Let’s Make This For Ourselves

… minus a few details.

The Holidays at Millbrook, 1966

Thanksgiving day dawned clear.  I got up later than usual (8:30 or so) and made it down to the kitchen, grimly resolved to eat a breakfast, DO NO COOKING, and leave again for a leisurely day at home.  After cooking all three Millbrook meals for some 50 people for over a month, I had had it with the spacious and picturesque kitchen, and the eternal Beatles on the kitchen phonograph.

When I got to the “main house” I found that Kumar, our Hindu poet friend, had already arrived from New York with hashish and gossip, and many other people were converging from Massachusetts, Washington and farther afield.  The parking lot behind the big house, with its great gouges and holes –– from the legendary trip when Timothy & Co. had decided to get rid of all the pavement in the world, starting in their own back yard and heading down the Taconic State Parkway –– was full to capacity with everything from old pickup trucks to a solitary silver Porsche, and the house was filling rapidly.  It was clearly necessary to do some cooking –– none had been started yet –– and I had a sinking feeling that I wasn’t going to escape, after all.

Sure enough, Alan had volunteered to cook one of the four huge turkeys, and he conned me into “starting” it for him.  Naturally, I looked up from the first motions to find him gone, and wound up cooking the turkey, and several gallons of cranberry sauce, and a cauldron of candied yams, while Alan made off for parts unknown.  It was a soft, warm day, doors and windows were open, velvet draperies blowing and wind; goats, dogs and children all wandering in and out.

There was a football game before lunch on the lawn in front of the main house.  Timothy loves football, baseball, softball –– has a big rah-rah streak which some find very lovable –– and is constantly pressing his guests into some strenuous sport-like activity, which leaves them usually with sprained backs and sore leg muscles and sour dispositions –– until the next round of drinks, food, meditation, or grass sets them up again.  The more ornamental girls gathered round to cheer.  The rest of us went on with the cooking.

I noticed that Alan had managed to escape the football game as well as the turkey.  Found out later that he had retired to sweep the back porch of the pseudo-Swiss chalet that he and I lived in with the children –– the really charming little building of wood and stone, known to Millbrook inmates as “the bowling alley (it had indeed been built, with its myriad stone  balconies and three-inch-thick shingles, as a bowling alley and billiard room for the first owner.)  Whenever things get to be too much for Alan, he sweeps.

He showed up for lunch, though, which was baked Virginia ham, split pea soup, beer and other goodies set out on the front porch of the main house, and in the main dining room.  The kids wheeled their tricycles up and down the porch while we ate, looking out over the sweep of the lawn turning brown from the recent frosts.  Alexander, my three-year-old, drank a half a can of beer and fell out on a mattress in the main dining room and slept till dinnertime.

The light came in, and faded, and I was still in the kitchen.  A familiar feeling.  Around 5:30, Jean McCreedy, Tim’s secretary, came in and offered to candy the yams in my stead if I wanted to rest before dinner.  I went back up to the bowling alley dead tired, to change clothes.

DeeDee Doyle was up there, reading and reminiscing.  DeeDee was a California speed freak and old friend, who had sought refuge with us a few days before, when her old man had gone a little too berserk, even for her.  She was wanting “something pretty to wear,” and so we pulled gowns and capes and old shawls out of the closet and spread them about, and I put Bob Dylan on the phonograph.

DeeDee picked a costume, complete down to rhinestone pins and necklace, and put up her hair while she told me how years ago she had given Dylan a book of Michael McClure’s, and how it had turned him on.  Dylan later bought McClure an auto harp which changed his style for a while: he sang his poetry readings, wrote songs, grew his hair.  Dylan had wanted her to live with him, “but I chose to go with Bad Bruce,” said DeeDee a little sadly, making up her eyes.

I pulled on a coral gown and black velvet cape, braided some pearls into my hair, stuffed all the remaining clothes back into the closet, and returned to the main house to go to the john.  (The bowling alley had no toilet facilities –– no running water at all, in fact –– nor any heat, except for a very small fireplace, more decorative than functional, which, during the winter ahead, usually managed to heat the huge room we lived in to about 40 or 50 degrees.)

At the main house I found Bali Ram.  Bali is a Nepalese temple dancer.  He had come to the States a few years before with Bill Haines, who was then arranging tours for groups of eastern dancers, musicians, etc.  Bill was now head of the Sri Ram Ashram, a motley crew who occupied the second floor of the Millbrook main house at this time.  The Ashram had 28 members, mostly young longhairs, to whom Tim had recently given asylum when they were thrown out of their former home, the Ananda Ashram in Monroe by the staid older members of that organization.  The older members owned the land, and controlled the board of directors; the younger members had come to work the garden and pass the summer.  They decided to stay and squatted, more or less, till the arrival of a large number of police and private detectives made it unfeasible for them to remain.  The Sri Ram Ashram boasted several colorful and talented members.  There was Jean-Pierre Merle, grandson of Raymond Duncan, and third-generation vegetarian; a skilled painter, sandalmaker, potter, and flute player, a slight young man who looked positively frail till you saw him in action.  There was Tambimuttu, the Indian-British poet with a strong English accent, a friend of Auden & c., founder of the little magazine of the ’50s, Poetry London-New York.  And there was Bali.

*Part two tomorrow

55-65 rooms, depending on whom you ask.

4 Responses to “Let’s Make This For Ourselves”

  1. Amy Stagner Says:

    What were you going to write about bali ram!

    • itinerantdaughter Says:

      Hi Amy!

      You mean the end of this essay by Diane di Prima? You can find it here!

      But I would be very interested to hear anything you had to tell me about Bali Ram––itinerantdaughterandson@gmail.com…

  2. jessah82 Says:

    Hi there, I have a question about this post 😊

    Is the person Deedee Doyle was with at the time child actor Bobby Driscoll? I was curious only because I’m quite interested in researching about his life, and I know the two of them were together at some point in 1966.


    • itinerantdaughter Says:

      Sorry I have no idea! I know little about these people outside of what Di Prima wrote…

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