After three years in New York as an artist, gallerist and curator, in the Spring of 1968 Arden Harrison and I were on our way to Mexico. The plan was to hang by the pool and drink margaritas with her favorite aunt. She was married to one Pedro Domec.
Our Karmann Ghia VW broke down late at night in Georgia. A wheel came off and sparks flying we came to a halt in a ditch. Miraculously a funky local garage had a junked VW in their yard. The car was back on the road and we made it to the Charles Hotel in New Orleans. It was old and romantic with vintage ceiling fans like props in Casablanca.
We gorged on oysters and baignettes at Café du Monde. It was Mardi Gras time and the cops were busting hippies as I reported to the Village Voice.
Out of cash we left the gumbo behind and headed for Boston. We moved into a cheap pad on Fort Hill and worked for Avatar the weekly rag of the Mel Lyman cult. There was a blowup that summer and the zealots departed. Dave Wilson took over as editor and I was managing editor.
By the end of the summer he packed it in and with Sandi Mandeville went back to publishing the music sheet Broadside. I got a gig as graphic designer and art critic for Boston After Dark which morphed into the Boston Phoenix. My stint as designer didn’t last long but I stayed on with a column Art Bag. It paid fifty bucks a week which, with cheap rent and brown rice, was enough to scrape by.
And some left for a bit of reefer. It’s better to live with dope without hope than hope without dope.
Arden spun out and ended up in the Sea Org of Scientology. She was the taster for L. Ron Hubbard and ran his errands when they docked.
By then, Tim Crouse, a pal from Annisquam, parted for Rolling Stone and passed on his gig as rock critic for the daily Boston Herald Traveler. With a better pay grade I moved to Fallon Court in Cambridge rooming with Arthur Whitall, a high end wheeler dealer, and his artist wife Phyllis. While at RISD she was the frail of Ray Patriaca, Jr.
They split and I had the place to myself. The landlord, one I. Ludwin, was trying to flip the building and wanted us out. I came home one night and the front door was gone.
It was time to move and I paid key money to move into the Murder Building basement on University Road in Harvard Square. It was so named for a couple of famous murders. They included an Amazon flavored ritual killing allegedly by a Harvard prof offing a grad student. They went up river for Kurtz. The other was another bow job by the Boston Strangler.
It was an era of drugs, sex, rock and roll and I had the best gig in the world. I got paid to go to rock concerts and hang out in jazz clubs.
By then, Pip was home from the Orient. For a time I thought I would loose her as I had Arden. The few letters I got from her were pretty trippy. But she ended up in my back yard.
For a time, she was within walking distance. Once a week we had dinner either pesto at my place or Indian in Central Square. She was a frequent date at rock and jazz gigs and I let her have the chocolate cake.
By then the nine year difference in our ages wasn’t a big deal. We became pals and hung out as the good times rolled.
We dredged the harbor of memory now dimmed by the fog of time.
Me How long were you in Asia. From when to when?
Pip October 1971 – February 1973
Me How long were you in the monastery. Three months?
Pip August 31, to December, 1972, 3.5 months
Me How did you know when it was the right time to leave?
Pip A strong intuitive understanding – a clearing of the mind. I had no specific plans or idea of what was next just that my intensive training was over and a move towards home was imminent.
Me When you came home did you return to (1760) Beacon Street (in Brookline)?
Pip Beacon Street was already sold. Mom and Dad had moved to Palm Beach, Florida. So I went down there and stayed about a month. They didn’t want me to leave and made it very difficult. True, I had no place to live or job to go to, but I had to start my life and living with them was not in the cards.
Me What did you do for money?
Pip I have always been a frugal person. The money I brought on the trip from savings lasted me. To catch a cheaper flight home, I went to London and stayed for two weeks in an inexpensive rooming house. You dropped coins in a unit to generate some heat. It didn’t last long and it was never enough. Spicy, cheap, Indian curry kept me warm. Eventually, airline ticket prices dropped and I flew home.
Me You always had something squirreled away. Now and then I borrowed or you gave me a loan. Not always paid back. When did you move to Lexington Ave? Who were your roommates?
Pip I found an apartment at 168 Lexington Ave. in Cambridge.
When I looked at the yellow bow front Georgian I knew I would live there. Two women interviewed me. It seemed to go alright. When I called them back, asking why I was turned down, they said they found Peter, a former boyfriend who accompanies me, kindah weird. I told them this was the first time I had seen him in years and he was not a person in my life. They accepted me but, within the month, they left me with the $300 apartment which I could not afford on my own.
A strange girl answered my ad. She set up her keyboard and played “Light my Fire” day and night. When she started dragging home all kinds of Harvard Square riffraff, it was time for her to go. The two other roommates were compatible and fairly easy going. Lucy, a beautiful strawberry blond was a teacher at the Framingham School for the Deaf. Dee Dee was always a bit mysterious. I think she was a PR wheeler and dealer who worshiped the Celtics and (rock promoter) Don Law. Soon after, I fell head over heels for Jim Brady, a Vietnam vet who lived in a tower in JP. He moved in with us and was the flame we all danced around. Eventually, it was just Roast and me on Lexington Ave.
By the time I had the place to myself and threw a big 30th birthday bash – the theme: S.S. Sham.
Me We all loved easy going Jim Brady. Vietnam took its toll and he was largely a drop out. His life seemed to be on hold. He loved plants and got a job caring from them in office buildings. But he lacked ambition. When you kicked him out, after numerous chances, he went to school and got a degree in agriculture from U. Mass.
Pip Roast went to Holland to study dwarf tree cultivation. He returned to U Mass and got a degree in pomology which is a branch of botany that is concerned with the study of fruits and their cultivation.
Not only did Roast make wicked FJs but apple pies. He ended in RI cultivating a vineyard.
Me When did you start at Lesley and for how long? What degree did you earn?
Pip My first job, that lasted three years, was working in Winthrop at a day activity center for what we referred to as an adult retarded population. These men and women had been home all their lives with no connection to the wider world. It was very challenging, sometimes scary, but work that I loved. Gilda Winocour, the program director was my mentor. I started a master’s program nights at Lesley College. After three years I earned a Master of Science in Education degree.
CG What was your first teaching job and for how long?
Pip When I graduated from Lesley in 1976, I started to work in the Arlington Public Schools as a Special Education Inclusion Specialist at the Ottoson Middle School. I thrived there for 25 years.
The photo of children posted with this article documents my first class at Ottoson. I wrote a script that they performed in a dentist’s office in Arlington. I was teaching them hygiene and transportation skills along with reading and related academics. This was a self-contained class. Inclusion for children with severe learning issues was just beginning in 1976.
Me It doesn’t surprise me that you went into special education. You were inspired by Mom, a primary care physician, whose motto was “Love is service.” Who were your friends at that time?
Pip My close friends were the couple who lived on the first floor of Lexington Ave., Jill Columbus and Nicholas Reed. We did everything together. Jill started out doing window displays for Design Research and Nick was a landscape architect.
I met Susan Roberts, a graphic designer, in modern dance classes given by Dorothy Hershkowitz. Marilyn Plotkins, theater director at Tufts University was a close friend.
Me My cavernous basement apartment on University Road was great for parties. I managed to rent a vast adjoining space as my studio for real cheap rent. I threw a Valentine’s disco party and your friends came. That’s when I met Marilyn and we acted out YMCA. Later we were colleagues at Suffolk University. She had great charisma.
I remember the summer when your gang collaborated with her for a show at the Charles Theatre.
Pip Ben Bagley’s The Decline and Fall of the Entire World Through the Eyes of Cole Porter was produced during the summer of ’78. The flyers were designed by Jill Columbus. It was presented on Stage Three in the basement.
One scene was sung by Sophie Tucker. Jill designed an ingenious “fat suit”.
I’ve included a photo of the concept being developed in our backyard at 168 Lexington.
I supported the show as an angel. I am sweetly credited in the program. I loved my nights at the theater and of course I knew all the gossip behind the curtain. It was a splendid time.
CG You were also continuing with dance. I used to drive you to classes at Miss Paige’s in Brookline. I sat and waited with the other mothers. That’s where I learned some of the basic steps. You were part of the Dorothy Herskowitz company and I saw the performances. Susan and Jill were also dancers.
That came in handy later. I was writing for the daily Patriot Ledger. The dance critic went on maternity leave for a year and I filled in. You always came with me and offered observations. I bought a dictionary of ballet terms.
We always had great seats like seeing Nurevey in Don Quixote. He would leap into the air and seemed to hover there. The scandal was that he wore flesh-toned, see-through tights so he looked virtually naked. We also saw a very young Baryshnikov before he defected.
Earlier, while in grad school, I had a gig selling candy at the Loeb Drama Center. You helped me at intermission and got to see Twyla Tharp and other companies. We went to Dance Umbrella for Mark Morris. I was riveted by a solo performance of Gelsey Kirkland.
That was my introduction to dance which continues at Jacob’s Pillow in the Berkshires. I love dance but it is the most difficult medium to write about. Most critics are former dancers and focus on the technical aspects where I try to convey a sense of the experience.
When did you buy the condo and for how much?
Pip In 1980, Mom and Dad gave me 25K towards a one-bedroom condo on 988 Memorial Drive. The condo cost 75K which was a lot for that time.
CG I offered to help you move but was so hung over that I was useless. There was a vacant lot that later became developed. It was a shortcut that connected us. You would come for pesto and raid my ash trays for roaches.
Do you remember your famous vodka party and who came? What was the best vodka? I rigged up a slide show of my Stones images from concerts. We had a blast and everyone got totally wasted. Of course I just had to walk home.
Pip The party was in 1984 some months before meeting Yuri. I was pretty down and out at that time. I really wanted to know if vodka had different taste depending on the brand so I orchestrated this tasting party. In preparation, I taught myself to make and assemble zakuski – the Russian snacks that accompany vodka. Little did I know how handy that crash course would be months later when introduced into the Russian émigré community? The worst: Japanese Bonzai – the best – Russian Stolichnaya.
Me You had it very well organized and we voted on each round. At the end of the debauchery you tabulated and announced the results. I think the Polish vodka was a tight second.
Of the concerts you went to with me what do you recall?
Pip Herbie Hancock blew out my ears. My hearing has never been the same.
We were thrilled by Baryshnikov who was with the Kirov ballet. I will never forget his performance in Ocean and Pearls.
Club 47 where Joan Baez performed was transporting.
There were so many thrilling events when rock was young. We had a blast.
Me Do you remember the roller-skating party for The Cars that Jill and Susan came with you to? I have a photo of the three of you dressed as nerds.
Pip Somewhat. I was terrified. It was all too fast and I had no sense of control. I was happy to survive that night.
Me Not just that night. Call me Ishmael. It’s a miracle that we lived to tell these tales.
Pip in Florida after return from the Orient
After Mardi Gras Arden and I settled in Fort Hill, Roxbury
David Felton dubbed me Harry Bikes in Rolling Stone
Pip's boyfriend Jim Brady was known as Roast
Director Marilyn Plotkin was later a colleague at Suffolk University
Jill Columbus and Nicholas with the fat suit she created for Sophie Tucker
Jim Brady in Cambridge with plants
Pip was a producer from Marilyn Plotkin's Cole Porter