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copyright 1996-2006 Robb Strycharz

part 2

SUNDAY, JULY 5, 1970

It was July 5th. My folks and younger sister had just left for another week-long vacation... and when the cat's away...

We mice certainly liked to play, but we were hardly party people in the traditional sense. As some of the more cautious members of the drug sub-culture we had adopted a Doctrine of Constant Paranoia which we theorized about constantly. It was hardly pathological. It was merely a logical defense against an all too hostile world that was out to get us. After all, paranoia in the defense of Liberty is no vice. Doctrine dictated we were safer to stay away from large groups of people, even fellow Freaks, if through their carelessness or apathy they might warrant the attention of the cops... affectionately known as the Pigs. This was a lesson brought home especially after some frightening experiences with the crowd of people who hung around Lincoln Grove, a public park in the Chicopee Falls section of town. Our parties with them were twice ended with escapes from the police. It's easy to laugh now, but imagine being interrogated in the back of a cruiser, everyone leaves all the talking to you…. and you have a mouthful of pot you can’t manage to swallow.

Doctrine dictated further measures: we should, as much as possible, be on the move, if not the run. That meant getting away from urban areas with a high cop-to-roadmile ratio. Our only means of escape to the backcountry roads was either Wally's ’64 Monterey, dubbed the Gingerbread Man… or the Big Capitalist Car or Billy's MG, aka the Little Green Sporty Car. True, Greg had a '64 VW bus affectionately dubbed Devil Bus, but while in it we might be on the move, we could never be considered to be "on the run". VW buses may have been the penultimate hippie vehicle but they may have better been targeted at the masochist market. As some fondly observed at the Car Talk site:

"The bus had no heat, blew over in the wind and used the driver's legs as its first line of defense in an accident."

"It was a death trap on the highway-you could never go fast enough. The chances were good that you'd be hit from the rear."

On those instances we did "party" in one location, Doctrine dictated we get away from prying eyes. Thus, it was permissible to hike out on the trails of Mt. Holyoke... to get stoned at our cliff-top hideout where we could gawk at the spectacular view of the valley. We were also quite adept at tempting fate when we smoked at our homes… especially when parents (or grandparents) were around. One such “clubhouse” at Davy's place, was dubbed HQ. The unique benefit here was it was separate from his family’s unit. Secondary hideouts were at Billy's and my place.

So though we probably got stoned every day, opportunities for the Circus to actually Party were few and far between. One such time was when my parents and sister went camping... as they were this July 5th! When they were gone we had to seize the moment. On these cherished occasions we had no need to lock ourselves up in our version of a "boys only" tree house or keep on the move... we had an entire house to ourselves! Wahoo!

The result was the series of infamous Cocknose Parties, the name of which I believe had its origins in a R. Crumb cartoon. They were rather twisted variations of the traditional Cocktail Party. If anybody hated tradition it was us... but we were very fond of creating our own. So what was the difference, you ask? The lack of cocktails was one. We could have always raided my father's liquor cabinet but we didn't. It's not that the bottles were marked. We never bothered to check. Some of us learned about hard-stuff the hard way. There was the time that Greg, Joey and I camped out at Chicopee Memorial Park. We had a bottle of John Jones whisky and some cheap Ripple wine to wash it down with. Then, well into alcohol toxicity, we decided to hike though the dark, rainy woods at night and go bowling at the Shine Inn. Thankfully, we never made it. Because of such experiences, our preferred choice of alcohol was wine... the sweet, fruity... (and did I mention cheap?), American pop wines. Ripple both original and Pagan Pink, Bali Hai, and Boone's Farm Apple with the new Strawberry Hill topping my list. Having refined tastes in this are I always picked up a flavor note of industrial solvents in the original Boone's. On rare occasions we might get Wild Irish Rose. But the infamous Rot Gut Rosé, weighing in with an impressive 17% alcohol content, was reserved only for times when getting really drunk was more important than the risk of getting really sick.

There was the requirement that at our parties no respectable people were allowed... with the possible exception of our conspiratorial, B-Movie, alter egos, the legendary low-lifes Glen Cabanya, Pendexter Nemo, Mr. Pagan, and Mr. Smidley. Their drab, mono-dimensional improvisations seemed right out of an ultra-low-budget movie rip-off of "Casablanca."

"So you think you can double-cross me, aye Smidley?" Pagan would say would a nasalized sneer.

"It's too late Pagan. The place is surrounded by my men." Smidley responded with a lousy Peter Lorey impersonation.

"You mean the men I took prisoner just 15 minutes ago?" said Pagan. "Heh heh. You take me for a fool? Foiled again, Smidley."

"You are both mistaken", Cabanya would join in. "My men took all your men prisoner 10 minutes ago. Victory is mine".

At which point we'd all scramble for anything that vaguely looked like a gun. It would be another Mexican Standoff... this time with candlesticks and wax bananas.

Being July 5th also meant that the Circus was whipping up a true patriotic frenzy preparing to watch the Szot Park fireworks postponed from the night before. Somehow we were unaware of some of the other festivities planed for that day. For example we missed a tribute to some ex-classmates who received "maximum honors" for their last term. So sad. But, the real loss was missing a Baptist revival meeting on the other side of town. It starred Rev. David Wolf, the producer of the "Christ Is The Answer" radio show and his daughter Barbie. Both were ventriloquists! What a spectacle it would have been to see some dummies try to save our souls!

As for the fireworks, it was a show Joey and Nelson would miss. Joey had just left for several weeks in Europe. It was an escorted tour sponsored by our old high school... the type of tour you start saving for in freshman year. Nelson left for Denver and the west coast a few days before. Four years our senior, he had graduated from college that May while we were just getting out of high school. He had now been accepted into a Master's program for the fall semester, but needed to find himself an apartment while there were still apartments to be found. Except for a brief return in late August to get his stuff, we wouldn't see him until the following summer.... that is we ever saw him again.

Nelson was hitchhiking all those thousands of miles and though Freaks had a tradition of taking care of each other, the rest of the world was not so friendly. Some of us had developed an understandable Easy Rider complex and it was easy to fear the worse. This was not just two months after Jackson and Kent State when six students were killed, but shortly after the violent hardhat rampage on Wall Street in which fascist construction workers beat anti-war demonstrators with their wrenches. It didn't take much to envision being roughed up by small town local yokels to whom Freaks and Hippies were nothing more than un-Amerikan degenerate commies. Some places around the nation were getting bad reputations as exceptionally dangerous. Word going around was that Taos, New Mexico was especially nasty. They busted heads there for sport.

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Rockfest Archive Robb Strycharz, 1998-2006
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