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EEL PIE DHARMA - a memoir / haibun -  © 1990 Chris Faiers

Chapter 7 - Eel Piers

The old hotel rapidly filled with dossers, hippies, runaway schoolkids, drug dealers, petty thieves, heroin addicts, artists, poets, bikers, American hippie tourists, au pair girls, and Zen philosophers from all over the world.

Hundreds of mostly young people called the hotel home for at least a part of its final years as "The Eel Pie Commune".

I moved in with my buddy California Jon, and two of the L'Auberge regulars, Lisa and Lorna.  Jon was one of the hippie tourists, and when the summer ended he returned to California.  He did come back the next summer, but things weren't as magical as they had been in the summer of 1969.

Gavin was another early resident.  He had long black hair and a thick beard, and I looked up to him at first as a role model.  He was from a small English town, where he had tired of being the town freak, and had come to the big city to find kindred spirits.  Gavin was into a garbled form of Zen, and I wrote the following haiku with him in mind:

After cold midnight
    scraping burnt commune rice pot
        on the lawn for birds

Another L'Auberge habitue who moved in was Lisa, who claimed to be related to Jimmy Page, the leader of the band Led Zeppelin.  She shared a room with Lorna, and the two of them became hash dealers.  They were perfectly suited to this occupation.  It gave them an oppotunity to meet lots of horny guys, and the lure of sexual favours, whether delivered or not, gave them a steady supply of customers wandering over the bridge.

Lorna got more and more into non-stop sex and drugs, and eventually she drifted into heoin addiction.  I heard she died from an overdose about 1971.  Lisa paired up with another L'Auberger, Roger, a big tough-looking guy with a Fu Manchu moustache who acted as her protector.

Thomas was another early resident.  He was pals with Mark and Andrea.  All three had artistic pretensions, and were into street theatre/psychodramatic activities.  They were mostly annoying.  My strongest memory of Thomas is of a tall gangly guy with a burr haircut on a small head.  Thomas was what we called a power tripper.  He liked to be an authority figure, although most of us just ignored him as a nuisance, but part of the ambience of Eel Pie.

Dealer Jim was an American black who had been touring the world.  He was from the streets of the American southwest, and he couldn't believe the reality of Europe in the late 60's.  Nobody called him "nigger" or "boy", even behind his back, although some people were a little prejudiced.  Dealer Jim was the prototype of the crack dealers of the late 1980's.  He was tough, streetwise, and muscular with a short cropped haircut, over which he often wore a black porkpie hat.  He had scored a large amount of black hash in Morocco, and he carried a huge lump of it around with him everywhere.

Thomas didn't like Dealer Jim, perhaps due to racism, or more likely Dealer Jim had such a strong personality.  One morning I awoke to a strange thumping sound, ending in a crash.  I ran downstairs to the second floor, and found a throng standing around the landing leading to the ground level.  At the bottom of the stairs sprawled Thomas, who had insulted Dealer Jim.  Dealer Jim had replied in the universal language of the streets, for which he needed no training in street theatre dynamics.  He had flung Thomas from the top to the bottom of the stairs.  Thomas was much more subdued in the weeks that followed, and eventually wandered off to pester the residents of some hipper scene.  Dealer Jim eventually made his way back to the US, with a wad of money made in the pubs and cafes of London.

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revised 8 March 2017