The Lemon Drop Kid was out of Cincinnati. Tall, rangy guy with near white curly hair and pale skin, almost yellow which is how, I guess, he got his name. He had been in Joliet for armed robbery and was lucky to get out with his ass in one piece. He was a pretty tough guy from a decent Jewish family in Miami and Great Neck, Long Island. Mined uranium, sold tools by the side of the road, drove one of those fast boats between the Bahamas and Miami to deliver the dope, wrote a little poetry, hustled fake gems in LA and was Jr. tennis champion as a kid before he went bad, I saw him once cold cock a guy in Tahiti Nui’s down in Hanalei...hit him right in the temple without saying a word. I don’t know why, but, as Jim Harrison said, a horse that shits fast, don’t shit long.
He was a true Karma Bum.
We were in college together and started a joke literary magazine called Zero because we thought the real litmag was pretentious and we were into irony. Of course, we were smoking a lot of dope that the geology students brought back from some rock dig in Mexico. They all wore flannel shirts. Also peyote which I didn’t like because it made me throw up and the visions weren’t as good as the ones I had in the sweat lodge with Margeaux Hemingway at Elysian Fields where nobody wore clothes. They were all singing “Imagine” by John Lennon while I was singing “April in Paris.” I thought I was going to die in that rock microwave and was happy to learn that the guy who ran it like a pretend Indian got arrested for sexual assaulting a minor.
After college, he had come out to LA on his chopper for a while when I trying to be an actor and writing a novel and deciding whether or not to stay with my first wife until she told me she was pregnant and I got scared and asked my father for a job in his panty factory. Made slips too. Jesus, that was miserable work. Eight hundred woman sewing all day long, the sound like fifty million honey bees making panties. I was just getting into design and came up with some packaging ideas. I hated working for my father. They used to fold the slips over cardboard, like shirt cardboard, but they called them “stiffeners.” Well, the night I woke up with a bad dream in which I was choking on stiffeners is the night I decided to quit and go back to school. That was it for me and stiffeners and school was a breeze after that.
Next time I saw the Kid, I was coming back from a jaunt through Bangkok and Manila where I had fucked everything in sight and stopped in San Francisco to catch the samba parade in the Mission district and visit the old Kerouac and Ginsberg haunts in North Beach. I don’t really recall how I ran into him, but there he was. In rough shape so I bought him a ticket to Hawaii and told him he could hang with me for a while. Got him a job working landscape for a real estate friend like a Pinoy, but apparently he was shooting dope which I did not know. Lost the job and lit out and next thing I get a call from him asking for 5K and I told him no way – I was sober then, going to AA every night because in Hawaii, if you don’t surf or ride bulls and don’t drink much, there’s nothing else to do besides bay at the moon and smoke dope - and that was about the last I saw of him till I got a call from his son in San Francisco who said he died of AID.
That was the end of the Lemon Drop Kid.