Longtime Soquel resident Billy Craddock's masterpiece is getting a second life.
From Chapter Four of Be Not Content: A Subterranean Journey by William J. Craddock
"We Will Attain New Realms"
[The setting is Boulder Creek.]
Larry parked the car in front of a little elf-like hidden mountain cabin surrounded by a small herd of beat-up VW’s, panel trucks, dented Fords and Chevies. I climbed out and stood in the yard, hearing unreal drifting music and crowd-sound. The two-room cabin was so full of people that I hesitated at the door, thinking that, if one more person stepped inside, the structure would rip out at the seams, leaving an untidy pile of rubble and many angry strangers pointing accusing fingers in my direction. But Ted said, “Cumon in, Abel,” holding the door open for me, so I took a deep breath and crossed the threshold.
The cabin miraculously remained intact, and the door banged shut behind me as I stepped over and around stretched-out bodies, trying to avoid tramping people while I peered through the smoky dark. A single blue lamp lit the room. Dylan’s then new album, “another side” was filling the heavy air with sound as it turned thirty-three and a third times per minute on an unseen stereo. “It’s all just a dream, babe / a vacuum, a scheme, babe . . .” sang Dylan in his rasping, nasal, thirsty, suffering and perfect voice. Like an idiot I froze and did a big, low, gulping “uuh,” hearing what he was saying for the first time. I mean, I’d listened to Dylan before. I owned his albums and sat in front of record players while his words banged against my head. I even told people how much I liked Dylan—what a great “folk-singer” he was. But this time, frozen to the floor, mouth hanging open, I heard Dylan, and apologized to his genius for never having listened.
A gigantic brass water pipe, containing nearly two lids of smoldering weed, stood on its dragon’s paw supports between two fantastic men. One wore a handlebar mustache with the ends waxed sharp—round, rimless glasses on the very tip of his nose like Ben Franklin. He looked to be about twenty-four. The other had long, light brown hair and a huge whiskbroom mustache that drooped almost to his chin. They sat Buddha-like on crossed legs, facing each other, engaged in serious dope smoking and conversation. Blue haze and paisleys everywhere. All signs pointing straight or crooked to very high Up. I felt that the whole thing was being staged for my benefit.
“We will attain new realms,” said the whiskbroom Buddha. “We will be the first stumbling mortals to break through on holy hemp. I can feel the ole Void pulling for us.” He took an incredible pull on the pipe and passed the mouthpiece with a grand flourish.
“I rejoice at your coming death, Baxtor,” said his companion.
Taking the mouthpiece once more, Baxter nodded, saying, “I will miss your doomed, but pleasant, Carlgame, Carl.”
Exhaling, Carl said, “Not from the Final All of the Void, you won’t.”
“True,” replied Baxtor, rocking happily with his hands on his knees. His eyes closed and he made a laugh-sound that went, “Hnnnn-hnnnnn-bowaughhhh,” way up inside his skull.
My attention was so totally ensnared by these two stoned sages and their (in the state I was in) temptingly meaningful, frustratingly obscure conversation, that Ted was shaking my shoulder and saying, “You all right, man? Hey, you okay?” before I even realized he’d been talking to me.
I smiled and pointed to the pair on either side of the hookah. “Holy wise men. Listen. Wow.”
Ted smiled back and said, “Baxtor and Carl. This is Carl’s cabin. Carl . . . Baxtor . . . this is Abel.”
Carl extended his hand, and I took it. Baxtor extended the hookah’s mouthpiece, and I took that. Beyond high now. Into a zone where everything’s just about ready to have already happened, making it all cool. Any second now. Dig all you can while you still can.
Curt Webber, a dark-eyed, clean-shaven, sharp-featured, twenty-two-year-old leftist whom I’d met in an English class a year ago at college, came in from the other room with a pretty Negro chick. He raised his eyebrows when he saw me, walked over and said, “Well yes indeed. Abel. Abel Egregore, I do believe. You meet the least likely. Mmmhmmm.”
With my eyes all over the lovely black girl, I said, “Hullo . . . uh, Curt, and . . .
“Her name’s Jeri,” said Curt, putting his arm around her waist. “Yes. Mmmmhmm.”
Ted told Curt that I’d taken acid, indicating, I suspected, that I could now be spoken to on a different level. I hoped to prove worthy.
“Ah!” said Curt, extending his left arm as Jeri wandered off silently. He let his arm fall to his side, empty. “Welcome to the Land of the Damned.” He showed me his teeth, covered them, and walked away.
The room seemed to go quieter. I thought I heard the sound of uncomfortable body-shifts. Paranoid visions of elaborate deceptions elbowed for center stage. I turned to Ted, suddenly suspicious. He read my eyes and shrugged the message off with, “Curt’s spaced behind negative energy tonight. He’s decided to play the anti-Christ. Ignore it, man. Forget it.” He guided me around the room, introducing me to what seemed to be an endless number of beautiful and strange people all full of smiles and glad hellos.
Somebody, maybe several somebodies were singing, “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream . . .
“Wow!” I groaned, hearing it heavy. “That’s . . . wow.”
“ . . . merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily. Life is but a dream. Yes life is but a dream. Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream . . .”
“Ted, I never heard that before. I mean, I heard it, but I never heard it. You know? Everything’s . . .
“Of course, man. It’s really all that big. Dig?”
“Man! I’ve sure got a lot of thinkin to do. I feel like . . . I feel like I’ve just been . . . ah, shit, I wish I wasn’t so stoned so I could talk to you. Except . . . if I wasn’t so stoned, I wouldn’t be talking to you. I feel like I’ve been blind. Y’know? I feel like I oughta be thanking everyone. God, this must really sound stupid to you. I don’t know what I’m talkin about.”
“I think maybe you do. Just let it all go, man.”
“I don’t wanna make a fool of myself, man. I feel so good, I’m afraid I’ll blow it.”
“Don’t worry about it. We’re all fools. If you know you’re a fool, then you’re already one step up. Let’s dig some people,” and Ted steered me around the cabin again, telling me names that slipped right on through, showing me faces that merged into a smiling montage.
The night was all joyous discoveries, many of which brought me almost to the point of tears, to laughter and astonished wows regularly. Whole new horizons. I felt humble and honored to be in a room with and listening to such enlightened powers. I felt in flash after flash that I’d never been so high before, never so aware and never—at least not since a long, long half-remembered time ago—so hopeful and happy.
One of the few faults I’d found with weed was the fact that it was hard to be violent while you were behind it. In the bike clubs, we called it being yellow-fucked, and you had to counteract the feeling with plenty of wine, or else you didn’t want to fight or even bug anybody, which is dangerous when the people around you do.
Now, talking (or rather listening—I said very little) to these new-found friends, I came to the realization that this was not the fault of weed, but the fault of fighting. Nobody wanted to fight. The talk was of love—a word I’d been ashamed to say aloud—and of enlightenment, which I’d read about and thought about abstractly, but didn’t think “real people” discussed. There was talk of change and of a peaceful, world-wide revolution of all-powerful understanding and love. The talk was of love, all the more exciting and beautiful because it seemed honest. This was shortly before the mass media and the merchants and promo-men leapt on the printed letters of the word and discovered that it could be painted “psychedelic” and sold in brilliantly colored plastics for some money.
The talk was of love, and it ripped my mind time and time again to realize that it had been said by so many prophets from the beginning of consciousness, and no one wanted to listen. Now someone was listening, and we swore (I, silently) that we’d never stop listening and never forget. It was all so simple. No obstacles that wouldn’t crumble under the bright light of the truth of love.
I watched and listened and thought, “My God . . . it might just happen!” and fell asleep in the first, gray glow of dawn on the crowded floor of the quiet cabin, in between Ted and a heart-pulling little eighteen-year-old chick who told me that the name, Abel, was very important. Her name was Julia Cain and she inspired dreams.
Long dreams of brave, reverent, clear-eyed Neo-American Indians, standing on wind-blown high mountain sides, watching the godless, blind-worm, white, sprawling civilization vomit and cough itself to death in the garbage-pit valleys below. Waiting for the world to begin. It will be beautiful. It will be real this time.
Be Not Content: A Subterranean Journey is available in electronic editions for the Kindle and Nook for $6 from Rucker’s Transreal Books, and the new paperback edition can be purchased for $16 at Amazon.