Feeling Good After
Hemingway | Gathering of the Storm | The Castros and Che
Good is what you feel good after. Hemingway said something to that effect. Good is a deep ripping pull from a pipe, loaded high with Haggis Altoona’s African hashish, a crackling joint of Panama Red budding in your imagination, or a bottle or two of red wine, preferably a Bandol. Devouring a three-inch rare steak at 6am after you’ve been carousing all night. That’ll do it. Add some sun and a romp through a thousand acres of marijuana plants reaching for the sky, a pack of dogs running helter-skelter around the stalks, a woman at your side and some Dylan playing on an eight-track. Yeah, all that good makes you feel good after.
Also: a protest meant to scramble the order of things. Edgy, yes, but profound and satisfying. Because you believe in the cause. And even though history comes ‘round to repeat itself and slap you in the face and call you a dumbshit, you’ve still done something to try to change things. You are a doer. You don’t get caught watching. Move through the river. Don’t let it move through you.
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The big Cat had devoured our city and regurgitated big smoking piles of refuse on the green. We knew the National Guard would be coming for us. Blood had been spilled at Kent State. Would the same happen here? Hemingway also said, bad is what you feel bad after. So we got back into the groove, and set up a tent city on the rise across the street that same day. Good. Feel good after. We felt safer up there on higher ground, the music swirling around us, the large crowd hugging the hillside in front of the stage. Strength in numbers.
5pm and Evans Ave was congested with automobiles crawling like a bale of turtles migrating to the apocalypse. Sven, Autumn and I wandered away from the Happening and down to the curb to see what all the fuss was all about. The supper crowd had arrived, packing their picnic baskets of egg salad sandwiches and lemonade. Middle-class ‘Mericans dropping in from the burbs, while we were dropping out. They might have stepped out from The Land that Time Forgot, for all I knew. Herb and Betty in the front; Herb, of course, driving, wearing a fedora; two kids (Prunella and Biff and the dog named Spot) in the back seat; all of them gawking and ogling the hippy-takeover of the university, to point and be pointed at. Here to watch the freak show. Almost as good as Teevee. But I wasn’t so sure who the freaks were. Them or us.
We stood nonchalantly next to a concrete barrier and placed our beers on the surface. Bellying up to the bar. Sven pulled out what seemed like ten joints and lovingly laid them next to the beers. Roger’s dog had followed me and was lying at our feet, snoring. We hadn’t seen Roger in days. We were passing around a joint, not caring who saw us, joking and pointedly gesturing at the people in the cars creeping by, as they in turn stared back at us. Most had their windows rolled up tight, lest the Hippies and Outside Agitators try to attack them, vicious freaks that we were. If I had wanted to, I could have reached out and touched the shiny, well-polished metal hoods—we were that close, and they were driving that slowly. Like sailboats in irons, bobbing up and down a lake.
The more stoned we became, the more we began to banter with the occupants of those supersized, fin-tailed automobiles. Every time one halted in front of us, I introduced Sven as “Fidel” to all those inside their bubbled-up world. Meet Fidel, I’d say, he’s just up from Cuba, here to take part in the revolution. Come on kids, get out and come shake his hand. Join us! Sven would bow regally, nod, take a hit and blow smoke through the open windows of those cars whose drivers were brave enough to crack them open. He proffered joints to one and all, but, of course, no one took him up on his offerings. I could tell some of teens in the back seats, by the longing looks in their eyes, were itching to join us. But the familial strings were still attached. Wouldn’t be for long, though. Their time would come.
Sven looked the part, sporting his big black bushy beard, fatigues and a beret tilted rakishly on top of his head. He was even wearing regulation army boots. I introduced Autumn as Mrs. Fidel and myself as Che Guevara, even though he died in 1967. When Sven started in on a discourse to one and all about baseball statistics and how he was still pitching for the Cuban National Team (of course, that wasn’t true; Castro had never been good enough), I think some, by the looks of hatred and disgust, truly believed Sven was Castro. But believing me to be Che Guevara would have been a bridge too far.
The National Guard and Denver Police, bundled in their riot gear, were gathering just out of sight a few blocks down the street. I could barely make them out, ducking in and out of alleys, carrying their rifles, dressed in all-black uniforms and donned with teargas masks. Giant locusts poised to descend upon us and wreak havoc. It wouldn’t be long. Would I be brave enough to face them down?
We made our way back up to the rise and plopped ourselves down. A band came on, calling themselves Vinyl Craft. A cross between CSN&Y and Grand Funk Railroad. Hell, anything sounded good to my spinning head and buzzing ears. I was hoping for King Crimson, but who the fuck was I? I was out of my mind. We sat with two thousand other stoned folks, all of us in the Lotus Position (although I couldn’t make my legs work), loving the vibes, smoking weed and drinking beer. In between sets, our fearless leader, with hair down to his waist and looking as though he’d just climbed out of a dumpster, came on and roused us into a frothing frenzy. We raised our fists and pipes to the sky. Hell no, we won’t go! The sweet smell of pot hung languorously in the air—a cloud succoring all of us. Added with the chanting and music, it brought us together as a force majeure. Yeah, we’ll fight and make our stand. Tin soldiers and Nixon coming. Bad. Feel bad after. But right now we were feeling good after. Really good after.