Q.M.I. Presents
The Blackboard Newspaper
Mystical Journey
 
 

The Underground Newspaper

by Dr. Derek Lamar

 

I ran away from home when I had just turned 17 with the hopes and dreams of becoming a rock and roll star. I am sure you have heard that story before. Perhaps you tempted yourself with that fantasy a time or two yourself. Long story short, I began selling newspapers on Sunset Boulevard during the aprocryphal 1960's where everything you heard was probably true.

It was a short time before I left the confines of my luxurious rat infested dwelling in the basement of the Fifth Estate Coffee House and was soon living in another flop house of sorts (a commune called Rivendell) which ironically was a block away from an underground newspaper called Open City.

I wanted to write music but up to that point my musical skills were limited and poetry/lyrics were the best I could contribute. I was urged to meet the people at the newspaper down the street. Quickly I was hired... as a volunteer. I began proof-reading and making typo corrections on a rather primitive light table with exacto blade in one hand and scotch tape in the other. I wasn't stupid, but I was pretty ignorant.

(Above Right: recent Open City issue published in San Francisco with early logo)

(Above Left: Herald Examiner building: "He thought it would be fun to run a newspaper." ~ Citizen Kane)

I rapidly began soaking up everything around me and learned about the newspaper business from the sponge side up. They had a gay nudist typesetter upstairs who loved it when unsuspecting visitors walked in on him unannounced. He was more than happy to stand up and shake their hand. The gasps and giggles were always enough to make his day even though he would pretend it was just an annoyance. The editor, never far away, was a real newspaper man. He quit the Herald Examiner (Hearst paper and L.A. Times competition) in protest when they wanted a famous rennaissance painting of the Christ child to have airbrushed genitals... he refused.

                                                  
(Right: Timothy Leary, all dressed up for one last trip)

Every day was exciting. The office was crowded with strange and amusing people. I met them all. They became part of the circus in my head as I tried to create a new life for myself. There were people there to put in classified ads in the personal section. There were record company execs there to get write-ups on their latest psychedelic bands (this was Hollywood in 1967 and the summer of love was soon to make history across the nation). Volunteers were scattered here and there. The editor's wife, nicknamed "SuperMother" was busy taunting the guests with stories about the rubber babies in the closet and how she also had whips and chains for the more adventurous.

                                                          (Right: Herald Examiner in the 60's)

It probably sounds like a bad trip on belladonna to some, but it was a magnificent unfoldment which I took in stride at the time . I would sort it all out later and begin to actually see how the script of who I was to become was being written somewhere off in the wings.

I was about to be promoted. The editor and his wife took a liking to me and suddenly I was asked if I would baby-sit their two children for them. I would live in the house, get a modest weekly wage and be required to take care of the kids. I jumped at the chance. I was already "on the lamb" as a runaway and suddenly having room and board and a job was close to miraculous. I had no idea what work was up to that point. Suddenly I had to clean house, prepare meals, do shopping, change diapers, constantly be on call, answer the phone, serve guests, and NO DRUGS. I had to learn damn fast. And yet... I now had a relatively "safe" home where I could be free of my childhood nightmares.
The first surprise was a post card I found lying on the dining room bureau. It was from Allen Ginsberg. I soon learned my way around the house and through the library. I began reading. The first book I chose was The Psychedelic Experience: The Tibetan Book Of The Dead by Timothy Leary, who I wouldn't actually meet until 1986 in Bakersfield of all places. Among the furnishings I became acquainted with included Charles Bukowski who seemed to be there several times a week. I was quick to replace his beer whenever it was empty, especially at the weekly staff meetings.

(Left: Alan Ginsberg impersonating Sigmund Freud in lotus position) (Right: Timothy Leary... Jail Notes)

My world was filled with new and colorful people everyday and even though I was in the thick of it I began to observe it almost as an outsider from the beginning. I had to run a message over to the office in front and found the editor, John Bryan, standing at the front door talking with two bikers. He introduced them to me. They were Mexican Ed, leader of the motorcycle gang called the Galloping Gooses and Sonny Barger, of course, from the Hell's Angels. I shook their hands. Mexican Ed had a firm sincere grip and Sonny acted like he'd rather not touch you at all, but he shook nonetheless. I nervously chatted a bit and was soon on my way. I wasn't oblivious to what was happening to me. And despite the discomfort of having to deal with people I didn't know, I began to learn that everyone was different.

(Left: Sonny Barger, leader of the Hell's Angels: the Stanley "Twookie" Williams of a long time ago.) (Lower Right: Neal Cassady)
Neal Cassady came and stayed with us for a week. It was the week before he died. Neal was one of the famous "Band of Merry Pranksters" out of San Francisco, who, with Ken Kesey, Jack Kerouac and others, would amuse themselves and terrorize others as they drove about in their "magic bus". Neal was the character Jack wrote about in the book On The Road. I had no idea what that meant until much later.

From the beginning it seemed normal that everyday was an episode out of some famous French novel about the eccentricities of the artists of the day. It would take time before I would understand the metaphysical implications of all of this and how it was writing a script of sorts within me which would aid me later in my own self discovery. Why was I here? Who were all of these people to me? Was I really on the outside or was all of this happening inside of me? Was there a destiny in life or was it all coincidence and fate, particles and waves, white wine or red?

(Art Kunkin's Los Angeles Free Press, right, was John Bryan's friendly rival, both previously worked together in San Francisco.)

Next issue the saga continues with Charles Bukowski, Ernest Hemingway, Neal Cassady, Chris Bunch, Velikovsky... all waiting for the "Magic Bus". Next Installment: Neal Cassady Meets Charles Bukowski.
© 2003 Derek Lamar
 
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