1964 Berkeley, California Meeting Jake
I always picture my father in golden light.
The first time he handed me his camera changed my life. He sat in a chair opposite a window late in the day, when the sun was low in the sky and casting a golden glow, and he said "Look at me through the viewfinder, Maddy. Look at the way light reflects off my eyes. Look at the highlights and shadows. Shoot when you are happy with what you see in that little rectangle." My first portrait was of him, only a few months before he was gone.
"Maddy, shoot us! Shoot us!"
My friends were gathered in that same warm afternoon light. They crowded together outside our high school gym and were laughing and hugging each other, posing for my camera as we celebrated our last day of our junior year of high school. I posed them in small groups, all looking their best in that soft illumination, full of joy, celebrating friendship.
Nothing gives me more pleasure than capturing a moment that others will treasure forever. When I’m shooting, time disappears and the moments I’m preserving are everything.
After finishing the roll and rewinding the film, I finally glanced at my watch and panicked, realizing that I should have been back to help my mother half an hour earlier. The legendary Pete Seeger was appearing at our club for one night only, our lone employee had just flown back to Idaho for the summer, and I knew my mother wouldn't be able to handle the baking and the advance ticket sales for the show all by herself.
I waved goodbye, and ran all the way down Telegraph Avenue to The Folk Scene, the two story wood framed house my parents had converted into a coffeehouse. They opened up the main floor and added a small stage in the fifties. We lived on the second floor.
The local community of folk-music lovers was already lined up around the block, I rushed past the ticket line and in the front door.
My mother's voice echoed through the empty coffeehouse as she called to me from the kitchen. I yelled a quick apology, dropped my book bag and camera on one of the small, round tables near the stage, rushed back through the lobby, hiked up my forever-sagging knee socks, and climbed up on the stool behind the ticket window.
After everyone in line had bought their tickets, I started to close up the till when I heard a firm knock on the front door. I called for whoever it was to come to the window, and a tall, lanky guy strode into view. The sun was setting behind him, casting his face in shadow.
"Can I help you?"
He bent down. "Is the manager here?"
He was at least a few years older than me, unshaven, with dark, shaggy hair that almost reached his shoulders. I leaned forward to get a better look and was momentarily distracted by startling green eyes framed by long, black lashes.
"We won't be open until later," I told him, "but I still have a couple of tickets for tonight's show."
He held out a scrap of the local paper. "I don't need a ticket, kid. I'm here about the job."
Kid...? Ten seconds into the encounter and he'd already pissed me off.
"Hang on a second."
I slammed the window shut and went to unlock the front door, and he stepped into the cool darkness of our lobby. With as much authority as I could muster, I directed him to a chair and went to get Mama.
She followed me back out, wiping her hands on her apron and wrapping a stray curl behind her ear.
He rose to his feet, held out his hand, and grinned.
Damn, he was cute when he smiled.
"I'm Jake Morganstern. I saw your ad in the Berkeley Barb." He waved the clipping as proof.
They shook hands as my mom replied, "Nice to meet you, Jake. Welcome to the Folk Scene. I'm Blanche Garfield, and this is my daughter, Madeleine."
"Is the job still available?"
"It is, indeed! Let's go inside to talk."
We went into the main room, and I grabbed my backpack off the table. My mother and Jake sat down opposite each other. I stood a few feet away just below the stage, with my camera strap over my shoulder, and got a better look at him.
The single, bright work light, mounted on a raised tripod behind me, cast just enough shadow to define his strong bone structure and illuminate those extraordinary eyes. I was totally dazzled and absorbed until I realized I had missed the beginning of the interview.
That kind of tunnel vision always happens when I‘m taking photos. I get so wrapped up in watching for that special moment when my subjects reveal themselves – a laugh, a reaction to a riff, a clear shot with no microphone in the way, a meaningful gesture, a moment of exceptional beauty – that my other senses shut down and all my consciousness centers in my eyes. As a result, I hadn't actually heard most of the musicians I'd photographed in the club. It was kind of sad to contemplate, but since I was pleased to have captured such memorable moments visually, it was well worth the tradeoff. But this tunnel vision had never happened when I wasn't looking through a camera lens.
I shook myself mentally and started paying attention to the conversation.
"...so, after I graduated from NYU, my buddy Bill and I took a long road trip across the country. I'm joining him at UCLA in the fall to work on my master's, but in the meantime, I could use a summer job." He smiled at her again.
Oh, my God. He even had a dimples in his cheeks, almost hidden in several days' growth of beard.
A pleased expression crossed my mom's weary face.
"Sounds like you're having a great adventure. When is your birthday, Jake?"
He looked a bit surprised but answered, "November thirtieth."
She appeared even more pleased. "Ah! Sagittarius."
He looked at me and raised an eyebrow.
I shrugged. I'd always thought her astrology stuff was pretty cool.
According to my mother, Sagittarians make good associates. They tend to be knight-in-shining-armor types, galloping around rescuing people, but flexible enough to deal with anything. My dad was a Sagittarius, so I knew she was already predisposed to like him.
Apparently, Jake had no references or even a permanent address--just a pack, a sleeping bag, and that killer smile--but it didn't matter. I could tell that my mom had already adopted him. She has an uncanny bullshit detector – an ability to ascertain a person’s character instantly.
"I think you'll be perfect for the job," she told him. "Where are you living currently?"
He looked a bit embarrassed. "Actually, I slept in the park last night."
"Oh, dear! Then you must stay with us. We have a spare room in back. Maddy, show him where to put his belongings."
As he rose, he glanced at me and grinned again, and my stomach did a strange back flip. Trying to maintain my composure, I led him past the kitchen and down the rear hallway and showed him where he could stash his pack and sleeping bag.
"Don't keep calling me 'kid.'"
"Well, you aren't exactly a grownup."
God, he was exasperating.
My expression must have clued him in on how pissed I was.
"Okay, okay. Jeez. My apologies, Miss Garfield. But it's not an insult. Bogie called Ingrid Bergman 'kid' in Casablanca, y'know."
I crossed my arms and gave him my best steely stare.
"Okay. Got it. I'll just call you Garfield."
I wasn't sure why that pleased me, but it did.
Before I opened the house for the show, I noticed Jake looking at the photos hanging on the theater walls. Feigning nonchalance, I asked what he thought of them.
"They're all great. Who took them? Who's M. Garfield? Your dad?"
"The M is for Madeleine."
"Wow. You shot these? You captured some terrific moments."
My surge of pride had no follow-up. Flustered, I scrambled for a way to continue my end of the conversation. "My dad took some of the ones in the lobby--shots of the club back in the late fifties. Some poets... a few jazz musicians."
"Oh, yeah. I saw those. It had a different name then?'
"When they first came out here from New York, it was called Greenwich West for a while. They were beatniks," I told him proudly.
He kept reviewing the rows of labeled photos, and since I figured that my pictures were worth the proverbial thousand words--and definitely safer than any feeble attempts at witty banter--I left him alone to appreciate all the images.
Later during the show, I couldn't stop staring at him as he made the rounds, delivering cups of coffee, clearing tables, laughing and interacting with patrons. Even in an apron with a tray full of dirty dishes, he seemed effortlessly masculine and appealing. When he glanced up at me, his amused expression embarrassed me down to my toes. My cheeks grew hot, and I turned away abruptly to concentrate on photographing the performance.
It was unnerving. I'd never reacted that way around a guy before. I'd always been far more interested in books than immature high school boys...but Jake was no pimply adolescent.
After the final set, when all the cups and plates had been bussed, the tables cleaned, and chairs stacked, I kissed Mama goodnight before she retired upstairs, and turned off the lights. Then I wandered to the back room to see if our new lodger had settled in. He was sitting on his well-worn sleeping bag in a T-shirt and jeans, with his boots kicked off into a corner, reading Siddhartha.
For some strange reason my stomach seemed to be doing more gymnastics. I took a deep breath to calm myself.
"That's a good one," I said as casually as I could.
"You’ve read Hesse?" He seemed skeptical.
I lifted my chin, feeling defensive again. "Sure. I read a lot."
He looked as if he were laughing at me for a moment and went back to reading.
I tried again. "So, you like folk music, huh?"
He glanced up from his book. "It's okay. I actually prefer rock 'n' roll and rhythm 'n' blues."
"You must be kidding. They're so boring and repetitive."
"You're obviously listening to the wrong stuff. There's nothing boring about what I listen to."
"Oh, yeah? Like what?"
He put down his book, crossed his arms, sighed, and gave me a quick list.
"Del Shannon, Everly Brothers, the Drifters, Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke, the Shirelles, and all the Brits: Beatles, Animals, Kinks, Zombies...."
I shrugged. "Not what I would call socially relevant."
"Socially relevant?" His eyebrows rose.. "Are we talking music or politics here? I've got nothing against folk music, and I care deeply about politics--hell, I sang 'We Shall Overcome' right along with Odetta, Dylan and Baez at the March on Washington last year--but there's more to music than that. You shouldn't be a snob about it, Garfield. It's a big world. And a lot of it is electric. Keep an open mind."
The heat rose to my cheeks again. I'd never thought of myself as a snob. Chastened, I watched him as he put down his book, stood and stretched.
"Maybe you could teach me?" I suggested.
Amazing how a single word could cause such a surge of adrenaline.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” As he passed me heading for the bathroom, he gave one of my braids a tug.
Oh, my God -- the braids! That had to be why he thought I was a child.
I retreated to my room, where I assessed my face in the oval mirror hanging above my dresser. My eyes were a nice color -- "Deep twilight blue," Mama called them. They were probably my best feature and certainly my most useful one. But the braids had to go.
I decided on the spot that I would henceforth wear my long, brown hair loose, like Joan Baez or Mary Travers. I wished I could also do something about my nose, which I hated, despite what my mom had always said: "Cleopatra and Nefertiti were considered the most beautiful women in the world, and they didn't have tiny, upturned, candy-box noses, either."
I fell back on my bed and hugged my pillow, pretending it was Jake, who was going to introduce me to all kinds of new things. As I drifted off, I dared to imagine what it might be like to kiss him.
The following week Doc and Rosa Lee Watson were playing at the club, and I was shooting their last set when Jake whispered in my ear.
“Look at the back table on the left. That’s Bob Dylan.”
I lowered my camera and glanced at the slight, curly-haired young man sitting alone, barely illuminated by the single candle at his small table. As he watched the show and jotted notes, I grabbed a few shots of him.
Later, Jake handed me a crumpled napkin with something scrawled on it.
“Your mom might want to hold on to this.”
Several words had been crossed out, but what remained read, "I was so much older then, I’m younger now than that now."
When I got my proofs back, I printed one of the photos of Dylan in candlelight. I gave it to Mama, and she had it framed along with the scrap of napkin.
Jake came with us to the Hearst Greek Theater for the Jubilee concert at the Berkeley Folk Festival. Between sets with Mississippi John Hurt and the New Lost City Ramblers, he and Mama discussed the current wave of up-and-coming singer-songwriters and the inevitability of more music going electric.
I expressed my disgust with a snort.
“Come on, Garfield.” He elbowed me in the ribs. “Don’t be so rigid. There’s some great popular music out there. Don’t you even like the Beatles?”
“I’d be embarrassed to be one of those screaming girls. So juvenile.”
Mama patted him on the arm reassuringly and whispered, well within my hearing, “I wouldn’t take that too seriously. Aquarians tend to be rather opinionated and stubborn. Fixed signs—not easy to persuade—and with Leo rising, she especially takes pride in her opinions.”
I rolled my eyes at her behind his back.
He turned to me. “I bet you’d love the stuff I listen to.”
“Yeah? Then let’s go to the record store tomorrow. You can play me whatever you think is worth hearing.”
I leaned across him to address my mother. “See? I’m open to other opinions and tastes.”
The next afternoon I showed up in the back room—no braids this time, my hair flowing freely to my waist—to remind him of his promise.
“Oh, yeah... I forgot about that. You want to go now?”
“That’s why I’m here.”
He made a big show of sighing, as if he were much put upon, but he pulled on his boots and took me to the local record store to play some of his favorites in one of the glass-enclosed listening booths.
He selected a stack of records to sample, and I slipped the headphones on.
I couldn’t stop swaying and dancing to all the amazing sounds, including Del Shannon’s “Runaway,” The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street,” a Patsy Cline medley, and the recently released Beatles hits.
I hadn’t realized how long it had been since I’d danced. I could see him watching me with what might have been a smile of triumph, since his taste in music had been vindicated. But I chose to interpret his pleased expression as appreciation of my dancing skills. Either way, I was elated.
Everything seemed so much more fun when Jake was around. As the summer unfolded I did my best to hang out wherever he was, and depite my continually racing pulse, managed to maintain an air of indifference. This was not an easy balance to achieve, but since he never told me to go away or leave him alone, I figured I was succeeding in disguising my motives.
It just felt easy and natural. He fit right in with our small family, treating me like a little sister, letting me tag along everywhere, teasing me when I got strident about anything—even though I was sure he recognized that I did actually know what I was talking about. As time went on, I assured myself that my constantly speeding heartbeat was simply a normal response to the wealth of intellectual stimulation Jake was providing.
On Sundays we only had a matinee show at the club, which made me happy, since there were such good TV programs on Sunday nights. I loved watching Maverick and Have Gun, Will Travel with Jake. Sometimes he reminded me of a cowboy, the way he’d stretch out his long legs as we shared the old, sagging couch with my mom.
I liked how tall he was, so lean and lanky, and the way his dark hair fell into such a beautiful, natural disarray. And his eyes... his laughing eyes made me forget to breathe.
We even shared the same sense of humor. On Mondays, when the Folk Scene was dark, my mother, Jake, and I watched That Was The Week That Was in our tiny living room and laughed over the political jokes and commentary, and especially Tom Lehrer’s sardonic songs.
Jake knew practically everything about movies and politics, my favorite subjects, so dinnertime always provided lively conversations. Over a meal of my mother’s famous meatloaf, we all agreed that Dr. Strangelove, with its outrageous political satire, was the best movie we’d seen so far that year.