Tip of the Iceberg

Stoney was what we called her. Nobody knew her real name. She certainly wasn’t offering it. Stoney was one of the “weekend hang arounds” at the Folkie Palace. During the week, she lived with parents in the ‘burbs while attending college in the Back Bay. We weren’t sure why she came around. She wasn’t involved with anyone at the Palace. She wasn’t into any of the available chemical substances that passed through in the pockets of regulars like Mike the Vike, and she didn’t drink. She just sat around with her note pad, scribbled and sketched. Occasionally she’d become involved in discussions with habitues of the Palace about the meaning of the Palace and ask, “But, where are you going?” If she made the mistake of asking this of the Teahead of the August Moon ( Teahead by the light of the Moon, account executive by day), she received a monologue on free will that surely was from his theology courses at Boston College.

I like to believe that unlike the later hippie phenomena, Folkies were diverse as a group. At the Palace, the Teahead worked as a white-collar drone during the days, Bill and I worked casually saving for the next Frolicking Detour, Mike the Vike was into the transcendental use of psychotropics in a studied manner. The Monk was a failed Jebbie who looking for his savior while trying to serve the poor. Other regulars had an urge towards a goal, without any distinct method for finding it.
During the weekends, the Palace’s population grew as visitors passed through, and the “weekend hang arounds” hung around. The Monk would put on a massive pot of spaghetti to feed the hungry. Guitars would come out, and by midnight the banging on the ceiling would have started from the apartment below. By one, a few diehards would be gathered around the kitchen table, whispering in the candlelight. I’d be there just picking random melodies, and by three, the conversations ran to the sorts of confessions you choose to reveal only before dawn. Stoney whispered she was studying Anthropology, and we were a research project for her senior thesis.
The reaction was silence. Stoney waited silently for a response that did not come. Mike picked up the thread of his most recent Magic Mushroom trip without pause, and I continued playing. I’m sure that some of us would have loved to tell her you shouldn’t ever try to play a player. Her secret had been out two weeks into the semester. A friend going to the same college dropped the dime on her.

We were sitting at the Harvard Gardens on a Monday evening when Todd told us a fellow student had been telling stories at lunch. She was studying some “Beatniks” and was doing her thesis on them. ” You guys have any idea who these turkeys could be?” Dead silence, followed by rage, followed by laughter.
In the following weeks, the Palace had never been so full of drama, so whacked out with lousy improvised poetry, or so angst-ridden with revelations on “where we were going,” or as the Monk quoth – Quo Vadis. In short, we had never had such a good time. Bill and I even delayed a Froliciking Detour to beautiful Buffalo to see how it played out.
Then came the anti-climax. Stoney had left her notebook after a weekend visit. Now, the only things that were actual private property in the Palace were the Teaheads bed and my guitar. It was just a matter of course we’d use the notes on us for an improvised dramatic reading.
After about four pages of field notes, and five minutes of laughter, the Teahead went silent. Then in a different voice, he began reading the introductory chapter of what had to be a torrid bodice ripper. We were all there. The character playing the guitar was a weak-willed druggy, Bill was in a blazing three-way with Tanya and Celeste ( both of whom were supremely uninterested in men). The Teahead was a sort of lothario luring young women into his lair – well, that was almost true except he struck out more often than he scored.
Stoney had been playing us. The revelations about the Anthropological study covered for her interests in creative writing.
We had been gazing at the tip of the iceberg, never suspecting what was below. How should we respond?

The next weekend when Stoney appeared, she was casually handed her notebook. The rest of us carried on as if nothing had occurred. Stoney sat down in her usual corner and commenced taking notes and making doodles. At some point, she turned to the bodice ripper, and gradually became scarlet. The regular cast of the Palace counted among their number more than a few dropouts and even local university graduates. They had extensively copyedited her bodice ripper, grammar and spelling corrected. The marginal notes, in red, outlined ommissions and errors in content and style. The first page had a jumbo crayon C, and a comment: ” not a bad virgin outing, but please try again!”

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