A storm is brewing outside my window as I pen this story, all my dogs seeking shelter, warned of the impending squall by rolling thunder and lightning flashes.
As a Vietnam vet, I had all manner of drugs available to me during my tour. I mostly passed, fearing being stoned during an attack. Some of my fellow troopers saw things differently, wanting to feel stoned rather than face a possible unpleasant situation without some sort of anesthetic. Years later, no longer worrying about physical death, I learned to anesthetize myself against the mental pain that had begun attacking the fortress of my soul because of a rapidly failing marriage.
Carol, my girlfriend at the time, became my drug guru, guiding me carefully down a path of knowledge and abuse. She was a gorgeous blond-haired woman with smoky blue eyes, heaving breasts and a sardonic smile. She chain-smoked and always had a cigarette in her hand, except when she was burning a joint.
On a night such as this, we attended a concert and laser light show at the fairgrounds of Oklahoma City. As a noisy thunderstorm raged outside, hundreds of drugged-out latter-day hippies raged inside, listening to psychedelic music while watching a colorful light show projected on the ceilings and walls. Like everyone else in the house, marijuana zonked Carol and I, the promoters of the event expecting as much. They didn't care, nor did the off-duty Oklahoma City cops acting as security guards.
The time was the late seventies, long past the sixties hippie era. Radio stations were playing disco, as the English musical invasion had mostly waned. You would not have known it that night as hundreds of stoners watched a light show performed to the songs of perhaps the greatest psychedelic band ever: Pink Floyd. The music and drugs caused me to recall a time from my not so distant past.
The last movie I saw as a civilian before becoming one with the military was Easy Rider. To say the movie affected me is an understatement. I rarely remember a movie for a week after seeing it, but almost forty years have passed since viewing Easy Rider and many of the scenes remain lodged in my mind.
What I remember most is the noir scene in the St. Louis #1 Cemetery where Wyatt and Billy take two whores they recently met and do drugs in perhaps the most surreal vista ever filmed in an American movie. Maybe I remembered this scene when penning Big Easy because hero Wyatt Thomas has a tryst with his own girlfriend at the St. Louis #1 Cemetery, the burial spot for famous New Orleans voodoo mambo Marie Laveau.
Carol and I watched the laser light show. Sated and satisfied we returned to her tiny house. Too stoned for lovemaking, we simply tried to sleep before Monday morning returned us to stark reality. Lying in the darkness of Carol’s bedroom, I stared at ceiling shadows, recalling the many bizarre events that had occurred in my life, and pondering what the next day might bring.