When Ghosts Come to Call

I met Gary Plyly on Sunday February 20th, 1972. Some friends of mine, Charity and her boyfriend Gary, came by my house, inviting me to go with them to a party in Thousand Oaks. They told me to bring my guitar because there would be musicians there. When we got there, a few people were hanging outnot too manymaybe five or six. It was Gary's house on Foothill Road, overlooking Westlake and the US 101/Ventura Freeway. It was little and yellow, with a front porch and a long flight of stairs leading up to it. A 1950s construction perched on the face of an oak tree strewn hill. He had a wooden electrical spool that served as a table in the kitchen. It was the first time I'd ever seen that done and I loved it. We all kind of sat around drinking beers and passing joints while music played on the stereo. That was the first day I ever heard A Horse With No Name by America and I remember the sound system in the house was awesome! It should have been because the guys who lived there were musicians...

Charity and me on the porch
Charity and me.
I fell like a ton of bricks for Gary. Looking back, I'm sure a lot of girls did. He was a magical, different kind of guy. A Merry Prankster kind of character who was known for playing his flute while parading through the house stark naked. Very free-spirited, and he looked like George Harrison, only better, if you can imagine that.

He didn't seem to take any notice of me, though, until we all went out onto the porch to jam. Wade Johnson set up his drums in the back corner and I sat on the floor with my guitar. The other guys had their acoustic instruments as well. Charity had a pipe. Ahem. We all jammed a bit, then Gary asked me to sing one of my own songs, so I did, although I have no recollection which of my songs I performed. I guess my friends had told him that I was a singer/songwriter at the beginning of a promising career.

Gary listening to me sing
Gary listens to me sing.
Gary accompanied me on his flute for a bit, then put it down and just listened to me. I felt pinned beneath his velvet brown gaze. I had my camera with me that day and Wade grabbed it to take pictures for me. I've since run into that drummer via my Gold Coast California Dreamin' blog and I found out that he had been the drummer of The BluCoats during the mid-to-late Sixties. Small world! We're currently involved in an exciting email correspondence about how we met that Sunday afternoon.

Gary and me jamming together
I watch Gary.
I don't remember anything else from that day, except that Gary kind of cozied up to me (at last!) and when I and my friends left, he asked me to come back the next day. I did, and we spent the afternoon in his room talking, playing songs for each other and, well, you know. Says Wade,
"I was the drummer on the porch the day you were there and I have pictures of that day, and you. I remember a very pretty girl we were all attracted too and Gary was the lucky guy."
Me singing on the porch
Me, singing.
My timing was all off, though. I was leaving the following week on a six-week tour of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Colorado. I dropped by the house one more time to give him a poster that my manager had made of me and he hung it above the piano while I watched. We said our goodbyes and he asked me to call him while I was on the road, which I did. I'd fallen so hard, as only a 20 year-old girl can do, and I thought of him constantly during the tour. When I finally returned to Ventura County, I tried to reconnect with him, but he'd already moved on to someone else so I dropped it and went on with my life. I was sad, but that's the way it goes sometimes, and I've never been a clinging vine.

Fast-forward to 1990. I was looking for a quick way to make some money and somehow I found out that a guy in T.O. was needing an assistant to help him set up lighting at some punk raves in the L.A. warehouse district. I called him and he told me his address. "Just come over around seven and we'll go on to the gig," he said.

Gary's house (on the hill) and the guys getting ready to move a piano up to it
Moving a piano up the
hill to Gary's house.
When I turned onto Foothill, following his instructions, I thought, "How strange. What if this guy lives at Gary's old place?" I was in for a huge shock. He did and, when I knocked on the door, there stood Gary. His hair was short and he didn't look good. When I went inside, he led me to a kind of cushioned, curtained, gypsy looking area in the kitchen where the spool table had been. It looked like an opium den, really pretty cool. He lit some incense and we shared a joint, and I tactfully tried to find out if he remembered me. He didn't. I don't think he remembered much of anything, to tell the truth. He seemed pretty far gone and he was hard to relate to. He had been such a beautiful soul when I met him back in 1972. What happened to that sweet, open, magical man?

Wade on that day in 1972

After the gig we went to The Atomic Cafe for a huge bowl of ramen, and then back to his place in T.O. We talked a lot during the trip and, in his driveway, he asked me if I wanted to come up for a while. I declined. He wasn't the Gary I remembered. It was like being with a total stranger. Spending the entire evening with someone who didn't remember me and whom I could barely recognize was weird. It was kind of like an alien had taken possession of his body. He was pretty whacked out.

Yesterday, I read on Wade's Fb that Gary was killed in a car accident a number of years ago and it made me sad, nostalgic, wistful. Not only does Wade have pictures of that day, he says that he may even have a reel-to-reel of the jam. Suddenly, I'm being propelled back to 1972!

I never told Gary who I was, or that we'd met and shared something lovely for a very brief time; I didn't want to make him feel bad about not remembering me. I've never forgotten him, however. And now I'm becoming friends with Wade because of Gary. In his absence, Gary has become a magical connection between two people who barely remember each other from a jam session on a front porch overlooking the Ventura Highway.

And now, in the heat of writing my Rock trilogy, I realize that I have been blessed with two Gordons in my lifetime; I can't help but see the similarities between Gordon's and Gary's personalities, and my tender feelings for both of them. And then there's Ernie, one of my oldest and dearest friends who is also a magical, brilliant, special man. We surely do write what we know.

Isn't life amazing?

Pictures 2, 5,6 and 7 courtesy of Wade Johnson.