The Wish Bathers, Chapter Six

Kick Out the Jams between your Toes

Chapter Six

Ninety coffee pots later, or three days as some would say, I’m not really sure what to think of Valerie’s vague behavior. I just want to know what the hell happened to my old man. Who is he? Why did he leave me? And why is it all a big secret?

Someone banging on my front door saves me from whatever kind of mental breakdown I’m about to have. I don’t know if I’m in the mood for company, so this should be interesting. I hope it’s Sydney, at least.

“Shalom,” Kat bows her head.

“Oh,” I say.

“I think I’ve decided to become more orthodox.”

“What?”

“Yeah, my folks are starting to put dating pressure on me. They want me to date some Catholic boys they have picked out. I can’t do it. I’ve started going to Temple.”

“You just had to tell me this right now?”

“I think it’s the right thing for me.”

“Sure, Kat. I think you’re fine just the way you are.”

“Really?”

“What is it about being Jewish?” I raise my left eyebrow.

It takes forever for Kat to respond. I really want to know what her deal is. It’s been more than ten years and I just don’t get it. She’s got some strange identity issues, but hey, at least I’m not the only one.

Suddenly, Kat looks down at her finger nails. She shows me some chipped nail polish to obviously dodge my extremely overwhelming question. It’s not nearly as cute as she wants it to be. I’m so over it.

“So, there was a lot of buzz on Plum Street yesterday. I heard John Sinclair is promoting a new show at the Grande Ballroom this month,” I say.

“What show?”

“Led Zeppelin.”

“Far out.”

“Yeah, it’s on May 16th. Do you know them?” I say.

“I think I know who that is. I’ll get tickets.”

“Wow, groovy. Wait, are you sure that good Jewish girls can go to rock concerts now?” I laugh.

“Give me a break,” Kat crosses her arms, unimpressed.

“Hey, I don’t know, I’m just trying to figure out these new Yenta lines.”

“Don’t make be brech, okay,” she smiles as she slings the Yiddish words around like a professional Frisbee player. “Besides, we don’t need to tell them we’re going to the Grande.”

To my luck, Kat finally splits, and I’m not in a hurry to revisit my last mental soapbox. Thank god. Another cup of coffee sounds much better and just as I’m about to take a sip of my delicious, warm, aromatic beverage, another distraction steals my moment of peace. The phone rings.

It’s Audrey. She’s annoyed and she can join the club. Apparently, Jazz is up to no good. Audrey didn’t get into too many details on the phone other than requesting my presence as soon as possible. I’m thoroughly excited to see what’s so important this time.

I get into Gloria and pull up to their pad around noon. Jazz is still in bed. I knock loudly on her door. No response. I knock again. No response. At this point, I can leave and say I tried, or I can walk in like a nosy best friend, so I opt for the second choice.

Her room smells like sex. Condoms are flung around like a latex minefield. It’s pretty gross. I’m extremely careful not to step on any sticky surprises. The thought makes me more than gag.

There’s a man sleeping next to her. It’s not Greg this time. It’s not even a stranger. In fact, the guy snoring in her bed is the last person in the entire world I want to see right now in this moment. This is so not cool.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” I scream.

The remnants of white powder under her nose look about as classy as her choice of men. This scene is absurd. I don’t blame Audrey for not wanting to deal with it.

“What are you doing in my room this early, man?” Jazz says.

“It’s noon, man. What are you doing with HIM? What the fuck is going on with you?”

“You know, whatever,” Jazz says.

It’s Simon. The douche bag who’s been ballin’ Kat for almost ten years. The guy who took her all the way to Paris just to ditch her. You know, that amazing mensch of a man she just can’t seem to shake? Yeah, that guy. That’s the guy in Jazz’s bed right now. Great.

“So, what about Kat?” I remind her other people do exist.

“What about her?” Jazz yawns and stares at me with demonic eyes.

I don’t know how much cocaine one has to snort to completely lose all sense of human emotions, but I’m pretty sure she’s snorted twice that amount. What am I supposed to do now? What the hell do I tell Kat?

***

It’s another day. I unlock Aphrodite’s at sharp o’clock and start my opening duties with listless fervor. Mindless tasks can be excellent therapy, and today, I’ll take whatever therapy I can get. Fortunately for me, rolling hundreds of pieces of silverware into paper napkins is just as therapeutic as sitting on a cold, leather couch and staring at the ceiling. Deep thoughts make tight rolls. That sounds like a fortune from a cookie but there is something to be said about the depths of thought perfecting the artistry of the wrapped utensils. I think, therefore, I roll.

I know the boss is in the building when an unexpected waft of cologne floats past my nostrils. He enters the dining room confidently and walks over to me. I watch the ground as his shoes drag a trail of dirt onto the freshly swept floor and then make eye-contact. He stops in front of me, picks up a fork, and uses it to point at my face and then down to the ground.

“Look at this. How can you work on that task before the dining room is even ready for guests?” he moves his hand above the dirt trail, assuming I haven’t swept the floor yet.

I have nothing to say so I just get out of the table and start sweeping. There is no sense in having a hopeless conversation with a man like him. It will only get me lost inside another black hole that I don’t want to be in. He watches me for a minute and then returns to his cavernous office like a scorpion disappearing into the crevice of adjoining rocks. I return to my therapy session.

One coffee pot later, the death breath twins arrive for their shifts. I acknowledge them both with a nod but have no desire to assemble an irrelevant conversation this early in the day. Deb ignores my nod while she searches for her special cup and Pam smiles back at me. Within an hour, the place is packed and time is going fast.

Greg shows up eventually. He has a book under his arm and an orange and red satin Yarmulke on his head.

“Shalom,” Greg says.

“Oh no, you too?”

“What?”

“Nothing,” I say. I feel like I’m in an episode of The Twilight Zone. “How’s the Yiddish going?”

“One word at a time.”

“Um, has Jazz been hanging with Darryl?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“I thought she didn’t like him.”

“I don’t know, man. She’s been weird lately.”

“Hmm. Are you working tonight?”

“Yep.”

“Cool, I’ll see you later then. Let’s hang soon.” Greg hugs me and walks away mumbling vocabulary words underneath his breath.

“Wait,” he says. “I’m hungry. I came to eat something.”

“Oh, sorry, I’m a little distracted today.”

“No sweat, wild woman. It’s not your job to remind me to eat.”

Greg and the rest of the customers are gone in less than an hour. The death breath twins phase me from the floor so I can get out of this grease pit job. For me, it’s a place to make money. For them, it’s their life. I will not succumb to a meager existence of fry grease and fattening gossip to fill the bulk of my days on this earth. There is always something more. We just have to look for it.

The urge to see Sydney and break the groovy news prevails over returning to my quiet, empty pad right now. We haven’t spoken since the morning after our LSD trip and I can’t keep Led Zeppelin inside me much longer. There are some other issues taking up room now. Moral dilemmas are a real drag sometimes.

“Hello, foxy,” Sydney smiles when he opens the door.

“Are you ready for this?” I’m bursting to share the groovy news.

“Ready for what?”

“We are going to see Led Zeppelin next week at the Grande!”

“Far out. Really? I love the Grande. That place is out of this world.”

“Cool, huh? I thought you’d be excited.”

“It seems like forever since I’ve seen you,” Sydney says.

“Life has been heavy for me. Any progress with your old man yet?”

“No, I haven’t seen him. I’ve been inspired since our trip and have been working on songs.”

“No way. I’m so glad.”

“What have you been up to?” Sydney says.

“Uhhh, dealing with my insane mother. She isn’t too happy about telling me anything about my old man.”

“That’s a drag. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah. Other stuff, too, but I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

I collapse onto his bad and curl into the fetal position. Sydney moves in behind me to cradle me like a spoon. He’s warm and soft like laundry fresh out of the dryer.

For hours, we lay molded together like an innocent ball of love resting in the tranquil safety of our own little universe. I drift in and out of lucid dreams that carry me through scenes with my old man, images of Simon snoring in Jazz’s bed, and that sad lion. I see his regal visage in my memory and imagine marble tears falling down his polished cheeks. My unborn tears feel that heavy.

“Turn on, tune in, drop out,” Sydney whispers Leary’s words of psychedelic wisdom as if he can feel the heaviness of the world pumping through my veins.

The wrong people always want to interpret ‘drop out’ as some kind of bad, lazy, drug-induced advice, but the right people know it means to disconnect from expectations and limitations and the lines and boxes that control our lives. It has to be the mantra of our current times. How else are we going to wake up?

“All you need is love,” Sydney hums and it’s like he is replying to my inner thoughts.

“The Beatles save me sometimes,” I say.

“Music is medicine. Why do you think I have so many records?”

“Yeah, Elvis saved me from my parents and Motown saved me from myself more than once,” I laugh.

“Fuckin’ A. Let’s go out. Let’s do something fun.”

“Okay, I guess I can get out of bed. Dragonflower?” I say.

The Dragonflower is bumping and thumping like one hell of a groovy time. The Gardener isn’t at his usual spot in the front of the line because he is putting something back into the trunk of his car; like certain kinds of gardening tools, perhaps? He looks in our direction as we cross the parking lot, waving with a crowbar in his hand, and gives an expected stoic nod as he closes the trunk. I know too much information from seeing that crowbar and can’t help wondering which poor girl was just released into the night from the bowels of the infamous pimp mobile.

“Does he always have a crowbar?” Sydney says.

“Seems like it,” I say.

It’s a relief to see Greg behind the bar mixing and mingling and moving to the beats. The music is loud and the people are lively. Jazz is nowhere to be found, of course.

“Isn’t Jazz working tonight?” I ask.

“Yeah,” Greg yells over the music.

“Where is she?”

Greg’s index finger floats high into the air and points to the black glass above the dance floor. I guess I’m not that surprised. She’s on some kind of destructive mission lately.

“Man, how long has she been up there?” I say.

“Don’t know, man. I’ve been slammed down here for a while.”

“We’ll take two beers,” Sydney moves to the sofas across the room. I dig the orange one, of course. It’s probably the dirtiest because it’s been around the longest, but it’s ratty upholstery is especially charming. It could also be the copious amounts of lude associations we all have with the couch, but it’s hard to say.

I get a sudden urge to go upstairs. Sydney follows and helps me push our way through the dancing crowd. We are blocked by two anonymous dancers near a dark hallway. At first, I interpret this as a coincidence of clashing bodies and then figure it’s definitely calculated as we are blocked a second time. The men dancing near the doorway appear to be guards and they make it quite clear that no one will pass. I am totally amused by Darryl’s art of camouflage in certain aspects, even if it means my efforts are momentarily deflected.

“Back to the bar?” Sydney says.

“Hey freaks,” Jazz appears behind the bar. Her blouse is one button off of the correct alignment.

“What have you been doing?” I say.

“I was in the office.” Jazz gives me a deep stare because she knows I’m fishing. “Sorry about yesterday.”

“What about it?” I ask, even though I know exactly what she’s referring to.

“So, uh,” Greg says, “Did you know that Jewish people go to church on Saturday instead of Sunday?”

“Thanks for the breaking news,” Sydney says. Jazz conveniently moves down the bar and tends to newly seated customers. Greg pulls out his mini Yiddish book and practices some vocabulary while The Band’s song, “The Weight,” shifts the vibe down a healthy notch.

“Where’s your Yarmulke?” I say. He cocks his head and pulls it out of his back pocket. “I hope you have next Friday off. You’ve talked to Kat, right?”

“No, man, what’s going on?”

“Four words, man,” Sydney leans over the bar counter and pulls the book out of Greg’s hands. “Led Zeppelin Grande Ballroom.”

“Far out! I’m there,” Greg’s curls bounce with his enthusiasm.

“Let’s drink some wine and Day-glo each other before the show,” I say.

Fifteen minutes later, Jazz is still chatting with some customers on the other end of the bar. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but given yesterdays’ circumstances, I don’t know how to feel any other way. She can ignore me all she wants if that’s how she deals with her guilt.

“Hello Star,” a voice says behind me. I turn around to find my favorite person, Simon, and my blood begins to boil.

“How are you?” Simon says. He acts cordial and proper and it makes me loathe him more.

“Isn’t there another bar you can go to?” I hiss.

I am not amused by his presence. Not one bit. In fact, I’m so not amused by his presence that Sydney pulls me out of there before I start a riot in the club. It’s probably for the best. Between being pissed off at Valerie and Jazz, I’m in the kind of mood where my words won’t bother sparing anyone’s dignity or feelings, including mine.

We coast along Woodward Avenue towards Highland Park. It is the birth place of the 12th street riots and hometown of forgotten dreams. Abandoned buildings, broken windows, and desolate faces are wedged in between the forested streets. The aftermath of the devastation is everywhere the eye can see.

“The City of Trees is still beautiful,” I say. “Where are we going?”

“You want to piss some people off?” Sydney says. “Let out some frustration?”

“Maybe.”

Sydney howls and squeals past Puritan St. A group of people huddled inside a small chicken shack turn their heads when they hear the tires. Our presence is noted. A few blocks later, a car without headlights follows closely behind us and the sound of a gun shot echoes very quietly in the distance; like a crack of lightning almost lost to silence. The night is long, dark, and volatile and it evokes memories of the riots.

I’ll never forget the smoke and the way it made the air so hard to breathe; hanging above the city like a dark cloud of frustration and hatred. I’ll never forget the number of soldiers or the bellows of the tank engines driving down the tree lined streets; or the piercing sound of repeatedly broken windows, broken homes, and broken hearts. I’ll never forget the way all of our parents tried to act like they weren’t scared but we knew they were going ape on the inside.

“When was the last time you went to the duck pond?” Sydney says. I say nothing.

The duck pond is a beautiful place during the day for all kinds of people, offering a wide range of activities, and notorious for being a make-out spot at night. I’ll admit it and say that I’ve never been here to make-out with anyone, but it isn’t a secret why most people come here once the sun goes down. It’s not the only thing, you know, that goes down around here.

Sydney turns off Gloria’s engine so we coast into a parking spot without offending already parked cars. Nobody wants a spotlight when they’re having a ball. The fogged up windows and creaky shocks are enough. This secret code of conduct is respected again when a new car pulls in, minus the head lights, and we both start laughing at all of the bouncing cars around us.

“This is where I come when I’m frustrated,” he says.

“Where do you come when you’re not frustrated?” I say. It takes a moment for his mind to meet me in the gutter, but I know he’s there when his eyelids slightly flicker.

“Don’t you already know?” he says and then turns on the radio, flipping through the stations very quickly, frantically searching for something specific.

“What is it?”

“It’s just about 11 o’clock and that’s when this one radio station plays an hour of MC5. They’re the house band at the Grande and when I’m freaking out about something, man, I come here for an hour and listen to MC5. Do you know them?”

Sydney stops sifting through stations and sits back in his seat. Silver moonlight lights up his face. The car next to us squeaks with every bounce. He waits for me to answer but I’m momentarily lost in the moonlight.

“I don’t know them,” I remember to answer.

“They’re out of sight, you know, like raw energy going wild and free. Unroll your window and follow me.”

He turns the knob on the radio, unrolls his window and then gets out of the car. Five seconds later, a crackling, screaming voice comes out of the speakers. “Are you ready to kick out the jams, mother fuckers?” the voice goes wild and then maniacal noise pours out of Gloria’s windows. Sydney tells me to dance as hard as I can and to kick the air, punch the air, be free.

“Just let it out,” Sydney screams.

For the next hour, we beat the night like a punching bag and become vessels for maniacal energy to move through. The sentiments of MC5 are radical and anti-establishment and it’s just what I need right now. Boundless limitations come out of their liberating sound and allow me to release so much tension. I give every frustrating issue an imaginary face as I pummel the darkness. How do my knuckles feel, Vietnam?

I don’t think any of our romantic neighbors appreciate the psychotic dance party happening around them because after a few songs, the cars start pulling away one by one; a promenade of red tail lights disappearing into the night. When the last car pulls away, Sydney turns up the volume just one more notch. It is officially only our moment now.

“Do you dig it?” he screams.

“Yeah, I dig it,” I scream back.

We dance until the last song plays the last note and the radio voice speaks calmly again. I sit down in the grass to rest. Sydney joins me after he turns down the volume.

“So, what do you think your mom is hiding?”

“Good question,” I say. “Right now, I’m sick of everything.”

“I know what you mean.”

The perfect reflection of the moon breaks apart as Sydney skips a rock into the water. It skips twice and then falls below the surface. It falls with my dismal thoughts. Tonight is just right.

***

The next few days are filled with bottomless coffee refills and debating death count totals. They say the death toll is dropping but I don’t know what to believe anymore in this land of doves and hawks. Only 266 dead this week, which is far better than the 300 last week, they say. I guess it’s easier to hear the numbers when your family members aren’t included in the count or you’re really into ornithology.

Nixon just told us that he plans on withdrawing troops, finally, but in several different phases. Do we really need to wean our people from the bosom of this war? The mere thought is difficult to process, but at least the Grande Ballroom waits for us on the horizon. It seems music is our only salvation. Strawberry Hill and Day-glo paint help a lot, too. Hopefully Led Zeppelin takes it to the next level.

We all stuff into Gloria and make our way to Grand River and Beverly. I park a few blocks away in front of some decent looking houses to avoid the crowd. Everything is groovy until we get out of the car and hear a total buzz kill from the shadows.

“Give me your fucking wallet,” a man says.

A dark silhouette with a deep voice stands in the darkness. His malicious energy vibrates through the shadows. I start to freak out. I don’t know what to do. The man threatens us with a knife but the blade and his tone shake with trepidation.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Jazz says.

“Don’t make me kill you, bitch,” he stabs the air with the blade.

“Let’s get out of here. This guy is an idiot,” Jazz says. The rest of us start walking to the Grande.

“HEY!!!!” the man screams.

My heart beat thumps inside of my chest like a bass drum rattling my senses. Kat’s eyes dart back and forth as she processes hypothetical danger. Audrey puts her hand on her heart as if she’s trying to reverse a panic attack. Sydney stands a few steps ahead of the group, on guard, and Greg stands at the rear of our entourage for back-up.

“What did I fucking say?” the man says.

Jazz puts up her fists and runs straight into the shadows. The rest of us are completely stunned and still. We hear grunting, punching, kicking, a few gasps for air, and then a high pitched scream. Adrenaline kicks in and, just as I start walking to the madness, Jazz pops out of the bushes with tousled hair, a bloody nose, and scuffed up knees.

“Let’s go,” Jazz says. She wipes her nose like a 250 pound jock and shrugs her shoulders at the sight of her own blood.

“Biiitchiiinnn’,” Greg says.

“Who was that?” Kat asks.

“Some panty waist with bad timing,” Jazz spits out some blood.

An eclectic crowd of all ages and fashions hang out on the sidewalk near the entrance to the Grande. Bitchin’ vibes pour out the front door smelling like reefer and patchouli. The energy is so alive I can feel it like electricity on my skin.

“Are you ready to make history?” Sydney says.

The air inside is thick and hot and the crowd is a sea of heads, groovy teens, Princeton cuts, punks, business men, and a hodgepodge of ethnicities. People are barefoot, shirtless, out of their minds in a psychedelic world, passing joints and bottles of Boone’s in the open like there are no cops, no boundaries, and no limitations.

We follow the sound of music up a large staircase. The ascent is coated with hungry couples making out. The mixture of incense and dope smoke becomes so dense we get a second hand high as we reach the top step. A girl on roller skates misses my toes by a millimeter as she flies by on her slick wheels, and a man with a snake on his shoulders smiles at us like he knows we are neophytes to this ballroom culture.

The smooth wood floor glistens underneath our feet and the arched corridors—supported by white and gold spiraled columns—are reminiscent of Spanish-Moroccan palaces of the past. It is antique royalty and poise juxtaposed with raw, untamed, fascinating mayhem. I wonder if this is what heaven is like, and if so, I can dig it.

We are in awe staring at the sea of faces through the grandiose columns; feeling gripped by the intense smells and the kindred vibrations. It is history in the making and I think everyone else knows it, too, because we all have the same smirk on our faces.

Jazz and Audrey disappear into the crowd. Greg and Kat find seats outside the main floor to continue some boring Yiddish dialogue from the car ride. It isn’t long before the energy of the dance floor pulls me into the sea of dreams.

A large, floral proscenium hangs above what looks like the stage but all I can see is thousands of heads from this far back in the crowd. Sydney stops to listen to the wacky sounds of Sun Ra bursting through the air and I continue pushing my way through the packed dance floor. Sun Ra’s music is, well, complicated, encouraging only the innovative or intoxicated to groove along, so it’s not hard to wiggle my way into the center of this bitchin’ madness.

I stop in front of a woman whose face is glowing with yellow and pink Day-glo paint like she is a psychedelic warrior, smiling, and staring at the wall above our heads. Curiosity lures me in the direction of her gaze only to find a trippy projection of crawling pictures decorating the wall—oozing and morphing like oils and liquids of different colors.

“Sooo, what do you think?” Sydney says.

“Far out. What’s on that side?”

“Watch out,” He yells and tries to save me from walking like a spaz right into a full sized claw-foot bathtub that just happens to be sitting in the middle of the ballroom dance floor. I mean, I think I’m totally hallucinating until my kneecaps register the pain of crashing into the ceramic tub and it hurts like hell. Fuckin’ A. I’m not amused by Sydney’s amusement as he laughs at me.

Two beautiful brunettes sit in the empty tub bathing in laughter and black light like sirens wading in the Grande’s spirit. They don’t even notice me slamming into their porcelain vehicle because they are obviously high on something good.

“Hey man, do you want some Visine?” One of the brunettes leans over, holding the tiny bottle, and then falls back into her tub of mirth—splashing the giggles around like a small child at bath time, except without the obligatory rubber ducky.

“This stuff is far out, man,” the other brunette laughs, also holding a bottle of Visine. Their mood is severely contagious.

“Let’s get closer to the stage,” Sydney says.

The guy with the snake gets on stage and begins testing the crowd for more energy. Without much coercion on his part, the audience gives more and more; like a riot for music and groovy times and, most of all, freedom. We are all open in this moment of sticky, thick air, and deafening speakers, and our hearts beat to the same alternative drum. We are united in the name of the Grande Ballroom.

“Where’s MC5?” I say.

“I guess they don’t play every night. Maybe next time.”

Sydney lights up a joint and passes it to me. As I inhale, the ambiance finally settles into my relaxed soul. Jazz, Audrey, Kat, and Greg manage to locate us in the crowd of all the stinky, patchouli perspiring, grass coughing, groovy heads.

“Did you find some chutzpa?” I laugh.

“I think we’re going to start studying together and going to Temple, if you must know,” Kat says.

“Yeah, man, don’t make me call you a shiksa!” Greg says.

“Did you see the crazy girls in the bathtub?” Audrey says. “They gave me Visine.”

“Wow, man, is that code for LSD?” Greg says.

“No, I didn’t eat it. I put it on my face.” Audrey tilts her head back so we can see Visine patterns picking up the black light like tribal designs surrounding her eyes.

“I like the guy with the snake,” Jazz says.

The lights go down and the crowd takes a simultaneous breath before four pairs of bell-bottoms and insane hair walk onto the stage. The first pound of the drum cracks something inside of my psyche that loosens me up and hooks me instantly into their groove. I look around and see that everyone else is diggin’ the same vibe and we are officially at the mercy of pure musical power.

The crowd freaks out as Jimmy Page bends notes, wails away on the guitar—pulling on emotional and psychological strings like he is leading us somewhere unexplainable but amazing. I watch Plant intensely as he leans into the microphone and sings with all of his guts and soul, spewing out revolutionary ideas with an unrefined tone.

The guy with the snake passes us in the crowd, staring at Jazz, like he knows she was talking about him earlier. He looks at her and then continues onto the dressing room at the side of the stage. It’s only seconds before she follows him and disappears into the thick smoke curling around the mass of bodies in the room.

The rocking sounds vibrate below our feet and the floor feels like it is loaded with springs. Everyone dances—somehow, some way—and no one cares what they look like because Led Zeppelin doesn’t care either, man. The music bounces on the walls like trampolines for noise and it adds an extra groovy effect once it falls back down into the crowd. We are experiencing a musical rapture, and at this very moment, we believe in the gods of music. Maybe angels really do sing rock and roll.

A random tap on the shoulder pulls me slightly out of my trance and then a bottle of Boone’s comes from a stranger standing behind me. I take a sip and try to pass it back to him, but he insists with hand gestures that I continue passing it along, so I move closer to Sydney and place his hand on the cold bottle. He takes a huge gulp and finishes the last of the bottle in one, long shot.

Many more bottles go hand in hand through the crowd and we are definitely on the road to communal inebriation. Greg and Audrey stand on either side of Kat, holding her hands, staring like they are possessed. Kat pays no mind to their romantic gazing because she is too busy wondering which band member is possibly Jewish. I don’t actually know that is what she’s thinking, but by the calculating look in her eyes, it’s not a completely ridiculous assumption.

The mood changes when Jimmy Page kicks it down a notch and Robert Plant starts screaming the blues. Languid movements, sexy noises, droplets of sweat falling off thousands of bodies, and the crowd goes into sensual overdrive.

“Lude?” Greg yells in our direction with several pills in his palm.

I take two and then tell Sydney to open his mouth. A large, mischievous smile parts his lips and then he sticks out his tongue. The emeralds twinkle like freshly polished gems seeking admiration. I am so gone.

Sydney grabs my waist and starts dancing slow and dirty—grinding me like he’s making love to the music through my body. I melt into his pelvic movements immediately, grasping the nape of his neck, and throw my head back as I release all inhibitions. “I Can’t Quit You Baby” pulsates through the crowd, and soon, everyone is dancing like us; making love to the music through our physical, intimate bodies.

“Look,” Sydney says.

Greg and Audrey have Kat sandwiched between them as they grind each side of her like they are schmearing their shticks all up and down her legs. I am truly surprised that she appears to be enjoying the attention. In fact, she looks like she’s getting off on it.

Who knew the night would turn out so, ahem, satisfying for everyone?

Led Zeppelin shifts us through a roller coaster of moods. Kat, Greg, and Audrey move through the crowd to a place that is more suitable for their love-in. Sydney wanders off, too, and then it’s just me and the guy we’ve been passing Boone’s and joints back and forth with.

“This show is far out, man,” he says. “It’s so nice to be home.”

“Where have you been?” I say.

“I just got back from Nam, man.”

“Brother, I’m glad you’re home.”

“Me too. I thought I was coming home in a body bag.”

“How did you get discharged?”

“I went crazy.”

“Did you really?”

“I’m not sure anymore. It’s not hard to go crazy over there.”

The lights go up and the rock and roll angels parade off the stage; marching into the dressing room before a large percentage of the crowd tries to stuff into the doorway behind them. The girl on roller skates whips past me again—her shiny hair parallel to the ground—and then circles around one of the majestic pillars before she launches herself across the glistening wood floor.

I find Kat, Audrey and Greg on a random couch draped all over each other obviously exhausted from exchanging so much sexual energy. I don’t know what other drugs Greg convinced them to take. Right now, he’s definitely some kind of sex god.

“Man, the show was out of this world,” Greg says.

“You guys ready to split? I’m starving,” I say.

The temperature of the air drops as we get closer to the front door. Outside, the Visine girls stumble around on the sidewalk like slap happy kids offering the secrets of the world from tiny plastic bottles. The night air is cold and refreshing on my sticky skin. I think the smell of patchouli is burned into my nostrils for life now.

There is no sign of Jazz or Sydney. It isn’t until we get through the crowd and then I see them down the street. Sydney grabs her hand and she pulls it away madly. He tries a second time and she retracts again. I try to keep the ugliness of jealousy from rearing its stupid head, that is, until Sydney opens his arms and wraps them around her.

I bolt for Gloria and assume that the rest of the gang will follow. Right now all I care about is getting some food and going to bed. The other stuff can go to hell.

“What’s the plan, man?” Jazz says.

“Coney,” I say.

“American?” Kat says.

“Man, you go to American?” Greg says. “I’ve never met one of you before.”

“Let’s take a vote,” Sydney says. “Who wants to go to American?”

“There’s no vote. We go to Lafayette,” I snap.

No one seems to mind my decision making, and at this point, I don’t really care if they do. Greg and the ladies squeeze into the backseat like sardines in a can reeking of salty incense. They laugh and chatter about the recent events so loudly that I can barely hear the stewing anger inside my head. Sydney sits silently in the passenger seat. I wonder if he can feel the distance spreading between us like a big, gaping hole. Something about it feels so vacant. Is there a sign I should turn on now?