Neo-American Church

Chapter 42


War, and the knights of the realm divided into a king’s party and a Sir Launcelot’s party.

Defending oneself against governmental tyranny in the United States is always primarily a financial problem, unless you’re rich or have the backing of someone who is. The conviction rate in federal prosecutions is close to 99 percent, higher than what it was in Nazi Germany.

The whole system would collapse if the vast majority of those arrested and jailed were not forced by poverty to plead guilty because of an inability to do all the things which members of the oligarchy regard as routine: to make bail and hire genuine lawyers, private detectives and witnesses; to bribe the police and judges and media and/or finance and support their rivals for election or appointment; to blackmail and intimidate and sue and expose and entrap everyone on the other side; to get them fired and/or force them into debt and buy and call all their paper; to issue threats or offers of more lucrative employment to cause them to defect and inform and sabotage their own cases; to appeal all adverse rulings to higher courts and, all else failing, to lower one’s problem into those Stygian depths where the laws themselves are made and unmade, and the word “corruption” is meaningless, there being nothing with which to contrast it.

The Hitchcocks had the kind of money it takes to hire the most devious extortionists produced by the most prestigious law schools in the country to do all of the above. Had they done so, “Sieg” Heilman, the district attorney, and Quinlan, the county sheriff, might have ended up shoveling shit in the Hitchcock Cattle Company cow barns and tugging their forelocks when Billy and Tommy, their lords and masters and probation officers, passed by on horseback.

An apprehension of such unwelcome outcomes was the reason why the owners’ magnificent residence on the hill was treated as if it were a mysterious phantasm during all the invasions of their domain made by the forces of law and order during the period that is covered by this book. The Bungalow could be seen by everyone else around, but it was invisible to the police. It wasn’t that the cops avoided the place, no, they almost always came in by way of the east gate, right past Hurdle’s house, and sometimes exchanged jocular remarks with him, and then went right past his employer’s house.

By pretending that the Bungalow wasn’t there, Sieg avoided stimulating powerful, instinctive defensive reactions in those who had the means to squash a scuttling little political roach like himself, and might even have been able to injure his masters.

Despite all the complaining that went on, those of us taking the heat put very little pressure on Billy and Tommy to do more than they did during the final months.

The rich, to a large extent justifiably, tend to equate the preservation of their capital with their health, safety, peace of mind and self-esteem, and by an unjustifiable extension, with all good, true and beautiful things in general. Wealth isn’t everything, but it seems to support, nourish and protect everything. When it came down to the wire, Billy and Tommy put the conservation of their wonderful magical powers ahead of their recently formed and inchoate religious convictions and the protection of their vassals, friends and fellow fanatics, however one cares to sort us out, just as Sieg Heilman knew they would.

And what price would the rest of us have paid? If someone had handed me a million dollars, how much would I have risked on the defense of Millbrook as it was then constituted? The laws being what they had become since ’64, not a dime. I would have emigrated to The Netherlands, or fled with my loot to some other relatively sane and safer place. Tim had a house in Berkeley. Did he sell it? Of course not.

The reluctance of Psychedelians in general, rich or poor, to pledge their lives, property, and sacred honor for the cause can make us appear to be mere dilettantes and triflers, compared to our barbaric ancestors.

Supernaturalists have generally displayed a willingness, if not an eagerness, to suffer and die, and to cause others to suffer and die, to defend, maintain and extend their doctrinal dominions against all enemies, foreign or domesticated, actual or hallucinated.

Based on the history of Western religion, one might have expected that Psychedelians, upon having our basic human rights so flagrantly trashed, would have done a little more in the way of retaliation.

Psychedelianism is not in this evil historical tradition. Violent reprisals would only escalate and prolong the conflict. Why should we respond to our persecutors in their own terms? The power of the experience itself is so great that we will eventually replace all competing religions with the same relentless efficiency displayed by the noble cane toad in its conquest of Northern Australia, and by means of similar techniques: through indigestibility primarily, but also by gathering together under streetlights at night to eat bugs and by sucking ourselves up through our own assholes when we are run over by cars.

When it’s all over we can say that karma took care of it. “Real” wars “really” are hell.

If any human beings are still around, or if, as I advocate, a new, genetically engineered species of similar biochemical configuration has replaced us jerks, the Supreme Sacrament will work just as well 1,000 years from now as it did the day it was discovered.

On the Tuesday after the blockade cases were settled, I typed up a public notice, with a map attached, defining the division of authority on the property. Tommy signed without hesitation. Although I had talked briefly to Tim and Bill about trying to do this, and both had agreed that it would be a good idea, I don’t think Tim or Bill expected anything would come of it. When it was published, Bill was delighted. Tim said nothing about it, which probably meant that he was displeased. Copies of the original documents are reproduced in this book.

The “Donation of Thomas,” as I like to call it, was published in the next edition of the Millbrook Round Table. This public definition of the areas on the property governed by the leaders of our three Psychedelian sects, on Neo-American Church stationery, signed by Thomas Mellon Hitchcock as a director of the corporation that owned the place, and published in the town newspaper for all to read, has never been mentioned in any of the pop “social histories,” published during the following thirty years, which purport to cover the subject.

If the hired scriveners who produce these fakes did any genuine research and referred to actual documentary evidence about anything, the sociological smarm, metaphysical cant and delivered “opinions” they depend on for a living would be unfavorably contrasted. Can’t have that.

The Ashram provided a plywood, four-foot-square sign, which I nailed to the portcullis. “Private Property” it announced in rude red letters on a white background. “No Trespassing, Visitors by Appointment Only, Warning Grounds Patrolled, Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted.”

When Billy returned from snorkling in the pellucid waters of the cerulean sea, Tim persuaded him to pilot his “Mixmaster,” which had engines and props fore and aft of the cabin, a feature I liked a lot, to Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas with a load of select excursionists. This trip, he claimed, would provide those on it with a desperately needed opportunity to “get a fresh perspective” on the situation. Those left behind, Tim did not mention, would then have an obsolete and useless perspective on the situation. Rosemary would remain at the Big House, but Peggy and Ron would go. Tim might return from this vacation or he might not. He wasn’t saying.

Since Tommy and Suzanne planned to be in New York for an indefinite period, Sam and Martica Clapp would occupy the Bungalow until Billy returned. I was not offended by this but Billy apologized. He had offered the use of the house to the Clapps instead of to the Klepses, because he knew Sam and Martica would “take care of” Jack and Mary. Good point.

With Rosemary in the Big House would be Jackie and Susie Leary, the three Aluminum Dreams boys and a newly installed “caretaker” named Gregg Roland, a carpenter and all-around handyman who had recently appeared on the scene with a huge, very pregnant Negress and five brown kids at his side.

This was the official roster. Unofficially, many members of the League were filtering back into the Big House and the Bowling Alley.

One evening, shortly before his scheduled departure, Tim appeared at the Gatehouse, bearing a gallon jug of burgundy and wearing an expression of amused expectation.

“Art,” Tim asked, after we had settled down in my office with glasses, “what am I supposed to do with all those people?”

I was somewhat surprised to hear this. When I asked, “What people?” Tim waved northwards and said, “Oh, all those people up there.”

We both knew that he meant the League members, particularly those who believed they had established a special and sacred relationship with him. They expected, not unreasonably by normal standards, that their spiritual leader would attempt to preserve their religious community in some other location. Were they not his “essence friends”?

I had no interest in exploring the moral dimensions of this problem with Tim. It had been obvious to me for some time that he wanted the League to disperse.

“Damned if I know,” I said. “Why, are they any worse than usual these days? I suppose they’re a little uptight because you’re leaving.”

“They’re absolutely helpless,” Tim said. “Apparently they expect me to support them for the rest of their lives. I’m not their guru, I’m their nursemaid.”

Of course, Tim had said all kinds of things which encouraged his people to take a completely impractical view of their situation at Millbrook, but I had learned that it was pointless to remind Tim of anything he had said in previous incarnations, such as the day before yesterday.

I also assumed that many of the Leaguers had been attempting to “materialize” the “group spirit” or something of the sort in order to solve their problems. They hoped to produce a miracle by “getting their vibes together,” and all of that kind of rot. People who have been gathering around a campfire night after night for months getting seriously stoned, and very often smashed as well, with the moon floating above and shadows dancing, and the metaphysics of Timothy Leary percolating in their brains, can’t be blamed for thinking that way instead of figuring out how to find a lawyer courageous enough to bring suit on their behalf for hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation against William and Thomas Mellon Hitchcock and the Hitchcock Cattle Corporation for driving them and their children crazy with illegal drugs, thus criminalizing them and making them unemployable for life.

As far as Tim was concerned, the League, like the Castalia Foundation and IFIF before it, had been a mere plot line in a script for a show starring him. What might be called the “Millbrook Saga” had required that such groups exist, with Tim at the head of them. The set was now being demolished and the books closed on this miniseries. Like bit players and extras in a movie, everyone should now go home, make scrapbooks, and either retire from the business or look for employment elsewhere. Their services were no longer required.

All of this was entirely consistent with Tim’s general way of looking at things, which he had stated and restated and overstated and had flagrantly practiced for years.

Could he help it if a sucker was born every minute?

Various aspects of the situation, new to me, came out as we continued talking. Gregg had built a kitchen for Rosemary on the third floor. The servants’ wing was to be closed off completely for the winter. The Aluminum Dreams had half of the second floor and were driving Rosemary crazy with their practicing, which took place at any hour of the day or night when they happened to be awake and capable of wielding their instruments.

“What about the rest of them?” I asked.

Tim shrugged and lifted his arms.

Well, that takes care of that, I thought.

“Listen, Art,” Tim said, “would you type something out for me? Use official Neo-American Church stationery. I want you to sign this too, if you will.”

I snapped on my nice new electric portable, a gift from Sam Clapp, which Tim greatly admired. Back in the hills, he was obliged to disparage all such “unnatural” devices. Tim’s statement was a sort of bequest to Marshall McNeill, granting him absolute suzerainty over the regions of Lunacy and Ecstasy hills, hunting and fishing rights, and so on. We both signed it.

“Good,” Tim said, folding the document and sticking it into his pocket, “maybe this will satisfy him but I doubt it. Of course, what I’m doing is giving away something I never had in the first place. Those people don’t seem to understand that Billy and Tommy Hitchcock own this place, not me.”

Good point. Too bad he hadn’t made it earlier and to a more general audience.

We had more wine.

“Art, why don’t you take over the Big House?” Tim suddenly asked.

I laughed. Tim, who had appeared at least semi-serious when he made this ridiculous proposal, joined right in.

“I thought that would be your reaction,” Tim said. “Well, you will look after Rosemary, won’t you? Let’s go up to the house and put up some SPIN signs, anyway.”

Why not and why not. I called up the stairs to Wendy to tell her I would be back in a couple hours, and followed Tim up to the house.

If some soothsayer had told me, back in ’64, that Timothy Leary would some day offer me control of the Big House, and that I would refuse it without hesitation, I would have concluded that I was dealing with a pretty sorry excuse for a soothsayer, indeed.

Tim could no more give me the Big House than he could give the woods behind it to Marshall, but putting that aside, and thinking of such a move as a replay of Haines and the Ashram moving in, even at this late date, well, hmmm. As Tim knew very well, he had given me a concept which, although inherently crazy, I couldn’t help toying with. After all, I had pulled off some other extremely improbable things at Millbrook.

The most important negative factor was that Billy had not contributed a nickel to me or to Haines since he had put $1,000 into the Catechism project. Things were working out exactly as Haines had predicted. The Hitchcocks clearly hoped that without help from them, other than free rent, we would all be forced to leave to earn our daily bread by the sweat of our brows, as God intended.

Like hell we would, but it wasn’t time to expand by trying to take over the Big House or anything else. It was time to contract, dig in, hang on, and all that kind of stuff. How, during the winter to come, I would heat the Gatehouse, which had what amounted to a refrigerated wind tunnel whistling under it much of the time, was something I didn’t even want to think about, but it was a trivial problem compared to heating the Big House.

Aside from the economic problems, there was an almost endless list of other discouraging facts. Would Jackie respect my authority? No, he would resent me like crazy. Could I bring myself to kick him out of the family homestead if he continued to leave samples of the lesser sacrament lying around his room? Jackie had been busted for possession six or seven times altogether, being a firm believer in the “if your head is right you can’t get hurt” theory. No. Could I kick Gregg and family, including a newborn babe, out in the snow? No. Would Rosemary subordinate herself to Wendy, as the leading female influence? In a pig’s ear she would. Even if I could manage those currently in residence, could I reasonably expect to control the guests any of these people might bring in? No.

There was also the matter of the Donation of Thomas. The move Tim suggested would scramble the precise division of territorial authority and responsibility set forth in that sacred document, which might be exactly what Tim wanted to accomplish by “giving me” the Big House. Clarity and precision were his enemies, as they are of all natural-born hornswogglers. In the public mind, “Millbrook” was “Leary’s place,” and Tim wanted to keep it that way.

“No fucking way, Kleps,” I was obliged to instruct myself, as I followed Tim’s car up the road to the Big House. “Let him horn in on someone else’s swoggles.” But I was grinning. There was a lot about this one that was highly amusing, if I resisted the temptation to take it seriously.

“How can you turn down all this, Arthur?” Tim asked in a heavily ironical manner, as we closed the front door of the Big House behind us and switched on the hall lights. The ravages of amateur movie makers and hordes of egalitarian primitivists were everywhere to be seen. The place was a mess.

“Better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven,” I said to Tim as we climbed the stairs, which set him off on a series of similarly semi-apropos quotations. Rosemary, whom we found in her new kitchen, accepted a glass of wine but did not join our mood, which had by this time become decidedly effervescent.

Tim then suggested that I join the League for Spiritual Discovery. Since I was now the “official protector” of Rosemary and the Big House, it would “be only proper” if I did so.

“Why not? How can I take an organization that wants me as a member seriously?” I said, or something like that. Things had definitely reached the “If we can’t kid each other, who can we kid?” stage of the drunkard’s progress.

Tim then started putting me through a rapid-fire series of hocus-pocus questions to which, as one usually does when plastered, I thought I gave highly amusing and original answers, but Rosemary interrupted this age-old form of home entertainment:

“You realize you’re breaking all the rules of the League by doing that, don’t you?” she asked, in a tone appropriate to Duty, Stern Daughter of the Voice of God.

Tim sighed resignedly, and desisted.

“It’s just a game for the benefit of outsiders, Rosemary,” he said. He turned to me. “I keep saying that to everyone and they just keep on taking it seriously anyway.”

This I believed.

Then Tim lit into Rosemary. It was quite a display of mind over matter, or something. He had, he told me, his eyes glittering in an impish way, as if we were discussing an intricate political maneuver, been trying to explain to Rosemary that all games had to come to an end sometime. Now it was time for the Rosemary-Tim game to come to an end. Constant change was the rule of life. One must avoid, as if it were the fifth horseman of the apocalypse, getting trapped in outdated routines. They had had a wonderful trip together and now they should part before their relationship deteriorated any further.

Rosemary responded by saying “Yes, Tim” and “I understand,” and things like that. I said nothing. If I hadn’t been smashed I would have been acutely embarrassed. According to my standards, Tim and I had been close enough for long enough so we could put our doctrinal and political differences aside and discuss our private lives with each other as friends, but I hardly knew Rosemary. Tim was humiliating her in front of me, and I was sure this was producing a seething distillation of indignation and resentment behind her bland exterior. After all, my type or not my type, Rosemary wasn’t Sarasvati. I doubted very much that abuse was the best she expected from the object of her affections.

Although, according to Tim, Rosemary thought I was “funny,” I was sure she was a standard, Giant-Brain fantast, and thought of me as a rival or even an enemy of her belief system and of her leader and lover as well. Haines and I were, basically, poachers on what was rightfully Tim’s territory. His attempt to “give” me the Big House was therefore an incomprehensible betrayal of his true friends and of her. If he had to transfer authority, why didn’t he transfer it to one of his loyal followers?

There were politically sound but Machiavellian answers to this question, but Tim could no more reveal them to any of his followers, Rosemary included, as explanations for his conduct, than he could present them to me as reasons why I should do what he wanted. To do the former would have been political suicide; to do the latter would have been absurd.

It’s a little problem Machiavellians tend to have. Not only do they have to cook up devious plots, they have to cook up devious plots to explain the devious plots they just cooked up, and so on ad infinitum.

To hell with it. Tim suggested that we go around the house tacking up “Warning. Protected by SPIN” signs, which we did, and then I went home. Wendy was highly amused by the whole affair, and so was I.

The next night we had an informal farewell party at the Big House, during which Billy, his usual polite self, took me aside and assured me that he would have invited me along also, but there just wasn’t room for two more. But if I wanted to leave Wendy behind …

No. Thanks but no thanks. I couldn’t do that.

“Yeah, I knew you wouldn’t, Art,” Billy said.

Wendy and I spent the night in Jean McCready’s room on the third floor since Jean was still camped out in the woods. In the morning, the entire crew of jolly travelers appeared at the foot of our bed to say good-bye. Tim, radiating good spirits in all directions, jumped in and embraced us both, a classic Learian display of affection which put Wendy in a good mood all day.

The view from Jean’s room was beautiful. It was a warm, buzzing, Indian summer day. The windows were wide open yet there was no sound of traffic. On the third floor, you could easily forget the physical devastation and social disorder below.

“You know, Wendy …” I started to say.

“Forget it,” Wendy replied.

We went back to our humble home with its immovable portcullis and empty heating oil tank in the basement, which stayed empty all winter.

Peggy called up one evening. What did I think about having a Halloween party at the Big House?

“I think everyone is too bummed out for any kind of party, Peggy,” I replied, without thinking about it very much. After Peggy hung up, I had second thoughts and called Bill. Peggy was a notorious soft touch, which was probably the main reason I had never asked her for a dime. But perhaps I was depriving the deserving poor of an opportunity to beg for airplane tickets or whatever.

“A Halloween party?” Bill responded. “Is she out of her mind? Jesus Christ, Kleps, if you’re in the mood for a dance macabre, go ahead, but I think I’ll take a rain check.”

Yeah, well, that was how I felt about it also. The subject was closed. I filed the incident under “Rich People, Incomprehension Of,” along with quite a load of other stuff. Now that I have opened this bulging file, however, I see that I should admit that it contains several embarrassing recollections demonstrating that yours truly, a libertarian socialist of the old school, can also forget what it’s like to be broke and homeless, if given half a chance. Nothing to it. (Easier done than said, one might say.)

Otto was having a bad time of it. Tim and Bill were “cold-shouldering” him. A mad passion he had conceived for Susan Schoenfeld had not been reciprocated, to put it mildly. Indeed, before Otto left the property to go back to his house in Woodstock, he had suffered many emotional wounds because of this infatuation, directly and indirectly. Perhaps the most serious element in this complex of psychological conflicts was the undeniable fact that his hero, Billy, had shacked up with Susan in the Bowling Alley for a few days, but since Otto thought of Billy and Susan as so elevated as to be beyond all criticism, he could not permit himself to feel consciously jealous or resentful about this interlude of “lust in the dust” between these two ethereal beings. All he could do was “eat it” and it didn’t go down very well.

When Tim kicked Susan out, Otto’s mythic vision was devastated. Billy was the king, but Tim was the Pope. (Exactly what place I occupied in Otto’s scheme of things was always something of a mystery.) Romantic passion had been brought into terrible conflict with reverence and esteem.

Otto’s love for Susan was entirely genuine, as demonstrated by the completely idiosyncratic idea he had formed of her character. His vision did not even vaguely resemble anything anyone else thought about her, whether they liked her or not. She was, according to Otto’s dreamy-eyed descriptions, a kind of compound of all the sappiest heroines of the silliest novels ever written. Whenever he talked about her, which was incessantly, his face took on an expression of beatitude in startling contrast to his normal appearance. “Gentle, delicate and pure” were typical of the adjectives he employed to describe this tough broad. These claims were so fantastic it was impossible to even try to contradict him.

When Otto left, with a $100 check from Tim, he was in sad shape, and when he returned after the tourists had departed for the West, he was worse. Not only did he look beaten and drained, his description of his adventures was not merely eccentric but delusional.

What he wanted from us, he told Wendy and me, were the two small rugs he had left with us for safekeeping. During his wanderings between the Ashram, the League, the Gatehouse and the Bungalow, Otto had left behind a confused trail of odd but often valuable possessions. Among these was a gigantic, ebony armoire which he had shipped to the Bungalow. Tommy, Jack and I had wrestled it into a corner of the billiards room where, to the amazement of all present, it seemed to fit in perfectly, as if it had been born there. He also had given a large statuette, called “the Black Buddha,” to Tim, Haines and Billy in turn. Haines had treasured this object, and the mixture of amusement and exasperation with which he normally reacted to Otto’s conduct soured greatly when Otto had taken it back.

Otto’s adventures in New York, as he related them to Wendy and me after we invited him upstairs, where we gathered around a catalytic heater in the bedroom, started out funny enough. Since Tim’s check had been drawn on an out-of-town bank, he had spent hours trudging from one financial institution to another trying to cash it. All the tellers he had approached had declined to honor it until he tried the Bank of Tokyo, where it had been promptly cashed with the utmost politeness.

He had then paid a visit to “the Mafia’s doctor,” an “old and trusted friend,” which had led to various complications that didn’t make any sense at all. Exactly what Otto had been trying to accomplish in New York was extremely unclear. As a result of this, that and the other misadventure, he felt he had received “the kiss of death” and was being pursued by various agents of the underworld bent on his destruction. He could identify them by the particular color and design of the cowboy boots they were all wearing.

The last “agent” he had seen had been on the bus which had brought him home, where he found that his friends at the machine gun factory had been “paid off” and turned against him. To top it all off, a bunch of “fake hippies” had invaded his house, making it impossible for him to live there. No, he couldn’t call the police. They were in on it, of course.

(I hadn’t known, until I heard this story, that Otto owned a house.)

“Oh, God,” Otto moaned piteously, head in hands, slumped against the curved wall of our bedroom. “What am I going to do? I only have one hope left.”

“What’s that?” Wendy asked.

“I just hope I don’t get bumped off by an underling,” Otto replied with the utmost earnestness. “It would be a disgrace to the name of Albenesius.”

Oh, well. As best I could determine without my bag of tricks, he wasn’t hallucinating. He retained his pride in his name. Given a measure of tender, loving care, he would probably snap out of it in a few days, if not hours.

We took him up to the Ashram, where Wendy and I had been invited for a spaghetti dinner, the sauce of which turned out to be much more inspiring than usual. Along with a little TLC, Otto was being offered lots of THC as well. But Otto refused to eat anything. His loss of appetite was unfortunate, since a good dose of cannabis at that point might have made his paranoia more romantic and digestible, so to speak. In fact, after his second or third meatball, he might well have snapped out of it completely. Haines was sympathetic, as he usually was when someone was in genuine trouble, but he wouldn’t take him back.

“Why pick on me? Will you take him back?” Haines asked me.

No, I had to admit that I wouldn’t. For one thing, I couldn’t afford to be drunk twenty-four hours a day, and I wasn’t pretending that the Neo-American Church resembled the Salvation Army either. Something that might be called a “holy fortress,” perhaps along the general lines of Lambeth Palace and Disneyland combined, was more what I had in mind in those days. It was Haines, it seemed to me, who was doing the General Booth imitations, so let him live up to his act!

Otto finally agreed to a self-commitment, which I had recommended. (A complete loss of appetite really is a bad sign, and very dangerous.) It wasn’t his first and it wasn’t his last. One time, after Billy and I got him out of Bellevue and we were driving away, I asked him if he had learned anything during this, his latest stay in a loony bin.

“Yes,” he earnestly replied. “I learned how to levitate.” I didn’t ask Otto to prove this assertion. His track record was too good. Perhaps, if Billy or I had requested a demonstration, we would have been rear-ended by a bus and all three of us would have “levitated” right through the roof of the car.

In 1970, Otto achieved what I’m sure he considered a most enviable status in the general scheme of things: Shortly before I moved into Little Jimmy’s house up the road, he became Billy’s chauffeur. Unfortunately he also got a small inheritance at about the same time, which he promptly invested at Eddy’s Liquors in several cases of fine wines. He consumed this treasure at such a rate, Priscilla told me, as to render himself incapable of leaping to his wheel at a moment’s notice, or doing much of anything else on any kind of notice. Billy, who hated driving, particularly in New York City, and who can blame him, then used his influence to install Otto as a handyman in an egalitarian primitivist commune in northern California which had a reputation for being more down to earth than most. I hope this worked out, and that the name of Albenesius has not been disgraced in any way.

With Tim and all the Hitchcocks away, life at Millbrook became even more discontinuous, ambiguous and episodic than usual. A garrison atmosphere prevailed. Gregg Roland came down to see me to talk about the state of our defenses.

His first words were: “Art, if you need another gun, just call me at the Big House.” He pulled a .38 out of his belt to show me he meant business. Should have kept Otto, I thought to myself.

Yet, as Gregg went on to tell me what was happening up in his neck of the woods, the brandishing of a weapon began to seem a most appropriate and welcome gesture. Tim hadn’t told me the whole story, not by a long shot. His precipitous departure for Las Vegas, according to Gregg, had been the result of days of pressure on the Big House by a contingent of disaffected dwellers in the woods led by a heroin dealer from Harlem and his three-man cadre of fellow hoodlums.

They had beaten tom toms and shouted war whoops at night and then moved into the Big House and tried to take over. The leader had said to Tim, “Listen, you may think you’re running this place but you’re not. I am.” Tim had gone into a song and dance about how the Big House was his “tepee” and people should respect each others’ tepees. This sermon had not gotten him anywhere. The only argument they respected was Gregg’s .38. They were being held at bay on the first floor, Gregg said, but only barely.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

“What about the League guys?” I asked.

“Pffish,” Gregg said, making a motion of contemptuous dismissal.

A few days later, the hoods departed, using a pair of bolt cutters to get through the door under the Gatehouse, after abandoning what I assumed to be a stolen car behind the tower. Jack and I towed it off to our private dump, where it joined a collection of other discarded vehicles.

It wasn’t until early in 1975, as I was typing up the first, tabloid incarnation of this history, in a small house near Jay Peak, Vermont, that I realized that Tim never mentioned the invasion of the African savages, during our talk at the Gatehouse or at any other time. His motives in posting those SPIN warning signs at the Big House, and many other things that had happened during that period suddenly became clear. I should have put it all together when Gregg told me the story, but I guess it exceeded the limits of my cynicism at the time.

A Daily News reporter and photographer showed up, hoping to do a series of articles on the place. Haines at first refused to cooperate, but changed his mind when I argued that he would probably get better treatment if he did than if he didn’t, the standard excuse for submitting to the hazard.

I intended to because I genuinely liked the reporter, who was a fiftyish, cigar-smoking, Damon Runyan type who quoted Aristotle in a heavy Brooklyn accent. Sure enough, the series turned out to be as sympathetic as anything we ever got in the underground press, if not more so. When the article on me and the Church came out (it’s reprinted in the Boo Hoo Bible), I called up to thank him, and he told me his editor had killed the last installment, which was supposed to sum things up, because it was “too nice.”

At least his editor cleanly killed the last installment instead of distorting it. At High Times, a magazine which is almost certainly a Drug Enforcement Agency front, any interview deemed “too nice” or “too rational” is mutilated until it conforms to the prevailing standard of blithering idiocy. Is it true that the ink with which this moronic rag is printed contains a slow-acting poison? I don’t know, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Maybe the staples are radioactive. Remember Waco.

It wasn’t long after the great blockade that Noel informed us that a grand jury squatting in the Place of Overflowing Shitholes was considering charges against several people on the property, notably including William Mellon Hitchcock. This news cleared out the remaining uninvited egalitarian primitivists in a matter of days.

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