Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title page, Copyright, Dedication, Epitaph,

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pp. 4-13

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Chapter 1

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pp. 3-14

No plan that Thursday but a big breakfast—eggs, toast. The classic college boyfriend’s apartment: milling about and underfoot, one or two other boys and their maybe girls. A straggly neighbor born Harold, called Chug, forever turning up to make a point then stopping mid-sentence. Someone’s cousin crashed there for week. ...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 4-5

My good luck charm, a holy card, also folded unto its razorblade: St. Christopher, patron saint of travel, who held the Christ child high on one shoulder, crossing a rather dangerous ribbon of water. He looked burdened in the picture, resolved but awkward with that globe of his in the other hand, that walking stick. ...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 6-7

Jack had told me about her, about Frances. Just a year older than I was but at 21, married three years, a widow for eight months now, since the car crash in Colorado. She never even tried college—are you nuts? Study that shit? she’d said. She had a job somewhere. He wasn’t sure exactly, something with children. ...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 8-11

And the guy was Woodrow Joseph Brookston, ex-boyfriend of my high school friend Alexandra—Crazy Alex for short—who was a student at the U of I too, her apartment three blocks from me. Back now, Woody had been in Champaign a couple of days, just released at last and for good, out of Vietnam. Not a soldier, I assured Frances. ...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 12-14

There are a boatload of ways to hitchhike. It was a minor art form back then, late ’60s, early ’70s. With a homemade blocklettered sign—Cedar Rapids or Denver or Anywhere West. Or no sign at all. That was the purist stance, the one I favored. A thumb out in a tentative, subtle way, or the whole arm practically waving if one got desperate. ...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 15-17

It was still threatening winter. Snow, and then a thaw. A thaw, then snow. A little or a lot. That was March in the middle west. Coat, gloves, a hat: we kept them close through Illinois on venerable route 80, a road widened and pounded into place all the way to San Francisco, sometimes exactly where the old Lincoln Highway had been, ...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 18-29

But I didn’t shrug this time, letting the weight of her words sink through me. I didn’t want to seem offhand or indifferent. I didn’t want to be a nosy jerk about it either. Her life was her life. High up, hundreds of long-winged birds—sandhill cranes, I learned much later—were doing their noisy gaggle en route, ...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 19-20

So this wasn’t a blow-it-all-to-hell trip. Jack had been wrong. It was about remembering, finding out. Really the deepest human impulse before that second one: to give up, to let it all go. The plan lay quietly between us; we weren’t telling Woody. No point, Frances had said. ...

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Chapter 9

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pp. 21-23

I wonder now about body and soul, the crucial balance between them on such a trip, how it seems at first only little things the body wants grow urgent on the road—where to sleep, what to eat. But you’d be surprised. ...

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Chapter 10

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pp. 24-25

The thing about hippies was: we never thought ourselves included in that sweep—no one I knew, at least—a term made up by Life magazine probably, or Newsweek. It was not a self-anointed demographic in 1971. But the name always seemed hokey, a grand and stupid reduction like most generalizations. ...

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Chapter 11

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pp. 26-28

What’s the deal here, man? said Woody, walking over to us as we hit hour number four of our long wait-for-a-ride. Good job, Nebraska! he called out, his whole body going rigid as he saluted wheat field upon wheat field, the longest horizon going. ...

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Chapter 12

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pp. 29-30

It was one knockout van, that’s sure. Your classic case, or trying hard to be: spray-painted in DayGlo colors, bad R. Crumb ripoffs, cartoon guys angled as far back as they could and still be upright, walking all over the side and up onto the roof in those big shoes and, scattered about, old familiars even then, cast in tall capital letters: ...

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Chapter 13

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pp. 31-33

Now where in California? the tie-dye guy riding shotgun said to us once Woody and I wedged ourselves in the second seat, and Frances slipped further back, behind us. He had turned around and I could see he was a bit younger than we were, but not by much. He put on his wire-rims so he could check us out. ...

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Chapter 14

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pp. 34-36

That’s pretty much what it was like when you got picked up by anyone under 30. They brought out the weed and turned up the music; they passed around what food they had; they drove all night, taking turns at the wheel while you slept as best you could, propped up against your backpack. ...

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Chapter 15

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pp. 37-41

It wasn’t all sleep and stare, stop and be hypnotized by beauty. We invented various games to pass the time in that van, like First Memory or Famous Last Words. Or our favorite: Moment of History. ...

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Chapter 16

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pp. 42-49

The whole time Frances kept insisting: there wasn’t any reason to tell Woody about Ned. The plan was, of course, that he’d be breaking off from us, heading north to see his folks in Oregon once we got to California. Anyway, what was there to say? She wanted to listen to anyone who remembered Ned, that’s all. ...

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Chapter 17

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pp. 50-52

We were almost to Sacramento where Woody would be taking off alone, up Route 5, straight into Oregon. We’d lose Tie-Dye and his friend too. They were busy trying to remember where the cousin lived, what street exactly and where on that street, the guy Tie-Dye said would be out of his gourd with joy and amazement to see them. ...

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Chapter 18

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pp. 53-54

Pretty soon we’d be leaving the van too. They took us only a little ways, where the old Sacramento Historical Park cut into 80. They were headed north, they said, then maybe a little east, still not clear where the cousin lived in town. That piece of paper with the crucial information, they assumed it was in the glove compartment. ...

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Chapter 19

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pp. 55-57

We didn’t wait long. Another hippie van pulled over, this one not so freshly or enthusiastically christened as such, with its blistering blue paint, its one cracked window repaired with duct tape. The genuine article, I suppose you might say, clearly on the road for a while. ...

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Chapter 20

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pp. 58-60

We couldn’t see much through the windows of that van, with those beads shifting back and forth as we sped west that afternoon, then south on route 80, through Davis and Vacaville, near Napa, past Vallejo. We saw signs for those cities at least, their flashes of green and bright sunlight. ...

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Chapter 21

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pp. 61-63

Their errand took just a couple of minutes. They carried a couple of small sacks into the van and did a big fat u-turn, right on University Avenue and we were out of there, headed back to route 80. We were approaching the bridge from Oakland to San Francisco, past where our driver had promised to go out of his way to drop us. ...

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Chapter 22

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pp. 64-65

I thought that fairly heartless, playing the dead husband card like that even though the woman was on the obnoxious side. But I didn’t say anything. We were standing on Steiner then, trying to scope out where these two lived, these old friends of Ned—Kevin and Joyce Sunderland. ...

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Chapter 23

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pp. 66-69

Joyce Sunderland was what we called straight in those days, before sexual preference had anything to do with it. It meant she wasn’t a freak, wasn’t even close to a hippie, that she was what her parents had dreamed she would be: well-groomed unto squeaky clean and upwardly mobile—a phrase of both description and derision then. ...

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Chapter 24

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pp. 70-71

Frances was pointing, but she didn’t need to. Ned—looking gorgeous and dazed, hair out and out flying, as usual, in all directions— was huge, and laminated somehow, stuck to the wall, the very center of what seemed like a million other pictures in mad rotation around him: ...

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Chapter 25

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pp. 72-73

I keep thinking about that collage, which was, in fact, a rather popular thing to put together then. A very hip friend of mine in the dorm, a girl who insisted on wearing sandals all winter, minus socks even, had done the same thing, searching through various publications— ...

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Chapter 26

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pp. 74-85

Frances! So Kevin burst into the room. I looked up to find— predictably—a fully straight looking guy in a pin-striped shirt, a suit, short hair. He had a little mustache—his concession to the world outside mostly falling apart—and he was taking off his jacket, loosening his tie, unbuttoning his collar. ...

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Chapter 27

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pp. 75-80

The four of us skipped the real dining room and ate in that kitchen. I can’t remember quite what. A rice something, with peas. A fish something. Salad with greens I never saw before in my life, ultra curly ones, and bitter. Tomatoes like you’d get in Illinois but only in July or August, the fresh-picked time of year. ...

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Chapter 28

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pp. 81-84

We were under our matching blue bedspreads, in that little guest room which we knew now to be on the other side of the apartment, the farthest point from the Sunderlands’ bedroom. So it was safe to say such things. No one would hear us. It was late too, about 11:30 or so. ...

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Chapter 29

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pp. 85-86

We were polite enough as we left the next morning. I said how good it was to meet them; I wished Kevin luck on making partner and hoped that Joyce would find some really dynamite occupational therapy program someplace close. I thanked them, of course. Joyce nodded, smiling. ...

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Chapter 30

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pp. 87-89

It wasn’t a story story since it actually happened. In real life , as they say. But I started anyway in that vein because that’s what memory does. So the brain can pick up what took place once and carry it other places. So the mouth can find words for it. So it gains weight and casts a shadow. ...

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Chapter 31

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pp. 90-92

Was I boring Frances to smithereens? What was I telling this for? Off shore, out on the ocean, I saw ships. I saw men shrunk by distance pulling on ropes, some just standing on deck. I guessed they were smoking cigarettes, dreaming off, taking a break. So I stopped too. ...

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Chapter 32

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pp. 93-95

I figure not many people my age then, ones I knew anyway, had had such a moment, sure they were done for, over, kaput, though of course Woody had plenty of that from his time as a medic. As I told my story to Frances, I realized I hadn’t thought about it much. It rattled me to put it out there, in the air like that. ...

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Chapter 33

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pp. 96-97

We just sat there for a while, a few minutes at least. The people in a circle below, the ones who had probably downed some mescaline, were silent too, a couple or so hunched over, studying blades of grass, others lying back, staring with great attention into the leafy shade. ...

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Chapter 34

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pp. 98-102

It took us almost no time, just over the Golden Gate Bridge, past Sausalito and Marin City and then we went west at a place called Strawberry Point. Two rides. We were back in regular cars again, no van, just the driver each time. ...

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Chapter 35

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pp. 103-104

It freaked them out, big time. Frances had style. She could knock people flat. First that poor thoughtless woman in the hippie-beatnik van. Now these guys, who were a mixed-up bunch, that’s for sure. But they had at least one thing in common: they revered Ned. Now they remembered it all. ...

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Chapter 36

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pp. 105-108

In my case, it was just your run-of-the mill basement, at the edge of Chicago. And my best friend, Jill Zonik, was eager to get high. But naturally, she cautioned. Not by smoking a joint. None of that. ...

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Chapter 37

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pp. 109-110

Hey, you know what else? They’re into some weird shit around here, Frances whispered to me out in the yard later. We were each spooning down a deep bowl of rice and lentils, and there was homemade bread, rich with seeds and wheat berries. I never saw a wheat berry before. ...

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Chapter 38

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pp. 111-113

When I look at a map now, I can see Mill Valley is only a couple of miles or so from the coast though not Sausalito, not Tiburon, both right on the water. It’s inland, not terribly far if you compare it to anything really landlocked, like Illinois, for instance—if you don’t count Lake Michigan. ...

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Chapter 39

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pp. 114-116

Once those guys decided that Frances wasn’t exactly Ned, not even close, I guess they refocused on their more immediate reason to stay alive: to build that boat, to take Satamanyu, their guru, to see his guru down in Peru. Ned had met their guru once or twice and had approved. ...

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Chapter 40

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pp. 117-120

It would be a long journey by sea. Their boat was almost finished. We could see it sticking out of the garage, its wooden keel about nine feet high, practically an ark. It barely cleared the roof beam. And when a little subcommittee of them found us that evening, they popped the question formally. ...

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Chapter 41

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pp. 121-122

That last move—a tad sleazy, I have to say, their pandering that way, invoking Ned in their argument. Crazy, the entire thing. Not to mention the fact that Frances and I knew beans about cooking. Of course, that’s what we’d mostly be making: lentils and great northerns and the red and black variety, grains too, ...

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Chapter 42

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pp. 123-124

You might think that the beginning of a completely new saga. You might flash-forward to those guys bringing the awkward problem of our non-compliance to their guru, being told in short order simply to abduct us, that we’d be very glad in the future to have submitted to our fate as aiders and abettors of this crucial journey. ...

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Chapter 43

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pp. 125-126

We were saying good-bye the next morning, right near the plum tree Ned had woven up and made sacred. It looked perfectly normal. Leaves. Nice long branches. And caught in the act of blossoming though had it lived in Illinois, we’d be waiting a month for that burst of color. Here, maybe it was flowering its heart out all the time in that non-stop sunlight. ...

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Chapter 44

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pp. 127-130

So we took him at his word—no words—and acted like he was our personal chauffeur, like we’d be calling out home, James! any second. I mean to say we totally ignored him as he glumly drove on, down the most breathtaking highway, maybe in the world. Pretty soon, once we were out of the city, it was one sheer drop to the sea. ...

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Chapter 45

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pp. 131-133

The ways one could be fucked up and still semi-function seem so multiple and strange. You can watch that happen, to others and to yourself; this is what it’s like to get older. It’s possible to think forward and back like Janus, that Roman god of doorways or maybe more like those stupid bobble heads going every which way ...

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Chapter 46

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pp. 134-135

So we got to Big Sur. I don’t know what the place is like now but then, there wasn’t all that much, in the way of stores and streets and houses, I mean. The ocean, of course, its immense heart beating as usual, those mountains beginning just a shade east of the highway and rearing into cliffs or sometimes they gently rose. ...

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Chapter 47

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pp. 136-139

Certain moments open and you fall right in, sucked back to some previous elsewhere. Still, this was 1971; this was California, the ocean seizing up and letting go behind us, a casualness expected before all things sacred or profane, or sacred and profane—so went the deepest intuition: both, at once. ...

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Chapter 48

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pp. 140-143

House or cabin or camp. Beyond that, how to describe such a rugged, glorious place. I think of it as isolated, a spot where one looked down and out and over, that we walked a long way to find it, a set of small switchbacks all the way up from Highway 1. Maybe it had a big bay window, the house itself in a kind of T-shape and at least five rooms. ...

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Chapter 49

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pp. 144-146

In fact, I have only a vague idea what we told him of our trip. We no doubt talked through the basics—when and where we started, about Woody, a free man, sprung from the army at last, about those loser Lincoln boys in their wannabe hippie van, their cockeyed exuberance all the way west. Blah blah, this and that. ...

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Chapter 50

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pp. 147-148

We set out. That sounds like the opening of some great epic: we set out. But we did. Because Esalen wasn’t far, first the easy stretch down to the highway, passing the meadow, those serious redwoods and the friendship of their shade. ...

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Chapter 51

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pp. 149-151

I’ll try to describe Esalen though I recall so little that I feel like a blind person—how I imagine that must be like—getting the room by feel, the woods or meadow by scent, the winds that bring that scent, a shift in that wind, sometimes cooler, sometimes warmer. ...

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Chapter 52

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pp. 152-154

Whatever Blake might have thought of that lovely instant of release, his words into real time and flight, the completely alive and equal feel of that, the thing is—the great world sometimes goes quite another way. Sometimes its weight is too daunting to measure, its duration sudden and dark. ...

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Chapter 53

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pp. 155-157

Frances and I would mumble what we could to answer, obviously self-conscious and awkward—no doubt a problem more serious than how we dressed or what we’d read since that state of being is deeply contagious; its stain can spread. ...

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Chapter 54

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pp. 158-161

I think, in fact, the baths were via some steps, an open then wooded and wandering narrow path, stone steps cut right into the rock wall to the ocean. I almost seem to recall that. Or rickety stairs, rather life-threatening stairs, but again, who knows? ...

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Chapter 55

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pp. 162-165

That business of the body, unveiling it with such low-key ceremony— or none at all—to a cast of, if not thousands, at least more than one: what to think about that, when one is 20? When I was 20, I guess I mean. Or any age, if the truth be told. ...

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Chapter 56

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pp. 166-167

Truth then. Part of that is your own parlor game, I guess, putting the puzzle together, making form, a way to calm down the excitable parts that don’t quite fit—first in your own head, or later, when you try to make it presentable or at least coherent, to pass it on to others. Not exactly a parlor game. ...

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Chapter 57

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pp. 168-169

Supper was number one on the list, and this time Frances and I had nothing to bring to the table. But Emil set us to work cutting up carrots and onions and garlic while he deftly removed various boney bits from the chicken. I stared at the wine he poured for me, aware that I was underage. ...

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Chapter 58

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pp. 170-174

Emil returned with a small cardboard box. It was brimming with photographs, older ones in black and white, some larger than others, a few mounted on thick dark poster board with stylized art-deco frou-frou in the corners or along the right and left margins. ...

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Chapter 59

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pp. 175-186

So Ned had been an artist, of whatever sort. So the roof flies off a house. So the locks fall off doors. That, and the drugs, and the time itself, those years now so hard to imagine where roofs were supposed to do that. And doors themselves routinely walked away from their locks, ...

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Chapter 60

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pp. 176-179

There remained the more earthbound, semi-dicey matter of where we would sleep. I moved in and out of that thought all day and even brought it up to Frances in a private off-moment at Esalen when Emil had edged away from us, and he was standing, ...

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Chapter 61

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pp. 180-182

At first, I was uncertain whether Frances, via Ned and his fate, was, in fact, Emil-immune. After supper, she slipped into the bathroom for quite a long time. The faucet in there ran by starts and stops. She was clearly at work washing out a few things, something I needed to do too, ...

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Chapter 62

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pp. 183-184

Frances and I both slept in the living room that night, she on the couch while I hunkered down on a thin mat under blankets Emil supplied. He stood in the kitchen and said goodnight to us, sad but good-natured. I waved from the floor. ...

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Chapter 63

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pp. 185-186

We were out of there early but not before Emil fixed us eggs and toast and good black tea and we had gathered up our line-dried shirts and underwear from back behind the house. He wanted to talk dreams. ...

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Chapter 64

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pp. 187-190

It turned out Frances did have a map, or at least directions. Ned had a relative named Keith at that commune in Colorado, though relative was a stretch, really a very distant fourth or fifth cousin come into the family by way of—I don’t know—an aunt who married in about fifty years ago, ...

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Chapter 65

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pp. 191-192

It was an honest-to-god 1960s commune, howbeit sprung from someone’s dream of luxury in the ’20s. Pink, for one thing, and made of stone with all sorts of intricate scrolling worked into the door lintels or wherever there happened to be a column. ...

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Chapter 66

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pp. 193-195

Inside the main house where the office once was, they showed us the kitchen, the big common room, the array of other, smaller spaces, one a kind of library now, they said—books people on the move had left there, or titles found on the library take-it, it’s free cart or discovered at rummage sales. ...

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Chapter 67

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pp. 196-198

It’s impossible to know what ordinary life on the commune was like when it was in full swing given the exodus of so many of its citizens. When Frances and I loitered about, and caught any of the handful of people remaining, they seemed overwhelmed— too much to do, ...

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Chapter 68

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pp. 199-200

So I was napping in our little two-bed unit, probably most of the afternoon. I hoped that would help, a sweet long doze. Then Frances was shaking me, her hand on my shoulder. ...

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Chapter 69

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pp. 201-203

It took a few minutes, my mulling and remulling this over, something I never had to do very long at Big Sur where the crowds in those Esalen baths saved me the trouble. Had I a time machine, I might have whizzed off to the future again, to our first days at Netherwood Co-op ...

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Chapter 70

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pp. 204-205

Of course, this dropping trou thing wasn’t any regular in-your-face walk-around habit I knew of in the country, not in the Midwest or out west either, not even at Esalen, where it was traced back, in theory at least, to simple bathing, once the only spot on that desolate stretch of coast to manage such a thing. ...

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Chapter 71

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pp. 206-208

When we got to the main building, which opened into a kind of roofed plaza where the swimming pool had been set in the ground long ago, three or four people were already stripped down and either going into the water, or had just emerged. ...

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Chapter 72

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pp. 209-210

When I came to, came back to myself from wherever I’d been, I felt a pillow under my head and a blanket around me. I looked up into the lantern-lit dark and people were eating. They were shiny in that light. They were laughing and talking. I raised up on one arm and—my clothes? ...

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Chapter 73

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pp. 211-212

I was really sleeping it off then. All night, and into the next morning. I woke alone in that little room. It looked like Frances hadn’t used the other bed at all. I felt way better. I washed up and changed into my last clean clothes—underwear, T-shirt. Now I really was hungry. ...

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Chapter 74

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pp. 213-215

Like some? he asked. I did. I really did. It occurred to me to say something about last night, my terrible upchuck, spilling my guts—or tossing my cookies as we called it when I was a kid. How sorry I was, all that. But no one seemed to care. They either shrugged or changed the subject. ...

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Chapter 75

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pp. 216-217

They had this cool old truck on that commune, circa 1958 or so. A Ford, with those wide ripped up seats, duct tape holding them together, and a spider-like stick shift, wobbly, straight up from the floor. We walked out and climbed in, the three of us. Keith and Frances and me. ...

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Chapter 76

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pp. 218-219

The side of the barn was covered in all manner of paint, high and low, left to right. For starters, your standard mandala, your ying/yang symbol, even a little peace sign at the right lower edge. But the other images: all sizes of faces caught in horror or ecstasy, sorrow or joy but mostly it was pain in those eyes, ...

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Chapter 77

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pp. 220-224

And that’s pretty much what I have of this story I’ve been waiting thirty-seven years to tell. But a friend was bothered: why now? At the most basic level, I suppose it’s only now that I have the writerly nerve to attempt it at all, the patience—and the distance finally—to see it unfold again. But there’s more. ...

Notes and Acknowledgments

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pp. 225-228