La Honda 94020

La Honda was as near to heaven as Milo could remember being. He'd stayed at Kesey's retreat for two full days since Trips, and had not seen not one sign of Callie or Furlonger; not one teeny alebrije, no floating Xray Kama Sutra, no armadillos, no untraceable flashing lights. The weirdest thing going on here was himself, which was fine by him. Though the late-January weather was cool, it was mild and pleasant to be outdoors. He was in excellent spirits.

This was partly because there was so much homemade wine, he could have bathed in it if he'd wanted. Homegrown weed was also there in plenty, and in a word, fabulous. It was beautifully easy to reel along that fine line between staving off his haunting cast of thousands, and passing out.

Pure peace. For two whole days. It was enough. Milo loved it here. Maybe, just maybe, he could dare to start thinking that the cosmos could be kind.

Chronosynclastically infundibulated... yeah, right!” Milo mimicked Owsley into the outhouse mirror. He adjusted his belt, patted his fly, checked the Thermos was tethered to his belt, then stepped out into sunlight and the company of two comely young females.

“Want to go up to the lookout and meditate with us, Milo?” one asked. They sandwiched him between wide American toothpaste smiles, and each grabbed an arm to lead him off.

He thought he'd started to get to know the brilliant Kesey. He was getting on well with Bill Graham. The Grateful Dead had rehearsed at La Honda a couple of times since he'd arrived, and Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir had invited Milo to sit in with them on the thermos. Sort of a dada  instrument, maybe, but nobody seemed to believe it odd in the least that he could make wallpaper motifs dance, turn the air any color he liked, and send people and furniture free-falling upward with a twist of the stopper.

Not that it was peaceful by any stretch. There were constant comings and goings by all species, shapes and sizes. There was always music and a nascent party atmosphere, even at the times there wasn't quite a party going, yet. 

“Take real good care of that piece of paper I gave you,, man,” Graham had laughed, touching the side of his nose and slapping Milo on the back.

A notarized open-ended one-year contract to perform with the Dead now sat in Milo's inner coat pocket. “Might come in handy at a pinch,” he'd thought, when the band had insisted on presenting it, mock-ceremoniously, the previous night. 

But unease and dark jealousy swirled through the Pranksters's Eden like a verbal virus, growing in myriad hushed corners, gaining strength, waiting to emerge.

“Pavlov's trouble, man! We gotta find a way to get rid of him.” Kesey said in low, adamant tones. “We had enough issues already! Now that shit at Trips? And at Jerry's?  How'd he made our Acid Test too freakin' weird, even for us?!

"But more to the point, The Man's already got me up on charges. They're bullshit, but so's the system. They'll use any way they can to end all this, and jerk us into their  line!"  Kesey waved his arms to encompass the farm around them. "There's a  hellhound on his trail.  I don't know exactly how, but he's some kinda cosmic wildcard, man -- the kind that'll bring the heat and burn us all.  Pavlov just doesn't smell right, even if he does smell like flowers half the time..”

I don't like him either,” piped up Gurney Norman. “He drinks way too much. We'll be out of red before the end of the month if he hangs around too long. And this was the batch we swore we would make last long enough for the sediment to actually settle out!”

“You seen how the women follow him around?” Ken Babb shook his head dourly. “I know we're all about open relationships, free love and stuff, but...”

“And that fucking thermos bottle!" chimed  Paul Krassner.  "He never lets it go. That's pure bullshit, what he does with it. He's gotta be using wires or mirrors, or something. And fuck! Has he ever got Bill Graham's number! What's with that?”

“Yeah, that backwards flutey crap that comes out of that thing just pisses me off,” agreed Babb, self-righteously, “Like... how is that contributing to the band? Shee-it.

“This kind of talk is baaad karma, man," spoke up Wavy Gravy, the dependable voice of peace and reason. "Okay, I know he's weird... at least as as weird as we are, anyway. But I think we should cut him a break. Milo Pavlov is so obviously a lost soul. We should be helping him find his way right now.”

“Wavy's right!"  said Gretchin Fetchin, who had walked in and overheard. “Backstabbing won't do anyone any good. You guys just hate the competition.”

Kesey was looking kind of pissed, struggling visibly to frame a putdown that wouldn't look baaad for his karma, when a light bulb flashed on in his head. He brightened. “Got it! Azalia Dawn is still here, but she's leaving for the Ranch this afternoon. We'll send him up there with her. They'll at least dry him out.”

“They can fucking keep him!”

Cassady had stopped chick-a-dooing long enough to string a full,  right-on thought together,  earning a spontaneous laugh from nearly everyone.

It was at that moment Milo suddenly shuffled up out of nowhere.

“Hey guys... what's up?” he asked chummily, and raised a half-empty bottle of porchclimber.

 A cranky shadow crossed Gurney Norman's face as Milo noisily chugged himself to the bottom.