THERE'S A GARDEN BY THE MUD BATHS where the hippies have preserved a patch of wildflowers while swirling and twirling in their reveries. I have a brown derby brimming with free samples. Because it's way too easy for these youth to "make" the "man" when he tries on a tye-dye shirt, I've bet my best disguise is to remain a "square". My houndstooth suit . . . the derby hat.
They're laughing their hapless heads off and taking the stuff by the fistful. "Thanks man!" "Right on!" This is too easy! The little guinea pigs are eating out of my hands and I've unloaded half. I'll give the rest away over the knoll as a control, then sit back and watch the fireworks. I'm barely off the flower patch when, in the break between bands, that arch do-gooder Wavy Gravy gets on the PA and blurts something about the brown acid.
A couple of kids still holding loot plucked fresh from my hat look down at their hands and slowly back up at me, no longer the checkered Robin Hood but a bad Johnny Appleseed at the judgment. What can I do but backpedal and give my broadest Cheshire grin? If I can march casually enough off over the ridge, getting lost in the heady atmosphere of exuberant youth, I'll have been just a hallucination, straight out of Magritte. In an absent attempt at composure I flip the hat onto my head--and am rained over by the remainder of my first batch.
That breaks the ice all right. The kids crack up and give a whoop toss the bad trips in the air. They're after me! "Now look here, chaps"--invoke the fussy, unmussable Brit in moments of fear. But there's no roping their revery.
"Whee!" cries a burly one, lifting me onto his shoulder like a winning footballer. I don't get it. They've converged upon me like a crowd at Wembley.
"Well . . . yes . . . oof!--won't you please put me down?" I'm almost caught up in the camaraderie. Then I see the mud pit and my heart sinks, body slumps. There's no brokering this baptism. Ah, well, it's really quite a lenient sentence for my penance. If they only knew!
"Brown bath for the brown acid!" is the chant. A herd of semi-nude, mud-caked youth beckon from the shallows. "C'mon! old man!" "Lose the suit!" "The temperature's just right, brown shoe!" The wingback beneath me, an amiable if stubborn sort, slips off my leather loafers with delicate, almost dainty movements. He swiftly tosses them into a pile at the periphery, where later I'll actually find one and select and abandoned blue tennis shoe as its mate, and just as deftly casts me into the slop. I fly, splat, try to run, just slide. A harem of hippies all massage me with mud. It gets in my mouth.
The music resumes. Funny, the song is not only one I know, but a favorite. Odd for this gathering. If I didn't know better, I'd think a half-million people had conspired to brainwash me! The semi-feminine voice is sweet, but grated. The band strikes up "Summertime".