V. - Sunday
August 30, 1970
Susan woke me up at about daybreak, kissing me on the forehead. I opened my eyes. Her hair was a mess. There was a smudge of dirt on her chin. She looked lovely.
Then I looked at my watch.
"Five thirty in the morning?" I said. "Oh, lord." I moaned.
I laid back and closed my eyes. She moved on top of me, and kissed my forehead again. She said, softly, "I'm sorry I woke you. I just wanted to talk with you without a lot of other people around. From what we've seen, this may be the only time we get. Here..."
She passed me a Certs, and I put it into my mouth and sucked. I thanked God, because I knew my breath had to be foul – stale beer, cigarettes and weed. Yuck. As soon as I started to suck on the breath mint, my mind began to clear. I asked, "So how was your night?"
She snuggled deeper into me. "Good, bad, indifferent. Busy as all get out. Lots of calls from everywhere, but mainly the stage, and the OD Clinic. A few from your Allan. He sounds real together. Have I met him?"
I thought about it. "No, I don't think so. Yeah, he's a good guy." I told her about the incident with the bikers.
She shivered, then asked, "So what did you do last night? I didn't hear from you much."
Feelings of tremendous guilt welled up inside me. I shifted her weight to one side, then pulled her closer, my chin on her shoulder. "Not a lot. I told you about my friend Dave, the guy I came with?" She nodded. "I went back over there and talked with him for a while. He's got two ladies there that he's making it with. Both of them. I stayed for a while talking with them, and we watched the Dead play. After that, I went and hung out with Allan for a bit, then Saint. I got back here just before midnight. I was so beat, and you looked so damned comfortable, I just couldn't wake you. I must have been asleep five minutes after I laid down beside you."
"I kinda woke up when you came in. I remember. Yeah." She sighed, then, "You know, it felt so good when you were here next to me. I felt safe. I do like cuddling with you." She buried herself in me, pressing her body onto mine. We kissed. She'd eaten a Certs too, and her mouth was sweet and full of passion. After a while, we broke, both breathing hard.
"Uh, last night?" I asked, hesitantly. "Uh, when we were talking on the radio?"
"Yes?" Her voice sounded small, and she looked away from me.
"You, uh, said you thought you might have stopped looking for a man. Have you?" I hoped my voice wasn't trembling when I said it.
She was silent for a long moment, then turned to face me, a serious expression on her face. This is where she would probably tell me she loved me like a brother, or something.
"Yes!" she exclaimed, a smile lighting her face suddenly. "I think I realized it right when we were on the radio. C'mon, don't look so serious, already. I don't know about you, but I'm damned happy." She paused theatrically, the said softly, "I think I may be in love with you, Gordon Lawson."
"Really?" I choked out, almost gasping.
"Really. It's kind of scary, coming so quick. I mean, we've only known each other for three days. But I feel like I've known you forever. You believe in reincarnation?"
I was feeling lighter than air. I found I couldn't speak, so I shrugged. She continued, "I'm not sure I do, but it would explain the feelings you get, sometimes. You meet a person, and instantly, you like them, feel at home with them. You know, you're in-sync with them. I haven't had it happen very often, but when it does, it just freaks me out. It happened when I met you, Gordon. Didn't you feel it too? You more or less said you did."
"Yeah, like you said, more or less." We were in tune. I hadn't been mistaken. She felt the same way about me. I pulled her closer and said, "I think I first fell in love with your voice, the way you talked."
She smiled, a questioning look on her face. "My voice?"
"Yup. I guess I've always had a thing about girls with deep voices. But then when we finally met, it hit me like a ton of bricks." I paused, then continued, "Real deja vu, a feeling that I'd known you before. I've never felt anything close to that before with a girl." I shook my head.
"Never. I was at ease right off the bat. Usually, I'm such a klutz. I can't think of what to say or do. I make an ass out of myself. But not with you. I don't know why, I just can't figure it. You're so god awful smart and beautiful, I should feel threatened by that, but I don't." I paused and then said softly, "God, how I love you, Susan!"
Our lips searched briefly and we found each other. Her tongue darted into my mouth, playing tag with mine, exploring, hot and lusty, sharing my excitement. She broke off abruptly, her sultry voice whispering in my ear, "Gordon, I want you."
"And I want you." We kissed briefly, then she scrambled off me and we hurriedly undressed.
Naked and truly beautiful, she sat up and grabbed her large, brown leather purse, digging in it. She smiled, then held up a small plastic container. "Here, this is what I need."
She smiled again, taking something out of the container. "My diaphragm, silly. It's what I had to pick up at my apartment." She looked at me out of the corner of her eyes, smiling, and said softly, "I was pretty sure I'd need it. Hang on, okay?"
I nodded my head, watching her squeeze something out of a tube onto the diaphragm. Then she laid back, and pushed it into her. She turned to me.
I was just climbing on top of her when Mitch opened the trailer door. He climbed in the trailer, and sat at the table before he noticed us. We froze, both staring at him.
"Oops," he said, smiling broadly, taking it all in. "Uh, sorry about that folks, I'll leave and come back later." He shook his head, got up and left.
I collapsed on top of Susan, and we both convulsed in a fit of laughter. Fate was cruel. After a little petting and mutual exploration, we decided it was best that we just say to hell with it, and get up.
Twenty minutes later, we were both dressed, and sitting at the table drinking coffee when Mitch came back.
He looked somewhat embarrassed as he
sat across from us. "Uh, sorry about that," he said. "I was just
gonna get an early start. I had no idea
you guys were in here."
Susan smiled and said, "It doesn't matter, Mitch. It's our fate." She grabbed my thigh and squeezed, and we both laughed.
Mitch looked puzzled. "Huh?"
"I'll tell you later," I said.
He shook his head, then smiled, looking at me. "Okay," he said. "So it's time to go to work, then. Today is the big wind down. Have you figured out how you're gonna handle it?"
I nodded. Saint, Allan and I had spent quite a bit of time talking about this, yesterday. I had a plan.
"The music is only gonna go till eleven tonight," I said. "You've got some really hot groups – Santana, Humble Pie, Joe Cocker, Big Brother. I think everyone, or at least most everyone will stay right up to the bloody end. Which means we're gonna have a first-degree cluster-fuck when everybody tries to leave at the same time. Until then, the inside lots will be dead. I haven't checked, but I suspect we're still full to capacity. I don't think there was any general exodus last night after the music. I'd like to let most of the people, except for say, two or three per lot, off until later. I'll keep the internal security at the bowl fully staffed. About ten o'clock tonight, I'll start pulling people back from security to the lots, and the road. I'm going to scout out the lots, and try to figure the choke points. I'll put a person on each of those, to direct traffic. If we do it right, we can have two lanes of outbound traffic. You direct one lane off left onto Vail Road, and the other lane right. The only thing I'm not sure of, is how many people I'm gonna have. I think a lot of our folks may be leaving, tonight. But I'll take a survey on that, this morning. If I'm low, I was figuring to ask if I could borrow some from ticket taking, or from the stage. Or anywhere else, for that matter."
He scratched his head, looking off into space, then said, slowly, "I don't think the stage will be any help, but ticket taking will be dead, so it probably should be possible to get some people from there." He paused for a few moments, thinking. Susan squeezed my thigh, and snuggled closer. He said, "I think your analysis of what will happen at the end is correct. I get the feeling that most everyone will leave after the music quits, too. Tell you what. Poll your people to find out how many will be staying, figure out how many you'll need to cover the key points, and I'll talk to Jim and Nancy for you. But I want hard numbers, and the placement locations. Okay?"
"I can dig it. I'll take off as soon as I finish my coffee, and I'll get back to you by, say, mid-morning."
I looked questioningly at Susan, and she nodded. We both grabbed our coffees, and left. We walked up in back of the trailers, and sat down at the picnic table. It was covered with dew, and our breath made wisps of fog in the early morning light. It was chilly, and Susan sat close to me. I put my arm around her shoulder, and she snuggled closer.
"So what are we gonna do?" I asked.
She took a sip of her coffee, and smiled wistfully. "We'll think of something," she said. "One way or another. You know what they say, love finds a way." She kissed my cheek. "This really is pretty silly, you know. I don't think I've ever been in a similar situation. I'm at a rock festival, of all places, with someone who all I want to do is rip his clothes off, and," she paused, laughing, "We can't find any privacy or time to actually make love. This is a rock festival, for God's sake, the place where sex and drugs reign supreme. And I can't get any. Oh, God." She laughed again.
I smiled. "Yeah, it does seem a little ironic," I said. "Maybe I could kick Dave and his ladies out of my tent for a while. If you could get off, that is."
She shook her head, and said, "I don't know. I'll have to check in and see what's up. But I'm not crazy about the notion of you kicking your friend out of his tent."
I got an idea. "It'd be okay. I mean it's my tent. Look, I'm gonna talk to Mitch later, and get both of us off, say for the afternoon. It'll be dead up here. The idea, is that the crazy time will be from say nine o'clock till three or four in the morning. I'll tell him I want the first team on then, so we need to sleep in during the day. What do you think?"
"I don't know. Maybe."
I finished my coffee. "I'd better get going if I'm gonna set this up." I pulled her close, and we kissed, tongues darting in and out of each other's mouths. Reluctantly, we parted.
"Gordon," she said softly, as I turned to leave.
"I love you." She was smiling.
I smiled back, and kissed her nose. "Love you too, lady. Bigtime! Catch ya later."
I picked up a fresh walkie-talkie from supplies, and walked quickly down the road towards the bowl.
Saint was still asleep when I got to his truck. I grabbed his shoulder through the open back of the camper shell, and shook. He surfaced, slowly, mumbling and swearing.
"C'mon you lazy black sonofabitch," I said softly. "We've got work to do."
He sat up, and shook his head. Linda was still asleep beside him. He rubbed his eyes, and asked, "What time is it?"
"Late. Almost seven. C'mon. Let's go get some breakfast, and talk. Got any money?"
He was blinking. "Yeah, a little, I think. Why?"
"'Cause I'm broke. You can buy." He moaned, and flopped back in bed.
Although the Ave was nearly deserted at this early hour, most of the shops were open when we got there. We stepped gingerly around the forms of people sprawled all over in sleeping bags, concentrated mostly near the edge of the seemingly endless line of tents which ran along the Ave. A few people, less lucky than those with tents or sleeping bags, sat huddled in their coats, looking tired and lost. At the Grub Shop, the same guy, really dirty now, was still standing over his pot of food, stirring slowly, a cigarette hanging loosely from his lips.
Saint and I got two orders, and took the food back to the nearby security HQ. Allan and his girl friend, another surfer type, were there eating breakfast. Her name was Helen. She was blonde, tanned and beautiful. And must have been near six feet tall, just a couple inches shorter than Allan. She had a southern accent, like she was from Texas or somewhere.
Saint and I sat down next to them at the table, and I outlined my earlier discussion with Mitch. Allan and Saint agreed to get estimates of how many of their people would be staying past Sunday back to me by eleven o'clock. Saint liked my idea of having the key people take off in the afternoon, and then come back later to work the rush after the music quit. Allan, on the other hand, wanted to stay around all day. He had a good point.
It was as packed as it would ever be in the bowl. I'd heard different estimates of how many people were here – from a low of about thirty five thousand all the way up to over a hundred thousand. No one really knew exactly how many there were, and wouldn't until much later when they could count up ticket revenues, both pre-event and main gate sales.
After hashing out the details, Saint and I left, to go scout out choke points, and to get his people started on the poll. By ten-thirty, we had it pretty well scoped out.
Almost a full three-quarters of both Saint and Allan's people would be staying through the week. Both the north and south lots were packed, and so far, there hadn't been many people leave. There had been a few leave early, but those were soon replaced. I had checked with Susan, and she said Walt was taking up all the incoming traffic, which was, even by ten-thirty, pretty substantial. Even so, Walt's lots were at what he estimated to be about ninety percent capacity. So the flow of day campers walking towards the stage would soon come to an end. That probably meant that the South Tacoma towing companies would start getting calls from the police to tow cars illegally parked on the sides of the surrounding roads. But that wasn't my problem, thank God.
As Walt had told me, the cops had a command post about a half a mile up at the intersection of where our access road met with Vail Road. Except for the tour I had conducted yesterday, no other cops had actually approached the gate. Susan had said that they would call on the radiophone, every now and then, to talk about different problems. But so far, everyone was cooperating nicely.
Saint and I finished scouting the lots, and returned to negotiate with Allan, to see how many people we could pull off when the time came.
"C'mon, man," said Saint, pleading with Allan, "I gotta have more people than that."
We were sitting at the table in the security HQ. Allan's girlfriend was still there, working the radio. Two of his people were working the counter, talking to a couple who had lost their dog. Several more workers had just shown up for duty, and were sipping coffee, listening to our discussion.
Allan was adamant. "I had a shopkeeper that was held up by a guy with a Bowie knife and two attempted rapes last night," he said. "And we threw out three smack dealers. I don't expect tonight to be any better. The most I can let you have is fifteen people. That will only leave me enough for four teams of three. I'm giving you more than half of all the people I'll have left. That's got to do it."
Saint shook his head, frowning. He pointed at the map of the festival grounds hanging on the wall. "I need people here, here, here, here and here along the road every fifty feet. That's really important if we're gonna have two lanes of outbound traffic. We've gotta keep them to the right, to preserve our fire lane, just like when they came in, and that takes a lot of people. Then in the south lot, I need people all over the place. I'm gonna have, I figure, twenty people max, left, after the ones leave. Fifteen more from you ain't gonna do it."
"You want people to be raped and robbed, so other people can go home?" Allan asked sarcastically. Saint was getting pissed.
"Hang on, hang on," I said. I thought for a moment. Then to Allan, I said, "If the stage was to send security patrols farther out, say a third of the way up the bowl, how many fewer people could you make do with?"
Allen frowned, shaking his head, and said, "None. Twelve people is way below what we need in any event, even if the stage took part of our area. With the extra volunteers I got after we opened this place, I had fifty people working last night. And it was still nuts. I mean, shit – we've probably got over a hundred thousand people packed in here, for Christ's sake. No way."
"Ticket taking says it's closer to forty thousand, maybe fifty at the outside." I paused then went on, "You had fifty people working? I thought you said you had better than three quarters of your people staying on?"
"I do. But they're not all available tonight. Most of them have been working for the last three days straight. The fucking losers, they're demanding to have some time off, the inconsiderate assholes." Heavy sarcasm. "We're doing the best we can."
What Allan said was true. We'd had heavy attrition in the ranks of festival staff. The typical pattern seemed to be a person would volunteer, then end up working maybe twenty-four hours without a break, then they'd split and you'd never see them again. Few of the people got breaks. I had set up as many people for relief shifts as possible, but when the music started, our supply of volunteers had gone down to a trickle – although Allan had it somewhat better – his people working the bowl got to listen to the music, and that meant it was easier for him to get volunteers.
I had made sure Saint and Allan took time off, and they made sure most of their key people got rest. But for the people on the bottom of the ladder, life often wasn't so great.
"Look, I don't want to see anyone robbed or raped," said Saint, "But I need more people. If I can't get them from Allan, where are we going to get them?" They were both staring at me.
I sighed. "Mitch said if I had a good estimate of numbers and firm plans on what I wanted to do with them, he'd go ask Jim and Nancy for some people off of ticket taking. That's the logical place to take from, I guess. I mean, they'll have to have a certain number at the gate just to guard the money. But they aren't going to be selling any tickets late tonight, that's for damn sure."
"Are there still people watching the fence line up from the gate?" asked Saint. "Mitch could do without those."
"There are a few people there still. They'll need them through the day. Particularly with the inside lots full. Yeah, if any of them are still around later, we can probably use them."
"Is there a chance I can get back any of my people?" asked Allan. "Four teams isn't enough."
"I don't know. We'll have to see." Saint was getting uneasy again, at the thought of losing some of Allan's people. I asked Allan, "Have you thought about going to two-person teams? That would give you six teams. Cover half again as much territory. We should be able to come up with that many walkie-talkies." Our walkie-talkie supply had been suffering. Many had been broken, others had vanished.
Allan looked thoughtful, then replied, "I'm not sure it would be safe."
I said, "Look. Have four teams of two. Keep your best four people together in a special response team, or whatever the hell you want to call it. Have them respond to anything that might get physical. When they're not needed, they could kinda rove all over, and you get more territory covered. How about it?"
He nodded and said, "It might work. I'll see what I can do."
Saint looked happy. "See Allan, you can make do," he said. "We'll all make do." He looked at me and said, "So what about my extra people?"
"I'll talk to Mitch about it in a bit," I said. "First, let's go back up to the lots and look at the placements again. Cool?"
We said goodbye to Allan and Helen, and left. We walked back along the Ave and up through the concession area. It was absolutely packed with people, eating, drinking, buying trinkets and doing dope. The sleeping bags had vanished, replaced with wall-to-wall bodies.
The dealers were well represented, and from the large amount of people I saw that were obviously stoned, I figured business must have been good.
As we reached the top of the bowl, we paused to look back, down on the crowded bowl. A city of brightly colored tents, embraced by the bulk of the stage in back, and on the left, the line of shops along the Ave. The only area without tents was directly in front of the stage. There, a group of several hundred people were waiting for the music to begin, tossing a gigantic white ball at least six feet in diameter, up in the air. And in front of us, a steady stream of newcomers walked quickly past, getting lost in the crush.
We turned and walked towards the lots. Over the top of the hill, the double row of Sanicans near the river road had long, long lines of people waiting to use them. The same was true for the water faucets over by the well at the left. As we walked past the Sanicans, we heard people complaining about the piles of shit inside.
Apparently, the truck that was supposed to pump them out and clean them was late. I decided to call Susan on the radio, to pass this bit of news on.
"I copy, Gordon," she said. "I'll pass it on to Norman. He's in charge of sanitation. Are you going to be back here soon?"
"Yeah. I should be done in a half hour or so," I said. "I'll see you then. Over."
A burst of static, then, "Okay. See you then. Love ya."
"You too. Bye. Cobra one out."
A gaggle of rude noises came over the radio, comments from unseen listeners. I shook my head, feeling embarrassed.
Saint smiled and said, "You and her finally came together, huh?" His dark face had either the beginnings of a beard, or he'd just decided not to shave today. He went on, "Good deal. She'll be good for you."
I silently laughed at the memory of our aborted lovemaking session. I said, "Yeah, right."
"She's a really nice woman, Gordon. Don't let her go, huh?"
"Not planning on it. I just wish we had some place where we could go to be alone." I explained the situation with my tent, and that Susan didn't want to go back to hers because of Mitch's sister Marty and her old man being there.
Saint smiled broadly. "Gordon, my man, I've got just the place for you. Have you been down to the river yet?" I shook my head no. He continued, "I been down there a couple times with Linda. You'll love it. Real nice swimming hole, then lots of trees and stuff around. There are usually a whole shitload of people swimming, but if you go back in the woods, you can find something nice and secluded. Try it, you'll like it."
"Huh. Thanks. I may just take you up on that." I paused then went on, "Now where the hell are we gonna put all these people for tonight?"
We argued over the details of where the workers would be placed for a little longer, then I left for the gate.
I stuck my head in Susan's trailer and waved. She was busy, so I went to find Mitch. He was in the security trailer, talking with Walt, who I noticed, was now sporting a gold armband. I listened to their conversation. Walt had been having problems with people parking illegally, as I had suspected. The cops were pressing us to come up with a solution. Walt had been talking with more farmers that had property close to the festival that could be used for parking, but so far, nothing had jelled. People continued to park on the shoulders of the roads.
"They're all gonna get their fucking cars towed," said Walt, frowning. "My people tell them that when they walk in, but they just ignore us and keep walking. What a drag."
"I'll call the stage and have them make an announcement," said Mitch. "But beyond that, there's not much we can do. You've done everything that's possible. It's not your fault if some people get towed. You pays your money and you takes your chance. That's life." He paused, then said, "Is that all? I need to talk to Gordon now. Are we cool?"
Walt nodded. "It's cool." He nodded towards me and said, "You ain't gonna take any of my people, Gordon, I just wanted you to know that, straight out, so don't even ask."
I acted surprised. "I wasn't even thinking of it," I said. "I would never do something like that." I tried to look hurt. I hadn't thought about trying to steal some of his people. But now that he had mentioned it, it did seem like a good idea. I smiled innocently, and he left.
I ran down my estimates to Mitch. I asked for thirty people, expecting to get twenty. I figured if I did end up getting the ten extra people, I'd give some back to Allan for bowl security. Mitch was receptive. He told me to check back in an hour, after he had talked to Jim and Nancy. He also stated flatly that he wouldn't give me any of Walt's people. This was reasonable.
I spent the next hour with Susan, and we talked when there were breaks in radio traffic. She liked the idea of the river. As she noted, we were both pretty dirty again, and could use the opportunity for a bath as well as lovemaking. She said she thought she could get someone to cover for her in the afternoon and early evening, if I could get Mitch to agree to allow us off. I said I'd try.
Exactly one hour after I had left, I was back waiting in the security trailer when Mitch came in from meeting with Jim and Nancy. Just to screw with me, he kept me in suspense for a couple minutes, then grinning, he outlined what he had been able to get: Twenty five people – fifteen from the gate and ten from the stage. John Lloyd had been there for the meeting and after a lot of arm twisting, had agreed to supply the extra people.
I was ecstatic. Mitch and I ran over the placements for one last time, then I got around to my own personal request.
"Uh, I've got a favor to ask," I said.
"Ask away, ask away," he said, staring at me, combing his beard with his fingers. We were both feeling good. Things were going well.
"Uh, I want you to let me, Susan and Saint off from say, noon till about nine this evening." I outlined a bit of what I had planned with Susan, and what Allan, Saint and I had discussed in our meeting. "We want to keep the first team fresh. Allen's real problems will end about the time ours begin," speaking of myself and Saint. "The lots will be dead through the day. Send about two thirds of those that are staying on for the week, home at noon, and have them report back at nine. Then we'll be able to better deal with the nightmare we're gonna have later." I paused, then went on, "And Susan and I really do need some time together. And you've gotta admit a bath would probably be an excellent idea. How about it?"
Mitch sat silent for a half a minute, then nodded his head. "You said Susan has somebody to cover?" he asked.
"Yeah. Jo Anne is back."
"Okay. Go ahead. I suppose it makes sense. But can you take a radio with you?"
"Sure, sure." I was pretty certain a walkie-talkie wouldn't work from the river. It was in the valley, way below even where the stage was.
He smiled. "Okay. I'll expect to see you both back here, clean and fresh at say, about eight thirty? Okay?"
He sighed. "Cool. Thanks bro. Have a good one. I wish I was going with you."
An hour later, we were on our way to my tent so I could pick up my clothes. We had already picked up Susan's clothes and some soap, as well as her sleeping bag. We were going to wash our dirty clothes in the river, wash ourselves, then dress in clean clothes – we each had about one change of clean clothes left – and go look for a secluded spot where we could spend the afternoon. Alone. It was already about seventy-five degrees with no appreciable breeze. It would be beautiful.
Saint had been joyous about the news of an afternoon off. He said he was going to go back to his truck and sleep, after letting off as many others as he could, and after obtaining promises they would return at nine.
The bowl was so packed, it took twice as long as normal to reach my tent. We were continually getting run over by kids who were playing, or having to step over naked bodies laying in the sun and detouring around the new tents that had sprung up overnight. Even the woods at the top of the bowl were crowded with campers. Just out from the tree line there, I noticed several large teepees had been set up. It looked a little like a small Indian village, and to make it complete, in front of one of the teepees, a man was playing a solo on a large drum set – modern-day Indians, I thought. Looking at the teepees, I smiled. I figured that with Ft. Owsley down in the bowl, it was only appropriate that the Indians should have the high ground.
I was edgy at having Susan meet Dave and the girls. I didn't know how they would react to each other. And I was still feeling rather guilty about what I'd done with Candy, as well as maybe a little afraid that she'd say something and Susan would find out. I was hoping that everyone would be gone when we got to my tent. They weren't.
Dave and the two girls were sitting by the fire pit roasting hot dogs over a small fire, talking with JD and Cindy. Everyone looked stoned. They were arguing about the merits of Acapulco Gold and Panama Red versus Vietnamese Green when Susan and I approached. There were smiles and a chorus of greetings when they saw us. I introduced Susan around. Everyone was very polite to her, especially Candy. I thought I saw some tension between them as they spoke, but I wasn't sure. Susan was being very nice, and was very outgoing. After a few minutes, she went off with Cindy, Candy and Janie, to the campsite next door. Dave, JD and I sat next to the fire pit.
"She's a damn good looking babe, Gordie," said Dave as he rolled another joint.
JD nodded. "Yeah, she's a real looker," he said. "She goes to school in Tacoma?"
"Yeah," I said. "UPS. Gonna be a nurse. She's starting her second year."
"Huh? That's good. She can support you after she finishes," said Dave, always figuring the angles. "What's she like in bed, Gordie? Looks like she could be a real tiger, those big honkers rubbing in your face."
I blushed. It really pissed me off, having him talk like that about her. I shook my head, and said, "You'll never know, asshole," and got up and went in the tent, and started loading my clothes into Susan's laundry bag. After a moment of thought, I rolled up my sleeping bag as well – having two of them to lay on would be a lot more comfortable than one. When I finished, I exited the tent and found that Susan and the others had returned. After a few moments, we were able to say our goodbyes, and left. Susan looked thoughtful as we picked our way through the people and tents.
"Whatch ya thinking about?" I asked, as we neared the security HQ. We had agreed to stop there on the way, to see how things were going, before we left for the river.
"Oh, I was just thinking about what Candy told me," she said. She smiled.
"And what was that?" I asked, my stomach feeling tight.
"Oh, nothing. Just about how lucky I was, being with you. She really likes you, you know."
"She's made that apparent to me." I was nervous, and it came off stiff and formal. I tried to soften it, and said, "She told me something to the effect that if you and I didn't hit it off, she might be available."
"You told her about us?"
I nodded my head. "Yeah. Dave tried to get me involved in some group sex. I told them I'd met a lady that was really special, and wasn't interested."
"Your friend Dave is pretty interesting."
"That's a polite way of putting it," I said. "Dave really is a good guy. I've known him for a long time. We've been through a lot together. He just has a different way of looking at things. I'm not sure what the group sex thing is. I think he was just being friendly. Said he was worn out and needed some help." I smiled.
She smiled too, and placed her hand on my arm. "Hmm. I better keep you satisfied then, huh? I don't want you to have to go looking for orgies. And I don't want you worn out. Uh uh!"
We stopped at the security HQ. Allan and I talked for a while. Everything was going fine. We left after a short time, walked up to the top of the bowl, then turned right, walking down the river road past the biker encampments.
It was packed when we finally got to the river. This was the Deschutes River, really not much more than a large creek now, in the middle of summer. But there was a good swimming spot at the end of the road, a wide spot in the river that someone had dammed, making a small lake about a hundred feet across and about six feet deep in the middle. Perhaps forty or fifty people, all naked, were romping in the water there. On the shore, more people were laying in the now flattened grass, sunbathing. Hardly any clothes or bathing suits were in evidence. A few fully clothed straight-looking guys stood on the riverbank, clicking away with cameras.
I hadn't really thought about this. I'm no prude, but I'd never been into being a nudist before, not being real big on exhibitionism. I swallowed the lump in my throat, and decided to do whatever Susan did. I'd follow her lead. But I sincerely hoped she'd put her bathing suit and cutoffs on under her clothing.
She started stripping off right away, and was bare assed naked in about thirty seconds. She stood looking at me, fully clothed.
"Gordon, you're not embarrassed, are you?" She smiled gently, her brown eyes twinkling. She was so beautiful. High firm breasts with nipples erect, a tan line going around each breast on the outside. My eyes went down to her flat tanned stomach, below which was another tan line, and then a small white-pink triangle, with a tangle of short brown curls in the center. I looked up and saw she was smiling.
I shook my head, and as I bashfully began stripping, a red Frisbee landed in front of us. A group of people had been tossing it around and the nearest person called out for us to throw it back. Grinning, Susan stooped down and left handed, threw it back as hard as she could, spinning around with the effort, breasts bouncing erotically, legs thrown wide open.
We took the dirty clothes to the edge of the dam where the water spilled over. Several other good-looking women were there doing laundry and I was so embarrassed I thought I would die. I couldn't help it – I got a hardon. As it started to rise, I covered it with laundry. Susan did notice and laughed. The other women went about their business, seemingly unaware, or at least too polite to comment. Susan talked with them, mostly just small talk, as we washed and rinsed our clothes. I just sat there wishing I was somewhere else. Finally, we were done.
Susan lowered herself into the deep water over towards the spillway, and began washing herself. Cautiously, while holding them in front of me, I took our clean clothes back to the shore and stuffed them in the laundry bag, wet. We'd hang them to dry later.
I stepped quickly back in the water, and swam to where Susan was bathing. She was washing her hair. As soon as she had a proper lather, she passed me the bar of soap, and I started washing up.
"Can I have the soap back?" she asked. "I have to wash the rest of me now."
"I'm sorry, I thought you did, already." I passed the soap.
"No, I had to do my hair twice, it was so dirty." She stood up in the water, which came to her waist, and began soaping her wonderful chest. "God this feels good. I hate to go without a shower even for a day. You just feel so yucky. Specially with all the dust off the road." She drew her hands over her breasts. I was glad the water covered to above my waist.
I dunked myself to wash the soap out of my hair. I waited until she had finished washing her lower parts, then she handed back the bar, and I began soaping my body.
"I'll do your back if you'll do mine," she said, with a suggestive smile.
"Sure. Let me get this soap off first." I dunked myself again, then handed her the soap.
With her right hand on my shoulder, she began running the bar of soap over my back, in slow lazy circles, occasionally straying lower, well below the water line. I stood stock still, thoroughly enjoying myself. Finally, she slapped me on my shoulder and said, "Okay. Rinse it off and do me." She handed me the bar of soap. I lowered myself in the water, then rose up and moved in back of her.
I placed my left hand on her stomach, almost but not quite touching her lovely breasts. With my right, I took the bar of soap up and down her back, repeating the motions she had used on me. When I had a good lather worked up, I handed her the soap, and continued slowly massaging her back with my right hand. She closed her eyes and leaned against me.
Her eyes opened and she shivered when I when I ran my fingers though the crack of her firm cheeks the first time. "That's not my back," she said, slow and lazy sounding. "I'm sure of it."
"It may not be your back, but it is connected to it."
"Oh. I hadn't thought of that."
We kissed a few times, then decided to swim only for a little bit, then get dressed and get the hell out of there and find us a place. We were both so horny it was unreal. She commented on that as we left to find a place, her carrying the sleeping bags, me carrying the load of wet clothes.
"Gordon," she said under her breath, "I don't think I've ever been so god awful horny before. First seeing you with your damned thing up when we were washing clothes, then when you were washing yourself, looking at you run your hands over your body. Oh, God ... Then when you started doing my back and running your hand over my butt," she paused, laughing. "You'll never know how close you came to getting raped right then and there."
I laughed. We were picking our way through the knots of naked people sunbathing, making for the woods. She had put on her bikini top and short shorts. She was breathtakingly beautiful.
"No one would have probably even noticed," I said, waving my free hand at the expanse of naked bodies around us. No one was actually making love, but several couples were locked in embraces that looked like they could lead that way.
She laughed. We continued through the bodies and eventually found ourselves in the woods. To our right was a steep hill, which I figured must be in back of the stage or concessions. To the left, was an overgrown trail. It led up river.
"Let's go up that, and get farther away," I said. She nodded.
A short time later, we had come to the end of the trail, such as it was. I suggested we press on through the brush just a little farther. She told me I was paranoid. I answered that even paranoids have enemies.
We found a beautiful little clearing, maybe ten feet across, which was shaded by a stand of young maple trees. It was perfect, and was only about twenty feet off from the river. It was surrounded by dense brush that came up to my chest, mostly Snowberry plants, the small white berries standing out against the dull green of the leaves. As Susan laid out the sleeping bags, I groped in the bag of wet laundry and found the bottle of wine we had stashed there. Some Chianti I'd found in a booth down on the Ave, and had bought with the very last of my money. As I struggled with a corkscrew that didn't want to work, Susan hung our wet laundry out to dry on the brush at the sides of the clearing. After I got the wine open, I helped her with the clothes.
When we were done hanging stuff up, I poured the warmish wine into the two, slightly used plastic cups we had brought along, then I hurriedly undressed and laid down. Sipping my wine, I watched Susan undress.
Reaching behind her back, she slipped the clasp of her zebra-striped bikini top and let it fall to the ground in front of her, then undid the buttons of her shorts one by one. The last button undone, the shorts slipped off, and she stepped out of them and kicked them over to join the bikini. A look of concern on her face, she cupped her left breast in her hands, inspecting it for a moment. Shrugging, she let it go, and having noticed I was watching her, she smiled at me. Her hair was still a little wet and she shook her head and ran her fingers through it, as if trying to dry it or set it in place. Her tan skin was filled with patterns of moving shadows from the leaves and branches overhead, as the light filtered in through the maples swaying gently in the slight breeze. The whiter areas around her breasts and between her muscular thighs, stood out against the golden bronze of her tan, drawing my eyes like magnets. She laid down at my side on the bed of sleeping bags, and accepted the glass of wine.
I took another sip of my wine, the nervous excitement making me feel giddy.
We toasted each other, making imagined 'clinks' with our dime store plastic cups.
"It looks like we've finally done it," she said, looking vibrant and aroused. She dragged her fingernails lightly across my chest.
"Mmm. Yeah, I don't quite believe it yet. It's gonna take a while to get used to."
She shook her head, and said quickly, "No way! I'm used to it right now. It's never going to end. We'll spend the rest of our lives here in this hollow, drinking wine, making love, and talking. And no one will ever disturb us. Ever."
I took another swallow of wine, then refilled our glasses. Casually, I asked, "What is going to happen to us after the festival ends? Have you thought about it? What are we gonna do?"
She averted her eyes for a moment, then looked back. "I have thought about it. I'm not sure. It will be difficult, with you living in Seattle at the U-dub, and me living in Tacoma. But I'm sure we can work it out. If nothing else, you can stay with me on the weekends. Smile already, c'mon, it will work!"
The frown on my face hadn't gone away. Spending only weekends with Susan didn't appeal to me. I asked, "Do you think you could transfer up to a college in Seattle?"
She sighed, "I really doubt it. Most nursing programs have a long waiting list to get in." She sighed again, then continued, "Hey. Lighten up! C'mon, we'll think of something. Look, we're here together now, and by ourselves, which is something we've desperately wanted to do for what seems like ever." She looked down at the sleeping bag, then reached up and took my chin and turned my face so we were looking directly in each other's eyes. "C'mere. Look. I have waited all my life to meet you. I have never, never felt like this about a guy. You are really special."
"Thank you." I felt a little embarrassed, and hoped I wasn't blushing.
She shook her head. "In some ways, you're so grown up. The way you deal with people, the way you treat others. And you know how to get things done, you get results. And you're smart. Then in other ways, you're still just a little kid, like when we were washing clothes just now. You were so cute. God, you made me laugh." She shook her head, smiling, then continued, "Gordon, I love you. Really, absolutely, and with no reservations."
"I feel the same way about you, and that's why I don't want for us to be separated. I never want to be apart from you again."
"Gordon, Gordon, Gordon ..." She shook her head slowly, then went on, "If we can't see each other every day after we leave here, well it's no big deal. It doesn't mean anything. It's a detail. And it won't last. Look, okay so it may be a small problem right now, but it won't be that way forever. After I graduate I can move to Seattle and get a job. Oh, Gordon..."
I placed my hand on her lips. I could see her smiling through my spread fingers. I sighed. "Okay. I get the picture. You are right. You're right, you're right, you're right!" I drew a deep breath, and smiling, went on. "Look. I'm sorry, I guess I'm just a bit insecure."
She rolled to her left, put her glass of wine down in back of her, then rolled over on top of me, left leg over mine, her hand on my chest. "Oh, God," She said, sounding a little drunk. "I love you so much. What do I have to do to get that through your head? Men are so weird sometimes." She buried her head in my shoulder, and giggled.
"You want some more wine?"
"Sure, why not?"
She reached in back of her and grabbed her glass, then held it out for me to pour. After doing so, I refilled my own. I took a big drink, then set it down in back of me. She was laying on her side, sipping her wine, studying me.
I ran my fingers lightly up the outside of her leg, along the curve of her chest, then over to her magnificent taut breasts, then back down and around. She closed her eyes and moaned, then opened them and took a big gulp of her wine, draining it. She held out the glass.
For every one glass I'd had, she had knocked back two, and was still gaining. I wished I'd been able to afford another bottle. I reached around in back of me, grabbed the bottle, then filled her glass.
"God I love Chianti," she said looking dreamy. "When I was little, we'd go to my grandfather's, and for dinner, I'd always get a small glass. It made me feel so grown up. He always said that in Italy, children drank it from the time they were old enough to hold a glass. My mother used to fight with him and my dad about it."
"How old were you?"
"Oh, I don't know, it was before she got sick. I must have been four."
"That's pretty young to start drinking." A frown passed over her face, like a cloud moving over the sun. I asked, "What's the matter?"
She shook her head. "Oh, nothing. I was just thinking about my mom."
"Her death still really affects you, huh? I suppose I can understand that."
She nodded. "Yeah. It was weird, I didn't really understand what had happened until later, when I was twelve or so. I guess I was too young to actually comprehend before then. When I did finally understand, I kinda went nuts."
"Oh, nothing really. It wasn't like I flipped out or anything. I just withdrew into myself, stopped talking to everyone, didn't hang out with my friends, even withdrew from my dad."
She took a deep breath, then said, "I wasn't quite rational. I was so afraid that they might die, and that they'd leave me, just like my mother had. I figured the only way I could protect myself from that was if I cut myself off from everyone – if I didn't have anyone I cared about, it wouldn't affect me if they died."
"But you came out of it, obviously."
"It took quite a while. At first, my dad thought it was great, spending all my time, studying and reading. But then when I cut him off too, he knew something was wrong. He let me go on like that for, I don't know, maybe six or eight months. The only time we would talk was at meals. It was like I was a border in his house, just living there, with no emotional attachments."
"So how did it end?"
"Oh, I guess I finally drove him nuts, too. He ended up confronting me about it. And because I really loved him, no matter what I'd been playing at, I told him what I felt. He was very understanding, and eventually talked me into seeing a friend of his, a psychiatrist." She blushed, and took another big drink of wine.
"So the psychiatrist was able to straighten you out?"
She nodded her head. "You're the first one I've ever told that to."
"I'm glad you trust me."
We kissed, hugging each other close, slopping a bit of her wine. She pulled back and wiped the wine off us both. She held out her now mostly empty glass and I refilled it again.
I ran my hand over her body, dipping into the thatch of tight brown curls between her legs, and then up, circling her breasts, nipples erect, glistening with a thin sheen of perspiration from the hot August sun.
She looked at me and smiled while taking a long pull of her wine, then set her glass, now empty again, behind her.
Moving my hand lightly back down between her legs, I parted them and tugged gently on a lock of her pubic hair. She rested her head on my shoulder, and breathed deeply through her mouth, eyes closed, and opened her legs wider. I quickly kissed her on the lips, then softly, laid her head on the sleeping bag, and trailed kisses over her neck, and then her ear, while moving my fingers through her curls.
After a few minutes, she took a deep breath, raised herself up to look at me, face inches from mine, smiling, and shook her head. Her hand went between my legs, and she rubbed. She looked a little drunk, her brown eyes flashing brightly in the sun.
"It's just like it was when we were doing the clothes," she giggled, smiling wide, and drawing her hand back and forth. "Does it get like this often?"
"Yeah, when I'm with you."
"Is there anything you don't want me to do?"
At about six o'clock, we decided to leave and get some food. The afternoon had been heaven.
There were a lot more similarities between us than either of us had thought. In bed that is. She had a tremendous appetite and was quite aggressive, which turned me on. And it turned out we shared the same passion for different minor perversions. Much of our time had been spent trying out new and different things. She hadn't balked at anything, and everything she did, she did well. We were more convinced than ever that we were made for each other. And if we hadn't been so hungry, we would never have left. We made a solemn vow to revisit our spot by the river every day we were at the festival, rain or shine.
We went for a short dip in our private piece of river to clean up, then after gathering up our now dry clothes and rolling up the sleeping bags, we left. I felt a glow that could never be duplicated with drugs and Susan was in high spirits as well. We fit. We were one. We would never be apart again, ever, even if we were physically in different locations.
We were in love.
After stopping at the security HQ and leaving our stuff in the care of Allan, we went in search of food. We were in and out of the HQ in thirty seconds. I didn't even ask Allan how things had gone, we just left the stuff there and split. Susan had never been in the Sun River Saloon, but she'd heard about it and was interested, so we decided to get some food – fortunately Susan had some cash – and then take it to the saloon and eat there.
The saloon was dark and gloomy as we entered, making a sharp contrast from the bright sunlight outside. We stopped just inside, and let our eyes grow accustomed to the dimness. There were perhaps twenty-five people inside the smoke filled building, the pungent aroma of weed mingling with the cloying smells of patchouli oil and more exotic fragrances. At a table near us, two bearded hippies sat smoking a large, ornate hookah pipe, passing the mouthpiece back and forth. A third hippie at the table was sprawled back in his chair, staring at the ceiling. At another table, three men and two women were drinking bottles of beer, and were arguing loudly about the war in Viet Nam.
Farther back was a large, rowdy group that had pushed several tables together, and were singing and clapping while a young girl, maybe sixteen years old, danced naked in the center of one of the tables.
At the makeshift bar to the right were several biker types, who were now eyeing Susan and me. I nodded towards an empty table. Susan shook her head and said, "This isn't for me, Gordon. Let's go somewhere else."
We ended up sitting next to a U-Haul truck near the stage compound, where we ate our chicken and savored each other's company. We were nearly finished when I asked her, "Why didn't you want to go in the saloon? The bikers?"
She finished chewing a bite, swallowed, then answered, "No, bikers don't really bother me. It was the girl dancing. Didn't you see the way she looked? It was like she was from a different planet – she was so ... so out of it. So brain dead. And did you see that guy laying in that chair where they were smoking the water pipe?" She shook her head. "I can't handle that. People killing themselves. Slowly. We all have so much to live for. Why do that to yourself?"
I thought about what she'd said. I'd spent the better part of my highschool years trying to achieve whatever it was that the guy in the chair had already found. I got high so I could escape, and more importantly, so I could 'find' myself. At least that's what all the travel brochures had said. I was part of a group of courageous young men and women that were 'trying to expand their consciousness,' and grow into better human beings as a result. I knew it was correct because I was sure I had heard it on TV.
"There's nothing wrong with being stoned," I said, giving the stock hip answer I had learned long before. "They're just doing their own thing."
She frowned slightly, and in careful tones, said, "Yes, you're correct. There is nothing wrong in being stoned. But only to a point. When it comes down to the drug making you stupid, then it's wrong. Did you see the girl's eyes? There was nobody home. Same thing with the other guy, he was completely gone."
"So? I mean that was their own choice."
"Gordon, what I mean is that I suppose it's okay to take drugs to raise your consciousness, but when you're on the edge of becoming unconscious, the drugs have taken you, and you lose. Somewhere, there's a point of diminishing return."
"No perhaps about it. You know how easy it is to die? Those guys smoking the hookah were doing opium. I could tell from the smell. Doesn't take much. The central nervous system starts to go, then higher functions cease. You go farther, and the respiratory system stops. And finally your heart. It really depresses me when I see people doing that to themselves. They're killing themselves."
"Huh. I didn't know you were so against drugs."
"I'm not. I'm against people committing suicide. I smoke weed, a little. And I drink ... booze is a drug too, you know. But I will not ever let myself get like those people. I couldn't face it. And that's one of the things I like about you. You're the same way."
I smiled weakly and rubbed her thigh.
We decided to go up on stage. My gold armband did wonders, and we were passed through the gate into the stage compound without any problems at all. A band called Cold Blood was onstage when we arrived. I'd never seen them before. Their singer was a woman named Lydia Pense, who reminded me somewhat of Janis Joplin, with a deep, throaty voice, that evoked memories of too much whiskey and cigarettes.
Susan and I found a place to sit on a box off to the left of the stage, and we sat watching the band, holding hands.
We'd been there for about a half hour when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned and saw Bruce Stuckey and another longhair standing behind me. "Hey bro," he yelled above the roar of the music. "How you doing?"
Susan and I turned, and yelling back, I introduced her to Stuckey. His friend stood there silently.
Stuckey smiled. "I'd like you both to meet a friend of mine," Stuckey said, turning to the longhair beside him. The guy was in his mid-twenties, straight brown hair down to his shoulders, and had an angular clean-shaven face, looking a little like Dave Heinlein. He was wearing jeans and a black T-shirt. Stuckey went on, "This is Neil Young. Neil, this is Gordon Lawson. He's in charge of security for the festival, and this is his old lady Susan, who does communications."
A cold chill passed through my body as I said hello, and shook hands with him. Neil Young. I'd never met a real rock star before. The oddest thing that struck me was that he looked so ordinary. Just like everyone else. No shining halo over his head, no entourage of groupies. He was just like anybody else right off the street. He smiled.
"I got to compliment you, man, " Young shouted at me, "On the way this place is run. I've been at a lot of festivals. Most of them are real nightmares. But you guys are doing a helluva job."
"Thanks," I shouted back. "Hey, I caught your set Friday night. You guys sounded really hot. Are you gonna play again?"
He shook his head. "Not all together. Stills had to go back to Colorado and everyone else went back to LA. But I may do some of my own stuff, though."
Susan broke in, shouting, "If you do, could you play Cinnamon Girl? It's one of my favorite songs."
He smiled. "Sure. If my band gets here. It's not one I do acoustic. You like that album?"
"Loved it," she yelled, squeezing my arm in a death grip. "I think I like the stuff you do with Crazy Horse better than what you do with Crosby Stills and Nash."
Young brushed a strand of hair out of his eyes, and replied, "Me too, sometimes. I guess it's because I have more freedom to do what I want. Hey, you guys wanna smoke a doob? Bruce has got this tasty Vietnamese shit that'll knock your socks off."
"Outasite," I yelled. Bruce smiled and pulled a baggie and some Zig Zags out of his pocket.
Like magic, John Lloyd appeared beside us, waved at me, then spoke into Young's ear. Young nodded, then yelled at us, "I guess I've gotta go right now. If you're around later, maybe we can talk some more and toke up." He shook hands quickly with Stuckey, then left with John.
Stuckey leaned close to Susan and me and said, "He's one of the good ones. He's a really nice guy. Been hanging around just listening to others play for the last two days. Really cool. Doesn't have a big head like most of them."
"If he's going to play," said Susan, "Call me on the radio at the main gate and Gordon and I will come down. No matter what. He's always been one of my favorite musicians. ‘After the Gold Rush’ and ‘Everybody Knows This is Nowhere’ are a couple of the best albums ever released. I'd die if I missed him play solo."
Stuckey nodded. "I'll let you guys know," he said. "From what I heard, if he does it, it'll be next weekend. So you wanna smoke the joint?"
"Like I said, outasite!" I pulled Susan to me.
Cold Blood finished their second encore and were walking off stage in front of us. They all looked tired and sweaty, but happy. I looked at my watch. It was almost eight o'clock.
I sighed and said, "We'd better do it, Susan. It's almost time."
She made a face like she was going to cry, and laid her head on my shoulder, stoned. I patted her back. She straightened up, and to Bruce, said, "Thanks for introducing us to Neil."
"Anytime," he said. "You guys ought to come around more often. There's a lot of people you could meet."
"I wish," I said, shaking my head. "Just got too much fucking work."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," he said. "I'd better get going myself. Later people."
"Nice meeting you, Bruce," said Susan, wobbling against me.
Susan and I stood up, both saying "later" at the same time. Stuckey walked towards the stage recently vacated by Cold Blood. Susan and I walked towards the stairs, down, and out of the compound.
As we walked, Susan said, "God, I thought I was going to melt into the floor when I realized who that was." She looked at me, concerned and said, "I didn't sound dumb, did I?"
I laughed. "No. You sounded just fine. If anyone sounded dumb, it was me."
She shook her head. "No, you didn't sound dumb. I've just never met anyone like him before. I wasn't sure how to act. He did seem like a nice guy." She tugged on my arm. "Promise me that we can see him if he plays."
"I promise. How did you like the weed?"
She shrugged. "It's a lot stronger than what I've smoked before. Kinda made me stupid. But I guess it's okay. Did I act weird after I smoked it?"
"No, like I said, you acted just fine all evening. Specially down by the river."
Smiling, she bumped herself into me, pushing me against a truck parked by the stage road. Laughing, she said, "You better watch it buster, weed makes me horny."
"Holy shit, Susan. Is there anything that doesn't make you horny?"
We made it back to the security HQ on the Ave in short order. Things were in a panic. Susan picked up our clean clothes and headed off towards the gate. I stayed behind to talk to Allan, after agreeing to follow in a bit with our sleeping bags.
"So what have you got?" I asked. Allan looked harried.
"Four good OD's and a couple of reports of some guys selling bad acid. It's on blotter paper – a picture of a clown on it. I've had a few people falling down drunk. Another guy cut himself with an axe – damn near took a toe off. Then we had a good fight, here on the Ave, about an hour ago. It was at a food stand, just down the way. A guy tried to walk off with some food without paying. The owner and a couple of friends ran after him, and beat him up." He shook his head, and continued, "If I hadn't had those five extra guys you got me from the stage, I don't know what I woulda done. It's been fucking intense."
"They're here already? I thought they weren't supposed to come until after nine?"
He shrugged. "They got here about six. I know what you told me, about them coming at nine when my guys leave, but shit, what am I going to do? Send them back?" He shook his head, "No way, man. No way. Might never see them again. I put one of them out with each of my experienced guys. They've been doing fine."
"Cool. You've got everything set to send the guys to Saint at nine, then?"
He frowned. "Yeah, but I don't like it. That's just when I reckon it'll go nuts."
He was right. I thought for a minute, then said, "I can dig it. Look, here's what I can do. The south lot isn't that far away. If you run flat out, you could make it down here in five minutes. What I'll do, is set it up so that if you get something big, really big, you'll be able to get backup from the south lot. You've got a base radio here, you shouldn't have any problem reaching them. Or if you do, Susan could relay from the gate." I sighed, then continued, "I'll talk to Saint and set it up. I'll have him reserve at least a half a dozen guys, good ones. Okay?"
He smiled. "Okay. That sounds good."
After getting some more information about the fight and the bad acid, I picked up the sleeping bags, hefted my walkie-talkie, which I had stashed there, and left for the gate.
I used the radio to locate Saint as soon as I was at the top of the bowl. We agreed to meet at the Y. We both arrived five minutes later, and after I had explained about the emergency support I wanted him to make available to Allan, Saint was upset.
"Oh, man," said Saint, "That SOB just wants to steal my best people."
There were a number of people leaving now, in order to beat the rush, but it wasn't anything big yet. The worst was still yet to come. I tried to reassure Saint of Allan's intentions.
"It really is crazy in there," I said. "And it may get crazier. I told him not to make a request unless it was something really big. You know, biblical event sort of thing. Fire, floods, famine. I'm, pretty sure he won't misuse it. He's cool."
Saint sighed. "I hope so."
Twenty minutes later, I was ready to leave, after having got the lowdown on how things had been going, and the state of preparation for the anticipated rush.
As I was turning to go, Saint asked, "Hey, Gordon? How was the river? Did you guys make it there?"
I smiled with the happy memory. I nodded, and said, "Yeah, we did. Thanks for turning me on to that. It was great."
He nodded. "I saw Susan coming back. She walked right by me, without even seeing me. It was like she was in a trance or something." He laughed. "She had a big smile on her face, and was hugging this bag to her chest. I figured you guys had made it down there."
I smiled, and said, "It was probably cause she just met Neil Young. She really likes his music."
Saint shook his head, still smiling. "No way, man. I seen smiles like that. And they were never caused by nothing except pure unadulterated love. That woman's in love, Gordon. Better be careful, bro."
"Maybe, maybe. I gotta go. See you later."
"Later, white man."
The gate was relatively dead when I arrived. Most of the ticket takers were standing around, gossiping, with nothing to do. Mitch was standing outside the security trailer with Amy snuggled under his shoulder, talking with Walt. I waved, and went to see Susan, and to drop off the sleeping bags.
"Hi ya," she said, putting down the mike of one of her radios. We kissed, and I sat next to her.
"How's it going?" I asked.
"Oh, I've had a lot of calls from the stage, and Allan's people sound busy. How are you?"
"Fine. This is shaping up to be a busy night." I told her what I'd learned had been happening in the bowl. When I finished, I said, "Say, you know I was talking to Saint. He said you walked right past him, didn't even notice him. Said you looked like you were in love."
She beamed, and said, "I keep telling you, I am in love." She kissed me, then said, "Guess what? I've got a place for us to sleep. The equipment trailer – and I found us a mattress too. We'll actually have some privacy." We were interrupted by radio traffic and she had to respond.
I kissed her head, and told her I'd be back later. I went to find Mitch.
Walt was gone when I arrived, just Mitch and Amy sitting by themselves inside the trailer. I sat down and gave Mitch a report on what I had learned from Saint and Allan.
When I was finished, Mitch said, "Sounds as good as can be expected. Keep me up to date on anything heavy that comes down in the bowl, okay?"
"You got it."
Amy smiled at me, head resting on Mitch's shoulder, and she asked, "So from what Susan said, you guys were finally able to find some privacy?"
She'd been rather standoffish with me before this point and we hadn't really talked much. Part of it may have been that I was a little afraid of her – she was from San Francisco and actually lived in the Haight Ashbury district. She was a real hippie – a Digger – someone who'd been there through all the ‘Summer of Love’ trips in 1967.
The Diggers, originally a radical offshoot of the San Francisco Mime Troup, had been one of the prime moving forces in the Haight at the time everything came down there. The stories of their bizarre antics were legend and the free food given out in Digger Feeds in the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park had kept many a stoned hippie from starving. Knowing she had experienced all that intimidated me. I gazed back at her red hair and freckles and smiled nervously.
"Uh, yeah, we did manage to find some privacy," I said self-consciously. "Uh, we went up the river a ways. It was damned nice."
She smiled. "Jesus. If that's what going up a river can do to a woman, I wanna do it soon. Susan looked like she was in seventh heaven." She looked at Mitch and he grinned sheepishly. She asked, "When the hell you and me gonna get to do that?"
"Uh, let me see..."
"C'mon, you big sonofabitch," she said, poking him in the ribs with a finger, smiling. "You haven't even gone down to the stage with me to listen to any music yet. C'mon, why don't you leave Gordon here in charge and get loose for a change?"
"Uh, I can't right now, uh, I ..."
I broke in. "Mitch, you know, she's right. I don't think you've done shit except work since you got here. Go for it. We've got it covered. Everything's gonna be cool."
Amy nodded her head, and poked him in the ribs again.
He laid back in the seat, his head resting against the screen of the louvered window in back of him. He shook his head, smiling, looking first at Amy, then me. "What the fuck is this?" he asked, smiling. "You guys are ganging up on me, or what?"
Amy nodded again. "Yeah, we are ganging up on you. C'mon," she asked, "How about it? Wanna take me to listen to some music?"
"I heard Johnny Winter was gonna play tonight," I said.
Amy hit him on the shoulder. "Hey, don't be a fucking drag, let's rock and roll! I told you I got some Prankster friends that are gonna be down there tonight. They're talking about maybe doing this Trips Festival number on the crowd tonight. C'mon man, let's party!"
A contingent of Merry Pranksters, Ken Kesey's group, had arrived earlier in the day. Kesey who was conspicuously absent, was supposed to be in jail or Mexico or somewhere.
Mitch ran his fingers through his beard, looking thoughtful. Finally, he said, "Okay. But Gordon, if anything, anything at all big comes down, I want you to get me on the radio ASAP."
She hit him on the shoulder again. "So what are we waiting for?" she asked, and kissed him on the forehead.
He shrugged. "I don't know. Nothing I guess. Let's go for it." Amy slid out of the booth and he eased his large frame up.
"You guys have fun, huh?" I said. "And Mitch, don't forget to take a stage pass or one of the gold armbands with you," He never wore one up at the gate, after the first day or so. It wasn't necessary because everyone knew him.
He nodded, then reached in the cupboard and got a gold armband out of the cigar box. Pushing it up his arm, he looked at me and said, "Thanks Gordon. Thanks for covering. And really, if anything comes up, call me, okay?"
"I will. You two take care."
Amy smiled at me, her hand resting on Mitch's arm "Thanks Gordon. I owe you." she said.
Mitch nodded and they left.
I hung out for a while, talking with some of the ticket takers, who were all standing around being bored, having nothing to do. After that, I went by the communications trailer and talked with Susan for a few minutes, then trudged back towards the lots carrying a box of flashlights someone had forgotten to hand out. I wanted to be in the lots when the rush started.
It was as intense as we had expected, and started in earnest shortly before the music ended. It was like Friday all over again, except that the cars were leaving instead of coming in. But that was it. Everything else was quiet. The problems Allan had anticipated in the bowl never materialized – people seemed to be on their best behavior.
At around three in the morning, the worst was over. Dirty, dusty, and a little cold, I met Susan, back at the communications trailer. She looked almost as beat as I felt. We grabbed our stuff and headed for our new home, the equipment trailer.
She lit a candle and gave it to me, then I held it while she laid out our sleeping bags on a dirty looking double bed mattress that lay pushed up against one wall, surrounded by shovels, picks, and other tools and equipment.
When she was done, she went and wedged the door shut with a short-handled shovel, then began stripping off her clothes. I found a place to put the candle next to the bed, and began undressing. I lay down next to her, inside the bags, which she had zipped together to form one big bag. She raised herself up over me and blew out the candle, then we cuddled for a few moments. After the warmth from our bodies had taken the chill off the bag, we made love tenderly, until it was almost light out.
VI. - Monday through Thursday
August 31 through September 3, 1970
The next few days went by in a fast blur. Of the more than forty thousand hippies that had descended the previous weekend, only about two or three thousand remained. This made it possible for Susan and me to see a lot of each other, and we were able to visit our spot by the river each day, lazily making love in the early September sunshine. By night, we slept in the equipment trailer, which Susan had managed to clean up and rearrange into a semblance of a home. It was idyllic. We were both so much in love.
Mitch took pity on us and let us sleep in till almost noon on Monday morning. When we finally did get up, it was so dead, it seemed like a different place. There was no pressing business, so we decided to walk down to the concessions area to get breakfast. We were both floored when we got there.
The bowl was almost bare of tents and the midway of shops along the Ave was nearly deserted, just a few customers here and there. There was nothing of the hustle and bustle we had grown accustomed to. But the trash. Mountains and mountains of trash every which way you looked. The 'American Dream Memorial' was now chest high, and stank, the smell penetrating and deadly.
We hurriedly got some food at the Grub Shop, then went over to the stage and ate, while we listened to a speaker from a radical women’s' group give a dissertation on the principles of the new fight to liberate women from serfdom. Susan and I both got quite a few laughs. Susan figured she was already liberated, and I couldn't disagree.
The highpoint of that day was when later in the afternoon, I was invited to a meeting of the festival committee. It took place inside the stage compound, and everybody sat at some picnic tables that had been pushed together. A few of the stage security people hung out on the fringes, making sure we weren't interrupted. All the festival biggies were there, about twenty people altogether, including some I'd only heard about, like Gary Johns, who was a financial backer. It turned out I had seen Johns before at the gate – he was an elegantly dressed hippie who affected western clothes – kind of a hip cowboy. I'd seen him and another person talking with Mitch one day.
Susan, who came with me to the meeting, said it was quite an honor to be invited. She said it meant that I had been fully accepted as one of the leaders of the festival, and that I could now take part in making decisions on issues that affected everyone, not just my area.
For the first couple of hours or so, it was mostly a discussion of what had taken place over the past few days – what worked, what didn't work, what we should have done. Then the discussion turned to the coming weekend and the problems we were going to face.
I had been relatively silent throughout the first part. I was uncomfortable because I was new to the group, and didn't know everyone, and to some extent, I felt like an imposter. I was sure that at any time, someone would stand up and point to me saying, 'What the hell is that goddamn kid doing here?' But it never happened. Mostly, the internal security and parking work was praised, which meant all I really had to do was smile and say thank you.
I would have probably left the meeting without actually saying much of anything if Mitch hadn't got up and made me talk about what we had done Sunday night to handle the rush of people going home. Reluctantly, I stood and gave a short, five minute capsule of what we had done. Then John Lloyd and many of the others rattled off a bunch of probing questions at me. Without stammering at all, I was able to give good answers, and then finally, after about twenty minutes, they'd had enough, and I was able to sit back down and be quiet. Susan rubbed my back and smiled affectionately. Inwardly, I was a puddle of jello. It was great. After that I participated more.
John Lloyd introduced me to Gary Johns as I left. Mitch, who was standing holding a freckled, smiling Amy, slapped my back, and told me I had done great. As soon as we could, Susan and I got out of there, grabbed our sleeping bags and went to the river. We made love until it was almost dark.
On Tuesday, we watched as a bearded spokesperson from the American Liberation Front gave a talk on non-violent tactics for resisting the draft. He ended the talk by having three volunteers come up on stage and burn their draft cards. I got so carried away with it all, I held my own card aloft and lit it on fire. Susan had a laughing fit over it.
We listened to a few more speakers on various topics that day. Later, when Richard Alpert, an associate who was standing in for Timothy Leary, was about to start his talk on the power of psychedelics, Susan insisted on leaving. She felt that Leary and his friends were frauds. She said that psychedelics did more to hurt the anti-war movement and people in general than anything else, and she thought that it was wrong for the festival to have asked Leary to speak. I disagreed, but kept silent, and we left.
As we were leaving, a small plane made a low pass over the bowl, trailing what looked like debris. Susan and I, and crowds of other people walked over to where most of the stuff had landed. It was joints – hundreds if not thousands of joints! It must have taken someone weeks to roll that many. Joining the throngs of people searching the ground, I gladly stuffed as many as I could get my hands on in my pockets. Susan just stood there shaking her head, smiling.
That night, we had dinner with Bruce Stuckey and Neil Young backstage. Young ordered in Pizza – all the way from Tacoma, by helicopter! It must have cost him a fortune. We all got slightly drunk and stoned. Susan got him to play a few songs on an acoustic guitar, and on a couple of songs, she sang along with him. She was in heaven. We went back to our makeshift home at about eleven that night. Susan was sure this was the best night she had had in her whole life. I felt pretty damn good myself.
Wednesday morning, we spent a couple of hours with Dave and the ladies. They had spent the night tripping on acid and were at the start, still somewhat spacey and distant. But when they found out that we had partied with Neil Young the previous night, they were all ears and Susan, in her glory, gave a detailed description of what we had done. Dave was on his best behavior, and was actually nice. He and Susan got along well.
After hanging out at the stage listening to a speaker from the Black Panthers, we spent the rest of the day at the river, swimming and making love. Later, I actually went to work for a while.
Thursday, we spent most of the morning and early afternoon hanging out by the gate, off in a clearing in the scotch broom, working on our tans with Mitch and Amy, drinking beer and smoking hash, talking, and once, rushing off to the equipment trailer to make love.
Late in the afternoon, we left Mitch and Amy, and went down to our private spot by the river, made love again for a while, then swam and played in the river till it was time for dinner.
Traffic in and out was easy through the week, and was never any real problem. All the lots were virtually empty. It was like an entirely different place from what it had been on the weekend. Thursday evening we saw some increase in traffic, but it wasn't enough to worry about.
That night, I held a meeting with Allan, Saint and some of their staff, to prepare for what we believed would be a repeat of the previous Friday. We hashed out all the details, but it wasn't that hard – we'd all been through it before – we were confident that we could handle whatever providence threw at us.
Susan and I went to bed early that night at about ten, and after making love for only a short time, actually went to sleep.
If I'd known how wrong I was about being prepared for what was to come, I would have probably never gotten out of bed the next morning. What a God-awful mess!