So I was a rock and roll nun. Never a groupie, though I lusted mightily, but more a young woman with a holy calling to love music. It was my religion, and a worthy one. I saw wondrous things ... Cat Stevens at the Gaslight Cafe with about 35 other people, Sam and Dave when they were second on the bill at the Fillmore. I was there when the building next door caught fire and the Who were playing. I smelled the smoke and decided it was a good place to die, and I saw the plainclothes policeman jump on the stage and get kicked in the balls by Pete Townsend. I saw Ray Davies when he was so drunk he knocked over an amplifier. Eric Clapton on the Derek and the Dominoes tour, wearing that gorgeous white suit and red turtleneck. The Stooges in a small club on the west side. Creedence and Janis and the Stones and Jimi when he was Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. Richard Pryor when he was trying out stuff and hadn't been on tv yet. (He was brilliant). The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers and Little Feat and NRBQ and Van the Man. Fairport Convention and the Incredible String Band and the Door when they were scary and new. I saw everyone. I was at a Stones concert at Madison Square Garden and saw Jimi Hendrix wandering around, and Ike and Tina Turner were openers and when Tina sang "Land of a Thousand Dances" Janis Joplin came out to sing with her. Jimi and Janis died later that year. Grateful Dead concerts were over when the sun was coming up and we'd emerge from the Fillmore, blinking like moles.
I lived and worked so I could buy records. I wrote my own songs and played my gorgeous Martin guitar and read Gothics and was happy.
And then one summer evening I went to a concert in Central Park (they had a series every summer). It was the Band, and they sang "Rocking Chair," and as the gorgeous harmonies floated over the night air I realized that most of what I'd been listening to was crap (there was a lot of Ten Years After and Chicago and Jeff Beck and others who were fun but not enough to live my life for). The Golden Time had passed for me, and it was time to go.
There weren't enough books to read, and I was writing parodies set at the Rockefeller Foundation, where I worked (imagine how I fit into such a stuffy environment, going to work in a vintage Girl Scout uniform and fishnet stockings, or hot pants and my mother's graduation robe.) So I figured with my usual bravado that I could write a book that was at least as good as half the books I read - I didn't have illusions I could equal Mary Stewart or Madeleine Brent or Patricia Maxwell (who became Jennifer Blake). But I could write.
So I quit my job, moved out of my apartment (my roommates had no trouble replacing me), bought a 1964 Dodge station wagon with push button gears (and I couldn't drive). I loaded up eighteen boxes of records and books and moved to our summer house in Vermont. I barely knew anyone in the year-round community. I couldn't really drive (I failed my driver's test and I had no one to take me until the following year). I had a cocker spaniel puppy I called "Flush", naturally, and spent the long, cold winter on a manual typewriter, banging out BARRETT'S HILL and fantasizing about the local garage owner (I didn't know he was married).
It was a strange and wonderful time in my life, living in such solitude (the old farmhouse was way out in the country, with no one around me for at least a mile and a half). I'd go for moonlit walks down the road with stone walls and maples trees on either side, making it look like a cloister from an ancient abbey, and I'd sing "Moonshadow." I looked at the hill across the way from me and wrote songs about vampires. I left the lights on and listened to Canadian radio and watched Star Trek in French (three tv channels) and ordered books by mail (people do actually order books from those pages at the back of paperbacks).
And it was a dream time. I don't think I could do it again - I've become too social, and in fact, I was social then. As social as a solitary artist can be -- there's nothing that can make me happier than having time alone to do whatever I want. But that year of solitude was such a blessing, living in the midst of really celestial beauty and creating.
All good times come to an end. My savings ran out and I had to get a job. I got drawn into an unhealthy situation, which I embraced, I fell in love with the wrong boy, things got messier, then found Richie and everything fell into place.
And all because the Band sang a beautiful song on a summer evening in Central Park.