VII. - Friday
September 4, 1970
I woke up at about six thirty in the morning and a heavy drumming noise assaulted my ears. It sounded like a large group of republicans were pounding on the sides and roof of the trailer. They had to be republicans – no one else would be up at such an ungodly hour. Susan woke at the same time, her lithesome, warm body intertwined with mine. We looked at each other, confused by the noise.
She shook her head and still not fully awake, moaned, "Oh my God. Can't they let us sleep just a little bit more?"
I nodded and mumbled something, burying my head in her hair. Then suddenly, my eyes snapped open. Comprehension. "Holy shit! That's fucking rain!" I said. We sat up.
But I was wrong again. Nope, this wasn't ordinary rain, oh no. It was damn near a typhoon, or at least seemed like it, and was raining harder than I'd thought possible outside the tropics. We draped a blanket around our shoulders and stood cuddling for warmth, looking out the window of the trailer, watching. We could see the torrential rain beating into the ground, large puddles already formed in low places near the road. We got dressed in a hurry, and went out to survey the damage, Susan going to the communications trailer, and me walking down the road towards the lots.
I'd only been walking for a couple of minutes before I found the first stuck car. Where a few hours before, there had been several inches of fine dust laying on the road waiting to be lifted into the air by a passing vehicle, there was now about a half a foot of wet, slippery mud, and the car was moving very slowly, even with four men out behind it, pushing hard. They were covered head to toe with mud from the spinning rear wheels, and I learned some new expressions of profanity while I watched them push.
I walked a couple hundred feet farther and ran into Saint who was wearing an army-issue rain slicker, his black arms coming out from under the green folds, cradling a walkie-talkie. He shook his head when he saw me.
"It's about as fucked up as it could ever get, white man," he said, sounding depressed. "Nobody's gonna get in here for a while." He nodded at the men still trying to push the car through the mud in back of me, and said, "There are about six more, just like that, farther on. All of them, stuck up to their axels. This shit started about three hours ago. Soft at first, then harder and harder. And it ain't supposed to stop. That's the new forecast I picked up fifteen minutes ago. We be out of business, bro. Done. Nobody's gonna be able to use this road for quite a while."
This was a teeny bit of a problem. The best estimates, were that we were going to have somewhere between forty and sixty thousand people at the festival this weekend. And many of them were probably already on their way. Saint and I both knew we'd be dead without the inside lots.
I was soaked to the bone. We looked at each other for a few moments, the heavy rain beating down on us. Finally, I broke the silence and said, "What the fuck are we gonna do?"
He shook his head. "I don't know Gordon," he said. "I think we're screwed, blued and tattooed."
"How are the lots? Are they as bad as this?"
He sighed. "No, they really aren't bad at all. Road down into the bowl is okay, too. I guess it drains better 'cause it's on a hill. But if they can't get in there, what the hell's the difference?"
"We gotta do something, Saint. We only got a couple hours before people really start arriving. If this road isn't usable by then, we're in deep shit!"
"I know some Indians. Maybe we can get them to do a 'sun' dance or something. Hey! An 'anti-rain' dance. Beyond that, I don't see any alternatives."
"Christ, we've gotta do something, man." I paused for a few moments, thinking. Then said, "Saint ... didn't they have a bulldozer down by the stage last week?"
He shrugged. "Yeah. I guess so. They were doing that fire road by the OD Clinic. Why?"
"It still there?"
"Yeah, somewhere, I suppose. I haven't seen it leave."
"Go right now and try to find it, and someone to drive it, then get them to take it up here and drag these fucking cars out."
"What good will that do? We'll still have six inches of mud."
"Maybe so, but at least the road will be clear. I'm gonna go back to the gate and have them stop traffic coming in. That way, it won't get any worse, and no one else will get stuck." I sighed, then continued, "I dunno. Maybe we can get some gravel or something. There's gotta be a way."
"They don't have that much gravel, Gordon. Nowhere. I mean, look at this shit." He waved his arms at the mess stretching out in front of us. I wondered if perhaps he was right.
Back at the gate, I talked to Mitch and explained the situation. He had Susan call Walt, whose roads were in better shape, and Walt diverted the still sparse traffic to his lots. Traffic for the stage and the concessions piled up at the gate.
"I don't know about gravel, Gordon," said Mitch, as we sat in the security trailer, watching the rain continue, unabated in its fury. "We just haven't got time. It's seven-thirty. By noon, we'll have maybe ten thousand people here. By three o'clock, they'll really start to come. I just don't see it. It'd take too long to get gravel in here. Or at least enough gravel to make a difference."
"It's the only way, Mitch. C'mon. Walk down there with me now. You can see for yourself."
He shrugged. "Okay," he said. "If it'll make you happy."
Twenty minutes later, I was back with Susan in the communications trailer, and she was calling local gravel companies on the radiophone. Once Mitch had seen the state of the road, he had quickly agreed that gravel or an act of God was our only hope of salvation. He stayed to talk with the driver of the bulldozer, who had finished with pulling out the stuck cars. He wanted to see if the dozer could pull some vehicles with essential supplies for the stage and OD Clinic through the mud.
Susan had called three trucking companies when Mitch returned, wet to the bone. He wedged his large frame unto the seat across from us, after shaking the water from his soaked hair and beard.
"Any luck?" he asked Susan.
She shook her head and replied, "Not so far. Everybody's booked."
"Well I don't care what we have to pay. It's gotta be done. Try offering a bonus, or something. Shit, offer them a bribe. Just get them here, and fast. I gotta talk to Gary Johns about this. I'll be back."
He left, and Susan began calling the next company. Two calls later, she hit gold.
"Yeah, I suppose we could do it today," said the man over the radiophone which Susan had handed me. He had an Oklahoma accent, and sounded like a real redneck. "The job we were supposed to work on's been closed 'cause of rain. You say you're at that dang blame hippie party up in the Bald Hills?"
""Yes. Rio del Sol rock festival. It's out Vail Road past Yelm. You turn left on Klingman, then go about a half-mile more. We'll pay whatever the going rate is, plus a bonus if you can do it real quick. Over."
"That sounds nice. Exactly how much gravel do you want?"
"Well, we've got almost three or four hundred feet of road three lanes wide, that's six inches deep in mud, in places, then from there, it's a two lane road that's maybe a thousand or twelve hundred feet long, all in the same condition. Plus we could probably use some in our parking lots, as well. Over."
"Ho boy, you've got a good problem there, sonny." he said, cheerfully. "I'm not that far away. I'll be there in a half hour to look at what you've got. We can take it from there. I have five trucks. We'll get you all the gol dang gravel you need."
The man that stepped down from the large red dump truck a half hour later was reed thin, and dressed in crisp clean blue, bib overalls. He pulled on a yellow rain slicker, and walked over to where Mitch and I stood.
"How do, I'm Jerry Partain. Which one of you gents is Gordon Lawson?"
"Me. Pleased to meet you." I said, and then introduced Mitch. "I'd like you to meet Mitch Cameron, my boss."
We walked with Partain down the road, showing him the mess, and explaining the problem to him. After only a few minutes, he said he'd seen enough.
"I have the idea," said Partain in his Okie twang. "I think I can help. You're lucky you called me. We've got a pit not too far from here just off the Nisqually River. I got a front-end loader there. Let me go back to my truck and call the boys. We can start dumping in a half hour. I'll keep running trucks until it's done. We'll fix you up good."
He and Mitch talked prices as we sloshed our way back to the gate. He ended up giving us what he said was a small discount because we already had a bulldozer available to spread out the gravel ourselves.
Right on schedule a half hour later, the trucks started showing up, thundering in through the gate, plumes of water spraying into the air as they hit the first puddles at the end of the pavement. By arrangement, they dumped their loads at the near end of the muddy road, and as soon as each was empty, the large yellow bulldozer would trundle up, clanking and squeaking, and would level out the gravel across the three lanes. Slowly, the trucks and dozer worked their way down the road. Partain advised us that in order to be sure we didn't have problems later, we had to lay a good layer down the entire length, even in places where it wasn't very muddy. Both the heavy rain and the trucks continued throughout the morning.
By noon, the road was mostly done, and Partain diverted his trucks to the south parking lot. As Saint had said, it wasn't in bad shape, but Partain assured us that as soon as it was subjected to heavy traffic, it would be a problem. The north lot, he said, had better drainage. The drivers laid a relatively thin layer of gravel in the areas that would become lanes for the heaviest traffic, effectively marking out roads. Soon, there was a network of gravel lanes laid out over the south lot starting from the entrance at the Y.
While the heavily laden trucks were rumbling in and out all morning, the amount of foot traffic coming in grew and grew. By noon, there was a heavy flow of people walking in, carrying coolers and camping equipment. The mood was ugly, because of the rain and because many of the people had been there the previous weekend, and were pissed-off at having to park in what they considered as 'the boonies.' The workers at the gate taking tickets, as well as Saint and his people, handled the incoming and slightly bummed crowd with their usual good humor. To their credit, there were no remarkable incidents.
I was standing watching the people streaming in, and talking to Jackie Arthur. Jackie, a cute blonde girl from New Jersey, was in charge of the ticket takers. She was about my height, and kind of skinny, but was well built and had a pretty, angular face with a prominent jaw. When she laughed, which was frequently, her eyes crinkled at the corners. I was about to speak when my walkie-talkie emitted a burst of static. Saints' voice came on, "Cobra one, cobra one. This is Saint one. Gordon, you there?"
The rain had stopped about fifteen minutes ago, finally, and I was feeling a little more optimistic. At about one o'clock, we were able to open one lane of incoming traffic past the gate, letting the pileup of service vehicles past. But no others, yet.
I held the radio up to my head. "This is cobra one, Saint. Go ahead. Over.
"What the hell you guys doing? Are they done screwing with the gravel? Over."
"Just about. The last truck went in five minutes ago. As soon as it comes back out, I'm gonna open up two lanes of incoming. You ready? Over."
"Ready as we'll ever be. Can you give me a warning when you do it? Over."
"You got it. I'll call you when the truck leaves. Over."
"Cool. Saint one out."
"Cobra one, over and out."
We'd given Walt the word that we were nearly ready to open it up about fifteen minutes ago, and he had begun letting cars down to the gate. Several hundred were now backed up, sitting there waiting.
I looked at the traffic pileup, then back at Jackie wearing black short shorts and red and white halter-top with a plunging neckline, who was standing next to me. She was quite a distraction.
"I dunno," I said to her, trying not to stare at her legs or cleavage. "They look pretty pissed out there. I'm glad I don't have to talk to them."
She shook her head, smiling and said something that sounded something like, "Aw, Godon. You jus hafta to naw howta talk ta dem." Sometimes I had to listen really close to be able to understand what she was saying, but mostly, I thought her thick 'New Joisy' accent was funny. Kind of set her apart from the rest of us, with our mid-western accents, and that was good. She went on, "Plus, it helps if you're the right sex."
Jackie worked directly for Jim and Nancy, and was one of the people that had been with the festival since it started. She was in her mid-twenties, and before she came here, had worked in a fish processing plant. She oversaw a crew of about ten people working the road, and another five who were inside the ticket booth just outside the gate, working the walk-in traffic. She pushed a strand of her kinky, frizzy, mid-back length, light blonde hair out of her green eyes, and smiled at me.
I smiled back. "I suppose you're right," I said, "But I'm still glad it's you, not me."
There was a heavy rumble, then the dump truck barreled around the corner, its wake washing over us as it passed through the gate, and out, up the road. Jackie looked at me questioningly. I nodded, then held my walkie-talkie up, and called Saint.
"Saint one, Saint one. This is cobra one, copy?" I said into the radio.
"Go ahead, Gordon. Saint one here. Over."
"The last truck is through. You ready? Over."
"Ready as we'll ever be. Let 'er rip. Over."
"Ask and ye shall receive. Cobra one, over and out."
Jackie yelled at her ticket takers, and they began letting the first group of cars through. I stood to the side and watched the traffic go past. The first group of twenty cars had been already cleared while the traffic had waited. Those passed through quickly, and the ticket takers stopped the next cars. Five people worked each lane. When the workers had cleared the car the were working on, they'd walk to the next car that had not been worked, leapfrogging down the long lines. By doing it this way, ten carloads could be cleared every two to three minutes, insuring a fast flow through the gate.
I watched the hippie in front of me work, selling tickets. He was named Rudy. I'd met him a couple of times. He was about twenty years old, and came from Vermont where he attended college. He smoked weed constantly, a thin, pin joint always hanging from between his lips. He walked to the next car in line, a souped-up 64 Chevy Nova with baby moons and a fancy, orange metal-flake paint job.
"Peace, brother, and welcome to Rio del Sol," said Rudy passing his joint to the driver of the car. The driver looked about twenty years old, and had mutton chop sideburns that came to the corners of his mouth. Rudy continued, "It's just the two of you?"
The driver, who looked surprised at being offered the weed, accepted the joint and took a big hit, then passed it to the girl next to him in the passenger seat of the old Chevy. Letting out his hit, he nodded and said, "Yeah, it's just me and her. How much?"
"Twelve bucks each for the whole weekend."
The driver passed Rudy the joint, and looking squeamish, said, "Uh, I don't think we have that much. Hey. I've got a lid of good Mexican. How about that plus fifteen bucks?"
Rudy looked thoughtful for a few moments, then replied, "Uh, okay. I guess so."
The driver passed him the money and the lid. Rudy gave them two tickets, then waved them through, and walked down the line to the next car that hadn't been cleared.
This bartering for tickets was how the main gate got such a good stash. It seemed that while bunches of people didn't have enough money to pay the full price for the tickets, they always had some dope they could trade for. According to Nancy, it was a real pain to account for.
The other way people could get in without paying was the way Dave and I had gotten in – by promising to work. Unlike Dave, most people that promised to work did show up. Many only worked for a couple days before they burned out, but with new people coming all the time, we usually managed a healthy stream of replacements.
Traffic was now moving in a steady flow down towards the lots, so I thought I would walk down and see how it was going. Near the Y, I ran into Saint. He was standing, watching his people direct the traffic, splitting it off into the two lots. The rain slicker lay discarded on the ground, by his feet.
Just as I was about to say hello, both of our radios squealed and Susan's contralto voice came on, sexy and sultry. "Cobra one, this is the gate. Come in Gordon."
I held the radio up and keyed the mike, and there was a loud squeal of feedback. Saint nodded, and turned his off. I keyed the mike again, and answered, "Cobra one. Go ahead, Susan. Over."
"Gordon, how is it going? Are there any problems? Mitch wants to know."
As far as I had seen, traffic was moving just fine. The bed of gravel was providing excellent traction for the stream of vehicles and although there were still places with mud in the road, no one had gotten stuck yet. But before I answered, I wanted to check with Saint.
"Susan, standby one." I turned to Saint and asked, "Is everything okay? How is it down in the south lot?"
He shrugged and said, "Not bad. We've had a couple people spin out in the mud while they were parking, but nothing serious. I think as long as we keep the main flow to the lanes that have gravel, we'll be okay."
"How about the north lot?"
He shook his head. "No problems yet, except where we filled in that drainage ditch up top. We've got a problem with runoff there. But it's not bad now that it's stopped raining. If we get more rain, it could be a problem, though."
I nodded, then said into my radio, "Susan, Saint says everything is going good in the lots. No big problems. The main road is doing fine. Traffic is moving well. I think we're back in business again. Over."
A burst of static, then, "Good, Gordon. I'll pass it along to Mitch. He's going to be one happy camper."
"How are the outside lots? Over."
The radio crackled. "I talked to Walt just a little bit ago. He doesn't have any problems, but of course, they're filling up fast. The big problems now are at the stage. The rain shorted everything out down there. They've got to redo the tarps and dry everything out before they can have any bands play. They've got a truck with space heaters coming in. When you see it, get them through as fast as possible."
"We copy. I'll tell my folks. Anything else? Over."
"Just that I love you."
I was sure Saint could see the blush forming on my cheeks. He shook his head, smiling. Bashfully, I answered, "I love you too." I had to change the subject, so I asked, "Do you know when the Hog Farm is going to be here with lunch? Everybody's hungry as hell. Over."
There was a short giggle over the radio, then she said, "They should be there real soon, Gordon. All you ever think about is your stomach."
"You know that isn't true. I gotta go. I'll check back later. Cobra one, over and out."
More giggles, then, "Okay. Bye bye."
After I signed off, there were far fewer catcalls and obscene comments over the radio than usual when she was mushy with me. Some voices would usually mimic what she said to me, others would just make comments like, "Give it to her dude, she wants it." I had always suspected Saint was the one who did the majority of it, but had never been able to actually catch him. Now that he was here with me and it was relatively quiet on the radio, I was sure he was responsible. He looked sheepish.
He shrugged, motioning at the radio and said, "A lot of juvenile assholes out there, huh?"
I smiled, and said, "Yeah, but not as many as usual. Especially the one that always moans and breathes hard. Know anything about that? When he talks, it's always talks in this falsetto voice. I'm sure you've heard him."
He raised his eyebrows, eyes wide, smiling. "Him. Yeah, I've heard him. But I sure don't know who it is. And believe me, I've tried to find him. Waste of good batteries, it is."
"Uh huh." I shook my head. I knew it had to be him.
At that moment, the truck from the Hog Farm rolled up beside us. Instead of the pretty young lady who usually delivered the food, today it was a roly poly hippie who looked like he hadn't washed in weeks. He walked over to us, gave us our lunch sacks without comment, got back into his truck, an old '56 Chev painted day-glow red, and drove on.
Saint opened the sack apprehensively, then rolled his eyes. "Peanut butter and jelly again," he said, sounding disgusted. "Don't they know how to do anything else?"
I shrugged and said, "Yeah, I'm pretty tired of it too, but what the hell, it's free. Come on, you've got the apple too. Healthy shit. Get your rain slicker and let's sit over there."
We spread the rain slicker down on a patch of wet grass, then sat down and unwrapped our sandwiches, as the traffic flowed in front of us.
Between bites, Saint said, "Hey. You wanna hear a good one?"
"Sure. What ya got?"
"A good one. You down at the stage when Redbone played?"
"Er, yeah, I was up at my tent. They were the ones dressed up as Indians that went on right before the Grateful Dead?"
"Yeah, that was them. Regular headdresses with feathers and shit, buckskin clothes, war paint, the works. I had to go down to the OD Clinic to deliver some stuff from the gate and I stopped over in back of the stage for a few minutes, just hanging out. There was this big biker dude, all dressed in leathers. Man was he stoned or what. Guy was tripping on acid bigtime, really whacked out of his mind, sitting there next to the back gate, holding this flower in his hand, looking at it, sniffing it. Big smile on his face. God did he look silly. Anyway, here comes these musicians, all dressed up like Indians. The biker looks up and sees them coming towards him. As they pass, he holds up his hand and says something like, 'How, Cochise.' The Indians all stop, looking pissed off, and walk over and form kind of a circle around the biker. One of them says, 'What'd you say, white boy?' in this deep, gruff voice. The biker looks like he's gonna piss his pants. When he doesn't say anything, finally the Indians leave and go up to the stage. The biker looks all flustered, and then he gets up and splits, real fast. I found out yesterday, he went and got in his sleeping bag and won't come out. Been there all week. He's convinced the Indians are gonna get him, and scalp his white ass." We both laughed, and Saint continued, "Big tough biker, all scared he's gonna get scalped or something. I told you bikers are pussies."
"I suppose, but I'd still rather not deal with them. I guess I'm a pussy too."
"No, you're just pussy whipped. There's a difference." He smiled.
"Yeah, I am pussy whipped. But I like it."
"Huh. Yeah, Susan is one good lady. You're lucky. You guys gonna stay together after you leave here?"
I nodded, swallowing the last of my sandwich. "Yeah, that's the plan. I'll live in the dorms during the week, then come down and stay with her on weekends. I think it'll work."
"It will if you make it work."
"I'm gonna. I've never met a lady like her before. I'm not about to let her get away."
"What you guys doing tonight?"
"I dunno. If we can keep things under control, I'd like to go listen to Jesse Colin Young. What are you and Linda doing?"
Linda was nice. Last Wednesday night, the four of us had gotten together and played poker. We'd drank some beer and gotten high. It had been a lot of fun.
"I dunno either," he replied. "Like you said, we gotta see how everything goes. But I know for sure Linda would like to see Jesse Colin Young, too. She was talking about that this morning before I left. If things do work out, maybe we can all go down together?"
"Susan would like that. What time is he supposed to be on? Eight?"
"Yeah. And if this is like last weekend, the lots should be full by then."
"Maybe. But we started filling them quite a bit earlier then, too. I mean, we were closed off all morning here today."
"That just means the outside lots will max out earlier. Traffic is coming in as fast as ever. Maybe faster. If it keeps up like this, we'll be full before eight. You watch."
Saint's traffic workers were doing a great job – the lines of cars were moving into the lots fast. We were lucky – we had a goodly number of volunteers who had been at the festival since last weekend, and they were now serving as leaders, making sure the operation went smoothly, and that the arriving cars were moved into the lots quickly and packed in tight as possible. Because of all these experienced people, there wasn't much that Saint and I had to do, really. It was running itself.
I looked back at Saint and said, "We'll see, we'll see. I hope we can listen to some music tonight." I sighed, then continued, "I better go see how Allan's doing. I haven't checked with him all morning." I threw my empty lunch bag into a nearby burn-barrel, and moved to get up.
Saint frowned, then said, "Yeah, you'd better check with him. He's the one who's gonna have the trouble tonight."
"Why do you say that?"
Saint stood up beside me, still frowning. He shrugged. "Haven't you checked-out the people coming in?" he asked. "There's a whole lot of bummed people. It's weird. Last weekend, it was all peace, love, hippie. Today, it seems like the mood has changed. I dunno."
I shook my head. "Aw, it's just the rain. Soon as it dries out a bit, everyone will cheer up."
"I don't think so, Gordon."
"It will. Look, I gotta split. Catch you later, bro."
"Yeah, later, white man."
He smiled and gave me the peace sign, then turned and started walking towards the south lot. I shrugged, and began walking towards the concession row.
As I walked, I paid more attention to the people around me. Saint had been right – there were a lot of unhappy people. It seemed like there were a variety of reasons. One of the most pressing problems was the state of the Sanicans – because the road had been closed, none of the portable bathrooms had been pumped out or cleaned since the previous day. They stank like all get out, but even so, each had long lines of complaining people waiting.
Another problem I overheard people discussing was the lack of music. As usual, the show had been scheduled to start at around noon. It was now nearing three o'clock, and they still hadn't begun to play. And if what Susan had said was true, it could be quite a while longer before they started.
I stood at the top of the bowl and looked down on the enormous amphitheatre. Once again, it was filling with tents, and the row of shops along the Ave was flooded with people. The stage, which would normally have been busy with activity was silent, and almost empty of people. In front of the stage were a group of maybe fifty diehards who were chanting, "Music now! Music now!" over and over, the echoes of their shouts carrying up the bowl to me. It didn't appear anyone on stage had noticed they were there.
As I walked down towards the shops, I noticed that there was still a good deal of uncollected garbage laying around. The main trash pit, the 'American Dream Memorial' had been partially excavated, with the garbage taken off in a dump truck earlier in the week. But it still stank like sin. Standing next to it was a scraggly looking hippie, begging for food or dope, holding out a metal cup. He looked pathetic. Feeling guilty, I threw a couple of joints in the cup as I passed.
Allan was in the HQ talking on the radio when I arrived. I sat down next to him. He was saying, "I don't care what they say, they've got to do something, we can't leave the guy like that. Stay there and I'll call you back in a minute. HQ out." He rolled his eyes, looking at me, then said, "We've got a guy passed out drunk in front of the stage. The OD Clinic won't go get him because they're busy dealing with some acid freak-outs."
"Can your guys carry him there?"
"Gordon, the guy's completely covered with mud."
"Then send someone to the clinic and have them bring back a stretcher."
Allan looked thoughtful, then said, "Hmm. Not a bad idea." He keyed the mike and said, "Green giant, this is HQ. Come in."
"Larry, send Charlie to the OD Clinic to get a stretcher. You stay with the drunk. When Charlie gets back, you guys roll the drunk onto the stretcher, then take him to the clinic. Copy?"
The radio crackled with static, then, "But man, this guy weighs about three hundred pounds. And he's like, all covered with mud. There's no way Charlie and I can do it ourselves." Green giant sounded like he wanted to be somewhere else, bad. I could sympathize.
"I copy. Okay. Enlist some of the people around the stage to help you carry him. Do whatever you have to, but get the guy to the clinic. Copy?"
"I copy," he said, sounding resigned. "Green giant out."
"HQ out." Allan laid down the mike, looked at me, and said, "I don't know what it is, but we're getting a lot more drunks today. This time last Saturday, shit, the only problems we were having were with lost dogs and whatnot. Today, everyone's drinking hard, and we got a lot of people on bummers." He shook his head.
"Saint told me he thought the mood of the festival had changed."
He nodded. "Yeah, Saint's right. Shit, it's not even dark already, we've had about four fights, and people are drinking till they pass out. There are a lot of bummed people out there. And if they don't start the music soon, it's gonna get worse. As soon as you can pull some of Saint's people out, I'll need them. I have a feeling it's gonna get ugly here."
"How many teams do you have out right now?"
"Six. Six two man teams, plus five in reserve. My SWAT team." He laughed, then grew serious again, shaking his head. "But I tell you Gordon, I have just one real good one, and it'll all be over. I shit you not. People are different than last weekend. Everybody's pissed about something. The grass is all wet and you can't find a good campsite or dry firewood. In front of the stage, it's all deep mud. The music is late. They had to park way far out and walk in with all their gear. The johns are full of shit to the ceiling and stink like someone died. The prices of food here at the concessions have gone up and the quality of the food has gone down." He shrugged, then said, "I dunno. Some of it's bullshit, some of it's not. Either way, there are a lot of pissed people here, and I know I'm gonna have more business than I can handle."
"The Sanicans are being pumped now," I said. Then I told him about the problems the stage was having with water, and about the space heaters they were going to use to dry everything out. "You can't expect musicians to try to play when everything's wet. Shit, they'd get electrocuted. As soon as everything dries out and the music starts, the mood will change back. You'll see."
"I hope you're right, man. 'Cause we've got more than enough problems already."
"I am right. You'll see. They hear the music, everything will be like last weekend."
"What about some people from Saint, later?"
"As soon as the lots are full, or the traffic tapers off, whichever is first, I'll get you some more people. Cool?"
I drew a deep breath, then said, exhaling slowly, "I'm gonna go over to the stage and see what's up. I'll be back in a bit." I got up.
Allan nodded. "Okay. Let me know by radio if you hear any firm time when the music is gonna start, so we can answer questions for people. And if you want to really help, get them to announce what they're doing over the PA so everyone can hear. The worst of it, is that there haven't been any announcements from the stage. Word is the festival's being cancelled and that's why there isn't any music. That sort of paranoid shit doesn't help the mood any."
I nodded. "I'll see what I can do. Later, bro."
It only took me a couple of minutes to make it to the stage. During the week, they'd cut a new entrance in the front of the stage wall so you didn't have to walk all the way around back to get inside the compound. The person guarding the gate took one look at my somewhat dirty, though still visibly gold armband, and I walked through the passage in the scaffolding and was in the compound.
The mood of those inside the compound was not unlike that of the people outside. Everyone I saw was visibly depressed, slumped near sputtering fires, blankets draped over their shoulders, trying to dry out. There was none of the bustling activity that characterized the place in the previous week, and the steady drone of the generators was missing.
I walked up the steps to the deck of the stage and looked around. Way up in the towers at either side of the massive stage, workers were securing a second tarp in back of, and under the original.
On the platform in front of the stage, which held all the amplifiers and mixing boards as well as the light show, I saw John Lloyd talking to a couple of technicians. I walked across the center of the stage and down out onto the catwalk that lead to the center tower, which like the others, was draped almost entirely in black plastic. Lloyd nodded when he saw me.
"Hi Gordon," he said, smiling. "I understand you've got the road under control again. I saw the mud this morning. It was pretty bad."
"Yeah, it was fucking A nasty," I said, smiling back. He looked beat. "We got gravel all up and down it, and we've had it open now for maybe a couple of hours. Unless we get another really bad storm, it should last. How's your end doing?"
He sighed, frowning and said, "Not so great." He waved his arm at the stage. "We had a guy nearly killed this morning. Was hooking up a mike and shocked the shit out of himself. We turned the generator off immediately. We were lucky. We inspected everything after that. The whole stage was live with current. Found water had gotten in a junction box and shorted everything out. Could have fried fifty people if we hadn't turned it off when we did. Just lucky no one was grounded. Then the musicians got together and said they wouldn't play till everything was dried off, not that I blame them. I got some space heaters coming. About eight of them. We get them fired up, and the place will be dry in fifteen minutes."
"You resolved all the problems with the shorts?"
"Oh yeah. That didn't take all that long. And now we've got that new tarp rigged so it can't get wet again. We just can't do anything until the stage is dry."
"You heard there are rumors going around that the festival is supposed to be cancelled, and that's why there isn't any music? My security guys have asked if you could make an announcement from the stage? Tell everyone what's going on."
He shook his head. "I don't know. I don't think we can." He paused, thinking, then said, "But you're right. We should make some announcement. C'mon, let's go talk to Eric." He turned and went inside, and began to climb up a ladder to the next level of the tower. I followed.
When I stuck my head through the hatch, I found myself in a small room crammed full of electronic equipment. Stacks and stacks of amplifiers. Sitting at a mixing board in the center of the room was Eric, the chief sound engineer for the festival. His curly hair was in disarray, and the cigarette between his fingers was about to drop a big ash on the mixing board. In front of him, a window had been cut in the plastic allowing him to look out onto the stage. In his left hand, he held a walkie-talkie. He nodded as he saw John and I enter, motioning to folding chairs sitting next to him. John and I sat down.
There was a burst of static, then a voice came over the radio, "Twelve checks okay. That makes our bad ones as two, five, and eleven."
Eric nodded and said to the radio, "Okay. Don't spend time trying to trace the shorts. Jerk out the cables, then run new lines out here, and rewire them to the box at the end of the snake. Call me when you're ready to test them."
"You got it, Eric," said the voice.
Eric put the radio down, and spoke to John. "We've completed the continuity tests in the mike circuits. We've got three bad lines. We're going to wire around them. It'll take about a half hour."
John nodded, and said, "Good. What about the speaker circuits?"
Eric drew a deep hit off his cigarette, then exhaling, said, "I think we're okay. It was all weatherproofed better than the stuff on the stage. But we really won't know till we turn it on."
"Can you power-up the system now?" I asked.
He laughed wistfully, and said, "You really want to live dangerously, don't you? No, I can't do anything until they finish rewiring the mike circuits. What do you want to power-up the system for?"
John and I explained about the rumors circulating, the ugly mood of the crowd, and how the lack of news from the stage made things worse. I asked, "Couldn't you turn off all the lines to the stage and plug in a mike out here, directly into your board?"
Eric stared off into space, looking thoughtful, then turned back to me and said, "Yeah, I suppose we could. If the line power system is okay. John?"
He nodded and said, "Yeah, they finished all that stuff quite a while ago. Let me have your radio."
Eric passed him the walkie talkie. He said into the radio, "Stage radio, this is John. Get me Conrad."
The stage communications operator acknowledged the call, and shortly, Conrad, the chief electrical engineer, came on the radio. They talked for a few minutes, confirming the status of the generator and the power distribution system. After some discussion, it was agreed to turn the generator on and feed power to the PA system only, Conrad being a bit apprehensive about turning the entire system on, as wet as the stage still was.
After Conrad signed off, John talked with stage communications again, and asked them to track down Phil Davies, the English announcer who acted as MC for the festival, and have him sent to the tower where we were. The radio operator said she knew where Phil was, and promised he'd be with us in five minutes.
John looked at Eric, eyebrows raised, and said, "Well, let's do it."
Eric nodded, and began unplugging lines that led to the stage.
A few minutes later, we heard the sound of the generator, uneven at first, then leveling out into a steady roar.
After confirming that the power was on to his equipment, Eric started throwing switches, looking somewhat scared. He said, "If anything shorts out, pull the master, over there." He indicated a large breaker switch on a metal panel fixed to the side of the scaffolding, which formed the walls of the room. He continued, "And if you want to, you could pray. There's a whole lot of wet wiring out there. Water and electricity are not real friendly."
I crossed my fingers, and watched John. He was looking all about, glancing nervously at all the amplifiers and thick power cords.
Looking out towards the stage, I saw Phil approach. He was about thirty, had straight brown hair down to his shoulders, with a full beard and mustache. I'd met him a couple of times in the last week. He'd worked as a DJ at an FM station in Los Angeles until recently, when he signed on to do the festival. I'd found out that originally, he was from Wales, and his normal voice was a fair bit less cultured than the voice he affected when introducing groups or making announcements from the stage. When he got drunk or really stoned you could hardly understand him, the accent was so thick.
His head popped up through the hatch in the floor, then he walked over to where John and I were sitting. He was wearing faded blue jeans and a black leather vest which hung open, showing off his tanned, hairy chest. We exchanged greetings, then John explained the situation.
"What we need," said John, "Is for you to get on and explain about the electrical problems we're having, and what we're doing to fix them. Tell them everything should be ready in a couple of hours, and that all the groups will have time to play – we'll just go late, tonight. Okay?"
Phil nodded his head, and said in his cultured, British voice, "Okay. I think I've got it. I can talk about what the musicians have said, about not going on till it's dry. And I can talk about the bloke who almost bought it this morning, and give some news and the market reports. I need to have a couple minutes to collect me thoughts." Turning to Eric, he went on, "Can you put some music on till I'm ready? And then leave it on after I'm done. That'll help, I believe."
John nodded looking at Eric, and said, "Do it."
Eric shrugged, and while turning to a reel to reel tape deck in back of him said, "I'll turn it on now, but I may have to turn it off later while we work on the system."
He turned the rest of the equipment on, and we waited for the amps to warm up. No sparks, no clouds of smoke rose from the amplifiers or from the stage.
Eric adjusted the tape deck and started it playing, flipped a couple of switches on the mixing board, then the amphitheatre was filled with the sounds of Eric Burdon and the Animals doing ‘Monterey.’ Cheers broke out from the small crowd around the stage.
Apparently relieved that nothing had blown up when he turned the system on, Eric let out a big sigh, then increased the volume to its normal, loud level. Looking at me, John raised his eyebrows and shrugged. Phil was sitting in the corner by himself, leaning against a stack of amplifiers while making notes on a piece of paper, apparently unconcerned of the possibility of imminent electrocution.
Before the song had ended, Phil stood up and came back over. Eric handed him a mike, and mike in hand, Phil waited for the song to end.
As the last notes faded away, Eric snapped his fingers and pointed at Phil. Phil nodded, then spoke into the mike, and his voice boomed out across the amphitheatre.
"Good afternoon people, Rio del Sol rocks! Yeah!" Sounds of cheers were heard from all over the bowl. Phil paused, then continued in his most cultured English voice after the roar of the crowd had died down. "Good afternoon people. We've got a smashing lineup of groups scheduled to play today. We apologize for the delays caused by the rain storm we had this morning." He explained about the electrical problems we had had, the musicians' response, and went on to denounce the rumor that the festival was about to be busted. He continued, "There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that this festival will close early, or be busted by the cops. No truth at all. All the bands scheduled to play, will play, and we will definitely continue through Labor Day. Rio del Sol rocks on!" He paused to let the cheers die out again. "So how about a little news? Alright! Top news of the week, J. Edgar Hoover has placed Angela Davis on the FBI's ten most wanted list, calling her 'a most dangerous radical.' Sister Angela is wanted in connection with the shoot-out by black militants at a Marin County courthouse ... In Madison, Wisconsin, officials are still cleaning up the mess left by a bomb blast that occurred on August 24 at the Army Mathematics Research Center on the University of Wisconsin campus. In that blast, a graduate student was killed and four others were injured. In addition, a computer worth $1.5 million was destroyed. Responsibility has been claimed by the Weather Underground, who apologized for the death ... On August 31, Philadelphia police raided three Black Panther centers, and fourteen of our black brothers have been arraigned on various charges up to and including assault with intent to kill. This is a continuation of a dispute between the police and the Panthers which started on August 29, when one policeman was killed and six others were wounded. According to sources, the city stands on the brink of an all-out race riot ... Last Monday, by a vote of 55 to 39, the US Senate rejected the Hatfield-McGovern proposal which called for the withdrawal of all US soldiers from Viet Nam by the end of 1971 ... Meanwhile, the body count continues to climb ... In local news, Thurston County officials have failed in their latest attempt to secure a court order closing down the infamous Rio del Sol rock festival, and additionally, Governor Evans has again rejected a bid to involve state troopers or the National Guard in closing the festival." Cries of 'off the pigs' and whoops of joy filled the air. Phil continued, "Now, for today's combined market prices report, we have the following established prices: Acid, all types, one dollar per hit max, except 1200 microgram windowpane which should sell for two dollars, mescaline a dollar fifty to two dollars per hit depending on the type – try the chocolate caps, they're the best – weed, regular Mexican, ten dollars a lid, Vietnamese Green for twenty a lid, Panama Red for fifteen a half lid. If you're paying more than this, you may be getting ripped off. Change dealers. Okay? Some messages ... Joyce Klevjer, go to the message center, Robot is waiting for you there ... Bruce Strickland, Bruce Strickland, call home, Lorretta Lenz wants to talk to you about Eric ... Would the person who left the man ODed on STP at the clinic please contact Dr. Johnson? That's the person who left off the man ODed on STP, okay? Now ... The dealers' commune of Ft. Owsley is having a sale today, they've announced. All day until eight o'clock, everything will be half price! Want a good deal on some dope, go to Ft. Owsley today ... Now, we'll have the bands ready to play in about two hours, as soon as the stage is completely dry. All bands will play, even if we have to go all night long! So dry yourselves off, smoke a couple joints, shake hands with your neighbors and say your mantras. We'll be back as soon as we can."
He handed the mike back to Eric. There were mixed cheers and boos from the crowd, which were soon drowned out by the combination of music and the thunder of a helicopter taking off. I said goodbye and left, off to find Saint and see what was happening in the lots.
A couple hours later, I found Mitch in with Susan, where he was talking on the radiophone. The conversation was something obscure, about suitcases and carpets. As I waited for him to wrap up his call, Susan and I kissed a couple of times and cuddled in-between her own radio calls. Finally Mitch signed off.
He smiled at me. "So how are things in the lots?" he asked.
"Uh, not bad. No major problems."
"Cool." He sat back in the booth for a moment smiling, and then pulled a small brass pipe out of his shirt pocket, along with a tinfoil-wrapped package of hashish. "Here. Let's have a few hits of blonde Lebanese and mellow out. Now you wanna tell me what's with the stage? I heard they've about finally got the music going." He crumbled a piece of hash into the pipe and lit it.
I nodded. "Yeah, the space heaters came probably about a half hour ago while I was out in the lots, and so they should have the bands playing within the next hour or so." I accepted the pipe and took a hit, then offered it to Susan.
"No thanks," she said, shaking her head. "I don't want to get stoned right now. I really don't know how you guys can smoke dope and work. Three hits and I'd be too goofy to work a radio." Mitch started shaking and went cross-eyed, and then stuck out his tongue. Slowly, he let out his hit. Observing him, she paused still shaking her head, and then asked me, "I heard they're playing recorded music now at the stage?"
I passed the pipe back to Mitch who had slumped back in the booth and let out my own hit, the smoke billowing up to the ceiling. I nodded. "Yeah. I went down there a couple hours ago and talked to John. Allan had complained to me that there were a whole lot of bummed people and that two of the main reasons they were bummed was that there wasn't any music and second, there wasn't any announcement about why there wasn't any music. So I talked with John about it, and he agreed to get Eric to turn the system on so Phil could make an announcement. Then Phil suggested they leave the recorded stuff going. Hopefully it'll help." I paused for a second, feeling the hash creep into my bloodstream, then went on, "Hey, I do like that hash. Nice stone."
Mitch nodded. "Yeah, it's damn good stuff. I can't hardly smoke anything else anymore." He lit the pipe again and took another hit, then passed it back to me. A look of disapproval on her face, Susan rolled her eyes.
One of the radios squawked, then a voice said, "Main gate this is Big Daddy at the command post, come in. Over." Big Daddy was Walt's call sign.
Susan picked up the mike and said, "Big Daddy this is the gate, go ahead." I lit the pipe and took a hit, then passed it back to Mitch.
Walt's voice boomed over the speaker. "Main gate, tell Mitch the cops are giving me a hard time about people parking on the shoulder of Vail Road. Ask him if there's any way that I can get say another ten to fifteen people to stand out on Vail Road to warn people to not park there. Over."
Slumped back in the booth, Mitch slowly let out his hit of hash, and looking at Susan, shook his head. "I couldn't get another ten people if it was Jesus Christ asking." Eyebrows raised, he went on, "But now if it was Buddha maybe we could do something. Or Mohammed, now there..."
"You wanna shut up? I get the idea, already." Eyes rolling again, she muttered, "Oh God..." under her breath then keyed the mike. "I understand Big Daddy, but I don't think Mitch has any extra people available right now. Over."
"Ten four. Still ask him, though, okay?"
"I copy Big Daddy. Over."
"Have they got the PA going at the stage yet?"
"Yes, they do. Over."
"Okay, will you have them do an announcement then? Have them say that if anyone parks on Vail Road, they will get towed, no ifs ans or buts."
Mitch nodded. Susan spoke into the mike again. "That's affirmative, Big Daddy."
"Okay, cool. I'll tell the cops we've done what we can. Big Daddy out."
Mitch held up his hand. "Tell him to make signs and put them on the phone poles. Park here and you'll be towed, or something like that."
Susan keyed the mike. "Big Daddy, are you still there? Over."
"Yeah, I'm still here. What's up?"
"Mitch says to make some signs that say 'no parking, tow-away zone,' or something, and put them on the phone poles and what-not."
"Cool, I'll do that. Big Daddy out."
"Main gate out." Susan put the mike down and laid back, with her head on my shoulder. I had a pleasant buzz from the hash, and began massaging the inside of her thigh.
Mitch put the now empty pipe back in his pocket, then leaned forward, and spoke to us softly.
"Okay, look. We've got some other stuff to talk about. Heavy shit. You guys gotta promise me you won't repeat any of what I'm gonna tell you. This is big stuff. Okay?"
"I promise," said Susan, looking puzzled.
"Yeah, it's cool," I said. "What you got?"
Mitch frowned, then looked up. "I don't know how to say this, but the word's out we're gonna get hit."
Susan's eyes narrowed, and she asked, "Hit? What do you mean? Robbed?"
Mitch nodded. "Yeah, the ticket money and maybe the stage, too. By this fringe group that got kicked out of the Weather Underground for being too violent."
"Who the hell is too violent to be in the Weathermen?" I asked. "I mean, shit, all they do is blow up stuff. That's damn near their whole trip."
"These guys are too violent. Believe me, I've heard some stories. Call themselves the October 21st Movement. I forget the significance of the date. Heavy into the teachings of Mikhail Bakunin. At least ostensibly."
"Who is that?" asked Susan.
"He was a nineteenth century anarchist. They call him the father of anarchism. These guys like to think they're anarchists. They don't want to change the system to do away with inequities. No. They don't want any system at all. But they do want money, ours apparently."
"How good is your source?" asked Susan.
"Good," he said. "It's a guy I know in the SDS, who has ties to the Weather Underground. He said it's supposed to happen in the next day or so. They drive a truck in, like they're bringing stuff for a concession. A bunch of guys with guns jump out, shooting, and rip us off. Anybody gets killed, tough shit."
I shook my head. "Man, are you shitting us or what?" I asked, incredulous. "This can't be for real, it can't be."
Mitch sighed and said, "I wish I
was shitting you Gordon. But I'm
not. It's supposed to come down in the
evening, probably tomorrow or Sunday.
They're figuring we'll have a bunch of cash because the banks are
"They don't know we're making runs to the night deposit?" asked Susan.
Mitch shrugged. "I guess their intelligence has a few holes in it. But I don't think it would change anything for them, though. Not from what I've heard. Money is only part of it, you see. The other part I heard is that they may try to blow up the generators. Maybe the whole stage, too. It's the disruption they want. Blow this whole festival all to hell. That's their trip. The money may be only a secondary objective. What these guys really are, are fucking lunatics."
Susan seemed to have shrunk into herself. She asked Mitch, "So what are we going to do? What can we do?"
He shrugged again. "Several things. Number one, is the committee has decided there won't be any cops involved. None. Then that telephone call I was on when you got here, Gordon? Yeah. I just hired some professionals to guard the stage. From a connection I have with some of our Black brothers. They're flying in from Oakland tonight, late. The other thing, is I'm gonna be talking with some bikers about protecting this area, here. Five or ten should be enough. Last thing, is I'm gonna get an ambulance to stand by here. If there's any trouble, we'll put the money in the ambulance, and make a run for it."
My head was spinning. Bikers and black gunmen from Oakland. Black Panthers, I supposed? Someone ripping off the main gate? I asked, "You're gonna have Black Panthers guarding the stage?"
"They're not Panthers. Just friends, or associates. Look. I've got the meeting with the bikers here at eight tonight," said Mitch. "Can you make it?" I nodded. He continued, "Good. I'll see you in the security trailer at eight. We'll use your security guys to back up the other arrangements."
"I'll need to talk to Allan and Saint about this," I said. "Is that cool?"
He nodded. "Yeah, but it's to go no farther than them. Absolutely. All we need is for this to get around and start a fucking panic. Shit, if word got back to the fucking Octoberists, they might move up their timetable or something. We need time to prepare. And we do not need a bunch of hysterical people running around creating more problems. So keep it close to the vest. Okay?"
"Cool. I've got some other stuff to do right now, so I'll get. See you at eight, Gordon." He looked to Susan and said, "Susan? If Amy comes by, tell her I went to my tent and she can join me there. If Jim or Nancy comes, tell them I'll be back in about an hour. Cool? Bye." He got up and left.
Susan and I looked at each other, and then she pulled me close and we hugged.
"Do you really think it could happen?" she asked, eyes wide.
I shook my head, and pulled her closer. "I don't know," I said. "Mitch seems pretty sure. I think he believes it. He does seem to have good contacts. All over the place. I don't know, I guess I just hope the hell he's wrong."
She shook her head. "Gordon, I can't deal with this. What will we do? People ripping off the gate? Blowing up the stage? I just can't deal with stuff like that."
My stomach twisted into a knot. That wasn't half of it. If they were going to hit the gate, taking out the communications trailer would be one of their first objectives. I rubbed her back.
"And I don't want you to have to deal with it either," I said. "I'm going to get all of our shit out of the equipment trailer. I'll take it back to my tent. Jo Anne's supposed to relieve you when?"
She looked confused and answered, "At seven. Why?"
I let out a long breath. "Because when you finish your shift today, I don't want you back here until this stuff is over. I don't want there to be any chance you'll get hurt."
She looked upset. "But who'll run the radios? I can't leave here. Not when it's so busy. We don't have enough people as it is."
I shook my head, and she drew back from me. I said slowly, "Look. See that radiophone there?" I pointed. "It's our only real link with the outside. These guys come in here to rip us off, how are they gonna know we're not gonna call the cops? That's the first thing most people would do in a rip-off. How are these fruitcakes gonna react? They're gonna blow the holy living fuck outa this trailer, right off the bat." I paused, shaking my head, then said softly, "Look. I don't care who the hell they get to run the radios for the next couple a days, but it is definitely not gonna be you. I don't want there to be any chance you'd get hurt. That's something I couldn't deal with." I smiled. "I've grown accustomed to your company. I'm not gonna lose you, Susan."
Her eyes misted over and we kissed. She asked, "I suppose. I hadn't really thought about that. But what about you? What are you going to do?"
"Don't worry about me. I'm a coward from way back. I don't plan on taking any chances."
We cuddled and talked for another half hour or so, radio traffic permitting. We agreed that we would spend the night in the trailer, then move our stuff in the morning. Susan agreed not to come back to work until everything had blown over. We kissed passionately for a few short minutes, then reluctantly, I rose to leave. I had to go and talk to Saint and Allan.
tonight," She said. "I'd love to go see Jesse Colin
"Me too. It's cool. You get off, go to the stage. I'll set it up with Bruce Stuckey, to make sure you and Linda can get in. Saint and I will join you guys as soon as we can. The band schedule is all screwed up, so The Youngblood’s probably won't play before midnight, at least. Cool?"
"Cool. See you later. I love you."
We kissed. "Love you, too. Bye."
I left the trailer, and walked through the crowds of people coming into the festival, and set off in search of Saint.
Using the walkie-talkie, I was able to talk to Saint, and arranged to have him meet me at the security HQ in the concessions, so I could talk with him and Allan both at the same time.
It was very busy there when I arrived. Saint, who had changed into clean clothes, was in back sitting at the table watching Allan and three staffers handle complaints from a group of irate festival-goers at the counter.
I sat down next to Saint and asked, "What's the big deal, here?"
He leaned towards me and said softly, "See the big lady? Somebody beat the shit out of her old man. The guys with her are his buddies. Allan's guys broke the fight up, and they're in the process of showing the dude who was responsible to the gate. The lady and her friends want Allan to give the guy to them, so they can trash him." He shook his head.
I looked at them. The lady was about five feet tall, and nearly as wide. Strands of stringy bleached blonde hair partially obscured her pudgy face, which was covered with the remains of scars from acne. She was whining at Allan, and being abusive. Her friends seemed to be cut from the same mold – sloped foreheads with piggish faces, and rolls of fat bulging out from between dirty T-shits and soiled jeans. Their role seemed to be to stand behind the woman and give encouragement. Allan for his part, was trying to be diplomatic.
"I'm sorry," said Allan. "The person who hit your boyfriend has been kicked out already. There is no way we can hold him for you – he's gone. And I have no idea where.Why don't you go to the clinic and get your boyfriend back to your camp – he should be ready by now."
The fat lady screwed up her face like she was thinking, then said in a southern drawl, "That's fucking bullshit. You'se telling me that asshole has already left? Two minutes ago, you said he was still here. What's it gonna be? Is he here or not? You're talking out a both sides of your mouth, honey."
"I apologize, but you misunderstood me. The person has left the festival. My people took him and his belongings to the main gate, and threw him out. He's gone. I don't know where."
The lady's friends looked a little disappointed. The lady rocked back and forth. I noticed she had a couple front teeth missing. "You're sure he's gone?"
Allan nodded. "At least twenty minutes ago."
"Well why didn't you just say so? I know someone who can tell me where he lives." She looked back at her entourage, "Elroy, Jimmy, Tad. Come on, let's go see my Lester and see if he's alright." To Allan, "Thank you for helping us, sir. I just wish you had held onto that sack of shit so we coulda pounded on him." She turned, almost knocking one of her buddies over. "You stupid shit, watch your feet," she snapped. He cowered. "Come on." They waited for an opening in the jam of foot traffic going past the booth, then faded into the crowd.
Allan left the counter, then came back to the table and sat down on the other side of Saint. He let out a big sigh, and said, "Holy shit! I thought I'd never get rid of that fucking disgusting broad."
Saint smiled. I said to Allan, "I need to talk with you and Saint in private." I looked at his staff workers standing at the counter, gossiping. They were close enough to overhear. "Is there somewhere we can go around here, to talk?" I asked.
He looked thoughtful, then said, "Well, I suppose we could go to the saloon. It's early enough so it shouldn't be too crowded. We could get a table in the back."
I nodded. "Okay. Let's do it."
The Sun River Saloon was almost deserted when we got there. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see the floor was covered with fresh sawdust, and the inside looked relatively clean in comparison with the rest of the festival grounds. A couple of guys were at a table near the front, smoking opium from an ornate hookah, the smoke forming a small cloud over their heads. There were a half a dozen bikers bellied up to the makeshift bar, talking quietly, drinking beer from long neck bottles. Behind the bar was the bartender, his short hair slicked back, and over his shirt, he sported a pair of bright green suspenders. With him, was a young girl who was playing with his handlebar mustache, twirling it with her fingers, laughing.
I selected a rickety table along the back wall. All the furniture looked like it had been salvaged from a dump. As we were sitting down, the girl came to take our order.
She was young, maybe fifteen years old, and completely naked except for a thin silver chain at her waist. Her long auburn hair partially covered her small breasts and her flat stomach was overlaid with what looked like hickies. She was pretty, with a soft round face, and nice white teeth. She stood before us holding a tray in her left hand, absently scratching her crotch, chewing gum.
"What can I get you gents?" she asked, sounding bored. "Beer or whiskey if you're thirsty. Or if you're in the mood, we've got some great Pakistani opium in. You wanna trip, George has a special on acid today. Real Owsley blotter-paper acid, best anywhere, a buck a hit. Or if you like, I can blow you? Five bucks." Smiling, she leaned towards Allan, who looked somewhat uncomfortable.
I looked at Saint and Allan. "Beer?" The both nodded. I turned to the girl, who was now staring at Saint. I asked, "How about three beers? Got any Rainier?"
The girl looked vaguely disappointed. She turned, leaned towards me and grabbed my crotch, massaging me. She said, "You sure?" She was leering seductively. Or at least what she thought was seductive.
I took her hand from my crotch, kissed it, and said, "Look, we've got some business to conduct. We'd really like some nice blowjobs, but just not right now, okay? Just the beers, cool?"
She curled her upper lip in a grimace of distaste, and said sulkily, "Whatever's fair." She left to get our beers, walking with an exaggerated swing to her tight behind.
Saint shook his head, laughing. Allan stared at the table, smiling. Saint said, "Wouldn't mind poking that, but for goddamn sure, you're gonna need some super-dooper penicillin or something when you get done. You could damn near see the bugs jumping up and down on her."
Allan smiled. He looked at me and said, "Okay, Gordon. Maybe you can tell us why we're here."
I cleared my throat. "The reason I asked you here is to talk about some information I just got from Mitch," I said, in a low voice. "But before I can tell you, I need your promises that it will not be repeated, at all, anywhere. No one but the three of us can know."
Saint leaned back in his chair. The young lady arrived with our beers and after some protests, Saint paid her. As soon as she had left, Saint asked, "So what's all this secrecy bullshit? Don't tell me, we're all working for the CIA, right?" He laughed. Allan just smiled.
I shook my head, my smile turning into a frown. "I'm serious. This is heavy shit. I need you both to promise not to tell anyone. Anyone at all. Well?"
Saint shrugged, looking impatient. "Okay. Cross my heart and hope to die," he said.
"You won't tell anyone, not even Linda?"
He sighed, "Not even Linda."
He nodded. "I won't tell anyone," he said.
I drew a deep breath, then let it out slowly. I said, "Okay. Here's the picture." I ran over what Mitch had told me. Both were silent as I laid it out. Their expressions, as they realized I wasn't joking, became grave. When I was done, they asked questions.
"So they expect it to happen tomorrow or Sunday night?" asked Allan. Someone at the bar turned on a radio, and Jimi Hendrix doing Purple Haze blared out.
I nodded. "Yeah. I guess their idea is that after Friday, we won't be making any bank deposits, so we'll have a great big gob of cash on hand."
Saint responded, "But you told me you and Susan took money to the bank last weekend, right?"
I nodded again. "Yeah, that's right. They have someone make a bank run every four to six hours, depending on how busy it is, all weekend. They use the night deposit drop. I guess these guys don't know that. But like I said, Mitch figures they're even more interested in disrupting the festival, blowing up the stage or generator or whatever, rather than the money. He said he figured the money might really just be a side trip."
Allan nodded, eyes wide, and said, "And they expect us to backup the bikers and what not? You gotta be shitting me. We haven't got guns. I don't think many of us even know how to use a gun. This is fucked."
Saint nodded agreement. "It is fucked," he said. "None of us can be expected to go up against these Weathermen, or whatever the fuck it is they call themselves."
"It's the October 21st Movement," I responded.
Saint shook his head. "I don't care if their bowel movement is on Thursday the 33rd. Time for them to come, I'm gonna be in the back of my pickup with my old lady, getting wasted."
I sighed. "Look, I can sympathize with you. I feel pretty much the same way. But there are things we can do, that won't involve any personal risk. Look." I paused and took a drink of my warm beer, then continued. "Communications are a big thing. We've still got a bunch of walkie-talkies. I want to establish a relay between the gate and the stage. That's one thing. We can also use our staff to scout out what's happening. Try to find these people before they do their stuff."
In a mocking tone, Saint said, "And Susan can coordinate it all from the comm trailer, right?"
I shook my head. "Not fucking likely. No way. Tonight is Susan's last night until this shit blows over," I said. "I don't want her going near the damn communications trailer. If they do come, that would be one of their first targets. No way. That's why the relay. I don't want anyone to be stuck in that trailer. I'll hang out near the gate with my walkie-talkie."
"How near?" asked Allan.
"Not very. Like I tell everybody, I'm a coward. You guys can relay what's happening to me, so we can coordinate with the bikers and the other guys."
"Just who exactly are these other guys?" asked Saint. "You said they were brothers from Oakland? They Panthers?"
I shook my head. "No. He said they weren't Panthers. Professionals, he called them."
Allan asked, "So do you have descriptions of the guys we're supposed to look for? And what are we supposed to do when or if we find them?"
"I'm hoping I can get descriptions from Mitch tonight at this meeting with the bikers," I said. "And what should we do if we luck out and find them before something comes down? We do nothing at all. We just stay back, and keep track of what they're doing, and report in. No close contact at all."
"Are Allan and I going to be able to come to this biker meeting?" asked Saint.
"I don't see why not."
Allan was staring towards the bar. I followed his gaze. At a table next to the bar, the young girl was giving a blowjob to one of the bikers. He was stretched out in a chair, pants unzipped, with a look of ecstasy on his face. The girl was kneeling between his legs, her head bobbing up and down in his crotch. I looked back at Allan. He smiled, almost blushing.
I was distracted when the Who came on the radio, singing ‘My Generation’ off the 'Live at Leeds' album, one of my favorites. I looked back at Saint, who was studying the naked girl and the biker. According to my watch, it was six-thirty. I drained my beer, then looked at the biker. He was squirming and moaning, and the girls' head was going up and down at a furious pace. Without warning, he went rigid, and then collapsed back in the chair. The girl raised her head, smiling. One of the bikers at the bar unzipped his pants, and called to the girl. She walked to him, and kneeled down.
"This place is too much," said Allan. "I was here a couple nights ago, and she was dancing on a table, picking up dollar bills with her pussy. She's one talented lady. And she really seems to enjoy her work."
Saint glanced at us, and then looked back at the girl and said, "I don't suppose you could catch any disease getting sucked off."
I laughed, and Allan said, "What, you gonna volunteer after she's finished with the bikers, Saint?"
He shook his head. "No, bro. I was only thinking of the bikers. I got plenty at home to keep me happy. Don't need no strange stuff." He finished his beer.
"What time is the meeting with the bikers?" asked Allan.
"Eight. At the security trailer at the main gate. Shall we split?"
They nodded their heads. Saint said, "Yeah, let's do it to it."
We pushed back our chairs, and left, Allan waving at the bartender as we went out the door. I talked with Saint for a minute about the plans for our evening with the ladies, then he and Allan walked back to the security HQ, and I went to find Bruce Stuckey, and dinner.
An hour and a half later, we were all waiting outside the security trailer with Mitch, Walt and Jim. Jim looked nervous, casting his eyes all around at the mass of people walking in through the gate.
As Saint had predicted, the inside lots had filled up early, and the only parking still available was in one of Walt's outside lots. According to Walt, people were still parking on the sides of Vail Road despite the signs and other warnings, and the cops had a number of tow trucks out there now, towing cars away. It was shaping up into a hell of a night.
The biker delegation was late. Mitch had explained to us that the Presidents of two clubs would meet with us – someone named Johnny Reb from the Shifters, a Tacoma club, and a guy named Gentleman Jim, from a club called Just-us. I had asked Mitch what to expect, and he said they were supposed to be cool, and not to worry.
Susan and Linda had already gone to the stage to wait for me and Saint. I had found Bruce Stuckey, and arranged for him to get them in. As soon as the meeting with the bikers was over, we'd leave and join them there.
I was just about to walk over and flirt with Jackie, who was talking to a couple of acid dealers who hung out next to the ticket booth, when Saint tapped me on the shoulder. He said, "I think these be our boys coming, now." He pointed down the road.
A half dozen bikers in full regalia were walking up the middle of the road. Cars and trucks bound for the stage passed on either side, the drivers avoiding them like the plague. It was common knowledge that it was bad for your health to run over a biker.
Each was dressed more or less the same. Most had long hair with full beards, black leather vests with their colors on the back, a black T-shirt, and blue jeans with black boots. Several sported tattoos on their arms.
The leader appeared to be a Shifter. He was clean-shaven, had long black hair, and was at least six foot two, weighing in at about two hundred and twenty pounds. As he approached Mitch, I got a look at the back of his vest. Above a stylized skull and a snake with fangs dripping venom, was written, 'Shifters MC,' and then below it, 'Tacoma.'
The biker stood nearly eye to eye with Mitch, and said, "I'm Reb. These are my top guys. You're Mitch?" He had a gravelly, Texas drawl.
Mitch nodded, running his fingers through his beard. "Yeah, I'm Mitch Cameron." He looked at us, then at the bikers and said, "I think we're gonna have to go back to the picnic table to talk. There are too many of us to fit in the trailer. Follow me."
He turned and led the bikers off towards the picnic table. I looked at Saint and Allan and shrugged, and set out after them. Walt and Jim trailed behind.
The bikers all sat on one side of the table, the festival staff sat opposite.
After Mitch made introductions, Reb said, "I don't know where the fuck those Just-us guys are. And I really don't give a fuck. I brought my main guys with me." He indicated with his hand, "This is Little Denny, Arnie, Dirty Dave, Dogbreath and Shit." Shit smiled, showing off the yellowed stumps of his front teeth when his name was mentioned. The others looked grim, puffing on their cigarettes. Reb continued, "I understand there's a favor you want. What can us guys do for ya?"
Mitch shifted uneasily, then launched into the explanation of what he had learned. He was about halfway finished when another group of three bikers approached.
The leader of these was tall and thin, with scraggly brown hair coming out from under a Nazi helmet. His jeans jacket was covered with patches, and prominent in the center of his bare chest was a large blue and red tattoo of a pair of wings, the Harley-Davidson emblem.
He stopped next to the table, and addressed Reb.
"You're here early," he said. "I thought it was supposed to be eight thirty."
Reb glared at him, "Eight o fucking clock." He looked at Mitch, and said, "Meet my illustrious counterpart from Just-us, Gentleman Jim Russo."
Gentleman Jim glared back at Reb, then softened his features and spoke to Mitch. "I'm sorry we're late. The boys and I had to knock off a quick piece." His voice was soft and well modulated, and he sounded educated.
I recognized him as one of the bikers from the saloon, the one that had gotten the first blowjob. He turned, snapped his fingers, and one of his escorts went running off, coming right back with a chair that he must have gotten from in front of the security trailer.
Gentleman Jim sat down at the end of the table, then as if presiding, said, "Okay, let's get on with it, already. What exactly are we doing here?"
Mitch backtracked a little for his benefit, then continued to outline what he had learned. The rest of us sat silently, watching the bikers' reactions. They all seemed to be interested in the story, and Reb in particular paid close attention. He leaned forward with his elbows on the table, picking his teeth with a large hunting knife, listening carefully.
When Mitch stopped talking, Reb stuck the knife in the table and asked, "So what do you want us to do? Protect you?"
Jim, who was still visibly nervous, responded, "Not exactly. We want you to protect the money. What we hoped, was that you could each bring a few people with guns up here, and just hang out. If we're lucky, they'll see you here, and forget the rip off. I don't think they're prepared to get into any protracted battle where the people would fight back with guns. The idea is to make it look like we're prepared to respond in kind if provoked. If we can make it look good enough, we shouldn't actually have to shoot anyone. The last thing we want is for someone to get shot."
Mitch nodded his head in agreement. "Jim's right. We've gotta keep the festival going. We can't afford to have anyone get hurt. That could bring all sorts of nasty shit down on us. No. If we have a bunch of your guys here, that should be a big enough deterrent so that the Octoberists won't even try anything."
Reb shook his head. "There ain't no fucking college pukes willing to dance a couple rounds with us. They ain't got no stomach for that sort of shit. Their sorta action? Shit! They go blow off bombs and shit when no one's looking. Sneak around in the night. Big brave men. Well I'll tell you right now, that ain't nothing. A real man, he's gonna kill someone, he goes up to the mark, sticks a knife in his gut, and twists it, while looking in the guy's eyes. That's a man. These guys, they're fucking faggots or commies, all of 'em. Not a stiff dick between 'em." He paused, looking us all over, then stared directly at Mitch. He said, "You want I should send some of my guys up here packing iron, no problem. Us Shifters, we're peaceful. We like this place, and we don't want no trouble to come down. We'd be glad to help."
Gentleman Jim broke in. "I agree with Reb. But are you sure you don't want us to just snuff these guys? Put them out of action for good? We can do it quiet, like. You have a problem with someone, that's always the best way. Permanent."
Mitch held up his hands. He smiled, and said, "Thanks, but no thanks. I don't want anyone to get hurt, us or them. Something like that comes down, it could get out of control too easy, and bring heat down on the festival. Close us down for good. That's something we do not want."
Reb snapped at Gentleman Jim, "He's right. Show some class, huh? We don't want no heat. Anyway, college boys scare easy." He looked at Saint, and asked, "Ain't that right, nigger?" He turned the hunting knife in his hands, staring at Saint.
Saint moved in his seat and started to answer, looking angry. Mitch cut him off. "That's right. No heat. We scare them off, no one gets hurt. Everybody has fun and listens to some good music, and parties. Okay. How many guys can each of you supply?"
It took another twenty minutes to work out the details. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, they all left. As we watched them file off back to the road, Saint turned to me and said quietly, "I'd like to kick that Nazi sonofabitch's ass."
Mitch, who had overheard, said, "Yeah, he may be a racist, but from now on, he's our best buddy. Keep your distance from him, Saint. And mellow out." He paused, got up, went and sat down on the opposite side of the table. He folded his hands while looking us over, and then said, "Okay. Here's what we're gonna do. They're gonna have five guys here minimum round the clock, all with guns. Like I told them, the most likely time for the Octoberists to try it will be between when it gets dark, at about eight thirty or nine, and midnight, when the music stops. During that time, there will be, what did they say, ten bikers here? Yeah, ten. I want you guys to do what ever the bikers want, and make sure no one fucks with them. The cover story if anyone asks why they're here, is that they're just helping out with security. No big deal. Cool?"
We all nodded.
I said, "I want you to know that Susan isn't coming back to work till this is over. I don't want her involved in any of this." I told them what I thought might happen to the communications trailer if the Octoberists did come. I finished, saying, "In the off times, I'll handle the radios myself. I couldn't ask any of the ladies to do that. Between dark and midnight, I'll leave the trailer and hang out around here with a walkie-talkie. I've arranged a relay from the stage to here, to keep communications going. We can do the same with Walt's folks. But I don't think anyone should be in the communications trailer. It's just too vulnerable."
"Yeah, that sounds reasonable," said Mitch. "I think we should get the other women out of here too. All of them."
Jim frowned, saying, "I've talked to Nancy about it. She refuses to leave. I don't think Jackie will leave, either."
"You've told her what's going on?" asked Walt.
"Sort of," answered Jim. "Not everything, but enough so she could get the idea. She just said something about how they know how to deal with punks like that in East Orange."
"Let me talk to her," said Mitch.
"What about the money trailer?" I asked. "It's the other obvious place that will get hit if anything comes down?"
"I've got some plans," said Jim. "But I don't want to discuss it right now."
"Mitch, do you have any description about what these guys may look like?" asked Allan. "Gordon wants us to watch for them, and if we knew who we were watching for, it'd make it a little easier."
Mitch looked at me, then back at Allan. He shrugged. "I can't tell you much. The leader is named Ed Morrissey. He was big in the Weather Underground before they split off and formed their own group. He's tall and thin, maybe six foot two, has long blond hair, almost down to his ass. Wears round wire frame glasses. Small lenses. But he may very well have changed his appearance. He's supposed to have eight or ten people with him, five or six men, the rest women. I haven't got any descriptions about them, except that they may be traveling in a truck. What you should watch for, is anything out of the ordinary, especially weapons. If any of your people see someone who looks like Morrissey, or see people with weapons, they should call in and let me know, then keep a watch from a distance, and see what they do. I can ID Morrissey. I know him. If we can get a positive ID, we can have the bikers surround them, and escort them the hell out of here."
Walt interrupted. "Same thing if any of my people see something?"
Mitch nodded. "Yeah. Even better. If we could get on to them before they actually got inside, that would be the best. Anyone got anything else? Okay. Remember, the bikers are our buddies, treat them nice. The guys from Oakland will be here tomorrow morning. When they get here, steer clear and let them do their thing. That shouldn't be hard, because they'll only be working in the stage compound. Now, we should have the first group of bikers back here in a little bit. Jim, if you could talk to Jackie and the ticket people, and prepare them. Right? So let's all get back to our jobs. And remember, keep this quiet."
Amid grumbles and groans, the meeting broke up, and everyone went their respective directions.
After leaving Allan at the security HQ, Saint and I walked down to the stage to join the ladies. Saint seemed morose and gloomy. He hadn't said much on the trip back.
When I asked him about it, he grimaced, and said, "I don't know. I guess it's just us having to get these bikers involved. Having to ask them to protect us. Shit, that's not a helluva lot different than asking the motherfucking Klan to protect us. A bunch of assholes dressed up real cool, thinking they're goddamn Nazi storm troopers or something."
I shrugged, and said, "Maybe so, but they're actually helping us. Who're we gonna turn to? The cops? I can't see that. They'd just close us down. They're still trying to get that court order against us."
"I still don't like it, Gordon. Bikers are trouble."
"I thought you told me they were all a bunch of pussies?"
We arrived at the side entrance to the stage compound. The gate guard saw our armbands, and passed us through. The compound was back to its usual, busy self, with people running around all over, laughing, getting high, and having fun. A group of six men were working at the bottom of the stage, loading band equipment onto a pallet in front of the forklift, getting ready to hoist it up onto the stage deck. The cloudy twilight sky was almost completely dark, and we could see that the lightshow had started, the strange designs and wobbling shapes visible through the white tarp stretched across the back of the stage. Jesse Colin Young and the Youngbloods had already started their show, and were playing ‘Darkness, Darkness.’ Saint and I hurried up the stairs to find Linda and Susan.
The back and sides of the massive stage were crowded with people watching the performance in the fading light of late evening. Saint and I scanned the faces. It was hard to identify anyone at all, because the musicians in the center of the stage were brightly lit, making the wings of the stage seem unusually dark. Finally, I caught a glimpse of Susan’s' pretty face, way over on the other side, next to the tower holding the PA speaker cabinets. I grabbed Saint's arm, and we walked in back of the light screen, around the edge, and towards the left PA tower.
Susan and Linda were sitting on a large equipment box, just behind two huge PA speakers. We sat down, and Susan and I kissed, briefly.
Over the almost deafening music, she yelled in my ear, "This is the best we could do. It's kind of hard to hear the vocals, but you can see everything great."
I nodded, and yelled back, "It's cool. This is just fine." I settled back, my arm over her shoulder, and we watched the show. The band was now playing, ‘Let's Get Together.’ They sang,
"Come on people, now,
Smile on your brother,
Everybody get together and
Try to love one another right now..."
It seemed like everyone took the words of the song to heart. After a while, even Saint started to enjoy himself again, telling jokes, and making fun of me and Susan. The 'Newlyweds' he kept calling us. Bruce Stuckey joined us after a bit, bringing some beer and weed, and Saint retold the story of my encounter with the bulldozer, embellishing parts. We stayed until well after midnight, listening to the music, partying, and talking politics with Bruce. We all had a great time, in the calm before the storm.