Crazy Ladies I - Gina and Lucinda

It’s easy being a young romantic when psychic and physical damage heals quickly. The older one gets, however, the more difficult the process becomes: the small wounds fester, leaving small white bumps in inaccessible places.  Like Captain Ahab, veterans of these conflicts have gnarled backs and stumps for limbs. How nice it must be to start out again, skin unblemished by hooks and small white scars.

I did… once.

But every scar is a memory, and every memory is a story, and every story concerns a crazy lady. Some men are addicted to drugs or to the fast life, others to acquisition or to art. But I am overwhelmed by the aesthetics of women. Soren Kierkegaard had my number when he said, ” The man who feels no impulse toward the study of women may, as far as I am concerned, be what he will, one thing he certainly is not, he is no aesthetician.” Poor Soren, his scars were on his cerebral cortex, and anyway, he was only bothered by one crazy lady. If only my scars were as cerebral, or my botherment as singular.

College girls didn’t count since there were so to choose from, a multitude of intellectual training bras for them to try on and me to take off. Womanly paradigms when I was in school were Isadora Duncan and Lysistrata. And of course there was always some fly-weight black-stockinged Anais Nin sitting in the student union, surgically attached to her notebook. (Wasn’t it marvelous what a few diet pills could do back then?)

Along came the Psychedelic Age unlocking the secret doors of everyone’s perception, merging desires and realities. Virtually anyone could be a crazy paisley lady with a head full of acid or mescaline. The drugs encouraged a certain sort of creativity; the object was to go out as far as your metaphor could take you, or stretch the metaphor of your gender if you were a woman. The only rules were Cosmic ones anyway.

I met my first really crazy lady in graduate school, at a stage in my life when I still thought there were answers to all these questions. Gina was a pre-Yippie, bright, and spontaneous and zonked out most of the time. The previous semester, she had been responsible for blowing the cover on some undercover cops entrapping her colleagues at a Jersey college. She transferred to the same Long Island marriage mill where I was waiting out the draft, marking time in a terminal masters program.

Her giggle was infectious, and God knows, she was unpredictable in full freak mode. It was she of the laughing eyes who shook me out of my graduate student mentality, forever altering my cloistered views of traditional creative and sexual behavior. I had been seeing Gina regularly, and our dates consisted of getting high and listening to rock and roll. I was less than a virgin, but still too cerebral for my own good, and hers too. Things degenerated to the point where she’d leave notes on my bed she’d composed while we’d been tripping, when sex was absolutely the last thing on my mind, notes like:

I wish you were here Because it’s real here Passion is here and passion is real I wish you were unintellectually passionate How can a passionate brain affect a body? And mind & matter do exist Both exist together  fuck and think think and fuck but mostly…

One rainy night, Gina rang while I was going crazy working on my Masters essay and invited herself over. Forty-five minutes later she appeared, her pupils wide as saucers and wearing her cowboy ensemble of suede boots, a raincoat and cowboy hat.

“Will you help me off with my coat,” she asked sweetly once we were safely in my room.

Something was up, she who never stood on ceremony was now asking for courtesies? But I obliged.

There was nothing beneath the slicker save lime green panties, boots and Gina.

“Lemme finish this note”, said I, placing the coat on the bed and turning back to my thesis.

You wonder why she had to write me notes?

I wasn’t responding to life then, or to her really, and by the time I could, she had vanished and I had moved to Manhattan. Of course I lost her since the problem was that like most men, I had to learn the hard way.

When it comes to crazy ladies, New York City is the place. I owed it to myself to live there having successfully navigated the collegiate shoals without getting married. The East Village in the mid-Sixties was experiencing yet another renaissance. It was still the home of the 10th Street School of Abstract Expressionism and the Beats but now these scenes were check by jowl with free love and all that jazz.  Hipness out of Andy Warhol’s soup can was spreading and I was right in there looking for my perfect fantasy.

Dancers had always looked good to me, especially those I’d seen on television, and God knows why, but I kept winning their affections through some strange psychosexual sympathetic magic, especially gogo girls from Shindig and Hullabaloo. It was a case of too much body, no mind — and no challenge to my mind. Those adventurers came and went before I had any idea what the little white scars they left were all about.
I knew I needed balance, or maybe I needed a woman who only looked like a gogo dancer, but who had a world-class brain attached. Someone connected with the arts would do nicely I thought but it took me a long time to realize that, like most men, I was a sucker for packaging.

Publishing came the closest to the cloistered feeling of the university graduate student life I’d now left behind, and the packaging was superb. Publishing was an industry famous for employing socially acceptable young women from socially acceptable schools to be conservators of the last great cottage industry. It was a place where all great matters affecting the state of the world could be discussed over sherry.

For these vestal “virgins,” literature was a sacrament which only the well-connected could dispense. They were the priestesses sanctifying Art with a very capital “a” upon authors, and if necessary, walking 20 miles in a snowstorm like the raven-haired, blue-eyed Lucinda, to sleep with a bad poet.

Scion of a proud New England publishing family, Lucinda summered on the Cape and discussed literature with her father’s Pulitzer Prize-winning friends. She was intense, and supremely confident of her inborn ability to spot a promising novelist or poet at 100 yards. Her vision of literature was truly untainted by the realities of the marketplace. Poetry she held in the highest esteem while journalism belonged at the bottom of the bird cage. At that time I was working for the underground press, which she found unworthy even for bird shit. Still, a struggling author could ask for no better entree into the  world of literary cocktail parties and serious editors than this well-connected woman who’d edit his manuscripts and perhaps champion them to her well-connected friends.

I suffered through her accounts of a dismal literary apprenticeship at an uptown literary magazine run by one of her father’s friends. I supported her in her battles, sympathized with her chagrin at the crumbs she was thrown by this dastard and bounder, who was no doubt surfeited by the continual supply of talent his friends procured for him. From Parnassus, Lucinda wearily retreated to my East Village apartment, to unwind, smoke grass, drink Grand Marnier and talk about things that mattered. Was it ever a struggle to get her into the sack after a hard day in the literary coal mines.

Yes, I admit that I too craved respectability, and was suckered by her charm, her aura, her knowledge about the world I hoped to “penetrate”, her “class”, if you will. From behind my official, underground press issued rose-colored granny glasses, I was consorting with the enemy, and a class enemy at that. (What  power fantasies we invested in back then!)  But I’m just as sure I suited her own social conceits too, for eventually she eloped with an acquaintance of mine, a social-climbing poet who ran through all her money before ditching her in a commune California. Still I felt myself betrayed that she’d preferred such a creep to me.

It was hard to get Lucinda out of my mind, though, even when I realized that despite her education as the supreme aesthete, she was just as much of a fool for packaging as I was. Having special fantasies die is painful, but creating them is far worse. Lucinda, I’m sure, would have been a bad bet once the novelty wore off and I had to act as a continual buffer between her and her world, the one she had yet to come to terms with. It was far better to be in league with women who were crazy in the same way I was, and who were more or less in my same field, too. Or so I thought.

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