Last Train To Artaud
13 Apr 2011
I was seventeen in 1973 when my best buddy and I hopped a freight train in Pasco, WA, hoping to make it alive to Project Artaud. Three years earlier, a girl from San Francisco moved into the house down the street from my parents in Pasco. Her name was Deborah, and I fell for her, hard. Deb’s mother, Bev, was the most inspiring woman I’d ever met, and when they moved back to S. F. a year and a half later, I ran away to be with them. I changed my name to Shawn—I wanted ‘Sean’ but Deb’s spelling won out—and I went to school. Shasta, in 1972, was down the hall from the mail room and safe, and was one of Artaud’s three schools. (I believe one of the others was called The Learning Place.) During my year-long stay in the city, I lived, first at Bev’s, at 150 Kingston, (off of 30th & Mission) then in a space in Shasta’s loft. The Griffins—Jason, Terry, Jeff, and Jim, their photographer father, lived down the hall, along with Arthur, the gray cat. My other Artaud friend was David Hacker, a stringy-haired ‘Freewheelin’ Frank’ Texan from San Antonio. We’d tied a rope to one of the third floor I-beam ends, and swung down across the theater floor, where at the far end sat the framed house where I saw Sylvester and his Hot Band. I remember Jim and Donna Stone, a student named Valerie Dion (everyone called her by her initials), and a flaming gay guy named Brian, who strutted around nude in our art class, saying, “Here, you bitches…paint this!” I remember Larraburu and Parisian bread, the 27 Noe bus, Whitefront, The Hamms Beer Bear, the fog, the lonliness, The Stones and Stevie at Winterland, Felini at the Nickelodeon, and a horrifying encounter with a dying old man in his urine-soaked apartment above Mission Street. I was a long way from Pasco. June the following year found Deb, her mother and me back in Washington. Eleven years later, Deb was murdered behind an Auburn tavern. A few years later, Bev committed suicide. I’m a writer. Written in ’05, my first novel, POST 60, honors Bev, Deb, my brother Danny, and a few others lost to tragedy. Last Train To Artaud, my third, is an adventure-of-a-lifetime story about friends discovering what it all truly means. Looking back, the years since 1970 have flown by. Things change. I’ve changed. Bittersweet as my memories are, though, I do hope to someday walk the halls of Artuad again. I wonder what I’ll see.