A Saturday in NYC with Allison and the Manson Family

Saturday was a cold day, wind biting up and down the canyons. Sheila kind of weather. My friend Kate and I have discussed at length our preference for autumn as opposed to summer. While everybody else blisses out with the onset of warm sunny weather, she and I bliss out when the we bust out the sweaters.

Kate puts it this way, “There’s no irony in the summer.”

I arrived Saturday morning at my friend Allison’s apartment in the West Village, to find her deeply engrossed in Helter Skelter, a book I have read multiple times, and with which I have a strange and sick fascination.

Allison and I were trying to pinpoint why exactly it is that we are so engrossed by such a grisly terrible story. We discussed it at length, lolling about in her cozy pillow-y bed, flipping through the book for reference.

I am fascinated by the Manson Family for the same reasons that I am fascinated by totalitarian, autocratic, fascist, communist regimes. What is it in human beings, some human beings, that makes them susceptible to such madmen? What is it like to be in someone’s thrall like that? What is it in human psychology that can crack under such magnetic pressure?

I found Allison in a state of recent and fevered conversion to the Helter Skelter madness.

We signed on, and began to search the Internet for more information.

For example: where is Clem right now? Has Clem been paroled? (Yup. He’s out.)

And Bobby Beausoleil…what has he been up to? His face always terrified me. There was something so obviously missing there.

We learned that Patricia Krenwinkle has recently received a puppy, through a special prison program which allows inmates to adopt animals. How sweet…a ferocious murderess cuddling a little puppy.

Squeaky Fromme still corresponds with Charlie. FREAKS.

Allison and I got sucked into the strange world of Manson Web sites…going deeper and deeper and deeper. We veered a couple of times into the world of the Zodiac Killer and Jonestown.

Allison said, “If my job ever saw the search terms on my computer, they would think I had gone crazy. ‘Dead bodies’…’Sharon Tate’ … ‘serial killers’…”

The last time Allison and I hung out together in her apartment, we started looking things up in the dictionary. It began simply, but the game evolved. Eventually, it became a relatively complex guessing game: one of us would call out a name from history, say…Madame Curie, or Theodore Roosevelt … and we would guess whether or not said person had a PICTURE beside their definition in the dictionary. This may sound like a dry and academic pursuit, but we ended up in complete hysterics and it occupied our time for 2 hours.

It’s actually a fun game. Try it yourself on a rainy day.

Finally, we had to shake off the pall of the Mansons and Spahn Ranch and Shorty Shea’s decapitation and Susan Atkins’ crazy loony smile…and how haunted we are by the children fathered by Manson….WHERE ARE THEY??

We signed off reluctantly, and rejoined the life of the West Village. We went to Chumley’s and had delicious Bloody Marys, and some lunch.

Then, we accidentally set a newspaper on fire. This is in a bar run by firemen; the bartenders are firemen, the clientele are firemen. Firemen were everywhere in sight. Meanwhile, Allison and I were battling to put out the flaming New York Post in front of us, and none of the firemen around us even looked up, or glanced over, or even batted an eye. I don’t think they even noticed the inferno. We were on our own. And we did okay. We dumped a glass of water on the blaze, and then ordered 2 more Bloody Marys.

We returned home and watched Moulin Rouge. Actually, I should say we LIVED it. During the “Spectacular Spectacular” extravaganza at the end of the film, when everything gets very tense, Allison screamed at the top of her lungs, “THE GUN!! THE GUN!!”

After the film, still in a Moulin Rouge kind of mood, we looked through her book of Toulouse Lautrec prints. Marvelling at them. Beautiful. We talked about what it must it have been like…

And after that? We basically killed time until “Trading Spaces” came on at 8 p.m. We are jointly addicted to that show. Especially when the participants hate the newly designed rooms.

We crawled out onto Allison’s fire escape, trying to keep our candles lit through the wind. The sugary air from the bakery floated up to us.

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