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BACK TO NEW YORK

VERMONT As the van crossed over the Vermont State line, Serena and Mimi were still strongly tripping. Serena had submissively accepted her fate. This was fun, at times. Her mind kept jostling back and forth between blissful serenity and agitated bewilderment. She tried to just keep enjoying the scenery, which kept getting greener and greener. In real life, too. Mimi, also, was enjoying herself, though right now, as she read the “Welcome to Vermont” road sign, she was feeling oh so raunchy and dirty. She was thinking,

“... and it’s only the second day!”

She wasn’t sure, but it felt like little bugs were crawling through her hair. She ran her fingers along her scalp. Her hair felt greasy. She couldn’t be quite certain if the feelings were real or the effects of the acid. She scanned the van interior, fixing her gaze on each person for an interminably long time. She thought they all looked clean. A bit wind blown, maybe, but clean. She felt relieved. Probably she didn’t look half as bad as she was feeling.

Her mind wandered. As she stared out at the blurred images whizzing by her little window to the world, she began to ache for home. Why did she leave? Who were these people? But she could never return. The van just kept passing the same scenery, over and over again. She was certain. It meant there was no way home. They were driving in circles, for sure.

“I know I’ve seen that boulder ... Here it comes again! And that clump of trees ... We’re going in circles ... No, it can’t be. It must be the acid. Yeah, it’s the acid. Everything will feel fine when I come down.”

And so it went. Once Mimi was sure that it was simply the acid playing tricks on her mind and emotions, she settled down considerably and began to enjoy the green, rolling hills of the eastern Vermont countryside. It was gorgeous. As the chorus to the Grateful Dead’s Sugar Magnolia ricocheted off the walls of the van - almost visibly - she found herself tapping her foot to the beat of the tune. All was well again. She took a deep breath and caught the scent of the joint Doof and Scottie were smoking up front.

“Let me have a toke!” she blurted. All was well.

It was Yonna who spotted the tiny dirt road turnoff from the main state highway.

“Look! Maybe a place for the night?”

“Good eyes, girl,” said Slick, “Pull in there, Doof.”

It was nearly dusk. The bumpy dirt road passed through woods, paralleling a creek. Doof leaned on the horn, announcing their arrival. Maybe it was the remembrance of the bear cub up in the tree that caused Slick and Doof to turn tail and run through these same Vermont woods last year, or maybe he was just glad to be here, but toot the horn he did. That would scare off any bears. Out stumbled seven stoned souls. Amy had somehow managed to stay straight, only suffering the minor effects of the fumes. They were greeted with a flagrant attack of the senses. The creek was gently gurgling. The fresh, cool air smelled sweet and woke everyone up. High atop the trees, birds chirped wildly. 

Serena bounded down to the water. She could hardly wait to splash that cool water on her face. All over in fact. This was refreshing. Mimi felt irresistibly forced to follow. Oblivious to the shrieks of joy emanating from down at the creek bed, Doof, Slick, and Scottie methodically began to undo the tarp and unload the roof rack. While BugaLady & Yonna meandered down to the sounds of howls of delight, Amy sat in the front seat of the van, map in hand, attempting to figure out where in the world they were. She couldn’t exactly. 

The camp routine went on, albeit in a somewhat delirious fashion. The mosquitoes, the first of any consequence encountered so far, didn’t help matters any. A quick dinner of Kraft macaroni & cheese in their bellies, everyone sat around the campfire, which Doof relentlessly toyed with.

“Doof, man, watch those sparks! I had one in my beard.” Slick protested.

“Burn, baby, burn!” came the totally unsympathetic reply.

BugaLady snuggled closer to Slick. A joint passed around the circle. Serena was feeling a lot better, and passed on the joint. She needed, and wanted desperately, to feel herself again. Mimi, on the other hand, relished the little acid rushes she received each time she toked hard on the joint.

Suddenly, a glow from around the bend signaled the arrival of another vehicle, preceded by the glow of its headlights in the darkness.

“Shit, man, someone’s coming!” 

Doof stashed the little sandwich bag, nearly empty, down his sock. Slick flicked the joint into the fire. Everyone tensed up. Was this the cops? An old beat up Ford Falcon pulled up. A sigh of relief spread around the circle. As the doors creaked open, Scottie stood up to greet the arriving freaks. Out of the car came five long-haired and bearded young men, in their late twenties, probably. Scottie waved and said hi.

“Yeah, man, we heard the honking. Figured someone must be partying down here ...” one of them said.

“Live up the road a little ways,” another added.

“Can we cop any weed?” Doof exclaimed.

“Yeah, man, we’ve got some real good Colombian ...”

“Some hash, too. Opiated.”

“Try some, man.”

The quintet joined the traveling vagabonds around the campfire. Yonna broke out some cold Buds from the cooler and passed them around. As the pipes made their way around the ring, the five guys welcoming these New Yorkers to their state, Mimi sat in blissful glee.

“Wow,” she thought, still feeling the effects of the acid. “Look at all these good looking freaks! Fiddle should see me now! She would flip out. Oooh-wee!!”

The Vermonters were thinking similar thoughts. 

Man, look at all these good-looking women!”

As the rather pleasant evening wore on, the women of this group began to feel just a tad uncomfortable. For the first time, they became conscious of the fact that there were five of them, traveling with just three guys, at least until Roy arrived. It was weird. They could just imagine what these strangers were thinking about them.

“A bunch of hussies!” thought BugaLady, snuggling still closer to Slick.

Yonna & Amy were making things all the more warm, almost coming on to these guys. They were spreading their wings in a most flirtatious way. Mimi wanted to, but wasn’t self-assured enough to do so. She’d wait for Roy. So while the other single woman had some innocent fun, Mimi acted the part of one of the guys. That felt more natural to her anyway. She couldn’t help but to notice the appearance to these guys, though. 

“If only we had a Madame!” she chuckled to herself. 

Serena kept quiet, taking in all that was going on around her. The humor of it all was not lost on her. She felt loose. Scottie was so busy talking highs and copping stash with Doof that it wasn’t all that apparent to these guys that she was attached. She could feel the stares penetrating her ...

*******

Bodies stirred around the smoldering embers of last night’s campfire. Beer cans lay everywhere. No one bothered to set up tents. Sleeping bags were wet with dew. Only Mimi had managed to drag herself into the van. She awoke first this morning. The Falcon was gone. A couple of the guys had strolled off with Amy and Yonna into the darkness. They were gone with the Ford now, but Amy and Yonna were in their places, asleep at the fire. Good old Brahms was snuggled at BugaLady’s feet.

Mimi was chuckling thinking, for the first time really, how they must look to outsiders. It was humorous. Imagine what the old fogies at the tourist stops would think of them. She burst out in laughter. Amy opened her eyes.

“What’cha laughin’ at?”

“I was just layin’ here thinking ‘bout how we must look to other people, you know?”

“Oh ...”

“Like a bunch a flaming hussies, young’un! What do you think we look like?” came the now familiar English accent of BugaLady from under the covers of her sleeping bag.

“Ha!” laughed Mimi. “And I’m Madame Mimi! Queen of all the hussies!”
Slick sat up.

“Then that,” he said, pointing at the van, “is the hussy bus!”

“Madame Mimi’s Hussy Bus!” corrected Mimi, sitting in the open doorway of the sliding door.

“Quite rightly!” emphasized BugaLady.

And so it was. From now on, it was no longer a VW van. It had taken on the personality of its crew. It was the Hussy Bus. Madame Mimi’s Hussy Bus! Everyone agreed. To be sure the world was aware of this news, Scottie painted it on the side of the roof rack, in neon orange Day-Glo paint. Contrasted nicely with the black paint already on it. The morning was spent painting all kinds of stuff on the roof rack to even it out aesthetically. All in the same Day-Glo paint Scottie had thoughtfully brought along. Some pink, too. The “DogLeg” plaque from Scottie’s parents’ summer home was nailed to the back. Underneath, Slick painted “Keep On Truckin’”.

“What the hell is DogLeg?” Doof said, looking up from his hot cup of morning coffee.

“I don’t know man ...”

“Leave it to my parents,” Scottie interrupted.

“... Man, we’ll be doing it all across the country!” continued Slick. “Whatever it is!”

“We’ll define it as we go!” added BugaLady as she added some smiling little suns to the roof rack, complimenting nicely Scottie’s mushrooms. Everyone was proud of their new found personality. The Hussy Bus looked spiffier than ever. The Bus was ready to roll. On towards Montpelier.

*******

They pulled over to a rustic, lodge-type restaurant for a midday meal, maybe some coffee. It had been a later than usual start to the day, and there was no time to unpack for lunch. The place was located in a remote, wilderness setting, which was pretty much the norm here in Vermont. They piled out and into the cafe.

Inside, the walls were paneled in a slick, glossy wood grained veneer. It was very dimly lit. There was a low half wall, with black, wrought iron railings dividing the dining area from the food counter beyond, where light seemed to emanate. Another low wall separated a gaming room, where it seemed the only light came from the multicolored lights of the pinball machine.
They ordered their food and sat down at a couple of tables in the corner by that pinball machine. As they finished their meal, and sat nursing cups of coffee, while Doof & Scottie played pinball, Slick asked, out of the blue, “Anybody shit yet?” 

Yonna giggled hysterically, noting that she certainly hadn’t. Serena and Amy recoiled at the question, but had to admit, they hadn’t. In fact, nobody had. It was another of those phenomenon's of the road. Must have been the sudden change in diet and routine. It happened, or rather didn’t happen, every time. Soon enough, it would.

*******

That night, a similar resting place to the last night’s was located, only this time, it was way out in the woods. There would be no visitors this night. Not the human kind, anyway. They were somewhere in the Green Mountains. Wherever they were, they had had trouble finding a place suitable to camp in. They just kept driving and looking, driving and looking. It was dark when the Bus finally came to rest in what they sensed, and hoped, was a clearing in the woods. Mimi was scared this night. She locked herself in the Bus with Brahms. Everyone else set up tents by the light of the headlights.

The camp was still. A low mist lay over the four tents. Crack. Slick opened his eyes. Grunt. He nudged BugaLady. Crack. Doof pulled the sleeping bag up over his head. He was wishing he was in the Bus. Grunt. Scottie snuggled up to Serena who dared not even breathe. Crack. Amy and Yonna woke. Petrified. The cracking of dried twigs, the rustling of leaves. The grunting. If it wasn’t a raccoon, then it certainly was a bear. Slick thanked God they hadn’t eaten here last evening. All food was tucked away in the cooler in the Bus. No scents left scattered around the camp. Everyone lay still. No one spoke a word. Everyone heard the fear in the air. Whatever it was, it eventually wandered off.

The following morning, all the talk was of what that animal might have been. They all agreed that they were scared shitless.

After a hot breakfast, on a beautiful morning, it was decided that they should take a walk. They had chosen a fantastic spot to camp. The mountains were everywhere. The group strolled up the dirt lane. Grass grew in the middle of this road. It was hardly used. A mile or so up, a beaver pond was discovered. These city folk looked in awe at the workings of the critters. A beaver dam.

“Damn!”

Brahms was not quite so impressed. He dove into the critter-made pond. BugaLady recoiled, but it really wasn’t that surprising that Brahms could swim like a fish. After all, he could practically fly. And he sure could run.

*******

Earth Peoples Park lay ahead. Earth Peoples Park. Just the sound of the phrase made one want to go there. It had that certain 60’s and 70’s ring to it. It promised freedom. It promised the dissipation of airs. It promised simplicity.

Highway 114 took the Hussy Bus to Norton, a tiny little crossroads of a town in the Northeast corner of Vermont. There was actually a small, crude, hand painted sign pointing the way to the Park. Following the arrow took one to a large field where you had to park and walk the rest of the way in. The area had the look of the Scottish highlands to it. Bare pasture, closely grazed, with outcroppings of rock here and about. A stream briskly flowed through its center. Woods lay across the way.

The Hussy Bussers gazed across this scene, trying to figure their next move. One thing was for sure. They’d be unnoticed here. A motley assortment of mostly run down vehicles lay in the vicinity. One might think it was a junk yard, except for the fact that this was a parking area. Psychedelia prevailed. The Hussy Bus almost looked pale in comparison. There were VW bugs converted into flatbeds. There were cars with no siding save American & Rebel flags. One wagon had autographs scribbled all over the roof, hood & doors. There was an old van painted in various shades of Day-Glo, emblazoned on one side with large letters that read “Hippie Limo”. Everything was either rust or rainbow, peace signs or skull & roses. Amazing.

“Looks like we have some work to do on the Bus,” chuckled Scottie.

“Don’t think we can catch up to this anytime soon anyhow,” Yonna decided. “Wow.”

Brahms decided to go hog wild. There were some goats tethered out in that pasture and Brahms soon had them hopelessly entangled in their chains. Luckily, there was no one in sight to blame the culprit. BugaLady and Yonna sprinted out to the poor animals, bleating hysterically, to attempt to free them. Slick called Brahms in. Eventually, he came, but not till he was ready.

“Man, what’s wrong with you, Brahms? Can’t you mellow out once in a while? Chill, man!” scolded Slick. He then turned to a laughing Doof, who was holding his sides to keep from splitting.

“Think anyone’s ever been thrown out of here before?”

“Outasite, man!”

“We better bring our stuff down there before we do,” Slick exclaimed as he hooked the long chain to Brahms’ collar. “No more of that for you!”

Yonna and BugaLady came panting back.

“They’re in bad shape! What can we do?”

“I’ll take care of them!” Scottie took off. Brahms tried to scamper off with him, but was yanked back by the chain. He yelped.

“Oh, Brahms! Why do you do these things?” rebuked BugaLady.

“OK, forget it. Scottie will take care of it. We gotta get this stuff down there.”

They took the cooler, tents, cooking gear, and backpacks and lugged them through the pasture and into the woods. Several goats followed them. Scottie, try as he might, couldn’t get them untangled, so he merely let them loose. As they entered the woods, amazing sights greeted them. There were shelters of every kind and descriptions placed haphazardly everywhere. Some were permanent looking dwellings of stone or framed wood. One in particular, a nice stone hut, overlooking a view from a bluff, was strikingly homey. Most, though were dilapidated old ruins of tin, hay bales, canvas, whatever was handy. Goats and sheep wandered about. Barefooted, dirty faced children scampered about. Some blank faced women, in loose sun dresses walked hither and yon in just about the same aimless fashion. Copper skinned, bare chested men with long hair and scraggly beards walked around in various sun worship poses. It was surreal. It was like Slick’s bedroom walls come to life. Some strangers would say “Hello” but look as if they were gazing right through you. An uncomfortableness came over the Hussy Bussers. They trekked through, a bit more quickly, lugging all that heavy gear, looking for a place to drop it all.

“You can camp anywhere!” a voice called out. It was the first voice they’d heard since arriving that sounded down to earth. He didn’t sound totally spaced. They turned.

“Hi. I’m Dave.”

A handsome, stocky man of about 28 or 30 stood there, duffel bag slung over his broad shoulders. He had long, straight brown hair and several days growth of beard on his tanned face. Immediately, Yonna felt weak in her knees.

“Oh, God! Far fuckin’ out!” she thought.

Mimi couldn’t care less. She only wanted to get that heavy backpack off of her back. It was killing her.

“Hey, man! You say we can camp anywhere?” Slick, as usual, took the lead in the temporal matters.

“Groovy.”

“Good spot down by the river up a little ways. Mind if II camp with you folks?”

“Hell no!”

The words practically flew out of Yonna’s mouth. She looked conspicuously at BugaLady who was having trouble keeping her laughter in.

“Follow me!”

They all did, down to a little high ground just off the river. A nice spot. Packs flew everywhere amidst grunts and groans. No doubt those packs were over packed. It was warm, but felt a lot cooler in the shade of the woods, the cooler air coming off the stream. Tents were erected sluggishly. Some clothes were hung out to dry on a makeshift clothesline. The stove was set up. BugaLady put on some water for tea. Brahms had to be tied to a tree. Too many wandering animals around. Dave offered to show Yonna around, which she readily acquiesced to. Serena, Scottie, Amy, Doof, Slick, and Mimi sat around watching the freaks. Slick mentioned to Doof how it was the exact opposite of watching the weird tourists at the lodge at Lake Louise in Alberta two years before during their hitchhiking excursion. There, they had sat on a park bench goofing on the shiny white patent leather shoes, oversized cowboy hats, baggy Hawaiian shirts, and gaudy jewelry of the well-to-do, materialistic, fascist, war freaks strutting their stuff at the $105 per night luxury inn. Now they found themselves sitting in the dirt watching wired whackos, uttering some kind of non-speak, weaving and waving through the woods. Some had tie-dyes & sandals, others patched and tattered remnants of clothing, still others nothing at all. They just strolled along, devoid of all semblance of clothing, apparently with no feelings of self-consciousness whatsoever. Men, women, and children. What a blast!

“Far out, man!” Doof kept muttering.

“Well ... They always say, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do!’ ... I gotta get washed up!” Slick decided. 

He scurried off to the river, BugaLady following close behind, camera in hand. Though he felt a bit uneasy, he flung his clothes on the bank and waded into the cold rushing waters of the river.

“Yow, it’s cold!” he screamed. 

He proceeded to wash up. It felt so good. Meanwhile, BugaLady, from behind a tree, snapped a picture, being careful to make sure a branch was strategically placed over Slick’s private parts.

“Nice shot!” she thought.

Slick stood, naked, on a large rock protruding from the river bottom, scrubbing himself with biodegradable soap. He looked down towards his groin and discovered a stream of blood flowing down his upper right thigh. At first, he thought it came from somewhere else. He didn’t think he had cut himself. So he washed the blood away. More quickly flowed forth. Yep, he was cut. 

“Ouch! What the ...”

A little black bug just bit him on the other leg. Blood flowed again. Back in camp, he discussed these pesky little gnats.

“They’re not gnats, man, they’re black flies. They start coming out around this time of year. They get worse. Then, in a few weeks, they’ll disappear,” informed Dave. “Yonna says you guys are headed north .... They’ll get a lot worse.”

“Great ... Oh, shit!”

Doof had a few souvenirs of his own. These bites hurt and drew blood. Then they itched like crazy. These city dwellers had never experienced anything like them. Even when Doof and Slick had hitchhiked across Canada in ‘72. They had left later in the season and must’ve missed them. All they remembered were mosquitoes.

As the Hussy Bussers acclimated themselves to the park, they began to realize, black flies aside, that this really was a neat place. The people were certainly different than the freaks back on Long Island. Most different even from those Doof and Slick had encountered on the road, at rallies, and at festivals. Well, maybe not that different from those at the festivals. In fact, the Watkins Glen festival of 1973 was a lot like this place. Only here they had black flies instead of the Dead, the Band, and the Allman Brothers. Yeah, at first glance, the people seemed really spacey, almost to the point of phoniness, but upon further review, they were invariably found to be friendly and sincere. They had the same feelings of alienation that had led Slick and the crew to this journey in the first place. Only here they were settled. They had found their place, at least for the moment. 

Dave explained to everyone that some middle-aged freak had bought this place, he thought 600 acres or so, and had opened it up for squatters rights. Just like the frontier. It blew everyone's’ minds. So there was a respect for the people and the place. They thought that maybe they’d stay for a while.

“We’d better get some more ice,” instructed Slick.

Mimi, who had washed up in the river and felt immeasurably better, decided to make the trek back to the Bus as well. Doof, Slick, and Mimi walked back through the nomadic village that was Earth Peoples’ Park, got back in the Bus, and drove into Norton. What a difference. These two vastly different communities existing side by side. It was weird, if nothing else. They got their ice and a few other needed supplies and returned to the camp, passing the still tangled goat tethers on the way.

There they found everyone miserable due to the black fly attack. It seemed the only thing to do would be to keep moving, though they knew better. It wouldn’t get any better where they were headed. But, miserable they were. Amy was nearly in tears. Yonna was holed up in Dave’s tent. She might not have been too miserable. Everyone else was around a smoky fire trying to seek refuge. They hurriedly cooked dinner and by the time that was done, there was relief. The black flies would magically disappear at dusk. Unfortunately, they gave way to mosquitoes. Here, though, they weren’t all that bad, and once darkness fell, there was total relief.

Around the campfire Scottie and Slick strummed some tunes on the guitars. Others joined in to sing. Around them, torches passed in the night. Singing, chanting, babies cries, and goats bleating could be heard. Occasionally, a resident or two would stop by the campfire and chat for a bit, exchange tokes, and move on. Mimi sat missing Rob. She would sleep with Amy this night. There was a vacancy. Dave had never been with a black beauty before. As the 600 acres quieted down gradually while the night passed on, grunts and groans of delight could be heard from Dave’s tent, which was sandwiched between the tents of the Hussy Bussers. There was little privacy under these circumstances. Among the stillness, between the groans, chuckles could be heard.

Morning came. A beautiful, sunny day. Warm and calm. The sunshine flooded the woods with its distinctive patterning of light. Tent flaps unzipped, breaking the stillness. One by one, Hussy Bussers joined the world. First, Slick, then Mimi, Serena, Scottie ... then Amy, BugaLady ... finally Dave, then Yonna. Then, the black flies!

“Not these guys again!” groaned Amy. She was disheveled and miserable.

“I warned you, they’ll get worse from here on in.” Dave repeated his warning.

“Maybe we should have taken a southern route ...” Amy was interrupted by BugaLady.

“Like maybe through Central America!”

"Ah, me and Doof ran into mosquitoes, we never saw these ...”

“I’m warning you.”

“Scottie piped up, “Where is Doof?”

“Hey, yeah ... I haven’t seen him. He was here last night ... I think ...” Slick couldn’t quite remember the last time he saw Doof by the campfire.

Mimi was laughing out loud.

“What’s wrong with you, Mimi?” questioned her old friend, Scottie. “You know something!”

“Well ...” she continued laughing. “I did see him with a lady late last night. They walked off that way.” 

As she pointed, everyone looked up the path. Sure enough, there was Doof, sauntering in their direction, bouncing on his feet in that way of his, his long hair bouncing along with him. He was tucking that long sleeved blue shirt, the one he hadn’t yet changed since they left, into his jeans.

“Damn these flies, man. Let’s get out of here!” he announced to all, big grin spreading across his face as his eyes met Slick’s. There was that mutual understanding again.

They packed all their stuff, hauled it all back, past all the houses and shanties, cabins and lean-tos, past the sheep, past the naked couples and dirty kids, past the barking dogs, past the goats back out tethered in the pasture, all the way back to the Hussy Bus. It seemed rather a shame to leave this interesting place after such a short visit, but it was the call of the road. They weren’t yet ready to stay put. There weren’t enough miles between them and the gray of Long Island. Plus, Doof had gotten laid, copped some pot ... He was ready to roll.

CHAPTER JUMP
Part One: The READYING

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

Part Two: The TRIPPING

NEW YORK ||NEXT: QUEBEC

 

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