I know these crazy sisters. Their parents were 1950s Bohemian artists in Southern California. So, already you know a few things to expect; with adolescence in the middle 1960s, the girls immersed in ‘flower power’ .. and several stereotype this background would imply. Traveling to Mexico looking for enlightenment with Huichol Indians & hallucinogens, among other adventures, and finally following George Harrison and the Beatles inspirations to India. And they stayed on there for quite some time.
I was living at Starr School on the Blackfeet Indian reservation, when I received an invitation from one of the sisters; would I like to travel to India, to be taken around on a personal, guided tour? ‘Well, why not’ was my thought. And so it was I stepped on a plane at Helena, Montana, it was September .. in the Year of Our Lord (George Orwell’s) 1984.
I had a one day layover in New York City, and had let an acquaintance know I’d be in town. Tommy took me down to the lower west side (Meatpacking District) to show me (in those days) the character of one of the more interesting areas of the city. We ate at his family’s diner, a many decades establishment, located there. As we walked the neighborhood after eating, I noticed the some ‘brothers’ had a campfire going in the parking lot of an abandoned building and the thought crossed my mind ‘this is a city I could survive in.’ An interesting interlude on a journey from Blackfeet Indian country to the Indians of India.
Tommy picked me up in the morning, my flight was late afternoon, throwing my small luggage into his VW beetle, we went to Greenwich Village. After walking around for awhile, not really investigating our surroundings so much as talking about the summer of 1981 when Tommy had been a chef at Glacier National Park’s east side and I’d shown him Blackfoot country. We somehow landed at McSorley’s Tavern and I managed to get perfectly hammered on Irish black beer. We took off from McSorley’s in Tommy’s beetle, driving to Newark airport … I had the window down and was slapping my hand on the outside of the passenger side door to time of a pow-wow drum, while belting out some popular Native American war-dance tune of that era, as we passed under the Hudson River via Lincoln Tunnel. Arriving at Newark, I was seriously worried I was too drunk to be allowed onto my Air India flight, non-stop to New Delhi.
I bid Tommy goodbye and Tommy bid myself good luck; then with a Herculean effort of will, I managed to seem sober enough to acquire my boarding pass, check myself through security and get on-board my flight.
The Air India 747 wasn’t half full, and no sooner than we had taken off, I saw people begin bringing out their pillows and some were making beds on the floor! What a blessing!! I found a row in center section with empty seats, pushed up the arm-rests and lay down to pass out … and woke up over Iran with a severe hangover. Stepping out of the air terminal at New Delhi, the humidity-heat-smog cocktail, with a sort or reddish orange glow filtering through, the tropical trees and traffic, briefly flashed me back fourteen years, to Saigon, 1970, and my adventures in that city. But only briefly, this was a very different city and embarking on entirely new adventure. I caught a taxi to the old Hotel Imperial and rendezvous with the odd lot who’d be my traveling companions. A date with a bed in colonial era ambiance and hospitality is perfect for overcoming jet-lag with a hangover, I’ll be a happy sahib for a few days .. before moving on, in native dress.
Gate into Hotel Imperial
My Madcap Adventure (all episodes)