From: Los Angeles Free Press - July 19, 1968

Joel and Ray
by Liza Williams

The boys finally found a place to rent. They had come from Swamptown
Florida in March, it was July now. For almost three years they had
been on the road, yoyos since they were fifteen, small spins and home
again. This time they had made it, made it into the sunshine of the vel-
vet smog. They seem so young, they seem so old. No history to ver-
balize but high school failures, paper parents and attempted survival
in trailer camps and mountain shacks. Wide eyed squinters heading
for the mountains, settling for the sunshine of the velvet smog city.

Bugs big as your armpit and as hairy but they don't use the stove to
cook anyway, building arms and legs out of hot dogs and guitar chords.
Consultations in whispers, small discreet smiles, no beer, no milk,
no memories they dare repeat. They are landlord fodder, "wouldn't
rent to's," spoilers of property and houses, their deeds shatter walls
and their dreams wake the neighbors. For a price, always rising,
they can get a room, sweep a floor, mend a chair, call it home, the
doors locked on their secret baby flesh lives, the windows shut out the
sounds of family dinners, their nights pursued by sheriffs cars and
searching hands. Too young for uniforms, too old to be cute, they re-
member when the cops gave them candy and led them home, but that
was a part of the when-was-it-so-long-ago-childhood that doesn't
seem real now.

If this car breaks down we can't get another, you have to be twenty-
one, you have to have a signature. Their bland hands can't write legal
script, they crouch on the torn upholstery and consider cutting their
hair. Bars—Joel said—so many bars, every corner, so many liquor
stores. He was describing the world outside, bars and bottles, drunks
and cops. He had never been drunk, just high, high for a long time,
high as the baby in him faded, high as the boy in him looked at the
scenery, high while waiting for eighteen to comp.

It's ok, I said, but you should eat more protein. They stared at me
with an accommodating small experimental smile; if I said so they
would at least look willing. Yoghurt is cheap I said, and nourishing,
They were willing to taste it, raised the spoon to their mouths, touched
it with their tongue, held it in their mouth, swallowed. Well, I asked,
do you like it? They smiled again, the same little smile that could be
a twitch if smiles were wrong, that could be a smile if smiles were
right. But their car floor continues to remain cluttered with hot dog
wrappers and rootbeer cartons, I wouldn't nag them.

Their landlord raised the cockroach rent, their landlord peeks in their
windows at them. their neighbors bang on the walls when they play the
guitar, the cops chasp them at night. Again? Yes, last night again
- stopped and searched. They didn't have anything on them except young
skin and long hair and perhaps that twitch/smile. Didnt you tell him
he had no right to search you like that? They hadn't told him anything
had waited, sprawled over the hood of the car, their hands raised
from their dangerous weapons: pieces of string, a packet of matches,
some coins and an empty cigarette package; It's terrible, I said. Yes,
but it's ordinary terror to them, it's day by day standard hazard of
being neither legal child nor legal adult. It is a matter for time, if
they survive, three and a half years and they will be twentyone, if
they don't get hepatitis, if they don't get busted, if they don't get shot
in a rice paddy.

What they really want to do is live in the mountains somewhere and
play the guitar and be rock and roll stars and lay lots of pretty girls
who don't care what kind of car they drive and be allowed to smile
showing all their teeth.