"Yeah, Mom. Whats up?"
It was a time. Damn it was wonderful time to live. Yeah, "Fuckin A, number one tweety bird!" If I could go back...for maybe just a day or three, it would be to Goose Lake...that miserable little swamp located just off I-94 outside of Jackson, Michigan in the year 1970....and the month of August, yeah, it was that hottest of fucking months, for three days of music and 350,000 friends listening to what some believed was the continued blossoming of a new, more youthful world, where peace and love was all we needed. We never thought it would degenerate, in just a few years, to the hedonistic scream of "Let's PARTY." We almost had it right. I assure you. But thats for later philosphers and writers to ponder. My purpose here is to tell you the story of some young lions, who rode in two vans to that venerable spot...and of their experiences in a time when music was magic and tribes gathered at these places. We all worshipped there for a simpler, and more truthful world.
"It's a virus. It will have to run it's course." Doctor Robertson seemed professioanlly sympathetic, but I think he found it hard to feel really sorry for this disappointment. "Doc!" "This means I am going to miss the "Strawberry Fields" Rock Festival in Canada. I was supposed to leave tommorrow." The fever was raging now and I felt dizzy as he wrote a prescription. If I just had more time I could throw this thing off. No such luck. I was sick...man...I was sick.
"Dale, you know how I feel about those things. A bunch of irresponsible kids taking drugs and having "free" sex. You need to get your priorities straight."
Well. As far as I was concerned my priorities were in perfect order. I didn't dare tell him his kid was going with a friend of mine. I, on the other hand, preferred to hitch-hike. I just loved that unpredictable freedom...ah, but with this fever the only place I was going to, was to bed. Damn. Three days of music and all the huge bands would be there. Maybe I would be well enough to leave the next day and catch all of the Saturday and Sunday music...if I could make Toronto in a day. You just never knew when you hitch-hiked.
I left the office in a dream-like world. The fever made everything look a bit off and bent. I filled my presciption and took twice the dose of antibiotics just in case it would speed the healing up. My throat was now raw and I had a unique eye-bulging cough. I was convinced it was going to pop a blood vessel in my head before the medicine was even digested. The thought of leaving for the Strawberry Fields Festival now appeared remote. I drove home through a haze of disappointment and a skin crawling fever. I parked the car and looked up the path to my little house. That well worn pet and human highway meandered past my mother's house. I loved my mother...but did not particularly like talking to here when I was sick or in a bad mood. She could be, well irritating comes to mind when I am in a good mood...lets just leave it at that. On this day I was hoping to make the walk unnoticed. I did not want to hear if I had found a good job yet or if I planned on marrying one of the neighbor's nieces. I closed the door of my car and started to do what I called my invisible walk up the path. I found that mom was tuned into brain waves or thoughts...at least that was my theory back then, so I tried to quiet my internal dialogue and pass peacefully by her windows, which seemed to stare at me accusingly........, "WHAP!" Her window slammed open. I was toast.
"Dale, I said....uuuuuuhHHHHH Dale!" I saw her face framed by the screen that kept out the mosquitoes at this time of the year. It gave a fuzzy, dark look to here that made me think I should feel guilty about something. My mom could do that...what a gift.
"Yeah, Mom. Whats up?"
"You know why it's so goddamn hot?"
"No Mom, why?"
"The goddamn Russians are messing with the weather. They got secret satellites you know. Gloria Unger told me all about them." Now Gloria also thought that anyone that drove a Studebaker Lark was a communist because if you spelled Lark backwards and changed a few letters it spelled Karl...and everyone knew that was meant for Karl Marx. She painted all her trees pink a few years before and proclaimed herself a misunderstood genius. My mom collected friends like that. I think it has a lot to do with my outlook on life.
"I guess mom. I am sick. I am going to bed and try to throw this virus off."
"You know why you got a virus Dale?"
It was just better to keep walking. And not to look back. If you got her in the right mood the door could open. Then she would tell you all the things Gloria told her to never tell anyone else.
The next day, the day I should have left I spent on the couch. My mother stopped in for a visit. I heard her voice outside. She never knocked. She always called me the way her mother had called her and my Aunt when they were growing up in Louisville, Kentucky.
"Dale....I say...UUUHHHHHHHhhhhhhhh DALE." The uh part was long and drawn out. I am sure you can imagine.
"Dale, those festivals just have a lot of drugged out kids and sexual orgies. You should be glad you are sick and cannot go."
Goddamn. Nobody was thinking here.
"But mom...I am sure I feel better...I may take off later today or tommorrow and see how it goes. If I get sick I will get a motel room and come home. "
"You are old enough to make up your own mind...remember you are a Duke...and that comes with a responsibility to do the right things."
Yup. I planned on that alright. In the summer of 1970 values were different...I think a lot of it was Vietnam. All of us had friends who never came back or knew a neighbor that had lost someone. Drugs were abundant everywhere. Mostly the psychedlics like LSD or Mescaline....always marijuana. I do not think there will ever be a time quite like it again. We had great educations, money in our pockets, incredible music to listen to, and t.v.'s that showed body counts and people on fire. I guess all this led to discussion for the next generation that was to follow in our parents footsteps. A generation questioned middle class values...the white picket fence, the sales position in a plastics corporation, and said..."Fuck it." And for a while...we fucked it with pleasure.
I woke on friday morning feeling a lot better. I told myself over and over I felt better. I heard the phone ringing and picked it up....it was Joe Szady. "Hey man...you gonna go to Goose Lake?"
"Where the hell is that?"
"It's a major rock festival....near Jackson, Michigan. Ten Years After, Mountain, Rod Stewart and the Small Faces, Chicago, John Sebastian and a whole lot more will be there."
" Joe I am glad you told me...I think I can leave by noon."
"If you can get to 6 & 31 we can pick you up. Jerry Wilson is driving his blue van and I got the white Dodge. Keep an eye out for us...o.k???"
"You got it." Now I felt better. It was just a feeling but I knew I was going to have fun. Life was good...now where was that thermometer?
So thats how a one of those big moments in my life got started...my friend from Walkerton called with some information and an idea. Time and chance...rather like the 60's in general, things coming together...yeah, I was in. I hitchiked to the planned meeting spot and was picked up by those long lost friends within an hour. It was about a two hour trip to Jackson. We passed the miles smoking marijuana and listening to eight track tapes. I remember laying down for an hour with a slight fever. I kept getting this girl, who called herself "Rain", to feel my head....it seemed to help. I do that to this day. If I am sick I ask any woman within distance to "feel my head." It's not a demented thing, it really helps. I advise all men to try it. Everyone told me not to worry about getting sick...because the good "vibes" at the festival would run off any bad feelings. I was first and foremost a musician ..secondly a low ranking hippie...I did not put a lot of stock in good vibes. I took two more antibiotics, washed it down with some nameless wine and put my head down on Rain's lap. She absorbed the bumps in I-94...and would check for fever when I asked her. It could have been worse. I never saw or heard of her again..things like that happened in those times.
When we were within a mile of the festival traffic backed up and people were everywhere... walking down the road, sitting beside the road, riding on tops of vans and cars, playing guitars and reciting poetry. Some openly sold drugs such as Lsd and Marijuana, and the police...due to the sheer numbers of crime breakers...looked the other way. They did a good job really...there if someone needed help but not interfering with something obviously bigger than the everyday laws they were there to enforce. All in all it was a peaceful bunch...but goddamn I had to pee. To this day when I see 350,000 people gathered in a great field, without a tree to be seen...I have to pee. My nearest and dearest tell me that if I see five people in a small living room...I have to pee. I think it's a kind of hydro flashback. I know...I know.
It took about an hour to get into the festival site. It was an amazing place. The promoters had built a blue wooden fence around the entire concert area. The rest of the site contained food booths and parking, and portable restrooms that were useless after the first day. They just kind of overflowed and floated away. To this day I shudder when I think I went skinny-dipping in that weed choked patch of tepid water called Goose Lake.
Goose Lake was not Woodstock, but it was close, 350,000 people showed up and we were the only two vehicles allowed in the concert area Joe and Jerry took it upon themselves to drive their vans directly into the giganitic enclosed blue enclosure called "The Goose Nest." There were twin towers about 70 feet in the air that held the lights for the concert..they proved to be a handy reference point in the dark. Other vehicles were in the enclosed area, but for some reason Joe and Jerry parked close to the entrance...it proved to be an ingenious move. As more and more people arrived for the event, more people ignored the parking area and drove directly into the concert area. The promoters kept making announcements over the gigantic public address system, asking all vehicles to move out of the Goose Nest. Finally Festival security had to threaten to cancel the concert unless the vehicles moved out. Our bit of fortune came when security asked us to keep our two vans just inside the entrance and explain to people that vehicles were not allowed beyond ours. Yeah I know. We did a lot of explaining.
It was perfect! We had all our gear close and the best part was by climbing on the roofs of the vans we had a superb view of the artists! Thats where I got my superb view of Linda Smith from Columbus, Ohio. Good God. Orange tank top without a bra and long blonde hair...parted perfectly in the middle. My mouth was hanging open as I watched her. I think that is why she noticed me.
"Hi. Can I sit up there with you?" Her large eyes were bright and friendly. Women always get me in trouble. I am a little more cautious today, but at the age of 20 years, in the year 1971, at a rock festival in Michigan, I was, well....different.
"Cure you san! Want some smoke?" She smiled at my stumbling tongue. I smiled and looked at every part of her I could. She was soon sitting beside me and the hot summer sun shone down on us for the next few hours as we listened to the sounds of that time, and that place. I am now sitting in the loft, of my apartment, in a town in Oregon...but I can still smell her hair and see her face and wish the wish to touch her.
We listened to the lesser bands as the afternoon was still early. Linda looked at me with eyes the size of Jupiter's moons and asked me, "Dale, I have some Orange Sunshine. Would you like some?"
Now I knew that this was LSD. Everyone back then said they had Orange Sunshine...that was purportedly made by a man named Owsley or maybe Kesey... but it was always just some adulterated LSD that was a gentle "trip" for about 5 hours. It did not make dinosaurs appear or the dreaded melted faces effect, nor the toe curling question, "Am I bleeding?" So...without misgivings I said, "Sure I do. Maybe we should take two, they're small."