Leonard Kress

Not the Way it Was
April 20, 2019 Kress Leonard

Not the Way It Was

Today I overheard a conversation
about the 1969 incident when Jim Morrison
exposed himself onstage at the Coconut Grove
in Miami and for a good half-hour
I was sure I had been at that concert among
the 12,000 fans but left before it happened.

The 60s, as everyone knows, were like that—
maybe you were someplace and forgot.
This was smalltime compared to the Revolution
and the Apocalypse erupting around every corner.
Who could keep track of all
those minor skirmishes and fulfilled prophecies?

In 1969 I wasn’t much of a Doors fan
though I was first in my high school to score
their album back in 66 (advance release, special promotion).
Well, maybe Jonnie Voto heard it first—
first to openly smoke pot, to sing
like Dylan with his guitar and harmonica-
holding contraption, Jonnie who quit school
and went on the road and couldn’t afford
the 3 bucks to buy the album.

But my friend Larry and I could, and bought it
because it came out on Elektra and we thought
anything on Elektra was worth our attention—
Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Paul Butterfield.
We listened to the first side but not the second
because Larry (another Larry) took us for a spin
in his new MG Midget—out past the country club
that didn’t admit Jews and the farm that bred
racing studs and the quarry which dusted us
with lime and then a mad rush down Hagy’s Mill Road
to Weyerhaeuser Paper where I worked for two weeks
the previous summer, fired for prematurely
releasing a 2 ton roll of uncut paper
from the overhead crane, almost killing the foreman.
We throttled all the way down to the Schuylkill River
almost side-swapping a lumber truck on our way up.

What made me think I was at the Doors concert
was that in the Spring of 1969
my jeweler grandfather died and my family
flew down to Miami to visit my Minsk-born
grandmother who showed off her diamonds
to me and my cousin (who took me to the concert)
who was named Richard Burton, and that
was the year the real Richard Burton
bought Liz Taylor a 69-carat diamond.

I remember at the airport
the announcement that Martin Luther King
had been shot and calling my girlfriend
to talk about the horror of his assassination.
This was all so very clear in my memory—
until I realized that in the Spring of 1969
we were no longer together.

Leonard Kress has published poetry and fiction in Missouri Review, Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, etc. His recent collections are The Orpheus Complex, Thirteens, and Walk Like Bo Diddley. Live in the Candy Store and his new verse translation of the Polish Romantic epic, Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz are both scheduled for 2018. He teaches philosophy and religion at Owens College in Ohio, USA and edits creative non-fiction for Artful Dodge.