It is difficult to tell of Floyd Hamlin without addressing the elephant in the room. His glasses. Not that they were the most eye-catching thing about him, but they nonetheless occupy a prominent space in my mind. That is, when I think of Floyd Hamlin, I think first of his round frame spectacles, dazzling their electric blue in the hazy Frisco light. I think of his curls, shaved on the sides, a mop not unlike Anna’s before she grew hers long and bubbly. If Anna was a forest sprite, Floyd Hamlin was a centaur, a German boy with a broad chest and an air of intelligence spritzed around him like perfume.
His parents attended Berkeley, ( father was a physicist, mother a neurologist) but he went south to Irvine, studied journalism and music. Not exactly the family business. (Later, when Floyd became the apprentice sitarist to Divit Madhup, he was forced to abandon all formal understanding of music theory and begin a bi-weekly regimen of LSD microdosing until Divit was convinced his apprentice had unlearned everything he once knew about scales, chords, and Elvis Presley. According to written history, the infamous sitarist took the vanilla pudding right out of Floyd’s head and replaced it with blackberry jam. Music, Divit would say, is in the funny bone, not the brain.
It is worth noting here that Floyd’s hero was Hunter S. Thompson, and that at the age of thirteen he read Thompson’s Hell’s Angels in one night; the book had a transcendent effect on him, and many would later say it was Hell’s Angels that sent him down the slow jittery path to the Cosmic Quartet. That is, after reading it, he became convinced that one day he too would live among bands of nomads, anarchists, and revolutionaries. Boy was he right.
Here was a lad who knew from a young age what life had in store for him. A boy of pointed destiny, so to speak. You might even say he was psychic. Then again, the Shaman would say everyone is. Yes, and when at sixteen Floyd told his parents he was going to work for Rolling Stone Magazine, they neither trifled nor quibbled, but simply said, Whatever you say, Floyd.
Six years later he published a think piece in an Irvine-based music magazine called Bumfuzzle. The article was about the dumbing down of hip hop as a covert corporate method of mind control in urban communities. It caught like wild fire and ran its way up to an independent newsstand off Castro Street where Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner happened to stop on the way to a visit with his old friend Tom. Wenner left the stand with a Snickers bar and a fresh copy of Bumfuzzle. After reading it, he contacted the boy with an offer. Destiny confirmed. By the time Floyd left Irvine, he had published a number of politically minded articles in Rolling Stone. He subsequently moved into the attic of his aunt’s house near Dolores Park. There was a window in the attic that looked out over the city. The window was obscured by a wood-carved elephant head. It was this that inspired the title for his famous Rolling Stone column, View from the Elephant’s Mouth, a fixture of political and musical commentary as it related to the San Francisco rock scene.
Yes, and it was in the view from the Elephant’s mouth, the view from behind a pair of electric blue round frames, that Anna Sage Thoreau would soon find herself caught as she stepped off the subway into the Frisco sun and the salty bay air, twirling a tight curl and pondering the Shaman’s take on Neitschze. Neitschze, the Shaman once said over a spot of green tea, the same man who told us God was dead, also proclaimed that God gave us music so that it could lead us upwards. One must wonder what God was thinking when he made Dave Matthews Band. (Reference: the Shaman did not care for Dave Matthews Band).
Anyways, Floyd was waiting anxiously at the coffee shop thumbing, incidentally, a copy of Thus Spake Zarathustra, when Anna walked in, a vision of sweat, curls, and long arms, carrying a backpack that contained, as you would have it, the private journal of one Willis K. Wheatley, fabled counter tenor of the Cosmic Quartet.