Conquering Death @ 30,000 Feet; My Life & Flight with Jim Morrison

Conquering Death @ 30,000 Feet; My Life & Flight with Jim Morrison

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Conquering Death @ 30,000 Feet; My Life & Flight with Jim Morrison
 -- by Ken Lambert
There was nothing more important that day. Not my recently near-severed little finger. Not my impending enrollment at the University of Denver. Not the patch of pot plants my next door neighbor, 1st District Judge Eisinger, found and reported to my father. Not even Jim Morrison.
All I wanted, all I could think about that day, was Natalie. At last she would be mine. At 30,000 feet in the bathroom of a 747.  The Mile High Club. What a way to start my sex life…What a woman.
I ordered a beer and a shot of whiskey from the bartender in the Pan Am First Class lounge at London Heathrow Airport waiting for the flight to Los Angeles to be called.  It was late in the summer of 1970 and I had just finished a mind altering adventure hitchhiking around Europe. About eight weeks into the trip my dad had sent me a telegram advising that the good Judge had inadvertently wondered into our backyard and into my hidden plantation. He suggested that I get my ass home to face the bust and, hopefully - if I wasn’t in jail (he noted) - to begin college in Colorado.
The day before my scheduled return to the States, I had almost cut my finger off jumping from the charred hull of a smashed-up semi in which I had taken refuge the rainy night before. Some brave Belgium guy stopped on the autobahn and took me and my bloody finger to the hospital where it required some 40 stitches to close the wound. The doctors wrapped the digit and gave me antibiotics and pain medicine. Strong pain medicine.
The finger hurt anyway and I hoped the booze would help to dull the pain a little.  The guy sitting next to me in the small dark bar stared at my bandaged hand.
“What happened man? Looks like you have a white corn dog stuck on your finger.” observed the bearded stranger.
“Cut my finger jumping out of a truck in Belgium. Almost cut the fucking thing off” I replied sipping the beer.
“That’s a drag man.  Does it hurt?”
“Yeah, it really hurts but the doctors gave me some pain pills so it’s not too bad.”
He looked carefully at the wound again and asked the bartender to bring us both another shot of whiskey.
“What kind of pain pills man?”
I reached into my pocket and showed him the bottle of Percodan.
“Yeah, I know how you feel. I have a bad back. You know, it’s a fucking killer sometimes. Like right now, ya know, it hurts” his blue eyes briefly locking on mine with a pleading look.
“You want one?” I offered.
“Oh, sure... thanks” and he reached for the brown bottle. Uncapping the top, he lifted it to his hairy face and shook at least eight of the little yellow pills into his mouth quickly chasing them down with a gulp of whiskey.
 “You’re going to die man.”
“We are all going to die Little Brother. The trick is to enjoy the ride.”
He raised his hand for another shot and I did the same. Not wanting to miss the party this weird guy had just started, I swallowed a couple more tablets forgetting  the doctors warning about not taking more than one every six hours and not to mix them with alcohol.
“I’m Ken. Where you headed?”
“Jim. LA. Got to go home and face the Man.” he said staring into his empty glass.
Just as I was about to ask what the Man wanted to see him about, the women of my dreams appeared.  It was Natalie, dressed in her cute little Pam Am stewardess outfit, pale blue and white, with stripes on her shoulder indicating her senior rank. She looked beautiful.
“Hi Natalie. This is Jim.”
She turned to the long- haired man and held out her hand, “I know. I’m a big fan.”
I wondered how Natalie could possibly know this obviously crazed, drug-addled, probable criminal from LA but before I could ask, she grabbed my arm and whispered, “Come on. We have got to go right now. This is the last flight to the USA before Pam Am goes on strike and it’s completely full. You are going to have to take off and land in the head.”
I only had the stand-bye ticket my sister Bonnie gave me as a high school graduation present. The flight had been delayed three times already and any hope I had of a seat was long gone. My only chance to get home would  be as a stowaway.
“Let’s go then” I said to her. “Take care man. Hope you don’t OD on those pills” I said as we shook hands goodbye.
“I do” he laughed and raised his glass in farewell.
Natalie was my sister’s roommate and best friend in LA. They shared an apartment right on the shore of Manhattan Beach,  not far from LAX. Both worked as senior flight attendants on the coveted Pan Am 1 flight between LA and London and they were both hot blond babes.
Bonnie had introduced me to Natalie several months before when I visited over spring break and I instantly  feel in love with her. The fact that she was seven years older and already had a boyfriend didn’t diminish my lust for her and I swore that someday she would be mine. I couldn’t believe my luck as we walked down the gate, onto the giant 747 and into the bathroom in first class.
Sometimes I think back and wonder how we didn’t end up in jail for attempted high jacking or something, but those were different times in airports.  If anyone were to try that today they would be rotting in a small cell somewhere in the guts of Guantanamo Bay. But we did it and here we were about to spend the next 10 hours in the air together. I had no doubt that we would finally consummate our love in the john at 30,000 feet. She tapped out a secret knock that would allow me to come out – or more likely I prayed- her in.
I sat on the toilet surveying the small lavatory trying to work out the best way to have sex. Standing up with her holding onto the sink?  On my lap? There were a lot of possibilities. I reached in my pocket for the slightly depleted bottle of pills popping a couple and washing them down with water from the spout with the “Not for Drinking” sign over it.  I felt good. Who cares if I was going to have to walk around the plane for nine hours. It would be enough time to seal the deal with Natalie.  
I could hear the passengers getting onboard as the crew greeted and directed them to their seats.  After about 20 minutes we still hadn’t moved but I was pretty comfortable. In fact   I would have been comfortable if someone cut off my foot with a dull hacksaw. The pills were working.
“Knock knock (pause) knock, knock, knock” came the signal. Holly shit , she wants to do it now before we even take off I thought. My heart was pounding as I slowly cracked open the door.
“Quick, come on…the guy in the lounge you were talking to has two seats in First Class and he said you could take off and land in one of them.”
“But don’t you want to come in?” I stuttered.
“What? Come on - we are about to take off.”
Natalie led me to seat 3B and in 3A sat my friend Jim from the bar. He looked up from his book and smiled. “Have a seat Little Bro. How you feeling?”
I was feeling pretty good I said and asked about him.
 “Back still hurts a little. Got any more of those sweet little pills?”
“Help yourself.” I handed him the bottle. “Thanks for the seat. I promise I’ll split right after take off.”
“No man. You stay here and let’s party on this mother fucker all the way home” Jim said as he gulped down another five or six of the pain killers. I took two more just to explore the edge of my medical toxicity and to keep try and keep pace with my new friend.
Nothing much happened as we took off and flew to cruising altitude except that I lost all the feeling in my lower body. We talked. I told Jim I was in a band. I told him about the bust and that I was supposed to start school in the fall.
“So what do you do?” I finally asked.
He turned and looked straight into my eyes and said, “You really don’t know who I am do you?”
“No…who are you?”
“I am Jim Morrison.”
“Fuck you.”
“I am.”
“Fuck you.” I said again. “Show me your passport.”
James Douglas Morrison. Born December 8, 1943.
“Jesus, you are Jim Morrison of the Doors. Cool.”
I don’t remember exactly how things got rolling but it was probably when the  Percodan and whisky finally kicked-in. We both were absolutely shit-faced and as Natalie came by with a handful of little bottles of Jack Daniels Jim was  becoming animated.  
 “Welcome aboard Mr. Morrison” she said quietly as she slipped me the whiskey. “Thanks for helping out my friends little brother.”
I couldn’t believe she called me that; ‘my  friends little brother.’ What the fuck was she thinking?  I was her boyfriend. Her soon-to-be lover.  I  wondered if perhaps I had misjudged my potential with Natalie.
“He is in good hands” Jim replied in as serious a voice as could be mustered with a numb larynx. “Keep these tired men from thirst my dear lady.” Natalie went to get us more whisky.
“I am going to fuck her. Maybe on this flight” I whispered to Jim as she left.
“No shit? Cool. That’s very cool.” he said, “I’d like to fuck her too. She’s a doll.”
“We are going to get it on in the bathroom. Already have a secret knock. I hope I can do it, ya know these fucking pain pills don’t help.”
“No they don’t” Jim confirmed. “But we can sing! God damb! Let’s sing!”
He started with  a  little poem for Natalie.

Ode (to Natalie)
“Oh Stewardess observe her
Most carefully.
Someday you may pour wine
For the tired man.”
I thought that was pretty cool and grabbed my  travel diary to write down his poem.
“Yeah, write this shit down, I’ll never remember it.”
So I did. I wrote on and off for the next 7 hours as Jim recited his poetry.  By the time we were half way though the long flight we had emptied the bottle of pills and drank First Class out of whiskey and cognac. We sang and shouted and laughed until the other passengers complained and then moved upstairs to the lounge. When that got too rowdy   the Capitan came up and told us to shut up and go back to our seats or we both would be going to jail when we landed
“Fuck him” I said settling back into my seat.
“Yeah, fuck him. But I can not get busted on this flight so let’s chill out a little. “How about this” and he began to rhyme.
By then my lips and tongue were so numb I could barely talk but I still could write. And Jim somehow continued to relentlessly spew his poetry.

“Well 747 that’s where it’s going to be,
We’re going to take that mother fucker
And sail up to Calvary.
And I’m in the army
Looking like a bridge.
Goodbye the pilot says.
We need some detention!”

I vaguely remember Jim babbling something about soap and shit. Like they are the complete opposites but so alike. I wrote as Morrison composed.

“You smell like a flower in spring
I want to lick your toes.
Your wings are really wing ding.
And that’s the damn truth.”
“Your shit smells like
The perfume of Paris.
Your cunt is the rose
of the apples of Paradise.
I kiss the sweet number
That rises in Araby.
This is the menstrual stream of desire. “

It all made perfect  sense to me and I was reminded of my mission with Natalie. “How am I going to do this? She wants to. I know she does.
“Well good fucking luck man but like, ah, like good luck because, you know, it’s hard. She’s working. She is pretty sexy. I’d try.”

“Sexy Sadie”
“Sexy Sadie
Retail lady
You blew my mind
In Epson salt.
Caught you ass
In a brand new turbine
Vietnam – God damn.
What the fuck”

Jim was on a roll and as we approached LA I reckon we had been drunk and sober three times over the last 15 hours. We were still pretty twisted when Jim  became serious and started to talk about his forthcoming trial. He was facing a federal charge for Lewd and Lascivious Behavior at a concert the Doors played at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami several months before.
“I might be going to jail. No shit. Fucking jail man. They take your soul in jail. You’re dead.”
“I could go to jail too. My next door neighbor is a Federal Judge and he found my pot plants last week.  I know how you feel.”
“Yeah but, like, I’m…I mean, like I am going down for their self-righteous bullshit. The whole fucking establishment is against me.”
“Well if they kill you these poems will be worth a lot more.”
“Yeah, give them to your kids. Give them to all the kids. Ha! Give them to Rochas Cologne.”
“Fuck, I don’t know.”

“Rocha’s Cologne”
“Once I had a girl
Sapphire was her name.
Lightning, get your
Black ass over here
This is a legal document.
(Kingfish lived in Rochas
Near Cologne).”

I couldn’t write anymore since the muscles in my hands were spasiming from the narcotics  so Morrison grabbed the notebook  and started writing another poem.

“There is no-one
Like you.
Not no rumor
Like you.
The incendridamus
We shall regret
But the License
That’s my pet.
All right!”

Natalie kept the whiskey coming and stopped to chat when she could.  But she was busy and there had been no  opportunities for us to sneak into the toilet and get it on. Besides, she was beginning to  get pissed off at our antics and endless requests for booze. I had to make the move soon or  I  wasn’t going to get laid on this airplane. Morrison nodded off as I sat there contemplating my move for Natalie.
“OK, here it goes” I whispered to Jim. Rising from my seat I headed for the galley where I spotted Natalie sitting alone on the jump seat.
“Natalie” I whispered, “let’s go do it in the bathroom right now” pointing to the empty head.
It took a few seconds before my words registered but when they did she gave me a look as though I had just loudly farted.
“You must be kidding?” she said.
“Come on, it will be fun.” I pleaded.
 I thought Natalie was going to slap me but she didn’t. “Go back to you seat right now and try to behave yourself.” I was crushed and sat for a long time feeling like an idiot. Jim stirred and asked if I had had any luck. I told him that Natalie had shut me down.
“Well, nice try man. “
“Maybe tonight,” I lamented, “I’m staying overnight at her apartment. Ya know, maybe trying to do it on this plane was a bad idea.”
“Maybe,  but you tried. You tried. That’s all that counts.”
I remember that Jim perked up when the Capitan announced our impending landing at LAX. “Hope you’re not carrying any dope now. Ha!” He sang out a new poem.

“Mr. Customs inspector please
Don’t you look up my ass.
Cus I’m concealing some cocaine
And a whole kilo of grass.”

I thought that was brilliant. Simply brilliant. And I told him so.
Jim’s girlfriend, Pam, met us at the terminal in LA. There were a couple of other guys with her and a small celebration erupted when Jim exited the plane.
“You can crash at our office if you want. It has a pretty good couch” offered the world’s most notorious artist, “I think you really pissed her off.”
“Oh, she’s cool. I’m staying with her tonight. At her place. No one is there. Tonight’s the night man.”
“Well if it doesn’t work out just call. I think we are practicing tomorrow. Maybe you could sit in for a song or two. You’d have to, like, clear that with John but…. here is my number” and Jim Morrison handed me a card with the  phone number of the Doors office in West LA  scribbled on the back.
“Thanks man” I replied as we shook hands goodbye for the second time that day, “but I think this is going to  work out. She wants me. I just know it in my bones.”
“Yeah, well good luck to your bones Little Brother.”

Jim was right, Natalie was pissed off. Really pissed off and on the drive to her apartment told me so. She said that my behavior on the flight was despicable and that she was probably going to get fired and that she hated Jim Morrison.
I couldn’t decide which hurt more, my head or my finger  but I knew I wasn’t going to have sex with Natalie and that our love affair was for all practical purposes over. I ended up sleeping on the couch and being hustled into a cab at 6:30 a.m. to go back to the airport and home to Sacramento.  My quest for Natalie had been a dismal failure,  and almost as bad,  I had blown a chance to jam with the Doors. I felt like shit and was not relishing the prospects waiting for me at home.
My father met me at the airport and on the ride in told me that he and my mother were getting divorced. He never mentioned the pot garden. No one did.  I guess it really wasn’t that important.
I didn’t try to call Jim. It just seemed like a stupid thing to do and I was busy getting ready for the move to Denver. I did see him one last time when the Doors played at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium that August in 1970. My best friend Miller and I dropped acid and went to the show. Afterwards I told him about my trip with Morrison and how we had conquered death at 30,000 feet. He didn’t believe it though and I had to dig out my travel diary to show him the notes and poems.
Jim died a year later on July 3, 1971 from too much booze, heroin and hard living. Some say it was a natural death from cardiac arrest. Others insist he faked the whole thing and just split. I listened to  an interview  with him taped in October, 1970 where Jim mused on death and why his rock brothers and sisters were dropping like flies. “Sometimes it could be an accident. Sometimes it could be suicide. Sometimes it could be murder. There are a lot of ways to die. I don’t really know.”
But I think he did know. I think he knew he had to die soon so that he could live forever. Jim wrote that he wanted to live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse. He was a man of his word.

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