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December 2016




  

San Francisco 1978
Part IX
Article By: Cornelia Benavidez


I was bone tired after the concert and found myself in front of Cassie’s and Harry’s door knocking softly. Cassie opened the door and asked right away, “Milk or wine? I am just getting the girls down to sleep.”

I plopped down in a kitchen chair and told Cassie all about the concert. At about the middle of my tale Harry came home, grabbed a glass, and listened while I finished.

“It sounds like I missed quite a concert. I have been hearing that the Dead Kennedy’s are the next big thing to the “Screamers”

I just don’t understand why they picked such a name “Dead Kennedy’s” seems disrespectful, sad and kinda creepy.” I said, grumbling thoughtfully.

Harry chuckled. “Punk is about inner rage that becomes in-your-face emotions. Remember, the Punk movement comes out of the workers’ movement in the British Isles and a rebellion against tradition and modern classism. The family of the Kennedy’s were a curious mixture of the old and new. The fact that they were cut down so brutally in front of everyone has been a terrible national shock that we still have not recovered from. So, this is a different kind of outcry, I think.”

“That is an interesting way of looking at it and I think you may be right.” I slipped off the chair and made a little turn. “Take a good look because I am never wearing this dress again.”




Cassie’s eyes flew opened then blinked “Oh yes, yes . . . that dress has got to go, in fact I noticed a bunch of new clothes in the free box. You should check it out. Oh, and speaking of checking out did you see this? You have a driver’s license, right? “

She handed me the newspaper and pointed to an ad for a driver and counselor for a home for the elderly. “I will check it out, thanks!” I passed the free box on my way up to my room and found a pair of mauve polyester pants in a very business-like cut. This with my standard white shirt from my bartending days in collage would do just fine. I also found a bit of white ribbon to weave into my side braid. Now all I needed was a good night’s sleep.

This job was far away, so I got up early to ride the bus to the other end of the city. The bus was packed, which took me back for some reason to the days I sat with my family in the pews of my hometown church. Sometimes it had seemed like forever for the people to amble in and take their place. My mother would whisper to me to watch the people and ask myself, “where did they come from? What do they do? Are they happy or sad?” So I found myself trying to play my old game as the bus lumbered on and as people got on and off. The bus was so full with so many kinds of people from all over the world, and I found myself trying to guess their country or culture and religion; after about 45 minutes my mind drifted. I found myself thinking how an objective God or Alien might behold us. Are we judged by our individual hearts and minds? Or, perhaps more likely by how we live and behave in our communities and by our choices. What is the best way to live one’s life in such a complex modern world?.




I caught sight of her out of the corner of my eye as she hopped on the bus, as spry as a child. I took note that she was very petite with light olive brown skin deep grey eyes and angler features--perhaps she’s in her late forties though she appeared younger. Her straight black hair just over her shoulders was loose. She wore a simple jumper type dress that did not somehow look modern and an odd purple/brown color. Our eyes locked for a second I smiled and then I averted my eyes, not wanting to appear rude. I heard a clear voice say “You just have to decide.” I looked up to see her looking straight at me yet still I glanced side to side.

“You know I am talking to you” Her voice was so clear with no accent of any kind. No one around us blinked an eye or moved. “What do you mean?” I ask her.

...“You know that, too.”

My mind was racing in several directions This person could not be reading my mind.

“Just pick one”

“Just pick one what?”

She rolled her eyes. “Religion, just pick one. Any one. They all are good from the Christians to the witches to the Buddhists. Just pick one, any one of them. They all have their virtues if practiced with devotion, good intention and love.”




I was amazed, fascinated, and horrified, all at the same time. I somehow managed to pull myself together and replied, “What if I do not want to choose?”

“Then you will be unhappy because you are too kind not to have a spiritual life. Just pick one, anyone. It will be so much easier for you.”

“What happens if I pick more than one, like two or three?” I asked.

“You risk then getting confused”

“What if I love all faiths? All human ways of loving God and/or Goddess?”

Her face took on a stressed look. “That is very hard to do. You should just pick one,” she repeated, and pulled the cord to take the next stop.

“I do not know if I can. All I can promise is that I will work hard to grow and be the best person I can be while trying to love and understand God.




The bus rattled to a stop and the strange little women started down the stairs at the front of the bus. “It will not be easy. Do not lose yourself. “she warned while gracefully hopping off the bus. She quickly blended into the crowd. I settled back in my seat while I looked at the faces around me. From the bus driver to those sitting and standing around me, no one seemed to indicate that they had heard any of the conversation, even though we had spoken just loud enough to hear each other clearly above the bus noise. Who was she? I tried to use my observation skills but there was nothing that stood out. Racially she could have been Central American or Gypsy or Portuguese or even French or Greek. Her clothes or speech gave nothing away either. How did she know what I was thinking? “Did she just guess? Why would she care to address me? She did not even bother asking my name. Then again neither did I ask for hers. Still, how did she know what I was thinking? I was finally where I needed to go so I pulled myself together as I left the bus, feeling confident at least in what I was wearing.

After speaking to a very crisp business-like woman and filling out an application I was happy to head back to Project One. I had been getting by so far by doing small jobs. I narrowly missed being out on the street because the non-profit for which I’d been sitting the room got a better deal somewhere else. However, by sheer luck the smallest space in the building had opened. I was surprised by an official letter that had been shoved under my door that informed me that since I was writing my own music as well as singing other cover material this qualified me as an artist and I would be allowed to stay as long as I paid my rent. The space was about 18 by 14 feet, maybe a little larger, and had a loft in which one could fit a full-size bed. It was 5 feet in the air with a cave-like space underneath. I needed to pay first and last which was 160 dollars, my sister and father helped me with the money. Shirley and some friends from the building helped me obtain a large refrigerator box, which we painted. One of the guys found an old broom. Harry cut off the brush part and I struck it through holes on either side and, viola, so created was a very serviceable wardrobe. One of the basement guys came running up the back stairs right by my door. “Do you want a rug?” he panted. “The fancy office up the street just got new carpet and there is really nice clean white shag like carpet in the dumpster.” We ran down the block and I could not believe my eyes. “This is really expensive carpet.” I observed. “Well, finders’ keepers,” said Harry and we dove in. On the way back I saw some boards and some 4x 4x10 blocks in the loading dock, which I also grabbed. “What’s that for?” asked Shirley “Hopefully it will turn into a Japanese table” I grinned. It all got done with a borrowed hammer and some donated nails. I was told where there were paints of all colors that were up for grabs. Laying a thick layer of newspaper over my rug and borrowing some brushes (I was threatened with bodily harm if I did not clean them proper before returning them.) I now painted a mural on one of my walls corner to corner ceiling to floor. On my table sat a crock-pot that was my house-warming gift and a few candles. A knock on the door and there were some third-floor people with this huge bright yellow metal desk, very scratched up and quite hideous. “We are lugging this monstrosity down to the loading dock but it occurred to us you might want it.” said the two sweaty young men hopefully. It fit perfectly right underneath my window with its metal chair. A few touch ups with yellow paint and it was fine and useful.




.... During this time, there were many discussions while people around me also worked feverishly. The Anti-nuke people had put up a large map that showed how many underground and above ground nuclear tests had happened in just this year. The Pope John Paul that was greeted with such love by the people to replace the Pope who had died was now also dead. Rumors spread that it was murder which added to the mixture of anxiety and hope in San Francisco and on the world stage. It was one thing after another. Keith Moon dies, and Sid Vicious is accused of murdering his girlfriend Nancy. Sid also dies of an overdose thirty days later. Yet in between these sad events the San Francisco music scene was exploding with creative passion both with local Bay Area bands, such as the Flamin’ Groovies, Leila and the Snakes, Dead Kennedys, The Avengers, The Mutants, The Dead, Jefferson Starship, Santana, The Tubes, and so many others. Bands from all over the country and even the world that wanted to experience the sites and vibe of San Francisco were also adding to the scene.

In the coffee shops, there was deep discussions about religion and spirituality. Was there a deeper meaning to the death of two Popes and who would be next? The earthquakes and general unrest in so many parts of the world were balanced against hard won social humanitarian values such as the Camp David accords, Native Americans who marched from San Francisco to Washington DC. to stop eleven bills that were threatening fishing, hunting and land rights. In SF, Harvey Milk championed the rights of Gay people not to be fired from jobs, especially teachers, because they were Gay. Soon I started hearing about people coming out of the broom closet. The called themselves Witches, the Priestesses and Priests of the Pagan traditions. There were several different branches with roots going back to the old world. Mystics. Shamans and Witches fought to be recognized and struggled to be acknowledged. They demanded to have their needs and rights won be it on military headstones or in prisons. They wanted to practice in peace outdoors and be respected. Druids, Wiccans, Native Americans, and even Buddhists and Hindus found themselves at the same rallies, marches and conferences.




I was finally feeling a bit more secure even though I still did not have a steady job. Shirley assured me that it took her a while as well. She eye-balled me as we sat in my new home and said flatly “You’re lonely. You miss your pets back home.” Shirley so knows me. I thought and I sheepishly respond, “I was thinking of getting a kitten. They don’t eat much and it’s better than trying to get my dog who is with my parents and happy there even though she misses me.” Shirley smiled and said, “Let’s go”

We took a bus to animal control and they were happy to see us. Cats and kittens galore. A nice young woman said let me give you the grand tour. We were taken down rows of cages and to my shock this was not a bunch of alley cats. Many were pure bred cats. “These are not park cats” I say. “No they are not” the girl answered “Some cost their former owners 2 to 6 hundred dollars. They just could not keep them for one reason or another.” “Well I was looking for a kitten,” I responded. The women shrugged We walked by a whole wall of black cats of all kinds most of them looked quite pissed. I came to a stop. “Why so many black cats?” I asked. The answer was that “People tend not to adopt black cats because they are too superstitious or too Christian or they just don’t like black”. It was a little overwhelming. “Why don’t you pick one” suggested Shirley. About 20 to 30 eyes looked down at me. A few meowed. Right in front of me lying on their back up against the bars was a very large black cat with amazing green eyes looking very unconcerned. I bent over and said “Hey beautiful. You look like you’re not worried about a thing.” “Well she should be” muttered our guide sourly. I wanted out of there and turn away but the cat somehow with a perfect languid grace grabbed my shirt and pulled me back. “OMG” said Shirley “She wants you!” She almost pushed the surprised girl back to the cage door who opened it. The Cat stretched and I could almost hear it say “About time” She rubbed her head on my jeans to then stand up on her hind legs giving this wicked coy look. “Look at how shiny she is!“ Shirley was totally taken by this vixen of a cat. I grabbed the card by the cage it read: “Two year old Bombay purebred. Previous owner Doctor that moved to New Zealand. Name Psyche”. The young women said “She had been here a over a month I never have seen her act this way it’s like she knows.” “Knows what?” I ask. The girl sighed “See the red mark on the card she is due to be put down tomorrow. We tried to place her but she was cold and unresponsive we kept her as long as we could because she is so beautiful. You could take her for a week and see how you get along and if you bring her back it will buy her four more days.” “We will take her”. said Shirley.




The next thing I knew I was releasing my new kitty on my floor at Project One. Psyche surveyed the room she seemed to get this Betty Davis cock to her head then she flopped on the rug looking up at me with this “What a dump” look in her eyes, but at least the rug seemed to be acceptable. For the next two days Psyche, would not let me touch her and stared at me in an inscrutable fashion. I called Shirley and told her that I thought this cat must have had a very spoiled life. It was two days later as I was in my robe and nightgown getting ready for bed when there is a knock on the door. It was two guys who were Project One “Guests” with whom I sometimes shared a crockpot stew with, especially when they brought a contribution. Between the two of them hung what looked like an unconscious guy which they dumped on my carpet much to the annoyance of Psyche and myself. “Who is this?” I asked.

The guys shuffled “He’s famous, He has played with all kinds of bands but he is kind of not doing too good right now.”

“Indeed.




Why did you bring him here?”

“He was drunk, loaded and raving on the streets, was pissing people off. He was gonna get himself killed and it’s getting really cold outside now at night.”

“Why did you not take him to the Salvation Army?”

“Aww, Cornelia, that’s hauling his ass such a long way and they will not take a person that cannot walk into the place. They would call the police. He really is famous, you know, and a gentleman. He won’t hurt you, honest.”

I wanted to go back to bed. “Well this famous epitome of virtue stinks. Take him to the shower, clean him up and there should be some clothes in the free box that will fit him. I will put him in my sleeping bag and he better not piss in it. And see that cat?

“Man….That’s one seriously intense cat,”

“Yes, she is now please clean him up.”




They came back about 30 minutes later with said famous person wearing some old jeans and a pink women’s polyester shirt with ruffles down the front. The guys whispered to me “Tell him it’s very David Bowie lookin.” He was mumbling some as they tucked him in my sleeping bag and then headed out the door promising to be back to collect their friend tomorrow.

I was just about to close my door when there was another knock. What The Hell! I could not believe this. Even for Project One it was getting late. Yet, here at my door was a woman from the 3rd floor who was said to be a writer and was one of the building’s longest residents holding a large black and brown rabbit, which she shoved into my arms. “This is Balboa. He is a pretty old rabbit, the last living animal from the urban farm on the roof.” She launched on. “His hutch is falling apart and I travel a lot and he will die up there if no one cares for him. The Butch-dyke witch on the second floor said that you would take him. Thank you.” She turned on heel and walked away then walked back handing me a small bag of rabbit food. “You do know how to talk care of a Rabbit?” “Yes, but . . . ” I attempted to respond.




The third floor writer walked away again, saying over her shoulder, “She said you were most likely one of those soft hearted witchy types”

Balboa was weighing a ton in my arms so I put him down on the floor and he hopped right over to Psyche. They sniffed noses and started to chase each other around the snoring body on my floor. As Dorothy, I was not wearing her dress any more, yet somehow I managed to turn into Alice after all.

CORNELIA BENAVIDEZ is writing under the alias of C.B. DOYLE, She released her first novel "IN THE SHADOW OF THE OTHER" which is on Amazon.












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