The Holidays at Millbrook, Part II

Bali was in full costume, about to begin a dance recital in the “music room” when I came in, and I immediately sat down to watch.  He is a great dancer, and today he danced the dedication to Shiva –– with which he opens all his concerts –– particularly well.  In it, he actually portrays Shiva doing his dance of the destruction of the cosmos, and ends in the pose on all the statues of the dancing Shiva: one hand raised in the “have no fear” mudra, the other pointing to his lifted foot, which represents liberation/enlightenment.  I have never found any of Bali’s dancing as moving as I did today.  (Bill Haines told me later that Bali had been dedicated to Shiva as an infant, and given to the temple at the age of six, to begin his training.)

After the dance recital, nearly everyone was as out of it as I was, no one seemed to want to move, or talk.  Allen Ginsberg took out his finger cymbals, and he and Peter began to sing a kirtan, starting with the “Hare Krishna” mantra that nearly everyone there knew.  I stole that opportunity to try and make it back up to the bowling alley to gather up Alan and whoever else might want to come and sing.  But I was to have a rude shock.

I left the music room by the sliding doors that open onto the main entry hall of the house, and there in the hall narrowly missed being knocked down by a giant of a man who was literally hurling himself about, from banister to wall, barely missing the huge gilded mirror and shouting, “I have been Vi-o-la-ted!” over and over again to an astonished and immobilized audience.

Turned out that he was one Ted Cook, Canadian reporter, who, while being wined and entertained by Timothy in his study on the third floor, had inadvertently imbibed a large quantity of acid.  It seems Timothy had offered him the choice of some perfectly straight bourbon or scotch, but he had secretly decided on the sherry he had seen in the cabinet, and when everyone else was otherwise occupied he wandered off and helped himself to a good-sized glass of same.  The sherry happened to be one of the three bottles of liquor which held our new stash.

And now it seemed he was very shook.  Well, it served him right, I figured.  Not simply because it ain’t cool to drink liquor which ain’t offered, but –– dig this –– he had done a full-length movie about acid for CBC or something without ever having touched the stuff.  That old black karma, catching up with him.  I ducked as he made another howling lurch for the stairs and went on back to the bowling alley.

By the time I came back to the main house with Alan and our friend Zen (who lived downstairs from us in the bowling alley, where he devoured large quantities of morning glory seeds almost daily, and played his trumpet) kirtan had broken up: the howls and curses of Ted Cook had proved to be too much for everyone.  Most of our guests were milling about aimlessly, making small talk and waiting for dinner, while the more competent –– and the more paranoid –– members of the community crashed around outside, coatless and flashlightless in the winter twilight, trying to find Ted Cook who had burst out of the house, surging through the masses of folk around him.

The general fear was that he would find his way to the highway (a good half mile away) and all hell would break loose with the local folk.  We sat constantly on this power keg at Millbrook, dissuading ecstatic first-time trippers from calling their wives in Virginia, tromping resolutely by the side of energetic ones who had decided to go for a long hike, feeding yoga, breathing exercises, niacin, or Thorazine to persistent bad trippers –– handling any and all drug crises as best we could alone.

Dinner was finally ready.  I made a quick run back home with Ed to wake up Mini, my four-year-old, who had consented to take a nap on my sworn oath that I would get her up in time to eat.  The shouts of Ted Cook could be heard in the distance as we went up the path to the bowling alley, and I heard myself muttering, “If this is Thanksgiving, what will Christmas be like?”

At the bowling alley there was also a heap of presents that had to be brought back to the main house, Alan having the day before, bought a gift for each of the eleven Millbrook children.  There was absolutely no money at Millbrook at this time –– times of total financial drought alternated there always with times of dizzying plenty –– but that didn’t stop Timothy, who handed us a blank check and told us to fill it out for whatever amount we needed.  And so, Alan had decided that presents were in order, and had bought sweaters, toys, mittens, etc., at the huge shopping center in Poughkeepsie at the same time as the turkeys, yams, and other goodies.

Ed carried Mini, who was still half asleep, and an armload of packages, and I lugged a huge shopping bag full of presents back to the main house.

Dinner was very good and very luxurious, in the way that feasts always feel luxurious when the house is full and there is more than enough of everything.  I heaped a big paper plate for myself and stashed it in a cupboard, and then I went to check out the rest of my family.

Different angle, from the blog of current resident John Foreman, who blogs about this and others at BIG OLD HOUSES.

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