I read a lot, and I'm pretty picky about what I read. Clane's book, when I read it years ago, knocked my sox off. Stayed up all night reading it. She finally got tired of rejection slips, found a new way to publish. I'm sneaking a peek to you all, Chapter 3, "My Government Cage School", because I happen to have a few chapters sitting in my HD. Some of it is relevent to today's issues, both in the real world, and at dKos. I hope you enjoy it:
(photo by Stephan Cooper, used without permission) Clane Hayward (left) 1978
My Government Cage School
Monte Rio is near Guerneville and also near Guerneville is Rio Nido and we lived there, too. We lived there before we lived in Monte Rio. Maybe San Rafael was before that, I'm not sure. Rio Nido is also a town that lives under redwoods, only it's even smaller and doesn't have a sunny center of town at all. Always the smell of the trees and of the musty carpet of branches and needles and fronds along the forest floor, the tiny patches of sun, this was Rio Nido. I guess I was ten.
We lived in a house up one of the winding little asphalt roads. It was small but it had two stories. Another small dark house crouched under tall trees, and hanging onto the hillside; this one did that. On the top floor was a wooden deck and a room for H'ane and a room for me and Haud and a kitchen and a living room. It also came with an old velvet sofa in the living room and I thought this was elegant, more than the tattered plaid thing we have in Monte Rio. The room Haud and I shared had a big window and I liked this, and it had bookshelves and I liked this too. H'lane's room didn't have any light but it had a purple brocade curtain hanging over the bed, with tassels, and this made my mom's room seem like a plush dark cave. I never went in there except to steal honey. H'lane kept the honey jar in her room to keep us kids from sneaking it but we did anyway.
On the lower floor two men lived and H'lane knew them. Playing on the floor of my room with my tea set, I looked up because I heard their voices. I have a tiny tea set with a blue and white pattern of willows hanging over a bridge and it is the finest thing I have and even though I lose and break pieces of it goes everywhere I go. I heard one of the men say oh honey I love what you've done with this room and he said loooove. Then the other man said something I didn't quite hear and H'lane said something too. They were in our room then and Haud looked up from his blocks and we both looked at the men. Both with long hair and thin and wearing lace and high boots. Aren't you just the most adorable things, one of the men said, and looked at the other man, and the first one said I'm Jeffrey and this is my lover Patrick, and he said lovair. We said hi, me and Haud. We live downstairs and you should just come visit us any time you want to. I did go downstairs to see them sometimes but they never seemed too happy about it. They fought a lot, with high voices and breaking things. Excitable fags, aren't they, H'lane would say, and I said what's a fag.
That house, small and dark as it was, wasn't so bad. I went downstairs to listen to Jeffrey and Patrick's record player. Hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease, the Beatles sang, come together. At some point H'lane sent me and Haud to school. She did this in an offhand way, now and then in different places, in the middle of the school year or at the end, she didn't care. Schools are zoos run by the government to keep kids in cages, she said. Schools teach kids how to live in cages. Do you want to learn how to be straight, she would ask, with the I Ching laying open on the floor next to her, while she counted yarrow sticks in her lap. The skirts spread wide around her, incense burning, Ki chewing on one of the sticks and watching with her wide serious eyes. If being straight means wearing clothes that match and eating hot lunch, then yes, I want to be straight, I thought but didn't say.
H'lane was gone for a day while me and Ki lolled on my bed and read the Richard Scarry dictionary. I showed Ki what ham and roast beef were and pointed to pictures of
cupcakes while Haud played trucks with his blocks. We snuck into H'lane's room for honey to put on our sprouted wheat bread and listened to Jeffrey and Patrick doing it and H'lane came back with a sack of brown rice and rice cakes and a bottle of shoyu. She said where you catch the bus for school is the Y in the road where that big redwood stump is. Nine in the morning. You'll be going to read lies printed on dead trees. Knock yourselves out. Whoopee, she said, rolling her eyes back in her head and waving her finger around in the air.
I tried to dress carefully for school. I had found green bell bottoms in the free box and asked H'lane can I keep them and she said what about your overalls with the pansies I embroidered on the knees. I don't want to wear those. They look like boy clothes. Well, what about your purple tie dye. It's too hippie, I said, and she rolled her eyes and I knew not to stay on this subject. H'lane won't let us wear clothes made from rayon or polyester or day glow colors. Only natural fibers, I get to wear cotton or wool only, or clothes she makes for us out of old blankets and those are the worst, with the pot leaves and mandalas and the cats singing to the moon.
School doesn't like me because I wear tai chi shoes and tie dye shirts. And anyway we move too much.
I dressed carefully in the most normal clothes I could find and made lunches for me and Haud in brown paper sacks. Fried tofu sandwiches with miso spread on the bread. I brushed my hair before we left the house. Haud didn't. He doesn't care about that kind of thing at all. When we got on the bus he was singing to himself and skipped down the aisle of the bus and flopped into a seat. Maxwell's silver hammer came down on his head, Haud sang, and the bus moved off and a kid sitting behind me said why do you have all that stuff on your overalls. He meant the pansies on the butt and the knees.
I went to school in Rio Nido for a couple of months, I think, not for very long. I went because it was interesting at first, new books to read, painting classes, and I could always steal quarters for hot lunches.
Hot lunches are so so so great. First because of the package it comes in. There's the hot part and the cold part and plus a carton of milk too, regular or chocolate. School hates me but I love hot lunch. The cold part comes in a little plastic tray that has compartments in it for a vegetable and dessert and a little packet with a spork and a napkin. Haud says foon but I say spork. Maybe a salad and Jell O or pudding. An apple and cookies, oatmeal or peanut butter. Pineapple and carrot salad with raisins and a banana. The hot part is a cardboard container covered in foil and it might have a corn dog and potato chips. Or spaghetti and green beans. It doesn't matter what it is, I'll like it.
Sitting in the cafeteria with my hot lunch, after I've thrown my tofu sandwich in the bushes, a kid next to me will say grody it's hamburgers again and I'll say if you don't want that I'll take it, okay? I'll say to a girl can we be friends. She'll say what's your name and I'll explain. Then I'll say since we're friends can I have your other cookie. She will look at me odd but maybe she'll give me her cookie. I know it's bad to do that but I can't help it. Everything there is to eat in the hot lunches, I'll gulp it fast because we're not allowed it, not any of it.
We're not allowed to eat anything that comes in cafeteria lunches, not the milk or the hamburgers or even bananas. I have been hungry for as long as I can remember and it's not because we don't have food. It's because H'lane is a hippie and not just a vegetarian hippie but a macrobiotic hippie. No milk or cheese or butter or eggs. Not
oranges or tomatoes or jam or bacon or cookies. Not tuna fish or blueberries or peanut butter. The only other thing I know for sure except for my name is the things we can't have. The thing I think about most is what I wish I could have and it starts with cookies and ends somewhere around shoes. There are a lot of things in the world between cookies and shoes. Hair ribbons and ice cream. Beach balls and necklaces. Strawberry jam and plastic change purses with zipper pockets.
H'lane wasn't always macrobiotic. She used to be just vegetarian. We could have soyburgers with soy mayonnaise and lettuce and tomatoes. We could have rice pudding made with soy milk and honey. We could have vegetarian curry from the Good Karma cafe in San Francisco. We ate there once and I remember it. She switched to macrobiotic some time around when Ki was born, when she was still with Ki's father Bruce. Bruce and H'lane got started being macrobiotic together.
My first sight of Bruce was when I was maybe six. Haud and I were in New Mexico with Claude and his new old lady Mal. Mal for Madeleine. Madeleine Lovejoy, who named Random and named him Random Comet Lovejoy. H'lane had been gone for a long time and I don't know if I missed her or not but I did know it was her when she showed up at the door. She did do that, just showed up. She was at the door of Mal's house with her long hair and her bare feet and she had a look on her face like hey remember me, I'm back now, a crooked smile that said she was proud of herself for showing up like that, all of a sudden. Whoopee, it's me, I'm back.
She had Bruce with her and he stood a little behind her with another crooked smile, a young man with long blond hair and a blond scraggly beard. Then we didn't stay with Claude and Mal anymore, me and Haud and Bruce and H'Iane moved across the valley to a different commune. We moved to a house where no one talked. Everyone wore chalkboards around their necks to write things they had to say and H'Iane did this too. I'm on a talk fast, she said to me, because I couldn't read yet. No talking, she said, and everyone lived together in a big room and I spent a lot of time looking out of a window across the valley, leaning on the low sill. The floor was worn old wood, worn smooth and gray, and everyone slept on the floor and chopped wood and made food without talking.
There was another commune after that, further down the valley, another place where a lot of people slept on the floors of big rooms. This one had dirt floors and also low windowsills and here also I leaned on the sill for a long time looking at things. I think I learned how to amuse myself very young and I think I did this by looking at things. I looked at H'lane and Bruce sitting on the bank of a creek that flowed by the bridge, sitting and looking at each other for a long time. There was something I didn't like about the way they looked at each other and I didn't like the sounds they made at night, all of us in the one big room, and I never did like Bruce either.
We left New Mexico and went to California. You and Haud are going to live with me and your mom now, `kay? Bruce said, with his crooked smile and his chin tucked a little into his neck which was a thing he always did. We lived in places in San Francisco and in small towns, in a trailer park and in Laytonville where Ki was born. I don't remember the whens of the places. Just pictures.
The trailer park was where the macrobiotic thing started. This was in Cotati. Ki wasn't born yet. It happened all of a sudden. One day we went into Cotati for soyburgers and I really remember them, the juice of the tomatoes running into the soy mayonnaise and making the burger into a squishy bundle in my hand, and the next day it was like soyburgers had never existed. There had been onions on it too, and I smelled the smell of soyburgers and tasted the taste of them for years even though I never got another one.
Maybe I just wanted one so bad because after that we ate the weirdest, dullest, worstest food I'd ever had. I was used to being a little hungry for things, with Claude because all he ate was eggs and cheese and bread and Jerusalem artichokes and kale from the garden. He would let us have other stuff if it was around or someone gave it to us, so I wished for things he didn't buy. Like raspberry jam or sodas. And I was used to being a little hungry with Bruce and H'lane for the same stuff Claude wouldn't buy, which Bruce and H'lane wouldn't let us have even if other people offered it to us. Like little old ladies in Chinatown used to offer us wontons and H'lane would say no. But this was a new kind of hunger where we weren't even allowed apples or corn chips.
Remember to chew each mouthful twenty times, H'lane said, handing me a bowl of rice and something black and squiggly like worms. It smelled like dead fish. Haud and I took our bowls and looked in them with mute horror and wouldn't eat and Bruce wouldn't let us up from the table until we ate it all. Everything was a battle after this. Can I have some more tamari on my rice, I would say, looking up at Bruce, and he would say no, tamari is yang and you're too yang already. But Haud got more than me, I would say, and H'lane would say Haud is too yin so he can have yang things.
There wasn't a thing that Bruce and H'lane's macrobiotic craziness didn't cover. Like no sleeping on your side or stomach because only sick people or animals sleep like that, and healthy people sleep on their backs. No drinking extra water when brushing your teeth because water creates cravings for salt and this is an unbalance in your system. Oranges and bananas are too yin. Animal products are too yang. Only two squares of toilet paper when you go to the bathroom because a healthy person shouldn't need more. I spent most of my time wandering around the trailer park looking for other food and hoping Bruce wouldn't catch me. When he caught me eating a peanut butter sandwich I spent my punishment time wishing he was dead. I spent a lot of punishment time, usually under the covers in bed with no supper.
Fortunately Bruce and H'lane split up. It was after Ki was born and maybe almost two years old. I think it was San Rafael. On the steps of the house we were living at, I was playing slinky only the slinky was broken. Bruce came down the stairs on his way out of the house and with his chin tucked into his neck he said remember that five dollars Grandma Lynn gave you for your birthday? Yeah, I said, wary of him and embarrassed for him. Let me borrow it, `kay? I gave it to him and I haven't seen him since. That's fine.
H'lane is still just as bad macrobiotic but Haud and I are older now and we know how to sneak better. You're not eating that cafeteria shitfood, are you, she asked us in Rio Nido, and we said no, but I was always looking in the couch for quarters when I couldn't find one or steal one from H'lane's purse. School made me feel droopy sad for myself, the math classes I didn't understand and the reading classes that were too easy and boring, the kids that didn't talk to me except to say why don't you brush your hair or how come you're wearing that.
I don't think Haud liked school either. He doesn't play well with others. It said this on a report card he got, and it said this because he stole someone's play handcuffs and handcuffed himself to his desk. When the teacher said Haud if you can't behave I don't want you in my class, and Haud said okay, and clumped the desk outside into the hall and clumped up and down the hall, still chained to his desk. He's like a little animal sometimes, always doing things only he understands. Some days he'll say today all day I'm a rabid dog. He'll drool out of the side of his mouth and quiver.
I was at recess in the Rio Nido school one day, leaning on the side of the building to get away from the wind and the other kids, watching another class through the glass. This class had a pinata for someone's birthday and a kid was blindfolded and was swinging at the pinata. He swung and missed and it was someone else's turn, and they swung and hit it. Candy went flying all over and all the kids scrambled in a big pile to get it, except for one. This one kid kept running around the edge of the pile, trying to fight his way in, then running the other way, like a puppy chasing its tail. It was Haud, the one kid who couldn't get any candy, and I thought he looked like a poor scruffy runt of a puppy, matty hair flying in all directions, pants too big for him and frayed at the bottoms, different colored socks.
On the walk to the bus I saw a trash can with a package of cookies in it, barely opened and not slimy or dirty at all, and I fished them out, and gave some to Haud. They were the wafer kind, like little waffles with icing inside, strawberry and vanilla.
Clane has parlayed these beginnings into a real life that has included a five-year stint in the US Navy, at the end of which she respectfully declined their offer of an officer's commission and the Naval Academy, instead promoting herself a Regent's Scholarship to UC Berkeley and a degree with honors. She has designed and managed several cutting-edge taverns in San Francisco's rowdy and hip Mission District and now teaches Special Ed students.
Needless to say, she and I have had quite a few conversations over the years concerning the lifestyle we subjected her to, as she found her way to forgiveness.