Confessions of a Florentine Pet Sitter

The Boys From Berkeley

It 1965 during my second summer in Mendocino I met the boys from Berkeley who came to Noyo Harbor to fish for salmon. Gary, Gil and John, students at UC Berkeley, had purchased a 35 foot fishing boat and planned on getting rich that summer to pay for their college education… and drugs.

They often came to our house, staying for dinner and conversation. They enjoyed philosophical discussions with Dad. I fell madly in love with Gil and then John, both musicians. On one occasion I went out on the fishing boat with them and spent the whole night at sea. The rhythm of the waves and the heavy diesel fumes in the cabin lulled me into a deep sleep. To my disappointment, not one of the boys seduced me…but, really, who knows what occurred during that diesel-fogged night.

I’d like to think that my beauty, sexuality and magnificent personality were just too much for the boys from Berkeley and I drove them crazy, but as it turned out, Gil, a shy classical guitar player, was nearly extinct. We dated only twice. A few years later I heard he had killed himself.

John and I dated for a short while. We spent a night together at the Highlands Inn on the Carmel coast. Having grown up on the Monterey Peninsula, I always wanted to be a special guest at the Inn. That night, I was. I lost my virginity, finally, which surprised the hell out of John; he did not want to be the one.

I loved riding the Judah trolley all the way out to his apartment in San Francisco. I climbed the stairs to his studio flat, listened to him play the piano and looked through his bookshelves. He sat at his piano relaxed, long, lanky legs crossed casually at an angle to the keyboard, a lit cigarette hanging from the corner of his lips, smoke trailing upwards into his eyes. He didn’t notice the smoke. At those times he reminded me of my mother’s young friend, jazz pianist Charlie, who rode his racing bicycle up Highway One from Los Angeles and sat at Mama’s upright piano for hours in just such a relaxed creative state. I wondered what Mama and Charlie’s relationship was about, but she never told me.

Although John was the only person Mama ever knew who had read the Works of Flavius Josephus, her dislike for John was immediate and intense. With her disparaging attitude chasing us out the door, we escaped in John’s red Porsche, the heat of hate blurring the mirage of a loving mother. But Mama was right. John was arrogant, condescending, rude, narcissistic, but he was also a bright, talented young man. A troubled young drug addict musician, he ultimately destroyed himself, landing at Atascadero.

Somehow Mother knew all this about him; a mother’s intuition at play.

With John, I was insecure, jealous, fearful he’d find another woman. A familiar refrain in my life: that there’d be another more intelligent woman to entice men away from me. My fear of losing him manifested one evening in San Francisco when he began to flirt with my younger stepsister, also a musician. He was letting me know he was not mine.

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