Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Ultimate Victorian

"Sorry, the lock's a little one's
been in  it for years." The agent, Mike,
was  a genial WASP,  originally from New
York. Frank was looking for the  old Nob
Hill brownstone where he'd have the right 
environment to write his book about the
hippie scene  in San Francisco, particularly
that time in 1967 when  the newly spawned
acid heads had formed a kind of  communal
alternative to American  society that lasted 
until the media got wind of it and popularized
it and ruined it for everybody. For a while
there, maybe a year  at most, wanderers and
seekers could come to San Fran and find
free food, housing, medical attention and pure 
LSD. Once the spread came out in Life
magazine, every  near-do-well in the USA that
could read "On The Road"  headed there for
drugs, free love and rock and roll. That  put
the  kibosh on the scene. Frank was interested
in  trying to capture what the atmosphere had 
been like back then...smoky halls with organ
music echoing off the walls... people drifting
between endless vast rooms in various
altered states...chance meetings with people
that opened  up new worlds. He imagined De
Quincey in London walking in a fog to one of
his coffee houses, Baudelaire and Swinburne
in their drawing rooms...

"There...go ahead in...I left my clip board
in the car. Just be a sec."

Frank opened the door and stepped into
the vestibule. It  seemed as if he was
suddenly hit with a blast of...atmosphere
is the right word; as if he'd opened a hot
oven and instead of being hit with hot air,
he was hit with with an environment.  It
was like walking into a  Tibetan monastery,
or Chartres Cathedral or the impressionist
wing of the Art Institute of  Chicago for the
first time. He noticed the haze and the long 
windows, the yellowing lace curtains...then
he realized the haze was smoke, drifting
from ancient pipes and lingering from
cigarettes in abandoned ashtrays. How
could there still be smoke  there after all
these years? Then, he began to hear faint
music  from a farther room. He walked
into a vast hall with chaise  lounges on
the sides, several areas with couches
and arm chairs,  coffee tables. He noticed
shapes on some of the furniture that
looked like sacks or, maybe they were
mannequins, he thought,  until he realized
that they were actually people in repose,
asleep  or drifting. Why he wasn't shocked
to see people there felt a bit strange. He
walked further into the hall, heading
towards the music.  He went into different
rooms. There were a few people there,
walking around or talking quietly in twos,
but this also he didn't find  unusual. He
didn't interact with anyone, nor did anyone
seem to  notice   him more than slightly.
Frank actually felt relaxed and at  home, as
if he'd just gotten back from a long trip.
He had no idea  why he felt this way.
He just accepted it.

He walked into an atrium, a space with a
domed skylight and  many large potted
trees and other plants. A handful of people
were  listening to the musician playing in the
center. The ubiquitous haze  of smoke was
a bit more subtle. The performer was playing
a  stringed instrument, a lute or guitar, that
had a sound resembling  sitar. He couldn't say
if the music was creating a feeling, or if the 
atmosphere he was in was creating the music.
The notes reminded him of water falling.
They kept repeating like Pachelbel's canon or 
a theme in  Beethoven. 

He sat on on a bench at the side of the room,
listening to the music. A man walked by and,
as he passed, stopped and handed him a 
cigarette. He knew it was a joint and it seemed
natural to take a big toke. 

"What is this place?"

"Why, Xanadu*, of course."

"How did I get here?"

"You woke up."

Frank didn't know what to make of that, but he
knew he wasn't  going anywhere fast. Whether
what he was experiencing was real, or whether
he had stumbled upon some strange sort of 
living theatre, or if he was in a coma in a
hospital somewhere,  he didn't care. It was too
good to be true.


At July 12, 2017 at 2:30 PM , Blogger John Tischer said...

At July 12, 2017 at 3:58 PM , Blogger John Tischer said...

At July 12, 2017 at 7:35 PM , Blogger John Tischer said...

*Xanadu: Shambhala, Eden, Paradise, Valhalla, whatever
you like.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home