I want to go to the top of a really tall building, take a leak, finish, zip up, and then have my pee hit the ground. I want my entire pee to be airborne. Man I love beer.
Even the Booger Children were Beautiful
or, The Perfect Day
Unlike most of our outings, this took place within the Seattle city limits instead of "somewhere out in the woods" or "well, we started out in someone's backyard and then I'm not really sure where it all went wrong." The occasion was a free outdoor concert in Volunteer Park, featuring Seattle's most accomplished hippy-dippy psychedelic rock outfit of the day - a band called Sky Cries Mary - as well as several other bands who were equally stoned but not as talented. I say 'talented' as a relative term, as their recorded output was none too impressive even back then, but live - assuming the proper, um, adjuncts - they put on a good show.
Of course, the event was more-or-less a corollary to the day's activities rather than the focus point. As it turned out, it was decidedly in the "less" category, as I recall very little about the concert itself aside from the pleasant background music it provided while we wandered about in blissful little dazes having cute, bleary little microadventures. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
A good deal of the background details have evaporated in the mists of time, or perhaps more likely, vaporized along with the brain cells that once housed them. So I'm sure parts of the story are missing in action.
We set out in the morning from our home base in Kitsap. I can't even remember exactly who all was along for the ride that day. I remember Dave, and The Blazer, and Chris for sure, and I think Vasky was along as well. If memory serves, we were probably in Chris's absurdly resilient Datsun B210, Dottie, which had to have been nearing the end of her run. All I know is that I wasn't driving.
Some might feel that the trip to the ferry was an adventure all on its own, but to us it was business as usual. We departed for the ferry somewhat after the time one would reasonably expect would be sufficient. Chris, who probably missed his calling as a getaway driver, proceeded to break several driving laws in an attempt to make up for lost time. For instance, at a clogged intersection, he pulled into the 'right turn only' lane, only to speed ahead of the 'straight ahead' traffic when the light turned green. Nothing serious like driving on the sidewalk, you understand, just what was necessary at the time.
Dottie screamed into the parking lot at the ferry terminal, careening around a corner and slaloming through rows of parked cars to the passenger drop-off. She screeched to a halt.
"Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!!" Chris chanted as we sprang from the car. The doors were barely closed before he shot off with a bark of the tires in search of an empty parking space. We ran inside to buy tickets, and just as the cashier handed them off, Chris burst through the door, backwards baseball cap askew and a wild look in his eyes. Nothing unusual, really.
The cashier, a grizzled veteran of the fare booth, looked at us. "Think you're going to make it?" he asked, tone somewhere between a chuckle and a sneer. But we were already gone.
At Winslow, an enclosed wooden walkway a couple hundred yards long leads to the upper deck boarding area. Anyone who has used the walkway more than once is familiar with the very particular sound it makes when run on - booming echoes, weirdly muted by the wood, that seem to both follow you and precede you. We sprinted pell-mell, The Blazer in the lead, enjoying the startled expressions of the few stragglers from the last ferry still in the hall.
And then we were on the ferry, and then we were in Seattle.
The first stop was at a house near the park, which was to serve as a staging area for the day's activities. The only resident of the house I'd met before was Callie, a high school friend of Chris and The Blazer's from high school who I only knew through parties. She was armed with formidable smarts and a caustic wit, and was home for the summer from one of the ultraliberal east coast women's colleges like Bryn Mawr or Smith or something. She had only one weakness - like most independent-thinking and intelligent young women, she maintained a relatively militant feminist viewpoint. Let me elaborate: this is in no way a character flaw, but, like any strongly held position, it does extend a target to those inclined to joust. Like, say, The Blazer.
A little background on my good friend The Blazer is in order. Although he doesn't actually hold such beliefs, he is an agent provocateur extraordinaire
in the sport of misogyny. Much as I can drive my sister into a berserker rage with as little as a well-timed gesture of dismissal, The Blazer is able to infuriate feminists with maximum effectiveness and without visible effort. One must not mistake his efforts as accidentally insulting comments overheard by chance, or simple rudeness: they are instead the verbal equivalent of a surgical nuclear strike.
He was in fine form that day, unfortunately for Callie and one of her roommates, who was also a high school friend and no stranger to The Blazer's motives and methods. It was fascinating, and hilarious, to watch as he lobbed one unbelievably crass and sexist comment after another toward them. Plain as day, you could see them fighting with themselves as the insults collected in a heap on the floor between them like a pile of hand grenades. You could practically hear them repeating internally, "Don't take the bait! Don't take the bait! He's just trying to get you to react!" but it became increasingly obvious the clear voice of rationality was being systematically gagged, bound, and stuffed in a locker with a wedgie by the little lizard part of the brain that ultimately controls us.
It's not worth trying to describe the scene that ensued, mostly because I don't remember the details. Suffice it to say that there was a lot of emphatic shouting from the one side and delighted smirking on the other. The odd thing was that this scene had played itself out many times, yet Callie and The Blazer remained friends. Like many people, I think she enjoyed the excuse to engage in a little righteous indignation every so often, and she also knew that underneath the shriveled, blackened exterior of his soul, The Blazer is an essentially decent person. But don't tell him I told you.
At some point, the goods came out. I remember somebody had some tabs, which were shared equally, and it's safe to assume some weed got smoked, which is pretty much a safe assumption at any point with this cast of characters. It's quite likely there was a haphazard and largely unsuccessful attempt to corral the various members of the group (another safe assumption, whether or not drugs were involved), but we finally reached escape velocity and attained a trajectory in the general direction of the park.
The weather was perfect. If you've ever been in Seattle on a perfect summer day, you know the kind. Bright but not too bright, toasty warm but not too hot, with a faint cooling breeze blowing in off Puget Sound and just enough humidity to keep it comfortable. The sky was brilliant blue with a few small, puffy clouds to break up the monotony of all that blueness. The trees were lush, and though the grass had gone dormant it hadn't yet become threadbare and dusty, littered with popsicle sticks and chewed gum, like it would later in the summer.
The acid started creeping in, gently, not with an unexpected wallop in the back of the head. Grins became wider, laughs a little louder, the warmth and breeze a little more intense but not too much. A pleasant but not overwhelming swirling feeling nestled in the back of my head, keeping me company.
We reached the park and claimed an area of turf while the bands set up in the flat area at the bottom of a gentle slope. A medium-sized crowd was gathered in front of the stage, but there was no need or desire to get up close amongst the tribe of aromatic hippies.
What I chiefly remember from this point was just how much I was diggin' my overalls. Earlier that spring, I had come into possession of my first pair of overalls since the Osh Kosh B'goshes I had when I was wee. Their unsurpassed comfort was revelation. Clothes that barely touched your skin! It was almost like being naked in disguise!
As the temperature rose, I quickly removed everything that decorum allowed. This pretty much consisted of my t-shirt, which I tied to the hammer loop, and I seem to recall carrying my sandals around instead of wearing them for most of the day. Cool breezes wafted up through my rolled-up pants legs and the other gaps in the overalls superstructure. I was as comfortable as could be, and wouldn't shut up about it. Yet nobody seemed to care. It was that kind of day.
After some time, some of us started getting restless and got up to explore the rest of the park. To our right stood a small grove of trees, and beyond it a kiddie pool and fountain. The sound of splashing and fascinating reflections from the surface of the water drew us in like cats to a fish tank.
The scene at the pool could easily have been horrific. We found ourselves enveloped in a roiling crowd of infants, tots, children who were really too old to be in the kiddie pool, parents, and a smattering of drug-impaired concertgoers. The combination of too much sensory input, too many people, and frankly, too much ugly public humanity - particularly in the open air, brilliantly lit by sunshine, where there is no place for your mind to find refuge - is often a recipe for disaster when you're tripping. At best, you're looking at a deeply unpleasant spell of high-grade paranoia, and full-scale, shrieking, oh shit they're calling an ambulance freakouts are always a possibility.
But this day, none of it mattered. The grimy white trash parents? Their nasty, snot-drooling, saggy-diapered offspring? The neo-hippy with body odor so intense it had a physical presence? None of these things bothered us in the slightest.
Years later, when I first visited Vegas, I had a similar experience. At first, it was pure hell. I was existentially offended by the disgusting excess and uber-American vulgarity of the place -but then my wife forced me to watch one of the shows. It featured athletic dance numbers performed by a pack of blandly attractive kids hoping for a showbiz break, twin Chinese acrobats, jugglers, and a hilariously pompous illusionist who reacted angrily when the audience did not display the proper level of reverence for his artistry. Even better, the musical accompaniment - billed in the advertisements as a full band - was instead a balding, ponytailed, middle-aged dude wearing a Hawaiian shirt and operating a synthesizer. And there, halfway through the show, I suddenly understood Vegas: it's supposed
to be tacky and vulgar and pointlessly excessive! The rest of my time there, I laughed uproariously at, well, pretty much everything. The horrifying had become hilarious.
So it was here at the kiddie pool. The very things that normally would have given us the screaming heebie jeebies were instead providing amusement. I spent a few minutes wading in the pool to enjoy the cooling goodness of the water, and couldn't help but notice a particularly mongoloid child frolicking spastically nearby. He had pale hair, absurdly swollen and goggled eyes, a flattened nose that issued copious amounts of snot, and a harelip, accented by a sagging and likely loaded diaper. He squealed and gibbered unsettlingly while unsuccessfully attempting to, by all appearances, ingest a cheap inflatable beach ball.
I returned to the side of the pool, where Dave and The Blazer sat watching the crowd, elbowing each other and laughing quietly with the deep and intense amusement that sometimes comes on trips, if you're lucky.
"Did you see that kid?" I motioned back toward the pool, where the snot baby was now trying to mount the beach ball.
"You mean the booger with the beach ball?" said Dave, immediately bursting into a fit of giggles.
"Holy shit! I mean, that's fucked up," I said. "His parents need to be clubbed and sterilized for the good of the gene pool. But..."
"...even the booger children are beautiful today," finished The Blazer.
The three of us nodded in unison at this profundity. Sensing that the pool had enlightened us as much as it was going to, we returned to our base camp on the hillside above the stage. Various members of the group came and went at random intervals; lazy conversations arose and drifted away; people milled in and out of the park; music droned; all melted together smoothly and seamlessly. I dozed off.
"I want to go climb a tree!" Chris announced. He was already halfway up as he uttered the thought.
"Wha? Huh? Oh yeah, that sounds good," someone else said. "Hey, wait up!"
The rest of us trailed Chris over to the grove, where he had already disappeared under the canopy of branches. Once inside, it was instantly apparent just how good an idea it was. A group of several trees, mostly cedars, had formed a small pocket of shady forest calm, almost completely cut off from the brightness and activity outside by low-hanging branches. The branches were worn smooth of sharp twigs from being scaled thousands of times, and once you got about 30 feet up they thinned out enough to give you a clear view of the park and surrounding neighborhood, while offering enough cover to remain mostly invisible.
Afternoon was deepening by now, and the show was winding down. But the sound and activity continued, as impromptu drum circles had started on the hillside, preparing to take over the sacred hippy polyrhythms from the official musicmakers.
Returning to ground level, each of us found a comfortable perch in the lower branches. In a day filled with goodness, this little haven was the cherry on top, and we were in no hurry to leave.
A guy wandered into the space, blinking for a moment as his eyes adjusted to the light, followed by the ritual exchanging of the universal dude salutation. There was a brief pause.
"You guys like mushrooms?" he asked.
Silently, without so much as looking at one another, everyone pulled out their wallets in unison to see what kind of cash we had on hand. As it turned out, and to nobody's surprise, it was just enough. Once the transaction had taken place, as if on cue, we filed out of the grove to begin the trip home.
On the way out, we passed a man taking his pot-bellied pig out for a walk. Nobody was surprised.
Just to mix things up, the ferry ride home was mostly uneventful, until we disembarked. A mad fever suddenly possessed The Blazer, and he pushed to the front of the crowd waiting for the gate to open. The rest of us looked at each other in question, then decided to follow him just in case.
The second the gate was opened, The Blazer burst through it and started running up the walkway at top speed, a terrified expression on his face.
He began shrieking. "Snakes! Snakes!" he called out, "Snakes on the ferry!" The pounding of footfalls followed him, booming through the corridor like Indian war drums. Passengers for the next ferry, queued up in a neat line along one wall, gawked and pointed.
We sprinted after him in delighted amazement. Rounding a bend, we nearly collided with a man and his young son, who had seen The Blazer coming first and wisely pressed up against the wall.
As we passed them, the dad leaned down to his son.
"Are you going to act like that when you get older?" he asked.
"Oh, no. No way," the boy said.
When I was his age, I made a lot of promises I didn't end up keeping, either.