Excerpt for 1967: Love & Thugs & the Actual Milky Way by , available in its entirety at Smashwords





Riversitting

An American Mystery

An American Love Story





ؙBook Two

1967: LOVE & THUGS &

THE ACTUAL MILKY WAY







by Edward Minges





© 2017 by Edward Minges All rights reserved.


No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages embodied in critical articles or in a review.


A small portion of this work is fiction. Any resemblance of the characters herein to actual persons, living or dead, is intentional and loving. Any resemblance of the situations and events described herein to actual events is both accurate and, wherever possible, fully documented.




***




Never trust a good story.

—DAVE SCOTT, to whom this work is grudgingly dedicated.

Table of Contents



Fifth Position

In the Heart of the Day

Three Clams and Three Boxes of Crackers

Try for Further

Larry and David’s Master Plan for Doing Well by Doing Good

A Berkeley Tradition

Witches

Pumas in the Crevasses

Higher

Thinning Air

Aspirational Navigation

Heating Up

The Actual Milky Way

Blowing Off Santa Claus

Waiting for That Asshole Bergen

Cooling Down

Little Lithodendron Wash

Soulbitten

The Canadian Escarpment

Port of Exit

Finding Cowboy Buddy

1967

Fifth Position

Wednesday, June 28

Early in the morning, Pyotr came dragging back to Stinson Beach. He was alone, barefoot, and with a couple of ribs likely broken. He possessed nothing but the stolen GMC pickup he was driving, the pair of jeans he wore, and the keys to the truck, which some drunken Oregonian had left in the ignition when he parked the truck in his driveway. There had been a short length of garden hose in the back of the truck with which he’d siphoned gas along the way.

Dimitri kicked his ass, literally and repeatedly. Pyotr lay curled up on the floor on his side. He silently took the boot because he knew that anything he said would make things worse.

Dimitri wouldn’t even expend the energy to curse him. While he kicked Pyotr in the ass, he compared Pyotr and Vasha’s excursion to Oregon with J. K. and Boron’s. He closed each phrase with another boot.

“They bring me back a small treasure, for which I thanked them, Pyotr. Hard-working boys, Pyotr, hard-working boys. You and Vasha flounce up and down the beach, holding hands, like two office girls on holiday in Sochi, all at my expense. Yet you come back with nothing, no big sailor boy in your trunk, as I asked. You don’t even come back here with a trunk.”

Dimitri looked around at his boys, laughing at his own joke. They laughed as well.

That had made for about a dozen good kicks, and it was tiring Dimitri. He motioned, and two of his boys threw Pyotr out on the street in the same state as he’d arrived, but without the truck keys. Pyotr ended up walking painfully along the Coast Highway towards Sausalito, barefoot, still without money, still clad only in jeans, and still holding his ribs and now his ass.

Fortunately, with his heavy accent, high cheekbones, and abs like button-tufted carriage upholstery, Pyotr got picked up quickly along Coast 1 by three drunk chicks in a six-year-old Buick Special convertible. The heavy-set young woman who sat with him in the back seat flirted with him outrageously, egged on by the other two.

When they entered the city and cleared the Presidio, the driver stopped for the light at Geary. He snatched the heavy-set young woman’s watch and jumped out of the car. He ran down an alley and hid out for a while, then pawned the watch. It was a fancy one, and brought him enough for a cheeseburger and a solid hit of amphetamine.

By noon, he was speeding like a bandit. He walked up behind a cop talking to a hippie chick, made a double fist with both hands, and clubbed the cop from behind. He stole the cop’s gun, and waved it around for a while as he walked. Appalled hippies streaming towards the Haight stared at him.

Finally, having decided that he didn’t want to rob tourists or liquor stores for a living, he blew his brains out in Alta Plaza Park. Even Pyotr couldn’t, and didn’t, fuck that up.

The shot, and the sight of his blood spraying into the pleasantly-scented air, drew a huge gasp from the crowd in the park. The combined concussion and sound sent a massive flight of pigeons, seagulls, and a few terns skyward.

As Mulberry Wing walked north with the others, the sky grew thick and oyster-grey to her left. To her right, over the Bay, it remained afternoon brilliant. It became ever-brighter by contrast as the wall of fog to her left thickened and ever-more effectively blocked the western sun.

A sharp snap off to the right made her twist around. From behind the low, close-by skyline, a cloud of silhouetted birds rose and gyrated around an invisible center. Some came right back down, some rose higher.

Her heart rose with the ascending fliers, her heels lifted, and, as the small mob with whom she walked paused at a street corner, she sprang up and came down in a sissonne simple. She pirouetted, and, as they crossed the street, turned her motion into skipping. Her companion watched her unblinkingly and then mimicked her as best she could.

Within the shifting boundary formed by their dozen escorts, the two spun and skipped and hopped, stopped, and put their arms up in fifth position

“Why is it called that?” asked Clarissa, her companion.

“There’s four others ahead of it,” said Mulberry Wing.

In the street, outside their circle of friends, they could see some of the other people in the street doing similar, dancing and hopping and twirling. Many wore far more complex and colorful clothes than they. Mulberry Wing began to think of what they could find on The Street to make her and Clarissa more like the older girls she saw, so many gay flowers tossing in a crystal wind.

“Cut that shit out,” said Tustin. Mulberry Wing had thrown her head back and caught him with a burst of hair, wet with perspiration and fog. Tustin was a turd, so she stuck out her tongue, not precisely at him but in his general direction, and danced towards Durr, then Spider, then Marcus.

All but Tustin were former loves—well, Marcus, not so much, she hadn’t actually gotten around to him—all failed as suitors, none to know the light of her private companionship, weep for them! And up! as she leaped to catch a pair of balloons, strings tied together, floating just overhead.

“Nice one, Maury Wills,” cheered Durr, “that was headed into the outfield, sure.”

She liked Durr, tall, confident, good manly hands. Sad, really, that he was so hesitant to divulge his true feelings for her. She wasn’t entirely certain, but believed that the “Maury Wills” remark was complimentary.

“Tuck your dress, dear, Marcus is going to give you a ride,” said Beanblossom. She was the blondest lady Mulberry Wing had ever met. Should she be concerned that Beanblossom might be unwelcome competition for the attentions of Marcus?

“I’m what?” said Marcus.

“Oh, be a friend,” said Beanblossom. She then looked wordlessly and directly at Marcus to catch his eye. She nodded forward into the maelstrom of people ahead of them into which they were descending, then back at Marcus.

“Oh. Yeah. Let’s go, midget, into the air.” He hoisted Mulberry Wing vertically from behind by her waist, ducked his head, and seated her on his shoulders. She whooped, now that she could see over the crowd, over the sea of heads and feathers and hats and hair. Her heart stayed aloft with the rising birds, and in this golden afternoon any adventure became possible, even likely, and worthy of being related and retold.

Marcus’ hands fell into the Wise Daddy position, dropping to securely clamp Mulberry Wing’s ankles, which dangled in front of his chest. That gave him maximum leverage against his young rider overreaching herself, whether to grab another balloon, slap a passing light pole to make it ring, or just throw herself backwards to watch the clouds whirl overhead.

“Christ, your feet are dirty, kiddo,” he growled at her.

“That’s the filth of freedom, Marcus,” said Beanblossom, laughing.

Danielle left off gazing at her man Gerald for a moment, and called up to Mulberry Wing, “Find us something to drink, scout!” Mulberry Wing saluted Danielle sharply and gazed intently into the melee.

Marcus leaned in to Beanblossom. “Uh...?” and he nodded at Clarissa, still on the sidewalk, walking alone, now.

“Clarissa can take care of herself,” said Beanblossom, with an even certainty.

Berry, with his buddy Bill’s attention diverted by Clara, watched the surrounding crowd for signs of notable butts. He did find evidence of intelligent life on the Street almost at once. From across Haight, he saw a large graphic in a shop window, and got that shock of recognition of a fellow believer.

It bore the signature of one Rob’t Crumb, a pen-and-ink-type artist and cartoonist, who clearly shared Berry’s vision of a woman’s ass as the apogee of human desire. Looking about, Berry saw that this artist’s special, godlike perception of Woman was all over the new age a-borning—books, bumper stickers, hats, and t-shirts, plus some other crap the guy drew that involved guys with big shoes, and hippies.

Berry was happy. This was going to be groovy.

Marcus had never been in the middle of this many people in his life. This was like walking into a Brazilian butterfly ranch, swimming around in a trout fingerling operation, or trying to cut diagonally through the Kansas City stockyards. No descriptor was too expansive: a river, a sea, an ocean of people. My God, were there people.

There were people on the sidewalks and people in the streets, people crowding into the cooler shops, inevitable lines to sit down in whatever served as restaurants, and huddled, jiggling masses waiting for access to sanitary facilities. In Golden Gate Park, behind them, people sat shoulder to shoulder in the dells for music, dope and talk, and crowds wandered between and around and about looking for more music, or more dope, more companionship, or rides across the Bay.

In the space of a block, Beanblossom had three ice-cream cones thrust at her for sharing, all by hopeful young men with electrified eyes. Mulberry Wing, down off her perch, and Clarissa ducked together between Beanblossom and the young man who offered the third cone and copped a taste, making loud slurping sounds, before that young man pulled back, unhappy.

Marcus watched Bill and Clara. They appeared to be forever moving just a smidge off parallel, so that neither walked straight ahead, but instead turned in perhaps a degree or two from right down the middle. That ensured that they both remained in full contact with each other at all times, though both looked almost straight ahead. Marcus thought of the toe-in on the front wheels of a car.

When the crowd closed in on them, Bill would walk behind Clara and guide her with his hands on the points of her shoulders. She would slow and stop every minute or two, just a bit unexpectedly, so that he was eternally bumping into her from behind. Finally, she found a folding table full of earrings, right on the sidewalk, that made her stop and take notice.

The earrings were of such special interest that she must lean down very, very close to them, to examine each offering carefully. She roved left and right on the table, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. Bill, buried in her crevasse, was increasingly losing his ability to focus his eyes.

Marcus nudged Beanblossom and asked her if she were getting all this. She gave him a marvelous, broad smile, and confessed that she was becoming remarkably warm, and might soon require a place to sit and compose herself, perhaps enjoy a refreshing beverage.

Ady caught Clara and Bill at it as well. Looking over at Marcus and Beanblossom, she stuck the tip of her tongue between her lips, crossed her eyes, and fanned herself with one hand.

Two guys playing recorders tried to get people to drop money into a Hills Brothers coffee can by playing “Younger than Yesterday” together, matching one another note by note. It wasn’t technically harmony, just both of them playing the exact same thing. To be honest, it was pretty boring, and nobody was throwing much of anything in the can.

A girl in a sort of gypsy dress spontaneously took pity on them and joined their production. She started doing a leaping, high-kicking, exotic dance. Marcus finally recognized it as a cheerleading routine, but done in a full and ruffled skirt. That still wasn’t eliciting much of a response from the passing crowd. In appreciation of her ability to get her kicking foot as high in her head, even while swaddled in acres of paisley, he dropped a couple of dollar bills in the can.

“Marcus,” said Beanblossom, and pointed back behind them. Gerald and Danielle were slow dancing on the sidewalk, caught in the swirl behind them, as if the penultimate song of the evening were playing. They were barely moving, eyes closed. As they watched, Danielle’s lips sought Gerald’s, and she kissed him gently, beautifully, slowly, and thoroughly, their eyes still shut.

Next to them, a small group chanted, “One! Two! Three! Four! We don’t want your fucking war!” to no one in particular. A guy on an old BMW motorcycle, wearing a leather aviator’s helmet, slowly pushed along the curb, easing through the crowd. It looked as if he were actually walking it along, like a bicycle with a broken chain.

Marcus and Beanblossom looked at each other in wonder and amazement. “This is so cool,” they both said, almost together.

In the middle of the street, Mulberry Wing was teaching Clarissa how to jitterbug. Both grinned like crazy people.

In the middle of the sidewalk, Clara had left off bumping into Bill’s genitals, and the two were practicing their choosing behavior together. They proceeded from vendor to vendor, side-by-side, considering this? Or that? Consider again—perhaps that, then?

Each chewed on their lower lip. Mmm, that won’t do, let’s look some more. Candles, buttons, records, tie-dyed t-shirts—hmm. Have you seen any sunglasses? Hmm.

In the quieter spaces, close to the buildings on the street, Larry and David and Spider planned things. Larry and David had introduced Spider to the concept of “doing well by doing good,” and now Spider was testing and stretching and prodding this new idea, and liking it.

Ady was having a good time in the middle of eight girls from Minnesota. They had rented an eight-passenger Econoline van and driven straight through to San Francisco in two days. They swapped notes about going cross country, deciding which sucked more, Salt Lake or St. Paul, and discussing where a girl could take a comfortable pee around here. One girl sold half a carton of smokes to Ady that they’d bought cheap at some Indian reservation along the way. As a courtesy, Ady rolled half a dozen perfect joints out of the girls’ stash for them.

In the cauldron of explosive creation inside his head, Berry melded the billion datum points around him into coherence. He already had a powerful insight as to how this self-proclaimed chaos was organized. And he already was testing how he could fuck with it.

In the Heart of the Day

As did the crews of the green van and the yellow van and the red Bedford, the gathered thousands proclaimed that day. They paraded, kissed, danced, chanted, spun, bartered, and trucked. They made this day the day of endless promise. Today was a Wednesday. Tomorrow would be a Thursday, and they would make it, too, another day of endless promise.

The essential wonder was that this was no argument of theory, no speculation of what might happen in a thousand years. It was taking place right there in front of and around them as they walked. The people were doing it, creating a zoetrope of kaleidoscopes, a coronet of mandalas.

They still did not yet realize the power they held. The very fabric of time was shifting, and they still did not yet realize the sheer magnitude of that shift.

The Universal Zygote produced by the frenzied, joyous sexual explosion that consecrated the end of the War had grown into an enormous child. It had learned to sit up. It was blinking its eyes and looking around.

And this summer, when it attained its majority, it had wandered to San Francisco, solely because it wanted to. Like a squad of gorillas, who would to face down a child grown large like this, and tell it to leave off and sit down? Who would tell it no?

The child grown large, Marcus, the crew, they all, every kid in the country, the whole world, could come to stay forever on this street of spontaneous concatenation and dispersion. All peoples of earth and all sentient beings in the galaxy could and might well come to dwell under each entity’s own private bush in Golden Gate Park, in each one’s own private doorway on Haight, on Ashbury. They would live as they could, going out to gather their needful worldly goods from the castoffs of capitalism. They would take them from restaurant dumpsters in magical alleys, from the proceeds from the passing of outstretched caps and tambourines in favor of one’s dance and song, from hand-making earrings from silver wire and pop-bottle caps, and from straightforward, honest panhandling. And from the dividing of keys into grams and pounds into lids and nickel bags, as well.

That was the magic of this summer, that anyone could come and live, could stay and dwell in the City and find a place, their place. They could live today by waiting table and checks from home. Tomorrow they could sell short-short stories to science fiction magazines, or engage in Zen-principled repair of Volkswagens and two-stroke motorcycles, or dance as organized troupes in the streets and put on regularly-scheduled street plays to induce people to support them with annual memberships in their Dance Collective.

The promise was that all could live joyous, unbound lives, uncorrupt and in complete fulfillment of their human potential.

You could, you know.

You could paint, throw pots, raise kitties to give to tourists, asking only a small donation to defray your costs.

You could start newspapers! You could fill them with manifestos and cartoons and original art, and photos of good real naked human bodies, unshaven men and unshaven women, unwashed, unashamed. And... interviews! Lots of interviews, with gurus and seers and musicians, just bring a tape recorder and let it run!

And each issue would be a work of art, but the art of the people—you had a ready-made pool of eager young artists out on the sidewalks! They would come to your door, willing to offer their sweat and blood for free, for the exposure, for being part of the scene, for access to the grand party!

You would work eighty-hour weeks out of love and your commitment to make your newspapers and journals take wing and fly. Then, before they corrupted you, all those big chunks of money that would inevitably change hands, and the compromises demanded by society, you would sell your whole newspaper business to someone with a lot of money themselves but lacking the creative energy to make their own from nothing, as you had. Then you would give half the money you got to people who needed it bad, give back, enrich your soul, and move on.

Because the core of what was going on, what all coming to the Hashbury could see, even on first encounter, was that these weren’t gods around them. These weren’t people who had inherited their rights to the Street by birth and position. The old hands, the originales, were only a cadre of hipper, one-shade-more streetwise versions of today’s newcomers, in different clothes and longer hair, who had come a bit early, and were doing it all already, right here and right now.

The party had just started, and it was open to all! What could come of this in six months or a year? What would happen when the whole country had given up its children to the City of God, the City of Love, and the spreading Revolution?

For surely no woman, once she knew freedom, would go back to the hateful stricture of the brassiere, the expensive and troublesome casing of the stocking. None would re-bind themselves in the eternal frustration of keeping her natural desires in check so as to be thought of pure, upright, and worthy of trust to bear children within the confines of a godly marriage.

And surely no man would go back, once he knew freedom, to grinding away at the hair on his face every day to earn the privilege of spending half his life in a neon-lit box, subjecting his will to the whims of people he hated, doing mindless things that he neither understood nor cared for.

Bill and Durr and Berry and Gerald and Danielle and the rest might be later to the party than some, certainly. But even as they wove through the flow on foot, they saw newly-arrived station wagons full of even-newer-than-they people. The cars of the just-landed crept down the street at half a walking pace, each succeeding cadre trying to figure whether they should take destiny’s dare, look for a parking place, and stop to walk that Street.

Could they? Could they become as much a part of the scene as that guy Bill and that guy Durr and Berry and Gerald and Danielle and the rest of them already walking over there? Of course! It wasn’t mandatory for your daddy to have made a fortune in reinforced concrete so that you could buy your way into the blessed poverty of the hippie lifestyle. If what surrounded them was all dreams, then they were dreams they could all share.

Just the day before—see it? Someone set up a board, there, on four stacked cinder blocks, on a wooden floor, within a narrow storefront. See the leather thongs with little fetishes knotted in, displayed on cardboard liberated from dumpsters with bent paper clips stuck through? Look at the price tags, done in multicolored ink, sometimes each letter and number a different color than the last—done by the people the other side of that board on cinder blocks, out of love and desire to be in on the Revolution.

And they were back again today.

And note! The two girls running that particular show weren’t hardened, Chesterfield-chaining, retail-war vets in their fifties, no! Not eight weeks ago, they were two juniors on the girls’ volleyball team in Turlock, California, sitting in one of their bedrooms wondering if they could get some money from their Moms without telling them where they were going. And now, they were here. Tomorrow, they would be here as well.

And the people hanging out of second-floor windows weren’t New Yorkers in precious price-controlled apartments, handed down beneath the rose for three generations. They were kids from Sapulpa, Bozeman and Humptulips, who had only started landing that May, as schools let out across the land. The dream wasn’t a dream. It was real, and it was available to everyone.

This moment, Mulberry Wing was staring intently at the scraps of stiff paper pricing out the board-full of tchotchkes in front of her on the sidewalk, her fingers twitching. She saw that as her place in an enterprise such as this, a valued and appreciated member of the shop commune, to be the one selflessly staying up late to perfect the little tab that said $1.52 or $.94, or something else that wasn’t something-00 or something-99. All the prices would reflect a fair percentage over what everything cost, and not some artificial capitalist lying number like $9.99 instead of $9.24, to trick people into paying more than something was truly worth.

She would be mistress over forty dozen clever and precious devices of twisted wire and solder, made to hold roaches, dangle from an ear pierce, bind bold knots of plaited hair to the crown of a maiden’s coif. It was obvious to her that somebody had to make them, sure. But somebody also had to tag them, and somebody had to keep the money straight, and somebody had to smile at the groovy people who gave them money.

And someone could chronicle their story, couldn’t they? Oh, the possibility and the promise stretched out to infinity in every direction! Creation rewarded, how lovely!

Or maybe they could go further, and Bill and Berry and Larry and David were hashing this one out already: they could go as far as the anarchists had already done, with no fascist pricing at all! You would ask people to just give what they could give, what they had they didn’t need for themselves, what would cover the maker’s costs!

They could transcend the transaction, rise above the gold-grubbing ways of their parents. They could be, not pushing piles of shiny stones and trays of paper around, but dipping into an infinitely nurturing river of things and thoughts to create better for all.

Share your story and share my soup! Wrap yourself in this and braid my hair, why make life complex? You want our roach clip, we need entertainment, sing us a song, friend! Here is fair exchange! What else should life be? One need only look, it was laid out, right in front of them....

Here, on the enormous spread of the trunk lid of a 1959 Pontiac, with two hip girls sitting on it cross-legged in cut-off jeans, selling beads and twist rings and clips, and braiding hair and face-painting.

Here, singly and in clumps, collegiate boys, showing their new commitment to lives of artistic abandon by pulling out the tails of their madras plaid shirts, desperately hoping that their hair was visibly growing to their collars even as they walked. They swarmed the Street, trying to find the free love, the suntanned and freckled bare boobs, the backstage pass to the spontaneous, naked, stoned, psychedelic concert given for free by the just-signed-to-a-major-label group. They sought to hang out with that group, the one that couldn’t leave for its contracted first block of studio time till the members found a couple of hardworking roadies who would load their kit for the trip to New York without breaking anything, and cover on tambourine when the lead singer needed both hands free to swing the mike stand around his head, and, oh God, fill in on the chorus!

Here, standing back from the children, were the anarchists who saw their dawn breaking, and the socialists who saw their dawn breaking, and the communards who stood ready to march on that Beaux Arts Bastille over on Polk. This was their time, this was their decision to make. They held the reins, they had the power to choose, to decide whether to burn down City Hall, commandeer it for use as a headquarters, or turn it into apartments for the poor, perhaps with an organic communal garden on the roof for residents.

That issue, how to distribute the resources of City Hall after the Revolution, had already been contested forcefully in the street. Just after noon, there had been actual pushing and shoving in the 1600 block of Haight. Violence had erupted between two groups of over-forty grad students contending the issue, resulting in a painful dent in the hood of the beige Simca 1000 of an apolitical bystander named Torvald.

An embarrassed Poli Sci grad student from Superior, Wisconsin resolved the issue. In an act of pure selflessness and a desire for reconciliation, he treated everybody to lunch at The Bagel, and introduced Torvald to the healing power of a potato knish. And then all could see that love could conquer hate.

Today, Tustin, only tenuously connected to the rest anyway, found a hunting pack of free-roaming, just-graduated, high school senior girls from Santa Rosa. He attached himself to the group like an abalone to a rock. The seven of them didn’t seem to want sex or drugs, necessarily, but did sincerely want to be hippies.

They sought to engage in behavior that would both dismay their mothers and let them try exciting and flattering new looks. They wished to be free, explore their youth, and meet intriguing new guys while avoiding the ickiness of getting pawed by creeps. Just to get started, they were perfectly fine with merely being seen with big tall blond boys who wore parent-infuriating amounts of hair. Thus, they picked up Tustin.

Here, based on some representation by Tustin that was probably incomprehensible to anyone outside their shared demographic, they gave him enough money to obtain drugs. Tustin ultimately scored four aspirin tablets with pale, pink blobs of watery-looking color on each of them. With the change, which they’d expected back, he bought himself a pair of glasses whose lenses were multifaceted lenses, as used on bicycle reflectors.

The vendor of the tablets was an older, shorter, used-up and worked-over version of Tustin. His hair wasn’t blown out, it was greasy and lank. He wore a full-length raincoat and sandals, and had multiple cuts and bruises around his face.

He stood in a doorway framed in a stucco arch with torn-up marble steps, and spoke quietly. The guy gave Tustin a practiced power handshake to seal the deal, and beetled away down the street on completion of the exchange. Very quickly, too, Marcus noted from across the street.

Tustin proudly told the girls that he’d scored some major acid, the guy who sold it to him told him so. He took one tab for himself and gave the other three pills to the seven girls to divide amongst themselves. The girls thanked him politely, then and darted off in perfect formation like a tiny, lost cadre of menhaden trying to find the main school. Tustin stared at their departing forms through the multifaceted red glasses, feeling a new concern that perhaps he needed to shine up his mojo.

No, wait—he’d already gotten burned by the homo in the T-Bird. This was, like, a trend. Fuck! At least he had drugs in his system, and somebody else had paid for them.

He waited for the acid to kick in, to settle his head or whatever it was that acid was supposed to do. As bemused and reflective as he ever got, he rejoined the three-bus crew. He wandered with them with the glasses still on, rotating his head to make the light change.

After a couple of hours, the light of the world was dimming, and Tustin had seen no kaleidoscopic colors and enjoyed no cosmic insights. He accepted that he’d been ripped off, and that he remained as sober as a nun. And he’d wasted two more irreplaceable hours out of his life, without so much as an alley blowjob from a waitress in support hose.

His mood grew even darker. A couple of those high school chicks had been definitely doable. Yet he’d gotten nothing from their encounter except the stupid glasses.

His balls were starting to feel like they’d been slammed in a door, his ass itched, and his face was etched with sullen irritation. He stood there, hipshot, sullen, dead in the water, staring morosely at nothing, down the length of the street. His internal turmoil shone out like a dark beacon from his handsome face. Three fourteen-year-old chicks who had ridden the bus over from Pinole Village stopped dead in their tracks as they walked along Haight, certain they were seeing Jim Morrison, plain.

Of all the crew of the three vans, Ady had dropped most naturally into the rhythm of the street. She looked as if she’d been born there: long-faced, big-nosed, big-haired; lean, her eyes slightly unfocused, she both smiling and chattering, though not in synch with each other.

Clara was entangled with Bill. Little else was relevant to her at the moment. She had one focused, bright moment when they all drifted through Golden Gate Park, returning her briefly to her obsession.

A blond girl, tall, but as chunky as Clara, reclined at some distance from them in the grass, near the verge of the undergrowth at the border of the meadow. Her knees were up, and her aqua flowered dress was pulled to her waist. A very long-haired, red-headed guy, with rangy, dirty legs, was plowing deeply into her, in a strong cross-light.

Clara got a breathtaking, detailed, and extremely informative look at what a man’s body, notably his muscular, white-pale buttocks, did under such circumstances. She’d thought it was kind of a tucking, humping thing, the way it was with dogs. This was nothing like that at all. This looked as if big, invisible hands were kneading his ass like bread dough. He was driving into the blond girl almost parallel to the ground.

It was beautiful and impressive. Clara wondered, briefly, if the girl realized and appreciated just how hard this guy was working for her; although she seemed passively pleased to be there, she’d made not a sound, didn’t even hold him to her with her arms. She lay as if asleep, with her head turned to one side, eyes closed, arms akimbo in the grass. Perhaps she was stoned, Clara thought.

And for the hundredth time, she wondered if she was the only person in the world who didn’t know how this kind of thing worked in real life. Was this guy that the young woman was letting ride her so intensely some kind of love god, or was he colossally inept? The girl—was she floating in paradise, or bored out of her gourd, thinking about calling her Mom to check on how her dog at home was doing?

And, once again, why was this all such a huge, inaccessible secret?

It made a big difference being in this pack of boys and girls together. Here, she could watch the silent, horizontal minuet being danced out on the greensward from the center of their troupe, without fear of discovery or chance of interruption. All she needed to do was pretend to talk to Clarissa, Ady, Marcus, and Bill, who walked between her and the copulating couple.

She wanted a movie camera, maybe hidden in a shoe-box, maybe in a purse. She was afraid she’d forget something of what she was seeing. That was important, she thought, because, other than this one incident, there wasn’t much actual free love going on in the Gilded Meadow of the New Age, as far as she could see.

It was now kind of a side issue, anyway. There was Bill. Somehow, he’d missed the coupling couple entirely. She felt the strangest combination of titillation and humiliation, thinking about how she’d feel if the two of them had been watching those proceedings together.

Bill looked at Clara and not much else.

He nudged her gently and asked what she was thinking about. She smiled, mysteriously, she hoped, and said that she was just getting a little thirsty, that was all. Bill couldn’t have been more fascinated by that revelation.

Spider drifted away and, somehow, always found them again as he drifted back.

Larry and David were like two terriers, looking down through the wrought-iron railings of a balcony at a courtyard full of frolicking rats. Opportunity for money, opportunity for honeys, radiated towards them from every prospect—turn us loose! Turn us loose! Hey, buddy! What, buddy? Turn us loose! Turn us loose!

Durr looked for pussy and something to give him a buzz, but settled for talking to Marcus a bunch. He knew up front that he was going to be operating under a new set of rules amongst this hippie crowd. He watched hippie guys with hippie chicks, trying to see things they were doing that he could do, to get a hippie chick for himself.

Or maybe get a fix on a tourist chick who would mistake him for a hippie. Hell, something, anything. This shit was all well and good, but the Army stood off to one side, tapping its foot impatiently.

Durr looked at cars and trucks, too, because this also was definitely a different scene than he was used to. He was flexible, but he still couldn’t get into the idea of painting things on a car, except maybe flames, or gluing things to it, or even of building a camper made of wood onto a station wagon. Christ, was that lame.

Here, everybody seemed to want a VW van. If you got one and covered it with plastic flowers and peace stickers, you’d bury what rooms full of Kraut engineers had taken decades to perfect. What was that all about? I mean, come on.

As far as San Francisco itself, though? Sure, yes, absolutely. All Durr wanted was a way in. Like Danielle, there was not a doubt in his mind that he had arrived at his destination, at least till the Army came a-knockin’. Fine, and after he got out, he totally saw himself coming back here.

Unlike Danielle or Beanblossom, though, he wanted to end up doing regular stuff. He could do his cabinetry thing, stick with skilled carpentry in general, or get into tile work, where you could make beau-coup bucks, no doubt about that. Or he could learn HVAC, or start working on weird-assed foreign cars for money. Or, if he wanted to go white collar, he could manage a grocery store or a parts store. And this was as good a place as any, better than most he’d seen.

And if you looked at the whole deal another way, to get to where he wanted to go, all he had to do was resign himself to a couple years in the Army. Just go in, don’t drink all his pay away, stay alive, and get out. Some guy back home told him that, like, one guy in ten who went into the Army went to Nam, and one guy in ten who went to Nam went to the front, while everybody else was support. It sounded crazy, but also sounded about right, for the Army. Piss on it. Whatever happened, happened.

And the Art Factory thing wasn’t going to go away. He’d gone around and around about it in his head, and couldn’t find a hole in the plan. He was proud that Beanblossom, who, despite her resistance to his manly charms was, after all, one smart chick, had approved of the idea and had criticized nothing about it. That had to count for something.

Berry’s head remained as incomprehensible as the Voynich Manuscript.

In the early evening, they joined another group of people back in the Park, who brought with them a tall blond kid with a big nose, soft chin, and as impressive a blowout as Tustin’s. With all that hair and his gentle face, with immense self-confidence and big luminous brown eyes, the chicks just flowed around him. Durr stared in disbelief of how shit worked around here.

The kid called himself Kane. He pronounced it “cane.” He erroneously believed that the Hawaiian noun for “man,” from which he’d taken his hippie name, was pronounced like the name of he that slew his brother Abel.

The enlarged group got a small fire going, fueled more by paper and cardboard than anything else. There was an ongoing multilogue about what they would do with the fire, once it settled, as it must, into a glowing, life-affirming pit of coals—roast hot dogs? Heat cans of beans, cans of soup? Make a huge pot of coffee, boil water for tea? Warming hands was sounding better and better, as well, as the evening cooled.

However, every time someone threw more paper or cardboard on the fire, it would go up in a big flare, and then settle down almost at once to a useless pile of stinky ashes. Eventually, an uneasy recognition spread through the group that, at some point, they would have to forage through Golden Gate Park for firewood. That opened the question of what, exactly, should they regard as, “firewood”?

Several noted the plentiful accumulations of cast-off eucalyptus bark all around them, and bark was part of a tree, right? And if it had fallen off a tree, it was mostly dried out already, right? Then it came to them that, not only were leaves part of a tree, too, but they were certainly burnable. Those of the ingathered who came from temperate climes knew that their Dads did that very thing every fall.

The group mind thus investigated the thought that, not only would the Man probably not be all grim and negative about people gathering eucalyptus bark and leaves from the Park to make a fire, but would probably be happy if somebody cleaned up all that mess for free. It would be the same thing with the lowest level of twigs and branches on the scrubby bushes lining the paths and roads. Like, if you clean them out for free, you’d actually be helping out society, and that would have to be cool with everybody.

Several of the assembled, dudes and chicks both, had been Scouts, Boy and Girl, so had informed reservations about the fire-building proposals. Thus far, they’d thought it best to keep those reservations to themselves. Heck, maybe wet eucalyptus bark did burn like seasoned oak, who knew?

Water was a concern as well. The best-received suggestion so far had been to keep water-gathering simple, and just go to Stowe Lake and fill up empty Coke bottles. But there was a firm opinion among some that asking for water from the restaurants along the Haight would probably be much, much cleaner.

That suggestion began to get some legs within the group. A couple of voices pointed out that the restaurant owners might even have some change or some food that they could spare, and would want to share, since they needed to have the good will of the community if they wanted to be successful in business. It would be, like, almost-free advertising.

A couple of people were insistent that water from Stowe Lake was by far the better choice. They argued that the algae in the water in Stowe Lake was not only natural, but packed full of nutrients, and was vegetarian, besides. Whales lived on it, man, and what animal was healthier than a whale?

They grew thirstier and thirstier as the discussion continued, with no movement towards a consensus. They finally concurred on an interim strategy. All, or most, would stand in line for an open tap at a fountain in the park. Afterwards, they could return to a wide-ranging and thoroughly exhaustive analysis of the issues involved, and reason the matter to a generally agreed-upon conclusion.

Which they did. While they stood in line, several of the Stowe Lake advocates went off, rather stiff-neckedly, to dip water from Stowe Lake, and never returned.

Food was the next problem. Beanblossom suggested apples and cheese for everyone. One person from the other group wanted to get ten pounds of brown rice, draw some algae-enriched lake water, and liberate a big pot to hang over the fire. She pointed out that the safety of the lake water, for those so incurably paranoid as to even worry about it, would be ensured by their having to boil it to cook the rice.

Durr, as an alternative, wanted to find a nearby Golden Point and an A&W. When he’d worked a job in Oklahoma City, he’d become enamored of Golden Point and its twelve-cent hamburgers. Then he’d drive to a nearby A&W, and get a mug of root bear for fifteen cents. He’d spotted two Golden Points on his way into San Francisco, and was ready to hunt one down. Then they could do the A&W thing, and there seemed to be a God’s plenty of those.

Cheap burgers and root beer won out—handily—over brown rice steamed in algae water. A combined party of twenty-three from both camps set off in the now-dark night to find aliment. Those from the new group had all originally come to the Street by hitching, walking over, or coming in on a bus, so the general intention was to get seven or eight people in each of the two VWs and the Bedford.

Joints, and a scattering of unidentified pills, had been passed during the conclave. All now moved carefully, but still determinedly. Burgers and root beer sounded better and better as the evening advanced.

Three Clams and Three Boxes of Crackers

The first step, of course, was remembering where they’d parked the vans. Durr had marked the spot in his memory by noting that along the curb where they’d parked, behind the Bedford and the two Kombis, were not one but two Citröen DS19s, parked nose to tail, an unusual sight even in San Francisco.

In the group of nearly two dozen wanderers at the corner of Judah and 3rd, a small, serious girl with a big bust named Katty asked how long it had been since he’d parked it. Durr was sure that it had been before noon, but not much before noon. Wait, that was down by the Embarcadero.

OK, maybe he’d parked the bus last around two, maybe three. A cloud of concern passed over Katty’s lovely, heart-shaped face. Would it be possible that maybe someone had moved one of those cars he’d named (she had no clear mental image of what a “Citröen” might be) in the meantime?

Hearing one of their group choosing to bring everybody down, as Katty had just done, made several people uncomfortable. But they couldn’t dismiss the even grimmer thought, that somebody had moved one or both cars, destroying their big clue as to the whereabouts of the vans. Worse, even if that hadn’t happened yet, the longer they tarried the more likely it became.

That tamped further revolutionary pedagogy of Katty’s outburst.

A ripple of uplift went through them when, after a brief discussion, they concluded that since it was certainly possible that one of the two Citröens could have been moved in the interim, all could agree that it would be smart and productive to be flexible enough to keep watch for even one Citröen, and not pointlessly insist on two. You had to adapt to the situation, after all.

With their need for belly-fill pushing them forward, the group set out looking for two or possibly fewer Citröens, in the company of two VW buses and a Bedford.

“Two clams and three boxes of crackers,” Marcus whispered to Beanblossom.

He and she drifted towards the back of the pack, and after a few blocks he said softly to her, “Beanblossom?” She replied, “Mmm-hm,” nodding her head slowly, as she raised her eyebrows, curled her upper lip inward over her teeth, and covered it with her lower, to assure him that she recognized the gentle insanity as clearly as he. This drew them closer to each other than anything else had so far.

Durr was earnestly limning the shape of a Citröen in the air to the sizable subgroup who wouldn’t have been able, uninstructed, to distinguish a Citröen from a circus calliope. Marcus and Beanblossom agreed almost telepathically that if, as Marcus assured her, there were probably no more than three or four vehicles such as the Bedford in the entire Bay Area at the moment, it wasn’t really obvious why looking for two Citröens instead of one Bedford would help them find the Bedford any faster than simply looking for the Bedford.

It was interesting that this idea seemed to have occurred to no one else. Marcus was slightly embarrassed for Durr. In charity, he reminded himself that there had been some dope smoked earlier.

They settled in for a strange evening. Neither he nor Beanblossom was all that hungry, thank goodness. Both wore sensible shoes and just enough clothing to ward off the night air, and, on this classic San Francisco summer night, both found each other’s company to be strangely calming and pleasant. They decided to drift with the current.

The group formalized their search, at the urging of the former Scouts, by boxing the blocks. They moved like raccoons in a forest through the dead quiet streets. The leaders stopped at intervals to rise high on their haunches and sniff the air.

The alphas in the group were certain that soon, they would pick up on familiar corners and prospects. Then their instincts would take over and would draw them ineluctably to their goal. No one brought up splitting up to broaden the search, thank God.

Even without direct contact between them, Beanblossom was radiating so much heat through the thin cotton of her shirt that Marcus was deeply satisfied with walking with this pack of loons in the thickening fog, just for her presence. For her part, Beanblossom seemed content to pace his longer legs with her swishing, flowing stride, forever.

They moved along the choppy sidewalks, through the rectangular order of the northern Sunset district, in and about the menagerie of often ocean-spray-rusted, frequently outré vehicles pulled against or over the low curb. No one looked out at them. No one barred their way. No children played outside in the middle of the evening. No one sat on a step strumming on or blowing into anything.

Dope smoke seeped from a hundred crevices around them. Within the row houses, the natives hid from the fog, from the pigs, and from assholes from the Haight looking for handouts. The twenty-three walked unmarked and unnoticed.

The handful of blowouts worn in the group was starting to wilt and drip. A guy from Fort Collins, who hadn’t settled on a hippie name yet but could be reached by hailing, “Fort Collins!” gave in early and pulled his hair back. The fog had settled in his formidable forelock to drag it soggily down. Several of the girls pulled shawls, or garments that one could imagine to be shawls like one girl’s lovely Victorian lace throw rescued from discard, more snugly around them.

One of the guys had already given one of the girls the top layer of his many shirts to throw over her shoulders. A rather sullen girl was getting cranky because no one would help her similarly with the chill. A couple of genial guys, one prodded by Beanblossom (she glanced at him, smiled, and glanced at the girls, and that was enough), gave shirts to Clarissa and Mulberry Wing to wear, though the girls remained barefoot.

Discussion was starting to rise about the possibility of knocking on doors and asking for food, when, finally, Marcus looked down one dark street and saw a boxy shape that wasn’t a VW van and said, “There.”

“What?”

“I see it.”

The news that Marcus had spotted a Citröen ran through the group.

“No,” said Marcus, “I see the Bedford.”

There was some disappointment with Marcus and his failure to focus on the problem at hand, as determined by the group’s long-standing consensus, which was to find one, possibly two, Citröens. Someone reminded him, in a slightly pinched and disapproving voice, that, “We’re looking for Citröens, Marcus.”

“No, we’re looking for the Bedford.”

A lightly-dismayed murmur ran through the group. Earlier, Marcus had come out as a non-participant in the circle of sharing herb. Now he was revealing himself as yet another sad egoist, co-opting the energy of the people for his own aggrandizement.

Marcus looked at Beanblossom and over to Durr. “Durr? You coming?”

The two men, with Beanblossom, started briskly down the line of darkened cars. Durr sped up as he saw that Bedford, was, in fact, facing towards them. Behind them, the swarm hove to, came about, and reluctantly tacked against the wind of change. They arrived at the Bedford, they swept around it, and saw that close by, of course, were the two VW buses.

Some of the orthodox noted rather loudly that, just as Durr had said, there were two Citröens trailing the Bedford along the curb, exactly what the consensus of the people had said they should be looking for, and that some people didn’t need to be complicating everything by pushing their own personal agenda.

Admittedly, the two Citröens were both up on concrete blocks. They appeared to have been in that state for some time, and were clearly going nowhere for at least the balance of the decade. In fact, there was even a third Citröen, a DS station wagon, visible further on. Beanblossom looked at Marcus and snorted, charmingly. “Three clams, and three boxes of crackers,” she said, so only he could hear.

The Bedford, thank the Buddha, was as they left it, as were the VWs. However, its battery was now stone dead.

Durr extracted a crescent wrench from the neat half-size drawers in the cabinetry of the Bedford. He’d remembered that, at one point, Mulberry Wing had discovered it, scrolled the jaw open a bit, and was pretending that it was a tiny chrome T. Rex, going, “Arr! Arr!” at a giggling Clarissa. Also, and most improbably, one of the newer group carried a rippled, chrome, EverReady two-cell flashlight. Miraculously, it actually shone white, not lemonade yellow or Hallowe’en orange.

Marcus and Durr found the Bedford’s battery under the goofy coffin-lid hood, and Marcus worked loose the horrifyingly efflorescent terminals. He could already feel the creepy sense of phosphoric acid beginning its slow fire under his skin. Growing uncharacteristically short-tempered, he demanded that someone in the band of seekers come up with something with abrasive qualities, and quickly.

He looked back over his shoulder at Durr, in silent disapproval of the state of the terminals. Durr shrugged, sheepishly. “I thought since the whole rig was practically new, why jack with it? Sorry, man.”

A girl embarrassedly proffered an emery board, an artifact of the life she’d so recently fled. Marcus was unhappy to find that there was no Vaseline to be had. They did find an unopened box of baking soda in the Bedford’s kitchen stash, and a toothbrush by the bathroom sink, and a hiker’s flask of water.

Marcus worked on it. Durr, Beanblossom, and Spider barricaded him from behind, preventing potential helpers and advisers from endangering their young lives by offering concerned opinions. Durr was deeply impressed, because Marcus was on the case, gettin’ it done, a credit to his Dad. Damn! Go, man, go!

Marcus snugged down the clamps and straightened up, done with Stage One. He asked Durr to try to light it, just for giggles, before pulling one of the VWs around and attempting a jump. Surprisingly, the Bedford coughed and sparked to life immediately, and Durr watched in amazement as the tiny amber and yellow jewels in the dash, and the headlights and taillights, took on real life for the first time since he’d gotten in the Bedford in Reno. Durr told Marcus that he was officially embarrassed now, and smiled big to show how Marcus should take that.

Marcus used the remains of the baking soda paste and the remaining water to neutralize his hands.

He, Durr, and Berry agreed to go back over the bridge to Oakland. Marcus was now grumpy enough to say that anybody who wanted to discuss the issue further could stay, go, shit, or go blind, to use one of Gridley’s favorite expressions, but he was leaving. He swung up into the saddle of the green VW, prepared to take off alone.

But then Beanblossom was there, next to him. She sat in the passenger’s seat with her knees up, resting her forehead, then her cheek, on her knees, her hands clasped around her shins. He had a sudden silly vision of himself as a motorcycle and her as a sidecar, content to go everywhere the motorcycle went without question, providing stability without any other real interaction. Or something like that; somehow this sidecar seemed to be doing a lot of the steering.

Marcus and Beanblossom took off. The other twenty-some people jammed into the two VWs.

The need for food and appropriate sanitary facilities was growing pronounced, but at least they were doing something positive about it. Three vehicles blatted and grunted over the Bay Bridge. Durr led, and in Oakland he turned the Bedford onto Grand Avenue, because it had a good name, it was wide, mostly deserted, and aimed directly at downtown.

And they drove. And drove. And there was nothing. The tall buildings of downtown rose slowly ahead of them, but after dark, apparently nobody ate in Oakland. Nor did they need a bathroom, gasoline, or go out to buy newspapers or boxes of Kleenex, because no enterprise of any sort was open. All right, a cab stand.

Durr turned right on Telegraph, since several people recognized the name, disregarding the fact that they recognized it from the name of a hill in San Francisco. Finally, on the left they saw a hamburger place. A small group of Negro teenagers, wearing stingy-brim hats, dark sports coats, high-water pants, and pointed-toe shoes, gathered in its parking lot.

They looked as if they had dressed for hip church. They surrounded two of their fellows who were rolling around on the ground, beating the pee-wadding out of each other. Feeling somewhat embarrassed and race-prejudiced, the drivers continued on.

At a strange intersection with Broadway, an incredibly acute angle, they arrived at a long, pointy Doggie Diner, which seemed to be part of a bus station. Marcus and Beanblossom wanted to stop. No one else agreed, preferring to stick to the communally-arrived-at plan to get twelve-cent hamburgers and fifteen-cent mugs of root beer.


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