HEADER ART BY JOHN JORDAN

The characters and events described here are fictitious and any similarities to any other persons or events, real or fictitious, are sheer coincidence. Eventually these stories will be edited and prepared for publishing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Eighties Begin


Monday, August 18, 2008 at 8:52PM As the children of the immigrant hippies began to grow up, whether they were home-schooled or enrolled in New Mexico's public schools, it became clear that they were different from their more conventionally raised peers. Those who were in public schools often felt a sense of alienation from the other kids: After being raised in the freedom and permissiveness of the hippie culture, their more conventionally raised peers seemed to be...., well, childish. In addition to the cultural differences, they were usually in the ethnic minority since New Mexico was still mostly a mixture of Spanish, Mexican, and Indian ethnic groups. The hippie kids were often harassed, made fun of, and basically discriminated against. The boy hated school. Because his family was always moving around, he went to a different one almost every six months and he never went to the same school for longer than a year. He had few friends, and those were usually unpopular among the rest of the class, too. Everyday he went to school in fear, because he always had to fight some kid at school who had a beef with the "gringo hippie." He vowed that as soon as he was old enough, he would drop-out.

Later, the boy and his mother moved back to Santa Fe—they had lived there, off and on, during his younger years. It was still a pretty small town at that time, and most of the teenage hippie-kids living in an around Santa Fe enjoyed a good deal of freedom. They would congregate on the plaza in the summer time and hang out in small circles like teenagers often do. Most of them knew each other from their parents’ parties when they were smaller. The old and ancient cottonwood trees on the plaza offered them protection against the hot, New Mexico sun. They would do tricks on their skate-boards and bicycles, play hacky-sac, or just sit around on the grass in the shade, and talk. Punk-rock and New-Wave music had finally made their way to the smaller towns of the mid-west—many of the kids started to sport Mohawk-hairdos, wear studded leather jackets, and long, army-surplus trench-coats. Torn shirts, holy jeans, cut-off shorts, bandanas, and safety-pins were among the basic accessories. As they became familiar with each other, they started to develop a sense of group identity. No one knows who first coined the term, but they began to call themselves “Plaza-Rats.”

Every day the plaza-rats would meet on the plaza. Some would show up early in the morning, and wait for the rest to arrive. Finally, at about noon, more and more would show up and the eternal dance of the teenager would begin. Those who were there will remember that at that time there was a liquor-store on the plaza, “Plaza Liquors.” The plaza-rats would pool whatever money they had and find an adult to help them get some booze—there were some local alcoholics that hung around, who were always willing to help. An older Indian man named Gilbert was a little scary and didn’t always smell very good, but he was usually pretty friendly and was always willing to “pull” as long as he could join the circle. They would give Gilbert their money and wait around the corner as he went into Plaza Liquors to get the bottle. In a large group they would make their way to one of the less conspicuous parks in the downtown area, were they would be out of site of the cops. They would sit in a large circle, and Gilbert would ceremoniously open the bottle, pour a little bit of the precious whiskey on the ground “for the brothers and sisters that couldn’t be here,” then he would take the first drink, and pass the bottle around. Usually the boy had some grass—his mother had given him a large quantity of shake that was left over from a good harvest, and he enjoyed sharing it with his friends. It was a “dry” time, and weed was kind of hard to come by. Small pipes or joints would be passed in both directions to make sure no one was left out. As evening drew near, everyone wanted to know where the party was going to be, and a certain amount of social jockeying would occur. “I know of a party going on over at Jeff’s house,” said Julie, “his parents are out of town, but don’t tell anyone else about it, only cool people can come.” Sooner or later, everyone would find out about it though, and when you finally got to the party all of the plaza-rats would be there. Some of the older kids had vehicles; they would cram their cars full of plaza-rats and go to the party. Either at someone’s house, in the mountains, or out on the desert. The main idea was to get away from the jurisdiction of the city police. They would dance under the moonlight and do those things that unsupervised teenagers love to do.

When school started, the Plaza-Rats continued this routine, but most wouldn’t begin to arrive on the plaza until the school buses dropped them off in the downtown area after classes let out. The boy had a good friend named Scrap. Their parents had attended the same parties when they were younger, and when they became plaza-rats they remembered each-other well. They would often hang out after school, get stoned, listen to old rock albums, and philosophize. One day at school, Scrap asked the boy if he had plans after classes let out. “My father just came back from the peyote harvest,” he explained. The boy hadn’t taken any peyote since he had been a child, with the peyote church. “I’m going to your house, Scrap,” he said. When they got to Scrap’s house, the boy was amazed to see fresh peyote drying in three-foot high piles, all over the house. He had never seen such huge quantities of peyote before. Scrap took a few buttons from one of the piles, and they went downstairs to clean the needles and tiny quills in Scrap’s bedroom. On an old record player they listened to Iron Butterfly’s, Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida. They took some peyote-bark, mixed it with some of the green shake that the boy had, and smoked. Time and space joined them, and together they tapped onto the universal cosmic wisdom that all humans share. After a while, they decided to go downtown. The boy asked Scrap if he could have a few buttons of peyote to take with him. Scrap said, “No way man! My dad would be furious if he knew we took what we already did!” Scrap went to get his jacket and, as the boy stood there looking at the huge piles of peyote all over the house, he began to feel a sense of entitlement. His mother had taught him that it was bad karma to steal, but hadn’t he been more than generous by keeping everyone stoned last summer? “I have smoked a lot of my grass with Scrap. He shouldn’t begrudge me a few peyote buttons when he has so many,” he said to himself. With this twisted reasoning, he justified to himself the theft of a religious sacrament. He picked up a handful of the sacred buttons and quickly stuffed them into his trench-coat pocket. He and Scrap went downtown together, and met with some of the other members of their “tribe.” The boy kept quiet about the peyote in his pocket.

The next day, after school, the boy didn’t go to Scrap’s house to hang out and smoke as usual. Instead, he went straight to the plaza and looked for Juniper, a girl he had a crush on. “Don’t you know that we are destined to be together?” he had asked her once. Juniper liked him, but only made out with him once. “You’re really sweet, but I don’t want to ruin our friendship,” she said. As they stood there in front of the Haagen-Daaz ice cream shop, on the plaza’s south-east corner, they complained to each other about how bored they were. “Nothing ever happens in this town,” they agreed. Suddenly the boy had an idea: It was stupid, but he wanted to impress Juniper. He wanted her to think he was cool and well connected... “You wanna do some peyote?” he asked. “You have peyote?” she looked incredulous. “Give me some!” she said. That wasn’t exactly what he had in mind, but he gave her a couple of buttons. “Just don’t tell anyone were you got it” he said. This was the end of his friendship with Scrap, and whatever favor he had held with Mescalito was now lost forever.

It took only one day for Scrap to learn that the boy had stolen from him. Juniper had told several of her friends about the peyote, and where she got it. As soon as he learned about it, Scrap called the boy on the phone to confront him about the theft. The boy wanted to make things right, but it was too late—the damage had been done and Scrap would never trust him again. The boy tried to explain the weak justification for his actions, but Scrap didn’t want to hear it. “You better not come to school tomorrow, or I will kick your ass!” he screamed. The boy was afraid to fight Scrap, and he hated himself for his own cowardice. He tried to avoid the fight by coming to school late. He got off the bus and went to “the tubes,” twin concrete culverts in the arroyo, just outside of the school grounds. He sat in the tubes, smoked, and waited for the first bell before making his way to the quad. Despite his delayed arrival, Scrap was waiting by “The Wall,” where all plaza rats hung out when they were in between classes—it was the only place on campus where students could smoke cigarettes. There was a small congregation of plaza rats who had skipped class to see the anticipated battle. Scrap had a rail-road spike in his hand as he approached the boy. He took a few swings, and the boy backed up as he parried the blows. “I don’t want to fight you, Scrap...” he said. Scrap took a few more swings, but he had expected a more willing opponent and, although he was angry, he was really more hurt by the betrayal of someone he had admired and thought of as a good friend. Someone called out that school security was coming, and the group dispersed. The boy went home—he would never go back to high-school, again. He was ashamed of himself and disgraced among the plaza rats. He could no longer face his friends and was afraid of another confrontation with Scrap. He spent days and weeks in his room, just reading or listening to the radio. His mother didn’t understand why he wouldn’t go out—why was he so depressed? She tried to ask her son about it, but he was too ashamed to tell even her about what had happened. On a trip with his mother to visit some of her friends in Taos, he reconnected with some of his childhood playmates.

Bear and Feather were the children of a prominent hippie couple, who were well connected with the pueblo Indians and the Peyote Church in Taos. The boy had spent enough time with them when they were all children to have that strong feeling of connection that grows so quickly with young people. As their parents talked in the main house, the three kids went outside and into Bear’s teepee. They huddled around the open fire and Bear packed a bowl of some good Taos bud. As if they were grown up already, they talked about the “old days” when they all went to the Free School together, and the good times they had. Although Feather was a couple of years his elder and a little overweight, she was very pretty and the boy found himself fantasizing about having sex with her. They laughed and joked together and when it was time for the boy and his mother to leave, they all agreed that they must get together again soon...and they did.

Feather invited the boy to a cast party in Taos. She and her brother were appearing in Taos High School’s production of “The Wind in the Willows.” A friend of theirs named Fry, stole the show with his excellent portrayal of Mr. Rat. After the play, they all climbed into Bear’s old VW Bug and drove to a large, one-room house out in the sage-brush, for the cast party. The party was even wilder than parties in Santa Fe--if the kids in Santa Fe had freedom to do as they wished, the Taosenios had even more. A large pot-belly stove heated the house. There was a keg of beer and lots of drinking going on; young couples were making out in every corner; there was no grown-up supervision of any kind. Kids were partying as hard as they could and proving that they could party harder than any adult. The boy was the youngest person at this party, but not by many months.


Nobody knew what time it was, but Bear rounded them up and they got back in the VW. The boy and Fry had become good friends: From the moment they had met, they shared a certain way of thinking about things. It was as if they shared a joke that the rest of the world just didn’t get. The VolksWagon veered sharply back and forth, as it sped along over the bumpy, frozen road. Bear pulled out a joint and, as they smoked, Fry laughed hard. He kept saying, “Traw in the Baja, Traaaawwww in the Bajaaaaaa!” whenever someone handed him the joint. His laughter was contagious, and before long everyone was laughing hysterically. Bear had also brought some LSD, so they all dropped acid together. The boy had taken acid once before, when he was three. His older sister had given him a half-hit to quiet him down on the beach somewhere near San Francisco, but of course he couldn’t remember it. This would be the first time he took it deliberately and, because he was a little unsure how much to take, again he only took a half-dose.

As the sun rose they pulled off of an isolated dirt road, into the driveway of old adobe house somewhere on reservation land. Bear was friends with an old Indian man who lived there. He welcomed the strange group of visitors, and they all sat in his living room around a kiva fire-place in the corner of the living room. The old man had his hand wrapped in bandages. Bear asked him what had happened and he told the story: He had been in the back yard splitting wood, when he lost his balance. As he fell towards the ground, he threw his axe away from himself to avoid injury, and then put his hands out to break his fall. The blunt end of the axe bounced on a piece of cedar wood that was laying on the ground and in a perfect arc, the sharp blade came back and cleanly chopped the pinky finger off of his right hand. The old Indian quickly tied a turnequette, picked up his fingers, put them in a shoe box, and drove himself to the hospital were the digits were promptly sewed back onto his hand. He smiled as he held up his hand and showed the children how he could move the finger he had almost lost slightly up and down within the bandage.

On New Year’s Eve of 1980, Bear, Feather, and Fry came down from Taos to ring in the New Year with the boy, in Santa Fe. Once again, Bear had brought some LSD, and this time the boy took a full dose. The friends all sat on the roof of the house he rented with his mother as they waited for the new decade to begin. From their perch on the corrugated steel, they watched the fire-works and listened to the sounds of a city in celebration. As the acid started to kick in, the boy and Fry decided to take a walk. They didn’t plan to abandon the group, but the LSD was strong and they wound up not coming back, until the sun was coming up. As they walked around the city at night their shared joke got funnier and funnier. It was a cold winter night and there was frost on a chain-link fence as they climbed over it, although they were only wearing thin t-shirts, they didn’t feel the bite of the cold air through their warm acid-buzz. They jumped down into an arroyo and proceeded into “The Tunnels.”
The Tunnels had been built to allow flood waters to pass under a major thoroughfare that went north out of Santa Fe, towards Taos. There were two of them, side by side. They were about a half-mile long; each was about eight-feet tall and twelve-feet wide. A person could walk through them from one end to the other without stooping over. They were pitch-black at night, except for a place about half-way through, where a streetlight shone down through a storm-drain from the street above. The light burned a perfect rectangle of gold on the sand at the center of the tunnel. To the drug-addled minds of the two friends, it appeared that there was a bright bar of gold or some radioactive metal in the sand, casting its glow upon the walls and ceiling of the Tunnel. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing as they approached. They both experienced the illusion that they had discovered a treasure or an unexplainable mystery in the middle of this very dark tunnel—it wasn’t until they were nearly standing on it that they realized it was only an optical illusion and that the source was only an ordinary street-light. They both laughed when they realized they had been sharing the same hallucination.

As the LSD started to wear off and the sun began to rise, they began to feel the cold of the winter air and they returned to the house. Understandably, Bear and Feather were a little upset at being left alone at the house, and left out of the rambling adventures of the two friends. The boy apologized and felt genuinely sorry. Fry was little more self-centered and said, “tough luck!”

Gradually, the boy started hanging out on the plaza again. Scrap still wasn’t friendly, but it seemed like he had put the whole peyote-theft incident behind him. The boy still had friends, and the plaza-rats had sort of split into two groups. One group included Scrap and his friends, and the other consisted of the boy and his friends. These groups would mix around a bit, but mostly kept to themselves. As they got older, they grew in different directions. Scrap’s group listened mostly to heavy metal music and seemed to lean towards the darker side of psychedelia. Scrap himself got into many fights, and there were even rumors that he had stabbed someone. The boy and his friends started listening to a lot of reggae and ska music. They would build a fire on top of a mesa, discuss politics or philosophy, and try to figure out the meaning of life. They saw themselves as deeply intellectual and tried to have very profound thoughts. All of the plaza rats were always present at the really big parties out at Diablo Canyon or up in Aspen Meadows.



Reader Comments (3)
Dang.. i see a book here dude.. you got me hooked now....
January 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkim rhodes
You received my comment via an image sent through the facebook messaging system ... I wonder if any knows who this is ... bwahahahaha .. ;>
January 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterseamuso
I agree with Kim...I see a book. I love your writing!
January 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMara

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2 comments:

  1. love it!! great stuff!! MORE MORE MORE!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. David, I am impressed. Great writing, I could not have said it better. It brought back so many wonderful memories of my 1980's adolescent years as a "plaza rat".
    Thank you, Amber

    ReplyDelete

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