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Wednesday, May 03, 2017

What I did on spring break

Some of you have been wondered why I've been away so long. Funny story, that...

As you know, I am drawn to claims of the strange and unusual. Inevitably, I made my way to the historic Thompson Park in Watertown, New York, which features the New York State Zoo, a lovely golf course, swimming pools, tennis facilities, a playground, ski trails – and a space/time vortex.

From time to time (so to speak), people enter the vortex and disappear, only to reappear some distance away. Some pop into the future, while a few never return at all. The exact location of the portal seems to shift, but the area between the pavilion and the zoo entrance is considered the likeliest spot to experience timey-wimey wibbly-wobbliness. Although park workers deny the existence of this claimed phenomenon, locals have produced signs and t-shirts proclaiming Thompson Park to be Watertown’s “Area 51.” In one of those coincidences found only in real life and great fiction, “Watertown” is one of the many nicknames bestowed on the real Area 51 (or so says Wikipedia).

So there I was, sitting beneath the trees by the pavilion, reading books on a borrowed iPad mini. Hours passed; nothing happened. Then I went over to nearby soda machine, purchased a Dr. Pepper (even though such refreshments are verboten to a man with a heart condition), popped it open...

...and immediately found myself back in California. To be specific: I was on Sunset Boulevard.

It was exactly as it was when I first visited Sunset Boulevard in the late 1960s, with guitar-strumming hippies partying nonstop on the sidewalk in front of the Tiffany Theater, despite the best efforts of the pigs to run them off. Transistor radios played "I am the Walrus" beneath massive billboards for "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "The Green Berets."

Home! I was home! I was on Sunset Boulevard, the epicenter of Los Angeles hippie culture, precisely 49 years ago -- just before Everything Went Wrong.

As you might imagine, I wanted to stay. Who in his right mind would want to return to 2017, to the era of Trump? Who wouldn't prefer to settle down in 1968? True, I would be simultaneously too young and too old to appreciate the pre-AIDs era of Love Power. But what of it? 2001 was playing in Cinerama at the Hollywood Pacific, The Prisoner would soon be showing on network television, and Stan and Jack were still making the most mind-blowing comics in the history of the medium. Some people retire in their favorite state. I chose to retire in my favorite year.

And so I spent several days grooving with the groovy flower people, who loaned me some bread and love beads. They were quite amused by the scraggly-bearded old guy who sang songs from a Beatles album that wouldn't be released until November. "It'll be all white," I told them. "No words at all on the cover. And there'll be this song called "Martha My Dear," and everyone will wonder what it's about because nobody knows that Martha is Paul's dog. And then there will be a Beatles cowboy song called "Rocky Raccoon" and a really stupid one called "Bungalow Bill" and another one called "Piggies" and "Sexy Sadie" and of course the most notorious Beatles song of all time..."

That's when it hit me. I had come here for a purpose.

The Universe had brought me to this time and place in order to correct a cosmic injustice, to right a great wrong and thereby prevent all of the wrongs that would follow thereafter. By stopping this one great evil, I could insure the defeat of Richard Nixon and bring an early end to the Vietnam War. Reagan would never have a more powerful position than the one he held at this very moment -- governor of California. Few would know or care about the Bushes. Trump? No way.

In short and in sum: My task was to make sure that Robert F. Kennedy would not die at the Ambassador Hotel on July 6, 1968. The date was little more than a month away.

Kennedy would surely win the election in November. He would stop the war and open an inquiry into his brother's death. This, in turn, would result in the trial and conviction of Jim Angleton and Richard Helms. There would be a reformation of the entire American political system. An end to corruption and covert manipulation.

I had it within my power to send America on a course of nonstop cosmic grooviness.

A plan began to formulate in my mind. To put it into action, I needed an assistant: A free-spirited, attractive female -- someone that a insecure, insular young man like Sirhan Sirhan would find irresistible. Most of all, she had to be sufficiently open-minded to believe my story.

The choice was obvious.

I asked the Groovy Flower People if anyone among them could give me a ride to the San Fernando Valley -- specifically, to Chatsworth Park. "I have a plan to end the Vietnam War," I explained. Within minutes, I found myself riding in back of a 21-window VW minivan, singing "Aquarius" with ten other people.

I spent the night sleeping in a cave above Chatsworth Park north -- a cave nestled among the red rocks of the Santa Susannah Pass, a landscape familiar to me from boyhood. The next morning, three girls woke me up.

Squeaky took an immediate dislike to me. And why shouldn't she? I was old and chubby and probably reminded her of her father. For a moment, I considered warning her against the idiotic act she would commit roughly seven years hence. But any such warning might lead to a contretemps which could bring a premature end to my main mission. That mission, if successful, would save Lynette Fromme from spending many years in prison.

"I need to talk to you privately," I said to one of  the three. "Please, I beg you." Her only reply was a suspicious squint. I told her: "I remember meeting you before."

"Where?" she asked. "When?"

"Forty-nine years ago. Although it might have been yesterday. Or maybe it hasn't happened yet." This being the 1960s, cryptic statements of that sort could only increase my Grooviness Quotient.

"Your name is Susan Denise Atkins," I told her. "Your Sunday School teacher was a Mrs. Barstow. Your mother died of cancer. Your late brother's name was Bill. You attempted suicide as a teenager. You moved to San Francisco in 1966 and spent time with Anton LaVey."

"Is that where we met?"

"No," I said. "When I met you the first time, I was nine years old. My friend Russ and I ran into you when you were sitting on a rock up in those hills over there. You asked about the comic books we were reading. My friend and I spent about an hour telling you the plots of the books we had with us. There was a one-shot called Phantom Eagle by Herb Trimpe, and an issue of Thor where he loses his powers because Odin is mad at him. They'll use that same plot in the first movie."

None of this made an impact on her. When Squeaky said something about going to get Charlie, I decided to vamoose. Before leaving, I told Susan that she could find me in the park, but I would tell her more only if she came alone.

That very afternoon, something happened which forced her to believe my tale. In yet another one of those astonishing coincidences that occur only in real life and great fiction, she encountered Russ and my nine-year-old self. Yes, that very day. Apparently, the accurate description of the Thor comic had an enormous impact on her.

As the sun lowered, she came to meet me. We had a private conversation at a picnic table in the park. What a lovely creature! For a moment, I regretted being so old -- and so young. How could such a pretty girl -- so soft-spoken, so naive -- be seduced into participating in a night of atrocity?

I explained that a time portal in New York had brought me there from the year 2017. As proof, I showed her the Dr. Pepper can: The pop top would not enter the marketplace until the 1980s.

"Oh wow," she said. "Why didn't you say so?"

She accepted the claim without question. It was the 1960s. Unless you lived then, you wouldn't understand.

I told her that I had come to prevent the assassination of RFK and thereby bring an early end to the Vietnam War. "But I'm also here to prevent you from making a horrible mistake."

This was the hardest part of my task. How to tell her about the ghastly, unforgivable deed which would make her one of the most hated people in the world?

The best course of action, it seemed, was to let her explain everything to herself.

"In the coming years, you will write two books. The first will come out in 1974. It'll be kind of religious. The second won't come out until 2012." I didn't tell her that it would be published three years after her death.

As it happened, I had both books stored on the iPad, along with Ed Sander's 2016 biography of Sharon Tate. The sight of this futuristic device erased any doubts she may have had about my claims. I told her to read quickly, since the tablet had only a few hours of juice, and we were nowhere near a power outlet.

Despite all of the evidence within her very hands, she refused to believe that Charlie could be capable of such monstrous actions. "Don't you get it?" I said. "He keeps telling you that society is doomed. It isn't. It can be saved. You and I are going to save it. All we have to do is prevent a murder from happening on June 6 of this year."

I told her my plan. We would have to track down the accused killer, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, who was known to frequent the library at the Philsophical Research Center near Griffith Park. "I'm still not sure about his exact role in the assassination. The cops will say that he fired all the bullets, but I think that there will be another shooter. I'm pretty sure that Sirhan's been placed in some kind of hypnotic trance. We need to find him. I think that you can unhypnotize him. Hopefully, he'll be able to tell us who's really pulling the strings."

"Why me?" She found it hard to believe that she could play any role in breaking the trance.

I smiled. "You're key my whole plan. I know he'll like you. By any chance, would you happen to own a polka dot dress?"

She didn't. We'd have to get one at Zody's.

And that, my friends, is all I can tell you today. On a later occasion, I'll describe the meeting between Susan Atkins and Sirhan -- and I'll relate the story of my disastrous encounter with Mayor Sam Yorty and his guru Manley Palmer Hall, who proved to be surprisingly well-informed on the topic of time portals. He is the one who upended my scheme to save America, and who forced me to return to this dreadful year.
Funny I have been doing a lot of that too. But with a different scenarios
In 1968 most delegates were chosen at state conventions controlled by party bosses. Primaries were the exception, not the rule. Kennedy could not have won the nomination even if he and McCarthy had won all the primaries. The only way he would have gotten the nomination is if he had been shot and survived. But, his presence may have moved Humphrey (who would have been a great president) further to the left on the war. Humphrey was pretty far left on all the other issues.
So why not return you to one or two seconds after your departure? Dr Who would not approve of the vortex's lack of subtlety. :-)
A terrible night in June 1968. My first vote in any presidential contest. I too had hope, I hope never regained.
Cool stuff (and if she said "cool", it would have had only one syllable).

If you still have your original, look again: it has two words on the front cover and a serial number.
Ameilie: My original WHAT? Are you referring to a copy of the White Album? I never owned a copy, although Russ did. For some reason, he was obsessed with that idiotic Bungalow Bill song.

David: Manley Palmer Hall is the one who knew about this stuff. I'm told that the original hardboard edition of "Secret Teachings of All Ages" had a section on how to control a time vortex.

Joseph: RFK would have crushed everyone else during the remaining primaries. Momentum and mystique would have forced the party leaders to choose him. I accept the story that Daley had been turned around and would have supported Bobby.
Not surprising, friggin Manley.

If you get back there, drop in and say hi to Doc Sportello.

Good to have you back here.
There was only one primary left after California in 1968, that being Illinois. But there were only 15 primaries altogether. One other problem Bobby had was that McCarthy viewed him as a Johnny-come-lately to the process. The party machinery still ran the convention and I think that Humphrey would have gotten the nomination, and that is said as one who was at the Hilton as a McCarthy supporter during the convention, By the way, I don't know why I have gone from joseph to Joseph Spiezer.
I'm just astonished that you approved our comments 49 years before they were written.
Prop: Obviously, I made arrangements in Watertown while waiting for the vortex's effects to kick in.

Tom: Will do. And let me say that I'm a little surprised, at this time of life, to find myself living south of the Mason/Dixon line, though not far south. I would have purchased a Cherry Coke instead of a Dr. Pepper, if the machine had offered that choice.
Speculative nonfiction, love it!

And who knew "vortex" oddities are really caused by energy....grids.

joseph: you have to be careful, the newish default is "google account" with the full name. Anonymous used to be the default, now it's the last selection. Since you can make up any nym in the Name/URL section, you can be uniquely anonymous there!
What a great way to return! Too bad your plan failed. Much like our country seems to be doing......
There did seem to be a sense, an aura of Cherrycoke, despite commercial unavailability. Thanks!
I was in Los Angeles, in my freshman year in college, when RFK was assassinated. I had gone to gone to big, big rally of his at the Hollywood Bowl just a few days previous. No question he was going to win California, and go on to win the nomination. The Democrats, yes, even the big-city Machine Democrats, loved all of the Kennedy's, and it was obvious at the rally that he was the only one to have a rainbow coalition of all the elements of the Democratic Party .... he had the unions, the Latinos, the antiwar folks, African-Americans, the progressive idealists, women, and young people. Nixon was old, stale, and tired. His one and only gimmick was scaring old white people, and his famous tendency to lie whenever it suited him.

Joe is right that a great deal of history would have been different if RFK had lived. NASA, for one thing, would have continued, and the Vietnam War would have been brought to an orderly end. LBJ's War on Poverty would have continued and been expanded ... and back then, there was a serious prospect of completely eliminating poverty in this country. The WoP was actually pretty successful, and if it had been continued, would have changed the face of American society. The USA would now be a much higher-tech (thanks to NASA spinoffs) social democracy, kind of like Switzerland or the Scandinavian countries today.
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