ANTHEM is coming, chapter 34

ANTHEM, Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy, publishes on October 1. Each of the book's 47 chapters begins with a song from the Sixties to set the tone, mood, and scene. Every day between now and October 1, come have a listen and read a snippet from each chapter. On October 1, these posts will be archived with a link at ANTHEM's webpage for #teachingAnthem1969
 
This is Chapter 34 (day 14):


THE WEIGHT
Written by Robbie Robertson
Performed by The Band
Recorded at A&R Recorder, New York, New York 1968
Drummer: Levon Helm

Norman looked at Sweet Caroline. Sweet Caroline looked at Norman. Molly clapped her hands together once and got Norman's attention.
"Give Victor the keys," she said.
Victor shrugged. "I drove a tank in Nam. I can drive this bus."
Norman scrambled off the bus and stalked past some onlookers who were staring at Multitudes' portable canvas. Molly followed him. When they were far enough away for comfort, Norman wheeled on his cousin.
"That guy's not even conscious!"
"Neither are you!"
"I've just driven halfway across the state of New Mexico, and halfway across Arizona! He slept the whole way!"
"So he's rested!"
"Why are you on my case? Yesterday at the hot spring, last night's disappearing act, and now this -- "
"Because you are being an idiot!"
"Because I go swimming with a bunch of kids? Because I win a bus race? Because I have a dog? Because I have a girlfriend?"
"She wants something Norman."
"She wants me." His voice caught on the word.
"She doesn't."


Everyone's feeling the weight of this trip. Norman's about to break, he's so exhausted. Victor is carrying his own war weight, and even Sweet Caroline has secrets she's keeping... something Molly can plainly see, even if Norman can't.

So our heroes stop at the Visitor's Center for the Petrified Forest. Where they are actually is what's called today the Painted Desert Community Complex near Interstate 40, designed by famed architect Richard Neutra. It was space-age cool and modern when it opened in 1963, and I want readers to feel it that way -- air conditioning in the desert! Glass walls and expansive views and everything modern. "No one had seen anything quite like it." There are pictures and more info at that link (National Park Service), and here are a couple more:


 And today, after a renovation in 2017, it still captures the imagination in the desert:


Families were vacationing like crazy -- you'll see them in Chapter 34 -- traveling by car, smashed together in station wagons in the late sixties, flocking to the national parks, and there was a concerted federal effort, called Mission 66, to expand park services in time for the 50th anniversary of the National Park Service.

Our dusty travelers are so hot, and the air conditioning is so inviting. It's not enough to cool hot tempers and exhaustion, but it does give them some temporary relief from the various weights they are carrying.
===
They watched parents taking Polaroid pictures of their kids standing in front of Multitudes. The kids were dissolving in laughter, posing and making funny faces, raising two fingers in peace. "Sock it to me!" said one kid. "Veeery interesting!" said another.
"Wimps," said Norman. He wiped at his eyes. "They should have gone hiking on the Appalachian Trail."
Molly sighed, relief in her voice. "Yeah. They're squares."
"She likes me," said Norman.
"Let Victor drive," replied Molly.
Norman handed her the keys. They climbed into their chariot and raced across the high desert.

Chapter 34.

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 33

ANTHEM, Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy, publishes on October 1. Each of the book's 47 chapters begins with a song from the Sixties to set the tone, mood, and scene. Every day between now and October 1, come have a listen and read a snippet from each chapter. On October 1, these posts will be archived with a link at ANTHEM's webpage for #teachingAnthem1969
 
This is Chapter 33 (day 15):


THE AGE OF AQUARIUS
from the musical Hair!
Written by James Rado, Gerome Ragni, and Galt McDermott
Performed by the Fifth Dimension
Recorded at Wally Heider Studios, Hollywood, California 1969
Hal Blaine

Ten minutes later, Molly bounded up the stepwell and onto the bus.
Sweet Caroline was sitting in Norman's lap in the driver's seat, pretending to drive. "Where were you! We almost had to leave without you, didn't we, Norman?"
Norman tried a laugh but Molly cut him off.
"This is Victor Martinez. He's coming with us."
Sweet Caroline got up. She swung into the seat behind Norman, put her hand on his shoulder, and giggled.
"Stop giggling," Molly ordered. "Norman, start driving."
Victor Martinez came quietly up the steps. He looked at no one. There were only four rows of seats left in the bus and Victor sat in the last row. He smelled like too many days in the same clothes without a shower. He smelled like the dumpsters behind the Plaza Cafe. He carried a large paper sack with him, well creased and rolled over at the top where he gripped it.
Molly stuck out her hand to Norman, palm up. "Give me your extra burger." She walked the sack to Victor and handed it to him. "We just ate," she said. "We're full." Victor took the sack wordlessly and turned to look out the window.
Norman turned the key in the ignition. Flam jumped into the famous front passenger seat.
Molly walked back up the aisle. Caroline, I don't care where you sit, but you can't sit in that seat. The navigator sits there. I am the navigator --"
Sweet Caroline blinked and Molly finished.
"I am she."



Well, we really did think a new age was dawning -- "and peace will guide the planet, and love will steer the stars" --even in the midst of war. It became harder to believe it, though, when looking into the faces of war. Victor represents one of those faces, in ANTHEM.

In June 1969, Life Magazine published "The Faces of the American Dead in Vietnam: One Week's Toll." Face after face after face, 242 soldiers who died in one week, May 28 to June 3. Molly and Norman left on their trip June 14, 1969, just as the magazine was hitting newsstands.



This issue of Life brought the war home to Americans in a way television couldn't. There, on their coffee tables, were 242 dead Americans in one week. One week. Sons, brothers, fathers, uncles, friends. Gone. And for what?

That is Barry's cry in ANTHEM, of course. For what? You'll meet others along the way who are more sure of why we were in Vietnam, but for Chapter 33, I want you to meet Victor, who managed to come home, although much altered than the young man he'd been when he left.

A great short video from the Newseum about this issue of Life is here.

And here is an inside still from that Life Magazine feature, and a link to a June 2019 WBUR piece (with text and photos) of stories about the men, and the families left behind:

"All these boys, look at these beautiful boys, look at them," she says. "Oh, there he is."


What we wanted, now more than ever:

"Harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding// No more falsehoods or derisions -- golden living, dreams of visions, mystic crystal revelations, and the mind's true liberation... Aquarius."

Chapter 33.

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 32

ANTHEM, Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy, publishes on October 1. Each of the book's 47 chapters begins with a song from the Sixties to set the tone, mood, and scene. Every day between now and October 1, come have a listen and read a snippet from each chapter. On October 1, these posts will be archived with a link at ANTHEM's webpage for #teachingAnthem1969
 
This is Chapter 32 (day 16):


MAGIC CARPET RIDE
Written by John Kay and Rushton Moreve
Performed by Steppenwolf
Recorded at American Recorders, Studio City, California 1968
Drummer: Jerry Edmonton

NORMAN:

Wavy appears in front of the buses and yells, "Who's in charge?"
"Nobody!" comes a chorus from everyone.//
Wavy climbs onto the roof of the Kitchen Bus. 
"Let's run one at a time!" he yells. "Use a stopwatch! Fastest time's the winner!"
"That's for sissies!" yells the driver of the Hospital Bus.
"That's Ken," Red tells me. "Watch out for him. He's a terrible driver."
"Let's go!" yells Ken. "Once around the meadow, turn around at the flag, and get back here first!"
The rest of the crowd surges onto the bus roofs.//
"Start your engines!" This despite the fact that all engines are revving and ready to go....//
The roof of my bus is swarming with bodies and it sounds like a stampede is going on. The whole bus rocks and I open my arms to catch a kid who slides down the front windshield.
"Wait a minute!" I say again.
"Who's bus it this?" yells a girl in pigtails.
"Florsheim's!" yells Red.
"Well, come on, Florsheim! Floor it!"//

Wavy gets on his knees from his perch atop the Kitchen Bus and points straight ahead with both arms. "The United States of America! And step on it!"


This was a great song for dancing or daydreaming to, pretending to, being totally crazy to.
"I like to dream, yes, right between my sound machine," inspired by John Kay's new stereo system. hahaha.

It includes that rad base line by Rushton Moreve, which provided the engine that propelled us through the song. Norman has such an engine in Chapter 32... in fact, there are a whole lot of engines revving up to be quite the sound machine for the bus race in the Aspen Meadow on the summer solstice in 1969.

I took this chapter from an actual event that Stewart Brand writes about in the Whole Earth Catalog. It made me laugh out loud, and I decided immediately that Norman needs to be part of this amazement -- all the buses from all the communes in a bus race in the Aspen Meadow, kids riding atop their magic carpets, crazily, happily, full of mayhem and joy and almost crashing... finally coming back to earth.

The "Ken" that's mentioned is Ken Kesey, who had a much more fleshed-out role in this chapter that was cut for length, and for... well, for a middle-grade novel. I gave some of his lines to Wavy, and I slipped Kesey's name back in, as the driver of the Kitchen Bus, but surely he would have been driving Further, which was there as well, also excised in the revision... "We're dropping too many names here at the expense of story." Frump.

But you can see a picture of Kesey on Further in Scrapbook 1 of ANTHEM.

And Molly has to decide in this chapter, if she's on the bus, or off the bus... something the entire book seeks to resolve as the story continues.


Chapter 32.