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Dying boy taken on a trip by friends during hippie days. He lives today.
Dead Boy's Dream
Tony's mom collects antiques of all manner. She is compulsive and extreme in her devotion to the value of the past. Tony is well aware of his mother's "likes" and he is confident that she will support him with assets for any complications that may arise in his life. Rob, Brian, Tony and myself are compadres of the highschool sort and when it comes to partaking of the pleasures of our existence Brian is the tardy participant. I am not surprised, when it comes to the decision time for holiday planning, that Brian chooses ( with the advice of his father ) to decline discussion of his coming with us. We: me, Tony and Rob, are "Gung-ho" concerning my random suggestion of: "Let us go to New Orleans! ". Tony, during his compliance with my holiday wishes, tells us of his secrete ailment: he has Hodgkin's Disease, a deathly cancerous blood disease that has a slim chance of radiation treatment cure with the recently diagnosed youthful male sufferers. We now have a mission for our new summer's planning of my next liberty. Who could refuse a dying young man's final wish of visitation to the world's capital of debauchery, New Orleans? Certainly no denial of resources could be forth coming from Tony's family. Our new adventure is to be well planned into the following summer, the summer of sixty nine. The time comes to go and Rob has the car, a Pontiac station wagon. We promptly throw a mattress in the back and gleefully exclaim: "Let's go." And we do go.
Rob has a steady girlfriend to say "good-byes" to her. Tony must perform for the concerned family and he side-steps issues with his showing of his chest covered radiation skin burns. I am the developer of urgency in our exit due to compiled communal excitement. This is going to be a great summer. At least, the news stories for this summer are big and explosive. Cities in the US are burning. People are demonstrating and marching for peace and rights and music festival gatherings of hip-cat-dudes are happening. A time of political overstatement is a fine time for our leaving for extreme hedonism. As Canadian's we can afford military indifference during a time when most American youths can not muster this same luxury of spirit. This not-caring attitude of ours lends some uniqueness to the "car-load" personality. We are not pounding any drums while others seem to be in mid-cadence.
We can and are mistaken for "Draft-card-carrying" aged people. We like not having to conform to the recent domestic duties of this nation. Tony displays some of our rebel-sentiment with his lengthy banner-like hair of the Frank Zappa consummate.
The anxious anticipated arrival of these under-aged-ers in the hot steaming sin city is gauged by our by our non-stopping pace of peregrinate. First stop is not Viet Nam it is in a Tennessee red-neck truck stop that is filled with comment makers of the sort: "Look what we have here!" "No Stones on the juke box." I say in sarcastic reply to everything said to me. "Eat our pie and run", this is: the method of our retreat and our way of irascible accession to our destination of delight. Next stop is New Orleans. We are wasting no time. Our next stop is (with the help of Nodozzzz that is purchased at the aforementioned place of red necks) New Orleans. And it is New Orleans. Winnipeg to New Orleans is twenty-one hours away by 1962 Ponch prairie schooner station wagon with a mattress in the back.
Roller Coaster Beer
The shore of Lake Ponchatrain welcomes us with parking-lot sleep. I am sleeping on the roof of the car, Tony is in the back of the car and Rob is in the front of the car. The daybreak comes with blows to my head from the white cop's club's blows with his non-muted yelling drawl: "I don't want to see you sleeping on top of this here car." Each of his words is followed by his now expected blow of his club on the top of my head. " I don't want to see you sleeping under this here car. "Again the appropriate dispensation of the correct number of blows. "I don't want to see you sleeping inside this here car." He does an encore on my head-drum that awakens a futile protesting of Tony and Rob who curb their disdain upon their noticing the white pig's club waving in their direction. "In fact, I don't want to see you all at all." Finale is reached with a crescendo leading to one last harder blow. "Maybe we should go to the amusement park." I suggest timidly as the NO cop shows us his best side, his victorious retreating rear.
The grassy shoreline sports a boastful "white members only" ( WMO membership-cards are mailed only to white folks and without a card admission is denied to all those other than white unless a white looking person purchases a temporary pass, a ticket comes to mind ) amusement park that is surrounded by "black"-"peeking-through-the-fence-envious". We get in. We promptly seat ourselves next to some inquisitive southern-belle-debutantees. Tony's "Frank-Zappa" hair and bug-eye-shades helps to initiate the conversation that proceeds to the pleasant coquettish request: " May I touch your whiskers, I have never touched a man's beard?" And she touches mine. And the girlish observation is for her troupe's benefit: " Ohhh, it is so soft, I can't believe it is so soft. And they all afford a touch in their turns. We Canadians express our curiosity about the Negro and our encounter ends with offensive departure of the budding female racists. Tony, Rob and I look at each other with that well known to us look that says: I guess we blew it again. "Let us ride the roller coaster! "
We are told while buying ride tickets that this particular giant snake of a coaster is second to only one for the world's ranking of the largest still standing wooden roller coaster. And they sell tumblers of draft beer at the entrance gangway. And we have beer. The first ride hooks us. The second beer helps the replay. The third beer prompts the Plan: Let us see who pukes first. The rides and beers amount to seven when, upon dismounting, Tony goes projectile and he spray paints the gravel with recycled-suds. No more rides for him. Next fatality is Rob who declines another beer and ride with his spewing refusal. I take one last ascendancy of mastery. We depart the area in a staggering snake-like stroll, los tres amigos for the beach.
And we dip in the muddy shallow Mississippi-backwash water of the lake. The summer sun-baked hotter than atmosphere temperature waters result in our leaving of the water to cool off. This is the opposite recreation route for body temperature control than the quick cooling dip used in the cool northern lakes. There is no relief here from the sultry hot and humid summer weather. The white beach has little of the real life activity afforded by those numerous non-white fenced-out beach-goers. We choose to exit the member's fairground for favour of the blend of the outside beach. A little drop of black makes the white paint whiter; we wonder if the addition of ourselves will make the black blacker. This outside beach displays the local colour more than placid white beach; everyone captivates varieties of southern cultural activities: swimming, crabbing, crawfish fishing, catfish fishing, Cajun cooking, game playing, singing, and slight unintentional sun-bathing. Soon we are surrounded by collected negress debutantees and I opt for the hair topic that pleased our southern belles of earlier in the day prior to their racial disgust of a departure. Our hosts delight in cultural exchange once they learn that we are three Canadian adventure-ers rather that local tainted racially-detached and indifferent or Klan affiliated pale youths out of their place. Evening settles in as we plan our morning entrance into NO. We find our places in, on and under this here car with my fearing more lumps on my head-lumps from our pig-cross-rooster. Sun-rising and lump-swelling sinking heralds our admittance to the heart of destination, the famed French Quarter. Armed guard fenced parking is had by motel Ponch and we hit the cobblestones of non-stop tap dancing Negro boys. For us the Quarter is splendid with its large proportion, more than ninety per-cent, negroid. A few features of this neighbourhood are striking our consciousnesses: kool-aid-stand hurricanes and negress anatomy. The grandeur of the rump roundness of the female Negro sidewalk rompers is our initial significance of scenery. We contrast these hybrids with the flat squaw-ass of home; these are the ones with the thighs that turn into ass with no real region of demarcation. The four foot tall funnel of glass that contains the local treasure of Hurricane of the Pat O'Brian variety is dispensed at every street corner and although we Know they are mercifully watered-down for our ambulatory benefit by the frugal bartending cheats our under-aged gratitude for priming of us for frequenting the nearest top-less bottom-less bar we can find. It is a magnificent long wall-mirrored bar that boasts half of a dozen leggy atop-bar-strollers that are all cautious not to upset the storm of hurricanes with their pickle-stabbing-heels as they synchronise their wigglings to the jukebox as we stare upwards while stool-seated at the plenitude of tits, ass and beaver both chocolate and pink when in the The Boyfriend of more than one of them walks and has words with more than one of them and his departure signals the genesis of the "lets- get-out-of-here-before-the-cops-arrive-cat-fight". And most everyone does leave as we linger to view some of the multitude of reddening sites. From the bright street, into the darkened doorway of the bar we witness the investigating police officer bloody ribboned face slashing by the razor blades sewn into the brim of the cap waving Negro's cap. And it is still afternoon. We zig zag to the ancient mansion of roots of NO jazz, Preservation Hall, where we nod our dizzy heads in unison to the hypnotic strains as we gulp from our mobile hurricanes until evenings brightening of Pat O'Brian's flaming fountain intensify by the encroaching darkness of oblivion heralded by semi-comatose approaching fully-comatose, the destination achieved with our numb return to the armed guarded fenced parking lot that protects the place of our sleeping in, on and under this here car. The day is complete.
Word's on the Street
Morning leaves us wondering of our wandering: why should we even move the Ponch? For now, because no one expects to be in a driving condition. The new plan is to see the warehouse and market district that is attached to the Quarter, the hippie-district. We also expect to stumble across the Mississippi, levee, graveyards, and other attractions of NO, maybe eventually or not. General so and so on equine mount casting monument of the cobblestone courtyard of the marketplace is the gathering starting line of the hippie "race" and the word is on the street. No commercial advertising for this event is used. Feed your brother's head is the imperative for this event. The bands from Woodstock are meeting with other West-coast bands on an Indian Reserve between NO and Baton Rouge, there are to be thirty-five acts in all, for four days. The impromptu revival is to unite many full time rock n' roll festival wanderers. Nixon regulations on mass-gatherings restrictions are thwarted by the tolerant Indian Reserve population that is exempt from certain Federal edicts. Janis Joplin with two hundred Hell's Angels friends is one of the main gravitations. And we go a day early.
We are amongst the first to arrive at the campground and the surprise of a greeting newspaper reporter puts us, with photo, on the front page of the Baton Rouge paper along with the caption : "They come from as far away as Canada." As if we came just for this show; as if. The camp ground is submerged in a forest of Spanish moss laden trees that are surrounded by a corn field that legend proclaims contains shotgun toting guards between the rows of corn as hippie repellents. Our camp grounded neighbours are White Rabbits, a local rock band yet to be discovered. They are not booked; but they intend to be free camping entertainment between the gigs. With help, we construct a stick of tree branch hut that we cover with moss. This communal home seems prehistoric in appearance and the rabbit hole doorway's passers seem monstrous as they crawl through in the perpetual ether-like swamp-fog. Day zero is filled with festive arrivals that begin their stay by busting their tire beads for ease of removal of the clandestine caches of contraband. Mostly smoke is extracted without incident. Chemicals of the micro-mode are hand transported with the motive of: "take what you want and pass them on and do not fear since the water truck is laced."
The innocence of the Canadians is revealed by repulsion of the day zero's first OD; it is a methamphetamine induced multi-system explosion and implosion of a White Rabbit member. They, his friends try futile-ly to "knock him out" after his tramping with bezerk on top of angered people's vehicles. They tied his hands with his belt and then proceeded, to no effect, to pound his face. Then every opening of his body became as a bleeding volcano as he expired and his last vapours joined the swamp fog ether while his friends drag him to the gathering herd of alerted National Guard that are setting up along the perimeter of the Indian reserve for potential riot control. The sun is setting with a steady snaking line of new-comers from here to the psychedelic silhouette of diminishing pilgrims of an horizon as the thick smoke of newly lit camp fires hangs in the atmosphere and with its sunset backlighting of this carbonised haze of fire and joint smog further obscures the Natural reality and heightens the surreal. Things are getting freaky tonight. WE place ourselves around a large one of these fires that is circled by campers that circulate non-ending joints in one direction while a crazed dog circles in the other direction, the inner fire boundary, in a running stare that is hypnotising all the fire watchers. "You toke like the dope is free." the rolling dude says to me as I hand it over to Rob while I hold my breath for maximum mind penetration. Tony, despite his excess of hippie persona, passes it on untried. Tony's refusals contrasted with my inhaling zeal attract attention from our compadres so we relate tales of Canadian origins. Some draft dodgers, then, solicit a possible ride to Canada with us on our return. It is difficult for us Canadian boys, of nearly draft-able-age, to empathise with these reluctant heroes:
Never wanted to be
Why did they fuck with me
Make them pay the bill
Deadhead still kill
Do it too your own
Could not leave me alone
I am only one not wrong
Starts when I am gone
Take it to the street
Use every act to complete
No need for knife or gun
Use guilt and fear among
The life fight has begun
"We can not take anyone with us, it is just too hard when we do not even know where and when we are going." I make excuses as I really am thinking That if we can get south in so many hours then so can you get north, duder. In the circle of hypnotised, mesmerised, and canine resistant subjects I spy an eye on me. She is not following the dogs passing around the fire; she has spotted me. Crawling over to her spot I whisper: "Let us go for a stroll and look around for goodies." Self-introduced-Lucy nods a big yes. The festival does not start till next morning, so, much of the crowd has not yet arrived, therefore, I am not concerned about losing Tony and Rob in the crowd. We say nothing to them and we sneak away in the early night fog. Lucy is older but too much wiser than I. She has more experience in hippiedom and it shows by her level of consciousness, for better or worse. Soon we find a willing distributor of a variety of contraband and an acquisition of peyote buttons is negotiated for us by Lucy. Lucy has a tent and we retire to recline in a beer stupor.
Morning comes with a chatter above as I open my eyes to explore the strange new sound. I am alone and a spear of light, from a new hole in the roof of the tent that has been chewed by the giant locust that has generated the awakening chewing sound, hits my eyes as I recall where I am, Lucy's tent. I stagger the area and I find Tony and Rob. "Stinky dicky?" they implore to the unresponsive me. I find my pocket peyote laden, so I change the topic of greeting to tonight's planning. Lucy is lost in the arriving horde of “festives”. The stage, four well placed flatdeck highway trailers, has activity. We know that when the sun is high the music will be loud. A good place, up-front, is desired, so we plant it early near the stage. The stage is ringed by hundreds of motorcycles as Janis has brought the Hell's Angels for security, yeah right: they secure more sex, drugs and rock'n roll for themselves. They also occupy the stage-front-row-area making the huge expected crowd observe them as well as the bands. The disaster with Angel murderings of spectators at the Stones Altamont concert are a concern now. And they stomp through the crowd like a government. And they are in force enough to crowd around the active rape victim in the crowd while the passive crowd of super superior numbers of seventy thousand or so do nada to intervene in their offensive gallantry. And they can part the waters of laying people that move fearfully, obediently and impulsively as these clubers of 1% intimidate with their boots. AND I too do nada to an Angel. "Who says hippies are anti-establishment or anti-anything else when these gatherings comply with this lay-down-and-take-it-lest-one-of-us-get-a-bloody-nose-or-some-other-stand-up-discomfort, eh Tony?" I ask the hippie-est of our group. And he frowns in agreement with my and Rob's disgust of Janis's buddies. They have nice bikes but they are better at a bike show than here. Then, the first act: "What are we fighting for?"--Country Joe and the Fish. Everyone sings the well known words like prayer. Followed by Canned Heat, the crowd is warming-up until T-Rex plays some prehistoric jungle music on home-made primitive-like instruments. Mid-afternoon brings Santana, Chicago and then (the Janis-rival) Jefferson Airplane with Gracie Slick. Then, close to evening is the four day Queen of the show, Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Frenzy grows on and off stage. Tony's binoculars lets us see the dribble of Southern Comfort douching on Janis's chin as she swoops down to her microphone-stand- placed-bottle between her crooning and her singing-break of guitar solo. Janis is the pinnacle to be repeated tonight and everyday and night for the rest of the festival. Until the next head-liners, playing later, we return to the campground for temporary relief from the day's heat. Sunset beckons my consumptive buttons. Psychedelic virginity is to be corrupted Naturally. The setting sun is as spooky as the previous evening but now it is perplexing for me to differentiate between the etiology of the fluorescence of scenery colour as being a natural phenomena of various factors or ingested cactus blossoms induced. Rob and Tony are unable to assist my distinctions of visual extravagance because a sudden attack of red necks requesting of Tony for him to: "give us all your drugs" (something which he never has had) has spilt us up in the crowd due to our revulsion and avoidance of their violence. I stood there to defy their pushing but Tony and Rob skipped-the-hell-out-of-there leaving me lost both physically and mentally. And the band played on. Most every of the thirty-five bands plays twice a day, night and day; there is non-stop music party for four days, there is more music with extraneous performances by the informal festival performances within the campground. On the morning of the fourth and final show-day I succeed in reuniting with Tony and Rob. I am no longer lost. "Where were you?" Rob quizzes me. "Out with Lucy?" Tony mistakenly presumes. And all I can remember is that I wondered a whole lot whether the band was actually playing or was it recorded music. Too many trips to the water truck. We are very elated to be spending the finale-day together; but we fear our exhaustion, from lack of sleep, food and weather exposure will hinder maximum party sustaining. The noonday sun is tempered with thousands of rapid swinging water soaked fabrics that imitate a cooling rain upon the seemingly limitless masses of laying flesh, this rapid rotating of artificial clouds keeps beat to the music. The evening comes with an electric light circus of drive-in movie proportions; the errie splendour of microscopic, living organisms, magnified and projected on the giant screen are flooded with swirling microscope slide stains of which are multicoloured and nonblending; the slides are tapped to the beat of the music and this gives the audience the illusion that the now-appearing-giant-monsters are dancing to the music. And they are. The screen is disguised with the canopy of smoke and fog that is illuminated with many coloured beams of lights. Janis closes the show just before sunrise and the surprise of a fireworks show ushers in the exodus of the weary to the parking and camping area. I fall to lay in the grass beside our hut and prairie schooner that occupies the mattress-loving Tony and Rob. The threshold between my waking and sleeping of my morning sleeping rather that waking is startled by my instinctive emergency rolling out of the way of the humming and now-passing murderous tires of the car that parsimonious-ly misses its chance to bestow the BIG sleep upon me. I breath again, I jump to my feet, I get into the Ponch with the cargo of slumber, and I carefully begin to creep the car out to the highway.
It takes all morning and half afternoon to negotiate the fifteen miles to regular traffic at Baton Rouge because the serpentine zig zag of zombies are having difficulty coping with the real world and we, the former crowd, have neglected to plan an orderly departure from the land of rock'n roll and a thousand dances. "All leave at once" was not a good plan. Tony and Rob get to sleep till Ponch needs its go-go-juice-fix at the truck-stop of pills of Nodozzz and American donkey piss beer; at this time we load up and switch drivers of sleepy eyes. Tony's health condition prohibits him from prolonged driving attention, so he drives first but not for long. We tell Tony to open the beers while Rob drives and I rest for the next shift. I do not sleep. Rob demands relief and I am hesitant to volunteer; then Tony vigorously shakes a can of suds, he pops it open with surprise and sprays down Rob's face and then mine and says: "Every time you guys nod I will splash you more." We laugh and know it is going to be a wet trip. Till now I have been avoiding the Nodozzz because I think they will interrupt my restorative sleep, while Rob drives, that is needed to prepare me for tonight's long haul of non-stop-drive. My plan is to have pills as soon as I start to nod on my dark shift; that is after Tony's foamy attempts for my rejuvenation when: I nod again and I no longer care to be re-dowsed, I am allowing for the lag time of the pills' kicking-in.
The hauntings of a man's mind are akin to falling down a tube of fog with nebulous visions peeking ephemeral-ly but never entering the lucid lumen. The road is the vessel of the body of topography; well as Ponch is sliding as a corpuscle into the night of the Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains the centre line is the clear reality but the periphery is fog. Tunnel vision is new to me. I can not tell if we are going up hill or down hill. Lights of on-coming cars, the scary ones, are the only confirmation I have that I am still on the road. The winding and rolling of the hills, swamps, and boulders of the ditches are a fortuity that is dwarfed by my trepidation of: "Hey John what's that sound? Is it gravel shoulder my tires are hitting? Am I off the road? Or, am I awakening with a start of the speed of sound again? Was I asleep or am I asleep now?" I am having difficulty driving. "Wake up Tony. Spray me with suds. No stopping is safe. No driving is safe." Rob wakes too. This is a bad night after my forgotten nights of lost festival.
All as We are Tooold
The Earth is flat
I think not
Sail a Ship
Will fall off
Here is all Sphere
Modern Atomic theory
Fall through space
Win the race
Want to dance
Up side down
Sky under ground
Pull the root
Planet is fruit
Hands touch feet
Top and bottom meet
Form a hole
Left over soul
Truth come and go
Futile you know
Bad is good good and Bad
Good and Bad glad I had
Babe too old
Center of Hell is Cold
(check out Mental Traveler W. Blake)
The dawn of the plains calms my mind with familiarity of panorama. Home is on the horizon. There is a few states and one lower province fragment to the North remaining for us to transverse. This here car has permitted our sanctuary, our fooling, our mattress, and our future invalidation of you'all not being seen sleeping on top this here car, sleeping under this here car, or sleeping in this here car. I scratch my head in peace. Tony tells us his cancer is cured. And it is.
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|Reviewed by Ronald Hull
|That took me on a ride down memory lane! You are damned lucky to have (not) been to that festival at just the right time. My chance to see Janis in the People's Park in San Jose was thwarted when my date for the day, Beverly, a nurse from Saskatoon, got bored and made me take her home before the final act. And, in August 69, I recall picking up two chick hippies (14 and 15?) out of Vancouver on Canada 1. They were from Winnipeg… Perhaps you knew them… Tough girls. I was headed to Prince George and they declined to ride with me, having to get home. In the summer of 66, I was the driver of a parent's Pontiac station wagon carrying two canoes to northern Wisconsin for a canoe trip. That was some boat… smooth.
Since I was from Wisconsin I didn't drink beer, and since I was older, and a bit wiser, I didn't partake of any of the weed or other stuff that was readily available to me in California. So I can't relate your daze on those four days where I would've heard every song with the vibrations enough for me. Never used Nodoze either, only coffee on cross-country trips with drives as long as 22 hours with two hours to sleep on the ground because I couldn't in a 61 Sprite sitting up.
Never been to New Orleans, neither… Those were the days…