Everybody’s gonna want to see this…

Over the years I’ve learned that there are only two people from whom one can reasonably expect a phone call at 3 o’clock in the morning. One of them is the coroner. The other is my old ’60s sidekick, Sapper.

Forever lost in the Age of Aquarius after ingesting some unidentified herbs near Bolinas in 1968, Sapper wakes up bright and early at about 1:30 a.m. every morning and energetically begins telephoning acquaintances at random to let them know he’s rarin’ to go.

Once you’ve listened to one of Sapper’s endless schemes to better the world, improve the environment or mitigate his German shepherd’s body odor, a call from the coroner clearly seems like the lesser of two evils.

Last Thursday was no exception. I knew I shouldn’t pick up the bedside telephone when it began ringing at 3:30 a.m., but I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

“Wake up, bro! How’s things down there in the great smog karma basin? Probably lousy – but you already knew that, right? Choking down there with the teemin’ hordes an’ the gridlock an’ rats an’ stuff…” Sapper began cheerily from the shadowy depths of his Eugene, Ore., crash pad.

Sure, I could have dropped the phone, but I was hooked. I had to know where Sapper’s train of thought was headed after the smog and karma and rats and stuff.

“Not that things are much better around here ever since Ken Kesey up and died on us. The ol’ Merry Prankster’s gone and the whole damned town’s been flatlined ever since. We’ve gotta do something soon or we’ll all turn into lawn furniture or something…” he mused.

Fortunately, Sapper had a solution for the community’s doldrums in the wake of the famed counter-culture author’s untimely demise.

Unfortunately, I stayed on the phone to listen to it.

“I think I can save the sorry spirit of Eugene, bro, but I’ll need your help and we’ll have to act fast.”

Uh-oh…

“It came to me while I was havin’ some dental surgery yesterday. Ya see, my gums are gonna be bleedin’ for a few days an’ I got a big bottle of Demerol to fight the pain and existential angst and stuff,” Sapper continued. “On the way back from the drug store, I bought a couple of those, like, jester hats – you know, with the little bells? An’ right then I knew we could save the town.”

Bleeding gums, Demerol, little bells?

“Catch the first flight up here, we’ll gobble a mess of the Demerol, put on the jester hats and take to the streets. It’ll be great. I can, like, spit blood through my teeth and say ‘Bwaaaaah!’ to scare the Republicans an’ you can stumble around all goofy-like and fall over stuff and say ‘Hee-hee-hee!’ like you used to,” Sapper enthused. “We’ll go to the golf course, we’ll go to the Moose Lodge, we’ll go to bowling alley an’ we’ll have a hot time in the ol’ town tonight, buddy boy. Ol’ Ken’ll be up there in the cosmos cheerin’ us on – so go get that plane ticket!”

As hard as it may be to believe, I’ve decided to postpone my trip to the hinterlands of central Oregon until Sapper recovers at least part of his equilibrium. On a more positive note, though, I’ve learned many valuable lessons from his call. For example, I’m now fairly certain why my dentist never prescribes Demerol for a toothache…

Originally published February 10, 2002

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