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BACK TO The LEAVING

NEW YORK It was 1AM. Doof was restless. He just couldn’t sleep. In just a few hours he needed to get up. He had to drive. This was the day. The trip was to begin.

He thought back to a day a couple of years ago. He and Slick, maybe Skin & Foch & Dink - he couldn’t remember exactly who was there - were up there in his room. Partying. Doof’s room was a stark contrast to Slick’s. Everything was in its place. Nothing on the walls. Just nice furniture and bare, shiny paneled walls. A true suburban feel. The parties, though, were just as intense.

This day the pot smoke choked off the air. The scent of tequila & lemon wafted through the smoke. The Harmon-Karden stereo was blasting Bloodrock. A tune called Melvin Laid an Egg. Whoever was up there was in another world. Anyone could have laid an egg, and no one would have noticed. Totally stoned, not to mention drunk. They thought they were alone.

Without warning the closet door suddenly burst open. There stood Annabelle, Doof’s mother. The group sat motionless. They were too far gone to react. Doof thought,

“Holy shit!!”

He was silent though. Annabelle walked across the room. All eyes followed her. She clicked off the stereo. The sudden drop in decibel level had the effect of bringing everyone one small step back towards consciousness. They nervously exchanged glances.

“Hi, Annabelle,” Slick offered.

Annabelle went through this incredible, obligatory tirade. Something about this not going on in her house and how drugs and drink would ruin their minds.

“Is this what goes on when your father & I are not here?”

It was a purely rhetorical question. She yelled. She screamed. She ranted. She paced back & forth shaking her hands. Then she ordered pizza and soda and invited everyone downstairs to her own form of party. It was pure Annabelle.

Doof was going to miss this unique personality. He drifted off to a short slumber. The alarm went off. It was 4AM. Time to begin.

*******

Three bodies stirred as the annoying rattle of the alarm clock shattered their dreams. One was in bed, the other two were squeezed cozily on a nearby couch. “C’mon, we had better get going ... they’ll be here soon.”

Serena was the only one able to function at this early hour. She nuzzled Yonna at the other end of the couch with her feet. She tossed her pillow over at the bed where BugaLady was slipping back to sleep.

“Really, we have to move. Today is the day.”

She walked over to the night stand, kicking off the light blanket as she did, and shut down that racket. She shouted, in a singsong voice,

“Today is the day!”

BugaLady jumped up. This was it. They’d been waiting for so long for this day. She stretched. She looked around the room. It was dark, save the gentle glow of the little night light. Serena stood before her in her white night gown, grinning. BugaLady wiped the sleep from her eyes.

“Yonna ... Yonna! Wake up We have to get dressed. It’s Saturday. It’s June 1!! Wake up!!! We’re leaving today.”

Yonna struggled mightily to sit up, groaning.

“Coffee.”

*******

“You’re leaving, son?”

“Yeah, Mom. It’s time.”

Ronnie & Kathy & Slick’s mom were all up in the early morning darkness - darkness that seemed deeper than usual - to see Slick off. They were all still in their night clothes. Slick had been up awhile. He spent about a half hour looking over the room he was now turning over to his brother. He thought back, scanning his brain for all the good times he had had up here in his little sanctuary. Then he showered and dressed. He had made a pot of coffee and was emptying his third cup.

“I'll miss you all. Thanks for everything.”

Everyone had tears welling up in their eyes. This was sad. No one seemed quite certain just how long this parting might last. Slick thought forever. He had even quit the band for this. It had to be forever.

“You take care of yourself, Slick. I’ll miss you ...”

Ronnie’s voice broke off. Slick hugged everyone. Turned and walked out into the darkness. His mom called out after him,

“I love you.”

Slick was gone.

*******

The beeping of a car horn outside the bedroom window was a familiar sound. Mimi bounded out of bed. She peered hazily threw the drawn curtains, images of Fiddle & Gary & Rob dancing in her head. No one was there and there was no car. She was dreaming. The noise she heard was the sound of her alarm clock.

“Oh my,” she sighed. “It’s time.”

She dialed the phone.

“Time to get up, Scottie. They’ll be here soon.”

“Is it the first already?” came the somewhat bewildered reply.

“Get up. It’s 5:30 already. Come on over!”

“Be there in a half hour. See ya, bye!”

Mimi struggled to wake the household. She would rather have avoided this scene, but felt an obligation. She sat on the living room couch, facing her parents, her brother standing silently in befuddled sleepiness.

“Mimi, you’re a bright girl. A good girl. You don’t let them take advantage ...”

“Ma ...”

“Never you mind. You listen to your mother!”

“Where will you find a temple out there in that ... that ... in that wilderness? What will happen to you? I’m going to be worried sick, Mimi. You write every chance you can ...”

“I will, don’t worry.” 

*******

Slick headed out towards Doof’s, a canteen strapped over his shoulder. It was misty and foggy out there in the early morning. As he strolled, he saw the light of a vehicles headlights approaching. It was Doof. The van pulled to a stop and Slick sat in the front passenger seat.

“We did it.”

“Where to?”

“I guess we better pick up Amy first. Symbolic, Doof.”

They cruised in relative silence over to Bellmore and stopped to pick up the first of their recruited mates, Amy. She had been quarreling with her parents. Something about wanting her to abandon this crazy idea of roaming the country, she explained. It was obvious that she had been crying. They zoomed over to BugaLady’s to pick up that threesome. They were waiting near the front door, armed with a chain, a leash, and a dog bowl. Brahms, too. They quietly took their seats in the van. It was on to Queens.

The light of morning was later than usual due to the fog. It was just turning the sky to gray when the van pulled up behind Mimi’s apartment. This time, the honking Mimi heard was for real. Scottie had arrived minutes earlier and the two ventured into the unknown, leaving Mimi’s hysterical parents in the doorway.

At nearly the same moment, Roy & Gary pulled up in the red Datsun that was Roy’s. They had come to bid farewell. These were the two people Mimi would have the most trouble saying good-bye to, even though she would be seeing Roy again in just three weeks. Everyone sat quietly in the van while the foursome said their tear-filled adios’. It was a sobering reminder to all of their own emotional experiences in the past 24 hours. It was to be a new beginning. No more family, no more good longtime friends ... Slick’s mind whizzed through Butterball & Ronnie & all the gang. He thought of the nights playing in bars with the band. No more. At least Doof was along. And now he had BugaLady, a wild femme fatale waiting to be tamed. The whole group was a good bunch. They had everything laying out there before them.

Tearily, Scottie & Mimi sat in the van. Mimi adjusted her seat belt, thinking briefly of how she wished Roy was going now. She felt like she was the only one not paired up. Not true, of course. Half the little band wasn’t “paired up”.

“We’ll call you when we get to Ann Arbor. Let you know where to meet us. Good luck,” Slick called out to Roy.

“Yeah, sounds good. Be careful!”

“Don’t forget your guitar!” Slick rolled up the window. The van fired up. Everyone sat silent. It was about to happen. Slick looked around the van at all the faces. Only BugaLady smiled back. The van pulled out. The next great adventure had begun.

*******

The van whizzed down the highway. It was strangely silent inside. All these people, all these expectations holed up inside them for all these months, all that constrained enthusiasm ... Now there was an introspective pall cast over them. The tears had pretty much dried up, but the sullen feelings remained. Were they making a terrible mistake? Could they really be happy away from all their loved ones? Could this ragtag ensemble really coexist over the long haul? Where would they find any privacy? Would the van make it? Slowly but surely, the inner questions asked turned from the esoteric to the pragmatic. This was good. The thoughts were becoming focused on their current reality. It was the magic of the road. It could cause all troubles, foreign to the environment, to quickly melt away, as if one were slipping into a new, more trouble-free, dimension. Slick & Doof had experienced this many times before. It was the cure.

So, as the van sped over the Throgs Neck Bridge northward towards the Tappan Zee, the great veil was gently lifted.

“Put on some music, man.” demanded Scottie. “Let’s change this mood!”

“I guess it’s about that time, whatch’ you wanna hear?” asked Slick.

“Put that Springfield tape on, it always reminds me of when we first decided to go on this trip. Remember that, Mimi?”

“How could I forget. You drove me crazy that night.”

“I’ve got some friends near Woodstock I’d like to say good-bye to. What do you think?” asked Amy.

As they passed the familiar land mark, The Motel on the Mountain, Slick slid in the Buffalo Springfield tape. The whole aura inside the van changed.

“Yeah, good. No problem,” was Doof’s reply. “Just give me directions.”

Mimi was eyeing the gas gauge

“Don’t you think maybe we should fill up soon?”

“How about breakfast?” queried Scottie.

Soon there was an exit ramp on the New York thruway with little signs signifying food & gas. Doof took the exit and pulled into the first gas station he saw. Slick reached under the seat for the gas money. Everyone poured forth out of the van to stretch. The weather had changed for the better. Rays of sun were shining happily through the dissipating clouds. The air was moist but cooler than expected. Upstate air was like that. It smelled fresh.

“We should go to Woodstock, as long as we’ll be so close, don’t you think?” BugaLady wanted to know.

“Let’s!” responded Yonna.

Everyone was nodding in agreement.

Doof placed the nozzle back on the gas pump. The van was ready to roll. Slick was in the rear of the van, pushing some gear aside to get to the cooler.

“Don’t anyone drink from this canteen!” He was adamant, and placed the canteen he had been carrying into the cooler. No one paid much attention. Everyone was chattering about this place or that they’d like to go to. Scottie came running up from inside the convenience store adjacent to the gas station carrying two bags of ice.

“Good, its open. Put these in there!”

“Beware the canteen ...”

Scottie’s quizzical look caused Slick to pause.

“C’mon, let’s eat,” yelled Doof.

Everyone was walking next door to a diner, The Olympic Torch. Must be several hundred diners with the same name in this part of the world. This was to be a departure from the norm. Eating out. Nothing to clean up. It was just too soon into the voyage to have to take down all the gear needed to cook up, and clean up, a meal. There’d be enough of that later. Right now a good hot meal with no effort was what the doctor ordered. Slick, Doof, & Scottie ordered combo #1, two eggs over easy with toast, home fries, & sausage plus a side of pancakes & coffee. The ladies all had various combinations of eggs, toast & meat. All except Mimi who simply ate a bowl of oatmeal. She had to save her money.

Roy had casually mentioned to her a couple of days before that he might be in need of extra gas money. Mimi kept it inside, for fear of a hostile reaction towards him from the group. She wanted very much for everyone to like Roy. He was her salvation. It was very convenient, under the circumstances, to have a partner. Roy felt a bit like an outsider as it was. She didn’t want to make it any worse. Since everyone was chipping in for gas expenses, Roy felt it only fair that that should include his gas as well. Was it his fault they had to leave June 1? Why should he have to bear the brunt of all that gas money for his vehicle? Eight people would be sharing that burden for the other. Somehow, Mimi knew the others wouldn’t see it that way. She kept it to herself for the time, and decided she’d give him the money if she could. So, she ate her inexpensive little bowl of oatmeal.

Returning to the van, the group found a wildly yelping Brahms awaiting them, as if to say, “Don’t you ever leave me alone like that again!”

“C’mere, you cute little Brahmsy-poo!” purred BugaLady, stroking behind his ears. “Did you miss your Mommy?”

“Ugh,” groaned Slick.

Everyone piled back into their seats, this time Slick sitting next to BugaLady in the back, Amy taking over the front with Doof. They headed back onto the thruway to stop off at Amy’s friends’ house in Kingston, NY. There they had a large, impromptu lunch, Amy said her farewells, and then the crew veered off towards Woodstock.

Ahh, Woodstock. The town was now legendary. It really wasn’t that deserving of all the fame. After all, the concert of the same name, back in ‘69, was not even here. Didn’t seem to matter, though, the throngs of teenagers, and people of all ages for that matter, continued to make the pilgrimage. It was a nicely quaint town. Filled with artisans and freaks of all kinds. The van entered via state road 375. Doof pulled into a scarce parking space and the van emptied. Everyone began a stroll down the street. It didn’t matter which one. This was Woodstock.

“You guys make it to the big one?” asked Scottie.

“Nah,” replied Slick, we were plannin’ to. I think we were comin’ on the Saturday the Dead were playin’.”

“Yeah.” Doof added.

“Remember, Doof, we were sittin’ on the stoop with Skin & Foch & Bean ... and we heard on WNEW that it was all muddy and there was traffic everywhere ... we decided we weren’t going.”

“Hell no! We won’t go!” Doof blared, laughing through his words, “That was a big mistake. But, we went to Watkins Glen. That was cool.”

“Hate to break up your trip down memory lane, guys, but maybe we ought to do some shopping while we’re here in town.” suggested BugaLady.

“Some food might come in handy one day,” giggled Yonna.

Amy & Yonna were selected by BugaLady to pick up the groceries and they scurried off to do the chore. While Mimi, Doof & Slick wandered around checking out the sights, Scottie & Serena sat down on a park bench along the street. Scottie had Brahms on his lap. Seems Brahms was developing a special affinity for Scottie. Must have been those puppy dog eyes. They sat, but didn’t speak for a few minutes, just eyeballed the surroundings. Finally, Serena broke the awkward silence.

“You know, tonight we spend the night together for the first time.”

This caught Scottie totally by surprise. Though it was always on his mind, he had figured he wouldn’t have to deal with it until the tent was up and there was no place else for the two of them to go.

“Uh ... yeah. You don’t mind ... do you? I mean ...”

“Scottie! Of course not. Do you think I’d be here with you if I minded? Oh, Scottie ...”

She was staring directly into his eyes. He was forcing himself not to turn away.

“No, I guess not. It’s just that I don’t want anything to go wrong ... to come between us ... I think I ...”

“Don’t worry. We’ll be OK.” She put her finger to his mouth as if to quiet him. She kissed him gently. Scottie was relieved.

“Whoopie!!” He shouted as he did a little jig right there on main street. Brahms danced right along with him, constantly tangling the two with his long leash. Serena blushed and looked around to see if anyone was paying attention, which they weren’t, so she just sat back and enjoyed the show.

“This is some guy,” she thought.

Eventually, Amy, Yonna, and BugaLady returned, arms filled with brown grocery bags. The had run wild in the little grocery store. They had all kinds of good stuff. The band of travelers would be proud. Well, maybe they did overspend, but after all, it was only the first day. From another direction came Mimi, Slick, & Doof. For a split second, Mimi hesitated. Just a minute part of her felt a slight pang of jealousy. Then she was happy. Happy for Scottie. She really liked Serena, and the two of them got along well enough, and felt she was just what old Scottie needed. The two groups were converging on a kissing couple, oblivious to their presence. Just standing there, Brahms by their side - pulling now to reach BugaLady.

“Uh, hum,” interrupted BugaLady. “Can’t leave you two young ‘uns alone for a second now can we? Whatever will we do?”

She threw her arms up in mock despair, groceries flying about as she did so. Slick scrambled to collect them before a struggling Brahms did.

“Oh ... didn’t know you were back,” was all Serena could muster out of her embarrassment.

“I think we missed the festival,” was Scottie’s more comical response. He didn’t care. “Let’s get out of here! I wanna see the country!”

“Not gonna see much of it that way,” said Mimi.

“OK, we copped some pot from a dude over a couple of blocks. Looks pretty good. Columbian.” Doof said.

“Yeah, let’s go find a campground. It’s getting late.”

Everyone followed Slick’s lead. The groceries were safely stashed away, not to mention that the new found stash was too, and all piled back into the van. Woodstock, though a nice town, was somewhat of a disappointment to most. The inevitable, if undeserved, connection between the great festival and this little town was bound to lead to that. But, everyone could now say they’d been there.

“Can’t believe I’ve been to Woodstock!” mused Amy dreamily as the blue & white VW, with the tie dyed curtains and monstrous black roof rack rolled on up highway 9W, paralleling the Hudson River. It’s course wasn’t yet certain. They were simply meandering. Oh, Ann Arbor was a definite, of course, and plunging pell mell across the great Canadian expanse was also in the plan. So, naturally, was reaching southern California. That was the end. The rest was a loose outline. Maybe it was time for more definite ideas.

“Listen guys,” shouted Slick above the music. “We’d better figure out where the hell we’re going. I think it’s time for that, you know?”

He paused, waiting for an interjection. Mimi was lost in her thoughts. She was still upset over the morning’s leaving. It was simply too much saying good-bye to Gary and Rob. Together. At the same time. Then her mind flickered over to Woodstock.

“Everyone was so young! What a town ...” she thought.

No one responded to Slick. He continued.

“There’s this place up in Vermont. Doof & I heard about it two years ago. It’s up near Norton, right on the border of Quebec. It’s called Earth Peoples’ Park ...”

“I’ve heard of it. I read an article. A hippie commune, I think.”

There was excitement in Yonna’s voice.

“Something like that,” said Slick. “What do you think, Doof?”

“I think this Columbian is pretty damn good. Here, take a toke.”

He passed the joint he had rolled as he was driving back to Slick who inhaled deeply. Doof watched Slick’s inhale. Mimi watched Doof, and thought, “I sure wish he’d watch the road.”

She noticed this bad habit Doof had of turning around to talk to people in the back while he was driving. It scared her. She rechecked the seat belt.

“Tastes real good.”

“Let me have a toke,” demanded Scottie. “Here Mimi, try this.”

The joint was passed around the van methodically. Serena would usually pass. She wasn’t much for getting high, made her uncomfortable. 

BugaLady, too, often would pass. Alcohol was her thing. Scotch. She had a bottle stashed somewhere in that van.

“Well, what about the Park?”

“Good.”

“I like the idea ...”

“Do it!”

Doof crossed the van over the bridge at Catskill. They’d take some back roads, looking for a camp ground. One was spotted. They pulled in.

“Looks like a nice place. What’s it cost?”

Doof scanned the sign near the office.

“Holy shit, $15 a night!”

“Forget it, man, move on ...”

“Outta here!”

The VW moved on. They found their way to highway 22 and continued north. A back road or two later, a small dirt road was descried. Along it, ran a river.

“Take that road, Doof. We’ll just camp along the road,” suggested Slick.

“Just along the road?” questioned Amy. “We’ll be arrested.”

“Yeah, maybe, then we’ll have a place to sleep. Free.” chuckled Scottie.

“Relax, Amy. It’ll be OK. They’ll probably be too scared of us to bother us. We might rape them!” was BugaLady’s way of settling her fears. Her voice sounded as if she were bewitched.

A mile or so down that road, and not a house seen, there was a little dirt pullout. Doof wheeled in. Slowly, the doors open. Feet came out of the van, followed by weary bodies. It must have been a sight to see this abomination on wheels come to a stop, and then all these people slither out, preceded by a totally hyperactive terrier. This time, no one was there to watch.

Brahms would follow BugaLady or Slick or Scottie. Almost heal. Not till he blew off that first burst of steam, though. After being confined, whether from being tethered, locked indoors, or after a long ride in a vehicle, if he wasn’t on a leash, he would burst through freedom and just run and run. Back and forth. Whirl. Jump in the air. Run in circles. It was hilarious. Then he’d settle down. 

Scottie, Doof & Slick unstrapped the off-white tarp, pulled it out taut, over the open sliding door, used 2 aluminum tent poles for support,  and voila ... a nice shelter from any inclement weather. Doof would take the cushion from Slick’s couch, roll out his sleeping bag on it, and sleep under that awning.

They hauled down all the packs & tents from the rack on top and handed them down. Slick would set up his blue & yellow 2-man mountain tent that he would share with BugaLady. Scottie had a light blue model which he set up for himself & Serena. Amy & Yonna would struggle with their dark blue tent. 

Until Roy arrived, Mimi would sleep, usually, in the van. BugaLady & Serena would begin setting up the stove and such, soon to be joined by Yonna, Amy, and, sometimes, Mimi, though she, more often than not would use this time to slip away and write letters home, or jot down thoughts in her journal. She had this sense that perhaps someday that journal just might come in useful for some purpose. This became the routine. After dinner, the ladies would clean up, the guys would build a campfire. Then, they’d sit around and play guitars and sing, or perhaps just get together and talk. Each time, the bonds would strengthen a little more.

This first night, as the tree frogs and crickets began their country chorus, as the hopes of a first day slipped into darkness, Doof lay under the awning, on a bit of the old hangout’s furniture. He looked over at Slick’s tent with the blue roof and distinctive yellow walls. The one he had shared with his good old friend so many times, in so many places, before. For a brief moment, he wished he was in there now, cracking jokes with Slick. Why had this girl have to come along now? Then he realized he would have done the same thing if he was in Slick’s shoes, and he was happy for Slick. He began to drift off to sleep. He had a smile on his face.

It had been a rather uneventful day. Now, as the cool mist of dawn came off the nearby river, the travelers were unknowingly passing through the gates of a new dimension. It was always that way on the road. Here, somewhere in the quiet countryside of the upstate New York Hudson Valley, would certainly be no different. Waking up on the road. It was an event. From this point on, time would lose meaning. Though a mere 150 or so miles from Long Island, for all purposes, they were a million miles away. The leaving would seem an eternity ago, yet, in the present, time would stand still. Practically, there was no time. During the darkness of night, they had been sucked into a new reality. It was unavoidable and inevitable. It was the road. 

The sun shone lightly through the mist, gently parting it and flooding the campsite with rays of light. The birds were singing their very best tunes, flitting about from tree to tree. The rushing river was gurgling. It was Nature’s own alarm clock, The country air smelled clean, like fresh cut hay. A body stirred. It’s first sensation was that of stiffness, from a first night on the ground. It soon became apparent that there had been an especially generous gift from the Sandman during the night. Slick unzipped the door of his tent. The sound of the zipper had an amplified effect, totally out of place in the morning calm. He climbed out, pushing his long hair back with his fingers. He looked around. They were going to have to get a lot more organized, he thought, if they were going to survive this journey. Stuff was everywhere. It was as if they had suddenly dropped everything and then made a flying leap into their sleeping bags. He shook his head. The still smoldering embers of last night’s campfire smelled good in the morning air. He stumbled into the woods to relieve himself, noticing the big orange mushrooms growing from the moist forest floor. Then he rambled down to the river to wash up, towel slung across his shoulder. To his surprise, Yonna was already there, hunched over the water brushing her teeth.

“What’s happening, kid?”

Toothpaste foam bubbling from her mouth, she looked up, startled, and uttered, “Oh, it’s beautiful, Slick ... I love it!”

Yonna had a pretty, friendly face. Slick always felt that he could confide in her.

“Think we’re gonna make it?”

“My God! You asking that question makes me wonder ... I don’t know...”

“Relax, relax. We will, we will ... as long as we stick together ... What about Amy?”

Yonna sighed.

“Well, this is a bit much for her, I think. She’s not used to roughing it like this, you know?” She paused.

“Plus, I think she kind of liked you, Slick ...” Her voice trailed off.

“Oh, no! Steer her towards Doof, will you! I know he’s horny as hell!”

Back at camp, the others were coming to life. BugaLady was up, making a pot of coffee. Doof & Scottie were rekindling last night’s fire, passing a joint back & forth as they did so. Mimi was sitting in the van, staring, her mind wandering all over the country, visualizing what it would all be like. Amy was still sound asleep. Maybe she just didn’t want to wake up, to face another day. Serena was just crawling out of her tent.

“Yonna up yet?” she asked in her soft, barely audible voice.

“You kidding? Nah, Yonna is never up early. She’s sleeping in. We’ll probably have to take the tent down with her in it ... If we ever want to get out of here.” BugaLady was now preparing a breakfast of cream of wheat.

It was a scene to be repeated time & time again. Nearly every morning, though usually Yonna would be asleep. She was an incredibly late riser. By the time breakfast was prepared, consumed, and cleaned up, by the time the collapsible water jug was refilled, by the time the incredible mess 8 people could make in such a short time was all picked up, by the time the van and roof rack could be methodically re-packed, by the time everyone finished all the little things they were doing and could be re-seated in the bus .... well, often it would be 11AM, or later. Figure in all the pit stops to use bathrooms, gas up, or pick up groceries - a task that often took over an hour - and all that didn’t even count sightseeing. It didn’t matter. No one had any urgent appointments they had to make - save meeting Roy in three weeks. The van, re-packed, moved on.

*******

Mimi pushed aside the paraphernalia which was covering the cooler. She opened it, reached inside, and pulled out one of the canteens from within. She could tell the water inside would be ice cold. It was hard to hold the canteen in her bare hands. She guzzled the water long and hard.

“How good ... how good this water tastes!”

She passed the canteen to an eagerly awaiting Serena. Though overcast, it was a hot day. Serena took a long drink.

“You know, it is good! Where did this water come from?”

“Maybe from the river, I don’t know.”

“Who cares, it tastes so good!”

Serena continued to drink, then passed it back to Mimi who gulped some more, a stream of the stuff drizzling down the side of her mouth. The two finished it off, then, thirst satisfied, placed the empty canteen back in its place and awaited the return of everyone else. 

BugaLady & Slick had taken Brahms for a walk, while the rest were getting a few more forgotten items from a small grocery store. Upon their arrival, everything was placed in the van, bodies piled in, and the van was back on the road.

They continued northward, Deep Purple blaring from the speakers. The windows were down. Long hair blew wildly within. Mimi sat, alone in her thoughts, in her seat-belted safety. She thought she felt a bit ill in her stomach. She hadn’t eaten much, so it couldn’t be the food. It came and went. She began to feel this wired sensation down around her groin.

“Funny, I almost feel like I’m beginning to trip!” she thought.

Serena stared out the window, trying to watch each individual tree as it blurred by. She had never felt like this before. A lightness, a bliss ... no, more than that. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it. As she watched the sparkling trails of green left behind by the passing trees, she knew something wasn’t right.

“Who is this?” she asked.

“It’s Deep Purple.” replied Slick.

Serena reflected on those words. The trails were like balloons. Everything was slowing down. It was surreal. The greens slowly altered to purples. Suddenly, she blurted, “They sound so PURPLE!!”

Everyone turned toward her. She meekly smiled back. Her mind was a twirling, swirling mass of energy, moving too fast for her to comprehend. Smile was all she could do.

“Uh, oh,” thought Mimi. She turned to Slick who was beside her.

“I think I’m tripping ... I don’t know how, but I’m pretty sure I am. Look at Serena.”

She was turning her head in all sorts of contorted positions, smiling all the while.

“Where’s the acid?”

“That’s the thing.” Mimi was giggling. “I don’t have any ... Must be a flashback ...”

“How’re you feeling, Serena?” Slick asked. “Serena!”

Everyone turned again. Serena didn’t respond.

“What the hell’s going on back there?” wondered Doof, he & Scottie both turning to study the scene in the back. BugaLady stroked Serena’s shoulder.

“Something’s wrong here,” she said. “Serena feels cold!”

For the moment, Serena was nearly catatonic.

“I think I’m tripping” laughed Mimi in a squeaky voice.

“Wait a minute!” Slick hurriedly opened the cooler. He pulled out the empty canteen.

“Did you two drink this?”

“Oh, shit!” Doof said, as Mimi nodded.

“Oh my ... oh no! You guys drank enough acid for everybody! I told you not to drink from that canteen!”

“I never heard that ... whoa .... colors .... intense!”

“Amy, switch with me,” asked Scottie.

The two switched seats, Scottie to be next to Serena. She was blank.

“She’s never tripped before ... oh, this is something!” He hugged her tightly. Doof was in a hysterical uproar. He was tickled pink.

“OK, the trip has begun!” he roared.

“I can’t believe this,” muttered Slick as he slowly shook his head in disbelief. Everyone was laughing, except Serena. She just stared. She couldn’t believe how purple the world was.

The van continued. It was loud inside. Serena felt like her head was going to explode, yet she was helpless to do anything about it. Everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves, the music, the freedom ... and this funny little incident. Mimi, an experienced tripper, was now settling into a good groove. Now that she was sure what was happening. Serena saw a purple world, a purple molasses world. Suddenly, it was the Wizard of Oz! She was sure. There! There was that poppy field.

“I know that’s it,” she imagined.

Suddenly the world was green again.

“Stop! That’s it!” she screamed.

Doof screeched the van to a halt over at the side of the road. Serena pulled the sliding door open and bounded out. She bolted out into the poppy field. The poppy field that was actually a dandelion field. She danced and twirled. It was wonderful. She finally felt at peace. Everything was so beautiful. She was off to see the Wizard.

To everyone else, as they eased out of the door in shocked disbelief, the silence was deafening. Brahms scooted past them to begin his uproarious routine.

“I think he’s tripping all the time,” chuckled Scottie.

Mimi wandered off towards Serena who continued her ballistic ballet out in the field, Brahms zigzagging to her swirls. They were at the edge of a farm. Except for the dancers, everyone stood there gazing out over the place. The gently folding lines of the earth were a true marvel to behold. The farm seemed placed there by the hands of God. It just fit perfectly. The patterned patches of ground, some plowed, some growing crops, some, like the part they were standing in, containing grass and weeds, dandelions, to be exact. It was filled with them. Mimi shouted, to no one in particular, “It’s like being in The Wizard of Oz!!”

Serena fell to the ground in spasmodic fits of riotous laughter.

“Come here, Toto!” She yelled to Brahms. “Come here!”

Brahms paid her no mind, as he was wont to do while he was burning off all that energy. He just kept running patterns.

Off in the distance, nestled in one of the creases of the land, was a white farmhouse. Off to the side, a red barn and silo. It was picturesque. A paved path led from the road down into the center of this picture. Picking up on the general theme, Yonna said,

“Well, let’s follow the yellow brick road!” and started down the path. Mimi plopped down in the middle of the field to thoroughly take in the surroundings. Brahms, about winded, nuzzled up to her. Gradually, Amy, and BugaLady, and Yonna began to twirl and dance into the midst of the dandelions. Amy waved her big leather hat with the braided fringe around it as she did. Doof, and Slick, and Scottie milled about, wondering what this was all about.

“I think they’re feeling their freedom,” Slick philosophized. “Let’s smoke a joint.”

Scottie pulled open the little leather pouch Slick had given him, took out what was left of the smoke and a small package of rolling papers. The threesome plopped down where they stood. Doof rolled a joint. The show was on. They sat back, got high, and enjoyed it. It was a truly spontaneous celebration, and while the rest of the world seemingly struggled with its day-to-day existence, these 8 young people could revel in their beatitude here at this solitary farm at the eastern edge of New York state.

CHAPTER JUMP
Part One: The READYING

The IDEA || The CONNECTION || The ROUNDUP || The LEAVING

Part Two: The TRIPPING

NEXT: VERMONT

 

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