Sunday, February 24, 2019

1976 - Ventura Highway in the Sunshine

It was like everyone had a drug of choice: Blackpool was a pothead, so were the Quilps; Belinda Pocket loved her Quaaludes; Max Ten was real spiritual and high on life and all, but he was reading Carlos CastaƱeda and spent the month of November experimenting with peyote buttons and mushrooms and mescaline. By mid-November he'd become a Yaqui man of knowledge and could trip by conjuring up the shaman. Max Ten was just a cool guy.

For my birthday, the Yaqui man of knowledge invited the in-crowd to his house so we could trip together. The house was right off Van Nuys Blvd. behind the Coffee Dan's. His parents were out of town and we had the spread to ourselves. No pot, he said, between the neighbors and the stink; he wanted everyone to experience the same high, so he secured ten doses of mescaline: Stephen Blackpool, the Quilps, Sally Brass, Peter Magnus, Willie Macawber, Belinda Pocket, Paigeboy, Max and me: makes ten.

Blackpool wasn't happy about the no pot rule. 

I'm kind of domestic and Max Ten was a showman. I made salsa from what was left in the garden and a seven layer bean dip. I made taquitos, which were easy, and some other nice Mexican style finger foods. We got Mexican sodas from the Mercado on Victory Blvd. in different flavors like tamarindo and lime and Mexican cola, real colorful in a big tin bucket filled with ice.  His parents had Fiestaware and his mother collected Day of the Dead skulls, so it was real festive overall.

Max prepared by carefully selecting the albums he'd guide us through as our Shaman, and he put away all the others, the ones that didn't make sense to him.  Mescaline was more of an acoustic thing, he said.  He left out America because he wanted everyone to experience "Ventura Highway" when we were peaking. He put Workingman's Dead and Pure Prairie League and New Riders of the Purple Sage in a stack with a kind of bluegrass/country vibe.  After "Ventura Highway," as we all coasted down into our dreams, he'd pick out something from a spacey stack, maybe Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Hear or Traffic.  Paigeboy vacuumed and Windexed the sliders looking out onto the pool, then she helped me to cut up peppers and onions. The house looked real festive. We turned the pool heater up high and steam billowed off the surface into the cool November night.

Belinda Pocket was the first to arrive. She had on denim short shorts and a skimpy t-shirt and platform shoes with cork soles. She looked real sexy. The Quilps came with Blackpool, of course he had his guitar. Peter Magnus and Sally Brass were late. Willie Macawber called.  He got popped. His mother found a roach clip in his jeans pocket and he couldn’t come.

All in all it was a great success. People couldn't get over my taquitos and salsa. People appreciate the little details. They liked the Jarritos sodas we got, except the tamarindo; only Blackpool liked the tamarindo. The party had continuity. It had style and a theme: Mexican food and a Yaqui way of knowledge. Max Ten guided us through like he really was a shaman. He spelled it all out for us. He said, "You’re gonna want to throw up. Mescaline’s like that; but you can’t throw up.  First of all, I don’t want anybody throwing up on the carpet. More importantly, if you throw up, you won't have the same experience. You gotta keep it down for half an hour. Have something to eat. Have another bottle of soda. Trust me, it's not the food making you sick. You’ll be fine. Tough it out." The only one to throw up was Blackpool, but he'd made it through an hour, so the mescaline had already made it into his bloodstream. And he had the decorum to make it into the bathroom. He drove that bus for half an hour, then he seemed fine.

We listened to all this great music, and I'd never heard music like that before. You could hear every lick, every arpeggio. You could hear the squeak of sweaty fingers on guitar strings. There were things in that music that I knew were there but never experienced before, and Max Ten was spot on about "Ventura Highway." That guitar was slick.
Chewin' on a piece of grass, walking down the road. 

I was back in Arizona with my father, but it was colorful and different. Imagine realizing there's a shade of orange that's blue; imagine if you will a field of gold blowing in the breeze like a sea of grain. My mother and father came up out of that vast ocean holding hands; my father chewin' on a piece of grass. It was bright, white, alligator lizards in the air.

And then the beautiful guitar.

And then sweet pictures and sleep.