I think it might be good, now, if we took some time and talked about marble games.
Marble games that we know and love.
That exist in the third dimension.
That we can see, and appreciate, because we exist in the fourth dimension.
Although we try to exist in the third.
Whenever we can get away with it.
What we are going to talk about is the basis of all stand-up humor.
The best way to break hypnotism is to get a good look at it.
And laugh at it.
Because its claims to reality are really ridiculous.
I love it.
I love to laugh at the claims of the third dimension.
But, once again, remember, it is not people we are laughing at; it is thought: the claims of third-dimensional thought.
That looks like people believing it.
The people live in the fourth dimension.
Although they sometimes have to be jolted into seeing it.
Sometimes with a good laugh.
Let's talk about girls.
I'm sorry girls, I know there are parallel stories to be shared about boys, but I don't know them from the inside. I will have to approach it from the vantage point I have.
Which means from the vantage point of not having everything they have.
From the earliest times I have struggled to know--to see--what it was about little girls that gave them such power.
It was magnetic.
They drove me nuts.
I fell all over myself trying to get their attention.
I used to follow them home from school throwing snowballs at them.
I would pull their hair in class. When they were sitting in front of me.
In the seventh grade I had a boil on my wrist that shot black blood.
Not even that impressed them.
In the fifth grade I persuaded a crow to perch on the ledge of a window in our classroom.
I fed him things.
That made a little better time with them.
But I got rambunctious and wanted to see if I could improve his act.
So I fed him some Ex-Lax.
And he never came back.
We had dances in the gym.
Our nice old Janitor, a fellow named Byron Price, sprinkled oiled sawdust on the floor, and Mrs. Kekich, our seventh grade teacher and general programmer of activities for us little children, would play some of the great hits of the day.
And we would have "Boys Choice," and "Girls Choice."
One of the moments of Great Terror in my life was the moment when I was going to have to touch a girl.
With her consent.
I made a habit of standing about on the periphery of things, even watching from the balcony above.
Above it all.
Yet distantly amused.
When suddenly a girl wanted to dance with me.
And she made that fact known to Mrs. Kekich.
They chased me all around that building.
I ended up hiding in the auditorium on the fourth floor, in the middle of three hundred seats.
Lying on the floor.
I knew how to hide in those days.
They had me cornered, but I hid so well they couldn't find me among the seats, and finally gave up the chase.
I felt a little empty after.
The jig was up.
They were getting too close.
So I finally gave in.
Like a man.
......it wasn't so bad.
I even ended up liking it.
And going to the Episcopal Church Dancing School.
Where we learned all the great ballroom dances.
The rhumba, the waltz, the jitterbug, the fox-trot, the tango.
I was good.
I was so good, in fact, that it was the only time they ever used me to demonstrate as an example of how to do something right.
I loved it.
Flowing through the air to that beautiful music with this beautiful lady.
Who could dance.
And so could I.
And we both knew it.
And danced together.
In front of everybody else; but forgetting their presence.
So that we could dance well for them.
It was great.
Then, in 1961, I went to college.
That was the year they started The Twist.
I never danced again.
I grew up in the era that only the War Babies will remember.
The era of the Pink and Black craze.
Now I think this happened at about the time that Elvis came out with his single, with Heartbreak Hotel on one side and Blue Suede Shoes on the other.
Everybody started wearing Pink and Black clothes.
I don't know why.
It just started happening.
They were also wearing little dinky thin suede belts--only a half an inch thick.
Wedgies were a men's shoe that were glossy smooth leather with flat soles about an inch and a half thick.
It was cool.
I don't know why it swept the country.
These had to be the ugliest clothes ever dreamed up.
But it caught.
It got down to where you couldn't have the cuffs on your sleeves rolled down or you were some kind of fairy.
I suppose one of the great dreams of my life, never to be realized, was to own a 1955 Ford Pink and Black Convertible.
My buddy and I, a fellow named Bill MacLean, who went by the name of "Cleanest," and was the coolest kid in school, we used to go down to the new car showroom and sit in it on the way to the movies.
His old man ended up buying a '55 Ford convertible, mainly for his son; but it wasn't Pink and Black.
I had girlfriends all the way through grade school.
Although they never knew it.
I was in love.
All the time.
I had one girlfriend--Barbara Blegen. She and her sister Judith went on to become stars in the world of music.
The kindest, nicest, truest thing ever done for me by any of my girl friends was done by her.
We had a softball game going, a perpetual softball game, where you would "work up" to the bat.
I had hit the ball and had made the base on a close call.
The whole school thought I was out.
She, whose word no one would question, and who was standing right there, said I was safe.
I was stunned and pleased.
The rest of the game didn't matter.
I had another girl, Gwen Tiemeyer, who never had the slightest idea she was the constant companion of my thoughts.
She may have wondered, her mother may have wondered, why I spent so much time climbing the tree across from her house.
The tree is no longer there.
I think it died from all the initials I cut in it.
Cleanest had a girlfriend--Delores. But up until that time he always had a peculiar delight in taking an interest in my girlfriends, whom I confided to him.
He loved to torture me.
He was fearless.
When I was afraid to take a box of candy to a girl, (when I was so afraid that I would explain to the saleslady at the store that I wasn't buying the candy for my girlfriend but for a friend of mine's), MacCleanest would step into the breach and offer to deliver the candy for me.
And then he and my girl would sit around and enjoy eating the candy together.
One year there was this truly beautiful young lady (Sixth Grade) named Marilyn Brown.
I had been in love with her for at least two years.
Somehow I had to show her that I existed and sort of cared.
So I went down to Sprouse Reitz 5 & dime; I was compelled to go down to the Sprouse Reitz 5 & dime by forces greater than I, and I purchased a little something to put on the altar in the form of a heart-shaped Valentine, covered with chocolate and filled with marshmallow.
I tried to find the courage to give it to her, and failed.
Finally, I gave it to her brother, Mike.
And he promised to deliver it to her.
Which he did.
And she sat on it.
Mike carefully placed it on a living room chair, and when she came home from school she sat down in the chair.
The school thought that was pretty funny.
Toward the seventh-eighth-ninth grades we discovered the Make Out parties.
We also had the Saturday Afternoon Matinees.
Our school in our town had a racket: Patrol Passes.
The little kids who guarded the street crossings with their flags got free passes to go to the show.
MacLean was the Patrol Captain.
Needless to say we took a little graft off the top.
It was my first experience with official corruption.
Getting free, unearned, passes for a little change off the old man's dresser.
Then we would go to the show and have Make Out Parties.
Rows and rows of little kids passionately embraced in half hour kisses, while Pat Boone did his thing in April Love.
Except I couldn't get a girl, or wouldn't get a girl, to do what you had to do.
You had to be cool in a way that I was not.
I still don't know what it was.
One time I remember making a serious effort to do it with the group.
I had this girl all nailed down beside me, with my arm around her, barely touching, and gradually made her feel the fact that I was moving in for the kill.
I was going to kiss her.
Getting to the point where you were putting your arm around her, in her presence, and actually touching was a big enough deal for me.
That was a step that required boldness that was made for other people. Not me.
Except this one time.
I summoned everything I had.
I turned around from watching the silver screen, and, quick like a bunny, I sneaked in to give her a little kiss right on the lips.
And she ducked.
And I got her on the cheek.
I wasn't entirely sure what happened.
But there were lots of girls after that.
I had broken the fear.
The magic barrier.
I had learned that I could try and fail and emerge from the experience not just undamaged, but stronger for the result.
Needless to say, that knowledge was going to serve me in good stead in high school.
In high school I had two girlfriends at a certain point in time toward the end.
One of them was a hinge heels and the other was an icicle.
I was going out with them simultaneously.
It was a marvel to me how the two experiences contrasted.
The one girl I used to take out with her boyfriend at noon in my car, the '51 Chevy, to get hamburgers.
They would make out the whole time in the back seat.
A year later, when she was my girlfriend or "date," as we liked to call it, we would go out every weekend and park.
We had a little place on a hillside called "Farviews" that overlooked the city, and we would just sit there all night and neck.
I must have taken her out thirty-five times, and we never went anywhere once.
No, we went to a Drive-In once for almost half an hour. And then left.
How powerful that is.
The other girl, the icicle, I truly sought to secure in love.
She had a magic, a charm about her, that was perfectly indescribable.
And perfectly hypnotic.
Her locker was across from mine in the hall at high school, and I met her by simply getting to know her by walking up and saying "Hi."
A rare thing for me to do.
But she was a prize.
It turned out she was a ball buster.
Or so we called them in high school.
I gave her everything I had, emotionally, and we would come back from a date with tears trickling down my face.
She wouldn't let me touch her.
And it wasn't because she was such a high-class chick either.
Her old man was a logger.
And a hell of a nice guy.
Just the kind of old man I'd like my girl to have.
But no banana.
One time I had a chance, just one miserable chance.
MacLean and Delores had double-dated with us to at the Junior Prom, and we went over to Deloress house afterwards where there wasn't anybody home.
I had her down, late, late, till early in the morning, almost asleep on the couch and completely exhausted.
I almost had her to the point where she was ready to cave in and let me get something between her and me besides her brazier...
When Delores came in.
Delores and Bill slept together all the time.
But she felt that it was improper for us to be making any moves in her house when her folks weren't home.
So she kicked us out.
Right then and there.
Completely destroyed any chance of any hopes I might have had for finding out what kind of music we could have made together.
God damn that was a nutcracker.
I later learned that she had been spending time at the lake allowing various souls to help themselves to her pleasures.
Which finished our relationship.
Much later, after she had been down to San Francisco and made some of the rounds, she and I had occasion to get together again.
This time she stretched out on the couch, and it was clear that the problems that were there before no longer would come between us.
But it was gone.
The spell was gone.
And I think that that was intuitively what kept her from me in the first place.
She was afraid that the spell was the only thing holding me to her. And that if she let me touch her that would have broken it.
Very constructive stuff that hypnotism.
It always does a lot for everyone concerned.
When I was in high school we had a phenomenon called "cruising the drag."
Need I go on?
The goal, of course, was always to pick up women.
Which we never did.
Except for one time, I can remember.
We actually somehow got some girls to come into our car for the putative purpose of going out in the sticks and doing something naughty.
As soon as they got in the car I could see why we had managed to score.
They were so drunk they didn't know where they were.
And we were stuck with them.
The one I had in the back seat kept calling me by a name I didn't recognize.
She was very passionate.
When she wasnt puking.
We ended up dumping them on the street where we found them.
My devotion to the cause of love was unequaled by any of my friends.
Except for MacCleanest, who was home making love to Delores all day and night, every day and night.
While the rest of us wept.
I remember taking a new girl to the Drive-In in my old man's '55 Chevy Nomad, which had been specially secured for a special date. I was so determined to make it work that I didn't notice the earthquake that was happening right under the car.
Some of you may remember the Great Earthquake of the summer of 1957 up in Montana.
When twenty-two people were killed in a park?
Where the Hebgen Dam broke and a mountain of water came rushing through the valley below and wiped out a whole bunch of people sleeping in their tents?
Where part of a mountain fell down and blocked the river making a new lake?
Called Quake Lake?
Well, I was at the Drive-In that night with my new girl. And the bouncing and swaying of my car I was sure was a group of my friends bouncing on the back bumper.
I was so determined not to pay attention to them that I missed the whole earthquake.
I didn't even find out about it until the next morning from my mother.
Back in my day, where marble games were serious business, (this is Montana: where men are men and the sheep know it), James Dean was a perfect hero.
There was a scene in Rebel Without a Cause that sort of prototyped the Chicken Race for my generation.
These two cars lined up and made a race for a cliff: the guy who jumped out first was a chicken.
This was the era of the rumble.
James Dean's knife fight outside the observatory with switchblades sort of typified the way we fought too.
Only I don't think that very many of us really liked to hurt anybody. We just liked to look like we did.
If we hurt anybody we usually hurt ourselves.
I can remember one game, where we would drive the car down a straight stretch going anywhere from 80 to 100 miles an hour, and then we would open the back door.
And then we would ever so gently set a beer bottle on the ground.
It would slide along upright right beside the car until it hit a rock.
Then it would disintegrate.
If it hit the rock while you were setting it on the ground...you lose.
There was another joke about Montana Men that may have been appropriate.
You see you wear your tall boots, and grab one back leg and put it in one boot, and grab the other and put it in the other.....
High School was the setting for most of the marble games for my generation.
Ours was characterized by fear.
Administrations lived to enforce rules that beefed up their own self-importance.
We had a rule that you could be kicked out of school if you were caught in the hall without a pass.
We called them "Pink Slips."
You had to have a Pink Slip wherever you went during class hours.
If you didn't you were brought down to the school counselor and he cut your balls off.
The atmosphere of fear made it ripe for the clubbers to move in--the do-gooders and prestige clubs, to make a distinction.
When the scene was set for legitimized hostility through the activity of these "service" organizations, you then had a whole pool of lower-class people whose reason for existence was to applaud the social climbers.
Then you had the "jocks."
Which was a euphemism for "thugs."
Legitimized and glorified violence on the field in our little community was really secondary to the legitimized and glorified violence off the field.
I suppose that this was because, as a fairly untamed Western town, the thin veneer of Civilized Deceit had not yet camouflaged the true intent of athletics.
At least the athletics of our day.
The fighters in our school were the stars.
The guys who could slug it out with anybody in the school.
We always stayed after the football games because that was when the fist fights would start.
And they were a lot more interesting than the chicken shit stuff with pads and helmets.
Academic distinction was the highest priority on the list of pecking order status, of course.
You never even got to meet the guys in Vo-Tech and Auto Shop if you were pushing for grades.
Although the guys in Vo-Tech and Auto Shop knew four times more about reality than the pretentious bastards in the liberal arts, I later came to find out.
Cheating was by far the best way to get grades.
By that I mean it was the way that you learned more.
The teachers in my high school seemed so slow, so stupid, so self-defeating in everything they taught and did that any reasonable sane student going through the program would have to conclude that the professional teaching was made for nothing but losers.
Which it was.
We had a Coach/History teacher who, as soon as he saw you doing any original work, immediately downgraded your papers.
But as soon as he saw you were copying your stuff from Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia would immediately begin rewarding you.
Because then he wouldn't have to read it.
He could just count the pages.
We had another teacher of history, a guy who was so out of touch with his students that he didn't realize that the only way you could get a passing grade in the class was to cheat.
His questions became so picayune, so incredibly obscure and trivial, that sometimes they weren't even in the book, a book that was so badly written that no one could understand it anyway.
I became President of the Cheating Society.
The best looking girl in the school sat beside me.
The daughter of a prominent surgeon in town.
We routinely filled in all the answers on each other's test, as we graded them while he read off the answers.
When she moved to another part of the class (his strategy was to keep us moving about so that we wouldn't start cheating) my grade dropped from an 'A' to a 'C' in one quarter.
I don't know about your school but the problem in mine was one of mindless rage--rage at the ineptitude, stupidity, and incompetence of the administrators against themselves, which they took out on the students.
Which is the way that thugs always do it.
We had a Vice-Principal who was so stupid, so mindlessly meaninglessly incompetent, that we gradually filled up a large barrel full of empty beer bottles, and, when it was full, we dumped it down his basement steps.
That's a lot of rage.
On our part.
Believe it or not, that is the activity of the Christ surfacing in our culture to correct a wrong.
It's hard to believe, I know.
But that is how it works, and you can see it operate, and understand its meaning, what it is trying to do, if you are willing to break out of the mindless destructive hypnotism which your culture is feeding you.
And you are swallowing with open eyes and open mouth.
Because you are afraid that there is nothing else, that that is all there is.
As long as you are afraid, that is what you will eat.
Until you get tired of the hypnotism and its false promises and rewards, tired enough to call it a lie and look somewhere else.
That takes guts.
But you have it.
In fact, it is that that is being strengthened by all the disasters that are happening in your life that arise from your belief in the American Material Dream.
It is the American Idealist Dream that is real.
That made this country great in the first place,
The dream that the Founding Fathers, and every major contributor to anything worthwhile, understood perfectly well.
Sure, we need the material stuff at this level of consciousness.
And we are grateful for every breakthrough in technology for that reason.
But as soon as we take the effect, or the result of our discoveries, discoveries that are made with genuine humility, openness, and soul-searching spirituality, and think that they are the cause of the greatness (instead of the genuine humility, openness, and soul-searching spirituality) then we are in trouble.
Because then we think that the causes of the greatness are material.
Things like "natural resources," "genetic endowment," "physical strength," "military might," and "economic development."
As soon as that switch is made we have gone to work for the devil--mammon.
Then we start thinking that we are great.
That we have all this power and all these good ideas and talent.
Instead of remembering how we got them.
The result of making the switch from spiritual to material thinking (presuming that one ever thought spiritually in the first place) is that we turn into greedy thugs.
Just like those idiots in high school.
Which makes it a good training ground for reality after all. Doesn't it?
Or do you think that most of the business community in the real world is not made up of greedy thugs.
Most of my friends growing up through high school were the malcontents and rejects--the refugees from the established order of things.
We loved each other, and, pretty much, all we had was each other.
We shared certain values in common, most of which centered on the notion of defiance, against a system that we felt was cruel, and unjust.
Which came down to the fact that the thugs always seemed to surface to the top.
By "thugs," here, I mean people who enjoy pushing other people around, and who are insensitive to their effect on the weaker.
That doesn't have to be physical.
But it can be.
And is, in its clearest form.
More often, behind the thin veneer of Civilized Deceit, you find the thugs hanging out behind the rules, which they manipulate to exercise their will over their subordinates in the system, under the guise that "they have no control," that "they are just following orders and doing their job just like everybody else."
Thuggery was our central target that bound us together as a group.
We had a large high school, 2300 students when I graduated I think.
Our group included the student body president, a fellow named Terry Fitzpatrick, a sort of closet reject who wanted to be more a part of us than the school.
He was the guy that ran off with my childhood sweetheart. We called him "Fitz."
He was our inside man.
I was editor of the school paper--the editorial part--for a semester.
I was a wheel for a semester to see what it was like.
The only thing I liked about the prominence of the paper was that it gave me an opportunity to attack the jocks and the school board.
Both of which I did.
With predictable consequences.
The jocks, in particular the football team, set traps for me to waylay and physically destroy me wherever I went.
But they couldn't do it because they knew that I would seize the opportunity to provide fresh evidence in my campaign to reveal them for the disguised gangsters they were.
As I recall, I almost succeeded in getting us kicked out of the AA Conference, but I didn't quite have the muscle.
The school board got voted out just as I came into tenure as editor of the paper.
I was on the side of the new guys, who stood for justice, harmony, and fairness.
Which I reported.
The first school board meeting produced such a frenzied group of enraged citizens, a group that literally filled the school auditorium, over an editorial I had written mildly praising the new school board and condemning the old one, that a man got up and paced the aisles to the cheers of the audience leading up to a denunciation of me.
Finally, he stood right in front of me (I was sitting in the front row, right in front of the audience and in front of the school board facing them), and he asked if I were in the audience, knowing full well that I was sitting right in front of his nose.
I responded by standing up, right in front of him, note papers falling from my lap to the floor.
The audience exploded; nothing could be heard; and the meeting was closed by the School Board.
But my heart was not in the business of trying to reform the institution by replacing old members or shifting the structure.
Somehow I knew that the way you cause change was to change the hearts of the people the institution was meant to serve, and then the needed changes would naturally follow.
And that is a strictly mental process where you get somebody to see a greater truth than what they have working for them at present.
Then it is easy.
All of which led me to Philosophy and Psychology and Whitman College, where I knew I could get four years of uninterrupted work in exploring matters of the heart, mind, and spirit.
But, meanwhile, I had some things to learn about marble games.
Now perhaps the best man I knew in high school was a guy named Bill Ward.
Ward was a guy who was very quiet. He was the eldest son of the part Indian family that used to take me elk hunting. He was the guy who could catch fish with a can of poop and some bent nails.
Ward taught me how to fish.
That is, he taught me how to listen.
And read the water.
And think like a fish.
By far and away the happiest times I had in school were when we would go fishing.
In totally remote areas.
The more remote the better.
Our idea of camping out was taking a sleeping bag and tossing it in the back of the car.
Our favorite creek was a place called Rock Creek, where worrying about running into a moose or a bear was a genuine concern.
Mama moose especially does not like you playing with her children.
And there were a few Grizzlies around here.
Grizzlies are nasty.
They specialize in tourists going to the Parks.
They kill some of them every other year or so.
They go for the girls who are having their periods when they are asleep in their sleeping bags.
Ward taught me how to be quiet.
And at home in the woods.
And not be afraid.
The best way to be not afraid is to take a gun.
We always had guns in the car.
For grouse, usually.
There is nothing like nailing a grouse in the head and roasting him over an open fire.
Unless it's steak.
Which we usually brought along too.
MY '51 Chevy was distinguished by having a bullet hole through the roof.
A slight indiscretion on my part when I was hurrying to get out my '22 for a grouse.
Ward was the best man I ever knew growing up because he had discipline, character, and integrity.
He would not go for the false glitter of academic life.
He would not go for the false glitter of any of the social marble games that seek to tempt young people of that age.
He would not do it.
He was a box boy at Buttrey's, the local food store.
He worked like a dog day and night so he could go hunting and fishing and generally be in the woods.
He was a good student, and made it into college.
He was going to be a chemist.
Until he saw those guys running around the chemistry labs in their strange white coats.
And the strange people that populated the academic world generally.
"Straaaange people," he used to say.
And gave up what would have been a promising career in the professions...
To go into the Forest Service.
Ward's old man, Frank, was a sheet metal worker.
He was the guy that came into your house and installed the metal ducts for your furnace.
Hard, unforgiving stuff, that sheet metal.
He had lost his teeth to a cave-in in a mine during the Depression.
He had a hardness of character, integrity, to match his hands.
And the most gentle man with his children I have ever seen.
When you let Frank Ward down he would punish you by giving you another chance.
Bill went to work for the Forest Service, first as a laborer, then as a Smoke Jumper.
Smoke jumpers are the toughest people I know.
Far far tougher than the Marines I have known.
Smoke jumpers are the guys who jump out of airplanes and expect parachutes to land them gently and safely on the ground.
Unless, that is, they get hung up on a "widow maker."
Which is a snag sticking straight up out of the forest of trees, pointing at you as you are coming down.
And when your chute catches one of these, and all the air goes out of it, then there is nothing to hold you up, one hundred feet above the ground, except the top of this old dead tree.
Which is rotting.
I used to cut those trees for the Forest Service, and I learned to respect how much danger there can be in all that tonnage of wood.
Especially if another one is lying up against it.
Of course when the Smoke Jumpers were jumping there would be a Forest Fire nearby.
Which meant that there were terrific winds caused by the fire that could dance you all around the countryside if you got caught.
They used to regularly suck the TBM's dropping Borate into the mountainside.
Ward chose to find his reality in the game of man against nature instead of in the classroom.
I tried to get into the Smokejumpers, but they wouldn't even have me.
Of course, Ward is old and fat like the rest of us, now.
Trying to quit smoking and drinking.
Wondering what he's going to do with the rest of his life pushing papers in the great mindless bureaucracy of the Federal Government.
Destroying the things that it was set up to protect with its mountains of arbitrary rules.
Ward went down to California to advance in the Great Bureaucracy, but came scampering back to Montana as soon as he saw what that was like.
Now he sort of minds the shop and protects what he can protect from the greed of speculators, developers, and the public (consumers) generally.
I tell you this story because Ward represents the sort of integrity that held us all together as a unit.
We hated thugs; and we loved the gentle, quiet, peaceful life of a sweet, simple mountain town of 35,000 people.
We had another friend, a guy named Penn Stohr, who similarly had little use for the academic world, and went off to seek his fortune flying airplanes.
Stohr's old man had been killed flying a Ford Tri-motor crop dusting over in Eastern Montana.
Stohr sort of took over the controls, and now is the chief pilot for Evergreen, a company that sends jets all over the world.
Stohr's mom, Alma, was the sort of maternal presence who provided us all with a place to stay while she worked as the town's Clerk of Court to support herself and her son.
We had parties at Stohr's house.
Always with a protective eye toward his mother's interests and standing with the neighborhood and community (and she never got into trouble or really even heard about it), but we had parties.
I was usually in charge of getting the booze.
We had a little grocery store (and this was back in the days when they would lock you up for buying booze under 21) called the "Orchard Homes Grocery," where you could fake an ID and buy beer when you were fifteen.
That guy must have wondered what in the hell was going on when this young kid would come in and ask for twenty-seven cases of beer.
He would get raided once in a while, and the heat would be on, and we would have to get someone, usually a wino, to buy it for us.
I, being an enterprising little entrepreneur, would always charge more than I paid for a six-pack.
To this day some of those kids still resent that particular little swindle of mine.
It taught me how not to do business though.
We approached the line of illegality, though, when a guy broke into a bar and stole some cases of hard stuff, and we started trading things like guns for booze.
That was wrong, and we stopped there.
Ward would come away from those parties too drunk to go home sometimes, and he would sleep over with me.
He had a '49 Ford, with a V-8 and a sometime muffler, and we would wake up the next morning and look down on it from the second story bedroom window, and notice the remains of the night before on the window ledge in the form of vomit.
Ward says that he can still remember when I used to carry him up the stairs.
MacLean was still very much a part of our group, except he had to divide it with the women of his fancy.
And the fights.
He loved women, but he didn't like the fights.
Unfortunately the two came together.
He particularly didn't like the jocks and thugs, who seemed to hoard all the good women.
So when one of them took a fancy to Bill, he usually had a jock or a thug to face (to make a distinction).
(In this context, jocks are athletes who were street fighters and thugs were street fighter gangsters who were street fighters.)
I remember walking home with MacLean from a movie across the Higgins Avenue Bridge, the bridge that spanned the Clark Fork River, named after William Clark the explorer, when this dude cruised slowly by us in his 1953 Chevy and waited for us at the end of the bridge.
Cleanest explained that the guy was the boyfriend, or former boyfriend, of a girl he had been speaking to, and that this was his warning.
We walked up to this ugly little tough, the meanest, if not the biggest animal in the school.
He had piano wire muscles in his arms.
And he was deadly fast.
This little.......just stood there smiling at us as we walked up; and he put on a thin leather glove.
He said, "You know what I'm here about, don't you?"
Cleanest said, calmly swallowing his fear, "I guess so."
And with that the little bastard smacked Cleanest a perfect shot, so fast that neither of us saw it coming.
It spun Cleanest around, and didn't break a tooth, to both of our amazements.
And with that, he calmly took his gloves off and walked back to his car, and drove away.
And that ended Bill's conversation with the girl.
Let me tell you about an event in high school that had more significance for me than any other event.
I hope these experiences are as representative as I think they are.
They are supposed to reflect what we all know happened in every high school across the land. To a greater or lesser extent.
Just keep thinking Peyton Place, and you will have an idea of the domain we are addressing.
Allison MacKensie remains my favorite heroine in all of Western literature.
I would like to tell you of the one moment of near true love that I had in all of my grade school and high school experiences. True love, after all, the theme of High Society and Grace Kelly, was the goal of the era of the fifties. The last era of the romantic search for love in another human being.
Or so Playboy would have us believe.
True love, Romantic Love, is one of the most treacherous marble games you can embark into.
Ah, but the prize......
The only problem in the pursuit of true love is mistaking the third-dimensional sense of love, which is sexual, with the fourth, which is spiritual.
The two seem to go together readily enough, and does, at the beginning.
But the sensual, as a claim to material power, will try to destroy the spiritual, if you let it. When it is time to rise above the sensual.
The question I have always asked myself about a girl, and encouraged those who have asked me about it to reflect upon is this: what is left after the sex?
Because the sex will surely leave.
And take the relationship with it if it can.
All of the truly spiritual qualities, the love, the capacity for generous tenderness and gentleness, the courage, the strength, the wisdom--all of these things have nothing to do with the physical. Indeed they are usually developed in spite of the physical.
Indeed, if a woman is beautiful, that is prima facie evidence to support the suspicion that these qualities have not been developed at all.
That she is 100% totally self-preoccupied and devoted to the altar of sensuality.
At the expense of the other qualities.
Which are the only ones that blossom and bloom with any kind of endurance.
The others will cheat you and destroy you.
Both of you.
The conclusion: dogs are best.
So bite the bullet and Go with Truth.
I have suspected that was true, as have you, since I was about fifteen.
Now I know it is true.
I have had occasion, periodically, to go down to Southern California, and visit the people and beaches there with, say, my brother, who lives in Malibu Beach now. (Read it and weep, fun seekers.)
The single most remarkable class of people I have ever known populate those beaches.
The Southern California Girl.
The single most empty-headed specimen of life God ever put on this planet.
There is nothing there.
It isn't even "Look but don't touch."
The bodies become sexless.
The search for the perfect body loses itself, loses its sensuality, in the quest for perfection.
Or, just keeping up.
But, such is the way with the contemporary tower of babel: it can only last six or eight years, with maximum devotion, and...it is built on sand.
Much better to see the wrinkles of the selfless pursuit of Truth.
In, say, a social worker.
Who is at least trying.
Anyway, when I was a freshman in high school I met a girl.
She was the friend of my friend, Eric Fiedler.
"Ricky" as we called him, was the son of Leslie Fiedler, who was a big gun in the intellectual establishment of literary criticism.
He wrote some very influential books, among them, An End to Innocence, and Love and Death in the American Novel, and a short story, called "Nude Croquet."
He had an interview in Playboy some years ago, and generally represents, I think, the interests of High Powered Academia.
At least he is billed in that light.
Leslie and his family were very close friends of ours while we grew up in Missoula, and his son Eric and I were very close at this particular point in time.
Leslie and my old man had been busily engaged in trying to get rid of the President of the University of Montana for some time, which they succeeded in doing, after a big fight.
They made an enemy in the Psychology Department.
This guy's kid was a friend of mine.
We got into trouble.
Eric and I were driving my folks' '51 Studebaker and the kid jumped off the back end.
His old man sued.
I lost my driver's license.
And it was in this general period of time that I met this girl.
I should have lost my license, by the way.
Not for the accident, especially, but because I needed some reins put on my wildish impulsiveness.
I loved to drive. And I loved cars.
I especially liked to see what they would do.
I laid so much rubber in the '51 Studebaker that I burned out the clutch so badly it wouldn't lay rubber going forward.
Only in reverse.
I used to park in Fiedler's driveway in Missoula and lay rubber in reverse going out to the street.
I laid so much rubber that the driveway was black.
One time I hit a car.
Going in reverse.
I paid the guy off, and nothing was said about it.
Although I was lucky.
I had a trailer hitch on the back of the car.
Leslie and Margaret (his wife) never minded our shenanigans. They were extremely tolerant parents.
They were almost the only Jews in town, at least the only visible family.
All six kids.
The town will never forget them.
They lived right on the main street of town, a street that went the whole length of the city, called Higgins Avenue.
They had a fence, a large tall board fence that faced the street.
Eric painted a huge picture of a foot on the fence.
And anybody driving by would naturally look over and see the picture of a foot, the imprint of the sole plus four little holes for the toes, staring at them on this fence.
The Fiedlers were a very controversial family in Missoula.
People ascribed it to their Jewishness I suppose.
But they were open and free.
Not hung up with the middle-class restrictions that bound most other people.
I suppose that is why so many of the kids turned to drugs, along with the Beatles.
I had the best high I ever got, me and my brother both, down in their basement.
A group of us sent out for a thousand bottles of Romilar Cough Syrup.
It was very much like heroin.
My brother and I have never been closer than we were that night.
I loved the Fiedlers very much.
And I saw something about Leslie nobody else saw.
I could see his humility.
And I saw Michael, the youngest son, at his Bar Mitzvah.
I was very impressed.
Well, Eric and I were buddies, and I didn't have a car, and I met this girl.
Her name was Dee Dee Griffin.
It really was.
She had her song, "It's All in the Game" by Johnny Mathis.
And I had mine, "Tom Dooley," by the Kingston Trio.
Eric had his girl, Ava, and we were all set, between the four of us, for some real romantic adventure.
We had a beach, that we went to.
It was a river, under a bridge.
That was the most beautiful, relaxed summer I ever spent.
No booze, no dope, just love.
Our relationship, Dee Dee's and mine, was not a physical one, in the main.
It was psychological.
It was vibrations.
We were extremely dutiful, both of us, in protecting the sweet purity of our feelings about one another, because we recognized that, although very powerful, they were very delicate too.
Feelings that were really fragile, and had to be protected at all costs.
Which brought out a lot of tender loving care, and self-sacrifice on both our parts.
Which we recognized as good.
We double-dated with Eric and Ava quite a bit, in fact, because we recognized that we needed a chaperone.
To protect the fragile essence of what lay between us.
All that summer we sustained that high.
Then school began.
Or it was about there, as I recall.
We sort of intuitively decided we had better do something or get off the pot.
Take the next logical step.
You see I was a virgin.
Up until then.
And the moment of consummation was rapidly coming upon us.
The state of our affection was such that there was no reason not to consummate it, on pain of betraying the (false) suggestion that we didn't really love each other that much.
So we set up a plan.
I slept out in Rick's backyard (with him), and she was home alone with her folks out of town.
The moment of Truth approached.
I got up to go at about 10:00, or midnight, or some time like that.
And walked all the way over to her house.
She was ready for me.
Even had a couple of quarts of beer out, to soften the blow.
Which was unusual for us because we never drank.
I was up too tight to bother with it.
You see I knew practically nothing about what we were going to do.
At the ripe old age of fifteen.
And I was scared to death.
But I loved her so much I knew I had to go through with it.
So we tried.
And we tried.
And we tried.
And we tried.
And we tried.
I don't think.
One of my complaints about logic, as it was taught in graduate school, in Philosophy, was that they insisted on the validity of what Aristotle called "the law of excluded middle."
The law of excluded middle says that a thing either is, or it isn't.
There isn't any in-between point.
Like it's raining.
Either it's raining or it's not.
There is no middle ground.
Either it is, or it isn't.
That's it; black or white.
Well, I had always maintained (to myself), what if it's "misting"?
That is, what if it's so misty that it's almost drizzling, but not quite raining.
There is a middle ground, I had always held (to myself), and the law of excluded middle, being a human law anyway, has to be arbitrary in most cases.
Well, one of the problems I have always had with that night was: did we or didn't we?
Nobody knows for sure.
It depends on how you define it.
And the definition must, it seems to me, remain rather arbitrary.
I still don't know whether I lost my virginity that night.
It depends on how you define it.
Needless to say, that was not the prime concern on my mind at the time.
It was a struggle for both of us.
Good old fear.
Our oldest and dearest friend.
How I love him.
He has given us so much peace and warmth and happiness.
But the real nightmare was just about to begin.
We didn't know anything about safes.
So, as I sneaked out of there, just before dawn, as the light of day was just beginning to dawn on the terrible atrocity that I had just committed, I passed by a crab apple tree and kissed my (psychological) virginity goodbye, with all the terrible consequences that that entails when one sets oneself free on the great and terrible ship of......immorality.
But it was worth it.
That was my last moment of peace and quiet. And innocence.
From that moment on, I was a criminal.
Open to all the just desserts that the criminal brings upon himself by his act of lawbreaking.
Naturally, in this case, for my sin, the just dessert would be that she get pregnant, that I have to drop out of school to marry her.
And not go to college.
And ruin my life.
Which was exactly what I had planned by the time I made it back to my sleeping bag in Ricky's backyard.
To make matters worse, I thereupon, as soon as the light of day struck a point where reasonable men begin to open their eyes, started searching the libraries of all my friends and acquaintances for literature pertaining to pregnancy.
To my profound horror I discovered that there were two or three hundred million little sperm that are given off at one shot.
I later found out from her that she was ripe, in just the right little time zone for the number 1 disaster to occur.
Now, while I had not done anything that could be construed as dangerous, I had been in the vicinity where such complications can occur, and so there was a chance that something had happened, after all.
And with the demonstrable fact in front of us that we had engaged in the morally reprehensible, that was surely enough weight to push the odds against us.
So I began to sweat it out.
And so did she.
We began talking about marriage, and how she still wanted to go to college, (she was going to be a senior, and I was going to be a sophomore).
Oh Lord, how did I ever let this happen.
Then the bad news came.
Or didn't come.
This was it!
I started praying.
I mean I learned how to pray!
I started making deals with God.
Right then and there.
I pleaded. I asked for a break. I swore never to break the law again, for as long as I lived.
Or, until I became married.
Whichever came first.
The next month came, and still no period.
My heart sank.
I started to get serious.
I made that prayer a constant thing, day and night.
I was sick to my stomach.
No. No. No.
Then she went to the doctor.
The doctor told her she had a thyroid problem.
And gave her some pills.
And her periods came back.
But that ended our relationship.
Good old sex.
Full of promise and glory.
Always a big payoff.
Right in the old.
She got tired of hauling me around in her daddy's car.
One day she told me that another guy had asked her out.
I asked her to do just one favor for me.
Not to kiss him goodnight.
That was it.