Hitchhiking was the only way to travel between Boston and Montreal in the early 1970s. The trip was a scenic 400 miles on I-89 slanting across New Hampshire and Vermont to Lake Champlain then north into Quebec.
On one trip in August of 1971 a longhair driving a van said that he needed money for gas.
I gave him $5.
He took me from Lebanon to St. Albans with Jethro Tull on the 8-track When I got out of the car, the longhair handed me a horse choker pill an inch long.
“It’s LSD.” The hippie flashed a peace sign and his iris wavered in size. “Very strong. Take it with friends and don’t look in a mirror.”
“I know better than that.” I had once stared at my shimmering reflection for hours on Orange Sunshine.
“Thanks for the gas.”
A gallon was 35 cents. $5 was good for a week’s driving.
I flashed him the peace sign and stood on the interstate’s shoulder. The next ride took me to the border. Canadian immigration officer asked for a driver’s license. Mine was valid and the man saluted my entrance into his country.
Two hours later I was drinking beer with my New Zealand friends at Winston Churchill Pub. My Irish friends were playing a gig off St. Catherine. Afterward a night of Celtic revels several French girls came home to Benny’s apartment on Barat Street. I showed them the LSD pill.
“Bonne idee.” My French wasn’t good, but the night wore a velvet darkness. A bootleg version of Pink Floyd’s MEDDLE was on the Denon turntable. I divided the powdered pill into sections.
1/3 for the four girls.
1/3 for my three friends.
1/3 for me.
Jefferson Airplane’s AFTER BATHING AT BAXTERS.
A flash of light warbled from the corner of my eyes, as the girls danced with POO NEIL. My friends held the album cover in their hands and we chanted, “A painter painting a picture of a painter painting a picture of a painter painting….”
The LP art shrank into a microscopic sub-universe of time and space with each descending layer funnier than the last.
Dawn broke on the St. Lawrence with stars melting into the sky.
We chanted, “A painter painting a picture of a painter painting a picture of a painter painting….” one last time and returned home for sleep.
I slept with a girl named Cheree, whose flesh was soft as still air. Our unsleeping eyes were dilated to coal pits. She spoke French, no English, but chanted with an Irish accent, “A painter painting a picture of a painter painting a picture of a painter painting….” until the words drifted into a mutter and her skin turned to feathers.
It took me a long time to come down.
Cheree was my parachute.
She gave me a soft landing.
“A painter painting a picture of a painter painting a picture of a painter painting….”
I’m glad that my mind remembered Cheree’s name.
And after this many years I’m glad that I remember my name too.
That LSD was strong as shit.