IV. - Saturday
August 29, 1970
Susan woke me up when she crawled onto the bed and kissed me. The early morning light was streaming brightly in through the windows of the security trailer, highlighting the tight curls on her head. I shook my head then rubbed my eyes, trying to clear away the last vestiges of sleep. She sat beside me, with her legs tucked under her, then leaned forward and kissed me again lightly on the lips. Her breath smelled of coffee, and she'd brought a steaming mug for me as well. I moaned then coughed, clearing my throat, taking in the sight of her. Smiling broadly, she was dressed in a pair of faded Levi's which hugged her shapely contours, and a blue t-shirt over which she wore an old army jacket. Still smiling, she set the cup of coffee aside, then pressed herself onto me through the fabric of the blanket.
I shook my head. "Oh shit!" I moaned, "What a fucked up mess that was last night. I must a just missed ya."
She smiled her smile and said softly, "It's okay. I heard what happened. I got to the windmill just after you left. Then when I went back to the tower, and you'd just left there."
"The guys guarding the tower said they thought you'd gone to your tent, and I didn't know where that was, so I just went back to Marty's."
"Right. I didn't think of coming back here." She laughed, and shook her head. "I'm sorry. Like we were talking about, life can throw you some real twists, occasionally."
I propped myself up slightly, reached for the coffee and drank a gulp. She continued, "So let me hear what you did. I only got bits and pieces."
I related the story of the birdman while I drank the coffee. She listened and laughed. When I told her how I'd come to the decision to push him off, she giggled and said, "I think you showed remarkable restraint. And I could never have put on the bird act. I probably would have pushed him earlier. Oh, God!" She buried her face in the blanket, her chest heaving with laughter. She looked up, grinning, and choked out, "Caw, caw. Oh, my God," then resumed her fit of laughter.
Through her laughter, I said, "That's nothing, anyway. You shoulda met the guy from Proxima Centauri. He's got a spaceship and everything."
Almost incoherent with laughter, she haltingly asked, "So ... he was, what? A little green man?"
"Uh uh. More like a shipyard worker from the east coast. No, he said he was just visiting for a while. His ship is in orbit around the earth and he teleported down to the festival."
"Oh, God!" Her laughter continued on for quite a while.
Mitch entered the trailer later and sat down at the table. Sitting beside me on the bed, Susan retold the birdman story to Mitch, complete with hand gestures and sound effects. I just laid there, my hand on her leg, rubbing gently.
Mitch liked the story, and told me he couldn't see any other way I could have gotten a better resolution.
"Keep going like this," he said, "and we'll have to put you in charge of the whole damned festival. You done good, bro."
I felt a blush forming on my cheeks. Susan sitting beside me, was beaming approval.
"Thanks, Mitch," I said, embarrassed.
He looked at us both, then smiling, said, "I think it's time we got to work, folks. Enough of this fucking off. We've got a rock festival to put on."
Susan nodded, kissed me on the cheek, then got up and left for her radios. I got up and found another cup of coffee, then came back and sat across from Mitch who was doing some paperwork. He looked up and set the clipboard aside when I sat down.
"Yo, Gordon. Today should be easier. How are your lots?"
I thought about it for a moment then said, "Last I heard, they were damn near full. But there was quite a bit of traffic going out, late last night after the music ended. I don't know where we are now."
"Hmm. Well, we're still negotiating with that second farmer for his pasture. If we're lucky, we'll have that open this afternoon."
"And if we're not lucky?"
"They'll park all over the access roads and have their cars towed by the cops. But that's not our problem really – when we're full, we're full. But I would like to know when to expect it. So right now, what I need to know is how much space we have left inside."
I nodded. "Okay. Let me go survey the damage, talk to a few of my people and find out what kind of shape we're in. I'll be back within say, about an hour."
"Cool, bro. Keep the faith."
I ended up getting Saint up out of bed. I found him and his girlfriend intertwined in the back of the truck he had described the day before, an old, bright yellow, fifty-one Chevrolet pickup, with a homemade camper shell on the back. The lady seemed nice. She was about our age, blonde, with a shapely figure and great legs. Her name was Linda Norman.
I kidded him about it as we trudged up towards the Y.
"Can't keep away from those white women, huh?" I said. "The Klan hears about this, they're gonna come a running."
"Yasa massa. White women are the curse of this po nigger. Just can't seem to get over my beautiful black body. I can't help it, they all just loves me."
I laughed. "She seemed really nice. Where'd you guys meet?"
"At the Pike Place Market. I was up there hanging out, spare changing. We got to talking, then next thing you know, I asked her out. We kept going out, then after a couple months, we moved in together."
"You've got your own place up in Seattle?"
"Sorta. We share an apartment with a bunch of others up in the U-District. Nice place, but we're saving our bread so we can get our own pad. No real privacy where we're at now." He paused then asked, "So how the hell was your date with Susan last night?"
I laughed, then told him my bird story and about my aborted date, and he cracked up. When we got to the Y, Allan was there, so we switched subjects and talked business for a while.
We were in much better shape than I had thought possible. Both lots were less than three quarters full, and cars were still leaving. Incoming traffic was negligible, as yet. Almost all of the people who had worked the previous day had reported back for work. Many had brought friends with them. And best yet, was a weather report saying that today's high was only supposed to be around seventy-five.
I left Saint to start making the rounds, and went back to see Mitch. I found him sitting at the card table in front of the trailer, talking with Jim and Nancy, and Walt.
They looked up as I sat down in the doorway of the trailer, and Nancy gave me a big smile. Making himself comfortable, Mitch sprawled back in his chair and asked, "Okay Gordon, so what do we have?"
"Right," I answered, taking a cup of coffee from Jim. "Here's what we got." I went on and told them what I'd learned from Saint and Allan. When I finished, Walt gave his report.
"I just got permission," said Walt, sipping coffee, "from John Franz to use that pasture of his out off the frontage road. It's fifty acres. It was in hay, and was cut only about three weeks ago, so it's in good shape to park cars there."
"You had him sign the paper I got from the attorneys?" asked Mitch.
"Yeah, here," he said, passing him a sheet of paper from his clipboard.
Mitch looked at it for a moment, then eyes wide, asked, "We got it for free?"
Walt nodded. "Yup. No charge. The guy said that since he got all his hay in, and since he hadn't planned on trying for another cutting this late in the season, it wasn't a big deal. Some people had already parked in there anyway."
"Damned good, damned good." Mitch paused then asked, "So are you still talking with the guy that owns the property on the right? What's his name, Walker?"
"Yeah, I'm supposed to meet him at about eleven this morning. I think we got it in the bag."
"Good deal. Okay, Gordon, the inside lots are less than three quarters full?"
"Yeah, just like I said."
"Good." He looked at Walt and asked, "Walt, your present lot is how full?"
"About seventy five percent of capacity."
"Cool. Okay, what I want you to do then, is to divert about four out of every five cars that arrive into your two lots. Let's save what inside parking we have left for special cases – and for long-term people."
"Whadaya mean, special cases?"
"Well, like people that are disabled, people with the bands or friends of staff, and long-term campers – people who have too much shit to carry all the way in from out there and that will be here for the whole thing – pass them through to Gordon. But I want you to take all the day campers."
"If people bitch..." asked Walt.
Mitch finished the sentence, "If people bitch and have a good reason, let them through. Otherwise, they can park out there and walk in."
"Explain to me again how I'm supposed to decide who goes where," said Walt.
Mitch shook his head, then with eyebrows raised, said, "If I was doing it, I would stop them right before the entrance of your new lot, it's what, two or three hundred yards in from the main road, right?"
"And then I'd ask them how long they're gonna stay – for the day, for the rest of the weekend, or all the way till Labor Day or what, and then cut-out all the short-timers into the outside lot. Like I said, they bitch and have a good reason, let them through. If not, they park outside. That's the most logical way to do it."
Walt nodded, leaning back in his chair, then said, "Okay, I understand. We'll do it that way."
"Cool. How long before you can open it up?"
"Soon as I get the bodies to run it."
"Okay, good. I'll get to work on rounding up some people for you as soon as we finish." Mitch looked at Nancy and Jim. They were sitting next to me, holding hands. He asked, "So how are ticket sales?"
They looked at each other briefly, then Nancy spoke. "You've got to understand that we don't have completely exact figures yet, but from the data we do have, we estimate that we've had more than twenty five thousand people come through the gate in the last one day. Of those, more than half paid only for one day. From what Gordon and Walt said about the condition of the lots, it would appear that many of those have decided to stay on."
"Can we do anything about that?" I asked.
Jim spoke up. "No. We decided that a long time ago. We use an honor system. The ticket takers ask how long the people are staying and then make them pay for that length of time only. But we won't throw people out because they changed their minds or lied. The festival committee voted on it."
Nancy went on, "We're still doing well. All the publicity we've had in the press has helped advance sales. About ten percent of the people who come through the gate have bought advance tickets – Which I might add, means that there are around seventy five hundred people out there that have bought advance tickets that haven't used them yet. I would expect most of those to show up today."
Jim nodded. "We're doing damn good. If we keep going at this rate we'll at least break even. And when I say that, I'm taking into consideration the fact that it'll probably be very dead in the middle of the week. I don't expect to sell a lot of tickets here mid-week, at all. The way it stands now, we've past our sales projections for this weekend – if today's flow remains constant with yesterday. If next weekend is as good, we'll break even. And remember, we all thought that this would be the slow weekend – if we meet our projections for next weekend, we could end up in the black." He smiled, looking pleased with himself.
Mitch nodded, combing his beard with his fingers. "That'd be a real sonofabitch," he said, smiling. "That's the kind of news I like to hear. So have you got any problems? Do you have enough staff?"
"No problems at all. With the extra people you gave us last night," said Nancy, "we have enough for three eight-hour shifts. Everyone from yesterday has shown up this morning, plus some extras."
"Must be the only place in the whole fucking festival with eight-hour shifts," said Walt, sarcastically.
Nancy frowned then continued, "I placed that blonde girl from New Jersey, Jackie Arthur, in charge of ticket-taking and she's doing fine. It leaves me more time to work with Jim." She smiled at him and he squeezed her shoulder. "The only problem we have right now is that we have too much cash on hand. We need someone to make a run."
"Huh? That's a terrible problem," said Mitch, smiling through his beard.
We continued talking about ticket sales and parking, and the meeting broke up about fifteen minutes later.
As the others were leaving, Mitch pulled me aside saying, "I told you if you handled that nutcase last night, I'd make it up to you. Have I got a job for you!" He smiled.
I looked at him warily. Thus far, most of his choice assignments had cost me grief. I asked, "What this time?"
He looked at me, shaking his head. "No. This is a good one. Really. You'll enjoy it, you will." He stroked his beard, pulling on the strands of brown hair.
I kept looking, and didn't speak. He continued, "Really good. Okay, you heard Nancy say about how they have too much cash on hand? Yeah. Well like she said, we've got bundles and bundles of it, so we need to get it out of here, and deposited into a bank where it's safe. I want you and Susan to do it for us."
I scratched my head. It sounded like it could be fun. Everything was in order in my area. Saint was doing great. Allan could help him. I had a flash of inspiration.
"I'll do it on one condition," I said. I told him about the trouble I'd had at the stage the previous night, how they had refused to let Susan and me in. Making my pitch, I said, "Give me a gold armband, and I'll do it. One for Saint, too. He's really been busting his ass. He deserves it. How about it?" I looked at him expectantly.
He smiled. "Christ, is that all? Here." He reached into a box up on the shelf, and pulled out two golden armbands. Fine gold cloth, with a black RS silk-screened on it. He laid them in front of me.
A half an hour later, we were set to go. Mitch had taken me inside the money trailer for the first time. Nancy was sitting at a table, counting out stacks of bills, and Jim was sitting opposite her, working an adding machine. The whole table was covered with money, and there were several bulging bank bags sitting on the floor. They instructed me on what we were to do, where the bank was, and so on. Really, it was simple – drop the bags in the night deposit and split.
The only thing that complicated it was the amount of money – almost forty thousand dollars. I was more than a little nervous. The most money I had ever seen prior to this was when my parents had pulled eleven hundred dollars out of the bank to buy a car. My mom showed it to me and my sister saying, 'You might as well take a look at this because it's more money than most people will ever see at one time in their lives.' My sister and I had been duly impressed – it was a lot of money. Until now, anyway.
Casting furtive glances around us, Jim and I loaded the bags of money into Susan's car, a blue VW bug. There were at least a couple dozen people hanging out around the trailers, staff, dope dealers and hangers on, and I really only knew just a few of them. Such as it was, every one of the unknown faces, I saw as potential robbers. If one walked towards us, I would involuntarily shudder, sure that they would try to rip us off. Jim was more nonchalant.
Just before we left, Mitch pulled me aside.
"Hey, you got any pocket money?" he asked, his hand on my shoulder.
I shook my head. "Naw man, I'm about tapped out. Why?"
He reached into his pocket and held up a ten-dollar bill. "Here. Take this and you and Susan get some lunch while you're up there. Take her to some place nice. Just make sure you come right back, afterwards. Cool?"
I stared at him wondering what he was up to, then took the money and stuffed it into my pocket. "Yeah, sure," I said. "I don't know when I'll be able to pay you back, though."
"Don't worry about it. Just have some fun, okay?"
I smiled. "Fucking A. Thanks, Mitch."
He squeezed my arm, then walked towards the security trailer. I turned, then went to the car and got in with Susan. We pulled out.
I was a terrible conversationalist on the trip to the bank – the bags of money on the floor at my feet just made me too damned nervous. I kept checking the cars in front and in back of us to see if we were being followed, or if anyone was going to try to cut us off. This delighted Susan who was more relaxed – she had made a money trip the day before. She kept telling me I was overly paranoid and worried too much. I didn't disagree, but kept checking out the traffic around us just the same.
We got to the bank at about a quarter to ten, a Peoples Bank, the branch on South Tacoma Way near 56th. Susan led me to the night deposit drawer, which was located next to the front door. We spent a couple long minutes slipping bags of money in, then went back to her car.
I heaved a heartfelt sigh of relief as I settled back into the car seat. Susan got in beside me, and put her keys in the ignition. I turned to her.
"Mitch said it was okay if we went and had something to eat before we came back. I know it's pretty early for lunch, but what about it? Hungry?"
She looked thoughtful, then said, "I suppose. I never got any breakfast this morning. What did you have in mind?"
"Uh, something nice. You like Italian food?"
"My name is Peretti and you ask me a question like that?" She smiled.
I laughed, "Okay. How about the Black Angus, downtown. That's not very far from here. Cool?"
She smiled and asked, "Isn't the Black Angus more steaks and stuff? I don't think they have Italian food, but I'd love to go there with you, anyway."
She started the car, and we drove off towards downtown Tacoma.
Our family never ate out that much, so I didn't really have any idea where to find Italian food. I just knew the Black Angus was a good restaurant. I'd heard people talk about it.
Fifteen minutes later, we were driving through the corridors of office buildings looking for a parking spot near the restaurant. It was on the corner of South Eleventh Street, right next to the Eleventh Street Bridge. This was the arterial which led off from downtown to the Tideflats, Tacoma's industrial and seaport area. We found a parking space easily. But we had a small problem.
"I'm very sorry, but we don't allow your sort in here," said the stuffy looking lady dressed in a black and white uniform, who was blocking our way into the restaurant. "We're not open for lunch yet, in any event. Please turn around and leave, or I shall have to call the police."
The entrance of the restaurant was elegant, with plush red carpeting and wood paneled walls. We were standing next to a counter with a cash register. In front of us, was a metal post with a two inch in diameter cord that ran to the wall, leaving a space three feet wide to pass into the dining room. The lady was standing in the gap. In back of her, I could see the dining room, empty at this early hour, perhaps actually closed as she had said, with place settings and flowers at each table.
"Will you please leave?" said the lady again, more urgently. A cook dressed in white walked up as she said it, and stared at us.
I looked at Susan. She shrugged her shoulders, and we turned and left. I noticed my reflection in a mirror near the door as we walked out. I hadn't realized exactly how dirty I was, blue jeans and shirt turned a muddy brown from the dust, as well as smudges of dirt on my face. Susan's clothes were pretty dirty as well. But then everyone looked that way more or less, back at the festival. We were camping out, for God's sake.
"Well, what the fuck," I said as we walked back towards her car. "I guess maybe a nice restaurant wasn't such a good idea." I felt bummed. I'd wanted this to be something special like Mitch had suggested.
"Look, it wasn't your fault, they were closed," she said. "And we are pretty grubby. I can imagine what it looked like to them." She paused, then breathed, "Gordon, I know what would be perfect..."
"What, we clean up and go back after they open?"
"No. We haven't got time for that. No. Let's go to Frisko Freeze." She was smiling.
"Frisko Freeze?" I warmed to the idea. I answered, "Yeah, that's fine by me. That's a helluvan idea."
We walked back to her car and drove towards the drive-in. It was only a couple of miles away in north Tacoma, and it took about five minutes to get there.
Frisko Freeze had the best burgers on the face of the earth. I don't know how they did it. It might have been because they were a little greasier than most, or maybe it was because they grilled the buns, but whatever it was, it was heaven.
My mother had first brought me there when I was about three. It hadn't changed yet. It was on the corner of Division and 'L' Streets, across from Mary Bridge Children's Hospital. It was a small, white building with red trim, with a drive up window and lots of neon, but no inside seating. You had to eat in your car, or at one of two benches on the sides of the building.
"What do you want?" I asked, as she parked the car in front of the walk-up window. The place was busy even this early, with perhaps a dozen people hanging out, waiting for their orders. But then it was always busy.
"I'll have a double cheeseburger and some fries, with a small coke," she said. "And get tartar sauce for the fries, okay?"
We got out and walked to the window. I waited as the people in front of us, white-uniformed nurses from the hospital across the street, gave their orders. Finally, it was my turn.
"Whadaya need?" asked the young guy taking orders. He was wearing a dark blue baseball cap with "Frisko Freeze" emblazoned above the visor, and was taking down the orders on a small pad of white paper. I could smell the delightful aroma of the cooking food wafting out from inside.
"I need two doublecheese with everything, a large fries with tartar, a small coke and a chocolate malt."
"Groovy," Said the guy. He looked about my age, but was more the football type. "Anything else?"
"Nope. That's it."
"Be about five minutes. We'll call your order out when it's done."
I took Susan's arm and we went and sat down on the bench to the right of the window. She took my hand as we sat down, looking distracted.
"First time I came here was when I was five. I was with my dad," she said, frowning, staring at the row of houses across the street. She went on softly, as if she were talking to herself. "I can remember it so clearly. We were living just up the street at the time, over on North 'M'. We had a big, big house. My mother had just died. We walked down here. Dad was trying to cheer me up, or maybe cheer himself up. He ordered our food, then we sat right here, talking. He was trying to explain how my mom wouldn't be coming back, and how it was just me and him. He said my mom had to go on a trip to see Jesus. I had no idea what he was talking about. He never actually said she had died, just always kept talking about seeing Jesus. Said she'd be happy with Jesus. That made me feel good. She was so sick towards the last. But she was nice to me right up till when she had to go back in the hospital. Then she was in the hospital for over a month and I didn't get to see her much. She just got worse and worse. My father would bring me to visit her once a week. She'd be laying on the bed, looking kind of sick-like. And the smell. It always had this stale, dead kind of smell in there. I was so happy when my father told me she would feel good, with Jesus." She paused to wipe the beginnings of a tear from the corner of her eye, then glanced over at me quickly. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to go on like that."
I gently squeezed her hand and said, "I'm sorry, I didn't realize your mother was dead."
"Oh, don't be sorry." She sniffed and continued, "It happened almost fifteen years ago. Pancreatic cancer. Untreatable, at least then." She shook her head then smiled. "My dad had it rough at first, bringing me up by himself, but he did a good job. He's a good father. He did everything he could for me."
"Did he re-marry?"
"Just last year. She's a nice lady. Has three kids by her first husband and they're all gorgeous. I was so glad when he did it."
"Did your mother dying have anything to do with you wanting to become a nurse?"
She smiled again and said, "No, not at all. That was my dad's doing. He wanted me to find a profession that paid well, that was in demand. He thought nursing was the right place. Not that he pushed me into it or anything. He just made sure I knew what sort of options were available."
"Huh. What'd he do?"
"Oh, he'd like pull the want adds out of the paper and draw circles around all the ones for nurses, to show me how many jobs were available, and what kind of pay they had. But that was the farthest he'd go. That was his way – he never really told me what to do. He might suggest things, and outline the pros and cons, but he always let me make the decision myself."
"Sounds like a nice dad. Huh. Mine's real strict. I mean, he's okay, we talk and stuff. But its always like, 'if you're going to live in our house, you've got to live by our rules.' That stuff. He picked my major in college for me. Damn near picked my classes. That'll change soon, though. I'm gonna live in the dorms when I go next month. I'll be on my own finally."
"Is he paying for your tuition?"
"Yeah, but I'll still have more freedom."
They called out our order over the PA. The tinny speaker droned, "Two doublecheese, large fries, tartar, small coke and a chocolate malt."
I got up, paid for the food and took it back to where we were sitting. As soon as I handed it to her, she started wolfing down her food like she was starved. After silently savoring my first few bites, I continued the conversation.
"I really do want to please my dad," I said, swallowing a bite of French fries. "But he's really closed minded. He won't look at anything new. Take hippies and long hair, for instance. All he sees are drug-crazed lunatics out burning American flags and draft cards. None of the good."
"Mrghr! Ar wove wese wurrers." Dipping her head, she swallowed a large mouthful, then said, "That's too bad."
"Yeah, it is. We've had some nasty fights about my hair, and my friends. Just to be able to let it grow this far, I had to plead and beg and kiss ass. He'd come in my bedroom and say, 'Gordie, it's time you saw the barber, isn't it,' and we'd get into it. Went on for months, finally he gave up after my mom got on his case. She's a lot cooler. Anyway, what the hell. Hey, can you pass the tartar back?"
"Here." She placed it back between us and went on, "If you didn't want to major in business, what would you have majored in?"
"I don't know. I'm really interested in music. But my dad would just go on about how a BA in music wouldn't even get me a job sweeping streets. Yeah, we had several good fights over that." I swallowed, then said, "I dunno, maybe I was being unrealistic, but shit, it's my life." I paused while looking at her, my hamburger poised for a bite, then went on, "Don't get me wrong though, I love my folks. Yeah, we've had some bad times, but they're still good to me."
"I'd like to meet them sometime."
I smiled at her. "I'd like that. They'd love you. My mother would say you're a good influence."
"And what would you say?" Smiling slightly, she looked at me out of the corner of her brown eyes.
"Uh, I'd have to agree with my mom," I said, feeling my cheeks begin to blush. "I think you are a good influence, Susan. I like you a lot."
"And I think I'm beginning to like you a lot, Gordon." She paused, then looked at me shyly, and asked, "Hey, do you suppose we could stop by my apartment for a minute on our way back? It's not too far from here."
I swallowed the last of my burger, and said, "Sure, why not?" Then seeing her pull out a heaping handful of French fries, I complained, "Hey, you gonna save me some of those, huh? Jeeze!"
Fifteen minutes later, half-full milkshake in my hand, we arrived at her place, a small apartment building just down from the corner of north Eleventh and 'K' streets. She parked the bug on the street in front, and we got out and I followed her into the building. It was an old neighborhood of well kept yards, a comfortable mixture of large old houses built around the turn of the century, and newer, nineteen fifties-ish apartment buildings. The street was on top of the hill which sloped down towards Commencement Bay.
We walked into a small courtyard between the two wings of an apartment building, then up a stairway, and along the wood breezeway on the inside of the second floor of her building. One block down the cobblestones of north Eleventh street, the spire of Saint Patrick's Catholic Church rose into the clear blue skies, making me think of my childhood, and scary stories about Nuns.
This was as a result of the fact that when I was young and had done something wrong, my parents had always threatened me with Catholic schools and mean Nuns. I had a mental picture of the Nuns who taught school, as being huge, penguin-esque sadists, who lived just to crack a giant metal-edged ruler across someone’s' knuckles if they screwed up. Rationally, I suspected this wasn't accurate, but the images still lingered.
We stopped at the unit on the end, and she unlocked the door. I followed her inside.
The apartment was redolent of Susan, the unique fragrance that was her bringing up images of freshly scrubbed hair, and English bath salts. With a start, I realized it smelled a little like my grandmother's house. But it wasn't. I breathed deeply.
She held up her hand, then said, "I'll be a couple minutes, I've got to get something. Make yourself at home."
She nodded, and left for what looked like the bedroom. I took a look around, liking what I saw.
Most of my friends, at least the few that had their own places, had hippie pads. Most all such places had the same look, more or less. The first thing you saw when you entered, were the bright day-glow posters of Easy Rider, or maybe Jimi Hendrix or Che Guevara and so on. From that point, there were a few deviations – in the more intellectual households, the rest of the posters would be perhaps, line drawings by M.C. Escher, or similarly talented artists. In the places of those who were not so inclined, there might be something less challenging to the eyes – underground comix art, fantastic LSD monsters and the like, and occasionally, a nude painted on black velvet. After that, the next thing you'd see, would be a couple of mattresses covered with paisley sheets, and perhaps a small stereo and a box of records, and the purple tube of an ultraviolet light. A few overflowing ashtrays next to empty beer cans and every now and then, a hookah pipe. And that was about it.
Here, rather than the hippie pad sort of place I was used to, I saw the apartment of a normal person. To my right was the living room, with an old and substantial maroon colored, crushed-velvet couch that filled the wall down from the door. In front of it was a heavy coffee table made out of dark-stained oak, and on it, a spread of recent magazines was tastefully arranged. I looked at them – she subscribed to Time, Newsweek, US News and World Reports and the Saturday Evening Post. Or rather her father did – they were all addressed to Robert F. Peretti. Up above the couch on the white wall of the apartment, was a large print of what looked like a European street scene, with an elaborate gold leaf frame.
On the other side of the room, there were two easy chairs which matched the couch, and in-between them, a small end table and an antique freestanding lamp, with an opaque glass shade that looked like an inverted cone. The furniture was old, but was very well made and someone had taken good care of it.
Behind the two easy chairs which stood out from the wall somewhat, was a large bookcase, filled with books. I looked through the titles, which ranged from textbooks to autobiographies, and from science fiction to the classics. It seemed like she had a complete set of John Steinbeck's works, and I noticed that one of his more recent books, Travels With Charley, was open face down on the end table next to one of the chairs. Shakespeare, Dante and Keats, resting next to Asimov, Clarke and Van Vogt.
At the end of the room was a sliding glass door, and a small balcony. I walked over the brown shag carpet and looked at the view. It really was quite a view. Part of Tacoma's Old Town and most of Commencement Bay was laid out below me.
Out in the bay, a mixture of tramp freighters and giant tanker ships were visible, a number of them tied up at piers dispersed over the waterfront, and a couple others which were steaming out of port, their destination, the high seas. Seeming to play tag with the ships, were what looked like dozens of sailboats, their white sails standing out in sharp contrast against the dark waters of Puget Sound. To the right were the Tideflats, the pulp mills and busy factories belching out odiferous white smoke, the famous ‘Aroma of Tacoma,’ which if you were unlucky and the wind was in the wrong direction, was sometimes enough to make you sick.
Puget Sound was the one thing I liked best about Tacoma. The heavy industry arranged around the Sound was the lifeblood of the area, and the ships plying through the deep water were the arteries through which the products of Tacoma's labor passed. It all seemed so symmetrical.
To my left, was a small dining room with a glass topped metal table and four chairs. Beyond that and around the corner was what I assumed was the kitchen. I set my empty milkshake cup on the table, then turned back to the view for a last look. Before I had a chance to go nose around the kitchen, Susan came in from the bedroom, and stood in back of me, putting her arms around my chest, and her chin on my shoulder. She hugged me.
I said, still gazing at the busy harbor, "One helluva view you have here. How on earth do you pay for it? This's gotta cost a fortune."
I felt her chin move on my shoulder as she shook her head. "No." she said, "Actually, it doesn't cost that much. It's small, just one bedroom. My dad helps me out a little, and I usually work nights and weekends waiting tables at Knapp's over by 26th and Proctor. During the summer, I work there fulltime. I almost wasn't able to get off for the festival. Anyway, with that and the grants I was able to get, I'm able to live pretty well. Not real cushy by most standards, but comfy just the same."
"No TV? And no stereo?"
"Nope. Just a lot of books," she said, hugging me close. "And for variety, I've always got magazines my dad gives me once he's through reading them."
"Huh," I said, wondering how she could live without music. "Yeah, you've got a really nice place." I turned around to face her, and looked into her brown eyes.
She smiled, looking up at me, then asked, "I know we're supposed to go right back, but seeing as we're here, I'll die if I don't take a shower. I think you could probably use one too. We could be in and out in fifteen minutes."
I wasn't sure exactly what she was proposing. I decided to be bold, and said, "We could probably even take an hour or so if we wanted." I jerked my head back towards her bedroom, smiling.
Her face colored slightly, and she smiled, then kissed me briefly on the lips. "Uh, I don't know if I'm ready for that just yet."
I answered in soft tones, "But you said you felt like you'd known me forever. And I feel that way about you. I really like you a bunch," I said, thinking I actually felt something much stronger, but was damned if I was going to be first in saying it. "Please. I want to make love to you so bad it almost hurts."
She looked thoughtful, and my blood started racing, full of hope and hormones. Finally, she answered, "I'm sorry, Gordon. I'm just not ready yet. I think I'd like to, but I want to be sure. Please don't take it the wrong way. I care about you very much. I just want to know this is right."
My stomach sank into the rug, and I felt giddy. I smiled weakly. "But I thought you said I was Lust With Potential? LWP?"
She gave me an engaging smile. "Potential. That means possible but not yet actual. Please, don't be offended. I am very interested in you. Sexually and otherwise. But this just isn't the right time." She placed her hand on my cheek and kissed me tenderly. She continued, "Look, we really don't have that much time, anyway. Not for making love. We do have to get back. Just give me a little more space, so I can think about it. Please?"
I let out a big breath, then said, "Okay. You'll think about it?"
"I promise. And when I make up my mind, you'll be the first to know. Absolutely!" She raised herself up on tiptoes, and we kissed, quite passionately, for what seemed like several hundred heartbeats. Breathless when we finally broke, she looked in my eyes and said, "Okay, now would you like to take the first shower?"
"Sure." A cold shower. A very cold shower.
We arrived back at the festival around noon. My body was clean and even wearing the same dirty clothes, I felt better. Or at least most parts of me did. Traffic was intense and police cars, red lights flashing, lined the sides of Vail Road when we got near the festival. Because of the traffic, it took almost a half hour to get from Vail Road down Klingman Road to the gate. In the end, I took one of the new gold armbands out of my pocket and waved it out the window, as Susan drove on the wrong side of the road past the cars waiting in line. Walt's traffic people cleared the way for us when they saw the armband. It was great. Such power.
Susan hadn't seen the armband prior to this. I had stuffed both of them in my pocket and forgotten them in my panic over the load of money.
Eyes fixed on the road, she asked, "Where did you get that?"
"Oh, Mitch gave it to me. One for me, and I got one for Saint, too."
She smiled. "Gordon, that's great. I'm proud of you. Know how many of those are around?"
"I haven't seen many. Mostly just the people on the festival committee, like Mitch, or Jim and Nancy, and John Lloyd."
"That's right. It's an honor."
"Right now, I'll be honored if we can just get to the gate."
Five minutes later, we had parked the car over behind the communications trailer. Susan kissed me goodbye and went to work, and I headed to the security trailer. I found Mitch standing in front of the trailer, talking with two guys that had to be cops.
The first one was about my height, but was nearly twice as wide. Although it was still relatively cool, he was sweating profusely, mopping his brow with a handkerchief. The second was taller, but also pretty heavy. Both sported crew cuts, with perhaps an inch of stubble sticking straight up on their heads, wore cheap like suits that were quite wrinkled, and had black shoes now covered with a fine coat of dust. Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, the Bobsy twins.
Mitch saw me and motioned me over. He introduced us.
"Gordon, glad to see you're back. Gentlemen, this is Gordon Lawson, our person in charge of inside traffic control, parking and security. Gordon, these gentlemen are detectives Simpson and Maloney, from the Pierce County Sheriff's Department. They're here unofficially, to see the conditions at the festival."
I shook hands with them, and they muttered greetings to me. Their grips felt limp.
The taller one, Maloney, spoke. "We just wanted to come here and see what it was like ourselves. We're on our own time. We're not here on official business. We've heard all sorts of things and we'd just like to check it out."
I could see a gun on his belt as he moved. I felt uncomfortable. Mitch spoke, "Gordon, what I would like, is if you could take them on a tour of the festival. Could you?"
I tried to smile. "Uh, yeah, I suppose so. No problem." I turned to the cops. "I'd be happy to give you a tour of our festival. Just let me have one minute with Mitch here, and I'll be right back."
The cops nodded, and I took Mitch's arm and steered him away, over towards the money trailer.
"What the flying fuck are we doing letting cops in here?" I asked. "I thought we weren't going to have any cops, none?"
Mitch smiled, and patted my shoulder. "Hey, easy, bro. It's cool. Look... I talked to them for almost a half hour. I think they're on the level. I don't believe they're here to start trouble. It's not their jurisdiction, this is Thurston County, so what the hell. If we handle this right, it could be good for us. We need good PR right now, especially with the type of people they represent. If we let them in and show them around, we'll look good. If we tell them to fuck off, we're hiding something."
"What about all the goddamn dealers down on the Ave by the shops, 'Speed, acid, weed, come and get it.' That ain't too fucking cool."
He smiled again. "I'll call the stage and have them send some people over to warn everyone to disappear for a while. You know the other places to stay away from?"
I nodded. There was a concentration of tents at the bottom of the bowl where a bunch of dealers had congregated. They called it Ft. Owsley, and had even erected a makeshift barricade around it. A board with the name hung over the entrance. The other main place to stay away from was the Sun River Saloon. It was a large plastic covered building in back of the stage by the treeline. One big room inside, with a bar up at one end. There were tables where you could sit that held big hookah pipes where you could smoke hash or opium, and at the bar, was every sort of drug and booze imaginable. The atmosphere reminded me of a wild west saloon, but with drugs. Only festival staff were allowed in supposedly, although that wasn't always the case, particularly with women.
"Yeah, I know where not to take them," I said.
"Okay. You hit it, and I'll call the stage as soon as you've gone." He paused, then said, "Take them by the scenic route, so they have time to get ready down there, right?"
I took them by the very scenic route. It took almost thirty minutes for us to get down to the bowl. Everywhere we went, people would stop and point at the cops, and a hush would fall. I heard people whispering things like, 'Hey! The cops are busting the festival,' or 'Look, they're hauling that poor guy off,' meaning me.
Actually, after I talked with the cops for a while, they did seem like pretty nice folks. One of them, Simpson, had a sister who was supposed to be here. Maloney said one of his neighbors' kids was here.
We ran into Saint as we walked down the road. I couldn't figure if Mitch had planned to have him intercept us, or if it just happened. But Saint was at his best, sounding erudite and educated. I had him describe our parking operations, then unprompted, he launched into a long discourse on our sanitation and water problems. It was great, and the cops looked interested.
As we were leaving, I gave him the gold armband. He held it in his hand inspecting it, eyebrows raised, and then noticed mine. He started to ask a question, but smiling, I held up my hand and told him we'd talk about it later. I ushered the cops towards the bowl.
To give them more time to prepare at the concessions row, I made straight for the stage from the top of the bowl, walking between tents and around fire pits, and detouring way around Ft. Owsley. The bowl was full, jammed to the gills. Many people were cooking lunch still, and although the fragrance of marijuana was in the air occasionally, the place looked more like a packed campground on the fourth of July than anything else. Fortunately, no one was naked yet, and no one was ODed, or acting too nuts.
We came to the front of the almost deserted stage – there was a speaker talking about the war in Viet Nam, going on in a long monologue full of invectives and calls to action – the music was starting late today, so the people were staying away from the stage in droves. So much for politics, I thought. We stood and admired the graffiti that anonymous artists had contributed to the stage facade. Mostly, from where we were standing, it looked like red, green, and blue blurs, but the 'Free Bobby' and 'Free the Seattle Seven' signs, probably six feet high, stood out. Another large sign said 'Free Angela.' I couldn't figure that one, because last time I heard, Angela Davis was still on the loose. Maybe it was someone else? I wondered. Also prominent was a large blue sign that read, 'Sky River Lives!'
From there, we finally went towards the concession area, and up the Ave. I saw a large number of stage security people hanging around trying to look casual, as well as a goodly number of people buying food and drink, but not once did I hear a cry of, 'Acid, Purple Owsley acid, get it here, one dollar a hit,' or anything else that was drug oriented. The cops seemed impressed with everything. I tried to be a good salesman.
"What we're trying to do, is have some good clean fun here," I said as we walked. Looking down, I spotted a blue pill on the ground, and pitched it into the nearby 'American Dream Memorial,' on our left. Somewhat embarrassed, I continued, "Yes, there are drugs here. There are drugs everywhere, though. We have maybe thirty to thirty five thousand people here right now, with more coming all the time. It's a small city. We can't search each person or each tent. We have about three hundred people working as staff, all of them volunteers. We do what we can. A couple times, we've heard reports of people dealing heroin. In both cases, we've found the people, and thrown them out. Hard drugs are something that we will not tolerate. Music is the main reason people have come. That, and to get outdoors in the sun. But that's it."
The cops nodded. The taller one, Maloney, said, "We've heard there have been a number of drug overdoses here. How are overdoses handled?"
"The Open Door Clinic has brought a group of doctors and nurses in. The clinic they staff here has most of the facilities of a hospital. If a person overdoses, our security people take them to the clinic."
The other cop, Simpson asked, "What about the announcements from the stage about drugs? We've heard that the festival is encouraging people to take drugs."
I shifted uneasily. "That's not exactly true. The announcements from the stage are mainly advisories on what dope not to take. If the clinic finds out that a certain type of LSD, for instance, has strychnine in it, they'll have the stage make an announcement to warn people not to take that particular type of LSD. I don't think that's really encouraging drug use."
"What about announcing prices? We've heard you do that."
I nodded. "Yeah, they'll announce what the going rates are for certain types of drugs. That's to make sure no one gets ripped off." I frowned, then continued, "People are gonna take drugs no matter what we do. If we warn them about the drugs that may seriously hurt them, if we try to make sure they don't get screwed financially, and if we throw out the people we find dealing hard drugs, we're looking out for the crowd's welfare as much as we can. Like I said, we've only got about three hundred staff. We do what we can."
The trip back out to the gate was considerably faster than the one coming in. My answers had seemed to satisfy them, and we only made small talk as we walked to the gate. After I dropped them off at their car, I went in search of Susan.
I stuck my head in the door of her trailer. She was on the radio, deep in conversation with someone at the stage. We waved at each other, then I went to see Mitch.
He was sitting at the table in the security trailer, talking to Walt. I walked in and leaned up against the counter by the stove. Walt was laughing, his deep voice making the trailer almost shake. He turned to me.
"Hey, I heard you got busted, Gordon, you sonofabitch," he said. "What a trip. I was in talking to Susan, and there must have been a dozen reports come in over the radios, about some cops hauling you off. Susan told me what was happening. We both just about bust a gut. Some of the guys were so panicky, they wanted to know if the festival had been busted. Oh, shit." He continued laughing.
Smiling through his beard, Mitch asked, "So how did it go? You're still here and they've left, so I guess they didn't drag you off to jail."
I got a beer for myself out of the cooler, and gave them the rundown on what had happened.
After I finished, I saw Walt eying my gold armband. He turned to Mitch and pointing at it with his thumb, asked, "Hey, how can I get one of those?"
Mitch smiled. "Let me talk to the committee. I'll see what I can do." He looked at me. "Gordon, can you go survey your folks and find out how we stand? I need to know how much space we have left. Come back in about an hour, say?"
"I can handle that." I drained the last of my beer, and left.
I picked out a fresh walkie-talkie out of the stores, and located Saint without much trouble. We agreed to meet at the Y.
Allan was with him when I got there. We talked for about fifteen minutes, then toured the lots. Allan had been making out most of the job assignments, with Saint overseeing, and the people he had picked had done an excellent job. The cars were packed in as tight as possible, with no space wasted. But there was little room left. Allan estimated we would be full within the hour.
"You've done a helluva job, Allan," I said. "Your guys have really packed them in. You think we'll be maxed out in an hour?"
Allan was about twenty-three, tall and muscular, his long straight blond hair and deep tan really did make him look like a surfer. Saint had confirmed that he was studying to become a lawyer. He had a strident, serious tone when he talked.
"Maybe a little more, but not much," he said. "I've got that small five acre pasture on the bottom of the south lot, then a bit at the top of the north lot, and that's about it. Hardly anyone is leaving, now. Had a run of people leaving last night after the music, then again from about six AM till around ten. After that, it started dropping off. By eleven-thirty, it was damn near one hundred percent inbound, two lanes full. They're moving them faster now at the gate, too. Got more people taking tickets than yesterday. It's been all we can do to keep up with them."
Saint nodded. "Gordon's right," he said. "You have done a great job. No one else could have handled the volume we've had, better. Damned good job." He looked at me, "Hey, did you hear how Allan handled the thing with the drunk bikers raping this poor lady?"
My eyes narrowed. The bikers had made their entrance late yesterday afternoon. Saint and I had watched their procession as it came through the gate, perhaps fifty bikes, big Harley-Davidsons with long extended forks and tall sissy bars. They were from three different clubs, and had set up camps down off the river road. Everyone was avoiding them like the plague, because bikers had a well-deserved reputation for unprovoked violence. I said, "I hadn't even heard about anybody getting raped. What happened?"
Allan looked at Saint, then back at me. He hesitated, then said, "Oh, it wasn't anything big, really. I don't think it you could call it a rape, they hadn't actually started yet when I got there." He paused and Saint made a motion with his hands for Allan to continue. He shrugged, then said, "I was just walking back up from the river, and saw these bikers dragging this young girl maybe sixteen years old, off into the brush. She was screaming pretty good. They were all drunk as shit. Maybe stoned, too, I dunno. Anyhow, I yelled at them, asking them what they were doing. They yelled back it was none of my business, and to get the fuck away or they'd off me. I kept walking towards them and stood right in front of them. One guy had his pants down and the other two were holding the girl, stripping her. Before they knew what was happening, I kicked the guy with his pants down, straight in the balls. He was gone. The others were really way too fucked up to fight well. I kicked one guy in the face, and he was out. The other one put up a little fight, but it was no contest, they were just too fucked up. I helped the girl get her clothes back on, then we left. I took her back to my tent. My old lady's watching her. I think she's gonna be okay."
I let out a big breath. Saint was beaming, and said to me, "See, bikers are just a bunch of fucking pussies."
I shook my head. To Allan, I said, "You got a lot more balls than I have. Three bikers. All by yourself. Jesus."
He smiled and said, "If they'd been less drunk, or if there'd been any other way, I wouldn't have even thought of it. But you shoulda seen them, staggering all over the place. They could hardly stand up."
"What club was it?"
"Gypsy Jokers, out of Seattle."
"Okay. I'll pass that on. You did a helluva job."
We parted, and Saint and I walked back towards the gate, talking as we went.
"So you want to tell me about the gold armband," he said, pointing at it on his arm.
"Sure. I just told Mitch you'd been working your ass off and that you deserved one. It's true, you have done a great job."
"Nope. Thank you."
Saint seemed embarrassed by the compliments, and quickly switched the subject to parking problems. We continued to talk about that as we walked along the dusty road.
Mitch was in the security trailer when Saint and I arrived. I got beers for us both and we sat down across from Mitch, and I gave him the status report on the lots. I finished, saying, "When they're full, I'd like to let off about half the parking people and most of the traffic control folks. Maybe more. If we're not parking cars, and there's no traffic, I don't see any point in keeping them there. We can have, maybe five or six people per lot stay on, and three or four on the road to handle traffic to the stage and the concessions. Have the ones in the lots just kind of make rounds to see no one does anything nasty. How about it?"
Mitch shook his head. "Uh uh. I got plans," he said. "Gordon, when I introduced you to the cops, I called you the head of internal traffic control, parking and security. You didn't notice?"
I shrugged. "Yeah, I noticed, but whadaya mean? Stage handles the bowl security."
He raised his eyebrows, and said, "Not anymore. They can't – they're maxed out. We need more people. It's harder to get people now, what with the music going. If you've got people you aren't using, we should use them to help with security in the bowl."
"What have you got in mind?"
He spread his hands, and there was a thoughtful expression on his face. "Nothing heavy," he said. "Just walk through the crowds, through the tents, and see that nothing really bad happens. Let people know security is there – maintain a presence. You know, you got someone on a bad trip, you call the OD Clinic and they come and talk them down. Find lost dogs. Help old ladies cross the street. That sort of thing."
Saint said, "You know Gordon, we do have the exact right person to head that up."
I nodded, then told Mitch the story about Allan and the bikers. He seemed impressed, but cautioned us, "I don't like people getting hit – at all, ever – but I suppose there wasn't any other way. Rape is serious shit. But you get in a situation like that, sometimes people can get away with kicking ass, though most of the time they won't. You got to be able to talk to people. Talk can get you out of situations where if you used your fists, you'd come out on a stretcher. Can this guy talk?"
I answered, "Yeah. He's a good talker. Smart. Going to the U-dub. Gonna be a goddamn lawyer. If you want us to do security in the bowl, Allan would be the one to head it up." To Saint, I asked, "Can you handle the lots by yourself? And have you got anyone you can get to take Allan's place?"
"Yeah. Vale has been working out real good. Once he calmed down, he's been doing just fine. I'd trust him to take Allan's place. We can handle it."
Mitch nodded his head. "Good, then its settled. Gordon, you'll be in-charge overall. All inside traffic control, parking and security. Congratulations. And congratulations to you Saint." He motioned to Saint's gold armband.
Saint smiled and Mitch continued, "You figure out what people you want to do the security. You'll be able to come up with, what? About thirty people? That's about half of what you've got now, right?" I nodded. He went on, "Maybe ask for volunteers. Whatever. Split them into two or three person teams – we've got enough radios for that – and have them just walk around the bowl. Have them stay mostly to the tents – stage security will still be doing up in front of the stage. Oh ... The stage carpenters are building you a booth for an HQ over in the concession area. Right in the middle not too far up from that big open trash pit. Have your people operate out of there. We're gonna park a truck there so you can power a base radio. The carpenters will put up the antenna and wire it up for you. They're also getting you a sign for the booth. 'Festival Security' I think it'll say."
I nodded. "Anything else?"
"Yeah, as a matter of fact there is. I want everybody to watch out for fucking smack dealers. You heard they caught two of them yesterday, and threw them out?" Saint and I nodded and Mitch went on, "Right. That's festival policy. You sell junk, you've got a one-way ticket outa here, but fast. I mean, all we need is for someone to die of a heroin overdose. That's the sort of shit that could get us closed down for good. So have your people be on the lookout for any more. You find someone dealing junk, help 'em pack, then escort them the hell out of here. And quietly. I don't want a lot of fuss. Cool?"
"Then let's get it on, shall we?"
Saint and I went and found Allan, and we outlined the plan to him. Allan quite liked the idea.
By this time, the lots were full, and then some. The gate had stopped all incoming traffic, except those vehicles bound for the stage or the concessions. It was the perfect moment to pull people out of the lots. So after only a bit more conversation, I had Saint call his section leaders over to the Y.
Together with Saint and Allan, I outlined the plan to the section leaders, and then asked them to call for volunteers. The instructions were for the people who volunteered to meet me and Allan at the new HQ down on the Ave in a half an hour.
As Allan and I prepared to leave, Saint groused about how I had devastated his ranks, pulling out all his best people, like Allan.
"But Saint," I said, smiling. "You were the one who recommended Allan. How the hell can you bitch about it now?"
He smiled and said, "I had to recommend him. He was the best person for the job. But it's gonna kill me. Oh, what the hell, it's the black man's lot, to suffer, so now, I suffers. Gotta be consistent with history, right?" He paused, smiling, then continued, "Look, I've gotta start to rearrange everything. I'd better get going and do it. Catch you white folks later. Be cool."
We waved at him and headed towards the concession area.
The workmen were just finishing the HQ when we arrived. Until about an hour ago, it had been a gap in the line of shops, in-between a place that sold t-shirts and jewelry, and a chicken stand. The workers had put up front and back walls, and had strung a blue tarp up for the roof. In the front, like most of the shops, was a counter with a doorway cut in the right side. In back, a couple guys were bringing in some chairs and two small tables through the door. The whole thing was about ten feet wide, by fifteen feet deep. Bruce Stuckey seemed to be in charge of the construction. He waved when he saw me, and continued directing the workers.
Allan and I stood and watched as a worker began installing our radio system, running wires up to the roof and an antenna, and out to a truck parked in back. Yet another worker was hanging a sign in front. As Mitch had promised, the sign read, 'Festival Security,' painted in glaring red, day-glow letters.
Stuckey approached Allan and me. "I heard about you taking over security," he said to me, smiling. "Congratulations." He offered his hand and we shook.
I introduced Allan, and we talked for a few minutes while the workers finished cleaning up. Bruce had been getting bored moving equipment on the stage and had volunteered to lead the project of building our HQ.
"These musicians," he said, lighting a joint, "Most of them are so god awful conceited you can't believe it. Size sixty four egos in a size nine head." He passed the joint to Allan.
"Whadaya mean?" I asked, and accepted the joint from Allan.
"Oh, they're all so up on themselves, it just gets to me. I was all primed to be up there. I figured I'd get to meet some really cool people." He shook his head. "Christ, they're mostly a bunch of chickenshit assholes."
"Yeah?" said Allan, looking interested.
Stuckey nodded. "Yeah. Let me give you an example. This one group from San Francisco, I won't say which, but you'd know them. They were so fucked up. These superstars, shit. You get up close, you could see they were junkies, tracks all up and down their arms. They're bobbing and weaving, couldn't hardly find their axes, they were so smacked-out. The only thing they talked about was 'where are the hookers you guys promised? And are they good looking?' Shit, talk about disillusioned. They were the worst. And their manager is sitting there, feeding it, saying to them, 'Baby, you're the greatest, you're the kings, there's no one better.' I mean they did play well, and they gave a good show, but meeting them beforehand, their music just wasn't the same. The other groups weren't quite as bad, but still, I got a look at something that I wish I hadn't. Music will never be the same for me again."
We talked a little more, then Stuckey said he had to leave, to go back to the stage. I promised I'd go see him later, when the Grateful Dead were supposed to play. We'd found that we were both very into the Dead's music. And according to Stuckey, they were actually nice guys.
"Garcia's been hanging around the stage all day, just tripping out," said Bruce. "He's really cool. No ego trips. Talk to you just like he was another Joe right off the street. Come on up and I'll introduce you. You too, Allan." Allan smiled and nodded.
"Fucking A cool," I said, awed by the prospect of actually meeting a real star. "See you there about nine?" I added eagerly.
Stuckey left, taking his crew with him.
"So this is home!" exclaimed Allan, surveying our new quarters. "I guess we can make it cozy enough. I'll bring a cot from my camp. We can put it there in back, give us a place to crash. I've got an extra ice chest I'll bring, too."
"Yeah, it may be a little rough, but I think it'll do," I said. I noticed some of our people drifting in. I asked, "Hey, can you go get those folks over there and ask them to come around back. When everyone is here, we can talk to them en masse and get them started."
"Cool." He went off to round up the new security workers.
I sat at the table and flipped on the radio, to see if it worked. I picked up the mike. "Main gate, main gate. This is cobra one at the new security HQ. Come in. Over."
A burst of static came over the radio, then was replaced by Susan's sexy, contralto tones. "Cobra one, this is the gate. How are things going, Gordon?"
"Great. They've got our new HQ done. You heard about that? Over."
Another burst of static, then, "I did. You see what I said about karma? It works."
"I suppose." I told her about Bruce Stuckey's offer and asked if she'd like to go with me.
"Oh, Gordon, I'd love to, but you know Jo Anne? The one who does evenings here? She's really sick and she won't be able to make it tonight. I'm gonna have to do it myself."
"There isn't anyone to replace you? How about you find someone new and train them now. Over."
"I'd like to, but there isn't anyone. It's the music. Everyone wants to hear the music." The radio squealed and whined.
"I suppose. So when can you get out of there? Over."
Another voice broke in. I couldn't be sure because he was speaking in falsetto, but it sounded a lot like Saint. "You better treat your woman right, Gordon, or she's gonna find someone else."
There was a silence, then Susan came back on, and laughing, said, "He's right Gordon. Treat me good or I'll have to start looking again."
Conscious that others were listening, I chose my words carefully. I keyed the mike, saying, "Uh, so you've stopped looking? Over."
There was a pause, then she came back, laughing. "Yes. Maybe. I think so." The transmission ended with the sounds of her giggling.
I couldn't think of what to say. At least not over the radio. I was never big on working in front of an audience, at least on something private, like this. I said, "Uh, let's talk some more about this later. I've got a few things to do down here. I can be back there in a few hours, say not later than eleven or midnight. Cool? Over."
"That's fine Gordon. I'll see you then. Bye bye."
"Bye." As soon as I let up the mike key, the radio whined and sputtered, and there was a chorus of voices with comments. "Oooh, oooh, oooh... Stop it, I like it... Go get her Gordie," on and on for about two minutes.
I picked up the box of walkie-talkies we'd carried from the gate, and walked out in back of the HQ.
Allan had the new security workers assembled waiting there for me. There were about thirty people, roughly half of the force we'd had in the lots. When I approached, Allan called out for them to be quiet, then introduced me.
"Quiet, quiet," he shouted. Then after a few moments, "Most of you know Gordon Lawson. Gordon's been placed in charge of festival security as well as parking and traffic control." A few people clapped and someone said, "Way to go, Gordon!" Allan went on, "Okay, okay. Anyway, he's going to tell you what we need for bowl security. Gordon."
"Thanks, Allan. And I wanna thank all you folks for volunteering for this work. It's volunteers like you that are making this festival happen. Without you, the place would go to hell in a hand basket, quick. So again, thank you very much!" I paused, and a few of them clapped. It was a mixed bunch. Many of them were quite young, younger even than me. There were a few older looking freaks, and a couple of women. Most had been working for the past couple days. They were all staring at me, so I continued. "Okay. Allan is gonna be in charge of bowl security, and you'll all be reporting to him. Congratulations, Allan." More people clapped and I went on, "Okay. Here's the situation: The stage is pretty well maxed out and can't spare the people to provide security for the bowl any more. So, what we're here to do, is to take over and cut them some slack. Our area will be from the crowd in front of the stage, all through the tents up to the top and the sides of the bowl, including camps in the trees and down by the river – basically everywhere except the lots. The stage will still provide its own security for the area directly in front of the stage, and for the stage compound itself." I paused, then went on, "Okay. I want you to break into groups of two or three, we'll give each group a radio, and then have you just start walking through the crowds, looking for trouble spots."
"Whadaya mean, trouble spots?" asked one of the women. She was dressed in faded Levis and a tie-died T-shirt, that clung to her sumptuous bosom.
I smiled. "What I'm talking about, is like where you find someone passed out, call the OD Clinic and have them come take them away, unless the person has friends around who will do it. That's one thing. Another is that we want to keep people from hurting themselves. You see someone with a fire built too close to their tent, help them move it. That sort of thing, helping out. Another is that there are a lot of little kids here – say you find one that's lost, then you try to find their parents. If you can't find the parents, take the kid back here and have them make an announcement from the stage. Or, say you find a fight, then you try to break it up, try to defuse the situation. But be careful there, we don't wanna see any heroes. Allan?"
We'd talked about his affair with the bikers and he was in full agreement about the use of force. He said, "Right. No heroes. We don't want anyone hurt. Force is a last resort. Don't get physically involved in any fight unless you're absolutely sure that there is no way to talk the people out of it. And before it comes to that, make damn sure you call for help on the radio, and have some backup there with you. And remember, we are not cops. We are not here to police the festival. We're here to help the folks. And what they do is their own business, as long as they don't hurt themselves or others." He looked at me. "Anything more?"
I outlined the festival policy on heroin dealers. There was a consensus among those present that it was a good policy because no one liked smack dealers or junkies. I finished, saying, "Just be sure to check with me or Allan before you throw anyone out. And be sure to get some backup. A lot of those characters are real assholes. Cool?"
There were murmurs of approval and agreement. I nodded to Allan, and he began working up the assignments and passing out the radios.
It was getting pretty late, nearly six o'clock. My lunch had been rather early, and I was quite hungry. I had a few bucks left from the money Mitch had given me, so I went to the Grub Shop and bought some food. The cook was dirtier than ever, and looked like he hadn't been to bed or washed for days. But the food was still great.
After eating, I wandered back to the new HQ to see what was going on. Allan had made the assignments and most of the teams had already left. I used the base radio to call and check with Saint. He said everything was quiet in the lots. Then I called Susan and asked if Mitch was there. She said he wasn't, that he'd gone off with Amy for a bit and that he hadn't left any messages for me. I told her what we had done with the new security force, and she said she'd pass it on. Everything was going just right, and I almost felt redundant.
I hung out for another hour or so, then decided to check the tent and see what Dave was up to. I hadn't seen him in almost twenty-four hours.
A glum look on his face, he was sitting by himself at the fire pit, watching a band perform down on the stage. As I approached, I called out over the roar of the band, "Hey, Heinlein you asshole. Whatch ya doing?"
He looked at me, and his face brightened a little. "Just resting up, for the main course," he said. "Where the hell you been?"
I sat on the ground next to him. "I been working. Doing stuff."
"You have your big date last night?"
"Yeah, it was fun. We got to sit on that light tower just to the left of the stage. It was a great view. You could see everything. Watched the end of Ritchie Haven's set, and then saw Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. It was cool."
He smirked. "So this chick, what's she like in bed?"
"I dunno. We haven't done that yet."
"Christ, you been with her for two days, and you haven't even balled her yet? Gordo, you're slipping." He shook his head.
I shrugged my shoulders. "Maybe. But I've had a lot of fun. She's a really nice lady. Gonna be a nurse. I really like her."
"You getting mushy on me dude? You sound like you're pussy whipped, and you haven't even been in her pants yet. She sounds like a prick teaser. You know, one of those, 'Oh, baby. I want you so bad, but I'm on the rag now. Let's wait until next week,' or the 'Yeah, I want to do it with you too darling, but I promised myself I was gonna wait until I was married,' types. She's gonna mind-fuck you, Gordo. You wait and see."
I frowned and said, "Aw man, she's not that type. Not at all. She's really nice. We get a chance, I'll introduce you to her and you'll see." Stretching the truth somewhat to ease my bruised ego, I said, "I think she would have gone to bed with me before now, but we just haven't had the time." I told him the story of the birdman, and the events that followed, including our money run, and the tour I gave the cops. Dave was amazed.
"Wow, you really are some kind of bigshot asshole," he said, looking at my gold armband. "I woulda never thought it. I never really seen you as the sort who would be in charge."
"Me neither. I just kinda like, fell into it. But you know, I enjoy it. I like the way people look at me. I like the way they talk to me. And I like doing something that's important. I feel kinda proud, like this was some humongous kegger out in the woods by the power lines, and I'm helping organize it, helping everybody get off, and have fun. It makes me feel good, that I'm helping others have fun."
"Huh," he said, looking thoughtful. "Every time I just get to think I know you, Lawson, you surprise me, and I have to rethink everything. Maybe you're not such a weenie after all." He smiled.
"Gee, thanks a million Dave. I'm so glad you don't think I'm a weenie. That means an awful lot to me. Really and truly, with sugar on it."
"Okay, I never thought you were a weenie. But sometimes, you're so fucking straight, it gets me."
"I don't see that as necessarily being bad."
"I didn't say it was. It's just different. You've changed in the past year."
"You suppose I'm growing up?" I smiled.
"God, I fucking A hope not."
We changed the subject and talked about what he had been doing. As it turned out, he was still with Janie, the young nymphets I had seen him with the day before. She and a girlfriend were asleep in the tent. They had gone to sleep at about eight in the morning after partying all night, got up for breakfast around four, then had gone back to bed and slept some more. The girlfriend was also from Yakima. Her name was Candy, and she was fifteen, with long black hair, and with big 'knockers,' as Dave called them. Dave told me they had boogied all night long, and as a result, he was in pretty bad shape.
"They wore me out," he moaned. "All fucking night. First one, then the other. Back and forth." He bent low towards me, and said, "You'd like Candy man, she's sweet." I rolled my eyes. He went on, "Naw, man, I mean it. She's a nice chick. And horny. God! It's for damn sure she ain't no prick teaser. You get tired of getting let down, come see me and I'll fix you up. Shit, for you, I'd fix you up with both of them. They'd go for it. I need some rest, anyway."
I smiled, shaking my head. "Thanks, but no thanks, man. I think I'll stay with what I've got. Susan's special."
"Huh. I ain't never seen you like this, Lawson. You got a real case, you do."
The girls came out of the tent a little later, stretching and yawning. Candy looked like she had Indian blood, a dark complected face with high cheekbones, and as Dave had said, she had large breasts. They jiggled provocatively when she moved, her nipples making small tents in the shirt. Quite a nice figure, a damn fine package all told. Long, slender legs like Janie's. And she had a great smile, perfect white teeth set off against her dark tanned face and long, flowing black hair that came almost to her waist. And brown eyes, like Susan's.
Dave looked back over his shoulder and smiled at them. "Hey, ladies. C'mere and set a spell. Gordon's here."
They giggled and approached the fire pit. Both were wearing Dave's cast off clothing – shirts several sizes too large, that seemed to fall open in embarrassing ways at just the right moments. Dave smiled.
"Gordon, you know Janie, you already met her. I want you to meet her friend, Candy. Candy, this is Gordon."
She smiled, looking down at me, and said, "Hi. Pleased to meet you." A gust of wind lifted the bottom of her shirt revealing a thatch of black pubic hair. Unembarrassed, she just kept smiling.
Janie giggled, pulling nervously on one of her braids. "Hi Gordon. We were wondering when you'd get back."
Dave laughed. "Yeah, you sonofabitch. We were gonna wait for you last night, but after a while we went ahead and started the party without you, and now I'm gonna be handicapped for life." He clutched his groin and moaned. The girls giggled.
Dave shook his head. "Seriously. These two wild women are about more than I can take. All they wanna do is ball. Now that you're here, you can carry some of the weight."
Janie sat down beside him and patted his head. "Poor Davey. Just never had a good lay before and now that he has, he's pissing and moaning about it." She kissed his forehead and went on, "Ya know, Candy? I think we oughta really fuck his brains out good, tonight." She turned back to Dave, "If you think last night was the best we can do, you ain't seen nothing."
Arms folded under her breasts, Candy nodded. "Like that guy from Selah that we did together that time?" She smiled. "Shit, we had him coming and going." She looked at me, still smiling, then sat down next to me.
Janie laughed. "Yeah, the guy from Selah!" She put an arm over Dave's shoulder, then went on, "Honey, what we did was we laid the dude on his back, then traded off. When he finally couldn't get it up no more, we took turns going down on him. Honey, we sucked that motherfucker dry! By the end of the night, he was begging us to let him be. And you think you had it bad?" She kissed his ear.
Dave shrugged and smiled at me. "You see the shit I've gotta put up with?"
Candy was studying me, idly sucking on her right index finger. I laughed and said, "Yeah, Dave. Sounds like you've got it bad as all hell. Stuck with two lovely ladies that wanna fuck you to death. That's a helluva problem."
Janie giggled again and shook her head. "Hey! It's not my fault that I like balling better than anything on earth." She turned to me. "How about it, Gordon? You gonna join us tonight? We can have a fuckathon!"
Uncomfortable, I shrugged. "Ah, I dunno. I got a lot of stuff happening. Just have to see what comes down."
Dave nodded. "I told you guys that Gordo is a big cheese here. He's practically running the whole place."
Candy smiled at me seductively. "The whole place?"
I shook my head. "Naw. Just inside security, traffic control and parking."
She ran her finger under my gold armband. "No shit? That must be a big job."
"You don't know how big," said Dave, lighting a joint. "He's been through some really heavy shit, here."
Augmented by several joints, Dave made a grand production of retelling my exploits of the previous day, conspicuously leaving out the parts concerning Susan, and as usual, exaggerating many otherwise superfluous details. Both girls seemed very impressed.
About halfway through the story, Candy began massaging my back, and moved a little closer, molding herself to me. The sexual tension between us was thick enough to cut with a knife and characteristically, I was quite uncomfortable. I was nearly always awkward around women.
After finishing the story, we sat in stoned silence listening to the band on stage, a group named Redbone, and Dave had unbuttoned Janie's shirt and started to play with her small breasts. A little later, just as the Grateful Dead took the stage, Dave and Janie got up rather suddenly and left for the tent, leaving Candy and me together. I would much rather have been down at the stage watching the Dead up close – not to mention meeting Jerry Garcia – but I just couldn't figure out a graceful way to leave. So instead, I made awkward small talk as we listened to them play.
Over the strains of ‘Sweet Magnolia’ booming out from the stage and echoing around the vast amphitheatre, we could hear the sounds of Dave and Janie's mutual pleasure coming from inside the tent. And it made me horny. Stoned and horny. Candy leaned against me and laughed.
Smiling, she softly said, "It sounds like Janie's about to come, hear her? I know that moan anywhere. Thirty seconds more, tops." The grunting and moaning got louder and faster, then reached a crescendo, and faded quickly. Candy put her hand between my legs, feeling me. My interest was obvious.
"Wanna ball?" she asked, squeezing me softly, looking tentative, and sweet.
This was an interesting moral dilemma that I couldn't remember having been faced with before. I could count the number of women that had asked me to go to bed with them on the fingers of one hand. One finger actually. And now I had a girlfriend, more or less, and it was happening. A real mind-blower.
I felt that to be fair to Susan, I couldn't go to bed with Candy. True, we hadn't actually taken any vows or anything. And as Dave had kept harping on, we hadn't even slept with each other yet. Candy was damned attractive. She seemed like a reasonably intelligent person and was interesting, even if a little young. And she was asking me to go to bed? I smiled weakly.
"Uh, I don't know," I said, feeling her hand on me. "I don't know if I should."
She squeezed. "Part of you thinks you should." She smiled and laughed.
"Yeah, the part that keeps getting me in trouble." I smiled back. "No. It's just that I met this lady, and we're kinda hung up on each other." I felt detached from reality as I said this. I'd had a number of girls use more or less the same line on me before, about some guy they were hung up on, and how they wanted to go to bed with me, but couldn't. I'd never believed a one of them. Now for the first time, I was saying this to a girl, a pretty girl, where under all other circumstances, I would have jumped at the chance to go to bed with her. I continued, "You really turn me on. Obviously. But I just can’t get it on with anyone else right now. I'm really sorry. Really sorry. You have no idea how sorry."
I pulled her close and kissed her on the lips. A consoling kiss, not one with the promise of more to come. She pulled back a little to study me, although keeping her hand moving in my crotch. Finally, she spoke.
"Huh. You're different," she said, shaking her head. "I like that. I think you're the first guy ever turned me down. Or that didn't hit on me right away. I've never met anyone like you before. Your lady, she must be something else?"
I nodded. "Yeah, she is special."
She kept massaging me. "I never had a guy I felt like that about." She paused, looking down at the stage, then went on, "I dunno, I guess I just like to ball. It makes me feel so good, ya know. Makes me forget all my problems." She glanced over at me then continued, "I keep thinking I'm gonna meet my special someone, but it ain't happened yet. I just keep looking."
"Yeah, I know what you mean."
"Mind you, I'm not a fucking tramp. I don't jump into bed with every Tom, Dick or Harry. I'm real selective. I had the clap once when I was thirteen, and it showed me what happens if you're not careful, showed me what happens if you jump from one bed to the next without looking." She paused for a moment, looking directly in my eyes, then said, "But I meet someone, and if I really like them and they seem nice, I don't see why you should hold back."
"That's a good attitude."
"Well that's what this free love is all about, right? Coming is the best rush there is. Why the hell should people get all uptight about sex when it's that good?"
"Yeah, right on. I can dig it." Virtuously, I added, "I just wish I felt differently about this lady I'm seeing."
"Dave told me a bunch about you last night. You know, you're better than he said. A lot."She shivered, then said under her breath, "God, now I'm so fucking horny I could bust."
Seeing a way out where my overly strained virtue might remain intact, I said, "Huh. Well if you want to join Dave and Janie, I can leave. I really should be going, anyway. I don't wanna hold you up. Dave told me how the three of you got it on last night. Sounds fun."
She leaned close to me, her mouth at my ear, and said softly, "You mean that group grope that Janie was talking about?"
"Well, I'll tell you what. I've done that a few times before with Janie and a guy or two. It can be fun. Janie's really nice. We been friends for a long time. Look, I hate to say it but," She hesitated, looking briefly back at the tent, "Your friend Dave, he ain't much in bed."
"Yeah. We got him off a couple of times, then he gets me and Janie to do each other. Most the rest of the night, he just lay there watching Janie and me get each other off. I mean, I like balling Janie and all, we know what each other likes, but..."
"You get off on balling women, huh?"
She shrugged. "You got fingers or a mouth going for it on you, you can't tell if they're a man’s or a woman’s, 'cause it all just feels good. Naw. Janie and me been doing it since we were twelve. She can make me come a lot better than some of the men I've been with, including your partner Dave." She paused, then continued, "But like I was saying, it really was kinda freaky like, him just watching us last night. I dunno. Like he's an okay guy, and I'll stay here 'cause Janie's here, and she really digs him. But he's not much for satisfying a girl." She turned so she could see my eyes. "Gordon, could I ask you something?"
"Yeah, I suppose." Her hand felt so good on me. I was somewhat more relaxed now, feeling more sure of myself knowing I didn't have to go to bed with her. Talking about sex was always fun, not as scary as the actual thing. I tried to picture her and Janie making love while Dave just watched, and suppressed a giggle. Candy took my chin with her free hand and turned my face towards her.
She looked at me intently, and said, softly, "Gordon. You said you couldn't go to bed with me, right?"
"I respect you for that. But let me ask you, if you were to get a girl off with uh, say, your fingers, would that create a problem for you? With your lady, I mean. Nobody would be naked or anything, and you wouldn't actually make love to the girl. Just get her off."
A thin smile was on her lips and her eyes narrowed. Her fingers undid two buttons of my fly and moved inside.
"Get you off with my fingers?" I asked, feeling her hand on me.
Her face softened and a light came into her brown eyes. "Yeah. What I was thinking, was I could lay down with my head on your lap, then pull the blanket over me," she said. "Please Gordon. I mean, I don't wanna lay any weird head trips on you, but if you could just do a lady a favor, I'd really appreciate it, I'm so goddamn horny! Please? I'll never ask you again if you say no."
"Right here, out in the open?"
"Sure. I always wanted to get my rocks off in front of fifty thousand people." She giggled.
I pondered this for a few seconds, then smiled and said, "Okay, whatever's fair. Turn around." I figured it was a fair compromise.
"Alright!" She kissed me, then gathered up the blanket, and laid down on her back with her head in my lap. She took the blanket, and threw it over her, so that it covered from her legs to her ample chest. She took my hand, and placed it between her open legs. My fingers rested in her dark curls, her hands cupped over them, pressing.
A half an hour later, I was weaving through campsites and tripping over tent stakes in the dark, while trudging back towards the Ave, feeling like a shit. I hadn't gone any farther than Candy had originally asked, and had even turned down an offer of a hand job. But I still felt bad about getting her off. After she came, she thanked me profusely and made the offer to do me, and then we sat and talked for a while. She had big plans for her life. It turned out she was going to be a teacher. She was really into it. We talked comparing notes on different teachers we'd had in school, and she'd point out what was good and bad about their different styles of teaching. She was funny and I found I liked her. She told me that if it fell apart between me and Susan, to look her up, then gave me a big hug as I left.
Allan had things well under control at the HQ. There had been a few OD's and a couple of freak-outs, but nothing serious. I hung out with Allan for a while, watching as he ran his security operation, then I left and hunted down Saint, finding him near the parking lots. Everything there was under control. The biggest problem that they'd had was where they'd caught someone trying to liberate a radio from someone else’s car. They'd shown the person to the gate and that was the end of the problem.
I stayed with Saint, walking around the lots, talking to people, and getting high and drinking beer. There was no real traffic in or out. It was pretty dead. All the people were around by the stage, watching the show, now nearing its final minutes before the last performance of the night.
I got to the main gate just before midnight. I wanted to talk to Susan in the worst way. She wasn't in the communications trailer. The person there, someone I had never seen before, said she was asleep in another trailer. She'd left about a half hour ago.
I found her in the back of the dark security trailer. She was sound asleep, curled in a corner of the bed, fully clothed under a light blanket. I debated over waking her, then thought better of it. The day had started at six-thirty for both of us, almost eighteen hours ago. She looked so peaceful, and I was dog-tired. We'd find time to talk later, I thought. I took off my boots and socks, lifted a corner of the blanket and curled up next to her. She stirred.
"Uh, Gordon?" She said, sounding mostly asleep. "That better be you, I hope?"
"Ssh. Go back to sleep,” I said, stroking her curly brown hair softly.
She rolled over and took me in her arms, kissed me lightly on the lips, then tucked her head under my chin and began to snore softly.