Jackie Gleason’s trumpet player’s wife subleased their apartment to me. Our Angel Marilyn had referred me. They were going to the Dominican Republic on tour. It was a Cape Cod style house on Royal Palm avenue. The upstairs apartment had one bedroom, a sitting room overlooking the lush front yard, a living room, kitchen, back porch and the most complete esoteric library I have ever seen. This was to be the first residence I rented with my father’s inheritance. He was around me in spirit and I felt like there was destiny involved. I had many conflicting emotions about him, especially guilt. I had never been allowed to find out who he was, but I always missed him.
“Do you believe that a house takes on the personality of the people in it? Or do you think that the people take on the personality of the house?” she asked me. I guessed that she wanted to hear the later; “We take on the personality of the house.” I said. She nodded. I passed the test. The place already felt haunted to me-but in a good way. I felt safe. Coconut Grove had a lot of old houses then that had history. There was energy in the houses. Angels and ghosts. It was like a magical Camelot jungle village for artists and magicians.
Dr. Wilhelm Reich jumped out at me from the full, orderly bookshelves. It was the beginning of a life long learning about Orgone; the blue/white life force energy he had isolated for the government as an antidote for radiation poisoning. I read the thick blue lab books, spellbound by this pragmatic scientist being led to a metaphysical discovery. His lab reports offended the War Department back in the fifties, so much that they ordered all copies burned. All copies except the lab books sitting here in this magical little apartment in Coconut Grove. Randy once said that sometimes we are fortunate to be standing at the tiller wheel of the universe. Coconut Grove felt like that. This apartment felt like that. I learned about how the Orgone accumulator stored up life force to stay healthy. I found out that there were people in the grove who actually had an Orgone accumulator down at the end of Loquat Avenue. We had parked in their backyard the first week in the grove. Forty five years later, a woman walks into our store in Santa Monica, we talk about Orgone and she says the guy is still living there and still has an Orgone accumulator.. He was middle aged back then.
The collection of music was just as incredible. Shelves of seven inch reels of recording tape with jazz and blues. Everything. Coltrane to Robert Johnson. It was my finishing school; both musical and metaphysical. I soaked up the books and the music, eager for this next phase of my life to materialize into success with the Asylum. The landlady, a Christ Scientist, eventually complained that the plumbing was being overworked by all the Asylum members crashing there.
The night before we were to open for Miles Davis at the University of Miami, our new road manager from Macon, Georgia got overly excited and pushed me back through the glass window in the kitchen. I caught myself on the porch and did not fall to the ground two stories below. He was shocked and sorry, and very coked up. I called Marilyn. She took care of everything. She stood by me in the ER while they stitched me up.
A few months earlier I had been driving through the grove in the middle of the night, carefully and slowly winding down the moist dark narrow blacktop pathways between the bungalows hidden in the tropical confusion. Bicycling around the grove in the middle of the night was a totally cool thing to do. I saw Marilyn walking toward me with conviction. A can of mace in her left hand, a Derringer 22 in her right hand. When she saw it was me, she sighed relief.
“You need a ride?” I asked. She climbed in and told me it had been a rough night at the Grove Club. “The manager from the Taurus Steak House was being a real jerk.” She never got flustered, she ran a legal review. She knew everyone. We had played in her backyard and the mayor attended. It was a good idea to be friends with her; she was connected. Tonight something was different.
When we got to her bungalow, she invited me in. “What kind of Magic is your band using?” She demanded. I said it was music, although Christian, our keyboard player, was the heaviest metaphysical dude I had ever met. He was born Brahmin in Jaipur, India, had mentioned snake blood voodoo rites in Jamaica and jazz dues in Harlem. She then explained to me that the grove had been protected for a long time by a coven of good witches and warlocks. It was a good coven. The people were professionals in the community. This group of outwardly normal looking people would gather and generate protective positive energy for the grove. This coven even included a retired police chief. It really didn’t surprise me, the grove was an alternate universe. But, I was intrigued. She opened the French doors to a closet in her living room, and let see her secret Haitian style alter.
It was huge, filling the whole closet, and it was gorgeous. There were many colored candles, sequines sparkling and rhinestone encrusted bottles. Dolls and coconut shell faces with embedded coquina shells. It was the real thing. “My teacher is from Haiti.” she said. “You need to know that there is a new coven in the grove. They are not good people.”