The Atomic Hula
By Mike Marino (Writer/Journalist)
North Beach is a bitch in heat, Old Italian’s and new bohemians make up the mix and sit at tables on the street and at smaller tables inside the bars. like Vesuvio’s, across the alley from the beat bookstore illuminated by the lights of the city. The bards of Barbary held forth with a Virgil like vigilance, and the coast was cleared. Setting sail on literary seas, Columbus discovered yet another Avenue of exploration named in his honor. The writers circled the waters off bar shores, sharks waiting to attack words and mores. Philosophers all, Pliny, Socrates, and Testicles, Huey, Dewey and Louie, and of course, Larry, Moe and Curly. We humans rather fancy our own importance, eh?
Kerouac got drunk here while marooned on the beach, wrote about her as the captor of rapture, and of the social mutiny of the crew of the beat generation, as they rose their mighty middle finger at the heavy as lead air post-war opulence, plenty, and authority of those semi-fabulous Eisenhowitzer nifty Fifties and trying to act out Gorgeous George and tried to body slam and crush Kruschev and Dennis the Red Menace and thus and hence, avoid armed conflict which would lead to a planetary warehouse full of dead red’s and capitalists alike, and those not to blame, not with religion or politics, but just want to be left alone in peace and solace in yurts and alleys. Modern day Bedouins looking only for waterholes and an oasis to strip and bathe with maidens.
The revolution of the rucksack was already in rocking motion, fueled by “On the Road” and “Dharmabums”, yet, this new generation of boomers was beginning to flower to power, fueled by the Kerouac Gospel set forth as ten commandments in Jack’s books, looking for salvation in his words, and the key to paradise, Sal, but now these young disciples, sheep being led to a slaughter, were being kicked out of the temple by Jesus Jack. “Find your own hero’s” he admonished and began his own personal Dunkirk, retreating from his friends, moved back with Memere in the east, embraced Catholicism once again, became a Republican (ala Nixon, McCarthy & Bush) and supported the Vietnam war, before he drank himself to death at 47 in 1969. The rucksackians, oblivious to the change in their hero, embraced in his absence instead the satellites of that previous generation…Ginsberg, Corso, Ferlinghetti, et al. In later years when Mike was writing about his own days “on the road” he remembered that with three years on the road under his own belt, he had not even heard of Kerouac until later that year in 1966 when he finally picked up a battered paperback copy of the Jacks tome, so when he was writing about it in the Peyote Coyote and the Atomic Hula, he was living his own life, and not vicariously through someone else of near mythical stature.
Each generation has it’s “voice”…F. Scott Fitzgerald for his, Huxley, London, Poe, Mailer, Joyce, others for theirs respectively. The new voice was the merry prankster Kesey, who along with Neal Cassidy, Jacks hero in the third person. and others flew over the cuckoo’s nest and went just a little bit further than the beats. along for the ride was a whole new generation, including Mike and Olivia. They awoke to a foggy morning, with waves lapping gently on shore. Mike got up, splashed salt water from the bay on his face and wet his hair before starting a small kindling fire for the morning tea to go with the last of the sourdough to start their day before they headed off to North Beach to establish their base camp in San Francisco.
The fog and dew left a thick layer of moisture on their sleeping bags, and they wanted to dry them off before rolling them up, but that would take all day, so they just put them over them, royal robes of nylon to face the air and elements to dry out before they rotted over time being exposed in that manner. It was a wonderful walk to Columbus Avenue. Wherever you looked Coit Tower was a beckoning beacon on the hill, and the tiara of the Golden Gate Bridge always visible from the opposite direction. The gulls marked their territory with inhuman laugh-cries, and the trolley bells let you know which way was landward. It was a sensory compass the likes of which Mike had never felt or experienced before. North, south, east, west, all clear now, without compass or pocket watch to mark the direction. James Fennimore Cooper would have had a field day writing about this. Mike was now the pathfinder and the path led straight into a riotous garden of radicalism, LSD, sex and protest, although no one was protesting the sex, or the drugs..just war, among other things, check the menu of civil and human rights, and choose one from column A and one or two from column B. No egg roll….
They cut past Safeway and old Fort Mason, making their way in the damp fog that held the promise of warm sunshine, even though still just early spring in San Francisco. It was also amazing how just a little tea and bread in the morning will keep you going, and moderate bits and bites to eat throughout the day. No Midwestern by the numbers by the clock meal times where you had to clean the plate because people were starving in China, on a five year plan no doubt with a Russian accent. The wharf of fishermen was also coming to early morning life with stalls opening to fill with marine cuisine for the tourist and local alike later in the day. Gift shops, still to early open, were waiting at the starting gate, and busy people with ties, brown hard shoes and briefcases were descending on the city, locusts of big and small business to be absorbed in tall buildings and fastened securely to their seat in a cubicle no larger than a jail cell in old cockroach Mexico.
Olivia was getting concerned. L.A. was second nature to her, glitzed and glammed, an architectural falsie, but, San Francisco was as real as a cheerleaders breasts. San Fran, Frisky Frisco had a different scent about her altogether, more of a natural pubic musk, the kind that is produced right after sex, and Olivia, didn’t quite know what to make of it. L.A. fit her like a pair of cheap Capri’s and a form fitting bra, but Lady Frisco, ah, she was different. She left you bra-less and flawless, naked and exposed to the public.
Olivia wanted a spare tire in her trunk for this trip, as a backup for escape, escape back down south to the warmth and smog of L.A. and that, amigo would cost money. “How much money do we have left?” she asked as a guest would ask the host to repeat the question on a television game show. “Well, let’s see, Olivia from Los Angeles. We’ll just have to fine out, sooooo, Mike how much money do you and Olivia have left? Remember now, answer wrong and the washer and dryer will go to our other contestants and you’ll end up back in Detroit, right where you started from, so, please, answer carefully,” said Jack Barry, and Mike wasn’t sure as he hadn’t counted it but reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of wet bills, dewy, and when the count was done, it added up to exactly “$24.67,”
They had saved as much as they could and for two street kids, that was a lot of money. The ‘Hound was rabid, but hadn’t eaten them alive, tea and bread cost next to nothing, and besides, you could always find a way to make money on the streets. Olivia figured she could hustle if they really got desperate, Duchess had put her to work before and showed her how to whore, but the thought of her whoring was not in the picture for Mike. Jailbait pussy was worth it’s weight in public and pubic gold, but not this time. He’d sold himself in the past, and wasn’t about to see her make the same move. Both had been passed around in the past like cheap bottles of bum wine with screw tops anyway, not even plugged with a fine Portuguese cork.
The day was promising to be bright with light from sun and life. Mickey and Olivia walked back to North Beach and past the big baroque church, or as he heard later in life, “If it ain’t baroque don’t fix it!” Yesterday, it was Sunday and bells were tolling away as a high mass ended and the faithful faithfully emerged from the large carved wooden doors that opened out to the street and overlooked the tiny patch of park that welcomed the parishioners view. Large dago’s of the mostly Italian congregation walked out with wives and daughters in lace dresses, white gloves, and hats and see through veils, typical Catholic camouflage to hid the sins from God’s eye.
But today was Monday, and it was a normal workday in San Francisco, so Mike and Olivia walked over into the park and sat on the warming grass, now free from the cold morning dew and let the sun bake their eyelids and rejuvenate them while across the part, a poet read aloud from a piece he had created probably the night before in some starving garret in Paris on the Left Bank, only it was not in Paris at all, but here in America where even in the land of the richest nation on earth, poets and artists still have the freedom to be hungry even amidst the plenty. The poet spoke and flowers flowed from his mouth, then the words formed rainbows in Mikes imagination. The words, the words. They always stuck with him and later as a writer Mike would tell of a dream sequence based on a trip to a small Mexican village in search of drugs, and in the dream, words fell from a piñata, forming sentences, paragraphs, and thoughts, all based on the memory of that poet in the park in San Francisco on a warm spring morning across from the church around the corner from the deli with sausages and cheese and wonderful sourdough bread.
Soon a flute player joined in on a solo at the other end of the small park, and on the park bench along the back section, an old beat bum from the slum grumbled loudly as he pulled his worn blanket over his head to block out the sound more than the cold. Mike got up first, held Olivia’s hand to help her up and off they went to Columbus Ave where the beret scene was in full swing with neo-beats and wanna-beats not beating around the bush with the mannequin poses they were arranged in, as though in a bas relief still scene suitable for hanging. The old beats had moved on, the new not so beats moved in, and looked silly. Berets are from the French only!
Cutting through the Beach, they ended up in Chinatown with it’s tongs and wongs and Chinese songs played on lute like instruments. In Hawaii, Mike had gotten his fill of drums and ukulele’s, now, deja sort of vu it was a uke and lute like hybrid that was serenading him as he walked past the shops with chickens, paper lanterns, finger puzzles, umbrellas with scenes of swans painted on them, cages with colorful birds from paradise somewhere vegetable stands, banks from the old world of Asia with secretive doors and small restaraurants with real food for real Chinese. Wafts of foo young and young foo, noodles from the factory in the alley and of course, the cookie fortune cookie, here, lookie, look see future. There was also the obligatory Chinese laundry, no tickee no washee, which are as famous as the Chinese opium den used to be in the Old West and the far-out East.
. As they sat back in the park after their morning as tourists, they overheard another pair of young lovers talking about a place they called the Haight.
Scary sounding name, this Hate, but as they listened longer to the conversation the other couple were discussing their new apartment in this “Haight” area that they would be moving into and how cheap it was. Mike thought, maybe now he and Olivia could get off the streets and into an apartment. He would probably have to sell marijuana again, but wasn’t sure if it was a popular thing to do in San Francisco. The apartments were dirt cheap, $15 a week for one room and Mike could make that and more in a day selling weed, or in a week panhandling.
Mike leaned back and introduced himself to the couple and they talked about the Haight in terms of art, culture, literature, music and yes, dope, and lots of it along with cheap living. They had poster shops, incense coming from just about every window, and a huge park where people gathered on weekends in small groups to play guitars, flutes, (those damn flutes again) and just enjoying an uncrowded alternative existence. Mike was beginning to keep his journal on a daily basis now, so if there were other writers around he would have others to share ideas with. It sounded nice and quiet, a welcome change after years in Honolulu and L.A. hustling the streets for every bite to eat. It wasn’t all bad though, as he would say later in life, “I’ll do anything at least once, more if I like it.”….and that he did too. Just take the 10 North Judah bus to the Haight, when it stops, just walk downhill on the street a couple of blocks and there it is. Can’t miss it.
So they headed out to find the bus stop that would take them to the Haight district, but before they did, Mike bought Olivia a small cheap necklace at an outdoor merchants stall. It was a blue stone on a leather necklace, and it was simple and as beautiful as Olivia was inside and out. It was a symbol of their new life together, that would soon have them going their separate ways. She, south to become a heroin addict in a few years in L.A., and he forward on a magic carpet ride through the most politically turbulent and drug filled years of the Sixties.
Mike Marino left home at the age of 15 and made his way to Honolulu where he ended up broke and living on the beach for over a year until arrested as a runaway and vagrant. Sent back eventually to the states he ended up in Haight Ashbury in 1966 where he remained until 1968. The Atomic Hula is Mike’s E-Book about his life on the streets and the road. This is Chapter Two of 1966.
Mike Marino is the author of The Sandoz Collection FREE E-Series – Sex, drugs and rock and roll! To order your FREE E-copy email Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org (Also includes Mikes two other e-books (The Atomic Hula) & (The Peyote Coyote) The Collection is Free to all Emerald Readers..it’s free so order today)
Photo courtesy by Stock.Xchng.