III. - Friday
August 28, 1970
I woke up blinking, early the next morning. Incredibly, I wasn't hung over or spaced out. I turned my head and saw Dave was asleep in his bag, by himself. Melanie must have left. Next to him were JD and Cindy in another bag. I sat up and stretched. The tent was already starting to heat up with the early morning sun. I lit a cigarette and then threw a boot at Dave's sleeping figure. It hit him in the chest.
He surfaced, snorting, "Whasa fuck? I won't be late for school, mom. Just lemme sleep."
"Heinlein you sonofabitch, wake up," I called softly, "You're gonna be late for the bus."
More sputtering and coughing. He sat partway up, shaking his head. "The bus, I don't wanna fucking walk ... What the fuck?" He rubbed his eyes and looked at me. "What the fuck? Gordie? Oh ... G'morning."
He laid back down and covered his face.
"Dave. What happened with Melanie?"
He moaned. "Went off with Bruce."
The pillow was now over his head, and his words were muffled. "Well, we were having a real good time, I thought I had it in the bag for sure, then she started peaking on the acid and getting weird. Not freaking, just really weird. Wouldn't let me put my finger up her, wouldn't let me feel her tits. Said she was Catholic and that God had spoken to her, and that her body was a 'holy vassal' and I couldn't violate her 'sanity' or some fucking thing." He sat up, and ran a hand through his hair. "Wouldn't let me touch her. Then she started talking to Bruce. They left together, a little later."
"Holy vassal? She meant holy vessel?"
"I don't know what the fuck she meant, the bitch. Or care." He lit a cigarette. "You looked like you were having fun, Gordo. Sitting there by the fire, talking to yourself, waving your hands and shit."
The public address system came on with a loud buzzing noise echoing slowly through the bowl, then clear and strong, the opening bars of "Carry On," by Crosby Stills Nash and Young.
"What the fuck?" Dave exclaimed. Our eyes met for a brief instant, then we both quickly scrambled out of the tent.
Looking across the hazy bowl, again filled with the blue smoke of countless cooking fires, the huge stage had emerged from the early morning mists. It dominated the bottom of the immense amphitheatre, ringed in back by the trees, surrounded in front by a sea of multicolored tents. No group was set up on stage. It was a recording, but it sounded like the group live. The sweet tones rang over us, wrapping us in the powerful melody, and we stood transfixed, listening and feeling, unable to move.
"One morning, I woke up, and I knew,
you were really gone.
A new day, a new way, and new eyes,
to see the dawn.
Go your way, I'll go mine,
and carry on."
All throughout the bowl, people had stopped moving and had turned, gazing at the stage in awe of the power, the raw power coming forth. The impact of the music was a living thing, a tangible force that bent the people to its will. The sound levels were perfect, and the majestic harmonies filled the bowl, obscuring everything else. It was impossible to do anything but listen, watch and feel.
Shortly, the instruments fell silent and the a capella portion began:
Love is coming...
Love is coming to us all..."
I barely noticed that JD and Cindy had come out of the tent and were standing by us, staring at the stage with rapt attention. No one spoke.
Later, as the song closed, I sensed a tear forming in the corner of my eye and quickly brushed it away.
The English announcer came on as the song faded, his normally crisp, precise diction slurring as he screamed, "Good morning, people! Rio del Sol rocks! Yeah!"
An answering cheer rose from the crowd, thousands of voices strong.
"Yeah! Good morning people! I have some announcements... I have some announcements then we'll play some more music ..." He waited for a few moments till the cheers died down, then continued, "Now ... Will the person who left the bag of brown-tab acid at the Testing Shop please come to the OD Clinic, and if anyone has some brown-tab acid, you are warned not to take it bad stuff... Don't take the brown-tab acid ... Okay, Marla Packard, please see Rabbit at the Seattle Liberation Front bus, Marla Packard go see Rabbit ... Bruce Gladwyn, please see John Lloyd at the stage, Bruce Gladwyn, go see John Lloyd as soon as possible ... Okay ... the stage crew would like to thank all those that donated speed last night. Thanks to the donations, the crew was able to work through the night and the stage is now one hundred percent complete. We're ready to rock and roll, people! Alright! ... Now, some news ... Last night at a draft induction center in Minneapolis, a bomb exploded causing heavy damage to the building which also serves as the Federal Offices for the city. Responsibility for the blast has been claimed by the Weather Underground, which said in a statement made to a local Minneapolis radio station, 'This act will serve as a lesson to the government that we shall not tolerate the policies of imperialist aggression against the peace loving people of North Viet Nam.' The group also demanded that Bobby Seale be set free, or they would blow up more government installations. Next..." There were cheers of 'free Bobby' from the crowd. The announcer went on, "... In the middle east, for the first time since the cease-fire went into effect in the Egypt-Israeli war along the Suez Canal, Israeli jets bombed strategic Jordanian Army posts yesterday. The targets were said to be assisting terrorist operations against Israel. President Nixon was unavailable for comment... On the local front, The Thurston County Prosecutor's Office has sought an injunction to block the promoters of the infamous, Rio del Sol rock festival from holding the event." The announcer paused dramatically, and you could hear everyone drawing a breath. He continued, "In her verbal decision, Judge Paula Ruth denied the motion for the temporary restraining order, stating that the county had not proved that the denial would result in irreparable damage. A new hearing on further charges by the Prosecutor is scheduled for next Thursday. We won, people, Rio del Sol will rock!"
The crowd cheered and cheered. When the roar subsided, the announcer went on, "Okay people. It's supposed to be in the mid-eighties today, so be careful in the sun. If you need salt tablets, you can get them for free at the OD Clinic. Now, at noon, we're going to start the live music. This afternoon's lineup will include," the sounds of paper shuffling, then, "... The great Seattle bands Mineral Water, and then Bad Attitude with Lora James. After that, Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids, and a great new Bay Area band, Little Feat, then the Electric Flag, followed by Mr. Ritchie Havens. On tonight's bill of fare is included, direct from Los Angeles, the inestimable, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, followed by Blue Cheer, and finally, direct from Chicago, where they played last night, the John Mayall Blues band." The crowd went wild, cheering and clapping. Then, "Okay... We're going to go back to some recorded music now. I'll see you again when the show starts at noon, so be cool and have some fun in the sun. Rio del Sol rocks! Yeah!" Music came on again, Jefferson Airplane's Volunteers album.
Dave turned to me, "Far fucking out, man. This is some hot shit. I wonder who's gonna be with Mayall?"
"Maybe Clapton?" I asked.
Dave shook his head. "Naw, he hasn't played with Mayall in years."
I shrugged. "It could happen."
JD spoke, still sounding like an east coast hood, "No shit, Sherlock. And he's gonna bring Delaney and Bonnie, Dave Mason and Duane Allman with him."
Cindy nodded solemnly. "That's right. That's what this freak down on the Ave told us last night."
Eyes wide, I asked, "No shit? Are you sure?"
JD smiled. "Would I shit you? You're my favorite turd. No way Clapton's gonna be here. It'd just be too much. C'mon. So what say we get some food, already?"
"Whatever," I said. To Dave, "You wanna go to the same place we ate breakfast yesterday?" He nodded. I turned to JD, "It's good stuff. Macaroni with tomato sauce and hamburger. Fills you up."
He smiled and said, "Let's be off to see the wizard, then." Pulling a sleepy Cindy with him, Dave and I set off behind them, down the hill.
It was seven fifteen when I arrived at the gate. On the way there, I had passed a bulldozer widening the one lane road, raising great clouds of dust in its wake. The line of cars coming in was sparser than I had thought. A car would pass only every three or four minutes, it wasn't a steady stream yet at all. But it would be soon, I knew.
Mitch was standing in front of the security trailer talking to a group of people. He saw me and waved me over.
"Gordon, I'm glad you're here. Meet Jim and Nancy. They're in charge of ticket taking and cash control. This is Walt, he's going to be running traffic control outside. People, this is Gordon. He's done a really great job the past couple of days." We exchanged greetings and shook hands.
Jim and Nancy looked like college students. Hip clothes and long hair, but clean and well washed. They seemed to be together, always having some kind of physical contact with each other a hand on an arm, legs brushing against each other and so on. Maybe in their mid-twenties. Nancy had a cute face with soft features, which was framed by her silky, long brown hair. Average height, flat chest, she reminded me a lot of the women I'd seen handling out anti-war propaganda at the university in Seattle. Jim on the other hand, almost looked like he could be her brother. Clean shaven, with the same general sort of facial features as Nancy, only handsome where she was pretty. He was just short of six feet tall, and skinny like a reed.
Walt provided quite a contrast. He was probably in his late twenties, and looked like a longhaired lumberjack black suspenders and a red plaid shirt that he'd wish he had left home when it got hot, later. He was sitting in the doorway of the trailer, slouched back against the wall. One of his knees was visible though a hole in the leg of his faded Levis. Almost as big as Mitch, he had large callused hands covered with dark hair on their backs. A bushy beard and mustache covered most of his face.
Mitch continued, "Gordon, I want you to be in charge of inside traffic control and parking today. You should be able to use most of the same people as yesterday. When you leave, grab a walkie-talkie for yourself from the box in the trailer."
"Do the people in the lots already have radios?" I asked, happily surprised by the promotion.
"Yeah, they do. And they changed batteries already. You might take a couple extra sets of batteries with you though, anyway. Okay." He looked at the others. "We are going to have one busy fucking day in front of us. It's gonna be hectic. But we've got a good system, so all we have to do is make sure it doesn't break down. Now, look." He held up his hands. "We've got reports that there are gonna be a whole shitload of bikers coming in late this afternoon. Shifters, Devil's Rejects, maybe even some Angel's up from Oakland. We expect them to refuse to pay." He looked at Nancy and Jim. "Do not, I repeat, do not hassle them. If they want to come in free, let them." He turned to me. "And let them park where they want to park. If they all want to go into the bowl, let them. Just try and make sure they don't run over anyone." To Walt, "And while they're outside, if they get tired of waiting in line and start going in front of people, let them. We do not want anyone to get killed."
Walt asked, his voice deep and sonorous, "With all the different clubs, aren't we gonna have trouble anyway?"
Mitch smiled, "If the bikers kill each other, I really don't give a fuck, as long as they don't bring the heat down. But the word is they've all agreed to be peaceful here. They know if they get too far out of line, that'd bring in the cops give them the perfect excuse to shut us down. Gary has talked to the presidents of the different clubs. He says they're going to cooperate."
I said, "They can park where they want?"
Mitch smiled again, "Anywhere except up on top of the stage. Okay. Anyone got any questions? Okay, then let's do it." He looked at me and asked, "Can I talk to you for a minute, Gordon?"
I nodded. He walked inside the trailer and brought out a map and put it down on a card table by the entrance. He pointed, "You've got three key points to cover. Here, here and here. The Y at the front end of the parking lots, then the intersection where the roads split off to the stage and to the river, and here at the road to the concessions." He paused, then continued, "We had the dozer in this morning. I'm sure you saw it. He was widening the main road between here and the Y. With what he's done, in an emergency, you could get three vehicles abreast. And that's exactly what we're gonna have. I've told the gate to run to two lanes of incoming traffic as soon as we have a line of more than a hundred cars backed up outside. From that point on, the gate will be sending them to you two lanes at a time. Split the right lane into the north lot, the left lane into the south lot. And I want you to station people every fifty or a hundred feet along the road to make sure the traffic stays to the right, leaving room for the third lane. That lane must be kept open for emergencies. If it isn't, we'll have the Fire Department down on us for sure. Same for the road to the river and the stage and concessions. They all have to be kept clear. No one parks on them, no one. As far as the rest of it, parking and so on, you know what you're doing."
"Uh, have you got some new people for me?"
"They signed up about twenty people last night. They're supposed to report here at eight. Here's the list of names." He handed me a clipboard with some papers on it.
Holding the clipboard at my side, I said softly, "Mitch? I've gotta ask you. Why me? Why are you putting me in charge?"
He shrugged and smiled, "I dunno. Guess I've got a good feeling about you. We're always looking for good people. You've shown more initiative than anyone else I've seen. You seem to work well with people, and you're not an ego tripper. I like that." He paused and I smiled, embarrassed. He went on, "And I can't do it all myself anymore. Too much shit happening. You'll do well." He looked around, then back at me. "I've got to go now, I've got about fifty people I'm gonna station along the fence-line up from the gate, to discourage crashers. I gotta round them up and get them out there. Your people ought to be here anytime. You take care and if you have any problems, give me a call on the radio."
"Cool. Hey, thanks for trusting me, Mitch."
He smiled, "You'll do good. Later, bro."
He waved and went off in search of his fence sitters. I walked over to the trailer and found myself a radio and some extra batteries. As I was coming out of the trailer, Saint showed up. He looked like he'd had a hard night, maybe slept in his clothes which were ruffled looking, and covered with bits of twigs and dirt.
He saw me and said, "It's the big Gordon-person. How you doing, white man?"
I smiled, "Better than you from the way you look. What the fuck happened?"
He smiled, and sat down on a chair next to the card table. "Well, it was like this. I got some of this windowpane acid, and went down to the river with my lady, Linda. We dropped when we got down there. Everything was fine at first. Then we got separated. I got lost in the fucking woods. I ended up sleeping under a goddamn tree! Christ, I must have wandered around for hours. Thought I was Dan'l Boone or something. When I woke up in the morning, I was about fifty feet from where I started at the river. My lady had gone back to my damn truck. I think I'm gonna cry." He shook his head.
"I had kinda the same problem last night. No lady, but I was bigtime lost in the ozone." I paused for a moment. "You ready to hit the bricks?"
He looked at me an nodded. "Soon as I get some coffee. What are we doing today?"
I pushed a thermos of coffee and a mug towards him. He poured the coffee, looking at me.
I shrugged. "Same shit, more or less." I paused savoring the moment, then said, "Mitch made me head of internal traffic control and parking."
Saint narrowed his eyes, then as he sat, took a deep bow, hands extended. "All powerful one, I am at you command, your faithful servant. Praise be to Allah."
I shook my head and sighed, smiling. "Thank you. Thank you. No applause, please just gimme money." I grinned at him, then went on, "You be my number one man, today. Numero uno. Here, take a look at the map." He bent over the map on the table, and I went over what Mitch had told me, as well as advising him about the bikers.
"What I want you to do," I said to him, "Is to go now, back down the road and check to see who's on duty. Try to get that Allan guy who was in the south lot yesterday, to stand at the Y. You know, big blond surfer type. Wants to be a lawyer or something. We need someone with some smarts there, who won't be bullshited into letting bogus cars through to the stage or concessions. I don't think that George, the guy who was with us yesterday, could handle it by himself. Pick a couple of others out of the lots and put them at the intersections at the road to the river, and where the road to the stage breaks off towards the concessions. At the lots, give'm the same speech sardine parking only. Tight, tight, tight. Take a radio with you and let me know how many people are left in the lots there should be at least a half a dozen in each. When I get our new recruits together, I'll join you down at the Y. Cool?"
"Cool. This sounds like it's gonna be fun. You and me in charge, huh? That's some hot shit!" He smiled and we laughed. "Cool, bro. Gimme a radio, and I'm outahere." He gulped down the rest of his coffee.
I went into the trailer and brought back a walkie talkie. Handing it to him, I asked, "What's your call sign gonna be?"
"My call sign? Why Saint one of course. What the hell else would it be? We'll catch you later." He bowed again, turned and left.
Traffic was still relatively light. No appreciable backup at the gate. I saw a largish group of people I didn't recognize standing next to the road, just inside the gate. I walked over to them and called out, "Hey, any of you people here to work on traffic control or parking?"
Some hands went up and there was a chorus of 'yesses.' I said, "Great. I'm Gordon. I'm in charge of inside traffic control and parking. Would those of you who want to work, please follow me over to the trailer?"
I walked back over to the security trailer, and got my clipboard from the card table as the people slowly wandered over behind me. After the dealers had departed to resume looking for new clients at their now customary positions on the road, there was still a relatively large group of volunteers left. The people stood patiently in front of me as I called out names and checked them off the list on the clipboard. Out of twenty names on the list, fifteen had showed, as well as eight extras who hadn't signed up. Friends mostly.
I went over the essentials of what was going on, warned them about the bikers, and then gave a nice speech about how it was so great they had volunteered, because they were making the festival possible for everyone else. After I finished, we waited for a few more minutes to see if any additional people would show, then I walked them down the road making assignments as we went. Saint called on the radio from the south lot when we were about halfway to the Y.
"This is the one and the only, Saint One calling cobra one. Are you there massa? Over."
I answered, "Cobra one, here. What's up, bro? Over."
A burst of static, then, "Gordon, I'm in the south lot. I sent Allan to the Y. He's gonna be cool. George is there already, and there were two others there still from last night. They say they can work. They're on MDA or something." Another burst of static growled, then he continued, "North lot is okay. They've got about fifteen people there and things are going great. There are only gonna be six down here though. Do you have any people you can send? Over.
"I copy. Yeah, I have six people I can send. Who are you putting in charge there? Over."
"I left Vale in charge. Is that okay? Over."
"Yeah, that's cool. I'm almost at the Y, now. I'll send Vale the people. They should be there in ten minutes. Where is he gonna be? Over."
More static, then "... with the huge North Vietnamese flag flying over it. Over."
"You mean that old green school bus? Over."
"Cool. I'm gonna stay at the Y for a bit, then I'll meet you over by the river road, say at about nine? Okay? Over."
"Ten four, roger wilco. Catch you later, dude. Saint one out."
"Cobra one, over and out."
I asked for volunteers for the parking lot, and sent them on their way. The rest of the people I dispersed as Mitch had instructed. I talked with Allan and George at the Y for a while, then headed towards the river road to meet Saint.
Traffic had picked up, but they were still only feeding it to us in one lane. The dust seemed even worse than the previous day, if that was possible. I called the main gate to see if there was anything new, as I walked.
"Main gate, main gate. This is cobra one. Over."
Sexy and sultry, the girl with the voice of gold came back, "Cobra one. This is the main gate. What may we do for you this morning?"
"Uh, howdy. Just called to see how things were going. I've got my people set up on the road and in the lots. How soon before we go to two lanes of traffic coming in? Over."
"The people at the gate are doing great. No real backup yet. What they say, is that they don't expect the really big rush until later in the afternoon. Mitch said you'll have two lanes incoming by, probably not later than three o'clock." Such a sweet, sexy voice. I tried to imagine what she looked like.
"Ten-four. Hey, what's your name? I hate just calling you main gate. It sounds so impersonal. You really aren't a gate, are you? Over." God that sounded stupid.
I could hear a laugh ending as she keyed the radio. Score one. "Susan. Susan Peretti. You're Gordon Lawson, right?"
She knew my name. Hot shit! I tried to sound nonchalant, saying, "Right. Well, nice to meet you Susan." I had arrived at the river road. Saint was standing in front of me making faces and obscene hand gestures. "I better get going now. I've got someone waiting. Call me if anything comes up. See you Susan."
A burst of static, then "Bye, Gordon. See you later." Heavenly voice.
Saint waved in my face, snapping me out of my reverie. "Hey dude, are you pussy whipped or what?"
"Huh? Oh, I haven't even met her. Helluva nice voice though."
"I met her last night. She'd just gotten back from Tacoma. Put together really well. Seemed nice."
"What's she look like?" I asked, trembling inwardly. When a guy said a lady was a nice, it usually meant she had buckteeth and zits. My dreams were balancing on the precipice.
"Cute. Real cute face, with a dimple on her cheek when she smiles. She's small, about five foot tall. Curly brown hair down to about here," he said, indicating his shoulders. "Nice set of knockers and good legs. Maybe nineteen. She was asking me 'bout that cobra one dude."
I perked up, alert. "She asked about me? What?"
"Well, just who you were, and what did you look like. I told her you were a great looking dude, and that they expected most of the scar tissue to be gone when they removed the bandages from your face, and that the crutches were only temporary, and would be gone as soon as they fitted you for your prosthesis." My eyes widened and involuntarily, my hands clenched into fists.
"You sonofabitch!" I screamed, losing it. He'd told my sexy voiced dream girl what? "You didn't! I... I..."
Saint was laughing so hard I thought he would bust. He ended up sitting down on the ground with his head between his knees, giggling like a schoolgirl. I sat down next to him.
When he finally stopped laughing, he said, "You dork. You really went for it. It must be bad, what you got for her." He smiled and lit a cigarette, then said, "What I told her was that you were a good looking hunk of white meat. Not too bright, but otherwise a nice enough young man."
"I'm in love, Saint. I'm in love. She was really interested in me?"
"She asked me about you, that's all I can say. Shit, go ask her out, man. She ain't with anyone, I do know that."
Finally, after I had dredged all possible information about Susan out of him, we talked business. We ended up deciding that we would spend the day, at least until it got really busy, walking back and forth over our assigned area, checking on people, to make sure nothing got out of hand. Saint would go in one direction, I would go in the other, back and forth. We figured we could do a circuit about once every hour or ninety minutes, which would mean that one of us would be at each station every half hour to forty-five minutes. Sounded good.
Just before noon, I found myself back at the main gate, at the end of my circuit. I'd been by twice before that morning, and each time, I had just missed Susan, who had been sent off on errands. I was getting awfully frustrated. I was beginning to feel like I'd been set up that Susan didn't really exist. I wondered if maybe Saint and Mitch were in it together, playing a grand practical joke.
Traffic was still relatively light. Maybe a car every three minutes or so. Overhead, several airplanes carrying what I assumed were either cops or reporters kept cruising around in a lazy circle above the festival. There had been a fair number of reporters entering the festival grounds as well, and according to several people I'd talked to, the Tacoma and Seattle papers had been giving us a lot of coverage. Most of it negative, of course.
As I approached the gate, I saw people were milling around outside the security trailer.
I recognized Walt, the hippie logger and said, "Howdy. How's it going outside the fence?"
He smiled when he saw me. "Not bad," his deep voice rumbled. "I just got a bunch of new people I'm gonna take out." He jerked his thumb at the cluster of people standing in back of him. "They got the farmer that owns the adjoining property to let us park cars there. I'm taking fifteen people out there now. We're gonna divert about half the cars there, leave half for you. It ought to help out quite a bit."
"You see any cops out there?" I asked. There had been rumors that the festival was going to be busted. I figured Walt, working outside as he did, would have seen them if they were there. I went on, "I heard maybe the National Guard is gonna come here, too. Bust everybody and ship us off to camps or something."
He smiled, picking a piece of food from between his teeth. "Yeah, the cops are all camped down at the end of Klingman Road where it runs into Vail Road, bunch of county mounties and a few State Patrol. Got a command post just down from there. But they're not even trying to come in. And there aren't any weekend warriors at all. I saw a copy of the Tacoma News Tribune. Governor Evans won't activate the Guard. Said it would create more problems than it'd solve."
"Cool. Heard any more about the bikers?"
"Naw, just the same old shit. They don't bother me none. Most of them are just a bunch of stoned freaks."
I thought that if I was as tall and wide as he was, I wouldn't be worried, either. "Maybe so, but I'd just as soon not see them come. I've got enough problems."
"Me too, but what the fuck." He looked at his people, then back at me and said, "I better get these guys out there. See you later, Gordon. Have a good one."
"You too, dude."
I walked into the trailer. Mitch was inside talking with Nancy. She had taken off the sweatshirt she had been wearing earlier, in its place was a dusty white tank top, with wet, muddy tracks leading down across her sparse cleavage. Mitch saw me and held up his hand for me to wait for a moment. I stepped back outside.
Shortly, Nancy left and walked back to the money trailer, directly across from the security trailer. She and Jim had been holed up inside the trailer almost all day, guarding the gate receipts. They were the only ones allowed access to that trailer.
I walked back in and sat down in the seat Nancy had vacated. Mitch said, "You look hot and tired, bro. There's a cold one in the ice chest for you."
I stood up and got myself the beer, then popped the cap. I poured it down my throat, gulping. It tasted great.
Mitch smiled at me and asked, "So how's it going in there?"
I ran down what I had set up with Saint, and how we had placed the people. He sat there, running his fingers through his beard, nodding and sipping his own beer. When I finished, he smiled, showing approval.
"You've done a great job, Gordon. And that was a good idea making Saint your number two. I've talked with him. He's got a lot on the ball. I do worry about Vale running the south lot, though. Let's face it, the guy is a fuck-off."
"As may be, but Saint or I are there every half hour or so, to check on him. He's been doing a good job. It'll be cool."
"How much space have you got left?"
I thought about it for a moment, then answered, "The south lot is half full, more or less. There's a smaller pasture down at the bottom, just off the right of the trees. I found a gate and opened it. Maybe put a couple hundred cars there. The north lot is more than half full. Plus we have problems there. A couple hundred feet the other side of the top, there's a drainage ditch, about two feet deep. Couldn't see it cause it was all overgrown with weeds and whatnot. Found it about an hour ago when some guy that broke out of line got stuck in it. I pulled three guys off the lot, found some shovels, and have them filling in parts of it so people can drive across."
Mitch looked relieved. "Good going, I don't want to lose any space up there. Will it work?"
"Yeah, it should. If three driveways across isn't enough, I'll have them build some more. I do need some stuff to flag it with, though. Say a three or four hundred feet of twine, some stakes, and something to hang on the twine."
"If we can't find it here, I'll send someone into town and get it to you." He took a long pull off his beer, and laid back in the seat. Head lolled to the side, a slight smile on his face, he said, "I understand you're still looking for Susan. She ought to be back from town now. She was getting us some lunch. Burgers, I think. What say we go find her? I'll introduce you."
I knew he and Saint were just playing with my head. It had to be. But I went along with the gag. "Sure, let's go find Susan." I drained my beer.
Mitch led me from of the trailer, and out a short way up the gentle hill in back. At a picnic table just outside the scotch broom, sat a petite brunette woman with curly hair falling over her shoulders. She was clad in short-shorts made out of a pair of jeans, and a black and white zebra-striped bikini top. She must have heard us coming, because she turned and looked at us.
I had seen her before. She was the girl who had talked with Mitch when I got my staff armband. She was as good looking as I remembered, very pretty, but in a quiet sort of way. She had the girl-next-door look, clean and wholesome. Probably as pretty or prettier than most of the faces you see in magazines, but not glamorous or threatening. No makeup on, her tanned, oval-shaped face brightened in a smile when she saw Mitch, and as Saint had said, her left cheek had a tiny dimple. She smiled with her whole face, her brown eyes glancing at me with a flash of recognition, then focusing back on Mitch.
We stopped short of the table. Mitch spoke. "Susan, I'd like you to meet Gordon Lawson. Gordon, Susan Peretti."
She turned her smile to me and said, "Hi. I'm pleased to meet you." In person, her voice was even better. Low and husky, I loved it. I'd always had a thing about women with deep voices. She went on, "Come on, I've got food for us all. Mitch said you'd probably be here for lunch. Sit down and eat."
I sat down next to her. "Thanks. I'm glad we finally get to meet. I was beginning to think you were a figment of my imagination." Susan smiled politely. She smelled of sun tan lotion and feeling a little giddy, I breathed deeply.
Mitch sat across from us. She started handing out bags of food and paper plates.
"Didn't I see you with Mitch on Wednesday?" she said, still smiling.
I nodded. "Yeah, he was just signing me up to work." I opened up the bag of the burger and took a bite.
Mitch broke in, "Ah, I'm gonna take my food and run, people. I've got a couple things to do before Gary gets here. Come see me before you leave, Gordon. Okay?"
I saluted him with a hamburger. "Right on, dude."
Susan looked at him strangely, then stuck out her tongue. He shrugged, smiling, then got up and left.
I looked at her and asked, "What was that all about?"
She shook her head. "Oh, nothing," she said, looking vaguely annoyed. She paused for a moment, then asked, "So do you like working here?"
I nodded. "Yeah. I'm having a helluva lot of fun. It's neat being able to help put something like this on."
"Have you worked at other festivals?"
"Uh uh. This is the first one I've ever been to. I've always dreamed that I'd be able to go to a rock festival, and then now, actually working at one is even better. I still can't believe I'm here."
"Mitch says you're really doing a good job."
Embarrassed, I looked away, hoping I hadn't blushed. I shrugged. "I haven't done all that much. Like I said, I just enjoy helping out, being a part of all this." I swallowed a bite and then asked, "You live in Tacoma?"
She nodded. "North Tacoma. You?"
"Federal Way, but I lived in Tacoma when I was a kid."
She sipped from her shake and then asked, "Where?"
"Oh, over in the north end and in Fircrest."
"What schools did you go to?"
"A bunch of different elementary schools we moved around a lot. I went to Hunt Junior High. Woulda gone to Wilson High if we hadn't moved to Federal Way."
Her brown eyes studied me. "I went to Wilson."
"Last year. I'm at UPS now, in the nursing program."
"University of Puget Sound? My dad graduated from there, but they didn't have the bucks to send me."
"Are you going to go to college?" Her eyebrows raised in question as she took a bite of fries.
I nodded. "Yeah. I start at the UW in a few weeks."
"What's your major?"
She nodded thoughtfully. "That's a good salable degree."
"Yeah, I hope so. Hey could you pass me another thing of ketchup?"
She reached in the bag and handed me a plastic tube of ketchup.
I ripped open the tube and squeezed it out onto the paper plate by my fries. I motioned at the burger. "Pretty good burgers, but they still don't compare to Frisko Freeze."
Her brown eyes brightened. "You go to Frisko Freeze?"
I smiled. "Sure. For years and years. You?"
"Yeah. I live only a few blocks away, and I stop there at least twice a week for a burger after classes. They have the best hamburgers in the universe."
Susan and I munched on our burgers.
Cautiously, I asked, "Mitch said you're single?"
She nodded. "I lived with a guy for about a year, but we broke up last spring. You?"
"I'm not seeing anyone right now. But how could anyone as pretty as you stay single all summer?"
She smiled, a faint blush on her cheeks. "Because it seems like all the men I met were either immature creeps or if they were nice, they were taken."
"Present company excepted?"
"Perhaps." She smiled again.
She asked a lot of questions. What kind of books did I like to read, what kind of work was I going to do after college, what I thought about the war and about Nixon, on and on. Coming from any other girl, I would have been ill at ease, but she made me feel comfortable. She had that way with you.
We'd been talking for over an hour when I suggested we get back to work. I was feeling guilty about leaving Saint out on the dusty road by himself.
"We really oughta get back to work. The rush is gonna start soon and I've got to make sure we're ready."
Smiling, she nodded. "Yes, I should get back too."
I hesitated for a moment, then asked in a shy voice, "Say, would you like to maybe go see Crosby Stills Nash and Young with me tonight?" I was a puddle of jello inside. A slight breeze could have blown me over.
She looked into my eyes for a moment, then said in her husky contralto voice, "Sure, I'd like that. What time are they going to play?" She touched my arm with her hand.
I felt like I'd been shot and my adrenalin pumped. "Uh, last I heard, they were going on at dark, about eight thirty or nine." Itried not to stammer. "Say we meet at the security trailer about eight thirty? It should have quieted down enough by then so we can pull it off."
She nodded yes and smiled, her brown eyes fixed on mine. "Okay, Eight thirty. I'll be here." She squeezed my arm. "I'm glad we finally got to talk. I like you. You seem like a nice guy."
I took a chance and leaned forward, and kissed her lightly on the lips. When our lips parted, I pulled back a bit and said softly, "Thanks. You're pretty nice, yourself."
"Maybe I am, maybe I'm not." She smiled, and looked mysterious.
We stayed like that, our faces inches apart, smiling, looking into each other's eyes for several moments.
Finally, she broke the silence and said, "We really should get going."
"Yeah we should. Eight thirty?"
Bashfully with eyes closed, she returned my light kiss, then we moved apart and stood up.
We picked up our trash and stuffed it in a burn-barrel, then as we walked back to the trailers, I held her hand. It made me feel like I was back in junior high again. We said goodbye and she went back to her radios.
She was the head radio operator for the main gate. She had a bank of radios that were set for each of the different frequencies that were used: the stage, inside parking and traffic, outside parking and traffic, and the OD Clinic, as well as the mobile phone. The trailer where she worked was in-between the security trailer and the money trailer, and bristled with antennas. The sign over the door said 'Communications.'
With her kiss still lingering on my lips, I stuck my head in the security trailer to see if Mitch was there.
Four hours later, I was even hotter and dustier than I had been on the day before. Traffic was intense, and it seemed like there were nearly as many out of state plates on the cars as there were those from within Washington. People were coming from everywhere New Jersey, Florida, Maine, Kansas, California, Colorado, New York, Oregon, Texas, everywhere. Even quite a few from Canada.
At about three thirty, we had gone to two lanes of incoming traffic. By itself, that would have been okay, but there were also hundreds and hundreds of people walking in, who had parked in Walt's outside lot. My walkie talkie had been running wild with calls for help, and the problems seemed to grow worse with each minute.
Saint and I had been running our asses off. We had agreed to meet at the Y and when I got there, he had already arrived, and was helping Allan direct traffic.
"Saint. Hey," I said, coming up behind him.
He turned around and gave me a weary smile. His normally black visage was gray from the accumulation of dust. He sighed, "Man, are we in deep shit."
"There was a county Fire Marshall just here. He was all upset that the fire lane was blocked with the people walking in. I mean upset. I tried to tell him there was nothing we could do, but he was pissed."
"Where'd he go?"
"Back to the main gate. He was gonna see Mitch."
I thought for a few moments, then said, "Look. Go get on the radio and have five guys from each lot meet us up near the gate. Go back down towards the bowl and pull off as many as can be reasonably spared there, and meet me up near the gate, as soon as possible. I know where some machetes and stuff are. We're gonna clear a trail in the scotch broom by the main gate, running over into the north lot. Then the people can walk through there. It's the only way we can get people off the road. If we get enough people working on it, we can get it done in a half hour or so. Cool?"
"Good plan. I'm gone!" He walked quickly back towards the bowl, while talking on his radio.
An hour later, Mitch was sitting in Susan's trailer talking on the radio to someone at the stage when I arrived, hot and sweaty from cutting scotch broom. The trail had been completed without a hitch, even if it had taken longer than I hoped. I had sent all the trail builders back to their proper jobs, with my hearty thanks. And the Fire Marshall, pleased with the way we had resolved the problem, had left as soon as we diverted the people onto the trail. Everything was working great.
Susan smiled and scooted over as I sat beside her, and said softly, "That was quite a job you organized. Is there anything I can get you?"
"Well, my back hurts like hell," I said wearily. "You got any aspirin?"
"No, I'm sorry, I don't."
"Huh." I decided to take a chance, and asked, "Well how about a back rub, then?"
She shrugged and smiled. "As a consolation prize? I suppose so."
I leaned forward and she began rubbing my back with her hands. It felt so good. Her fingers were strong yet gentle, and my knotted muscles started to relax.
The communications trailer was essentially the same as the security trailer in size, shape and layout. The main difference, was that on the table and pushed back against the window, were five radio transceivers four citizen band radios and a fifth radio that was the mobile phone. The four CB's, each labeled with the name of the section they monitored, were stacked two deep, and the smaller mobile phone rested in front and to the right. The wires for their antennas and whatnot passed out through the open window in back. The radios were powered by a small gas generator which droned steadily on, out in back of the trailer. The air inside the trailer was filled with squealing, crackling and sputtering radio noises. In addition to Mitch's conversation with the stage, two other people were talking on the radio set to the outside parking frequency. Because of all the noise, it was rather hard to follow any of the conversations.
When he finished talking on the radio, Mitch dropped the mike and reached into a small cooler and drug out a frosty beer, which he opened and set in front of me. I could of died looking at the beer. I was so hot and thirsty, I snatched it up without a word, and chugged a quarter of it, the cold bubbles burning my throat as they went down.
Mitch shook his head and said, "Lawson, that was a helluva show of initiative. You saved our ass. I don't know why I hadn't thought of doing that trail, it was obvious. But I didn't you did. And if you hadn't, there'd be fifteen cop cars out at the gate now, all wanting in, and we'd be spending more bucks on attorneys. Thank you very much. I mean it."
Susan smiled at me and gave my shoulder a squeeze. The beer bubbles had made a large, painful knot in my stomach, and involuntarily, I belched. They laughed. I leaned forward over the table, my head laying on my arms, and Susan continued to rub my back. I felt like I wanted to go to sleep, right then and there. I had blisters all over my hands from the unaccustomed work, I was tired, hot and dirty. But it was so comfortable just resting there, with her rubbing my back.
I looked up at Mitch and said, "If you really are grateful, why don't you just let me lie here for about fifty years, and then I'll feel like moving. I am fucking beat. I'm a city boy, not used to all this work."
He smiled and shook his head. "No rest for the weary, I'm afraid. That was the stage I was talking to. They've got generator problems again. A little after three, I called a guy in Tacoma to come and fix the generator. He'll be here in about twenty minutes. I need you to escort him to the stage. It's absolutely critical that he gets there as soon as possible. I don't have anyone else to do it." He paused for a moment, pulling a small brass pipe out of his shirt pocket, then went on, "I do have a consolation prize of my own, though. How about a few hits of this blond Lebanese hash I got turned on to?"
I nodded. "Sure. I could do with a few tokes.
Susan shook her head, continuing my massage. "No thanks, I don't feel like getting high right now."
Smiling, Mitch shrugged. "Okay, go ahead and be virtuous." He unfolded a piece of tinfoil, extracting a chunk of hash which he put in the pipe. He lit the pipe, drawing in a deep breath, then offered it to me.
I put it to my lips and relit it, taking in a huge breath. Moments later, I gagged on the pungent smoke, and ended up wasting it all on a coughing fit. I handed the pipe back.
Susan smiled superiorly. "Serves you right, you know." She dug her fingernails into my back briefly, then continued massaging.
Mitch let out his lungful slowly, then said, "Stuff expands in your lungs, so you gotta be careful not to take too much. Here, why don't you ..."
"Hey, Mitch... A cute blonde that reminded me of a young Dyan Cannon, with long frizzy hair stuck her head in through the door.
Mitch turned to her and smiled. "Hey, Jackie. What's up? You wanna hit of some good hash?"
She shook her head. "Not right now, thanks." She had a thick New York or maybe New Jersey accent. She went on, "I got a problem with this guy at the gate. He's making this scene about being let in for free. Says he's with some band. You wanna talk with him? Please? He's being a real flaming asshole."
Mitch shrugged and put the pipe carefully back in his pocket. "Okay, I'll be there in a sec." Jackie nodded and left. To Susan, Mitch said, "I guess I gotta take off. Call me if anything happens." Still looking at her, he nodded at me, saying, "You know, you got a good one there, lady. Better not let him get away."
A look of annoyance flashed over her face, but then she looked down at me and smiled, a slight blush on her cheeks. Mitch left.
Looking at her from the corner of my eyes, I asked, "What's with you two?"
She smiled again, still blushing, and looked quickly away. She shook her head. "It's nothing. He just likes to screw with my head."
"You want me to keep rubbing your back?"
Moments later when I was almost ready to drift off, dreaming Susan and I were laying together in bed, I was jolted back to the present by the radio. It was someone from the OD Clinic asking about supplies. While she finished talking with the guy, I sat up, reached across the table and got another beer.
As I settled back in the seat next to her, I asked, "Susan, how long have you ..."
"Main gate, main gate, this is the stage," one of the radios crackled. "Come in please, over."
She frowned at the radio and held up a finger. "Hang on," she said. "Let me find out what they want."
She picked up the mike and answered the call, but continued to rub my back with her free hand, although stopping a few times to take notes. I saw that she was left-handed. It looked strange, almost like she was writing backwards the paper was facing the exact wrong direction, and her flowing script was slanted the wrong way.
The conversation was long and complicated, and concerned travel arrangements for one of the bands. When she got through, she said to me, "I've got to call our travel agent in Tacoma now, I can't wait. When I'm done maybe we can talk, I hope." She looked annoyed again.
She picked up what looked like a telephone receiver. and said, "Tacoma mobile operator, this is KZH 58119 calling. Come in, please."
She talked to the mobile operator and was soon connected to the travel agency. As quickly as possible, she told them of the necessary changes, then signed off.
As she put down the receiver, I asked, "Hey, how come we're making travel arrangements for bands? I thought they always did their own?"
She leaned against me and answered, "Usually that's the way it's done. But here, since the bands are playing for free, the festival is paying their expenses. Most of them anyway. It's a great deal for us."
"No shit. That is a good deal."
I paused for a moment, then smiling, said, "That was a helluva back rub. You're really good."
She blushed again, slightly, and looking at the table, said, "Thanks. Any time."
She was looking soft and vulnerable. She looked back at me, and our eyes met. I turned towards her, and just as we were about to kiss, red hair and freckles filled the doorway.
"Hey, break it up in there!" said Amy, laughing. "You seen my old man?" I had heard she'd ended up with Mitch, as he had hoped. They were a good match, although it did look a little strange she was at least a foot and a half shorter than him. He towered over her.
"He was here just a few minutes ago, Amy," said Susan, moving back from me slightly. "He went with Jackie to talk to someone at the gate." Behind Amy, I could see another woman. Susan waved at her and said, "Hey, Marty. Did Mitch tell you about the call from your mother?"
The woman stepped forward, She was maybe twenty-five, and was dressed in a long black cape with silver stars sewn on it, over a white, ankle length dress. She had short brown hair, and her tanned face was creased with laugh lines. Her voice was a warm, pleasant contralto, not unlike Susan's.
"My mother called here?" she asked, standing beside Amy, looking at Susan and me, smiling. "What did she say?"
"Mitch asked me to tell you. Your grandparents will be up from Arizona in about three weeks. She called here to give Mitch the information on their flight, so he could pick them up at SeaTac."
"No kidding? That's great. But how on earth did my mom ever get the number here?"
"I think Mitch gave it to her, so she could call if she got worried."
"That does sound like him. Yeah, she was probably calling just to make sure she could get through." She turned to Amy and said, "Come on, let's go find him." To Susan, "Catch you later, little sister. Be good!"
Susan smiled and waved as they walked off in pursuit of Mitch.
"Who was that with Amy?" I asked.
"Oh, that's Marty. She's Mitch's sister. I came here with her."
"Oh. Huh. She seems like a nice person."
She nodded her head. "Yeah, she's a good friend." She moved back towards me, smiling.
Our lips poised an inch apart, another semi-urgent call came from the stage came in.
"God, what now?" she said sounding angry, as she sat up to deal with it. I went back to work on my beer.
Susan was into handling her third consecutive call without a break when Mitch stuck his head around the corner of the door. He raised his eyebrows and said to me, "He's here. Let's do it," then disappeared.
Susan told the person she was talking with to stand-by, then with a sad smile, said, "I'm sorry I was so busy."
I laughed, my hand moving lightly against her leg, and said, "It for damn sure wasn't your fault. Look, I'll see you tonight at eight-thirty."
She sat studying me, a thoughtful look on her face. "I'd like to get to know you better. We seem to have a lot in common."
I hesitated for a moment, looking into her deep brown eyes, then softly said, "The feeling is mutual. Tonight, we'll have time for each other. I don't care who dies in the process. Just you and me, period." I brushed her lips with a kiss. "Bye."
I left to find Mitch.
The generator man was about forty years old, and wore a faded gray jumpsuit, stained with grease. I climbed into his truck, and guided him down to the stage, through all the checkpoints, into the stage compound.
I could hear loud rock music coming from the stage proper, but I couldn't identify the group. Everywhere in the compound, people were milling about. A few were dancing, in long sweeping moves, like they were stoned on acid. At the generator, a group of people were standing, talking, and I recognized John, resplendent with his suspenders. I walked over and introduced the repairman, then John had one of the electricians explain the problem. The electrician and the repairman soon were locked in a hopelessly technical conversation I couldn't ever begin to follow. I turned and looked at the stage.
John came up next to me and said, "You're Gordon Lawson, aren't you?" He looked like he was almost as beat as I was. On closer inspection, I could see he hadn't changed his clothes from the day before, and it didn't look like he had slept either.
I nodded, saying, "Yeah, we met yesterday. Up on the stage."
He smiled, a weary sort of smile. "Yeah, I remember. Hey, I talked to Mitch on the radio, he told me about the Fire Marshall, and your idea for the trail. That's quick thinking." He paused then asked, "Hey, how the hell old are you, anyway?"
"Huh? You look older. You'll go a long ways."
"Thanks. Right now, I better get back to the road. I hope they get this thing fixed," I said, nodding at the generator. "I really want to see the show tonight."
"They'll fix it. If not, we've got the backup generator. Stay cool."
I saw Susan once more briefly before I took off to get cleaned up. She was busy with her radios and again, we really didn't have a chance to talk. Everyone was rushing back and forth at the gate. Mitch looked like he was ready for a heart attack. Everyone was frazzled to the max. But it was winding down, somewhat. Damn good thing, because our parking lots were very close to being full.
Dave was at the tent when I got back. He was with a woman I hadn't seen before. She looked like she was about sixteen and giggled a lot. He was reading her palm as they sat next to the fire pit in front of the tent.
"Gordo, how ya doing?" he said. "I'd like you to meet Janie. She's from Yakima. She just got in today. Janie, this is Gordon Lawson. He's in charge of security here."
Janie giggled some more and I said hi. She was pretty, long light blonde hair running in braids down her back. Kind of flat chested which surprised me Dave didn't usually go for that kind of girl. He must have had a bad day. She did have awfully nice legs though. She was wearing faded cut-offs that ended at about her crotch, showing off her legs to her best advantage. Her complexion was very fair making it look like she would sunburn easily. In fact, it looked like she had sunburned her face her nose and cheeks were red. If she didn't get out of the sun soon, she'd have a good burn later.
I made excuses and left them, going into the tent. I stripped, spilled some water from a canteen onto a towel and sponged myself down as best I could. Still naked, but much refreshed, I lay back on my sleeping bag and rested.
Dave came in a few minutes later. "Gordie," he whispered. "You'll never believe this chick. God, she's fantastic. She's so fucking horny, you can't believe it. We been fucking our brains out all afternoon. She gives the best head you ever seen. Delicious! And Gordie, she's finger licking good! I tell you, I ain't had so much fun since before I broke up with Janet. You want me to have her come in and blow you, now? She'll do it. She just loves to suck cock."
Rolling my eyes, I shook my head. "Uh, thanks for the offer, but I just want to rest. I had a fuck of a day and I've got a date later."
"You don't know what you're missing, dude. So you're still fucking with that parking shit, huh? When are you gonna give that stuff up and start enjoying yourself? This is a party, man." He paused then asked, "Hey, who's the date with? Is she good looking, or one of your regular dogs? Woof, woof!"
"She's a lady I met at the gate. She works the radios. Come on, man, just let me have a half hour, then you can have the tent back."
He saw my radio and picked it up. "She works the radios, huh? Here, let me call her..."
I grabbed the radio from his hand. "Enough. C'mon, get the fuck out of here and let me rest. Now! Please?"
He looked hurt. "Gee Gordie, I didn't mean nothing by it. You wanna rest, rest. I'll go out and finish reading Janie's palm."
I covered my head with the pillow.
I was back at the gate a half hour early, at eight sharp, dressed in my best clothes. Susan was ready when I got there. She was dressed in a clean pair of cut-offs, and a white blouse that was cut low, showing off her wonderful, tanned cleavage. We waved goodbye at Mitch. He was unwinding, sitting out in front of the security trailer with Amy, watching a small TV which ran off the communications trailer generator. His feet were propped up on a table, and he was smoking a joint, cuddling with her.
Susan and I talked as we strolled over the trail towards the amphitheatre. We had even more in common than she had thought. As it turned out, we had lived nearly in the same block in north Tacoma when we were kids, and had even attended the same grade school. We didn't remember each other at all, which wasn't too surprising, as she had been a year ahead of me. Little kids are so age-conscious and snobbish of children younger than themselves. But we knew all the same teachers, and all the other trivia. Telling and retelling stories of our shared and not shared childhood filled our conversation all the way to the stage. Surprisingly, we had many of the same friends, mostly from Stadium High the Tacoma school whose district bordered Federal Way.
When we got near the stage, I asked, "How about we go up on stage and watch? I think I can get us in there."
"Great. That has to be the best place here to see the bands."
We went to the back gate. Two new people I'd never seen before were working there. The back of the stage was off in the distance behind them. From it, came the ringing tones of an acoustic guitar, highly amplified by the sound system, echoing off the hills of the bowl. I couldn't tell for sure, but it sounded like Ritchie Havens.
When we walked up, they stopped us at the gate. Feeling self important, I said, "Hi. I'm Gordon Lawson from main gate security, this is Susan Peretti from Communications. We'd like to go in."
They looked at my armband, then at Susan's. We both were wearing the blue of main gate security.
The taller one shook his head and said, "Sorry dude, but you haven't got the right type of pass. Only red or gold goes through here." They eyed Susan appreciatively, but stood their ground.
I sighed, and said, "Look, find John. He knows me. He'll vouch for us. C'mon, be a good guy."
The tall guy shook his head again. "Our boss is named Rodger Jones. I don't know no John. Now you two want to leave, okay? We don't want no trouble."
I was angry. "John is the person who runs the fucking stage. Red suspenders, blue shirt, always got a clipboard in his hand? You musta seen him." I remembered his last name. "His name is John Lloyd."
The guy just shook his head. Susan pulled on my arm and said, "Gordon, it's okay. C'mon, let's go."
We turned and walked back around the outside of the compound towards the front.
"I just wanted things to be perfect for us," I said, crestfallen, as we rounded the edge of the compound. "I wanted this night to be perfect for us. I've been on stage probably six times in the last three days and never had a problem. Oh, Christ."
She patted my shoulder, then took my hand as we walked. "Really, it's okay. I just want to be with you. Being up on stage isn't that big a deal."
We stopped walking and I turned to her. We kissed, and then she put her arms around my neck and we hugged. I looked around, trying to figure out where the best spot to watch the band would be. About a hundred feet from the stage was a scaffolding tower which held a large spotlight. At its base I could see two guys who had worked for me earlier that day on the road. I nudged Susan, and we started walking through the crowd towards the tower.
I remembered one of the guy's names Jerry. He was about twenty, and went to Seattle Pacific on a scholarship. "Hey, Jerry," I said to them, Susan standing with her head on my shoulder. "Hey, what you guys doing? Didn't you work enough earlier?"
Jerry smiled and said, "Aw, we're just guarding this tower to make sure no one gets up it. No big deal."
"Any way you could make an exception for me and the lady?" There was a platform about halfway up, twenty feet below where the light operator stood, ready to train the follow-spot on the bands as soon as it was dark.
Jerry looked at his partner, then turned back to me and said, "Well, seeing as it's you and all, Gordon. I think I need to look at the stage and see what's happening." He took his partner's shoulder and turned him to face the stage. "Would ya lookit the ass on that broad over there! God, I just can't take my eyes off her. Gee, I hope nobody climbs up the tower while we aren't looking."
Susan and I laughed, and started climbing. We found that the platform boards were hard and uncomfortable to sit on, but the view was excellent. I sat resting with my back against one of the inside braces of the scaffolding, and hung my radio by its strap from the crossbar near my head. Susan sat between my legs, and laid back against my chest with my hands folded across her stomach.
Ritchie Havens was in the process of finishing his acoustic set. He was dressed in a long flowing robe possibly of African origin. His powerful voice rang across the bowl.
"This is pretty good," I said into Susan's ear. "These are great seats, even if they are kinda hard."
"My seat's not hard." She snuggled deeper into my arms. "Mmm hmm. You feel good." Her voice was just barely audible over the music.
I hugged her closer to me and kissed the top of her head. Her hair smelled fresh and clean. "You feel pretty damn good yourself."
She leaned her head to the right and I could see her smile, as she looked back at me. "So finally we get some time alone, huh?" She said.
"Alone?" I laughed, because just below us, was a sea of bodies stretching out towards the stage. We were in the middle of thousands of people.
Smiling, she shook her head. "You know what I mean. No radios, no one busting in on us."
"Hmm, we really haven't had some good luck, have we? You looked like you were gonna smash those radios towards the end, there."
"The thought may have crossed my mind. It's just that I enjoy talking to you. I haven't met anyone like you in an awful long time. And God, I can't believe you just graduated."
"Sad but true."
"Hmm." She patted my leg, then said, "Well, we may have had some bad luck this afternoon, but I think it will change. I think it's changing now."
"You bet. From here on out, it'll be roses all the way." She turned her head a little farther, and we kissed briefly.
"I hope you're right." I said, smelling her hair, drinking in its clean, fresh smell. I went on, "You're a damn fine lady. You know? I'm really glad we met."
There was a pause, then I asked, "So how long are you going to stay here?"
"All the way till after it closes on Labor day. You?"
"The same. I wouldn't miss any of it for the world."
"I know what you mean. You enjoy working here? Working for Mitch, I mean?"
"Yeah I do, a lot. But it's strange. When I think about it, this isn't at all what I thought I would end up doing at a rock festival."
"Huh. What did you think would happen?"
"Oh, I pictured myself as partying non-stop, listening to so much music, my eardrums would melt. What really happens? I'm here for three days, I've only got stoned just a few times, and this is the first real music I've heard. Life is weird sometimes."
She laughed and said, "Life is strange. But that's what makes it interesting. Wouldn't it be boring if everything was always predictable?"
"Yeah, I suppose you're right. If it had worked out the other way, and I hadn't gone to work, I'm pretty sure that I'd of never met you. So you won't hear me complaining about not partying."
"You know what my philosophy is?"
I shook my head. "What?"
"Life is full of surprises. A lot of them are good, some of them are bad. The trick is knowing when to lay back and let it happen, without getting all bent out of shape because it's not what you expected. Usually, even if things look really bad for a while, there's a purpose, and in the end if you keep your nose clean, things will work out for the better."
I smiled. "You're so optimistic. Me, I'm a big fan of Murphy."
"Yeah, Murphy. Murphy's Law, 'Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.' Its the one natural law I've seen proved over and over."
She laughed, then said, "Yeah, maybe so. But there's something beyond that. Something that can affect the outcome."
"Your karma. You do good, good will be done to you. Sometimes when it comes down, the 'good' of an incident may be a little hard to find, but later, it's always apparent."
"You're sure of that?"
"Uh huh. Like I said, the hard part is not losing it when the going gets rough. It may be the worst experience you've ever had. What you do is tell yourself, there is a reason for this. I may not know what it is now, but I will find out. If you've got good karma, it always works out for the better, always."
I smiled. "Prove it."
She shrugged. "Okay, look. When I finally left Paul last spring, my old boyfriend, I was so down on men and life in general, you wouldn't have known me."
She nodded. "Breaking up with him really hit me hard. But it was something I had to do, so I did it, even though at the time, it would have been easier and a lot less painful to stay. It took me until just lately to get over that. But what kept me going, was that I kept telling myself that there would be something good come out of it.Something a new insight, a better understanding of myself something to make it worth while."
"How come you broke up?"
I could feel her muscles tense, then relax. She hesitated for a moment, then said, "He was a musician, a good one. But he couldn't get it together to play with a band. All he did was sit around and smoke dope, getting blasted with his friends. They'd talk and talk about how they were going to make it big, but they couldn't even get up the bucks to buy equipment. It was a real downer. I guess you could say I got tired of supporting him and supporting his friends' weed habits, so I left."
"That's too bad."
"No, it's not. It was the right move for both of us." She paused for a moment, studying me out of the corner of her eyes. She inquired softly, "How about you? How come you don't have a girlfriend?"
I shook my head. "I don't know." I hesitated, searching for something cool to say. Unable to think of anything that sounded good, I decided to tell the truth. "I guess maybe I'm just scared of women."
"You? Come on, you don't act like you're scared of me."
"No, I'm not. I feel really comfortable with you. It's weird."
"That's not weird, that's beautiful."
"Perhaps." I smiled at her and she smiled back. I asked, "Anyway, so what good has come out of it? Your break up, I mean? What did you learn?"
"Oh. Well, I've learned I'm a lot stronger than I thought. And that I like myself. And I think I may have proved my theory, which makes me pretty happy. All through it, after I moved out, I kept telling myself that if I waited and didn't screw up, things would work out, and they are." She laughed, then said, "You know what? This rock festival was supposed to be therapy for me. I was just going to work and that was it. Mitch got me involved."
"Yeah, he's been up here staying with Marty, his sister, for the last several months getting the festival going."
"I've known both of them forever. Anyway, they dragged me into this. Told me I was in a rut, and had to do something about it. They knew I was familiar with radios, so they told me I could come here and be one of their radio operators. Take my mind off life, you know, get me busy."
"So was the therapy successful, then?" I smiled and gently dug my fingers into her stomach.
She hesitated, put her hands over mine, then said, "Mitch told me about you when I got back here, Thursday. Said he'd met this 'nice guy' he thought I might be interested in. He pointed you out to me. Kept pushing, telling me what you were doing, how you were really pulling things together for him. He was actually beginning to kinda piss me off. I don't appreciate getting pushed like that."
"Huh. I thought it looked like you were angry at him today at lunch."
She nodded, frowning. "Yeah, he set me up for that. Has me get the food, then splits as soon as he introduced you. It was like a blind date or something. Gahh!" She sighed and continued, "Anyway, after you and I talked for a while, I got over it. I guess I'm actually going to have to thank him. The more I heard from you, the more I liked. And now? Now I feel like I've known you forever. I feel the same as you. I'm really comfortable with you too."
"Mmm. Veddy interestink. And convenient, too."
"Uh huh. Life is strange how it works. But I'm rolling with the flow and I like it." She paused dramatically, then said, "And I like you."
"How much?" I asked, pulling her closer and smiling.
"A lot." She turned and I could see her smile. "Nurses have a term for what you are." She laughed.
"They have a term for me?"
"Yes. You're an LWP."
"You mean an LPN? I don't follow."
She massaged the outside of my leg. I could see her face in profile. She was still smiling. "No, LWP. Lust With Potential."
She turned and we kissed, long and passionately. When we were though, she settled back between my legs, pushing herself deeper into my lap.
It was dark when Ritchie Havens left the stage after his third encore. The English announcer strode out under the bright lights, and introduced Crosby Stills Nash and Young. The crowd went wild.
The group was great. Their sweet harmonies seemed tailor-made for the evening and between songs, they joked with each other and talked revolution. It seemed like all the tensions had lifted, and a higher, more enlightened purpose had taken over the festival. One of the highpoints was when they played a new song by Neil Young, called Ohio, about the four students who had been murdered by the National Guard at Kent State. The crowd was ecstatic.
Which made it just that much worse, when about halfway through their set, the walkie-talkie hanging by my head suddenly jarred me back to hard, cold reality. A voice came over the radio, "Cobra one, cobra one, this is the main gate. Gordie, we've got a big problem. Answer, please. Over."
I picked it off the crossbar and answered. They couldn't hear me because the walkie talkie wasn't powerful enough. I could hear them, but not speak to them.
Susan was concerned and suggested, "Why don't you change to channel thirteen and ask the stage to relay. They can do that, you know."
"Cool." I switched channels. "Stage radio, this is cobra one, main gate security. Copy?"
A pleasant voice came back, "This is the stage. What can we do for you, cobra one?"
"I need some help. The main gate is trying to reach me on channel sixteen. I can hear them, but they can't hear me. Can you relay for me? Over."
"They who stand and wait also serve. Be glad to. Sixteen? Meet you there."
I changed back to channel sixteen. When the gate stopped transmitting, the stage broke in, "Main gate, this is the stage. Cobra one is on line. He can hear you. Talk, and I'll relay his answers."
There was a pause, and Mitch came on. "Gordon, we've got a problem. There's a guy at that old windmill, just over the top of the hill, by where the road splits off to the river. This dude is stoned out of his mind on acid or something. Climbed up the windmill to the top. Now he's talking about flying down. There's a big crowd at the bottom that are egging him on and it could get ugly. I can't find Saint or anyone else to handle it. I hate to disturb you, but can you deal with it, please?"
I sighed, and Susan smiled. I keyed the mike. "Stage, will you tell him I'm on my way. Ask him to call Allan at the Y and have him meet me at the windmill with six or eight people for crowd control. I'll be there in about ten minutes. Over."
The stage relayed my message then Mitch came back on. "Gordon, thanks a bunch. I'll make it up to you, bro. Main gate out."
I thanked the stage, then changed to the OD Clinic frequency. "OD Clinic, OD Clinic, this is cobra one, main gate security. Come in, please. Over."
"This is the Open Door Clinic," came back the voice. "What can we do for you? Over" I described the situation and asked if they could have a couple people meet me there. They said they'd see me there.
I turned back to Susan, who had silently followed the exchanges on the radio. "Why don't you wait here," I said. "It shouldn't take too long."
"No. I want to go with you."
I smiled. "C'mon, there's no sense in having your night ruined as well. I'll go, get it under control and get back real quick. You lay back and wait." She looked like she was going to protest, and I kissed her and then said, "C'mon, its cool. I'll be back before you know it."
She sighed, smiled knowingly with her eyes, then kissed me. "Okay. But if it takes too long, I'm going to come and find you."
"It won't take long, I promise."
I promise. Oh, shit. Everything was fucked up, everything.
When I got there, a group of drunken bikers had joined the crowd of fifty or sixty people at the bottom of the windmill. They'd started a betting pool on what the exact time would be when the guy finally flew down. Everyone was drinking beer and smoking dope, and the atmosphere was that of a surreal carnival. An enterprising young capitalist from the concession area had brought over several shopping bags of popcorn and was doing a land-office business on the fringes of the crowd.
The head case up on top was doing a slow, stoned dance on the rickety platform fifty feet up, waving his arms, and making bird-like screeches. Every time he'd wobble near the edge of the platform, the crowd below would recoil outward, not wanting to have him land on their heads. As soon as he left the edge, the crowd would swell back to the base of the platform like a wave at the beach.
Allan and six security staff showed up a minute after I got there. He stood before me, and asked, "So what the fuck do we do?" He shook his head.
He was dressed in blue jeans and a gray work shirt. His blond hair and clean shaven face seemed incongruous amongst the crowd teeming with drunken bikers, although he was nearly as big as most of them. The problem was that he looked more like a surfer than a hippie. Surfers were a badly under-represented minority at the festival.
I'd been thinking of possible solutions for getting the bird-guy down since I had arrived. Nothing sounded good. I looked up at Allan, and asked, "I guess we could get him a sky hook. Maybe an anti-grav belt?"
Allan laughed. "Yeah, I saw that on Lost in Space, once."
I kept thinking, then turned to him and said, "You know that humongous North Vietnamese flag by the green bus in the south lot?" He nodded. "Have somebody run over there real quick and rip it off. Bring it here. Fast as possible. I want it yesterday."
He nodded, turned and spoke to one of his people. The hippie took off like a lightning bolt, headed for the south lot, a friend loping along behind him. They returned in about five minutes with the flag. It was made of heavy canvass, and was big enough for a battleship, around twenty feet by thirty.
I turned to Allan. "What we're gonna do, is use this flag in case he actually jumps. Get people, everyone here, to hold it. Have them hold it up chest high. It'll be just like firemen with a net. You've seen that on TV, right?"
He nodded again and asked, "What are you gonna do, Gordon?"
I sighed. The OD Clinic people still had not arrived and I was concerned the lunatic might jump off. I looked at Allan, "I'm gonna climb up there and try to talk him down, that's what."
Allan smiled and said, "I think you're nuts, but you're the boss. Go for it. I'll watch."
If I was nuts, then the birdman was really fruit loops and then some. He had stripped to the waist, and was flapping his wings, hands at his breast, elbows moving up and down, when I clambered onto his perch. He stopped screeching and flapping when he saw me. He turned his head to look at me, making odd, jerky movements, tilting his head sideways, then upright, back and forth.
I sighed, settling on to the platform, and said, "Caw, caw, caw, bro. We're birds of a feather."
He stopped moving his head, then said in a calm voice, "You're not a bird. I can tell. You're a human, and humans hurt birds."
"Naw, no," I said. "Not at all. You've got it all wrong. I used to be a human in a birds' body. But now I'm in touch with my true identity. I've set myself free, free to be me. I'm an eagle, I ride the wind, and fly with the dove." It sounded like gibberish concocted from different songs I'd listened to, but it seemed to have a calming effect on the lunatic.
We talked like that, back and forth for probably a half hour, discussing the virtues of bird-dom. When I thought I had him ready, I suggested, "Hey, I know a really good perch. Way high up. You can see the whole golden valley from there. Big thermals, and you can soar for hours. What say we climb down and go over there? Bro, its the greatest!"
He got his back up and asked why I wanted to climb down if I was really a bird. We were back to square one, and he was getting all screechy on me again.
Below, the crowd was restive, and shouts of 'jump, jump jump, you asshole,' punctuated the night, blending in with the distant music coming from the stage. Allan and the people were holding the flag stretched out tight, waiting. I could see we weren't getting anywhere, going round and round. We'd have to go all the way back through the chicken-egg thing. There was no way this guy was going to come down climbing, until the wave of lysergic acid he was riding had crested and broke. And that could easily take until sometime tomorrow. And I had to be with Susan, now!
So, I pushed the guy off.
He fell like a lead weight, and plopped into the flag, unhurt. The crowd cheered and cheered. The biker that had held the bets started making his payoffs to the winners. I sighed again, and climbed down the rotting ladder.
The team from the OD Clinic, who had showed up when I was on top, grabbed the struggling guy and strapped him into a stretcher. I secretly wished they could of hit him up with a thousand milligrams of thorazine. He kept thrashing around ineffectually, and they picked up the stretcher, and carted him away. I thanked Allan and the people that had held the flag, then walked back towards the bowl to find Susan.
The bands had already changed when I got back to our spot. Jerry and the other security guy there told me Susan had left to look for me, about fifteen minutes before.
I went back to the windmill, but it was now quite deserted, the noisy revelers having gone after greener pastures. I thought I would go to the gate and see if she was there.
Traffic coming in through the gate was very light, but there were still a lot of people hanging out. None of them had seen her, and neither Mitch nor Amy were there. I sat out in front of the security trailer by the burn-barrel, and drank a few beers hoping she'd return. No one knew where she was camped, and I hadn't thought to ask.
She still hadn't returned at one o'clock. In the past several hours, I'd met a bunch of very strange people. One scary-looking guy claimed to have the secret of perpetual motion. Another said he was a space alien from Proxima Centauri. Yet another believed there were seven bright purple balls orbiting his head maybe there were, but I couldn't see them. There were a number of dealers who, lacking a stream of new clients coming into the festival, just wanted to sit around and bullshit. Then there were the three anarchist bomb-throwers, and about four budding Abbie Hoffmans. I listened as their arguments on revolution, the latest ball scores, and French cooking raged back and forth. A very strange mix of conversation.
I got along best with the guy from outer space he seemed the most normal of the lot. His name was Dick. Just Dick, nothing else. He looked to be in his early thirties, and wore a plaid short-sleeved sport shirt, with tan slacks and black wing tips. He was about my height, but weighed a lot more none of it fat just a lot of muscles. He didn't look like a freak at all he had short brown hair, which would have seemed right at home on a politician. When he talked, it sounded like he had a Boston or New England sort of accent. A short, choppy style of speech, rather like Teddy Kennedy or what Teddy Kennedy would be like if he was from Proxima Centauri. We sat at the card table in front of the security trailer, away from the rest of the rabble, drinking beer and smoking joints.
"So," I asked, "do you guys get high where you come from?"
"You mean on drugs?"
"Yeah. Do you alien guys smoke dope in outer space?"
He shook his head, smiling. "No, we did away with all that centuries ago. Too primitive. Now, we use direct electrical stimulation to the pleasure centers of the brain. Much more effective. But I gotta say I do like the acid and stuff I've had since I've been here. This weed is kinda rough and jerky like, but still very satisfying all the same."
"Huh? So you've dropped some of our acid?"
"Ayah. I wanted to try and fit in, and I don't have a stim machine on the starship not licensed for one by the Galactic Council."
"So what's your starship like? Are we talking flying saucers or Star Trek or what?"
"Huh?" He narrowed his eyes, and then smiled and said, "Oh, that? No, nothing like it. Nothing like what they show on your television here. It's shaped rather like an oblate torus. Only built to support three beings, all with the same life system requirements, but the hyperdrive is nearly new, just overhauled in the last continuum. I can get it up to the equivalent of twenty times light speed, flat out."
"Huh?" I said, wondering what hospital the guy had escaped from. "That's pretty damn fast. Must be harder than hell to steer."
"Oh, no. I just program the coordinates into the nav computer, and it does everything for me."
"A computer? How could you get a computer into a ship designed for three people? Where would you find the room? Everyone knows computers are huge."
"Ayah. But not where I come from. We had a big push about a thousand of your years ago, and got heavy into miniaturization. Your own computer science is heading in that direction right now. Why I'll bet you that within twenty years, many people on this planet will have computers in their homes."
"No way, never happen." I paused for a moment. The guy was really nuts. I thought of a good question and asked, "So if you're from space and you know all this stuff, tell me, what is the true meaning of life? You space guys must have thought about that quite a bit."
"Ayah, we have." He smiled, silent for a short time, then responded, "The true meaning of life is that there is no meaning except what you make of it yourself. Each person is a world unto himself. That can be good, bad or indifferent, but it depends on you. You start out, you've got a blank slate. What you put on it will determine the outcome."
"I'm not sure I understand what you're saying."
"Huh. Okay, well let me put it this way. What do you think the true meaning of life is?"
I shook my head. "I don't know, that's why I asked."
"Okay, but you must have some idea. Why do you reckon you exist?"
I'd never really thought about it. I answered, "I don't know. I suppose so I can get married and raise kids, like my parents did."
"So you're saying that your purpose is to continue the existence of your species?"
He smiled. "Well great. Congratulations! Now you know the true meaning of life."
"But isn't there something more? I've always felt there must be some higher purpose, something that was hidden. There's gotta be more to it than that."
"Ayah. Like I said, it's what you make of it and it's different for each being."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that if you have grand aspirations you want to do something truly magnificent, then that's your bag. You want to paint beautiful pictures, go for it. You want to become a world statesman, do it. Or go off and find the cure to an exotic disease, or save the world from hunger. Whatever you choose, whichever path you take, for you, that's the true meaning of life."
My brow was furrowed in thought. It sounded absurd. "Okay, I'm gonna find the cure for cancer. That'll be my trip, okay? But what if I can't make it as a doctor, or whatever? Then doesn't that mean that I've failed my purpose in life?"
He shrugged, and took a long drink of his beer. After swallowing, he looked at me and said, "Maybe, but not necessarily. Each of us has his true reason for existence, but not all of us will ever realize it, see it to fruition. The reason they might not achieve their goal is because consciously or otherwise, they've selected some other path."
"So for me, the person who wants to find the cure for cancer and can't, the true meaning of my life is that I'm a failure?"
"Only if you let it be that way. Each of us has it within us to do whatever we want with our lives."
"What about the crippled kid that wants to play pro basketball?"
"I didn't say there weren't limitations."
"But if there are limitations, then we aren't free to do what we want. Not really."
"To some extent. Someone with brain damage probably won't become a rocket scientist. I didn't say we all necessarily had the same potential. The natural limitations are obvious. And there are external factors, too."
He shrugged. "Well how about the fact that it's the government that supplies most of your drugs? Did you know that?"
"Gimme a break."
He shook his head. "No, it's true. They're experimenting with mind control, trying to subjugate the population. Their idea, is that if the population can be kept off balance, stoned, then it makes it easier to bend them to their will."
"Yeah, my next hit of acid will be brought to me courtesy of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew."
"Maybe not by them personally, but they directed it. Yes. LSD is an especially good drug for the purposes of mind control."
I was beat, and this was getting way too far out in the ozone for me. I drained the last of my beer and turned to Dick, saying, "I think it's time I turned in. I got an early day tomorrow." I stood up.
He nodded and got up shaking his head. "You think I'm wrong, don't you?"
"Not at all, it's just that I really do have to go to sleep."
"Think about what I said."
"I will, I will. Hey, you going back to your spaceship now, or what? It parked around here?"
"No, it's in orbit. I teleported down. No, I think I'll hang around this festival for a while. It's kind of unique in some aspects."
"Oh, yeah? What?"
He smiled. "Well, where else could a person tell someone he was an extra-terrestrial being, and not get locked up?"
"You may have a point," I laughed.
"I'll see you around, take care."
I gave him the Vulcan 'V' sign and smiling, he turned and left. For a space alien, he wasn't such a bad guy, and was probably more sane than most of the people at the festival. But the person I really wanted to talk to was Susan.
I went back inside the security trailer, sad, bored and tired, and crawled into the vacant bed.