Friday, July 28, 2017

THE ONLY YEH YEH GIRL By Peter Nolan Smith

The stars of the 1960s were transported by TV and radio to my three red-light suburb south of Boston. The teenagers of the 50s worshipped Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Buddy Holly as dead gods, but my generation’s focus was dedicated to the living.

Bob Dylan’s BLOWING IN THE WIND knocked Elvis off his throne and the Beatles enthralled girls with I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND. The Ronettes defined hot with BE MY BABY, but young boys worshipped movie actresses as wingless angels fallen to Earth, even though their visits to Boston were plastered on the silver screen.

Julie Christie won our hearts in DARLING in 1965 and a year later my older brother chose fur-bikinied Raquel Welch as his muse after her debut in 1,000,000 BC. The seductive virtues of various starlets were debated by the boys in my high school. I held my sand, because I was searching for a goddess to call my own.

One cold January night my hand slipped on the radio dial and the antenna caught a signal from Quebec transmitting a wavering female singing ‘La maison où j’ai grandi”.

This song had nothing to do with DOMINIQUE by the Singing Nun.

This singer was telling a story of love.

I cursed myself for not paying attention in French classes and looked over to my brother’s bed. He was asleep on his side. I turned up the volume and rode the magic radio waves to the last fading notes of the guitar. The Montreal DJ announced with breathless admiration, “C’etait une autre tube par Francoise Hardy.”

I didn’t understand a word, but understood that Francoise Hardy couldn’t be anything other than beautiful.

For the next two hours I remained glued to the distant station and the DJ rewarded my patience with LE PREMIER BONHEUR DU JOUR, QUI PEUT DIRE, and L’AMITIE.

“Bonne anniversaire, Francoise.”

Somehow my brain translated those words into ‘happy birthday, Francoise’.

The DJ said Francoise was twenty-three. I was fifteen. She lived somewhere French. Paris was three thousand miles away.

“Turn off that Frog crap.” My older brother mumbled from his pillows.

“Okay.” I shut the radio and went to sleep confused by conflicting images of Francoise Hardy.

I saw her as a blonde. I fantasized about her as a redhead. I woke early to a dream of her as a brunette.

I dressed and wandered down to the kitchen.

“You’re awfully quiet,” my father said at the breakfast table.

“Thinking about changing my language from German to French.”

“I thought you liked German.” My father had studied French at college.

“I did.” I spoke it with a Boston accent much to the chagrin of Bruder Karl. My best grade had been a D+. I had no feeling for Marlene Dietrich.

“Any reason for the change?”

“Maybe I’ll have more use for French.”

“Like for when you’re ordering French Fries.” My older brother joked and my younger brothers and sisters laughed along with my father.

I didn’t mention my restless night to my car pool friends, as we drove on 128. My daydreams of Francoise Hardy consumed the morning math and biology classes. I had a study hall for the third period and went the library to search through the record collection.

Brother Jerome, the librarian, was in his office. A freshman was sitting on his lap.

I wandered over to the record trays and flipped through the LPs without finding a single French record. A few music stores in downtown Boston sold foreign records and I planned on heading to Washington Street after school.

“I’m not going home today?” I told my car pool.

“Where you going?” My best friend, Chuckie Manzi, wanted to join me.

“To see the dentist.” No one liked the sound of the drill.

“You’re on your own.”

My friends dropped me at the Forest Hills T station and got off at Washington Street. None of the big department stores had any French 45s or LPs. On the way to the Park Street Station I chanced upon the Commons. The owner was an old man with a beard. The forty year-old looked like a beatnik. I was dressed as a mod.

“Can I help you?” The walls were stacked with records according to genres.

“Do you have any Francoise Hardy?”

“How do you know about Francoise Hardy?” The old man was mystified by my request.

“I heard her on a Canadian station.”

“Must have been a strong signal.” He went to the French section and pulled out a plastic sealed LP.

“Francoise Hardy dropped out of the Sorbonne to record OH OH CHERI with Johnny Halliday. He’s the French Elvis. She became one of the biggest stars of Ye-Ye music and her hit TOUS LES GARCONS ET LES FILLES made the charts in the UK. I think it was 1964. Here’s that LP. It came out in 1962.”

He handed me the album.

I held the cover in both hands.

The name had a face and that face belonged to an angel. A cinnamon strands of hair streamed across feline eyes. An ivory hand held an umbrella with a detached interest. Francoise was a woman made for a rainy afternoon.

“Can I hear a little?”

“Sure.” The old man slipped the LP onto a Garrard 401 turntable. “This is LE TEMPS D’AMOUR.”

A patter of drums opened the song. A twangy guitar and solid bass joined on the next bar. The singer wasted no time getting to the lyrics. They must have been about love. 2:27 passed in a second.

“What you think?”

“I’ll take it.” Her pose sold youthful innocence. I gave him $5. “Is that the only one you have?”

“Of that LP, yes, but I can get some of her other records, if you’d like.”

I nodded my answer and promised to return on the weekend.

“My name’s Osberg.” He handed me a business card. “Call to find out when to come in.”

“Thanks.” I left his shop and caught the T to Ashmont.

That evening after finishing dinner and my homework, I went down to the basement and put the LP on my father’s record player. My brother had a better one in our bedroom, but I wasn’t sharing Francoise Hardy with someone in love with a woman in a fake fur bikini, even if Frunk was my older brother.

One play of her record and I became her biggest fan south of the USA-Canada border.

I listened to the Quebec stations in secrecy.

At school I hid my secret. My friends regarded our northern neighbors as Canucks and I didn’t want to risk their attacking Francoise. I bought several LPs from Mr. Osberg and he introduced me to the other Ye-Ye girls; Frances Gall, Sylvie Vartan, and Jacqueline Taïeb as well as the Sultans from Quebec and Serge Gainsbourg.

None of them were Francoise Hardy.

I dreamed about flying to Paris.

An airline ticket cost hundreds of dollars.

I settled for listening to her music with my eyers closed.

In 1968 Francoise Hardy released COMMENT TE DIRE ADIEU written by Serge Gainsbourg. Mr. Osburg said that he was the wicked man in France and played his hit with Jane Birkin JE T’AIME…MOI NON PLUS.

Sex dripped off the record. Mr. Osburg was right about this Gainsbourg man. He was as ugly as sin. I had to save Francoise and as soon as I arrived home, I asked my father, if we could vacation in France.

“They’re having troubles there.” My father was very conservative. He tolerated the length of my hair, but thought I looked like a girl. “Students in the streets. Worse than the hippies. We’re going to the Cape.”

Our family rented three motel rooms in Harwichport. The pool overlooked the small harbor. The beach boasted the warmest water on Cape Cod. The sea was 65 Fahrenheit by the 4th of July.

Every morning I read the Boston Globe. The newspaper covered the War in Vietnam with little mention of the student riots, but I was certain that Francoise Hardy wasn’t the type of girl to get mixed up in trouble on the Left Bank. Not unless she fell into the hands of the evil Serge Gainsbourg and I plotted a trip to France. A rumor was whispered across Boston about a jet plane leaving Boston every morning for Paris.

Its cargo of Maine lobsters was traded for eclairs, creme brûlées, and pomme tartes.

Two weeks before the start of school I emptied my bank account and took the T to Logan Airport. None of the terminals listed the ‘lobster’ flight and I spent the greater part of Saturday hunting for the mythic plane to Paris.

“Ha.” A Boston cop laughed upon hearing my query. “Once a week some kid comes up looking for the ‘lobster’ plane. There ain’t none. Some bullshit story someone invented for who knows why, but the weird thing is that all these kids want to meet the same girl. Francoise Hardy. You ever heard of her?”

“No.” These ‘others’ feelings for Francoise Hardy could never rival my love.

“Me too. Must be some kind of film star. Like Brigitte Bardot.”

I fought back an explanation, not needing any more converts to the faith, and returned home in defeat.

That summer America was deep mourning after the murder of RFK in LA.

MRS. ROBINSON replaced Archie Bell and the Drells’ TIGHTEN UP as # 1, while Simon and Garfinkel sang about an older woman from the movie THE GRADUATE. Francoise Hardy was eight years older than me. I changed the words from Mrs. Robinson to Francoise Hardy. I never sang it in front of my girlfriend. Kyla was the same age as me.

COMMENT TE DIRE ADIEU was not a hit and the radio station in Quebec played less and less of her songs.

Kyla and I went steady. I liked to think that Francoise would have approved of my selection, but I was stupid and left Kyla for no good reason in 1969.

That year Francoise released Françoise Hardy en Anglais. Like the Catholic Mass in English her songs lost their magic in my language.

My travels in the late-60s and 70s were confined to hitchhiking across America. None of the drivers played TOUS LES GARCONS ET LES FILLES, but I defended French music to hundreds of hippies, rednecks, and disco fanatics by saying, "You've never heard Francoise Hardy."

In 1973 she appeared in the film SAVE THE TIGER. The director failed to break the 29 year-old singer to America. She remained a creature of France.

The Atlantic Ocean separated America from the Old World. My opportunity to cross the waters came in 1982, when I was hired to work as a doorman at the Bains-Douches, a popular Paris nightclub. At first I was unfamiliar with the French pop stars, but over the course of the next year I met Johnny Halliday, Yves Montand, Catherine Denevue, Yves St. Laurent, Coluche, countless Vogue models, arms dealers, and other lightbulbs of the night, but never Francoise Hardy and I asked the owner about her absence.

“She doesn’t go out at night. Her husband, Jacques Dutronc, is very jealous.”

“Of what?” Dutronc was a rock star for the French. Nobody in the USA knew his name, but ET MOI ET MOI ET MOI was a great song. I had it on tape.

“Of other men.

“A boyfriend is a man’s best enemy.”

“Not Jacques Dutronc.” My boss warned that her husband was capable of almost anything against any man seeking intimacy with his wife. “He is very much in love with her.”

“Who wouldn’t be?”

My boss shrugged with mutual understanding, He was a Francoise Hardy fan too.

The nightlife was a small world in Paris and I didn’t mention Francoise’s name again. People had big mouths.

Jacques Dutronc visited the club on several occasions. A thick cigar hung out of his mouth. I hated the smell. He never came with Francoise. The rumor was that she was terribly shy after having been the Ye-Ye Girl for so many years. I made her husband wait to get in more than once.

Jacques complained to my boss, who laughed behind the singer’s back.

My job was to make French stars feel like getting into the Bains-Douches was a privilege, however my friends were granted an easy entry, especially Suzi Wyss, the mistress of a Getty Oil heir. On my days off I smoked opium at her oriental pad in the 13th arrondisement. The Swiss courtesan was superb cook and traveled through many cliques. One night she invited me to a dinner.

“Don’t tell anyone, but Francoise Hardy will be coming.”

“I thought she didn’t go out.” This was a miracle.

“She doesn’t, but she loves my cooking and I am always discreet. So not a word.”

“Silence will be my vow” I wanted her to myself. “Will her husband be there?”

“Not for dinner, but he might come for dessert. He has a thing for my Swiss chocolate torte.”

Suzi’s piece de resistance was a culinary delight and I prepared like a nameless suitor for this rendezvous with Francoise Hardy.

I bought a white shirt from Agnes B and a gray suit from Cerruti. No tie was better than pretending to be a business man and I purchased Cuban heels from the flea market. They dated back to the time of her greatest success. I cut my hair short and didn’t bathe for two days to emulate French men, who avoided bathing in fear of losing their masculinity.

That evening I showed up on time with a bouquet of roses. Suzi loved flowers. We smoked hash. Opium was for after the dinner. The door bell rang at 9.

Francoise arrived at the apartment with a young gay man. We opened a bottle of wine. She wasn’t a drinker, but was amused by my stories of New York nightclubs awash with beautiful women and crooked cops.

“It would make a good movie.”

“Only if you played the lead.” I envisioned us on the podium of the Academy Awards receiving Oscars.

“I’m too old to play that role.”

“You’re never too old to be a star.”

Suzi lit another joint. We smoked it before dinner.

I was falling in love again.

In fact I had never stopped loving Francoise.

She spoke about her music and picked up a guitar from the corner. The Ye-Ye girl sang two new tunes. I was in paradise and was about to tell her about hearing her music on a little radio twenty years ago.

A knock on the door trashed my moment.

The guest was Jacques Dutronc.

Francoise’s face said that she loved him and no one else.

Any man would have been a fool to not love her the same.

“I know you.” He pointed his cigar. “Bains-Douches. Doorman.”

“Yes, that’s me.”

“A writer too.” Suzi was on my side.

“Pouoff.” Dutronc had witnessed thousands of writers attempt to seduce his wife. “Women only love directors and producers. They prefer chauffeurs before a writer.”

Francoise laughed at her husband’s joke. Suzi thought it funny too. I might have joined them, if the riposte hadn’t struck deep. We rejoined to the living room, where Jacques Dutronc picked up the guitar.

“Francoise and I did a song in 1978. BROULLIARD DANS LA RUE CORVISART.”

He put down his cigar and sang the song’s opening lines. Francoise accompanied him on the song. I applauded their duet as well as their shared love. I didn’t stand a chance. The odds were stacked higher against me than the records in Mr. Osburg’s music store.

An hour later the famed couple left with the gay friend.

Francoise didn’t even said good-bye.

Jacques winked to me. I wouldn’t make him wait at the door any more.

“Poor Boy.” Suzi patted my cheek. “Everyone loves her.”

“Yes, I suppose we do.”

“And I know how to make you forget, if only for a few minutes.” Suzi handed me a pipe. Opium was a good doctor for a broken heart.

The three of us met several more times at Suzi’s apartment.

The same routine as always, dinner, wine, and a joint or two.

Jacques came late and they departed ensemble.

I imagined myself being him, but I didn't like cigars and my French was even worse than my German. Francoise loved Jacques and that was good enough for me, because all men at one time in their lives need a goddess to teach them about love.

Even if they were another man’s woman

To Hear Francoise Hardy's LE PREMIERE BONHEUR DU JOUR please go to the following URL

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITYVXUvMtHI

Faster Than Light Beauty

I wish for a time machine to take me back to London.

1968.

Francoise Hardy on a motorbike.

I would have had a lot of competition and even though I would have only been 16, a good time would have been had by all.

Je l'adore.

In 1968 through eternity fast than speed itself.

To hear Francoise Hardy's version of the Kinks' WHO'LL BE THE NEXT IN LINE, please go to this URL;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S31Fe6BrFy8

La Belle Francoise Hardy

Francoise Hardy remains an icon of beauty.

The brunette had tons of hits in the 1960s.

Francoise was the ultimate Yeh-Yeh Girl.

But Mlle. Hardy is a beauty today.

And Forever.

House On Fire

One night back in 1971 my friend and I were returning from a Sha-Na-Na concert in Boston. Mark drove along the Jamaica Way and after rounding the circle at the entrance to Arnold's Arboretum he sped up toward Forest Hills. His Nova had a lot of pull for a V-6. Both of us were digging Jimi Hendrix's HOUSE BURNING DOWN on the 8-track, then Mark exclaimed, "Man, look at that."

A house was ablaze atop a hill.

There were no fire trucks in sight.

"Let's check this out." Mark exited from the Arborway and headed toward the conflagration.

We got out of the car and shouted out, "Is anyone in there?"

The house looked abandoned, but Mark wanted to make sure.

"Where you going?" I asked, because the flames were spreading down from the top floor.

"Making sure no one is in there." Mark stepped onto the porch, lifting his arm to shield himself from the heat. He backed away and I smelled that the fire had singed his jacket.

"No one's in there."

We heard the sirens of fire trucks.

"Let's go." Mark trotted back to his car. "If the cops come, they'll think we set it."

"They like neat stories."

We left the scene of our non-crime in the direction of Forest Hills Station. Concannon And Sennet was a bar beneath the elevated tracks. Beers cost twenty-fire cents and nothing quenched the taste of fire like a beer for a teenager.

To watch Hendrix's HOUSE BURNING DOWN, please go to the following URL

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnYWfVPT5aI

Jimmy Before He was Jimi

Jimi Hendrix Shotgun Live 1965 Night Train Backing Buddy & Stacey. Oldest Known Film Footage of Jimi Hendrix Playing Guitar On Nashville's Channel 5

To see this VDO please go to the following URL

http://www.zappinternet.com/video/tavTfoFhuR/El-primer-video-de-Jimi-Hendrix/

YOU BET I COULD Uschi Obermaier

Several years ago Duncan Hannah posted this black and white photo of Uschi Obermaier.

I was struck by her free beauty and the fact that I had never heard of the 1960s icon.

In an article from the Independent Uschi railed against working-class Munich and said, "I used to wish for a plane crash, just for a bit of action. Where I lived, I felt nothing happens and nothing ever will happen."

Like many youths of that time I knew this feeling of spiritual displacement.

Uschi escaped a dour existence to become Germany's #1 groupie.

Of Hendrix she recounted their affair at the Kempenski hotel, "He was the most beautiful of all my men. Making love with Jimi was one of the most profound experiences for me."

Excuse me while I touch the sky.

Later a radical she left Europe with a pimp.

They were a cool couple.

Now more than ever.

To read more go to this URL

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/uschi-groupie-addict-and-heroine-of-the-left-434740.html

ps I need a time machine.

uschi I want you.

THE WIND CRIED MARY / Jimi Hendrix


To see our eternal hero go to this URL

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFmlPHHE7Lo

No Eyes for Jimmy


After the US Army discharged Jimi Hendrix in 1965, the Seattle native moved with drummer Billy Cox to Nashville. That city might have been home for the Country-Western scene, but for Hendrix and Cox it was someplace to call home while they were gigging on the Chittlin' Circuit. The two performed with Chuck Jackson, Slim Harpo, Tommy Tucker, Sam Cooke, and Jackie Wilson, but Hendrix hated playing a supporting role for these stars and moved to New York in hopes of becoming a headliner.

While winning #1 at the Apollo Theater, Hendrix had to support himself by touring with soul recording artists such as Wilson Pickett and I might have seen him in 1966 at BC High before his trip to London. No one in the audience other than a few black-cock struck Catholic school girls had eyes for the future immortal guitarist. Wilson Pickett was the center of attention with his hits MUSTANG SALLY and FUNKY BROADWAY. Within a year Jimi Hendrix would burn his guitar on the stage of the Monterrey Pop Festival.

The world would never be the same.

To see Jimi with the Wicked Wilson Pickett please go to the following URL

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9yIoVuUM-M

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Fire Of UnWealth

The riches of the world have flooded the coffers of banks and the elites. The middle class still dream about joining the upper classes, however their actual wealth is tied up in real estate mortgaged to the hilt. They own nothing and the situation is worse for the poor. The only way to regain equality is through theft. The same as how the wealthy accumulated their riches.

But better that everyone is equal.

Reject wealth.

Burn all possessions.

They are only theft.

Burn burn burn.

Of woman.

Of the people.

Rock on.

Pinko Peacenik Pension

At holiday dinners on the South Shore my older brother liked to tell a story about my protesting against the Viet-Nam War. His wife is a big GOP supporter. America can do no wrong for the both of them. Several Thanksgivings ago he finished cutting the turkey with his electric knife and said, "One afternoon in my sophomore year at BC, I was entering the commons and a group of anti-war demonstrators were lying on the ground pretending to be dead Vietnamese. I looked down and there’s my long-haired hippie brother. I said ‘hi’ and I stepped over him.”

"It was 1970." I had not stopped my opposition to America's wars.

"And the war kept going until 1975." He believed in victory at any price.

"And I cheered Ho Chi Minh the day Sai-gon fell." I lifted my raised fist.

My sister intervened before the confrontation devolved into a food fight. He later apologized for winding me up and I accepted his sorry matched by one of my own. We were best friends, but I’ve been psychologically scarred each time my older brother told this tale.

Partially since I can’t recall the incident and somewhat hurt that he would not join me.

My pain was nothing in comparison to the suffering of Agent Orange victims denied health care by the Pentagon or the parents of Vietnamese infants deformed by the Dow Chemical product, but the pain endured, especially as my efforts were not rewarded with true peace.

Instead Le Doc Tho and Henry Kissinger negotiated a faux peace and the war continued to its inevitable end ie the fall of the corrupt Saigon government.

Undeterred by my defeat I have protested against every US incursion and war since my conversion to anti-violence in 1968. This pacific attitude was strictly relegated against the military-industrial complex, for I’ve always liked a good fight. even into my ^0s.

Still my stance against the wars of this country has led to my campaign aimed at establishing a pension for long-time anti-war activist.

My letters to the White House were ignored during the Bush years. Father and son. Clinton’s staff never returned an answer too. My petition was as popular with the Obama administration as a parole request from Leonard Peltier, the AIM activist sentenced to life for the cold-blooded murder of 2 FBI agents.

I’m not asking for much.

Just enough to allow my living in Thailand.

A mere $2000/month pension.

Peace Now.

Saying it a million times has to be worth something.

I Love Hippie Girls

They set me to CALIFORNIA DREAMIN'.

Or THE MOD SQUAD

Famous groupie models.

Dancers.

An iconic dancing girls at Woodstock.

It was enough to make a young man grow his hair long and hit the road.

Joyous Lake 1975

The Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace; Music on Max Yasgur's 600-acre dairy farm near the hamlet of White Lake in the town of Bethel, New York has impacted American music culture for over fifty years. Richie Havens opened the festival and Jimi Hendrix closed the concert with fiery psychedelic finesse. A half million freaks, heads, and hippies attended the outdoor show. Millions more have said that they were there in spirit.

I was one of them, because that August weekend I was washing dishes and walloping pots in the kitchen of the Tara Hotel in Braintree, Mass. 17 years old and trapped in a meaningless job listening to the newscasts of Woodstock over a radio. I thought that I must have done something horribly bad in a previous lifetime to have been punished so severely in the present.

Few of us knew that the summer of love was history. Teens grew their hair longer. We smoked more pot. I dropped LSD. The anti-war movement expanded into the middle-class. Woodstock was our two-syllable nirvana. Everyone wanted a piece.

In the Spring of 1975 AK was studying keyboards at Berkeley School of Music and I was teaching at South Boston High School. AK received a phone call from Rockford, whom we had met the previous summer north of San Diego. The three of us had shared an acid trip on Moonlight Beach. The Pacific roared with motorcycle waves and a seal had spoken to us in a trance. There was a girl with blonde hair. She had big breasts. It was a nude beach. None of us wore a thing. After we came down Alan announced that he was heading north to San Francisco. I would have joined him, if AK hadn't talked me into returning to Boston.

"We have no money."

Rockford had hit the road with $10, the blonde, and a guitar.

He stayed a year.

During the phone conversation Rockford explained that the Haight was overrun by junkies, speed freaks, and scammers.

"A very uncool place, but Nona said that Woodstock was cool."

AK said we should go there and the next weekend AK and I drove west from Boston in his Firebird.

4 hours to Woodstock.

Rockford's house was a renovated chicken coop by Tannery Brook. Nona was exotic with long black hair and a Balinese legong dancer's body. She spoke with a New Jersey nasal grate trumped by her beauty. We smoked hash and then walked down the wooded side street to the Joyous Lake. Joe Cocker was playing at the small bar crowded with hippie die-hards and free spirited women.

Cocker had just emerged from a de-tox clinic. His friends refused him the right to drink, while they guzzled beer. The Sheffield singer's voice retained its gritty tone and the audience hit the floor. I dance a full-breasted brunette from the town. Her dress revealed her tits down the nipples.

"You want to come to my place?" She grinded hips against my cock.

"Love to." Hippie girl, pot, sex. It might have been six years after Woodstock, but this was my Aquarius moment, because the Season of Lust was in full swing winter, spring, summer, and fall.

I had sex with Dora three times that night.

The following morning she shook me awake.

"You gotta go."

Her body was a little bigger than I remembered. And she was a little older. I didn't care. I wanted more.

"Why?" I was ready to move into her small apartment overlooking Main Street.

"Because my old man is coming back tonight." She threw my jeans and tee-shirt on the bed. "He's a biker."

"I'm going." Bikers were trouble and angry bikers were even more trouble. I dressed as fast as Clark Kent turning into Superman.

Ten minutes later I was back at Rockford's place. AK and he were playing African thumb piano. Nona was swaying to the rhythmic plinking. They laughed at my story. I didn't think that it was that funny and later I saw Dora on the back of a Harley.

Her old man was a tattooed bear.

I visited Woodstock a couple more times over that summer.

Dora was always with her old man.

AK and I dropped acid in July. We rocked out in the chicken shack. I played kazoo, Rockford strummed his guitar, and AK plunked out notes on his kalimba. Nona our muse was the dancing tambourine girl.

We wanted her, as did every man in Woodstock. Nona was Rockford's for the moment. AK and I hated him for that possession. Neither of us were proud of that envy.

That autumn Rockford and Nona moved back to the coast. Neither AK nor I returned to Woodstock in the following years.

I ran into Nona in Bali in 1993. Rockford was living in Iowa. I saw him in 2009. AK taught school in Jupiter Beach, Fla. We meet each other at least once a year. The three of us remained good friends.

This past Labor Weekend I passed through Woodstock on the way to the deep Catskills. The Joyous Lake was now the Not Fade Away. The hippies were in their 60s. I walked over to Dora's old apartment and knocked on the door. No one answered and I went downstairs to the Garden Cafe.

"Does a Dora live upstairs?"

"No." The long-hair chubby teenager answered, while smearing organic butter on a bagel. It was morning. "But a lot of guys ask the same question. She must have been something."

"She was."

And so were the rest of us from that Woodstock generation and the Age of Aquarius keeps on shining with the Earth pointing at that constellation for the next 2000 years.

Rock on, Dora.

The name means golden and my memory of that night glows like stolen treasure.

Roads To Nowhere Catskills


The Catskills are less than two hours from Dutchess County, so when my host in Millbrook suggested a road trip to visit friends across the Hudson on a splendid September morning, I was all green lights. Andrew's wife opted out of the journey. Her kids were a handful on long rides. We set off after a heart breakfast and headed west to the mountains.

We crossed the Hudson and soon passed through Hunter. The ski slope was bare and the resort's parking lot was empty. Our friends lived slightly farther west on the desolate dissected plateau with long valley vistas and the summer air poured into Andrew's Tundra.

Lexington NY turn-off for New York 23A onto Route 42. Philippe, once the 'prettiest woman in northern Maine, was vacationing with his family of four in his modernized hunting cabin opposite WestKill Mountain. We arrived a little after noon. There was no offer of lunch.

Only lovely tea from freshly picked mint.

The reminiscing conversation was entertaining, but the rumble from Andrew's stomach grew louder. My gastric echoes were a little more demure, since I had stolen cookies from the kitchen. The schnorred Oreos tasted great, but Phillipe's kids eyed me with Gestapo suspicion. Children was very possessive about food.

After an hour we said our goodbyes and sat in Andrew's truck. He wanted to return along New York State 23.

"I've never been on any of these roads." The route over from Woodstock had been a avenue of arcadian scenery and I studied the map on my lap. "42 goes south to 28. We go west for a few miles and then head south on 47 to New Paltz."

"New Paltz is about a 100 miles away. Is there anywhere to eat on the way?" Andrew was dying for food.

"Has to be someplace on the way." Few towns dotted the backside of the Catskills; Shandakan, Big Indian, Neversink. This was the weekend. Stores made a fortune selling hot dogs to hungry day-trippers like us, but I replied honestly, "I'm not so sure.

"I got lost on the road from Tannersville to Woodstock. One hour in the dark." Andrew was British. He had seen DELIVERANCE. For him the land of the rednecks began once over the Hudson.

"That was night." I argued for 47. "We'll never come this way again. I'd like to see what there is. Even if it's nothing."

"There better be something to eat."

He wheeled south and followed my directions to 47. The two hotels in Big Indian were closed for the season and their signs wore years of weather.

"That's not a good omen."

The two-lane road slunk through bland valleys.

No stores.

No food.

We drove deeper into the terra incognita. Andrew voiced his discontent. We were hungry, except Philippe no longer bore the blame for our lack of food. The secluded settlements of Olivera and Wistock Mountain were devoid of commerce. Frost Valley's services were reserved for YMCA campers.

"What do people eat here?" Andrew was frantic. It was well past lunch.

"Bark probably, but the only business I've seen for the past hour has been 'yard sales'." We slowed by each house hoping for food, but they offered nothing to eat and crap for sale.

"They look too fat to live only on bark. They must be snacking on moss in their spare time."

Our fragile state caused us to make a wrong turning.

Left to Clarityville in hope of sustenance.

Once more a meal of disappointment.

Andrew turned on his GPS and typed in 'diner'. The GPS did not respond. Andrew was for straight on. I was too. The land of nowhere had to end somewhere.

40 miles later we rolled into New Platz. I bought Andrew whatever he wanted. The foodless journey had been my idea.

"One day we'll laugh about this."

"But not today."

And I don't ever have to see the back of those mountains again.

Once was more than enough.

Especially on an empty stomach.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A View Of Kaaterskil

A young Thomas Cole traveled to the Catskill Mountain House in the 1820s. He painted many scenic views of the mountains. The view from his house from 1827 was captured in View Near the Village of Catskill. I have stood on the porch. Time remains the same now and it was then.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

17 Cents Per Gallon


Shared events are recorded differently in individual memories. No one in my family recalls my mother sending her two sons, ages 7 and 6, solo on a train from Portland, Maine to Boston. Collective amnesia has erased the recollection of our family watching brown bears dine on garbage at the town dump. I am our final retainer of lost episodes in time and the rest of the clan shake their head disapproving of my version of history. They may be right, but I can clearly recall the Biddeford, Maine gas war of 1958.

Two gas stations were located at the foot of the Biddeford-Saco bridge on Route 1.

During the summer months the road was heavily trafficked by vacationers to the Pine Tree State and the two station owners offered prices below the cost of the gas, hoping to bankrupt his rival. My father and many other drivers were aware of this competition and no one leaving Portland bought gas until crossing the Saco River.

Both stations were manned by slick hot-rodders. Window were wiped by cheerleaders. A free glass accompanied each fill-up.

The price dropped from 25 cents per gallon to 21 to 18 and finally 17 cents per gallon. My father detoured south from a day at Old Orchard Beach to top off the tank. The greasy-haired attendants were haggard from the onslaught of 'fill it up'. The cheerleaders' outfits were torn to rags by the sharp edges of cars. Once the tank was filled, our Ford station wagon left the pump headed north to Falmouth Foresides.

The two stations' gas war of annihilation threatened the entire gasoline structure of New England. Their respective suppliers ordered the rival station owners to agree to a truce. A price was agreed upon by all concerned parties and I've never seen 17 per gallon again in my life.

I've told this story several times at BBQs on Watchic Pond. My brother-in-law wanted to believe me, but 17 cents was beyond his comprehension. My uncle, a long-time Maine native, guffawed at the idea of 17 cents gas in 1958, but retracted his comment, saying, "When I was issued my license in 1939, gas was 10 cents a gallon."

"I was only $1.11 in 1994." My brother-in-law had a good head for numbers. He had been an accountant for the manufacturers of Topsiders before becoming a corporate head-hunter.

"And it's only 6 cents in Venezuela." The leader of that country was keeping it low for the people.

"6 cents a gallon." My brother-in-law shook his head. "Now that's cheap."

And all thanks to the triumph of socialism over capitalism.

The the victors go the spoils.

ps Gas under Trump has dropped to $2.33 on the national average, but I've seen it $2.79 on the highway to Greenwich and $2.79 isn't $2.33 or 17 cents.

Not by a long shot..

BEAR MEAT by Peter Nolan Smith

In August of 1987 Pullie Fallen, Grieg Packer, and I left New York City for Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The art professor, literary agent, and I took turns driving Pullie's F-150 pickup truck through the sweltering heat of the Midwest. None of us broke the speed limit, since Pullie had two unlicensed guns under his seat. He used the .45 and .38 to blast his steel sculptures. The bullet-holed pieces sold well in the South.

We stopped at the Great Bear Dunes to visit mutual friends from Florida. Vonelli's sister had a beach shack overlooking Lake Michigan. The art dealer took us out on a ChrisCraft. The vast expanse of water rivaled Conan the Barbarian's Vilayet Sea. Three days passed riding dirt bikes off the dunes and drinking beer. Vonelli was heading back to Paris. The auctions at the Hotel Drouot opened in less than two weeks.

We said our goodbyes at noon. The Vonelli clan was heading south to Florida. Pullie pointed the pick-up north. I sat in the back of the truck. The midday heat zapped my strength and I passed out in the back of the truck short of Petrowsky.

The Ford's humming over the Straits of Mackinac Bridge disrupted my sleep. It was a little after sunset and the temperature had dropped into the 70s. The sky was filling with the cosmos illuminating the black waters on the two joining lakes. This was Hiawatha's shores of Gitche Gumee by the shining Big-Sea-Water and I sat up in the back to breathe in the boreal night air.

Pullie drove for another 15 minutes and pulled off Route 2 somewhere north of St. Ignace. We slept in the back of the truck and rose with the misty dawn. Breakfast was a bag of warm pasties from a Epoulette diner. The delicious meat pies were a hang-over from the Welsh miners working mineral deposits in the mid-1800s.

The bearded sculptured had summered on the UP in the 50s. His deceased father had designed cars for Chrysler. His son had a photo of an black Imperial sedan parked on thick ice next to a fishing shack. His family wintered on the UP too.

"The UP was a paradise back then. Jobs, nature, and good people. Most of them gone since the mines closed. Now all you got are old Finns to stubborn to quit the land. "

The Upper Peninsula had a population density of 10 people per square mile in the late-80s. We hadn't count heads passing through dismal towns overlooking the Great Lake, but I hadn't seen more than 3 people in a clump the entire morning. The stocky men and woman looked the same in their jeans and flannel shirts topped by a baseball cap.

Three men, three women, or a menage a trois.

I couldn't tell the difference.

We pulled into Fire Lake around 3.

Pullie beeped the horn before an old farm house. The walls had been weathered by many winters and the two-story structure leaned away from the prevailing wind. A herd of cows grazed in a fenced field. One cow stood by itself. It was not the bull.

Our host limped into the afternoon sunlight. Uvo was in his 50s. He greeted us with a firm handshake and a yellow smile. He lit an unfiltered Camel.

"Where's everyone?" Pullie's scratched at his beard. It was more salt than pepper.

"Down at the lake fishing, but Jim left for Ann Arbor two days ago, eh."

"Sorry, I missed him." Pullie had attended U Michigan with Uvo's second son. Both were artists.

He tugged on the cigarette and exhaled a flume of smoke. "You boys fish?"

"Not much fishing in New York." Grieg regarded Uvo, as if he were a Norman Rockwell painting.

"No, guess they don't like to swim in concrete.

The afternoon sky that filled with high clouds from the north. The summer was almost gone. Uvo held a pair of axes in this hands.

"Going to get cold tonight, eh. Call me old fashioned, but I believe in the work ethic. You work. You eat. No work. No eat."

Grieg and I looked at each other.

The Londoner was no farmer.

I had picked crops as a teenager at my local farm.

Neither of us was a farmer boy. We had blisters on our hands within minutes, but as an Englishman Grieg believed in doing a host's bidding and the both of us hacked logs into firewood, while Pullie and Uvo drank Schlitz beer. They were examining Pullie's 45 and the shotgun. Beer cans floated in a metal tub.

Hard work.

We finished our task in a sweat and joined the other two. Grieg slung the ax over his shoulder, as if he graduated from Paul Bunyan School. Uvo surveyed the woodpile.

"Not bad for trolls, eh."

"Trolls?" I had been called many things in my life, but never a troll.

"Trolls is the Yopper euphemism for people coming from unda the bridge," Pullie explained, as he handed us two cans of Schlitz. The beer that made Milwaukee famous was unavailable in New York. The gusto of the crisp cold beer brought back memories of my youth on the South Shore of Boston.

"Good beer."

"Better than Bud." Grieg refrained from his usual assault on American beer. They tasted like water to the Brits.

A breeze whiffled through the trees bordering the pasture

Uvo sported a serious bruise on his forearm.

"Cow butted me, eh." The farmer glanced over to the single cow in the pasture. "You boys feel like a sauna."

Many of the inhabitants of the UP were descendants of Finnish immigrants. Uvo had build a traditional Scandinavian steam room next to the barn. He stripped off his clothing and waved for us to join him inside the sauna.

The gnarled farmer threw water on the hot stones. Steam furled from the rocks. Te temperature was close to the surface of Venus.

"Good to see new faces up here, eh. Fire Lake is a long way from anywhere. Most of the people in town are tired of seeing each other. Crabby as a bear coming out of hibernation and the winters are long up here. People just don’t like getting together too often. Too busy working, but nothing gets them together faster than talk of a barbecue, so if you want to see people, we’ll have a barbecue.”

“Fresh meat too.” Pullie's was a total carnivore. His blood pressure was that of a 300-pound man. The art professor weighed under 160. He ate steak four times a week. The Homestead Steak House on 9th Avenue knew him by name.

“Y-up.” Uvo spoke with tinges of Finnish clinging to his accent. He scratched his buzzcut then rubbed his unshaven face. “Go shot a cow after we’re done.”

“Shoot a cow?” I was a meat-eater, but my steaks came from a supermarket. I wiped the sweat from my face with an old towel.

“Would rather he kill it with an ax?” Grieg joked from under his wrap of towels. The English literary agent looked like a soggy mummy.

“I kill one cow every fall.” Uvo stated matter-of-fact. “Keeps me in meat until the spring. The way snow falls up here you never know when you might get supplies.”

Winters were hard this far north. 200 inches of snow were the norm. A few communities had recorded annual snowfalls nearing 13 feet.

“Killing a cow ain’t sport, eh. I known this cow all its life. Fed it as a calf.” Uvo seemed sad about the upcoming culling of his herd. “Strange but the other cows sense what's going to happen.”

“You think they tell each other?” Grieg came from London. The only cows in that city arrived dead at the Smithfield Market for slicing into steaks and grinding into hamburger.

“Dunno. Cows are funny, eh.” Uvo stripped the edge of an old straight-razor to the sharpness of an assassin’s blade. He stroked the grizzle from his face with an economy of motion. After finishing Uvo stropped the edge. My beard was scrapped from my face without a nick. Paul had a beard, but Greg wasn’t so lucky. His skill with the blade suffered from his heroin intake. He exited the sauna patting his cuts with a towel.

"You boys religious?" Uvo didn't wait for an answer and said, "Because up here on the Upper Peninsula we take the Word of God for truth."

"Okay." I was a confirmed atheist, but kept my devout non-belief to myself.

"In da beginning dere was nuttin." Uvo's accent thickened to a nearly indecipherable patois, "Den on the first day God created da Upper Peninsula. On the second day He created da partridge, da deer, da bear, da fish, and the ducks. On da third day He said "Let dere be Yoopers to roam da Upper Peninsula". On the forth day He created da udder world down below. On the fifth day He said "Let there be trolls to live in the world down below". On the sixth day He created da bridge so da trolls would have a way to get to heaven. God saw it was good and on da seventh day, He went Huntin and that works as the Word of God on the UP."

"Good for me." I toasted his version of Genesis with a cold Schlitz.

We raised our cans to the sky. The sunlight dried our naked flesh. The winwu lipped up the silver bottom of the leaves. Uvo looked over his shoulder to the large pasture. The herd of cows were standing against the fence. The one cow was in the distance.

“That’s the one.” Grieg lifted his head from a nod. He was handsome in a desperate way.

“Weird, eh?” Uvo reached into the bucket and pulled out four more beers. They were going fast. “They shun that one like killing might be contagious.”

Death awaited all creatures. We drank our beer. Uvo saved the empties for target shooting. The cows stared at us like we were holding a vote to change the sacrifice.

“Funny how they’ll protect themselves from other animals but not man.” Grieg aimed a finger at the distant cow. It moped in protest. “That’s because they trust us.”

“Trust?” Uvo laughed with a farmer’s certitude. “Cows ain’t no one’s friend and nuttins as dumb as a cow tied to a post, eh. How you think I got this black and blue on my arm.”

“The lone cow.” Pullie was sitting on a log. His legs were thin. The sculptor needed more exercise.

“Yup that’s the one.” Uvo walked over to the gate. He lifted his fingers to his mouth. A long whistle got the attention of the solitary cow. The others huddled closer to the fence. The cow shook his head.

Uvo whistled again and then banged the grain bin. Corn husk dust misted a halo around the farmer’s head. The cow meandered to the gate. Uvo slipped a noose over its head. Long scars crisscrossed the haunches. Something wild had had at it. Uvo led the beast to a trellis constructed of thick logs. A pulley hung from the beam. The naked farmer fed the lead line through the pulley and hauled the cow’s head upward.

Uvo returned to us. The other cows scattered over the pasture to munch the long summer grass. Grieg was sprawled against the sauna wall. The heat and the beer had taken its toll on the Englishman. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

“Something wrong with that troll. I don’t want no one dying on my farm, eh.”

“I’ll take care of him.”

“You a doctor?”

“No,but I know what to do, but my grandfather was a doctor in the First World War." I went into the sauna and came out with a bucket of icy water. I emptied the contents over Grieg. The Englishman sputtered to life. Uvo and Pullie laughed as only naked men can laugh.

Hands over their genitals.

Grieg wasn’t too happy with the sudden reveille but understood that he had violated his guest privileges.

“Thanks for the wake-up call."

“No problem.”

“I have some calls to make and that cow has a date with a Winchester.” Uvo walked over to his house. He entered by the front door. The cow in the rear mooed our surrender. We followed Uvo’s path across the lawn. I went to my room. It was on the second-floor. the windows overlooked the cow. I stuck wet tissue in my ears waiting for the killing shot.

Uvo and Paul exited from the house. They were still naked. Uvo held a Winchester rifle. Paul had his 45. The cow mooed once and Uvo stuck the rifle muzzle in its ear. One bullet buckled its legs. Paul gave the coup de grace.

The killing took less than 10 seconds.

Uvo and Paul tugged on the rope around the dead cow’s neck. The creature was ready for slaughter. I lay on the bed. The mattress was old. The sheets smelled of the seasons. I fell asleep in a minute.

I woke to the sound of people talking and the smell of sizzling steak. I got out of bed and went to the window. Meat was burning on the grill. Ten people were drinking beer. Pullie, Uvo, Grieg, three women and four men. Everyone was wearing the UP uniforms. The only way I could identify Uvo was by his red cap.

I dressed in the uniform and joined the party.

Pullie's truck was parked next to the house. The tape deck was playing a tape of garage music. ? and the Mysterians. Grieg was entertaining the congregation with tales of Oxford. I had heard them before, but he was a good storyteller and I laughed along with the other guests. We drank beer and ate steak. Medium raw. Blood dripped from our lips. The meat went well with the potato sausage and cudighi, a spicy Italian meat.

One of the women had brought a nisu, a cardamom-flavored sweet bread. Another juustoa or spueaky cheese and sauna makkara, a Finnish bologna. It was good eating. The sun was going down.

Uvo gathered the empties and placed them on a shot-up fence post 50 feet from the grill. Pullie placed his 45 on the table. A box of ammo.

We shot the entire box in ten minutes. Only two of the beer cans survived the onslaught. Pullie put his pistol under the seat of his pick-up and I sat on the porch.

“Good steak, eh?” Uvo was aglow with beer. His smile was shared by his friends. They smiled broader when the stereo played DIRTY WATER.

“Delicious.” Better than anything from the Homestead. “But I meant to ask you. What were those scars on that cow.”

“Bear, eh.” The nisu woman answered my question. Pullie was flirting with the scrawny 40ish brunette. She was in her 40s. She wanted to dance to LOUIE LOUIE playing on the pick-up’s stereo. They did the two-step.

“Yup, a bear attack that cow last spring. I shot it dead.”

“Don’t say that too loud, eh.” The woman glanced around the guests. “Game warden hear that and Uvo has a big fine.”

“Maybe $2000 for out of season.” Uvo popped open another beer.

“But it was attacking your cow.”

Bears in Maine roamed the blueberry patches for a sweet treat. The police warned hikers to stay away from the patches. Last summer spotted two black bears. Smaller than a Grizzly, but big. They were scavenging a moose carcass across a river. Both studied me as if I were food.

“Bears won’t attack something big unless they’re hungry. Guess that bear was hungry. I shot him with that Winchester, eh.”

The same one with which he had killed the cow. It was almost like the scene in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA where Lawrence has to shot the man that he saved from the desert in order to seal the alliance of another tribe of Arabs.

“Uvo called me up and I came over with my backhoe.” A longhaired farmer nodded his head in remembrance of that day. “Big hole, eh.”

“Yup.” A chorus joined by the other locals.

“That cow was a little crazy after that. Always running around the pasture. Scaring the other cows. Sorry it had to go, but crazy cows are bad for milk.”

“Yup.” Another round of ‘yups’.

“Bear meat tastes like pork. Best are the legs and loin.”

“bears too strong for me. Too much grease.”

“Plus they get trichinosis.” Paul’s date made a face. “Bears are no good eating. Not like steak.

“Yup.”

Grieg and I joined in the chant of yups, for after the fifth beer we all spoke the same language.

The land of beer.

And no bears.

At least not at a barbecue on the UP.

BEAR SEASON by Peter Nolan Smith

Hunting season along the Hudson River opened in mid-October.

Bow and arrows only.

Guns weren't allowed until November, so I felt relatively safe walking in the woods wearing a neon-orange hooded sweatshirt. No animal in that color existed north or south of Troy, New York and during the shooting season non-hunters drape their bodies in brilliant orange to prevent any hunter from mistaking them for a deer.

“No one has ever been refused a hunting license because they’re color blind,” Floyd told me at the Green Acres Tavern. The drinking establishment on Rte. 29 was brightly lit all hours of the day, since the owner thought people looked more honest under 100-watt light.

“So someone might shoot me even if I’m wearing this.” The orange was hurtful to the eye.

“If drink was involved, everyone is fair game.” Belvin shrugged his shoulders.

The fifty-six year-old farmer was a crack marksman. The previous weekend he had scored 99 out of 100 with a bolt-action .308 Winchester. “People shoot at whatever they see come hunting season. One time I’m sitting here and this down-stater enters the tavern, telling everyone about the spike-horn deer he killed. None of us had ever heard about this species of deer and asked to see his kill. It was a billy goat.”

“That’s nothing. Them folks will shoot anything that moves.” A scrawny UPS driver diverted his attention from the NFL replays. People up here like talking about hunting season. “My uncle’s game warden down in Duchess County. One time he stops a truck on Route 44 and asks the driver what he has on the roof. The driver tells him a spotted deer. It was a St. Bernhard.”

“I lost a cow to a hunter three years ago.” A lady mournfully remembered with a Bud in her hand. “She was a good milker.”

“I’ve never hunted in my life.” My father was vehemently anti-gun, so the majority of my experience with weapons came from shooting with my Dutch uncle Howie Hermann at the 20th Street Shooting Range in Manhattan. Every Monday night we would meet at the 2nd Avenue Deli and then drive over to shoot pistols; Lugers, Colts, S&W ad infinitum. Howie was sweet as pie, but he liked his guns.

“Nothing wrong with not hunting," another drinker commented from the end of the bar. His voice betrayed his real feeling on the subject. Guns were sacred this far north of New York City.

“I know that.” My youth had been spent in Maine. Deer and bear had been strapped to cars during hunting season. Blood dripping over the windows was a badge of manhood in the North. “I never really wanted to kill anything, but I’m not saying it’s not a good thing as long as it’s for eating.”

“Deer meat’s good.” Belvin had a side of deer in his freezer. “Bear not so good.”

“If you get them in the fall, you can grill them up as steaks.” A bearded beer-drinker added from his stool. Everyone here knew everyone. “But they cook up dry real quick.”

“But if you undercook it, you get trichinellosis.” I was the outsider, but was familiar with this problem thanks to reading about the disastrous Franklin polar expedition. The crew ate bear and died of trichinellosis.

“That’s deadly, ain’t it?” The beer-drinker was scratching his head, as if his fingers might jog lose the brain cells holding that information.

“Same as if you ate uncooked pig.” Belvin was a subsistence farmer. He could eat everything on his land, excepting the tree bark and his wife knew how to make teas from them. “You get nausea, heartburn, dyspepsia, and diarrhea. That’s why the Jews and Muslims don’t eat pork.”

“I’m not so sure that’s the reason. I have a lot of Jewish friends who are bacon Jews. They love pork. I think the real reason that their religions prohibit pork is that it tastes so good.” At least to my palate. “I was in Sumatra once. A big island in Indonesia. Full of Muslims. Anyway I go up to the highlands and the people are Christians. Everyone of them. They even sing Christian prayer songs like BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON. We were out in the forests and I asked them as we were cooking wild pig, why they didn’t become Muslims like everyone else. The elder explained that they loved the taste of pork too much to give it up for any god.”

“Not much tastes better than bacon.” The UPS driver smacked his lips.

“What about apple pie?” The woman eyed the dessert tray by the kitchen window. The food at the tavern was home-made.

“Apple pie is pretty damn good, but it ain’t meat.” The bearded farmer’s statement was rewarded with nodding heads.

“The pig that night on Sumatra was good. The hill people ate everything, but the oink. Afterwards the headman asked, “You know why we like pig so much?” I shook my head and he answered by saying, “Because it tastes like man.”

“Cannibals.” Belvin’s hand reached for a gun at his waist, but te .357 was in the truck.

“Supposedly not anymore, but I didn’t like the way they were looking at me. Sort of like a fat person after eating a salad.”

“What you do?” The UPS driver was on the edge of his seat.

“I thanked them for the dinner and headed home. I thought they were going to bushwhack me on the trail. I locked the door of the hotel and left the next day. Believe I was happy to be back with the Muslims, although they were a little grim about my beer-drinking, but I’ve never heard of any Muslim cannibals.”

“Me neither.” The bartender put a shot of whiskey in front of me.

“What’s that for?”

“You won the biggest bullshit story of the night award.” Belvin scanned the rest of the clientele. They were locals. “No one here can come up with better.”

“But it wasn’t bullshit.” My bone marrow trembled with the remembrance of the ex-cannibals’ faces.

“You should make it a double.” The UPS driver had returned his gaze to the Jets’ highlights. “He even believes his own bullshit.”

“Here’s to bullshit.” I drained the shot and ordered a round for the bar. It wasn’t painful. Buds in the Green Acres are only $2.50 and that’s everyone’s favorite beer. Mine was Labatt’s Blue. It cost $3. Belvin drove me home before midnight. We had long tomorrows ahead of us. He left me off at the end of my friend’s drive.

“That was sure some good story.” Belvin was smiling with the belief that I was the best bullshitter he had heard in some time.

“Thanks.” Sometimes it’s best not to disappoint the masses. I waved goodnight and Belvin disappeared over the crest of the hill. In the light of the moon my sweatshirt glowed orange. I made it home without a single shot coming in my direction.

Next month would be another story.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Walk In The Douglas Forest

Douglas, Alaska lies across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau underneath Mt. Douglas.

Originally a staging ground of the Auke and Taru people for battles against rival tribes, the Treadwell and Douglas townships served the miners of the Juneau gold fields. The population grew to 1722 at the turn of the 20th Century.

An explosion ripped through the mines in 1910. The Serbians and Greeks left Douglas to serve in WWI.

A fire destroyed the town in 1937.

The population dropped to 522.

Bears ruled the trails.

They ruled them now, but I wanted to hike the Treadwell Trail.

On my day off I walked to Douglas on a drizzly day.

Hippies had repopulated the town in the 1970s.

One man pointed out the trailhead.

I thanked him and entered the forest.

Ranger Nomi had warned that hiking solo was dangerous.

"There are bears everywhere. Make noise. They are shy. Never run. They are fast as hell."

Ranger Nomi knew his business.

As well as bears know theirs.

This was their land.

The trail followed the old Treadwell Trench.

Between 1881 and 1922, over 3 million troy ounces of gold were extracted from the glory hole.

$3 billion in today's dollars.

The trench had been cut with crude shovels, picks, and and hard labor.

In its heyday hundreds of men tramped up and down the slope. Today I was alone.

Human population - 1

I had no idea how many bears.

A small stream ran next to the trail.

Like a bear I shat in the trees.

When in the woods, do as the bear do.

I washed my hands in the clear cold water.

And continued up the mountain.

Once out of the forest I tramped along a path constructed of long planks.

The trail crossed a sunken forest.

I still had cell service.

I called no one.

I was thousands of miles away from New England.

Only a mile away from the nearest road.

The wilderness.

The rain fell from low clouds.

I had a raincoat.

I was almost dry.

Not every creature needed such protection.

Bears.

Big feet.

Dance party bears.

I surveyed the surroundings.

I sang a song.

GLORIA.

Bears don't like The Them.

I remained alone.

As a chronically suicidal person I have occasionally planned to end it all by shooting heroin in the forest, ODing, and leaving my body to the elements.

But not today.

The trail was steep.

The ground was wet.

My feet slipped every few steps.

Bears woke in the spring to claw dead trees.

A long glade huddled in silence.

Bears liked the thick undergrowth.

I heard a noise.

Something bigger than me.

This was as far as I was going.

Bears also shit in the woods.

I hurried through the wilderness.

I sang LOUIE LOUIE.

I followed the trench. One human

Nature.

I had joked with Ranger Nomi about starting a bear-mauling tour for fans of Leonardo DeCapria's REVENANT movie.

I had no interest in getting mauled myself.

Bears were fast.

Not that you have to outrun them.All you have to do is coinvince them that you're friend tastes better.

Back at the falls I felt safe, but kept on walking.

Ten minutes later I was safe in Douglas.

Population - 1345.

And I was one of them.

Not in a graveyard.

I ordered an Olympia Beer at the Douglas Inn.

The clientele was grumpy, but who wouldn't be with bears in the woods.