The Part about James
c/o Podesto Baldocchi Florists
224 Grant Street
San Francisco, California 94108
In the envelope addressed to his friend James (unstamped, unsealed) was a crumpled sheet of paper with a grid of streets written in pencil on it and a line traced in blue ballpoint pen that charted a course from the Alhambra Theater on Polk Street to the Mark Hopkins, then down through the Tenderloin.
Ed once remarked that everything that he knew about life he learned from James. James was a year older than Ed and had moved to San Francisco from Louisiana during the Summer of Love. He wrote to Ed only once saying if he ever wanted to become enlightened, to move to the next plane of existence, and escape the wheel of dharma he needed to leave the hick town where they both grew up and move to San Francisco. He said that he had a place for him to stay and could get him a job at the flower shop where he worked and that if he knew what was good for him that he would get to where it was all happening. Ed’s life was broken and even though he was still technically a teenager, he knew that his life was probably ruined. When James described a Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park—that was all it took. Maybe he could salvage his life in San Francisco.
Ed didn’t bother mailing the letter that he had written in reply and instead put the empty envelope with James’ address on it in his copy of Siddhartha and placed it in his backpack with a few other things that he thought he’d need on the road to California.
In 1968, Ed learned about poetry, astronomy, LSD, music, art, film, and his connection to the earth and to other sentient beings.
The following year—through a complex and seemingly cruel turn of an unseen wheel, and by events whose details are not necessary to the understanding of our story but nevertheless lie as one of its black holes—the war in Vietnam had taken his friend James and would leave a rip in space and time that would remain forever unhealed.