The year was
1969. As a performing band, the 1010 B.A.G. had broken up about a
year earlier. Chris was going to school at the University of
Boston. Scot had moved to Atlanta. I was 19 years old soon to study
photojournalism at Columbia College in Chicago.
important thing in my life at that time was spending all my waking
hours hanging out with Russ, Al, and Oz. We were constant
companions. The three of them moved in to a large three bedroom
apartment with a spacious kitchen and back porch overlooking the
alley in back. It was on the second floor of an old building in
downtown Hinsdale built in the 1920's.
Richie Hope and
his gorgeous Swedish wife (What was her name? Please help!) had recently opened up the
in the first floor store front where they sold blue jeans,
psychedelic posters, and rolling papers.
First time I saw
the apartment was right before Al, Russ, and Oz moved in. It didnít
appear habitable. The old wooden floors creaked and in some places
gave way to an unsettling bounce when stepped on. The plaster walls
had more cracks than not and probably would have crumbled were it
not for the many coats of paint holding it together. Wide
decorative wooden door moldings framed the several interior
paneled wood doors typical of the period. Each room had one or more
gas light valves and fixtures still mounted on the walls though
crudely converted to electric light. The wall switches were the old
double push button type.
Were the place
not in such disrepair it would have been charming. As it was, it
was pretty scary. Through my friends eyes though, this place was home.
Soon after moving in, the charisma and energy of those guys brought
new life to that old apartment. It came alive with friends, food,
and music and was host to a seemingly endless stream of creative and
was often there painting and drawing. Russ had his little room
with his books and notebooks. It was in this apartment that he
became obsessed with writing. None of us could comprehend his
stories, but we all respected his passion and diligence.
George was the musical host and master of the stereo, playing songs
of the day that have now become the timeless anthems of our youth.
Georgeís older brother, Bill lived there
for a while also. Bill Ostrum defines boyish charm. Heís one of
the most thoughtful gentle people Iíve ever known. Youíd often find
Bill sitting alone on his bed perfecting guitar licks for Blackbird,
or Fire and Rain on his Martin D-28.
Though all these
guys had a great sense of humor, Al Penny was the master of levity
effortlessly bouncing puns off of puns, dropping double entendre
upon innuendo, and slipping seamlessly into sidesplitting character
dialects that seemed to go on for hours.
working among those guys was infectious. Everyone was a
comedian and nobody would let the ball drop. Even if from
another room, the jokes and come-backs peppered the air almost
constantly. It was a marvelous time of life and my almost
magically lovely friends made sure that a splendid time was
guaranteed for all.
I arrived late
one Sunday morning to find a very somber Oz sitting still in his big
easy chair situated squarely between the stereo speakers listening
to Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsies. His eyes were riveted
straight ahead. He briefly glanced my way but didnít greet me. I
knew immediately that something was wrong and walked toward him.
Georgeís eyes met mine and all he said was ďJimi diedĒ.
I slumped onto
the couch next to the chair where George sat as my mind raced with questions I
knew not to ask then. We listened to a couple of songs before
George rose from his chair to tell me what little he knew about the
tragic death of our beloved Jimi Hendrix. It was telling to see
Georgeís countenance at that moment. His face is the one on whom I
could always count on finding a contagious smile or mischievous
grin. I learned more about Georgeís love for music by the grief on
his face then I had in the countless smiles Iíd know previously.
forget one winter Sunday afternoon when Chris was home from
University of Boston
for Christmas break. Other of our friends home
from college were there also. I was sitting with Chris in Russís little front
bedroom when he got out his Martin D-28 (that was the "must have"
guitar of the time) and simply started to play and sing.
One by one,
people slowly came over and sat near by to listen. Chris sang a
number of his own songs. We were entranced, captivated by his
beautiful voice, haunting lyrics, and powerful guitar playing. Time
seemed to stand still when Chris sang. I was startled back to reality by the
sound of the clicking closing clasps of his guitar case as Chris put
his Martin away. The room was silent. Looking around I noticed
people wiping tears from their eyes as they too came back to
Chrisís music had so moved us all it was as if weíd been transported
to another world far more beautiful than the place where we sat.
Chris has a way of doing that. We never talked about that
afternoon. There are some things better left unspoken.
I spent many
lazy days and late nights in that apartment goofing off, growing up,
bonding with admired peers, and hoping this is how life would always