The 5th and Final Anniversary of the Timothy Leary Memorial
I made memorable friends the year my lover worked for the Probation Department. Jon got a teaching gig in their diversion program for teenage boys, “the last chance before Juvie hard-time.” It was 2001. He was their art teacher. The Probation Department put together a little school of teachers, probation officers, social workers, court and police staff, the boys’ families— all in one building, an abandoned suite of church offices. It was a righteous effort to track young men out of an incarcerated destiny.
Jon taught drawing and painting with about twelve boys. It was tricky because the County wonks would make edicts like, “No one may exhibit the colors red or blue.” Jon brought in a dried goatskins, and wood, and they made beautiful drums, a drum orchestra. They found a broken pool table to restore, and set it up in the middle of the therapy area. Tattoo work was forbidden, of course, but they worked on basics of drafting and surfaces.
I met many of the kids’ parents— only minors with invested guardians could enroll in the program. It was an experiment to take a group of people who are typically bound adversaries in the criminal justice system — courts vs. police vs. therapists vs. parents vs. teachers— and see them all joined as one, a mutual working class benefit. It was not a bourgeois outfit.
The chillest person in the operation was a sixty-year-old finance admin who prepared the department payroll. Her name was a masculine one, “Laurence;” it made you think twice. She pronounced it in the English fashion. She herself was femme, quiet —With a twinkle in her eye, like Saint Nick. I came to see she was no conservative bookkeeper. She was political, and she played great music in her office. One day I walked in with Jon to get his check, and she took my hand in hers. She said she loved my writing.
“My writing? Really?”
You’d have to have your punk rock ear to the ground from the 80s, to be a fan of mine. I was touched. She was a fellow traveler.
Late that spring, near Memorial Day, Laurence took me aside. “I’m sending you an invitation in the mail. We are having a gathering and I think you’d fit in.”
How nice! It sounded like a different we, than the Probation Department. I knew she wasn’t talking about anyone else in the building.
A day later, a gold envelope on translucent parchment paper arrived at our home. It was drawn by hand, calligraphy, in gold and silver ink.
It said: “You are invited to the 5th and Final Anniversary of the Timothy Leary Memorial, May 31st, 2001.”
It included driving details to a canyon address and a RSVP.
I was jazzed. It sounded fun, another plume in Laurence’s legend— she was into psychedelics! —Acid in the punch, perhaps. Who knows what else went on behind her wire bifocals and lavender cardigans!
I called Laurence up to see if we could bring anything. “Is this a ‘wear a crazy wig’ kind of a party? Are we going to dance? Do you want more music?”
“You can wear whatever you’re comfortable in,” she said. “I don’t know if there will be dancing or not. It’s the fifth annual family memorial. I don’t think there’ll be another.”
I tripped over our landline cord. This was a real memorial? The Leary family? I couldn’t believe she invited two outsiders. What did she mean, that we fit in?
“Did you invite anyone else, besides relatives?”
“Well, the family is a bit of a tribe,” Laurence said. I could hear her distracted by voices on the other end of the line. “Timmy had a lot of kids . . . But no, just you two.”
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