The day of the event felt like the most exciting in months or years — no one was even sure what was going to happen; would there be music, or what? The Leary people had leaked through their many post-arrest media conversations that a thorough recording of the event had been made, and that we would have a chance to see it for ourselves at the event. Really, you couldn’t ask for more attention than that.
I remember it being an unexpectedly bright day, four of us Illuminati Online people doing product promotion in black t-shirts, arms full of flyers that would serve as most people’s first introduction to an affordable, local Internet service. Cookie and I got there around 3:30 PM to scope out how we’d do it. I also wanted to get good parking in case the fact that Austin was not just a big hippy town but also a big tech town got us a decent turn-out of tech hippies. We could not have been more right. We were mobbed.
The show was sold out — I think it was more than sold out. I think someone probably could’ve been arrested over that one. It wasn’t a huge joint: big, open concrete, rectangular room; long corridors running along two sides; high-school brown, metal, double doors; the whole place encased in brick on the outside, with a cement flatness that passed for a milling-about area in front of it all. At least, that’s how I remember it; I don’t recall the name of the venue, and I would only go there once more, a few months later, just days before Cookie broke up with me. We would go to see a popular flash-in-the-pan band, and maybe a third as many people turned up as did to see Timothy Leary detail the sudden continuance of his fight against The Man.
The central concrete area filled up fairly quickly. I could run up to the back of the crowd, before it got too thick to move without brushing up against people, but I’d still only barely have squeezed inside the open concert area itself. A T-shaped stage had been set, with the long limb of the T stretching out into the audience. A microphone stand sat mid-stage, ready.
The two main corridors bustled with people, flanked by folks huddled on either side in long, low rows. The cement staging area out front was only half as dense with people as the hallways inside, mostly with those who couldn’t afford to get in, or people waiting on other people to get in, or people who didn’t want to get it in but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see what was going on, or random skateboarders.
“What was up with that girl?” Cookie asked.
“Oh,” I said, “ah, you know. Boy trouble.”
“Go on. I find it interesting. How old is she again?”
“Eighteen,” I said.
“That’s pretty young,” she said. We were twenty-four.
In the couple of hours leading up to the show, Cookie and I stood on either side of the brown double doors, smiling hugely and handing out Illuminati Online flyers just as quickly as we could, to people who were more than receptive. I began to notice that I wasn’t seeing very many of the fliers on the ground, unlike some of the other give-away cards, which was nice given that if the audience wasn’t receptive, I was going to have to look at them getting stomped on for a couple of hours. Nearly an hour before the show, the place was full and we were running out of flyers.
“It is pretty young,” I said. “And the guy she likes is nineteen, maybe twenty now, but he’s married.”
“Yeah. And they just the other week met up at his place for lunch when, surprise, his wife decided to come home for lunch that day as well. She had to lay there, naked, in his bed —”
“In her bed,” she said, meaning the wife.
“— listening to him talk his wife into going out for lunch, and not going in the bedroom.”
“That sounds like an awkward couple of minutes.”
“Twenty. She said she thought it was something like twenty.”
She winced, her face softening toward the girl she did not know. “That’s a long time.”
Some people, after glancing at the flyer, stopped in their tracks and said, “What?!” Some people came back to ask for details. Some people who didn’t even have tickets came up to us and asked meekly if they could have a flyer, even though they weren’t going to the show.
We gave out all the flyers we had, and we’d brought a lot. I don’t remember how many. Hundreds, many hundreds, certainly. I recall there being at least four of us frantically doing the handing, but I don’t remember today who all else had been there. Me and Cookie, sure, then I want to place Jim and Patch as being there, as well. That might be unlikely, though, given how soon after he started that we had to let Patch go.
Patch had one most crucial responsibility: before leaving for the weekend, put a new backup tape in the drive. Let’s not lose data like those yahoos. But Patch kept forgetting, and one time he forgot to do it and one of the machines hiccuped and some data ended up getting lost. I saw him shortly after and I was happy to see he was fine with it.
“I didn’t put in the tape,” he said, shrugging and grinning with great exaggeration, winning my respect. He went on to do a ton of good work at a ton of great tech companies, no surprise. You own your mistakes. You learn.
The hippies and the techies and the tech-hippies were starting to get a little unruly by showtime. There was some kind of opening act, some dim music-something that people were happy to suffer through while we waited for Leary to take the stage. Murmuring in the back corridors began to grow until we could hardly hear the cue to begin clapping for the end of the opener. Once the clapping got going it only built, until the whole place was a din of hooting and calling and yelling and stamping as the lights grew dim and a few people in white walked up on stage.
I recall it going something like this.