I met James Harkins a couple of hours after I arrived in Oakland. Keith helped me unload my paintings I had tied to my 1957 Fairlane which we spread around the Walker Avenue apartment for a quick viewing. Then we took off somewhere. When we got back, there is this strange looking guy waiting for us. He is not smiling. He is perturbed, for this is the first time this apartment was ever locked. It was Weedville U.S.A. You could always get a free hit on some weed. Folks smoked weed here. James came here to smoke some weed. See James smoke. Smoke, James, smoke!
Now, something drastic had happened. After trying the door, he peeked in and shall all these large canvases full of dark subject matter. Harkins must has seen my ‘Pulp Man’ running down the hill from this old car. When I first saw Karl Rove, I said’
“There he is, my white pulp man!”
It was August, and about eighty degrees. James was dressed in a heavy black coat. His pants were black. He was wearing heavy black gloves. He wore dark sunglasses. His hair was black. His skin was pulpy white. He was checking me out. He didn’t know me. Was I the cause for the closure of Weed House? Was I the creator of the dark subject matter? Was I his rival?
James was really into Dr. Strange comics. Did he see me as Dr. Fate? James made first impressions on a comic book level, and you could never alter those first impressions. You had to live with the role he assigned you – forever! Oh, he might consider you his friend, even love you, but, when push came to shove, you were never his equal. James drew upon an unseen force to put you down. When Michael and I would behold James the Buddhist meditating up at Pinehaven, we knew trouble was coming our way.
The Man in Black right away reminded me of my childhood friend, Lewis Stevens. His father was a big Russian Jews and his mother a Ukranian princess. She had high cheekbones. Lewis had a whole wall of science fiction novels. Atop this bookcase was a large jar wherein he stored his jack-off material mixed with chemicals from his chemistry set. Lewis was trying to create life. He smoked heavily, and flicked his ashes on the floor. His parents did ‘t care.
“This used to be a white carpet” He proudly told me as he flicked his ashes.
We used to play chase almost every day during the summer. Lewis was the smartest kid in Oakland High and McCheznie. When Bill and I became friends, Lewis tried to become an artist. I recall his painting of a moon that he worked on for weeks. He built up the surface till there were real craters. He might have thrown in some of his DNA. It looked like a white pizza pie.
Lewis necked with Christine on one of those electric boats they used to have on Lake Merrit. I was steering up front, and was supposed tp be necking with Linda Johnson, but, I was very shy.
One summer Lewis showed up in his gangster apparel. He wore a purple shirt, a sports coat, his hair in pompadour. He is telling me he was jumped by a gang of guys who poked him in the cheeck with ice picks. My friend showed me some pin pricks on his cheek. I had gone along with a human being that had an unlimited imagination like myself, but, this was over the top. I gave my fourteen year old friend a look that ended our friendship. Before Weed House, there were some very far out and strange people, who did not need drugs to be so.
“What’s going on? Why is the door locked?” James asked in a gruff fatherly voice that he would use on people now a then, and, he never understood why they got riled up – and in his face!
“Don’t talk to me like that Dr. Strange. Your powers are no greater than mine!”
“Oh yeah! We’ll see about that!”
More than once James ran down into the basement asylum to get his snub nosed .38, because in his opinion – you were flipping out.
It was in the Greyhound Bus depot in Winnemucca that James got to be Dr. Strange vs. Dr Fate, as he protected Rena from El Flippo. In El Friendo’s mind, when you bad, you were very very bad. In Winnemucca, it was Dr. Strange verses the spirit of Chief One Moccasin a.k.a. Chief Winnemucca. In his mind Doctor Strange was fated to capture Rena Victoria from Doctor Fate. Get ready for a showdown in the desert, for here they come, those crazy-ass pale faces!
To be continued……….
The town received its name from a local Indian chief of the same name, which is loosely translated as “One Moccasin.” His daughter Sarah Winnemucca was an advocate for education and fair treatment of the Paiute and Shoshone tribes in the area. Winnemucca is featured prominently in the novel Revoltingly Young by C.D. Payne, and is also a setting in More Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. The city is also referenced in the North American version of the (originally Australian) song “I’ve Been Everywhere.” The song begins, “I was totin’ my pack along the dusty Winnemucca road.”
Winnemucca’s brothel district is known as “The Line”, and sex workers in the town must register their vehicles with the local police.