Captain Trip and the Light - Fantastic
“You look like you could use a lift.” I stood on the highway 101 northbound onramp on Hollywood Blvd with my thumb out, bindle over my shoulder and a sign which read, ‘I could use a lift.’ I considered the fellow at the wheel. He seemed fairly perceptive, but I couldn’t be sure. While conservative in appearance he affected a very insouciant manner. His eyes were concealed behind reflective aviator shades, he wore a Giants ball cap and smoked a cigarette in a long filter. He sat at the wheel of a blue ’62 Chevy Impala, “The Rock Island Line” blaring out of the tinny radio speaker. He had an open bottle of Schlitz between his legs from a well-used case in the back. “I was afraid my sign might be too subtle. Thanks.”
I climbed in, discarding the sign for the next traveler and set my bindle in the back. “While you’re back there, could you…?” he muttered, tailing his crotch brew. And as an afterthought, “Grab yourself one if you’ve a mind to.” I did. I opened the bottles with the church key on my belt and handed him one. He admired my opener. “Resourceful, I like that,” and with nary a look at the traffic behind, he floored it and we were off.
“So, uh, where you headed?” We had just crested the Cahuenga Pass and launched into the San Fernando Valley at high speed, zooming in and out of traffic with perilous ease. “I hear tales of mind-altering drugs and body altaring women in the Bay Area. My restless libertine spirit demands that I assess these claims erectly; not rely on second hand accounts.” He suppressed a smirk then took his eyes off the road and fixed me with a stare. “I appreciate your inquisitive nature. Consider the wonders of the glove box.” He turned back to the road barely in time to avoid slamming into a garbage truck which had pulled on up ahead. Whipping into the next lane, a hail of skidding and honking behind, he continued conversing, “Having met some of these tails and enjoyed their emollients, I would be happy to direct you to the appropriate venues.”
In the glove box was a black leather shaving kit. I looked from it to him and he nodded at it, swerving to avoid hitting a smoking Ford Pinto beside us. I pulled it out and opened it. He clearly wasn’t recommending grooming. There were 3 pill bottles, one with all kinds of mixed pills, another with what appeared to be Seconal (Reds) and the last with about 20 Black Beauties (high grade speed). There were various small bags and a jar with what appeared to be cocaine, but the immediate focus of interest was the grass, right on top. This I extracted along with the Zig Zags beside them and closed the shaving kit, returning it to the glovebox.
He watched me out of the corner of his eye which caused him to drift in his lane, necessarily causing the cars near him to drift in compensation, rarely a good thing hurtling along at 75 mph, 9:30 Sunday night on a very busy highway with your driver wearing dark glasses. I rolled up a couple cigarette sized joints with the efficiency of one well practiced in the craft, then fired one and offered it to him. Impressed, he accepted it and drew deeply.
“I think I could use you in my work. Rare to see such efficiency in a smoker.” He returned the joint to me in a cloud of smoke, seriously crowding the lane facing the oncoming traffic. He was an odd fellow, making snap decisions that involved my employment – I liked him. I took a long draw, then responded with each word punctuated by a puff of smoke, “The Boy Scout in me I suppose. Be Prepared and all that. Suppose I should have joined.”
He choked a little on that, nearly forcing a VW bus off the shoulder and straightened out to again receive the joint. “Naw, you got the gist of it. Don’t take you for much of a uniform guy anyway.” I watched as we barreled between a Plymouth station wagon and a delivery truck, inches to spare on either side as they attempted to merge where we were driving in contravention of reason, safety and law. This fellow was a disaster waiting to happen. I was in my element.
“They always clashed with my eyes.” He glanced over, then, smiling, looked back at the road. “Red, huh?” I puffed and then handed the joint back to him. “Yurp. I think my eyes are too well read for uniformity.” He considered this, then puffed and responded, “Once you see who paints the lines, it’s hard to want to stand in them.” He reached his long arm over and introduced himself. “Thompson, Doctor of Divinity.” I shook his hand. “Hammer, patient with debauchery.”
“Good to meet you. I must warn you, the road ahead is fraught with ominous peril and grave danger. This isn’t a job for the squeamish.” He tailed his beer and I opened him another, which pleased him. We were developing intoxication awareness, and he could see it as useful for the work we were to partake in. “I doubt the squeamish would have ever gotten in this car in the first place, Doc. But you’ll forgive me, what does a Doctor of Divinity do that requires assistance?”
He let out a laughing little bark and followed it with, “Drugs!”
We had stopped in Santa Barbara to gas up, piss off and get some more beer, perhaps a bite to eat. We were both pretty drunk to be driving and needed something to ground us a little before continuing the journey. At our table in Skip’s Diner in a place called Mendota, over coffee, he laid out the itinerary. “Stanford Research Labs in Menlo Park. There’s a guy I want to interview, somebody you’d like to talk to as well. Based out of Vancouver, he’s consulting for them, in town for a couple of days.” I finished my clubfoot sandwich and considered him.
“Stanford Research? Sounds dangerous. Good I’m here for back-up.” He looked at me seriously. “Can you operate firearms?” I slurped my iced tea and fixed him with a confident stare, “With ruthless efficiency.” He slammed his big hand on the table, “Ha! The right man for the job. Excellent!” He reached into his shirt pocket and produced two of the black caps from the shaving kit. “Rigid focus is imperative. A wrong move on either of our parts could send us over the edge. These are useful.”
I was familiar with them because The Factory crowd enjoyed all manner of stimulant and Black Beauties were some serious speed, one of its few variations I actually enjoyed. “Beauties. Very nice.” Again impressed, he handed me one. “You know your drugs. That’s good because our subject is into shit we’ve never heard of.”
I swallowed my Beaut with the rest of my tea and stood up. “Then why are we wasting precious time here? These drugs aren’t going to take themselves!” The Doctor stood, smiling, “Damn right, they’re not gonna take themselves…”
One of the nice things about Black Beauties is bladder control; I’ve held a piss for 10 hours on BBs (I don’t recommend it) and still functioned like a champ. Not a chimp. It was simply a matter of mind over bladder. So for road trips they are splendid because they keep you alert, perky, feeling pretty good actually and you don’t need to stop every 10 miles because of all the beers you drink while on the tasty little bitches. Speed and beer: our attempt to equalize our drug intake to resemble sobriety. A fool’s errand.
North of San Luis Obispo we stopped for some hitchhikers, interestingly both 21-year old co-eds mastering in biology and gymnastics, headed to San Francisco for the End of the Summer After the Summer of Love Fest. They were both amazingly attractive and very friendly: Brenda and Kate. Brenda was a skinny but well-proportioned blonde with short hair and very pale flesh, almost translucent, while brunette Kate was bigger, but muscular and fit, impressive breasts and outstanding legs, nice meaty calves. Owing to the beer and other accumulata on the back seat, or perhaps owing to a particular affinity for writers and crazies, they crowded into the front seat with us, Doc at the wheel, Brenda in our midst and me, a Kate and Brenda Hammerburger, delightfully squeezed between such sweet honey’s buns.
“Welcome aboard ladies, surprised to see you on the road so late.” The Doc glanced over at the amazing bounty I had provided – every man should meet a beautiful and receptive woman, if even only once, in life. Women too; we should all meet a beautiful receptive woman. And I’m not in the least limiting it here, once a week would be nice too. If life isn’t a good time it becomes easy to see it as a bad time. And bad times are a waste of time. Sex well shared is a very, very good time. If we all had more better sex, we would all in all probability have more better lives. As a willing test subject I must here confess that when I get laid well and often, I have a grand and glorious outlook on life. Even the hard shit is easier swallowed, for sex is life’s chewy sweet candy center.
“Yeah, our ride turned out to be a bummer. We’re both kinda high so, it’s a nice night.” Brenda responded upbeat and pleased, Kate finishing her sentiment in a similar outlook, “Why not take a walk, see what we find.” She stared deeply into my eyes, her dark eyes seductive and serene. “So far, so good…” She mouthed the words for my benefit as Brenda focused on the Doc.
“I admire your adventurous spirits and outstanding physiques. Amazing. Here at least, in this perfect moment, the body is truly a temple.” Kate smiled seductively then gave me a deep kiss, her right hand rubbing my rapidly engorging endowment for the Art. “Thank you…?” The Doctor, wife at home in Colorado, asked me to offer him a pseudonym if I found myself compelled to offer names. “Our driver is the esteemed Doctor Duke of UCLA Medical Journal Center of Rights and Leftists, and I am Professor Arturo Hammer of no place in particular. An honor to make your acquaintances.”
Brenda proved fairly kissy indeed and kissed me as she offered, “Brenda,” then kissed the Doc as well, or better actually, causing another swerve, skid and flurry of honking. But he was in the midst of unfathomable fantasy, he couldn’t be bothered by external lamentations. “Kate…” and she reached across me and Brenda to give the Doc a nice pat on his upper thigh while pushing her gravitationally defiant bosoms into my deliriously happy face. As she pulled back into her space, her hand again came to rest on me, to which I could offer no objection.
We stopped in Half Moon Bay and romped in the surf for several hours as the girls took turns showing us the benefits of a sound physical education. We had danced heavily in the good Doctor’s kit on the road, and now danced with a different rhythm, pulsing with the waves as they washed upon shore, that perfect place, that peak that once you’ve seen it, you know there is a reason to continue just on the chance you’ll see it again – a reason to thrive.
He had no set appointment with his subject; they had merely exchanged letters, with the end of July as a period he would be at SRI. “Come on out,” he had written. The Doc looked us over. We were all fairly blitzed after a long night on the road and amazing morning on the beach. We assuredly reeked of cannabis, alcohol and unprotected beach sex, and were in no condition to meet someone at any place called SRI. Who was the mysterious subject of our increasing collective interest?
“Captain Trips. That’s his name in the underground. Al Hubbard. Works out a Stanford Research Institute. They make drugs…” Our eyes must have all betrayed our thoughts instantaneously because he answered correctly for each of us, “Good drugs.”
“Doctor Thompson, Mr. Hammer, ladies, what can I do for such an esteemed gathering?” Al was big, wide but not fat; he had a square jaw and a white crew-cut, a pleasant smile; very disarming. He wore a uniform of some military bearing but no affiliation symbolism. His official title was Security Consultant but this was no guard, no corporate rent-a-cop. He was too smart, too cunning, more the man to thwart officials than act as one. Yet he was official, about as official as one can be and that made him dangerous. Al Hubbard was a salesman of the first order. My question was, What was he selling?
“Captain Hubbard” – Al cut him off – “Al, please.” He smiled warmly even though Central Casting would undoubtedly send him out as a hitman or gunsel before anything with “warm” or “kindly” in the description. The Doc continued undaunted, ”Al, I’m researching the sudden influx of certain substances upon the citizens of the United States. In the ‘50s, research into the effects of LSD were virtually unknown to the public, as was LSD. By the ‘60s everybody in the world knows about LSD. How is that?”
The girls sat on Al’s office sofa, while the Doc sat in a chair at Al’s desk. I read some of the impressive commendations on his wall and he kept his eye on me as he responded. “With Dr. Osmond in New Westminster and other receptive practitioners, we treated upwards of 40 thousand people using lysergic acid diethylamide with unparalleled results. Our treatment of alcoholism had a success rate of nearly 70%.”
I looked at him. He was sharp, I had to be cagey. I glanced at the girls. “Impressive figures.” Al looked at me, sizing me up. “Indeed. AA’s rate is around 5%. I traveled with Bill W and he realized what we all realized, this substance is the miracle of humanity. A gift of God.” He was baiting me, wanted to see where I’d go. The Doc appreciated the dynamic and let me run with it.
“Certainly a more profound means to commune in such realms than human institution. If a more magnificent compound exists, I’m not aware of it. Though I would like to be.” I had come up with the right combination of words. I wasn’t some stupid hippy; sure my hair was longer, but he had a crew cut, everybody’s hair was longer. The important thing was that we weren’t Godless communists or anti-American leftists. He hated them, and all his deep druggy wisdom could not purge him of his disgust for their perversion of his faith, his God. Even enlightenment knows darkness and salvation can only come from oneself. External salvation is an illusion.
The Doc jumped in, “I have to concur with my colleague. As a Doctor of Divinity I am duty bound to seek every avenue available to converse with higher consciousness.” We hit him with the shaman one-two punch and, as he knew how amazing the drugs he championed were from direct personal experience, he had little resistance, especially with Brenda and Kate all but making out with each other on the sofa. Al sized us up and said, “I might very well have just what the doctor ordered.”
We met at sunset at Al’s place in Menlo Park, not too far from SRI. A fairly nondescript house in suburbia, it had the distinction of having a swimming pool and very private back yard, quite lush actually, which created a strong sense of nature in the midst of the bustling city. Al had chosen a home that would allow him to explore the inner realms with a level of organic harmony; he even had a sound system, providing music which muted the constant traffic on distant Foothill Blvd, the drone of humans in motion.
We’d gotten a room in San Bruno, near the airport, on my dime. I’d done a little collection work for Roberto while in Finger Falls and he always paid a fair percentage of any recovered assets. I’d chased down a little weasel, Tony Vole, who was into Roberto for fifty large – though Roberto didn’t specify fifty large what, so I kept my eyes open for big things while convincing Tony of the virtue of paying one’s loan shark. “Listen,” I told him, “if you decide to default on a loan, do it with a bank – they’ll just fuck up your credit.”
He unsurprisingly found 500 decent sized bills to compensate for his deficient fifty large. And this with only minimal persuasion, much provided courtesy my new Smith & Wesson Model 19 357 Magnum with a four inch barrel. In lending, little things can make a big difference – the key is maintaining their interest. Roberto sent me off with a pocket full of cash and a bindle bulging ballistics for my efforts. The family that preys together pays much better.
Al suggested that we not drink for the duration of the “journey” so we could appreciate it in an undiluted state, though he made exception for cannabis as “It acts as an amplifier and modifier concurrently. Very useful in such therapies. Probably the safest drug on Earth.” He wasn’t alone in such feelings in officialdom, and those of similar disposition included presidentially appointed experts, a DEA judge and the US Supreme Court to mention but a few.
“Few realize that cannabis was the second most widely prescribed drug in the USA during the late 19th century.” Sasha Shulgin sat on Al’s big comfy sofa and shared his expertise. He was another cypher, a conservative chemist, for Dow Chemical no less, made autonomous owing to his creation of the deadly poison Zectran.TM He created his own research facility, The Farm, in Lafayette, California, and began synthesizing drugs with government license and approval. Some of the most popular and mind expanding drugs known to human, most of them actually, were created by a chemist from Dow Chemical, the company who brought us Dioxon, napalm and Agent Orange to name a few, with US government approval. Hard to swallow?
So he was a professional. Same with Al. To look at either of these men one would see fairly average and conservative looking males: Al looked like a cop and Sasha was no Einstein – at first anyway. As to practical, applicable human knowledge, Sasha was far greater than Einstein. Albert’s work opened the door to nuclear power, contamination and war, whereas Sasha just killed bugs in his mercenary science, but opened universes with his psychosynthesis. Another great man nobody knows about. Well, not nobody….
“I met Harry Anslinger. Now Harry was a missionary, he believed what he was peddling. But the system, they knew what they were doin’.” Al spoke matter-of-factly, as though the room were all familiar with Harry’s antics. The Doc was on top of it and clarified for the girls who seemed fascinated and wonderfully amused. “The big-daddy of dope denial. With help from Citizen Kane. Gave us pothibition – turned our medicine to poison.”
Al was impressed and we were all amused, as Hearst was integral in selling Cannabis Prohibition to a befuddled nation, though I question whether Brenda got that particular reference. Sasha, eyeing his watch, dug in his jacket’s inside pocket. “They giveth, they taketh away. What I’ve got here – ” he produced a small envelope, pleased “ – will likely taketh away your breath.” Here he looked at us and smiled, “In a good way.” Standing, he offered his mystery packet to Al and bid us good evening. Little could he have imagined what that evening held in store for us. Hell, I don’t even know…
“Methylenedioxy-methamphetamine.” We stared in curious wonder at the tiny capsules in Al’s packet. Sasha told him there were 50 doses, so Al would be able to run some field tests on it. He stressed that one capsule each should set us right for about four hours. As we were not willing but enthusiastic subjects, we didn’t object to his subjecting us to his objective research, which for the first go round was just us drugged, with him sober, monitoring the effects.
The Doc was on top of it, “MDMA.” I looked curious, as did the girls; what was this drug?
“MDMA. And what does that do?” Al fielded that one, “Well, best I can tell, it makes one feel ecstatic.” I looked at the little white capsules, “Ecstasy?” Al considered this then smiled, “Yes! Why, that’s a great name for it.” I looked hopefully at the packet, like a fucking dog at the foot of the steak table, “Thank you.” He reached in his packet, ”Thank you. Would you like to try some?” I smiled, all but slavering as he dropped it into my waiting hand. “Well, I’ve never found myself averse to ecstasy. Tell me though; is there any agony associated with it?” He paused to see if I would hesitate. “Not in my experience.” I didn’t.
The first hour was interesting; the tingle of anticipation that always precedes a drug adventure, the feeling that the cannabis was particularly potent, then the sensational stabs of realization: I am on drugs. I would attribute American excess to that; we are never on a single drug. Caffeine, processed sugar, high fructose corn syrup, tobacco, alcohol, analgesics, pharmaceuticals and those are just the ones that get us strong enough to take the real drugs, which are usually accompanied by cannabis and more drinky-drink and then combined with other drugs still. We are little test tubes, each of us.
At hour one I understood why they call it ecstasy*: my body tingled with amazing sensitivity, the music particularly stimulating and intricate, nuance and beat quite potent; my mind held no disharmony, I felt too good to wish anything but this very sensation upon my fellow human – joy, elation, ecstasy. I understood and empathized with my new friends on a level unlike any I had known prior. It offered the unity of LSD without all the psychotomimetic sub-journeys and mad laugh-a-thons. MDMA lived up to its name: Methylenedioxy-methamphetamine.
*My Forrest Gumpery notwithstanding.
The Doc and Brenda danced; he kept playing Dylan over and over but she seemed to enjoy it and even bad music was tolerable on this wonderful drug. I suspect Al would have preferred a more cerebral approach, but Kate and I found MDMA to be positively stellar for the recreation of the flesh and spent the second hour making out and giving each other head, the third hour fucking and swimming (hydration imperative – but not so much you drown) and the fourth hour really fucking then working Al for another go round.
“I lose the scientific or even divine ramifications of you two fucking on my pool furniture.” Al was strident; we were fucking up his fucking experiment. It would take some brilliant bullshit to turn him to our way of thinking; this was a man who dealt with presidents and congressmen and spies, no lightweight he. Kate was on it. “You drop some with us and I’ll fuck you too, Al. You’ll like it,” she smiled seductively. “Promise.”
Kate was right. But after 3 hits and about 6 hours of fairly constant fucking, the girls were worn out and had passed out on Al’s king sized (and well used) bed. The Doc and I had drinks with Al, our sobriety no longer a requirement of the experiment. MDMA was no LSD. Sasha called it “The Window” and after looking through it I understand his reference clearly. But Al wasn’t into recreation, he sought enlightenment. That was his intention, regardless of his master’s designs.
We were utterly wasted and without the recording, it would be impossible to recount our conversation exactly. Fortunately for us, the Doc had come equipped with a reel-to-reel tape recorder and had convinced Al it would be a fine way to keep a precise record of the experiment’s effects. It ran out and was reloaded throughout the night as we saw fit or were able to see. Al was unguarded and exuberant, a naturally gregarious creature fueled with social lubricant on top of a harmonious emollient, so he spoke freely. We listened closely.
“Wild Bill got me pardoned. He knew what I had to offer and saw it as a waste of resource to have me languish in prison. Especially for that, for Chrissakes they broke more laws than I did just trying to arrest me.” I looked at him, naked, fat and pasty, lying on the floor propped against his sofa, sipping some cognac. “When the law is a crime, its enforcers are necessarily criminals.”
“Who said that?” He was struggling to look back where I lay sprawled across his ottoman. I puffed on a joint of Panama Red that I had been schlepping in my bindle. I raised my arm up, but had lost control of my basic motor functions and couldn’t look up. “I did. I’m over here…”
I looked up to see him staring down at me, his balls dangling dangerously close to my face. “I mean originally.” Now I was trapped; if I could sit up I would invariably smack balls with head. Lucky then that I was immobilized and that he wasn’t of that nature. I puffed the joint then held it out to him. “I did, two paragraphs ago. Don’t you remember?”
He looked down at me again then smiled. “Well, it’s good. You should keep it. Maybe raise up some others like it to keep it amused.” He wandered off without accepting the proffered smoke, as much a plea for assistance in attaining upright posture as largess on my part, though as noted his parts made horizontal the preferred option in that circumstance. I laid back and took another puff to gird for the eternal struggle against gravity, in no condition to grapple with something as big as the Earth, yet knowing in time I too invariably must take a leak.
Pulling the joint away from my mouth in a smoky cloud, I was startled to see an enormous hand appear through the billowing tendrils and drop a Black Beauty into my chimney-like maw. “Need you sharp. The game is afoot.” The Doc looked down at me concerned; did I understand? Manifesting a gargantuan resolve against the incalculable forces of nature, applying every ounce of my physical being, I sat up. Snatching my beer from the floor near the ottoman of my repose, I swallowed the Beaut and smiled at him. “I’m on top of it.”
The Doc had stepped over to the recorder and replaced the reel, Al still in the bathroom. I stumbled over to the bar and poured a tumbler of scotch, a lovely 2/3 malt, Glenleaveit, and perched on a stool. The Doc grabbed a beer out of the fridge and then plopped down on the couch, forcing Al to sit near the recorder, which is exactly what he did upon returning. “I like the effect, definitely enjoy the physical aspects of it, but it seems more recreational than therapeutic. Though there are undoubtedly many definable therapeutic elements to it…”
I looked at him but found focus very difficult, so I spoke to the fleshy blotch where I presumed him to be. “You don’t find recreation of virtue? Is it not the Yin to endeavor’s Yang?” The blotch shifted around, I felt it was addressing me. “LSD is too important to be treated as a weekend bender for bored and irreligious punks. It’s a drug demanding serious consideration.” I couldn’t help myself and I detected a little annoyance with the Doc. “Interesting you would characterize a drug that makes the user laugh uncontrollably as serious. I think it’s the fucking funniest drug I’ve ever taken.”
Annoyed or not, the Doc couldn’t suppress a chuckle and even Al-blotch seemed lighter, almost floaty. “It’s not a game, something to be played. It isn’t for everybody, not everybody can handle it. I wish I’d shot Leary instead of supplying him. He treats it like it’s a joke.” Al had gone round the bend, but considering his fascinating life, it’s hard to say just when. “When did you first trip?” The Doc wasn’t out of the dialogue yet. Al-blotch quivered a little and responded, “Late ’51. Read about it in a scientific journal and knew that was it. After I took it, I knew it would be my life’s work, to share it with the world. Probably taken it with, hell, 6,000 people.”
It was true. He had imported and distributed LSD to upwards of 6,000 people in North America through the 1950s and up to 1966, taking it with everyone he turned on, making sure their journey was a revelatory and cathartic experience, not just an uncontrolled laugh riot.
“That’s astounding on many levels.” The Doc responded first but I responded best, “How were you able to perform such an amazing feat with no government interference?” Al-blotch slurped some brown blotch I took to be cognac and chuckled. “My boy, I was working for the government.” The Doc, who was strangely in focus (parts of his head, a little of his face, his aloha shirt and left shoe), looked at me; did we just hear that? My eyes answered him, yes and you have it on tape. His return gaze told me, We, Art, We have it on tape. Eyes embarrassed, looking away furtively, my eyebrows thanked him.
“You guys want a room?” Al-blur (he was getting better) couldn’t help but notice that last exchange. The Doc and I looked through the monitor, right at me and shook our heads. “Writers,” we intoned in unison. Al lamented, “You think you got a bitch, I been laying around here naked for pages; it’s fucking cold in here.” I threw him a robe. “Thanks.” Then under his breath, “Jerk.”
“I wrote that!” and I had. But they had gone back to the business that drives this story, rejecting all of this meandery shit that just drags down the pace with more pathetic attempts at humor.
“Are you quite through?” Al (he’s back) shook his head then looked at the Doc who responded more conventionally, “You’re telling us you turned over six thousand people on to LSD while you worked for the government?” He responded quickly before I could interrupt the flow,* “No I’m telling you I turned on over six thousand people because the government wanted me to. I wasn’t the only one, just the best.” This struck me as quite strange; the government was against drug use. “You’ll forgive me, Al, but LSD seems like an odd substance for the drunks in our government to be promoting. Not that I doubt you, I just don’t perceive a practical benefit, at least from the government’s point of view.”
“Have you ever heard of MK ULTRA?” The Doc and I glanced at each other, our eyes embarrassed after that weird stuff earlier. “MK Whatra?” I had no idea what he was talking about. He was happy to clarify, “The CIA’s drugging of the USA.”