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Chapter 8

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 6 months ago

Chapter 8


The Burner Boys play the Easter Be-in at Stanley Park. That night CBC Television would feature them on their national news.



The trouble landed in our paradise when my lawyer suddenly informed me my new trial was set for the coming week. If I lost I could reasonably expect to go back to jail for up to two years. I anxiously remembered Judge Mahon before he passed sentence at the first trial - paging through law books, presumably searching for a statute which would permit him to strangle me with his bare hands right there in court. In a small twist of justice Mahon had been banned from all drug trials for violating The Bill of Rights when he sentenced me, but it didn’t mean the next judge would be any kinder.


Because we had spent all our money at the Peninsula Hotel, the morning of my trial we breakfasted on shared rations of peanut butter and melba toast. Rish and Pop had fled the noise and partying of Burner Mansion and found an apartment. In their place Carl Jensen – the eldest son of the owner – had moved back home and now sardonically shared the breakfast table. Carl was a junkie who had a risky gig. Every two or three months he would go down to the waterfront and rent a small boat. After dark, he would quietly motor out to one of the many freighters anchored in Vancouver’s harbour. There he removed dozens of waterproof packages of heroin attached to the rudder and delivered them to an unnamed third party. For his services he received money and junk. The morning of my trial he sat with a cat-like face and glazed eyes waiting for the liquor store to open so he could phone a taxi to deliver bottles of Irish whisky, which helped calm his nerves.


The idea of living with a heroin smuggler made me feel distinctly uneasy as I sat in court, waiting for my lawyer. Al, Tim and Steve sat loyally on the back benches. Around me sat my parents and three brothers. At ten o’clock the judge appeared. He was at least 70 and looked like a bulldog, angry at being woken from a nap – one of those Depression era magistrates who believed in an eye for an eye. The prosecutors were waiting. Everything was in place except my lawyer.


The minutes ticked uncomfortably by. At ten thirty the judge, who up until now had been expressionless, registered his first emotion. Anger.


“Does your counsel know he has a trial date today?” he stared down at me from the bench.


“He’s the one who told me to be here.”


“Then I suggest you get on the phone and remind him. Half hour recess, but make it snappy,” he banged the gavel down.


I ran out to a pay phone and called his office. No answer. Then I joined everyone else on the courthouse steps waiting for his arrival. Finally, nearly an hour late, a pastel yellow Karman Ghia pulled up. There was one small parking spot, directly in front of us, too tight for any car, but this didn’t bother my lawyer. He backed in and hit the car behind. Then pulled forward and hit the car in front. As we watched in disbelief he proceeded to clear a space for himself with a series of loud, back-and-forth crashes. It was like something out of The Three Stooges. I looked over at my father, who, mortified, rolled his eyes and walked away.


While my lawyer might have been an idiot, the crown prosecutor was a melodramatic fool named Digby Kerr. He immediately tried to paint me as the biggest drug dealer on the West Coast. The original narcs were there, including Abe Snidenko who had been flown out to Vancouver from Ottawa where he was now chained to a desk. Whereas in my first trial the narcs had pushed the truth, Digby Kerr now led them through new testimony where they blatantly lied. I looked helplessly at my lawyer. I hoped he’d have the balls or at least the awareness to bust them for perjury but he sat unaware, dazedly shuffling through papers. Sitting behind me, my father had been a lifelong advocate of the Mounties, holding them up as examples to follow when we were kids. Seeing the R.C.M.P. narcs flat out lie shattered his faith. He sat stunned, shaking his head. After that day he was never quite the same.


Prosecutor Digby Kerr then went on to review the evidence. He sorted through the pitifully few grams of hash I had been caught with and then seized on a baggie of worthless keif. “This evil substance!” he held it up with a flourish. By now the baggie was so old and worn out it broke, covering his blue suit in a dusting of dung-colored keif powder. It was a farce.


My lawyer brought on a string of character witnesses to testify that I was a misguided youth who would make a fine citizen of some community one day – just hopefully not this one. My star witness was Betty Lou Layzell, a neighbour who lived across the street from my parents. Betty Lou was my age and had achieved every possible honour – leader of the cheerleading squad, straight A average, multiple scholarships to university. She was small with exciting proportions and had a notorious sexual appetite. I’d experienced it myself. The key was getting into her parents’ place while they were out and playing key songs to her –'You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ by the Righteous Brothers It was better than alcohol or any other known drug - like plugging her into some sexual light socket.


Perhaps to compensate for this, the day of my court appearance, she dressed in knee socks and a blue checked crinoline dress. Her hair was done in ringed braids. I silently bewailed this development. It was way over the top. She looked as if she’d stepped out of the pages of a children’s storybook. It looked like I’d hired Anne of Green Gables as a mouthpiece. Worse, she couldn’t really articulate anything good to say about me except that I was nice, and that it was nice to be nice to the nice. Other than that she just giggled a lot.


There’s one thing I can say for having an old judge. Aside from a man’s wife there is probably no more lied-to individual on the planet. This judge had been lied to for a good part of his 70 years by an endless stream of defendants and prosecutors. His tired, bloodshot eyes were weary with mendacity. Sitting there in the courtroom I got a sudden insight into how justice really worked. It was the judge’s job to weigh the bullshit from each side on the blind scales of justice, cross reference it to how badly each side’s bullshit smelled in relation to the other’s, factor in weight, colour and texture, and render a decision. The only thing lacking was that the blindfolded goddess holding the scales of justice needed a clothespin on her nose.


He didn’t need a lot of time. Apparently Abe Snidenko's blatant lying was a greater crime than my putting Betty Lou on the stand. Perhaps he saw me as a victim of my own dopey lawyer. He called us back in after twenty minutes.


“Two years suspended sentence and a thousand dollar fine, to be paid within one year.”


An audible woosh of relief came from the band behind me. That meant I could stay with the The Burner Boys.. We gathered on the courthouse steps and had a small, fist waving celebration. Although our previous night’s dinner had been fried rice, onions, soy sauce and mayonnaise, Steve authorized a trip to the nearest bar, which happened to be The Big O. There we drank, yelled about success and held forth until excited fans started buying us beer. When I went to the washroom I was approached by a Rasputin-like character.


“I must be hallucinating. I just saw Abe Snidenko standing on the corner outside the courthouse.”


His face was white with fear. This was Robbie King, a child prodigy who was one of Canada’s top jazz/blues organists. He had been written up in Downbeat magazine as a teenager and had gone on to play on R&B hits with Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, eventually covering a Burner Boys song – Six Feet Under Water – with the Hans Staymer Band. He also had good reason to fear Abe Snidenko, since he was a junkie and alcoholic who lived at the O.


“He just testified against me,” I said brightly. “Flew all the way out from Ottawa, but I got off with a suspended sentence. I heard he was so pissed off he was coming down here to bust the joint.”


“Jesus God,” muttered King and fled the bar.


The afternoon turned into evening and developed into a real party. A huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I felt like the King of Canada. At some point I went home with a woman. She was too drunk to drive her van so, still feeling indestructible I told her I would drive, even though I didn’t have a licence. Hurtling along a waterfront road I erroneously grazed a Greek sailor walking on the shoulder with the passenger side mirror. It sent him sprawling into the gravel next to some railroad tracks. I stopped and dashed back in the dark. I straightened him up, dusted him off and looked for damage.


“My shoulder, my shoulder,” he moaned.


This was suddenly ominous. I had just got out of court and been on probation for less than eight hours yet had already committed three crimes – driving without a licence, driving while impaired and hitting a pedestrian. If the police came now or even if he filed any sort of complaint I would be back in jail. The only thing I could think of was; that the best defence was a good offence. I summoned up the nerve to deliver a stern lecture.


“You shouldn’t walk along the side of the road like that,” I shook my finger at him. “You create a traffic hazard. Look at the trouble you’ve caused.”


“My shoulder, my shoulder.”


I felt his shoulder and wobbled it around. He showed no indication of pain and the joint still seemed to work. “Bullshit. Your shoulder’s fine. Now you get back to your ship and quit causing trouble. Remember – you’re a guest of Canada. Act like one.”


To my immense relief he took my advice and hurried meekly across the railroad switching yard to his ship, docked beneath a towering grain elevator. It had been one of those rare days where good luck dogged my footsteps.


I arrived back at Burner Mansion about noon the next day and found Al waiting for me at the kitchen table, sitting with a pot of tea and an empty ten cent can of condensed milk. We had been writing a lot of songs which were becoming inaccessible to dance audiences – songs like Rain, Far In Here, Dig Her, and You Were the First One. They were extremely well crafted songs and would play well on today’s easy listening stations but that’s not what we were after. Now, to celebrate my freedom he suggested we go over to a new record store on Robson Street in Vancouver where they allowed you to listen to records before buying. There we could sample vintage 1930’s jug band and get back to our roots.


I instantly agreed. I couldn’t wait to write more funky jug rock dance music. Neither of us had a driver’s licence but both had bus fare so we set out. We waited at the bus stop like two school chums, which in fact we were. It was the Saturday before Easter. Bright, puffy spring clouds drifted above us.


“By the way,” I said in passing, “that woman I was with last night gave me two of tabs of acid. I think we should take them. It will enhance our appreciation of the music. We’ll get more out of it.” I pulled two blue blotters out of my pocket and handed one to Al.


“What kind is it?” he eyed it. It was a reasonable question coming from Al. He was somewhat of an afficianado. While I’d been in Europe sending hash home he’d lived in a closet in a run down communal apartment above a wretched bar on East Third Street. There his minders fed him acid at least three times a week. Since joining in the band he’d tried to rule it out of his life.


I inspected the dark blue blotter myself. “Blueberry Brain Buster,” I lied. “Very mellow yet perceptive”


Surprisingly he shrugged and licked it back. I did the same.


An hour later we sat beside each other in a row of listening booths. We both had headphones clamped to our heads and I was immensely enjoying a 1930’s jug band song called ‘Lard Bucket Blues’ about someone trying to borrow a pail of lard, when I looked up. The dark cork cladding on the wall across from me was undulating. I squinted my eyes shut then popped them open to regain focus. Now it was worse - they were breathing – actually taking great deep breaths like a sighing giant. I leaned over, poked Al in the shoulder and pointed to the offending wall. He nodded gravely. We quietly put down our headphones, removed ourselves from this strange environment and took the bus home.


An hour later we found ourselves on a piece of waste ground about a block from Al’s mother’s house. It was an utterly useless piece of land – a tiny triangular piece of weed covered ground that was too small to build a house on or to make into a park, so it just sat. As did we. By now we were feeling so insightful that it seemed perfectly obvious we should sit in this crappy patch of weeds and gravel, cross-legged like Chinese monks, and absorb the emanations of divine knowledge from the deepest part of the universe.


“Al,” I pulled on his sleeve. “Do you see that gravel spreading up from the road to the sidewalk?”


Al stared and nodded.


“Imagine you are seeing this from far away, on a mountain top. Don’t you think it looks like thousands of people coming out of the sea to join us?”


The image of thousands of well-wishers emerging from the sea in the dirt and gravel appealed to Al immensely. “Yes. I see them. Pouring up toward us out of the sea. Incredible. How did we miss this before? It’s BEAUTIFUL!”


Just then a housewife carrying groceries and her child passed along the sidewalk in front of us. When she heard Al shouting about the gravel she actually tried to shield the kid’s eyes. Seeing us both sitting in the weeds and crud like a pair of bums, we probably looked like we were doing a screen test for a new TV show called The Young Winos.


After the woman passed Al looked at his watch. “We’d better get moving.”


“Where?” I asked dreamily. “I want to stay here and watch the gravel.”


“We have to have Easter dinner at my mother’s house.”


Suddenly alarm bells went off - I was still ripped out of my cookie and couldn’t imagine putting myself through such an ordeal. “Absolutely not.”


“Come on. It’s only a block away. Besides, she’s expecting us.”


I stared at him in anguish. At that moment, wearing a smile of beatific contentment, slightly round-faced, radiating bliss, he looked exactly like one of those illustrations of the sun you see on ancient maps, except for the long hair and glasses.


Al’s mother, Effie,was a short, determined woman who had been widowed when Al was 14, when her husband died in a fishing accident in the Skeena River. Since then, with his help, she had done her best to maintain the household. Trying to control Al’s two teenage brothers, Wire Head and Peach Head, had made her long suffering. Often when we dropped by unexpectedly she could give us only beans on toast, but for Easter she had gone out of her way. The whole family, including Al’s sister, Cathy, were gathered around the kitchen table when I reluctantly joined them.


I looked across at Al. He was on his home turf so looked fairly relaxed, while I was in a state of hyper-aware anxiety. At that point I realized it was unfair to expect someone to take part in an old fashioned, traditional family dinner when they have taken a modern drug. They don't mix. As the family chatted and exchanged small talk the ceramic fruit vibrated on the walls. Desperate to appear normal I gazed casually out the dining room windows, but at that point I would not have been surprised to see a bird fly by backwards.


Al’s mother dished out steaming mashed potatoes, thick slices of ham, peas and yams. I wasn’t remotely hungry but took a plate thinking that to get along you have to go along. I stared down at it. The ham was the shimmering, glowing deep pink of a blazing winter sunrise and was slowly moving around the plate like a living thing. The peas were vibrating like tiny, electric green pool balls and skittering around after the ham. With almost hysterical concentration I chased the peas around my plate, stabbing at them with my fork. It was nearly impossible. Dismayed by the calamity taking place in front of me I looked up and was astonished to see that no one had noticed. Effie and the rest of the family happily chewing away on this stuff. I looked across at Al to see if he was having the same problem with animated food. If he was, as eldest son and man of the house, he was taking it in a manly way. I hung on doggedly and faked it until everyone else had finished. I thought surely I would be allowed to leave and go somewhere else. I would have been happy to go up and sit on the roof...


“Well, I guess that’s it for me,” I patted my stomach and avoided looking at my mostly uneaten dinner. I attempted to push myself away from the table in a not-too-panicky way, the ordeal over.


“No, David, sit down for some dessert,” Al’s mother urged.


She placed a large, home-made blueberry pie in the center of the table. The impossibility of eating made the pie seem immense – the way a man on crutches sees a mountain he is supposed to climb. Yet it was clear she’d gone to a lot of trouble. I sat back down.


She handed me a thick wedge. “You and Alan are still growing and you don’t eat enough as it is.”


Luckily the pie wasn’t moving around on the plate like the main course. I hoped that a good old fashioned home made dessert would be more agreeable to my strangely altered metabolism. I smiled and took a fork full. Then I sat bolt upright. I nearly spat it back on the table. It tasted like I’d just eaten a mouthful of thick Grade C crude oil. I have never eaten bunker oil before but that’s exactly what it was. No question. I fought to keep from retching and choked it down. On an intellectual level I knew it was impossible that Al’s mother’s pie tasted like such a bizarre thing as the used oil from freighters, yet the unmistakable taste was proof. I was at my wit’s end. I had hardly touched my dinner and now to push away poor Mrs. Hovden’s home made pie after one bite would be an unthinkable insult. And there was no way I could tell the poor woman this. With watering eyes I looked helplessly over at Al. He took a bite and chewed it. Then he got a troubled expression.


“I can’t eat this pie, mom, It tastes like petroleum,” he said matter of factly, as if his mother occasionally tried cooking with fossil fuels and now he had caught her at it.


I waited for the explosion, expecting an exasperated lecture on taking strong drugs before dinner, but Al had delivered this bizarre yet truthful remark so casually it was rendered completely inoffensive. To my amazement his mother accepted this as if it were completely normal – that she could make a fruit pie taste like an unrefined oil product - and excused us.


We were about to leave when the old fashioned kitchen wall phone rang. It was Steve. He had just got a last minute call from Steve Cruz, a local promoter and agent, to be the opening band at ten the next morning at the Easter Be-In, by far the largest and most prestigious musical event of the year in Vancouver.


We got back onto a bus, hurried back to Burner Mansion. In light of this huge gig looming the next morning Tim and Steve were far less tolerant of our addled drug state than Al’s mother had been. They called us a pair of airheaded saps and told us to go and sleep it off. I tried very hard to do this but it was almost impossible after taking Blueberry Brain Buster. My mind was still fizzing and popping into the early hours as I lay in my bed and tried to control the butterflies.


The next morning passed in a blur but by nine we were setting up on a large flatbed trailer that served as the stage at Lumberman’s Arch in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. I was anxious to meet the organizer and promoter, Steve Cruz. We had something in common. As owner of The Afterthought, one of the city’s first counter culture venues, he too had recently fallen victim to Abe Snidenko. The mean-hearted narc had pulled up outside his 4th Avenue club and put a police blockade at both ends of the street. There were over a hundred people lined up outside. Snidenko and his goon squad threw them all up against the wall while Cruz’s mother, the ticket taker, followed and berated him in Ukrainian. It all ended badly. Cruz was arrested for possession and lost his club licence.


I didn’t have time to look for him as a huge crowd had already begun to gather. The early heat of the morning sun made steam rise from the grass, but by ten o’clock there was no more grass to be seen – only people. Twenty thousand had gathered to see us open for the biggest Vancouver bands like The Seeds of Tyme, The United Empire Loyalists and then Country Joe and the Fish and The Steve Miller Blues Band.


At the stroke of ten I approached the mike. Nothing had prepared me for this. Running a dance hall full of drunks was one thing, but this was like talking to the sea. The crowd stretched off as far as I could see.


“Can you hear me in the back?’ I shouted.


There was a vague, low energy roar from the crowd. Then a pause. Then a few shouts came from the booths and tables in the far distance where they were probably selling acid Kool Aid and cheap red wine. By now I had learned the key to a good gig was to jump on the crowd and get a sense of control right off the bat. In this case it was impossible. Anything I said took about two minutes to reach the rear and almost as long for them to respond. I wondered how Hitler did it. I gave up and concentrated on the people directly in front of the stage. Still, the lack of control made me anxious.


“Good. We’re the Burner Boys and we’re going to brighten your morning with a song you can all take home.”


With that I stepped back and called for our newest song, Kiss Your Ass Goodbye. It was unique. I’d written the lyrics inspired by San Francisco comic book artist Robert Crumb’s characters like Mr. Natural, who, despite their best efforts, were always mercilessly bullied by the Man. The verse had a lively Russian/Jewish folksong feel set to rock a beat with a big Glen Miller style chorus.





Kiss Your Ass Goodbye


You all know about rock and roll

And you remember how to do the twist

I told you about the boog-a-loo

And you went and put it on your list

Now you want a new dance

Here’s one you can try

Stick your little head

Between your legs

And kiss your ass goodbye


Do it on the telephone

Or way down on the farm

Do it sitting all alone

With a needle in your arm

You only get one shot at life

No need to re-apply

Stick your little head

Between your legs

And kiss your ass goodbye


Kiss your ass goodbye

Everybody say so long

Everybody’s gonna roll on

To the bye and and bye and bye

Sing a sad farwell

And give a little sigh

Nothing left to lose

Kiss your ass goodbye


You can do this dance of mine

To nearly any beat

Get your friends and form a line

And do it in the street

And when they slap the cuffs on you

Spit right in their eye

Then stick your little head

Between your legs

And kiss your ass goodbye


Someday soon I guarantee

You’ll do this famous dance

Suddenly you’ll realize

That you don’t stand a chance

They’ve got the law, the army, CIA and FBI

All you’ve got are your sweet lips

Kiss your ass goodbye


Kiss your ass goodbye

Everybody say so long

Everybody’s gonna roll on

To the bye and bye and bye

Sing a sad farewell

And give a little sign

Nothing left to lose

Kiss your ass goodbye.




The song ended. I waited for the response. There was scattered applause and a few whistles from various parts of the crowd. It was like it was too early in the morning and they weren’t awake yet. Again I decided to concentrate on those in front. Before I could say anything else some short, kinky haired hippie five feet away from me in front of the stage delivered the verdict.


“Quit laying all those bummers on us. You’re a real asshole, man”


In my nervous and vulnerable state this hit me like a spear. I looked out across the crowd and in a sickening flash got the overwhelming feeling that 20,000 people hated me. The feeling was sudden and overwhelming. The wave of imagined hostility was so tangible I stepped backwards a few feet like I’d been struck a blow. I thought I was going to faint. My bowels turned to water. My asshole wanted to drop down onto the stage and crawl away. It was by far the worst moment I have ever had on stage. I struggled to regain my composure, looking back at the band, but thankfully they were unaware of what had happened. After a brief pause I ignored the bitter runt in front of me, looked toward the back of the crowd and introduced the next song. It worked. Soon pockets of hippies were dancing and stamping holes into the wet grass. At the end the whole crowd was cheering. We finished the set with Lighthouses Down the Coast and then gave the crowd to The Seeds of Time.


Relieved, we sat in the wings to watch this legendary band perform. They were the defining powerhouse Vancouver rock band. Each member – John Hall on keyboards, Lindsay Mitchell, Jerry Doucette and Alan Horowitz on guitar, Steve Wally on bass and Rocket Norton on drums had a talent as big as his ego. Each could have started a band on his own and each later did. Most couldn’t write a song to save their lives but in covering rock songs they were magnificent.


Tired from no sleep from the night before, I was still interested to see how Geoff Eddington, their lead singer, would handle a crowd this large. He walked out on stage with a hat in his hand. He too looked like he had not slept.


“I want to announce a collection for the Musicians on Drugs Defence Fund!” he yelled into the mike.


There was a vague response.


“I’ll be the first to contribute!” he held up the hat. “Then I’m going to pass it around!”


At that he dug into his tight jeans pockets and fished for change. Each time he pulled out his hands no money appeared but dozens of pills popped out and rolled around the stage. There was laughter in front. Eddington passed the hat then briefly left the stage, presumably to compose himself or take some of the pills. Then they cranked it up and blew us out of the park.


Still I thought we’d done a decent job in opening a cold crowd of 20,000. A few hours later we left and went back to Burner Mansion. I had a protracted nap to catch up on my sleep then came downstairs about six o’clock. Al, Steve and Tim were sprawled in the living room watching television. Then the Easter Be-In national news coverage came on. The broadcast opened with our performance but ignored the Seeds of Time. Then, to our astonishment, they chose Lighthouses Down the Coast, with its chorus of, ‘Hey I don’t know where I’m going /Hey I don’t know where I’ve been,’ as the theme for the entire event, stating the song reflected the spirit of a lost and confused generation at odds with itself. Then they broadcasted it across the country.


We were finally on the map. Which map we were on, and how well we were on it was hard to tell, but it felt like a huge step in the right direction.

Comments (5)

Anonymous said

at 10:04 am on May 30, 2006

Geoff Eddington of the Seeds of Time later died of a heroine overdose. I remember his black leather pants and matching fingerless black leather gloves when he was onstage at the Be-In. Alan Horowitz later changed his name to Al Harlow and formed the Al Harlow band with Steve and Tim from the Burner Boys as the rythym section. When Steve Whally of the Seeds eventually turned to Jehovah, Al Harlow was moved to bass and Prism was formed. That band has gone thorugh several lead singers since but still perform as Prism, occasionally touring western Canada.

Anonymous said

at 12:35 pm on May 30, 2006

Tim- I thing you've got Geoff confused with someone else. He went on to become a manager at Loomis Security Co. Last I heard he was alive and kicking out there somewhere.

Anonymous said

at 2:16 pm on May 31, 2006

Al,was it their next singer who OD'd? I still remember the leathers image, I'm just not sure if it was Geoff or not.

Anonymous said

at 4:16 pm on May 31, 2006

The singer that dies was the singer for Prism, Ron Tabak. He did not die of an overdose. He was riding his bicycle to Al Horowitz's place and was hit be a truck I believe. He was actually a born again Christian and he and Al were going to go to a prayer meeting or something. They took Ron to hospital where he became very abusive. They thought he was drunk and put him in jail where he died later from a brain anyeurism (sp?).

Anonymous said

at 5:51 pm on Jun 4, 2006

Al and Tim,
Ron Tabak was playing in our band with John Regher,who is now with Larivee Guitars,when along comes Lindsay Mitchell to help me with sound and lights one night at a dance. Lindsay was very impressed with Ron's act and asked him to join his new project much to our angst. Ron was allways late for gigs and practise,sometimes because his MINI was broken and other times because he was just being Ron. We knew he was moving on and it was going to be hard to replace him. We hired some guy named Dave from Handly Page and toured the province a little. Ronny was quite close to John and they stayed in touch untill his demise.What a twist of events!!

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