Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Summer of '70



Somehow we came up just shy of having much autonomy in the Summer of '69. But we'd made a pact to make up for it in the Summer of '70. This is OUR season in the sun. This is one of OUR stories.


My girlfriend, Tina, pulls up in front of my house. I yell to my mom that I'm leaving. She yells back my curfew. I pretend not to hear. This summer, Tina's driving a turquoise, '63 Comet convertible from her father's used car lot. Every summer she gets a different car. We are two seventeen year old chicks heading out on a Saturday night. As my butt hits the seat, its black vinyl spanks me with searing heat. My hand, singed by the metal door frame, wincingly pulls it closed. It's nearly 7 p.m. and still crazy hot. But we look cool. We know it.


Our long, blond, ironed-straight-parted-in-the-middle hair, blazing in the sun, flying in the wind, we hit the freeway. It just opened and it is our playground. If we take the cloverleaf on-ramps in just the right order, we can circle all of them and shoot off the fourth one headed west and for town. Our cotton, paisley dresses, rippling as we cruise, fan short, hot, Coppertoned thighs. We head downtown to the AC. The good ol' Artic Circle. The burger joint of choice along the weekend cruise. Too early for much action--only a few people are hanging out. After ordering a couple of Cokes and hopping back into the convertible, we make a quick lap around town. Too quiet yet to command our attention so we head due west toward Whiskeytown Lake.


On the radio, KRDG's blasting Grand Funk Railroad's, I'm your Captain. The song lasts most of the way to the lake. The sun, like a giant, orange, one-eyed ogre, moves lower in the sky. Our round, John Lennon sunglasses protect us from its blinding assault. Turning left off the highway, we spin toward the back side of the lake. Parking, peeling our sweaty thighs off the plastic seat, we get out of the car. We make a quick hike of getting down to our favorite, hidden spot by the water. The sun loses its fight with the rise of the mountains. The mountains grace us with the relief of their shade. Sitting on large, sun warmed rocks, we flip our leather sandals to the sand. Feet dangle in the water. Wheat Straw rolling papers are pulled out. Seeds and stems are picked out of the baggie of Mexican weed and saved for leaner times. A big fattie gets rolled.


Sitting in silence, we finish sipping the harsh smoke of the yellow bomber. The copper wire and beaded roach clip, ceremoniously affixed to the last, wee bit of paper wrapped herb, gives us a few more hits. We witness the day flashing its last, green-gold ray of death. Extinguished as completely as the joint. What now? Find a party? Go to the drags? Find some music? The drive-in? Yeah, tonight we'll go to the drive-in. The Woodstock movie's out. We were too young and lived too far away to go to the festival last year. But even out here, on the west coast, we had felt the ripples of excitement and were stoked to see the movie.


Sandals get put back on feet. Feet head for the convertible. We make the ride back to town under the shadow of the mountains while taking in the Fresh Air of Quicksilver Messenger Service. Just in time to make the show, we head for the silver screened giant. Making a snail's roll through the line to the neon lit, moth swarmed ticket booth, we pull out our $1.50 per car load and find a place to park. Once giving the metal speaker on the post a home on the Comet's partially rolled up window, we head off to the snack bar. A munchie run is the first priority. Abba Zaba's, popcorn, Junior Mints, red licorice and a couple of fruit punches later, we head back to the car. Second priority...a potty stop.


We are ready for the movie and what a movie it is! Jimi Hendrix, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and Country Joe McDonald among many, many others. The Bum Trip Centers, set up by Abbie Hoffman, are filled with victims of the "not so good, brown acid" floating around. After the movie, riding high on its excitement, we head back out to the lake. Talking all the way. We had never seen that many musicians at one event. We had never seen crowds that big, stages that big, nor towers and speakers that big. No one had. And in the nearly 100-degrees-at-midnight heat, we pull those summer dresses off over our heads and kick off our sandals...again. Skinny dipping our bodies into the cool-warm layers of water, we melt grainy, salty, dried sweat from our skin. Gliding over the glassy layer of moonlit water and bouncing off of the surrounding mountains back at us, come our cheers: "Give me an 'F'." "Give me a 'U'." Give me a 'C'." "Give me a..."






The last day of summer in the northern hemisphere, has just given way to Autumn. As we poise in the balance of the dark and light of this equinox, in Redding, our temperatures are still rising above triple digit marks. It is hard to believe that we have crossed an invisible line marking a new chapter of the year. In thinking about the last days of summer, this memory keeps rising like a blurry, heat wave covered image. Memories of spending summers with my friend, Tina. For several years, our every Saturday night started and ended this same way. It makes me feel good to remember her when she was young and happy. She is dead now and her ending was not so fun or pretty. But that is a story for a darker part of the year.

21 comments:

subtorp77 said...

Ronda, awesome story! To be carefree like that. Envy...and diggin Country Joe( Dang! Who wasn't at Woodstock? ) And like the new header pic :)

Mary said...

Great story - you always make me feel like I'm there. Woodstock is one of my "fish that got away" stories - HA !! Sometimes it's better that way.

Brian Miller said...

oh wow. was digging the trip and you slammed on the breaks in the last line...have lots of memories of summers with my cousin mike...we used to get in such trouble.

TechnoBabe said...

You are a WRITER. You have TALENT. Now I am envious of you. Seriously, this is good writing. Your memories of Tina as she was in your summers like this are your tribute to her friendship and her joy during her life.

Ronda Laveen said...

Subby: It's funny. At the time, we thought we thought we were so serious and going to change the world. But, you are right, in looking back, they were carefree days. Glad you liked the Country Joe and the new header.

Mary: I would love to hear your "fish that got away" story. Puh-lease...

Brian: Sorry, didn't mean to give you whiplash by slammin' on the breaks. Yeah, I've read a couple of your posts that indicate your wisdom comes from experience. Like when you jumped the car like the Duke's of Hazard.

TechnoBabe: Thank you so much. Tina deserves a tribute. Somehow, she got lost on a dark and lonely road and never made it back. But we were very close for many years.

Skip Simpson said...

That post brought me back quite a lot. Growing up in South Central Massachusetts, there was a town called Woodstock, Connecticut... right acrss the border. I remember when the music festival was going on, I was in the Army during basic training at Ft. Dix, New Jersey. We had the radio playing, and I kept hearing "Woodstock, Woodstock." In my innocence, I thought that all this was happening right next door to my hometown! LOL!

Jill said...

Had an INSTANT photograph in my head of you cute blonde girls out loving the summer fun that was ALL yours...carefree and full of expectations.

Ronda Laveen said...

Skip: I can almost feel your let down and disappointment when you learned the truth about the "other" Woodstock.:-(

Jill: Yes, we were sure the world was OURS and that we held conspicuous places in that world. Life played out other wise. I'm not complaining but Tina might. Although, we are the captian's of our own ship...

Jai Joshi said...

What a great story. I could feel the wind in your hair and the sun in your eyes. So cool!

I'm sorry to hear about Tina passing away.

Jai

otin said...

I think Woodstock was one of those magical times in history that can never be recreated. Kind of like the Berlin wall coming down. Anyone who actually went there was very lucky. I was 5, I dont think I could have gone! haha! Great post!

Ronda Laveen said...

Jai: Thanks, coming from you that is a compliment. Tina was a good friend for many years.

Otin: You could have gone! You are such a rocker that I can totally see you there--rolling around in the mud--bobbin' your head.

Dorraine said...

Ronda, Ronda, it sounds like you had some fun times. When you get old and sit in that rocking chair you're going to have some kick tail stories to tell your grandchildren. Well, you can always leave out little details
...cough, cough.

Glad you have those memories with your dear friend Tina. I know you must miss her.

Ronda Laveen said...

Dorraine: I learned from your last blog to write it like you own it...damn what people think about who and what you are. Not to let that get in the way of the story. I couldn't have children so don't have to worry about the grandchild inspection. And the neices and nephews, well, when they are old enough they get to hear the details. Most, anyway...cough, cough.

Thanks for the lesson.

Baino said...

Aww Ronda, to lose a friend is such an awful thing. Something I dwell on a little too often as I get older.You do help us to live in the moment. Children are wonderful but not the 'be all and end all' I was in my early teens and didn't understand Woodstock until much later but as my own go to festivals and concerts, I can see that cameraderie and connection. I'm blithering I think but love your blog and your insite. You're quirky but you make sense.

Dorraine said...

I see that you have taken the lesson wisely, oh grasshopper! Glad someone really reads my crap and takes it to heart. But it is true- you should always tell the story straight up. Not everyone will like it, but look at all those who do! Very well then, Ronda. Carry on.

Reya Mellicker said...

I could have written this! Just change a few details and that was my summer of 1970, too. I even ironed my hair!!

Carefree? I wasn't, but I was hell bent to live life, kind of fearless in that way. My friend's name was Linda and she drove a black Mustang convert.

What a trip! Thanks for this, Ronda.

tony said...

Ah! Pretty Much The Same Dreams & Memories were going on in England at the same time (although,being England, The Dream was 'seasoned' with Rain not heat!).
We Never Lose That Feeling....but sometimes we forget the potential with have inside.
Great Writing Ronda.Keep The Dream Alive!

Megan said...

Lovely.

Ronda Laveen said...

Baino: You think I'm quirky? Ahhh, you so get me! Blither on, Baino, blither on.

Dorraine: You crack me up! Of course I read your profound works on writing. Tis not Crrrrap. Tis brilliant.

Your grasshopper.

Reya: Our lives so parallel each other that it is uncanny...Linda, convertible, hair ironing. The young girls now days don't realize how lucky they are to have those flat irons. They don't know the perils of using a clothes iron that close to your head or how you can scorch your hair.

Tony: Yes, the rain! I remember reading your story about one of the largest rock concerts across the pond that got totally rained and winded out. Except for the hardy few, like yourself, that didn't know it wasn't supposed to be that way. That was an amazing story.

Megan: Thank you. I love your new avatar.

Leah said...

I love this so SO much. It is magical. And it made me cry.

Ronda Laveen said...

Leah: Thank you SO much. There was a magic to that time...it is hard to describe.