I can only imagine what Cynthia must have thought when she read the letter.
Was she alarmed?
Did she think, “I don’t know this Jennifer; this isn’t the slightly kooky Jennifer I grew up with. This is a wild, rambling Jennifer, who’s into illicit drugs and indiscriminate sex.”
So it seemed.
But much of that letter was exaggerated, hyped to present a persona invented not to inform but to impress.
Cynthia was not impressed; she was terrified at what she thought I had become and turned the letter over to my grandmother, Olive Semple.
At the time, Cynthia’s decision felt like a terrible betrayal; I vowed to never speak to Cynthia again, though, eventually, I did. In fact, we still stay in sporadic touch.
Cynthia may have saved my life; her courage to transcend peer pressure set in motion a series of events, beginning with my grandfather coming out to California to rescue me, his adopted daughter, from the clutches of Ivar Street and its cadre of hippies, acid freaks, heroin addicts, bums, prostitutes, and crazies with guns.
In a sense, I have unfairly maligned the messenger; the letter, unedited, speaks for itself:
October 29, 1968 (Tuesday)
You’re gonna blow your mind when I tell you the haps. Wow! Gosh, I should have waited to tell you over the phone, I mean, I should have called you this week instead of last! Well, Rick and I are split (I don’t know if permanently, but even though I’m crazy about him, I kind of hope so, but you know how it is).
It’s a long, long, long story.
The whole thing (alias mess) started last Thursday. I accidently met Rick on Hollywood Blvd. I knew something was wrong, so I tried to ask him, etc., but I couldn’t talk to him, it was just like talking to a stone wall (ICE!). He did manage to say he was going to jump off Laurel Canyon. I just laffed & said that I would help sweep the mess off the street. Well, for awhile I was beginning to believe him, he sounded so serious. So we split, not for good then, I just went home. Friday night was slightly disaster until we went over to these guys house to crash (sleep). Out here, everyone crashes! It’s really great! But I fell asleep right away (natch). I had been running around all week, so I was smashed (tired). Sat. night, I took FIVE uppers (speed–code name for me to write to you: “gas”). Oh, I was rapping all nite. On gas, you NEVER shut up & you have all this crazy energy, I mean CRAZY–like your head rushes & you can feel every hair on your head.
God, I saw Percy Fri. night–I hadn’t seen him around in ages. Everyone thought he’d been busted (He just got out of the clink last week for possession).
I met “Stoney” last night. He’s kinda cool. I’m going to the Halloween happening with him. Well, Bob, Linda, me, and Stoney went to these guy’s house to crash (same place as Friday night & we found (to my relief) Eleanor and Rik there. Cynthia, it was one big happening, 40 million people around. Stoney was stoned (smashed) on Downers, & me on uppers, Well, Stoney crashed & I stayed up all night talking to Bob & Linda (Bob’s Old Lady). God, Cynthia, Sunday, I was so goddam sick. I found out that I took too many uppers for the first time! Wow–But I was terrible depressed & very ill with terrible awful chills! So guess who called that Sunday that I haven’t heard from in ages? Frank *****–Good Lord, I was really quite mean to him over the phone. But I was sick out of my head. He’s got a problem & he wants to discuss it with me (Whoopie). Oh well. I guess that comes tomorrow. But a little later, Rick Babe called & wanted me to come over. Well, as I said, I was smashed & a half! But, against my better judgement, I went anyways. Well, it was the worst thing I could have ever done. When I got over there, I was ready to sleep, I mean really. This may sound bad, but I fell asleep on Rick’s bed. Well, he got mad (because I wouldn’t make love to him–would you believe I met him last Monday. He yelled, “This isn’t no flophouse.” Then I got very angry & said something very nasty. He called me a spoiled Brat & told me to go back where I came from & I said “Really want me to go?” He said “Not really.” I just answered “I’m going anyway,” so I slammed his bedroom door, & stomped out. I saw Rick all alone tonite & I was with Stoney. So I really put on a show–Well that’s the way it goes–Later I saw him with another chick–Well, if that’s all Rick wants me for is sex, forget it!! So I figure if Rick really did care for me, he would come back in spite of my refusal to do it with him. I’m still crazy about the guy, But I can also live without him. I did before I met him, I can do it now. Well, I’d better split.
"Incense and Peppermint," Strawberry Alarm Clock (1968)
FLASH! FROM THE HOT LINE!
Well, you’re not gonna believe this, But what I’ve already done, I guess you could believe almost anything, Well, I’m in love! With Mel. Listen, it’s not the type of love that would settle me down. It’s sweet, wild, etc! Mel is something else. I met him about a month & half ago or so, & we’ve been friends but then he left for Oklahoma etc. & I met Rick, so nothing happened. But last Monday he came back, & on Tuesday night, a bunch of us, Me, Mel, two other chicks, and Ratt went to democratic headquarters for some free food, & really nothing romantic or like that happened. We just were acting like good friends. I mean I’ve always grooved on him on the side. Well, somehow, we just split. I mean we got separated. So I mean I thought nothing of it!! Wednesday night, I was feeling great, gay & giddy, so when I saw Mel, I ran over & threw my arms around & moaned “Hi baby.” (I’ve really changed! I’m not the type who waits for things to happen. I promote happenings!) So, anyway, he grabs me & said, “Want to go to the Strip?” Just like that! So we hitched (In a red pickup truck in the back) & off to the strip. But really, it really means little around here when guys have their arms around girls. So even then, I knew (feeling) that something great was going to happen. We just walked around the strip. Pam and Virgil [Jeff Brown] were with us, & Virgil split, & I really didn’t know which one of us Mel grooved on. Pam was trying to make it with Mel also. But when we hitched back to Music City, a van picked the bunch of us up, & Mel & I got the back, Pam was stuck in the front. And Mel started to kiss me wildly. The Strip is about 3 or 4 miles from Wallichs. And that kiss lasted the whole time almost. Wow! I’ve crashed with him two nights in a row, & he hasn’t tried any funnies, if you know what I mean. So it’s really groovey!! Let me describe Mel. His hair is curly & quite long, But, it’s really great! It’s sort of red, not shocking, but a golden red. His eyes are superfantastic Brown. He’s not light complected like a lot of red heads, but then again, he’s not dark. He’s 5'6 1/2" & he’s lost quite a bit of weight since Oklahoma . But after I’m thru he’ll have to put it back on. I had some V.A. [LSD] with him the other night. It was really superfantastic! No bummer! (Except that I had to work the next day!)
Oh, I really Blew it with Mo–When I talked to her over the phone last week, it slipped that I hitched from the strip alone. God–Mo is so worried. I’m really blowing my cool lately. I’m going to tell her that I’ve only hitched once & that I was so scared that I put down. I met Wayne through hitching. He’s cool, & we’re really great friends.
Mel & I are split. I fell for Denny! Denny is gorgeous I mean like really! But Cynthia, I swear to God that I’m not going to fall for a guy until I’m ready for marriage. Like with Rick, I really fell hard for him, & all he wanted to do was Ball me. Goddam mother fucker men! That’s all most of them want. Oh, well. Stoney asked me to live with him, which I may do (A matter of convenience, girl). I may be asked to leave Francis De Paw. My behavior has been most unsatisfactory–Like staying out all night on work nights–[Mrs.] Horton always asks everyone else where I’m at! Oh, whoopie. Well, if I move in with Stoney, I’ll be living in Silverlake. I mean, Cynthia, don’t worry, I’m still a virgin, & I intend staying that way until I find someone I truly & deeply love, then I won’t care if I’m married to that man or not. But until I find that guy, I’m not getting sexually involved with someone I don’t love. I’m not a slut, & although some of the things I’ve been doing have seemed a bit strange, I’m still (& hope to be always) basically a moral person. I mean, like living with Stoney, it will just be a place to sleep & keep my stuff. A lot of hippies & other people are set up in this way. We both work etc. If I do get in this setup, I’m not going to tell Mo and Dee Dee about it. You know how they’d take it!
Well, about Denny, he’s 6'2", tan, sort of brown hair (Blonde in the summer.) He reminds me of a surfer, kind of. He’s 19 (20 on May 22). I haven’t fell for him really. He’s just a fun guy to be with. I found out that getting hung up over someone is a HANG UP. When I break up with Peter, I’m not breaking up to get into another mess. Forget it. Cynthia, let me tell you something, & I’m going to be blunt. I don’t think you really love Eugene. Listen, you can’t! You haven’t gone out with that many guys. You’ve limited yourself so much, It’s Eugene this, and Eugene that! That’s all I’ve heard for two years. Not that I’m sick of hearing about him, that’s not the point or not the truth! But, listen, I almost found out too late! Jesus Christ, I got the engagement ring last week in the mail. What in the fuck am I going to do with it? Peter is probably breaking his butthole [in Vietnam] trying to stay true & I’m running my ass around & having fun. What the hell do you expect me to do, sit around, write letters & smell roses. I found a new insight through speed. ( I don’t shoot it–NEVER–I drop it!) I’ve only taken it once, & I found out so much about myself that I never knew. I met Stoney (real name is *****) while I was on Whites, & I rapped to him for hours on end, & he loved listening. That’s why I dig him so much. Great listener! I can dig on that sort of thing.
I just want you to know that I haven’t taken a dive off the deep end. I’m still around, & still basically alright. My head is a bit screwed up from everything. I turn onto to V-A once a week, & I’m trying to find ways to improve my trips.
When are you coming out? You’ll dig it here, ‘cos you’re so much like me. Come out here & try it. Cynthia, if you don’t give yourself a chance with other guys, you’ll end up leading a very dull life with a bunch of babies & diapers. Be sure when you have that hang up, it’s with someone you truly love, then it won’t be so bad.
Either hide or get rid of this letter. Say “hi” to Isabelle for me, & let her read this letter, I never get much of a chance to write because I lead a very strenuous & weird life. Oh, Stoney calls me “Beautiful Woman,” never by my name! OUTASITE! KEEP YOUR KOOL, AND WRITE SOON.
LOVE YA! JENNIFER
Tuesday, Nov. 26, ‘68
Well, here I am, your long lost best friend! Really, I apologize for not writing sooner–so much has happened.
I had to write Peter a Dear John, ‘cos he guessed everything anyways, so, I imagine by now, he’s got the letter. I mailed it Friday, & today is Tuesday.
I’ve been going out with scads of guys–there’s Mel, Denny, Jeff (would you believe?) & Stoney (Drool–my latest). Mel is sweet, although we were serious a couple of weeks ago, we’re really great friends now, & that’s really all! I really dig on Mel, a fantastic personality, & cute. He’s only about 5'6" but he’s so-o cute. He’s got a mop of sort of red curly hair. Then, there was Denny. Denny is Mel’s best friend. In fact, that was the reason Mel and I split. Denny is really great looking–Cynthia, I mean like REALLY. I’m not spoofin’ either! He’s about 6"3". Long hair & husky–he wears a size 12 shoe (Men’s, no less!). & his hands are about twice the size of mine. Then he’s got sort of a “baby” face, not really, but just sort of. I mean, you’d have to see him to believe how good looking he is! But the trouble is he knows it, & he’s on an “ego trip.” He loves himself so much yet he does have a fantastic personality. Well, he decided he was getting too hung up on me, & he didn’t want to get hung up so we’re just friends now. But I never was hung up on Denny–just fascinated how cute he was.
I don’t like to get involved with people who are on ego trips. Oh, well. Jeff is sort of the Big Brotherly type of guy. He’s not what you’d call a boyfriend. He gives me advice about my love life, etc. & we have big rap sessions–I love talking to Jeff. He’s from Penn. & he’s from the Dutch part of the state, & he’s got the coolest accent. Now to Stoney! I love him! When I first met Stoney, he was really luped–he was on V-A--Reds, Whites, etc. I mean it was really funny. He came up to me & said (Moving his eyes around in such a way that he looked like Satan), “Hi, my name is Stoney & I’m STONED.” I really cracked up laffing. I mean he just walked up to me on the street and introduced himself. Stoney is a doll in his own right. (Stoney just called–he was supposed to meet me on Friday & he didn’t. He got BUSTED! I had a feeling that’s what happened!) Bob (a guy from Frisco) and me almost got Busted on Friday night–I was stoned on V-A out of my head. I didn’t know what I was doing–It was after curfew, & let’s thank God I’m 18, otherwise I’d be writin’ this from the L.A. Slammer.) Bob was holding 5 tabs, But “they” didn’t find it. Wow! It would have been my ass if they had because I was with him (They call it conspiracy out here. So if I can almost get it, I knew that the possibility was quite high that Stoney got it. Wow! But it wasn’t a big offense–They only kept him 36 hours (36 hours too long). Cynthia, I love him. He asked me to live with him a few weeks ago. I thought he meant it as a joke, but now I know he’s dead serious. And I’m getting hassled at the place. That bitch Horton doesn’t like the guys that I have brought over. She swiped the ashtray from Denny one night & said, “We don’t smoke in here–you’ll have to go outside if you want to smoke.” I haven’t brought Stoney over yet. But he will really blow her mind. I mean really. He puts on the grooviest devil act. Stoney is tall, about 6'4". He’s got big green eyes & dark hair. Well, I’m at work now, & I’ve gotta split! They’re gettin’ suspicious.
Starfire--The Movie--The Magic The Movie Trailer
P.S. Went out with Stoney tonight–Everything is super cool–Believe me! Wow! On Thanksgiving, Stoney, me, Pam, Jeff (Big Brother) & maybe Eleanor & whoever wants to come along, are going to Griffin Park Observatory. We might have some V-A--Wow! A real traditional Thanksgiving. Oh, Stoney, me, Mel, Denny & Gary are going to be on Channel 7 on Thursday evening. We were each interviewed on what we have to be thankful for–Wow! Wow. I didn’t even want to, but Stoney gave me a big push, so I had no choice. Stoney, me, Todd & another chick are going to San Francisco for the weekend. Isn’t it great? Stoney is going to make me a jade ring–wow–especially for me–Wow! Class. My aunt is really uptight about the Frisco bit. If she knew I was going with a guy she’d have about a million fits. Wow!
I almost got raped twice last week, hitching. Good God was I scared. I jumped out of one car at the stop sign, & like ran as fast as I could, & the other time, I gave the guy a dirty look & I moved & he stopped his funny business. I swear, I’m gonna have to be more selective who I ride with.
I dropped V-A three times last weekend, plus 1 fuckin’ downer which had my head all screwed up on Monday. Stoney was arrested for hitching on the freeway. I just had a damn feeling that he got busted for something stupid.
I’m staying out all night tomorrow night. There will probably be a party somewhere around. Like at Stoney’s .
I guess I was just meant to get all hung up–I’m really hung up on Stoney.
Do you realize that as of Dec. 6th I will have been in Calif. 6 months?
Be good & write.
What’s the haps?
Gotta get some sleep–Big weekend ahead of me!
Lots of Love. God, Destroy this letter! Let Robbie read! Jennifer again.
P.S. I love the song “Stormy.” I always sing “Stoney” instead of “Stormy.” Do you like “Canned Heat”?
This letter, Cynthia’s reason for betrayal, eventually came back into my possession after my grandmother confronted me with it.
“See what you have become,” my grandmother said. “What happened to the moral girl we sent to California?”
I had no answer.
*Most names have been changed.
Copyright 2008, Jennifer Semple Siegel
Text may not be reposted or republished without permission of author.
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