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The Free-Fall Chronicles

Approaching Terminal Velocity

pochteca --Nahuatl word referring to a mysterious band of pilgrims who wandered the Mexican Empire in search for the land of the sun.

Travel was so necessary to unify and support far-flung communities, that the idea of a Caravan evolved among us organically out of our normal life. We were about to be evicted from Olema by new lessees, so for our group preparations for a family trip seemed timely. The initial plan was to celebrate the Summer Solstice in Colorado at the Libré commune. I don't remember who conceived that, but due to the panicked responses to queries we received from Libré, I am quite certain that it was not them.

Prior to our estimated date of departure, I took a road trip North to Black Bear as a shake-down cruise for my truck. Re-reading a journal sharpens my memories of how serendipitous, comical, and turbulent life on the road could be, and after so many years when I thought it had been lost, its discovery is like opening a sealed time capsule. I'll share some extended quotes. Contemporary edits are in brackets.

Coyote's Journal

Sun in Gemini - 1971

After months of labor Dr. Knucklefunky is reincarnated as The Meat and Bone Wagon - 49 Chevy one-ton, new brakes, rebuilt steering, suspension, engine, wiring. Everything touched, looked at rebuilt or replaced. Wooden sides added to the bed, metal strapping made into bows supporting a canvas cover; welding tanks chained to the running board. Phyllis, Natural Suzanne and her twins, Taj and Mahal, head out with Josephine and I on Saturday, 22nd May to Lost River, Salmon Creek, Trinidad and Black Bear to gather wild herbs and medicines to carry to Colorado for Summer Solstice celebration at Libré. Truck loaded with bulk honey, raisins, milk, flour, cheese for the family at Trinidad.

At Little Robert's, we see maps of the Siskyou lumber cuts threatening Black Bear and learn what the Indians are planning to do about it. Stopped at Forest Knolls [The Red House] and worked on the exhaust, re-routing it to save the lives of Suzanne and the children riding in back.

North of Ukiah, on 101 run into JP, Bergs [Peter Berg, Judy Goldhaft], Albion and Chris convoying South from Black Bear. JP [Pickens] has a new 1948 Chevy 2 1/2 ton we nickname The Circus Wagon. Stop and picnic. Pull out and repair JP's gas tank. Berg planning to winter in the East. Reach Lost River around midnight, miss the turn to David and Jane's,[Simpson and Lapiner -ex Mime Troupers] camp in a meadow.

Sunday.

David has finished a new wing on his house, all reclaimed wood. Goats, chickens, horses, machinery, new corral. We walk through the mutilated forest: crushed trunks, trees lying around like discarded condoms. A chain saw buzzes up the hill somewhere. The reason freaks are allowed to live on this land is precisely because it has been ruined. We are the second crop.

...David shows me his plans for a shower/sauna bath- truck. It's amazing. Hot water heaters mounted over a fireplace of old tire rims. Laugh at the notion of the huge thing lumbering through strange towns, filled with naked people. What a brilliant idea: to appear at backwoods homes with hot showers.

Monday.

...Pick sacks of Chamomile and Lemon Balm, leave for Salmon Creek. Stop at Forest of Arden and pick wondrous Mint. At Salmon Creek, Gristle and Carol [Gypsy Truckers] are there. Gristle still looking like Crazed Dr. Sylvana from the Captain Marvel Comics, kinky hair, wild eyes. He's torched the roof off his 49 Ford School bus and wedged a Chevy V-8 into the engine compartment. It barks like a wolf when it starts. I weld some linkage for him and cut some needed access holes with my torches.

Natural Suzanne is down in the dumps, self conscious about being dependent because of her twins. Her body is probably complaining from all the work, and perhaps my sense of urgency is pressing her.

Drive on to Trinidad house, modern tract home in the middle of a subdivision. You can tell which place is ours from a mile away, looks like a red ant heap1. The Free fishing boat is finally in the water.

Tuesday.

Up at 5 am to fish, me, Owl [Pickens], and Freeman. Take a rotten aluminum dory out to the 13 foot wood skiff, which looks lovely, restored and repainted. Few fumbling minutes attaching the umbilical cord from the engine into the fuel tank and we're off, to sea in a row boat! We pass the Head, into open water. Gray sky. A dolphin, the curve of his back like a fall of hair. Birds appear out of the swell and thrum like sine waves across the mind of the sky. High and holy out there. Seals look us over. Out by Flat Iron rock, I hook something heavy that runs all my line out, and then rips the hook loose. Rebait and hook something even heavier that snaps 60 pound test line like a strand of spit. We all look at each other. Good God, it's the OCEAN! There are things down there bigger than men!

Capn' Freeman notices that the fog has come in. Hard not to notice because we can't see beyond the prow of the boat. He starts the motor and we improvise a direction home arguing among ourselves about exactly where the edge of the continent is. We pass a rock almost obscured by Sea- lions and their harem. They trumpet at us, and I trumpet back exuberantly. The rock appears to explode, as the sea- lions scream and throw themselves and their ladies off the rocks. We grip the gunwales of the boat, terrified that they are intending to capsize us.

The fog lifts a moment and reveals that we are dead on course for China. Owl, prudent 11 year old, fastens a life preserver...

...The kids make dinner while the adults rap about problems. Everyone wants to fish, no one wants to tend to the house. Freeman admits that the boat brings in no money or food yet, so it is "fun" and everyone wants a share of that, regardless of the fact that some people are seriously studying fishing. He reminds everyone of the necessity of food-gathering as a focus. Plans are made to gather Mussels tomorrow and fix a dome for the children [to sleep and play in] to relieve the strain on the house.

Quiet night. My loveliest sisters here: Natural Suzanne, Phyllis (who I lean against, writing.) Nichole is singing, "My Cherokee" a capella, sweet and soft.

Wednesday

Something has changed in the atmosphere of the house and everyone wakes happy as clams. Dave (who escaped from San Quentin and lived with us almost a year before getting drunk one night and returning to his home town to brag about being the only living escapee) builds five bunk beds today. The children had cleaned the house for us before we woke. Windows are being washed, floors scrubbed, the house being made love to, turned into a home. I've seen this cycle before. Beginning with houses too small for the size of our group needs, people live in them unconsciously, minds elsewhere, thinking of moving out. The space becomes cluttered and unloved, problematical, ugly. Then the inevitable flash occurs: This is it! This is not a rehearsal for life and people assume responsibility for the place, banish the filth and make it a home....

I feel outside the main flow of things, so work with the kids today. I like their natural inclination to deal openly with real work: shooting out ideas and suggestions, - using what works and dropping the rest. They imitate faithfully as mirrors. Makes me reflect seriously what am I actually teaching them- explicitly and more important, implicitly.

...Natural Suzanne feeling better today. Things a bit awkward between the three of us. None of us are lovers this trip, some other relationship is being developed but we don't know precisely what yet.. Phyllis - holy, magical, beautiful woman who sometimes forgets to view herself through the same charitable lens she uses for the rest of Creation. Nichole here, body and spirit apparently dedicated to random sexual encounters, moves in my life like a warm, summer rainstorm, satisfying and nourishing. Natch'l Suzanne getting it together for the road. The trip has shaken her out of her set a bit. Truck travel is hard for everyone, but for a real Princess, with twins, it's grueling. She bounces back dark, foxy and mischievous. My good fortune at knowing these women overwhelms me. The fact that they love me is a constant challenge to deserve them.

Thursday

Sheriff comes. Someone pissed outside again and a neighbor, who just happened to be watching called the heat. One-eyed Orville drops in. He is the patriarch of the community, fisherman, crafty, mean, politic old man. Warns us to respect our neighbors. The sheriff even tried to tell us that the babies shouldn't be naked, but couldn't pull it off with the requisite seriousness.

John, Dave, and Charlie return with 2 fish. A better day than yesterday. Charlie caught both of them so there was a long discussion about making him captain when he turns 12.

Discussed an idea called Planetedge, a non profit corporate form we could learn to handle as a tool without necessarily identifying with. Could be the family's economic base - an office and depot in Arcata, clearing house for the Caravan and a central information depot.

Friday. Sun in Gemini. Moon in Cancer.

Early morning plans stretch out to noon departure for Black Bear. San Quentin Dave's final words, to me personally, "Don't hurt anybody." They puzzle me for hours.

We take Nichole and Vicky to 101 so they can hitch South then drive down 299 over the Coast range, fogs and firs, snakespine hill road, to Willow Creek. Two outlaw bikers putt past, MISFITS from Eureka, dark, wild looking men. They regard us coldly as they pass and I get a premonition of how dark and pitiless the road can really be.

After Wetchipec and Forks of Salmon, we're stopped on the road by a twinkling old man in a Green Pickup. Indian named Les Bennet. Clear skin, bright eyes, copper bracelets on each wrist. He laughs softly, talks easily, scoping us out. It occurs to me that he is guardian of the road. Spots the Elk tooth necklace I am wearing and asks ingenuously, "Don't it make you sleepy?"

We drive on, engine continually overheating, convinced we're on the wrong road, until we crest the summit and begin rolling down into Black Bear. Everyone's on the knoll. The ki-yi-yi's and ululations start as soon as they recognize Josephine, dancing on her back legs. Everyone looks illuminated and happy. We set up camp for Suzanne who is exhausted and I cross the creek to see Richard and Elsa, [Marley] where we celebrate our annual Yellow (Nembutols) shoot, surrounded by the sound of the rushing creek and the rustling leaf-breeze music.

Saturday

Leveled ground with John Cedar and Richard, set up tent in the woods at the far end of the meadow. The whole five acre meadow is being terraced by hand, about. Looks like China: rushing water, green shoots of plants, the turned earth, berry brown bodies, naked, bent, working rough handled shovels and hoes. Fir trees, high hills, everything flexing like the bodies.

Michael Tierra lays out herbs he's collected for the Caravan: Omole (soap-root, a great shampoo and fish poison);Wormwood, Verbana, Vervain, Wild Onion, Sweet Cessaly.

Bonfire meeting that night to discuss the Caravan. I try to interest people in my notion of Planet-edge, but they're "edgy" enough about anything that would engage us with the bureaucracy at all.[A non-profit entity would have to be registered legally.] This precipitates a long discussion about revolution. I am cranky with them, insist that armed revolution is a mental pet, not reflected in the daily strategies of people there. It is a mythic superstructure used to lend an edge of danger and importance to what they're actually doing, which is good enough.

In the middle of this discussion I learn of Lew Welch's suicide. It grieves me deeply. I Remember how he considered himself as a failure and yet, how much he gave me [and so many others] when I really needed it. Puts all our bullshit into perspective. We have many good words and prayers for him.

Sunday, 2nd Week.

Elsa shows me a large black book covered with the hide of the Bear Ephraim shot. It will be loaded with recipes, herb cures, and information about the 5 years at Black Bear. Hopefully it will educate and inspire others. The entire ranch has participated in it, and I am very moved and proud of the effort that these already overburdened people have made to participate with this trip.[The Caravan] They have given me the charge to be their eyes and ears.

Monday

Natural Suzanne tells me she wants to leave. She's unhappy and wants to go home She tells me I've been a bummer; no help to her, and full of bad vibes..

Go for a long walk with Smilin' Mike and Tierra to collect herbs and roots. Have a long talk about the difficulty of maintaining intimacies with many different people; with the comings and goings, closures and intimacies either evaporate or have to be perennially redefined. I say that it makes me feel good to know that everyone else is.....(pause, searching for the word) and Tierra laughs and says, "suffering".

Tuesday

The cow is dead. Danny and I turn it into ribs, steaks, chops, hamburger for a meadow lunch. Whole kitchen buzzing. Everyone singing my song, "The power of sweet, sweet music. Finger popping and taking care of business. Zoe is half naked, dancing a beautiful ballet to [Michael] Tierra's Bela Lugosi wake-up piano. Wonderful dark Italian passions in his music, the piano straining to express his anger, confusion, funky shuffle, delight, running together, inter-penetrating, breaking into and out of each other like the rivulets and streams alongside the house. I get a very clear image of fucking Zoe on top of the huge mound of raw, red, cow-meat piled high in front of me. Taste and delicacy prevail...

Wednesday 2nd week.

Suzanne announces that she's having a great time and in no hurry to leave. Our departure has been put off three times now and is becoming something of a joke. Each day we tarry adds something to our swelling larder which now includes over 200 pounds of acorns, small tomato plants, more roots and herbs, and several new passengers.

Thursday

Owl and I work all day welding a rack to hold my tool chest on the running board. I teach him how to use the cutting torch and he works beside me all day like a grown man. He's 11. At one point, he disappears and just as I'm beginning to grumble to myself about kids, he returns with two hamburgers. I promote him on the spot from Punkus Minimus to Punkus Maximus, and he's proud of his new nickname.

...The Black Bear Book begins to look like the Torah, swelling daily as people expend enormous energy adding information to it daily. Elsa's drawings are wonderful. Each time one is completed and passed around the room, you can mark its route through the crowd by the smile lighting up the face of the person holding it.

...Stay up most of the night with Gaba. Met her last year and didn't get time to know her. Large woman who would have driven Rubens berserk - big breasts, hips, high cheekboned face, flat honest eyes. Quiet. True. Her questions search after my heart. She is deft, lifts the corner of word-curtains and peers underneath. I am nervous, like a deer. I tell her many secret feelings, shadows, doubts about myself, this family and its future which are hidden behind my public face. Liberated women will save us all.

Sunday. Third Week.

Departure is a bungle. Smilin' Mike and his son Timmy want to come with us. My truck is loaded down so heavily the springs are bowed. He is no help, can see that but does not defer and, passive-aggressive, lays the weight of a decision on me. Sensing the tension, Phyllis offers to hitchhike, and it is so obvious that he should be hitchhiking that it angers me. I offer to take his son to Trinidad if that will help. He muddles around. Something about him doesn't feel right. He smiles too much. [I mention these feelings here, because they are resolved in an interesting way, months later, in Colorado]

In Orleans we spot [Karok Indian]Willis Bennett and his friend Darvin, short, stocky, 1950's pompadour, massive build. Darvin is drunk, but a high intelligence flashes through the smokescreen of the whiskey. They insist we stay and go Eel fishing with them. Willis says it might be a year before we see each other again. I check with the girls and they say okay...

...later, drinking and making music. All the kids playing volley ball. Willis likes my buckskin vest with the leather handprint of my daughter seen on it. He wants to trade for a fringed, shiny black, 3/4 length vest his daughter made. I try to squirm out gracefully, but he is insistent. "What, it's not good enough for you?," He demands. When I refuse, he sulks off and drinks alone. Willis passes out and his young son Moose runs into the corner of my truck and splits his head open. I drive him and his mother to the Hoopa hospital over forty miles of dirt road. Nice people there. Doctor teaches me how to stitch and Moose, 10 or 11 at most, never flinches or complains once. I'm struck by the thoughtfulness of the staff. Different than the city.

Monday.

Stop at Trinidad house. Everyone happy. Been pulling in 60 -100 pounds of fish a day, small smokehouses up all over the yard. Neighbor relations still difficult. One-Eyed Orville comes around, malicious, insinuating, dropping veiled allusions about our being burned out. San Quentin Dave watches him blankly. I watch Dave. Orville has no idea that Dave was sentenced for murder.

Ivory,[ Freeman's wife at the time] is weaving a blanket from the men's hair. Freeman talks about a Solstice Ceremony at Trinidad Head to reinvoke the spirit of Surai, the old Yurok fishing village that used to be there.

Tuesday

Stop at Salmon Creek. Libré has sent a letter reneging on the invitation, telling us that they are helpless and lame, working on their own problems. Everyone at the house enthused about the Caravan. More and more people planning to go. I send Peter Rabbit and Libré a 15 cent get-well card.

Last minute before leaving. David Simpson takes me aside. I've confessed my ambiguities about the trip to him and that the idea of continuing some of the craziest aspects of our life, on the road, leaves me cold. I feel like being alone. He tells me, " A man is no better than his time. To try and be better, means being worse."

David pleases me by saying that after Olema, I now travel as I would have liked to have moved through my place. He laughs commiseratingly at the burden I've taken on, and I leave him feeling better.

Driving South, we pick up an old man named Elmer hitchhiking, a white gospel singer from Oneida, Tennessee, 69 years old, but "sexually, just like a young boy," he says often, darting his tongue about like a monkey and eyeing Phyllis. He's got emphysema and black lung from coal mining. Tells us all about it while he eats Wonder bread and drinks Dr. Pepper. He sings gospel songs in a strong nasal voice.

We drop him off and pick up a stringy Okie named Walt, coming from Oregon where he got rolled and robbed. All he's got is his coat and a bottle of wine. His hobby is jokes, he says and he tells jokes without a repeat for seven hours. Good jokes. I laugh till I cry. He sings like Hank Williams, yodels and plays harmonica. He used to be a warm up comic for the Grand Ol' Opry, but "couldn't take the pills" and left.

Back in the city, Berg is at Treat Street. Tells me everyone is going to Colorado.

Our departure date kept being postponed. The Summer Solstice was celebrated on Mount Tamalpais [in Marin County, California]. Sam and I had broken up again when frictions between us became incendiary and she had been away in Colorado. She appeared again with my pixie-daughter Ariel, looking beautiful, long blonde hair cropped short, and her eyes clear, as if she'd been staring off into the desert spaces. Ariel had lost her infant look, and was taller, very quiet and demure. I was excited to see her after a long time, and lifted her up to plant a kiss on her infant butt. She startled me by smiling shyly and saying, "Don't do that, Poppa." I set her down, thrilled. Sam was not certain of what her plans were, and I waited, to give her space to decide whether or not to travel with us.

A long procession trekked up the mountain carrying drums, trombones, and wine, winding through a rustling, hissing expanse of waving, knee-high grass, cresting the hill where the ocean extended before us, glittering and vast under a dense awning of clouds. We blew horns, shouted encouragement at the departing Sun; expressing neither neo-primitivism, nor anthropomorphism, but improvised ceremony. The gaily dressed children moving as randomly as milkweed spores blew horns and whistles and sang continuously, accompanying the sun on its long trek into darkness.

The Red House population was reaching critical mass as family members from different bases crowded the grounds preparing their vehicles. A sign in a woman's hand appeared on the front door asking people to consider why they were there and what they were doing to help. Numbers had swelled to near 40 people and the neighbors were incensed. "Why's" were swarming like hornets:

"Why should I have to wait to pass on a public street?"

"Why are there children playing in the road?"

"Why isn't that septic tank fixed yet, it's disgusting?"

"Why don't you go to fucking China?"

"Whatever happened to our sweet suburban community?"

Cops visited daily, tagging vehicles for parking on the street. The night after the sign appeared on the door a group meeting went unaccountably well. People bared doubts, grudges, and misgivings, but the group mind kept it light and tight so that no one became a victim. Each person was called upon to declare why they wanted to caravan and what they thought they could do for the group. Crazy Kevin, declared that he is pursuing the wisdom of madness. No one disagreed there. Each person addressed the group and conversation focused on their issues until everyone's reservations had been aired, clarified and dispersed. People felt fine.

The next day, I was up early, soliciting contributions of welfare money, gasoline credit cards and food stamps as final provisions for the trip. I was overready to leave, but JP Pickens gets into a fistfight with a friend's ex-landlord who, for some reason, had called the police on JP's friend. The guy was threading his car between our vehicles and JP began screaming at him, calling him a "scum-sucking pig", and shouting "you stink like a dead dog." As the man's vehicle was forced to a crawl between several of ours, JP spit in his face. This was too much, and the guy got out to fight, even with 30 of JP's friends standing by. JP's behavior was so bizarre, and the reasons for it unknown to the rest of us, so we stood back to see what would happen.

JP was ready for the guy. His only problem was that the Methedrine residues in his system mis-fired some critical synapse, because he missed connecting with his first punch, and the guy flattened JP with one good punch. JP rose from the ground, one eye split and bleeding, copiously. He giggled zanily. "Showed him," was all he said. Work resumed after some discussion.

Finally, all was ready, and on a Friday morning, with the Sun in Cancer and the Moon in Gemini, according to my journals, the first wave prepared to leave.

Word from Libré had come yet again, that we were not welcome. They were totally panicked. They felt that we were not "together"; too ready to teach and not ready enough to learn from them. There was some truth in that assertion, but much of their information was old, and probably related to my failed ambassadorial visit and acrid argument with Red Rock Mary the year before. The group decided that Paul Shippee and I would go ahead, since two people is hardly an invasion, and see if we could dissipate their paranoia. By the time we left however, the initial scouting party (also charged with reporting back about good routes and campsites), had swollen to include: Peter Berg and Judy Goldhaft, children Aaron and, Ocean Rush, and their truck, The Albigencian Ambulance Service. Traveling with them was a slender boyish woman named Suki, conscripted to operate the video camera that Peter had scammed from a producer of some kind who wanted a safe way to participate with the Diggers. His payoff had been being invited to a Red House party where his glorious wife, got so loose and carried away by the raunchy festivities that he became paranoid and jealous and demanded that they leave immediately. (The Camera stayed).

Paul Shippee and and Mai-Ting, a Chinese woman doctor we nicknamed, The Dragon Lady, for her no-nonsense, straight- forward approach to things and her exotic beauty, would ride in Paul's green Chevy panel truck. Sam, Ariel and I would travel in the Meat and Bone Wagon.

After a fine birthday breakfast for Judy and Ocean Berg, we piled into the trucks to finally depart, but were halted yet again for a serenade by The Valley Liberation Band who wanted to dignify our send-off. This band was the raunchiest, syphilitic group of rotten-royal losers imaginable and did nothing to allay my queasy feelings about the impression we might make on our visits. JP, one eye swollen shut and bandaged, played Banjo, Digger, in a filthy LA BIKERS CLUB T-shirt, played tin-can; Marsha Thelin's temporary lover, Willem, clad in shredded coveralls, played guitar, Smilin' Mike played something as a drum, Vinnie, naked to the waist except for copious amounts of body hair, played trombone, and a crazy woman who appeared from Mexico with a parrot on her head, did a loose double-boogie in the middle of the street. We drove all of about seven miles into San Rafael where we raided good radishes, lettuce, tomatoes and squash from a garbage bin behind the Safeway supermarket.

Our first stop was to be Gary Snyder's place up near Nevada City, and first night we camped at the Yuba River under stars dense as small tufts of popcorn in the blackness of the sky.

We arrived at Gary's place carrying Bay and Yerba Buena leaves we'd stopped to pick as gifts. Gary was walking around in a loincloth, cutting Madrone yokes to hang pots over his outdoor fire pit. He didn't stop working when we arrived and his greeting was, "You again". I hadn't seen him in several years.

Later in the day, he thawed a bit and took us to a clean and shaded Pine grove near his place announcing, "Let this be a family camp." We explained our visions of the trade route and caravan; how we hoped to stitch together various regional economies into a larger network. We expressed hope that he and his friends would participate.

The next morning, Gary wakes me and Berg early and brings us to his house, for coffee and talk. He tells us that the people in their area are committing themselves to articulating a sense of place and understanding its species diversity. They plan to be there for the long haul; to function as guardians and have reservations about travelers. Furthermore, he adds, they don't need much.

We had anticipated a response like this, and look forward to a meeting where we can express ourselves directly to the community and hopefully put their reservations to rest. When we return to our camp site, Crazy Kevin has tendered us a gift by digging out a latrine, using a hatchet, to carve perfectly true rectangular walls in the granitic soils. It is an act of monumental dedication.

We reclaim a muddy spring at the site by removing clay, water, quartz, and old pine needles. We build a spring-box from heavy Cedar boards two inches thick and fashion careful dove-tailed corners and drill drain holes. The box is placed on four inches of white gravel hauled from the nearby Malakoff Diggings. We pack the outside of the box with more gravel, and stand back. The water rises in it vigorously, the silt settles, and we are rewarded with a deep clear pool of water to leave for those who follow us. We feel good about our work, and hope that it will say more about our intentions than words.

That night, members of the San Juan Ridge community visit our camp. Gary and his family, Zack Reisner, Joel the Potter, Doc Dachtler, local schoolteacher, craftsman and singer, and his pregnant wife Shelly. They wind their way through the trees, hallooing as they come.

Our camp is beautiful: lanterns are strung through the trees and around the grounds. A meeting place has been marked out with blankets. Greetings are exchanged warmly, but there is an undercurrent of reserve. They address us formally, expressing fear that welcoming us would place their still fragile community in the path of a hippie migration. They are making a serious effort to live tribally; maintaining separate households, village style, but meeting often for group work and policy discussion. They are pursuing systematic, organized research to combat gold- mining, irresponsible logging and exploitative real-estate practices. They are re-learning life-in-place, as people have lived here for thousand of years, and worry that nomads will not be sensitive to local practices and spirits. I like them for their gentleness and concern, admire their unity and discipline.

We trade songs, and the night is good, but a gulf remains between us. I am not sure whether it is a difference of intentions or personal development. They are more settled than we are and, in many ways, more accomplished. It makes me lonesome. They are the Earth and we are the Wind.

The next day, Doc and I trade songs. He asks to learn my Rainbow Woman Song, and teaches me a Corn Song I'd admired. Bearing his song as a gift, we say goodbye and push on, over the Sierras, down the Eastern slope into the picturesque town of Sierraville, homing into the magnetic signals of Pyramid Lake.

The next day, we entered the Lake's force-field through the North end. It shimmered before us in the rusty, dusty, earth, a perfect turquoise oases. In the town of Sutcliff, Berg remembered some people we had helped during the Indian invasion of Alcatraz. He proposed asking them for recognition as pilgrims and not tourists, to clarify our posture towards the Lake. In the General Store at Nixon, a man steered us to a campsite on Native land, in Dead-Ox Canyon.

In Nixon we meet Dora Garcia, Secretary of the local Tribal Council who seemed disposed towards us and invited us home. Berg and Suki fascinate her family by showing videotapes of their children over their own TV. Dora expresses curiosity about the utility of this ( then relatively new ) instrument, for preserving tribal customs. She agreed to put our petition to the Tribal Council the following night and visit our camp to inform us of their response.

It was technically illegal to camp on Indian land, but we were buried way out of sight in the chaparral of a sandy canyon flanking the Truckee River, and didn't care. Pyramid Lake is one of the continent's magical and holy spots, and we considered our being there totally correct.

We made trot lines, fishing lines with multiple baited hooks, and ran them across the river. Spent most of the day making fish gigs out of old iron rod I found in the desert; heating it with my torches, beating it flat and filing barbs and a blade on it. Shippee fashioned an exquisite Zen spear while mine looked as if it had been made in kindergarten by physically disadvantaged students. We spent the day spearing the fat, bony introduced by Europeans, splitting them open and drying them on the rocks to store the meat for the road. They glittered in the desert air like the wings of gigantic iridescent moths resting on the rocks.

Berg returned at sundown, elated with the discovery of abundant cat-tail shoots. Steamed in the sheath, they are delicious and reminiscent of asparagus. The air was tangy with Sage. The children plashed contentedly in the river and when we weren't lazing away the time discussing alternate economies and self-sufficient communities, or how to re- configure cities to be biologically continuous with their larger environments (as opposed to the present condition of obliterating and poisoning them), we cleaned the camp-site for hundreds of yards in every direction, gathering the discarded beer cans, cardboard boxes, disposable diapers, tangles of abandoned fishing line and bottle-caps, that thoughtless campers had jettisoned, as our ritual of respect to the place.

Sam was cranky and piqued that she was not doing what she wanted . When I inquired what that might be, she said, "hunting", so I prepared the lever action .22 rifle I'd had since I was a boy, and sent her off to hunt jack-rabbits with it, while I spent the day fooling around with my daughter. Dora came by and told us that the Tribal Council had refused our request. We decided to wait and see what the next move would be.

At dusk that same day, Judy Goldhaft was cooking Navajo fry bread over the coals, when a police car pulled in. A short, squat, reservation policeman with a buzz cut and a tough face squeezed his pistoled, belted, and black-sticked thick body out of the vehicle and sauntered over. We acknowledged him casually, but said little. The first move was his. We observed him eyeballing our camp, and were confident that it was tidy and nice. He noticed Judy's fry bread and inquired after it; took a proffered piece and seemed to enjoy it; offering that his mother used to make it too. We chatted awhile. He told us that he'd received some complaints about our being there, but could see that we were camped nicely. He mentioned the large amount of garbage we'd gathered and sacked preparatory to hauling it off, and said he couldn't understand what kind of trouble we might be. He charged us for one camping permit instead of three and let us be.

We explained that we didn't want to go over to the official camp-ground and set up next to the tourists with their mobile condos, and tv's set up on the pre-fab picnic tables. That was the culture we were fleeing from. We suggested that in lieu of site fees, which we could not afford, our cleaning and care of the area might be considered payment enough. None of this seemed to strike Phoenix (his name, actually) as out of the question, but he explained that he did not possess the authority to make policy. A bit sheepishly, he confessed, said that he was under orders to bring us in to the Tribal Council Office and discuss our occupancy.

After he left, Suki, Kevin and I, Ariel and Aaron walked over to visit Stone Mother, a large, dome-shaped rock formation at the edge of the lake. At the top of the rock there are man-sized holes that made me wonder if they might have been used as meditation chambers. From inside, the horizon-to-horizon arc of the suns' passage during a day is visible. Ancient Pelicans glided imperturbably around us and, as we left, a formation of 5 Crows flew close overhead. Kevin raised a stick into which he had stuck a Crow feather. He whistled and one of the birds broke away from the pack and soared directly over him. I tipped my hat and saluted them, and another rolled out and did the same to me. They followed us most of the way back to camp. I didn't care what the Tribal Council had to say because we had been made welcome by the Spirits of the place.

The next day we followed Phoenix into town, a slow and dusty place, with streets too hot to walk on barefoot. An old fashioned, sweating, Coke cooler dominated the porch of the General Store, floating its heavy glass bottles in icy water.

We met with Teddy James, Chairman of the Tribal Council, a pompous sort of bureaucrat in a crisp polyester plaid shirt and spanking new cowboy hat whose attitude informed us that he did not suffer "hippies" at all. He talked only about money and jobs and could not or would not find a place for us in his imagination. When we proposed our trade of groundskeeping for fees he became irritable. "Are you saying that Indians don't keep their lands clean?" he demanded, as if we had insulted him.

I wanted to show him the 50 gallon sacks of trash we'd hauled in with us, but knew it was a lost cause. We should have known better than to use the word "Pilgrims" with a man who was still bitter about the landing at Plymouth Rock. He told us to pay up like everyone else or get out.

As we walked back to our trucks, Phoenix, silent during the Chairman's harangue, caught up with us. He didn't look at us directly, but addressed the landscape and said, " That guy never leaves the office. You people are welcome here as long as I'm the cop." It was a comforting reassurance to know that someone outside our community could so clearly recognize our intentions.

Outside of Austin, after crossing a 7,000 foot summit and a flat alkali valley, we stop at a Texaco station called Middle Gate where a rugged, gentle looking man named Vance makes us feel very much at home. Five or six Indian men were sitting around, looking over the flats. I spoke with a Shoshone man named Irwin who knew Rolling Thunder. Irwin volunteered that he disagreed with his use of Peyote, but seemed to like us and shared directions to a favorite little camp site called Cottonwood Creek.

Such casual generosity occurred so often on our travels that I am surprised that I never took it for granted. Life 'on the road' must touch archaic memories for many Americans, so many of whom were either the kin of migratory pioneers or personally able to remember their own travels during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression times. Let one example suffice for many:

During an earlier trip a small caravan had driven South to play music for the inmates at the Atascadero State Hospital for the Criminally insane. We were at the edge of medium sized highway town: clusters of gas-stations, car- washes, and industrial restaurants; the kind of place where locals are surfeited with strangers from nowhere, going nowhere, and acting as if they couldn't care less. Our kids were cold, tired and hungry from a hard day, when we pulled into a House of Pancakes, one of those plasticene road- houses with Formica counters, twinned dispensers whirling industrially colored liquids masquerading as "punch' and "lemonade" and pies and confections which appear to be made from hair gel resting agelessly in the chrome-edged glass cases like the plastic display dishes in a sushi restaurant.

Our group had filled the counter space and the adults were conferring, pooling our small amounts of loose change to determine what we could afford. The kids' heads were swiveling, ogling the oleaginous pies and steaming plates of burgers and fries passing tantalizingly close to them, en route to flusher customers.

Our counter waitress was one of those hard-bitten, apparently humorless women who've served the public in demanding and difficult jobs for too long. Her face was set in a permanent scowl and her "don't give me any shit" attitude was as clear as a warning flag. The thought crossed my mind that she might be an easy mark for some inspired teasing to entertain us and distract the kids from their meager snacks, which, at the moment, were glasses of hot water their mothers mixed with ketchup to make almost-tomato soup.

Our discussion concerning what we could afford must have gone on longer than I thought, for suddenly plate after plate after plate of pancakes and eggs and sausages appeared and were placed in front of each and every place, accompanied by frothy glasses of orange juice, steaming mugs of coffee and hot chocolates peaked with whipped-cream for the children. Some ghastly error had occurred; some child must have spoken out of turn or something, because I knew that we did not have money to pay for such bounty. I envisioned a confrontation and police when the bill was presented.

I hastened to inquire about the mistake and practice some evasive diplomacy, but the waitress read my intention from six feet away and held up a hand, to stop me.

"It's on me," she said. "I got a kid out there somewhere too." Then she smiled; a tired, ironic, commiserating, wrinkle of lip; refused the little money we did have and shuffled off to take care of some paying customers. I was left with a sour taste of shame in my mouth and relief, considering by what a minuscule margin of chance I had missed targeting her as the butt of a cheap joke, and how abruptly she had up-ended my facile assumptions of spiritual superiority. It requires only one or two such experiences before one realizes that, on the road, assumptions are a debilitating handicap, best left in the rest-stops with the trash. Dylan said it best when he sang, "To live outside the law you must be honest."

We continued across Nevada. A lovely couple from nearby McGill, named Chuck and Beverly Hansen, dropped by our camp in Cave Lake. They'd heard my singing the night before and liked it. They offered us two Brown and three Rainbow Trout for our breakfast. Sam spent the morning tanning a Badger skin I'd taken from a road kill the day before.

Later in the day, the campsite swelled with weekend campers, expanding like popcorn in a closed pan, and we were seized with a desire to leave. Occupants of Winnebago City watched in amazement as our sprawling amalgam of tents and laundry, kitchen hearths, cook pots, kids, and dogs, dissolved into three trucks leaving only a pristine beach.

As I collapsed my tent, I caught a small brown snake who had been resting beneath it. I told him, aloud that I'd let him go, but as in the fairy stores, he must first tell me something I need to know. I talk to him calmly until he stops struggling to escape, and I test our bargain by opening my hand and holding the palm flat and parallel to the ground. He remains coiled on my palm, flicking his tongue and scanning left and right across my body. If he is gauging my intention towards him learns that it is good, but deliberate. I had asked a respectful question, and expect an answer.

He turns away and then back, regarding me fixedly. My thoughts stop and a clear image forms in my mind: red letters wriggling against a black background forming three distinct words: "Anger is panic." They are so appropriate to domestic difficulties I am going through with Sam, difficulties, which according to her, relate to my insistent and inadequately suppressed anger. I say, "Thank you," gratefully, release the snake gently, and dedicate the rest of the day to considering exactly what that sentence might mean to me.

We camp across Utah, following Highway 180 towards Provo, and then 40 East through Heber. Torrential creeks thrash beside the road. The Uintas Mountains are spurs of the Rockies attempting to reach Idaho. It is rich, green, country bristling with Quaking Aspen, Pine and Fir. The Mountains appear to have stubbed their noses against something at high speed, because the strata suddenly flex into 90 degree sit-ups relative to the horizontal.

At the edge of a fine, grassy valley, sheltered by Aspens, near Strawberry Lake, I call my mother from a phone booth and hear that my father is ill. This has been such a common experience in my life that normally I pay no mind to it. My father loved to escape the anxieties and stresses of his work by checking into the hospital with an armload of books, the way some people check into health spas. While we were supposed to make excuses for him at family functions where he did not appear, my uncles just winked and said, "bullshit" to my stories about his "not being well." However, something about my mother's anxiety this time leaves a residue on my good spirits.

Sam and I stay up late trying to work out our domestic problems. She tells me she feels the course of her work in the world is learning plants and healing people. She's never broached this subject before and I'm suspicious and short with her, distracted by news about my father. I tell her about my father's illness and she confides a dream of the previous night in which my father is offered the choice of dying or living damaged and chooses to live.

The next morning I awoke just as Cheryl Lynn Pickens' face drove by. The others have arrived from the Red House, rolling up the road in a long line of gaily painted vehicles; canvases flapping, buckets tinkling, motors roaring, and people saluting and cheering our reunion.

Bob Santiago and Nichole appear a day later and Sam's bile rose with her appearance. Nichole was an occasional sun-shiney, ebullient, lover, but Sam's competitive instincts were prophetic, because eventually Nichole replaced her as my live-in. These events occur later in the narrative and must wait their proper place.

My behavior did not encourage either Sams' mood or her sense of personal security very much. The next afternoon, Nichole and I snuck off to go swimming together. After an invigorating splash, a catch-up visit and a romp of bare-assed bouncing about in the desert, we returned to the water's edge to retrieve our clothes and discovered them gone. Nichole and I were stranded, in the middle of the desert, our only option was walking back to our camp very publicly buck-naked. So much for my attempts at discretion. When we returned, with what I considered a great deal of aplomb, considering the circumstances, Sam's expression of hostile triumph, made it clear that her laser-like antennae, had not only intuited that we had gone together, but where we had gone, and she had stolen our clothes in retribution.

Her ability to detect my dalliances with other women was uncanny. It would appear that no haymow was secluded enough, no grove, streamside, tent or hill-top aerie, exempt from her sudden appearances. One night, later in this caravan summer, in the Mountains above Boulder, Nichole and I tip-toed into the forest long after everyone was asleep. This was, after all the pre-AIDS 60's, and the abiding mores of our community decreed dictated, that if two consenting adults wanted to pair off for sexual research and development there was little reason why they should not. Feelings of anger and jealousy were the legacy of a decadent bourgeois heritage, and not to be acknowledged. Unless of course, they were one's own feelings, in which case their status was immediately elevated to critical importance.

My personal sexual behavior must have been inspired by our country's scorched earth strategies in Vietnam. "No survivors" pretty aptly describes my intention to have sex with everyone I was attracted to. While post-AIDS realities have rendered such experimentation terminally dangerous, at that time, the stakes seemed minor and my recollection is that both sexes garnered fun, random tenderness and thrills from such encounters. This is not analogous to suggesting that there were never any karmic kick-backs, however.

On this particular night, Nichole and I snuck prepared a bed far from camp, in a gently breezy glade of firs. We were smack in the gaspy near-crescendo of love making, when Sam appeared, in a diaphanous, ghostly ,white night-gown and wind-whipped hair; trembling, like Lady Macbeth, crazed with jealousy. Somehow, her antennae, even in sleep, had locked on to my infidelity once again, with unerring geographical accuracy. Her presence made continuing difficult, tasteless certainly, if not dangerous, because Sam was not a woman to turn your back to when she was angry.

Nichole put her arms around Sam, and the three of us sat there in the suddenly chilly mountain night, trying to pick our way through the emotional rubble of conflicting loyalties and desires. Finally, after an hour or two of tortured explorations, confessions, and recriminations, everything appeared suddenly stupid, and we began laughing together at the improbable slapstick bizarre-ness of the incident.

The next day or so, the Caravan pulled into the Speedmasters motorcycle shop on Pearl Street, in Boulder, Colorado, where Julie Boone's lover, Carl, was working. We were to rendezvous with friends there and hobbled in, fatigued and cramped from long hours of driving. Julie was standing by the far wall to greet us: lovely Julie, Phyllis' childhood friend; lusty, voluptuous, Motorcycle Julie who aroused the ardor of Hell's Angel Hairy Henry who lovingly re-built a beautiful old Harley Davidson motorcycle for her personal use. She looked at me and tipped her head quizzically,

"Oh Peter," she said casually, as if she'd just remembered something. "Morris died."

I looked at her, blankly. I felt nothing. Such a thing was beyond comprehension. How could a man of such vitality and power pass through the veil without creating some celestial disturbance, some ripple? She must be mistaken. There would have to be a rent in the sky, a rush of wind; at least a tattered sheet flapping beside the road as a sign I might later recollect and think, "Ah, that was it."

I turned away and lit a cigarette. I saw her telling others. Berg came over and threw his arms around me. I felt nothing. I was in a motorcycle shop in a strange city, and a beautiful girl had just told me my father had died and I felt nothing except stupefaction.

I found a phone and called my mother. She was distraught. Morris had already been buried. The police had been searching the country for me for days. No one could find me. She hadn't even know what State I was in. "How could no one find you?", she demanded, as if that were important. "Yes", she was allright. "Yes", relatives were with her. She was okay. I told her that of course I would come home. Did she need me immediately? I would have to drive. I told her I had some affairs to settle up. I didn't know what I had to do. My loyalties were divided. I knew I should be there, but Morris was already gone, my mother was in good hands, and I wanted to finish what I had traveled all this distance to do. I was spinning in place. I had no father. The ground had eaten him. I was 50% closer than I had been a moment ago to being an orphan.

I hung up the phone and just breathed in and out. For a long time afterwards my life was like that, detached and out of touch. Perhaps it was the drugs, perhaps it was the defenses I'd erected as a boy; perhaps the impossibility of feeling loved by him. Some chamber where such feelings would live and flourish within me had been sealed tight as a bank vault. The combination to spring those buttressed doors was not going to be produced by anything as commonplace as a death.

It has been my experience that the more particularly and specifically one relates personal experiences, the more universally they are appreciated. There are so many ways in which individual events are hardly personal property, but participate in something larger and more profound which other human beings can share, understand, and empathize with. Consequently, my own behavior, at the moment of learning about my father's death, while apparently bizarre, has antecedents and root causes, that may be quite ordinary and not at all surprising to others. Recurrent memories from childhood osmose into the present, overwhelming it.

I am sitting at a desk puzzling over a series of incomprehensible high-school math problems. A large, dangerous man, my father, is screaming, "You stupid, dumb, son-of-a-bitch" at me. Or being twisted, pummeled, bent, twisted, suffocated, and choked under the guise of instruction in self-defense.

Even though my body was the recipient of all that information and stimulus, I cannot describe what it felt like. I can describe the chalky green blotter on my institutional -gray desk; the patterns of pressed concentric squares where I directed my attention during these homework diatribes, for instance. I can describe the gossamer curtains and my cherry spool bed, patterns and textures of my father's clothing. I can recall the melange of scents in the purple and beige patterned carpet my face was ground into - but I cannot remember feeling anything other than numb, and a hot anger, banked like coals deep in my muscles.

The nightly drama of homework is indelibly imprinted and predictable as a dance, but stripped of the emotional content. "Let's see what you're doing here," he'd mutter casually, walking into my room to check on my progress. He would talk his way aloud through the problem I was day- dreaming over. Since his calculations were impossibly fast, [he had attended MIT at 15 and had an extraordinary facility with number and sequence] I was an audience, reduced to muttering "unh-unh" and nodding like a drinky-bird toy bowing over a cup of water. Inevitably he'd make a mistake, correct himself, then challenge me, "Why didn't you see that? Are you paying attention, or what?"

Next, he'd offer some variant of," Okay, I've shown you one, you do the next." I had no idea how to begin, or why, if Bus A headed North at 52 miles an hour and bus B headed south at 47 miles an hour, anyone cared when they would meet or what the name of the conductor might be. Inevitably, he became impatient with my strategic blunders and then abusive. His fervently addressed unanswerable questions like, "How can you be so fucking stupid? How can anyone be so fucking stupid?", paralyzed my ability to respond, which in turn stimulated his fear that I might actually be stupid. Panic provoked threats to -" snap your fucking thumbs" or "break your knees" or, most chilling of all "send you to goddamned reform school"; which I misunderstood as re-form school, imagining children somehow broken and reformed to their parent's pleasure.

The screaming invariably attracted my mother, who entered the fray on my behalf, moved by maternal pity, and also convinced by assiduous study of Sigmund Freud, that childhood traumas may produce lasting emotional damage. Grateful as I might have been for her aid, from my point of view, there were now two of them, one on either side, screaming at one another like harpies.

"Morrie, you're making him crazy!!!"

"Shut-up, Ruthie, you're using up the oxygen in the room."

My role was reduced to sitting there, looking out the window, studying the facades of the other stately homes lining my street, wondering whether or not each one had its own quotient of domestic horrors, or was my own unique?

Social critics in the Eighties and Nineties, ( especially well-paid ones like George Will) have singled out the "Sixties" as a malevolent aberration in the Nation's otherwise glimmering history, and have been alert to blame the Nation's current problems and loss of wealth and status on the indulgences and misbehavior of spoiled and disenchanted young people of my (also his) generation. Since such critics exempt, by never mentioning, misanthropic public policy, self-serving economic decisions and the care and feeding of greedy peers by a political oligarchy, I guess it had to be bunch of fucked up hippies who turned America into the world's wealthiest Third World country, with infant mortality figures higher than Cuba and Jamaica, and punitive social policies which would make our European allies ashamed.

As I matured, I discovered that my childhood experiences were not so divergent from those of many others. I offer absolutely no excuses for my personal faults and shortcomings, by this observation, nor blame my parents who did their best with what they inherited from their own parents. During the time-frame of these chronicles, I was older than my mother was when she bore me, and consequently fully responsible. Fairness however, demands that I point out that millions of people did not accidentally or spontaneously generate a decade's of rage and disappointment like gas after a bad meal. My generation's disillusion over social injustice and its fervent desire to make the world a more compassionate place during our short time in it, must have had some antecedents. It does not appear foolish to me to inquire for that evidence inside the Nation's homes where many were being bent, stretched, folded, stapled and stressed by the economic system, social and political costs of the Cold War, and ridiculously inflated promises of Midas- like wealth. One way or another, such phenomena took their toll on the psyches of the family and their young, and my household was no exception; and my own father, for all his excesses and fulminations, was basically a good, decent, and honest man.

So, after a life-time of habitually closing myself down, it's not surprising that my father's death did not immediately liberate a flood of discernible feelings. They appeared later; about eight years later, the first time I could bring myself to visit his grave. That occurred after I was forced to admit that I had failed to secure his beloved Turkey Ridge Farm from the mountain of debt for which he'd mortgaged it. I'd failed too, in my attempts to re-bury him there, his favorite place on earth. Accepting those failures was the prelude, and one day, I drove to the cemetery in New Jersey where he was buried in a sub-section of his brother- in-law's plot. What indignity, what affront to his fierce autonomy and pride he would have experienced had he, the family patriarch, known that his grave would be reduced a shoe-box sized granite plate in the lawn, shadowed by his brother-in-law's far grander, raised tombstone. Death does play tricks like that on self-importance.

When I finally located the site, I was stunned to find his grave bare of grass; nothing but beige and lumpy earth. When I inquired, I was told that the grave had sunk several days before and the groundskeepers had just stripped the sod and re-filled it to ground level. The engraved lettering on his stone; his name, dates of birth and death, and the title of his favorite poem by Dylan Thomas, "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night", were clotted and filled with dried clay from workman walking on the stone. I dropped to my knees and began prying the dirt out of the letters with a small twig. It was not until drops were muddying the granite beneath me that I realized I was crying and speaking aloud.

I had not recognized my own voice, a high, keening, tiny, sound, strangled in my throat. It was not the voice I was accustomed to. It was the voice of a frightened, disappointed child, nakedly entreating my father, for affection and respect; telling him how much I loved and admired him, and how much I needed him to love me the way I was, even though I didn't enjoy hurting people and might not be as smart as he was. I cried and talked and chipped clay like that for over an hour. I didn't think a body could harbor so many tears.

Memories flooded me, entrancing me with their vividness. I was engulfed by a profound sense of loss and frailty, as if I were helpless witness to the fingers of a loved one slipping irretrievably into quicksand.

After I was exhausted, I took an emotional inventory and realized all sense of my father had disappeared. I sat awhile while my breath settled, until I felt the that the grass was exhaling sorrow, and I could stay there no longer. I rose, apologized to him for not having visited earlier, and left. I have never returned.

This failure to visit my father's grave should not be construed as lack of affection or respect for him. The fact that so much of my childhood was wasted trying to make him notice me does not blind me to the fact that in his own way, he treasured, and appreciated me more than I realized at the time.

Occasionally and deliciously, at Turkey Ridge, when he was unencumbered by the anxieties of his work, and the sky was lowing gray; as the afternoon summer rains swept in, he would take me to one of our barns to nap with him. It was usually the bull-barn he had designed and built of pungent rough milled beams he had sawn from native Black and White Oaks on the farm's mill and covered with aluminum sheeting. We would climb into the haymow together and he would wrap the two of us in an old horse blanket. He would drink pear brandy, and I would rest against him, overjoyed to be tucked against his massive body, protected and not assailed by the crook of his arm. He would sleep that way while I tried to stay awake, relishing the plashing and pattering of the rain on the metal roof. In those rare moments, I felt contented and proud, the way I imagined other boys felt when I watched them, jealously, playing with their fathers. My world was momentarily delicious and best of all, safe.

Now the cause of both my joys and terrors was gone; sucked him up with the same pitiless neutrality that a tornado chews through a Kansas trailer-park. I remembered the last time that we had been together:

It was mid-winter, my last in Olema, the one preceding the caravan. It had rained relentlessly for days, and the clay road to the house was a quagmire. The house was overcrowded with restless people in damp steaming clothes. Some Hells' Angels were visiting. Ruth and Morrie appeared out of the storm, in a clay smeared rented car, lugging a case of Scotch for the weekend, his pockets stuffed with Seconals. He was already drunk.

They dove into the turmoil of the farmhouse, and it could not have been easy for them. People were stacked like cordwood. Joints were continuously rolled and passed around, chased by jugs of red wine. There was a sullenness in the atmosphere from too many people trapped in too small a space for too long by the rain.

Morris sat at the table, punching holes in his Seconals with a pocket knife, sharing them with a couple of the Angels. "When I need 'em, I want 'em to work in a hurry" he explained to a biker's query about why he punctured them. When people stood too close to him, he would jerk his shoulders as if to shake them off or mutter about "faggots" barely under his breath, when a Hell's Angel's swagger got on his nerves. He was pushy and belligerent, and I was certain he would provoke a fight. I considered that this might even be his preferred way of dying and was preternaturally alert to this because I knew that if a fight broke out between him and the Angels, I would have to go down with him.

At one point, Morris collared Gristle and said bluntly, "Get Peter for me."

"Get him yourself" Gristle replied blandly. He laughed, recounting to me how Morris had then propped a hand on his shoulder, fixed his feral eyes on him and said, "I like you, fella. You know why? Because you're not afraid to die!"

That night, Morris fell out of the loft bed that someone had abandoned for him and my mother. Stoned on Seconals, he climbed out the wrong side, and fell about six feet and cracked a toe. He was cranky about it, but otherwise resigned. Perhaps he was too stoned to notice. Ruth, was acutely uncomfortable and uncharacteristically silent during most of the weekend. God knows what she felt about the shabby environment and her adored grandchild picking her way over stupefied freaks and bikers; the women dressed like girls she had been taught to avoid. Olema was always raw, in your face and vulgar as hunger. My mother was refined, spoke in a deep, cultured voice like Claire Trevor, and years earlier had traded in her Eastern European-style jewish ghetto in the Bronx for the "modern" world and a starring role in her own personal Fred Astaire film, smoking elegantly and referring to people as "darling" as she soaked up all the information and cultural stimulus she had hungered for as a girl. She obviously preferred the dazzle and glamour of the 30's and 40's to the sepia and squalor of our 60's commune, but she never, ever, missed what was under her nose.

On the Sunday that they were to leave, my dad and I were sitting together at the kitchen table. The kerosene lamp cast a yellow pallor on his skin, and the sound of the storm outside was a subdued howl. His eyes were hooded and his hair, only recently streaked with gray, was combed straight back in his usual, severe manner. He was half in his cups when he caught my attention by saying, "You know son....." and then drifting off on a nod before he'd finished the thought.

There was a long pause while he appeared to be checking the insides of his eyelids for the news, then he lifted his head abruptly, looking directly at me. His face was completely serious. "I gotta tip my hat to you, Boy", he said roughly. "You're a better man than I am." Thankfully he looked away, perhaps politely, so that he would not have to witness my confusion. I didn't know how to respond.

He continued, as if addressing the wall, "If I was your age again, this" (indicating the environs with a motion of his arm) "is what I would be doing."

I was stunned. I had never received such direct and unequivocal approbation before, and certainly not for something for which I had many personal, ambivalent feelings. I mean the idea of Olema, the idea of the Free Family, re-vitalizing and re-inventing the culture and the economy, was compelling, and seemed the only worthy thing to be doing with my life. The actuality was full of contradictions however: behaviors which did not measure up to the mark of our stated intentions; embarrassments and confusions. I might excuse its imperfections as a work in progress, but he must have perceived the reality naked of ideology, and compared to his own standards of elegance, it must have appeared a pig-sty. I could not imagine how he might have construed the swirling chaos around him in order to justify what he had just said to me.

I told him how pleased I was and how moved, and then confessed my own lack of direction and insight at the moment. Told him about my dearth of available wisdom and I asked him for advice. His response, was in effect, his last words to me, and more than twenty years later I remember the moment and the words vividly.

He hunkered down for another of his long silences and then, said the following:

 

Capitalism is dying, boy. It's dying of its own internal contradictions [He was, after all, a Wall Street financier, drugs and alcohol notwithstanding, so I listened carefully.] You think that the revolution's gonna take five years or something. It's gonna take fifty! So keep your head down and hang in for the long haul, because I'll tell you something. The sons-of-bitches running things now don't give a shit about their children or their grandchildren and they certainly don't give a shit about you! They've paid their dues and they want to get out with what they think is theirs! They're gonna sell off everything that's not nailed down. It'll all be up for the highest bidder., Don't get crushed when it topples down. Take care of yourself and your family. If you can make a difference, do it, but there are huge forces at work here, and they have to play themselves out according to their own design, not yours. Watch yourself.

As far as I'm concerned, nothing he prophesied has proven untrue.

Little of this was apparent to me that day in Boulder however. It would be almost another two months before I actually reached my mother's house in the East, two months of playing out the caravan, finishing the hand I had dealt myself.

Two nights after I learned of my dad's death, we were camped above Boulder, in a big, wooded, meadow. The trucks were in a large circle and we'd built a camp-kitchen and fire-pit in the center. A friend from the East, living near Boulder, named Lewis John Carlino, came by unexpectedly and mysteriously. He had met my parents when he'd arrived in New York from LA, a penniless writer. He needed a place to write, and my folks had given him Turkey Ridge gratis for a winter where he'd composed two one act plays, Snow Angel and Epiphany both dedicated to my parents, and a three act play, Telemachus Clay which won him an OBIE and brought him to the attention of Hollywood. Since then he'd directed several films The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea, The Great Santini, and Seconds among them, and made good money. He'd bought a farm near Turkey Ridge in the Delaware Water Gap and lived their with his crazy wife Natale and their three children. Lew was a sweet and complicated man, spiritual, ambitious, oblique, very talented and amusing, but his future was dogged by an implacable and bitter fate. One daughter died before she was 25 of breast cancer, and his son became paralyzed for life after taking Xsty with his mother, walking off and toppling off the Santa Monica pier. To this day, I do not know how Lew found our camp in the mountains.

It was Owl's birthday and I'd made him a necklace of deer bones as a gift. Local people dropped by our campsite throughout the day, curious about this host of strangers who had appeared from nowhere. We begin to drink and party and I declared the night a wake for my father.

The music is inspired that night, women are dancing powerfully, and their bellies glow ember-red in the firelight. Carla's dancing in particular is possessed. She sweats and shines like chrome, lost in her muscular exertions, giving herself away to the Gods. Gristle passes out LSD-dosed marshmallows and kicks the night into overdrive.

Later, I am laying in Carol's (Gristle's partner) lap and she is sucking my fingers. Gristle appears in the periphery of my vision, up tight and wanting to settle something with Carol immediately. A fight starts between them into which Sam intervenes and bites off more than she can chew. The savagery of Gristle's response terrifies her and she lays next to me all night, gasping like a fish out of water. I sit on the tailgate of the Meat and Bone Wagon, watching the stars turn, trying to comfort Sam, listening to Gristle smash things and Carol screaming imprecations at him. The sound of the congas and guitars is insistent. Clouds and trees jitter before me and everything in my field of vision writhes and folds upon itself. It is a fit memorial for my father - an unquiet spirit raging through the camp. "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night", indeed, old man.

The next day I was up at dawn, still high from the Acid, running through the camp, near to naked, hair tangled, wiggling my finger and speaking like Pantalone, transmitting his essential insight into the nature of reality. "It viggles, it viggles," I insisted endlessly, referring to the Universe of course, making people laugh, and easing the collective re-entry into the day.2

We lolled around Colorado a while longer, and bumped into ex-Mime Trouper Charlie Degelman living in the remote mountain town of Ward. Sam had lived here for awhile when she had left me the last time, and that was enough of a connection to establish a network and then a couple of good parties, where we swapped songs and stories, and true to our intentions, introduced Lew Carlino to the Ward people and the Ward People to Summerhill and Gold Hill people. Intra-group tensions evaporated and by the last party, the Caravan

people were in high spirits, preparing to leave. At that party, playing the congas and driving the dancers, I looked across the room while I was drumming and Sam and Mai-Ting, , were dancing together like light and dark Gemini Twins. Mai was doing an incredible movement, shaking her whole body like a flapping rug. She is strong as a camel, a funky-tooth muscular power, and she and Sam were locked into one another with magnetizing, witchy energy. Their mutual appreciation was infectious and the Ward people seem stunned by the rawness of their feelings for each other. By evenings end, I am drunk and my fingertips are split and bleeding and Sam drives me home. I fall asleep and in a dream Hell's Angel Moose is driving me around in a ghostly Cadillac instructing me about women. I wake up with one of his admonitions lingering as a refrain, "Get rid of the one who isn't having a good time."

After final goodbyes, and a hair-raising, public fight between Mai-Ting and Sam, about a spoon, the caravan crawled to our final destination, the Huerfano Valley in Southern Colorado.

We drove together as far as Boulder where we made a long, insane gas stop: eleven kids running around the station; people eating ice-cream and melons in the parking lot; candy and gum bought, fought over, apportioned and exchanged; people washing baby clothes in the water fountain, and the yokel attendants too mesmerized to check the hot credit card. Then, just as we are apparently a coherent unit again, several people decide to go to Paonia on the Eastern Slope of the Rockies and pick Apricots and dry them so that we would have something to bring with us as a gift to Libré. Others had minor repairs to do and said that they would catch up.

A guy named Toothless Jim from back in Forest Knolls materializes magically in the midst of this circus, gives me a dollar and I have no idea why. Near Pueblo, Jeff (Jeff and Carla) drops a valve lifter in his truck, and he and I peel away from the rest of the group and into a Texaco station where lovely people allow us use of a berth to repair it. While there, we received word that Gristle has blown his starter motor, and so someone is sent back to fetch him while, JP's truck is sent forward with the children to scout for a campsite.

By the time Jeff `s vehicle is repaired, we were alone. We drive through the towns of Walsenburg, Gardner and Farasita looking for our companions or signs from them to us, but to no avail.

The next morning, while we cook breakfast by the side of a dirt road, Berg drives by in a strange pickup truck with some Chicano dude. He waves and flashes his necrotic, crack-toothed grin but doesn't stop. We follow his tracks backward and find Judy Goldhaft also making breakfast by the road. We're snacking on her fried potatoes when the schoolbus from a local commune, the Triple A, pulls up with everyone aboard still wired from an all-night acid-rock party in Pueblo.

Expecting hostility from our communiqués from Libré, we're pleasantly surprised when they greet us warmly and make us welcome. They tell us pointedly about an abandoned homestead called Ordovi's Farm, not far away and suggest that we establish a camp there because. It is neutral turf, and we will not be on anyone if we stay there.

They tell me that there is a birthday party for Peter Rabbit at Libré and I decide to attend alone and announce the Caravan's arrival. En route, I intersect Ben Eagle and he and travel to Libré together. Libré is very grand compared to most places we live or visit. Inhabitants there seems to have had successful hustles of some kind before they arrived, and their houses are palatial by our standards. I meet some acquaintances there from my previous trip with RD, and they are cordial, but reserved.

The consensus of local opinion is that The Caravan should move to Ordovi's farm. Libré people intimate that there are problems there which we might be able to help sort out. I return to camp to discuss that possibility. Our consensus is that people don't feel it is our job to sort out the valley's problems, but since we're guests and this is what we have been offered we should accept it and make the best of things.

In the midst of this our discussion, Gristle arrives and recounts the story of Ordovi's farm, as he has gleaned it from local people. This is the condensed version:

Four guys from Cambridge, Massachusetts came West with a vision of a self-sufficient truck farm. They can't make it pay and get bailed out of down-payment trouble by the Red Rockers, the commune where my old friend Terry Bisson lives. Ordovi's Farm then becomes the locus of a regional counter-culture vision to "help the Valley get it together." The three communities, Libré, Red Rockers and The Triple A, pool their auto wrecks, tools, spare parts, and garage space and commit themselves to making the place work. Dissension arises among the original four, and Gristle tells us authoritatively that the villain is Tom a "male chauvinist pig who likes to sit on his tractor." Tom has made the unforgivable error of "holding out against a collective vision of the place, for a personal vision." Everyone but Tom has now abandoned the farm which has become a symbol of everything wrong with The Valley.

While we pondered our decision, we went en masse to visit The Red Rockers, who had moved out of their overcrowded temporary house and onto their land. They have built an extraordinary geodesic dome there, a huge silver bug-eye, seventy feet across, rising starkly in front of the jutting red butte formation for which their land is named. The floors are rough wood, and a sleeping loft has been constructed, resting on stout log pillars which parallel the inside perimeter of the dome for 3/4 of its circumference. There is a well-built kitchen with brick counters and four double-burners inlet into the top; a very clean shop area with a VW engine being surgically assembled on stand. This is the first house I have ever seen, specifically designed for the way we live, and it is light and airy and extremely functional. From their front porch, you can see the entire expanse of the Huerfano Valley, including its bordering mountains: the Sheep Range, and the Sangré des Cristos.

I re-meet Red Rocker, Benjo, a fellow I had dismissed as a low-riding street hustler the first time, but he appears very different now; simpler, much stronger, less cynical and very friendly. He tells me that he has been on the Peyote road, attending the Native American Church's peyote meetings for a year and taking it very seriously.

Our two groups mingled easily and we spent the day with them explaining our intentions for being there. We played a couple of volley ball games in which their tight teamwork annihilated our anarchic individualism.

At day's end, dinner was prepared and greatly impressed our group. Their gathering exhibited none of the greedy scramble of our camp where people normally behave as if food which is not under their dominion might be lost forever. After a leisurely preparation, and a silent moment, their dinner is served calmly and elegantly. Compared to us, they are formal, but their house is easy with good feeling and cheer. They are relaxed and unguarded with each other, and for a moment I compare my own people unfavorably, thinking how, next to them, we appear cranky and self-centered.

After dinner Benjo stretches a water drum and prepares for a group sing. The water drum, central to the peyote ceremony, is fashioned from a round bottomed, three-legged iron cooking kettle half filled with water and some fresh charcoal. A skin is stretched over the top, a pebble put into the edge of it and a line anchored on the pebble and skin is passed under the pot and attached to another edge of the skin, also wrapped around a pebble. The line is passed under the pot again and cinched, seven times in all, until the skin is tacked down tight around the pot's circumference. If it's not done correctly the skin will come loose during the meeting and the sound of the drum will deteriorate. Beneath the pot, all the lines cross in the center and create the pattern of a star.

The drum's sound is indescribable, deep and visceral, somehow rubbery. You can sense it in the belly. The Rockers sing Peyote songs and Christian Hymns, and their music is very refined and lovely.

Later in the evening, the subject of Ordovi's farm surfaced in discussion. The Red Rockers' community is riven by competing political and spiritual visions of the world. Some members can only view the situation through a political prism and cannot separate their feelings about this fellow Tom from what they know of his history and behavior. Benjo and the Peyoteros respond that the others should pray for help in loving the man.

Some Rocker women critique traditional Peyote ceremonies as "male chauvinist bull-shit." Sexual liberation is a dominant theme in their community and they all seem committed to transcending role-lock. The subject is new to me, and their diligence is instructive, although it sometimes approaches mania, as when one of the women turned to me and said, "We noticed that some of you were served your dinners by your women."3

The Red Rockers are much wealthier than we are, and have none of our conflicts about easing their labors with technology. They argue that they don't buy enough merchandise to offset the energy gains they've made from collective living, but are not forthcoming about where their capital base comes from and we don't ask. My suspicion is trust-funds and inheritance, though I know that is not the case for Terry.

The day of our move to Ordovi's farm arrived, and Digger style, it was a comedy of errors. Trucks became separated from one another; half of our people had no gas, and hours were wasted, siphoning fuel from one truck and driving miles to deliver it to another.

Ordovi's Farm appeared to be a breeding ground for wrecked automobiles and trucks. There was a heavily weathered and obviously unloved, but well-made adobe farmhouse, that we eyed warily until it began to rain, and

everyone jammed inside. It enclosed a large whitewashed kitchen and a back room stuffed with drying onions laid out in a criss-cross pattern on the floor.

Shortly after we arrived, the infamous Tom pulled up in a blue pick-up with the words I-Am-You painted on the side. He regards us warily as we pore over the house and grounds, cataloguing resources. He talked to me for a long while. He has been pushed and tested and challenged about as hard as a man can be it appears, and is spare as a piece of sun- bleached Cottonwood. Long- boned, with heavy wrists, his eyes, behind rimless glasses reminded me of the darkness inside a hollow log. He appeared more stubborn and entrenched than violent.

Our initial conversation revolved around outside affairs. Two local hippie-haters named Tony Panda and Bob Hudson had been frightening people and menacing them, forcing them off the roads with their trucks. Just before we arrived, Bob Hudson shot a bucket out a man's hand in front of his son, and weeks later, the boy was still afraid and sleeping badly.

I had met Tony Panda, when Gristle and I stopped by his fields on the way to Ordovi's Farm. His place was isolated and dry with lots of rusty old machinery in the weeds. A worried looking woman holding a baby poked her head out the door, and nodded us off in the direction of the field, where we found Tony repairing a smashed propane tractor. He was clad in soil-stained khaki's, dark and skinny with a brooding face that reminded me of a crushed olive. In response to our queries for work he replied, "Yes, I do need help, but I don't hire your kind."

Ben Eagle and I had previously discussed this situation late one night, and strategized a trap for either or both of the men by walking the Libré road, apparently two shiftless hippies in serapes. If either showed up and gave us trouble, we'd take it from there and put the fear of God in them, because we'd both be armed and ready for the occasion. Before initiating something like that however, we needed to know more about the lay of the land and the local political situation. I sympathized with Tom who had his share of trouble with these two, but when I offered the possibility of Ben and myself correcting the situation, he chastises me obliquely and very sagaciously by saying,

"If you're going to live somewhere,

you have to keep peace with your

neighbors. When a man steps out of the

bushes and points a gun at me, I tell

him to shoot straight so I don't feel

it. Sometimes that changes things more."

I admired him for this courageous resoluteness and in the shadow of that honesty, had to admit to myself that my image of the Diggers riding in and cleaning things up other people's dilemmas was a masturbatory fantasy. There would be serious consequences to any fear or violence we initiated and it would be wreaked on the people who lived here. The issue of freaks being terrorized suggested something deeper and unresolved festering underneath which I did not have enough information understand, but which I resolved to be alert for.

The next day our camp was seized by one of its periodic explosions of energy and people awoke committed to making the farm home. The furniture was hauled outside, the floors were scrubbed, the walls, stove and old icebox thoroughly cleaned and polished like new. We painted the kitchen a bright sunshiny yellow, and Mai-Ting threw the I-Ching and received the hexagram for Gradual Development and drew the Chinese character on the wall. The trash was hauled off and the garage ordered; everything salvageable was sorted and saved and the rest thrown away. The house hummed with energy, and when people from Libré and the Red Rocks dropped by, they were stunned by the transformation. The house's spirits had been recognized and honored, dirt and stale ideas blown away as if it had been scoured by a stiff wind. We are the Wind.

That night we were invited to play the Starlite room, a local bar in the town of Walsenburg, as a coming-out party for the Caravan. Sam washed my hair with Yucca root she dug that day and by the time she was done I felt as clean as a new enamel basin. I shaved, put on my good pants she had made me with silver studs down the legs, and a clean white shirt. Sam brushed my hair out, and tied it behind my head in a bun with a strip of crushed velvet, Navajo style. I was ready to rock and roll. As usual, it took hours for the group to depart. Gas had to be siphoned, yet again, instruments loaded, kids tended, and it was dark by the time we began the 40 mile drive to Walsenburg.

The Starlite room was a revelation. It was jam-packed, with wall-to-wall freaks, Chicanos, old men in stained and dented cowboy hats, and women in demure polyester dresses or Gypsy finery. Everyone was hooting and jumping up and down to the music of the Triple A band, who are tight, funky, and extremely professional. In fact, they are professional, and several members have made records.

As we enter the room, someone shouts, "The Caravan is here" and there is a loud cheer. It is our moment, an acknowledgment that we had done what we said we would do, and we surged into the bar proudly en masse, everyone looking great in the bar's amber light: white teeth, clean, sun-browned skin, silver rings, bracelets tinkling, laughter. I was proud of my people.

During a break, the Triple A bass player, a lovely LA rock and roll girl with a thicket of curly hair, a rock- steady back-beat and the improbable name Trixie Merkin, invisibly palms me a ten-spot. I am touched by her consideration, and able to buy enough beers to get our people up to speed. It was not at all unusual for us to be so far from home with not even ten dollars between twenty or thirty people, and yet, somehow, things seemed to work out.

Turning from the bar to deliver the suds, I bumped into Susanka, a lusty and very sensual belly dancer from San Francisco. I had pierced her ear and the nose of her friend at Treat Street house one day. Susanka informs me boldly that they have both been waiting to fuck me to say thanks. She smiles like the good witch who has just magically invoked a seven pound cock for her own delight, and fades into the crowd with an "I'll see you later" expression on her face.

Carla begins to dance and the crowd makes room for her. My God, the girl can dance! Her eyes are closed as she communes with her body and the energy of serpents, earthquakes, magma flows and torrential winds flows through her like spurts of hot oil. The Triple A trombonist is laying down syncopated, double-tongued riffs over the drums. Mai-Ting dances like an electric motor whose governor has broken. Rhythm infects the room like plague, and suddenly, my spine is seized by some insistent force and I'm propelled into the crowd, dancing the broken-breath boogie.

Beers are passed over the crowd, flecking the dancers with froth, old women are smiling ecstatically, flapping leathery limbs with abandon while the old men are snatching at the young girls, and changing dance partners simply by changing the direction they're facing. The room is braiding itself into ecstatic recombinations of multi-racial, cross- generational possibilities. I have never seen a whole town high before.

The Triple A set ends and they offer us the stand. None of us are used to electronic instruments, but we accept the invitation. Owl on drums, Richard Kunreuther plays electric piano, I'm playing guitar and trying to sing, but can't hear myself over the monitors. The music is not working and I am stressed, not wanting to let down either my team or these collective high spirits. David from the Triple-A sits in on drums and tells us to try once more. It was kind of him not to let us leave the stage on a failed note. I begin to sing, Devil Dance, a song of mine which seems emblematic of our reality. It has a refrain which goes:

If you weep, it's only skin-deep

If you weep, it's only skin-deep,

If you weep, it's only skin-deep,

Because: Every skeleton wears a grin.

Your bones are begging you to give in.

Every skeleton wears a grin.

Your bones, are begging you to give in.

The song finds its groove and takes off, discarding the impression of our temporary failure like the spent stage of a two-step rocket. The room is high and happy again, but I'm uncomfortable with the electronic gear and trapped by self-consciousness, withering under my unforgiving judgments of my own errors. When the song is over I want to quit, but the others won't and I can't leave them alone. We stay and play, and are doing just fine. The place is back in high orbit, but for all the fun other people were having, I am trapped in self-consciousness and can't seem to cut myself loose. A little more beer and a visit to our emergency-only cocaine stash and soon I forget that I ever cared about anything. On the other hand, the Triple A expressed amazement at our looseness and spirit, and admiration about our musical freedom.

Stumbling out into the street at closing time, I see the constellation Orion in the night sky. It is a premonition of winter. Just as I'm about to crawl into my truck a stranger approaches and gives me a paper printed by our people at Black Bear, concerning a pending clear-cut of timber growing over their creek. It is obvious that silt from the cut will drain downhill and choke the creek, and they are preparing their resistance4. The stranger has handed me a Planet-bulletin which has somehow reached me without postage or address, over a thousand miles away. Home is always where you are.

We paid for our triumphs the next day. People crawled out from under their trucks, tongues swollen, eyes running, completely hung over. Everyone was so hopelessly wretched it became the morning's competition to see who was in the worst shape. The emergence of each new victim of excess provoked waves of laughter. We assembled a rescue center and began passing out coffee, nicknaming it the "sacred herb" this morning.

I am conscripted to help a fellow named Harmonica Jack work on his Chevy truck, which has idled on blocks for months. I am crippled with a hangover and not looking forward to the task at hand, when Susanka, the belly dancer,

and her friend, Pat drive up. grinning like Cheshire cats, scrubbed shiny and apparently not at all ruined by last night's debauch. Susanka and Pat are transmitting clear sexual intentions which make my devotion to Harmonica Jack's truck waver. I bully young Jeff into helping Jack and grab Susanka and Pat, preparing to run off with them, when Sam walks out of the house, and with a "Hi, ladies" that could snap the nipples off a stone statue stops everyone in their tracks. I stand around stupidly, while Sam assesses the efficacy of her initial salvo. Seeing that Susanka and Pat are appropriately mollified, she modifies her weaponry and enlists them to go off and pick sweet- corn with her.

Feeling as if I've been caught masturbating in the outhouse, I return to help Jack and by afternoon we have his truck off the blocks and running out in the road. A blue pick up with a Chicano fellow driving his wife and daughter, pulls up and he asks if we need help. In the back of the truck is a dead Coyote.

I ask him what he's going to do with it. "Sell it," he says. He has a curious, sheepish smile on his face which makes me wonder if he is human or a phantom of some kind. I offer to trade him something for the body, and we discuss tools and various things, until Harmonica Jack pulls a fluorescent-red foul-weather jacket from out of his truck. The Chicano man, a woodcutter named Raymond, likes them and a deal is sealed.

At the ranch, people are cooking venison over an elegant adobe fire-pit that Paul Shippee has constructed in the front yard. Bob Santiago is cutting meat under the stark glare of a Coleman lantern, and I lay the Coyote next to him, bathed in the light. It lies under the hissing lamp, and somehow transmits a heightened awareness of a circle of mortality in which all are included: the Coyote, lips curled away from his shiny teeth, who eats the deer roasting on the fire, which we, the people gathered for dinner, will eat and all of whom will one day die. People are quiet. Respectful.

I take the body inside and Jeff holds the front feet while I skin it. He was a fat and healthy pup, and I work attentively, careful not to cut the skin, finally passing it successfully over the ears and head. I see the purple spot behind his ear where a bullet unzipped his life. Children and adults have filtered indoors and watch quietly. I am absorbed in my work and my prayers to this little cousin; intent on expressing my respect and allowing no frivolous thoughts to intrude.

When the skin is off, I rub his body with cornmeal, pierce his ear with my turquoise earring and wrap him in white muslin to bury later. I tack his skin to a board and salt it so the hair will not slip. By the time I am finished almost everyone is asleep. I wander outside. Kevin is sitting with a woman by the fire. Over his right shoulder, in the glow of the firelight, gleaming in the darkness, is a bleached coyote skull. I blink, startled, and it is revealed to be a wild Sunflower bush. Three people will have the exact same experience that night. Orion is brighter and higher in the sky. I return to the house and hang Blue corn everywhere. I take the clock off the wall. I know what time it is.

The next morning all the children and several adults tell me that they had Coyote dreams. It doesn't surprise me because his spirit so permeated the house last night. Sam appears to have been affected by it. She takes me aside and picks up a conversation I had started earlier, criticizing her for her hostility to Susanka and Pat. [The only appropriate definition for this behavior is the Yiddish word chutzpah, which means "nerve", but a particular kind of nerve. It is defined as the nerve of a man on trial for murdering his parents who begs the judge for mercy because he's an orphan.]

Sam admits her hostility to the Sirens, but pinions me by saying that she has been through enough changes about my lovers. "I learn to love them," she says, "and then, when you lose interest in them and leave, you blame it [the breakup] on me. I'm tired of it." She tells me that she is straight with everything now, that my pleasure is hers and that consequently I can't hurt her any more.

I am dumbfounded by her accuracy and her gift; perceive it as unconditional love and permission to live true to my predilections and affections. I am overcome with appreciation for her; feel as if she has released me from a spell and that I am freed from the conflict of loving her and other women as well. We fall against each other laughing, and talk intimately most of the day. That day.

The summer passed at Ordovi's in this manner, fretting and feuding over personal dramas and public politics; fixing trucks, playing music and frolicking; taking care of the children, and following an easy an organic sense of inner time.

At the initial hints of Autumn, people began to crystallize their plans. Shippee decided to stay in Boulder and study with Chogyam Trungpa, the Tibetan Buddhist teacher. Mai-Ting and Tall Paul decided to stay in the Valley and make it their home. The Berg's planned to travel East and winter in Maine.

Jeff and Carla decide to return to California. Jeff trades his truck for a red MG, and confesses to me how much he misses the city and the fun of getting high. His confession makes me cringe and remember numerous times I had been high with and in front him and other young people for whom I should have been a role model rather than a collaborator. Just before he departs, he searches his gear and retrieves a photo of me he calls "Coyote Crash". In the photo, I am stoned on heroin and pasty gray; my eyelids appear to have andirons dragging them down; my lower jaw is moronically slack. Jeff gives it to me conspiratorially, alluding to it as a bond between us, laughing and teasing me, saying, "I'll be there again before you will." He piles Carla, and Owl and their possessions into his new MG and roars off down the road, like Freddy Frog, in a cloud of dust. That was the last time I saw him until, one day several years later when the picture of his coffin, a 50- gallon drum weighted with chains, appeared on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle. My own plan was to return to the East Coast to help my mother, but I kept delaying the inevitable, wrapping up loose ends for an unconscionably long time.

The ceremonial punctuation mark of our stay in Colorado was the big Peyote meeting, to be held with Cato Indian people from Oklahoma. It was intended as our welcome to the Valley, but by the time it was organized it served as our farewell. One of the Red-Rockers, a slow-talking chunkily built blonde man named Tush, came by to pick me up one day and we drove into the mountains toward Rainbow Lake, climbing past stands of Aspen, Scrub Oak, and Blue Spruce until we arrived at the Lodgepole Pines where the slender, ruler-straight trees stood erect as Porcupine bristles. We apologize to each and state our purpose and each of us fells ten good straight trees. Others have departed for Texas to gather "buttons" in the Peyote fields and we keep them in mind as we work, wishing them luck and a safe journey.

It was dark by the time we'd finished and the combination of high altitude, three days of debilitating diarrhea, and no food has made me disoriented. My feet are blistered from not wearing socks, and the effort of pulling these spiny, twenty five foot long logs up the steep hillside in the dark, between standing trees spaced only twenty or so inches apart, was exhausting. Branches poke and tear at me, snagging my clothes, puncturing and scraping my skin. I recall reading somewhere how Peyote always grows amidst thorns.

We tie all the logs to the truck rack, and stop for a pie and coffee in Westcliffe at a coffee shop whose schticky Western decor announces its owners' hope that an Aspen-type boom is about to occur here and transform the homely Huerfano Valley into money-making real-estate. Drinking our coffee, and munching on sweet pie, we overhear that people are planning to build a ski resort locally, and that Bob Hudson, one of the two hippie haters plaguing our Valley friends, is planning to run for Supervisor. His campaign promises include tarring all the dirt roads to increase property values, and routing all the LA traffic he can, directly into the Valley. It is a disheartening vision, but does make abundantly clear to me another piece of the puzzle concerning tensions in the Valley. Just like black people, and Mexicans, hippies are bad for the neighborhood.

On the way home, a fat, happy, Coyote dances down the road in front of Tush and me. He spins in a double circle, winks at us in the headlights. Tush looks at me oddly, and I nod. It's a good sign.

It required another two days to limb and then skin the poles smooth with a draw-knife. It was nice work, straddling a pole and watching the long tendrils of bark curl over the blade, leaving a long furrow of shiny white moist skin behind in the scaley Pine bark. The pine pitch has crusted over my fingers, my muscles are sore from stooping and working the draw-knife, but and I feel as if I am preparing myself for the meeting by these labors.

Mai-Ting squats next to me while I work one day. She describes an underlying sense of panic in the camp as people intuit that it will soon break up and are wondering whether they will be alone, if they're prepared for living without the support of the group, and what they might do. The peyote meeting could not be coming at a better time.

Not far away, Ben Eagle (Morea) and his wife Chipita are living in small canvas wikiups, small dwellings resembling mushroom caps, they've packed on horseback from Southern New Mexico. Ben and Chipita are edge-dwellers. Originally Puerto Rican or Italian from the lower East Side of Manhattan, Ben had been part of a Digger-like, anarchist family there called "The Motherfuckers", short for "Up Against the Wall, Motherfuckers." Migrating West, some found their way to Olema, and others to the Free Bakery and Black Bear. They were generally considered part of our formless confederation. Allen Hoffman, one of their family's theoreticians and wise men, a tall man with the rimless glasses and absorption of a Talmudic scholar, had been killed en route to Black Bear the year before, when their pickup was rammed by a logging truck while he slept in back. Thrown over sixty feet, he remained in the hospital in a coma, prayed over by Native American shaman Mad Bear Anderson, and attended by an honor guard of friends from both "families", until he died. Through deaths like his, and births, and common intentions and time, our diverse strands of people became braided into this loose amalgam known as "The Free Family."

Ben and Chipita had been living rough for over a year, surviving by hunting and foraging and occasionally resorting to Food stamps for infrequent town trips for staples like oil and flour. They spent their days hiding from the "tree- police", as they referred to the Forest Service, and actually wintered in the bitter cold Sangre de Christos with their horses and little canvas tents. Ben was completely immersed in the peyote path and had taken to preparing elk hides for the water-drums used in the ceremony. He became so purely dedicated to the process that one Indian old-timer, so conservative that he did not speak English, after meeting Ben and reviewing his drum, confided to a friend, that he had not known that "the Spirit spoke English."

In the coincidental manner in which life braids experience and strands disappear and surface unexpectedly, in 1993,, I was walking on the Rue de Princess, in Paris when two strangers in 1940's retro Western fashions saluted me. They said, "Hey, Peter," and waved and I, assuming it was someone recognizing me from films, acknowledged the address but did not stop. They laughed at me, and the man said, "You don't know me do you?" The man was beardless, in his mid-forties. The woman, petite and attractive, and it was she who seemed the suddenly familiar to me. It was Ben and Chepita. They manufacture beaded earrings under Chepita's name and sell them all over the world. They were in Europe on a business junket, and our paths crossed on this tiny side street in the neighborhood I most usually frequent in Paris. They still live in the Huerfano valley and currently employ over a hundred local people to manufacture and market their intricately fashioned wares. They show me photographs of a very stylish, very modern house they have built, and are affectingly proud of their prosperity. They both still take Peyote. They are both still grand and fearless, and we spent the evening eating Mexican food and reminiscing about the life and land we shared thousands of miles and many, many, years ago.

. As I worked on the poles for the second day, the riddle of the social tensions in the Huerfano Valley resolved itself in my mind. I understood that despite their poverty, the freaks were actually aristocrats in the Valley and deeply resented for it. Their wealth, aside from access to cash, was their education, mobility, social and political skills, and they were not sharing them locally with the small shopkeepers and farmers; not creating a common destiny in place with them. They organized their own bulk buying cooperatives that drove to Pueblo and Denver to acquire food more cheaply than Valley merchants could supply it to them. They might have been putting orders through the local stores, teaching the small shopkeepers to do the paperwork and allowing them a commission which would have linked their economic fates. They might have been teaching other families how to cooperatize their purchasing as well.

Only a common consciousness based on the Valley as a shared home could save this place. I saw that clearly and knew that failing such agreement, people would eventually tire of the struggle to live there and move away or sell land to the highest bidders. A dialogue about whether or not they wanted a rich or a peaceful stable valley needed to be initiated. Even here at Ordovi's farm, the land was going to waste and might have been leased or sharecropped to local farmers creating a shared destiny. It occurs to me as I work, that the worship of different gods in the same locale often leads to war.

I'm disturbed by these insights. They remind me of an earlier campfire conversation with Ben Eagle. He was railing against the Red Rockers, demeaning their collective efforts as a "white comfort trip "; berating them for their creature comforts which came directly from the Earth's skin. He demanded to know in what manner they reciprocated for what they took. From his minimalist perspective of his own mode of life he was correct, but compared to standards of living of most of the people in the United States, Red-Rocker per- capita use of energy was very minimal. I told him that I thought he was being harsh, but could see that he'd simply drawn a very clear line for himself, and was determined to take no more from the Planet than he absolutely needed. We discussed this back and forth for an evening, trying to determine the degree to which one's own ethical decisions are applicable to others.

As I consider relationships in the Valley from the perspective of this conversation, I am confused. I feel limited by my own mind and assumptions. On impulse, I take the tanned Coyote skin and put it on my head, wrapping the front legs around my neck, and walk off. My shadow has ears, and the thickness of fur disguises my human neck.. I dog trot around for over an hour, breathing like a dog, clearing my head of all thoughts. I am something else, between animal and human.

I returned tired, but finally unconflicted. The only ethical position I can arrive at that seems as true for other species as humans, is that the place itself must be the determinant of how one lives there. Moving to Nevada and expecting to eat strawberries in January is indulgent, and from this perspective unethical. The whole idea of a "national life-style" appears ridiculous from this perspective, and I have a kind of vision of diverse people in radically different environments, trying to turn grass, topsoil, water, timber and minerals into washer-dryers, pick- up trucks and snow mobiles, in their quest to be good citizens.

In the midst of these thoughts, Gristle sits by me and announces that perhaps he'll stay in the Valley and open a Free Store. He feels that a presence here dedicated solely to the Valley's interests might serve as its defense against predators from Denver and New York. Remembering Gristle's active part in the troubles at Bryceland, California which culminated in the town being sacked and burned by people associated with our family, I listen dyspeptically, but offer nothing. I am suddenly tired and dislocated. Common vision appears to have evaporated from our camp, and I feel solitary and self-contained as a stray dog.

The next few days were dedicated to clearing a teepee site and waiting for the Peyote gatherers to return. I spent much time thinking about the prayer that I will offer at the meeting; how I will beg for vision, for common purpose, and so that our various "sleeps"-(my private term for unconscious behavior) - might end.

Finally the day arrived. Not even a celebration could occur in our camp without some tensions. Red Rockers, Lars and Little Richard, chastised Owl just outside the ceremonial teepee, about taking Owl feathers into the meeting. They told us that the Cato Indians don't like Owls or Coyotes; felt that the Owl was a back-stabber who strikes from behind, (I don't know what they think about Eagle's thieving and carrion eating) and Lars and Richard didn't want to offend their guests. They were not too damn sure about me either, but I was dressed simply and rather formally out of respect, and except for a striped Blanket to sit on and one Eagle feather, carried nothing that might disrupt the ceremony. Owl agreed amicably, and left his Owl- wing fan in our camp. Our revenge was that Owls and Coyotes virtually surrounded the tent, hooting and howling insistently from a very nearby grove all during the meeting.

Inside the teepee, the floor had been swept clean and opposite the entrance someone had hung a large knitted U.S. Flag without stars that someone's wife had made in jail. It hung over the officers, Red Rockers: Lars, Little Richard, and Benjo, who were joined by some blonde fellow as the Fireman. The flag gave the teepee the aspect of a kid's fort, and it embarrassed me.

The Indians were serene looking people and physically strong. There were three of them: an old man named Howard, his grandson Harvey, and a swarthy friend, a Vietnam vet who never removed his dark glasses. Rumor had it that he was one-legged Don Pedro's son, an oil-speculator from Oklahoma.

The ceremony began with people blessed with cedar smoke by the Cedarchief. An altar in the shape of a crescent moon had been built on the floor, in the center of the teepee. The tips of the moon pointed East, the direction to which the door opened, and through which the morning sunrise light would stream. This altar represented the Moon. The top of the altar was flat with a line running down its center from tip to tip. In the center of that line was the Road-man's5

Peyote Chief, his largest, oldest button. This button represents the Sun, and the line on the top of the altar was the Sun's path. The Road-man would watch his Chief button throughout the meeting, and some old timers claim that during the meeting the cotton tufts on the cactus will glow like beams of light illuminating the world, inside and outside the teepee. The Firechief, had cut and stacked enough wood to keep the fire going throughout the night.

The pig-tailed fellow from the Rockers acting as the Cedarchief, was being quite elaborate in fanning the smoke over people's bodies. His stylized, balletic movements made it feel as if he were more fascinated by the ritual and paraphernalia of the ceremony, than the essence of the practice. He continued officiously, explaining the complicated rules and obligations of the ceremony interminably. The Indians tried to hurry him along, at first helpfully, soon ironically and at times scornfully. It was obvious that the officers were not yet up to the task of running a meeting. Though well intentioned, they were just too callow and inexperienced.

Like the Native people, the Caravan family members were restive as well, but for different reasons. Our shibboleth and guiding principle was absolute freedom and, we tended to be competitive and a bit superior about our lack of attachments to form of any kind. Superficial reading of ancient "crazy-wisdom" literature and stories about eccentric Zen adepts, supported illusions of a freedom which was supposed to exist independent of form.

The peyote was passed around and the drumming, rattling, and singing commenced. I had never heard anything quite like it before. One man beat the drum at about double the speed of a human heartbeat. The rhythm was absolutely, regular and without accents or syncopation. Another man at his shoulder shook a small rattle made from a polished gourd. It had a tuft of hair sticking up from the top, and the handle was elaborately beaded with tiny cut-glass beads. The gourd rattles have seven stars in them, little glass beads or pebbles of just the right size to make the sound that peyote people favor. He also held a fan made from the tail feathers of a bird, perhaps a magpie, set into another elaborately beaded handle. I had never seen such beautifully crafted objects and it was obvious that the labor was sponsored by absolute devotion. Each feather was held in a little buckskin socket and the rim of each tiny socket was dressed with miniature, multi-colored parrot-down feathers. The handle glimmered catching the firelight on the facets of the beads which are laboriously gathered from old purses today, because, Hitler bombed out the cut-glass bead industry in Czechoslovakia during World War II.

As the peyote took effect, my attention was drawn into the singing. Two men harmonized the curious peyote songs together, with intricate rhythms and subtle, unexpected, shifts of emphasis. Peyote language comes from the cactus itself, and usually a song is a gift from Mescalito, the active spirit in the cactus. It is neither Spanish, nor Indian, but a language of its own, which gave me the feeling that if I were one notch higher, it would have made perfect sense. Each singer followed the other a millisecond of a beat behind, as close as a dog chasing a dodging rabbit. To heighten the mysterious effect, they employed a kind of ventriloquism that sent the song rolling around the interior walls of the teepee, behind the heads of the participants.

The throbbing from the water drum filled every available space; you could feel it in your ribs, pushing your heart, blotting superficial thoughts from the mind. The coals from the fire glowed fiercely; shooting tendrils of colored heat into the worshippers, filling them with amber light as if the human beings had been transformed into luminaria. The combination of sound and light and scents of Cedar and Sage coupled with the absolute concentration and dedication of the participants was mesmerizing, creating an optimal atmosphere for transcendence.

People offered prayers for loved ones or requested aid. There was absolutely no grandstanding or false piety, and in fact, deviations from correct behavior were marked publicly in a mysterious fashion. Others besides myself were disturbed by the pomposity of some of the "hippies" at the meeting, but they were our hosts and also officers of the meeting so it was improper to be critical. When Gristle made one of his sly sideways comments about the Cedarchief however, the words "wise-guy" materialized suddenly in the teepee as a disembodied whisper that circumambulated the room, circling around like a ghostly bird, publicly identifying Gristle's behavior for all to apprehend and consider.

Though he was in error for speaking out, Gristle was not the only one affected by the officers' posturing. When the white fireman faltered, one of the Indians assumed his duties, stoking the fire as if it was a life or death situation. I was struck by the difference between doing something and pretending to do it, (A critical distinction for an actor.) and how selflessly the Native man dropped his self-consciousness to dedicate himself to the job at hand. He had no attention left for considering what he might look like since it was all directed so totally to his task.

At a certain point in the proceedings, the officers were muddling around discussing some arcane procedure, when the Native man in the black sunglasses addressed the room in total frustration. In a tearful and passionate voice, he explained how the peyote ritual was the "last chance for Native people." How its rituals and rules had been set by the Creator himself and he did not feel that it was appropriate to take any liberties with them. The man was genuinely upset. He offered that he was a Vietnam vet, and had seen and done things in Vietnam that made him want to change his life and follow this road. You could see in his face and body, a great strength of purpose. I was chastened his speech and reconsidered my own readiness to throw away forms and conventions without considering how my behavior might affect people who held them dear. It was the first time since my enforced hepatic vacation at Olema, that I revisited the concept of limits.

As the night passed, the Red Rock "officials" became progressively more pinched and wizened. They appeared prematurely aged and anxious, while the Indians, sitting ram- rod straight, seemed more and more confident and relaxed. It was a stunning and unavoidable comparison.

Peyote is a teacher, and the manner in which it teaches is always unfathomable and mysterious. The tall blonde man from Black Bear named Smiling Michael; the one who had insisted on leaving with us in our overfull truck, was sitting opposite me in the circle. He did not like me at all and throughout the trip there had been an edginess between us., Every time I caught his eye, during the meeting he was staring at me fixedly, sending waves of hostility at me. I have always had a good relationship with Peyote. It seems to tolerate me, and so I felt protected by it and did not consider Smiling Mike too seriously.

Late in the evening, I glanced over at him, and, startled by what I saw, looked again. For the first time since I'd known him, I saw him: not a projection of weakness, prideful arrogance or the compensating aggression he usually manifested. He was sitting quietly, proud and calm, completely himself. His eyes were fixed into the impenetrable middle-distance and his face was suffused with wonder. He gazed about the room, studying everything as if it were all new and splendid to him. In the course of his survey, his eyes caught mine. Spontaneously, I pointed at him directly, grinned, and transmitted very clearly the thought, "That's who I've been holding out for!" He smiled broadly, understanding me perfectly, and a wave of good feeling flowed between us: a perfect resolution of the chafing which had previously haunted our relationship.

I spent the rest of the night clarifying fallacies in my way of life and thought and investigating areas where I found myself slack or wanting. High ideals and articulate visionary brilliance were no substitute for daily practice of behavior grounded in spiritual insight. I was filled with respect for the Native people and the ceremony, and, in light of their self-effacing behavior and dedication, even their conservative Western clothing took on a new significance to me.

In the morning, the night's glowing coals were raked into the shape of a Phoenix bird, by the Fireman, and the brilliant wavering hues emanating from them seemed complemented by a similar light glowing from within each person and article in the teepee. Every time I looked at Sam, stars seemed to be streaming from her eyes and she looked so beautiful my heart fluttered with pride to know her; to have a child with her. The glowing Phoenix bird symbolized the rebirth of our collective and personal spirit, and when the morning sun streamed through the teepee door and onto the altar, I thought it the holiest, most beautiful moment imaginable.

The meeting ended with a ritual feast of blue corn, fruit salad and venison. The day was chilly with the first sincere warning of Autumn. People sat around smoking and talking quietly. I lay down in the grass with Sam, Ariel, and Josephine, contented and happy with my journey on the rainbow road. I napped most of the morning.

The man in the sunglasses who made the impassioned speech the night before came up to me to say good-bye, even though we had not been introduced. "You got a taste of it tonight," he said to me. "I saw that. I hope you pay attention to what you learned." I did pay attention, and practiced paying attention, but it took many more years before the insights of that evening even approached the consistency of habit. Everything I had come to do had been accomplished and it was time to leave for the East. My journal for the day of departure read:

Orion is riding high now. The Big

Dipper carves its swastika track in the

sky and the cold nights make the hair of

my white dog fluff and full. The

Universe has made nearly a half

turn...Vernal Equinox past Summer

Solstice and the Autumn Equinox is

approaching.

I had postponed my return home indecently. I loaded up The Meat and Bone Wagon with my family, my dog, and Chloe Bear's teen-age daughter Sam had decided to bring East. Bill Kydell, from Libré was taking a lift to the East Coast with us as well. Bill was a thickly built bartender from New York City, who claimed to have been a mercenary soldier in South Africa, a specialist in explosives. It might have been true, because just outside Wanatah, Indiana, while I slept in the back, Bill high on Speed, blew the hell out of a piston, stranding us at 3 am. on a two lane road in bum-fuck- Egypt.

We were towed to a local wrecking yard, while Bill ran off to have his brother wire us money. The wrecking yard proprietor, allowed us to camp in his junk-yard. He was fascinated with our truck, our homey camp-fires and our skills at living rough. Every night after his own dinner, he joined us outside to smoke his pipe and listen to the music. He contributed stories about the glory days of his own youth, during the Depression, when he hopped freights and wandered around the country as we were, and it was easy to see that those adventures and the sense of freedom the memories resurrected, meant a great deal to him.

It was pleasant camping in the canyons of wrecked vehicles, propped on discarded truck tires, eating fry-bread before a fire contained by a semi-truck wheel rim. Light glinted off the twisted chrome and glass and eerie shadows poked and probed through the smashed car carcasses. This was the heart of the mid-West, real red-neck country, and far from being excoriated and rebuked by the malignant spirits imagined in "Easy Rider", this man adopted us warmly, allowed me use of the winch on his tow truck to pull and replace my engine, and shared his tools with easy generosity. The wind has whipped his name from my memory, but I am forever grateful.

Three days later, we drove off, and two days after that, I pulled the Meat and Bone Wagon up the Maple-shaded street of my boyhood town into the driveway of the stately old house where I'd been raised.

_______________________________

Notes

1 Trinidad population, as best as I can remember was: Freeman & Ivory[House], Jim and Sue, and their 5 kids, Danny, Luna, Dave, Jonny and Mad Anthony. Some Free Bakery people there as well.

2 Years later, in Hollywood, working on a film called Heartbreakers, the art director, David Nichols, approached me one day. I had noticed him studying me quizzically from time to time, and now, he explained it all with a question: "This may sound weird", he began, "But were you ever camped out in the mountains above Boulder partying with a bunch of trucks and crazy people?"

When I admitted that I was, he recounted how he had walked out of the woods by chance the night of the wake and stumbled into our camp. "I was terrified", he confessed. "I'd never seen a group of people before this out there, this wild. It changed my life." I could believe him because it had changed mine.

3 She had mistaken courtesy or affection for oppression and would have seen the roles reversed equally often, had she observed without prejudice.

4 Not only was the creek jammed by the crushed granitic soil that washed down after the trees no longer held it in place, but the road into Black Bear was washed out as well. The slopes of the hills are so severe, that after that debacle, logging was prohibited in that drainage until 1995 when the struggle between Black Bear, the progressive community, and the Forest Service recommenced.

5 The Road-man is the official who runs the meeting and sets the rules and procedures and is responsible for its efficacy.

[Peter Coyote]
Date of last modification: July 1, 1996
The Free-Fall Chronicles is a "loose" memoir of the '60's by Peter Coyote, actor and one of the earliest members of the Diggers. It is a "loose" memoir because every third or fourth chapter is about another member of the community. The book traces the experiences, the lessons and the costs of the pursuit of absolute freedom, and ponders the utility of limits.
 
 

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