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  • In this world, if you read the papers, darling, you know everybody's fighting with each other.
    You got no one you can count on, dear, not even your own brother.
    So if someone comes along, gonna give you their love and affection,

    I'd say get it while you can, yeah, honey, get it while you can, yeah,
    Honey, grab it while you can,
    Don't you turn your back on love, no, no, no.

    When you're loving somebody, baby, you're taking a gamble against some sorrow.
    But who knows, baby, ‘cause we may not be here tomorrow.
    And if anybody comes along, gonna give you some love and affection,

    I'd say get it while you can, yeah! Honey, grab it when you're gonna need it, dear!
    Yeah hey, hold it while you can, don't you turn your sweet back on love,
    No no no, no no no no no!

    (Get It While You Can – from Janis Joplin’s farewell album, “Pearl”, written by Jerry Ragovoy & Mort Shuman)

    Life was just busting out at the seams, all around me, and I was in the center of an emotional storm. After the long months of solitude and loneliness, feeling cut off from everything, I felt like I was ready for this, and I just dove in to life, headfirst with my eyes wide open. I certainly didn’t feel like I needed the shrink any longer, and stopped going, over her and Mom’s protests. I wasn’t depressed anymore. I was better! That was all behind me, now. Why would I keep going there? You did your job. I’m cool. Let’s go!

    They didn’t have the terms “Manic-Depression” or “Bi-Polar” back then, but if they did, I would have been the poster-child for them. Within a couple weeks’ time, I’d gone from being depressed and quiet, tentatively taking steps back into living, to being balls-to-the-wall-livin’ life to its fullest on all fronts, going in 10 different directions at the same time. I actually seemed to be pulling it off, for a little while.

    I was heavily involved in the Presidential election for the local Democratic Headquarters. I’d gone in to volunteer on the phones, after learning all about Watergate from a professor at school, and soon they had me running the phones. I became quite adept at educating apathetic voters who were on the fence, about how evil and conniving Tricky Dick Nixon really was. I was absolutely convinced that he was behind the whole Watergate break-in, and was actively covering it up. My passion and dislike for the man ran deep, so deep that I marshaled my energies behind a man that I’d only previously felt lukewarm about, George McGovern. Inexplicably, nobody was touching Watergate with a 10-foot pole at the time. Me, I was whacking people over the head with that pole – “Wake up, people! You have a charlatan in the White House, and you have an opportunity to boot him out. Let’s start booting!” My friends all thought I’d gone a little off the deep-end. I had, in other ways, but on this point, I felt like I was right on the money. I especially went after the youth vote. I missed being able to vote in that election by 5 days. It was the first time 18 year olds got to vote in a national election, but Election Day was November 7th, and my 18th birthday was November 12th. My goal was to get at least a hundred 18 year-olds out to the poles, to vote for McGovern. I think I achieved it, and then some. I just hated Nixon with a passion. And Spiro Agnew, his running mate! To this day, I remember his famous statement, about the press: “They’re nothing but nattering nabobs of negativity!” What a doofus!

    I got it into my head to start up a 60’s-style coffeehouse in a church basement on Saturday nights. Within 2 weeks, it was happening. The “Shady Grove Revisited”, in honor of the Coffee House my brother and sister had run in Pittsburgh several years before, opened to rave reviews from all the local music lovers. I managed to get a lot of the local talent in to perform, and the priest of the parish liked the visibility it gave his church among the youth. We used candles and incense for ambiance, but the live music really made it a hit. Kids flocked to the joint, and I quickly became a local celebrity. There seemed to be a non-stop revolving door of girls coming and going in my life, and I was of a mind to enjoy each and every one of them, as much as I could. It was a wild late Fall into early winter, and I was determined to do it all.

    All of this activity seemed necessary, and welcome, because whenever I was alone, I kept thinking about Martha. I just couldn’t shake the way I felt about her, and no matter how much fun I had, or how much I threw myself into all of these new activities, how much I seemed to be at center stage of a wild, crazy show that just busted out of me - at the core of my being, I was still lonely and hurt. These were the times I wrote poetry. It poured out of me. I couldn’t stand those times, though, so I welcomed all of the other activity going on.

    I was doing my share of drugs and drinking during this whole period, and my consumption was gradually increasing. It wasn’t like before, when I was in Pittsburgh, where I was along for the ride and just having fun, and life was a party. Now, I was driving the train, and the drugs and alcohol were my fuel. I was using them to keep it all going. It was important to me to be relevant, to be in the middle of what was really happening. I quickly transformed into the local “Freak”. I had the long hair, wore the threads, and just assumed the lifestyle. I didn’t seem to even notice the transformation, it just became part of my persona, and it fit how I felt. I just didn’t care what people thought of me anymore – I was letting my freak flag fly. Literally drinking life in, in large gulps, (and inhales!)

    Amy was the closest I came to forgetting about Martha. Amy was a real hippie-type girl, a year younger than me, who I met at her going away party. She was full of life, had a very active mind and was smart as a whip, and just extremely sexy to me, in a Janis Joplin, down-to-earthy beauty kind of way. I thought she glowed from the inside out, and felt that from her. We got to talking, and wound up kissing out of the blue, and she told me that I kissed like an electric guitar.

    We just hit it off from the start, and became inseparable for the next 2 weeks until she moved with her family to South Africa. We both agreed to keep it at a “friends” level, since she was going away. After another couple weeks, they were back, she was staying after all, and then we started a heated romance. It lasted a wild month, and did serve to finally get me past my initial heartbreak with Martha. Nothing like a red hot, passionate romance to do that for you! It was right on time. But, it would take years for me to get fully over Martha. I put her up on a pedestal that no girl could live up to. She would continue to be my muse, which maybe really wasn’t such a bad thing to have. My writing eventually improved, somewhat.

    Photo: Janis Joplin - Image Source Page:
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