Life in 1966 was so damn Norman Rockwell I feared the entire year would be featured in The Saturday Evening Post. But ‘67 arrived and the cold winter ushered in an ugly escalation in the Vietnam war combined with continued civil rights issues including segregation and more riots. Thankfully ‘67 also ushered in the Summer of Love, a glimmer of hope for humankind through the youthful exuberance of believing life can be great. A time of free love, free thought, and free minds. The long hair freaky hippies had taken hold in Haight-Ashbury and The Greenwich Village scene offered up drugs sex and rock and roll to all who dared to try. Dangling candy in front of so many impressionable naïve children. And I had one Helluva sweet tooth.
Having already been introduced to hops and malts and ready something more the promise of mind altering alternatives sounded far too attractive to pass up. “Here man, smoke this. It won’t make your stomach all bloated, no puking in the woods, no head spinning frenzy. Just a nice calm mellow high.” Why not? After all, its all natural. Hey if God didn’t want us smoking the stuff why did he grow it? Funny I thought about God because I would later find out that the summer of love would end my nagging sense of spiritual emptiness. It would fill needs I hadn’t even realized existed. It would also be the summer I met Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
There was a lot of great things about growing up on Long Island but perhaps one of the best and certainly the most game changing was the fact that we could scrape together a few bucks and take the train into New York City. It opened up a whole new world free of judgments where we were actually encouraged to let our “Freak Flags” fly. Turn on and tune in. Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, Stanly Owsley, and The Grateful Dead. They took over the roles formerly held by Roy Rodgers, Ward Clever, and the Kingston Trio. From Captain Kangaroo to Captain Trips at the roll of a joint. “Hey little man, you think that pot is making you feel good, get ready to grow up and go on a real trip. Just put this little dot on your tongue and let it melt your mind.” Mmm-mmm good!
My first venture into the drug netherworld was in Washington Square Park. What a cool place, jam packed with hippies singing songs, doing some sort of floaty dances, or just hanging out and smiling. A lot of smiling. My big brother had gotten us tickets for us to a place called the Bottom Line to see some dude named John Mayall. At the time I didn‘t know much about him other than hearing my brothers bluesy records by The USA Union and The Bluesbreakers. He also bought a tab of LSD for me to try. Even if I thought it was a bad idea, which I didn’t, I would have had to trip just to save face. We were with his three best friends who would be merciless when we got home if I wimped out. But I wasn’t bullied into taking it, I took it willingly. I wanted to see for myself what all the hype about mind bending sugar cubes the hippies were tripping out on. Didn’t realize I would be on a crazy ride without a seatbelt.
The park was a trip in itself. While I waited for the tab to kick in we wandered through the paths. A couple of dudes singing around a few guitar playing longhaired dudes with smiles glued to their faces. Not singing like Cumbaya, more like some folkie shit, some Dylan guy or something. Street actors, comedians, and plain flat out weirdo’s roamed the paths of the park and after about forty five minutes I broke out laughing. “What’s so funny little brother?” What’s so funny? How the hell did I know? What just because I saw some guy walk by carrying his head in his hands? Because the head was laughing even though it wasn’t attached? Well…..yea, so I laughed too. How am I gonna explain that, anyway? Some dude is walking around inside a Dali painting? Besides, when I looked back at the guy he was normal again “Fucking everything man. That dude over there just dropped his head on the ground and the fucking thing bounced back up. That’s what‘s funny!” The four of us started laughing with nary a one of us knowing why. Didn’t matter, the LSD runway was clear and we had taken off. Humor would be the fuel that drove our trip ship.
We walked around with what felt like surgically implanted smiles on our faces, so intense were those near creepy smiles that the next day my smiling cheek muscles would ache all day long. We laughed and watched. Peoples faces began melting, tree’s bent over to kiss the horizon and the blowing leaves made weird shapes that took to breathing. It was hard to walk because the ground kept moving. I was watching and laughing when suddenly I felt a hand of on my ass. A tiny little palm giving it a light squeeze. I cocked my head slightly not wanting to seem obvious which must have looked really obvious, but what I saw sent a rush of adrenaline from my toes upward stopping at the groin for a few teasing seconds. The hand belonged to a five foot two smiling young lass about three or four years my senior. That may not seem like very much older now but when your thirteen going on fourteen its an entire era. The amount of cred you got being with a sixteen year old at that age is astronomical. She had very long tightly curled jet black hair and was wearing a sort of gypsy dress. A flood of emotions fluttered through my body, passion, lust, sexual tension and awkward nervousness highlighted by the nagging sense that one false statement or move will reveal my junior status and negate all of those other electric plugged in and turned on sensations. She giggled softly so I looked her right in the eyes, smiled back and whispered into her ear something along the lines of “Gliddy gloop glooppy, nibba nappy noopie la la la low low” Startled she stopped in her tracks, looked up at me for four seconds before breaking out into an uncontrollable laughing jag. At first I was embarrassed, then slightly angered, until I suddenly realized she was tripping too and laughing with me not at me. An instant friendship was born. We were sharing the same bizarre plane in some alternate universe and frankly I forgot about my brother and his friends. I talked to her excitedly about the book “Siddhartha” and she shared the name of a new prophet named Carlos Castaneda. She opened my eyes by opening my mind and over the next year I would study a variety of spiritual alternatives. It was just tangerine trees, marmalade skies, me and the girl with kaleidoscope eyes.
Her name wasn’t really Lucy of course, and the Lucy in the Sky was more reference to LSD than anything else but suffice to say both Lucy’s and I had one of the most unforgettable evenings of our lives. Or at least I did. I gave away my ticket and told my brother I would meet him later. Lucy and I found ourselves laughing and crying and in some compromising positions. And smiling. A Lot of smiling. I called her Moss because we rolled around…..I called her Moss and that’s the name I’ll remember her by. It was a once in a lifetime meeting, a two ships in the night beautiful moment meant to share and enjoy before releasing the moment and returning to our previously scheduled lives. I had cancelled my subscription to Saturday Evening Post and graduated to Rolling Stone that night thanks to Moss. I mumbled something stupid like can I see you again but Moss had no intention of remaining in contact, she was just a traveler in time and space, another fucked up teen trying to make sense of a turbulent and confusion world. But I gotta admit, every once in a while I think about the night I met Moss and wonder, for a brief moment, what ever became of Lucy In The Sky.