Chapter 3 Flipping Out
There was that moment where he just didn’t give a shit anymore. It was a split second but it was always the same, if you don’t have love, what’s the point to slugging it out in the world?
He was driving his old red Chevy pickup back from the beach, heading to Friendly’s ice cream shop for burgers and fries, with his two high school buds, we were juniors in high school, I just got my license a few months before, so I was the driver, because I was the oldest and got my license first.
We were stoners and jocks, we were the guys who wanted it all, or were pushed to excel in the regular world of sport and also pushed to understand the nature of the altered state of consciousness that drugs induced.
We just finished a stony session at the Lattingtown Beach, smoking bowls and having a few beers with a small group of guys who came down to meet up to get high and hang out. Just another Friday night in suburbia. My younger bro Doug wanted to jump in the back of my truck and come, but since it was our beach, I told him to button up the beach and make sure everything was chill.
It was the spring of 1977, and we felt like the untouchables, at least that’s how I felt, the cool set who could roll into freaky parties where all the heavy stoners were, who bailed on playing nice with the regular world, and also go to parties that the popular rank and file normal kids would throw. We could access any scene.
We always were smoking weed and busting up the regulars with the audacity of blazing a trail of care free audaciousness, that who gives a shit laughter, pushing the limits of getting away with murder.
What else was there but getting high and rock and roll, picking up girls and managing to stay out of trouble so you can dance that fine line between excess and freedom, where it all seemed to be alright. Having fun and being free.
In those days, there was the secret language of the stoner society, because the man could get you and fuck up your life. Certain nuanced looks and words would signify whether you were cool or not. It was like being part of a secret society that had to operate under the radar.
Getting busted for weed or drug possession was a daunting reality, but there was some kind of knowing or being that the elders in the stoner world carried, an awareness of the doorway of a cerebral quality that was akin to the wisdom of the ancients, or some kind of wisdom of the shaman, who has journeyed into the world of the strange, hidden depths of consciousness that beckoned to us young warriors who felt the inklings of some kind of magic, not yet fully recognizing or perceiving the ravages of the desperate results of getting lost in the sauce.
Drawn into the world of a dawning of consciousness, by looking up to what the cool elders in our school were into. Anti establishment was the way of the future, it was in the way of the present, hell its an ever present reality of 16 and 17 year olds, and will be always that way.
Every generation takes their turn attempting to escape from, change, rip apart and put their spin on, what the fuck do we stand for in this world, being a part of – thrown into the matrix of this is how you do it, nowadays. . .you follow along –you go to school –you get a job and you’re happy, you just plug in and shut up and do it.
It doesn’t seem to ever exhaust itself, ahh, the nature of youth. Just look at music, can you believe that crooners like Frank Sinatra, and even Bing Crosby were radicals in their day, that when Elvis Presley shook his hips on camera it was a revolutionary act?
The sexual innuendo,”my goodness what are these kids into?” Kids, at least the radicals, are not into more of the same, come hell or high water, we, I, am not going down the same rabbit holes my parents generation went down, no way.
So, here we are a generation lost in space, to coin a line from the song American Pie, that was playing seemingly on an endless loop every hour or so on the oldies station that was on the am band width on the radio.
Kids differentiate themselves from each other by gravitating to particular music, dress codes, hair styles, sports, movies, tv, there is a resonating that happens where like frequencies join creating bandwidth, momentum, and subcultures are born. This is where things become cult phenomenons, where chords are struck that resonate inside people, the depth and gravitational pull between having the freedom to go your own way but still feel part of a larger culture are the forces at work in the teen years, and for some who continue to be forever young.
There is a secret to being forever young but at seventeen it doesn’t seem to matter, what matters, is what side of the fence are you on, and what the fuck, why are there fences anyway?
The spirit of youth is screaming freedom and why is the world so messed up. It’s the embryonic journey of coming out of the mental womb of constructs that society weaves around us, and attempts to forces us to a kind of submission that is a sort of death, when on some level, we agree that, that just the way things are. Our heroes are always the ones who do the change, are the change and are changelings. Morphing through the challenges, yet always on course, somehow under-dogging their way to hero hood.
Pushing the envelop, breaking the speed of sound, being so present that time is a falsehood, that’s eternal youth. Where can I get some of that? Damn.
By pushing till time disappears, by getting so into it that time slips away without counting, by being so focused that everything else is gone, there is only the light saber and the Force, there is only now. The biggest problem is impatience, but once you seal yourself in, you can mine that mine.
But time travelers can get dizzy, with lost in space reckonings of chart positioning and course settings.
As Kieth and Dave jumped into my truck and I informed my brother Doug to man the beach, and I shifted the gears of that 65 Chevy, we started to talk about the girls in our class, and the prospects, I can’t exactly explain why but I was starting to get reved up. Was it that I kind of blazed through all the cute girls in the class already and couldn’t find one that held any magic for me, was it because I couldn’t be bothered to settle with one at least for a bit?
I was just a hunter and the game was like shooting ducks in a barrel, no challenge, no reward, no nothing, too easy, and empty results inside, there was no love in the quotient, just tallies that didn’t matter anyway, just searching for the right fit.
Kieth states “What’s the deal with the chicks in our class?!”
I respond, exclamation point “Yeah, I know!”
I pop the clutch and give it too much gas to chirp the tires a little to leave a little set, to echo the conversation, as we start to climb up Overlook Road, passing St John’s Church right outside Lattingtown Harbor, the neighborhood I lived in, that has the private beach for the houses that are in its community, where we had our impromptu stoning session. Locust Valley was a sleepy town on the north shore of Long Island sandwiched between Oyster Bay and Glen Cove, where we went to high school.
Kieth asserts “What the fuck!”
It seemed to us that their weren’t any stony cool cute chicks in our class, that the cute ones were all of the mindset of the rank and file, cheerleaders and theatre class types that didn’t get stoned, back in the day being one of them you could tell your kind in a heartbeat, it was like it was an attitude, a look, a way of being jaded, that just washed over the stoner elite, that was just plain as day.
I blast the pickup into second gear and punch the pedal to the floor.
“Right, there are no cool girls in our class.”
I was a bit of a crazy driver, had a lot of confidence in how I could handle the truck, I was doing about 35 and slammed on the brakes, the screech of the tires when you locked them up was pure joy, as the truck slid and cat-tailed, I released the brakes, turned the wheel counter to the direction of the slide, not completely coming to a stop, I deftly pop the clutch in second gear and continue on, Dave and Kieth are laughing, we are laughing I pop the clutch and get the truck up to 45 and did it again, the rubber of the wheels locking against the pavement was exhilarating, the sound is a horrifically loud, a long screech in the night, we were on the plateau of Overlook Rd that got it’s name probably from being on a hill on a road that could see the Long Island Sound from their estates, and the screech echoed over the hills.
I’m thinking, one more, this one’s gonna be good. I get the truck up to 60 and slam on the brakes. The previous times the truck shifted sideways cat-tailing during the lockup and as we were skidding slowing down, I skillfully could turn the wheel counter to the sideways action that the truck would go and release the breaks and regain control of the truck, but this time shit got out of hand, literally.
As the truck shifted sideways to the right much faster and quicker than before, Kieth and Dave’s bodies slid down the bench seat, from the force of going sideways pinning me against the door and my arms to my side, the split second that I would normally have to turn the wheel left was gone and all of a sudden the steering wheel spun the other way with such force I had to let go of the wheel, or break my wrists.
I have experienced heightened time sensitive moments before when driving, it’s crazy, things can go into a slow motion like way, where every nano second is life and death, and making the split second choices are part instinct, part luck, mostly from riding go carts, motor cross bikes and driving recklessly on ice and the beach, recovering with just the hair breath of the daredevils chance to get through, and make it through, but not this time.
I had to let go of the wheel, and as I looked into the steering wheel spinning, it turned dreamlike, I closed my eyes and went into a dream state, I can only use the scene from the Wizard of Oz as a reference point, where Dorothy loses consciousness is spinning in the tornado and wakes up in Oz where the house landed on one of the bad witches.
When I open my eyes, we were upside down in the truck, The three of us shoulder to shoulder braced, upside down in the truck. It was as if we held our breathes and each other pressing sideways we didn’t hit the ceiling of the truck with our heads, we just were suspended upside down in our seats. It was a little surreal.
It was like waking from a dream, where are we? What’s going on? There we are upside down, still seated as if gravity was suspended staring at the upside down view out the windshield. I gather myself.
“Is anyone hurt?”
Dave and Kieth says “No.“
“I finally fucked up.”
I drove under all conditions of fucked up, hell I was the oldest the first seventeen year old in my gang so I had to, but I thought I was invincible, or at least always in good enough shape to get us all home safe, this disaster happened because I was fucking around, geez, what am I gonna tell my Dad?
We scramble out of the truck, thank God I never really ever filled the tank up with gas, always just threw a few bucks in, so there wasn’t gas pouring out all over the place.
Overlook Road was a quiet back road but soon someone would be passing by. My fear of getting in trouble with the cops was starting to fester. I say, “We gotta pop that front tire so I can claim it was a blow out that caused this shit.”
Kieth and Dave found something to pop the tire so I had an alibi as to why this happened, I walked back and saw the buried stone at the end of the driveway and the skid marks of the rubber that trailed this disaster and knew that my front left tire hit that stone that caused the clean flip of the truck, a kind of fulcrum action happened, when I had to let go of the wheel. If we didn’t hit that stone it probably would have been a lot worse.
“We gotta stash the pipe, weed, papers in the bushes, we gotta cover our asses.” Reality was beckoning, the dust was settling, and here I was in a shit storm, yet it felt dreamy, surreal.
The stars were shining, it was a clear and beautiful night, a few puffy white clouds were out, just breezing along, everything else in the world seemed to be just another night, but the tone of my being was elevated, transcendent. It was definitely a heightened sense of awareness, It wasn’t shock, it was shocking, no doubt, to see my truck upside down in the street, reality was blaring, yet a calmness was over the whole situation, some kind of peaceful mindfulness was pervading.
The lights of a car could be seen casting in the distance, turning right onto Overlook from Skunks Misery Road. I definitely could imagine a skunks misery, which could accurately describe how I was trying to figure a way to throw the scent of what really happened tonight with a plausible story for the game keepers who would certainly be arriving.
As the local pulled up in the car and saw the scene, he rolled down his window, Kieth, told him, no one was hurt, we were all fine, he handled it, while I was in some kind of contemplated bliss, coupled with a skunks misery.
They would call the police when they got home, Kieth said, he was confident, that since no one was hurt it wouldn’t be a problem.
But I was still concerned, my truck was upside down in the street, the reality of the situation was blaring. Very sobering any stoniness I had was gone, the reality of the situation, how am I gonna get out of this, all I could do was try to chill out. The car that came by must of called the cops because I could hear the sirens over the hills on its way.
At least it was only 9 or so at night because we were trying to get to Friendly’s before they closed at 10 for the munchies run, so the cops would know we couldn’t be that wasted. I hoped.
I had already had numerous pull overs with my pick up and it being a small town, the cops knew who were the wild ones, that they had to watch out for. Most important is to know cops are the ultimate bullshit detectors, they hear piles and piles of bullshit all day long, they, at least the experienced ones can put that flashlight in your eyes and really give you the third degree, so the only way is to get through is to have as much truth in the story as is possible or your going down.
Plausibility and realism are the only way to float through the sticky situations.
As the police car pulled up, I was getting tight, as the two cops came up to me, the pressure was building inside me.
Feeling desperate where I needed to get in line with the hands of fate. A call arose in the center of my being, “ Lord give me a sign it’s gonna be alright.” I wrecked my truck, and I don’t want to go to jail.
As the two cops came up surmising the situation, I knew I never was pulled over by these guys before, one a fair haired heavy set cop with a generous disposition, the other a quiet semi stern disposition, handsome taller thinner cop. As the heavy set one drew near I looked at his name tag, because you always want to address these guys as people, as individuals, because it’s in their hands, they are the judge and jury right here, right now, on how shit is going to go down, and everything is on the line. I first looked at his name tag to address him properly, and it read Gladd, I thought, God, that’s a pretty good sign, as I glanced at the other cop who stepped up, I silently asked for one more sign that it was going to be alright, I spied his name tag expectantly hoping for another green light, I read his tag as if his name would either make or break my world apart. It was a split second connect with something inside of me that prayed that God wouldn’t let me down.
Ask and you shall receive. Melody was his name.
Holy shit, glad and melody, that’s music to my ears, maybe it’s gonna be alright.
Gladd said to me, “What happened?”
In that split second I knew how to proceed, “Well officer I was speeding a bit, was doing about 45 miles an hour, maybe 50, no it was about 45, that’s when my tire blew out, I hit the brakes, we went sideways, next thing I know is we were upside down.”
They studied my body language, they looked into my eyes, I knew that if we were going the speed limit there’s no way that truck could of flipped, I also knew that 50 was way too fast but 45 in a 30, just right, I hoped that admitting culpability would disguise the full culpability that was in my bones, that scent of something smells funny like bullshit would ring enough truth to pass the test of credibility.
I walked back behind the truck as if figuring out what happened, and pointed to the buried stone that was at the end of the edge of the driveway, “We must have hit that rock which caused us to flip.”
The police car was turned sideways angled, the lights blaring, there was room for cars to pass, my truck, was not completely in the middle of the street, but off centered angled towards the side of the road. Another cars’ lights made its way from Skunks Misery, then another behind that one. The cops went back to their cars, Melody flagging the cars by with a flashlight, telling the concerned curious driver, it’s Ok, no one was hurt, Officer Gladd went to radio a tow truck.
Kieth and Dave came over to me, I was behind my truck, the cop car on the other side,
“Do you think they bought it?”
Dave said, “Definitely.”
Kieth responded, “Yeah man, it’s cool.”
I had to just stay in the moment, not let my mind race with future fears of being carless, stuck without wheels, relying on rides, or how I was going to spin the yarn with my father. I just had to deal with the here and now, get through this sticky situation, stay free from the future worries, and accept what was happening. The tow truck pulled up and backed up and released the winch to pull the truck to it’s side, then reconnected the winch and flipped it upright. The tow truck driver commented that he was surprised that the truck didn’t seem that bad compared to other flipped cars he’s seen.
I said to Kieth and Dave, “ Hey maybe I could drive it home.” We were less than or close to only a mile from my house.
To this Kieth was adamant, “ If you ask the cops that, that’s pushing it, then they will know you are high.”
Well I guess he was right, don’t get greedy. Hell, we could have died, we could have gotten really hurt, and I’m not going to jail, the truck was pretty fucked up. Yea I gotta count my blessings.
At that point one of our friends pulled up, Bob Fitz and rolled down the window, and said. “Holy shit is that Greg Johnson’s truck?”
Kieth and Dave went over to tell them it was all cool, Fitz would wait and give us a ride.
He pulled over on the side of the Road. Kieth slipped off and indiscreetly grabbed our stash in the bushes, now that the coast was clear.
The truck was winched onto the flatbed, the cops asked if we needed a ride, Kieth said no, our friends got us.
The guys informed me we still had time to catch the Friendly’s witching hour, Fitz was up for it. And Kieth asked if I was up for it. Dave and Kieth were going to munch out and chill the fuck out, we were all frazzled. I wasn’t gonna go home at 10, and open the can of worms tonight with my parents, I needed to chill out too.
I couldn’t overlook the situation, it was what it was, I flipped my truck on Overlook Road, there was no point in looking over and over at it, to over indulge in looking at it over and over as if that would change anything. What’s done is done, It was over, my truck was over, it all was over, over and done.
There was one thing from the whole experience that was hard to overlook, As in I didn’t see that, the word meant originally to be above and have a view of something from above, as from a vista.
Somehow I tapped into a doorway to a heavenly view. There was that intuitive sign seeking and deliverance that God fated a glad and melodic answer to my prayer, just a seedling of wonder sowed in my heart, the mechanics of that strange connective prayer tissue that was established in my soul.
Could something good come out of a disaster? Big trouble and big relief; how else can you get an overview, wrangle meaning from pain.
Keep your head up try to see the bigger picture.
Flipping the truck, flip flopping along, let me flip a switch that lit something inside. Who knew, it was just a thought, it was just a random instant, just a strange flow of mind music, but it was registered and filed into the wonder category of my being.
Just keep on keeping on: what else you gonna do. Try not to overthink or overlook the dividing lines on the highway and keep the right side up.
Right side up, inside down, inside out; Near death experiences can really flip you out, life has to go on, till it’s appointed time, it can drive you over the edge or it can drive you to understand, either way, I had to pick up the pieces and drive on, somethings, sometimes, things can make sense in hindsight. Does that literally mean looking out of your ass? Or should I look out for my ass, that is the question.
Living is for learning, the truth and consequences of that ride was another blip on my screenshot of learning things the hard way. Well, my whole world was upside down at that moment, I definitely was going to Friendly’s, it was gonna take a serious smoke session to chill out, a major munch to calm the beast, I may be able to get some sleep tonight, maybe I can sleep the whole thing off, I had enough for one day, just roll with it and deal with the whole mess tomorrow.