By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
At the wheel was an older guy -- thirties, maybe even late thirties -- with an erratic beard that hung down over his coveralls and crawled up into his hair. He was wearing a pair of glasses in clunky black-plastic frames, and his smile had at least two gold teeth in it. "Hop in, brother," he said. "Where you headed?"
The slamming of the door, a rattling blast of the tinny engine, kamikaze insects and dust, the rucksack and guitar flung into the backseat like contraband, every ride a ritual, every ritual a ride. "North," Marco said. "And I really appreciate this, man," he said automatically, "this is great," and then they were off, the radio buzzing to life with an electric assault of rock and roll.
The visible world flew by for a full sixty seconds before the man turned to him and shouted over the radio, "North? That's a pretty general destination. What'd you have in mind -- Sitka, maybe? Nome? How about Santa's Workshop? Santa we can do."
Marco just grinned at him. "Actually, I was going up to Sonoma -- the Drop City Ranch?"
"Drop City? You mean that hippie place? Isn't that where everybody's nude and they just ball and do dope all day long? Is that what you're into?" The man looked him full in the face, no expression, then turned back to the road.
Marco considered. He could be anybody, this guy -- he could be a narc or a fascist or a stockbroker or maybe even General Hershey himself. But the beard -- the beard gave him away. "Yeah," Marco said, "that's exactly what I'm into."
IT COULDN'T HAVE BEEN MUCH PAST NOON WHEN THEY rolled through the hinge-sprung cattle gates and lurched up the rutted dirt road to the main house. This was the ultimate ride, the ride that takes you right on up to the porch and in the front door, and Marco had sat there, alive to it all, while Norm Sender roared, "Good answer, brother," and launched into a half-hour treatise on his favorite subject -- his only subject -- Drop City.
He was stoned on something -- speed, from the look and sound of him -- but that didn't factor into any of Marco's equations, because everybody he'd encountered for the past two years had either been high or coming down from a high, and he'd been there himself more times than he'd want to admit. At first, when he was nineteen, twenty, it was a matter of bragging rights -- Oh, yeah, so you did DMT and smoked paregoric at the concert? That's cool, but I'm into scag, man, that's all, I mean that's it for me. And acid. Acid, of course. And not to expand my mind or any of that mystical horseshit -- just to get rocked, man, you know?-- but now it was just more of the same. How many of those conversations had he had? It felt like ten million, so much air in, so much out. Still, when Norm Sender lit up a roach and passed it to him, he took it and put it between his lips. That was what you did. That was the ritual.
They sat there, staring through the windshield, and smoked. When the roach was burned down to nothing, Norm lit a cigarette and passed that to Marco and Marco took a drag and passed it back. The road was like any road, burning silk in a sheen of fire, the trees like bombers coming in low. Marco settled back in his seat as the van rocked and swerved, even as the smoke climbed up the windows and Norm kept pushing at the frames of his glasses as if they'd been oiled. He was wearing a braided rope belt that couldn't contain the spill of his gut, there were spiky black hairs growing out of his ears and nostrils, and his arms were whiter than any farmer's ought to be. He talked and Marco listened, his voice a hoarse high yelp that plummeted into the noise soup of the radio and careened off the clacking whine of the engine.
"So like my parents?" (This by way of prelude, though Marco hadn't said a word about anybody's parents -- they'd been talking nothing, talking good shit and groovy and the like, the radio hissing static as Norm manipulated the dial with his battered blunt fingers.) "Like my mother that gave me suck and my old dirt-blasted redneck cowboy of a father? They died. Bought the farm. Head-on collision with a truck full of Grade A fryers coming out of Petaluma on Route 116, and that might sound funny, the irony and all like that, but it isn't, because the old turd-dropper was blind drunk and my mother deserved better than that, but anyway, the son and heir gets the rancho in the hills -- that's me, yours truly -- and he's thinking he's feeling some kind of discomfort over this whole trip of ownership of the land, because nobody owns the land and he's thinking like Timothy Leary, Let's mutate, man, and so I come up with the concept of Voluntary Primitivism, and let me spell it out for you, man, LATWIDNO, Land Access to Which Is Denied No One, dig? You want to come to Drop City, you want to turn on, tune in, drop out and just live there on the land doing your own thing, whether that's milking the goats or working the kitchen or the garden or doing repairs or skewering mule deer or just staring at the sky in all your contentment -- and I don't care who you are -- you are welcome, hello, everybody --"