a Rhode Island road
Autumn, 1975. Gerald Ford is President. I am 23. Living illegally in London. My valiant attempt to replace Mick Taylor as Rolling Stones guitarist has ended in failure. My grandfather Ravlin, back in Minneapolis, is not doing well.
I've been playing music, doing a few gigs, with some loveable Irish & Brit guys I met through work, at the dear aristocrats' ex-import/plant watering business (around the corner from the Royal Court theatre). I've moved to a drab apartment across the street from Wandsworth prison. I've gotten involved with a Brazilian-Lebanese singer, a former pop star & TV personality, who's singing with our band. I had met her in a shabby squat apartment, where I was applying for a guitar position with another band. She's fallen on bad times, moves in heroin/drug circles (all her friends are addicts). Her Brit husband is across the street, in Wandsworth, for dealing. This rather accentuates my qualms about the affair (wasn't I here in London on an exalted spiritual mission?).
Our little band plays a gig at one of the members' church. A Halloween party for the youth group. We play them old Beatles songs, they're just kids. Yellow leaves are falling around the grey stone arches, into the green yard outside the windows. A sweet Middle-Ages feeling.
My year in England was wonderful & lonely. I had foresworn poetry a couple years earlier, after a series of charismatic/psychic upheavals which I have described elsewhere (Shakespeare in spirit, the Sonnets, etc.). My life now was music and mission. But one shouldn't have the impression of a single-minded packed & sorted sort of person. I spent a lot of time in tattered London 2nd-hand bookstores (having no money to speak of). I read the Bible, I read other obscure books, mostly I listened to my own thoughts & ruminated, puzzled over mysteries of Time, God, Incarnation, History, Destiny. I drew odd diagrams, pictures which attempted to clear up the geometry of person, spirit, God. I played my instruments & wrote songs. (Once I traveled out to Stonehenge and Glastonbury, taking time to announce to the gathered Euro hippies that Babylon Has Fallen. I remember beautiful old country lanes, leaves falling against stone walls, my solitude & hunger.) Then I began skipping work, to be with Alma. Finally one day the gentle aristocrats told me, apologetically, that they had to let me go. This was in November, getting very chilly there. I spent a few difficult weeks wandering the streets, delivering flyers for small change, searching the gutters for coins. I thought I could find something eventually, but was beginning to have doubts. I didn't want to be in London if my grandfather passed away. Finally I called home. My father wired me a plane ticket. I was home for Christmas. By January I was back in school.