Friday, January 13, 2012


This is one of my "Confessions of a Black Sheep" memoirs and I decided to post it tonight for a very specail reason...


“We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic...”

We’re lounging on a heap of cushions in the middle of the floor at Fat Freddy’s house, passing a pipe of good black hash that came stamped with a gold seal from Pakistan. Van Morrison’s soulful voice comes over the audio...

“I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the day of old
And together we will float into the mystic...”

My mind drifts in the slip-stream, those melodies, that voice as sweet as Tupelo honey. It is a safe and comfortable feeling being with my gathering of friends in Fat Freddy’s Tenth Avenue house.

“And the caravan has all my friends
It will stay with me until the end
Gypsy Robin, Sweet Emma Rose
Tell me everything I need to know...”

I was born with a gypsy soul, so it’s no surprise I ended up with a motley crew like these The guys all had names to identify them: Fat Freddy, Dirty Dan, Supersonic Joe, Mad John, Lofty. Half of them were on the lam from the States, deserters or draft dodgers trying to protest and escape the war in Viet Nam, a cool gang of long-haired hippy dudes.  We were their long-skirted gypsy women. We were family.

“Turn up your radio and let me hear the song...
Turn it up, turn it up, little bit higher, radio...
Turn it up, that’s enough, so you know it’s got soul...”

We whirl, twirl, dance to “Ballerina”, swaying, drifting, grooving...

“Well, it’s a marvelous night for a Moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies..”

I was living with Dirty Dan and my two kids and an assortment of other gypsy souls back then. It had been a long and interesting journey from the straight suburban life in Northern Alberta to the hippie houses of Vancouver. But it wasn’t surprising that I ended up there.

“I can hear her heart beat for a thousand miles
And the heavens open every time she smiles
And when I come to her that’s where I belong
Yet I’m running to her like a river’s song
She gave me love, love, love, love, crazy love...”

I was born a rebel.  My adventurous spirit began when I was a toddler, gave my parents grey hairs at an early age. Growing up, I always felt I was singing a different tune, dancing to a different beat. In school the teachers despaired of me, said I was a ‘dreamer’. I often chose friends who were the ‘outcasts’ -- kids who were different and unpopular. Maybe I gravitated toward them because they were out of the ordinary, ‘different’, like me. It’s no surprise then, when I got out of high school and started working at the newspaper, that I discovered another bunch of rebels, the Beat Generation. Jack Kerouac became my hero, along with Alan Ginsberg and all the Beat poets.  I read everything Kerouac wrote. I wanted to write like him, be hip, travel on the road with him. I wore black and hung out in smoky coffee houses, listened to jazz and bongo drums. I developed a taste for dry red wine, went to art school, wrote haiku and read Existentialist writings. I even took the bus to California a few times. These events began to shape and change my life.

Unfortunately the constrictions of marriage and raising a family deterred me from following my Beatnik dreams.  Seven years in a northern suburbia raising my kids and dealing with my husband’s downward spiral with alcoholism isolated me from a world I longed to be part of.

Then, a trip to New York changed my life. I went to visit a friend who lived in Greenwich Village, a place I’d only dreamed of until then. I prowled the Village, the bistros and coffee houses that were the haunts of my heroes. The Beat Generation had been replaced by a new generation of rebels, the Flower Children. All the talk in the Village was about Woodstock. I was introduced to a different kind of music, turned on to marijuana and hashish and the kind of free-spirited life-style that I’d always longed to live.

“And it stoned me to my soul
Stoned me just like Jelly Roll
And it stoned me…”

Dan, and his friends, gave me love at a time when I had needed it most. I had met him the year we moved back to the Coast.  He was a big, solid, gentle guy, a deserter from the American army, one of the group of deserters and draft dodgers who had taken shelter here in Canada and were hiding out from the immigration. They called him “Dirty Dan” because he was a wanna-be biker dude who had grown his hair long and joined the band of gypsy souls who hung out on Fourth Avenue.

Those were crazy days, but they were good days. I remember riding in the car with Dan and my kids, singing to the radio:

“On the way back home we sang a song
But our throats were getting dry
Then we saw the man from across the road
With the sunshine in his eyes…”

There was always music: The Doors, Janice Joplin, The Rolling Stones, T-Rex, Led Zeppelin, the Moody Blues and Van Morrison.

“And all the night’s magic seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush..”

And here we are again, in my mind’s eye, lolling on the cushions in the middle of the floor at Fat Freddy’s house, passing the pipe of good black hash, listening to that sweet lilting voice of Van Morrison resound from the speakers, cranked up to full volume, sweeping us away into the mystic…

“Can I just have one a’ more Moondance with you, my love
Can I just make some more romance with a-you, my love…”

*** In memory of Dan who I learned is dying (or perhaps already gone) from cancer.

We lived wild in those days during the '70's.  I loved him once, but he chose a life of drugs and I had to say goodbye to him to protect myself and my children.  Now he's gone, cancer and apparantly a long addiciton to crack cocaine.  Karma?  Perhaps, but still, I wanted to remember him and the parts of our time together that were free and fun.

Me?  I'm still Moondancing, always the free spirit.


Anonymous said...

A beautifully written memory, Ruth. Thanks for sharing both your words and the music! I hope Dan is at peace....

Wynn Bexton said...

I wonder if he was ever at peace. I also wonder, considering my psychic thoughts of him the other week if he might have been reflecting on the happier times spent during those 5 years we were together.