For 250 dollars I bought myself a Corvair Van. No, it wasn't the 2-seater, MG-Midget that my father had labeled a "death trap," but I could turn this short lived Chevy into a boy-cave, party palace or my name wasn't "Sweet Baby James wanna be." With another $99, borrowed from my Mom, a bucket of bondo, and a bright orange paint job, I was three steps closer to invincibility. My friend, Jerry, who existed somewhere between reality and the celestial realm, quickly dubbed "our" van the Celestial Pumpkin. (Notice how my baby now had joint custody, at least in Jerry's mind.) With terry cloth curtains fashioned from hand towels, two 12" speakers lifted from a guitar cab hanging in the back, and a wooden steering wheel, I was ready to transcend obscurity and join the festival going Woodstock generation. Of course, the Pumpkin had a few quirks, like it took two people to drive her, one to steer and one to pour oil into her Volkswagon styled air-cooled engine. But remember, that was back before the days of Hummers and chrome infused 4 Wheel Drive Pickups, so adolescent invincibility was much cheaper then.
"Momma don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys," or mimic boys driving Celestial Pumpkins. Proudly, for Jerry and me, when turning left or right, the Pumpkin rumbled with the sound of empty Boone's Farm Strawberry wine bottles. I wonder now why my parents never questioned those bottles. I suppose picking battles was the game of the day, and my long hair to a 27 year Marine Corp vet must have seemed like a better battle objective. So the Pumpkin rolled on from Jacksonville, Florida to upstate New York, where we discovered the drinking age for wine to be 18 years old.. What were they thinking? I guess "they" weren't, and we weren't either. Living in a van, washing at the water spiket of some apartment complex, and eating beans from a can seemed to us like a better alternative than caving in to "the man." Actually, I was pretty comfortable with enough pillows and blankets borrowed from "the man's" linen closet. Middle class invincibility is not without compromise.
Remember the year,1969. Timothy Leary may have been scorned on the evening news, but mushrooms to a lot of kids were not portabella, but psychedelic. Acid, with names like Orange Sunshine, could guarantee an 8-10 hour visual that MGM could not rival. Driving the Pumpkin, you ask, could that have been possible when street lights looked like glistening Christmas trees? Oh yes, there again lies the innocence and ignorance of invincibility. Of course, I had many friends whose invincibility ran out. Allen lost his in a cave in Vietnam. Ronald lost his after far too many acid trips replaced his friendly recognition with a glazed stare. My friend Jerry stopped by my parent's church many years later, I'm told, and ask for a drink of "Jesus water." As the seriousness of this subject colors the Celestial Pumpkin's good humor, you too may wonder about the wisdom of someone's life trek. How does Grace supersede the Boone's Farm, the Orange Sunshine, and the innocent belief in one's own invincibility? I for one, am happy to have survived the "glistening Christmas lights" and am thankful to have more time to discover and be Who I Am.
He drives 90 mph, four on the floor. Says the cops couldn't catch him if they tried, he's sure. Parties all night, never needs to sleep. Got a glazed over look, like a a zombie on the TV.
Invincible, like SUPER MAN. Tough as nails like IRON MAN. Living in a jungle like TARZAN. Drives that little Honda like BATMAN.
He can hold his liquor, never too drunk to drive, he says. But his friends can figure how he makes it home sometime. He says, "school is a waste of time, just for geeks. I know what I need to know to make it on the street."
His momma threw her hands up when he was 17. "One more year, can't wait for that boy to leave." He says, "I can't wait to go, momma, I got it all together, I do. I got ways of makin' money, one way or the other."