Posted by: M. J. Arcangelini | October 22, 2017

BUSTED #1 Brook Park, Ohio – July 19, 1970

We had been, the whole family, at my grandmother’s in Pennsylvania for a week or so.  On the drive back I saw a church which had a changeable sign out front where bible quotes and messages could be posted.  On this day it read: “There is no rainbow at the end of pot.” I thought that was particularly funny, both for the play on words and the fact that, at the time, I thought pot let me see rainbows everywhere – so the sign was clearly wrong.  I figured it was only ignorance, inexperience and fear which would make someone put up such a sign.  At 17 years old and recently graduated from high school I felt I had enough experience to see the humor, if not the danger, in that simple roadside declaration.

We had come back early on Saturday and after dinner that night it was my turn to do the dishes.  I was going back and forth between the kitchen and the living room to watch an episode of the TV show CHiPs.  It seems to me that they were portraying a drug bust that night and, like the church sign, I found it amusing.  Before I was entirely done with the dishes some friends showed up to see if I wanted to go hang out at the park in Berea.  There was Demeter (Jim Hurley), Kirk Davis, Kitty (Catherine Ballou), Jack Belter, his girlfriend Connie, and Beano (Bob Frye). Beano got his name because he was very slender and seemed tall as a fairytale beanstalk, especially if one were laying on the floor, stoned, looking up at him standing above.

It was a hot day and I thought it would be nice to spend a cool evening next to Wallace Lake.  I finished up the dishes, told my parents I was going down to the park and off we went.

The Wallace Lake picnic area was where the hippies and freaks hung out in Berea.  On weekend evenings the parking lot would be full of cars and vans and the picnic tables and the grounds full of young people sporting various degrees of hippie regalia – we blended right in.  Beer, wine and pot were ubiquitous as was the sound of music; psychedelic rock, blues, and folk blasting out of car radios and tape decks.  We were just hanging out and having fun.  I believe Jack was the one who found the blotter LSD for sale.  It was such a beautiful evening and so nice to be where we were that we all figured a mild dose of acid could only make things better.  We pooled our money and bought some.  We didn’t have enough money for full doses and so decided to each do half a dose, Beano however somehow managed to get himself a whole dose or, judging by the way he was acting as the evening stretched on into night, more.

When the acid started to hit our brains we decided to hit the road, go exploring and see what we could see. After driving around aimlessly for a while someone said they heard there was a party down at Edgewater Beach so we headed into Cleveland. We were mildly tripping by that point, but tripping nonetheless, so everything had that special glow that LSD lends so generously. Traveling to the city was an adventure of wonders as the ordinary became fantastic under the influence of the drug.

We got to Edgewater and tumbled out of the car to join the party on the beach.  There was a campfire burning and somebody knew somebody so we were all welcomed. We sat in the sand talking of fantastic things. Played leisurely tag with the gentle lake waves.  Walked and walked. Picked up things that we found in the sand, fishbones, stones, popsicle sticks and examined them like rare treasures.  And we laughed a lot – everything seemed funny until it didn’t and then we’d get very serious and talk deep existential ideas. Who were we really? Why were we here? What is the universe? And then we’d laugh some more. It was your basic acid trip.

Eventually I realized how late it was getting. Between the acid and the darkness time had seemed suspended. Someone, I think Jack, had the momentary good sense to look at a wristwatch and announced that it was hours after midnight. I figured I better get home because I was most likely already in trouble for being out so late. Even though I’d graduated high school I was still only 17 and my parents continued to exert great authority, as much as it rankled me. So we slowly reassembled and piled back into Beano’s car to take me home. The others planned on continuing the trip elsewhere after dropping me off. Jack and Connie stayed with the party at Edgewater.

Even though it was Beano’s car I had been driving because he was way too stoned to deal with it and I was the primary driver on most excursions anyway. Periodically while we were driving Beano, sitting in the front seat, would start waving those long, gangly arms and legs around frantically crying “watch out for the gate!!” Of course there were no gates across the road, only across Beano’s awareness.

Kitty decided that she wanted to drive, He was living on his own even though she didn’t have a driver’s license nor much experience at it. For some reason it seemed to all of us like a good idea, after all somebody would have to drive after they dropped me off. Logic is like that when you’re tripping.  I was placed next to her in the front seat to keep an eye on her and talk her through the process as needed. Beano was next to me with Kirk and Demeter, neither of whom could drive, in the back. We headed for Brook Park, a near west suburb where I lived with my parents.

We were driving down Brookpark Road, the border between Cleveland and the city of Brook Park. We were heading west on the Cleveland side of the street when we noticed a police car behind us. It was about 3 o’clock in the morning. I was talking Kitty through her driving and felt she was a doing fairly well. But then, we were both pretty ripped so who knows.

We came to W. 150th St. where we needed to turn left as it became Smith Road to get to my house. I told Kitty to go ahead and execute the turn because she was doing so well. We were gambling that the police car was a Cleveland car and would keep going down Brookpark Road past us. But as soon as we crossed the middle line from Cleveland into Brook Park the flashing lights came on. They were Brook Park police and we had just crossed over into their jurisdiction.

As soon as the flashing lights came on I straightened up like a switch had been flipped. It was as though I was no longer tripping at all. I could see everything that was happening and understand it. I didn’t know such a thing was possible, but it happened.

They pulled us over just after we made the turn and suddenly there were five policeman and three police cars, all with their lights flashing, just to deal with five tripping hippies. It was quite a crime scene. We tried to tell ourselves we would be able to talk ourselves out of it, whatever it was, but I don’t think any of us actually believed it.

We sat in the car, silent, terrified as the officers approached us. They shined flashlights at us to get a good look at the hippies, then they ordered us out and we slowly emerged into the flashing light night.

They separated us and began their questioning. Brook Park had an 11:00 PM curfew for under 18 so the first thing they wanted to find out was how old we were. Kitty and I were both under 18 and not sharp enough by that time of the night to try and hide it. We were the first ones to be ushered, without being searched, into the back of a police car. The door slammed on us. Thus isolated we sat there quiet for a moment, staring at the grill between us and the front seat; dashboard lights shining, police radio crackling and squawking.

Kitty looked at me and said: “I’ve got a roach collection in my purse. What are we going to do?” I barely took a moment to think about it. It was clear we couldn’t allow ourselves to get busted for holding roaches. I looked around to see if we were being watched. We weren’t, the cops were all too busy with the others. I told her to give them to me and, quick as I could stand to, I ate them – there were only a couple. Roaches don’t really taste very good; dry, ashy, burnt paper. There was nothing to wash them down with and my mouth felt gritty.  They’re much better smoked than eaten but at least the evidence was gone and other than that I didn’t believe any of us were actually holding any drugs. I don’t know if eating those roaches had any effect on my consciousness, if I could get any more stoned from that. It didn’t seem like it.

Kirk was also under 18 but he lied and said he was 19 and then gave them his real birthday. They didn’t do the simple math to determine he was lying, so he got away with it.

Eventually they hauled us all off to the Brook Park police station.  Kitty and me in one car, Kirk and Demeter in another, and Beano in the third.  Once there we were all searched. I shot a worried look at Kitty as they searched her purse, hoping there were no other surprises in it.  There weren’t. They confiscated fuzz from Demeter’s pockets and put it in an envelope to send to the lab for analysis to see if there were any traces of drugs in it. We thought that was pretty funny but the officers did not share our amusement.

As soon as we got to the station Beano was put into a cell because there was a body attachment on him for unpaid traffic tickets. We could hear him down the hall, still tripping wildly, repeatedly yelling out to anybody who might hear: “Roll down the windows, it’s hot in here!” He seemed to think he was still in the car.  It was the last time I ever saw Beano.  Don’t know what happened to him after that night.

Since the other four of us had committed no actual crime there was no reason to hold us, except the curfew thing. Kitty driving without a license seemed to have either been forgotten or never noticed in the first place.

Kirk and Demeter were released to Demeter’s mother who came the short distance from Cleveland to pick them up.

Kitty and I were separated into different rooms and different cops questioned us before calling our parents.

I was sitting in front of the cop’s desk when he called my house. By this time it was around four in the morning. My mother answered the phone. I heard him say, “Mrs. Arcangelini this is Sgt. So-and-so at the Brook Park police station. We have your son here, he’s higher than a kite. Will you please come get him?” That was even a bigger reality smack in the face then when we initially got pulled over.

At first it seemed to take forever for my father to get there. Then suddenly he was there and it was like he had appeared out of the air. Timeslips are part of an acid trip that you just get used to and while I didn’t feel stoned anymore I was clearly still feeling remnants of the effects. Dad mostly avoided looking at me and was totally deferential toward the cop. Some discussion about me was had in front of me. The cop told my Dad that we had been smoking marijuana, which was not true but was better than telling him I was on LSD, which really would have scared him. Then the cop took my father into the hallway just outside the door. There he told him the following, in a loud enough stage whisper for me to hear: “You got a nice looking kid there Mr. Arcangelini. If I were you I’d take him home and beat the shit out of him so he never does anything like this again.”

And thus was I was released into my father’s custody.

Dad never needed anyone to tell him to beat me, so with encouragement like that I figured I was really in for it.  It had been a while since he’d taken the belt to me, but I thought that was the best I could hope for now.

The short ride, a matter of 5 or 6 blocks from the police station to home, seemed to take hours. Maybe Dad drove around for a while taking the long way, I don’t remember for sure. Or maybe it just seemed like a long time because of the circumstances and the LSD. For the first and last time in my life I heard him use language I never even thought he knew. Obviously trying not to yell his voice nonetheless held a very sharp, dark edge. He said: “You think I don’t know what you call me behind my back, boy? You think I don’t know you call me a cocksucking motherfucker behind my back?”  Maybe he wanted to drive around until he got that out of his system so he didn’t say stuff like that in front of my mother. Maybe that’s what took so long.

Any remnant of defiance I might’ve felt up to this point evaporated. I was really scared now because, as I said, I hadn’t ever heard him use language like that before in my life. I’d never heard him say anything stronger than damn or shit. This was not a good sign. The fact that I had never actually called him that didn’t make any difference at the moment. The long-festering animosity between us was thick enough that it allowed for such a thing to have been said. Other things had certainly been said over the previous several years as I was struggling to break free and he was scrambling to stop me.

When we got home I was ushered upstairs into the living room where my mother sat crying quietly. I stood in front of them while they sat down. At first they were unaccountably quiet. Then they started asking me why. What had they done? It was more civilized than I’d expected or deserved. They were clearly confused and in pain. It was very early morning by that time. They didn’t know what to do with me. I attempted a few stumbling responses to what were clearly rhetorical questions, I don’t think they were expecting responses. I think they just needed to start processing it and weren’t sure how. Their eldest son had been picked up by the police in the middle of the night on drugs. What had they done wrong? What would make me do such a thing?

I felt like I was on display, an exhibit offered in a presentation on bad parenting.  After a while Dad got up and told me to follow him.  I thought this was it, time for the beating.

Dad took me downstairs to where I lived in the basement and there he gathered up what he called my “hippie clothes” and stuffed them in the incinerator to burn.  He said my paintings would be next and then I figured he’d start on my books. When he’d finished he told me to go to bed and he went upstairs. There no beating and there had been no yelling. He’d never raised his voice throughout the whole ordeal.

I was confused but relieved.  I got undressed, shut out the light, and got into bed. Before I could get comfortable the stairway light came on again and Dad came down. He stopped at the bottom, the light ominously shining behind him. He said:

“Boy, that cop told me to take you home and beat the shit out of you.” He paused. “You think I should do it?”

I sat up, flummoxed. He’s never asked me anything like that before, he would always just do it.

I took a moment to think and then responded: “If I say no will it really make any difference?”

He stood there looking at me. Then, without another word, he turned and went back up the stairs shutting off the light when he reached the top.  Maybe he was afraid if he beat me it would put me on a “bummer.” I imagine he’d heard of those in the anti-drug hysteria fed to parents in those days, and probably still fed to them. Whatever it was, his choosing not to beat me almost freaked me out as much as a beating might have.

There was a dim light in the basement, a kind of night-light light which spilled over from the kitchen light at the top of the stairs. I had somehow escaped the beating I’d expected and I didn’t quite understand how that happened. I laid down in the bed, relieved if puzzled, and looked up at the ceiling. It was a drop ceiling made of acoustic panels with small holes built into them. I began to see little worms crawling in and out of the holes and I realized that I was suddenly full-bore tripping again. Since there appeared to be no stopping it I decided the only thing to do was to relax and enjoy it. Meanwhile my parents were upstairs going through major parental trauma.

Tripping on LSD is venturing into different corners of reality than one usually sees. But from the time the flashing lights came on behind us until I found myself back in my bed was a whole different kind of unreality; more like a hyper-reality which superseded the enhanced reality of the LSD, for a while anyway. Up to this point I was still seeing things more or less clearly and not feeling the drug anymore at all, except for occasional timeslips.  I thought I’d come down off of it from the shock of everything that was happening. Now the drug returned to finish what it had started.  I was back up and would spend the remainder of the night quietly tripping in the basement while my parents agonized upstairs over what to do with me.

The next day I checked the incinerator. My father, as I suspected, had forgotten to turn it on so I rescued my “hippie clothes” and hid them. I think Dad forgot all about it because he never brought it up.  Eventually I smuggled the “hippie clothes” out of the house and stashed them over at Tim’s. I would then go over there and change before I went anywhere else.

With the new day their approach to me had changed from “what did we do wrong?” To “he’s sick, we’ve got to help him.” I think I preferred “what did we do wrong?”

I was officially grounded for a year and forbidden to see my hippie friends, especially the ones in Cleveland. The first exception was made for Danny, who my parents liked. Not long after all this happened I signed up for college at Cleveland State University to please my parents and as a way of getting out of the house. I wasn’t really into going to college at the time and didn’t do well. Then I found a job flipping burgers at Royal Castle, Cleveland’s version of White Castle. It paid one dollar an hour plus tips, but who tipped a guy in a place like that? The girls would get tips but I wouldn’t get many. Of course the money didn’t really matter that much, it was just an excuse to be able to get out of the house. Since I could now leave the house for school and work I started stretching it and was before long able to begin spending some time with my “hippie” friends again.

Initially, before things relaxed and since I was forbidden to see any of my “hippie” friends, especially any of my friends from Cleveland and John Marshall High School, which pretty much narrowed down my contacts to one guy, Frank, who lived a few blocks away. (See postscript.)

As it got closer to my 18th birthday in November things were pretty much back to normal. Being grounded for a year had been forgotten. My father was afraid I would move out of the house when I turned 18. He built a wall across one end of the basement, which was like a separate apartment, so I would have an actual room of my own; I’d had blankets hanging there to set “my” end of the basement off from the rest.

A wise man learns from experience, from his mistakes. I don’t believe I was a very wise man at 17. The only thing I really remember learning from this experience was not to let anybody else drive when we were tripping. Clearly it didn’t occur to me to stop taking LSD (that would come later) and this wouldn’t be my last encounter with the police.  See “Busted #2, Crashing a Concert” and “Busted #3, Hitchhiking” for those adventures.

 

Frank, a postscipt:

I met Frank at Midpark High School where I’d attended 12th grade. He lived just a few blocks away in Brook Park. The idea here was to keep me away from druggie friends and therefore away from drugs and more trouble.  Frank, of course, was my primary dealer. The irony of that situation was not lost on either of us.  Frank had always reminded me of the Eddie Haskell character on the old TV show “Leave It to Beaver.” He was so obvious in his sucking up to my parents that I couldn’t believe they didn’t see through it, but apparently they couldn’t.  Frank dressed “nice”, which in 1970 meant polyester slacks and conservative shirts.  He had short hair as evidence of regular visits to the barber and it was always combed appropriately.  He did not have a beard or mustache. In fact there was nothing about him that said “hippie” or gave my parents any reason to suspect that he was the one regularly providing my drugs. (There’ll be more about Frank, who turned out to be gay, in another story.)

So, as long as the bust was still fresh in everyone’s mind, and I remained stuck in the house, Frank as my only allowed visitor kept me supplied with various types of LSD and occasional speed. One of my favorite types of LSD was called White Lightening, a hit of acid on a tab of speed.  I would drop acid late in the evening so that I wouldn’t actually get off until after everyone was in bed.  Then I would spend the night tripping my brains out and finally go to bed sometime in the morning after everyone else had left the house.

I remember one night very distinctly.  Frank had said the acid was the famous “Owsley window pane” so called because it was allegedly so pure. I didn’t believe him.  That stuff was really hard to get hold of, in fact I was never sure that it wasn’t any more than simply a legend grown out of a single batch the idolized chemist had whipped up in his bathtub.  But, it was good acid anyway and I was down in the basement in my rocking chair with the headphones on listening to the Jefferson Airplane’s “Volunteers” album.

I was having a pretty good time when I thought I heard somebody talking.  I took the headphones off, stopped rocking and listened; the house was completely silent.  I figured I was just imagining it, after all I was tripping.  I put the headphones back on, started the record over again and got back into it.  But then, again, I thought I heard somebody talking and I yanked the headphones off lifted the needle off the record and listened again.  Silence.  I got up and went to the bottom of the stairs.  I could see no lights on upstairs and there were no sounds.  Everybody should have been fast asleep, it was the middle of the night, and apparently they were.

So I returned to my rocking chair, put the headphones back on and started the record over again.  “We Can Be Together” was rushing through my ears and I was there rocking away and swinging my head around listening to the Jefferson Airplane when suddenly I swung my head so hard that the headphones flew off into my lap and I heard myself singing at the top of my voice, “up against the wall, motherfuckers / tear down the walls…”

The voice I’d been hearing was my own.  I listened carefully to see if there was any sound in the rest of the house; to see if I had awakened anybody with my obscene singing.  But there was still no sound except the low rumble of the furnace and if anybody had heard me they weren’t ready to admit it.

This revelation caused me to become distinctly paranoid and I spent the rest of the night with one side of the headphones perched on the edge of my ear so that if I began to sing again, which I was (and still am) wont to do when I am listening to music, I would hear myself right away and stop before I woke the house and tipped them off to my drugged state.

version completed 10/22/2017

 


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