Berkeley, the Sixties and Me, Part 3 … THE PENULTIMATE RAT F**K

Hey! Where'd ya get them flowers little girl?

Hey, where’d ya get the pretty flowers?

We’ve all said and done things we wish we hadn’t said or done … even Mother Teresa!

When witnessing an old person’s confessions, when they get to the part about regrets in life, it’s often surprising how trivial some of these regrets can sound.

Take Amanda Smith for instance. She was the sweetest, gentlest, most-loved mayor Olympia, Washington ever had. One of her big regrets? One she took to her grave? As a young teen, while walking home on a fine summer’s night, Amanda snuck into someone’s garden and secretly picked some flowers without permission.

Sounds almost silly, but it’s not. It was a lesson. It was something that penetrated that veil of confusion we all face when growing up, an instant when we see a truth standing naked in front of us. Of course I’ve not heard many end-of-life confidences … I’m no priest or amateur shrink. But I do enjoy hearing elders’ stories, as I hope you enjoy these in Finding My WayIt seems as we grow old we love to blab about our lives and leave behind the world as we saw it … and perhaps even pass along a helpful hint or two!

And then General Washington went back to home to distill some more whiskey

And then General Washington went back to Mount Vernon to distill some whiskey

I’m certain that most of us would love to have regrets as benign as Amanda’s! I’ve got a bundle I’d sure like to trade with hernot least of which is the Landlady’s Coke Machine Rat F**k.


Ray strangely found something irresistible about RFing Man Mountain Mike as a target … which led to the biggest food fight in the storied history of Durant Place. I saw it all coming when I observed Ray, a small but wiry chap, sitting across from me at supper studying his portion of a cream pie. Then he looked over at Mike sitting on his left, looked down as his pie again, picked it up and smashed it in Mike’s face!

Damn but that sure started something awful! A food fight of epic proportions that didn’t conclude until all the combatants were crouched behind overturned tables lobbing mashed potatoes, buns, string beans, butter and pie at each other. It was downright Homeric … and continued gaining momentum until our frantic landlady, who’d been out shopping, came running in looking for all the world like an escapee from a lunatic asylum!

It took us neophyte RFers hours to clean the dining room from top to bottom … literally!

At your service!

At your service!

As the semester progressed the RFs grew in sophistication, from a run-of-the-mill smudge-pot-billowing-smoke-in-closed-room to the penultimate RF pulled on yours trulyReturning from a weekend at home in Vallejo, I found my second story room’s doorknob missing … in fact I found the door had been nailed shut from the inside? After about a half-dozen or so thunderous kicks administered by my astonished father it gave way.

Inside there was nothing … nothing! The room had been re-painted a monotone grayish white from top to bottom. That was it. No mattresses, no dressers,no  desks, no books, no records, no mirrors … nothing!

And the windows were nailed shut from the outside high above a parking lot where no fire escape stood. It was a real mystery, one that my bemused father left me to solve as he exited shaking his head in disbelief … which was about when Ray and his dad arrived, going through the same stages of wonder my dad and I had gone through, minus the violent kicking.

But as grand as that RF was, as clever as its organizational ingenuity was, as courageous as its scope and as flawless its execution had been, the RF that followed topped it by a mile … and gave all of us RFers a regret we’d carry with us from that day forward.



About Joe Illing

I hope you'll find my posts entertaining, occasionally edifying and worth whatever time you can spend with them ... Joe
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