Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family (13 page)

DON

MIMI

DONALD

JIM

JOHN

BRIAN

MICHAEL

RICHARD

JOE

MARK

MATT

PETER

MARGARET

MARY

 
CHAPTER 12

It was with no small measure of satisfaction—a declaration of victory may have been more like it—that Jim stepped in to help protect the youngest Galvins from Donald. Jim had often had all the younger boys and girls over to his house for sleepovers. He took Mary and Margaret to the movies and ice-skating and swimming, and skiing on the Broadmoor slopes, and riding on the Manitou Incline, a well-known funicular tourist attraction, where he had a job. He taught Margaret how to fly a kite and ride a bike. All the kids got rides on Jim’s Yamaha 550 motorcycle.

When things were too strained at home, Mimi and Don were all right with the girls spending entire weekends at Jim and Kathy’s house. Jim seemed on an even keel to them now, his stay at the hospital behind him. Kathy became almost like a mother to Mary, brushing and curling her hair while they all watched
Sonny & Cher
.

For the girls, it was an easy choice. They would much rather stay with Jim and Kathy if it meant avoiding Donald. To their parents, Jim was coming to the rescue, taking some of the burden away from them when they needed help the most.

Jim was so kind to the girls, so welcoming and accepting, that when he started to touch them, it almost seemed normal.


HIS APPROACHES WERE
always the same. It would always be very late at night. Usually, he was drunk, after a shift at the bar. The TV would be on, and Kathy would be in bed, and he would come into the living room and lie beside Margaret on the green-flowered couch where she was sleeping. Margaret remembered the sound of bubbles from the fish tank, and the greenish blue damask pattern of the couch (a hand-me-down from Mimi), and the wicker rocking chair that was turned toward the kitchen, and the record albums standing in a row on the floor between cinder blocks, and the window looking out into the courtyard and toward another duplex, and the sound of the national anthem that played when the television stations went off the air. He’d penetrate Margaret with his fingers, and he’d try with his penis but could never accomplish it.

He had first gone after Margaret, as she remembered it, when she was about five—around 1967, a few years before Donald’s first commitment to Pueblo, when she first started having the occasional sleepover at his place. She was too young to understand what was happening as an act of violence. Manipulation and attention and predation all mingled together until, with nothing else to compare it to, what was happening seemed a little like love. And so when the occasional sleepover turned into long weekends, this seemed natural to Margaret. Once, she was with Jim at a store that sold polished decorative stones, and she spent a lot of time looking at one called the tiger’s eye. Jim bought it for her. For years she adored that stone—until the day, years later, that she finally realized just how wrong it all was.

Margaret’s feelings about Jim started to change when she was about twelve, before she had her period. This was when she began fending him off at night, refusing him. Even then, she told no one about what Jim had been doing—especially not her little sister, Mary, who in Margaret’s view seemed far too young to be allowed to know. What Margaret hadn’t considered was that Jim would turn to Mary as soon as Margaret thwarted him.

Mary had been about seven, maybe eight, when she had a moment alone with her big sister and asked if she, too, had ever been bothered by Jim. Margaret’s answer was short, definitive—a conversation-stopper. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

It would be years before the sisters would talk about Jim again.


THE GIRLS WERE
among the first to see how Jim was every bit as unstable as his brother Donald. Even beyond what he did to them at night, he was drinking too much all the time, and fighting with Kathy more and more. While Jim never hit them, they did see him hit Kathy sometimes, lightning-fast rampages that were so self-contained, it seemed almost as if he became someone else briefly, and then reverted back to Jim after that. Then Jim started having difficulty reverting. Mary remembered having to leave the house more than once with Kathy and Jimmy to get away from him.

In the calculus of their preteen minds, blocking out the nighttime encounters with Jim and his violence toward his wife was the price Margaret and Mary had to pay to gain a few days of liberty from the house on Hidden Valley Road.

It was more than that. Being with Kathy and Jimmy gave them a sense of belonging they couldn’t get at home, not when so much attention was being paid elsewhere. They both so dreaded Donald that in the contest between Donald and Jim, Jim won. That, if nothing else, explained why they both kept coming back.

But there was another reason, too.

It is also true that they were too young to know for sure that what he was doing was not right—because Jim was not the first brother to attempt it with either of them.

One of Mary’s first childhood memories, from about the age of three, was Brian molesting her. Margaret also remembered being touched inappropriately by Brian, more than once. Brian had been so well liked by them all, and he had left the house so quickly after high school, the girls never told anyone about Brian, either.

The truth about the Galvins—what Mimi and Don never saw, and never could have allowed themselves to see—was that by the time Jim advanced on the girls, everyone in the house on Hidden Valley Road seemed to be operating in a world with no consequences.

DON

MIMI

DONALD

JIM

JOHN

BRIAN

MICHAEL

RICHARD

JOE

MARK

MATT

PETER

MARGARET

MARY

 
CHAPTER 13

If Donald had been the imposing leader of the Galvin boys and Jim the resentful second-born, the third son, John Galvin, did his best to stay out of the fray entirely. The family’s most devoted classical musician, he practiced intently, toed the line in school, and spent most of his time at home avoiding his older brothers. Once he left home in the fall of 1968 on a scholarship to the music program at the University of Colorado in Boulder, John had rarely come back to Hidden Valley Road.

In his junior year, in the fall of 1970, John fell in love, and with some trepidation he brought his new girlfriend, Nancy, also a music student, home to meet his family. From the moment they walked through the door, John felt like the visit had been a terrible idea. Everything was so much worse than it had been when he left. The whole household had turned in on itself. Where everyone once was out in the fields, flying falcons and climbing rocks, now they were hiding Donald from view as best as they could. He saw how his mother had an inventory of stock speeches, designed to counterprogram Donald’s: a lot of talk about being Catholic, and more of her name-dropping and cultural one-upmanship, the old stories of Grandfather Kenyon, the new ones about Georgia O’Keeffe. With Donald talking to the devil in the garbage can or pacing and fidgeting and prattling on, they saw Mimi at her worst, trying to control the eight children who remained at home while denying, at least outwardly, that anything was wrong at all.

John and Nancy tried to keep things light. They played for Mimi, which delighted her—majorcas, Chopin études, and Beethoven sonatas late into the night. But in the way that new spouses sometimes give their partners permission to feel things they’re ashamed to feel, Nancy was more vocal about what they were witnessing. She was from a small family—“normal-sized,” she’d say—and could not stop remarking on how the house on Hidden Valley Road seemed like such an emotional shambles, drenched in confusion and anarchy. The endless fighting, the absence of personal space, four sets of bunk beds, no room for anyone to be alone: How could a mother be expected to raise that many children in such a pressure cooker? And those two little girls—how on earth did they have any privacy? How could anyone who lived there have a moment just to think?

When John looked at his parents, he saw two people trying hard to claw back some small part of what they’d once had. Their early years had been filled with such promise, and now so much was going wrong. This, John thought, helped explain why his father took him aside during one of his visits and suggested that he try to be more of a success than he already was—to give up on music and study politics. “Music is a selfish profession,” Don said. “You spend a lot of time in a practice room. You don’t socialize much. What good are you doing?”

His father’s words saddened John, but he wasn’t surprised. He had always been convinced that Don never thought much of him. He’d spent so much of his childhood in the background, he never thought anything he’d ever do would catch his father’s notice, much less impress him. John was not alone in believing this about himself. Don Galvin was such a titanic figure in the lives of his sons—the falconer, the intellectual, the war hero, the classified intelligence officer, and now the counselor to governors and oil barons. All ten boys, in one way or another, grew up believing they could never be the man he was.

So no one was more shocked than John when, on the day of his wedding to Nancy in 1971, Don confided to the bride’s mother, “She got the best of the litter.”

Brian Galvin—the fourth son, after Donald, Jim, and John—was the best-looking Galvin boy, even more handsome than square-jawed, all-American Donald. Their father had nicknamed him the Black Knight, for his jet black hair. He ran faster, threw a ball harder, and his natural musical ability was leaps and bounds beyond the others’, even his studious brother John. Once Don and Mimi saw that Brian could listen to a piece of music on the radio and play it perfectly on the piano moments later—classical, jazz, blues, rock ’n’ roll, anything—they invested in private piano lessons for him.

For all his talent, Brian was also quiet, almost shy. He spent a lot of time playing chess with Mark, the eighth son, who was six years younger than he was—and happened to be a chess prodigy. But in the way that children who withhold have that effortless way of attracting the most attention from their parents, Brian’s remoteness, his mystique, made his parents want to please him even more. They were in thrall to Brian’s talent, too, and alarmed enough by young Donald’s emotional ups and downs to welcome any chance for the other boys to be successful. And so when Brian and some high school friends were forming a rock band, Don bought Brian a brand-new Höfner bass, just like Paul McCartney’s.

Brian, far left, with his band

The boys named their band Paxton’s Backstreet Carnival, after a track from a Strawberry Alarm Clock record. They played covers: the Beatles, the Doors, Steppenwolf, the Stones, Creedence, the Zombies. Brian played bass and flute, and he was also the de facto bandleader, the one who could figure out the intricacies of any song in no time at all, score it in his mind, and then teach the song to the rest of the band. Over the summer break, he taught himself electric guitar, and by fall he’d taken that over, too. “In some ways, he was, I think, the most, more gifted of all of us,” said Bob Moorman, the organ player and lead singer, whose father was General Thomas Moorman, the superintendent of the Air Force Academy.

Brian’s band booked gigs all over the state: Glenwood Springs, Denver, South Trinidad. They played proms, an American Legion dance, the Catholic Youth Organization’s national meeting in Denver, and, though they were underage, a regular gig at a local bar called the VIP. In the spring of 1968, they were playing in Denver when they heard gunfire in the distance—a mini-riot following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Colorado Springs may have been a military town in the Vietnam era, but there was something innocent enough about the band that Paxton’s Backstreet Carnival had complete buy-in from the older generation. General Moorman took some extra steps to make life easy for the band, scouting out the interstate in bad weather to make sure it was safe for the boys to drive to gigs. After school, Brian and his bandmates all walked to the Moormans’ house, a big, private residence just around the corner from Air Academy High, where there was more room to rehearse. The band became such a fixture at the Academy that they played for visiting dignitaries. When Lucille Ball shot a two-part episode of her new show,
Here’s Lucy,
at the Air Force Academy, she listened politely to Paxton’s Backstreet Carnival and shook every band member’s hand afterward. It was anyone’s guess what Lucy made of them. And when Richard Nixon came to deliver a graduation address, five Secret Service agents in black suits interrupted the band’s rehearsal, unable to believe there was a rock band rehearsing in the Air Force Academy superintendent’s garage.

When Don and Mimi were away—taking the girls to Aspen or Santa Fe—Brian opened up the house for parties that seemed to draw the whole senior class, most of them smoking pot around Brian’s younger brothers. Brian started taking LSD, too. But to Don and Mimi, Brian never seemed to be a problem. He was so talented! And so beautiful to look at. That Brian might have been suffering, unnoticed, just as young Donald had, never crossed their minds.

After graduation, Brian followed John to the music program in Boulder. He stayed a year before deciding that college was not for him. There was nothing keeping him local anymore—Paxton’s Backstreet Carnival was no longer a going concern—so he made plans to go west with the hope of playing music and forming a new band. One of Brian’s last local gigs made history, albeit not because of him. On June 10, 1971, he opened for Jethro Tull at Red Rocks, the concert amphitheater built into a natural shelf of outcroppings outside Denver. The show sold out quickly, and when more than a thousand fans showed up without tickets, the overflow crowd was diverted to a space a distance away. Some of those people started climbing a wall between that space and the amphitheater. Others charged the gate. That was when the police flew out in a helicopter and bombed the crowd with tear gas.

For decades, that show would live in infamy as the Riot at Red Rocks, Colorado’s own miniature version of Altamont. Twenty-eight people, four of them police officers, were treated for injuries at the local hospital. Richard and Michael Galvin, then sixteen and eighteen, both remembered watching their rock star brother from a safe spot, away from the riot. Brian was up front, playing flute, as the police began cracking down—“just him and a guitar player,” Michael said—not so far away that he couldn’t smell the tear gas, but too focused on the music to register what was happening.

That same summer, 1971, Michael Galvin—the fifth son and the only one to proudly accept the label of hippie—was a newly minted high school graduate with no plan, and he could not have been more pleased about that. College was not on his agenda. Michael was not an ambitious person, but he somehow found a way to do what he wanted to do most of the time, and that was quite often enough for him. Altamont and the Manson Family and Kent State had all happened, but the bloom was not yet off the rose of the 1960s for Michael, nor was it for a lot of his friends. With the Vietnam War still raging, he wasn’t so much a conscientious objector as someone who never got around to registering for the draft at all. Michael’s plan, if you could call it that, was to ease his way in and out of any situation he found himself in, and see what happened next.

That summer was the start of Michael’s separation from his family, the first step in becoming himself. First, he hitchhiked to Aspen, where everyone he met was in the middle of reading
The Prophet
by Kahlil Gibran and
The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge
by Carlos Castaneda. Michael picked up both, and, in a way, never put either of them down again. It wasn’t even what either author had to say, specifically, that reached something in him. It was the presentation of worldviews that had nothing to do with the austere Catholic upbringing he’d been forced to endure. These new ideas went down easily with pot and hash and LSD, but that was just part of the appeal.

From Aspen, Michael hitchhiked to Indiana with a friend, and then kept going east alone, hoping to get to New York in time for the Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden. He never made it. Instead, he stopped in Jerusalem, Pennsylvania, where he was arrested for taking a bath in a river. Michael spent eleven days in jail before a judge took pity on him and cut him loose. In Akron, Ohio, he was arrested again, this time for loitering. In front of the judge, he copped an attitude.

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