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From Tales of Beatnik Glory, Volume 3: The Psychedelicatessin.

The Psychedelicatessin opened up that spring next to the boarded-up old Total Assault Cantina on Avenue A just north of Tenth Street, a rebel cafe which had closed its doors four years ago, not long after President Kennedy had been shot. During those years, when four seemed like forty, the empty Total Assault Cantina lurked there unrented on the Avenue, as if it were too sacred to touch, and acquired a Poe-like mystic sacredness to the hippies who when they walked past it recalled stories from their slightly biophased Beat elders about the glory years of jazz-po, bebop and bongos, rallies for the Freedom Riders and the first-heard thrill of folk tales sung to a mandolin, dulcimer or skiffle band.

The groovy old pre-psychedelic sign above the door was losing letters: TOTAL A SAULT C NTINA, which only added to the Poe, man, added to the Poe. Hippies on acid would stare through cracks in the boarded-up windows as if they could still see beatnik chianti bottles with red candles in them and a halfmoon bay of berets nodding and shouting "Go! Go!" to a Civil Rights worker reading "Howl" to rev up his nerve to face the klan in Mississippi.

Things were more overt in 1967 than they were in '61, and so the Psychedelicatessin pressed its message in a public ostentation of primary colors that were an epochal addition to the history of the species. Its display cases held roach clips, hash stashes, water pipes, eyeglasses that diffracted light, kaleidoscopes, peacock feathers, gowns adorned with beadwork of painted hemp seeds, runic stones, tarot decks, massage oil, a substance you could buy in different tastes called orgy butter, sacred bundles of sagebrush, aromatic headbands suffused with myrrh resin, voodoo statues, emblems of the Great Mother, rock and roll posters, body paint, moire discs for the forehead or nipple, good luck belly button charms, merlin shoes, strobe lights, gourd rattles with beadwork around the handles for peyote ceremonies, herbal morning-after teas, cloisonne power jars, ironwood Poetry Improvement Sticks dipped in the Ganges, zebra skulls for prayer stare, silver water pipes, underground newspapers and books on drugs, aphrodisiacs, sacred behavior and marijuana.

When they remodeled the interior of the Psychedelicatessin they had in mind an Indian cliff dwelling. There were two ground floor rooms, one of which opened to the street, plus a basement and an upstairs apartment reached by a ladder of tipi poles lashed with hemp rope that led from the front room through a hole in the ceiling. In this upstairs apartment resided the commune-like group that owned the Psychedelicatessin.

The other ground floor room of the Psychedelicatessin was devoted almost entirely to the display and burning of candles. At any one time there were maybe fifty candles burning, some big, some tiny, some perfumed, some whose wicks sparkled or fumed in reds and blues, giving the unvented room a gnostic smokiness of empowering psychegloom and meditative grooviness. This room of burning candles also offered displays on the spiritual power of stones. There were posters (for sale) on the wall of Plymouth Rock, the Stone of Scone and the Omphalos of Gala at Delphi. There were swirls of white pebbles in old box hockey boxes, and a half-ton chunk of blue-stone they named the Sacred Stone of Blob, through which the store made obeisance to what was termed The Structureless Essence of Amorphia. The Sacred Stone of Blob always had burning candles atop it, so that its sides were thickly layered with a multicolored thrill-flow.

The room devoted to the Structureless Essence of Amorphia was known on the street as the Blob Room, and there were usually a few meditators or poets taking notes sitting on pillows around its edge. Occasionally someone would come into the Blob Room and sizzle a draft card in the Blob Candle.

In a corner of the Blob Room was a cut away section of the floor through which protruded the top of a ladder by which the invited could go clown to the Kiva, an underground chamber outfitted with posters, strobe lights, mattresses and pillows for meditations and psychedelic ceremonies.

People in a hurry whose stomachs were growling would quickly scan the "--tessin" part of the sign outside and then come in for bagels, knishes or lox. This caused many quips among the staff about a menu that would feature such entrees as pot seeds and ziti, eggs over acid easy or peyote corn chips with hashoil/jalapeno sauce. Jokes aside, the "tessin" factor blacktopped a definite if controversial avenue to cash and soon, if you were trusted enough, you could order special items delivered to your apartment or gallery opening such as hashish kugel or a mushroom casserole that came with its own trip-guide.

That spring the Fates, who weaveth the Grand Pattern, wove a sub-pattern that brought three women to work at the Psychedelicatessin. The first had just taken the name Vera Kommissarzhevskaia, the second was the woman they called Lilona of the Space Shadows, and the third was a clothing designer named Indian Annie who ran a commune on East 7th.

All three women--Vera, Lilona and Annie--had recently fled marriages and headed for New York City after they found out their husbands were having affairs with their sisters. Vera, Lilona and Annie got along very well, told each other their stories the first day of work, and were together in the Blob Room by the great blue rock honoring "The Structureless Essence of Amorphia' when they learned in superstitious gasps of "Oh no!," "Holy shit!," and "Sacred Fates!" the similarities in their life-tracks.

The woman named Vera had recently been Kathy Grieve of Seattle. When her sister became pregnant and the truth oozed forth, Kathy had taken to the streets barefoot moaning, screaming, slapping herself in the face and singing low-high warbling threnodies on the horrid betrayal of her husband and sister mistress. It caused enough of a stir in the hippie neighborhood that an underground paper in Seattle had done an article on "The Love Trouble Known as Sist-Mist."

In a grief's grip acid trip Kathy tumbled into an acidland fantasy during which she heard a voice telling her she was the reincarnation of someone named Vera Kommissarzhevskaia. She sensed herself on a stage in Moscow in the midst of great applause and curtain calls for a production of Maxim Gorki's Lower Depths. "Vera! Vera! Vera!" screamed the overwhelmed audience.

In the school library (she was a drama major at the time) after the trip Kathy learned that Vera Kommissarzhevskaia had been a great Russian actress in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and had starred at the Moscow Art Theater and later her own theater, specializing in the plays of Chekhov. Then the shock: the Russian Vera also had broken up with her husband when he took up with her sister!! The vision on acid and the coincidences of their love pains were too, too startling. Kathy was convinced that in her little corner of the universe the Gods were calling on her to adjust her destiny.

The Vera Kommissarzhevskaia she read about had enormous energy and a thin face. To her the theater was a sacred mission and Art a jealous Entity beneath whose sandals everything was scrunched in obedience. The great Russian Vera was transformed into a genius by the inspiration of working a live crowd, and Kathy of Seattle had already discovered that she too had a genius for stirring an audience.

In Russia in the nineteenth century, actresses were adored with a religiouslike public frenzy. Sometimes at the end of a play Kommissarzhevskaia was called to the curtain up to fifty times. Finally, with hat and coat in hand, she returned to a weeping audience unwilling to let her go. "Don't go. Don't leave us! Don't Depart. Remain with us!" She trembled and wept, "I am yours." People fainted in the crowd coiled up in collective hysteria.

"Yes!" breathed Kathy Grieve. "This is what I crave more than freedom or touch!" She identified totally with the great actress who had created the role of the Seagull, and took her new name the very next day. Kathy played the role of Kommissarzhevskaia perfectly, with big dark eyes, and a musical voice whose vowels were elongated and melodious to the point of talk-singing. She found a photograph in a book: wow! she even looked like Vera Kommissarzhevskaia! Thereafter Vera wore her dark red hair against the times--that is, very short--and her eyes, already almost too large, rested in owllike Athenian intensity within a thriving frame of clipped red.

Only weeks after arriving in New York, Vera began her career in a theater with many offs to it--an off-off-off-off-off Broadway production called ACID & COMMUNISM: YES. After this fumbly initial experience, she was hoping to move at least in the direction of the flood plain of the off-Broadway stream, so she volunteered to usher at the Luminous Animal Theater on the Bowery, where she quickly began to win roles. It was on the stage of Luminous Animal, marked with the smudges of thousands of pieces of rehearsal tape, that Vera Kommissarzhevskaia made her mark on the era. In the late '60s she enticed, energized, thrilled and overwhelmed audiences. She was it--star quality, star potential, and star-starved.

Speaking of starved, the actresses of '67 always seemed at the edge of a kind of diet that kept them skinny through malnutrition. No doubt it was the same when artists made one-day productions of plays in tents by the edge of the Valley of the Kings 3,000 years ago as when Vera Kommissarzhevskaia, without any food for almost a week, had to go to work selling candles and incense at the Psychedel-icatessin in order to survive.

It was an era when the word "freak" had several meanings, most of them positive: freak-out, freaky, freako, freaking, or "I thirst for unpremeditated days of freak-goof." The word also denoted obsessiveness as when they observed at work that Vera was a neatness and cleanliness freak. She carried the same detail-obsessed energy to the Psychedelicatessin that she brought to her roles at the Luminous Animal Theater--every row of Indian incense, every diffraction disk, every piece of spiritual glitter she neatly arranged to the 1/16th inch on the counters and shelves. She even damp wiped the candle wax drips in the Blob Room.

The second woman who came to work at the Psychedelicatessin was Lilona of the Space Shadows whose broken heart from her ex-husband's betrayal, plus a propensity toward spirit and religion augmented by oodles of acid and mescaline, nudged her ever in the direction of the Space-Time Continuum. She was the Space Cadet's Space Cadet. She was Out There, marooned in the Rainbow Time Zone, riding the Giant Sea Sponge in the Seas of Whither, and her torrents of sometimes barely audible words shook from her soul in a kind of trembling rush as when a songbird grabbed by a hawk drops its feathers. Yet these feathers blizzarding from her soul Lilona managed to weave into interested space-time headdresses that people loved to hear and to quote. For her era, Lilona of the Space Shadows codified the strict essence of what could be called, if we can be forgiven a barbarism, the Codex Spacia Cadetia.

She was also what Balzac named one of his stories--La Torpille--a stingray stunner. She had very blond hair that managed to dance away from her head like an ornamental shrub. She hid her voluptuous and sought-after body behind many space-time layers--behind robes, vests, sweaters, scarves, belts, capes, and veils. She wanted to hide her body after her grief, for her body was like an angry sea. Protruding beneath her startling vestments were her most well-known emblems: Lilona of the Space Shadows almost always wore one silver knee-high boot and one red knee-high boot.

Whereas Vera Kommissarzhevskaia had flipped out just once and roamed the streets of Seattle in the wailings of sist-mist, Lilona every few months would find everything too crushing and take to the streets for a day or a night, moan-whispering her wafts of piniony words as if someone had shook loose a feather pillow from a third story window. The streets of New York in '67 were safe enough to allow Lilona to roam in Space Pain and Infinity Agony barefoot in the snow, waving a book of verse above her head and staring at the sky for the new moon hidden in the dirty air.

Her street corner apothegms were widely savored in the psychedelic community. If you listened in a certain frame of mind, some of her pronouncements sounded like psychedelic rock lyrics. In fact, a number of bards and musicians used her lines in songs and, without any thought of credit, she helped young folk-acid rockers elevate the quality of their often atrociously illiterate lyrics.

Lilona found salvation in poetry, in whose service she revealed a streak of practicality. She organized poetry reading series not at one or two cafes or bookstores, but at ten! She had an insistence over the phone that caused famous poets who normally read only at uptown places like the 92nd Street Y to find themselves appearing for Lilona at a Lower East Side club so obscure there was no sign outside.

Lilona published a poetry magazine, Nightlace, at the community mimeo at the Peace Eye Bookstore, and ran a chapbook press she called Huge because she was convinced it was going to be a huge financial success.

Lilona of the Space Shadows, as thousands of others on the East Side, was ready for Revolution, but she wanted permanent revolutionary structures to be established, not just psychedelic barricades at street corners. She believed in honor and truth, even in the drip and drone of revolutionary chaos, and she wanted a Revolution that thought about midlife and beyond, with a clear plan for a clean, fun-packed world safe for poetry and children. Therefore she talked, however spacily, about the need for a Tompkins Square Daycare Center years before it was a possibility. She stood in the park by the swings and the wading pool during the Summer of Love looking at the mothers and fathers--mostly mothers--with their hippie kids--"Stone Flame! Don't splash Yucca!"--and dreamed of a communal America with abundance for all, a place where she could raise her own children!

"The great Ocean is Angry, it wants the Perfect Child," the bard Charles Olson wrote, and Lilona of the Space Shadows would quote that line over and over. Ahh, she hungered for the perfect child. She realized its father might soon be gone, but hoped he might possess some qualities of kindness and helpfulness the child could inherit to augment the peaceful qualities she was sure the baby would inherit and acquire from her. She wanted to raise her baby cooperatively in a drudgery-sharing commune where she was safe and had free time to do her poetry.

Lilona was counting on her co-worker Indian Annie, who also headed the commune where Lilona was living, for leadership. Indian Annie was a tough Chippewa from Wisconsin who had fled a sist-mist marriage, not in tears, but with an obsession to succeed on her own. Unlike Lilona and Vera, who kept up battling connections by phone and mail with their mothers, Annie cut herself totally free. She had a sense of identity as a cultural victim, but she also felt a victim of her family, and so she walled them off.

Her family had ridiculed her work as a designer because Annie tended to dress in fashions that combined near nudity of select body areas with elegant festoonings of cloth, bark, lace, small stones with holes, leather headdresses, feathers and sheets of metal soon famous in the fashion world as The Hippie Armor Look. In the Lower East Side she rented a storefront where she twisted her own basswood fiber thread with which she sewed her increasingly famous gowns.

Indian Annie missed rural places and was always threatening to leave for the country, but her clothing business was slowly becoming successful. Bloomingdale's, for instance, had purchased some of her dresses, and she was beginning to get mentioned in gossip and fashion columns, but it was difficult to keep up a daily flow of sales sufficient to pay the rent so she took on part-time work at the Psychedelicatessen.

Indian Annie also was a Revolutionary. Whereas Vera Kommissarzhevskaia strove to order inanimate space, and Lilona sought order in verse, Indian Annie brought order to humans--especially hippie boys. The two apartments above her storefront she turned into a living zone somewhere between a crash pad and a commune--call it a crashune. One of her goals was to transform as many of the young men who frequented her commune as she could.

Therefore, Annie's domain became kind of a crashune finishing school. Annie did not tolerate disorder from guys. She taught the young men how to make up their madras bedspreads with neatness and tightness in mattress-packed crash rooms that had such narrow aisles she had to hold her arms out like a tightrope act to get from end to end during inspections.

She noticed a disturbing pattern in hippie men who would gather in the commune in the late afternoon listening to records and smoking pot while the hippie women cooked. "All you guys want is a bare-breasted hippie chick who automatically cooks buckets of spaghetti every day at 5:30," she sneered. "Let's go! Everybody off the floor and into the kitchen! I'll show you what to do."

She taught them how to wash and cut vegetables, make pasta and grain dishes, and forced them to conduct themselves hygienically around food. She had a rooftop garden and all were required to work it. She set up a dreaded chore chart on the wall above the communal hookah between the Janis Joplin and Doors posters, and held Sneer Circles at night before any partying to analyze who wasn't doing his share of chores.

She gave little lectures in lieu of prayers before meals. She made diem aware of organic food decades before organic came to the fore, insisted they not wolf down their food, and made them chew each bite ten times.

Some were eager, some were sullen. No child in the suburbs ordered to mow the lawn or grounded because of a bad report card glowered and sulked so fiercely as some of the hippie lads ordered by Indian Annie to wash and slice potatoes, make bread for the evening meal, or scrape burned rice from the bottom of a pot. "Dig it," one of them would say. "I wanted to hang in my room and listen to Jimi and smoke some bu, man, and get my head ready for righteous chow! But this is cutting into the thrill, man!! This Indian chick is a harsh crash!"

And so there they were, woven into the same Fate Frame called "67," three women whose intense keening had been transformed into action: Vera Kommissarzhevskaia, who hungered to be a great actress; Lilona of the Space Shadows, determined to thrive as a poet and mother; Indian Annie, who hungered to teach boys new ways and to make her mark as a clothing designer.

They worked so well together. They had so much elan, so much vim, so much life force--they were so interestingly pushy with the ability to leave no time gaps between decision and doing. What a team they formed as they soared into the Summer of Love!!

And then to the store came sixteen-year-old Johnny Ray Slage fleeing his racist father in Alabama, carrying with him at all times a beat-up old guitar that had once belonged to Bob Dylan, a beauty few could resist. Someone had tried to steal his guitar so now he kept it with him, and it made him a better player as he worked out new fills and patterns in between packing and shipping orders for the Psychedelicatessin's mail order catalog.

All three--Lilona, Vera and Indian Annie--were embarked upon seasons of randiness after fleeing their marriages and took intense notice of the beautiful Johnny Ray Slage with his perfect high tenor and his magical guitar. He could drain the blood from their faces or make them blush with lust when he sang. He was so stunning just the sight of him could cause them to drop their sticks of burning incense or tremble the pieces of lentil loaf from their forks.

They all wanted to be close and to touch him, and so struck up conversations as often as they could, so that soon the three femmes fatales of the Psychedelicatessin whispered among themselves an astounding fact: the angel boy from Alabama was a virgin!

After that, there was a struggle, which verged on unseemliness, to be the one to take it. One problem was that he was so, ah, untaught that he had trouble recognizing any kind of subtle come-on. Somehow, word leaked out among the blazing damozels of the Tompkins Park area, and around twenty of them began frequenting the Psychedelicatessin hoping to lure Johnny Ray back to their pads.

The erotic trio known as The Wild Women of East Tenth joined the quest for Johnny and offered to ball him en masse after a concert he gave one night at The Peace Eye Bookstore. Johnny still didn't understand what they were proposing until an exasperated Enid Starkey put it bluntly, "Johnny Ray, all four of us in the same bed, no clothes, and all fun!"

That much he knew, but refused the offer. It turned out to everybody's shock that Johnny Ray Slage was religious, and he was only going to be intimate with the woman who went with him to church!

Lilona of the Space Shadows and Indian Annie deferred, on this, to Vera Kommissarzhevskaia because she was the only one who had actually kept in her wardrobe a churchgoing pair of shoes, white gloves, and a proper dress.

Vera and Johnny tried out a number of churches but settled finally on the Quaker Meeting in the Village. By the door Johnny saw a small sign hanging from a blue nail by a gold string to which a small dried flower was attached--"Let the silence begin here."

Although there were not many things he missed at his home in Alabama, he did pine for silence. There was SO MUCH NOISE on Avenue A. Even when hanging out in the incense-laden quietude of the Kiva at the Psychedelicatessin, Johnny Ray could still perceive the distant rumble of the 14th Street Subway.

He thanked Vera for dressing up so early on a Sunday morning and was weeping when he told her he needed church to help his transformation.

She asked him what he meant.

"It's not enough to break the spell of violence," he said. "But we have to break the cycles of meanness. I've brought such a burden with me. If you could get into my heart, I could show you the footprints of centuries of meanness."

During the silent worship service, Johnny kept having to suppress an urge to sing. Afterward, he asked the woman who led the congregation about the rules. "What happens when someone wants--wants to break silence with, uh, singing?"

She looked at Johnny for about five seconds, then replied, "Our founders encouraged spontaneous singing in the spirit. Early Quakers when they were put in jail would sing spontaneous melodies to their guards." She brought Johnny Ray to the library and loaned, him a text from Quaker writer Robert Barclay's Apology: "We confess [singing] to be a part of worship, and very sweet and refreshing, when it proceeds from a true sense of God's love in the heart."

That's all Johnny Ray Slage needed to hear. The next Sunday he soared into song in the midst of the silence, a joyful and eerie curvation of vowels that astounded the congregation with its beauty. Vera also harmonized with Russian Gypsy oooo's that wrapped around Johnny's. Of course, there were no pocket recorders in those days, and so none of Johnny's and Vera's Quaker vowel sonatas were captured on tape.

The spirit of the great actress Vera Kommissarzhevskaia wasn't the only fragment of Russia to find its way to the Psychedelicatessin that spring. This fragment was different--it burst forth from the russophobic climes of the Cold War and the war on LSD.

At the time there was a great public debate about the value and level of innocence of psychedelics. Up until just a few months ago, it had been legal to possess LSD, and researchers could purchase it from the Sandoz pharmaceutical company. It was an era of considerable public agitation for the legalization of drugs, and if you were trusted enough, you could purchase LSD, psilocybin, grass, mescaline, and peyote at the Psychedelicatessin.

During 1967 there were hundreds of articles on the worth of LSD in the mass media with those who would totally close off use slowly winning the ink-sling. The New York Times that year published over fifty articles about LSD.

That spring the Federal Government rented a storefront across the street from the Psychedelicatessin as a surveillance post. As a cover the Feds opened a business called Bananadine, Ltd.

The place had been a pizzeria and now the floor-to-ceiling bank of steel-doored ovens was used for the baking and curing of Bananadine. Business expanded so quickly at Bananadine, Ltd. that agents joked maybe they should retire and go into the 'nana biz seriously. They began to market little banana-shaped pipes for the smoking of their product, and tons of Bananadine were being shipped out each week. Reporters and TV crews came regularly for interviews, and the agents expanded sales further by running ads in underground newspapers around the country.

The cops began tapping the phone and planted a bug in the front room of the Psychedelicatessin. It wasn't long before the officers with their headphones in the back room of Bananadine, Ltd. became distressed over a new psychedelic that was about to be put on sale across the street.

It happened like this: a suspicious truck with Alaska plates and driven by someone named Reindeer Ron had parked outside the Psychedelicatessin, and agents with binoculars watched closely from Bananadine, Ltd. as dozens of boxes were suspiciously unloaded. A telescope on a tripod on the roof allowed an agent to look though a tiny pane into the front room where the boxes were being opened.

It was ghastly. Reindeer Ron had brought literally thousands upon thousands of small vials of sterilized reindeer urine from animals who had supposedly eaten psychedelic mushrooms in northern Siberia.

At Bananadine, Ltd. an agent with headphones and tape recorder scrawled notes of the conversation taking place across the street.

"Where did this actually come from?" a voice asked.

"From Siberia," said Reindeer Ron.

"This is ACTUALLY from Siberia?"

"Yes, indeed," said Reindeer. "The shaman holds an amanita dance every spring and fall when the mushrooms grow in the birch forests. They have their own herds of reindeer, and they know exactly when the herds eat the amanita. Then they gather the urine, and it's drunk in sacred ceremonies."

"And then what happens?"

"We have a way of getting in off the coast. We trade for it. We boil it, and we have help getting it out of Siberia. It's not for everybody, but man is it a potent high! We had labels printed," said Reindeer Ron, holding up a vial with a rainbow patterned label with the word Reinshine across it.

Everybody laughed.

"Here, want a hit?"

"Eee-uuu!" said Soy Flower, one of the children living upstairs in the Psychedelicatessin apartment, "Daddy's going to drink Rudolph's pee pee. Eee-uuu, eee-uuu!"

The surveillance agent in the back room at Bananadine, Ltd. manning the headphones on the room tap at the Psychedelicatessin across the street was even more disgusted than Soy Flower. He was so agitated his headphones fell off as he called his boss in Washington and repeated what he'd just heard.

His boss was abrupt. "Wayda minute. Let me get this straight. They get this reindeer piss, and then what?"

"They pasteurize it."

"And it's drunk?"

"Yeah. Apparently by tribesmen. They get drunk on it, or stoned, or something."

"It has dope in it?"


"Are you sure?"


"It's from Siberia?"

"Yeah, from western Siberia, about a hundred miles inland from the coast facing Alaska."

"Then how the hell do they get it out?"

"I don't know. It's a tribe of reindeer herders."

"They didn't mention how it was shipped out? Who helped them? This is a closed-off part of Siberia. There are missile installations in that area."

"They didn't say. Somehow, they get it over to Alaska. It's not clear. Then it's apparently flown or trucked to New York. The truck unloading it has Alaska plates."

"It's the fucking Russians again."


"They're looking to weaken us with drugs."

"It appears so."

"It's a sneak attack."

"Yes sir."

"Find out everything you can about this group."

"Yes sir."

Within minutes the personnel from Banandine, Ltd. began to get very, very chummy with personnel at the Psychedelicatessin, looking for the lesions of an evil Communist plot against confused American youth.

Agents began the odious task of preparing transcripts of all conversations they had taped. It wasn't easy. Especially difficult were the phone conversations of Lilona of the Space Shadows as she monitored her various poetry projects. They thought for quite a while she was talking in an ornate dope-code. "These hippies talk weird, chief," one officer commented as he transcribed the word shaman as Shah's man.

Agents became angrier and angrier as the plot was polished and vials of "Reinshine" actually went on sale on an open rack next to issues of the Village Voice and the East Village Other The Federal prosecutor in charge of the case gave the go-ahead for a dawn raid.

That night Vera Kommissarzhevskaia had a date with Johnny Ray to go down into the Kiva to sit together and enjoy the silence. They backed down the ladder, first Johnny, then Vera following so closely her freshly shaved legs grazed his shoulders.

The Kiva had been built into a large oval with floor-to-ceiling saplings bound closely together, then covered with plaster and mortar to give the Kiva a surprising adobe ambience. Its rounded walls had niches every few feet for candles, and a small altar in the center for a fire with a hooded vent that fed the smoke into the back courtyard.

It addition to shaping the room for its spiritual qualities, the Psychedelicatessin encouraged a climate of eros down in the Kiva with pallets and thickly tasseled pillows laid conveniently around its circumference. There had been many a sigh, munch, moan, and shrail of joy by day and by night in the mortary curves of the Kiva.

There was a little bell attached to the top of the ladder, which was supposed to be rung just before climbing down, to alert whoever was kissing in the gloom. This evening Lilona of the Space Shadows and Indian Annie guarded the ladder to prevent any meditators from climbing down the ladder.

Johnny Ray and Vera burned sagebrush on the altar and tasted long minutes of silence. They chewed a few small pieces of magic mushroom, just enough to bring on the colors, and lay down together on a pallet that lounged against the wall the Kiva shared with the basement of the Total Assault Cantina next door.

Vera passed him a branch of sage and he rubbed her neck with it and she rubbed his. Then she slid her gown off her shoulders and he hesitated, holding the sage, but she cupped her breasts, and he knew what she wanted. He tickled the sage across the nipples, tiny bits of leaf clinging to the myrrh-scented oil she had already spread across them in anticipation of his inspection.

She closed the cloth over her bosom but opened the bottom of her robe to show him the little yellow butterfly edged in reds and blues on the inside of her thigh. She wanted him to touch it very badly, but since shyness dances nigh to many a thigh, she hesitated to ask.

Johnny Ray looked at the butterfly carefully, then bent down, pulling his long blond hair back in a bunch to keep it from blocking his lips and kissed the yellow wings. "I always kiss butterflies," he said.

Maybe so, but Johnny was very unsure of what to do next. "Take off your pants," she urged. Now it was his turn to be shy. She helped him skinny them down and off, but he left his shirt on, which she undid and slid down his shy arms.

They were fucking finally. Tears were in her eyes as the angel boy was inside her. "Don't worry if you come right away," she said, "I'll make you hard again." Vera made out with the greatest moans and thrashings about that the Lower East Side had seen maybe since the days of Emma Goldman. When she was in her wildest abandon, the very skinny Vera was a little bit like a loose bag of motorized golf clubs. Johnny took the cue, and he too went golf club.

As wild as they were, both Vera and Johnny Ray began to notice a faint knocking and whispering sound that seemed to emanate from the wall by their heads--the wall that led to the basement of the old Total Assault Cantina.

And, strangeness of strangeness, they heard applause! Plus there were peculiar snaps that sounded like a room full of snapping fingers like they used to have for applause at poetry readings--rhythmic, faint, and accompanied by what sounded like stamping feet, with an instrument, maybe a saxophone, wailing faintly in the background.

Was someone playing a tape or record and the sound coming down an air shaft or vent? Or perhaps it was the psilocybin, which although already wearing off, was still powerful when both Johnny and Vera began hearing what was definitely a voice. "It's the wall!" an intensely frightened Vera whispered. "It's talking!"

Johnny crouched on his knees on the pallet and tried to figure out the source of the noise.

"Feel it!" said the actress. They both placed their hands to the old gray boards and felt a slight tremble and a buzzing that sounded a little bit like the whirring wings of a wasp.

"It's talking! The Total Assault wall is talking!"

Johnny didn't quite hear it that way. He thought maybe somebody was using an electric saw or drill, but if so it was an awfully talky drill.

"Get close to the wall," said Vera. They both leaned against it and listened for maybe five minutes to the intermittent vibrations and hummings.

"I think it's something about a police raid?" said Vera.

"I didn't hear that," answered Johnny.

"Yes! Here, press your ear right against the wall." She put her arm around him, her bosom kissing his shoulder, and they put their heads to the gray.

Eros interrupted the monitoring and Johnny became hard again from Vera's friendly hand. She straddled him and helped him inside her. This time there were no groans and shouts as they listened to eros and at the same time listened to the snaps, whispers, and buzzing of the Wall.

"I'm telling you," Vera said, leaning down to place the trembling palms of her hands on his chest, "there's going to be a police raid on the Psychedelicatessin. Don't you hear it?"

The Wall by now had increased its clicks, clanking and vowels, like a singing radiator, except that it was summertime. Was someone playing a joke on the lovers by lurking on the other side of the wall in the Total Assault Cantina's basement?

Johnny Ray pried away a board and stretched a candle an arm's length into the darkness, but no one was there.

Then there was a series of whispery noises from up near the ceiling that sounded like vowels and consonants: "Rai ... Psi ... Tom ... Mor ..."

The great rebel cantina was warning them. "Please listen!!" demanded Vera Kommissarzhevskaia. "There's going to be a raid on the Psychedelicatessin tomorrow morning. We have to tell everybody!"

At that moment Johnny was convinced and slid his jeans up his legs. Vera tied her robe with Johnny's belt to tell Lilona and Indian Annie the tale of the pallet, and then stood at the ladder and called up to them to come down and listen to the wall.

For the next few hours they called all over the East Side with warnings. They dispersed the hashish scones, the pot, the acid, the psilocybin, the ibogene, and the peyote button/sagebrush/pot leaf potpourri to locations up and down Avenue A. They even vacuumed the cracks in the floor boards so that, at the moment of the dawn raid, the Psychedelicatessin was as neat and drug free as J. Edgar Hoover's limousine.

Instead of the half-dressed, grouchy, pot-flushing and pill-swallowing spectacle of a dawn drug raid, the police found a fully clothed orderly array of people "sleeping" in the Kiva and in the apartment above.

In the vie anecdotique, anecdotes crowd the life-track like overlaying bands of feathers on a hawk's wing, and one anecdote is barely underway when the next one begins. So it was that while the police were creakily prying up the floorboards looking for criminality, the phone rang and before the officers could prevent it, Vera Kommissarzhevskaia picked it up. It was a movie company in Los Angeles, and they wanted her to fly out immediately. Unfortunately it was just around the time of the opening of her next play at Luminous Animal. She didn't know whether to say yes or no till she got Johnny Ray's attention and whispered, "Want to come to California with me?" Johnny Ray glanced over at his guitar then back to Vera with bright eyes of yes. Police jammed Vera against the wall right then and ran hands across her shapely boniness for packets of dope.

Johnny Ray walked over to the ladder leading down to the Kiva and cupped his ear trying to hear anything from the darkness below. The scuffle and ripping of packages soaked his ears, but if he had been allowed to go down to the Kiva, he could have heard the Wall of the Total Assault Cantina cackle and laugh as the officers smashed through the Blob Room and kicked all the candles off the rock honoring the Structureless Essence of Amorphia, frustrated at finding nothing except things like roach clips, incense, underground newspapers and the equipment for visual thrills.

Moan onward, oh Wall of Warning.
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Title Annotation:1960s commune in New York, New York
Author:Sanders, Edward
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 1999
Previous Article:Edward Sanders on His Fiction: An Interview.
Next Article:Marching with the Fugs.

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