl named Pam and they
started doing "doubles". Around this time, Clint got
very hot with the police and had to disappear. Carla moved in
with Carol and Pam and the three girls rented a snazzy house on
Sunset in Mill Valley. It featured a lovely view of the trees,
and an easy walk to a park.
Life was good. They had plenty of customers, and since they
were all great-looking girls, they had lots of calls for doubles
and triples. A cab would come every morning and deliver their
orange juice and donuts and take them to the methadone program.
All their neighbors liked them, in spite of guessing what they
were up to, because they were sweet girls with sunny
In the curious way that opposites often attract, Carla and
Carol fell in love. Carla explains: "I mean we were bathing
together, sleeping together, fucking together, getting high
together, what do you expect? Besides, Carol was great with me,
helping me through bad depressions about my kids and really
looking after me. Bein' real sweet."
Clint was incensed about this, but Carla was adamant that if
he wanted her he would have to take Carol as well. Clint moved in
reluctantly. Things didn't work out well however, and one day
when Carla returned with the groceries, she found Clint and Carol
loading weapons on either side of the living room. This was too
much for even Carla and she walked out.
She relented a few days later, picked up Clint, and the two
of them moved in together and started a "whole new
deal." They broke their "rigs", and cleaned up.
Carla got a job in a pizza spot in Tiburon, and they both
foreswore drugs (other than methadone). Alcohol was still
allowed, and she still turned an occasional trick in the evening
for some fun-money, but compared to the past, they were almost
But Clint began killing a fifth of vodka before noon. By
evening he'd be blind drunk and dangerous. He was a big, strong
guy and gave Carla several serious beatings he would blot out of
his mind by the next morning. Carla would present herself at
breakfast, black-eyed and puffy as a Rice Krispie, pointing at
herself with both hands saying, "This is you Clint."
Clint would insist that he would never treat her that way and
refused to believe that her condition had anything to do with his
One day the cops picked her up hitchhiking and
"suggested" she come to the station for a talk. It is a
measure of the loyalty that Carla inspires in people that when
her favorite trick saw her enter the police car, he risked
following her to the police station demanding to know the charges
against her and what her bail would be. The cops assured Carla
and the trick that she was not under arrest. They told her that
they wanted Clint. They had a warrant for his arrest, for a
hand-to-hand sale of two ounces of heroin to an undercover cop.
They had him cold. Terry Hallinan couldn't help him because of a
conflict with Kelly's case, and this made Clint crazy as a
cutworm. That night, Carla heard him careening down the hallway
toward their flat and decided that she'd been beaten enough for
this lifetime. She hid behind the door and when he entered the
flat, calling for her in a whiskey raw voice, she flattened him
with a lamp and fled to her sister's.
The wild life was starting to wear a bit thin by now. Clint
was definitely going to prison. Carla didn't want him to face his
bit without the prospect of conjugal visits, so she married him.
The day after their wedding Clint's trial began. The star witness
for the prosecution was the undercover cop that had bought the
dope directly from Clint. Carla recognized him as Jerry, the
polite, Kirk Douglas look-alike from the destructive DEA raid on
her house. She still liked him. "He was just doing his
job," she said. "He caught Clint fair and square,
On the witness stand, Jerry was professional and during his
interrogation kept referring verbally to his notes. Clint's
lawyer rose and told the court that he had petitioned Jerry
countless times for these notes and had never received them.
Since this is contrary to law, the judge questioned Jerry, who
confessed sheepishly that he had recently moved from San Rafael
to Novato and that during that move the bottom drawer of his file
cabinet had become hopelessly jumbled. There was an embarrassed
pause before he went on to explain that he had used the papers
from that bottom drawer to start the first fire in his new house.
Clint's lawyer looked at Clint, then at Carla. The prosecutor
looked at Jerry with disbelief and everyone looked at the judge,
who looked at everyone else, before he shrugged helplessly and
said, "Case dismissed!"
Carla and Clint figured that God had favored them and that
perhaps they owed him the commitment of turning over a new leaf.
Both got jobs and kicked heroin (again) by using a lot of pot
(and methadone), and going to bars and drinking themselves into a
stupor, "because we thought that's what straight people
did!" It all took its toll however, and they split up not
Carla met a guy at the methadone clinic soon after Clint's
departure, a slim, feminine looking fellow with waist-length
black hair. She had, with her unerring instincts, become
attracted to a fellow she describes as a
"stab-your-mother-street-hustler" named Gino. Gino had
approached Carla very aggressively at first and she hadn't liked
him. She had snapped him back into place, however, and then for
several weeks he had been courteous and polite. After she and
Clint were through, she left the clinic with Gino one day and
they went to a hotel and "fucked for two weeks." After
a sexless life of several years with Clint, Carla thought that
the God of flesh had finally answered the prayers of her nervous
Gino's stated occupation was rock and roll drummer, but
actually he was a con artist. He wasn't above sticking a gun in
your ribs, but what he really liked was stings. He was a master
at the Pigeon drop which is an age-old switcheroo hustle, but
what he really enjoyed was inventing new ways of separating fools
from their fortunes. He was of this particular invention:
He and a friend would meet sailors coming into port and offer
them "...girls. Any kind you can imagine." He would put
together a party of six to eight guys while his buddy went around
the corner to steal a car. On the way to the location he primed
them with lurid descriptions of the particular appetites of each
girl in his "trap line". They would arrive in front of
a hotel and Gino would park, "for a second" in a no-
parking zone. He and his buddy would collect the girls' fees,
towel deposits, bribes for the madame and police, and sometimes
for particular costumes or fetishes which he swore turned the
girls on. Then he and his buddy would enter the hotel and exit
through a rear door, leaving the sailors to eventually discover
that they'd been had. The piece de resistance for Gino, was that
he had left the sailors waiting in a stolen car!
Gino also made a good living selling fake drugs. He would
dump oregano out on a cookie tin for a couple of weeks until it
had lost its scent and then mix it with henna and egg yolks. He
would scalp tickets to rock concerts and then sell the dope
inside. He also robbed gay drug-dealers, using his feminine looks
and guile to get in the door and then rapidly switching sexual
preference and leaving with their dope and their cash. He called
that one "playing the sugar" because it was so sweet.
"Once" Carla laughs, "he stole a fag dealer's dog
and held it for ransom".
One day Carla showed up at her methadone program in a foul
mood. The night before her friend Steve had appeared at her door
bloodied and shaken from having been stabbed by two black girls
while he was trying to cop dope in Marin City. When one of the
black girls showed up at the program the next morning, Carla
jumped her and pounded the living hell out of her. This was a
serious violation of program rules and not even Paula McCoy (
Emmett's Paula, our Paula, golden Paula, who was on the program
herself and Carla's counselor) could save her from a suspension
for 30 days.
With the insouciance of the young and naive, Carla told
everyone to fuck themselves. She decided that she was going to
quit methadone rather than have to put up with their bullshit,
and quit she did. Kicking cold- turkey is never pleasant. Popular
lore gives everyone some knowledge of the sniffles, the cramps,
the burning blood, and the fervent prayers for surcease from
suffering that accompany withdrawal. These symptoms last from
five to seven days if you are kicking heroin. Methadone is
something else entirely, far more powerful and far, far more
difficult for the body to do without. It is a testament to
Carla's will that she stayed clean, and virtually sleepless for
90 days, while Gino was still taking his maintenance doses. When
she walked into the clinic three months later she weighed 90
pounds and was shaking like a leaf. Dr. Charlie took one look at
her, waived the obligatory two week waiting period and gave her
an immediate dose.
Shortly later, the same hard-luck, stabbed-in- Marin-City
Steve showed up bloody and ragged again! He had propositioned the
wife of a guy named Danny in front of Danny's friend Worm. To
save his own honor, Danny had smashed Steve in the face with a
glass ashtray. Gino caught up with Danny and kicked his ass
publicly in front of the bar on Fourth Street in San Rafael.
Unfortunately for Gino, Danny was a somewhat unhinged, or
actually a hinge-less Vietnam vet. After his beating, he returned
to Carla's house with a baseball bat and a focused intention to
murder Gino. Carla fled out the back door and warned Gino at
work. Consequently Gino was prepared when he ran into Danny later
that afternoon and preemptively stabbed him in the chest. Danny,
to his credit, lost a lung, but never turned Gino over for the
Gino was too hot in San Rafael now and fled to New York. He
left Carla a Greyhound bus ticket with mutual friends and she was
forced to hide from Danny, and arrange her affairs including the
transfer of her de-tox clinic and enough methadone to travel
with, so that she could join him at his mother's in Connecticut.
Gino straightened up and got a job in a warehouse. Carla got
a job tending bar at a Howard Johnson's, where she walked home
five miles in the early morning so that she and Gino could save
the cab money toward a place of their own and move out of his
mom's. One night God smiled on her again. Carla found a leather
coat and a wallet, stripped of I.D., in one of the booths she
serviced at HoJo's. The wallet had $1200 in it. She stashed it in
the back, and two weeks later when no one had claimed it, the
money bankrolled an apartment for her and Gino.
She and Gino began a run of a couple of years, holding down
several jobs, scrimping to make ends meet, and struggling to fend
off boredom and despair like normal working people. After all the
action of the past few years, however, homey normalcy began to
pall and she announced her decision to return to California.
Gino did not want to lose her. His dad had worked for
Pitney-Bowes for many years, and his mom, moved by Gino's
late-blooming domesticity, forged his credit record and denied
his arrests on the company's application. Gino was hired to work
for a West Coast branch, and applied all his street smarts and
inventiveness to his new work. Today he is thriving as a top
service representative for that company in a city which, for
obvious reasons, must remain unnamed.
Upon returning to California, Carla developed a unique
perspective on earthquakes. She became fixated on the possibility
that if there were an earthquake, the seismic jitterbugging might
create a condition where they would be cut off from their
methadone. The doctors at the program pooh-poohed this fear, and
assured her that all she had to do was turn up at any hospital
and demand their maintenance dose. The doctors were civilians
however, and Carla's knowledge of the world predicted a different
scenario. "I could just see it" she says, "turning
up at the trauma ward among the bodies, the wrecked-up and the
fucked-up, two junkies looking for a fix. Imagine how long we'd
have waited in the back of that bus?"
She and Gino decided that it would be prudent to kick
methadone in anticipation of "the big one." They tossed
a coin, and Gino won (or lost) the toss and quit first. He began
slacking off his dose by a couple of milligrams every couple of
weeks until he felt normal at that dosage. He'd "keep the
edge off" a-while and then diminish it another couple
milligrams. He began jogging and getting really fit. Carla
maintained them both by selling half her doses and working.
When her turn came, Carla stayed true to her word and cleaned
up, although it took her two full years to free herself. After
kicking a drug, the personal demons one has bought off with it
begin to demand their tribute again. Carla entered a period of
intense isolation. Her mother was dying, and she introduced Carla
to the Aquarian Gospel. Carla began reading anything spiritual
she could find, even Jehovah's Witness pamphlets she found
abandoned on busses. She had no idea how she would be able to
live without dope, and felt that these books might help her with
her withdrawal and adjustment problems. One of those adjustment
problems was that Carla's newly awakened body remembered sex.
Normally a lusty girl, she was now constantly aroused, but all of
Gino's surplus energy appeared to be dedicated to regaining his
physical fitness through exercise . Soon they cashed it in as a
Carla got a job with Marin Towing, a company that hauled away
disabled and illegally parked vehicles with snazzy yellow and
chrome tow-trucks. She felt comfortable there, because the
business reminded her of prostitution, including the litany of
services and prices: $25 to unlock; $50 for a straight tow; $75
with dollies; $10 a day for storage (beginning the instant they
have the car.)
"It was legal stealing," she laughs. "The cops
back it up, even set the rates." A shop owner sets out a
little sign that says if you park here your vehicle gets towed.
The sign cites some numbers in the public law books, and the
tow-truck boys are in business, working on straight commission.
She and the boys used to sit on the hills over Sausalito
scanning the parking lots with binoculars, looking for illegally
parked cars. "Hell we busted Kenny Roger's car, and Todd
Rundgren's," Carla recalls. "Todd was so impressed that
we towed his car correctly that he hired the tow-truck driver as
his driver. We worked 17 hours a day and I didn't have time to be
junk- sick." Besides the excitement of the work, an added
perk was being surrounded with muscular young drivers who
performed their own, after-hours, oil and lube jobs on Carla.
"I fucked everything in sight," she remembers dreamily.
She stayed with Marin Towing for three years accreting
responsibilities until she was running the office virtually
single-handed, augmenting her pay- checks by towing race cars on
weekends. Finally the owner, couldn't afford to pay her what she
needed, and, with regrets and great memories, she was forced to
leave her first real oasis in many years.
She applied for a job as a cashier at one of America's great
brokerage houses and was attracted to the high-stakes of the
Eighties' stock-market as if she was magnetized to it. She set a
personal goal to land a job in the "cage", the crotch
of the operation, where the buys and sells and the puts and calls
are plugged into the nation's markets by computer. She applied
for that slot and providentially, the cage girl left. Because the
company had a policy of hiring in- house, Carla's ambition was
She loved it. Stock-brokers drank like fish and partied hard.
They were as unabashedly materialistic as hookers; played all the
angles and worked their customers "just like I used to
do", she says. Carla felt right at home. Friday through
Sunday, she held her demons at bay by drinking herself into
oblivion. Her compatriots thought it was just high spirits. They
loved her. She was funny and fast, and completely non-
judgmental. From the few hints of her past that she did reveal,
people knew that she was definitely out of the ordinary and
appreciated her for it.
One Friday night, her boss gave her his credit card and told
her to reward the girls in the office for a tough week by taking
them out to party. Carla piled them into her lovingly restored
Pontiac Firebird and took them out for the night, firmly resolved
to have just one glass of wine and then go home.
"But I can't have just one", Carla says
reflectively. By the time the boss appeared to join them, she was
so out of control that he took her car keys and put her in a cab.
Carla did not want to wake up at her home in Richmond, 30 minutes
away, without her car so she ordered the driver back. She used a
hidden key to start her car and headed for home.
She doesn't remember much about the trip toward Richmond
except smashing into a Volvo as she headed the wrong way down a
one-way street. When she finally recovered perception and memory,
she was in the middle of the Chevron oil-refinery complex, having
crashed through a set of heavy steel gates, wrapping the car
around herself like extravagant steel clothing.
She doesn't remember how long she rested there, but after
they arrived, it took the fire department three hours to extract
her from the wreckage. By the time she was taken to the police
station another hour later, Carla's blood alcohol measured .23,
well over twice the legal limit.
Carla called her boss from jail at about four in the morning
and told him to leave her there because she needed a vacation.
She looked around the cell: some poor young girl was junk-sick
and kicking; the normal assortment of hookers and maniacs were
fighting and screaming and bitching, and the combination of odors
from fetid bodies, sickly-sweet chewing gum and stale urine was
making her nauseous. She kept dozing off and waking up, and
finally in one of those lucid moments that often wedge themselves
between dreams and sleep, it occurred to Carla that she had a
problem with alcohol. This revelation was compounded by the irony
that, after all those years and escapades, she was in jail for
abusing a legal drug.
Her boss rescued her, Carla joined AA, and, as of this
writing has been clean and sober for two years. She's found her
children and is in constant touch with them, working hard to
repair what can be salvaged of their tattered relationship.
She's stunning. Her shoulder length hair is punk short at the
forehead. The adolescent baby-fat has been burned away, exposing
chiseled cheekbones and a slender, aquiline, nose. Cher got
surgery to look like this. The only trace of her old life I can
detect, besides her street-smarts, is the excessively polished
way she says "Good evening" when she answers her phone.
I inquired about that, suspecting that she might still be using
the phone for business. She looked at me for a minute. Her dark
eyes were as bright and undiminished at 39, as they were at
seventeen; the eyes of a race- horse locked on a finish line it
intends to cross at the highest possible speed. She took a drag
of her cigarette and looked at me ironically, "I always
thought it would be low-rent to turn tricks after thirty, Coyote,
so I stopped."
Date of last modification: July 1, 1996
The Free-Fall Chronicles is a "loose" memoir of the
'60's by Peter Coyote, actor and one of the earliest members of
the Diggers. It is a "loose" memoir because every third
or fourth chapter is about another member of the community. The
book traces the experiences, the lessons and the costs of the
pursuit of absolute freedom, and ponders the utility of limits.