Bond At The Bus Depot
When Jared Dreyfus and I were both at Tam High and he was aware of my professed desire to stop smoking cigarettes, he decided to assist me. This assistance manifested itself during a morning break.
In order to smoke at Tam, you had to walk just outside the gate of the back parking lot opposite The Canteen. As I passed through that gate I took the pack of Chesterfields out of my shirt pocket and gently tapped it, causing a few cigarettes to protrude. Pulling one out, I then proceeded to gently hammer the end of it on my other hand to concentrate the tobacco so it wouldn’t come apart in my mouth. I then put that end between my lips, pulled out a book of matches and lit it.
“Myers!” a shrill male voice shouted from a short distance away. “What are you doing?” It was Jared and he approached me in a relentless manner.
“Put that cigarette out,” he commanded.
I dropped the cigarette onto the ground and rubbed it out with my shoe.
“Now give me the pack.”
I gave him the Chesterfields. He pulled a cigarette out of the pack and handed it to me.
“Eat it,” he said.
I don’t remember arguing with him. I put the cigarette into my mouth and bit into it. The appalling sensation was immediate. My mouth burned as I chewed on the tobacco leaves wrapped inside the paper.
“All of it,” said Jared.
Into my mouth went the other half of the cigarette. By now Jar had an audience of two or three of his classmates watching this spectacle and laughing heartily but he managed to remain poker faced. After what was probably less than a minute he said I could spit it out.
“From now on,” he pronounced, “Whenever I see you smoking a cigarette, you’re going to have to eat it.”
Interestingly I have no further memories along this line. I did smoke, on and off throughout high school and no repetition of this incident ever occurred nor was it ever mentioned, except by me. Jared was someone I looked up to and the thought of telling him to stick it up his backside never even occurred to me. Something I didn’t know in my teenage years was that Jar, being the youngest of three boys, was bullied by his brother Tim and that I, without knowing it, was playing the role of surrogate younger brother for him. That was a detail he didn’t mention until many years later.
Unlike the Myers family the Dreyfus family had money. Barney Dreyfus was a prominent civil rights lawyer whose clients included Martin Luther King and his wife Babbie was someone who played the stock market successfully. So when Jar passed his driving test at sixteen he was given a car and it was a silver Austin Healey convertible, a highly exotic vehicle for an American teenager to own.
Jared was two years older than me and within the age related social hierarchy of Mill Valley, at this time, it was only our family connection which made us friends. There was the shared experience of political persecution which plagued all my family’s friends so it could be said that our bonds were deep. These bonds, however, did not stop Jar treating me like a second class citizen when it suited him. Going for a ride in his Austin Healey was always a fabulous experience. The smell of the leather seats, the very British dashboard and the wind in your hair as it raced around Mill Valley with the top down made every ride fantastic. But fantastic as every ride was it always ended with him screeching to a halt at some pre-determined spot and saying: “Okay Myers. Out!” He always had someplace better to go. As his silver Austin Healey sped off down East Blithedale, I’d be left standing on the sidewalk feeling unimportant.
It’s probably the case that I didn’t know how to use my time properly as boredom was a regular phenomenon in my life. Perhaps if I’d been a book reader this might not have been the case. The aversion I had to reading books as a kid was pretty comprehensive but there were a few exceptions along the way which mostly occurred while I was in high school.
In the early 1960s Jared had the job at the Bus Depot which I would later inherit from him. It involved working behind the counter selling bus tickets, books, magazines, cigarettes and candy bars as well as stocking the shelves, sweeping up and keeping the place in order. Whenever you sold a Greyhound bus ticket you had to put it between the jaws of this large stamping device which you’d then bang on the top with your fist, thus validating it.
When Jar first worked there it gave me another excuse to hang around the place. I had, after all, been hanging around the Bus Depot ever since I was old enough to go downtown by myself. It was where I bought all my comic books and read the ones I didn’t buy.
Jar, like my sister Nell, was an avid reader of books unlike me who wouldn’t read anything without pictures attached. He read culturally highbrow material with the same enthusiasm that he devoured pulp fiction and his current passion at this time were the James Bond books by Ian Fleming.
Bond was, in Jar’s opinion, the epitome of cool. He told me in great detail about the guy: the handmade cigarettes he smoked with three golden rings on the paper, the vodka martini shaken not stirred, the double-O prefix which meant he was licenced to kill. Jared had read all the Bond books which had been published. At this time author Ian Fleming was still churning them out annually and his output had become a worldwide publishing sensation. President Kennedy was one of his biggest fans. Signet had published all the books with a uniform design for the covers. In the Bus Depot stood a specially designed display case for all the Bond paperbacks.
At this stage Jar did not know of my aversion to book reading and it was not something I was proud of. I would love to have been thought of as well read but I simply wasn’t. I was, however, fairly intelligent, articulate and more than capable of debating things political and artistic so my guess is that he mistook me for well read and insisted I read a Bond book. As Jar was a hero figure in my life, I was not about to disappoint him so I purchased a copy of Dr. No, the title he suggested to start me off.
It certainly was not dull though I couldn’t help but notice Ian Fleming’s tendency towards subtle racism and misogyny. He seemed to delight in designing elaborate torture sequences and giving the reader a physically realistic account of his hero’s survival of these scenarios.
How exactly Bond knew it was a centipede crawling up his naked body in the Jamaican hotel room in the dead of night was a mystery to me. It was an evaluation he made entirely from the physical sensation of the creature’s many legs as it moved slowly up onto his thigh. Once he’d decided that was what it was, he ran through the risks based on information he had, at some point taken into his consciousness. It was details like this which Fleming excelled at. There was a particularly gruesome encounter which Bond had later in the book with a giant squid and again the hero summoned up vital information about the beast in an almost academic way which was a pretty neat trick considering the squid was about to devour him. As the massive tentacles weaved their way out of the swirling depths, he clung to a meshed fence and ran what he knew about the giant squid through his fevered mind. A fifty foot monster with two long seizing tentacles and ten holding ones. It had a huge blunt beak beneath eyes that worked on the camera principle, like a human’s. Their brains were efficient and they could shoot backwards through the water at thirty knots, by jet-propulsion. Naturally Mister Bond defeated the giant squid but not before Fleming took us to the precipice of his demise. One could almost feel the pain of each of the tentacle’s suckers as they slapped onto his exposed flesh and exerted a super human strength around his limbs. The suspense was killing and the author spared us no detail of the battle which was literally life or death.
Dreyfus had dictated a reading list and I went on to From Russia With Love next and again found the same dynamic in his fight with Nash, the blonde haired agent of SMERSH. Nash told Bond he was going to shoot him through the heart as the train entered the tunnel, but our hero managed to sandwich his cigarette case and a book between his heart and the gun at the moment of impact. Then, playing dead on the floor, Bond desperately tried to remember simple anatomy. Where did the main artery run in the lower body of a man? The Femoral. Down the inside of the thigh. His next challenge was to release the flat-bladed throwing knife from his attaché case which was only millimetres from his right hand. The first violent stab of the knife had to be decisive. And decisive it was but not before Fleming had taken us through every tiny detail of Bond’s lethal ordeal right up to Nash’s body finally relaxing once the ten pints of blood had drained from his body.
Goldfinger was the third book I read and interestingly these were the first three Bond films in that order. I saw the film Dr. No at the Sequoia and loved it. The actor Sean Connery was so cool that he immediately became the character of Bond in my mind. I found myself imitating the way Connery held his upper lip and came away from the Sequoia quoting lines like: “That’s a Smith & Wesson Mister Dent. You’ve had your six.”
I never read another Fleming book until years later and when I finally told Jared about my childhood book phobia he was amazed. It was after I’d read John Steinbeck’s East Of Eden on a long holiday and Jared told me how he envied me the joy of discovering all the great books in the world. But a childhood full of comic books had made me a painfully slow reader.
So it was watching Sean Connery’s Bond on the silver screen for me and I loved those first three Bond movies. The music was wonderful. Monty Norman scored Dr No and wrote the famous electric guitar Bond theme but was replaced by composer John Barry for the subsequent films. The fourth movie, Thunderball, got on my nerves as it seemed to be all gadgets and wise cracks so I lost interest in Bond movies. I missed out on Roger Moore and all those other guys. When Sean Connery came back in Diamonds Are Forever I went and enjoyed it.
Jared is no longer with us. He died suddenly of a heart attack in 2011 and I never did get around to discussing James Bond with him again. I would always see him on my occasional visits back to Marin and we corresponded regularly by email. His death left a big hole in my life as it did for so many others who knew and loved him. It was a very packed church in Sebastapol that saw him off. Many tears were shed as sons Adam and Christian made moving tributes to their ‘Pop’. My brother Jim was there and I saw people I hadn’t laid eyes on since my time at Tam High like Renato Sottile, Jon Diederich and Rodney Krieger.
Jar had been married three times and his wives, Val, Prudence and Genie were all in attendance. When his ashes were interred at the Dreyfus family plot in San Rafael a few days later I joined daughter Kate, son Christian and wife Genie as we all shed more tears for someone we still miss.
I must also thank Natalie Snoyman at the Mill Valley Library for research details. For anyone doing research on Mill Valley history she can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org