The Phil Gagliano Band Goes Camping ~ 1974
I am going to tell you about of one of the wildest, most fun weekends a bunch of 20-something idiots can have. The members of the Phil Gagliano Band and our buddies went camping. Above you see (clockwise from top) Doug Dattoma, Marc Dattoma, Gene Jacobs, Larry Lupo, Ricky Winston and that is me, Mike Guido, with the afro and the yellow shirt. If you look closely, you can see that I am actually wearing a Phil Gagliano Band tee-shirt. After we emailed this picture around, several of the boys contributed their recollections of the weekend.
You may have noticed that I have an AFRO! A month or so earlier I had hurt my knee and had to sit around for a while. I got bored, so I grabbed my crutches and hobbled down to the local beauty parlor (remember, this is 1974, unisex hair places were not yet a reality). I asked Mr. Claude to make my hair as curly as he could. This is the result. This picture was taken as we came out of the woods at the end of the week. None of us brought a hairbrush on the trip. Dougie and I look ok in this shot. Marc has his ridiculously short shorts on. He ran around all week looking like Tarzan on too much coffee. Lupo has his very serious face on. He can only hold this look for short bursts of time before he smiles. Gino, sitting on the right simply looks deranged. He has that sly look worn by someone who is in the middle of pulling a practical joke. Ricky Winston actually is deranged. Ricky had recently been discharged from the Air Force Reserves. He got to the campsite on the second night. More about that later.
Gino, Mark, Doug & I started out early on a Thursday evening in September. We packed our gear into two cars and went to Watertown, MA where we picked up Lupo. We repacked our gear and left in the middle of the night, arriving at the foot of Washington Mountain, in the White Mountain National Forest in Laconia, New Hampshire, early on Friday morning. We did have a little run-in with a Vermont smokie. He didn't like it that Marc had a billy-club next to his driver's seat. He told us "you don't need this in Vermont boy, you're not in New York anymore!." Marc & Dougie both worked at Newsday and Marc now claims that the "billy-club" was a square, cutting rubber from one of the newspaper folding units.
It was a beautiful crisp, cool morning when we started out. Now, this wasn't some pull-your-car-into-the-campsite-go-to-the-tap-for-water-or-to-the-bathroom-for-a-shower camping. This was hike 4 miles up a mountain on an old railroad-tie logging road with all your gear and food on your back. Our water came from the stream.We were all in our early 20's. No one had a real job yet. We were living large.
As I said, we hiked several miles with full packs. We had tents, a lantern, cooking utensils, food. We had a glass, gallon jug of wine that had a plain white label on which were printed two words . . ."Vino Fino." Some of the guys remember bringing vodka, some think the culprit was Wild Turkey. But we all agree that we did have some booze. We set up camp not at a campsite, but in the middle of the woods. No cell phones in 1974, no radios, just us and our highly stimulated imaginations.
The night was when things got wild. The primal nature of the campfire can do things to a man. We were a group of 20-ish guys out in the middle of nowhere, no contact with the outside world. WE WERE FREE! Naturally, the first night we stayed up really late. We didn't get a lot of sleep. We thought that a park ranger was prowling around and that caused some minor paranoia at camp, which only added to the fun.
Not far from our camp there was a fast mountain stream that had carved long channels, about 2 feet wide in the rock formations of the mountain. These made perfect natural rock slides, smooth as glas. You would shoot out the bottom to a 7 foot drop into a pool of water. The water in that stream was freezing cold. Dunking your head in the stream resulted in an instant "slurpy headache." Awesome. We spent the days riding down the rock slides, exploring caves and exploring the canyons of our minds.
On Saturday night we again have our campfire. It was a great, moonless, clear sky with a million stars. As we are about to go to bed (having empied the bottle of Vino Fino) we hear a voice calling in the distance "Guido . . . Dattoma!" Now remember it is late at night in the middle of the forest. No moon. Very dark. We listen again. Did we really hear someone? The voice calls again and we recognize that it is Ricky Winston. We thought that he was coming up the next day. Rick wasn't exactly the outdoor type and we had told him that if he arrived at night to sleep in his car at the base of the trail and we would come get him in the morning. Instead, he plunged for miles through the woods in the dark hugging all his belongings in his arms. He had lost the logging trail and wandered the woods for several hours before we heard him call. He had no backpack, sleeping bag or tent. He was holding his blanket, pillow, extra clothing, and his electric razor bundled up in his arms. Yes, his electric razor. That pretty much explains Rick. When we found him jubilation rang out throughout the camp and we had to stay up a few more hours and party some more.
On Sunday, we packed up to come home. We carried all out non-burnable trash out with us, including the gallon glass jug that still had the Vino Fino label on it. We suggested to Rick that he turn his Air Force issue field jacket into a makeshift backpack by stuffing all his belongings into it and using the arms as shoulder straps so he could wear it on his back. Rick decided to tie rope to the arms of the jacket and thread the rope through the belt loops of his pants. We needed him to carry his share of the gear. I held his jacket/backpack up while he attached the rope to his pants. When I let go of the jacket the rope yanked the waist of his pants up to his armpits and gave him one of the most painful wedgies ever suffered. It become very tight in the codpiece.
The photo above is a testiment to the fact that we made it out alive. We look dirty, unkempt, tired, but very very happy. It was a great adventure, one I can recall in detail some 30 odd years later. We get together several times a year and it is like 30 years never happened. I hope all you have had friends like I have, and have been lucky to share adventures with them that can live a lifetime.