from A Squandered Life / Little Ron '70

Stoned and merry eyes

Strangely, Roger's next side-kick was another Ron. Unlike the other Ron (of Doyle House) who was relatively fit and good looking, this Ron was a plump little American whom I first met in a sociology seminar at the university. He was a sour little person who kept making jibes at and about “Newfies” as though he was a member of a genetically superior species compelled to pass among them for reasons beyond his control. I think he was bitter about having to come to a third rate university because, like me, he couldn't get in anywhere else.

I didn't think or see much of him after that until he re-emerged mysteriously as Roger's housemate in a suburban estate to the south of town. By then, he'd been introduced to grass for the first time and had become the sweetest, most charming person one could possibly imagine. He was an absolute joy to get stoned with because he was so full of the wonder of it. He developed a shy little smile, sometimes accompanied by a modest little chuckle, as he said things like, “But is this music really that good, or is it the weed? Is the weed simply making something obvious to us which we otherwise wouldn't have the capacity to observe, or is it distorting our senses to make something bad sound good?”

At the time we were listening a lot to Doug Kershaw, the Cajun fiddler. This was on the strength of a word from one of the few black members of staff at the university. He, Clayton, was married to an attractive no-nonsense deep-voiced white lecturer called Annette to whom we were all attracted. Clayton was both a very jealous man and very sensitive to racial discriminations. This made being pals with him extremely edgy. I knew firsthand that he wasn't paranoid in his jealousy, but I couldn't help thinking he veered that way with regard to the discriminations. In St John's at the time it was such a rarity to encounter racial minorities of any kind, and where we did they always seemed exotic, worldly, and unattainably cool.

Then one day he took me into his confidence and, fixing me with his rock steady unflinching black eyes, told me about a mysterious parcel he'd received a couple of days earlier. He'd answered a knock on the door to his flat and been handed the parcel by a delivery man. He hadn't been expecting a parcel and there was something vaguely suspicious about the delivery man. He stepped out into the hall and looked up and down. He'd paused for a few moments and then, with amazing presence of mind, walked over to the rubbish hatch a few paces down the corridor, dropped the parcel into it, and walked back to his flat.

About ten minutes later there was another knock at his door. It was plain clothes police. They showed him some badges as they invited themselves across his threshold. “The whole time they were watching my eyes to see if I would unconsciously flick a look at where I might be hiding something.” Once in, they produced a search warrant and set about ransacking his flat. “They were really worked up about finding nothing,” he said, “and they said they'd be back.” Clayton was very level and matter of fact in his delivery, yet now, behind those rock steady black eyes, I could unequivocally sense the seething anger and a generalised resentment which seemed suddenly so fully justified.

Having told me this story, I think he was a little more relaxed with me thereafter and told me about “the only white musician who had any soul” - Doug Kershaw. I was so impressed a went out and bought “Spanish Moss” and got lost in its tangles of swamp and Cypress trees and 'gators, often in the company of little Ron whose stoned and merry eyes mine would occasionally meet as, in wonder, we slowly shook our heads at each other.


© 2013 Deacon Martin

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