Saturday, March 06, 2010

After my talk ended tonight, a lovely young women slid into the chair beside me and slipped this photo into my hand ... .

It was taken during the Sixties (not sure what that "70" means at the bottom of the snapshot). It surely was taken at the annual weeklong Stebbins Institute at Asilomar on the Monterey Peninsula during my Coffee House/Bob Dylan/Joan Baez period which was preceded by my "Little Brown Barbie in the Burbs" period of the Fifties. If it does come from the year 1970, that's close enough to trigger these memories:

This was the year that the keynoters were Rev. Paul Sawyer, Dr. Robert Kimball, and Author Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters; the week Tom Wolfe wrote about in his book, "The Electric Acid Kool Aid Test". I recall feeling as if the entire week should have been off-the-record! A group of UU ministers packed up midweek in a huff and went home -- outraged! It was a week of seeing free spirits publicly skinny-dipping and the persistent rumored use of LSD. It was also the summer of the Trips Festival in San Francisco. The Summer of Love, the Diggers, and the birth of unprecedented social change. What a time it was!

We actually rode with Mountain Girl, Ken Babbs, the Hermit, and the rest of the colorful Pranksters into picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea on a brilliantly-painted bus named "Fur-thur" with a loudspeaker blaring "Revolution!" from the roof of the bus causing well-dressed and -coifed tourists and shoppers to stop dead in their tracks and gape in slack-jawed disbelief! And, yes, my children were included in the journey as well. I recall telling Bob to watch everything closely since this may be important. How prescient was his Mom? I can still remember the combined feelings of pure joy, excitement, and fear -- delicious!

I remember one evening just before dark -- sitting on the dunes singing my songs to Kesey as he lay sprawled upon the sand on his back; hands clasped behind his head -- with a piece of adhesive tape covering his mouth. Printed in crayon on the tape in a childlike hand was the word, "Hello!" He'd said not a word, but plopped down beside me silently pointing to my guitar -- motioning me to play. As I sang the last notes he jumped up and continued toward the ocean with tear-stained cheeks. He'd been on his way to the painted bus parked near the breakers when he saw me sitting alone. Such a moment it was. I watched as he resumed his walk along the path when he suddenly stopped to pick a small bouquet of wildflowers and returned briefly to where I was sitting to present them with a deep bow to the unheard sound of trumpets! Ken Kesey, the Pied Piper of the era. On the bookshelf in my bedroom -- between the pages of my copy of Sometimes a Great Notion -- that fragile little gift remains. I last took it out the day I learned of his death. Romance? No. Just a lovely vignette; one of the many that have enriched my life; an exquisitely tender stand-alone moment in time.

How little we know about what may or may not lie ahead in this Grand Improvisation called Life -- and how little it matters as the days, week, months, years, and decades unfold with little rhyme or reason. Looking back now, I wouldn't have had it any other way. Living life in a constant state of surprise has added to this phantasmagorical miracle of existence.

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