Monday, November 22, 2021

John Garlak Rescued in the Night and Treated to a Good Steak

In the early 60s, The Kingston Trio was at the pinnacle of the folk/pop scene. Crossing over into top 40 often (not always) puts a bit of cash in a band’s pocket. For the Kingston Trio, a bit of cash meant 180 million dollars. No one today questions the trio’s influence on rock music, though at the time (late 50s, early 60s) there was criticism of the band’s Switzerland-like neutrality when folk music had historically taken an active liberal view. Others criticized how the Kingston Trio sanitized folk for pop radio.

Whatever one’s take, 180 mil is quite a stash for a band whose biggest hit was “Tom Dooley” (you should have heard of it, but if not, my point is made). With their cache, the trio ventured into the restaurant business (a bit of a tax shelter), and opened The Trident in Sausalito in 1966. The walls were covered in psychedelic murals and the smell of weed permeated the dining room. While the service and fare rivaled restaurants in New York and San Francisco, the clientele was a mix of rock musicians and label execs, and movie stars.
Among those who frequented The Trident was David Crosby, a fixture in Sausalito, who when there, lived on his schooner, MAYAN. DC owned the vessel for more than 45 years. On it he wasn’t a rock star, he was simply a sailor.
A bit of a lengthy segue to catch your interest, which brings us to a cold and damp RJFox band on the streets of San Francisco with nowhere to go.
John Garlak: “So, Joel and I went flat hunting in San Fran. We had no car, no money for a cab, it was getting dark. We were on top of the world, but we didn’t have two dimes to rub together. We’d been at it all day and it was raining this cold and steady, San Francisco, medium downpour, and we were stuck.
“So what do two hippies on the verge do when they need rescue? We called DC, who the day before at Heider’s had given us his phone number on the MAYAN. The friggin’ MAYAN from the cover of CSN! We were all the way over on Potrero Hill and an hour later here comes David and his drop-dead girlfriend in a dark blue Mercedes. Over the bridge and ten miles in, I cannot believe he came to rescue us. And Joel and I are, like, soaked to the bone and we climb in back probably smelling like wet dog and DC says, ‘There’s a coat back there on the floor.’ THEE coat, the big fur David F-in’ Crosby coat, and I put it on and Joel just gives me a look. Then David lights up a J and the girl, never even knew her name, passes it back. It was like being out with, like, your older brother, but your older brother’s a rich pothead.

“But there’s a big ash hangin’ from it like your grandma’s cigarette, and I take a hit and the ash, cherry and all falls onto the coat. ‘Shit, shit. Shit, shit shit.’ On the outside I’m, like, handling it. On the inside, I’m panicking like nobody ever panicked before.
I quietly, subtlety, and secretly brushed that ash off as fast as I could. I didn't smell fur burning, but I was too afraid to look. I crushed out the cherry on the Mercedes carpet. So, crisis diverted, we head over the Golden Gate and five minutes later we’re at The Trident, smoked another J at the friggin’ table, and then the best steak on the planet – to this day…
After dinner, we head the "Mayan.” Small talk and weed and soda. Not wine or a beer, but like an RC, and I take a gulp and DC’s all grins and says it was tainted with LSD. I didn’t buy it, but who f-in’ knows, right? Maybe it was all an acid dream.
We crashed in the cabin and in the morning, Crosby already up and out on deck, it’s all a picture from a jigsaw puzzle, something from a postcard, like we were on vacay, and there at the bow is a sailor in a wool seaman’s cap, an old salt who just happens to be one of the most famous rock stars in the world.

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