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Time to start. Can’t keep putting it off. I’m taking one of the ones that look like aspirins. Use up the big ones first.

So where was I? Yeah, in the van going to Van. But Marmalade Skies first. Rolling smokes in the van. Everyone on the road rolled them. Always bringing out a pouch of tobacco and passing it around.

Marmalade Skies was gonna be incredible, we got from Scraggly. Should say Billy. I’d been thinking of him as Scraggly but Gus introduced himself in the van and got everyone’s name. Kinda boring name, Billy. And Yellow Teeth turned out to be Lonnie of all things. Didn’t seem like a Lonnie to me. I gave my name too but they kept calling me Runner.

This Marmalade Skies was gonna be like Woodstock, but with more Canadian bands. More beautiful than Woodstock, on the side of a mountain overlooking a lake and a sunny valley. Music. Dope. Peace.

“And free love. You know what that means.”

The road got thick with cars and vans heading the same way. We passed long lines of hitchhikers. Many had given up and were walking. More heads would be coming the other way from Vancouver, Victoria and all up and down the coast. The site was close to the American border, so we’d get freaks from across there too.

I pictured crowds of longhairs streaming up the mountainside towards the music, towards Marmalade Skies, on the hilltop. There’d be this psychedelic sky over it all, reflecting off the water and breaking up like a kaleidoscope in time to the music. I knew Marmalade Skies was only some words taken from a trippy song but still I saw it like that.

We drove into a makeshift camp outside the grounds. The camp was free but we were told the festival would cost sixteen bucks each for the two days.

Gus asked me if we could hack that much but Billy said, “You don’t need bread, man. We’ll crash it.”

We parked on grass. Someone opened the side of the van up and pulled an awning from the roof. Unfolded a table and camp chairs under the awning. A Coleman stove. Big floppy water jug. Set of tin pots and dishes like my family used when we went camping. And in minutes they had water boiling for coffee and vegetables being chopped for dinner. These folks looked like freaks but they were organized like boy scouts.

Me and Gus had figured on wandering off once we got to the festival but when the food appeared we didn’t wanna leave. Billy and Lonnie just took it for granted we’d all stay and be fed by the boy-scout freaks. So we ate a huge pot of stew, a banana loaf and quarts of coffee.

When it got dark, everything was washed up and put away just as efficient-like. They started laying out sleeping bags in the van. They didn’t say anything about us sleeping anywhere, so I guessed we were on our own for that. Billy and Lonnie took off to check the layout and look for spots we could crash the festival tomorrow.

I helped Gus rummage in a clump of trees for kindling to start a fire. Others in the camp were doing the same. When we brought back the wood, I caught a whiff of dope from the van. They were smoking up in there and I guess they didn’t wanna share it with us. So we went for a walk around the camp.

The scene was something like the campgrounds my parents used to take us to. But without the trailers and only young people. Sitting around, singing pop songs and playing guitars and staring at the fires together. Wine bottles being passed. Sweet smell of dope blending with burning wood.

I stood by a fire where a guy was doing rock songs. On his acoustic guitar they sounded tinny, but kinda cool. Some kids were just hanging around like us, tripping from fire to fire to see what was going on. Everyone seemed to be celebrating something great that was gonna happen. Like in one of those movies with Romans or knights of old, in the camp the night before some big battle they know they’re gonna win.

And signs set up and things written on backpacks and guitars and on vehicles, cool things like Music is love and Let a thousand flowers bloom that I think came from a book. I made a mental note for later, they could go in my notebook.

Someone passing in the dark grabbed Gus’s arm and said, “Hey, Ricky. Hey, man. Are you Ricky?”

So Gus said, “I could be.”

“Oh, man. Too much.” The guy disappeared but we could hear him telling someone, “He could be Ricky, man. Too much.”

A minute later someone was giving us a toke and telling us about a woman who would read cards like a fortune-teller and advise us what drugs would be best to take at Marmalade Skies so we wouldn’t have bummers.

“Wow, where are we, man?” I said to Gus in the spaced-out, making-fun-of-it way we had kinda developed.

“Somewhere else, man.”

On the other side of the camp we found Billy and Lonnie. They were trading swigs from a bottle.

“Runner! Gus!” They threw their arms around us like they hadn’t seen us in years. They were laughing at jokes we couldn’t follow. But we laughed anyhow.

“It’s beautiful the way it’s going down,” Billy said. There was gonna be a big movement to crash the festival tomorrow. Through the woods on the south side. Lot of us were going together. We just had to get past the security guards there. “They’re biker types but there’s only a few of them. They couldn’t stop us all. Have a drink, man.”

“Not real bikers like Hell’s Angels.,” said Lonnie. “Local greasers.”

“They have a helicopter,” said Billy.

“Only for someone has to be flown out, like overdosing, you know?”

“But we’re juicers now, man. Here.”

The stuff in the bottle was like thick sour berry juice in my mouth. Except a moment after going down, it tapped the inside of my breastbone, like just once. Then it didn’t taste like booze again, just some kinda juice that could get you drunk.ime

Lonnie came up with a joint. After we each had a toke, Lonnie snuffed it out. “For tomorrow.”

“I thought you were all broke,” I said.

“I traded my belt,” said Lonnie. “Like I traded it for the wine? And the guy only wanted the buckle but I said take the whole thing. Belt’s no good without a buckle. So he threw in the joint.”

“Right on,” said Billy. “Fucking belt’s no good without a fucking buckle.”

That was funny except to Lonnie who kept saying, “Well, it isn’t.”

“So let’s finish off the joint, man,” Billy said.

“Gotta save it for tomorrow.”

“Score some more tomorrow.”

“Trade your pants,” said Gus. “Fucking pants are no good without a fucking belt.”

So we smoked the rest and Billy and Lonnie told us about there being great chicks here and how they were gonna see a guy who made hand stamps to get back into the festival on the second day. And then they took off to find him.

The camp seemed to be settling down. Most people were just staring at fires and talking now. A lot had already passed out. Like the trailer park vacations when the little kids had been put to bed and the adults sat around kerosene lamps playing cards.

Gus said, “So you think this is it, eh?”

“What?” I said.

“All this. The new age of something we’re all looking for?”

“Age of aquariums.”

“Serious now.”

“Serious is ascending in the house of aquariums.”

“Forget it.”

“Who said we’re all looking for anything?” I said.

“Thought it was you. Then I must have read it on TV.”

“A generation searching for you know.”

“For what?”

“Ride to Vancouver.”

“I think we’re stoned,” Gus said.


“Tired and stoned.”

“Stoned and searching for new life. Our mission to find new lifeforms, new civilizations wherever the fuck they are.”

“And here they were the whole time.”

“Marmalade Fucking Skies.”

“Rock Fucking Festival.”

“Yeah. Nah.”


“This isn’t it. What we’re looking for, you know. I’m looking for.”

“I didn’t think it was,” said Gus. “Couldn’t fool me.”

“It is kinda neat though.”

“Kinda what?”

“Neato. I mean, kinda far out neat-fucking-O.”

In my sleeping bag I watched the air sparkle — the way it does in the dark when you’re real tired or real excited over something or you’ve been smoking up and drinking. Or all of it at the same time. Then it went blank.

In the morning I was first up. Lonnie poked his head out of a bag next to me and squinted and pulled back in. Gus’s lumpy bag didn’t move and I couldn’t see Billy anywhere.

A lunch truck was setting up in the middle of the camp and a crowd of rumpled people was forming around it. I counted my money again and decided to splurge on egg sandwiches and chocolate milk for everyone. Since I wasn’t gonna have to pay to get into the show. Lonnie squirmed out of his bag and gulped down some of the food.

Later Billy came around with this girl as skinny as him. Her arms were wrapped around his waist as they walked into our campsite and they stayed joined like that all morning. When they necked, like every couple of minutes, his stringy hair mixed in with hers, running together over their shoulders and down their arms. Made me itchy.

Later a beat-up truck came around and dished out free stuff.

Billy said, “Porridge, Lonnie. Your favourite.”

“I’m full.”

“Not me, man. Working up an appetite all night.” The girl squeezed him like that was just the cutest thing a guy ever said. “Making love gives you the munchies, man.”

“So what’s the plan for this big break-in?” I said.

“They can’t stop a thousand of us, man.”

So just before noon we marched through the camp to the rock festival. At the entrance, just off the main road, the organizers were taking tickets and stamping hands. Heavy guys in leather jackets and patched jeans were standing on both sides. More of them patrolled a barrier — sawhorses and ropes that ran out from both sides of the entrance and around the whole area as far as we could see.

We followed the barrier around to the wooded side. There wasn’t no thousand of us. Like twenty. The security guards saw us and a small group of them kept even with us all the way around. When we got to where the fence stopped and the woods began, we waited for others to show up.

Gus said, “Those guys look serious. It mighta been easier to make a break through the ropes in the open. Here we have to go through the trees and the bushes on top of the guards.”

“That’s great, man, all those trees,” said Billy. “They’ll never catch us going through there.”

His skinny girlfriend smiled like she was in on some secret.

More people arrived, but we were still only like forty. A dozen guards stood between us and the woods. In the distance we could hear instruments being tuned — bass guitar and drums which carried furthest.

The guards obviously thought we were a joke. One talked into a walkie-talkie but the others only glanced at us and laughed among themselves. They coulda been bikers all right. They looked tough. Big too. Some of them big tall and some of them big fat and some big both ways.

I told Gus I wasn’t sure about this. He wasn’t either.

The first band must have started playing. The bass and drums were throbbing steady and we could faintly hear the crowd on the other side of the woods applauding.

We were edging closer now and spreading out. The guards fanned out to match us. A few more came running up to join them. Now they watched us steady like, still grinning, daring us to make a break for it.

A kid from our group ran towards their line. Two guards moved together into the space he was aiming at and came out towards him. He feinted one way and when the two guards missed grabbing him he twisted around and took off in the other direction. Some other guards chased him in a wide curve back to our side. We cheered him and made fun of the guards.

One guard walked back to their line grinding his fist into his palm.

Billy was telling people, “They can’t get us all.”

We moved two steps closer. Right in front of Gus and me, about ten steps away, was a gap in the line of guards but we were too scared to try to get through this opening to the trees. The guards on either side of the gap looked like they would jump on us pretty fast. The guard on my side was one of the big-both-ways guys. Arms as thick as me. Bandana tied around his sweaty forehead, greasy hair. He kept looking at me, like he was marking me specially. I made up my mind I wasn’t budging. The guard on the other side, closest to Gus, was one of the skinny tall ones, grinning with rotten teeth, probably hiding a blackjack or something under his leather jacket.

Gus didn’t seem keen on making the first move either. I began to think we weren’t gonna get into this rock festival. I began to hope we wouldn’t try. I was starting to feel sick. That old feeling. Like if fighting erupted I might go all strange, the ground tilting, wanting to grab something, in another second I might —

It happened quick. Dunno how. Maybe Billy started it. A big blow-up at the other end. Scuffling. Swearing. Someone, a girl, screaming. Thudding sounds. Everyone shouting. Guards looking that way. Someone saying, “Let’s go.”

But I was launched already. Without thinking about it I was off to the woods. No one touched me all the way. I crashed into bushes between the trees and kept going and still no one touched me. Branches whipped my face. I kept going straight through bushes. Through rotten trees on the ground. Stringy things that grabbed my feet.

Someone was bashing through behind me. I hit a wet hollow and my boots squished and I almost fell but I kept going towards where the music had come from.

I reached a short bank and scrambled up, digging fingers in dirt. More bushes were on top. It was the edge of the woods. I could see the audience and stage.

Someone was shouting my name behind me.

“Oh, god.” I fell to the ground, rolled onto my back and said to Gus, “I thought you were — I’m gonna die.”

Gus threw himself down beside me on the slope of the bank. “We’re good now. For a minute,” Gus said, panting. “Don’t rush out there yet.”

He peered through the bushes.

“We gotta get over that open area. What’s that, a hundred yards? Before we can get to the crowd.”


A kid broke from the woods further down, the same kid who had tested the line before.

Guards were running across the open, passing right by us toward the kid. He tried twisting around but this time there were too many. The circle closed in on him and finally two guys grabbed him and dragged him off. He was laughing but he was probably scared too cause they were real angry. Wonder where they were taking him. The other guards stayed to keep a lookout for more freaks breaking from the woods.

I said, “Can we get back the way we came?”

“Doubt it.”

Some people at the back of the audience had noticed the commotion. They turned and cheered when a couple more kids led guards in a chase before they were caught.

There was more crashing in the woods near us. Someone was screaming.

In the All along the woods now, kids were coming out and dashing across the open space. There weren’t enough guards to go around.

“It’s gotta be now,” said Gus.

We pushed through the bush and ran for it. A fat guard picked us out and made a move at us. But we were too fast for him and he settled for running down a girl who was closer.

The audience was on its feet cheering us now. Gus and me plunged into the crowd, deep enough that the guards wouldn’t be able to pick us out. People slapped our backs and made room for us on the ground.

More kids arrived and were absorbed into the crowd. Lonnie and Billy and Billy’s girlfriend found me and Gus and sat with us. They were all scratched up and Billy had a cut on his head that dripped blood around his ear and down his hair.

“I kinda banged into a tree. Hey, you were great. The Runner, man,” he said. The girl was stroking his head and murmuring like a mother. “Just like Winnipeg, eh, Runner? You shoulda seen him in Winnipeg,” he told her.

I showed her the scabs on my hand that had been hurt. “I got that escaping from the cops. Almost got me for holding.”

She hardly looked. “We’re all great,” she said.

“Except for that tree and you screaming,” said Billy.

“I thought you were hurt.”

“I was. That guy grabbed me and ran me right into it.” More stroking and murmuring.

I knocked mud off my clothes and boots and sat back to listen to the music like the rest of the crowd, which had settled down again.

It was a huge enough crowd, not like Woodstock or anything but pretty big for being in the mountains and in Canada and all. Some people beside us spread out blankets and let us share them. The ground kinda sloped down towards the stage, so we could watch the show without standing, except when the singer would shout something like “Let’s boogie!” and everyone would get up and clap along and we’d have to stand or we couldn’t see over people in front of us. After a few times no one bothered to get up much and we could just sit there and space out with the music.

The amps were turned up too high and the lead singer’s lips were too close to the mike so you could just make out a kinda roar. A Vancouver band, someone said. People seemed to recognize the numbers and applauded for each one.

The people with the blankets passed us a huge thermos. We all took long swallows of the orange punch.

Lonnie made a joke about it being electric Kool-Aid — you know, with acid — and took an extra couple of swigs before passing it to people on the other side.

“Is it really?” I asked one of the freaks next to us.

“If you want it to be,” he said.

I didn't, so I guessed it wasn't. I know that’s insane but that’s the way people are. You don’t wanna embarrass yourself, no matter what.

Gus didn’t seem concerned. He was being super cool, watching the band.

So I focused on listening too and after awhile nothing was happening to me, so I laid back on the flattened grass. I was tired. It seemed I was always tired or hungry. Even in the middle of a rock festival. Lately I was always just falling asleep or just waking up, or trying not to fall asleep, and always wanting to find something to eat. I didn’t used to be this way, like when I lived at home. Or maybe I was but the food was always there, so I hadn’t noticed it. Near the end of a work day I’d tell Duffy I was wiped out and he’d laugh the way adults do to show I didn’t know what real work was. But it probably bugged the hell outa him, my griping. I saw that.

I saw myself from outside, as others see me. I was always going on about myself. How did Gus put up with me? Dragging from place to place, complaining about being tired and hungry. Talking like I was the star in this movie. Like I was the one with the big adventure that counted here and everyone else was all the minor characters that got killed off but didn’t matter cause I was the star. But I was nobody. What an ass. I saw it now. It was weird I hadn’t seen it before.

I looked around at everyone who wasn’t me. They were all into the music. Going with it. Not carrying on about themselves, like poor little me. Going with it. Their feelings poured back into the music and made it stronger. I could see it for the first time. How feelings pour back into music and make it better and it pours back into us and back again, getting stronger each time around, better and better, higher and higher without end.

“Great band,” said a voice near Lonnie’s head. I think it was Lonnie.

It really was a great band. Like the best I’d ever heard. The singer had these incredible moves that went exactly with the lyrics that were exactly right for the music. Amazingly exactly right. Like the notes were bending into words and twisting back into sounds and all going together in this incredible harmony.

Incredible harmony, I said to Gus. I thought I said it. Gus looked at me but didn’t smile or say anything. I didn’t know why he wasn’t as excited. I swung my head around to tell Lonnie but he wasn’t there. Billy and the girl were doing something on a blanket. I started to make a joke about it but I didn’t have to say it out loud. I just laughed and they got it.

But then I stopped laughing cause I wasn’t sure now. They weren’t doing anything, just sitting watching the show.

No, that was another couple. I was sitting on the wrong blanket. I didn’t remember but I musta moved. Whoever’s blanket it was, I’d better tell them I was sorry and get off. But that’d be rude if they were letting me sit there. I looked down at my legs. My feet were on the grass, just off the blanket. Wasn’t that kinda weird? Shouldn’t they be on the blanket? I pulled up a leg to rest one foot on the blanket. Now one was on and one was off. Still not right. But I didn’t know which way to move, all the way on or all the way off. One of my feet is wrong, I wanted to say. But something was drowning my words out.

I realized I was following some strange voices. Like on a radio. Saying things like “there he is … we have eyes on him … ten-four” and cop stuff. Crackly voices cutting through everything else. Like it was coming from above. Like cops in the sky. I tried not to be obvious about it but I tilted my head back to look up. And there was a helicopter over us, way up there. Everyone around me saw it at once. Every head turned up. I didn’t hear the cop voices anymore. The helicopter was doing wonderful things for us. It was trying to nudge together these puffy things, like clouds, to spell out a message for us and then it stopped and dropped flowers down all over our heads, these delicate little flowers that floated down and melted like snowflakes just before they landed on us. I closed my eyes and stuck out my tongue but they evaporated before I could taste them.

When I opened my eyes no one else was looking up. The helicopter was coming lower but no one seemed to care. It was gonna bomb us. I shouted, Watch out. But no one heard me. I waited for explosions.

The explosion came from the stage. I couldn’t make out what it was but people all around me were amazed and cheering.

When I looked back up, the helicopter was far off, way up high again. I could barely make it out, a speck in the sky. It might even be a bird.

Anyhow it was gone. And I knew I was the problem here. I’d brought it on, something in me. No one else. And I knew that I would die soon.

It was so obvious. It’d been building up a long time. Everything had been getting crazier and now nothing was real no more no more no more. I wasn’t real. Didn’t know why I hadn’t noticed it before.

Then I remembered what this was. I tried to think back to when it began, to when I’d taken the acid.


Continued >



Part I





Part II





Part III






Part IV





Part V







Part VI







Part VII















Part IX



Part X