What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been!
“Hey little girl,” says a voice in my head. The little crazy foothills with huge saguaro cacti growing out of them look like big strange wayward limbs. (If you weren’t careful the desert could visually turn on you, transforming itself from an enchanted oasis to an alien moonscape.) Elegant Fran sits across from me in the little airport van, unaware that her face reveals her interior battle between awe and amazement, and complete denial and disdain. She becomes my best friend until her fright propels her back to the Midwest less than seven weeks later.
Deep Dive Time: 1968
The August heat is relentlessly brutal. Candles melt on the sidewalks outside the dorm buildings as boxes and luggage are taken up into the rooms. I am put into a room with three other young women. Oklahoma City, Denver, Detroit and Chicago are represented. It is no accident that all four of us are Jewish. Not one of us has requested this kind of habitation. It is 1968, and it is a subtle form of anti-semitism practiced by The University Of Arizona.
Nixon and Blotter Acid
After the election at the end of that November, I find myself walking with two fellow students on the velvety campus grounds. The night is dark and cool, and we come up to a stone building. A hand- drawn sign is posted on the wall. “Nixon? Weirder and weirder!” We end up at a small auditorium that holds at its capacity 200 people. One of the guys gives me a piece of paper. It is blotter acid, and I watch them do it with theirs first before I lick the paper and run it several times over my lips and tongue.
We enter the archway to the hall and at once the music, the beat and the vibrations wash through and over and around us. Somebody hands me a rose and I walk down the middle aisle. It is for the most part free, until I’m stopped by the raised stage. There are no security posted to apprehend and ‘protect.’ It is 1968, after all, and the Establishment is only just beginning to catch on in Tucson.
Jerry Garcia says, “Hey, little girl, you’re up way past your bedtime.”
I hold the rose up to the lead singer. He has impossibly frizzy-curly dark brown hair that covers his head like a halo helmet, as well as a full beard and moustache, and he comes forward to the edge of the stage. I stay and the band serenades me. Bob Weir leads them into the longest solo improv I’ve ever experienced.
Richard Nixon is the new President, I am newly turned seventeen, and The Grateful Dead accompany my entrance into the Land Of Psychedelia.
Kneeling down to accept the rose, he looks at me with sparkling eyes. ‘Hey, little girl, you’re up way past your bedtime.’ I smile back at this and he takes the rose, puts it in his teeth and goes back to playing. That guy is Jerry Garcia.
Summing It All Up
Wow man… what a long strange trip it’s been…