Aurora Borealis Maine July 4, 1971


On the 4th of July in 1971 my friends John Gilmore, Mark McLaughlin, and Tommie Jordan and I left from the South Shore of Boston for holiday in Maine. We stopped at my grandmother’s cabin on Watchic Pond for a swim and Italian sandwiches. After watching fireworks over the Presumpscot River we headed north for Bar Harbor in my 1968 VW Beetle.

By the Turnpike the trip was about two hours, but we chose the scenic coastal road. I-95 was boring from Presque Isle to Miami, while US 1 wandered through sleeping towns and harbors. That route was better suited for hippies and we listened to the Jefferson Airplane through Brunswick, Bath, and Wicassett.

Someplace outside of Camden John pointed to the sky.

“Check that out.”

“What is that?” Tommie asked from the rear seat and the cranked open the sunroof.

The sky shimmered with an unearthly light and John said, “I knew that weed was strong, but not this strong.”

“That’s not a hallucination. It’s the Aurora Borealis.” Mark declared with debatable authority. He worked as a mechanic at a Wollaston garage. His universe was bigger than I had imagined for a high school drop-out.

“How would you know?” John demanded before puffing on the bong. He was attending Quincy Community College to be a paramedic.

“Because I have a Boy Scout merit badge in astronomy.” His statement had no boast to it.

“Well, la-dee-dah.” John and Mark were childhood friends. Sometimes they were rivals.

“The aurora occur over the poles after a charged particles from the sun collide with atoms in the upper atmosphere riding the Earth magnetic fields.”

“They taught you that in Boy Scouts?” I was a Star Scout with merit badges in marksmanship and canoeing.

“No, I was into the Space Race. I read everything about the stars. I went to the planetarium at the Museum or Science and watched every launch from Cape Canaveral. The Algonquins called the northern lights the ‘dance of the spirits’.”

“Damn, you are an expert.” John passed the bong to his longtime friend and I pulled over to the side of the road.

“I saw them once as a child.” They had lit up the night sky above the Blue Hills.

“I’ve never seen them.” Mark’s eyes were spellbound by the spectacle overhead.

The four of us got out of the VW and lay on the dewy grass.

The celestial phenomena sashayed across the sky as iridescent curtains blowing in the wind. The light show lasted about twenty minutes and disappeared like a mirage into the cosmos.

“The Aurora Borealis,” John remarked in awe.

“Aurora was the goddess of dawn.” I had read Bullfinch’s Mythology in high school.

“I was sort of like dawn at night.” Tommy spoke for the first time that evening. He was a hockey player for a Maine prep school. Last season a college scout recruited him to play at an Ivy League college. His grades were horrible, but his scoring led the league.

“That blew my mind.” John stood up and wiped the damp grass from his clothing.

“More than Jimi Hendrix’s at the Garden?” It had been one of his last shows. We had seen him together.

“Not better. Different.” Tommie looked us in the eyes. “But better the same way Jimi was the best.”

“Excuse while I touch the sky.” John grasped the air with his hands.

We returned to the car and continued north. Few cars rode US 1. Most tourists were in bed at the numerous motels along the road. John put ARE YOU EXPERIENCED on the tape player and Mark stuck his head out the sunroof hoping for another sign from the heavens, becsaue once was not enough.

THE UMPTEENTH COMING by Peter Nolan Smith

“This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius”

These words were sung by the cast of HAIR in 1969 and millions of hippies dropped acid to touch the sky of Aquarius.

I wanted to be one of them and the Fourth of July 1970 my friends John Gilmour, Tommy Jordan, Mark McLaughin and I scoring a couple of hundred hits of LSD from a French-Canadian hash dealer in Montreal. We dropped the Orange Sunshine after entering the USA at Canaan, New Hampshire. The backroads were lightly traveled and my VW Beetle meandered down Route 3 toward the White Mountains. The acid came on strong at the T-intersection of 110 and 3 at Groveton.

We didn’t have a map and Mark asked an old farmer sitting on a lawn chair, which was the best way to Mount Washington.

“Are you in a hurry?” His accent was non-rhotic Granite State.

“We have all the time in the world.” I was 18.

“That’s what all young men say.” He took off his straw hat and looked at the intersection. “Most travelers take 3 down to Lancaster and east on 2, but a few head over to Berlin.”

Berlin was a logging town.

“Which one you take?” My voice shimmered with color, mostly green.

“Depends on where I’m going, but I like driving along the Upper Ammonoosuc River. It’s very twisted.”

“Thanks for the information.”

Mark and I looked at each other.

“Go left,” said John in the back. “Always take the road less traveled.”

It was the hippie way and I beeped the horn before heading down 110.

An AM radio station from Burlington played War’s SPILL THE WINE, Free’s ALL RIGHT NOW, Mungo Jerry’s IN THE SUMMERTIME before fading into static behind the airwave shadow of Mt. Cabot.

Berlin blurred under the blue sky and the pines wavered with the breeze. This was the North Country. The wind riffled across our ears. I drove slowly up 16 with snow gleaming atop Mount Washington.

A river ran to our right.

“Quiet.” I shut off the engine and coasted down a dirt road to the bank of the Peabody River.

“Me too,” replied the three friends.

We were on the same plane.

The four of us got out of the bug.

The mountain stream rushing over glacial rocks to create a primordial language. Our teenage ears listened to its teachings and we obeyed the command to submerge our bodies in the torrent’s lecture. Our communion with LSD immuned our flesh from the frigid winter melt. Time melted faster than butter in the sun.

“Speak, river, speak.” John was all ears.

Our skin was turning blue.

I strained to understand the river’s message.

A young boy in shorts appeared from the trees. He was wearing an Andre the Giant tee-shirt.

John Gilmour elbowed me.

“It’s him.”

“Him who?”

“Him.”

“I don’t who him is, but we don’t need him to bring us down. What you want, kid?” Tommie was a stickler for keeping crowds small while on LSD.

“Why are you were sitting in the water?

“To hear it speak,” Tommie answered without hesitation. He was a high school hockey star. On ice his skating was almost holy and Tommie was the was the most spiritual of us.

The eleven year-old stuck a finger in the river.

“I don’t near nothing, but the water.”

We cocked our ears to the current.

The boy in the shorts was right.

“We hear the water too.”

We were on an ancient quest.

“And it’s cold.”

“Yes, it is cold.”

We stood up with goose-bumped skin. The release from the river was a rush.

“Come out of the river.” The young boy ordered with biblical authority.

“Whatever you say.” Tommie Jordan chattered through this teeth.

Mark’s skin was death white and I shivered like I had been pulled from the Atlantic after the sinking of the Titanic. This boy had saved us from hypothermia. His coming here was no accident.

“Who are you?” I asked, blowing into my hands.

“Bobby.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Am too.”

“You’re someone else.” Someone famous and John’s retinas opened to the max, as he whispered, “It’s Jesus.”

“Jesus.” I might have been a non-believer, but I flashed on the 12 year-old Messiah in the Temple. Bobby was about his age.

“What are you talking about?” I was a firm non-believer.

“He’s the Second Coming.” John was on a vision.

“I’ve been here before.” The boy picked up a rock and threw it into the river.

“Here before?” I asked with time repeating over and over again like a reshuffled deck of cards.

Yes.” Bobby liked simple answers and before we could pose the right questions, a teenage girl in a tube top hurried from the underbrush. Red hot pants hung off her skinny ass.

“Bobby, you get over here.” The redhead was about 15. Her skin was milk white.

“I wasn’t doing nothing.” Bobby was a member of her family.

“What I tell you about speaking to strangers.” She grabbed her brother. Her tube top was no protection from our eyes.

“I wanted to know why they were sitting in the river.” Our prophet attempted to escape her clutches.

“Why? Because they’re stupid hippies.” She was teenage trouble to men and boys.

“We’re not stupid hippies.” I was enlightened by LSD. Bobby was Jesus. His sister was blind.

“I know stupid when I see it. You’re fucked up on LSD too.” The sister seized Bobby by the ear and our ‘Jesus’ squealed in defeat, as she dragged her brother away from the river.

“Don’t take him away.” John scrambled over the glacial rocks.

“Let him go.” Mark slipped on a mossy rock into the river.

“But he’s____”

“Look.” John pointed through the trees.

Bobby’s family was setting up a barbecue. His father regarded us with a command to keep our distance. This was their holiday destination.

Bobby had been here before, but only in this lifetime.

“So he’s no Jesus.”

“He was a for a minute.” John laughed with the LSD.

“He’s just a kid we thought was Jesus. Listen.” Mark was lying in the water.

The river had resumed its music. Its song were never played on the radio. We lay in the river and sang its lyrics until our throats were parched dry as the summer grass. Drinking the river was a sacrament. We clambered from the water and sat on the rocks. Bobby’s family left in the direction of North Conway. We came down under the pine trees. The night rose from the east.

“You know they’re lighting off fireworks on the Charles.” John loved watching the Boston Pops playing the 1812 OVERTURE. The fireworks were a wonder of pyrotechnics.

“We missed it this year.”

“But not our trip.” John smiled in the darkness.

The moon floated across a universe of nova stars.

“It was something else.”

We spread our sleeping bags and lit a fire.

“You know there is no God.” I had to say it.

“And there is no Jesus.” Mark had been quiet for hours.

“But there is a Bobby.” Tommie lit a joint. It was good Acapulco Gold.

“And he has a hot sister.”

Our heads bobbed in agreement, because even an atheist on LSD can believe a small boy with a sister in a tube top can be Jesus.

After all acid is only a drug and this everyday is the dawn of the Age of Aquarius.

Happy Fourth Of July

It’s all about Bouffants

THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the 13 United States of America:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

— That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

— Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such….

…. is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of….

…large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

Independence Hall before photography

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
Declaration of Independence

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.

They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare,

That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

— And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Handwriting History

Historians attributed authorship of the Declaration of Independence to Thomas Jefferson, despite the Second Continental Congress appointing Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston to aid in the writing of this document. Jefferson wrote the first draft from June 11 to June 28, after which John Adams and Benjamin Franklin revised the text. A third draft was inked after submission to the Congress before the Declaration was sent out for printing.

They had no spellcheck.

The Declaration of Independence was written by hand.

No white-out.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.