SUMMER OF '69
They were sitting in the back row, all eight of them. As "Midnight Cowboy" unspooled on the
screen of the first-run movie house in downtown Manhattan, Bill Hawson and seven people who shared his townhouse in Greenwich Village watched the saga of Joe Buck and Ratso Rizzo. Bill (affectionately known as 'Big Bill' to his many friends, due to his slight potbelly) was thirty-eight, and the owner of a health foods store on Bleeker Street. His long hair (usually kept in a ponytail), casual dress, and easygoing manner belied his material success (which is why the townhouse was fully paid for).
About twenty minutes into the movie, Bill reached into his pocket. His wife Susan smiled as
she saw him pull out a big fat marijuana joint. Susan was a pretty woman, four years younger
than Bill, with frizzy strawberry-blonde hair. Bill crouched down in his seat as he surreptitiously lit up the joint with his portable lighter. He took a nice long drag, then passed it to Susan. "Thanks, hon," she whispered as she took the joint from her mate.
Susan took a few puffs of the joint, then gave it to her brother-in-law, Greg. His steady
girlfriend Linda was clinging to his arm. The pair of them passed the pot back and forth a few
times, quietly taking in in that high-quality hemp. Alan, the newest member of Bill's household,
took the joint from Linda. By this time, it was halfway gone.Alan inhaled the weed cigarette,
allowing the flavor to nestle in his system. After taking a few drags, he gave it to Carl, the
resident artist of 209 West Fourth Street.
"Thanks, Alan!" Carl said under his breath. Carl cradled the joint in his hand while watching
Dustin Hoffman lead Jon Voight to his dumpy abode, up on the silver screen. He was so caught up in the storyline, he only bothered to take two puffs before handing it to Danny, Alan's cousin.
Danny, who worked at Bill's store (and was responsible for bringing Alan into Bill's extended
family), took a few hits of the joint, and passed it along to Millie, the twenty-year-old transplant
from Ontario. Millie finished off the joint, during the scene in which Jon and Dustin have a testy
conversation in Dustin's room. As Millie stamped out the butt on the floor beneath her, she
made an "OK" signin Bill's direction.
"That is really good stuff!" she mouthed slowly, making sure Bill could read her lips.
"Glad you like it!" he whispered back to her, then resumed watching the flick. The smell of
marijuana lingered in the air above the back row, as the eight of them quietly watched the rest of the movie. None of the other patrons, if they even noticed their pot-smoking, seemed to be
particularly bothered by it. In the summer of 1969, in the biggest and most happening city in the country, such things were understood to simply be part of the culture.
It was a nice balmy June evening, as Bill and his seven friends walked home. They
discussed the film they had just watched, as they strolled along the winding, irregular streets of Greenwich Village.
"I really liked that picture," said Alan, sipping the last few ounces of a cup of soda that he
had bought in the cinema.
"I did, too!" said Susan.
"It was way better than '2001'!" said Linda, as they passed a diner specializing in Mexican
food. "2001: A Space Odyssey" was a film that the group (minus Alan, who hadn't moved in
with them yet) had taken in a few months ago.
"But '2001' is Kubrick's masterpiece, Linda!" Carl told her emphatically.
"Not to me it isn't. What's so great about it? It started out with a bunch of monkeys going
crazy over a big black thing in the middle of nowhere, and it ends with a big baby in outer space.
Can you say 'pretentious', anyone?"
"I have to agree with Linda on that, Carl. I liked this movie more than '2001'!" Greg said
emphatically, as he moved his body to avoid running into a white-haired man in a knit wool cap
pushing a shopping cart filled with deposit bottles and cans.
"Oh, and why might that be, Greg?" replied Carl. "Because this movie had sex and pot, and
"Well, come to think of it... yeah! I mean, what's more important that good sex and good pot
and good parties? 'Midnight Cowboy' is one movie that has it's priorities straight!"
"Yeah, you're right, man!"
"He has a point there, Carl!"
Carl sulked a bit. "Fine, fine, take your precious 'Midnight Cowboy'! But John Schlesinger has a ways to go to prove himself to be another Kubrick. Let me go on record as saying that."
"I liked this flick," said Millie. "But the ending was kind of sad, though. When Ratso died on
the bus, I mean." The rest of them agreed on that point. The gang reached the corner of Houston Street and Sixth Avenue. A Coup de Ville automobile pulled up to the curb, just a few feet away from them, and waited at the red light. Greg playfully tapped the hood of it, and yelled "I'm walking here, I'm walking here!" Everyone else laughed at his near-perfect imitation of Ratso Rizzo. Even the driver of the car, who seemed startled at first, saw the humor in it. He chuckled as Greg and the others walked past the car, to cross the street.
The antique clock over the kitchen counter showed the time to be exactly 10:30, when Bill and the rest arrived home. Susan put out some bread and fruit, for anyone who wanted a late-night snack. Alice, the ninth member of the household, got up from the living room to greet them. "Hi, guys!" she said softly. "Tyler's asleep now, so you don't want to make too much noise." (Tyler was Bill and Susan's two-year-old son.)
"Was he a good boy, while we were away?" asked Susan.
"Well, he was a bit cranky when I put him to bed, but I read to him and the little tyke was
asleep before I hit page four."
Bill went up the staircase to the second floor. He did a quick check on Tyler, to make sure he was all right. He came back down to the kitchen, and gently patted Alice's shoulder. "Thanks for looking after him, while we were out, Alice!"
"Hey, it was my pleasure, Bill! Besides, it gave me the chance to work on some new songs."
She pointed to her open notebook, which contained Alice's handwritten notes and bars, with
some lyrics written underneath.
"Great! Maybe you can try 'em out for us soon!" said Danny, as he put a well-worn teakettle
under the sink faucet, and filled it up.
"It's a shame that you couldn't come with us tonight, Alice," Alan told her. What he didn't add was that he had wanted to sit next to her in the theatre. He had a mild crush on Alice, ever since he moved into the Hawson House (the residents' informal, but oft-used name for it) a month ago.
She smiled at him sweetly.
"How nice of you to say so, Alan. But I told you, I've already seen "Midnight Cowboy". But I
would love to come along, the next time we go out to the movies!" she told him, with a smile.
"It seems like we're running low on milk!" said Susan, checking the refrigerator. She added
'milk' to the grocery list that hung on the wall, next to a big poster that spelled out 'L-O-V-E' in
bright red letters. His cousin Danny placed the water-filled kettle on the stove, with a soft 'clang!'.
Five minutes later, the nine adult members of the Hawson House shared some herbal tea in
the living room. They lounged on the sofas and on the floor, while making small talk about
various things. They watched the local news, when it came on at 11:00. One of the stories was
about an anti-war protest. Everyone empathized with the people shown marching with signs at
Columbus Circle. They also paid close attention to a piece about Allen Ginsberg speaking at a
"That Allen is one cool guy!" said Greg, during the commercial break.
"Yeah, he's such a great thinker..." murmured Linda, who was sitting next to him on the living room floor.
"He's such a beautiful person. I would love to meet him one day," said Carl, as he drew on his sketch pad. He was copying the poster for "Midnight Cowboy", from memory. After the news was over, Carl and the others turned off the set and went to bed. The sleeping arrangements at 209 West Fourth Street were fairly simple. Bill and Susan had the master bedroom on the third floor. Their son's room was adjacent to theirs. Greg and Linda slept in the second-largest bedroom, on the other side of Bill and Susan's. A large sleeping area for Alice and Millie was on the same level as the living room and kitchen. A large blanket with intricate brown and blue art patterns was slung on a clothesline through the middle of the room, to give each woman a bit of privacy. Alan, Danny, and Carl each had a small bedroom one flight below. A bathroom with a sink, toilet and shower was used by the three young men communally.
Alan crept into his small room. His bed, stereo, and book-case took up virtually all of the
space. A few posters - a day-glo psychedlic design, a large photo of Jimi Hendrix playing guitar, a green peace sign, a black-and-white photo of Charlie Chaplin in his 'Tramp' outfit, and one of JFK - decorated the light blue walls. Alan wanted to hear some music, before he went to sleep.
He flipped through his record collection, and settled on Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde. He put
Side One on his turntable, and turned up the headphones loud. He loved the not-quite-subtle
drug references in "Rainy Day Women", but he also appreciated Dylan's sheer artistry, evident
on every track on the album.
As the plaintive "I Want You" played over his headphones, Alan couldn't help but picture Alice in his mind. She was sleeping soundly, just one flight above him. It was an exquisite agony for Alan, knowing that the person he desired most was so close and yet so far from him.
When "I Want You" finished, Alan turned up the volume a notch. He softly sang along and
tapped his feet to the next track, the epic "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again".
When the song was over, the needle went to the very end of the disc. Alan put the album away, and went to brush his teeth in the bathroom.
Once his teeth were clean, Alan tiptoed back to his room. He slipped out of his clothes, and
got into bed. He grabbed his paperback copy of Jack Kerouac's On the Road from the small side table. He had gotten this book at a twenty percent employee's discount at Macdougal Street Books, the small independent bookshop where he worked as a cashier. Alan had gotten the job just a few days after he arrived in New York. He was checking out the neighborhood when he saw a "Help Wanted" sign in a window decorated with book jackets. He spoke to the manager, an Englishman named Peter. Alan impressed Peter with his dual knowledge of cash registers and literature. His seven-hour shifts at the bookstore allowed him enough income to chip in for expenses at Hawson House, and to have some money left over for his own use.
Alan read a couple of chapters, becoming involved in the narrative of Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise, those two hipsters from the 1950s. He could identify with the pair of them, to a degree.
He understood the heady mixture of fear of the unknown and desire for adventure that
accompanied them in their travels across the country. Alan had felt it himself, that Friday night
back in May when he had packed up his wordly belongings into his grey Volvo car and driven to Manhattan all the way from Sayerville (a town in Ohio with a population of nearly six thousand).
His cousin Danny's written invitation to come live with him and the rest of Bill Hawson's
extended family in Greenwich Village was tantalizing to Alan. He had long grown weary of the
dullness of his small-town existence, as Assistant Manager at a music store. He was making
OK money, and had a handful of friends, but there was something missing in his life. Moving to
New York made him feel more complete. Just walking the streets here gave him a sense of
Bill and Susan Hawson were a friendly and easygoing couple, but they were selective about who they let into their home. Danny Riggs had earned their trust and friendship, through his three years plus of devoted service as an employee of their health foods store. That was why they allowed Danny to invite his cousin Alan to move in with them. When Alan arrived, Danny took him aside and gently explained the few house rules to him: no drug deals, no sexual activity outside of the bedroom, and no doing anything too politically subversive. Otherwise, he would be free to do as he pleased, under the roof of "Big Bill's" house.
Alan was constantly discovering new facets of human existence. He watched Buddhist monks chanting for peace on the sidewalks, and listened to poets and acoustic guitar players spin their creative webs in coffee houses. He shared good pot with the rest of the Hawson tribe in the living room, and went to nightclubs to dance the night away under bright strobe lights with plenty of other hip young folks. Life was busting out all over, in every direction at once, in this city. And there was nowhere else Alan would rather be.
The spectre of the Vietnam War was the only thing spoiling this summer of 1969. Everyone in the Hawson House fervently hoped President Nixon would make good on his promise to curtail American involvement in that conflict. Alan had used his family connections to grant himself 4-F status a couple of years back (his father had ties to the office of the Mayor of Sayerville), so he was excused from military service. The other young men who lived at 204 West Fourth Street had simply burned their draft cards, in protest. The peace signs and anti-war graffitti evident everywhere in this city made it clear that they were in the majority, in their dim view of the American policy in regards to Vietnam.
After finishing a couple of chapters of "On the Road", Alan turned out the light, and got a
good night's sleep. He got up at 9:30 the next day, which was a Saturday. He had a glass of
orange juice in the kitchen, and made small talk with Bill and Danny. He left the house early,
so he could spend some quality time in Washington Square Park.
There was always lots of interesting things happening in the park, on the weekends. It was
a beautiful sunny day, just perfect for lazing around for an hour or so before starting his shift at
Macdougal Street Books.
A nattily-dressed young man was seeking buyers for his "good weed" near the big stone arch at the entrance. Alan paid him no attention, and strolled into the large open area. He passed a young black couple, both in berets and sunglasses, soliciting donations for the Black Panther Party. A half-dozen young adults (including one latino and one black) were huddled under around a small wooden table. They were all wearing t-shirts with "NYUFSC" emblazoned on the fronts.
"July 10th is 'Don't Give a Damn Day', people!" said the group's leader, a bearded man in a
baseball cap and sunglasses. He was passing out flyers promoting this so-called event. Alan
took one, and scanned it as he strolled through the park. It was just a standard screed against
Vietnam, industrial pollution, Wall Street greed, and 'The Establishment'. It encouraged people
to attend the "Don't Give a Damn Day" rally in that same park on July 10th. It turned out that
NYUSC, the group responsible for printing these flyers, stood for "New Yorkers United for Social Change". Alan thought that he might want to check it out, so he folded the flyer and stuffed it into his pocket.
As Alan was about halfway through the park, he noticed a sizeable crowd around a clean-cut young blonde man in sandals and blue jeans, playing the acoustic guitar. He sang "House of the Rising Sun", deftly using his fingers to play the complicated chords to this well-known folk song.
He had an open guitar case in front of him, which had plenty of coins and dollar bills laying inside it - tributes to his talent other people in the park had offered him. He got a rousing bit of applause, when he finished.
"Thank you, thank you, good people!" the musician said, smiling and waving to the twenty
new fans. Alan noticed a pretty girl next to him, clapping along with him. She was five feet tall,
with chestnut-brown hair that went past her shoulders. Her yellow bell-bottom pants fit snugly
around her shapely legs and behind. Her loose, bright-red t-shirt was tied into a knot, about an
inch above her navel. She was slim, with a healthy complexion. Alan found her quite intriguing.
He cleared his throat and began to chat casually with her.
"This guy is really good, don't you think?"
"Yes, he has a beautiful voice. He can really play that guitar. And he's handsome." She
turned to look at Alan. "You know what, man? I think you're handsome too!"
Alan felt a lump forming in his throat, as he gazed into her eyes. He had a feeling that, even
though they had only just met, that they were going to be on very close terms, very soon.
"My name is Alan. Alan Kerrill." He offered his hand to her. She gently took it in hers.
"I'm Genevieve. But you can call me Jen. All my friends do."
"Well, I hope I can be your friend too, Jen!" He smiled at her.
Jen was taken in by his smile. It went well with Alan's deep blue eyes, strong chin, and
wavy blonde hair. "I think I would like that, man!"
Alan and Jen listened to the musician's next number, a very solid rendition of "For What It's
Worth", the hit number by the Buffalo Springfield. The crowd applauded him again, and a few
people threw money into his guitar case. Alan knew he would have to make his move soon.
"Say, Jen..." he said softly. "Would you like to go get a muffin or something? It'll be on me!"
"Why, that sounds just great, Alan!" The two of them walked along the outer edges of the park, until they found a breakfast cart, manned by a stout fellow with a mustache. Alan bought two muffins - one with blueberries, for Jen, and one plain, for him. They talked casually as they
chewed their late-morning treats.
Alan told her about his old life back in Ohio, and how much happier he was here in New York.
Jen, in contrast, was a lifelong New Yorker. Her parents lived on the West Side. She admitted
that she still lived with them, but that she hoped to strike out on her own. "I just need to get
enough bread, or get a good-paying job. Or maybe it's just a matter of making the right
connections, you know what I mean?" she smiled at him, as she took another bite of her muffin.
"Yes, I think I do," Alan replied.
"So how old are you, man? If you don't mind my asking?"
"Hmmm... twenty-four. That's a good age to be," she mused, as a man with a big dog walked past them.
"You're right, Jen. It sure is! And how young a woman might you be?"
Jen finished swallowing a mouthful of blueberry muffin before volunteering that she had "just turned eighteen". Alan knew that girls her age tended to like older men. He realized that he had a fairly good shot at winning her over. He wanted to play it cool, though, so as not to spoil his chances. He made a show of looking at his watch.
"Oh, look at the time! I have to get to work soon. But why don't we meet here again, at
quarter after seven. Can you do that?"
"Sure, Alan. Where exactly should we meet? Right here on this same spot?"
"Why don't we make it... right by the arch?"
Jen agreed to his plan. They shook hands goodbye, and Alan headed off towards Macdougal
Street. He finished the rest of his muffin as he walked, and used a napkin to wipe his mouth
The seven hours he spent ringing up purchases at the bookstore that Saturday afternoon went agonizingly slowly. He had a recurring fantasy that Jen herself would show up in the bookstore, and forcibly drag him away. "Alan, I can't wait until seven o'clock to see you again!" she would tell him, as she led him away by the crook of his elbow. "I must have you now!" Then they would melt into each other's arms, as he put a "Closed" sign up on the store's front door. But his fantasy lost potency as the afternoon wore on, and Jen didn't show.
Alan finished his shift, and helped Peter close up. He stopped at a drugstore to buy a
package of three prophylactics, just in case they proved necessary, and slipped them into his
When he reached the marble arch at Washington Square Park, Jen was waiting for him by the arch, sipping a bottle of apple juice. She seemed happy to see him. Alan treated her to dinner at a local diner, then took her home. He whisked her up to his room, and closed the door behind them. She looked around Alan's room, and commented on the decor. "Wow, nice posters!"
"Thanks, Jen," Alan replied, as he sat down on the bed. He hoped that she would follow his
lead, and sit down next to him. Instead, she leaned forward, placing her hands on the knees of
"Alan, would I be out of line if I asked if you had any reefer we could smoke together?" she
said in a soft voice, punctuating her request with a smile. Alan really had the hots for Jen, and
was more than willing to fetch an ounce of the house stash from the cupboard in the kitchen.
Within the next five minutes, the two of them were smoking pot on Alan's bed, while listening
to a top-ten radio station. He lit up some incense, to add to the sensual experience. Alan was
enthralled by Jen. He offered no resistance at all, as she ran her fingers through his hair, and
across his cheekbones. "You really are such a fascinating creature, man..." she whispered to
him. "I want you to take me, Alan!" she suddenly demanded, her ithe girlish fingers grasping at
his arms. "Take me here in this bed! Let me experience you to the limit!" She ressed her soft
pink lips against his, allowing him a sneak preview of the carnal delights in store for them both.
The melodic strains of "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands", the epic-length number that took up
an entire side of Blonde on Blonde, accompanied the highly-charged lovemaking of Alan and Jen.
It was her idea to have this tune playing on the stereo, as they indulged their mutual appetite for the flesh. Lying naked on his soft yellow bedsheets, the pair kissed, and rubbed and touched each other's bodies.
Before long, Jen straddled Alan, scratching her long fingernails across Alan's curly brown
chest hairs. "Aaahh baby!" she cried, with his throbbing organ (encased in a latex condom,
thanks to Alan's presence of mind) buried deep inside her. Alan tried to keep his grunting and
heavy breathing under control as they mated, but Jen let loose vocally with a ferocity that startled him. She shrieked and howled as she climaxed, momentarily drowning out the pre-recorded voice of Bob Dylan emitting from Alan's speakers. Alan was embarrassed by her loud screams, but at the same time proud that he had induced them. "Sad-Eyed Lady" finished at roughly the same time that Alan and Jen did, with only a half-minute or so difference between them.
Alan was hoping Jen would stay overnight. But after they showered together, Jen dressed and told him she had to leave. "Curfew, man - it's a real bitch, but if I get home after midnight, I'm gonna catch hell from my folks!" She scribbled her phone number on a piece of paper, and gave it to him. "Call me sometime, Alan. And I gotta thank you for tonight. You are one fantastic lay, man!"
He led her out to the street. She pressed her nubile body against his, as she kissed him
goodbye on the mouth. Alan watched silently as she turned and walked down the street, her
back to him. He sighed - a mixture of satisfaction and longing - and went back upstairs to his
room. The sex that he had shared with Jen was the best he had in the past year, at least.
Once he was back in his room, Alan listened to a record by Eric Burdon and the Animals on
headphones, while he read another chapter of On the Road. He wondered if he and Genevieve were falling in love. Who knew? Maybe this was the woman he was meant to be with, for the rest of his life!
Alan was the target of some good-natured ribbing, at Sunday night's gathering in the living
room, after they had finished dinner and Bill and Susan put their son to bed. "It sounds like you
and your friend had a good time last night, Alan," said his cousin Danny.
"Yeah - a very good time!" Carl blurted out.
"You mean... it was that loud?" Alan asked sheepishly. He was afraid to hear the answer.
Everyone else nodded their heads affirmatively.
"Gosh, I'm sorry! I tried to get her to keep it down, honest I did!" This wasn't exactly the truth, but it just seemed like the right thing to say, at the moment.
"Aw, you don't have to apologize, Alan old boy!" Bill reassured him. "We're glad you finally
got some action since you moved here!" His belly jiggled, as he let out a jovial laugh.
"OK, people, let's not embarass Alan! Besides, some of us are trying to finish our tea here!"
said Alice, as she sipped her cup of the stuff. The subject was dropped, out of deference to
Alice's appetite. Alan liked to think that jealousy may have been behind her remarks. If it was,
then maybe she did have some feelings for him, lurking below her cool exterior?
Next Tuesday night, everyone showed up at a coffeehouse to hear a half-hour musical set by Alice. She had to share the bill with two other acoustic guitar players, but Alice was OK with that.
Alan made sure to smile at her from his table, every time she happened to glance his way. Even though he was confident that he would sleep with Jen again, he still wanted to keep his romantic options open.
The following day - June the 28th - turned out to be very significant. History was being made, within a few blocks of 209 West 4th Street. Bill and his clan watched the local news in rapt attention, as the newscaster told them of riots at a place called The Stonewall Inn. Dozens of homosexuals were fighting cops, by it's entrance. The images being broadcast over the TV set were stark, and very dramatic. Everyone watching voiced their sympathy for the patrons of Stonewall. "They really shouldn't have to put up with police harassment," said Susan.
"People should have the right to go anywhere they want, as long as they're not hurting
anyone," added Alan.
The next day, Carl set out to the Village neighborhood where the riots were taking place.
From a safe distance, he sketched pictures of the gays - some of them flamboyant drag queens - standing up to the officers in blue.
Millie celebrated a birthday - her twenty-first - two night later. All of her housemates were
there, to help her celebrate this milestone. Millie was grateful for their emotional support; she
had recently broken up with a long-term boyfriend, and their presence was very reassuring to her.
"Gee, thanks, everyone! I love you guys so much!" she gushed.
They all dined on carrot cake ("better for you than chocolate!" said Susan, the house cook),
and toasted Millie with cider and red wine. After the birthday dinner, they all lounged in the
living room. Alice led the group in a round of singing. They all got so caught up in their
celebration, they didn't even bother to turn on the TV to watch the evening news. As the night
wore on, Millie found herself getting rather cozy with Danny.
Later that night, after everyone else called it a night, Millie boldly slipped downstairs to spend the night with Danny, in his room. They made enough noise so that both Carl and Alan knew of the middle and ending phases of Danny and Millie's lovemaking session.
The next morning, Alan and Millie bumped into each other, on the way to the bathroom. Millie was topless, her small but firm bosom bare to the hallway air. A pair of cotton underwear covered her groin. This was the very first time that Alan had seen one of the women of the house in this state. "Oh... excuse me!" he said, turning his head downwards.
"After you, Alan!" she said, pointing to the bathroom door. He thanked her, and went into
the bathroom. She didn't seem very self-conscious about being seen partly naked. Alan was
relieved by this. He called Genevieve later that morning, before leaving for work.
Alan and Jen went to a nightclub called The Spinning Top, after he finished his shift at the
bookstore. They stepped onto the crowded dance floor, and did the Frug and the Funky Chicken with dozens of other young couples. Alan and Jen worked up a good sweat, to the loud rock'n'roll music and colorful flashing lights. They cooled off with a couple of sodas at the bar. After they left the club, they walked to the Bleeker Street subway station arm in arm. It was getting close to Jen's curfew, so they had to part ways.
"Next time we meet, I definitely want to take you back to my place!" Alan told her, as they
embraced on the sidewalk.
"Yes, that would be just great, man!" She kissed him goodnight, and disappeared into the
subway tunnel. Alan walked over to West 4th Street, stopping in an ice cream parlor along the
way. He got a vanilla cone, double-dipped in chocolate sprinkles, for thirty-five cents. A young
couple who had just bought two strawberry ice cream cones commented about one of the flyers posted on the side wall if the parlor.
"Hey, look Chester! 'Don't Give a Damn Day' is coming up soon!" said the woman. Her
companion, a bearded man with a blue jean jacket, closely inspected the xeroxed sheet of paper promoting this social protest.
"Yes, but who gives a damn, Shirley?" he said, leading her out the front door. She give him
a soft slap on his side, either admonishing him for his seeming indifference or rewarding him for his clever wit (or perhaps both). Alan looked at the flyer, which bore the logo of the NYUSC.
He wondered how many people would show up at this demonstration.
Next Monday was a national holiday - Independence Day. The Hawson House residents
celebrated by taking in the fireworks display by the East River - an annual tradition for New
Yorkers. Bill dutifully passed around a communal joint, to enhance the experience. The bright
reds, oranges, greens, blues, and whites of the fireworks provided by Macy's elicited mass
'oohs' and 'aahs' from the many thousands of folks watching. All too soon, it was over, and the
spectators all trudged home. A few politically-minded people let out spontaneous cries of
"Peace now!" and "US out of Vietnam!" as they walked along the streets. There were some
policemen milling about, helping to keep order. Not surprisingly, a few pedestrians let out shouts of "Down with cops!" as soon as they were safely out of earshot of the men in blue.
Danny and Millie whispered in each other's ears, trading private little jokes between them as they walked home with the rest of the bunch. Alan felt a sudden pang for Genevieve. He knew that he had to take steps to make sure their budding love affair would be a permanent thing, rather than a short-term romance. He made up his mind to figure out a way to make Jen his, not just for now, but for a long time to come.
Next Saturday night, Jen stopped by to see Alan. She had two items with her. One was a
record album by The Jefferson Airplane. It was called Surrealistic Pillow. Jen insisted that the
two of them listen to it, while they enjoyed the pot that she had bought with her. Alan liked the
music well enough - it had some interesting melodies, and decent singing and playing. Jen's
pot was very good, very pure. Alan took his time finishing his joint, as he sat next to her.
"This is really good pot, honey. Where did you get it?"
She finished a drag on her joint, before answering. "From my uncle Harry. He lives in San
Francisco. He sent it to me. Have you ever been out there, man?" Alan shook his head no.
"Neither have I. But Harry says it's really nice out there. Like, good weather all year round.
They've got the bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge, and Fisherman's Wharf, and all sorts of cool
stuff going on!"
"Yes. I've heard lots of good things about 'frisco." Alan remembered something, as "White
Rabbit" began to play on his stereo.
"Aren't the Jefferson Airplane from San Francisco?"
"Yep, they sure are!"
"So what is all this about 'frisco? Is this 'National Appreciate San Francisco Day' or
something?" said Alan, with a chuckle.
Jen slid her hand along Alan's thigh, which was covered with blue denim. "Sweetie, I might
have the chance to move out there." Alan's heart sank. He was crushed at the news, but he
tried to put on a brave front.
"You do? Well, er... Hey, that's great... I guess." He swallowed hard. Jen studied his
"Well, you don't seem to be very happy about this. I guess you really like New York, eh?
You wouldn't even consider heading out west?"
It took a few moments for Alan to get her point. "You mean, you want me to go with you,
Jen?" He was more relieved that words could say.
"Yeah, man! My uncle Harry owns this day care center out there. He is offering me a job with him! He says he can use his connections to help find me a good pad near the day care center, if I am willing to help take care of those little kids. So I was thinking maybe you could come join me? Live with me, Alan! We would have a nice place all to ourselves!" She linked her arm with his. She felt so excited about this plan, and she so badly wanted him to share her enthusiasm.
"Well, when would you move out there, Jen?"
"Any time I wanted. Uncle Harry is even willing to pay for my plane ticket!"
The Jefferson Airplane record finished, but Alan didn't bother to flip it over; he just let the
needle remain locked in the final groove of side one, while he and Jen discussed this new
opportunity. Alan was very fond of Jen - he thought he might even be in love with her - but was
unsure if he was willing to leave New York so soon after arriving here.
"Listen, Alan, I know that there are no guarantees about the future," Jen told him, clasping
her hand in his. "There are no guarantees about anything, really, when you come right down to
it. But sometimes you have to take a chance, and that chance just might make life better for
you." Alan realized that was the very philosophy that had bought him to New York, to begin
with. Maybe New York was just a middle stop for him, and going somewhere else with
Genevieve would be the next step of his journey through life.
The two of them shared a half hour of intense discussion. Alan proclaimed his devotion
to Jen half a dozen times, and she did the same no fewer than eight times. Finally, Alan
agreed to move out to San Francisco with her. "I'll do it for our sake," he told her.
Jen was so happy when he said this, she threw her arms around Alan's neck and kissed him.
They celebrated their new plan with a long lovemaking session. Alan got her to lessen her
screams of delight by sliding his fingers into her mouth, at the climactic moment.
The rest of the Hawson House was sorry to see Alan go, but understood that he was a grown man who was simply doing what he thought was best for him. Alan gave his two weeks notice at Macdougal Street Books, and used his last paycheck to buy two plane tickets to 'frisco. Before he left 209 West Fourth Street for good, though, Alan just had to find out one thing.
"Alice, do you think that if I stayed here long enough... that anything could happen between
the two of us?" Alan posed this question to her privately, in the kitchen, the day before he was
scheduled to leave the city with Genevieve. Alice thought the matter over, and smiled softly.
"Well, I do think you are an attractive man, Alan. And I admire your intelligence, and your
strength. I just might want to get to know you better if you continued living here, maybe even in
a physical way." She took a deep breath. "But what would hold me back is something a psychic told me, last year. She told me that I was destined to be with an older man who works as a teacher. She says that this relationship I will have is meant to last forever, that I will marry and have three children with him." There was an awkward silence, which Alice broke by clearing her throat. Alan went to get some fresh milk from the fridge. He drank a glass of it as he finished his chat with Alice.
"In a way I'm relieved to hear that, Alice. I mean, if you're holding out for 'Mister Right', and I can't be him as I'm not a teacher... That sorta frees me to be with Jen. I don't have to spend my days with her wondering if I made the right decision. That is, choosing her... over you." Alan went to the sink, and ran a bit of water into the empty glass.
"We will all miss you around here, Alan. Including me. I hope you know that."
"I will miss you all, too. And let me just say that this guy - this teacher you end up marrying
and starting a family with... will be one helluva lucky guy." Alan was just as surprised as she
was to hear such a strong sentiment coming from him. Alice told him that she appreciated his
honesty, and wanted only the best for him. They embraced, then went off to their separate rooms.
Alan's last night in New York was a bittersweet affair, celebrated by everyone in the Hawson House. (Jen was a welcome if late arrival; she was a bit tired from the farewell party her parents had thrown for her earlier, at their place.) Susan baked pumpkin pie (Alan's favorite dessert), and served vanilla ice cream as well. Carl hand-made a "Good luck Alan!" banner on a big white strip of cloth, on which everyone drew silly cartoons and wrote sentimental farewells slogans, not unlike the signings in a school yearbook.
Twenty-four hours later, Alan Kerrill and Genevieve Colt were moving their combined
belongings into a one-bedroom apartment in a lovely residential area of San Francisco. It was a beautifully sunny day outside, the pleasant weather matching the happy demeanor of the two young lovers who had just claimed this city as their own.
***************** EPILOGUE **************************
May 8, 1972
Dear Bill and Susan:
This letter finds me and my wife Jen in good health. San Francisco is one happening place!
It's warm and sunny here just about every day. Jen is still looking after the little moppets of The Growing Flowers Day Care Center. My independent bookstore ' Alan's Treasures ' is steadily making a profit, month after month. We should be able to finish paying off our bank loan within the next five years or so. I love being my own boss! :-)
Thank you for including the latest snapshot of you and the rest of the gang at Hawson House.
That little boy Tyler is growing up so fast! We have enclosed a picture of our baby daughter,
Johanna Marie. She just turned six weeks old, last Sunday. We named her after two Dylan
songs - Jen and I were listening to Blonde on Blonde when she was concieved. It's a good thing we weren't listening to Iron Butterfly, that night. We would hate to have to name our kid
We sent a present to my cousin Danny and his pretty wife Marie, to celebrate their second
wedding anniversary. Danny hinted in his last letter to me that two of them are trying to start a
family, too. They have our very best wishes, as I'm sure you can guess. The sooner Johanna
Marie gets a little cousin, the happier we will be! :-)
It's great news about Alice getting a recording contract. Maybe she will meet her dream guy
soon, too! As for Carl, Jen and I aren't quite sure what to make of the news that he is shacking
up with that restaurant manager. I had kind of suspected that Carl might be gay, when I was
living with you guys. Without knowing this man that he is so taken with, it's hard to say for sure
if he is making the right decision or not. But Carl is a grown-up, he has to decide what is best
From what you are telling us about your brother Greg, he doesn't sound very grown-up at all.
It's a shame he had to get involved with drugs. Gen and I really feel for Linda, she must be torn up inside about his problem. If you ask me, acid is one bad scene, man. I never did it myself.
These days, I am pretty much clean. I gave up smoking grass when my doctor told me that it
might hurt my sperm count. I suppose I could have started up again, after our baby came
along. But I realized that I didn't actually miss pot all that much. My head is much clearer
without it. Jen followed my lead, and she gave up pot at the same time that I did. Jen and I
are so in love with each other, and our beautiful baby girl, we really don't need to chase these
artificial highs for the rest of our lives. At least, that is how she and I see it.
Listen, if you or any of the gang are ever out by the Bay area, be sure to stop by. We've got
a futon couch that you could use. We could even put a couple of sleeping bags on the floor, in
a pinch. We can stay up all night and talk about old times, drink some herbal tea, dish Nixon,
or whatever we feel like. It would be a blast!
Alan folded the handwritten letter neatly into thirds, and put it in an envelope. He wrote down Bill's address on the envelope, and put a stamp on it. He left the letter on the kitchen table, so he would remember to mail it to the Hawson House. It was only about eight o'clock at night, but he was tired from a full day of work and family responsibilities. He sat down in the big upholstered chair in the living room. Jen silently crept out of the baby's room, and made her way towards her husband of two years.
"She just fell asleep!" she whispered, as she sat down on Alan's lap. Her long blonde hair fell onto his shoulders. "I put her down in the crib, and she was out like a light!" Alan was relieved that putting their daughter down to sleep wasn't too much of a hassle, tonight. There were a few nights over the past few weeks that Johanna Marie had some crying spells, before finally nodding off. But tonight was different. Alan patted his wife's forearm, his fingertips softly brushing against the very fine hairs lining it.
"You are such a good mother, Jen," he told her. Jen was touched by his compliment. She
ran her fingers across his chest.
"I wouldn't be a mother at all, if not for you, my love!" she melted in Alan's strong arms, and
kissed him until her lips ached.
"I love you, Jen... I love you so much, baby!" he cooed in her ear.
"You are my man, Alan - I want us to be together forever!" she told him, looking into his eyes.
As Alan kissed and embraced his lovely wife, he reflected inwardly how his journey in life was now largely complete. Just like Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, he had traveled all the way across the country, in search of an elusive happiness and purpose in life. He had fond memories of life back at West Fourth Street, even felt the occasional pang of longing to be back at Hawson House, smoking a joint and laughing over a shared joke with his cousin Danny and the rest of the gang. But this was where he truly belonged - with his wife and child, in a nice cozy love nest for just the three of them. Bill and Susan and the rest of them would surely understand. So would Dylan. So, for that matter, would Kerouac and Ginsberg and Burroughs and all the rest of those brilliant, ahead-of-their-time Beats, some of whose immortal literature was stocked in Alan's bookstore. In his own unique way, Alan was one of them; he was one of them, too.