Sunday, October 4, 2015


“When we first broke into that forbidden box in the other dimension, we knew we had discovered something as surprising and powerful as the New World when Columbus came stumbling onto it.”

-- Ken Kesey

Suddenly, I am not sitting in the diner anymore.

I’m sitting in Group Meeting at a mental hospital with a bunch of acutes, moderated by Nurse Ratched.

A patient named Cheswick is demanding cigarettes and refuses to sit, in violation of Group Meeting policy.  

Ratched is trying to keep her cool, but is clearly rattled by having her authority questioned.  With faux calmness she calls out to the black boys to restrain Cheswick and take him away.

Randall McMurphy, who is quietly seething, long fed up with Group Meetings (which he perceives as a peckin’ party), rises from his seat, storms over to the nurse’s station and punches the divider glass with his fist, shattering it, and grabs cigarettes for Cheswick.

All hell breaks lose with the acutes hollering and screaming and black boys scurrying around trying to restore order.

Twenty-minutes later, when the din has died down into a haze of muzak, a nurse taking roll call sits down beside me.  “Excuse me,” she says.  “Are you new here?”

I nod.  “Yes.”  I suddenly have a bad feeling about this.  “I’m a visiting psychiatrist,” I add.

“Oh.”  She pauses, all sugar and sweetness.  “Visiting from where?”

I don’t answer.

“Does Doctor Spivey know you’re here?”

“Not yet,” I say.

“Or Nurse Ratched?”  She looks at me with skepticism.

“Nope.”  I shake my head.  “It’s a surprise visit.  An inspection.”

“I see.”  She stands and strolls to the nurse’s station, where the black boys are still clearing shards of glass.

She whispers to another nurse.  They both stare at me.

I wave and smile.

One goes off and returns a moment later with Nurse Ratched, who stomps right up to me.  “Doctor…?”

“Smith,” I say.

“Doctor Smith.  What a pleasure.  How did you get in here?’

“I’m on a tour of mental hospitals nationwide.”

“Really?  For what purpose?”

“To ensure that they meet the standards of the National Association of Mental Hospitals, for whom I work in Washington, D.C.”  I say, trying my best to sound official.

“That is very interesting, Doctor Smith.”  Nurse Ratched says nothing more, but continues looking at me, expecting me to fill the silence.  “Have you met Doctor Spivey yet?” she finally says.

“No, not yet.  I usually save such consulting until the end of my inspection.”

“I see,” she says.  “Now that we know you’re here, would you mind if I take you to see him?”

I consider this and nod.  “I was just about to look for him myself.”

“Excellent.  Follow me.”  

Nurse Ratched signals the black boys to accompany us and I realize she probably hasn’t bought my spiel. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Matthew Johansen

The only creative art I've seen exhibited in Santa Barbara all year.

Matthew Johansen

Lucien Rocco


I go on my Mac to Abe Books, search out a first edition copy of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, the cheapest one I can find, torn and scuffed, for $175.00.

A few days later it arrives in the mail, and I sit myself down to read...
Suddenly, I am on a bus, rolling along a highway.

A tall lanky figure sitting next to me loudly snores until a bump in the road startles him awake.  Hunter Thompson gapes at me, startles even more.  “You!” he points.  “How did…?  Whoa!  The last time I saw you… you foresaw this?”

I grin mischievously.  “Wanna have a private chat with Tricky Dick?”

“You can arrange that?”

The bus slows to exit a ramp and turns into a parking lot, where it stops behind a large black limousine with a motorcycle escort.

A man in a dark suit climbs aboard the bus and strides directly to Hunter.  “Apparently you know a lot about football,” the man whispers.

“Yup,” says Hunter.

“POTUS wants to unwind,” says the man.  “Talking about football helps him.  Are you game?”

Hunter rises.  “Game time.”  

“Not so fast,” says the suited man.  “There are conditions:  No talking about anything except football.  This isn’t an interview.  You start talking about anything else, it’s over.”

“I’ve got a condition, too,” counters Hunter.  “My assistant must join me.”

The suited man studies me grimly and checks his wristwatch.  “Follow me.”

We amble off the bus.  Another U.S. Secret Service agent holds a limo door open. We scamper inside and sit opposite President Richard M. Nixon.

Nixon graciously welcomes us and immediately launches into a long-winded discussion of football with Hunter, occasionally glancing at me.  

Finally, Nixon goes silent and, while Hunter rambles on about football, the President settles his eyes into mine.  “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”

“January 1948, Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown,” I confirm.

“Of course.”  He studies me carefully.  “But you haven’t changed a bit in over twenty years.”

I shrug.

Nixon glances furtively at Hunter, and then lowers his voice to a whisper, looking back at me.  “You were right.”

“About what?” I ask.

“Alger Hiss.  The pumpkin patch.  That’s where our investigators found the microfilm.  I probably wouldn’t be sitting here now without that evidence.  How did you know?”

Hunter stops talking, strains to listen.

“I’m from the future,” I say.  “I’m here only because this has been written in a book.”

“How does that work?”

“I don’t know.  I just fall into the pages or something.  Hard to explain.  Suddenly, I’m part of the story.”

“It’s true,” Hunter pipes up.  “This is my book, and I haven't even written it yet.”

Nixon sits back to digest this and stares at my clothes.  “Do you have a new message for me?” 

I shake my head.  I already caused enough trouble with my first message.

“Then may I ask a question?” says Nixon.

I shrug.  “Why not?” 

“How does history judge me?”

I consider this.  “I think, from where I’m from in time, it’s too soon to say,” I tactfully reply.

“How about the short-term?”

“You make some mistakes,” I say.

Nixon looks down, and up at me again.  “I see.”  He pauses.  “Can you tell me what they are?”

I shake my head.  “Wouldn’t be right.”  I pause.  “You know, right after you left Martin’s, John F. Kennedy came in and took your table.”

Nixon considers this.  “Did you advise him not to go to Dallas?”

I look down.  “I didn’t speak to him.”

“Why not—you spoke to me?

“Look, I don’t have an agenda here,” I say.  “You caught my eye and you were eating pumpkin pie.  It seemed a propos.  Kennedy lost himself in his newspaper and then a girlfriend showed up.”

Nixon rolls his eyes.

“It’s all very random,” I say, slightly irritated and ashamed for not warning JFK.   “Like life itself.  Random and ironic.”

“Then what about returning to see me?” says Nixon.

I gesture at Hunter.  “His idea.  We were on an adventure near Las Vegas.  He wanted to be on the campaign trail instead.  A different book.  Here we are.”

“Can you teach me how?” asks Nixon.

“How what?”

“How you jump into books.”

“Which books would you jump into?” I ask, mostly out of curiosity, not because it mattered.


“Find a first edition,” I advise.  “Get lost in it.  Pure focus.”  I shrug.  “If there’s something more to it, I don’t know what it is.”

“Fascinating,” says Nixon, his brain ticking away, configuring a plan to order first edition works of history.

“Okay,” says Hunter.  “New subject:  Kent State.”

A limo door immediately opens and four arms reach in, grab Hunter, yank him out. 

“What the…?” Hunter starts singing Neil Young’s Ohio at the top of his lungs.  “Tin soldiers and Nixon Coming!  We’re finally on our own!  This summer I hear the drumming!  Four dead in Ohio!  Gotta get down to it, soldiers are cutting us down…”

Nixon ignores him, still riveted on me. “What do you do?” 

I consider this.  “I guess I’m a book traveler.”

“From the future.”

I shrug.  “By necessity, I guess.  Books have a certain period.”

“Precisely when in the future?”


“Am I still…?”

I shake my head.

“What’s the state of the union?”

“Ever seen the movie Dumb and Dumber?  No, of course not.  But it was based on a novella by C.M. Kornbluth called The Marching Morons. You might want to get a copy.  But not a first edition,” I add.

Nixon seems to grasp what I am getting at.  “Is there a way to stave off dumb and dumber?”

“Corporate America, assisted by politicians, sold the country.”

Nixon frowns.  “I spend half my presidency fighting the establishment.  Those youngsters, when they protest against the establishment, they don’t realize I’m not it.  Those establishment bastards never let me in.”  He pauses, deep in thought.  “Would you like to work for me in the White House?”

I shake my head.  “I don’t belong here, just visiting.  I never even planned to read this book, the one that’s happening right now, and I certainly do not want to stay in it forever.  Sorry.  It’s been nice meeting you again.”  I open the door and let myself out as Nixon broods.

I do not return to the media bus and Hunter Thompson.  

Instead, I walk and walk, around some city, until I come upon a shopping mall and a B. Dalton bookstore.  

Among its shelves, I discover a hidden treasure:  the first edition hardcover of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.

I pay for it with some old money I still have in my pocket and take off in search of Starbucks.  

No such thing, I soon realize, and so I settle for a diner, take a booth, order coffee, and begin reading…

Friday, October 2, 2015


Suddenly, I find myself sitting in my club chair reading about this scene.

Next, I am looking down at myself reading a book—what some might call an out-of-body experience.  I see myself turn a few pages, and then I re-enter my body on the reading chair before slipping out again through my eyes, and onto page 99…

About 20 miles east of Baker I stopped to check the drug bag.
“What the hell?”  Hunter looks at me with surprise and alarm.  “You, again?

I am sitting in the front passenger seat beside him.

“How did you get into my car without me noticing?” he hollers.

“Dunno.  Last thing I remember was that mescaline.”

“Yup,” says Hunter.  “That explains it.  Damn.”  He rummages through his kitbag.  “All I got is a lump of hash and six amyls.  Want one?”

I shake my head.  “Maybe later.”

“I’m gonna need to re-stock,” Hunter mumbles in dismay.  “Some tequila and Chivas.”

“Does it really help you write?” I ask.

“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me and I haven’t found a drug yet that can get you anywhere near as high as sitting at a desk, writing, trying to imagine a story no matter how bizarre it is, because I’m a word freak, words to achieve an end and I’ve always compared writing to music, that’s the way I feel about good paragraphs, when it really works it’s like music—wanna hear some Dylan?”

“Sure.  What are you on now, amphetamines?”

“How’d you guess?  My favorite is Mister Tambourine Man.”  

Hunter slaps a cassette into the player and sings along until it ends at which point he rewinds the tape and plays it again.  

“Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of fuel.  Sentimental people call it inspiration, but what they really mean is fuel.  I’m a serious fuel consumer.  If the gas needle on this car showed empty this second, it wouldn’t matter, we’d still get fifty more miles out of Dylan, or the Stones.”  Hunter pokes around a large bag.  “Goddamn it, what did that crazy Samoan do with Let it Bleed?  I’m gonna make him bleed!  Bad enough he runs out on me, leaves me with a hotel bill I can’t pay and a car-full of illegal drugs—now he wants me back in Vegas to rub shoulders with district attorneys from throughout the United States!”

“Where would you rather be?”

“On the campaign trail.”


“Nixon’s, of course.”

“I met Nixon once,” I say.  “You want me to try to get us there?”

“It’s not campaign season.”

“Doesn’t matter to me.  All I need is a first edition of your book, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.

“What book?  Fear and loathing?  I like it, could work as a title for something.”

I am absorbed in my own thoughts.  Might it possible to jump into a second book while still in the first?  

Even if it were, no such book yet existed.  The only way to do this would be to return home, buy a first edition of the campaign book, and enter it.  

“Have you got any mescaline left?” I ask.

Hunter reaches for his kitbag.  “Where there’s a will…” he produces a reddish-brown pellet.  “Bingo.  Open wide.”

I open my mouth; Hunter pops it in.

I recline, close my eyes and, next thing I know, I am on high, looking down at myself in Hunter’s open convertible. 

And then I am looking down at myself in my leather armchair, reading, and then I’m back inside my body, reading Hunter’s book.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


And here I am, part of the confusion, within myself and without, gawking at a big red convertible, its top down, with Hunter S. Thompson and his attorney, Oscar Zeto Acosta, in the front seat, hollering at one another.

Oscar jumps out of the car and thrusts a five-dollar bill at one of the uniformed thugs.  “We want this car parked!” he barks.

Reality is money. There is no place better than Vegas to grasp this.

A thug takes the five and then the wheel.  Crisis averted.

Hunter un-crumples himself onto the sidewalk.  Taller than I expect, he is wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.  He looks straight at me.  “You coming?”

I stare back at him, confused.  “Me?”

“Who the fuck else?  We picked you up hitchhiking.  Remember?”

I shrug and follow Hunter and Oscar into the Desert Inn.  They storm toward the grand ballroom where Debbie Reynolds is booked to perform.

No seats available.

“Fuck seats,” Oscar snaps at a burly doorman.  “We’re old friends of Debby’s and we drove all the way from LA to see her. And we’re goddam well going in.”

It works:  standing room only, no smoking, and stay quiet.

But Oscar cannot help himself.  As Debbie prances across the stage in a silver Afro wig, he shouts, “Jesus creeping shit—we’ve wandered into a time capsule!”

Next thing, I’m being pulled backwards by my shoulders and dragged to the front entrance, along with Hunter and Oscar, where their car appears and assorted thugs tell us to get lost.

Hunter turns to me in the backseat from behind the wheel, big grin on his face. “That was your first initiation rite.”

“Where’s the ether?” asks Oscar.

Hunter hands him a key to the trunk and lights a hash pipe dangling from his mouth.  He inhales deeply and hands the pipe to me.  “Second initiation rite.”

I take a hit and break into a coughing fit.

“Blew that one,” says Hunter.  “Means you gotta do the ether.”

Oscar climbs back in, uncaps the ether, soaks a Kleenex and mashes it over his nose.

“Now you,” says Hunter.  “Like this.”  He douses his own nose and tosses it at me. 

Within a few seconds of breathing ether, I feel numb and my vision is blurry.  And when I try to leave the car, my legs turn to Jell-O and I look like a village drunk trying to stand up straight.  As for speaking, forget it, my tongue is a concrete slab.

Hunter and Oscar are not faring much better, from the look of them, struggling to walk, using one another as crutches, howling with laughter.

At the turnstiles it turns ugly, the three of us bouncing into one another, unable even to pluck our wallets to pay admission.

But this being Vegas, we get inside, because in Vegas they love village drunks who gamble their money away.

Hunter strains his neck in awe at the circus acts performing overhead.  “Next initiation,” he says to me, finding his tongue.  “You gotta get up there and swing the trapeze with those farting Carazito Brothers.”

That is where I draw the line.  “What am I being initiated into?” I demand.

“The Cult of Gonzo,” replies Thompson.  “Isn’t that why you’re here?”

“I’m here because I fell into a book.  Your book.”

Hunter shakes his head, slightly spooked, or feigning it.  “I don’t know what you’re taking, man, but I want some, too.”

I shrug.  “I don’t know how it happens.  Started with Kerouac, On the Road.”

“You rode with Kerouac?”

“And Burroughs.”


I am not sure if Hunter thinks that I’ve been inside Kerouac’s book or if I’d really ridden with him.  And neither does he, I guess, because that’s when the mescaline starts to kick in, for me, anyway, and probably for him, too.

If I’d lost my sense of time before, traveling into books, time was now completely out the window.

Especially sitting at the Merry-Go-Round Bar with Hunter and Oscar inside a book.

“I think I’m getting the fear,” says Oscar.

“Nonsense,” says Hunter.  “We came out here to find the American Dream, and now that we’re right in the vortex you want to want to quit…”

Their dialog continues, but my mind is lost, in time and space.

Suddenly, I find myself sitting in my club chair reading about this scene.

Next, I am looking down at myself reading a book—what some might call an out-of-body experience.  

I see myself turn a few pages, and then I re-enter my body on the reading chair before slipping out again through my eyes, and onto page 99…

About 20 miles east of Baker I stopped to check the drug bag.
“What the hell?”  Hunter looks at me with surprise and alarm.  “You, again?”

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


“Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

-- Hunter S. Thompson

About six months later I could no longer contain my curiosity.

I picked up my second-favorite book, a worn copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, and began to read.

It is a short, breezy read, and before I knew it, I was near the end, having never left my reading chair for a second, not even for a snack.

Somewhat disappointed, I resolved that my extraordinary On the Road adventure was maybe a dream, maybe not; as time passed, it faded to the kind of blur.

And then I had an idea.

My copy of On the Road, the one into which I had fallen, was a valuable first edition.

Excited, I jumped onto my Mac, navigated to Amazon and entered Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, collectible into its search engine.

Many versions popped up.  

But none of them first editions.

I did the same with


For five hundred bucks plus shipping the book was mine at the touch of a key.

When it arrived five days later, my suspense had been so great that I immediately sat and opened it with voracious purity of focus.

By the time I reached Chapter 6, I realized I needed to slow down, relax…

Suddenly people were screaming at us.  We were in trouble.  Two thugs wearing red-gold military overcoats were looming over the hood:  “What the hell are you doing?” one screamed.  “You can’t park here.”

“Why not?” I said.  It seemed like a reasonable place to park, plenty of space.  I’d been looking for a parking spot for what seemed like a very long time.  Too long.  I was about ready to abandon the car and call a taxi… but then, yes, we found this space.

Which turned out to be the sidewalk in front of the main entrance to the Desert Inn.  I had run over so many curbs by this time, that I hadn’t even noticed this last one.  But now we found ourselves in a position that was hard to explain… blocking the entrance, thugs yelling at us, bad confusion…
And here I am, part of the confusion, within myself and without, gawking at a big red convertible, its top down, with Hunter S. Thompson and his attorney, Oscar Zeto Acosta, in the front seat, hollering at one another...

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Suddenly, here I am, sitting at the bar in Alfred’s.

Roland Major is crocked.  He ambles to Sal’s booth, plops down uninvited and leans over Dr. Boncoeur’s soup to chat with his old buddy Sal.  Then he turns to the doctor and rudely asks, “How do you like teaching high school French?”

If Remi had blushed before, he flushes purple now, half embarrassment, half-rage.

“I don’t teach high school French,” retorts Dr. Boncoeur.

“Sorry, you look like you teach high school French.”

To make matters worse, a drunken Sal flirts with the doctor’s young wife while Major continues with his insults.  He does this loudly, causing diners nearby to complain.  

When a waiter intervenes, Major profanely bellows about where this “penguin” can park his broomstick until a manager stomps over and orders Major out.

“Why don’t you join your friend?” Remi hisses at Sal.

Sal shrugs, attempts to apologize, slurring his words.  

Seeing humor in his predicament, he giggles, and scampers after Major.

I follow them out, around the corner to the Iron Pot.  

They take a table; I nail a stool at the bar.

“Sam,” Major addresses Sal, looking at me, “I don’t like that fairy at the bar.”

I look up and down the bar.  

Major is addressing me, probably because my clothes are futuristic, rendering me, in Major’s eyes, somewhat gay.

“Sam,” he says, “I think I’ll get up and conk him.”

“No, Jake,” says Sal.  “Just aim from here and see what happens.”

They laugh, throw back their drinks and depart.  I stick with them, at a discreet distance; bad enough they think I’m gay—but stalking them, too?

We are on Kearny, and then Columbus, heading north toward Broadway, a bar called Vesuvio, which bustles like a bee hive with bohemians this Saturday evening.

Major bullies his way to the bar, Hemingway style, while the slender Sal fills his wake.

I brush past assorted beatniks and hipsters and squeeze myself a space the other end of the long bar.  

I catch the barkeep’s eye first, order a beer and instruct him to offer Sal and Major a drink on me.  

It would either get me clobbered–or entrĂ©e into their reverie.  I am willing, from this distance, to take a gamble.

The bartender serves them, refuses their money and points at me; Major glares across the bar.  Then he motions me over with his hand.  

I make my way through the throng.

“You following us?” Major bellows as I approach.

“Just studying the habits of good writers,” I say, loud enough to be heard over the buzzing.

“How do you know we’re writers?” asks Sal.  He speaks slow and serious.

“Your book,” I say.

“But nobody’s seen my manuscript yet.”

“I’m not talking about The Town and the City.  I’m talking about the one you’re going to write after that, about what you’re doing right now.”

“What am I doing right now?”

“Living life on the road.”

Sal nods, cocks his head.  “On the road?  Cool name for a book."  He scribbles it down.  "You've gotta live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.  The road is life.  But I have nothing to offer anyone except my own confusion.”

“You kidding?”  I swig beer from the bottle.  “You did it, man. You do it.”

“Do what?”

“The great American novel.  Some say it’s The Great Gatsby.  But your writing of life on the road will impact a whole generation.”

“I don’t know and I don’t care.”  Sal smirks.  “It doesn’t make any difference.”

“Trust me, it will.”

Major had gotten sidetracked by the possibility of a brawl and inched away, focused on another situation; clearly, he thinks he should be the center of anyone’s attention, not Sal Paradise, whom he perceives as his own sidekick.

“You are going to be famous,” I add.

Sal looks at me, bewildered.  “There are worse things than being mad.”

I am uncertain whether he is applying the notion of madness to him or me.

“Are you some kind of prophet?” he asks, one-eyeing me.

I cannot tell if he is serious or joking.  

I shake my head.  “I’m here because of you.  I fell into your book about life on the road.”

Now Sal squints both eyes.  “Man, you’ve been drinking too much.  That’s cool 'cos drinking is the only thing worth doing.  Ecstasy of the mind.”

“It’s easy to drink.”  I swig another gulp of beer.  “What I’m doing is not.  Tell me, what does it take to be a writer?”

Sal nods, firming his jaw in thought.  “You've got to scribble secret notebooks and wild typewritten pages for your own joy.  Write in recollection and amazement of yourself.  Write for the world to read and see your exact picture of it.”  He pauses.  “And stick to it like a benni addict.  My witness is the empty sky.”

Major rebounds to take command of our conversation.  “I love this city, but the villains are wrecking it before our eyes.”

“What villains?”

“Real estate sharks, construction unions—and most especially the architects.” He turns and hollers down the bar, “Any architects here?”

A few barflies stop talking long enough to glance nervously at him.

“Well, if any of you are hiding your sorry selves—and I don’t blame you for that, I wouldn’t own up to it either—I just want you to know you’re full of schlock, dreck, schmaltz, and shit.  Anyone disagree?”

No one does.

“Thought not.”  Major snorts with bravado.

“Books don’t have a future.”  Sal resumes his discussion with me.  “Unless you write a bookmovie, the new visual American form. You’re the writer and director of your own earthly movie, angel-ed from heaven.”

“Sal, you’re always so goddamned serious,” says Major.  “And making up words that don’t exist.” 

“That’s right, Roland.  You gotta remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition and not yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”  Sal shakes his head sadly.  “I really disappointed Remi on his big night.  He really is the most gentlemanly person in the world and all he wanted was my help to impress his stepfather.  I’m gonna have to go back to his place in Sausalito, grab my things and hit the road before he wakes up.  I’m really ashamed.”

“No shame, no gain,” Major blusters.

With the evening winding down, my concern turns to my own predicament, stuck in a book with no William Burroughs around to give me yage.

Shall I click my heels three times like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz?

How did Alice get out of Wonderland?

I want to stick with Sal Paradise.  But he wants to get moving, and he provides some advice upon parting:  

Blaze your own trail.

So I blaze up Adler Alley into Chinatown.  

The aromas are awesome from Peking duck and other delicacies dangling in colorful windows.  I make my way to Union Square, where World War II vets drink out of brown paper bags, giving poignant meaning to Kerouac’s depiction of a beat generation.

I join them, feeling beat myself, giving up any hope of ever getting out of this mind-warp, too tired to care, struck by a vague notion that maybe I’ll seek out William Burroughs—or wait until January 1948 in New Orleans.

I drift off into slumber on a bench beneath a starry sky...

...and awaken in my reading chair at home. 

Monday, September 28, 2015


At that moment, I feel a volcano erupt from my midsection, and one beat later, lava spews, projectile style, from my mouth. 

La Purga, from yage. 

Fortunately, the window next to me had been wound down and I reach its opening in time.

The only one who notices my frantic heaving is Old Bull Lee, who scurries back inside his house. 

Sickened, I begin to wonder if giving me yage was less about getting me back where I belonged and more about punishing Moriarty for freeloading and messing up his house.

The car lurches and launches, with me hanging my sorry head out the window, leaving a trail of pea soup until I have wretched my insides out.

Trembling and sweaty, I sit upright in the backseat, by myself, watching silently as the people of New Orleans become nothing more than specks dispersing.  

We cross the Mississippi River, and onward into the night, driving on dirt roads with nothing but swamp on either side.  

At some point, Dean stops and switches off the headlights and we hear a million snakes slithering in the stark blackness of the night.  

Marylou squeals.  She evidently prefers mystery programs on the radio to genuine ones.

I close my window, but not in time for a half-dozen copperheads to slither in and coil themselves around me.  

I holler for help, gasping for breath as they tighten their grip around me.

Moriarty, Sal, and Marylou turn around from the front seat, amused or bemused, wondering what the hell I’m screaming about.

“Snakes!” I howl.

“Ain’t no snakes,” says Moriarty.

And I realize Old Bull Lee’s yage has cut in, big-time.  

In a split-second, the snakes are gone, and I feel euphoric to have survived their attack, about being with my favorite characters in my all-time favorite book, in a car, on the road, heading for California!

At four in the morning, we carouse the city streets of Houston, after which Moriarty finally tires and relinquishes the wheel to Sal.  

Moriarty and Marylou fall asleep in one another’s arms as rain lashes the windshield, and Sal becomes befuddled and lost.  He doubles-back into the main street of a small town.

An apparition—a man on horseback—appears suddenly in front of us.  

I think I’m hallucinating again, but it turns out to be the local sheriff.  He points directions for Sal to get back on track.

I sprawl around the backseat and fall into deep slumber.

When I awaken, I find myself in my leather chair at home.

Old Bull Lee—and ayahuasca—had done the trick.

I notice my first edition of On the Road on the floor.  

Carefully, I pick it up, inspect for damage, and start reading, top of page 77, where it had fallen open…

Then I went to join them all, late as hell.  His father opened the door, a distinguished tall man in pince-nez.  “Ah,” I said on seeing him, “Monsieur Boncoeur, how are you?  Je suis haut!” I cried, which was intended to mean in French, “I am high, I have been drinking,” but means absolutely nothing in French.  The doctor was perplexed.  I had already screwed up Remi.  He blushed at me.

We all went to a swank restaurant to eat—Alfred’s, in North Beach, where poor Remi spent a good fifty dollars for the five of us, drinks and all.  And now came the worst thing.  Who should be sitting at the bar in Alfred’s but my old friend Roland Major!

And me.

Suddenly, here I am, sitting at the bar in Alfred’s.