Saturday, November 21, 2015

Waiting for Beaver Fever

Just after I Turned onto the Rim Road and General Crook trail, we stopped for another water break. That's where we found the sign. "It is illegal to grow Marijuana in YOUR National Forest". Paranoid now, I dumped my sack of seeds around the sign. That sign no longer exists. I guess it gave people ideas.
The trail wound around the rim, rising and falling, weaving through the pines. Occasionally, an ATV would blow past, leaving us in a cloud of dust. We walked to the side of the trail, which was made of limestone and cinder. Maya's pads were suffering from the sharp stone and the day was hot, so we stayed off the path and in the shade and soft grass.

Just as I was wondering if my calculations were off and we had passed the first of the mapped water holes, we dropped below a small hill and in the distance saw the small green sign identifying Johnson Spring. My heart raced with anticipation. Would it be flowing? Would it be safe? With the fire ban in place and no filter, I had no means of purification.

My research told me to avoid stagnant or brackish water. Also to watch for white encrustation around the edges that might indicate the presence of poisons or alkali. It took a few minutes of searching through the tall weeds to find the source of the spring.

The water from Johnson Spring seeped out of the ground and formed a tiny pool just shy of a cubic foot in size. A narrow stream bed, dry and overgrown, extended both north and south from the shallow depression. There were a few plants growing in and around the water. The spring looked clean and cool and flowed slowly from the bottom, avoiding stagnation. It had no discernible odor.

Next I looked for the presence of hemlocks, belladonna, or other noxious plants that can leach toxins. I wasn't able to identify the few plants that grew there, but none were recognizably poisonous.
Like with water, there are warning signs that unidentified plants may be hazardous. I saw no furry plants, resinous plants, or plants with red or white berries or flowers. Again, no guarantee.

Maya's canine constitution could handle any likely micro organisms. I let her drink her fill.

The most prevalent danger from untreated water is Giardiasis, a protozoan infestation that wreaks havoc on the small intestine. The Giardia are carried in the intestines of humans, cattle, other small mammals, and is spread to water through fecal contamination. The affliction these little bastards cause is known by the colorful name Beaver Fever. Most animals who carry the protozoa are asymptomatic, as are some people. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide suffer the symptoms of

Symptoms can appear any time between one and fifteen days after ingestion, and begin suddenly. There are gut wrenching cramps, explosive diarrhea, and projectile vomiting. These occur along with loss of appetite, general weakness, and odorous belching. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to six weeks and when its all over, it can cause varying degrees of permanent lactose intolerance.

Everything I knew about water, I learned in books before I hit the trail. The one thing all of them had in common was the assertion that untreated groundwater cannot be assumed safe without extensive study and high powered microscopy. Even boiled or filtered water can contain unseen dangers like salinity, alkalinity, heavy metals, chemicals, and pesticides,

I cringe to see people drink untreated water of any kind, and would have preferred another option. The only tracks I saw near the spring were from birds. I saw no sign of cattle, and the dry stream, even at full flow, would too small to support beavers. With the added assurance that it was spring water and only just broke the surface, I drank.

The rural folk I grew up around taught me that the bowels are the barometer of health. I subscribe to this adage and generally pay attention, more so in survival situations. For the next two weeks, however, I would be worriedly monitoring all of my bodily functions. Each fart or rumbling of belly could be cause for concern. I was properly hydrated and feeling fit, but had condemned myself to weeks of apprehension and fear. Time would tell.

We spent the hottest part of the afternoon resting in the shade and hydrating. Maya had some kibble and I mixed the last of my bread crumbs with the last of the gravy mix and had a meager lunch. The only comestibles left for me was a can of Tomato soup.
I had to make the decision whether to continue on or spend the night near the spring and start the next day refreshed and with full bottles. My maps indicated there was another spring three miles distant. There were a few hours of daylight left so after stashing half the gear, we took our chances and moved on. If Kehl spring wasn't flowing, we might have to return anyway.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

D.C. Dead show part III (The Long Strange Trip)

The parking lot of a Grateful Dead show is like a carnival, and as such, it has the elements of any carnival. It's a place that either overtly or covertly caters to all manners of lusts and vices. Sometimes this dynamic is innocent: the Rube has his fun, the purveyor adds a coin to his pile. The Rube isn't the only face in the crowd however, and the Carnie isn't the only person looking to take advantage. There are carnivores at a carnival, and sometimes there is more at stake than coin. 

“I have come for the Carnival,
The freedom and the peace.
Who could be among us?
Do you know their ways?

I made the acquaintance
of a sister fair and fine.
She said 'My friend, don't eat their bread
or drink from opened wine”.
-TSB (from “An Outing at the Fair”)

I walked the traffic jam coming into the lot, looking for a ticket and digging on the humanity. A school bus with a VW bus welded on the top approached. It was festooned with a dozen young topless women. I heard the phrase “Temple Whores”, murmured from the crowd around me. I'm unfamiliar with that term as it was used. I once had a hooker proposition me while dancing on the lawn at a show in Indy. After a couple of hours with no luck on the search, I headed to the stadium, hoping to find my miracle there.
I saw a crowd gathering at one corner of the lot and went to see what the draw was. There was a guy selling balloons: Hippie Crack, Nitrous Oxide. The line was long and the girl in front put down a hundred dollar bill and ordered twenty which she passed down the line. I had just inhaled mine when a cop pushed his way through the crowd.
He ordered the vender to open the valve and empty his tank. While the tank was wooshing all that nitrous into the air, the cop was writing out a ticket. A hippie stole up and bent to the tank, inhaling the gas as it discharged. The cop turned and, seeing this, clouted the hippie guy on the ear. Just then one of those big Huey choppers rose over the lot at an altitude of about fifty feet. As it flew over, I saw a man with a bog old VHS camera and another with an automatic rifle standing in the big, open, doorway. The choppers ran up and down the lot all night like it was Apocalypse Now. I scattered.
A woman approached me and asked if I had seen anybody vending prepackaged food. She was afraid of the grilled cheese and burritos, and lectured me on the dangers of getting slipped something. When she asked if I had a relationship with Jesus, I slipped away from her and through the tunnel under the highway.
Usually, on the lot, there are people selling doses and buds. Not at this show. Three different people in the tunnel approached me selling crack. What kind of dead show was this? Vietnam war choppers, crack dealers, congressmen, I was out of my element.
I found myself on the lawn outside the stadium and continued my quest. I had no luck and eventually gave up and headed back to the tunnel, hoping maybe somebody back at the van had found an extra ticket. At the entrance to the tunnel, I met the Man in Black. He was a black man with a black ball cap, black jeans, and black tee shirt. There was no logo on any of his clothing, including the cap. He asked if I was looking for a ticket and I lit up. Turns out he didn't have one either, but promised if I met him at that light pole over there at 4pm, he could get me in for twenty dollars. Keeping this in mind, I returned to the van.
Dave said he had scored a ticket for me, but traded it for some mushrooms. Bill had a similar story. The hitch hikers had switched the cast again and were working the crowd about twenty yards from the van. I told Dave how I hadn't seen anybody selling anything but Cocaine, and what a weird scene it was. Nobody was smiling. Nobody was looking anybody in the eye. I wondered aloud if I just wasn't looking in the right place. I set out again, looking for family, who were more and more conspicuous in their absence. It was almost four so I walked under the highway to meet the Man in Black.
I found 4 people, but no Man in Black at the assigned location. There were three clean cut looking guys and a girl. Wary, I stood a little ways off, but the young lady spotted me and asked if I was waiting to meet the guy who was going to let us in. I joined their group and a little while later our dark friend strolled up.
He looked furtively around and then requested our money. We each gave him twenty dollars and he stuffed all of the bills into his pocket but one. He then instructed us on how to fold a second twenty, and how to hold it. He informed us he was going to lead us to a gate where a friend of his was taking tickets. We were to approach him and pass the twenties in the manner we were shown. I didn't like it, but I was already in for twenty bucks. Nobody else liked it either and I was voted to enter first. We got to the correct line and the Man in Black disappeared into the crowd.
I considered some lyrics from “Friend of the Devil”. “Took my twenty dollar bill and vanished in the air”.
I approached the turnstile with the quartet behind me and made the appropriate supplications, half expecting to have been ripped off. The large man received my second twenty without looking at me and allowed me through the turnstile. I was in.
I made a beeline for the restroom with the male part of our contingent. We decided to hang there for a while and let the stadium fill up a little before blending with the crowd. Of course, there was a cop in the john, so I did my best to pee and split. Curiously, the others stayed behind.
I left the hallway for the arena and bounded down the steps two at a time, headed for the stage. My floor length dashiki was billowing behind me; my long hair blowing in the breeze. I hadn't gotten far when a security guard behind me requested my ticket. I pretended I didn't hear him. “Hey Hardhead!” he shouted, “Stop right there”. I began sidling down a row of seats in an attempt to elude him. A second guard came down the next aisle and they nabbed me. Guard #1 asked for my ticket again and I told him I must have dropped it in all my excitement. He didn't buy it. The hauled me back up the steps with their fingertips dug hard into my armpits. My feet barely touched the ground. They took me to a cinder block room and locked me in.
Alone, I pondered whether or not to eat the dope. I had three hits of acid and about as many grams of skunk. I didn't know if there were cameras, so I remained calm and left the drugs in my pockets. I figured they were just going to make me sweat a while, maybe the duration of the show, then turn me loose with a citation. They only left me there for a few minutes before they returned and grilled me as to who let me in without a ticket. After several threats, they gave up, photographed me, wrote down whatever silly alias I had given, and escorted me out of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. I was banned for one year.
The tunnel to the lot now held a crap game, as well as the surge of the crowd coming for the show, two crack dealers, and a cop at each end (facing out). I felt like a salmon swimming upstream. I was disappointed to miss the show, but even more disappointed in myself for #1: my breach of ethics while sneaking in, and #2: getting caught leaping down the steps like an idiot.
At least I still had the drugs.
There were a few hours to kill, so I decided to find somebody to smoke this grass with. I wasn't sure if I was going to even eat the acid. It was pretty good stuff though, and I really wanted to. I had fasted in preparation and waited thirty days in order to have the best trip I could. I walked all the way back to the bus and couldn't find anybody who would look me in the eye, or even return a smile. Oh, how different than the Midwest shows!
I passed a girl along the way who was promising to “Bare anything for a crystal”, or maybe she was saying “Bear anything for a crystal”. In this group there was no telling. Was she hoping to trade a crystal for a grilled cheese, or maybe continue to swap up and score her drug of choice? Was she an exhibitionist? Was she a masochist? Maybe a little of both? To this day I often ponder her syntax. Back at the van, I sat on the ground and watched the carnival walk past on the way to the show. I had never spent an entire show in the lot. Perhaps the Universe was guiding me toward a valuable experience. As I sat there considering the events of the day and debating whether or not to eat the acid, the “Bare Anything” girl sat against a truck across from me. Her legs were splayed and I could see right up her panty-less skirt.
I wondered if I owed her a crystal.
In the end, I decided I would leave it to fate and walk along the Potomac to the other end of the lot, If I couldn't see a friendly face or find the people with the love in their eyes, I wouldn't eat the LSD. If I did find my people, I would dose up and smoke them out.
The Potomac was fetid, the populace: unfriendly. I reached the far (and I do mean far) end of the lot and stood there forlornly looking at the rusty fence. I was discouraged. I had some of the best paper I had seen, blue with gold stars, plus a chunk of mop up. Fate had spoken. I turned, preparing to trudge back to the bus and hotbox the skunk in my pocket.
I heard my name and looked to find that friendly face I was looking for. It was Jody, and I didn't even know she was in D.C. We smiled and hugged and she told me she had to hurry off to the show. After she left I put three squares of paper on my tongue and began my journey.
A while later, Little Red Riding Hood came skipping toward me. “Cold Rain and Snow” was coming from the Stadium. Her eyes never left mine as she skipped right up to me. She was wearing a frilly dress, red cape with hood, and had a picnic basket draped over one arm. She was blond and healthy and wholesome looking. She said she had to look in my eyes, and then she asked if I would like a “Very kind veggie burrito”. I said yes, I sure would, and inquired of the price. “No charge for the Mad Hatter” she said with a giggle, handed me her wares, and skipped along. I thought maybe my day was getting better.
The burrito, delicious and fresh as it was, made me thirsty. Way the hell out this end of the lot, there weren’t a lot of vendors. I went looking for a cold drink, and found a guy selling lemonade out of the back of an old truck. His sign read “Lemonade $6”. He was dispensing it in ten ounce cups. I was livid. I had guilt from not telling Dave what I thought of his WAY overpriced Sunny D, and wasn't going to let this guy go without an earful.
I told him just what I thought of people coming to the show and taking advantage of the poor, thirsty hippies by charging exorbitant prices. I told him he should be ashamed of himself and that he was behaving just like the capitalist “Babylonians” we eschewed. He told me if I thought his portions were unfair, to give him six bucks and drink all I want.
God help me, I did. I had about six glasses. It was days before I realized what I had done.
It wasn't long after that when I met the Grilled Cheese Guy. I thought the Grilled Cheese Guy was where it all went wrong. I wasn't thinking about the two hits of gold stars on blue paper, or the mop up, or the burrito, or the six glasses of lemonade. Nope, it was Grilled Cheese Guy. He reached into my head with his greasy grilled cheese finger and did something to me. It sounds funny now, but it wasn't at the time.
I started hearing his pitch from about twenty cars back. “Grilled cheese! Getcher Grilled Cheese! KIND Grilled cheese!” The later had a leering quality to the word “Kind” as if it were somehow satirical and I tried not to look when I passed him. The next time he hollered “Grilled” I had drawn up even and was looking right ahead of me at a drummer some distance off. With the word “CHEESE!” he leaned in front of me and tapped me solidly between the eyes with his finger. I didn't notice which one; finger that is.
Freaked me right out. That grilled cheese guy reached right into my psyche and was poking around in there for god knows what reason. I felt mystically violated. I wasn't going to hang around and try to toss fireballs with some evil wizard. I headed toward the masses around the drummer.
He was shirtless with dreadlocks, and I was halfway from the grilled cheese attack when I noticed I was dancing to the rhythm and the drummer was staring intently at me, drawing into him. I wondered if he was in collusion with the Grilled Cheese Guy. Lucky for me I was carrying a three inch ovate brass bell that was hand made by Buddhist Monks (at least that's what Jody's friend told me when he traded it to me for some gold stars back in Muncie).
I dug out that bell and found a whole different beat and broke free of the hold that drummer had on me and his grilled cheese friend too. I turned right at the next corner and danced away. I thought I heard whispers of “Mad Hatter, look!”. Two girls: plain, with straight brown hair, sat in the middle of the path. They were moving as if dancing, but weren't in step with “Franklin's Tower”, which was pouring out of the Stadium and further freaking me out. “In Franklin's Tower there hangs a bell. Might have one good ring baby, who can tell?”
One turned to the other when I drew closer, and whispered to her “Don't get in his shadow!” I did my best to remain calm and continue to the relative safety of the bus. “Franklin's Tower” turned to “Estimated Prophet” and I chilled a little. Then I saw those same girls again, coming toward me, and didn't know how they could be there. When I walked past, the one looked at the other and whispered “Don't look in his eyes!”
I was almost in a complete panic. I stopped and cast about looking for Grilled Cheesemen and evil wizards or at the very least, Dave's bus. The Vietnam choppers continued to threaten the skies. A friendly voice called out, “Hey bro! Come over here for a while, the helicopters can't see you under here.” I looked. There were two split window buses parked next to each other with a tarp stretched between. They had built a bunker, front and back, with bedrolls and gear and duffle and such. It was incredibly comfortable. Over at the stadium, we could hear “Dark Star.” A bowl went around.
By time it came to me, it was empty. I reached for my stash to refill it and the girl who had invited me in said not to worry. I handed it to her and she told me to watch carefully. She stuck the tip of the little finger from her right hand into her mouth and sucked on it a minute. Then she inserted it into the pipe and twisted it. With each twist her finger rose a bit more in the bowl. When she was done and handed it back to me, it was nearly full.
It went around again and a new girl joined us, sitting to my right. The bowl was empty by time it got to her. I told her not to worry and reached for the wooden pipe. I told her to watch carefully as I sucked on my right pinkie and then twisted it in the bowl. I imagined our hostess's eyes sparkled a little. I felt a small kernel rising in the pipe, I twisted. The pipe refilled itself again and before I, or the new girl could express our amazement, our hostess stood and commanded us all to hush. A neighboring jam box was playing a different version of Dark Star and they were synching up here and there. She told me I was safe to go back out now. I noticed Dave's bus a few rows over and excused myself. I was refreshed. I thought the worst of the evening had passed, but those brown haired girls would have none of that.
There they were, standing across from the bus. They were right where I had last seen the Bare/Bear Anything girl. The one looked at the other and whispered into her ear “They're taking his soul!” There's only so much a fellow can take. I dove right into the surprisingly unlocked van and hid under some blankets. The band was covering “It's All Over Now Baby Blue” Maybe the Grilled Cheese Guy did get me? I tried to meditate, but the only mantra I could hold was one of repeated panic. After an eternity, I heard a voice.
The voice said hey man, its okay. You know what to do. “Do I think about all the love in my life?” I asked. The voice chuckled. “You'll be alright.”
I smoked a joint. I was alright. No Grilled Cheese Guy was going to take my soul. I shouldn't listen to strange brown haired girls. After a while I got out of the bus. The show was over, the fireworks had started. I walked away from the lights a bit, but kept the van in sight. The first firework turned to smoke. The smoke turned into Tom Sawyer. I walked farther from the lights. The second firework turned into the woodcut of the skeleton with roses. Then it turned into just a skeleton. Then it brutally sodomized Tom Sawyer. I ran for the van.
It was locked. I stood at the van and tried not to look at the smoke. I also tried not to look at the truck across the way, lest there be two very mean brown haired girls or at the very least, one brown haired vagina looking back at me. I focused on a spot halfway from the bus to the path and up stepped The Man in Black. He was looking the other way, watching concert goers as the came out and walked along the path to their cars. I tried to convince myself that it wasn't him. It was.
The Man in Black reached into his left pants pocket and bowed deeply toward the truck across the way. Suddenly, he pivoted on his heels, and came up facing me with a huge stack of hundred dollar bills fanned out like a hand of euchre. There must have been thousands of dollars there. He looked up and smiled and pivoted back toward the path with his hands in his pockets. I was stricken. Then he glanced at a spot on his left and looked over his shoulder at me. Then to his left/ Then back at the path. He was inviting me. I dove back in the bus, which was unlocked.
No matter how hard I listened, I couldn't find that reassuring voice again. I lay on the floor and smoked another joint. After a bit I crept up and looked out the window. The Man in Black was gone. I crawled back out of the van.
Dave and Bill showed up, and eventually the hitch hikers. Neither wore the cast, they were carrying it. We all got in the back and smoked another one. Dave and Bill informed me that they were too high on mushrooms to drive. I told them about my night. They said if I didn't drive then we were staying right there. That sounded okay to me until the third time the cop came by and told us if we didn't leave we'd be towed and/or arrested. God help me, I drove out of that lot, and down the road to Dave's aunt's place in Virginia.
Every exit ramp had five or six cop cars waiting, with lights flashing, to bust the Deadheads. The helicopters were swooping and the buildings were glaring at me malevolently. I'll never go back to that damned town. The hitch hikers dropped a hundred and a half on Dave for gas and got out at the exit for Dave's aunt. I think Autumn was wearing the cast this time. Somehow we made it back to Dave's Aunt's. I don't know if Dave's aunt even really exists. I didn't see her. Bill and I had to sleep in the back yard and weren't allowed to use the toilet.
Dave and Bill ate mushrooms and so they slept like babies. I had done god knows how much acid (I still hadn't put two and two together about the burrito and the lemonade). I was up for the duration in a backyard where I wasn't particularly welcome in Virginia, damn close to the most evil city on the east coast and the grilled cheese sorcerer bastards it harbors. I decided to go for a coke. My soul seemed safe for the moment.

“Winding his way among goblins.
The dancing man ringing his bell.
Did it indeed occur as he's seen?
As he sees? Or somewhere in between?

In and out of the temple
betrayed by his leaps toward the floor.
Pipes were all dry, no love in their eyes
Heard a voice, swallowed stars, still denied.

Hunger drove him to that smiling maid.
Then he argued with a merchant on the price of lemonade.
The man shouted “Fine my friend! Take you two times three!”

How sore I erred.
In truth I fared
The price of gluttony.
Foolish and dumb,
The fruit had come
From a magic lemon tree.”
-TSB (from “An Outing at the Fair”)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

D.C. Dead Show Part II of III

It was barely dawn when we rolled into the parking lot at RFK Stadium in our nation's capital. I was anxious to escape the VW after being crammed in the back of the bus with Bill with his voluminous bedsheets and Cody and Autumn, the hitch hikers (Cody had the broken leg, or was it Autumn?). I fairly dove for the door and scrambled to get at least forty feet from everybody before I noticed the sunshine, turned my face to the sky, and smiled. It was finally safe to breath through my nose again.

I can't stress enough how everybody but myself was profit oriented on this trip. I had learned to never do business on the lot, neither buying nor selling nor trafficking in contraband in any way. A Dead show is the perfect storm of law enforcement. In addition to uniformed fuzz, state and local have undercover rats there as well as a few different federal acronyms. It was dangerous enough just being there. 

Once sprung from the bus, I wandered the paths between parked vehicles, meandering my way to the exit ramp leading to the lot and spent quite a bit of time there looking for a ticket to the sold out show. Where the ramp met the expressway, I met a topless girl in full lotus with a picture book of Grateful Dead. She invited me to sit with her and look at her picture book. While I did, she told me her story.

She told me she was the secret love child of Phil Lesh, bass player for the band, and that they were secretly Jewish. She said these things were secrets because there were branches of the government (also secret) who were run by the mafia and wanted to kill them. I wished her luck and went on my way, sadder for having met such a confused soul. Maybe somebody back at the van had scored an extra ticket for me.
t was a mile or more along the long lot at RFK to the bus. To the north, we were bordered by the highway. To the south, we were bordered by the Potomac; a fetid swamp of a river, covered with algae and litter that didn't even sink in the thick, polluted water. I was offended that the river in our nation's capitol should find itself in such disrepair. I heard that some people let their dogs drink from it and they became very sick.

When I got back to the bus, the only people I knew there were the hitch hikers, and I could swear the other one wore the cast when we first picked them up/ It turns out it was a fake cast. And they took turns wearing it and panhandling the crowd. I decided I might have a better chance at a ticket closer to the stadium. I'd seen Bill Graham handing out miracles from the sunroof of a limo at a previous show at Deer Creek, and that was right at the gate.

There was no sign of Bill Graham, of course, but I trudged on, with my finger in the air, looking for that miracle. I found myself quite literally tempted by the darkside. A black man in black jeans, a plain black tee, and a black ball cap told me he could get me a ticket if I were to meet him at a certain spot at an appointed hour, maybe three hours hence. I agreed to meet him if I had no luck and returned again to the bus to kill time.

I was not so surprised this time, when I found the hitch hikers had switched the cripple role again. Dave was there, and had purchased several eighths of different kind buds from which he was pulling a bud from each. He said he planned on steaming the weed when he got home to make up the weight, and would wind up with an eighth or better for himself. I grew more and more disgusted with the scene as the hours progressed. Dave left to make his money and the hitch hikers moved on to make theirs. I sat beside the bus and watched the carnival that marched by.

Across from where we parked was another bus, white, also parked parallel to the drive. A girl was there, looking a bit chewed and out of shape, and she called to those who walked past, “Bare anything for a crystal”(as in expose), or maybe it was “Bear anything for a crystal” (as in tolerate). I wonder to this day, as she seemed likely to be marketing herself for either pursuit. I never found out which, although I paid attention (lest she find a customer and the situation clarify itself). I will say that when she sat next to the bus, you could see right up her skirt and I wondered if maybe I owed her a crystal, but did not ask, for I carried no crystal this day.

The sun was beginning to get low, and I spiraled out from our little spot to make my appointment with the dark man and my way into the show. By now, there were Huey helicopters flying low over the crowds in the lot. Out one door was a soldier with an automatic rifle, out the other was an equally imposing soldier with a video camera. It was a bit intimidating, and reminded me of vietnam movies.

There was a place in the lot roped off for congressmen, and two limos and several caddies were parked there with their government tags. How hypocritical that our elected leaders should be there, yet everywhere I looked were either overly-armed patrols of active busts going down.  Cops were even busting people with nitrous tanks, and forcing them to open the valves and empty the tanks. While one cop was writing a guy a ticket and his tank was emptying into the air, a hippie kid walked up and bent his face to the blast and was huffing the gas as it blasted out. The cop hit him with his nightstick and called him stupid and I strolled for better ground. I was off to the third telephone pole from the main gate to get my black market ticket.

Overall, the scene was ugly. It wasn't like any show I had ever been to. Everybody had an agenda to take advantage of somebody else. Later, it occurred to me that a lot of family who kept the vibe up were in Vermont preparing for the gathering of the tribes, and maybe their absence allowed for such an element. I would join them in a few weeks, and actually meet that topless daughter of Phil's Jewish love, but that's a WHOLE other story.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The D.C. Dead Show (part I, before it all got strange)

Springtime in Indiana can, in some years, be more cruel than the bitterest of winters. The snow doesn't simply melt, with the heating of the hemisphere, but is washed straightaway by the rains. Looking out the window, you can watch the white recede and the grass grow green again. Soon, there is the light green of new growth. Still the rains fall, leaving the new verdant lawns soggy and inaccessible. Being stuck indoors during a blizzard or overly long freeze is tenable, even expected. Being shut up indoors for weeks while the world is once more springing to life is intolerable. I am remembering one such spring and the lengths my protracted exile from nature had driven me.
One day, as I was debating the construction of an ark, a wee bit of blue appeared to the south and west of Muncie. The rain had gone to a drizzle. It occurred to me that I hadn't been in the woods for quite a while. Trees and plants and moving water have always been energizing to me, relieving the encumbrances of daily life.
I grabbed a sack of smoke and pointed the Buick at that patch of blue.
East Central Indiana is unlike the wooded hills where I grew up. Both are corn country; acres of fields dotted with wooded areas. Muncie has less wooded areas than southern Ohio, and I had no luck finding one that looked accessible. They were all small, one acre plots, well back from the road and across muddy fields in view of the farms that possessed them. It was while I was searching that the downpour returned.
Lighting up another joint, I meandered the farm roads and sodden highways back to town. A short ways from the little city, I found a row of greenhouses, set among an orchard. I don't remember the name of the nursery, but decided to avail myself of the greening vibe and pulled into their parking lot.
I entered the first of four long glass buildings and, finding it occupied by a cashier and several middle aged women, moved along a connecting arch to the next. I did so until I found myself in the farthest, and likely least populated. I sparked another doob and wandered the aisles, absorbing the surrounding life with each of my senses. At the rear of the building stood a group of young trees, and I sat down among them, inhaling their fragrance with that of the sativa burning at my fingertips.
The sudden voice that broke my reverie startled me. “That looks like a great idea, I do that as often as I can”. It turns out, that was no sprinkler system I heard behind the trees, but a hippie with a hose. He introduced himself as David while he availed himself of the proffered joint. I told him of my quest for a woods and how it led me to the nursery. He invited me to follow him home on his break to sample some indica and I complied, following him to Tenth street.
We chatted at length, and he showed me his “paintings”. Less art than craft, they were the product of oil colors floating on water that he dipped paper into. They were pleasing to look at, yet still, there was no artistry involved. In the end, he sold me an ounce of the sticky stuff we'd been smoking. His wife was livid that he would bring a stranger to his home and conduct business. I had short hair at the time, and was sporting wire rimmed glasses, a collared shirt, and a watch; not exactly the uniform of my people.
I was about to leave, when he invited me to join him and some friends and travel to a Grateful Dead show in D.C. In a couple of months. At first I declined, but when I searched my mind for an excuse, I found I had none. I had no girlfriend or job so, “Hell yeah” I said. “Sign me up”.
On the appointed day, Dave picked me up in his bright orange high top VW bus with the giant daisy on the front. It was only then that I found that his “friends” were one single individual named Bill. I knew Bill. I used to sell LSD to Bill. Bill was an odd cat.
Bill was a big fella who dressed exclusively in pastel bedsheets. He wore lipstick, eyeliner, and nail polish, all in black. He had some kind of vampire thing going on. Had they used the word back then he would have been Goth, all but for the weird ass pale blue bedsheet.
I used to meet him at his mother's house. She would announce that his drug dealer was there, and he would appear and take me to his basement and we would do business. His mother holds a position in city government and, to this day, calls any former associates of her son “drug dealers” and holds them responsible for his heroin addiction years later.
He only went in for two or three hundred dollars at a time. He constantly demanded a better price. I told him if he spent more, or paid up front when I placed my orders, he could halve his expenses, but he wouldn't go for it. Eventually I noticed the bills he would pay with all had a red magic marker dot in the lower right hand corner of the reverse side. I discussed this with the people I dealt with on the supply side, paranoid that I was receiving marked money and giving fair warning to those it trickled up to. I was advised to discuss it with him, rather than cutting him off. I followed instructions, failing to grasp the greed that motivated the individual on the supply side.
Bill denied marking the money, or noticing it had been marked. He assured me that the bills in question came from an assortment of people and the marks must be coincidental. I couldn't buy his excuses, but continued doing business while I tried to figure things out.
Actually, it wasn't me who noticed the marked bills, but a weed supplier on 8th street who pointed it out. He turned out to be an undercover agent for the DTF, but that's another story.
Before I met Dave, the situation with Bill solved itself. The Dead were coming through town in May and Bill was going to follow the pipe dream of twenty five dollar sheets on the dead lot. He focused all his finances in this direction and ceased dealing with me. He later told me he found the fabled twenty five dollar sheets, but they turned out to be plain blotter paper. No LSD was on them.
In the van, on the way to the show, Bill told me he intended to find the people who sold the bogus doses and force them to take them back. He didn't. He ended up ripping people off and selling those sheets as individual hits to unsuspecting Deadheads. I remember him justifying this, but don't remember the details of how. I can't think of much that is more reprehensible in the LSD trade. I let my friends know, that they shouldn't deal with Bill.
That was how the D.C. Trip started out. Dave, had a case of Sunny D, his “art” and some other crap that he planned on selling at quite a markup on the lot to fund his third of the expenses. He later told me he had his wife's permission to attend based on the projected profit he would return with. I had saddled myself with just the kind of capitalist hippies I abhored.
I had cash in my pocket and two hits of that fantastic blue paper with gold stars, and a mop up. Mop ups are sheets of very heavy (almost cardboard) that they throw in the pan to soak up whatever is left of the LSD when they lay sheets. For every ten sheets I ordered, I got a sheet of mop up. Mop ups are awesome. Let's say maybe 800 micrograms or more instead of the already 350 mics my people regularly laid.
We stopped in Virginia to pick up hitch hikers. One had his leg in a cast. Dave said it was in hopes they would kick down some gas. After ten hours or so in the van with Bill and Dave, it was apparent that they were in it for the possible profit, not the show.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

My Breif Career as a Vigilante Mormon Cop

Bear Canyon Lake, August. '04 or '05

There was a Mormon family that I met my first year out at Bear Canyon, and when all is said and done I will have referenced them many times in other stories The paterfamilias was head of security at a utility installation to the west of Phoenix; a pretty intense assignment in light of the terrorist fears of the time. I saw him several times a year, mostly with a large group including extended family and friends.

Mormons aren't supposed to have caffeine, so whenever he was in camp I would hike to his kitchen with my coffee pot and I would have coffee and he would have green tea and we would chat. Mostly we talked about the forest, but often strayed to politics. Mormons, for all their rules and strange underwear, are really Libertarian at heart. It wasn't hard for us to find common ground and become friends. The irony of his police background wasn't lost on me.

This particular year, his brothers had come with their families and before they arrived he warned me that they were Phoenix police officers, in the event I wanted to make myself scarce. He didn't know my legal status, but I think cops are just used to people who don't want to hang. I had no such compunction, He was a good guy and fine friend and I assumed his brothers would be as well. They were.

It was late August and getting cold. I had turned in with the lantern and a book. I was camped about a hundred yards south of the road to the lake, shortly after turning off of Forest Road 89. That area is off limits to camping now.

The Mormons were camped directly across the road (north) and again about a hundred yards back. There was a ditch about four feet deep that ran along my side of the road for about a hundred and fifty yards to the east, ending at the shitter.

Corona Brian had loaned me a copy of “Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon” by Ghiglieri and Myers. It tells the story of all known deaths at the Canyon. It's a fascinating read and I recommend it to anybody who is going out to camp in the wild. It is at times tragic, and at others a monument to stupidity.

I was about three chapters in, when I heard heavy footfalls near my tent. I turned out my lantern and listened. Soon, I heard a moaning, followed by giggling.Then a growl. I didn't take it seriously, I assumed it was some asshole kids; maybe drunk. Then two voices said they were going to kill me and cackled. I heard them walking away and I reached for my revolver.

I climbed out of my tent and moved a little ways off into the brush where I might not be seen and I watched for movement. I sat there a pretty long time. Just as I moved to return to my tent, there was a sharp report and a flash of light from the shitters and somebody yelled that they had been hit. I flattened myself on the ground. My camp was uphill and southwest of the toilets. It was quite visible in the moonlight.

I figured it would be better for me to watch those people, than for them to watch me, and the threats I had fairly dismissed earlier seemed more pressing now. I crawled like GI Joe the hundred yards north to the ditch and threw myself into it. I hunkered there, listening for any indication of what was going on. My Heritage Rough Rider clutched in my right hand. I waited. I heard footsteps, and three forms vaulted into the ditch behind me. The Mormons had arrived.

My friend, the security man, asked if I had been firing my revolver. It wasn't until I answered him that I noticed the 357 Glock each man was holding. As we reconnoitered, they told a familiar tale. Somebody had crept up om their camp as they were sleeping and made scary noises and threats and scared the women and children. “I don't need to tell you”, he said, “They picked the wrong kids to scare”.

I told them I had chosen the ditch as a way to sneak up on the shitter unseen to investigate. “Lead on”, he said, “Let's get the drop on them”. I was scared and thrilled and honestly almost giggled on the spot at the idea of three armed cops allowing me, a fugitive with sidearm drawn, to lead them on what was certainly an illegal out-of-jurisdiction raid. This is the west.

We got to the end of the ditch and peered over. There were three young Hispanic men standing around a Dodge Pickup. “Follow us” the security man said, “and keep your gun on them”. We hopped out of the ditch and I tried to emulate their movements, walking fast and kind of squatted down with my revolver extended. In all honesty I probably looked more like Janet Jackson than Samuel L.

The cops started yelling like a pack of dogs and the next thing you know we had them all lined up and reaching for the sky. Security took the lead and identified us as police officers. I remember thinking "well, there's a serious felony". I think he was the older brother. He questioned them and they denied having a weapon. He walked behind them and kicked their legs apart and searched them. All the while we were holding them in our sights. He didn't find anything and I suggested they might have ditched a weapon in the shitter. He instructed me to take a look.

First I checked the men's side. I looked in the trash and overhead in the rafters, I even looked down the poop hole. I was turning corners and leading with the Rough Rider like Kate Jackson. When I looked behind the door in the Ladies' room, I found a fourth young man, and tried not to look as startled as he did. He put his hands up of his own accord, and I marched him into line with the rest.

Security was searching the truck. The fattest of the four was visibly shaking and asked if he could put his hands down. “Only if you want to get shot” one of the brothers replied. He found nothing in the truck.

With their hands still in the air, the brothers took turns berating them for their juvenile behavior and for scaring their women and children. They must have told them three times how they could have shot them for making threats toward our camps. The perps were scared shitless. I'd never been on this side of things before, and the juxtaposition was fascinating to me.

In the end, there was a lot of “Yes Sir” and “We didn't realize” and the kids were told to get in their truck and never return to the forest. My police buddies went back to their families, and I sat outside my tent for a while and had a smoke. To this day I'm not sure if I was a Deputy, a Vigilante, or an Indian Scout, but that was the extent of my career in law enforcement.

Friday, January 23, 2015

A.K.A. Bill the Sailor and One Eyed Peter

I sat with my back to the one way mirror in the interrogation room. Across from me were two of the biggest criminals I had ever been face to face with. On the left, was the one they all called Sarge. The one on my right had the nickname “Jump Street” because he looked younger than his age and often worked undercover.

These two would go on to rob hundreds of accused drug dealers. Sarge rose in rank, enjoying the support of crooked politicians and attorneys. Jump Street was wise enough to use his resume to get out of town before their playhouse collapsed under formal charges, disbandment, and restitution.I think Sarge mows lawns now, and answers phones for somebody.

But at this time they were young, barely older than my twenty five years, and allowed to do as they would. The town had once been known for the corruption of it's police. Many from that era were retired, or soon to do so, and there was a new generation of gangsters with badges aspiring to fill their shoes. The hysteria of The War On Drugs was at it's pinnacle and provided the perfect opportunity for bribes, “forfeitures”, and outright theft. H.W. Was President and Dave had just been elected mayor.

They had me sign a Miranda statement, and were collecting my personal information. Sarge did most of the talking. Jump Street left the room a few times and returned with evidence bags, file folders, and the occasional supervisory agent. One detective, I had known as an outlaw biker and had no idea he was Drug Task Force. It turns out, he had investigated almost every unsolved murder in the previous decade. Many of the victims (women) had ties with law enforcement or politicians through either their jobs or personal relationships. That's a different story though, and for somebody else to tell.

We got to the part where Sarge asked me if I had any aliases or nicknames. Seeing a chance to have some fun, I answered in the affirmative. “Some people call me Redbeard” I told him. “Any others?” he asked, “Sure”, I replied, and really got into it. I told him how in elementary school, I wrote a series of short stories wherein I had super powers and used the name Barno and it had stuck among the boys I grew up with. Then I started playing word games with my names as he listed them. I was born with the name Todd Stuart Christian, so I gave him that one next.

Then I said Stuart Christian, Chris Stuart, Chris Barnes, Stuart Barnes, etc. I went on like this for awhile; enough that he had to turn the sheet over and keep writing. I was able to keep up the charade halfway through a second page before I began running out of ideas. I decided to give up the game. “Lefty”, I said, and couldn't believe it when he wrote it down and didn't even look up.

“Well”, I thought to myself, “might as well see how far I could go with it”. “Bill the Sailor”. I glanced over at Jump Street, who was taking notes as well. Neither of them looked up, both had paused to wait for the next name. I imagined them running all those names through some database and wondered what they would find. I was amazed they were still buying it and had to suppress the giggles.

“One Eyed Peter.”

Sarge wrote it, but Jump Street put his pencil down and whispered to his partner. Sarge looked out the top of his eyes at me and said, perfectly deadpan, “You're yanking my chain aren't you”. Unable to contain it anymore, the laughter burst out of me while they sat there looking at me stone faced.

Sarge asked me if I was on LSD “right now”. “Oh god no”, I responded, “That would be awful”. “Then why are you laughing and joking” he wanted to know, “Most people aren't very happy where you are right now”. “I'm just trying to make the best of a bad situation”, I told him honestly, “You have your job to do and I have mine”.

I figure one day it will all bite me in the ass. Some cop somewhere will run my numbers and all those bogus aliases will show up along with a warrant for Bill the Sailor or ol' One Eyed Peter and I'd better have a good alibi.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Anasazi Bellows Part III

I slept fourteen hours. The nearby white noise of rushing water was not only relaxing, but served to drown out any campground revelry. I probably would have slept even more, but was awakened by a klaxon and rose to investigate.

I found myself in a mesquite grove at the bottom of a mountain. There was a steep rock wall to the rear of my tent, and a slow moving river about a hundred and fifty feet in front of me. There were several camps set up along and in front of my own. The alarm soon ceased and I found it wise to locate the shitter we passed on the way in before investigating my whereabouts.

On the way there, I passed the dog-catcher's truck. I thought it odd that there would be such services this far into the wild. I waved and the woman driving stopped to tell me she had come on the report of a vicious dog and asked if I had seen one, I told her I had not. I later learned that Goat's puppy had bitten somebody and they had gone to town and reported it.

Wandering around, I noticed stuffed animals hanging in the trees and lurking behind rocks. As I continued, I began seeing eggs; both boiled and plastic. I hadn't realized it was Easter.

I spotted some signs and verified that I was at Childs campground on the Verde river. I had studied this area at the library, hoping someday to visit. I hadn't planned on it, as the road was too long and dry to hike (for my purposes anyway). I worried how I would ever get out of here.

There was no vehicle at the camp across from me, but a rafter had drifted in, and older guy, and he crossed the path to introduce himself as Frank. He asked me if I had ever had Apple Pie. I thought that odd. “Of course”, I replied. “No” he said, “I mean APPLE PIE!”. I conceded that perhaps I hadn't. He asked if I had a cup and, producing one for him, he dashed back to his camp and poured me a few fingers. “It's a local favorite”, he told me, and urged me to try it. It was delicious. Cider and apple juice and cinnamon and spices. “It's made with everclear”, he divulged, “Be careful”. And he went on his way.

I sat there, in front of my tent, enjoying my sweet, fruity breakfast. It wasn't long before another gentleman came by with a prosthetic leg and invited me to a pancake breakfast, to which he said the entire camp was invited. I followed him to the shade of a Mulberry tree where indeed, the entire camp had assembled. Ron started on the flapjacks and his wife, Penny, busied herself giving haircuts to the hippies. Barely sprouting stubble, I would wait a year to avail myself of this kindness. I learned that it was Ron and Penny who had hidden the toys and treats for the kids, and that it was an annual endeavor for them.

Johnny, the naked kid from the night before, was there in filthy jeans. Goat was with him and dragging a gallon wine jug full of keg beer on a leash. Goat handed me a sack of grass. “What's this”? I asked. “You said you didn't have any” he said. “Enjoy”. Then he tried to sell me some rocks. I traded some lapis I had worked for a local crystal. That month, everybody I met got a piece of lapis or malachite from me.

The shy guy, in the hat with the fire-dick diagnosis was standing off to the side (as he does) and motioned me to come over. He asked if I had any pot and handed me a carrot.

The strangeness and incongruity of this group of people and the words they used seemed to have no end.

Turn it over” he told me. Turns out, the carrot was a pipe. “Rangers don't think anything of a black old rubbery carrot in the bottom of your pack”. He smiled and pulled a small drill bit from his pocket, explaining that it was better to carry fruits and veggies and a drill bit than a pipe around these parts. “There's a ranger here called Frau Bluecher”, he warned me, “and she's a real ball buster.

Rusty had a white Toyota van and a little dog that looked like a cross between a Jack Russel and a Javelina and behaved likewise. He also wore the most magnificent hat. He called it a Dorfman. While we talked and smoked, a white truck had joined up with Frank. A woman and a young man with coke bottle glasses and an enormous grin got out. Not long after, a Sherrif's SUV showed up at their camp with a Ranger behind.

All the authority this morning was making me nervous. It appeared Rusty felt the same and he suggested we walk. We went south as far as the trail would allow. Rusty would occasionaly dash up a hill or reach into the bushes and retrieve some piece of camping gear he had previously stashed. He gave me a grill grate from up a wash. I still have it, as well as the Dorfman, but the hat didn't come into my possesion for another year.

On the way back to camp, we saw the ranger, in fact Frau Bluecher, with a clipboard writing down peoples license plates. Rusty said “Hey sis! How are you doing”? “Fine”, she replied, “and you”? Rusty gave her a sly look that I would learn often proceeded a sally of wit and asked if she was German by descent. “Why yes”, she said. “Why do you ask”?

Rusty gave her that squinty eyed crosswise look and said “Because you're acting like a fucking Nazi, that's why!”

I walked the other way, pretending not to know him, and asked a few different people how to get to the Hot Springs. I received as many different directions as people I asked. I ended up following footprints north, and actually found it. Turns out the klaxon I had heard was the alert that the power plant to the north was going to open the turbines. It was a warning to steer clear. The white noise that gave me such restful sleep, was the turbines, churning out water from Fossil Creek.

I returned to camp about an hour before dusk. Ron and Penny had left, and Rusty was at Frank's camp with Dee, Mikey, Goat, and Johnny. There was a fire going and people kept blowing through their fingers at the coals to stoke it up when it died down. This was curious to me, as it was a mannerism I had never seen before.

Rusty cut the fat from a pork loin and threw it on the grill grate. It was a sheet about 18 inches square. Vultures circled overhead. We drank Apple Pie and laughed at the vultures. When the fat was cooked, Johnny and Goat fell upon it, gnashing it with their teeth, oils dripping and running down their elbows. Sated, they moved on and Rusty cooked the loin for the rest of us.

By the time it was done, Dee was passed out in her truck and Mikey had bloodied himself falling down while professing for the umpteenth time that “I believe in US man, I believe IN US!”. The Apple Pie was taking it's toll.
I asked Rusty about the blowing through the fingers, because it seemed so affected and I couldn't see how it was effectual. I'd noticed people at different camps doing it.

The Anasazi's came down once, and taught us all that”, he said. Everybody nodded in understanding.

Once again, I was bewildered at the customs and language of these people. I was under the impression that the Anasazi tribe had disappeared or died out a thousand years ago. I stated as much, wondering if there was a lost sect hiding out here.

It turns out the Anasazi Rusty referred to were a group of troubled youth who were sent out to a camp a few miles south to learn responsibility through hardship and survival in the desert. Apparently, they would sneak off in the night and party with the hot springers. Since then, the project had been shut down.

Their technique, silly as it may look, is a very effective way to coax fire from coals.

To do this, take your thumb and index finger and hold them together like you would if holding a joint. Now do it with your other thumb and forefinger. If you push the two together, you will see a diamond shape about one quarter inch across. If you place this diamond to your lips, it has the property of focusing your breath into a concentrated stream. It works really well, and prevents the hyperventilation sometimes experienced by normal blowing on coals. I call it the Anasazi Bellows.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Anasazi Bellows Part II of III First Trip to the Hot Springs

I disembarked from the Greyhound behind a motel in Camp Verde. The sun was behind the mountains and wouldn't show itself until it rose on Easter Morning. I had to go all the way to the other side of town on Hwy 260 and didn't want to be tramping after dark in an unfamiliar municipality. What's more, with my two oversized duffels, I had to hike ahead with one and return for the other; suspicious behavior.

Lacking a government issued ID, I couldn't get a room for the night. I could talk my way into lodging at a mom and pop operation with any number of excuses. “My pocket was picked on the bus” and “I had a fight with my wife and left without my wallet. It's best I wait for her to cool off” are a couple I had used successfully over the years. I particularly liked the one about the pickpocket, because it made me look like a rube. I played the yokel card often. People aren't so wary of hayseeds, yokels, or rubes, and those conditions help cover possible inconsistencies. I often looked to Woody Harrelson for inspiration. His characters in “Cheers” and “White Men Can't Jump” were largely above suspicion with their portrayal of corn fed Indiana innocence; a role I had a face for and can play well. Unfortunately, these motels were all national chains. I learned that if you are poor or on the road, Corporate America could give a shit if they have your business or not. I bet they wouldn't let Woody Harrelson himself stay there without proper documents.

I found a Denny's, left my bags in the foyer, and asked for a booth where I could watch them. I was famished. I hadn't eaten since sun up. I ordered an omelet with everything, well done hash browns, and a side of slaw. I love slaw. Soon, I would have to subsist on hard rations. After my meal, I ordered coffee and asked for the manager.

I told her that I was headed out to hike the General Crook Trail and delays had brought me to town a little late to begin. She gave me permission to review my maps and journals over coffee in her establishment until morning, provided I tip the servers generously.

It was raining when morning came. The waitress who served me most of the night hooked me up with a ride to the other side of town with the night cook. He dropped me off at a combination Shell Station and Indian Tobacco joint called “Ernies”.

I left my bags on the sidewalk in front of the store and went inside. I bought a can of tobacco, rolling papers, lighters, a large cup of coffee, and a six pack of hostess chocolate doughnuts. There were a couple of booths in the store, but I went outside for my coffee and doughnuts so I could have a smoke.

I'm sure I looked bad. My head was sunburnt and peeling and just starting to show stubble. It was my third day on the road in these clothes. My lips were chapped and cracked, and I hadn't slept since Chavez Park. The doughnuts were gone and I was standing under the awning next to my bags with a cigarette and coffee when Ernie showed up. He didn't like the looks of me.

He told me to leave because he wasn't going to have me bothering his customers. I told him that in spite of appearances, I was no panhandler. I had patronized his establishment and was just finishing my coffee and cigarette before I hit the General Crook trail. He became irate. Actually, he was a giant asshole and threatened me with the police if I didn't leave. Thinking I would have been better off at a booth inside, I carried first one bag and then the other to the edge of a bridge over the Verde River where I would resume my journey. I was tired and angry and distraught. I'd had enough of society for a while. It had been a rough couple of days. All I had to do was make it a few more miles, and I could set up camp and sleep.

That asshole Ernie (he didn't look like an Indian to me), must have called the cops because it wasn't long before a white car pulled up with U.S. Marshall emblazoned on it's side.

I've mentioned before my thoughts on the various branches of law enforcement. City and county cops didn't worry me much, but feds are a little smarter, a little more educated, and have a lot more resources. As Americans, we are subjected to the scrutiny of local law almost constantly. It is a matter of course, for both them and us, to interact in an official capacity. Because of this familiarity, and their limited perspective, I had grown more comfortable in explaining myself to them. Feds, on the other hand, scared the crap out of me.

This G-Man exited his vehicle and asked me where I was heading. I told him and he said as long as my ID checked out, he would let me be on my way. I carried two photo ID's. One was from a swap meet, and the other was from a check cashing joint. Both were stamped in bold letters across the bottom “Data Provided by Signatory”, which is legalese for “These Documents are Bullshit”. I'd used both cards on deputies and city cops, but I reckoned a fed would know better and might be curious. I told him I had no papers.

He said “In that case, let's have a look at what's in the bags”. I had those questionable cards in my day pack, and a little grass in a pipe in one of the duffels. I chose the third bag, which contained mostly groceries, and started emptying it.

I'd gotten about halfway down into the bag when a Mexican guy in a truck came around the corner and took out a couple of the traffic cones that marked the beginning of the new bridge. The fed pointed at me sternly and told me not to go anywhere. Then he jumped into his ride and tore off after the pickup.

I shoved everything back in the bag as soon as he was out of sight and stuck out my thumb at the next passing van. It was a brown conversion van from the seventies or eighties and had a back window shaped like a star. God bless 'em they stopped for me. Noticing a girl in the passenger seat, I got in the side door and offered my thanks as I stowed my gear and closed the door. The trail to the rim and to Fossil Springs was nearly within reach.

As if reading my mind, the girl I had noticed asked me if I was going to the springs. When I answered in the affirmative, she produced a cardboard hitch-hiker's sign that read “The Springs”. I had lucked into a ride with people heading right were I was. I thought.

We blew right by my trail head from the 260 and turned onto a dirt road. The driver offered me a Guiness and the girl rolled a joint. I tried not to be nervous that we had passed my turn. The rain was annoying, but not hard. The dirt road they had turned on though, had become mud. We came to one wide bend where the road was a thick red clay and we slid toward the edge of a ravine and I might have yelled a little. Don, the driver, and Leslie, the passenger, thought this was hilarious. I was terrified. I had another beer.

After nearly thirty miles of this, we came to a cattle guard with a sign that said “Nudity Prohibited”, and they announced that we were home.

Just then a bearded homunculus and a naked hippie kid leaped in front of the van, barring our way. They told us there were rangers in camp and suggested we surrender any drugs or alcohol or extra cash. We told them we would take our chances and they walked along side as we eased our way down the precipitous hill to the camp.
Don parked, and I removed my gear and found a spot about thirty feet away to set up. It was pitch dark and I sat a lit zippo on the low branch of a mesquite tree for the little light it offered. The two would-be highwaymen came to my camp and warned me not to have sex with Leslie. I was really in no danger of sleeping with Leslie. The blond, naked guy told me she had raped his friend Goat (to which the homunculus nodded emphatically). It was then that I noticed another guy, older than myself, lurking in the shadows. “She gave me the fire dick” he said shyly. “Good to know” I responded, not knowing what else to say. 

I had no idea where I was. I crawled in my tent and slept like a fugitive that had been pinballing on the road for three days with no sleep.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Anasazi Bellows Part I, Leaving Phoenix (again)

I thought I had already written this story, or parts of it, but I can't find it in the index. I need to be more organized. If it's already posted, well, here it is again. Probably a little different. I wanted to work in The Apache Bellows. I just can't help but think it was already written. I get confused sometimes, because I often work through the telling of these stories orally, to a lot of different people, before I write them. This is certainly a story I tell a lot, and cannot imagine I haven't written it.

I'll lay a little back story out on this version.

After Maya passed and I broke all those bones, I spent a few weeks back in Phoenix, in a tin shed. When I was just healed enough to ride a bicycle, I headed back out to The Forest.

It was March, and brutally cold yet up at my home at Bear Canyon, but a heatwave in the Valley of the Sun.  I was going to have to find a place to lay up until about May. I consulted the fourth floor at Burto-Barr library. I searched the trail maps and topographs for a location the easiest distance I could find from the Mogollon Rim that would provide me with the climate and resources I would need.

Fossil Creek, below Strawberry, seemed my best bet. I could get there via trails I had found that traverse the Matazal Mountains I could always be within three miles of water. Then, when the weather broke to the north, I would leave the Fossil environs and follow The General Crook Trail up to familiar haunts in the high country.

I'm glad now, that the plan didn't work out that way or else I might still be waiting for somebody to find my bleached bones out there in that vast underexplored Matazal Wilderness. We'll get to that.

I acquired a mountain bike and outfitted it with solid tubes. I built a trailer for the bike, and loaded it with water and food and all my gear in two duffel bags and a big rubbermaid container that resembles the tool box of a contractor's truck.  I also carried a few personal Items that I wished not to take. I intended to leave my home at 75th avenue and ride to Chandler Arizona and leave these few mementos and family photos with my friend Sunshine.

I rode down 74th avenue to Broadway and then took 67th avenue across the Salt River and past a farm stand. As I turned onto Southern, my bike trailer collapsed with no hope of repair. I found a piece of cardboard in the ditch and made a sign. “Bike for Sale. Need Help. A truck full of Mexican Landscapers stopped and sold me a four wheeled cart from Home Depot for $50.00 and took the remains of my trailer with them. From here, I had to steer with one hand while with the other I dragged the heavy cart with my gear.

Progressing eastward on Southern, I began to see how rough this would be. It would take me days at this rate to reach Sunshine's place in Chandler. It was more than a hundred degrees. I was sweltering. I turned south on 59th avenue. It being mostly desert I thought I would have to worry little about traffic. I'd gone about a half mile, my arm failing me as a trailer hitch, when I was overtaken and accosted by a stereotype.

I should say here, that I was taking up about a third of the road with my unlikely caravan. I had chosen 59th for it's lack of housing and hopefully traffic. No such luck.

The huge white Cadillac crept up on me silently and laid on his horn. Then he sped up and with a screech of tires, pulled around me and cut me off. A fat white man in his early sixties emerged from the behemoth with the admonition that I knew not who he was. He wore Bermuda shorts, penny loafers with corroded nickle in them, and a Hawaiian shirt. He was right. I didn't know him. My mind wound back through news footage of local authorities and came up blank. His attitude bespoke Sheriff Joe Arpaio, but his face was unfamiliar.

He wore mirrored shades and a Greg Norman Shark hat. The hat failed to hide the fact that he was balding, sweaty, and angry.I could see belly hair between the gap at the bottom of his too-short shirt.

He told me it was illegal for me to be taking up the road like I was and that with a single phone call he would call down upon me a fury of law enforcement the likes of which I'd never dreamed. Then he continued to tell me the numerous indignities and inconveniences I would be subjected to as well as repeating his assertion that I did not know who I was dealing with. He finished his rant by asking me what I thought of it.

I told him I wasn't any happier with the situation than he was. I unfolded the tale of the collapsed trailer and the journey so far. I assured him that at the nearest pay phone, I would make arrangements to ditch the trailer and that I chose this road for it's lack of traffic, pointing out that he had blocked the road completely now for several minutes and no traffic had approached. He returned to his caddy, shouted that he'd see me in jail, and sped off. 

I wondered why an upstanding citizen like him, Greg Norman fan and all, would be in jail. It was probably about then that I realized my newly shaved head was blistering from the sun.

I made Cesar Chavez Park at sundown, and made myself a bed. I woke several times throughout the night with police spotlights in my face, but none ever hassled me further. In the morning, I set up my camp stove and proceeded to make oatmeal when a squad car approached and two officers emerged. Apparently, it was okay to sleep at the park, just not to cook there. They recommended I adjourn to a nearby Circle K to prepare my morning meal and I obliged, thankfully. 

The Circle K at 35th avenue and Baseline is frequented, in the early morning hours, by workmen in search of coffee, water, ice, and gasoline. After breakfast, I sold the Home Depot cart and Rubbermaid container to visiting contractors for the fifty I had in the cart and twenty more. They left me with some milk crates into which I sifted the contents of the container. I called Sunshine to appraise her of my fortunes, and she came and picked up those artifacts I relocated to the crates that she would store for me; saving a trip to Chandler. She wept when she left, professing a certainty that I would never return and it would be our last meeting.

There happened to be a bus stop on the corner, and I loaded up the bike and mounted for the Greyhound station. I had a new plan. I would bus to Camp Verde and then hike to Fossil Springs where I could pick up the trail north. I got off the bus a few blocks from the station, at a spot I knew would have the most traffic. I worked the sidewalk there, until I sold the bicycle.

At the bus station, knowing I had more than the seventy five pounds allotted at the time for luggage, I hooked my toe under each bag in turn on the scale and lifted. My ruse proved successful, as they charged me no extra. While I waited for my bus, I was entertained by INS agents chasing a fella out and around and through the terminal. It was like an episode of Scooby Doo when they run in one door and out the other being chased by ghouls.

Eventually, I got my bus and was able to relax a few. I had no idea how profoundly the next twenty four hours would affect my life.