seed

“Being a seed is daunting, not knowing what it will grow to be. Sprouts desperately cling to the dirt holding them. Pushing or pulling a bud will spoil and corrupt. If a seed is to grow into a hearty blossom then it needs some form of love.” — O.S. 1966

 

There was so much about life he does not understand: powers and influences, insights and secrets, repetitions and patterns, relationships and mysteries. So many things to learn and remember, so many things to forget.

Every morning he wakes up with hope and faith, no matter how challenging, threatening or bleak the odds seem. He feels confident in the possibilities, hopeful in his abilities and desires, and faithful in his quest for love, success and happiness. Yet every night alone in his empty room, he comes undone again.

 

Odysseus attends Lake View High School for his sophomore year. Lake View is a breeze compared to River Woods Academy. It is time to party after being locked up for two years. LSD is definitely on the curriculum menu.

Ty Flannery from the Smash Gang is Odysseus’s best friend. Ty is a star on the football and track teams and hooks Odysseus up with friends and girls. They form an alliance calling themselves G.B.A. which stands for general bad attitude.

Ty’s younger twin sisters flirt with Odysseus. As tempting as they are, he knows not to hit on them. The twins want to join G.B.A. but Ty says, “No way.” The boys get suspended from school for not wearing socks.

 

It is the age of cool. Cool is one of numerous hip words and speech originating from beatniks and jazz musicians to distinguish themselves from the straight world. Cool is about dissenting from white middle class America. Cool suggests a whole other set of values.

Expressions like: funky, groovy, righteous, right on, power to the people, heavy, doobie, jay, roach, lid, stash, crash, fire up, hit, bogart, chill, freaking out, far out, blown away and stoked are some of the vanguard terminology of the baby boom generation.

Parents are not cool and drugs are very cool. Many kids aspire to be cool. Cool also means independent and aloof and not shaped by corporate America’s model of success.

 

He swings a job working at a hot dog stand on the corner of Rush and Cedar Streets the summer of 1965. Some dumb show-off coworker pees in the pickle barrel.

Another kid steals his wallet. In it is his new Driver’s Permit. The kid runs away to Canada, does something illegal and gets caught by the police. Odysseus never finds out what crime is committed. The judge rules the kid deported and never allowed back into Canada.

Odysseus receives an official letter from the Canadian court addressed to his name, informing of the verdict. Then another letter is delivered regarding deportation and third and fourth letters.

It seems strange to Odysseus these official letters from the Canadian Government reach him and no one in the house takes notice or mentions anything. He hides the letters in a box of toy soldiers, fearing his parents will find out. The matter would infuriate them. It is one more of his screw-ups they will have to straighten up. He cleans the mess himself. He never travels to Canada.

 

The Smash Gang drives up to Lake Geneva in Andy’s white Pontiac convertible with the top down to party over the Fourth of July weekend. Kids from everywhere converge on the little resort village. The event is out of control. There are not enough police and rural Wisconsin cops do not know about reveling rebellious youth.

The streets mushroom with thousands of intoxicated and howling baby boomers. Cars barely crawl through. Those driven by girls are accosted. The Smash Gang joins in the rioting for the sheer joy of reckless abandon.

They squatter in a vacant farmhouse late at night. In a morning raid, the Lake Geneva Police arrest them for trespassing. The Smash Gang get hauled off to jail. Andy’s parents bail them out.

 

Mom and Dad are desperate to see Odysseus graduate from a reputable school. Despite his mediocre academic record, they manage to enroll him as a junior at Saint Michael’s Academy.

Saint Michael’s Academy is a strict Jesuit school made up mostly of Irish middle-class boys from Chicago’s northern suburbs. Odysseus in his tight black beatnik jeans sticks out like a brazen punk from the inner city. He plays football, sings in a rock band called Crud and his best friends are Moose Maloney, Patrick O’Banion and Will Murphy.

 

He asks a Jesuit priest what Purgatory is. The priest answers, “Metaphorically speaking, it’s like a shower to wash the residue of your sins before you enter heaven.” Odysseus questions, “How long do you stay in the shower?” The priest informs, “Until your soul is cleansed of the effects of sin. There is no set time. Everyone is different.”

 

It is 1966 and Mao Tse-tung announces the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The U.S.S.R. launches Luna 10, the first space probe to circle the moon. Mrs. Indira Gandhi becomes Prime Minister of India. The U.S. bombs Hanoi. Medicare begins and the F.D.A. states “the Pill” is safe for use. Someone in Houston gets an artificial heart. Sniping from a tower on the University of Texas, Austin campus, Charles Whitman shoots 44 people killing 13. California votes LSD illegal. Groundbreaking begins on the World Trade Center. Star Trek airs its first TV episode. Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” is published. Walt Disney dies December 15.

 

When Odysseus is sixteen, he is the wildest of the wild. Ask anyone who knows him. No one is as wild as Odysseus, not anyone. He takes on every dare, pushes his luck, shocks, outrages and skids beyond the outer reaches of self-control.

He sneaks into everything, crashes parties through the front window, drinks potent drinks, eats habaneros, risks any stunt, vandalizes land developments, breaks laws daily, outruns the police and gets arrested by the police, gets into fights, gets his ass kicked, streaks restaurants, streaks everywhere, skitches in the snow on the backs of cars and trucks, does massive hits of acid, sleeps with anyone, anywhere.

On his sixteenth birthday he has sex with his next-door neighbor Molly and beautiful Lorraine together. He is a skinny, bad-boy terror tease and girls dig him. He does not have any money or tricks up his sleeve. He simply asks straight out, “I want to take you to bed so bad. Will you let me?”

He gets intimate with the daughters of all his parent’s best friends and an assortment of debutantes and private schoolgirls and most of the girls in his neighborhood including Jessie Woods.

He sleeps on the floors of strange places, even shoots heroin once in a house of junkies and prostitutes on Clark Street. Getting into trouble is his way to have fun. He devours life in huge gulps and fears nothing except Mom and Dad.

 

Odysseus meets an older drug addict in his psychiatrist’s waiting room and offers to trade Mom’s sleeping pills for a hit of heroin. Later Odysseus meets the guy at an apartment on Clark Street south of Division. Odysseus brings about twenty of Mom’s Seconal.

The house is full of activity with ten or more aging heroin addicts including two female prostitutes. He sits at a kitchen table and is tied off and shot up. He feels an instant wave of extreme sickness and staggers into a chair into the front room.

Several people tell stories warning him of their regrets of heroin addiction.

He is sixteen years old and about to vomit his guts out. He scrams into the bathroom.

A woman is sitting on the toilet with her hand up her vagina. She says, “I haven’t shit in over two weeks. I’m trying to push this crap out of me. Honey, you need to use the toilet?” He pukes in the sink.

In the morning, they take him to 31 Flavors for ice cream.