if i don't experience a sensation of being alive and in this body i am no more than a complicated robot programmed haphazardly functioning in a world i imagine i know but which is virtually a total mystery.
at fifteen i thought i knew everything. we took each day as it came and the worst thing that could happen was to be bored. later in life i constated that the state of disinterest is the state of consciousness which always preceded a natural shift to a higher level of awareness of my being.
we read "drugs and the mind" by robert s. de ropp, thomas de quincy's "confessions of an english opium eater", "the varieties of religious experience" by william james. then carlos casteneda came out with "don juan, a yaqui way of life", which cronicled casteneda's experiences with 'peote'. naturally, when you have free time on your hands and it's 1959 and you live in dull central florida, you will sometimes be drawn to a city like tampa. to see if we could succeed in 'the total derangement of the senses' as william blake phrased it.
a wild young man, tall and disheveled was bopping down the hill. s. and his brother bobby saw him. how bobby ever recognized a.j. monroe from a distance and from behind we'll never know except that it may have been the singular relaxed loping and the mop of very long waving hair bouncing that triggered his excited reaction. that was to shout at the top of his lungs… "a.j.!"
the figure turned quickly peering at the two brothers up the hill. a.j. had known bobby in acapulco for some months where they and their crowd of american drop-outs had cavorted; boys and girls of the 'new age' of liberation from the stultifying 50's. all were vacationing indefinitly and were for the most part penniless; each receiving an american express money order now and then from relatives back home.
they called it 'fred saves'. whenever anyone got one of these beautifully engraved stack of travelers checks everyone would eat. well the two boys were a.j.'s 'fred saves' because he was dead broke. he and his girl we called 'dirty sally' had driven down from chicago in a borrowed car with no back seat, a trunk full of dynamite and nothing else but the clothes on their backs.
the three now sped over to the "flaming buddha" to meet up with sally. the brothers were sailing on the artificial adrenalin of 'dexies'; ten milligram capsules of high octane timed dexidrine. everyone was talking at the same time as they burst into the dimly lit coffeehouse; the only 'real' coffee shop in tampa. it was broad daylight outside but as soon as they entered it was nighttime. double espressos boosted their 'high' and the talk expanded to politics, philosophy, eastern religions and an assortment of popular paranoia.
a.j. was not in the mood to drive so bobby took the wheel and squealed out down the brightly lit main drag of the seedy side of tampa. it was so well lit, this road, that the boy forgot to turn on the lights and in just a few minutes a horrible sound that puts the fear of god into everyone grew louder and louder. the fuzz.
busted. no registration, no insurance, no title, no drivers licence, no backseat, all looked a little suspicious to the cops. a further search turned up the bottle of dexidrine, a rusty pistol and the trunk full of dynamite. a.j. was a bit of an anarchist.
a.j. and sally were in their twenties and got a number of serious charges from the court. but all were charged with 'illegal possession of central nervous system stimulants' . that was a felony in the state of florida and florida was the only state which called it a felony. (that was due to the overuse of dexidrine and benzidrine by truck drivers who often saw things in the road which weren't there. they would swerve to miss the phantom of their hallucinating minds and could sometimes wreak a terrible amount of damage and death.)
chris, the elder stepbrother got pulled into the mess because it was he who had obtained the dexidrine. it was getting near christmas and the judge thought that the boys would be impressed by the ugliness of jail if they spent christmas there. so the judge put off sentencing the boys. they were assigned cells on opposite ends of the four tiered cell block of the hillsboro county jail. a couple of months would teach them a lesson. chris was given a choice, a sentence of five years or join the air force. he joined the air force and went straight to germany where he supplemented his pay smuggling gold and drugs from north africa, he later said.
bob, their father brought s. the complete works of shakespeare, darwin's "origin of the species" and the works of sigmund freud and carl jung. s. mostly slept all day and read all night. his walls and ceiling were papered with reproductions from magazines of famous paintings he loved. his cellmate was a man who had killed his unfaithful wife. he had escaped arrest, had plastic surgery and had lived in obscurity for many years. he was a perfect companion. he woke s. for meals. the story he told was how a sister in law turned him in. he would be in that cell for life. the budding artist did a pencil portrait of him which captured his sadness totally.
sometimes bobby would shout out from the corner of the first floor on the other side to s. on the fourth floor corner (which was the shower) and they would talk. sometimes they even played 'thought chess'.
the first day in jail s. felt the loss of freedom deeply. he was outraged and caged like an animal. his brain burned with impatience and his heart fumed. he cried.
but as the days and nights passed he lived for the little things and for reading. he memorized his favorite sonnets. he was fascinated by darwin's theories of evolution; like the way giraffes had tails to swat the flies and how their necks had stretched through milleniums to reach the leaves of tall trees. natural selection and survival of the fittest made sense to him. freud just made him sick but he went on reading.
the little things were the canteen wagon which appeared twice a day between meals. he could buy a candy bar, four oatmeal cookies and little packets of instant coffee. with the celophane from the cookies he made a little boat. he rolled toilet paper around his left hand about eight times, turned the two ends into the center and tapped them lightly to make them flat. when he lit the center it would burn gradually through the layers like a little sterno stove. with the boat full of water and holding the twisted ends of it he would watch patiently as the bubbles grew and rose to the surface. when it began steaming it was ready for the cup. sugar was not easily available but dunking the oatmeal cookies in the black coffee hit the spot.
it wasn't until february that the judge sentenced both the boys to two years probation. the judge gave a little lecture and hoped that they had learned their lesson. not really. but s. made a vow to be much more careful in the future. everything was o.k. if you just remember to turn on the car lights at night.
after a long bullshit session with bob anderson and a few artist friends it was decided that they would launch the first winter park art festival sometime in march. this gave s. an incentive to get back to work in casselberry so he would have something to show. people were buying his paintings now as fast as he could paint them. the gallery in town was constantly urging him to work more. so he did.