Chapter 12 A Bed of Roses

On weekends it was a destination for folks from the city. But more than that, during the week it was a hangout for the many local artists, musicians, bon vivants and others who for one reason or another had time on their hands during the day. There were two large floor-to-ceiling bay windows flanking the door. On one side was a five-top table with a fancy old-time hanging lamp over it and a couple of paintings by local artists on the wall. On the other side was a pastel-green, wood-burning Admiral cook stove in near perfect condition that was a work of art in itself. Stacked on it were leaflets announcing local events and an ornate oil lamp in a complementary ruby color. The five-top was nearly always filled; always separate checks, I had to remember when I advanced from salad prep to serving customers.

It seemed there was always someone in the phone booth. More than occasionally a passerby would answer the phone and shout into the cafe “Mark! phone,” or some other name that would bring someone, coffee cup in hand to the phone booth. Eventually, I realized that business conducted on this phone was necessarily anonymous. Anonymity turned out to be important to the area and not just users of the phone booth. Tucked away in the woods were band members of well-known bands seeking a quiet refuge from the LA area’s canyons or the Bay Area’s Marin County. Depending on who was in town the cafe’s take out business would ramp up suddenly and the phone booth would ring with orders for half a dozen burgers and shake but not just food orders. Word would spread from table to table of a jam session that night at someone’s house. Such things never appeared on the flyers on the cookstove. Most of the out-of-towners kept to themselves and seldom came into the cafe. Though I did hear about and attend a few jam sessions. Occasionally a jam session would get going in the cafe after official closing.

It gradually became apparent to me that most of the permanent hippies had known each other for years and gone to college together, many to art and music school. A newcomer, I discovered, who was neither artist, writer, actor nor musician had a tough time breaking in. Waiting tables at the cafe was not going to get me entree to this group, I thought. I needed a local place to live. Rather than commute the 25 miles from my Renton-area cabin, I took a room with one of the cooks. She was on the outs with her husband, an actor, and needed some extra income. That lasted through the winter till she began to reconcile with the actor, we had a falling out and I started looking for another place.

I found a sublet in an old farmhouse across the valley and moved in. I had now found funky. A bad, late-winter snowstorm that knocked out power to the whole valley had no appreciable effect on us. The wood cookstove with its built-in water heater worked the same as always, the wood-burning furnace in the basement continued to eat four-foot logs, the fashionable kerosine lamps now became necessary and the milk had to be put out on the back porch. The geese and chickens still had to be fed and the silt still had to be cleaned out of the cistern. That is to say, life carried on as usual. This house was what the barn-wood paneled house in Bellingham had pretended to be. Five of us split the $135 per month rent. The only utility, electricity, was insignificant. But there was a downside and that was the attitude of the high-class hippies, one of whom said. “Nobody who has anything going for them lives there.” Her assessment wasn’t strictly accurate.

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