5 Sep

My first stepfather introduced me to Synanon in the mid 1960’s when I was eight or nine. I remember it as this huge airy hotel-like place on the Santa Monica Beach, in whites and greys and blues, with an unlimited supply of PB&J, no noticeable parental supervision, and a guy behind a counter with an unlimited supply of sodas that he made with syrup and seltzer from a gun. So cool.

In retrospect, I have no idea what my stepfather was doing at Synanon, what with it being about drug rehab. I do remember him once telling me that A.A. was fantastic, the only problem being that these people didn’t drink. But he did have a tendency to surf the self-help movement like a scattering of bars those days.

He did, however, arrange for me to be submitted to The Game, despite my being nine, innocent and clueless. Maybe he thought it would be fun, I don’t know. Actor that he was, I’m sure he just loved The Game.

What I remember is sitting in a room full of strangers who all of a sudden started viciously verbally attacking me, and feeling “Not *this* shit again.” And waiting it out. As always.

I kind of left off visiting Synanon at some point after that. I remember hearing a story from around then, local talk, about a man who hunted grunion, which you do by going out to the Santa Monica Beach when the grunion are running, or at least one used to; and capture grunion fish who are spawning. I can’t remember ever hearing about people eating the grunion, so perhaps this was some kind of ant-piscatory bigotry. I’ve hunted grunion. It’s fun.

The man in question however did not have fun. He got busted grunion-hunting, and got to stand in the middle of Synanon wearing a sign around his neck reading “I Suck,” or something along those lines, for a number of long periods of time, because he went out doing unscheduled grunion hunting. 

Yeah, they put him in the virtual stocks, and he took it like a…like a what? Like a grunion hunter? 

Don’t laugh. It could have been you. I’ve learned since then to stay out of closed rooms full of strangers. Especially really big ones.


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