Tiny

Hold tightly to my hand as we leap back together to a particularly raucous night forever etched in my mind (and on my nose). We're talking a year or two after the Summer of Love, and the aftershocks of Haight-Ashbury were just beginning to ripple through to my neck of the woods. Recall that my hometown grew round a university and was perhaps more closely attuned to the counterculture than, say, Boone, Huxley, Maxwell or other nearby communities. We had hippies, and lots of them. I still remember the disgusted muttering from townspeople when the guy elected Student Body President at ISU turned out to have hair down to his ass.

In other blog entries, I have alluded to The Gang, the dozen or so roustabouts I hung out with in the years 1967 through 1970. I was so very fortunate to have known every one of these guys, and learned something different from each. For example, Sheel-Teat (he of the innocent baby-face, with more tricks up his sleeve than Dickens' Artful Dodger) introduced me to the Marquis De Sade, a signal event in my life, which I'll be describing later.

And then there were Dugg Bedd, Cuds and Armpit, all pranksters of the first water, but also fine musicians with whom I would explore the mysteries of hard rock. I probably shouldn't use the term water with respect to Cuds--let's just say that he wasn't to be trusted around dishwashing machines. 

Or what about Fake-Nose, a close amigo from kindergarten on up, now sadly gone from this planet? I mentioned him briefly in The World of Tomorrow, and will have so much more to say about this guy, whose peristalsis obeyed his every command on will, leading to no end of vulgar pranks, many directed at organized religion. He could out-Crowley Crowley, if you take my drift.

I loved all these fellows, and we had a commitment to each other you simply wouldn't believe. Who would ever guess that allegiance, admiration, respect and just plain old ordinary unfailing trust could well up so strongly amongst a group of Iowa sociopaths bent on regularly outdoing the Visigoths in high school? Truly, d'Artagnan had nothing on us; we were a cartel from which no lavatory was safe.

Within this group was Tiny, a redoubtable chap and one of my favorite persons ever. In a way, of everyone in The Gang, he may be the one most responsible for my winding up in Minnesota, thus starting a series of chain reactions continuing to this day.

You see, among The Gang, we had an unwritten policy that whenever a member was nailed by the heat (typically Beetface, the vice-principal), then it was the responsibility of another within the group to enact the retribution. We looked upon it not as an onerous task, but an act of love; that's how much we thought of each other. Anyway, a certain weenie (who lived just a block from me on Lynn Avenue) grassed on Tiny for the punctured ceiling tiles in the Student Lounge. Janitors take note: always lock the mop closet. It was my duty, nay pleasure, to carry out the requital. A bit of broken glass (well actually, a lot) and bingo! I'm on the Greyhound bus to a new life in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

There are so many great stories I could relate of Tiny, especially my favorite involving a ball-peen hammer and a thermostat in the Graduate Dormitory at Iowa State. But for whatever reason, these past couple days I've been thinking of the Girls on Welch Avenue. So, let's go down that path instead.

By junior year of high school, we had become friends with some college girls. That perhaps is not quite the correct way to state it. It was more like the plot of that fine American-International movie, The Devil's Angels in which a motorcycle club takes over an entire town. Essentially, The Gang fell into the habit of hanging out at the apartment of the Girls on Welch every single Friday and Saturday night. There were three of them as I recall, Kathy, Market and Marnie. I seem to recollect another one early on, but she bailed out with alacrity when their place became a hangout for the full cast of West Side Story.

This trio of college coeds consisted of farm girls from the sticks of the Midwest. Now, Iowa State University was socially stratified in those days, probably still is. It was sort of like the Omega House versus the Delta House. In other words, these nice females still hadn't broken through the social barriers and so, the best they could come up with at that time was to hang out with us high school punks. Sort of a poor substitute for Paul Newman, but perhaps better than constant hen parties. Who knows?

Kathy was a red-haired dreamboat, I thought, very inviting in a tee-shirt, straightforward in many ways, with...ahem...certain relaxed moral standards. She and I became close friends, if I may phrase it that way. It amazed me then, and still does to this day, that a member of the 4-H from some little farm town in Iowa would be drawn to an anemic and scrawny version of Genghis Khan. I have since come to the conclusion that some girls are simply attracted to bad boys, which is what kept the television show Dragnet in business for so many years.

Market, on the other hand was quite portly, always laughing and just the nicest person ever. She and Fake-Nose became enamored of one another. They were very happy together, a bit of Jack Spratt and his wife.

Last of all, Marnie was a dried prune who loathed everything about us, the other Girls and life in general. Whenever we arrived, she would disappear amidst a wealth of facial expressions to make Margaret Hamilton proud. Which is why the Gang had particular fun with her in general. Sheel-Teat really knew how to get under her skin. Someday, I must relate how his foot thrusting through the splintering cheap pine of their lavatory door with a shout of "Come out of there, you wimp!" sent Marnie's potential suitor fleeing in terror, stumbling down the rickety staircase, exactly like some cheesy 1950s TV cowboy program. But this was no stunt man somersaulting on the treads.

Well, that's the setup. Now, one hot, steamy Ames summer night--no air conditioning--we had all gotten together in this second floor collegiate den of iniquity, situated not far from Paul's Superette (previously, Sucher's Superette, a slum mart geared to fleecing college students with overpriced and stale Hostess Snowballs, Coca-Cola and smokes for breakfast) and several college fraternities on Knapp Street. The roster included Tiny, Fake-Nose, Dugg Bedd, Sheel-Teat, Armpit and me, with all three Girls in attendance at the outset. Marnie fled pretty early on when the revelry began in earnest. I always visualized her escaping to some Campus Crusade for Christ meeting, where they drank grape juice of the reconstituted Hy-Vee ilk (13 cents a can in those days). She should have hung around for
our vino...
 
Parking in back on the graveled alley, Tiny hauled the strengtheners up the grey-painted but spindly two-by-four exterior staircase that night: a case of Bali Hai wine. While a case may sound a bit scrimy for a party as large as ours, you need to know that it housed four 1-gallon bottles. That was pretty heavy-duty by anyone's standards. Yes, indeed, Bali Hai was served in 1-gallon glass jugs, the same sort that apple cider comes in. The clear glass let you appreciate the blush of this fine vintage. The tint was ever so dainty and inviting, and always reminded me of the color of a urine sample after being sucker-punched in the kidneys by a beefy thug from Des Moines. As I recall, it went for $2.50 a gallon in those days, considerably less than hallucinogens which probably would have been our first choice. But remember, minimum wage was 65 cents an hour and then rocketed to $1.35 by senior year (yeah, LBJ!). You make do with what you can when growing up.

So, we inaugurated a night which might even have brought Dionysus to cover his eyes. In the background, the entire time, the radio blared the 50,000 watt clear-channel station, KAAY from Little Rock, Arkansas, playing a nighttime underground program entitled "Beaker Street." I wonder if anyone even remembers this anymore? That was the original underground station, before FM really took off. It aired all manner of music guaranteed to make parents run for cover to the bomb shelter, dragging kiddiewinks in tow. That night, and yes I really
do remember it, we were regaled by DOA, performed by the group Bloodrock and Journey to the Center of the Mind by the Amboy Dukes. Tunes to grow up by...consciousnesses to be expanded...everything made an imprint on me in those days...

It was a dotty, spicy and sweaty party, although that nomenclature is a trifle pallid for what was actually transpiring. Debauch might be a better word. Kathy, being raised on a dairy farm, well, sort of knew how certain things worked. And being a kindly sort, she was more than willing to share her knowledge. Fake-Nose and Market were working up to a sort of embrace, or something or other. The rest of The Gang were pouring it down, and the chatter grew more and more ebullient, tons of laughing, ribald jokes flowing as freely as the Bali Hai. Banter, group-gropes, tittering, guffawing, and the most friendly camaraderie you can imagine. No limits in those days.


By one or two in the morning, Tiny had consumed an entire glass jug of that pale cooking wine which would curdle any meal. He was feeling warmer than the rest of us. Keep in mind that at six-foot-five, he tipped the scales at 325 pounds, solid muscle and was the envy of us all. Every gang should be so lucky to have such an enforcer. Kathy and I disengaged long enough to turn our heads toward him on the sofa opposite to hear the rumbling of Mount Vesuvius. Sweat poured down Tiny's forehead, and he had now stripped off his buttoned zig-zag striped shirt, revealing what can only be called the most incredible barrel chest imaginable. Gauss! That guy had arms and pectorals and deltoids like you wouldn't believe! The Sandow of our era! But he definitely was looking a little green around the gills. The sub-audio rumblings continued from that 55 gallon oil-drum gut, and everyone turned at this point to notice the daintiest drip of drool manifesting on his lips, wobbling eyelids and spasmodic movements of the abs.


And then it hit, the tsunami.


The heave began to fly, Sheel-Teat and Dugg Bedd diving off of the sofa in the nick of time to avoid the deluge, the two of them maintaining nasty carpet burns in their haste to avoid the onslaught. Everyone burst into laughter! Unlike the typical attack of bottle flu which renders the patient remorseful, quiet, self-pitying and the like, Tiny also burst into laughter, chortling
while upchucking. He made no attempt to aim properly, as if there were any proper target in such a social gathering.

The giggling and retching finally came to an end. (With big guys, that can take a while).


With that, the two girls remaining (it's a good thing Marnie bailed out early on, or there probably would have been litigation), decided they had better instigate a little housekeeping. They left for the kitchen, while the rest of us continued to luxuriate on the next tune, a dainty little trifle by Mars Bonfire entitled
Born to Be Wild. Damn, I'm so lucky to have met all of this when I did...

The next thing we knew, Kathy and Market had returned to the living room, with clasp-type clothespins affixed to their beaks, wielding soup ladles, to start scooping up the puke into a chromed Rivalware pot. More gales of laughter ensued at their hilarious appearance. Clothespins!


Those Iowa farm girls are so solicitous...


As I recollect, Armpit and Dugg Bedd were able to ferry Tiny and the Camaro he was so prideful of, home safely, just south of town, and without his parents ever detecting anything amiss. I still wonder how they pushed him through the open window at the back of the house.


The rest of us departed from a soirée to remember, swearing oaths of fidelity and collegiality as always. But to this day, if you look closely at the bridge of my nose, you can see still the aftereffects of that night. I have no idea what transpired on my walk to home just three blocks away.

Good old Tiny! I haven't seen him in over forty years and have no idea where he may be now. But I certainly hope he remembers, knows, what his friendship meant to me.


Next installment: The Duggmobile

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