Approaching Terminal Velocity

Pochteca - Nahuatl word referring to a mysterious band of pilgrims who wandered the Mexican Empire in search for the land of the sun.

Travel was so necessary to unify and support far-flung communities, that the idea of a Caravan evolved among us organically out of our normal life. We were about to be evicted from Olema by new lessees, so for our group preparations for a family trip seemed timely. The initial plan was to celebrate the Summer Solstice in Colorado at the Libré commune. I don't remember who conceived that, but due to the panicked responses to queries we received from Libré, I am quite certain that it was not them.

Prior to our estimated date of departure, I took a road trip North to Black Bear as a shake-down cruise for my truck. Re-reading a journal sharpens my memories of how serendipitous, comical, and turbulent life on the road could be, and after so many years when I thought it had been lost, its discovery is like opening a sealed time capsule. I'll share some extended quotes. Contemporary edits are in brackets.

Coyote's Journal

Sun in Gemini - 1971

After months of labor Dr. Knucklefunky is reincarnated as The Meat and Bone Wagon - 49 Chevy one-ton, new brakes, rebuilt steering, suspension, engine, wiring. Everything touched, looked at rebuilt or replaced. Wooden sides added to the bed, metal strapping made into bows supporting a canvas cover; welding tanks chained to the running board. Phyllis, Natural Suzanne and her twins, Taj and Mahal, head out with Josephine and I on Saturday, 22nd May to Lost River, Salmon Creek, Trinidad and Black Bear to gather wild herbs and medicines to carry to Colorado for Summer Solstice celebration at Libré. Truck loaded with bulk honey, raisins, milk, flour, cheese for the family at Trinidad.

At Little Robert's, we see maps of the Siskyou lumber cuts threatening Black Bear and learn what the Indians are planning to do about it. Stopped at Forest Knolls [The Red House] and worked on the exhaust, re-routing it to save the lives of Suzanne and the children riding in back.

North of Ukiah, on 101 run into JP, Bergs [Peter Berg, Judy Goldhaft], Albion and Chris convoying South from Black Bear. JP [Pickens] has a new 1948 Chevy 2 1/2 ton we nickname The Circus Wagon. Stop and picnic. Pull out and repair JP's gas tank. Berg planning to winter in the East. Reach Lost River around midnight, miss the turn to David and Jane's,[Simpson and Lapiner -ex Mime Troupers] camp in a meadow.


David has finished a new wing on his house, all reclaimed wood. Goats, chickens, horses, machinery, new corral. We walk through the mutilated forest: crushed trunks, trees lying around like discarded condoms. A chain saw buzzes up the hill somewhere. The reason freaks are allowed to live on this land is precisely because it has been ruined. We are the second crop.

...David shows me his plans for a shower/sauna bath- truck. It's amazing. Hot water heaters mounted over a fireplace of old tire rims. Laugh at the notion of the huge thing lumbering through strange towns, filled with naked people. What a brilliant idea: to appear at backwoods homes with hot showers.


...Pick sacks of Chamomile and Lemon Balm, leave for Salmon Creek. Stop at Forest of Arden and pick wondrous Mint. At Salmon Creek, Gristle and Carol [Gypsy Truckers] are there. Gristle still looking like Crazed Dr. Sylvana from the Captain Marvel Comics, kinky hair, wild eyes. He's torched the roof off his 49 Ford School bus and wedged a Chevy V-8 into the engine compartment. It barks like a wolf when it starts. I weld some linkage for him and cut some needed access holes with my torches.

Natural Suzanne is down in the dumps, self conscious about being dependent because of her twins. Her body is probably complaining from all the work, and perhaps my sense of urgency is pressing her.

Drive on to Trinidad house, modern tract home in the middle of a subdivision. You can tell which place is ours from a mile away, looks like a red ant heap.[1] The Free fishing boat is finally in the water.


Up at 5 am to fish, me, Owl [Pickens], and Freeman. Take a rotten aluminum dory out to the 13 foot wood skiff, which looks lovely, restored and repainted. Few fumbling minutes attaching the umbilical cord from the engine into the fuel tank and we're off, to sea in a row boat! We pass the Head, into open water. Gray sky. A dolphin, the curve of his back like a fall of hair. Birds appear out of the swell and thrum like sine waves across the mind of the sky. High and holy out there. Seals look us over. Out by Flat Iron rock, I hook something heavy that runs all my line out, and then rips the hook loose. Rebait and hook something even heavier that snaps 60 pound test line like a strand of spit. We all look at each other. Good God, it's the OCEAN! There are things down there bigger than men!

Capn' Freeman notices that the fog has come in. Hard not to notice because we can't see beyond the prow of the boat. He starts the motor and we improvise a direction home arguing among ourselves about exactly where the edge of the continent is. We pass a rock almost obscured by Sea- lions and their harem. They trumpet at us, and I trumpet back exuberantly. The rock appears to explode, as the sea- lions scream and throw themselves and their ladies off the rocks. We grip the gunwales of the boat, terrified that they are intending to capsize us.

The fog lifts a moment and reveals that we are dead on course for China. Owl, prudent 11 year old, fastens a life preserver...

...The kids make dinner while the adults rap about problems. Everyone wants to fish, no one wants to tend to the house. Freeman admits that the boat brings in no money or food yet, so it is "fun" and everyone wants a share of that, regardless of the fact that some people are seriously studying fishing. He reminds everyone of the necessity of good-gathering as a focus. Plans are made to gather Mussels tomorrow and fix a dome for the children [to sleep and play in] to relieve the strain on the house.

Quiet night. My loveliest sisters here: Natural Suzanne, Phyllis (who I lean against, writing.) Nichole is singing, "My Cherokee" a capella, sweet and soft.


Something has changed in the atmosphere of the house and everyone wakes happy as clams. Dave (who escaped from San Quentin and lived with us almost a year before getting drunk one night and returning to his home town to brag about being the only living escapee) builds five bunk beds today. The children had cleaned the house for us before we woke. Windows are being washed, floors scrubbed, the house being made love to, turned into a home. I've seen this cycle before. Beginning with houses too small for the size of our group needs, people live in them unconsciously, minds elsewhere, thinking of moving out. The space becomes cluttered and unloved, problematical, ugly. Then the inevitable flash occurs: This is it! This is not a rehearsal for life and people assume responsibility for the place, banish the filth and make it a home....

I feel outside the main flow of things, so work with the kids today. I like their natural inclination to deal openly with real work: shooting out ideas and suggestions, - using what works and dropping the rest. They imitate faithfully as mirrors. Makes me reflect seriously what am I actually teaching them- explicitly and more important, implicitly.

...Natural Suzanne feeling better today. Things a bit awkward between the three of us. None of us are lovers this trip, some other relationship is being developed but we don't know precisely what yet.. Phyllis - holy, magical, beautiful woman who sometimes forgets to view herself through the same charitable lens she uses for the rest of Creation. Nichole here, body and spirit apparently dedicated to random sexual encounters, moves in my life like a warm, summer rainstorm, satisfying and nourishing. Natch'l Suzanne getting it together for the road. The trip has shaken her out of her set a bit. Truck travel is hard for everyone, but for a real Princess, with twins, it's grueling. She bounces back dark, foxy and mischievous. My good fortune at knowing these women overwhelms me. The fact that they love me is a constant challenge to deserve them.


Sheriff comes. Someone pissed outside again and a neighbor, who just happened to be watching called the heat. One-eyed Orville drops in. He is the patriarch of the community, fisherman, crafty, mean, politic old man. Warns us to respect our neighbors. The sheriff even tried to tell us that the babies shouldn't be naked, but couldn't pull it off with the requisite seriousness.

John, Dave, and Charlie return with 2 fish. A better day than yesterday. Charlie caught both of them so there was a long discussion about making him captain when he turns 12.

Discussed an idea called Planetedge, a non-profit corporate form we could learn to handle as a tool without necessarily identifying with. Could be the family's economic base - an office and depot in Arcata, clearing house for the Caravan and a central information depot.

Friday. Sun in Gemini. Moon in Cancer.

Early morning plans stretch out to noon departure for Black Bear. San Quentin Dave's final words, to me personally, "Don't hurt anybody." They puzzle me for hours.

We take Nichole and Vicky to 101 so they can hitch South then drive down 299 over the Coast range, fogs and firs, snakespine hill road, to Willow Creek. Two outlaw bikers putt past, MISFITS from Eureka, dark, wild looking men. They regard us coldly as they pass and I get a premonition of how dark and pitiless the road can really be.

After Wetchipec and Forks of Salmon, we're stopped on the road by a twinkling old man in a Green Pickup. Indian named Les Bennet. Clear skin, bright eyes, copper bracelets on each wrist. He laughs softly, talks easily, scoping us out. It occurs to me that he is guardian of the road. Spots the Elk tooth necklace I am wearing and asks ingenuously, "Don't it make you sleepy?"

We drive on, engine continually overheating, convinced we're on the wrong road, until we crest the summit and begin rolling down into Black Bear. Everyone's on the knoll. The ki-yi-yi's and ululations start as soon as they recognize Josephine, dancing on her back legs. Everyone looks illuminated and happy. We set up camp for Suzanne who is exhausted and I cross the creek to see Richard and Elsa, [Marley] where we celebrate our annual Yellow (Nembutols) shoot, surrounded by the sound of the rushing creek and the rustling leaf-breeze music.


Leveled ground with John Cedar and Richard, set up tent in the woods at the far end of the meadow. The whole five acre meadow is being terraced by hand, about. Looks like China: rushing water, green shoots of plants, the turned earth, berry brown bodies, naked, bent, working rough handled shovels and hoes. Fir trees, high hills, everything flexing like the bodies.

Michael Tierra lays out herbs he's collected for the Caravan: Omole (soap-root, a great shampoo and fish poison);Wormwood, Verbana, Vervain, Wild Onion, Sweet Cessaly.

Bonfire meeting that night to discuss the Caravan. I try to interest people in my notion of Planet-edge, but they're "edgy" enough about anything that would engage us with the bureaucracy at all.[A non-profit entity would have to be registered legally.] This precipitates a long discussion about revolution. I am cranky with them, insist that armed revolution is a mental pet, not reflected in the daily strategies of people there. It is a mythic superstructure used to lend an edge of danger and importance to what they're actually doing, which is good enough.

In the middle of this discussion I learn of Lew Welch's suicide. It grieves me deeply. I Remember how he considered himself as a failure and yet, how much he gave me [and so many others] when I really needed it. Puts all our bullshit into perspective. We have many good words and prayers for him.

Sunday, 2nd Week.

Elsa shows me a large black book covered with the hide of the Bear Ephraim shot. It will be loaded with recipes, herb cures, and information about the 5 years at Black Bear. Hopefully it will educate and inspire others. The entire ranch has participated in it, and I am very moved and proud of the effort that these already overburdened people have made to participate with this trip.[The Caravan] They have given me the charge to be their eyes and ears.


Natural Suzanne tells me she wants to leave. She's unhappy and wants to go home She tells me I've been a bummer; no help to her, and full of bad vibes..

Go for a long walk with Smilin' Mike and Tierra to collect herbs and roots. Have a long talk about the difficulty of maintaining intimacies with many different people; with the comings and goings, closures and intimacies either evaporate or have to be perennially redefined. I say that it makes me feel good to know that everyone else is.....(pause, searching for the word) and Tierra laughs and says, "suffering".


The cow is dead. Danny and I turn it into ribs, steaks, chops, hamburger for a meadow lunch. Whole kitchen buzzing. Everyone singing my song, "The power of sweet, sweet music. Finger popping and taking care of business. Zoe is half naked, dancing a beautiful ballet to [Michael] Tierra's Bela Lugosi wake-up piano. Wonderful dark Italian passions in his music, the piano straining to express his anger, confusion, funky shuffle, delight, running together, inter-penetrating, breaking into and out of each other like the rivulets and streams alongside the house. I get a very clear image of fucking Zoe on top of the huge mound of raw, red, cow-meat piled high in front of me. Taste and delicacy prevail...

Wednesday 2nd week.

Suzanne announces that she's having a great time and in no hurry to leave. Our departure has been put off three times now and is becoming something of a joke. Each day we tarry adds something to our swelling larder which now includes over 200 pounds of acorns, small tomato plants, more roots and herbs, and several new passengers.


Owl and I work all day welding a rack to hold my tool chest on the running board. I teach him how to use the cutting torch and he works beside me all day like a grown man. He's 11. At one point, he disappears and just as I'm beginning to grumble to myself about kids, he returns with two hamburgers. I promote him on the spot from Punkus Minimus to Punkus Maximus, and he's proud of his new nickname.

...The Black Bear Book begins to look like the Torah, swelling daily as people expend enormous energy adding information to it daily. Elsa's drawings are wonderful. Each time one is completed and passed around the room, you can mark its route through the crowd by the smile lighting up the face of the person holding it.

...Stay up most of the night with Gaba. Met her last year and didn't get time to know her. Large woman who would have driven Rubens berserk - big breasts, hips, high cheekboned face, flat honest eyes. Quiet. True. Her questions search after my heart. She is deft, lifts the corner of word-curtains and peers underneath. I am nervous, like a deer. I tell her many secret feelings, shadows, doubts about myself, this family and its future which are hidden behind my public face. Liberated women will save us all.

Sunday. Third Week.

Departure is a bungle. Smilin' Mike and his son Timmy want to come with us. My truck is loaded down so heavily the springs are bowed. He is no help, can see that but does not defer and, passive-aggressive, lays the weight of a decision on me. Sensing the tension, Phyllis offers to hitchhike, and it is so obvious that he should be hitchhiking that it angers me. I offer to take his son to Trinidad if that will help. He muddles around. Something about him doesn't feel right. He smiles too much. [I mention these feelings here, because they are resolved in an interesting way, months later, in Colorado]

In Orleans we spot [Karok Indian]Willis Bennett and his friend Darvin, short, stocky, 1950's pompadour, massive build. Darvin is drunk, but a high intelligence flashes through the smokescreen of the whiskey. They insist we stay and go Eel fishing with them. Willis says it might be a year before we see each other again. I check with the girls and they say okay...

...later, drinking and making music. All the kids playing volley ball. Willis likes my buckskin vest with the leather handprint of my daughter seen on it. He wants to trade for a fringed, shiny black, 3/4 length vest his daughter made. I try to squirm out gracefully, but he is insistent. "What, it's not good enough for you?," He demands. When I refuse, he sulks off and drinks alone. Willis passes out and his young son Moose runs into the corner of my truck and splits his head open. I drive him and his mother to the Hoopa hospital over forty miles of dirt road. Nice people there. Doctor teaches me how to stitch and Moose, 10 or 11 at most, never flinches or complains once. I'm struck by the thoughtfulness of the staff. Different than the city.


Stop at Trinidad house. Everyone happy. Been pulling in 60 -100 pounds of fish a day, small smokehouses up all over the yard. Neighbor relations still difficult. One-Eyed Orville comes around, malicious, insinuating, dropping veiled allusions about our being burned out. San Quentin Dave watches him blankly. I watch Dave. Orville has no idea that Dave was sentenced for murder.

Ivory,[ Freeman's wife at the time] is weaving a blanket from the men's hair. Freeman talks about a Solstice Ceremony at Trinidad Head to reinvoke the spirit of Surai, the old Yurok fishing village that used to be there.


Stop at Salmon Creek. Libré has sent a letter reneging on the invitation, telling us that they are helpless and lame, working on their own problems. Everyone at the house enthused about the Caravan. More and more people planning to go. I send Peter Rabbit and Libré a 15 cent get-well card.

Last minute before leaving. David Simpson takes me aside. I've confessed my ambiguities about the trip to him and that the idea of continuing some of the craziest aspects of our life, on the road, leaves me cold. I feel like being alone. He tells me, " A man is no better than his time. To try and be better, means being worse."

David pleases me by saying that after Olema, I now travel as I would have liked to have moved through my place. He laughs commiseratingly at the burden I've taken on, and I leave him feeling better.

Driving South, we pick up an old man named Elmer hitchhiking, a white gospel singer from Oneida, Tennessee, 69 years old, but "sexually, just like a young boy," he says often, darting his tongue about like a monkey and eyeing Phyllis. He's got emphysema and black lung from coal mining. Tells us all about it while he eats Wonder bread and drinks Dr. Pepper. He sings gospel songs in a strong nasal voice.

We drop him off and pick up a stringy Okie named Walt, coming from Oregon where he got rolled and robbed. All he's got is his coat and a bottle of wine. His hobby is jokes, he says and he tells jokes without a repeat for seven hours. Good jokes. I laugh till I cry. He sings like Hank Williams, yodels and plays harmonica. He used to be a warm up comic for the Grand Ol' Opry, but "couldn't take the pills" and left.

Back in the city, Berg is at Treat Street. Tells me everyone is going to Colorado.

Our departure date kept being postponed. The Summer Solstice was celebrated on Mount Tamalpais [in Marin County, California]. Sam and I had broken up again when frictions between us became incendiary and she had been away in Colorado. She appeared again with my pixie-daughter Ariel, looking beautiful, long blonde hair cropped short, and her eyes clear, as if she'd been staring off into the desert spaces. Ariel had lost her infant look, and was taller, very quiet and demure. I was excited to see her after a long time, and lifted her up to plant a kiss on her infant butt. She startled me by smiling shyly and saying, "Don't do that, Poppa." I set her down, thrilled. Sam was not certain of what her plans were, and I waited, to give her space to decide whether or not to travel with us.

A long procession trekked up the mountain carrying drums, trombones, and wine, winding through a rustling, hissing expanse of waving, knee-high grass, cresting the hill where the ocean extended before us, glittering and vast under a dense awning of clouds. We blew horns, shouted encouragement at the departing Sun; expressing neither neo-primitivism, nor anthropomorphism, but improvised ceremony. The gaily dressed children moving as randomly as milkweed spores blew horns and whistles and sang continuously, accompanying the sun on its long trek into darkness.

The Red House population was reaching critical mass as family members from different bases crowded the grounds preparing their vehicles. A sign in a woman's hand appeared on the front door asking people to consider why they were there and what they were doing to help. Numbers had swelled to near 40 people and the neighbors were incensed. "Why's" were swarming like hornets:

"Why should I have to wait to pass on a public street?"

"Why are there children playing in the road?"

"Why isn't that septic tank fixed yet, it's disgusting?"

"Why don't you go to fucking China?"

"Whatever happened to our sweet suburban community?"

Cops visited daily, tagging vehicles for parking on the street. The night after the sign appeared on the door a group meeting went unaccountably well. People bared doubts, grudges, and misgivings, but the group mind kept it light and tight so that no one became a victim. Each person was called upon to declare why they wanted to caravan and what they thought they could do for the group. Crazy Kevin, declared that he is pursuing the wisdom of madness. No one disagreed there. Each person addressed the group and conversation focused on their issues until everyone's reservations had been aired, clarified and dispersed. People felt fine.

The next day, I was up early, soliciting contributions of welfare money, gasoline credit cards and food stamps as final provisions for the trip. I was overready to leave, but JP Pickens gets into a fistfight with a friend's ex-landlord who, for some reason, had called the police on JP's friend. The guy was threading his car between our vehicles and JP began screaming at him, calling him a "scum-sucking pig", and shouting "you stink like a dead dog." As the man's vehicle was forced to a crawl between several of ours, JP spit in his face. This was too much, and the guy got out to fight, even with 30 of JP's friends standing by. JP's behavior was so bizarre, and the reasons for it unknown to the rest of us, so we stood back to see what would happen.

JP was ready for the guy. His only problem was that the Methedrine residues in his system mis-fired some critical synapse, because he missed connecting with his first punch, and the guy flattened JP with one good punch. JP rose from the ground, one eye split and bleeding, copiously. He giggled zanily. "Showed him," was all he said. Work resumed after some discussion.

Finally, all was ready, and on a Friday morning, with the Sun in Cancer and the Moon in Gemini, according to my journals, the first wave prepared to leave.

Word from Libré had come yet again, that we were not welcome. They were totally panicked. They felt that we were not "together"; too ready to teach and not ready enough to learn from them. There was some truth in that assertion, but much of their information was old, and probably related to my failed ambassadorial visit and acrid argument with Red Rock Mary the year before. The group decided that Paul Shippee and I would go ahead, since two people is hardly an invasion, and see if we could dissipate their paranoia. By the time we left however, the initial scouting party (also charged with reporting back about good routes and campsites), had swollen to include: Peter Berg and Judy Goldhaft, children Aaron and, Ocean Rush, and their truck, The Albigencian Ambulance Service. Traveling with them was a slender boyish woman named Suki, conscripted to operate the video camera that Peter had scammed from a producer of some kind who wanted a safe way to participate with the Diggers. His payoff had been being invited to a Red House party where his glorious wife, got so loose and carried away by the raunchy festivities that he became paranoid and jealous and demanded that they leave immediately. (The Camera stayed).

Paul Shippee and and Mai-Ting, a Chinese woman doctor we nicknamed, The Dragon Lady, for her no-nonsense, straight-forward approach to things and her exotic beauty, would ride in Paul's green Chevy panel truck. Sam, Ariel and I would travel in the Meat and Bone Wagon.

After a fine birthday breakfast for Judy and Ocean Berg, we piled into the trucks to finally depart, but were halted yet again for a serenade by The Valley Liberation Band who wanted to dignify our send-off. This band was the raunchiest, syphilitic group of rotten-royal losers imaginable and did nothing to allay my queasy feelings about the impression we might make on our visits. JP, one eye swollen shut and bandaged, played Banjo, Digger, in a filthy LA BIKERS CLUB T-shirt, played tin-can; Marsha Thelin's temporary lover, Willem, clad in shredded coveralls, played guitar, Smilin' Mike played something as a drum, Vinnie, naked to the waist except for copious amounts of body hair, played trombone, and a crazy woman who appeared from Mexico with a parrot on her head, did a loose double-boogie in the middle of the street. We drove all of about seven miles into San Rafael where we raided good radishes, lettuce, tomatoes and squash from a garbage bin behind the Safeway supermarket.

Our first stop was to be Gary Snyder's place up near Nevada City, and first night we camped at the Yuba River under stars dense as small tufts of popcorn in the blackness of the sky.

We arrived at Gary's place carrying Bay and Yerba Buena leaves we'd stopped to pick as gifts. Gary was walking around in a loincloth, cutting Madrone yokes to hang pots over his outdoor fire pit. He didn't stop working when we arrived and his greeting was, "You again". I hadn't seen him in several years.

Later in the day, he thawed a bit and took us to a clean and shaded Pine grove near his place announcing, "Let this be a family camp." We explained our visions of the trade route and caravan; how we hoped to stitch together various regional economies into a larger network. We expressed hope that he and his friends would participate.

The next morning, Gary wakes me and Berg early and brings us to his house, for coffee and talk. He tells us that the people in their area are committing themselves to articulating a sense of place and understanding its species diversity. They plan to be there for the long haul; to function as guardians and have reservations about travelers. Furthermore, he adds, they don't need much.

We had anticipated a response like this, and look forward to a meeting where we can express ourselves directly to the community and hopefully put their reservations to rest. When we return to our camp site, Crazy Kevin has tendered us a gift by digging out a latrine, using a hatchet, to carve perfectly true rectangular walls in the granitic soils. It is an act of monumental dedication.

We reclaim a muddy spring at the site by removing clay, water, quartz, and old pine needles. We build a spring-box from heavy Cedar boards two inches thick and fashion careful dove-tailed corners and drill drain holes. The box is placed on four inches of white gravel hauled from the nearby Malakoff Diggings. We pack the outside of the box with more gravel, and stand back. The water rises in it vigorously, the silt settles, and we are rewarded with a deep clear pool of water to leave for those who follow us. We feel good about our work, and hope that it will say more about our intentions than words.

That night, members of the San Juan Ridge community visit our camp. Gary and his family, Zack Reisner, Joel the Potter, Doc Dachtler, local schoolteacher, craftsman and singer, and his pregnant wife Shelly. They wind their way through the trees, hallooing as they come.

Our camp is beautiful: lanterns are strung through the trees and around the grounds. A meeting place has been marked out with blankets. Greetings are exchanged warmly, but there is an undercurrent of reserve. They address us formally, expressing fear that welcoming us would place their still fragile community in the path of a hippie migration. They are making a serious effort to live tribally; maintaining separate households, village style, but meeting often for group work and policy discussion. They are pursuing systematic, organized research to combat gold- mining, irresponsible logging and exploitative real-estate practices. They are re-learning life-in-place, as people have lived here for thousand of years, and worry that nomads will not be sensitive to local practices and spirits. I like them for their gentleness and concern, admire their unity and discipline.

We trade songs, and the night is good, but a gulf remains between us. I am not sure whether it is a difference of intentions or personal development. They are more settled than we are and, in many ways, more accomplished. It makes me lonesome. They are the Earth and we are the Wind.

The next day, Doc and I trade songs. He asks to learn my Rainbow Woman Song, and teaches me a Corn Song I'd admired. Bearing his song as a gift, we say goodbye and push on, over the Sierras, down the Eastern slope into the picturesque town of Sierraville, homing into the magnetic signals of Pyramid Lake.

The next day, we entered the Lake's force-field through the North end. It shimmered before us in the rusty, dusty, earth, a perfect turquoise oases. In the town of Sutcliff, Berg remembered some people we had helped during the Indian invasion of Alcatraz. He proposed asking them for recognition as pilgrims and not tourists, to clarify our posture towards the Lake. In the General Store at Nixon, a man steered us to a campsite on Native land, in Dead-Ox Canyon.

In Nixon we meet Dora Garcia, Secretary of the local Tribal Council who seemed disposed towards us and invited us home. Berg and Suki fascinate her family by showing videotapes of their children over their own TV. Dora expresses curiosity about the utility of this ( then relatively new ) instrument, for preserving tribal customs. She agreed to put our petition to the Tribal Council the following night and visit our camp to inform us of their response.

It was technically illegal to camp on Indian land, but we were buried way out of sight in the chaparral of a sandy canyon flanking the Truckee River, and didn't care. Pyramid Lake is one of the continent's magical and holy spots, and we considered our being there totally correct.

We made trot lines, fishing lines with multiple baited hooks, and ran them across the river. Spent most of the day making fish gigs out of old iron rod I found in the desert; heating it with my torches, beating it flat and filing barbs and a blade on it. Shippee fashioned an exquisite Zen spear while mine looked as if it had been made in kindergarten by physically disadvantaged students. We spent the day spearing the fat, bony introduced by Europeans, splitting them open and drying them on the rocks to store the meat for the road. They glittered in the desert air like the wings of gigantic iridescent moths resting on the rocks.

Berg returned at sundown, elated with the discovery of abundant cat-tail shoots. Steamed in the sheath, they are delicious and reminiscent of asparagus. The air was tangy with Sage. The children plashed contentedly in the river and when we weren't lazing away the time discussing alternate economies and self-sufficient communities, or how to re- configure cities to be biologically continuous with their larger environments (as opposed to the present condition of obliterating and poisoning them), we cleaned the camp-site for hundreds of yards in every direction, gathering the discarded beer cans, cardboard boxes, disposable diapers, tangles of abandoned fishing line and bottle-caps, that thoughtless campers had jettisoned, as our ritual of respect to the place.

Sam was cranky and piqued that she was not doing what she wanted . When I inquired what that might be, she said, "hunting", so I prepared the lever action .22 rifle I'd had since I was a boy, and sent her off to hunt jack-rabbits with it, while I spent the day fooling around with my daughter. Dora came by and told us that the Tribal Council had refused our request. We decided to wait and see what the next move would be.

At dusk that same day, Judy Goldhaft was cooking Navajo fry bread over the coals, when a police car pulled in. A short, squat, reservation policeman with a buzz cut and a tough face squeezed his pistoled, belted, and black-sticked thick body out of the vehicle and sauntered over. We acknowledged him casually, but said little. The first move was his. We observed him eyeballing our camp, and were confident that it was tidy and nice. He noticed Judy's fry bread and inquired after it; took a proffered piece and seemed to enjoy it; offering that his mother used to make it too. We chatted awhile. He told us that he'd received some complaints about our being there, but could see that we were camped nicely. He mentioned the large amount of garbage we'd gathered and sacked preparatory to hauling it off, and said he couldn't understand what kind of trouble we might be. He charged us for one camping permit instead of three and let us be.

We explained that we didn't want to go over to the official camp-ground and set up next to the tourists with their mobile condos, and tv's set up on the pre-fab picnic tables. That was the culture we were fleeing from. We suggested that in lieu of site fees, which we could not afford, our cleaning and care of the area might be considered payment enough. None of this seemed to strike Phoenix (his name, actually) as out of the question, but he explained that he did not possess the authority to make policy. A bit sheepishly, he confessed, said that he was under orders to bring us in to the Tribal Council Office and discuss our occupancy.

After he left, Suki, Kevin and I, Ariel and Aaron walked over to visit Stone Mother, a large, dome-shaped rock formation at the edge of the lake. At the top of the rock there are man-sized holes that made me wonder if they might have been used as meditation chambers. From inside, the horizon-to-horizon arc of the suns' passage during a day is visible. Ancient Pelicans glided imperturbably around us and, as we left, a formation of 5 Crows flew close overhead. Kevin raised a stick into which he had stuck a Crow feather. He whistled and one of the birds broke away from the pack and soared directly over him. I tipped my hat and saluted them, and another rolled out and did the same to me. They followed us most of the way back to camp. I didn't care what the Tribal Council had to say because we had been made welcome by the Spirits of the place.

The next day we followed Phoenix into town, a slow and dusty place, with streets too hot to walk on barefoot. An old fashioned, sweating, Coke cooler dominated the porch of the General Store, floating its heavy glass bottles in icy water.

We met with Teddy James, Chairman of the Tribal Council, a pompous sort of bureaucrat in a crisp polyester plaid shirt and spanking new cowboy hat whose attitude informed us that he did not suffer "hippies" at all. He talked only about money and jobs and could not or would not find a place for us in his imagination. When we proposed our trade of groundskeeping for fees he became irritable. "Are you saying that Indians don't keep their lands clean?" he demanded, as if we had insulted him.

I wanted to show him the 50 gallon sacks of trash we'd hauled in with us, but knew it was a lost cause. We should have known better than to use the word "Pilgrims" with a man who was still bitter about the landing at Plymouth Rock. He told us to pay up like everyone else or get out.

As we walked back to our trucks, Phoenix, silent during the Chairman's harangue, caught up with us. He didn't look at us directly, but addressed the landscape and said, " That guy never leaves the office. You people are welcome here as long as I'm the cop." It was a comforting reassurance to know that someone outside our community could so clearly recognize our intentions.

Outside of Austin, after crossing a 7,000 foot summit and a flat alkali valley, we stop at a Texaco station called Middle Gate where a rugged, gentle looking man named Vance makes us feel very much at home. Five or six Indian men were sitting around, looking over the flats. I spoke with a Shoshone man named Irwin who knew Rolling Thunder. Irwin volunteered that he disagreed with his use of Peyote, but seemed to like us and shared directions to a favorite little camp site called Cottonwood Creek.

Such casual generosity occurred so often on our travels that I am surprised that I never took it for granted. Life 'on the road' must touch archaic memories for many Americans, so many of whom were either the kin of migratory pioneers or personally able to remember their own travels during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression times. Let one example suffice for many:

During an earlier trip a small caravan had driven South to play music for the inmates at the Atascadero State Hospital for the Criminally insane. We were at the edge of medium sized highway town: clusters of gas-stations, car- washes, and industrial restaurants; the kind of place where locals are surfeited with strangers from nowhere, going nowhere, and acting as if they couldn't care less. Our kids were cold, tired and hungry from a hard day, when we pulled into a House of Pancakes, one of those plasticene road- houses with Formica counters, twinned dispensers whirling industrially colored liquids masquerading as "punch' and "lemonade" and pies and confections which appear to be made from hair gel resting agelessly in the chrome-edged glass cases like the plastic display dishes in a sushi restaurant.

Our group had filled the counter space and the adults were conferring, pooling our small amounts of loose change to determine what we could afford. The kids' heads were swiveling, ogling the oleaginous pies and steaming plates of burgers and fries passing tantalizingly close to them, en route to flusher customers.

Our counter waitress was one of those hard-bitten, apparently humorless women who've served the public in demanding and difficult jobs for too long. Her face was set in a permanent scowl and her "don't give me any shit" attitude was as clear as a warning flag. The thought crossed my mind that she might be an easy mark for some inspired teasing to entertain us and distract the kids from their meager snacks, which, at the moment, were glasses of hot water their mothers mixed with ketchup to make almost-tomato soup.

Our discussion concerning what we could afford must have gone on longer than I thought, for suddenly plate after plate after plate of pancakes and eggs and sausages appeared and were placed in front of each and every place, accompanied by frothy glasses of orange juice, steaming mugs of coffee and hot chocolates peaked with whipped-cream for the children. Some ghastly error had occurred; some child must have spoken out of turn or something, because I knew that we did not have money to pay for such bounty. I envisioned a confrontation and police when the bill was presented.

I hastened to inquire about the mistake and practice some evasive diplomacy, but the waitress read my intention from six feet away and held up a hand, to stop me.

"It's on me," she said. "I got a kid out there somewhere too." Then she smiled; a tired, ironic, commiserating, wrinkle of lip; refused the little money we did have and shuffled off to take care of some paying customers. I was left with a sour taste of shame in my mouth and relief, considering by what a minuscule margin of chance I had missed targeting her as the butt of a cheap joke, and how abruptly she had up-ended my facile assumptions of spiritual superiority. It requires only one or two such experiences before one realizes that, on the road, assumptions are a debilitating handicap, best left in the rest-stops with the trash. Dylan said it best when he sang, "To live outside the law you must be honest."

We continued across Nevada. A lovely couple from nearby McGill, named Chuck and Beverly Hansen, dropped by our camp in Cave Lake. They'd heard my singing the night before and liked it. They offered us two Brown and three Rainbow Trout for our breakfast. Sam spent the morning tanning a Badger skin I'd taken from a road kill the day before.

Later in the day, the campsite swelled with weekend campers, expanding like popcorn in a closed pan, and we were seized with a desire to leave. Occupants of Winnebago City watched in amazement as our sprawling amalgam of tents and laundry, kitchen hearths, cook pots, kids, and dogs, dissolved into three trucks leaving only a pristine beach.

As I collapsed my tent, I caught a small brown snake who had been resting beneath it. I told him, aloud that I'd let him go, but as in the fairy stores, he must first tell me something I need to know. I talk to him calmly until he stops struggling to escape, and I test our bargain by opening my hand and holding the palm flat and parallel to the ground. He remains coiled on my palm, flicking his tongue and scanning left and right across my body. If he is gauging my intention towards him learns that it is good, but deliberate. I had asked a respectful question, and expect an answer.

He turns away and then back, regarding me fixedly. My thoughts stop and a clear image forms in my mind: red letters wriggling against a black background forming three distinct words: "Anger is panic." They are so appropriate to domestic difficulties I am going through with Sam, difficulties, which according to her, relate to my insistent and inadequately suppressed anger. I say, "Thank you," gratefully, release the snake gently, and dedicate the rest of the day to considering exactly what that sentence might mean to me.

We camp across Utah, following Highway 180 towards Provo, and then 40 East through Heber. Torrential creeks thrash beside the road. The Uintas Mountains are spurs of the Rockies attempting to reach Idaho. It is rich, green, country bristling with Quaking Aspen, Pine and Fir. The Mountains appear to have stubbed their noses against something at high speed, because the strata suddenly flex into 90 degree sit-ups relative to the horizontal.

At the edge of a fine, grassy valley, sheltered by Aspens, near Strawberry Lake, I call my mother from a phone booth and hear that my father is ill. This has been such a common experience in my life that normally I pay no mind to it. My father loved to escape the anxieties and stresses of his work by checking into the hospital with an armload of books, the way some people check into health spas. While we were supposed to make excuses for him at family functions where he did not appear, my uncles just winked and said, "bullshit" to my stories about his "not being well." However, something about my mother's anxiety this time leaves a residue on my good spirits.

Sam and I stay up late trying to work out our domestic problems. She tells me she feels the course of her work in the world is learning plants and healing people. She's never broached this subject before and I'm suspicious and short with her, distracted by news about my father. I tell her about my father's illness and she confides a dream of the previous night in which my father is offered the choice of dying or living damaged and chooses to live.

The next morning I awoke just as Cheryl Lynn Pickens' face drove by. The others have arrived from the Red House, rolling up the road in a long line of gaily painted vehicles; canvases flapping, buckets tinkling, motors roaring, and people saluting and cheering our reunion.

Bob Santiago and Nichole appear a day later and Sam's bile rose with her appearance. Nichole was an occasional sun-shiney, ebullient, lover, but Sam's competitive instincts were prophetic, because eventually Nichole replaced her as my live-in. These events occur later in the narrative and must wait their proper place.

My behavior did not encourage either Sams' mood or her sense of personal security very much. The next afternoon, Nichole and I snuck off to go swimming together. After an invigorating splash, a catch-up visit and a romp of bare-assed bouncing about in the desert, we returned to the water's edge to retrieve our clothes and discovered them gone. Nichole and I were stranded, in the middle of the desert, our only option was walking back to our camp very publicly buck-naked. So much for my attempts at discretion. When we returned, with what I considered a great deal of aplomb, considering the circumstances, Sam's expression of hostile triumph, made it clear that her laser-like antennae, had not only intuited that we had gone together, but where we had gone, and she had stolen our clothes in retribution.

Her ability to detect my dalliances with other women was uncanny. It would appear that no haymow was secluded enough, no grove, streamside, tent or hill-top aerie, exempt from her sudden appearances. One night, later in this caravan summer, in the Mountains above Boulder, Nichole and I tip-toed into the forest long after everyone was asleep. This was, after all the pre-AIDS 60's, and the abiding mores of our community decreed dictated, that if two consenting adults wanted to pair off for sexual research and development there was little reason why they should not. Feelings of anger and jealousy were the legacy of a decadent bourgeois heritage, and not to be acknowledged. Unless of course, they were one's own feelings, in which case their status was immediately elevated to critical importance.

My personal sexual behavior must have been inspired by our country's scorched earth strategies in Vietnam. "No survivors" pretty aptly describes my intention to have sex with everyone I was attracted to. While post-AIDS realities have rendered such experimentation terminally dangerous, at that time, the stakes seemed minor and my recollection is that both sexes garnered fun, random tenderness and thrills from such encounters. This is not analogous to suggesting that there were never any karmic kick-backs, however.

On this particular night, Nichole and I snuck prepared a bed far from camp, in a gently breezy glade of firs. We were smack in the gaspy near-crescendo of love making, when Sam appeared, in a diaphanous, ghostly ,white night-gown and wind-whipped hair; trembling, like Lady Macbeth, crazed with jealousy. Somehow, her antennae, even in sleep, had locked on to my infidelity once again, with unerring geographical accuracy. Her presence made continuing difficult, tasteless certainly, if not dangerous, because Sam was not a woman to turn your back to when she was angry.

Nichole put her arms around Sam, and the three of us sat there in the suddenly chilly mountain night, trying to pick our way through the emotional rubble of conflicting loyalties and desires. Finally, after an hour or two of tortured explorations, confessions, and recriminations, everything appeared suddenly stupid, and we began laughing together at the improbable slapstick bizarre-ness of the incident.

The next day or so, the Caravan pulled into the Speedmasters motorcycle shop on Pearl Street, in Boulder, Colorado, where Julie Boone's lover, Carl, was working. We were to rendezvous with friends there and hobbled in, fatigued and cramped from long hours of driving. Julie was standing by the far wall to greet us: lovely Julie, Phyllis' childhood friend; lusty, voluptuous, Motorcycle Julie who aroused the ardor of Hell's Angel Hairy Henry who lovingly re-built a beautiful old Harley Davidson motorcycle for her personal use. She looked at me and tipped her head quizzically,

"Oh Peter," she said casually, as if she'd just remembered something. "Morris died."

I looked at her, blankly. I felt nothing. Such a thing was beyond comprehension. How could a man of such vitality and power pass through the veil without creating some celestial disturbance, some ripple? She must be mistaken. There would have to be a rent in the sky, a rush of wind; at least a tattered sheet flapping beside the road as a sign I might later recollect and think, "Ah, that was it."

I turned away and lit a cigarette. I saw her telling others. Berg came over and threw his arms around me. I felt nothing. I was in a motorcycle shop in a strange city, and a beautiful girl had just told me my father had died and I felt nothing except stupefaction.

I found a phone and called my mother. She was distraught. Morris had already been buried. The police had been searching the country for me for days. No one could find me. She hadn't even know what State I was in. "How could no one find you?", she demanded, as if that were important. "Yes", she was allright. "Yes", relatives were with her. She was okay. I told her that of course I would come home. Did she need me immediately? I would have to drive. I told her I had some affairs to settle up. I didn't know what I had to do. My loyalties were divided. I knew I should be there, but Morris was already gone, my mother was in good hands, and I wanted to finish what I had traveled all this distance to do. I was spinning in place. I had no father. The ground had eaten him. I was 50% closer than I had been a moment ago to being an orphan.

I hung up the phone and just breathed in and out. For a long time afterwards my life was like that, detached and out of touch. Perhaps it was the drugs, perhaps it was the defenses I'd erected as a boy; perhaps the impossibility of feeling loved by him. Some chamber where such feelings would live and flourish within me had been sealed tight as a bank vault. The combination to spring those buttressed doors was not going to be produced by anything as commonplace as a death.

It has been my experience that the more particularly and specifically one relates personal experiences, the more universally they are appreciated. There are so many ways in which individual events are hardly personal property, but participate in something larger and more profound which other human beings can share, understand, and empathize with. Consequently, my own behavior, at the moment of learning about my father's death, while apparently bizarre, has antecedents and root causes, that may be quite ordinary and not at all surprising to others. Recurrent memories from childhood osmose into the present, overwhelming it.

I am sitting at a desk puzzling over a series of incomprehensible high-school math problems. A large, dangerous man, my father, is screaming, "You stupid, dumb, son-of-a-bitch" at me. Or being twisted, pummeled, bent, twisted, suffocated, and choked under the guise of instruction in self-defense.

Even though my body was the recipient of all that information and stimulus, I cannot describe what it felt like. I can describe the chalky green blotter on my institutional -gray desk; the patterns of pressed concentric squares where I directed my attention during these homework diatribes, for instance. I can describe the gossamer curtains and my cherry spool bed, patterns and textures of my father's clothing. I can recall the melange of scents in the purple and beige patterned carpet my face was ground into - but I cannot remember feeling anything other than numb, and a hot anger, banked like coals deep in my muscles.

The nightly drama of homework is indelibly imprinted and predictable as a dance, but stripped of the emotional content. "Let's see what you're doing here," he'd mutter casually, walking into my room to check on my progress. He would talk his way aloud through the problem I was day- dreaming over. Since his calculations were impossibly fast, [he had attended MIT at 15 and had an extraordinary facility with number and sequence] I was an audience, reduced to muttering "unh-unh" and nodding like a drinky-bird toy bowing over a cup of water. Inevitably he'd make a mistake, correct himself, then challenge me, "Why didn't you see that? Are you paying attention, or what?"

Next, he'd offer some variant of," Okay, I've shown you one, you do the next." I had no idea how to begin, or why, if Bus A headed North at 52 miles an hour and bus B headed south at 47 miles an hour, anyone cared when they would meet or what the name of the conductor might be. Inevitably, he became impatient with my strategic blunders and then abusive. His fervently addressed unanswerable questions like, "How can you be so fucking stupid? How can anyone be so fucking stupid?", paralyzed my ability to respond, which in turn stimulated his fear that I might actually be stupid. Panic provoked threats to -"snap your fucking thumbs" or "break your knees" or, most chilling of all "send you to goddamned reform school"; which I misunderstood as re-form school, imagining children somehow broken and reformed to their parent's pleasure.

The screaming invariably attracted my mother, who entered the fray on my behalf, moved by maternal pity, and also convinced by assiduous study of Sigmund Freud, that childhood traumas may produce lasting emotional damage. Grateful as I might have been for her aid, from my point of view, there were now two of them, one on either side, screaming at one another like harpies.

"Morrie, you're making him crazy!!!"

"Shut-up, Ruthie, you're using up the oxygen in the room."

My role was reduced to sitting there, looking out the window, studying the facades of the other stately homes lining my street, wondering whether or not each one had its own quotient of domestic horrors, or was my own unique?

Social critics in the Eighties and Nineties, ( especially well-paid ones like George Will) have singled out the "Sixties" as a malevolent aberration in the Nation's otherwise glimmering history, and have been alert to blame the Nation's current problems and loss of wealth and status on the indulgences and misbehavior of spoiled and disenchanted young people of my (also his) generation. Since such critics exempt, by never mentioning, misanthropic public policy, self-serving economic decisions and the care and feeding of greedy peers by a political oligarchy, I guess it had to be bunch of fucked up hippies who turned America into the world's wealthiest Third World country, with infant mortality figures higher than Cuba and Jamaica, and punitive social policies which would make our European allies ashamed.

As I matured, I discovered that my childhood experiences were not so divergent from those of many others. I offer absolutely no excuses for my personal faults and shortcomings, by this observation, nor blame my parents who did their best with what they inherited from their own parents. During the time-frame of these chronicles, I was older than my mother was when she bore me, and consequently fully responsible. Fairness however, demands that I point out that millions of people did not accidentally or spontaneously generate a decade's of rage and disappointment like gas after a bad meal. My generation's disillusion over social injustice and its fervent desire to make the world a more compassionate place during our short time in it, must have had some antecedents. It does not appear foolish to me to inquire for that evidence inside the Nation's homes where many were being bent, stretched, folded, stapled and stressed by the economic system, social and political costs of the Cold War, and ridiculously inflated promises of Midas- like wealth. One way or another, such phenomena took their toll on the psyches of the family and their young, and my household was no exception; and my own father, for all his excesses and fulminations, was basically a good, decent, and honest man.

So, after a life-time of habitually closing myself down, it's not surprising that my father's death did not immediately liberate a flood of discernible feelings. They appeared later; about eight years later, the first time I could bring myself to visit his grave. That occurred after I was forced to admit that I had failed to secure his beloved Turkey Ridge Farm from the mountain of debt for which he'd mortgaged it. I'd failed too, in my attempts to re-bury him there, his favorite place on earth. Accepting those failures was the prelude, and one day, I drove to the cemetery in New Jersey where he was buried in a sub-section of his brother- in-law's plot. What indignity, what affront to his fierce autonomy and pride he would have experienced had he, the family patriarch, known that his grave would be reduced a shoe-box sized granite plate in the lawn, shadowed by his brother-in-law's far grander, raised tombstone. Death does play tricks like that on self-importance.

When I finally located the site, I was stunned to find his grave bare of grass; nothing but beige and lumpy earth. When I inquired, I was told that the grave had sunk several days before and the groundskeepers had just stripped the sod and re-filled it to ground level. The engraved lettering on his stone; his name, dates of birth and death, and the title of his favorite poem by Dylan Thomas, "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night", were clotted and filled with dried clay from workman walking on the stone. I dropped to my knees and began prying the dirt out of the letters with a small twig. It was not until drops were muddying the granite beneath me that I realized I was crying and speaking aloud.

I had not recognized my own voice, a high, keening, tiny, sound, strangled in my throat. It was not the voice I was accustomed to. It was the voice of a frightened, disappointed child, nakedly entreating my father, for affection and respect; telling him how much I loved and admired him, and how much I needed him to love me the way I was, even though I didn't enjoy hurting people and might not be as smart as he was. I cried and talked and chipped clay like that for over an hour. I didn't think a body could harbor so many tears.

Memories flooded me, entrancing me with their vividness. I was engulfed by a profound sense of loss and frailty, as if I were helpless witness to the fingers of a loved one slipping irretrievably into quicksand.

After I was exhausted, I took an emotional inventory and realized all sense of my father had disappeared. I sat awhile while my breath settled, until I felt the that the grass was exhaling sorrow, and I could stay there no longer. I rose, apologized to him for not having visited earlier, and left. I have never returned.

This failure to visit my father's grave should not be construed as lack of affection or respect for him. The fact that so much of my childhood was wasted trying to make him notice me does not blind me to the fact that in his own way, he treasured, and appreciated me more than I realized at the time.

Occasionally and deliciously, at Turkey Ridge, when he was unencumbered by the anxieties of his work, and the sky was lowing gray; as the afternoon summer rains swept in, he would take me to one of our barns to nap with him. It was usually the bull-barn he had designed and built of pungent rough milled beams he had sawn from native Black and White Oaks on the farm's mill and covered with aluminum sheeting. We would climb into the haymow together and he would wrap the two of us in an old horse blanket. He would drink pear brandy, and I would rest against him, overjoyed to be tucked against his massive body, protected and not assailed by the crook of his arm. He would sleep that way while I tried to stay awake, relishing the plashing and pattering of the rain on the metal roof. In those rare moments, I felt contented and proud, the way I imagined other boys felt when I watched them, jealously, playing with their fathers. My world was momentarily delicious and best of all, safe.

Now the cause of both my joys and terrors was gone; sucked him up with the same pitiless neutrality that a tornado chews through a Kansas trailer-park. I remembered the last time that we had been together:

It was mid-winter, my last in Olema, the one preceding the caravan. It had rained relentlessly for days, and the clay road to the house was a quagmire. The house was overcrowded with restless people in damp steaming clothes. Some Hells' Angels were visiting. Ruth and Morrie appeared out of the storm, in a clay smeared rented car, lugging a case of Scotch for the weekend, his pockets stuffed with Seconals. He was already drunk.

They dove into the turmoil of the farmhouse, and it could not have been easy for them. People were stacked like cordwood. Joints were continuously rolled and passed around, chased by jugs of red wine. There was a sullenness in the atmosphere from too many people trapped in too small a space for too long by the rain.

Morris sat at the table, punching holes in his Seconals with a pocket knife, sharing them with a couple of the Angels. "When I need 'em, I want 'em to work in a hurry" he explained to a biker's query about why he punctured them. When people stood too close to him, he would jerk his shoulders as if to shake them off or mutter about "faggots" barely under his breath, when a Hell's Angel's swagger got on his nerves. He was pushy and belligerent, and I was certain he would provoke a fight. I considered that this might even be his preferred way of dying and was preternaturally alert to this because I knew that if a fight broke out between him and the Angels, I would have to go down with him.

At one point, Morris collared Gristle and said bluntly, "Get Peter for me."

"Get him yourself" Gristle replied blandly. He laughed, recounting to me how Morris had then propped a hand on his shoulder, fixed his feral eyes on him and said, "I like you, fella. You know why? Because you're not afraid to die!"

That night, Morris fell out of the loft bed that someone had abandoned for him and my mother. Stoned on Seconals, he climbed out the wrong side, and fell about six feet and cracked a toe. He was cranky about it, but otherwise resigned. Perhaps he was too stoned to notice. Ruth, was acutely uncomfortable and uncharacteristically silent during most of the weekend. God knows what she felt about the shabby environment and her adored grandchild picking her way over stupefied freaks and bikers; the women dressed like girls she had been taught to avoid. Olema was always raw, in your face and vulgar as hunger. My mother was refined, spoke in a deep, cultured voice like Claire Trevor, and years earlier had traded in her Eastern European-style jewish ghetto in the Bronx for the "modern" world and a starring role in her own personal Fred Astaire film, smoking elegantly and referring to people as "darling" as she soaked up all the information and cultural stimulus she had hungered for as a girl. She obviously preferred the dazzle and glamour of the 30's and 40's to the sepia and squalor of our 60's commune, but she never, ever, missed what was under her nose.

On the Sunday that they were to leave, my dad and I were sitting together at the kitchen table. The kerosene lamp cast a yellow pallor on his skin, and the sound of the storm outside was a subdued howl. His eyes were hooded and his hair, only recently streaked with gray, was combed straight back in his usual, severe manner. He was half in his cups when he caught my attention by saying, "You know son....." and then drifting off on a nod before he'd finished the thought.

There was a long pause while he appeared to be checking the insides of his eyelids for the news, then he lifted his head abruptly, looking directly at me. His face was completely serious. "I gotta tip my hat to you, Boy", he said roughly. "You're a better man than I am." Thankfully he looked away, perhaps politely, so that he would not have to witness my confusion. I didn't know how to respond.

He continued, as if addressing the wall, "If I was your age again, this" (indicating the environs with a motion of his arm) "is what I would be doing."

I was stunned. I had never received such direct and unequivocal approbation before, and certainly not for something for which I had many personal, ambivalent feelings. I mean the idea of Olema, the idea of the Free Family, re-vitalizing and re-inventing the culture and the economy, was compelling, and seemed the only worthy thing to be doing with my life. The actuality was full of contradictions however: behaviors which did not measure up to the mark of our stated intentions; embarrassments and confusions. I might excuse its imperfections as a work in progress, but he must have perceived the reality naked of ideology, and compared to his own standards of elegance, it must have appeared a pig-sty. I could not imagine how he might have construed the swirling chaos around him in order to justify what he had just said to me.

I told him how pleased I was and how moved, and then confessed my own lack of direction and insight at the moment. Told him about my dearth of available wisdom and I asked him for advice. His response, was in effect, his last words to me, and more than twenty years later I remember the moment and the words vividly.

He hunkered down for another of his long silences and then, said the following:

Capitalism is dying, boy. It's dying of its own internal contradictions [He was, after all, a Wall Street financier, drugs and alcohol notwithstanding, so I listened carefully.] You think that the revolution's gonna take five years or something. It's gonna take fifty! So keep your head down and hang in for the long haul, because I'll tell you something. The sons-of-bitches running things now don't give a shit about their children or their grandchildren and they certainly don't give a shit about you! They've paid their dues and they want to get out with what they think is theirs! They're gonna sell off everything that's not nailed down. It'll all be up for the highest bidder., Don't get crushed when it topples down. Take care of yourself and your family. If you can make a difference, do it, but there are huge forces at work here, and they have to play themselves out according to their own design, not yours. Watch yourself.

As far as I'm concerned, nothing he prophesied has proven untrue.

Little of this was apparent to me that day in Boulder however. It would be almost another two months before I actually reached my mother's house in the East, two months of playing out the caravan, finishing the hand I had dealt myself.