Sunday, October 24, 2004

Men at the Door

I saw a panel on BookTV today that included Thai Jones talking about his new book. His parents were leaders in the Weather Underground. He related a story of being at his parents' house in upstate N.Y. a year ago. His parents were out and he was watching a basketball game, when there was a knock at the door. When he answered it, he saw a short red-haired man with a fairly friendly look on his face and a taller dark-haired man wearing a rather mean look. He said he knew exactly who they were before they even showed their ID, since his family has a history of being harrassed (and pursued) by the FBI. Hearing that story suddenly threw me back to 1975...

I was living in an apartment in a rambling old house that had been divided into three apartments, two on the main floor and one on the lower level. It was in Northern California in a town that's now an over-developed Bay Area suburb, but at the time it was still rather bucolic. Hell, we even had a chicken coop in the front yard that was tended by my roommate, J. We lived in the apartment at the front of the house. It had large bay windows in the living room and a porch with a sweeping view. The road curved in front of the house, so we were on a corner. There was a large, common mailbox on a post that sat on the road facing the side of the house.

The other roommate, R., and I had previously lived in the apartment at the back of the house. When we lived in the back apartment, the front apartment had been occupied by two women and a man. The young (teens) dark-haired woman was a couple with the guy. She told us she used to work with a circus. The strawberry blonde with the wrist tattoo had done time--for bouncing checks, she said. None of them worked (as far as we could tell) during the time they lived there. But it was a different time. Hell, I barely worked. (Does making macrame plant holders and Maxfield Parrish prints Mod-Podged onto particle board to sell at the San Jose flea market count?) They were friendly neighbors and pleasant toward us, and I have fond memories of sitting on the porch with the blonde--hanging out, drinking tea and shootin' the shit.

Then suddenly, they were gone. No warning, no goodbyes or anything. We thought that was a little strange given that we'd been friendly with them. But R. and I cared more about grabbing the better apartment. The landlord gave us the front apartment and J. moved in with us (and brought her chickens with her).

One day J., R. and I all happened to be home when there was a knock at the door. We all ambled toward the front door and when we opened it, we saw two men standing there, both wearing navy windbreakers with FBI emblazoned in huge yellow letters on the back. They flashed ID and asked if they could ask us a few questions. We looked at each other rather quizzically and then hesitantly said, "Sure." We had NO idea what they wanted.

Patty Hearst had recently been apprehended. (If you're too young to know who that is, check your '70's history.) When they found her, she had among her possessions a fake ID that had been obtained by requesting the birth certificate for an infant who had died shortly after birth. The birth certificate had been obtained from Marin County and had been mailed to...our address. (Remember the common mailbox?) We were stunned. We explained that yes, like everyone else who watched the news, we knew who Patty Hearst was. But that, no, we didn't know her personally, nor did we know anyone who did. And then we remembered the previous tenants...

We never learned what, if any, connection they had to the Patty Hearst case. But it cast the "histories" they'd given us in a whole new light, not to mention their sudden disappearance.

So there you go--that's my brush with a piece of 70's history.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yikes--- that was a serious brush. Sometimes we never know who are neighbors really are . . . hmm. ~bluepoppy

7:31 AM  

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