My seventeen year-old cousin Buzz, three years older than me, is a cool, long-haired, ex-jock, who provides my first real exposure to the counterculture. Buzz’s basement might as well be another planet: blacklight posters, incense burning, one guy in the corner who just rolls joints, and doesn’t speak, hippie girls in cut-offs with deliciously dirty, bare feet, and mind-bending music I’ve never heard, pouring forth from gigantic speakers - Cream, Hendrix, Zappa, The Kinks, Van Morrison, Jethro Tull, The Zombies.
I smoke weed for the first time. It has no effect on me, but I act like I think a stoned person would. No one pays any attention to me. It’s like nobody can see me, like I don’t exist. I love it. I feel like my favorite R. Crumb character, Fritz the Cat, who becomes invisible, sneaks into the girls’ shower, and pops a boner no one can see.
As much as I dig the music in Buzz’s basement, I soon find myself drawn to the Jazz I hear emanating from Etta’s radio, and later, the cool, hard-drinking and drugging musicians who inhabit that world. I talk mom into letting me take saxophone lessons. I rent a sax, but I’m not good enough fast enough, so, without informing mom, I stop going to the lessons. But, I do have Mom continue to rent the sax, which I pretend to play, in the mirror, wearing dark glasses, and “accompanied” by John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. After a few weeks, mom finds out I haven’t been going to the music lessons. She returns the sax, and I return to Rock and Roll.