1969, Lawrence, Kansas. The summer of love has passed and the fall of society has begun. Lawrence was a pretty town of about 35,000 people back then, including masses of students at the university, which stood on a hill, above it all. This hill had been blessed by an Indian healer a century before, and ever since then tornadoes had spun around it, never over it. Now it was the crossroads of drugs and revolution, exactly halfway between San Francisco and New York, epicenter of rumbling chaos. Think of it.
Or of me, 11 years old – what to make of that? Little boy smoking a cigarette at the wheel of his dad’s 48 International Harvester pickup, friend Richie at my side helping me manage the gears as we drive the “borrowed” vehicle into the hills outside of town. My father wouldn’t notice – he was away getting treated, his first attempt. We careen through wheatfields on narrow dirt roads, barely tall enough to see above the dash and keeping my father’s cardinal impaired driving rule ever in mind: line the hood ornament up with the right edge of the road and you’ll never go wrong. I slam the brakes to avoid a stray cow and one of Dad’s old bottles of Almaden rolls out from under the seat and lodges beneath the brake pedal. I hit the brakes again and nothing happens. Richie dives over and jerks the bottle out, freeing the pedal. Another valuable lesson I’ve kept to this day: never let an empty touch the driver’s side floor.