and I don't want to be. I haven't even read his thing about Da Vinci. But I was researching Kissinger for my novel, Little pink babies, (I was gonna have a Kissinger-inspired fellow/villain) and I stumbled across an online expose of Bohemian Grove. I think it was a Slate.com article, but I can't seem to locate it anymore (hmmm...conspiracy?). Reading about this place, where rich, powerful men get together and dress in drag and act like frat boys and fly in hookers and drink and cavort like they're at a bacchanalia both intrigued and terrified me. It had to go in my novel. I mean, people like Nixon, Bush, Kissinger, etc. attend (or attended) this "celebration" every year.
Since Obama's become president, I've noticed there are a lot (and I mean A LOT) more sites dedicated to "uncovering" the Bohemian Grove. It's funny how a president who wants to bring about changes like universal healthcare has become, for some, this symbol of universal fear. One website's posted an editorial specifically addressing the Bohemian Grove as our (American) elite leaders and asking them to do something about Obama's quest for a "One-World Government." Most other sites link Obama to the Bohemian Grove and this "One-World Government." But, I digress...
Little pink babies started as a novel about gender roles in the U.S., particularly stereotypes surrounding women and motherhood. In fact, I first entitled it Feme Sole. It starts off with three people - Cass (the 26 year old mama), Sammy, (Cass's art-school room-mate who's secretly in love with Cass), and Chou (the as-yet unnamed baby), in a Honda Civic travelling from Milwaukee to Tempe; Cass's going to find Mark, her baby's daddy, to reunite with him or give the baby back, she doesn't know, Sammy's along for the ride as a lark, ostensibly, and Chou just has no choice. However, as I wrote the novel, I also started incorporating contemporary American politics (not that you can ever separate politics from gender, well, at least not yet). And, of course, Bohemian Grove, a no girls allowed club for the elitest of them all. Cass, Sammy, and Chou, after exchanging the Civic for the Challenger, picking up three extra passengers and losing one, and waking up outside the Real Worlds studio in the Mojave Desert (more on that later), are chased by Sammy's uncle's (a man worse than Kissinger ever appeared to be) agents into Bohemian Grove. Here's an excerpt:
We parked and ran again. It seemed like this was what life was – the constant motion, the driving, the fleeing, something always chasing us. I was almost used to it by now.
Sammy dropped my hand and pointed to some undergrowth. “Let’s nap here.”
“I don’t know…”
“We haven’t slept. We’re in the middle of nowhere. They won’t find us.”
“I can’t stop.”
“Yes, you can.”
“How are we gonna find the car?”
“We’ll find it.”
“I can’t stop.”
“Try.” Sammy handed me Chou, then bent down by the bushes and lifted branches so we could crawl into the green, hidden space. I lay down with Chou in my arms. Sammy lay down next to us. I didn’t even think about bugs or whatever creeping over me as I slept. I just closed my eyes.
A baby was crying and I was in a small, dark place. I couldn’t move. I tried to open my eyes. I could feel my eyelids trying hard to open – my muscles contracting and stretching, pulling against something. It was like someone was holding them down with their fingers. I could barely breathe, there was a heavy weight on my chest and that baby wouldn’t stop crying. Now that baby was inhaling. Deeply. That baby was sucking up all the oxygen. I couldn’t breath; I couldn’t move. Someone was holding me captive, in sleep even, so the baby could steal all my air.
I was suffocating.
Was it Mark?
“Cass!” Someone was nudging my shoulder. The weight seemed to have lifted. I coughed and opened my eyelids. Sammy was hunched over me, holding Chou to his chest with one hand and the Maglight in the other. The Maglight was on and beaming right in my face. “Are you okay?”
I nodded and waved my hands at the light.
Sammy moved the beam to the ground. “You were hyperventilating, I think.”
I coughed again. “Do you blame me?”
Sammy kind of laughed. It was a sad, strange sound and reminded me the only real laughter we’d heard since – well, when? – since we left Amarillo really had been Chou’s random giggles. And who knew what was going on in that baby’s mind? Or any baby’s? They were all probably tripping from the newness, the colors, the sun, the moon, the wet, the dry, the rustle of leaves, the silence, the white noise of a Challenger doing ninety on the Interstate. Everything around them amused them. It had all been made for them. Even being chased two states to California was funny to Chou.
It wasn’t funny at all.
Sammy handed me Chou and crawled out of our temporary shelter. He held the branches aside and motioned for Chou. I was glad to give him the baby. I needed more time to shake off the nightmare. He kept the beam on the ground; it was hard to see among all the trees in the dark.
“We’re gonna have to go in.”
I didn’t say anything.
“Undercover…yeah, we’re gonna have to.”
I didn’t know what Sammy was talking about. Had he lost it like he’d been afraid he would in Amarillo? Was this trip just about making all our fears come true? I crawled out of the shelter, almost afraid to look at him – maybe there’d be a crazy glint in his eyes, some kind of sign. “I’ll carry Chou.” I grabbed the baby from Sammy.
“We’re gonna have to do it.”
“What? Do what?” I thought Sammy was about to hyperventilate now.
“Go in there.”
“We’re gonna have to stay off the main trails…” He didn’t say anything for a while and then he continued. “I wonder what time it is…I wonder…if it’s around…nine …something goes down…we could sneak in.” It was like he was talking to himself, staring down at the spot of light on the forest floor. It was so dark. I grabbed Chou closer just to make sure the baby was still in my arms. Or that this was real.
“There’s no women allowed. They don’t allow any women.”
I was alone in a woods with a baby and my best friend in the world. I was alone with a baby and a madman and surrounded in the dark by bohemians. All around, supposedly.
I didn’t even need to see a glint or a sign.
He still seemed to be staring at that one spot of light.
“I was just thinking.”
“Are you having…have you taken…”
“No. Yeah. I don’t know. Bohemians?”
“A bunch of white men. My uncle’s…”
Was he just fucking with me? What was this about his uncle? Sammy’d never talked about an uncle; except that one time when he’d been drugged out of his mind in Amarillo. Had he just been setting me up for this weird scene in California? Did he have something to do with the two RVs chasing us? With the fake town in the desert? “Who are you, Sammy Colter? Samuel Franklin Colter?”
“Let’s just walk.” He grabbed the crook of my arm and we started trudging through the woods. I thought about shaking him off, but even though I had the keys to the car, he had the flashlight. I was afraid of walking around the woods near blind with my infant child. It was better to not be alone in the dark.
We got to the outskirts of the Bohemians or the white men or whatever because I could see glimpses of light through the woods. Sammy pulled me closer and whispered, “We have to stick to the shadows, anything that’ll cover us.”
I nodded just as Sammy switched the flashlight off. I wanted to know what was going on. And find someone to rescue me, more importantly.
“Hopefully they’re busy.”
I didn’t even ask who they were. I didn’t want to hear any more delusions coming out of the mouth of the man I’d lived with for over two years, the mouth of the man I’d almost kissed twice. Another close call – did I just attract crazy? I scurried through the bushes clutching Chou and waiting for any opportunity. We came to a well-lit and very wide trail. Probably the main thoroughfare for these Bohemian friends of Sammy’s uncle. Whatever. And maybe we weren’t being chased by two RVs either, maybe Sammy’d made it all up – he’d driven most of the time. But, I had seen them run out and I did see them driving over the dunes, eating up the sand we stirred up, it’d looked like. I was ready to announce myself to the next Bohemian or whoever walked down this lanterned path. I don’t know why I’d come to think that Sammy’s weirdness hid a very normal center. Maybe that’s what the road did to you. Maybe it was all perspective, circumstance, paranoia. Maybe because Pat and JJ, before they’d joined the bad guys or revealed their true selves or whatever, had seemed even weirder. But not MacEwan, my lost MacEwan… Sammy really was as weird as he’d always tried to be. This trip had whittled him down to his real self, his core, and it was pure crazy.
“We have to sneak across this path.”
Sammy still had my arm; I pulled it away. I was going to protest, say something about him going cuckoo, that the trees had pressed down on his brain or that the RVs had chased him over the brink, if they weren’t some mirage or friends of Sammy’s I didn’t know about, but then I heard a deep baritone singing. Loudly. Like the guy had a mike, like some opera was being broadcast to the trees and the wood nymphs and fauns and fairies and spirits and whatever else was out here all around us.
Sammy and I looked at each other. Chou started hiccupping. I was afraid the baby would start crying, that I’d have to make that horrible Hollywood decision to sacrifice the infant for the greater good. It was in some movie I’d seen a long time ago, maybe not that long ago, maybe I saw it with Sammy. The village, because something like war could never happen in a city, is hiding and the mother smothers her own baby to keep the rest of her people safe from enemy troops.
But, we weren’t in a war. We were in California.
And maybe I was making that movie up.
I’d just been chased across three states and now Bohemians were singing to the trees. That could do something to your memory.
Sammy nudged me. “It’s clear.”
We ran across the path and into the shadows. Did Sammy know where he was going, or was he following the music? It was getting even louder. All around us, the baritone wailed on. Omnipresent. Then the opera music ended and bagpipes started. I swear, bagpipes. Sammy pulled me and Chou under some bushes just in time it seemed; I watched two pair of khakied legs weave by. Drunkenly? They were attached to men carrying lawn chairs. I could make out hands gripping the chairs when I peered up through the bush branches.
Lawn chairs and bagpipes, oh my.
Why the fuck were there bagpipes playing and what the fuck was going on?
As soon as the men had passed, Sammy grabbed me and we ran forward, then sideways to another bush. We hit the dirt, Sammy and me on our stomachs and Chou like a tortoise on its back flailing arms and legs. I looked out through branches; we were above a large clearing full of men. Men sitting in lawn chairs and loungers and smoking cigars and drinking from bottles, from horns, passing them around, facing away from us, facing a pond or lagoon or something. There looked to be a hundred or more men.
Almost every one of them was white.
The bagpipes ended. More classical music played. Where was this forest orchestra? Mystery strings. Was there an orchestra pit somewhere in front of the men? And what were the men all waiting for, looking for?
The men started clapping. I couldn’t tell why, but there seemed to be more light across the pond all of a sudden. There was a clearing or a stage with a huge stone thing, like a giant box or owl or something. That’s what all the men, the audience, were looking at.
And then men in robes started swaying in from the right side of the clearing. Black and red hooded robes.
I hoped they were men and not something worse. We were in the middle of god knows what ceremony in the middle of god knows what forest – Sammy, the baby, and me, and who knew what kind of creatures were being stirred up. It was dark, anything was possible. I never believed in any of that shit really, yeah I’d had a couple Tarot readings and read my horoscope almost every day before this trip and had always wanted to do a past life regression, but c’mon. This was something else, something…I don’t know what. I’d never witnessed a procession of hooded figures carrying torches in the woods. I never thought anything like this ever happened anywhere, not even in California.
The people in robes walked to either side of the huge stone. One white-robed figure stepped forward and boomed, “The owl is in his leafy temple. Let all within the grove be reverent before him.”
I took hold of one of Chou’s hands and looked at Sammy; he grabbed the other hand. Hopefully the loudspeakered voice wouldn’t start a crying attack.
There was no way I could smother Chou. Not even to save Sammy. Not even to save myself.
There's more to the chapter, but that's all for now. Thanks for reading.