I was feeling tired and on the verge of getting a cold the day we set out for Santa Barbara. I ended up lying in my bed napping wile Mr. Carolina drove the van. I thought the kids had a plan, an idea of where we could park so they could sleep outside. I was willing to let them handle the logistics.
I awoke to bickering, and it wasn’t just the Fighting Couple (FC) arguing. Mr. FC thought he knew where we should park. Sweet L and Mr. Carolina and Robbie didn’t like Mr. FC’s idea, but they didn’t have anything better to suggest. We could see the beach right over there, but all the street signs prohibited us from parking nearby.
Mr. Carolina got mad and said he wasn’t driving anymore. Robbie said he’d drive, but he was really bad at it, and we were soon telling him to pull over and let someone else take the wheel. Mr. FC got in the driver’s seat and headed out of town. There was more yelling, and Mr. FC relinquished the driver’s seat. Then Mr. Carolina was back at the wheel, and we were circling through the city again.
I asked about the plan, and it turned out the plan ended at get to Santa Barbara. No one had any idea of what we would do when we arrived.
Somehow, Mr. Carolina found us the perfect spot. We were on a residential street, although the residences to our left looked like mansions to me. To our right was a park. Bellow the park was a beach and the ocean. We could hear waves crashing below. Best of all, there was no sign regulating parking.
I climbed back into my bed while everyone else tumbled out of the van with their packs to sleep on the beach. Although in the light of day we saw signs declaring the illegality of beach sleeping, no on challenged the beach sleeping during the days we were there.
The next night Furthur played at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Furthur was the whole reason we were there. We didn’t have tickets, but we thought we’d just hang out in the lot. I planned to sell hemp jewelry, but that plan didn’t work out.
The official parking lot was small and the charge was $10, a ridiculously large price for a bunch of kids traveling with empty pockets. Like most of the folks arriving for the show, we found a free place to park on a nearby side street. It turned out to be a good thing we hadn’t scrounged up money for parking because the people in charge of the lot were not allowing vending.
We ended up walking back and forth on the streets between where we’d parked and the entrance to the venue. There were Deadheads everywhere, so there was something of a lot scene, but more dispersed. The Fighting Couple was hawking their hemp creations (necklaces with pouches for stones fashioned in such a way that the stone was removable and replaceable), hustling pretty hard to get money. Me? I just didn’t care much about selling hemp jewelry and quickly gave up.
As we walked through the clusters of Deadheads, Sweet L and Mr. Carolina repeatedly met people they knew, including three guys they’d lived with or near during some portion of the summer. Mr. Carolina had told me stories of these boys, called them his brothers, and that was good enough for me. Anyone Mr. Carolina trusted, I trusted too.
Mick, the eldest of the group, with dark hair and brooding dark eyes, was obviously the leader. When he spoke, everybody listened. The Viking, a young blond man with rocks wrapped in his hair and a reddish beard, was Mick’s right hand man. Karl was the quiet one, and even his birth-control glasses didn’t hide his pretty boy looks.
Some time during that afternoon I sat on the sidewalk of a side street away from the crowds and looked at shiny rocks with Sweet L and Karl and the Viking. Karl made pendants from shiny rocks and wire, and I gave him a piece of rainbow obsidian that had broken when the wind blew it off my vending table. I thought maybe he could wrap the stone in some way to hide the broken part. He was grateful for it and gave me a couple of cool shiny rocks in return.
As we sat there, I told them about my snowflake obsidian experience, and they they thanked me for sharing my story with them. I feared most people would think me a little too woo-woo if they heard that story, so I was glad the boys actually appreciated it.
Day turned to night and none of us had tickets or money to buy them. Maybe the Fighting Couple made money and bought tickets. I don’t remember. By this point in our journey, none of the rest of us wanted anything to do with them. In fact, with Sweet L’s and Mr. Carolina’s backing, I’d told them they’d have to get another ride out of Santa Barbara. In any case, the Fighting Couple (thankfully) wasn’t hanging out with me and the boys.
Mick did, however, have psychedelics, but when he shared them, none were offered to me. I thought that was a little unfriendly, but I figured since he really didn’t know me, he probably wasn’t obligated to make sure I got any.
Later, as Sweet L and I visited with other folks who weren’t going into the show, a friend of his offered us a bump of molly. I took my bit and felt exactly nothing. Later someone gave me what was supposed to be psychedelics. I imbibed that too, and over the course of the night realized it had no effect on me. Weird. I can accept that I ended up with a bunk hit, but having two different drugs from two different people in one night fail to work? No such thing had ever happened to me before.
As Sweet L and I walked through the neighborhood away from the crowds, we came across Mr. Carolina, the Viking, Karl, Robbie, and Mick standing on the sidewalk in front of one of the area’s nice houses. Mick was not having a good time.
The people the nice house belonged to joined us on the sidewalk. They were worried about Mick. They wondered if he were ok. They wondered if he needed medical attention. The wondered if he were having a bad trip. We relaxed when we realized these people knew the lingo, when we realized these people were cool. One of the boys allowed that yes, Mick seemed to be having a bad trip.
The strangers went into caretaker mode. They got cushions from their lawn furniture and placed them on the concrete in front of the house so Mick could have a comfy place to rest. Once we got Mick relaxing on the cushions, the homeowners brought us blankets. The woman brought out a jug of water and toasted English muffins smeared with peanut butter and jam. When the homeowners were ready to go to bed, they told us we could stay in their front yard as long as we wanted and even gave us a permission letter to show to any police officer who questioned us. The kindness of strangers indeed!
(Later in the night, a police cruiser did stop in front of the house. A cop got out of the car and began questioning us. Whoever was holding the permission letter showed it to him. The cop immediately backed off and drove away!)
I spent most of the night next to Mick, trying to offer him comfort. He was tired of this life, he said. He didn’t want to be here anymore. He wanted to float away and leave his body behind. I tried to keep him talking, keep him breathing, keep him with us. I was wearing a bracelet of rose quartz (the stone of unconditional love and infinite peace) on a stretchy cord. I slipped it off my wrist and onto his.
All the time, we could hear Furthur playing in the Bowl. The music was distant and a little distorted, but we could hear it, and it was ours.
We sat in front of that house for hours. I don’t know what the others were talking about while I tried to convince Mick to stay, but they were always nearby. Sometimes they’d come over and talk to Mick and me, but mostly they were doing their own thing.
At some point, Mick was mostly back to himself, and Mr. Carolina, Robbie, Sweet L and I went one way, and the other boys went another. I drove the van back to the spot we’d found the night before and settled in. We stayed there the next day and one more night before Mr. Carolina, Sweet L, Robbie, and I headed to Los Angeles.