It felt like the International had one last trip left in it. Two shocks had blown and the frame was cracked and quite a bit of the electrical system had gone dark. This thing’s from 1970 and it’s been a while since it went on a ride. But you could feel that last trip coming. And Joey said these people he knew from Austin intended to pick him up in Long Beach on their way to the Rainbow Gathering in the national forest over in north-central Oregon. The Gathering of the Tribes, it used to be called, tens of thousands of hippies in the woods, seven days of Peace and Love. Fo.ur hundred miles to over there where it is-a distance the International could surely make and even possibly manage to retrace back home. You could feel that one last trip coming.
Peace and Love! This tall skinny mean guy in Iowa City in the seventies had a poster on his wall of a peace sign, the upside-down Y symbolizing peace, which he’d altered with a Magic Marker into a lopsided swastika, and he’d added words so that the Peace and Love slogan beneath it read PEACE OF THE ACTION / LOVE OF MONEY. I never forgot it... I who have had so much of peace and so much of love, I have never really believed in either one.
The Magical Mystery Message to see the Rainbow was coming from a couple of directions, wasn’t just coming from Joey and the teenage past. All spring Mike O, a friend of mine from north Idaho, had been bothering me I should go. Mike O, a regular Mr. Natural: Barefoot Mike, Underground Mike, one of the originals, close to sixty years old now; his white hair hasn’t been cut or combed since youth and his white beard looks inhabited. How did we all get so old? Sitting around laughing at old people probably caused it.
How long since I’d seen Joey? We’d taken our first acid trip together, Carter B and him and me and Bobby Z. Hadn’t seen Carter in nearly thirty years. Joey since-wow, since 1974. That summer of 1974 I was with Miss X. Bobby Zand Joey came to see us on the second floor where we lived in this place like a box of heat. They owed me a disruption-Joey did anyway, because Carter and I had invaded him two years before, when he’d been living on the side of this mountain in Hollywood and studying to be, or actually working as, some kind of hairdresser. “What do you want?” I said when I answered the door. “You’ re not gonna stay here.” The place had only one room to sleep in, and a kitchen the size of a bathroom, a bathroom the size of a closet. There weren’t any closets.
Miss X and I were always fighting. Every time a knock came on the door we had to stop screaming and collect our wits.
“We’re economizing on space,” I said when I saw who it was this time.
“Obviously,” Bobby said.
Joey had his guitar case leaning up against him and his arm draped around it like a little sibling. Miss X stood behind me breathing hard with the mascara streaking her cheeks, radiant with tears and anger and her wet eyelashes like starbursts.
In short, three weeks or two weeks or one week later I made loud vague accusations in a scene, basically the result of the August heat, that ended with Bobby Z and Joey heading north for Minnesota, taking Miss X. I was stabbing through the windowscreen with a pair of scissors as they headed down the back stairs, and I didn’t see Bobby again until he was sick on his deathbed five years ago in Virginia.
It’s funny, but Joey called me from Huntington Beach just last night-two years after this trip to the hippies I’m describing-just to say hello, partly, and partly because his band broke up and he’s just started AA and begun a program of meds for his depression and needs a place to lay back, because he’s homeless. He mentioned he’d heard from Carter B. Carter said he’s got hepatitis C and thinks I probably have it, too, because he must have picked it up way back during the era we were sharing needles when we were kids. I feel all right. I don’t feel sick. But it’s funny. Thirty years go by, and the moves we made just keep bringing this old stuff rolling over us.