Hitchhiking was a good way to travel between Boston and Montreal in the early 1970s.
The 400 miles of I-89 was one of the East Coast's most scenic highway, slanting across New Hampshire and Vermont to Lake Champlain then into Quebec.
It was a great trip from start to finish.
In August of 1971 I was heading north to meet friends in Montreal.
A Karman Ghia stopped in Lebanon and the longhair said that he needed money for gas. I gave him $5. Ace drove me from Lebanon to St. Albans with Jethro Tull on the 8-track When I got out of the car, the longhair handed me a pill. The horse choker capsule was an inch long.
"It's LSD." The hippie flashed a peace sign. His iris wavered in size. "Very strong. Take it with friends and don't look in a mirror."
"I know better than that."
Looking at your reflection was a mistake no one wanted to repeat on a trip. I had once stared at my shimmering face for hours on Orange Sunshine.
My eyes had been a single black pool greeting a stare into eternity.
"Thanks for the gas."
A gallon was 35 cents.
$5 was good for a week's driving in the VW.
I flashed him the peace sign and stood on the interstate's shoulder.
The next ride was to the border.
Canadian immigration asked for a driver's license.
The official saluted my entrance into his country.
Two hours later I was drinking beer with my New Zealand friends at the Winston Churchill Pub. My Irish friends were playing a gig off St. Catherine. Several French girls came home to Benny's apartment on Barat Street. I showed them the LSD pill.
The night was velvet with darkness. Pink Floyd was on the Denon turntable.
A bootleg release of MEDDLE.
I divided the powdered pill into section.
1/3 for the four girls.
1/3 for my three friends.
1/3 for me.
One hour passed without any effect, then Benny put on the Jefferson Airplane AFTER BATHING AT BAXTERS, then the first flash of light warbled from the corner of our eyes. The girls danced with POO NEIL. My friends held the album cover in their handstand we chanted, "A painter painting a picture of a painter painting a picture of a painter painting...."
The LP art shrank into the sub-universe of time and space.
We were wandering in a microcosmic dream.
Each layer funnier than the last.
Dawn broke early on the St. Lawrence. Stars melted into the sky and we chanted, "A painter painting a picture of a painter painting a picture of a painter painting...."
One last time and then we returned home. I slept with a girl named Cheree. Her flesh was as soft as still air.
She spoke French, no English, but chanted with an Quebecoisse accent, "A painter painting a picture of a painter painting a picture of a painter painting...." until the words softened to a mutter and her skin turned to feathers.
It took me a long time to come down.
Cheree was my parachute.
She provided a soft landing.
"A painter painting a picture of a painter painting a picture of a painter painting...."
I'm glad that my mind remembered Cheree's name.
My name too.