"Indeed, a minimum of life, an unchaining from all coarser desires, an independence in the middle of all kinds of outer nuisance; a bit of Cynicism, perhaps a bit of ‘tub’."
Friedrich Nietzsche

12 Feb 2015

A Philosophy of Tramping—Jim Christy, Part 3



.
Christy with Ed Vogel's Plymouth Fury in Pecos County, Texas, August 1968
 (it was Vogel who advertised for a female companion for the San Francisco trip of 1967) 
Back with the Mob

It was while working one night at the Horn and Hardart grill, that Christy met up again with Tony Amsterdam (Dutch) from the Reno bus station. Christy looked up from the grill and saw a guy, with two dark looking Sicilians in suits, staring at him. The main guy had a napkin tucked into his collar and was eating away at a slice of pie. When he'd finished eating, he walked down to the counter and said, "Remember me?" Tony Amsterdam then nodded to the other two to step outside and invited Christy to sit with him at a nearby table:

     “You’re wasting your life, kid. I want you to come work for me, Jimmy. You said you were out tramping around because you wanted to learn about life and I told you, you ought to know a lot about life on account of where you come from. But there is a lot more to learn and if you come to work for me you’ll learn it. Not only that but I’ll give you more money every week than you make here in a month, and you only got to work a few hours.” (JP 53)

When Christy asked what the job was, Tony said, “You’ll do a little pick up, a little delivery.” He gave Christy his card and told him to report to his office on Friday morning. There Christy learned he would be involved with the numbers racket. The first thing Tony Amsterdam insisted was that Christy buy himself a outfit fit for his new role:

     “today, you go over to Jacob Reed’s, get a suit, couple of pair of nice slacks, and a sport jacket. Nothing makes you look like a Protestant. ... And then on your way to City Hall, go see my paisan, Pasqual Amano on Passyunk, near Broad. Got a shoe store there, get a nice pair of kicks, Flippo Verdis, something like that. That’s all on me. But I expect you to get some more vines when you start making some money.”
     “I will, thank you. What am I going to City Hall for?” 
     “Get your permit.”
     “Permit for what?”
     “You’re going to be carrying around sums of money and you got to protect yourself. I got you a pistol here.” (JP 54)

The following week Christy did the rounds with the guy he was replacing—resentful but wary that Christy was clearly in favour with the boss, and more significantly, that Angelo Bruno himself was Christy's godfather. He could not resist commenting though on the fact that Christy was only part Italian, and then didn't look like he had much Italian in him at all, and that he could never be a 'made man'. Something that bothered Christy little.

     'My area ranged from one of the more southerly of the downtown streets further south into residential neighborhoods. I had meets with storeowners and guys who’d wait for me in bars. These people were the runners; they recorded the numbers and took the money. The payoff numbers were based on the results on the tote board at Liberty Bell Park, north of the city where harness races were held. For instance, if the total money bet at the track of an evening was $87,655; the weekly number in the illegal lottery was 655.
     In the territory adjacent to mine, one of the stops my counterpart made was at the luncheonette owned by my father’s sister Lena and her husband Joe. My aunt took the numbers in a passageway between the store area and a back room.' (JP 56)

Christy's aunt Lena was surprised the first time he turned up at the luncheonette with the other pick-up man. And maybe secretly pleased also that her nephew had given up the life of a vagabond to earn an 'honest' living. At any rate, every Friday afternoon, Christy did his rounds with the nine millimetre in a lightweight holster attached to his belt at the back of his waistband. The job was finished in three and a half hours maximum for which Christy was paid seven hundred dollars a week, 'more', he says, 'than my father made'. So much money in fact that he was not always sure what to do with it. Being able to walk into a bookstore and buy a new hardcover book probably gave him more satisfaction than blowing it on cars and clothes. Christy also enrolled for his second year at West Chester College in order to keep out of the clutches of the draft board—if not the clutches of the very conservatively dressed Cheryl who worked at the draft board and had a voracious sexual appetite. Cheryl was a mechanical lover and the only variety of position in which they made love was the actual location of their intimacies, this included on one occasion the the draft board office floor after closing.

After a couple of months of running the numbers, Tony Amsterdam promoted Christy to his loan sharking operation and raised his salary to a thousand dollars a week. This involved going around with a couple of goons to clients that Tony had loaned money to at exorbitant rates, but only when they had exhausted all other means of acquiring the money. He even had Christy sit in on some of his interviews with clients to learn the business. “You’re smart, kid. I want you to understand as much about all this as possible. Maybe I’ll put you through law school.”

Most of Tony's clients paid up, but his real money was made from those who couldn’t or wouldn’t make their payments. And that is where Christy, 'along with the goons, Michael and Donato' came in. 'They were big and dangerous and probably not as dumb as they made out', although Christy had to later revise that assessment. 'Tony carefully explained their duties and they were intent on doing what Tony told them. They weren't built to improvise.' (JP 60)   

Christy was given an attache case with the lists of recalcitrant borrowers, together with dossiers on the history of their transactions. Those who were late on a payment for the first time were just warned about the economic consequences of not being on time:

     'I expanded on that message, varied it, improvised, adjusted the language to suit the borrower who was usually extremely nervous and out of sorts. I didn’t have to say anything to frighten them or threaten them, the presence of Michael and Donato took care of that. It wasn’t just that they were big and rough; they had the blank look of impersonal killers who would do anything or not do anything and not give a shit either way.' (JP 60)

The borrowers who were continually missing payments but who did eventually pay up, 'required harsh words and some mild physical reminders of what might be in store.' Others got beyond ever being able to pay the money back, 'which is how Tony came to own parts of houses and businesses all over Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore.' The third category of borrower acted as though nothing was amiss and warnings were there to be ignored. These were given special attention by Michael and Donato short of killing the client. 'The dead don’t pay vig, as Tony was fond of stating.'

But Christy was nobody else's man, and an event finally happened that made him reappraise his situation:

     'The final incident in my big time criminal career happened when we called on a dentist at his office on Broad Street, half a dozen blocks south of City Hall. 
     This man represented the fourth type of borrower [in the account in SG, Christy adds, that he was the only person in this category]. The first time I went to his place with the goons, he treated us like neighborhood kids he’d caught ringing his doorbell and running away. The second time, he pretended not to know what we were talking about and to be thoroughly outraged at being visited by thugs.
     We went to see him one more time. Tony had called all three of us into his office and warned that the dentist was in serious trouble. In fact, Tony said, he didn’t have any advice on how to handle him, but that it was likely we would have to handle him. “I’ve about given up on bastard, if you get my meaning.” '(JP 62-63)

What happened in the doctors surgery is described in several pages of Jackpots in graphic detail. But it is the effect on the budding mobster that is the real story here; and just as Christy was starting to earn some real respect both from his boss and his comrades in arms:

   'I was disgusted with myself for what I had been part of but even more than the actual violence, it sickened me knowing I had done my bit without reticence, realizing that the guy had disgusted me and I hadn’t questioned, during the preamble to the beating, that he was only getting what he had coming to him. I had been absorbed in the entire affair. I had gone through it without watching myself. 
    Where was all of this leading? How long would it be before someone got killed on my watch, and that would make me the killer, as much as Michael and Donato. 
    How much, I thought for the hundredth time, only now more urgently, did those other ideas I espoused, ones about peace and justice and building a better world, how much did they really matter to me? 
    Who was I? What would become of me? What did I want to be? Was I going to align myself with the Walt Whitmans and Henry Millers, the Jack Kerouacs and Emma Goldmans or the Michaels and Donatos, the Tony Amsterdams and Angelo Brunos? I had been strutting through a gangster dream. [...] I was determined to bring to an end that gangster dream.' (JP 66)

After tossing his gun into a trash can, Christy spent the next couple of nights fretting about the consequences of his decision. He knew too much about the operation, including names and addresses, and was tortured by images of the goons coming after him on Tony's orders when he did not show up the following Friday. Instead he took the bull by the horns, phoned Tony, and told him everything that was on his mind, 'leaving out the part about Henry Miller and Emma Goldman'. Tony's first reaction was, "Why'd you throw the gun away?" Followed by, "Forget it. We got enough guns around here to go fight the gooks in Asia." Then he invited Christy to meet him for dinner at Di Capeli's on Rittenhouse Square:

     'Tony said he wanted to have a talk with me but I turned that over and over in my mind, and began to think that what he really wanted to do was have me taken out over my ravioli. Or maybe finish the dinner ... then offering me a ride to the subway. I’d be smiling with a false sense of security, then there’d be the Buick, Michael and Donato waiting in the front seat. Yeah, I was going for a ride, all right. (JP 67-68)

But Tony Amsterdam was charming, 'in the self-conscious way of a hood trying to be charming,' and Christy enjoyed a delicious meal accompanied by no small amount of praise:

     “We need a guy like you. You tell me you got these other things on your mind. But that doesn’t necessary make for any conflict. I mean, you will be a part of everything but a little cut-off from it too because on the one hand, you’re only half-Italian, and then because your mind is a little cut off from it. This thing, being in it and apart from it, it’s perfect for us. A guy like you is hard to find. In fact, we never found such a guy yet. You know what’s going on but you got brains. I mean you got the balls as well as the brains, and the street thing too. Oh, sure we could go down to Morris Street, Montrose, walk up and down and pick us a dozen kids with brains, groom them, but they won’t have what you got. I’ll make you rich, kid." (JP 68)

But Tony's pleas were to no avail and out on the street, with Tony shaking his head at Christy's big mistake. Christy, still only twenty years of age, walked away from his career as a gangster—but not from gangsters altogether. With enough money to pay for the operation, Christy's first stop was at a private clinic to get himself a needed hernia repair, and where the older patient sharing the room with him eventually introduced himself as Myron Falcone. When Christy raised his eyebrows he explained—Jewish mother, Italian father. Unlike Christy, he had made his career with the mob, like Christy he had accepted that he would never be a made man, and for the same reason. Myron also had a lot of inside knowledge of the fight game and, in between Carolyn's unrelenting demands on Christy in spite of his post-operative debility (“That’s some hot dame, kid," as Myron observed—Christy kept his thoughts about Myron's wife Rita to himself), the two whiled away the hours swapping notes both about the Philadelphia mob and about boxing; 'Myron Falcone who was the first person to tell me how they fixed they Liston-Clay fight ... [later] collaborated by others in the fight game.' After their recuperation, Myron made Christy the offer of driving him and his wife down to a place they had in Florida:

     “I got a ’65 Cadillac,” Myron said. “A white one with white wall tires. Four door. You drive. We sit in back. I spring for all your meals and motel rooms, give you money for you to catch the train back, and a few bucks besides.”
     What was college, educationally speaking, compared to driving a big-time gangster and his gun moll wife to Florida in a year old Cadillac, and getting paid for it?
     “Yes, I’ll do it.” (SG)


After dropping Myron and Rita off in Hollywood, Florida, now with money in his pocket, Christy headed down to Miami Beach to visit some of the sites he had haunted the year before—only to be disappointed at how everything had changed. But, as they often do, new situations take over from old memories, and in the most unexpected way. Christy was sitting on Lincoln Drive 'eating a media noche sandwich in the middle of the afternoon and reading the Miami Herald.' An article hidden away on the back page caught his eye. It was a story about Christy's childhood screen hero, the Western star Lash Larue; who Christy describes as standing out from all the others Saturday afternoon idols like Tarzan, Roy Rogers or Gene Autry, portrayals Christy found unbelievable:

     'Lash was different. He was vined down all in black and had that whip. But more than the whip, he had The Look. The black eyes clamped on you under thick brows. Lash knew the score. He always seemed to need a shave. We saw his movies at the Colonial Theatre.' (SG)

But the headline that caught Christy's eye and disbelief was, 'Former Children’s Cowboy Star Lash Larue Arrested for Vagrancy.' Larue had fallen on hard times and had been working in carnivals. Christy describes the photograph of his former hero after his arrest as, 'Just a ride boy or roughie. One night he got drunk and the cops vagged him.' And so Christy headed for the Miami City Jail to visit Lash, where they spent four hours chatting together in the day room about carnival life and movie stars, etc., until a woman showed up to collect him:

     'She was a performer in the kootch show and had taken up a collection to go his bail. A nice- looking woman, reminded me of a younger, slimmer Rita. The three of us walked out together, and when we were at the corner, Lash invited me to go for a drink with them but I declined. We shook hands and I watched them angling toward a bar with a listing neon martini glass hanging over the sidewalk. Pink glowing swizzle stick, even a pink olive. The girl had her arm around Lash Larue, his shirt was flapping in the breeze. They vanished in the dark doorway of the joint.'


Charlie Leeds (and another meeting with Val Santee)

Some weeks later, after resuming his studies at West Chester, Christy was on a bus with a girlfriend from the same college, Ellen St. Claire. They were returning from her parents house to spend the weekend at Christy's place. Ellen pulled out some papers she was carrying in her bag and when Christy asked what they were, she replied, “Some guy’s writing.” By the time they had arrived in West Chester, Christy was so entranced in what he was reading that he did not respond to being shaken by Ellen; who thought he'd fallen asleep. Christy's discovery of Charlie Leeds and his writing is described in Beyond the Spectacle ('The Legendary Charlie Leeds') and Travelin' Light ('To Hell with this Cockeyed World'), and Christy's unpublished Shift and Glitter.

   'There was no one on the bus, even the driver had gotten off. But I hadn’t been dreaming, I’d been reading.
    “Who is this guy?”
    “A friend of my sister’s in Atlantic City. A musician called Charlie.”
    “Jesus. You have a change of clothes in your bag, don’t you?”
    “Yeah, why?”
    “We’re going on a little trip.”
    “Where to?”
    “Atlantic City.” ' (SG)

After they had checked in with Ellen's sister Nanette, they started hitting the bars and clubs of Atlantic City looking for Charlie Leeds, whom everyone, it seemed—by this time including Christy—regarded as some kind of legendary character. It turned out that Charlie was an extremely difficult guy to locate, and even if one could locate him, there'd be no guarantee that he'd be coherent.

     'Atlantic City wasn’t much in those days, like a flashy old dame way past her prime in rundown shoes and a ratty fox stole, half the sequins gone from her dress; you could still enjoy her if you closed your eyes and thought of the way things used to be.' (SG)

They had no luck that night, but around noon the next day, the door to Nanette's apartment was opened, 'and in walked a guy in a belted benny carrying an attache case.'

     'He looked like a racetrack tout with his pencil-line moustache and shifty eyes; he wore seersucker slacks and white tennis shoes and on his large head was a cloth cap like drivers of Triumphs and Morgans wore. He merely muttered as Nanette tried to introduce us, and kept walking back to the kitchen. That was Charlie Leeds.  Peeking around the archway, I saw him take some papers out of the attache case, toss them on the table and sit down. ... He looked wary, as I sat down at the table and excused myself for interrupting him. He mumbled, looked at me waiting for whatever it was I would say. I told him I’d read some of his stuff. “Oh, man,” he said, it sounded like a spoken groan. “They’re not much. Just my personal things.” (SG)

Charlie had played base as a band member with some of the greats, including Al Cohn, Charlie Parker, Woody Herman and Buddy Rich, and was still, by the time Christy met him, in demand as a session musician. But it was his writing that really impressed Christy. As he now told Charlie: "The capital letters, spacing between words and phrases, all that, it’s like, well, I may be nuts, but it’s like reading a musical score.” Christy's assessment of Charlie's writing marked the beginning of a close friendship between these two unorthodox characters. “Wow. Nobody’s ever picked up on that before. They just think I’m trying to be eccentric. That’s pretty groovy, you digging that.” The musicality, particularly the spaces between the notes, is what Christy had picked up on, and what Charlie himself had set out to capture in his writing. None of his work had been published, and he wouldn't have known how to go about getting it published anyway. He could never complete anything but wrote numerous versions of the same piece. Christy agreed to take all his writing away and read through it, on the basis that he would type it up in exchange for lessons on the bass from Charlie. They would meet up in two weeks time. After chatting for an hour or so, Charlie took his leave to meet up with a cocktail waitress in some club:

     “And that,” Nanette said, after the door had closed, “was Charles Thornton Leeds, self-admitted dope fiend and general all-around fuck up. Not to mention, the only genius I’ve ever met. ... I don’t know what you said to him,” Nanette said to me, “But I’ve never seen him have a conversation with anyone that lasted that long.” 

[...] 

     Well, I never got a music lesson and never did type more than a couple of pages of his stuff but we became fast friends. (SG)

Christy met up with Charlie Leeds a couple of times in Atlantic City, and also saw him perform:

     'On one of these occasions he sang. He sounded like Chet Baker. I wondered if he was imitating Chet. Later a couple of well-known musicians who knew both, told me it had been the other way around. There is evidently a Victory Record of Charlie singing with Buddy Rich that predates any record of Chet Baker’s but I’ve never been able to locate it.' (SG)

There are lots of fascinating stories and anecdotes in Christy's writing concerning Charlie Leeds, but my own reader should seek these out for themselves. One concerns Charlie's obsession with roses (and the recipients of his roses) that he fabricated in a workshop at his mother's house from scraps of fabric, chunks of lead, other metal bits, pieces of plastic, wire, etc., with the aid of a soldering gun and other tools. 

But returning to our own hero, in August of 1966, back in West Chester, and ten days before classes were to resume after the summer break, Christy got news that Charlie Leeds had—with persuasion from the authorities—signed himself into the Federal Narcotics Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, for a detox: 'a place that deserves its own volume in the history of jazz.' Christy jumped a freight train to Lexington to visit his friend, but on arrival was informed that hospital visiting ours were already over. Christy made his way over to the university campus where he got harassed by a carload of crewcut yobs shouting the usual 'pinko, homo' taunts reserved for anyone without the obligatory shaved head—insignia of the good ol' redneck bigot. Enraged at their insults being ignored, they nudged Christy with the car bumper before piling out of the car and attacking him. When the campus police arrived to break up the fracas, 'it was the Pinko Homo they ... turned over to the custody of the Lexington city police.' The police bought the story that Christy had attacked the 'gridiron heroes' for no reason and threw him in jail for disturbing the peace. When Christy finally made it to the Federal Narcotics Hospital, the first thing he noticed were the surrounding fields: 

     '... where roamed weird cows with misshapen udders and twin tails; there was even a two-headed calf. The hospital ran an experimental agriculture farm as, I suppose, a sort of sideline that made one wonder what they did to the junkies.'

[...]

     Charlie looked healthy, for Charlie. He told me about the other times he’d been there for the cure. Four or five times dating back to 1949. He didn’t mind being in Lexington. They always had a good band. Whenever Charlie was off the streets and in an institution, he played alto saxophone rather than the bass. He never played the sax on the outside, but he’d been institutionalized so many times, he was very good on it. “Oh, man. I want to play it in clubs but I’m just not good enough to play jazz.” ' (SG)

Some time prior to visiting Charlie in Lexington, Christy had received a letter from the warden of the State Penitentiary at Menard, southern Illinois, to inform him that prisoner 33464 (Val Santee) had requested he be allowed to correspond with Christy, but that he must first write to show his agreement. The warden gave no information about why Val was in prison, and it wasn't until Christy received his first letter from Val that he discovered Val had been given a forty year sentence for first degree murder—the crime itself was never disputed. Val gave Christy instructions to contact his first and second wives, and a friend, and told him also that his family had been informed that Christy, and no one else, should receive Val's personal effects. Val Santee's stoicism shines through in that letter:

     'My outlook on life and everything in general will no doubt undergo quite a bit of changing. At the present time I am still in a sort of fog bank. My folks are looking into the possibility of a new hearing for me. Who knows what the future holds! Now Jim, do not despair and grieve, for you must go on and “do it all” for two of us now. Do you mind? I think not. Smell every flower twice; laugh extra hearty! Live for both of us.' (SG)

And so, at the end of June 1966, after his visit to Charlie and leaving Lexington, Christy headed off for Menard State Prison on the banks of the Mississippi. On his arrival, Christy was told that his visiting rights had been removed, having been judged a 'bad influence' on his friend: “The things you write about in your letters can only fill the prisoner’s mind with notions that are not conducive to his integrating himself into the community.” But, even though it would be his last, the visit went ahead anyway. Christy was appalled at just what kind of community his nineteen year old friend would be integrated into. There are graphic accounts in Shift and Glitter of Val's fellow cell mates on death row, and Christy fears for his friend's safety at the hands of trustees who had nothing to lose by doing what they wished with fellow inmates: 

     'All the way back to West Chester, I thought about Val being with those people, stuck on the row. Not even eligible for parole for another decade. I doubted that he could survive. I wondered if we’d ever see each other again.' (SG)

But back to Charlie Leeds. The account of Charlie in Beyond the Spectacle, ends in 1968 with a brief exchange of words between the two friends on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, just after Charlie had been charged with a drug related offence and given a thirteen year sentence: 'Leeds has been in prisons, jails and mental hospitals over 40 times. Each instance was in some ways connected with drugs.' The chronicle in Beyond the Spectacle ends with Charlie shoving a package containing a couple of hundred pages of his writing into Christy's hands: 'he ran off down the broad walk and I never saw him again.

'August, 1968, at Townsend Inlet, New Jersey; I'd just seen Charlie Leeds that day; he was
to report the next day to begin serving his prison sentence for the drugstore caper
.' (EM)
The story of how Charlie came to be arrested in 1968 is told in Travelin' Light, and reads like a parody of the slapstick screen adventures of his namesake; just one of the tragicomic escapades that punctuated Charlie Leeds' life. He had gone to a drug store to get some prescription drugs, but because the pharmacist had kept him waiting for so long, Charlie had lain down in a laundry basket in the stockroom, pulled some clothing over his eyes, and fallen asleep. When he woke up, he was covered in more uniforms that had been tossed on top of him by employees going off duty, oblivious of the occupant of the laundry basket. By now the place was locked and empty. Before figuring how he would get out of the place without setting off the alarm, and wary of setting the thing off anyway, Charlie though he might as well pick up his prescription anyway:

     'There he was, a forty-four year old man, crawling on his belly across the polished linoleum floor of a drugstore  headed for the shelf where they kept the paregoric. ... He stopped first when he came to the cough medicine ... snatched a bottle, and took a drink. Just before he got to the paregoric he paused the reach up and feel around in the cash register drawer. The alarm went off. Charlie ran to the back door and couldn't get it open. He jumped into the laundry hamper and burrowed down deep. A few minutes later the cops arrived, flashed their lights around ... but not in the hamper. They mumbled about some kind of mistake and left.' (TL 29-30)

Charlie got the paregoric, but not before helping himself to a quart of almost melted ice-cream from the fridge and scooping it into his mouth with his fingers, then, as he reached above the four foot alarm trigger 'for a handful of Christmas trees (Tuinals)', it went off for a second time, as he must have known it would. Once again he dived into the laundry hamper but this time the cops discovered him on account of the trail of melted ice-cream that led to his hiding place—'Bing Cherry' as he recalled to Christy later.

Charlie Leeds on back cover of Tillie’s Punctured Romance.
Quote reads:
'Jesus did come back one night. He came back to the 500 club
when I was playing there, but I didn't get a chance to talk to Him.
But Christy would meet Charlie Leeds again, after writing his Beyond the Spectacle account. And, with Christy's help, Charlie's writing was published in 1970 under the title (inspired by Chaplin's 1914 movie): Tillie’s Punctured Romance, & The Love Song of Rotten John Calabrese, plus selected short subjects, by November House press. The book received favourable reviews and spawn two stage plays: Tillie’s Punctured Romance (circa 1979, Toronto) and Beat for Sparrows (co-written by Leeds' niece Karen Schuler) which premiered in Los Angeles in 2001. Al Pacino's agent had approached Christy about an interview with Pacino, with a view to the actor playing Charlie Leeds in Beat for Sparrows, but it never materialised.

A woman named Martha, to whom Christy had shown Charlie's work, started a correspondence with Charlie in prison, and on his parole the pair got married. Christy describes a trip Charlie made to visit him Toronto where Charlie stocked up on drugs legal in Canada but banned in the US. This was a happy but short lived period for Charlie, who was re-arrested for breaching his parole and returned to prison. Christy describes how Charlie never really recovered from his re-arrest, even though he was released six months later. The following year he was back in another drug rehab facility, and by 1974 Martha had left him and Charlie had experienced his first heart attack:

     'He had started to drink. It was a necessity. He got beat on the dope deals and he had to have something. The girls took him for bread. Everything was coming apart. One of the last times I saw him, he had just gotten out of the hospital two days before. He had been pronounced dead. His heart had stopped. He said, "Man, I was lying on the table and it was beautiful, I had this dream about you and Lana Turner and the twelve apostles.." ' (TL 32)

Finally, Christy received a telegram that Charlie was desperate to see him. On his arrival, he found Charlie, 'drunk, sick and raving.' Christy immediately ran into the usual institutional red tape: it was against hospital rules to admit someone more than twice a year and Charlie had been admitted on twelve occasions. "Then, what's one more time? ... Should I take him back to the Boardwalk, lay him down there, near the Diving Horse? Let him expire right there with your name pinned to his chest? (TL 33)

The hospital did admit Charlie, and the last image Christy had of him, was disappearing in a wheel chair through the lobby's swinging doors, all the while engaging the nurse with his banter. 

'I loved him and he died ... "And you can play that on your mother-fuckin' piano sometime." '

NOTE: on Charlie Leed's Ancestry

Charlie Leed's great grandfather, Jeremiah Leeds (born in 1754) was a Quaker and the first permanent settler in what is Atlantic City today. Jeremiah's son and Charlie's grandfather, Chalkley Steelman Leeds, was the first mayor of Atlantic City from 1854 to 1856. Chalkey Leeds was the son from Jeremiah's second marriage to Millicent Steelman, when she was only 24 and Jeremiah 62. After Jeremiah's death, Millicent turned their large home into a boarding house known as Aunt Millie's, the first hotel to exist in Atlantic City—to put this in context, by 1918 there were approximately 12,000 hotels in Atlantic City. Chalkey was also married twice and had eleven children. Chalkey Leeds and his brother, Robert B. Leeds, owned the whole of the land upon which Atlantic City was built. Christy picks up the saga as follows:

     'There was and probably still is—although it has closed down—outside the Bally Hotel and Casino—a statue of Charlie's grandfather, the mayor. He was known as Chalkey. There's an ongoing character in the first parts of the TV series Boardwalk Empire based on his grandfather, called the Commodore.'* (EM)

*Chalkey Leeds should not to be confused with the character Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire, played by black actor Michael K. Williams—who also played Omar Little in The Wire.


Social Activist, Librarian and other Adventures

But back to our own hero in 1967 and his continued college education. Christy describes it as being even sillier than before:

     'I signed up for a course called Middle Eastern Studies, and lasted just a few minutes. “There is one thing you all have to understand from the outset,” the professor declared during that first and, for me, only class, “if you hope to make any sense of the situation in the Middle East. You have to realize that all the problems in the region are the fault of the Arabs.” ' (SG)

The aspect of college that most infuriated Christy, was the petty rules around the dress and behaviour of its students. The expulsion of a liberal arts student for having hair down to his collar was the catalyst for Christy's confrontation with the college authorities. After being denied a meeting to protest this treatment of a fellow student, Christy and some fellow students organised a series of protests that attracted local and regional news coverage. 'Jock' and right-wing students organised counter protests and the college recruited student spies to infiltrate, not only the protesters meetings, but other activities also. This included a party of jocks and cheerleaders, twenty of whom, some seniors, were subsequently expelled for consuming alcohol and cross gender fraternisation—and all this off campus! The social and political culture of the time meant that these upstanding and spineless students took their punishment and refused to complain or protest, even when Christy attended their hangout to try to persuade them to challenge the decision:

     'I reminded them of all the names they had called us during our rallies and protests, probably the least offensive being “coward.” But yet here they were, big tough athletes, being thrown out of school yet doing nothing about it. Just bowing to the authorities that have no legal right to censor them or any other students, no matter their politics or the length of their hair, for what they do off campus and, come to that, no reason to censor anyone for what they do on campus as long as it doesn’t break any civic laws. I said that I had an idea to get their expulsions rescinded.' (SG)

While the majority of the jocks remained hostile and suspicious of Christy, others came to see him later to take up his offer of threatening the the President and three of the Deans with a legal challenge. The outcome being that Christy secured the services of the flamboyant criminal lawyer, F. Lee Bailey, to take on the case. After a humiliating meeting for the College Governors with Bailey, the expelled students were promptly reinstated. For his trouble, the most Christy got was a nod of acknowledgement from one of the jocks, anxious not to be further associated with an obvious political agitator.

Christy was living together with Ellen at the time in a big apartment above a bakery on West Main Street in West Chester. As well as running the foreign film society at the college, Christy had work driving and managing a mobile library. He was now asked to carry and show movies at locations around the county, as well as stacking the main library shelves. Through Ramona the librarian, Christy was introduced to her brother, the wild life author, filmmaker and ex carnival roustabout, Daniel Mannix. Mannix, who Christy describes as, 'the first real writer I’d ever met', started accompanying him on some of his film showings and gave talks about his film. 

    'He was over six and a half feet tall, seemed to have been everywhere and done everything. One of my first thoughts was that I wished I could introduce him to Floyd Wallace. We hit it off immediately, and he was keen to go out in the bookmobile and talk about his movie. He was interested that I’d worked in carnivals and tested me out with questions, like : “So in that last ten-in-one where you worked, what was the blow off?” or “You ever notice how the tip is bigger the farther you get from the east coast?” 
     Soon we were tooling along those Chester County back roads talking about armadillos and iguanas, pinheads and half-‘n-halfs. Mannix had also written about the orgy of sadism that was the Roman games and about the history of torture. He’d tell about fire-breathers and elastic men, about carnie gaffs, hunting with bows, arrows, and slingshots.' (SG)

The college administrators finally got even with Christy for embarrassing them, by identifying him to police who had uncovered a plot to blow up patriotic monuments around the Philadelphia, including the Liberty Bell. Christy suffered beatings and three days in jail, before the less dim-witted police officers realised that he couldn't have been involved in a plot organised by black activists, who were hardly likely to, 'let a white boy into their club'.

It is the natural pattern of the vagabond's life to lurch from highs to lows and back again. That is the serendipitous nature of existence experienced by those who refuse to seek out tedious predictability. After the sweet victory over the college governors, then the inevitable nemesis that followed, an unexpected distraction again presented itself to Christy. He had a college friend with whom he had endless debates about music. Gerry Ammons was always trying to seduce Christy's musical tastes with late sixties psychedelic rock, but the old jazz aficionado was having none of it. The debates were food natured, and when Ammons asked Christy to accompany him on a gig that summer, the offer was politely accepted, even though the singer was a 24 year old white woman posing, so Christy saw it, as a 'balsy, blues mama'.

   ' “What’s this for?” I asked as he handed me a ticket.
     “Concert next Saturday in Philly at the Pallestra. I don’t have anybody to go with.”
     “Who is this person?”
      “You’re kidding? You don’t know who Janis Joplin is?”
      “Nope.”
     “You’ve never heard of Janis Joplin?”
     “Never.”
     “That’s weird, man. Wow.” '

Joplin in 1967
But by the time Christy got to see Joplin perform, and chatted to her later in her dressing room, he had become fascinated both by the singer phenomena and the woman behind the voice—ignoring, as best he could, the hippy band members and, as he further describes, their overly long guitar solos. Joplin also admitted to being sick of hippies, even if 'I am one myself, in spite of myself.' This would have been shortly after Joplin's brief relationship with Country Joe McDonald. Christy and Joplin became close friends, arguably because of their self-styled rebel status and, although having accidentally landed in the sixties and (Joplin at least) being defined by that cultural phenomena, mutual admiration of beat poetry and blues traditions. They kept in touch and spent time together in several cities when Joplin was on tour. 
     
As a footnote to the Janis Joplin digression, Christy had, coincidentally, met Joplin's father in Texas a couple years earlier when, in his role as an insurance salesman, he had 'handled things for the parents of my first wife'.


Summer of Love

By this time, Christy had all but finished with college and was dividing himself between West Chester and New York. He continued to show films once a week and then headed off to stay in his friends apartment in a tenement block on Eldridge Street, Manhattan, before returning again three days later. 

     'But it was the summer of 1967, and anyone my age and Ellen’s age who considered themselves anti-establishment in any way or was inclined to adventure and after kicks, would have been foolish not to go to San Francisco. Larry Nicodemus and his Italian girlfriend Laura Longo, were all for it and so was Ed Vogel but he didn’t have a girl friend. I suggested he drive up to New York and put an ad in the Psychedelicatessen on Tompkins Square. He drove up to the apartment and I took him over to place; he pinned his note on the bulletin board and when he got back to West Chester, there had been three or four calls. `Chick wanted for trip to San Francisco! Must travel light.’ ' (SG)

The story from here, covering the rest of 1967 and 1968, is told in Real Gone (2010). Real Gone opens with Christy taking a road trip with five friends to the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, epicentre of the 1967 'summer of love'. The book proceeds to describe the violence following the murder of Martin Luther King the following Spring when, less than a year on, the peace and love of '67 is followed by bloody insurrection as the army and police turned their aggression inward against its own citizens and parts of the country became a virtual civil war zone. The synopsis on the back cover sums the book up as follows: 'the novella records the very moment that an empire reached its peak and started its decline.' At the same time America was fighting a war within its own borders, it's aggression was also focused outward. 1968 was the peak of the Vietnam War. But to return to the 'summer of love'; although Christy wanted to see the San Francisco phenomena for himself, he was, as he repeatedly insists, no hippy. As a cynic par excellence, Christy dispels the romantic myth of the sixties and exposes it for the treacherous sham that it really was:

     'I walked the streets of Haight for the rest of that day and part of the next. By that time, I was bored with the entire scene. It just seemed like a massive convention of conventional suburban kids taking some time out from their schooling and their careers to gather their future nostalgia.

[...]

     Of course, there were others who confessed to believing that if you spread what they called "love" around it would come back to you. But there was too much self-consciousness at work ... I didn't feel sorry for them but I did for the innocents, and there were many of these, because they, more often than not, were prey for the opportunists, the rapists, the crooked drug dealers, the guru hustlers, crooks of all sorts. 

[...]

     'What went on in the Haight reminded me of the colonisation of some foreign land, only these Americans didn't come in military garb, the guys in suits in their wake, but they had a prescribed uniform just the same. Just two years earlier, I had walked the same streets with Emerald. It was a Russian neighbourhood then with great corner grocery stores and working men, babushka ladies, good food in cheap restaurants, and apartments to rent for thirty-five dollars a month. The invaders had since discovered the area and transformed everything they found. ... The borscht and pierogi places now served bland barley soup at exorbitant prices. The corner shop that had smelled of pickles and cabbage became a head shop, oppressive with the smell of incense and indistinguishable from the headshop a few doors down. And rents? Well you had to have some money from mommy and daddy.' (RG 21-23)

Not having money from mommy and daddy, Christy and Ellen found a room in the Fillmore District, San Francisco's black neighbourhood, where they slept on the couch and floor of a showgirl acquaintance. One of the visitors to the apartment was the comedian Redd Foxx. Christy also had his first casual meeting with Chuck Berry at this time, and would bump into him several times throughout his life. Christy describes it as more a mutual acknowledgement than a friendship, a typical vagabond comradeshipwell in Christy's case at least: 'Over the years, I'd see him in various cities, a couple of times we talked, a couple of times we just nodded to each other, like vague acquaintances. Once backstage in Atlantic City, he said, "Hey man. Haven't seen you for a while." ' (RG 25)

On a difficult return trip from San Francisco (tension had developed between the six friends after Christy punched one of them out) the travellers stopped at a hick diner in Western Pennsylvania. They took six stools at the end of the counter, but the waitress ignored them and continued chatting to some locals at the other end of the bar, even when they asked for the menu. The group gave up hope of a meal and eventually walked out, with the waitress's dishcloth thrown at their backs:

     'When we were on our way, I looked over my shoulders at the diner that seemed to glow in the distance. I hadn't noticed the American flag before on it's pole. The flag seemed also to glow, as if from some inner light, of righteousness, no doubt.
     We got to West Chester around two in the morning. Everyone was sick of everyone else. The summer of love was over.' (RG 27)


The Draft and More University Time

On Christy's return from his trip to San Francisco, he received his draft papers and was ordered to report for induction into the army at Philadelphia's Armoury Hall. The scene that follows provides a further illustration of Christy's Cynic credentials; contempt and ridicule for authority, matched by a total disregard of the consequences in defying that authority. This particular style of outspokenness and freedom of speech among the ancient Greeks was referred to as parrhesia. It applies to both speech and defiant actions, and in the case of the Cynics'performances', such as Diogenes begging alms of a statue to get practice at being refused. The best known anecdote of Cynic parrhesia is Alexander the Greats reported meeting with Diogenes when the latter was sunning himself in a Corinth park. When Alexander said he would grant Diogenes any wish of his choosing, the Cynic replied, Stand out of my light. This Cynic digression underlines Christy's own brand of parrhesia in the Armoury Hall parade ground as part of a line up of 250 naked recruits:

     ' "Step forward to be inducted into the U.S. Army!" barked the guy with the short haircut in the dry-cleaned uniform.
     Two hundred and forty-nine young men stepped forward. The sergeant, or whatever he was, strode over to me and, with mock politeness, asked whether I'd failed to hear him.
     "I heard you."
     "Well what's the matter? You afraid?"
     "Everything's fine and I'm not afraid."
     "Sir. Call me Sir."
     "No. I won't do that."
     He shook his head. "You don't have your thinking cap on, sonny. Your starting your army career out on the wrong foot. You're going to give in, eventually, and this incident will be on you're record. You'll regret it."
     I said nothing.
     "Stand at attention!"
     I had my weight on one leg.
     "No, sir. I'm not in the army and I don't have to do anything you say."
     "When I get you in the back room, you'll do what I say."
     While we were having our conversation, I glanced at the line of young men beyond him, many of whom looked over their shoulders with interest. I could see the fear in some of the faces. They didn't want any part of the whole deal. [...] Three quarters of the others are brothers. Why fight for America when you can't even get served in most restaurants despite some bullshit civil rights legislation that isn't enforced anyway?

 [...] 

     Back at the recruitment centre, I stood my ground and the sergeant turned me over to others so he could go on inducting. The first technique they tried on me was humiliation, ordering me not to put on my clothes while they interrogated me but I did so anyway. ... I refused to move, refused to talk. Next they tried ignoring me. Finally, they arrested me. I demanded to speak to a lawyer.' (RG 28-31)

To cut a long story short, the lawyer got Christy released on the basis that the military had failed to take into consideration his enrolment at a University for a course of study. Having already left West Chester College, Christy was forced to enrol at Cheyney State College in Chester County to avoid the draft; America's oldest university for black students:

     'I doubt that in my limited time there I saw more than three or four other white students. People joked about Cheyney, insisting the academic standards were so low that they would accept anyone who applied. I had five courses, and before heading to New York I attended four of them twice, and one three times, it was black history.' (RG 32)


Private Investigator and Another Jail Visit

But, on this occasion, Christy never made it to New York. Instead he absented himself from college to undertake an assignment in New Orleans for an investigative journalist who was challenging the Warren Commission findings on the Kennedy assassination. His chief interviewee was Big Jim Garrison, the New Orleans District Attorney (played by Kevin Costner in the film JFK), who claims he was prevented from uncovering the truth behind the Kennedy assassination by a federal government conspiracy. In Real Gone, Christy claims that Garrison (himself a Democrat) suspected no less than Christy's old drinking buddy, former vice-president Lyndon B. Johnson, of being responsible for the cover-up. 

The more entertaining story is Christy's own. On arrival at New Orleans, and sitting in the front seat of the car in a parking lot with his black friend Johnny Parker while their third companion went to a bar to buy cigarettes, a redneck cop accosted the pair:

   ' "Hey boys. Whereyat?"
     "Huh?" said Johnny. 
     "Wassat Niggah?"
     Johnny didn't reply.
     "How come you two sitting together?"
     I told him we were waiting for our friend.
     "Thasso? Looks mighty peculiar, white man and coloured man all cozy in the front seat like that. Any good citizen passing by, seeing you, well, they could be excused for thinking you was, you know. Sweethearts."
     "Oh, shit, man," Johnny exclaimed
     "Hey, niggah. You got you a smart mouth."
     I wondered what was taking Marty so long. After a few more minutes of the cop's angry banter, he had us get out and lean against the car. Then he frisked us, cuffed us and marched us down Bourbon Street and around another corner where a squad car was parked. We were taken to the Parish Jail and arrested for disturbing the peace.' (RG 36-37)

On arrival at the jail, Christy insisted on his statutory phone call and was nearly beaten for his trouble. But when he told the police that he was represented by no lesser lawyer than the District Attorney himself, instead of provoking the police to more anger, the fact that two out of town kids should ask for the District Attorney was a cause for much mirth: ' "Jim Garrison! Well har har har! Why big Jim deer gone represent you and the nigrah? Tell me that, boy." ' And when Christy got through and asked for the District Attorney they assumed that he was either talking down a dead line or joshing with someone down the phone:

   ' "Whale boy, what big Jim say?"
     "Yeah, boy. He coming down to fetch you and the nigrah?"
     "He's on his way here right now."
     More laughter.
     "Awright then. We take you back to your cell, you can wait for him in comfort." ' (RG 37)

Imagine the chastened and embarrassed police: 'Same who'd laughed at and taunted us, had prodded us with their nightsticks, pushed us around the jailhouse, and called us all sorts of nasty names ...', when half an hour later in walks Big Jim himself, and demands the police apologise for their behaviour to his clients:

     'Now it was all, "We're mighty sorry, Mr. Garrison. All a misunderstanding. Mistaken identity." ... 
     "Then you owe these young men an apology."
     They had to be encouraged to come around to that. Then one of them looked up at me and said, "Guess we messed up. I'm sorry."
     I nodded. Two more apologised to me.
     Garrison said, "You're forgetting Mr. Parker."
     Well they didn't like that at all but it was one of the finer moments of my life, listening to them do it, "We sorry, Mr. Parker." ' (RG 38)
     
The pleasure of that event lasted well beyond the business transaction in New Orleans. All the way back up North in the car, could be heard the refrain from Johnny, "We sorry, Mr. Parker!, We sorry, Mr. Parker!"


New York, Washington, and a Brief Return to University 

The trio headed for New York, where Christy soon became bored senseless with all the politicking by those he describes as joyless, anarchist theoreticians. But at least these revolutionaries took it for granted that there was a bunch of crooks in the White House. This in contrast to those Christy describes as: 

     'campus radicals, off-campus radicals and lefty media darlings who all seemed surprised that their government lied to them, and believed that there could exist a government that didn't lie to them. "That's what governments do," I was forever replying. "That's what governments have to do." ' (RG 41)

Regardless of Christy's aversion to politics, he would join the 100,000 others who marched on the Pentagon in Washington on Oct 21st 1967, an event he later describes in the style of the Cynic diatribe:

     'And tragedy it was, because of the great hopes smashed to smithereens, not by cops or "fascist" politicians but the arrogance of opportunists without a shred of conscience. Sure there were black power types, fresh out of prison on armed robbery beefs promoting eighteen year old, bra-less blondes with the hard sell of Oppressed Victim and there were sanctimonious idiots sitting in a circle around the pentagon vowing to make it levitate ... of course there were thousands of marchers in a floral patterned lockstep ...' (RG 42)


Washington, Oct 21st 1967
But Christy goes beyond the mere ridiculing of those who believe in 'vague notions of "peace" ' and fantasies of toppling government and replacing it with a totally new system. He makes it clear why he thinks the protesters where lamentably naiveand does not exclude himself from that nativity:

     'My stupidity was not in believing in Revolution but in revolution in America. Hell, I had just turned twenty-two and it is the right of youth to believe in the idea of revolution, youth demands it or should (or did). But I also that day realised for certain and unequivocally that the power of the American mass media was too vast and overwhelming, that it was destined to level and co-opt everything in its path.' (RG 43)

On the return trip from Washington to New York, Christy made a brief stop over at Cheyney State College, but not to resume his studies. He was anxious to meet Muhammad Ali, who was attending Cheyney State as part of a tour of speeches following being been stripped of his heavyweight title for refusing to participate in the Vietnam War. Christy, the only white student in the gymnasium that day, listened to Ali speak for half-an-hour before the boxer made his way along the line of waiting students:

     'There were a few dirty looks but no one disputed my right to be there. One by one the brothers stepped forward to shake his hand. As I got within fifty feet, I could tell the champ was pretty bored with the whole thing.
     "Hey, how you doin, brother. Uh huh. Uh huh. ... Hey, how you doin, brother. Uh huh. Uh huh."
     Now I do believe that when he was two students away, he glanced up and saw me but didn't let on. ... He extended both hands toward me like he was trying to keep away a ghost, and then when the whole auditorium broke up, cheering and applauding, Ali grabbed me in a bear hug which only encouraged more commotion. Then he raised my hand by the wrist, while whispering in my ear, "The fuck you doing here, boy?" ' (RG 47)

It was Christy's last visit to the University. Having decided to take his chances with the Draft Board rather than continue as a student, Christy headed once more for his shared Lower East Side apartment in Eldridge Street. There he went from job to job, all the while avoiding the draft and hanging out with the flotsam and jetsam who passed through the flop in Eldridge Street. This included beats Peter Orlovsky and Kerouac's erstwhile companion Herbert Huncke (credited with coining the term 'beat'). Janis Joplin would also look Christy up when she was in New York. But Christy was no celebrity seeker, he just hung around the kind of places where bumping into showbiz and sports folk was inevitable. Celebrity aside, many of these folk were themselves vulnerable, as Joplin's untimely death testifies. As with tramp writer Jim Tully, Christy was more likely to offend or insult the rich and famous than he would a fellow vagabond, and would only make time for those who were worth the trouble: 'I've never been a scene-maker or a hail-fellow-well-met type, which is probably why I've made extremely close friends all my life'. (EM)

On the fourth of April 1968, Christy was at a political rally in Lower East Side when the assassination of Martin Luther King was announced. Christy acknowledged to experiencing the feeling that a turning point in American history was about to take place. But could not have foreseen the level of violence that would soon be unleashed on American Citizenry:

     'I never believed in his cause, never thought non-violence as a method for change was anything other than a pipe-dream. But alive, preaching non-violence, King served as a beacon and an anchor. Gone, all hell was going to break loose.' (RG 63)

And it did. Intending to travel to Martin Luther King's funeral with his friend Ted, the pair never made it further than Weldon in North Carolina. That night they were picked up in Weldon by the sheriff for no particular reason and kept in the cells overnight without charge. This made sure they could not make it to the funeral, and the sheriff knew it:

     'Way I figure it, if a coupla fellows from up Nawth wanted to get to Atlanta (Uhlanna) ... And they was hitchhiking and didn't get killed on the way, well, by the time these boys reached Uhlanna, Martin Luther Coon's funeral would be over by about ten hours. Y'all come again, heah? ' (RG 75)

As there was now no point in continuing the trip, the pair set of back to New York. But by now the entire South was under siege and martial law had been declared in several cities, including Baltimore where the pair where now dropped by a friendly college professor. Making it as far as the Greyhound bus station in Baltimore, they then needed to acquire a pass to walk the three blocks to the Trailways depot in order to continue to Pennsylvania. It took them half an hour to walk the three blocks as they had to show their passes to the pairs of police who were stationed every ten yards:

     'As we crossed the street to the third block, a cop holding the harness of a dog, a German Shepherd, hollered at us, "Where the hell you think you're going?"
     The other guy grabbed the passes and the i.d., then, with his handgun, motioned us toward a parked car at the curb. "Turn around, hands on the roof, legs apart."
     As soon as we were in position, I heard the shout, "Get em!"
     The dog snarled, bared its fangs, and I had to check the impulse to wheel around, because this is what the cop wanted, enough of an excuse to set the animal on us or to nightstick us. I listened to its snarl, even felt its nose touch my leg.
     "Not yet! ... I just wanted you to know that Rex here follows orders." ' (RG 83)

The usual long moronic police interrogation followed along the lines of, why weren't they in the Army, didn't they love America, would they rather be living in Russia, where they queers, before the situation was saved when a sniper took a pop at the police from a window across the street. In the ensuing pandemonium Christy and Ted made their escape on foot and then bus, only to end up at another roadblock at Wilmington, Delaware:

     'More cruisers and crackling cop radios, more lawmen defending America with machine guns and automatic pistols. We were told we couldn't go into town. The only thing was to walk around it, and so we did.'

Yes, the summer of love was definitely over, but before the end of 1868, Christy would cross the border into Canada and would not return to the USA for a further eight years.


Further Meeting with Val Santee and Failed Jail Break

It is important to note here, that prior to Christy's decamp to Canada, he had gone underground to avoid a a treason charge and ten year prison term for draft dodgingthe Board now being hot on his heels. By this time, Christy was using three sets of fake ID to avoid his capture: his previous identity as Jim Christinzio; Lee Shannon, the name of Val's  favourite brother and a fictional pseudonym Christy had used previously, and Val Santee's own identityVal not having much use for it at the time.

But in September of 1968, Val Santee was granted a retrial in Franklin County, Illinois, on the basis of civil rights violations, including beatings received while in custody. Christy was invited to be the key witness at the trial, and paid full expenses by the state for his travel expenses. Securing the retrial was to serve another purpose:

  '   “Jim, I’m going to ask you a very big favour. You can say no, and I won’t have any hard feelings. I wouldn’t even dream of asking except, well, you’ve been the only real friend I’ve ever had and we think alike about so many things. I can’t even ask you without you giving me permission to ask.”
     “Go ahead, ask.”
     “If I have to run, I’m going to need a car maybe a couple of cars, you know, stashed here and there. And I was hoping that you …”

     By the next morning the cars were in place. My ’56 Chevy, in which I had driven out, with my girl friend, to southern Illinois from New York City, a couple of weeks earlier ... keys in the ignition waited out front of a restaurant. Several miles out of town was the ’48 Plymouth that had been sitting around the Santee home for months ... The third vehicle was a big, four-door Ford sedan that I’d borrowed from one of Val’s many brothers ... and hid on a dirt road fifteen miles from the Plymouth. Val had determined where the cars were to be stashed but I’d given considerable thought to the order in which I placed them. The Chevy would provide a quick getaway, the Plymouth, well, it was inconspicuous if slow; the Ford was powerful, dependable and big enough for him to sleep in. I left somethinga jug of water, food and a thermos of coffee in a paper bag on the front seat of each of the cars. I wondered if he’d get as far as the first one.
     He didn’t.'  (SG)

As Christy describes the getaway cars in an email:


"My own 1956 Chevy Bel Air two-door hardtop, green and white...
The car was in its position because it was fast."
"a 1948 Plymouth four-door sedan, black, dependable and not an attention getter..."
"a big, 1964 Ford two-door sedan. Black or grey,  I forget which."
After the aborted escape from the courthouse, Val's sentence was eventually reduced to 1 to 15 years and he ended up serving eight. The month following the retrial, October 1968, Christy used his travel expenses for his court appearance to flee across the border to Canada. He did not see Val again until Val visited him in St. Augustine, Florida, ten years later in 1978. This would be the last time Christy actually met with Val. The last communication with his friend was by letter in 2005.


Christy's arrival in Canada (in the aforementioned Chevy) must wait for Part 4, from which point any attempt at chronology will be abandoned for the (further) chaotic adventures that make up our hero's life—which, according to Christy, is when his real tramping started. Hard to believe that what we have read so far was only a prelude to the life of the vagabond adventurer. Furthermore, the reader should consider at this point, having read Jim Christy's biography in parts 1 to 3 above, that at the time of his arrival in Canada, he was still only twenty three years of age!

PROCEED TO PART 4


No comments:

Post a Comment