UNFINISHED DOCUMENTARY, STATE OF GRACE | Mid-1970s
Interviewee: ZONGO KHUMALO
I think it must have been ’68 … no, ’69; it was after the Angels caught heat for bustin’ heads at Altamont. I had been out on the mainland trying to make something happen out in San Francisco, but the scene had been getting pretty heavy. It seemed like all of a sudden, there was a lot of speed on the street, really nasty shit. Of course, I was no Boy Scout in those days. After staying up for seven days straight—actually pretty badly bent—I had what you could call a mystic vision. Well, you could call it a psychic break, but I prefer mystic vision.
I was walking down Broadway headed down from North Beach past the Condor and the Hungry I—looking to pop up Romolo to the bar at the Basque Hotel for a shot and a beer to help focus my spinning eyeballs. I had no sooner passed under the giant Carol Doda sign—the one with the blinking red nipples—than I heard a voice calling me.
Now, I had been inside the Condor a time or twenty and had run into—or had nearly been run down by—Carol enough times to recognize her voice. This sounded like her, but … not. It’s hard to explain.
“Fred,” she said. I was still answering to my slave name at that time. “You are now known as Zongo Khumalo.” Heavy, right? Well, Carol Doda calling me out to change my name would have been weird enough, but here’s the drop; she was nowhere to be seen.
“Fred Williams no longer exists,” the voice explained. “Zongo Khumalo, it is time to fulfill your destiny.” This voice was really starting to fuck with my head now. I kind of stumbled off the curb and that’s when I saw it. It was the sign.
No, I don’t mean it was a sign, I mean it was the sign. I know it sounds crazy, but the giant Condor sign was talking to me. I must have stood there an hour in the piss-smelling gutter rapping with the Giant Neon Doda before one of the club’s goons gave me the bum’s rush. I had a plan by that time anyway.
I knew this old lady that lived over on Fillmore that had somehow inherited some property back on the island. I had done some work for her at her place—really nice old pad, lots of old classic wooden detailing that you just never see anymore. Anyway, I must have mentioned at some point that I had lived out on Kaua‘i so when she got a letter from an attorney telling her that she now owned this place, she started talking about having me check it out for her.
I didn’t have any plans to go back at the time. You know, the City was where it was happening and I had done the island trip. People think it’s easy—living the life of luxury—but it’s not all mai tais and coconuts; you really have to have your act together out there. I shined her on for months, not really having any intention of going back. Besides, I had seen a lot of those old places that hadn’t been kept up properly. The tropics are no joke. You have to keep an eye on the flora or it takes back what you’ve so carefully carved out of it.
All of this was in the back of my mind when the Giant Neon Doda started telling me to go out and prepare a place to ride out whatever was coming down the pike. It really did feel like it was all—what’s the word? Predestined, or something.