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Gas Pedal Alley & the Dinosaur Robots

By the time we got to Woodstock, we were hungry and in need of sleep. We were also out of smoke, which wasn't good, considering we had another five days ahead of us before we would start back for Ohio. We parked the van by the flea market and set out on foot. Linstrum found a great little coffeehouse, and I found Jogger John. He was sweeping the town circle, looking like a shirtless hybrid of Manson and Bob Ross, and I knew instantly that this cat could find us a little something.


Jogger had come to Woodstock for the festival and never left (even when the festival left for Bethel). Prior to '69, he was a brilliant young airman. His real name was Jackie, but the locals called him Jogger because he never walked anywhere. "I don't run down the hill" he once explained to me. "The hill runs me down it". The only other person I've heard say that kind of shit is Alan Watts, but I heard Jogger say it first. The guy was on another level, though I didn't know that yet. I just knew he was all about the "happy little trees".



As he told Devaney how the mountain had stolen the white man's mind, I asked if he could find any smoke. He turned from Devaney and shouted "the Rainbow calls him Chef" as he led us across the street toward Linstrum's coffee shop. John asked if we had a car, and I pointed to the van. Of course he jogged to it. Linstrum had already found his way back, and was at the wheel by the time John jumped into the bench seat behind him. He directed us up a mountain and yelled "stop" when we got to a gravel parking area. Before the van was in park, Jogger was throwing me his ID and running further up the mountainside. "So you know I'm coming back" he barked at us. And with that, he disappeared into the woods for nearly an hour. But he did come back, and we did celebrate with an herbal Jazz cigarette on some rocks beside a pool of spring water.


Our ragged trio ended up following John up a trail, which led to a cave where he had obviously slept often. Devaney quietly picked up a rock right about that time, just in case he might need to bludgeon Bob Ross inside that cave. But it never came to that, and Jogger laid some profound philosophy on us for awhile before getting bored and running back down the mountain. The trail emptied back into that natural spring and a shallow swimming hole.


Before I knew it, Jogger and Devaney were in their boxers, wading in the pool and filling water bottles that I swear hadn't existed two minutes earlier. That was the first time I encountered Himalayan rock salt, as John started shoving chunks into the water bottle, explaining the health benefits of these little pink gems and the "living waters" of Woodstock. He tried to get Linstrum to drink from the bottle, but that's when Linstrum had humored us long enough. "We've gotta get back on the road" he said under his breath. But that was enough to set Jogger John off on a five-minute tangent. "Driver" he growled. "In such a hurry to get back to Gas Pedal Alley with the rest of the dinosaur robots". He really wanted us to know the importance of that mountain, and that spring, and he was offended that the moment seemed lost on these three hurried travelers.



In only his boxers, Jogger ran back to the van and proceeded to draw a hex on the rear window with his fingers, still wet from the "living waters". That freaked Evangelical Linstrum out, and we were certain that this mountain man was about to hold us hostage in the Catskills for the next forty years. As the team captain, I had to think fast to diffuse the situation. That still happens often. So I pulled a picture from my wallet. It was a photo of my middle daughter, Emaline, as a toddler, where she was sitting next to a big sunflower. The Sears Portrait Studio photographer captured a moment as Em tugged on one of the leaves and smiled the easy kind of smile that only a kid can pull off. "We've got to go back" I said. "If this little one's going to know about any of this... If she's going to teach anyone about any of this". Jogger's anger subsided instantly and his face loosened from a snarl to a lazy smile. "Thank you, Muhammad" he said as he wiped the hex off the window, freeing us from its binding power. Before I knew it, we were in Connecticut and on to the next tall tale.


That wouldn't be the last time I saw Jogger John. Anytime I returned to Woodstock over the years, I'd seek him out - very first thing. He was usually sweeping at that town circle or sitting on the steps of a house for Buddhist monks, doing some sort of work on Tibetan prayer flags. He once told me that I had "the peace of God... the peace of man" but that's another story for another time.




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