One of the best things about getting on is that old traumas suddenly look ridiculous. You wonder what in hell all the shouting was about.
Like Harriet Hatch, for instance. The waitress at the Crossroads Motel coffee shop, in Amarillo, the winter of ’61. She was tall and slender, just my type. Her dark brown eyes darted quickly here and there, a sure sign of high intelligence. Later turned out I was right. Her IQ was near genius level. But there she was in that cafe, just another fast-moving waitress with a pencil stuck above her ear, balancing plates and pouring coffee.
I asked her if she’d like to meet sometime when she was off. I mean, during the DAY. I intended it as the opposite of drinks at NIGHT, which invitation she’d surely heard a million times before. It worked. She smiled and nodded. Sure, why not?
A few months earlier I’d surrendered my virginity to a nice-looking hooker in the Amarillo Hotel. She said she was the wife of an enlisted B-52 tail gunner. The sergeant was gone a lot, and she was moonlighting, just trying to make ends meet. She was thrilled to hear I was a virgin. For her I was a novelty, a change of pace. She laughed when I put on a condom. She laughed again when I came within five seconds of full penetration. You’re so sweet! She said.
Limp, but still inside her, I talked. And I talked. Finally she looked at her watch. “I really enjoyed listening to you, honey, even though I didn’t understand a single word you said!” She kissed me goodbye on my lips. Which, she said, she never does to customers. Never.
Harriet had no difficulty understanding me. Trouble was, the more she learned the less she liked. In the beginning, though, it was great. Lots of drinking. Lots of fucking. My two most favorite things, in that order.
On Christmas eve, she took me to meet two dear friends of hers, Brad and Dennis Stubbs, who lived in a cozy little house on Hayden Street. These two lovely people became my surrogate parents, and life-long friends. Dennis died about 15 years ago, and Brad followed not too long afterward. I wrote a long story about them.
The Blind Barber, Atomic Petals
Anyway, Harriet was a big fan of Ayn Rand. She insisted I read FOUNTAINHEAD, which is about an architect named Howard Roark who refuses to compromise his art. He encounters an enormously intelligent woman who wants him to fuck her in a granite quarry. I liked that dusty imagery.
Then Harriet pressed a copy of ATLAS SHRUGGED on me. I was deep into that dense, impenetrable Randian prose at the 4128th Strategic Wing’s dining hall one afternoon, when a tall blonde guy in greasy fatigues sat down at my table. I ignored him, kept reading.
Suddenly he grabbed the book out of my hands.
“I know where you got this,” he said. “Harriet Hatch. She gives this book to every Airman she fucks.”
I was not amused. I angrily confronted her. Did she have any idea how that encounter in the mess hall with that grease monkey was? Any clue at all? She calmly replied that Chuck may be a grease monkey during the day, but at night he was an accomplished musician, a truly gifted singer. Furthermore, she was not about to apologize for anything. And no, she would not elaborate any further on her sexual past. No way. If you don’t like it, she said, you can hit the fucking road, Jack.
All right, what the hell. She was right. I should count my blessings.
But then came another big surprise. At the base photo lab. I went there regularly to have photostats made of Top Secret SAC war plan material, which I can’t talk about even now, 40 years later, because it’s still Top Secret.
Harry invited me into the back room, where he had set up a studio. He was an artist. Portraits in oil was his specialty. Not abstract or Impressionist shit, he rather went in for meticulous, photographic detail. Realism. As real as he could make it. Harry said he loved art because it was a sure-fire way to get laid.
He pointed to the GI cot by the far wall. There, he said, is where he fucks his models. “Want to see my latest?” he asked. I said sure. He went to the easel and proudly took off the cloth covering his still wet masterpiece.
You guessed it. Harriet Hatch. She was reclining, naked, her slim legs parted. I can still see it. Every pore in her skin, every hair covering her pubis, every wrinkle in the sheet beneath her. She was both beautiful and ugly at the same time. Harry had captured her perfectly.