29 June 2015

Not a Normal Norman My Great Childhood and Teenage Friend the Unforgettable Mark Norman

That's Mark on the left and Mooney on the right.

(Sprinkled throughout this post are excerpts from a quite lengthy letter I received from Mark in 1973. They are in italics.)

He was the president of the Norman Nut Club. I in turn was that club’s vice president and the president of the Hourula Tramp Club with him serving as my vice president. We boasted no other members to either organization. His name was Mark Norman and for my most of my childhood he was my best friend.

Mark was older than me by exactly four days. We met while in kindergarten and instantly became friends. A little over ten years later we were taking LSD together. We were also teammates on a soccer team that won the California State Championship for 16 years and under teams.

By the way, did I tell you Mooney died? Good old anus-liver Mooney snuck out and died. Now he's in paradise (as the Bible says) having a good time, I'm stuck on Earth.)

I have always been a — let us say — unconventional person and this includes when I was mere lad. If anything Mark was more unconventional than I was. We were precocious in our skepticism and defiance of authority. Some of this was likely born of our being quite intelligent but we also viewed the world as if it was slightly off kilter. And as if we were too. We were questioning modern conventions as second graders. We also looked at our classmates as hopelessly out of it. They were conforming and fast tracking to adulthood. Mark and I were headed in other directions. It's no wonder we later took to drugs, we needed a vehicle for our journey.

Once we threw dirt clods and rocks into a mailbox. A cop spotted us. Once we staged a fake fight on someone’s front yard, a resident came out to stop us. We refused to join the school's traffic patrol because it was hopelessly square.

We fell in love with The Beatles at the same time. We’d play their music and I’d pretend to be Paul and he’d be Ringo. We played war board games. Mark was much better than me. I trained him to be a goalie and he ended up being quite good and joining my team. In our mid and later teens we looked at our teammates as stereotypical jocks and viewed ourselves as enlightened beings. We weren't really arrogant, it's more we thought ourselves blessed with the gift of uniqueness. Not better, just different.

We were both massive underachievers throughout school, although Mark took it to an extreme and dropped out of high school while I went on to college and hatful of degrees and certificates. I dropped acid about half a dozen times. Mark dropped one hundred times. He did not believe in half measures.

Jesus freaks don't know what Jesus was. He was telepathic, clairvoyant, could levitate himself and was from another world. He was well acquainted with spaceships.

We often had crushes on the same girls but were both too shy to act on them. I start dated and lost my virginity. I don’t know that Mark ever did. Once while very high Mark said: “I want to ball a dude someday.” I don’t know that he ever did that either. I kind of doubt it.

Mark liked Star Trek and I preferred sit coms. Mark read fantasy novels and sci fi, I read Mark Twain and John Steinbeck. But we liked the same kind of music and movies. We saw a lot of films together. From Jerry Lewis movies when we were little to If...(1968) as teenagers.

I started reading Rampa books, then became telepathic and then spent 1 to 1 1/2 years cutting my drug intake to zero.

I was always short and Mark was always tall. We were both blonde. I was (and am) 100% Finnish. Mark was 25% Finnish. I spoke the language but he didn’t. When we were young his family had a black maid. His mother was young. His dad looked like the father in the Dennis the Menace TV show. His parents divorced and his mother quickly remarried. His step father’s name was Marvin. I think Mark and his younger siblings (a brother and a sister) were a little scared of Marvin. Although he did ride a Harley which they thought was pretty cool.

Mark lived in a big house that was fun to play in but for some reason we spent 90% at my place. My family got used to Mark being around. They probably thought he was weird but harmless.

Cats are superior to humans all animals know more than humans about truth and life. We work machines, have false religions, and think animals are dumb. Shit, we're the dumb ones.

We were once playing tackle football and Mark broke Georges Bouldin’s arm. He didn't know his own strength. I'm not sure he knew his own intellect which was at least the equal of mine.

The whole time we knew each other Mark and I talked constantly. We understood each other and he could see through me when I was bullshitting him. It was hard for me to lie to Mark for this reason, not that I had much cause to. He was also more even tempered and rational than me.

I scored the winning goal in the state championship. Mark was in goal. I ran to him and we grabbed hands and he said “you did it.” Other teammates hugged me. Mark was not into it. I doubt we ever embraced. Besides soccer glory we also went to anti war demonstrations and were tear gassed. Mark took many more risks than I did and gleefully joined those who through rocks at cops. I don't know that it was so much a matter of political conviction for him as a sense that all structures were inherently corrupt and the police were the personification of that corruption.

It may seem to you to be cliched but mountain wandering is indeed paradise on Earth.
That's all I think about...mountains to come...what life on Earth really is...physical pain (apprehensively)...How poorly I'm doing...Drug damage (horrible)...Death, (ahh how I await that sweet door)...how dumb humans are (me too)....War...how good it is to be telepathic.

As teenagers we added another friend named Mike Mooney. Mike was smart and funny but tragic. He was the one person we both got along with well enough to make our duo into a trio. We would drop acid with Mike and wander around Tilden Park. We also would hang out in a shack behind Mike’s house. His parents had exiled him there. Mike would go out into the neighborhood and burglarize houses taking only liquor. He never touched cash. Mark and I would wait in the shack and then partake with Mooney when he got back.

Mooney and I had an up and down relationship but Mark would affect reconciliations. One Saturday after our team won a big match Mark and I and Mooney took some stolen booze into the woods and commenced to guzzling, mixing all variety of the hard stuff. My future as an alcoholic was on full display. I soon vomited profusely then passed out and was literally blind drunk. Mooney and Mark had to lead me home. Mark later told me that while I was passed out Mooney and he had agreed that if the three of us were stranded on an island I would be the first to die. Two years later Mooney died of an overdose and Mark, by his own admission was in the process of frying his brains on drugs.

I talk to dead people all the time they insult me and I wish I were up there with them gawking at the shadow people on Earth.

Once I went off to college that was the end of my relationship with Mark. There were letters exchanged but I never saw him again. I got the letter excerpted here from him two years after last seeing him. (I hadn't seen it in decades until a couple of days ago.) Eight years after the letter I talked to him on the phone. He sounded way, way out there. He wanted to get together but he sounded so fucking strange that I couldn’t stand the thought. His brother had gone into the army and his sister had a brief career as a professional tennis player. I don't know what happened with his folks.

Since the advent of the internet I’ve tried to track Mark down a few times. The closest I came was yesterday. It seems he’s living in San Juan Capistranto. That’s as much as I could discover. I suddenly find that I want to contact him, speak to him or exchange emails. We were massive influences on one another. We grew up together and whatever we became is owed in small part to each other. I don’t know that we were soul mates but certainly blood brothers.

Here is more! I wonder how you'll take this letter? (like a disease) Norris and I are going to go crazy in the Mountains. We'll even get to 14,496 feet if we don't murder each other earlier (I'm bringing a knife just in case)

I hope that he’s had an enjoyable, productive life and that drug usage didn’t actually do permanent damage. For all I know he had less of problem with drugs and booze than I did, which would be saying a lot because my story is a long one.

Weird and wonderful as he was, Mark kept me on an even keel. If I went off the deep end with opinions or stories or plans he could bring me back to reality. Well maybe not exactly reality, but closer to whatever truth was. He was also damn fun to be with. Mark had a zest for life an enthusiasm for tackling it and seeing what it was all about. There’s no question but that he was a very intelligent person. Most of all he had a spirit. Damn I was lucky to know him.

Anwyay, (again) come by some day, but remember I am a heroin addict so I may be incoherent, but don't worry, I sure don't smoke dope anymore. I just hang around, milling about, looking for the riot that'll never come, hoping that I can get some dough for my Summer trip passing out occasionally from the sheer excitement of living and waiting forlornly for a space ship to pick me up and put me somewhere else. Yes, yes it sure is fun.
Well, I think I'll go back to sleep.

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