Flower Child

by Allan Wasserman

Elaine Connelly's forest green Volkswagen bug with the sunroof and peace signs made some funny noises when it passed through beautiful downtown Bethel, New York.   The town was hopping with the hordes of the children of the Age of Aquarius as Gracie, the name she gave her bug, sputtered its last breath in a fading death rattle.  

            Unable to control her grief, Elaine bowed her head like she was back in parochial school, and began wailing and keening like her grandma from County Cork.   Her crying startled Ian Greengrass, who was enjoying a Red Lebanese hashish-induced nod in the front passenger seat.  

            "What's the matter?" he inquired gently as he wiped his eyes, trying to bring himself back to the land of the living.   Ian's long hair and beard made him look like a cross between Jerry Garcia and the Cowardly Lion.  

            "Gracie's dead," Elaine moaned.  

            "Maybe Buck can revive her," Ian stated hopefully.  

            Ian turned to the backseat and began shaking his old friend Mike Buchner.   "Yo, Buck, wake the fuck up."   He shook the snoring six foot-two former high school basketball player hard, causing Buck to snort out of a snore to a state of semi-consciousness.  

            "Five more minutes, Ma," Buck mumbled, then choked on his own secretions, causing him to sneeze and emit a thunderous fart simultaneously.  

            "Oh God ... oh my God," Ian exploded in hysterical laughter, which was contagious to Buck, and they both rolled out of the VW hippie-mobile onto the road, clutching themselves in racks of painful, hiccuping hyena howling.

            Elaine was not amused.  

            Noticing Elaine's pinched schoolmarm expression, the two goofballs let their laughing subside as they got up from the road, brushing themselves off.

            Buck looked around and witnessed the line of hippies abandoning broken-down vehicles and heading towards the north end of town.

            Buck turned to Ian and called him by his nickname.   "Bear, I'm guessing the festival is that way."   Buck nodded to the merging troops of backpacking freaks heading out of town.  

            "Buck," you're a regular Magellan," Ian responded with a twinkle in his eyes.   Elaine loved that twinkle.   She always told Ian when he smiled he had kitten eyes.  

            "Thank you, lover.   Let's catch a buzz," Ian suggested.  

            "Not right here," Elaine scolded.

            Buck rolled his eyes.

            "Let's get up the road Buck.   Why offend the bumpkins or the local constabulary?"  

            "Bro, I must get higher than I am ... and soon."

            "Babe," Ian turned to Elaine.   "I think Gracie is gonna go schluffy now,"   Ian informed his girlfriend with a tad of Yiddish.  

            "What's that?" Elaine asked fearfully.

            "We gotta leave Gracie-girl here.   Let her nap.   We'll come back for her after the festival."

            "But you said that Michael could maybe, like, fix her." Elaine's eyes welled up with tears.

            "I will, Laynie ...   after the concert," Buck lied.

            Ian gently took Elaine's hand and said, "Don't worry. Connelly.   We'll come back for your girl."

            "Promise?" Elaine pleaded.  

            "On Buck's life," Ian answered, with a small grin.  

            "Bear, you are so heavy," Buck smirked.  

            "Let's grab the gear and get to paradise," Ian declared, exciting his partners.

The trio grabbed sleeping bags and backpacks from the front trunk.   Ian found a crayon and a paper bag and wrote a large "Went to Get Gas" sign on the windshield.

Backpacks strapped on, canteens on their belts, Ian turned to kiss Gracie on her headlights, making Elaine smile and salute like a top sergeant.   "Let's roll."

            As the sun disappeared behind a grove of birch trees, they fell in step with the crowd and headed toward the music and lights in the nearby hills.   The sky darkened slowly and stars began appearing.   The road was muddy from yesterday's downpour as they trudged on.  

            When Elaine was out of earshot, Buck leaned down to Ian and whispered, "Bear I hope you are shtupping this shiksah, 'cause she's a real pain in the ass."

            "Buck, your breath is singing my ponytail.   Give a brother some space."

            Buck laughed and then with a very lisping high-pitched voice, whispered, "Now where did I put the Ipana?"

            Ian smiled and answered, "Check your purse, Martha."

            "Seriously, Bear, I need more Hashimoto.   Let's do a bowl," Buck whined.  

            Ian reached into the front chest pocket of his overalls and handed Buck the one-hit hash pipe he had shoplifted in a head shop in Monticello.

            "Locked and loaded?" Buck inquired.

            "Like a shotgun," Ian responded.

Buck lit the pipe with a Bic as they walked and took a long hissing toke, then turned the bowl to his mouth, blowing a thin stream of gray hash smoke back out through the tube.  

            "Shoot 'em all and run now," Ian quoted the Motown song and took a hit.

            The hum of the distant crowd and guitar twangs drew them up the road like moths to a streetlight.  

            Hippie vehicles of every make, model and state lined the muddy trail on both sides.   The roar of the "half a million strong" filled the night air.   The trio of Bronx-breed hippies reached the crest of a hill and their eyes grew wide with the sight of the stage, sound towers and pulsing human audience that seemed to breathe like a giant organism.  

            The seekers of three days of love and music were swaying and dancing to Johnny Winters' guitar solos and his howling, raspy version of "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl."

            Elaine noticed a section of a soda truck stuck in the mud and some freaks leaving the cab with their packs.  

            She was a natural at scoping better seating at concerts, ballgames, and movies.   She motioned to Ian and Buck, who were familiar with her expertise, and in moments, they inhabited the front of the out-of-commission Coca-Cola truck.

            The view from the truck was incredible   "Box seats," Ian blurted happily, and he and Buck planted kisses on Elaine's round schoolgirl face and made her blush.  

The one-hit hash pipe was soon blazing, and even Elaine did something new and different.   She took a toke.  

Cheshire cat grins and oriental eyes emerged across the faces of the three Bronxites as Buck blurted an imitation in the dialect of his former full-court schoolyard basketball brothers from the Bronx River Projects, "I be high as a muthafuckah."

Ian and Elaine giggled their stoned giggles and Elaine declared aloud, "I like hashish," making all three of them laugh long and hard.

            Elaine felt good.   Good evolved into great.   Great became magnificent.   She put her arms around Ian and planted a big kiss on his lips, which was extremely delicious for them both.   They were make-out high school buddies and both still virgins.

            "Get a room," Buck teased and they ceased slurping each other and watched in awe as Johnny Winters' long white fingers flew up and down the strings and frets of his electrified screaming guitar.  

Crosby, Still and Nash, a new group, was on next, and half a million minds were blown by their lyrics and melodious harmonies.

            "Heaven," Ian declared to Elaine's ear-to-ear grin.  

Buck responded solemnly with a "Right on, Bear."

            The Red Lebanese was making Ian and Elaine tired.   But the performers delivered second winds to the crowd.   Buck popped the cap of the tube of his backpack frame and pulled out a long plastic bag with small, round orange pills.

            "What is it?" Elaine inquired in her little-girl voice, making Ian and Buck grin.

            "Candy," Buck responded.   "From Doctor Owsley's laboratory."

            "Sunshine?" Ian asked.

            "Came softly through my window today," Buck quoted Donovan.

            "Is it?"   Ian asked a bit nervously, being a neophyte in the world of hallucinogens.  

            "O.B.S., Bro, orange barrel sunshine.   Fifteen hours of tripping the light fantastic in one little barrel," Buck announced like a carnival huckster.

            Ian and Elaine had never taken anything in a pill.   Elaine drank a beer with her Dad on New Year's Eve and Ian still gagged on aspirin.

Buck held the little pill between his thumbs and forefingers and like a Bronx River frog attacking a fly, his tongue darted to the orange target.   In one motion, the little orange barrel disappeared like magic into Buck's wide mouth.

            Elaine felt scared for Buck.   She never liked what she heard about acid, especially Art Linkletter's daughter jumping out a window, thinking she could fly.

            Ian was nervous for Buck, but also intrigued.

            Within fifteen minutes, Buck started complaining about spiders, which neither Ian nor Elaine could see.   Buck climbed out the cab of the Coke truck onto the roof and sat down in the lotus position facing the stage.   The crowd shimmered and glowed like translucent silly fish.   The lights from the stage connected the planets above.   Patterns and trails filled Buck's vision in every direction.   Buck was an experienced tripster at the ripe old age of nineteen, so there was no freaking out on his part.

            Buck centered himself with a calm and inner focus.   The same concentration Buck used to sink thirty-foot jump shots with two guards on him in all-city intramurals.   He breathed deep and relaxed, and knew he would be in charge of the drug, just like he ruled on gym floors and cement schoolyard b-ball courts.   His breathing and pulse slowed down like a yogi, and he became one with the festival.

            Ian spotted an orange barrel, an accidental escapee, sitting on the dashboard of the truck and slyly palmed it like a magician as Elaine was mesmerized by Steven Stills and company.   He had a razor for cutting hash in his overall chest pocket.   He quietly took it out and dexterously cut the barrel in half.   He kept one in his hand and put the other in his stash pocket with the razor, pipe and Bic.

            As Crosby took a vocal solo, Ian's heart pounded and his mouth got dry as he wrestled with the decision of whether to venture forth into the world of Leary, Richard Alpert, The Grateful Dead and leagues of long-haired travelers from all around a rapidly-changing nation.

            Older guys from his neighborhood who were lucky enough to return home from Vietnam ate this acid like candy.   They had left gung ho conservatives and come back acid droppers, pot heads, and heroin addicts.

            When Ian could resist temptation no longer, he popped the half barrel like a mint in his mouth and swallowed.

            The lights, the music, even the hashish buzz that kept Elaine between shit-faced and buoyant didn't dull her senses or the ever-alert quality that was her natural spirit.   Elaine knew something had changed with her kitten-eyed hippie hoodsie, and she was concerned.

            Ian's eyes were glassy as the patterns started filling his outer landscape.   Geometric swirls, trails, pulses, veins of traveling light through solid matter that shimmered and quivered like junior high Jell-O.   Ian's forehead was moist, and his breathing was filled with a smattering of panic.  

            Elaine kept her head, leaned out of the truck and in her sweetest voice calmly called Michael's name.  

            After a few seconds, a low rumbling response vibrated from the top of the truck cab.  

            "Yo," Buck answered like a true Bronxite.

            "Michael, please come down here ... please?"

            Buck slowly arose and did a salute-to-the-sun stretch and climbed down to the passenger side of the cab.  

            Buck looked at his compadre and slowly broke into a wide, knowing grin.

            "Bear, you didn't?" Buck inquired.  

            Ian managed to nod a yes.

            "How much?" Buck asked.  

            Ian tapped his arm in the middle like a charades player.

            "Half?" Buck asked again.

            Ian nodded.

            "Cool, Baby Boy.   No fears.   Uncle Buck will be your guide to the other side."

            Ian managed a small nod.

              "Elaine, you?"

            "No, Michael," Elaine answered calmly.

            "Cool.   Laynie, let's walk this boy around the Woodstock nation a little.   Let's go mix with the vox populi ."

            "What about our stuff?"

            Buck turned to two freaks sitting on a tarp and walked over to them.

            Buck returned with a boy and a girl and introduced them.

            "This is Mingo and Noreen.   They're from Duluth ... wherever the fuck that is," Buck laughed.

            "They're gonna watch our shit.   They're cool."

            "Righteous," Mingo chimed.

            Elaine made sure she had her money stash in her overall pocket.

            The three lit-up Bronxites thanked the duo from Duluth, told them they'd return soon and, like Dorothy from Oz, Elaine grabbed both boys by the arm and they set off into an ocean of longhaired dancing and vibrating tribespeople.

            The muddy hills of Max Yasgur's dairy farm were covered with five hundred thousand seekers of truth and peace.   The majority of the seekers were higher than Georgia pine.,   Clouds of marijuana smoke and incense filled the night air.   Boys with every length of hair and beard, girls in peasant blouses, overalls, skirts that hung to their ankles, and wafted from the aroma of patchouli oil.   The tie-dyed shirts, beads, sandals, hiking books--every garment was mud-splattered from the rain earlier in the day.

            The audience danced, swayed, howled, hooped, smoke, drank and fucked.   The army of peace was in tents, in sleeping bags, standing, hanging from sound and light towers and some walked around as naked as the day they were born.

            The Bronx trio walked together through the masses, where they received invites to toke up, hang out, drink some Boone's Farm apple wine, eat peyote, dance or just hang.   They met hippies from Ohio, Idaho, Canada, France, India and Bensonhurst.  

            This was the family get-together of all time.   Last month, Armstrong landed on the moon. This month, the children of the Aquarian Age landed on the farm, and the whole world knew it.

            If that wasn't amazing enough, there were few casualties.   The Baby Boomers stood in front of the universe and demonstrated peaceful co-existence.

            As the planets spun and revolved, Ian Greengrass began to enjoy LSD.   His body vibrated and his best friend and girlfriend watching over him calmed him and allowed him to feel connected to the visual carnival of reality and drugs.

            As the third night's performances drew to a close, Ian and his handlers drifted from party to party.   Ian caught his reflection in a puddle and became mesmerized as he observed his transformation from twentieth century man to Cro-Magnon.   He should have been terrified, but he was fascinated, and sensing Elaine and Buck near him, he felt safe.

            Ian could barely utter a word as his pals ushered him gently across the terrain of mud into the woods to join another happening.

            They approached a pond where several hippies passed a bong as they squatted along the water's edge.   Ian leaned down and stuck one finger in the water and saw his simian image grin up at him.   A mischievous smile appeared across his trippy mug.   Within seconds, as Elaine and Buck's heads were turned imbibing the passing of the bong, Ian stripped naked and headed into the water, like an ancient amphibian returning to its place of birth.  

            Before Elaine could grab Ian like a fleeing infant, he was doing the Australian crawl full speed across the pond.   Buck howled and hooted, cheering Ian on.  

            Elaine pleaded with Ian to come back, and the panic in her voice caused Ian to reverse direction and head back towards his girlfriend.   Ian felt ecstatic, like a sea serpent wriggling through the pod. He came back to the group, and a small crowd had gathered to watch him emerge like the Creature form the Black Lagoon.

            Buck was doubled over laughing, which made Ian grin wide and the crowd of hippies laughed and applauded.

            Elaine grabbed Ian's sweatshirt and draped it around his nakedness, trying to dry him and get him warm.   She dressed him like an infant.   Ian smiled and smiled like an escaped mental patient.

            Buck threw a bear hug around Ian, and Ian began to cry.   He cried, but he was not sad or upset.   Ian Greengrass cried tears of joy.   The sheer pleasure of life with loving people around him opened his heart.  

            Buck and Elaine and Ian all huddled up in a family hug and the world seemed to stop.   They held each other tight as a shooting star crossed the sky, and all they heard was their heartbeats.

            After a long, luxurious hug-fest, the Bronx troika began their trek back towards the Coca-Cola truck.   They stopped at a few gatherings along the route to catch a swig of Boone's Farm apple wine and the occasional offered toke.

            The patterns from the dose still were part of Ian's world, but he accepted the hallucinations, and they pleased him like a visit to the Museum of Modern Art.   In his case, the exhibit moved with him.

            As they approached the Coke truck, the windows were visibly fogged up.   Elaine innocently wiped the driver's side window.   Her eyes bugged as she discovered Mingo and Noreen sixty-nining across the seats.   Buck's head reared back in a hearty pirate laugh.   Ian's head turned quizzically to the side as he stared like a curious dog.   The hallucinations, their sweaty, writhing bodies, and the candle burning on the dashboard was quite a sensual delight for Ian to behold.

            Elaine blushed in the moonlight and backed up a few steps.  

            Mingo and Noreen moaned in unison as they reached orgasm.   Noreen saw Ian's goofy staring face and broke up laughing.  

Mingo grinned at Ian and said, "Yo, take a picture. It lasts longer!"

            Buck laughed at the one-liner and said, "Hey Duluth, my family needs our spot back."

            Noreen began to get dressed with her muttering Mingo and in a few, they headed back to their tarp.   They left their candle burning in the truck.

Buck climbed back up to his vantagepoint on the top of the truck cab like a faithful sentinel, and Ian and Elaine got into the seats with their sleeping bags.

            The hills of Yasgur looked like a Roman army encampment, with fires and huddled bodies covering every square inch.

            Elaine and Ian were wide awake, despite the hours of partying and imbibing hash, wine and pharmaceuticals.   Elaine felt stimulated, curious about their Minnesota friends and their sex that had happened right where they sat.   She couldn't find the words inside, but her senses were prickly and alive.   The excursion into the free world was intoxicating, and she was beginning to relish the unpredictable flow of events.   Home, family and parochial school felt far away.

            She reached out and began to rub Ian's neck and shoulders. Usually, Ian was the initiator of their make-out sessions, but tonight, Elaine felt courageous and powerful.   She felt like a woman, a grown-up woman who was ready to shed her schoolgirl persona.

            Ian drew back a little, but a shy smile flickered across his face.   Elaine draped her arm around Ian's neck, making sure he could feel her breast against his arm.    She tingled under her peasant blouse as she nibbled Ian's neck.   Soon, the two young hippies were entwined, grinding and soul-kissing.   

Ian toyed with Elaine's inner thighs, raking his fingertips up and down.   He'd seen this in dirty magazines and imagined it countless times, but he couldn't believe it was finally happening to him.   He let one hand go to the seat of Elaine's carpenter jeans.

Elaine bit Ian's shoulder as he planted a kiss on the nape of her neck.   She looked at him, her big brown eyes so familiar, and seemed like she was going to say something.   But then she reached down and touched him through his jeans.   Ian gasped with surprise and pleasure.

"Laynie ... that's so beautiful."

Elaine's face was flushed as she undid Ian's belt buckle and lowered his jeans. She stared at what sprang out of Ian's pants.   How unlike the school diagrams and plastic models they'd been shown.   How vibrant and real, right here with her.   She bent down to inspect it more closely.

A grunt escaped Ian's mouth as Elaine explored him.   Then she stopped and kicked her way out of her jeans.   Ian helped her, yanking her underwear down to her ankles.  

Her dark red hair flowed across her shoulders, and Ian's face, as she straddled his hips.    She pushed herself downward and Ian's mind, already broken open, melted.   Her beauty was everywhere, the peasant top hanging open over one moonlit shoulder, her soft eyes focused in concentration.

Ian's eyes went glassy and, for a moment, he thought he would cry again.   But as Elaine moved with greater intensity, he moved with her, until they were nowhere and everywhere all at once.

He forgot that half a million kids were dancing and making love outside.   All he knew is that there would be a release, and that he would be there fast enough.  

Elaine's head went back as they rode together, and then she sucked her breath in violently, until he thought she might faint.   But then it took him, and the moans escaping them brought applause, hooting and "right ons" from the surrounding encampment.  

Buck sat on top of the truck with a stoned-out, shit-eating grin.

Ian and Elaine were soaked with their own perspiration as they held each other tight, listening to their heartbeats and the sounds of the Woodstock night.

The candle flickered out as they toweled each other off with some water from their canteens and a drop of castille soap, courtesy of Dr. Bronner.

Ian took a clean sweatshirt from his pack and dried Elaine and then himself.

They both got into one sleeping bag and stared up at the heavens

After the sun rose over the grassy hills of Yasgur's Farm, all the morning maniac music came to an end.  

The Bronx trio was an antsy bunch and chose to head over to New Paltz to hook up with hoodsies that worked at P&G's Bar.   There would be post-Woodstock parties there that lasted until the end of August.   Summer was almost over and they wanted as much of it as they could get.

Ian and Elaine felt a little funny after their romp in the cab of the Coke truck.   They were all still wasted as they trudged the road back to Bethel.

They found Gracie with two freaks snoring away inside the front and back seats.   After Buck escorted them Bronx-style out of Grace's interior, he lifted the rear hood and peered at the engine long and hard, with an almost Zen-like concentration.

Buck tinkered here and there, then zoned in around a loose valve.   He looked up at Elaine and quietly uttered, "Hit it."

Elaine turned the key, pumped her foot, and Gracie's innards hummed with new life.   Ian slapped five with Buck.   They quickly got in.   Gracie puttered her way out of Bethel.

As they approached the entrance to the old 87 Thruway, heading towards the Shawangunk Mountains, Ian wondered if Elaine was now officially his girlfriend.