The Frozen Chosen were playing every night on the corner of Broadway and Columbus, across from City Lights books, and Allen Ginsberg started coming out. We spotted him walking across the street towards us, he stepped right up and said “Hey guys, I’m Allen. Mind if I sit in?” We knew who he was, and said “sure.” He said “Can you play some country blues?” And we said yeah and went into a blues, and he started making up a song right there on the corner, singing to the people passing by. It was sailors and hookers and tourists and kids and nobody ever stopped but he made up these incredible songs. They’d go on and on, and were funny and moving, goofy and angry at the same time. The best one had a refrain of “Stay Away From The White House” and it was a commentary on the Nixon scandals, barbed, surrealistic and hilarious. And he was out there performing with the guys on the bottom of the musical totem pole in San Francisco at the time, the Frozen Chosen, probably the least respected group in a fifty mile radius. But he hung with us and was a huge inspiration.
Me and Danny were ambling across town the next day after that first session and he pulled up in his VW van, driven by his partner Peter Orlovsky. We said “Hi we were going to the Goodwill” and he said “Hop in,” and they drove us over.
He turned around and asked, “So what do you guys do out there to keep your voices together on the street”
“Whiskey helps” said Danny. Allen said “Dylan told me he uses a mix of honey and lemon when he gets raspy.”
Me and Danny just looked at each other. This guy knows Dylan, just dropped his name. We thought that was pretty cool.
Danny decided to stay around, see where the Ginsberg thing went. I decided to make a trip up to Portland, Oregon. I just wanted a change of scene.
I got out on highway 101 the morning after jamming with Ginsberg, and start trying to hitch a ride.
The first car that went by was a hippie in a Valiant. It stopped and I jumped in. He took me quite a couple hours North. I was happy and relieved to be moving, anticipating the trip, with no idea of what to expect.
He stopped and let me out at the first Ukiah exit and headed into the town, as I crossed over the highway to the ramp and stuck my thumb out again at the approaching cars.
This time I was stuck out there for hours. There was plenty of traffic but nobody wanted to stop. Some even rolled down the car windows and shouted at me, others flipped the bird. Finally a car pulled over, but as I ran up to get in, it drove off as the passengers in the rear seats laughed at me. After a while, a carload of high schoolers even drove by blasting a full moon at me out their backseat window.
I was starting to get the creeps from Ukiah. Hours passed, my paranoia started to run, and I began to consider my options. I wasn’t excited about walking into town, but sitting out there on the shoulder wasn’t getting me anywhere. I felt stuck.
The sunlight was hot and shining, in the high afternoon, and the air tickled my nasal passages, with that Northern California bouquet of pine sap, gully dust, and the faint trace of marijuana scent—not so much a smell as a bite up the nose—accompanied by a windy sort of high.
I was about to give up and admit I was stranded, when a yellow Mercedes pulled over on the shoulder. The driver was a fair and long haired, attractive woman in her early 30’s.In the passenger seat sat a fairly large, middle aged, bald headed man with a goatee, looking to be conservatively dressed, with an intense expression about his face and eyes.
The guy rolled down the window and asked me where I was going.
“Portland,” I told him, and he said, “Hop in. We’ll take you all the way.”
What luck. I jumped in the backseat, throwing my guitar and duffel onto the seat next to me, and we took off.
The car got up to speed. We rode along for a few minutes, then the man twisted around towards me. “I have a little game I like to play, when I’m first getting to know people. Do you mind if I read your palm?”
I offered up my hand, and he pulled it to him.
“Hmmm… hmmm” A few moments passed. “When you were young, you seem to have had an encounter of some sort with a very poisonous snake.”
“Funny, the lines are very clear. I think you did.”
“No, nothing of that sort at all. I guess your clairvoyance has let you down,” I cheeked.
After that, I watched out the window and kept my mouth shut. I was glad I’d finally gotten a ride, and right to where I was going.
We pulled over in a grove overlooking the sea from a slight bluff, and all got out of the car for a smoke and stretch break. I lit up one of mine and leaned against the car by the back passenger side door. The sun was sinking and we still had a longway to go. We hadn’t even crossed into Oregon yet.
The man and woman had been discussing the object of their trip, but I couldn’t make much sense of it or even follow the conversation, but there seemed to be some sort of tension between them.
The man walked around the front of the car and stepped back towards me.
He stood right in front of me, and asked “Have you ever seen me before?”
I looked up. He seemed amused.
He was just a couple feet away, looking into my eyes. “Do you recognize me?”
Huh? I didn’t know what he was talking about. “No”
“Shall we tell him who I am?” he asked the woman, slightly turning his head towards her but keeping his eyes on me.
She didn’t say anything but stood away to the side, a few feet behind him.
The air was nearly still, fog smoked up from the blackbark pines, and I looked him in the face again.
“No. I’ve never seen you before in my life.”
“Well my name is Anton Levay” he said. “I’m the author of the Satanic Bible, and founder of the Church of Satan.”
“Never heard of you,” I lied, feigning indifference. I felt a jolt of adrenaline, and my back began to hurt, my heart raced.
He smiled for a moment then turned and walked around to the driver’s side ofthe car. He opened the door and slipped in behind the wheel. The woman took the other side, and I looked off into the distance for a second, then got in. We were a long way from anywhere. What else could I do?
I’d just seen his picture that week on the racks by the register at City Lights Books, in a creepy, purplish, goofy star trek-esque photo on the cover of his mad book. It had given me the chills: the shaved bald head, the pointed ears and goatee, the arch expression. In person the effect was different, but no less creepy.
I figured he was a psycho, and it was bad luck being stuck on the outskirts of Nowhere with him. As he drove, they argued, and then he began to speak to me, making eye contact in the rearview mirror. They were going to Vancouver to capture a dead man’s spirit that was haunting or possessing a friend there. Once they caught the spirit, he said they were going to set it on someone they didn’t like.The process involved spells and other necromantic action, and I couldn’t really follow the story. It was too outrageous.
In a seacoast town on the California/Oregon border, we pulled up at a little rickety, waterfront bar, on a boardwalk overlooking a small boat harbor. Anton parked and jumped out of the car, saying he was going in for cigarettes, he’d be right back. As soon as he was out of sight the woman turned to me. She was crying.
“I’m so afraid of him!” she blurted. “Something terrible is going to happen.”
“Why don’t we just leave him?” I said in a rush. “Look! He left the keys in the car. Let’s just ditch him here and go!”
“He’d track us down! He’d get me!”
The door of the bar opened and Anton came back down the walk tamping his new pack of smokes. He got back into the now perfectly quiet Mercedes, lit one up, and we continued on our journey.
The sun went down and the world grew even darker. The road climbed into a mountainous wooded area, extremely remote.
Anton drove and spoke to neither of us in particular:
“If something were to happen to someone up here, they wouldn’t find the bodies for weeks.”
I opened up the Barlow pocket knife that I kept in my pocket and stuck a folded up match book in there to use as a handle, in case I had to open the blade up fast.
The road was winding and climbing, the land was pitch-black, and I was anxious as shit. In the dark of the backseat I pretended to be asleep and silently wigged.
I had to open my eyes as I felt the car slowing.Anton pulled off the road at a bend, and stopped on the wideshoulder.
He left the car running, got out in a hurry and walked up the highway in the dark. A minute later I saw headlights coming from the opposite direction. A car came around the turn and drove straight over on to the shoulder and stopped facing us. Anton approached the car and after a short, hushed conversation with the driver, he turned and started back towards us.
I was sweating with fear. I thought I”d had it. I was going to be tortured and killed, gutted and used as an offering to the Necromancer.
Anton just got back in and we drove away. Maybe the other car just wanted directions.
In the early hours of the morning, the woman fell asleep, and Levay himself looked very tired. He began to talk in a weary voice about his concerns for his son, who had grown up around orgies and rites and other insanities, and who he hoped would grow up to be strong and true. The Black Pope began to seem like any other old fuddy middle-aged father, worn from responsibility.
I stayed awake the whole time. We entered Portland and they dropped me off by the school, and drove off into the night to save one life and destroy another. I never saw either of them again.