Disclaimer…any similarities to any persons living or dead is purely….possible
In the backdrop of this little utopia was a huge cauldron of sizzling hot generation gap. A war in Viet Nam, a disregard for civil rights, women’s rights, and youth rights, and police brutality all over the country had boiled to the top and threatened to spill over into the kitchens all across Centerlawn pitting sons against fathers and daughters against mothers. It was no wonder all we ever cared about was getting high. My brother was in the army and if things continue the way they are we will all be in Viet Nam in two years. Being in high school sucked, but it sure was better than being shot at. Time for some old fashioned get high. Let the search begin.
Another boring day in school, and it was time to go and look for a little “buzz.” By now almost everyone in high school was smoking pot. So much pot in fact we wondered if that was how it earned the nomenclature of “high” school. We knew that was just a joke, but the amount of marijuana around was rather substantial, and I was known as one of the more prolific puffers. I could puff a huge doobie all by myself and still be able to go to any class. Except maybe gym. Yea the “jocks”, or sports enthusiasts as was the proper term loved to pick on longhairs. They always talked like what I assume the Cro-Magnon man spoke saying well thought out repetitive jokes like “Hey, is that a girl in our gym class? Hey girlie, the girls gym is next door.” So many times I wanted to say something like “Oh I know, I share a locker with your girlfriend”, but I am much too nice a guy. Or maybe it was because they would have kicked my ass with their Charles Atlas biceps. Not wanting to get sand kicked in my eyes I opted for keeping it an inside joke. They really would kick my ass if they ever found out I had smoked pot with their girlfriends at one time or another.
Whenever I got bored, which usually only happened on school days, I engaged in a ritual that my best friend Ken and the rest of my band of merry marauders enjoyed doing. We would go in search of anyone that had a joint, or a chunk of hash, and ask them to share. More often than not, when a good friend came by they would ask us if we wanted some buzz before we even asked, because we always shared our stash, and no one really likes to smoke alone. It wasn’t really unusual for Ken and I to run into each other in school, as we had a certain few places we always hung out at that were prime hiding spots while cutting class. Today would be no different. “Hey dude, I have a fucking brilliant idea.” Ken was always the idea man, and had tons of them. “And we should start saving money for it right now.” As always, Ken immediately garnered my curiosity, and so many times he had blown me away with truly great ideas. Ken was brilliant and creative. Many of the other students laughed at him back in Jr. high, because he was the first boy in school to have really long hair. All of five foot tall, he had long flowing blond hair that was parted in the middle, and cascaded over his shoulders and half way down his back. He had a rebel soul and I was drawn to it instantly. Like most of the male students, I had started growing my hair long in part to look cool, but more importantly to piss off my Mom and Dad. Most all of us had developed a twitch from keeping our long bangs out of our eyes. We all wanted to be “moptops”, but Ken was ahead of the curve and had already grown his hair long like……well like a girl. That was also part of Kens appeal; he seemed to know ahead of everyone else what was in style before it came in style. He had gone from a long haired geek freak that was made fun of, to a respected member of the hippie rebellion ranks. Proudly I admit I had much to do with his rise to “coolness” because I was considered one of the “cool” kids since fourth grade. It wasn’t that I actually was cool, but I had an older brother and even older sister who had created reputations with the teachers. Those reputations preceded me. I was cool by association. I played football and baseball with the “older” kids, got rides in my sisters boyfriends “Surf Woody”, and just always hung out with the older kids. So my becoming Kens friend had helped him gain acceptance and move up the hipster social ranks quickly with most of my other friends. It wasn’t long until they too saw how insightful he was to popular culture and trends. Before the end of the 9th grade we were all growing our hair long, and wearing cool clothes like bell bottom pants and double breasted balloon sleeve shirts. Checks, stripes, paisley prints, the brighter the better and no worries if it doesn’t match. Now we all had real long hair, afro’s, long straight hair, super curly locks or like mine long wavy banana curls.
My first thought was to relieve the boredom so I told Ken, “Cool dude, but lets go out to La Bomba and do a bowl first. You still got that hash?” As always, Ken would come through. “Of course bro, some nice opium streaked black Afghanistan. Lets go asshole.” I hated that phrase but he always sang it like a commercial jingle and everyone laughed, so I just went with it. So off we went to the parking lot to climb into my car to smoke some hash. My little red Simca, A French sedan type car that was Frances answer to the Volkswagen, “La Bomba” is what we called the car and it was our entire groups pot smoking haven. I never locked the doors because so many of my friends used it at various times of the day, even if I wasn’t there. But this day, at this moment, no one else was around. I could tell Ken was happy about that because he really wanted to talk about his idea. Tell you the truth, I was pretty anxious as well. As he filled his chamber pipe with a small piece of black hash I needed to know. “So Ken, what’s this new idea?” Not a ground breaking or earth shattering way to ask but I got my question out.. “ Well, here’s the thing.” I heard the match strike and light up as he put the pipe to his lips and lit the hash. He spoke as he was inhaling and his voice got lower and stranger and he talked as if gasping for breath as he spoke. The interior of my little red bomb filled up with the sweet herbal haze of hash smoke. In between inhaling and holding the smoke Ken laid out his plan. We would be graduating next year, and he had no job and wasn’t going to college. I did have a job, but it was just a job, and I was most likely not attending college either. I was smart enough, but I stopped putting in an effort last year after my Dad called me a worthless communist because I got an A+ on a project about the dreaded USSR. I took the point of view that they had some redeeming values. Instead of being proud he freaked on me. What an asshole! Anyway our fates will be in the hands of our government we would more than likely be shipped off to Viet Nam. Ken thought we could save up some cash, get a video camera and supplies, and head out to Chicago. “ Jesus shit man, we can burn our draft cards and just get the fuck out of town.” His idea was to start at one end of Rt. 66, and travel to the other end in Santa Monica where we could settle in with the hippies of California. Ken had a love of guitar and film and I wanted to write. We would make a kind of documentary of the trip, Ken with his camera and me with my pen. “Bro, you can write the whole thing down in your notebook.” I took my notebook almost everywhere, convinced I was the next James Michner, or more like Ken Kesey, who wrote about the life of the Merry Pranksters. I was blown away. To me it was brilliant, the chance of a lifetime. RT 66 was so historic, a television show, the route for all the dust bowlers of the 1930’s who fled to California to escape poverty. Route 66 was the sort of scenic route people took who just wanted to migrate to Los Angeles. I mean Jesus shit, the fucking stones do a tune about it. Brilliant choice, from Chicago to Los Angeles via Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona. Ken shot me his infamous shit eating grin and said, “whatcha think, lets go asshole.”