Early in 1978 I returned to Kansas City, Missouri. I had left it
1977 for Charlottesville, Virginia, where my friends Jim, his wife Eileen, and John, had all moved. All of us left Los Angeles, each for our own reasons, and reassembled in the land of Thomas Jefferson. Jim and John were both chefs, able to find work almost anywhere. My history degree was much less useful on the job market. After a couple of weeks in the grind-up-newspaper-into-insulation factory breathing its sweltering dust-laden air, I found a job at the Lucky-7 convenience store. It was a pleasant little establishment not far from the University of Virginia. Just down the street was a place called the West Virginian. It was a humble tavern in the basement of its building, offering free peanuts in the shell (unsalted, as mandated by state law); the empty shells, by tradition, were tossed to the floor. Unpretentious it was, but it definitely had atmosphere. I felt at home there.
Yet I left Charlottesville to rescue a damsel in distress. I could never resist doing that. It didn't even have to be REAL distress.
I found Susan Boze attractive from our first meeting in the Lucky 7. She was energetically cute, with a sharp mind, though she was afflicted with religious belief. I could see her rationality and her passion struggling to be free.
But she had chosen to leave with my friend, John, heading for Texas, I think. They parted ways in
Lake Charles, Louisiana. Naturally, when she phoned from there, I fueled up my Falcon and headed southwest.
Once the rescue had been performed, a series of random factors placed us in Denver, sharing an apartment with a topless dancer named Kyle and two guys.
Lady Godiva put everything she had on a horse.
My gaze pierces the night,
searching for the face.
Searching for the mind.
Searching for the future.
My eyes find only games to be played,
To end at sunrise.
So I rise, and go
where aloneness is what I expect.
Resign for the night from the race,
Only to hover near the track again tomorrow:
The beaten track. The well-worn rut.
Pit fear against desire;
see who wins and who loses.
Hang out like a bell clapper,
hoping to be tolled: 'Yes!'
--June 12, 1978
Life in Denver was entertaining. Kyle's apartment was rather like a soap opera. Guest stars included a not-quite-serious motorcycle club called the Deadmen. They hung out at the topless bar that Kyle danced in, a place serving 3.2 percent beer for 18 to 21 year olds.
Steve and I got jobs at a shop that made wooden furniture for children. For a place where it snows in the winter, Denver isn't a bad place. The problem was unrequitedness. One night in December in a snowstorm, I pointed the Falcon east on I-70. Alone on the road, alone in the car, I floated, fast and friction-free, to Kansas City.
To flee from danger is no vice.
A change of scene is sometimes nice.
But one can't leave oneself behind;
To run won't cure a troubled mind.
Look behind you as you run.
Have you left a thing undone?
Do you fear a face? A name?
Or will your new fears be the same?
As you go, you may look back,
And think of what you're going to lack.
Sometimes that golden road ahead
When trod upon, will turn to lead.
It is within, from which you flee.
In darkness it is clear to see:
Running will not make you blind;
You cannot leave yourself behind.
--June 22, 1978
The Airplane soared into the room in electromagnetic flight with its
message to troubled lovers:
If only you believed as I believe, we'd get by
If only you believed in miracles, so would I
I turned it up. 'I like that song', I said. 'It means something to
Susan looked surprised. I read her thoughts: Atheists don't
in miracles. Only Christians do.
Definition time. Miracles are not supernatural. Miracles are not
wrought by deified ghosts, but by individuals who dare to believe in
themselves and their own abilities. The realm of the possible has
yet been fully explored. The Great Pyramid, great works of art
throughout the ages, incredible discoveries of science-- these are the
true miracles, manmade by people unwilling to settle for the ordinary,
and unafraid to strive for the ultimate.
Some of us are artists, and some are scientists, but we are all
of creating the miracle of love, a love between two human beings,
overcoming emotional and physical obstacles, ripping down barriers and
It is a work of art more than science, and though it exists only for
ecstasy of two, one miracle of love makes the universe a better
Susan suddenly appeared in Kansas City with a
virtual jar of peanut butter and a new point of view. She was
deliciously perfect, but her timing was flawed. Had she come before
Robin, or after Robin flew, we might have had many more
I met Robin Massey not long after my return to Kansas City. She was tall and shapely and enjoyed sex. We saw each other frequently, and I grew fond of her. It was not exactly a romantic relationship, though it didn't occur to me at the time to notice whether it was or not.
Making love: perhaps that's a misnomer. It is giving love, and giving of oneself. It is taking love, and taking what the other gives. But love is not MADE that way. It is shown and felt in warm caresses, if it is there, but made elsewhere, created somewhere in the mind. When a relationship is fun, affectionate, and pleasurable, it isn't always necessary to define it. When it changes or ends, my awareness of what it meant suddenly floods in.
Robin had a brother who was killed. It happened not long before I met her. There was a conflict between mafia organizations, and he was evidentally an involved victim.
It was one in a series of several murders in the feud between families. Here is the background:
May 4, 1978 -- Local hood, thief and Bonadonna-loyalist Michael (Minuteman Mike) Massey, Mancuso's partner-in-crime and an informant that got Kansas City mobster Anthony (Tiger) Cardarella busted for racketeering, is shot to death behind the wheel of his car.
The Kansas City mafia erupted into war in the late 1970s related to an internal dispute over control of the city's River Quay neighborhood, its then trendy nightlife and entertainment center. The unrest set off a near decade of violence and instability in the Civella crime family. On one side of the feud was ambitious and bloodthirsty Civella clan capo and street boss William (Willie the Rat) Cammisano, intent on turning the neighborhood into a red-light district. On the other, K.C. mob soldier David Bonadonna, his businessman son Freddy, who had spearheaded the real estate development and economic resurgence in the area, and their main muscle, the independent Spero brothers (Carl, Joe & Mike), upset with the Civellas for killing their older brother and underworld mentor Nick in 1973. The Bonadonna faction resisted the crusty Cammisano and his crew's move into the neighborhood and their desire to rebrand and tax local establishments for fear that it would drive consumers away, which it wound up doing.
Key Of Death: The Kansas City Mob's Raucous River Quay War Murder Timeline
It was probably just as well that I never met any of Robin's family. She didn't talk about them, other than a mention of her brother's assassination. She also didn't speak much about how she felt about it all. No doubt it was family business, not to be shared outside.
Oddly enough, the little bit that I did know ended up costing me my job at the adult bookstore on Troost. I had been working there for some time, and did an excellent an honest job for the company. The area manager seemed to be a nice guy, and we had friendly conversations when he came around. I made the mistake of mentiioning Robin and her brother once. He did not comment at the time, but I suspect the owners in Atlanta were connected to a different family and did not tolerate even a casual connection to what might be a rival group. They couldn't be sure I had nothing to do with my girlfriend's family.
As it turned out, I got a better job working for Yellow Cab of Kansas City, checkinng drivers in and out for their shifts and accounting for them. It paid more.
Some weeks later, Robin broke up with me. I'm not sure why. I'm not even sure if she really wanted to. I know I missed her a lot.
My affair with Shelly was brief but fun. She was a little bit neurotic, but had a great sense of humor, as shown in the postcards above. She may have stayed in Seattle; I didn't hear from her after the second card.
OFF THE TOP OF THE DECK
Six blue pots
See how they burn
Candles inside them
Gleam in the bar
Six blue drunks
See how they hurt
Flames burn within them
Here in the bar
Not meant to tell
Tales of lost love
Pleasures and pains
Burn on, fair flames
Burn in the night
Gleam into eyes
That long for the fire.
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