Some women steal your heart. This woman stole my sketchpad
And I fell in love forever the instant I saw her
What a difference a half century makes
1959: The Year Everything Changed", and it could have been written with me in mind.
During this summer in 1959 I was known as Rafio, and my home was a pup tent in the sand dunes at Land's End in Provincetown.
I would spend a couple hours each day sketching portraits of tourists on Commercial Street, and when I had earned enough for a New York Times, a nickle bag of noxious weed and lunch, I'd quit for the day.
This was 1959 and the only coke around came in a six-ounce glass bottle. It was an innocent but bigoted era.
I didn't drink alcohol and rolled my own cigarettes, so all I did all day was lay in the sun, flirt with women, and wait for the long-gone "Wreck Club" to serve their free food each evening after the fishing boats unloaded.
One day's repast might be a simple pasta and another night it might be squid stew, but it was fun and it was free for the price of a drink at this great old watering hole.
I was beatific and had reached nirvana.
Then I met Patricia
I was almost 29 back then and one day when I was coming back from my daily swim in the harbor on August 22, 1959, I spotted a shimmeringly beautiful 17-year-old girl in front of Adam's Pharmacy walking off with the sketch pad I had left on my easel at the Crown & Anchor.
I asked her why she'd glommed it, and she said. "the drawings were so lovely, I couldn't resist them."
Guess what - I didn't say another word, and one thing led to another until she moved into my pup tent with me that same night.
We had a rapturous week together at Ballston Beach behind her family's camp on Old King's Highway in Truro, and even made poet Harry Kemp's last beach party. He was called "the poet of the dunes" and would be dead within a year.
We had one week together, sleeping in my pup tent in the sand dunes or her father's camp.
I sketched long enough to get the money to take her to Ciro & Sal's for our first dinner together, but mostly we dines al fresco on the beach or at the Wreck Club's free "whatever".
But our wild week of passion came to a screeching halt when her parents came down on Labor Day, took one look at me, and dragged her back home.
Pat gave them a month back home in Southbridge MA to see the light, and then she ran off to look for me in Greenwich Village.
Miracle on 4th Street
She didn't have an address for me because I didn't have one myself. I crashed at various friends' pads in The Village. The only thing she knew was that I hung out at the Rienzi and the San Remo on McDougal Street.
She took a bus to the New York Port Authority terminal on West 42nd Street, ignored the pimps and other chicken hawks, and took a cab downtown to 6th Avenue and 4th Street.
She left her duffel bag in a deli, and went looking for me among New York's eight million people.
I leave to find her
A hour before Pat arrived in NYC I had lunch with a friend who was a mystic of sorts named Ivor.
I told him I couldn't wait any longer, and that I was going to go to the subway station on 6th Avenue and 4th Street and ride it north into the Bronx to the end of the line and then hitchhike to Southbridge to get Patricia.
I say so long to Ivor, and I walked up MacDougal and turned left on 4th. Street.
Patricia had at the very same time started walking east on 4th Street, and we met each other on that one short block.
Neither of us at the time thought anything about how impossible meeting this way really was. Today it still gives me shivers.
This was the Beat Era, and The Village was jumping with art, music, poetry - it was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius and sexual freedom and Civil Rights were about to bloom, and America would never be the same again.
I was crashing with a friend, and after celebrating our miraculous reunion for a day or two, we realized that her parents would come looking for her, even contact the police to find their daughter.
One buddy named Jackson had a mint condition MG-TC, the original model, unwieldy with those 19-inch wire wheels.
He offered to drive us to the Florida Keys for a couple weeks to hide out.
Pat gets stoned in The Keys
We packed our duffel bags, put our pet white mouse in a large brandy snifter, and headed south.
The mouse fell out somewhere in Georgia, but we got to Marathon Key where we moved into a boathouse, and Pat had her first and last mescaline tab.
Pat wass 5' 9", 118 pounds soaking wet, with the tolerance of a flea. The mesc had her hearing the conversations in the telephone lines overhead as we walked along the Keys Highway that night. She can get high on an aspirin - the cheapest date I ever had.
The next night I was stopped by an INS immigration officer on the look out for Castro spies coming in from Cuba fifty miles offshore.
That island's revolution had occurred a few months before, and the U.S. Government was afraid Castro's minions might sneak into the country, and the Keys are the closest part of America to that new Communist country.
I guess I looked more like a Castro sympathizer than a New England preppie I was (see photo above), and I laughed in the INS guy's face, which was apparently the correct response because he let me go.
Pat dyed her light light auburn hair black to disguise herself, and we came back to The Village where Jackson gave us a very cool, rent-controlled apartment he owned on East 6th. Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue.
There were a lot of "Jacksons" hanging around The Village in the Beatnik era. The park filled up with them on weekends as they sought to emulate our "in your face" attitudes in what was a very peaceful, Eisenhower America.
I called the weekend wannabees 'Bronx bagel babes' and 'Brooklyn bongo bums', but they paid to hear us spout our rantings in the Village's coffehouses.
For the next two years we lived and thrived in Greenwich Village. The area had been the mecca of what passed for strip joints in NYC, although tame by Vegas standards, they were mob controlled, and trouble started as coffeehouses with beat poetry reading began to take some and then most of their visitors away.
We were in the thick of the upheaval which led to the mob funding our own coffeehouse the next year, but that's the next chapter
August 22, 2009 marked Pat and my fiftieth year together, so 1959 really did change everything for us, thankfully, and below is the happy couple with the Fresh Air Fund visitor Gina Peterson at Long Pond in Brewster around 1972.