My idea in 1967 was simple: buy a Volkswagen van, drive to California, and sleep with as many blond-haired beach bunnies as I could. I know, I know—admittedly it wasn’t a particularly wise plan but it was a plan and, honestly, a fairly popular one. Over 100,000 embryonic hippies descended on Haight-Ashbury to get high on each other, the ecstasy of freedom, and the promise of a vague-but-tantalizing Utopia.
I didn’t take part.
Why? Well, I got side tracked. For one thing, in 1967 I was 15 and couldn’t drive a car. Bummer, dude! So, I and my best friend Georgie Porgy decided to pool our money, wait until we could drive legally, and then launch our sleep-with-the-girls-the-Beach-Boys-rejected plan.
This resulted in me having the amazing sum of $87 in a sock under my pillow. Of course, it was burning a hole in my cosmic pocket. And I happened to go to a wild Christmas party in an ex-funeral home on Cleaver Street in Chicago (where an disconcerting number of young ladies found the embalming room erotic) and where an ex-girlfriend of mine named Lynn Orloff sat next to fellow named Billie Jay who claimed to own a number of sailboats—almost too many too count—and that he was going to chop one up and convert it for Coho fishing.
Is any of this making sense? I hope not. The whole idea of the 1960s was to NOT make sense—to leap before you looked. Anyway, this guy was drunk and loudly shooting off his mouth. And, as fate would have it, a couple of days later I happened—quite cosmically!—to be on a North Avenue bus, stuck in snow and dense traffic. So stuck, I decided to walk. And while crossing the north branch of the Chicago River, I realized that this is where the drunk guy had said his ‘sh*tbox of a boat’ was tied up.
I could see a small vessel shoved against the shore just down the river—and decided to take a look.
My life was changed forever. I expected to find a sailing yacht of some type—I found an abandoned wreck. Worst, a Chicago Street gang had broken into it and used it as a club house. They’d spray painted obscenities inside—and had no idea which vowel went before the “**ck” in one of their favorite words. Yes, these were some domb guys! Worse, they broke everything they couldn’t misspell—all the portlights, the engine gauges, random bits of crockery, and all the galley faucets. Wait, there’s more. Bringing a discarded BBQ grill grate, they started numerous fires inside the boat—how she didn’t burn down is beyond me, as she was Port Oxford cedar over oak. Just to top it off, perhaps just before they decided to move into a new clubhouse, they pooped in her bilges, the head area, and the forepeak.
Needless to say, it was love at first sight. I was more than infatuated, I was smitten. Her engine was disassembled, rusted, and would not turn. There was no rig. The fecal stench made going below to survey her nearly impossible. I decided, right then and there, I’d kill to have her.
I called Billie Jay. Yes, he owned the classic American yacht designed by famed designer William Atkins currently berthed in the North River that he was keeping as a sure-fired investment to fund his retirement… she was, after all, a floating piece of maritime Americana… why did I ask?
Oh, dear! Somehow the boat had went from ‘sh*tbox’ to ‘classic American yacht’ in the blink of an opportunistic eye.
I called up Lyn Orloff (aka later in life known as Lyn Orloff-Jones of San Francisco Bay). She was a wild child—we (my family and I) introduced her to boats, boating, and boaters in the ‘60s. She became quite a bilge bunny in the Great Lakes and eventually a sailing star of Latitude 38’s Baha Haha—by that I mean she seduced many a sailor in the porta-potties at the pre-race parties. Anyway, I called up Lyn, explained what I needed, and suggested that she… well, she become… somewhat less physically affectionate towards poor Billie Jay.
“That’s the most disgusting suggestion I’ve ever heard,” she said, “And I like it!”
To his credit, Billie knew when he was outmatched—he sold me the 1932 wooden double-ender within the week. I’d like to think he eventually grew to love me—by the end, he was beginning to call me ‘…you little bastard!’ less and less.
So, there I was at 15 with my own yacht and empty pockets.
I dubbed her Corina, after the Bob Dylan song.
Now to say that she was floating is technically true—but she wasn’t really floating in water so much as a toxic mix of discard condoms, sewage run-off, urban grease, dead bodies, bloated dog carcasses, and worse. Lucky for me, Proctor and Gamble (just across the Chicago River) spilled 50,000 gallons of soybean oil in the river—and the City of Chicago built a floating pollution dam about ten feet off the stern of my vessel. I was horrified—my goldplater had been smeared and besmirched! P&G told me (yes, I gave them a chance) to ‘…screw off, pal’—but the Chicago Tribune was more sympathetic. I wrote the story, they sent the photographer, and the next day the legal department of P&G called me up humbly and asked how many zeros I wanted on the check.
This was the first inkling I had that I hadn’t purchased a boat—I’d purchased a floating Aladdin’s Lamp which would make all my youthful dreams come true.
Next I purchased an identical Universal Utility Four engine for $45 and, with Georgie Porgies help, we took both engines apart and reassembled the less ‘screwed up’ bits. It ran. We immediately had a party with about fifty of our more intoxicated hippie pals—and went careening around the Windy City, whistling at hot chicks we were up-skirting downtown.
Next, a guy visited Corina and told us the true story on the boat—she’d been used by a dentist for ‘sin or swim’ cruises (don’t ask; imagine) and when the vice squad came to arrest him, the fleeing dentist give Billie Jay the boat in order to settle a bad debt. “Yeah,” the passer-by said, “I bet her rig is still at Bings Boat Yard.”
Now, I had found a pair of custom-made spruce spreaders and a trail board that read Benevolence in my bilge, so I immediately traipsed over to the posh and pricey Bings Boatyard and discovered my rig… well, kinda ‘our’ rig since its current ownership was in legal limbo. Alas, the bill on four years of both winter season and summer season storage was extremely high—so we entered into negotiations. “Twenty bucks!” I offered. “$874,” they countered. Darn! I decided to consult an attorney—and the only free one I could find was an anti-war Quaker one who told me two interesting things: one, possession was 9/10th of the law and, two, I needed that mast to sail away from the draft and, thus, I shouldn’t think of this as merely an issue of thievery but rather reframe it as a noble draft-dodger in a Titanic struggle against Evil and The Machines of War! Thus, on a busy spring morning I pulled my vessel up to Bing’s bustling docks, quickly recruited a dozen yachtie-snotties to help, and ‘liberated’ my rig from the same capitalist-types who were oppressing SE Asians as well. Whew!
…feeling young and righteous is wonderful!
Now, since we had a yacht, some money, a running engine, and a working rig with two sails (a $10 jib and a $15 main), we decided to take off. So, we provisioned and, of course, we needed some herbal and organic supplies if we were going to spend a lot of time at sea. While visiting one of the local entrepreneurial pharmacies, we stumbled across a young woman who’d been dropped off by a motorcycle gang—who made a point of never returning for her. At least that’s what the poor lass claimed—and to prove her point, she showed us a butt cheek that had a tattoo which read, “Property of the Devil’s Disciples.” She seemed nice, if a tad neurotic, so we invited her aboard for counseling. Oh, she had some amazing talents, that one—I blush in erotic remembrance.
Once I, Georgie Porgy, and Lusty Laura sailed across Lake Michigan to the wealthy community of Saugatuck—we were in heaven. Of course, by this point, the stingy P&G money was running low, so I decided to form a jewelry commune—it was ‘commune’ in the sense that mere money couldn’t buy my artistic creations, you had to 1,) steal the silver for your creation (a spoon ring pounded around a metal marlinspike) and, 2.) help me manufacture it. That’s fair, right?
Corina Creations was an immediate hit—and, in the spirt of the 1960s I promised that, no matter how much money I earned that day, I’d spend all of it every single evening before dawn so that I and my fellow coworkers would not be corrupted by the dreaded Yankee Dollar.
My gross income quadrupled!
Now Lusty Laura wasn’t gender-specific with her lusts—and I liked women too. And, thus, in the spirit of the times, we all shared our bounty. Life was, I’ll admit, perfect. Except for one thing—I wanted my own religion.
In the harbor was a green slime. And I’d been working on my vessel’s exhaust system. So I took a number of coffee cans of green slime… put various bits of bronze and brass plumbing bits in them… soaked it all with kerosene… and lit it on my impromptu altar ashore while swigging Boone’s Farm Apple Wine, our holy sacrament.
“Wow! The colors, dude!” It was, indeed, impressive. The green slime occasionally exploded and send showers of blue and green (the brass/bronze) in the air. Within a week of forming my Church of the Sacred Hippie, I had over a hundred semi-naked parishioners writhing nightly to Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles.
…speaking of the Beatles, they were going to India to study how to enter Nirvana, but we American teenagers wanted a quicker, simpler route. And one evening in the middle of the Grime Slime Church service—I’d thought I’d achieve a one-to-one mind-link-with-the-Lord-Almighty. That’s right—His deep rich voice filled the air! And there was a cosmic blue heavenly pulsating light! And He was talking directly at me… saying… “Put your hands in the air! You are under arrest!”
I can still picture it all in my mind vividly, as the cops handcuffed me and trotted me into the police station with all my friends running alongside and chanting that there was no jail in the world that could hold Fatty Goodlander! And I remember thinking with a beatific smile, “Man, I love yachting!”
Publisher’s note: Fatty and family are currently in SE Asia on their fourth circ.