Chris Till

5. Water Music

In boulder creek, DMT, franz bardon, hermetics, LSD, marijuana, santa cruz, st. george hotel, Stoner Noir on April 19, 2010 at 5:59 pm

On June 14, 1985, two Lebanese men hijacked a TWA flight and forced the pilots to fly the plane to Lebanon.[i] 40 Americans were on board. The next day, the hijackers murdered an American Navy sailor on board, then threw his corpse onto the airport runway.[ii] Although it had no evidence, the U.S. suspected Libyan involvement.[iii]

The Clown 

Smoking a cigarette, the Clown walked down the crowded outdoor Pacific Garden Mall talking to himself. Looking over his shoulder, he checked the time on the Clock Tower at the top of the Mall. It was almost high noon.

“The Night Stalker? They have got get that guy,” the Clown said to himself out loud. “Raping and killing people in their own homes in the middle of the night? It’s just not right. Is it? No, it isn’t.”

Wearing a purple and gold velvet jester’s hat and the white and black face paint of a sad clown, he held a marching baton upright in one hand. The rest of his red, yellow, and blue clown costume was made from satin. He looked like a wealthy, sad, and mean clown.

“Go ahead and look at me. Laugh at me. I don’t care,” he said to no one in particular. He kept his mirthless eyes on each passing pedestrian, but most looked away uncomfortably. If someone tried to hold his gaze and smile at him, he returned a contemptuous frown. Why would a grown man dress as a clown and hang out most days on Santa Cruz’s leafy outdoor mall?

“To be invisible, that’s why,” he explained aloud. “Who wants a sad clown around?”

A red-haired child limped away from his mother. He stood in front of the Clown, stopping him on the sidewalk.

“Are you a clown?” the little boy asked in a tiny voice. The Clown grimaced blankly at him, saying nothing and exhaling cigarette smoke towards the boy. The boy’s mother pulled him away and scooted him along.

When the Clown reached the Taco Bell at the end of the Mall, he flicked his cigarette butt into the street and stood in front of the restaurant window. First, he looked at his own reflection in the glass with an expression of bored ambivalence. Then, he looked through the window at the workers behind the counter. In the back, sweeping the floor, Isaiah looked up and, for a moment, locked eyes with the Clown.

Rhion

That afternoon, pale blue-eyed Rhion lay reclined underneath the Soquel Avenue bridge watching the muddy San Lorenzo River slowly roll towards the ocean. Several hours earlier, he had ingested one hit of high-quality white blotter LSD.

In his hands, he held a pair of Tibetan brass hand bells that he chimed every minute or so. The sustained high-pitched tintinnabulation of the bells pleased him greatly. In his ears, the sound of the bells harmonically merged with the low hum of the river.

Gradually, he realized that some dark shape passed underwater in the river. He didn’t notice it until it had almost passed. On alert, he sat up. Perhaps not physical, the large shape, formless and dark, had been birthed in the Mountains and now slid inexorably towards the ocean. Rhion felt a chill but did not know the precise cause.

Soon, the dark underwater shape slid out of sight. Across the river in the park, Rhion watched a child try to get a kite aloft. Back and forth, the child ran, unsuccessfully trying to get the kite airborne on the windless blue sky afternoon.

Taco Bell

“One beef taco with no beef,” the Clown told the Taco Bell cashier in a monotone.

“Okay, so a veggie taco?” the cashier asked irritably, making brief eye contact with the Clown then looking away.

“One beef taco with no beef.”

“Right.” Skinny and scar-faced, Isaiah looked up from his mop and caught the Clown studying him. Isaiah ignored him and kept mopping.

Pushing his mop bucket along, Isaiah felt the remorseless eyes of the Clown on him. After the Clown paid the cashier, Isaiah looked up and inadvertently locked eyes with him again for a moment. Isaiah turned his back. To Isaiah, the Clown’s eyes seemed to judge and mock him.

“You know that creepy clown guy?” another Taco Bell worker quietly asked Isaiah.

“That’s a big ‘no,'” Isaiah said, still feeling the Clown’s eyes on him. The Clown’s presence cast a pall over the Taco Bell workers. They all silently went about their work, waiting for the Clown and his heavy vibes to depart. With a frown, the cashier bagged the Clown’s taco and started to hand the bag to him.

“Keep it,” said the Clown, spinning on his heels and walking out.

“That clown dude creeps me out,” the other Taco Bell worker said to Isaiah.

“My friend says he’s like a police informant or undercover agent or something,” Isaiah said warily.

“Around here, I wouldn’t be surprised.” Taking a deep breath, Isaiah resumed mopping the red tile floor.

Krishna Johnson’s Apartment

Rhion’s friend Krishna Johnson caught a three month sentence at the Santa Cruz County Jail on a cannabis charge. During his incarceration, he sublet his apartment to Rhion. For half the $180 rent, Rhion shared it with Isaiah. It was a small, windowless basement apartment in a house just over the Broadway Avenue bridge from the Pacific Garden Mall.  

Before Isaiah and Rhion moved in, the filthy apartment had apparently not been cleaned since sometime around the Gerald Ford presidency. When Isaiah cleaned the fridge, he found four half-empty ketchup bottles, three half-empty mustard bottles, two half-empty relish jars, and three empty hot dog bags. Ol’ Krishna likes him some hot dogs, Isaiah figured.

“So, what’d that Clown say to you?” Rhion asked, sitting on the sofa with Isaiah that night.

“He didn’t say anything. He just stared at me with like a mean look, like he was judging me,” Isaiah replied.

“I’d say stay away from him. He’s probably the one that nailed Zen.”

“Really?” On the wall, Isaiah stared at a tattered 1982 calendar featuring a picture of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of abundance, showering all with gold coins.

“They’re scared of Zen. The local police and three-letter agencies. Zen’s a powerful operator on the astral plane. Rare is the man who can leave his body at will and affect change.”

“Yeah? I know that’s what ANEEZA was into, like soul travel and all that, but it never worked for me.”

“The soul can leave a body and return just like a body can leave this apartment and return.” Rhion opened and closed his hand to symbolize the soul’s departure and return.

“Far out. Yeah, I remember when I first smoked pot, it felt like I left my body, but that was like the only time.”

“Now there’s a good idea,” Rhion said, perking up and pulling a plastic baggie from his pocket. Reaching under the sofa, he slid out some of his magazines. From among the old copies of Penthouse and Juggs, he grabbed the November 22, 1984 issue of Rolling Stone. Cleaning the weed on the back of the magazine, he started to roll a joint.

“It’s just trimmings, but it’s indica,” Rhion said, referring to the leafy cannabis. “Indica leaf is as good as sativa buds, in my humble opinion.”

“What a weird day,” said Isaiah. “Having that clown come into the restaurant really shook me up.”

“You read this article about the Satanist kid in here?” Rhion asked, referring to the magazine. “I guarantee that’s who that Night Stalker is down in L.A. Some dumb, violent kid amped up on Satan, not even knowing what he’s talking about.”

“Yeah? Some girl from my hometown disappeared without a trace last month,” said Isaiah, fidgeting as Rhion slowly rolled the joint.

“Satanists, man, that’s what I’d guess. Bunch of idiots, they are. Violent idiots. You got a lighter?” Isaiah pulled some matches from his pocket and gave them to Rhion.

“Used to be a Satanic cult up in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the late sixties,” Rhion said, lighting the joint. “They built altars up there and sacrificed some people.”

“Yuck,” said Isaiah, taking the joint from Rhion.

“Most of ’em got busted. Supposedly, a few of ’em still live up in the Mountains. The dark forces are real.”

“Yeah? Sounds like bad news.” Isaiah coughed and handed the joint back to Rhion. Rhion leafed through the Rolling Stone until he reached the article called “Kids in the Dark.” Leaving the magazine open to the photograph of the trippy-looking teen murderer, he tossed the magazine on the floor.

“That’s just what it is. You know, back when I was a teenager, I used to lay up high on LSD all night long watching the UFOs come in over the Berkeley Hills,” said Rhion, hitting the thick joint.

“Yeah? I’ve never seen a UFO.”

“They’d just come in waves, one after another, coming in low over the hills. You want some? Acid? Five bucks a hit, four for you. It’s real good stuff. The last of the batch that Zen got busted with.”

“I didn’t know you had some of that stuff left. Yeah, definitely.”

“You know, with the UFOs, some of them are here to help us. They’re our space brothers, like Zen says. Other ones, though, are some pretty rough characters, in league with the dark forces. They do awful things to people.”

“Yeah?” Isaiah took a hit and held it. He noticed that when Rhion made a particularly trippy point, his already tiny pupils narrowed even more.

“My eyes?” Rhion said, noticing Isaiah’s gaze. “I told you what happened, right? I used stare at the sun when I got back from the jungle. Meditating. Trying to see beyond this world. Messed up my pupils.”

“Hmmm,” said Isaiah, passing the joint. The smoke sat on the ceiling of the small apartment, gathering like a hazy cloud. Isaiah looked at the photograph of the teen murderer in the Rolling Stone on the floor. Wild-eyed, the kid looked like he was tripping, but reminded Isaiah of some of his burnout friends back home in Illinois.

“It’s weird. The things that happen to us that’re beyond our control. That affect us permanently. Like, for example, your mom dying or whatever when you were a kid. Or Zen getting busted. Or…”

“Or what?”

“Like you know what happened to me, when I was like ten? Like I was raped by a priest. A youth priest back home. That probably had a big effect on me.”

“Dang. That sucks, man. Hey, I’m really sorry to hear that. Did he get like charged with a crime?”

“No. I didn’t do anything about it. I heard he died since then. But like, it was something totally beyond my control. That affected me. Totally random. Anyway, yeah. This leaf is all right, huh?”
      “Yeah it is.” Isaiah looked down at the Rolling Stone again. A headline in the article identified the teen murderer as “the Acid King.”

“You know the reason they want Zen so bad is that he knows the chemist?”

“The acid chemist?” Isaiah asked.

“Yup, I have no idea who the chemist is. I do know Zen doesn’t make much money off the doses, he just kind of holds them for the chemist.” Due to a curious air pattern in the apartment, the cloud of smoke shaped itself into a loose spiral on the ceiling.

“Wow.”

“That smoke looks like a galaxy, huh? So, I got like half a sheet left of the good stuff.”

“For sure. I just want like one, though. For later.”

“You should take it up in the Mountains, man, up in the redwoods. You can have a really peaceful nature trip up there.” Rhion blew towards the smoke, dispelling the spiral.

“Cool… So, where you think Zen’s at now?” Isaiah asked, taking the joint back from Rhion.

“I surely do not know. Somewhere safe. I doubt he’d leave California. I wouldn’t be surprised if he…” Rhion cut himself off.

“What? Surprised if he what?”

“Nothing. Pretty good smoke, huh?” Rhion took an enormous hit from the joint.

“Come on, man. You know where he’s at?” Rhion held in his hit and finally exhaled, filling the room with smoke.

“The Inner Circle is protecting him with a cloak of safety. You ever read The Lesser Key of Solomon? A very rare book. Elemental magic. There are various elemental energies and protective genies that can be conjured with certain sigils and emblems. You know what I mean?”

“Uh, not really, you mentioned it before, but, like, what were you saying before, about Zen?”

“Zen is a powerful magician, Isaiah. Still young, but he’s all positive. To be honest with you, he’s the head honcho of the Inner Circle.”

“Right, I figured that, but you were saying you wouldn’t be surprised if something.”

“Well, yeah, I don’t know where he is. Somewhere safe, but I just wouldn’t be surprised if he, uh…” Rhion trailed off.

“What man?” Isaiah said sharply. “Come on.”

Looking around suspiciously, Isaiah moved to the edge of the sofa. Getting up, he turned on the water in the sink to cloak his voice and whispered to Isaiah.

“Well, he sure likes to go to the hot tubs at Esalen down in Big Sur on Sunday nights. That’s when they open it to the public. I wouldn’t be surprised if he…”

“Really? What’s today? Friday? Let’s go down there Sunday night.”

“Ah. It’d probably just be a wild goose chase. I’m not going.” Turning the water off, Rhion slumped back down in the sofa with the joint in his hand.

“Well, maybe I should go?”

“Might not be safe,” said Rhion. “Sounds like that clown is on your trail.”

White Blotter LSD

Isaiah ate the acid at Krishna’s apartment late on the morning of June 15, 1985 then walked to the bus station. On the way there, he could distinctly feel the heat from the sidewalk radiate up from his feet up his legs. As he arrived at the bus station, the 35 bus to the Mountains arrived. Feeling utterly normal, he got on the bus.

Reminiscing about chatting with the beautiful sunshine-tressed Naja Aneezman, he felt a pang of loneliness and horniness. Passing the spot where he and Rhion had gotten off the bus to look for Zen weeks earlier, he remained stone-faced and felt nothing.

When the bus stopped in Boulder Creek, he got off and walked to a phone booth. Downtown Boulder Creek looked like an old-fashioned downtown from 1920s, with a quaint Main Street full of shops and shaded by towering redwood trees. The air smelled like country air.

As Isaiah leafed through a phone book chained to the pay phone, he began to feel slightly strange. Under “Aneezman,” he found an entry for “Gloria Aneezman.” Must be Naja’s Mom, he figured. Pulling a quarter from his pocket, he stared at the portrait of George Washington on it. A great number of tiny scratches covered the quarter. Why had someone purposefully defaced George Washington’s face? Or perhaps it was just ordinary use. George Washington looked like he had a pony tail. The year on the quarter was 1965, the year he was born. The Beatles made some music that year. Isaiah liked the Beatles.

Isaiah didn’t want to talk to Gloria Aneezman, but rather what he hoped would be her daughter, Naja. Still holding the quarter while standing at the payphone, he felt good. When a man stands at a payphone, he is conducting business. Isaiah’s business was personal in nature. The phone had a rotary dial with numbers inside the finger holes. Isaiah lightly touched the very center of the dial with his index finger. Feeling pleasantly indecisive, he walked away from the payphone, sliding the scratched-up quarter in his pocket.

Keeping his eyes to himself, Isaiah made his way down the street to the creek. The best thing of all would be to be alone. A shadow in him felt that the eyes of others might not like what they saw in his eyes that day. He needed to be free from such judgment. The creek looked safe to him. Like a kid carelessly cutting through back yards, Isaiah walked off the sidewalk and down the embankment along the bridge. Looking under the bridge, he understood why Rhion hung out under bridges. It’s safe under bridges, a world away from the prying eyes of the masses.

Tumbling over rocks, the water ran clear, so clear it seemed almost invisible. Well, not invisible, but its signature was primarily wetness, not solidity.

The shaded atmosphere under the bridge felt nice and cool. Squatting, Isaiah held his palm just above the flowing water and could feel its coolness radiating up to his skin and into his hand.

Down by the creek, Isaiah could see no buildings or creations of man besides the bridge. Beyond the shade beneath the bridge, Isaiah could see the creek bend around a corner up into the Mountains. Because of the low water level, a path way of dry river stones edged the creek. Leaving his turquoise flip flops under the bridge, he stood up and walked along the river stones.

He tried to walk as quietly as he could, such that the main sound was the tumbling of the creek, not his walking. To his ears, aspects of the tumbling sounded like the ringing of tiny stone bells.

Suddenly, he realized he did not feel like smoking pot. Nor was he thirsty. Or hungry. He needed nothing because he had it all.

At the creek bend, tall redwood trees framed both sides of the creek. Isaiah sat on the dry river stones and listened to the water. It seemed to be singing. Not singing, exactly, but chattering with melodic gibberish, understandable only by river people. The longer he sat, the more he felt like a river person. Soon, the creek sounded like water music, a complex symphony. A symphony entirely improvised, without chorus or reprise. Isaiah bent his ear towards the creek and concentrated.

Recalling his DMT experiences, elves entered his mind and he looked around. Just as quickly, he realized that no elves lived in this part of the forest. Why? He did not know.

Isaiah felt himself a pioneer. A pioneer fried on LSD, the Liberating Sacrament of Divinity.

Looking to his left, a dead bird decayed on the river stones. The tiny white avian skeleton still held a few black feathers. The beak and the skull seamlessly joined such that the beak dominated the skull. Feeling the gravity of death, he looked away and thought of his mother. How many years had it been? Three? Four? It had happened in early spring, whatever year it was.

“What’s the matter with me?” he wondered aloud. The two women I’ve loved both try to kill themselves. At least Maureen survived it. I must be drawn to suicidal women. Or they’re drawn to me. And now Zen, the only real family I’ve got, has disappeared.

Now, even the woods seemed dark and tawdry. Second-hand imitation woods. The water in the creek seemed mechanical, like hydraulic fluid from a science experiment gone bad. I’m having a bad trip, he thought to himself.

Then, with grim determination, he began to try to consciously divorce his mind from thoughts of his mother’s suicide. Who knows if it was really suicide? She left no note so nobody really knew what had happened to her. Don’t look at the bird, he told himself. Listen to the water music.

With a single tear running down his left cheek and curling along his scar, he stood up and slowly walked barefoot up the creek. At that moment, life seemed very heavy. Full of death and sad endings.

In the next moment, six words came to his mind with sudden clarity: I AM TRIPPING MY BALLS OFF. Maybe this is the one-way trip, he thought, the trip that ends in the mental hospital. Come on, man. Hold it together. Be cool. Everything’s all right. The river is singing to me. Water music. My world is a good place.

A small breeze reached his back, gently moved across his right arm, then turned around and touched his face. That sweet little breeze felt just like a tender caress. Through the trees along the creek, he could just see a car pass on a street, possibly Highway Nine, maybe fifty feet away. A lone figure walked next to the street, a woman with long sunshine blonde hair. Could it be Naja Aneezman, the girl on the bus?

Isaiah’s heart jumped and he wiped the acid tears from his cheeks. Tempted to chase the woman down, the acid coursed through his mind as he glimpsed her hair sway.

That girl on the bus, Naja, sure was nice. And pretty. Isaiah sat down on the river stones again. It was gonna be all right.

Rhion at Work

Long straw blonde hair loose on his shoulders, Rhion fried up two burger patties on the grill of the Saturn Café then carefully laid two slices of cheese on each. It was after midnight and the restaurant was closed. Two hours a night, he cleaned the restaurant alone: mopping the floor, scrubbing the grills, and cleaning the bathroom. Working two hours a night seemed a bit much to him, but he could live fairly handsomely on twelve bucks and two cheeseburgers a night.

Tall windows ringed the restaurant. Though he could not be seen from the street when he worked in the kitchen, when he cleaned the dining area, he could be easily seen from the busy street in front of the Café. That, he did not like. Anyone could be watching. Anyone could just park their car across Mission Street and watch him mop the dining area. It was a bad feeling.

Humming a song to himself, he thought about Zen. He knew in his heart that Zen was safe and that, one day, he’d be free again. Everyone in the Inner Circle prayed for him and that must be a powerful ring of protection. Although, he reflected, not quite powerful enough to have prevented Zen’s room from getting busted in the first place.

Hitch Hiking South

From north to south, Highway One ran along the entire coast of California. In places, the highway cut inland but often it ran within sight of the ocean. In Santa Cruz, the highway ran a mile or two inland.

Late on that Sunday morning, Isaiah started walking down Soquel Avenue through the prosperous neighborhoods of east Santa Cruz. The neighborhoods looked both pretty and ugly at the same time. At the end of every block, he methodically stopped and looked back for the Clown or anyone following him. He also tried to keep track of passing cars to make sure one wasn’t tracking him. 

Finally, he stood at the on-ramp to Highway One with his thumb out, feeling invisible, heading to the hot tubs at Esalen. After a miserable hour of waiting, a slight man in a blue car stopped. On the drive to Watsonville, the slight man recited to Isaiah the history of early 20th Century dance crazes. He grew particularly excited about “the Cake Walk,” trying to explain what the dance looked like. Apparently, Cake Walk dancers lifted their arms to shoulder level and did an exaggerated tip-toe movement to the music. Isaiah thought the slight man might pull over and demonstrate.

Later, an older Vietnamese man picked Isaiah up. Nguyen talked about how very beautiful Vietnam is, with many flowering fruit trees, and how much he missed it.  He had fought in the South Vietnamese Army and escaped to Thailand after the U.S. defeat in 1975.  Eventually, he made it to America and worked in an electronics plant in San Jose.

“War was very bad thing,” Nguyen said simply. “Too many people die.”

Nguyen had the day off and was heading down the coast to see the famous Hearst Castle. Once they got past Monterey, the road mostly hugged the coast. On one side, a cliff led down to the ocean. On the other side, a forested mountain rose. The mountains, mostly national forest or state park, looked quite dry because of a summer long draught.

Mostly, Nguyen and Isaiah rode in silence. Approaching Big Sur, Isaiah decided to just ride with Nguyen down to the Hearst Castle and get dropped off on the way back.

Past Esalen and a thousand and one twists and turns of Highway One later, they arrived at the Castle. It looked exactly like a vast fairy tale castle from a Walt Disney movie: tall turrets capped by steeply pitched conical roofs and surrounded by mountains. Unfortunately, it was also after five o’clock and closed for the day.  Nguyen and Isaiah sat in his car in the parking lot and looked at it, marveling.

Reaching into a back seat cooler, Nguyen produced two “banh mi” Vietnamese sandwiches, essentially pickles and beef on a croissant. With the car parked facing the Castle, each ate their sandwich in silence.

On the way back north in the early evening, Nguyen dropped Isaiah off at the gates of Esalen Institute in Big Sur. Surrounded entirely by undeveloped national forest, Esalen was right off Highway One, between the highway and the ocean. While the dry Big Sur Mountains rose steeply across the two-lane highway, Esalen occupied a gentle slope right on the ocean. Isaiah could see a handful of Japanese-looking buildings nestled among the landscaped grounds fifty yards from the highway.

Isaiah knew Esalen was a world famous healing and educational center.  Renowned alternative psychologists and spiritual teachers gave seminars there. Unconfirmed rumor had it that Charlie Manson himself visited there the day before his friends committed those grisly murders back in the summer of 1969.

The gate across the driveway was shut. A small sign announced that the hot tubs were open to the public from 10 pm to midnight on Sunday nights for a ten dollar fee.

From his pocket, Isaiah pulled four one dollar bills and the same quarter as the day before. Looking at the quarter, he could no longer see all the tiny scratches that had amazed him the day before.

Maybe Esalen would take $4.25 for his admission fee? He shuffled indecisively around the driveway entrance. Though very little traffic passed on Highway One, a bright red Porsche with mirror windows sped by with a hum.

Sticking his hands deep in his pants pockets, Isaiah considered abandoning his quest and just hitch hiking back to Santa Cruz. He felt a fool for not checking how much the hot tubs cost before letting Nguyen drive away.

Not a soul was visible. A dense thicket of blackberry bushes grew to the left of the driveway and protected Esalen’s southern border. With the knowledge that anything worth having is worth working for, Isaiah decided to try to sneak in.

Taking a deep breath, he got down on his hands and knees and crawled into the blackberry thicket, heading down the gravelly incline. Only by crawling slowly and trying to painstakingly untangle the brambles could Isaiah hope to avoid being mercilessly scratched up by the infinite number of blackberry thorns. Because of that, Isaiah made only gradual progress. Out of his sight, the sun disappeared past the ocean.

Despite his care, after what seemed to be an hour, slight scratches covered his face and arms. It was dark and he found himself in the middle of a particularly infernal and thorny thicket. Stopping, he decided to turn around. He lay on his stomach and rested his head on his forearms in resignation.

After five minutes, he changed his mind again and decided to resume the arduous crawl towards Esalen. Unfortunately, a great quantity of poison oak vines grew among the blackberry bushes, a fact that would remain unknown to him until the next day.  After a miserable hour in that dense and thorny thicket, Isaiah could finally see what seemed to be the hot tub building. 

Several dim lights lit the outside of the Japanese-looking building. Seeing nobody around, Isaiah emerged from the thicket and dusted himself off.

One first stripped in the building then walked out to the outdoor tubs. The tubs themselves were dramatically perched on a deck maybe thirty feet above the Pacific Ocean. The dozen or two folks present maintained a quiet calmness, creating a meditative experience.

Isaiah stripped naked and blended in. Though he felt shy, he stole quick expectant glances at everyone present, looking for Zen.

“ZEN!” he called. No response.

Sitting in a steamy tub with half a dozen naked strangers, he noticed Joni Mitchell herself climbing buck naked into the tub with him. Looking her up and down, he focused on her remarkably high and firm breasts.

Sitting up straight, he raised his eyes and realized she was a teenager. Not Joni Mitchell, but only a teenage girl with a 1970 Joni Mitchell haircut. After her, a perfect specimen of blonde California beach stud got in. The cleft on his chin cut so deeply that it looked like an extra chin.

“He hasn’t killed anyone in a couple weeks. Who knows? Maybe he killed himself,” the beach stud consoled her.

“It’s so scary. We should move out of Los Angeles,” she said breathlessly, with a worried expression.

“Baby, the Night Stalker is not gonna get you, I promise,” he said sincerely. Despite his looks, Isaiah thought the guy actually seemed nice, not smarmy. The beach stud put his arm around the Joni Mitchell girl and hugged her.

“There’s no way you can actually promise that. Anyway, let’s not talk about it,” she said, nuzzling his neck. Feeling overheated, Isaiah sat up on the edge of the hot tub to cool off and looked out at the ocean.

“ZEN!” he called again loudly. Several hot tubbers looked up at him irritably. He walked around the deck, peering into the steamy tubs, looking for Zen.

Abruptly, a face appeared out of the steam. Looking about 50, with short hair and a skinny frame, the naked man stood in front of Isaiah.

“Looking for someone?” the man asked in a low voice. Isaiah froze and stared at the man.
      “Uhhh…” Isaiah stammered. The man looked like the Clown without makeup. On the man’s left cheek, a small streak of white paint revealed itself. Face paint? With a look neither friendly nor unfriendly, the man just kept staring at Isaiah expectantly as Isaiah stared fixedly at the blotch of white paint.

“Not much of a talker, huh?” Noticing that Isaiah stared at his cheek, the man touched his own cheek. “Still got paint on me? Hey, in my business, it happens.”

“Hey, look… I… Uh…” said Isaiah, backing away and trying to figure out how the Clown had followed him.

Rhion and the Window

After cleaning up the Saturn Café that night, Rhion found himself walking slowly home down side streets. Well after midnight, it was a warm summer night, with the quiet punctuated only by the sound of cars in the distance. Though the street lights kept the moonless city from falling into utter darkness, most of the residences were dark. Except for one. In the middle of the block, this bungalow was between streetlights and set back from the street.

Without a pause, Rhion ambled off the sidewalk and into the side yard. As if he lived there, he walked straight towards a window at groundlevel on the darkest side of the house. Mostly obscured by bushes, lights shone from the basement window. Rhion got on his knees and crawled into the bushes, positioning himself directly in front of the window but a few feet back.

The window had no curtain. In a small and tidy bedroom behind the window, a woman with long brown hair stood with her back to Rhion, brushing her hair in the mirror. She wore only a white bath towel, which set off her bronze tan.

Rhion suppressed a grin and settled into his hideout. He felt like a rabbit hunter with his prey cornered. Only he didn’t plan to kill this rabbit or even harm the rabbit.

The woman finished brushing her hair and dropped the towel on the bed. Her tan covered her whole body except for her snow white bottom and a white strip across her back where her bikini top fit. Beach girl, Rhion thought. With her back still facing Rhion, she picked up a pair of panties and a t-shirt from the top of a dresser.

With an expression of cool appraisal on his face, Rhion feasted on the site of her bare backside, which she quickly covered with sky blue panties. Just as she lifted her arms to pull on the t-shirt, she turned to face Rhion. She looked like a college girl. Though she appeared to be staring directly at him, she could not see his face at all in the dark. For the briefest of moments, the t-shirt covered her face and her bare and white pendulous breasts thrust towards Rhion. In the next moment, she pulled the big UCSC t-shirt on and turned the light off.

The whole strip show lasted maybe three minutes. Rhion congratulated himself on his wonderful sense of timing. “How do I do it?” he asked himself. God is on my side, he answered himself, that’s how.

Isaiah at Esalen

As the stars slowly slipped one by one into the Pacific Ocean, steam relentlessly rose from the hot tubs. Isaiah, naked, could hear the lapping of the ocean waves below him. Above him, the forested Big Sur Mountains rose. In front of him, the naked man stood, nicking at the white paint on his cheek with his fingernail.

“Look, man, I don’t know why you’re following me but I wish you would just leave me alone,” Isaiah stammered angrily to the man. “I never did anything to you.”

“Brother, brother,” the man said gently. “Calm down. This is a healing place.”

“I know who you are, you’re that bad clown that’s been, uh, following me…” Isaiah trailed off, now feeling unsure. The man raised his eyebrows and snorted, still nicking at the white paint on his cheek.

“Brother, I been called worse, but bad clown? Look, I’m just a house painter. I’ve been painting the meditation room here all day. I saw you here and just thought you looked a bit lost.” Finally, the man got his fingernail under the bit of paint and flicked it off.

“House painter?” Isaiah said, realizing his mistake. “Right. Hey man, sorry. I thought… I saw that white paint on your cheek and… Look, sorry.”

Embarrassed, Isaiah stepped away from the man. He walked back along the hot tubs, peering into the steam for Zen’s face. Of course Zen’s not here, he thought to himself. Of course. It’s another fool’s errand, courtesy of crazy Rhion, who probably just wanted the apartment to himself for the night. A deep sadness began to settle in, breaking new ground.

Settling into a hot tub, Isaiah ignored the others and gazed up into the dark sky. Through the steam, he concentrated on the blackness between the California stars.

Anti-Pageant Former Model Will Parade in Meat to Protest Miss California ‘Cattle Show’

San Jose Mercury, June 24, 1985

                While 40 poised, young women parade on a light-studded runway at the Miss California Scholarship Pageant in Santa Cruz tonight, Ann Simonton will strut around the outside of the auditorium wearing skirt steak.

            Simonton plans her own anti-pageant fashion show as a satirical jab at the event she says degrades women by displaying their bodies as pieces of meat. As organizer of the “Myth California” protest that has become an annual ritual in Santa Cruz,

      “Judge meat, not women!” shouted a woman, wearing a tiara and a bathing suit made of meat. Over her meat bathing suit, the woman wore a banner identifying herself as “Miss Behavin’.” She stood outside the Santa Cruz auditorium, jostling with about a 1000 other protesters and dozens of grim police officers. Inside, the Miss California beauty pageant, a Santa Cruz tradition for 50 years, commenced. Outside, the Myth California anti-pageant commenced.

      Still chanting “judge meat, not women,” other protesters wore tiaras and banners emblazoned “Miss Ogyny,” “Miss Guided,” and “Miss Shapen.”  One carried a sign reading “Women are not cows.” Another carried a sign reading “Vegetarian against pornography.”

      As the other protesters cheered, Miss Behavin’ broke through the police line with a zip lock baggie of women’s blood. As a past victim of sexual assault, she had collected her own blood and the blood of other sexual assault victims. As police officers charged her, she poured the contents of the baggie on the sidewalk in front of the auditorium.

      “Over the blood of raped women!” she shouted, as police seized her roughly and handcuffed her. With the blood and her arrest, the protesters surged towards the auditorium. The police line held them back.

      Isaiah stood at the edge of the crowd watching and itching his ears. He still had a residual poison oak rash from his misadventure crawling through the bushes outside of Esalen. For some reason, the rash particularly affected the outsides of his ears.

      As police arrested another woman and dragged her away, he thought of Rhion’s Penthouse and Juggs magazines under the sofa and his own fondness for erotic photos of the fairer sex. He wondered what a real man would do in a situation like this then turned around and walked home.


[i] Woodward, supra at 408-409.

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id. at 409. US relations with Libya had been tense since at least August 19, 1981 when the US shot down two Libyan Air Force jets over the Mediterranean. Id. at 167. That incident was the first overt US military action since the Vietnam War.

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  1. What’s not to like? DMT trips and spiritual paranoia.
    I am reminded of my roomate from Boone’s stories. He went to school in Santa Cruz in the late eighties when it was known as the acid capital of Cali. He told great stories about this shady cat in a trailer that would sell sheets of blotter to the students.
    In the fall he teamed up with a college buddy who’s folks were old hippies up in the mountains that grew weed. They would make a run with nugs across the mountains and desert to Vegas and each get several grand and a large bag of weed. Happiness was the flip side of the trip for them, speeding across the desert with icky sticky and stacks of cash. Blaring NWA and Big Drill Car on the cassette deck.

    • Ha. That sounds about right. High Times magazine, sometime prior to 1985, referred to Santa Cruz as the LSD Capital of America. I assume the imprisoned chemist Leonard Pickard (multiple life sentences in Kansas for LSD manufacturing) was in production in that area in that era. Whether he made DMT, I do not know. After Pickard was captured, according to the DEA website, American LSD vanished for a while, implying that Pickard was the only chemist manufacturing. Personally, I’d like to see a book with biographies of the known acid chemists: Pickard, Owsley, Nick Sand, Tim Scully… Thanks for reading, Lou. The story moves back to Glen Ellyn next week.

  2. I was in GE during the period when we were flooded with doses, sheets, thousand lots. The now deceased and zeppelin obsessed son of a former GWHS coach was moving that shit like pez. I think that we were not so unique this was the case at many schools.
    At U of Iowa there was locally made “red balls” that would send you running through the cornfields naked.
    The ultimate was Boone, I was framing with one guy who was selling liquid on sugar cubes, and another guy who was selling his family’s moonshine for 25 dollars a gallon. It was a substance abuser’s paradise. In the beautiful mounatins.
    There was a huge drug raid at Lees McCray college in Banner elk, cops tapped the phones and pressed felony charges on dozens of students. It was previously known as the hedonistic trustifarian school for upper middle class ski bums.
    That dude with the cubes got popped after some friend of his son’s narced him off. I wish that I still knew that cat from Tennessee, we could use some white lightning for the liquor cabinet.

    • Orange and purple “microdots” were the varieties of LSD I recall from that area in that era. Incidentally, yesterday, I found a recent interview with retired LSD chemist Nick Sand in which he describes how expensive the microdot pill-compression machines were. theoaktreereview.com.

  3. More great storytelling, I loved reading this. I liked all the out-there spiritual stuff and Isaiah’s mixed reactions to it. I also really liked the descriptions of walking around Santa Cruz and think it could be expanded upon to really build the scene up. I notice here and in the previous stories that “all ways” is written when it seems like it ought to be “always.” I don’t know grammar well enough to know when either is appropriate, but wonder if it’s an automatic word correction setting on your computer. I really liked the descriptions of Isaiah’s highs and felt slowed down during them, but the word repetition during them distracted me. My favorite part was definitely when Uriah described Isaiah as a powerful crystal warrior. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Whitney. May I call you Whizzle? Somehow, I’ve gottn into the habit of all ways writing “all ways.” I’ll have to break the habit. Yes, I agree that I ought to expand the Santa Cruz descriptions. I’ll have to double check the word repetition parts. Do you mean during the DMT trips or the cannabis highs? I super appreciate your accolades and criticism. I’m hoping to do a picture of Uriah tonight in all his crystal warrior splendor so check back tomorrow.

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