Friday, December 12, 2014

Eslabon Chapter 3 - "Gringos"

Gringos

Pacific Ocean
Central America

            Americans on holiday love to drink - anything they get their hands on.  Being the only woman on board their rental multi-cabin boat, I am obliged to make them anything they ask.   This is the kind of decadence I came here to escape but this is the job I signed up for - an illegal stewardess. 
            These men aren’t picky, and lacking taste makes this a brainless function. Free room and board on a baby yacht cutting the clean coastlines with my best friend is more than I could have imagined happening just a month ago. 
            My heart evolves as I explore in my own time.  When I am not demanded to juice a lime and pour tequila I am on the stern alone basking in the sun with my book Total Freedom by Krishnamurti.   I would tan topless, but the leering was getting to me.  Tan lines are a small sacrifice for comfort.
            Today the fever for freedom is so great it keeps everyone shivering.  They don’t know how to enjoy their freedom, they just want to be free. I watch the boys guzzle their sanity to the last drop and teeter on the edge, so close to falling into the oceans depths.  I see them express their freedom by waking up at noon and indulging in every debauchery within reach of the imagination.  I have eaten more cheese with these gringos than I did when I was in Paris with my parents.  Queso Gringos, Michael calls them.  This isn’t freedom, it is escape.  And I am already learned in this too well.
            Michael does not mind them.  He has become a sort of companion; matching their shots and sharing their women.  Although he was invited onto the boat from a wager lost at the tables he is now in their debt.  This I know from listening through the port hole in the cabin - no one mentions it.  They come back exhausted from the dog fights and I clean the boat and read while they are away.  I have learned that no scrubbing will clean the stench of liquor.  And as I have only rubbing alcohol to clean with it doubles the fumes.  After two weeks I am losing touch with my sense of smell.
            Krishnamurti says that denying ones senses can be a new way to internal happiness.  It comes naturally for me to practice this while on the ship of fools.  But he means it in a more profound way.  That somehow I could detach from my desire to satiate my senses, and this practice could bring me closer to a more pure form of myself.  An enlightenment.
            Indian philosophy is beyond me, but it is more intriguing than tolerating Bitty hovering over me if I were to mingle with the boys.  No, the sun and the moon and this book are the best option I have today.  Other than writing, of course.






Pacific Ocean
From the Porthole

            “So you travel a lot, eh? Have you fucked an American?” Bitty asked Michael tonight over cards.  The four of them finished supper and shared the last of the liquor on the balcony by my window.  I, wrapped in a blanket playing solitaire could hear their tequila amplified conversation per usual.
            “As many as would let me” He said, taking a drag from a spiff.  “Have you fucked a Frenchwomen?”
            “No, not yet,” he laughed.
            “I”ll raise. They wouldn’t like you.  Too shaved.”
            “I’m surprised you got any in America, being hooded.  Raise.”
            “Fold”
            “We’ve all had Mexican bitches!” the one called Scuggs called out.
            A roar went around the table and drinks were downed.  The game went on another round before Bitty asked “Have you fucked a Canadian?”
            I could feel Michael from my cabin window even if I couldn’t see him.
            “Yes, of course.  I lived in Quebec for a year!”  
            “You’ve fucked the blonde then?”  I could hear the table get quieter.
            He seemed to pause only a moment before he said “of course.”  The table roared again.
            “Is she good?”
            “That is for me to know.  You aren’t her type.”
            “Ha! Withholding! I bet she is.  I bet that hot body of hers will do anything you want.  She is a ten bro!  She was fucking that English dude.  I’ve seen her tits.  Both of you boys have nothing on what I am packing; I’ll make her scream like I’m breaking her in.” 
            “Your dick is tiny dude” Scuggs called out.
            A slap hit the table. “Shut the fuck up. Both of you.” I heard Michael say.
            “Hey man,” Bitty cut in “sharing is caring.  You owe us anyway.”
            “Yeah, share the bitch,” Bravo added.
            “Fuck off.”
            “Drop it guys, the man is attached” Scuggs diffused the tension.  And they played on as if nothing happened.

            I can only assume the pressure of a man needing affirmation of his masculinity from other men drove him to say what he did.  That is a social group I know only second hand.  Stories of conquests don’t bother me.  Even as a woman I sleep with whomever I like.  It is a new age after all where I have a college degree and I don’t’ have to wear a bra.
            Still, hearing them talk about women as if we are a country to be taken, hearing them talk about me in that way makes me sick.  Is it expected that because I sleep with whom I like that I will sleep with whoever wants to sleep with me?  It is not a two way street.  I am not the dog whom everyone takes care of and plays with when they feel the urge.
            And then there is the truth that Michael lied to them.  He outright lied. 






             
           





           

Pacific Ocean

            “We are not so concerned with nature because we have almost brought nature under control, but we have not understood the environment created by human beings” - J. Krishnamurti
            Nature is simple enough.  We build dams to funnel water to irrigate our fields, we fortify our buildings to protect against earthquakes and make fire retardant suits so we can tame the flames.  We have used all of our intuitiveness to curb nature to our control.  But how do we curb human nature?
            Is it natural to be greedy as these men are, or for me to feel my trust betrayed in Michael’s lies?  Was it wrong for me to slap Bitty when he drunkenly groped me in the night?  Can I not invent a way to control their nature to be more appealing to me?  We did invent the cage.  But the brain, can we change the brain of another person to control it?  If mind control works, no one is telling the public about it.  Mind control could explain the success of consumerism in the world.  Someone knows how to do it, mark my words, and they aren’t using it for good.
            But how can a mind be so controlled when it seeks hard to be free?  If I could control Michael and have him tell me why he lied about sex with me and apologize would I feel better?  No!  Because it would not be genuine and it is not Michael’s nature to behave piously.  It’s one of my favorite qualities in him.    
            What I want is for him to give me back my dignity.  It is too late for that.  Confronting him opens the door to talking about my other lovers.  I am not a puritan.  I do who I want to and I don’t who I don’t. 
            I have come to far to succumb to the verbal abuse of a bunch of hypocritical Americans.  I know it too well already.  I know the effects of harsh words.  My father stole my mother’s light with words alone. Liquor is a bad spirit. Michael knows my history in this, which is why the only whip I taste on this boat is the lash of Michael’s tongue. 
            But he could never tell my condition.  I do well covering it per usual.  My mask serves both to protect and to propagate my own will.  Never reveal your weaknesses.  Do not cry in front of men.  Be stronger, be smarter than everyone else.  Always pay attention.  A rose with all of the thorns.
            I will stay quiet.  I will wait for the right moment. I will not cultivate control through persuasion, comparison, reward or punishment, all of which are forms of coercion.  I will cultivate my own mind.  I will test mind control with my own mind.








Puntenares
Bay of Whales         
            If you are going to act like a drunken fool, you had might as well be drunk.  But the liquor cabinet is dry and finally the tides have turned.  Those filthy gringos went whoring last night in a fishing village on the coast of Costa Rica.  Not only did they bring back bathetic looking, and by the sound of it performing, whores, they brought parasites aboard in the form of chiggers.
            I recognize the bites from a particularly memorable vacation to South Georgia when I was 10, where my brother Paul came back from playing in the woods covered in red pockmarks.  The whelps are mad when chigger larvae find a host and secrete nasty venom that melts the skin into little pools so the puss may be slurped up.  Disgusting.  That is what these idiots brought on board.
            And with some luck Michael did not share the woman who had them.  But as soon as I saw scratching and babylike whining, and finally the pockmarks, I told Michael it was high time to get the hell out of here.
            We all argued about who owed what to whom while we docked at a tiny marina in Puntenares.  The surroundings were empty but for a 30 foot wooden sailboat with the word “Eslabon” painted on in peeling red.  Since my costs were settled I excused myself to walk around.
            He was standing in shallow waters, shirtless and hairy, scraping barnacles off of the side of his boat when I saw him the first time.  A dark pair of aviators shaded his eyes and his dark salty hair was gritty from sun exposure.  He could have been fourty, maybe fifty the oldest, but his smile was that of a boys.
            “Hola,” he called out.
            “Hola.”
            “Yo habla English?”
            “Yes.”
            “Are you American?”
            “No, Canadian.”
            The lone sailor looked me over with such intensity I thought he might be trying to read my mind.
            “Are you Italian? I hear an accent.”
            “No, Sicilian.”  We paused again to consider each other.”Do they have the pox?”
            “Chiggers.”
            “They have been deep in Nicaragua then.  Do you have them?”
            “No.”
            “Good.”
            Shouts from the conversation on the other dock cut into our thoughts and I felt the call of change.
            “Where are you going?” I asked the stranger.
            “Where ever.  Eslabon is my home.”
            “It looks like she could use some love.”
            “I give her all I have.”
            “My friend and I have two free hands, together makes four.  We could help.”
            “Four hands.”
            “As long as we have a place to stay we’ll do what we can.”
            “The second pair of hands belonging to one fighting against three.”
            “Yes, but he will cooperate, and he doesn’t have the chiggers.  
            He considered me with a calm I have rarely seen.  This was a man who had clearly spent a lot of time alone, and was protective of his space.  I could hear Michael offering things he didn’t have in a last attempt to please the Gringos as the lone sailor contemplated his future with us.
            “We work together.  Everyone pulls their weight.  And if it doesn’t work out, I drop you off at my own convenience.”

            “You have a deal.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Eslabon - Trans Mexico - Chapter 2

TransMexico



Tecate. Mexico/United States Border
           
            So many days have been spent flying over the country side like a pair of sparrows going south for the winter.  As many of us, we cheat the hard times and do as the animals.  We have come to look for America - Central America that is - with outdated maps, an unmarked day planner, an empty journal and vast horizons.  Just like a pair of sparrows we base our direction on passing songs of places afar. A ballad was sung of Baja and its’ sweeping landscapes where shrubby mountain rolls into the sea.  And then there was the full choir of praises for the sapphire blue waters of the South Pacific Coast of Mexico.  Michael and I have chosen the latter.
            The sun rises from the left and sets to the right, and nights are troublesome for driving on the blind serpentine roads that hug tight to dry crumbling ridges blanketing Mexico south of San Diego.  Juggernaut freight carriers don’t mind nicking a motorcyclist to get around one another, and no one signals these power moves, so Michael is in constant adrenaline high, eyes wide and bloodshot behind his driving goggles.  I’ve felt my heart leap in my throat countless times when he plays chicken with those assholes.  I hit the back of his helmet and scream at him to slow down, but he doesn’t mind.   My nose has been running for four days.  I think it’s the stress.
            We’ve found it’s easier to pull over and sleep under the stars with a few blankets once our side of the Earth rolls away from the sun.  The roadside hotels are eerily vacant, and I feel hair raising silent stares through their empty windows.  I’d rather have an open fire and an open sky to sleep under.
             So far Mexico has mostly been populated by Michael and me.  And all of the months we have traveled together from Montreal have left us little to say to each other. I have heard his joke about the mushroom who walks into a bar and is asked to leave so many times I swear he tells it in his sleep.  Somehow my annoyance is my fault.
            “I know Michael…The mushroom asks ‘Why? I am a fungi!” 
            My annoyance might truly come from the half-an-inch of dust, dirt, and dead bugs that cake the statuesque vision of Michael and I on the road.  “We are in a desert landscape.  What more would you expect?” Michael chides me.  Still, I don’t have enough scarves to tie around my face.  At some point the side facing my mouth is just as dirty as the side caked with Mexico.
            The maps are folded and zipped into my jacket pocket as we ride.  I pull them out to give direction less and less. South of the Tecate the maps become blissfully blank.  Nothing but a small snaking road due South and the white nothingness I interpret to be mountain, valley, dry riverbeds and mysteries to be unfolded.  Nothing signifies the villages we pass through.  We have no idea if it will be the last one before a stretch of wide desert. 
            The white blanks on the maps we have left behind are a new form of keeping track of what has been.  I am filling the spaces with interpretive sketches of what I saw there and what happened to us when we visited. Michael in his leather cutting the dust like a Hells Angel and me holding tight with a scarf around my mouth, looking into a colorful sunset with my yellow sunglasses takes up a third of the first page.  There isn’t much to work with.   My old boss at the Clerk of Courts in Montreal would expect no less of me.  My map in a practical sense is shit.
            Last night I drew the trio of perro chained to a roadside restaurant at the start of a village.  And when I say restaurant I mean Mexican restaurant - a street vendor with polo on a stick and beans and rice. The trio howled into the evening sky, overtaking the broken cave-man conversation I had with the old man. 
Two sticks of boneless bird dressed with chili and lime and all of the beans and rice for later. 

            With all of the pointing and grunting we bought the old man out.  And as we got back onto Bohemia, a tan little beast whined at Michael to share his meat with him.  Michael being Michael, he took a huge juicy bite of it, swallowed and spit at the hound.  To my astonishment, the hound leapt into the air and snatched that skewer out of Michael’s hand and zipped away fast enough to eat the whole thing before Michael could kick him.  The old man was livid and probably cursed every swear word under the moon as we sped off. 
            Much further down the road, as the dark took us, I felt a queer bubbling in my stomach and tapped Michael’s helmet till he slowed down enough for me to spew my dinner across the pavement.  The hills just off of the road offered some cover for the night, and we went as far in as we could before I could no longer handle the jarring bumps of the strewn rocks.  Michael gathered brush and twigs for a fire and I unraveled the sleeping blankets with clammy hands. 
            Over a crackling fire, he muttered something about paying Karma, which I rejected because it was his debt to the old man and his dog that needed to be paid, not mine.  I wasn’t the asshole. He chided me for assuming knowledge of how the universe works and had me wrap up in his blanket as well to stop the chills.  I laid my head on his knee and watched the flames lick the sky while the coyote howled and roamed the hills around us.  Michael howled back, and I tried to sit up to see them but he had me down with a hand on my shoulder. 
            “You need to rest Lone Wolf.”
            “I do what I want to Coyote.”
            “Not when you might puke on my blanket.”
            I had to laugh.  With gentle hands, he stroked my hair and forehead till the red embers cooled and my fever finally broke.  We slept holding each other out of comfort and care, and though my slumber was broken and short, I felt him wake up now and then to check on me, and that made me feel all of the more rested.
            And now as Michael snores into the morning mist catching up on lost sleep, I have a moment to actually write, not only draw what has happened since we left San Fran.  But true to duty, in a blank space near the top of the map, I sketched out the sharp feathers of our fire reaching into a star studded sky.  And on the slopes of the hills I penciled in a coyote dancing in the flames, and in the sliver of the crescent moon - a lone wolf.

Acapulco

            In the North leaves may be falling, but here is a never-ending summer and White Man’s paradise.  Hot, sticky tequila courses through my veins, rising as steam from my browned skin.  My nerves have finally settled, and a large purple bruise is blossoming over my upper right arm.  I am not happy, but I have had worse. Here I am, wrapped in a white linen tunic that falls just past my hips, perched in a window bathed in the flashing strobe lights that signal what awaits us in the bay.
            The casitas is a wreck.  Dirty plates, old wrappers and Michael’s belongings are strewn across the tan tile.  I’ve taken a breather from collecting my things from around the pallet Henry set up for Michael when we moved into his hotel room.  My head is spinning, but I haven’t written for weeks and Michael is down at the lobby settling the deal, so I don’t have much time. 
            Since our arrival here I’ve never seen so many Speedos or tan white people in my life.   The holiday life is a stark difference from life on the road.  My face is clean, my golden tangles are brushed out, and cabana boys serve me pina coladas at the resort pool at Villa Vera where the Kennedy’s frequented only five years ago. My bill is usually picked up by wealthy gray foxes by siesta time.  
            When I am alone I ride Henry’s bike to the inner city and visit the bull fights.  Or else I look for a prime place to watch the Mexican marching bands while sipping a cola.  The broken, dusty streets are full of nickel-and-diming panderers who haunt my steps - some of them shirtless children.  “Uno Bracelet!  For your Madre!  No?  Then you tour of Frank Sinatra’s favorite spot?”  I’ve taken to ignoring them, however underfoot they can be.
            The city didn’t take long to know. We settled first for a musky group hostel just off of the main drag downtown where we slept in rows of ten on massive bunk beds.  There was no such thing as sound sleep when the whole building shook from incessant snores.  So I started gate crashing the upper crust private beach Condesa and its’ swanky bungalows in my coral bikini and sun hat while Michael gambled in the dive bars - until two weeks ago when I met Henry and we moved out. 
            I had set my purpose that night to find a woman for Michael out of entertainment.  I made him comb his hair and shave. He looked smart in his khaki shorts and white button up, like he belonged in Mallorca.  At his request, we went to some of his favorite places.  Los Flamingos was packed with foreign men who had the same agenda, so our stay was brief.  The beach zone bars were teaming with beautiful dark skinned women who flipped their skirts up when they danced.  A margarita and a few conversations proved that Michael already knew them, and that they are exactly the kind of women I am steering him away from.  He deserves to have a woman he doesn’t have to pay to bed. 
            The Palladium at Las Brisas is always hot, so we dodged the beggars and entered the huge pleasure dome perched high on the cliff.   With a wall of windows 160 feet wide and 30 feet tall with views of the entire bay, I had the perfect visage to seek out Michael’s type.  The dance floor, ringed by banquettes, cantilevers out over the cliff so that dapper gringos in button-down shirts and leather shoes and their women in form-fitting tank tops and short skirts appear to be dancing in the sky.
            Through the glass, leaning on the outside bar overlooking La Perla cove, I spied a shapely woman with long dark ringlets that framed her curves pleasantly sipping a martini in a way that suggested availability.  Michael was in a polite conversation with a man painted silver wearing an Aztec headdress whom was on break from entertaining the dance floor.  I excused us for a smoke break and guided us to the deck only to find the woman had disappeared. 
            A spray of fireworks guided my eyes to the edge of the terrace where a group had gathered, chattering excitedly.  A glimpse of dark ringlets among them had me pulling Michael to see what the spectacle was.  The woman was looking down the cliff to deep tidal pool where a faint light shone up from the water.  On a closer look it was torch light being carried by a man swimming toward the far cliff.  To my astonishment the man hoisted himself onto the rock wall and began climbing at a steady pace, holding the torch still in his left hand. 
            Forgetting my purpose I asked the woman who it was scaling the cliff.  To which she replied, “Henry, my date.”  I quickly redirected my intentions, and introduced myself and Michael, still placing Michael in between us.  Henry had only reached the top of the cliff when we all cheered him into the most stunning free dive.  Slicing the water, he was still under when the torch came falling right toward where he just disappeared.  The woman’s breath caught and her martini slipped from her hand right as the torch hit the surface.  But she didn’t see Henry resurface victoriously unharmed because her martini glass was perfectly caught in Michael’s grasp, and her eyes where fixed on his charming grin.
            By the end of the night, after dancing breathless with the handsome young Henry to ease his bruised ego from the sight of Michael and his date flirting in a dark corner, we had his invitation to stay at his casita up the hill at La Brisas.  Henry is a lawyer for a hedge fund in England on an extended vacation after just trading a behemoth of a deal.  He brought money to blow but no friends to blow it on.
            But for the past two weeks things have been heating up at the casita between Michael and Henry.  Despite his deep pockets, the women prefer Michael to Henry, and as I am not interested in being anyone’s woman, my presence is another form of frustration for him.   All of the sex in Acapulco cannot satisfy Henry’s need for conquest.  He is an obsesser and a collector in the worst ways.  Lately he has taken to asking me every day to be his girlfriend even whilst dating other women.  He only wants me because I don’t’ want him as anything more than a good time.  But as a proud man, he will not ask us to leave, instead he picks on Michael.      
            Henry says to Michael “men drink tequila, not cervaza.”  Or he will encourage Michael to gamble in hopes of embarrassing him in front of the women.  Mostly he will make a big show of paying for the table.  But Michael will just dance with the band or do an Elvis impression and the ladies swoon.
            Tonight took the cake.  In the haze at El Torino’s in the heart of Alcapuclo City, we clunk shots of tequila with a pair of Americans over a game of poker.  The mariachi were overwhelming a table next to us and Henry was late, so I went to the bar to talk to Eduardo the bartender about finding work.  He told me I needed a work visa to get a job at an establishment, but there were other means of making money if I needed someone to show me the ropes.  I declined.  
            At the table Michael and gringos were all drunk and getting along famously, talking animatedly and making grand gestures.  It had me curious. And as I danced over to join them, my arm was yanked and I was pulled to face Henry’s angry face.  His breath reeked of tequila and he could barely stand.  
            “Who was that twat you were talking to? Are’you zleeping with him too?”
            “Let go.”
            “Talks to me woman!”
            He shook me till I was seeing stars. Michael’s hands appeared from nowhere and locked around Henry’s neck.  He yanked him back and I flew from Henry’s grasp into the mariachi band.  The whole establishment was watching when the gringos and Michael jumped Henry all at once.  They knocked over chairs and glasses and patrons flew out of the way.  Henry was unconscious when they lay him outside in the parking lot, and Michael and I were in a bust as to what to do.  The Americans offered us an arrangement.
            Now as I look around the messy casita, taking in the warm salty air from the bay, I loathe packing my life into my suitcase again.  I wonder how much Michael will get for Bohemia.  As much as it pains him to let her go, we will not need a motorcycle on a boat.
















Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Six Days on the Appalachian Trail - Great Smokey Mountains National Park




Six days on the Appalachian Trail in The Great Smokey Mountains National Park, and I packed too much food and not the right water filter.  Cousins from California and Florida finally living the backcountry dream.  Goldilocks and The Red Fox. I flew into Atlanta and met my cousin Sandra there as she drove from Florida to the N. Carolina/Tennessee border.

I used an alcohol burning stove to boil water and simmer food.  For six days and five nights, for food I packed-

Breakfast-
Five cups of organic Oatmeal mixed with chia seeds, raw cacao, macca, brown sugar, bee pollen and Himalayan sea salt.
English Breakfast Tea

Daytime Snacks-
Two organic nut and fruit bars per day
Organic Nut Mix
Gogi Berries
Golden Berries
Vitamin C electrolyte mix for a water bottle

Dinner - 
Organic rice pilaf of Cajun or garden veggie variety with a dollop of whipped butter
Camomile tea
Organic Chocolate 


The rice pilaf is very filling, and I was rarely able to finish a bag, hence the overpacking.

We parked at Newfound Gap and hiked at a leisurely pace to the shelters at Icewater Spring, Peck's Corner, Tri-Corner Gap, Crosby's Knob, and Davenport Gap.  Originally we ordered a shuttle to get us from the Davenport Gap Trail Head on the last day, but we met another hiker who offered us a ride to our car at Newfound Gap and saved us $100.  Thank God there was cell service with AT&T on the Northside of the ridge so that we could cancel the van and get a refund.

The best 'extra' item I could suggest to bring is a hammock.  This made my nights comfortable and secluded from the roaring snores coming from the shelters.


My water filter is a 2 liter base camp bag with a gravity fed hose on the end that I was using as a camel back.  It has a fold and clip top that would not stay sealed.  I learned the hard way to keep that water filter in the Dry Bag by day, and store my food in the Dry Bag by night to contain the scent of food from bears.  Clothes and sleeping bag were drenched.  I had to wear long johns, a sleeping bag liner, and long johns that all belonged to other people who were kind enough to lend them on a night when it was 38 degrees out.


The final day of hiking it rained all morning.  We took a path south of the A.T., Low Gap Trail, to a river with gorgeous water falls.  


Mountains speak to eachother in echoes, and each step up the ridge is sweat for penance and breath for prana. 



Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Sneak Preview - "Eslabon" Chapter One

 1967
Haight Ashberry

Summer Solstice

            Pen to paper. Ballpoint drags into fibers. Something disposable inflects something cherished. A liquid marks a solid in symbols.  Tool is used to record a thought.  The permanent saturates the unblemished.  The internal becomes physical. The giver graces the receiver and anything I write is what I have done, am doing, and is whatever I imagine.  This is Helena Labreque’s journal.  I am starting this here, on the first day of summer at the summer solstice bash in San Francisco - the first official hippie holiday!   .  Could this be more unreal?
            Light dapples the sand, kissing my lips and chest, changing shapes in the shadows under this rainbow canopy. My eyes are playing tricks with the folds of fabric. I see the shadow of a beautiful woman turn into a nasty crone.  I see a pelican flying through a storm.  I see darkness shift and morph and now I realize that this second round of LSD I took must be kicking in.
            My toes are tingling; this is stellar.  The very letters I write, this W.O.R.D. is dancing with electricity as I lay it down, black and gold, with a trail of red-shift. But before the undulating currents of sweet ecstasy reach my brain, I have to explain how I got here…    
           
            This afternoon on my way to Golden Gate Park the crowd bottlenecked and I got trapped by the Haight Street Zealot.  Today he wore a black linen suit and tie just to put cigarette burn in the kaleidoscope of garb swirling all around us.  If I could sum up our sparring, it went something like this-
            “Go home to your families and repent of your sins. You are doing nothing good for the world.”  He dripped with sweat and didn't notice the pit stains growing under his tacky armpits. “You are wasting your youth… wasting your talents. Make use of your lives.  And you, you women! Have babies like you were created to.  Your place is with the children and in the kitchen.”
            “What ever, man,” I tried to shove around him, grazing against his moist body. The lane was narrow and he wouldn’t budge. I could smell his funk.
            “You are probably on acid young woman.  Look at your face, covered in paint.  Do you know what you look like?”
            “Shove aside.”
            “You all should be lobotomized,” he blurted in stadium voice, “all 100,000 of your drifters.  Smash the world of fantasy in which you are submerged.  Cut down the emotional child’s play and redirect into socially acceptable channels.  Metrazol for all of you.  Or else give gratis to who came before you.”
            I wiped some spittle from my face.  Still inches from his mouth hole, “You are a dirty evangelist, man.  This is all about love, nature, and beauty.”
            “What do you do for a living?”
            “I am doing the biggest work in the world.  Trying the new. Doing what I want.”
            “What is your salary for that?”
            “Same as you make on your soap box.  It’s a lovelution!  You are either in it or you’re old news.”  I ducked around him and back into the throngs. 
            The mention of salaries made my tummy churn.  One month on the road with Michael and six in the Golden City, and my pockets are light as an eyelash.  I’ll have to perform another play in the park with the troop so I can eat something other than oatmeal.  Mad Harry let me be Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz last time.  Only Dorothy wore a tie-dyed wedding dress instead of that blue checkered get-up.
            My outfit today is superb.   Autumn let me remake an old red velvet dress of hers.  I cut it short and opened up the blouse.  My blond hair is loose and wavy, set in a ring of daisies.  Autumn streaked blue paint under my eyes before she left for the sunrise.  I was still hung-over so I slept on the couch till noon.  The party lasts all day, so I didn’t mind dreaming away some of it.
            The waking life is better than anything I could dream.  Strolling down Haight, I was surrounded in balloons and bubbles that cast auras in the afternoon sunlight.  People have decorated everything they own; bicycles look like space ships - one woman resembles a giant bird, all in white feathers - some man in paisley silks flicked the bird to a bus of tourists - and I am wearing my most golden smile. This city is in its zenith and everybody is in on it.  Most of us are celebrating our liberation, and it will continue as long as people can get together and share it together.
            All of the houses and apartments in the city emptied out and filled this place up with families, lovers and druggies.  Passing through the gate at Stanvan Street, I meandered past the bowling green and tennis courts toward The Polo Fields.  A strong wind and the eucalyptus trees muffled the music in the distance.  And down a hill, through a tunnel of bushes, I stepped into a burst of sunlight where a girl was sitting alone in the lotus position.
            “Is this the way to the Human Be-In?” I asked her.
            She came out of her trance with beaming eyes.  “I have been meditating for three hours,” she said cheerfully, “and everybody’s been going that way, so I guess that’s it!”
            On the other side of the forest, passing herds of hippies, I came out into a meadow packed with thousands of people and Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane singing “Somebody to Love.”
            Frisbees crossed above, dogs and children played, and painted faces greeted me everywhere.  The Hare Krishna’s sung their mantras, “Jai, Jai, Hare Krishna,” and here and there was the occasional rhythm drum circle filling the air with all the sounds of human kind. 

            I went by an open pit where The Diggers were cooking up fish and hamburgers and a line of people were getting food for free.
            “Love is the only thing,” I heard a girl say in passing; “Life means nothing without it.”  I slowed my stroll. “Look at the bullshit that passes for happiness in this country.  Cars and houses, diplomas and credit cards, there is so much loneliness here.  It is such a great feeling when you love someone.  And when you don’t there’s nothing.  You’re all dried up.  So many people are walking around scared these days.”
            “Wow,” the guy said, “that’s so true.”
            She took his face in her hands. “Give me a kiss.”
           
            The scent of pot ruled the air as I made my way toward the stage.
A giant blow up globe bounced off my head.  As I got closer to the stage I found Mad Harry dressed like a sheik.  The guy beside him was wearing the purple vestments of a priest.
            “Christianity ended around 300 A.D.” he said to Mad Harry. “That is when it went commercial. Jesus became a bestseller!”
            “It’s people who articulate that I watch out for,” Mad Harry replied, “Like salesmen and ministers and college professors.  They’re the ones you’ve gotta watch out for. It’s a constantly changing reality, so whatever you think it is about is constantly changing too.  That is why the hippie movement started, you know.  You, me, and everyone here are doing what we can to make it authentic again.”
            “What is a hippie?” said the costume priest.  ”Don’t call me that.  Why don’t you talk about the people who believe in brotherly love?  Why don’t you talk about those making music for free and making art and just having a good time?”
            “The rock bands are making money.  Do you think Jefferson Airplane wouldn’t take a check? What we are doing now is new and ‘cool,’ but it will eventually become a part of the money making machine, like everything else.  So in truth, we are perpetually feeding the hierarchy. You can’t change it and you can’t escape it.”
            “Maybe it is time for me to find a new country then.”
            “Helena!”      
            “Tears are running, oh, oh, down, down, down your breast!  And your friends, baby, treat you like a guest.  Don’t you want somebody to love?” I sang into his ear.  Mad Harry gave me the biggest squeeze and the priest man bounced off.. Scanning the entourage for a missing face I asked, “Where is Michael?”
            “He got a head start down at the beach with a bag of goodies. But here is a little bundle just for you.”  He folded my hands around a pouch and gave his most familiar mischievous grin.
            At the word “goodies’ a short auburn haired beauty with thick black eye brows bopped right into me. “Autumn! “We embraced. “Oh my Goddess!  I was looking everywhere for you.”
            She grabbed my hand and parted the masses like a pixie Jesus, moving to the groovy swing.  But this was no Sea of Galilee.  This crowd swayed like a melting forest of color, everyone in their own tempo.  The air was stifling and my lips tasted salty.  And just as I reached out to part them and take in sweet air, a mouth closed onto mine.
            “Let’s go practice free love, baby.”
            I kissed him back in a full grip and pulled away quick. It’s hard to navigate when the whole world is turned on.  Every stranger is a welcome face, so every man and woman may be my lover. 
            We stopped to watch a young woman dancing on her knees with her baby with four people holding a bedspread above them.  They placed the baby in the bedspread and she flew high up into the air.  I was hit with a tremendous wave of contact high. 
            Folk to my right formed a daisy chain and swayed to the music.  All while the voice of Grace Slick rang out above them.
            “Wouldn’t you love somebody to love?’
            You better find somebody to love.”
Everybody was one their feet rocking to her energy.  People climbed the stage, dancing and throwing their clothes into the crowd, girls sat on the shoulders of their guys to get a better view, everyone clapping and screaming.  Autumn took us to the font of the stage, and with the hot bass player looking on we dropped the acid from the pouch. 
            If there is one thing the junkies, winos, druggies, dropouts, professional dropouts, theatre junkies, avant gardes, and even some corporate monkey’s have in common, it’s that all of us are on LSD. 
            And standing there at the stage began the dichotomy of a good trip.  On one hand you are the observer, seeing the faces of your friends and strangers morph into angels and demons that you either welcome or reject with your entire being.  At least in the Haight, love is the credence. 
            On the other hand you are the manipulator, mobilizing objects, interacting with plants and people, touching that butterfly affect that carries more conscious consequence when you are tripping.  I want to just give back my positive vibes for fear of what the dark can do. 
            Autumns eyes were dilated and her smile was a falling star, illuminating everyone around her.  Sometimes I know where I am, sometimes I am where I imagine to be and am an apparition, just like this world is.  And maybe there is some Doctor behind that stage whispering the code of life in all its simplicity.  Maybe I should be committed or maybe I am the sanest of humans.
            All this was going on in my head and is coming up now because the acid is kicking in again and I am writing about the past and the moment at the same time. 
            I felt like I was flying, and at one point I had the realization that I was actually flying.  We left the park at some point I don’t recall and I was on a trampoline in someone’s back yard dancing in a projection of a real time kaleidoscope that played in the shade.  Autumn was something of a six year old, like she hadn't known the world yet and understood it for the first time.
            I met another Scorpio.  He carried a homemade opium pipe he passed over in a haze on the trampoline.  Mad Harry materialized from the sun and said that Michael was down on the beach and that we should go.
            I don’t remember but we must have taken the bus.  I was naked on the beach among multitudes.  And yet even with the crowd, Michael is always visible.  Handsome with his thick, dark curls and sparkling green eyes, always well dressed, with a Peter Pan grin, he was entertaining a crowd of fawning women playing out some invented character, per usual. I joined the periphery.
            Looking up to the sky he declared, “Who is that following me?  There is something floating up there, hovering, watching us.  Is it a friend or an enemy?  Mr. White Face.”
            “The moon!” a girl cried.
            “Father finally let me out of the dungeon,” they were captivated as he crossed the sand, theatrical and powerful.  “This is a curious world we live in.”  His eyes met mine, “Bella Helena!”  He rushed over and kissed both my cheeks.   “I’ve wanted to see you all day!  Let’s get that body in the water!”  He grabbed me into his arms and we rushed down into the ocean.
           
            And as the sun sets now with the sand glistening in a billion diamonds I need to put this journal down and take one more dip.  My handwriting is loooopy and big, and I can’t concentrate. This is the best summer of my life…so far…and



August

            It’s a Monday morning and the day has been good to me.  I took a pack of books that I dug out of a street curb moving-pile to the Free Store, and it was all I hoped it would be. A chick in a muumuu and I exchanged our swag and I gained three pairs of sunglasses; one with yellow rims, one with giant lenses, and one round pair.  But Monday morning doesn’t guarantee what Monday evening will be.
            Later, perusing the foggy streets in the early rays of sunlight, I sought out the Drugstore where I gave hugs in passing to familiar faces and then sat at a booth in the quietest corner to journal about what’s been happening. 
            Thoroughly packed as always, the Drugstore is the spot for ages.  We get everybody here; Diggers, drifters, and all of the hippest music makers. I’m pretty sure the woman in the feather boa sending a wall of sound across the room is Mama Cass.  In this cacophony of outbursts and shuffling feet, she is a thunderclap in a rainstorm - loud as hell - and I can’t make out what she is saying, but it is obvious the source of the uproar is the store clerk.  She just reached into her purse and gave him what looks like a couple of dollars and a nasty look. 
            Once I wrap up this entree I’ll introduce myself to her posse. I’ve always wanted to have a famous friend. Wait, the store clerk just noticed me and is walking over here…
           
            …Okay, this is the perfect example of what is happening lately.  As soon as I put this journal down the store clerk approached me and said they started charging a 50 cent minimum to sit and talk unless I buy something in the store.  He had his hand out and everything!  And since I have no spare change to speak of, I was forced to leave.  I am now on a solitary bench in Buena Vista Park squinting my eyes in the noonday light to write this down.
            Things are changing around here, and fast.  The Drugstore isn’t the only enterprise looking to collect from us.  Rent is going up, food prices are rising, and the scarcity is making everybody forget why they came here to begin with.
            Many people have split town to join communes; saying that they are the only places left free to practice love and live the way they want to.  I have also heard from more than one person that the communes feel like a return to the feudal system - the land owner has all of the control and the hippies slave the land - and that it is best to fight and resist the establishment from inside of the establishment, i.e. civilization. 
            That’s all good in idea, but the establishment doesn’t like resistance.  More and more often the Fuzz show their pig faces without reason or warrant, and we don’t know what to do about them. 
            The other night, we were all jumping on Autumn’s bed stoned and passing a joint around when 20 policemen burst into her bedroom and demanded we “Shut up and sit down.”  They told us we were a breakdown in moral and spiritual values and made us all line up against the wall and give our names and citizenship.  Autumn was crying.  The man who took my info threatened to have me deported back to Quebec saying, “If you don’t protect God’s law, we will.”
            Mad Harry started to argue with the officer about civil rights and unlawful search and seizer in his jumbled language, and that did nothing more than convince the officer to do a full body search, revealing Harry’s bag of goodies and landing him in the back of the cop car.  Oddly enough, Michael and I, the only foreigners in the room, were the most peeved about the whole thing.  After the cops left we talked about how we could get those officers in trouble and about how long it might take to make pot legal in California - soon, Michael thought.  Autumn just listened quietly holding herself, still feeling that her privacy was violated.   
            The next day, when Mad Harry showed up at Autumn’s at dinner time, he gave us an earful of what the Sheriff told him when he was under arrest; about the overcrowding happening everywhere and the hepatitis running rampant among us. 
            “It is getting harder and harder to have some kind of satisfaction being on this earth,” he said pushing aside the canned tuna.  “They blamed me, in my face, for the degradation of society.”
            “We are all in it together,” I told him.  “We are a brotherhood and sisterhood.”
            His face grew somber and he didn’t meet my or Michael’s eyes, “I am leaving Haight Ashberry for the country and suggest you do the same.”
           
            The theatre in the park broke down the next day, leaving me with one less friend and without a job again.  I have since been selling pamphlets on the benefits of psychedelic drugs for 10 cents a pop.  It isn’t getting me far.
            Michael seems to be having the hardest time.  His most recent lover left yesterday, and though he puts on the machismo in public, I saw him casting one of those far looks he throws when his balance is unsettled.  From the fire escape I saw him kiss the girl with long black hair goodbye and, first pausing to reflect, went straight to collecting the helmet and straps and gear for his motorcycle that has been chained in the brick alleyway all summer.  I see him gathering his belongings more every day. 

            I couldn't help but notice that when my eyes turned away from him, they pierced through the open window, hanging beads dancing in the wind, into the living room where my old taupe suitcase rests on the spotty shag rug, spilling its contents - my everything - onto the floor.  Maybe Michael has the right idea; maybe it’s time to gather. Things are changing, and fast. Monday morning doesn’t guarantee what Monday evening will be.