249 Norton Street

This is a hell of a story. Unbelievable to the meek, yet all absolutely true, straight out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Aleister might have been thinking of us when he wrote:
"Also, take your fill and will of love as ye will, when, where and with whom ye will! But always unto me."
October 1, 1973: My, oh my. Here we are finally...at the infamous abode. There are so many stories from this place that it's hard to know where to begin. Moreover, most are unsuitable for mixed company. In a couple instances I've changed a name to protect the guilty. But maybe this'll give some sort of feel for life as it was here.

249 Norton Street was in operation as a palace of decadence for a decade. When I think of this place, I am so reminded of Oscar's astute observation:
"It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also."
I was the first tenant, having taken over from just across the street, by way of Rene's cubbyhole, described previously in this blog. Rent was a little higher now, $120 a month, so it was urgent I find a roommate pronto to defray expenses somewhat. Don't ask me how it came to pass, but almost at once I stumbled upon Howie, an old buddy from my Iowa high school. He decided to migrate northward to join me at Norton. By the middle of October, Howie had moved his enormous waterbed in and was established. And, of course, Winnie was there too.

Winnie--Photo by Flapper Tank Ball
Physically, this was a ranch style house, not too old, but definitely cut-rate in many ways. There were two reasonable bedrooms, and one tiny kiddie's room. The living room was okay, and the kitchen an absolute disaster. For whatever reason, it had been paved with ghastly orange self-stickum carpet squares, most of which were curling up and coming loose--licking upwards like parched tongues, blackened underneath with some foul decomposing rubber foam only Dow Chemical Company--the Aidoneus of our age--could produce. Napalm and carcinogenic kitchens ain't much of a legacy.

Furthermore, the previous tenant had dropped a huge roaster pan containing a turkey with all it's gravy, indelibly staining the carpeting with a four foot blotch. The photo above gives a sense of it all. This is Winnie at her usual place. You'll note the elegant table settings. Click the photo to enlarge it; it will repay your time to investigate the details.

The basement sported a workshop, a "recreation" area and a separate room with a bar. While this may sound grandiose, let me hasten to add that the entire dwelling had been constructed from materials obtained surplus, from auctions, close-out bargains, and recycled fittings. Nothing matched anywhere throughout, and everything had a cheap balsa wood feel to it. Splinters and soiled floors abounded. And there were odors to make you think of the afterlife.

Diversion often entailed soixante-neuf, among other things. It was heaven on earth for undergrads. La petite mort was commonplace. There are times when I fancy Georg Cantor's transfinite numbers wouldn't be sufficient to count their occurrences. I wager a light blue-green glow surrounded the house at all times, Kirlean no doubt, and you didn't have to be a Peter Hurkos to see it.

The grounds were rather impressive despite the countless cockleburs filling in for Kentucky bluegrass. 249 Norton terminated a dead-end street,  overlooking a fabulous ravine atop Glenwood. The backyard was quite large, with lots of mature trees surrounding the fringes, giving Winnie no end of room to romp. The garage matched the house for cheapness, but was serviceable enough. The exterior decor of the house and garage was done up in urine yellow with brown trim. I'll keep the adjectives halfway civil and not describe the latter more fully.

Bump ahead to April, 1974: It's my birthday, and by some chain of events, a woman entered my life then, to use an exceedingly understated verb; I forget who introduced us. Kay came over for a visit that afternoon. I showed off my collection of books on the Hermetic arts, which truly was outstanding, containing many rare volumes from England and Europe. We discussed the occult, of which it turned out she was quite knowledgeable. I had recently acquired a set of the Aleister Crowley
Book of Thoth tarot cards, and Kay was able to unlock a number of its mysteries to me. I remember her pointing out a pictograph of a penis on one of them, which had completely escaped my attention. It was sort of like The Purloined Letter: so much in plain view that it remained hidden.

By nine o'clock that night, Kay had moved in, taking the pull-out sleeper sofa in the basement as her bedroom, and by midnight we had become boyfriend and girlfriend. The spontaneous nature of it all was redolent of Crowley meeting Rose, but at least there was no Sir Gerald Kelly hanging about, casting disapproving glances. This was all pretty new to me, for I had never gone steady before.

Kay was born on the same day as me, but with Scorpio rising--no surprise there.

By three in the morning, we were quite committed and the world looked very different. What had previously been purely an academic exercise, breathed life into Donatien Alphonse François, Louis Culling and of course, the Great Beast. The Aeon of Horus had commenced.

During our ten-hour courtship, a rather major soirée was in progress upstairs. The Ripple flowed like water, and at one point an unusual chap by the name of Michael had an amphetamine reaction in a closet. I'd love to tell you more of Michael chatting with Kay and I on her pull-out sofa earlier that evening, but that'll have to wait until we meet in person; it's completely unsuitable for a public blog like this. But here's a hint: it involved a bit of per vas nefandum, while Michael continued to chew the fat, paying little heed that Kay and I were a bit preoccupied at the time. I rather liked how the world was turning out, for indeed, I was still a kid learning new things. Previously a bit of a Doubting Thomas, I suppose I had earlier discredited what De Sade wrote of. That was a mistake, for here was the genuine article in my midst.

Anyway, when Kay and I came upstairs the following morning, a mattress had appeared in the living room, four people flopped out on it, men and women. Must have been a tough night, for not a one of them stirred until noon. By the way, Ripple cost but 69 cents a bottle in those days.

My good buddy Mike reminded me a while back of something long forgotten. When the orgy upstairs was just getting organized those hours earlier, before Kay and I had retired to our own saturnalia below, she was invited, enticed to join in. Her response was: "Am I the only participant with female apparatus?"

Suffice it to say, the neighbors must have thought the anti-Christ and all of his brethren moved in. Speaking of which, I should mention that the neighborhood had an otherwise fairly mundane family aspect to it. Most of the people were terrified of the hippies which had arrogated the locale.

Try to visualize a noise nude on the stoop...
Along those lines, an amusing episode took place some five years later, when Babs, a beautiful brunette, most nubile, totally naked, got locked out of the house while standing on the front stoop. She was screaming at the top of her lungs, yet laughing, pounding with both fists on the door to get back in. The more she shrieked, the more curtains twitched across the street. By the time she got the door open, every neighbor had seen her in the buff. She had very fine buttocks, by the way. Had Babs just walked around the house to the back and crawled in a bedroom window, no one would have ever noticed! As it was, this incident totally convinced the neighbors: here was one evil abode. I'm sure all the kids were warned by parents to stay firmly away from 249 Norton. 

So, now the household consisted of Howie, Kay, Winnie and me. We made quite a foursome. Morning usually consisted of several games of Risk, Monopoly or backgammon, while watching Carmen the Nurse on the boob-tube. I had amorous intentions toward her, but was too penurious to run to a fountain pen. Those bleached white uniforms do it to me, don't you know. 

In the evening we tuned the radio to The World Tomorrow with Garner Ted Armstrong or the Old Time Gospel Hour starring Oliver B. Greene, just to learn what the opposition was up to. For me, mid-days were devoted to college. 249 Norton was close to campus, so I was able to hit the Memorial Library most any time with ease.

By the way, in addition to the bacchanalias and Hermetic studies, this was the era in which I switched majors to mathematics. Previously I had been pursuing Modern Languages, but due to the influence of a crazed mathematics professor (another Aquarian, though he would be loath to admit it), I changed horses midstream. Mathematics became the central passion in my life then, once I discovered it has very little to do with numbers and computation; it was always the esthetic aspect that attracted me.

Though we struck fear in the hearts of local residents, for whatever reason the mailman was quite fond of us. Spider (yes, that was his name) was a funny guy, tall and thin, maybe 60 years old, neatly coiffed and dressed. I think maybe he was envious of the carefree lifestyle enjoyed here. I also suspect his curiosity was aroused no end. It was an unusual day that he didn't have to lug a twenty pound box of books to the house; there were always new books arriving, on mathematics, magick, astrology, electronics...

We used to drive Spider nuts with outlandish behavior, but would always invite him in for a glass of lemonade on a hot day, and he'd sit and chat for a while, with lots of laughs. Try to picture it: this ostensibly straightlaced guy having a chinwag with hippies, hair to shoulders, beards, the occasional woman running around in skimpy clothing. He was usually all agog.

I remember one incident which probably made his year. He had just arrived somewhat tardy toting an enormous box of mathematics texts (several classic tomes on analysis as I recall) and we invited him in for a sit-down. Just then, a female tenant walked through in a pink housecoat, smiled charmingly and said "Hi." I spouted with a perfectly straight face, "Oh, Spider, you're ten minutes too late; she was giving free blowjobs a few moments ago." He snorted lemonade directly through his nose, gasped for breath, eyes completely dilated! Our mail was never late thereafter...

Over the years, various roommates came and went. Among the notables would be Howie, Kay, Rog-Baby, Bonehead, the Forgetful Gynecologist, and Ron the Swinger. But there was another, who would become one of my best friends ever, fellow musician, and so representative of the Age of Aquarius: Flapper Tank Ball. While others passed through fleetingly, I suppose in the long run Flapper and I were the ones with the longest tenure there.

We met in a rather unusual manner. I had placed an advertisement in The Reporter, expressing a desire to meet a woman with...ahem...relaxed moral standards. (Kay was long gone by this time). Would you like to see it? Then click on the following, choose "one-page view," then magnify until the print is readable. It's a clear scan. And quite a hoot.

An insanely beautiful German girl responded, and a few pleasant get-togethers at her apartment ensued. Her next door neighbor was Flapper, and the three of us would meet to discuss the occult. Well, four of us, actually, for I remember leading Winnie along at least once.

So flash ahead a half year or so, probably around 1976, and Flapper needed a new place to live. He moved into 249, and in fact endured through 1984, he being the last of the hippies before the place finally fell to a legitimate family more fitting of the neighborhood. But it was a pretty good decade-long run of debauchery at what I am convinced was the most wicked house in town.

It was an excellent place to come of age in: Crowley, Wilde, Kesey, Ginsberg, De Sade, de Quincey, all rolled into one abode.

And I was there... 

Next installment: Weight

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