Chapter 9, Counterculture, Part II

One toke over the line

My history with the herb, because of the nature of the herb, has become much clearer in retrospect. It is well known that the effects of marijuana can be so subtle that inexperienced users are not aware of them at the time. My first experience, as I have described, was on a beach in Newport, North Carolina, when I was staying with my sister on the Cherry Point Marine Air Base and dating a Marine. Artie handed me a cigarette he had just been tampering with and I spent an hour admiring a yellow beach umbrella, only to realize years later what must have been in the cigarette. My second experience was provided by a fellow student at Oakland City College, who took it as his mission to get me stoned. We rode from the college to his apartment on the bus, where we smoked, but neither of us could tell for sure if I was stoned. I think now that I was. My third attempt involved a guy from Gulfport, Mississippi, also a student I met at OCC, who took me to a small party in San Francisco soon after I left Mike. I definitely did get stoned that time, enough to have become a bit paranoid, but did not realize it until years later.

My Coat of Many Colors, 50 years later, with different buttons.

My first experience of being stoned and knowing it at the time came from my beatnik beau, Patrick, after I moved to Berkeley, on the day I bought the material for my colorful coat. After that, I used it in much the same way that most academics use booze, as a recreational substance useful in relieving tension and getting a good party started. I was somewhat limited by my poverty, but since I only smoked on weekends and vacations and my successive boyfriends often paid for it, that was not an unsolvable problem. I was never limited in my ability to find a source, since my source lived across the hall from me and could always get me as much as I could pay for. I can state with a completely straight face that marijuana has never impeded my academic progress or work ethic and, indeed, without it I might have succumbed to the strain of my ambition much sooner than I did. I speak only for myself in this and acknowledge that others have not had the same experience with it.

How the herb helped me stay functional, aside from relieving the tension, was to open and re-open my avenues of non-academic creativity. Whereas I found booze to be merely relaxing and to involve the dangers of being drunk, making bad choices and having hangovers, I found the herb to have no lingering side-effects and to go far beyond mere relaxation into actually inspiring healing activities. To those who claim it destroys motivation, I would reply yeah, well, maybe for some people, and ask, motivation to do what? When stoned, I am less motivated to do boring drudge work that benefits others and oppresses me, that is true, but I am highly motivated to play and create music, work in my own garden, play with my children and grandchildren, and express myself through right-brain activities. Like any other mind-altering substance, such as booze, nicotine, tranquilizers, coffee or speed, it all depends on who uses it, how and why.

My interest in crafts, started when I was in 4-H and a Girl Scout, returned without shame after marijuana. For me, it was at first sewing. I had learned how to sew in high school in Home Economics but also from my mother, who later was a Singer saleslady and teacher. But, I had not made anything, much, since then. I had attempted to make myself a suit when I lived in Philly with Mike but suits are very hard to make and I had made a fatal mistake that Mike had never stopped nagging me about. So, while I was married, I had gotten turned off to using my Featherweight sewing machine, a loving gift from my mother, though I treasured it and never left it behind. Now, sewing, along with music and dance, became the right-brain activity that counter-balanced the intense left brain activity I engaged in on campus.

For me, a major benefit of marijuana was its ability to break down artificial barriers to what I see as honest social interaction. Based on the work of sociologist Erving Goffman, anthropologist Gregory Bateson and others,12 I have formulated my own hypothesis on the effect of marijuana on social behavior. Briefly, the picture of social interaction presented by these researchers is that everyone constructs a persona, a social face, as they grow, based on their experience of and interaction with the people around them, i.e., their culture. It is this face that enables the individual to interact with society. The faces must conform with each other and complement each other to some extent or societies could not exist and humans would not survive, but cultures vary in the strictness of their rules on conformity and in their view of what areas most require conformity.

Our own culture, in spite of its stated value of individual freedom, actually requires more conformity than many cultures, not necessarily through its laws, but through its extra-legal rewards and punishments. Most obviously, we are restrained from allowing feelings and emotions to invade the public social space. We are told not wear our hearts on our sleeves, to not let the other guy know what we are thinking, to hide emotions and stay professional, whatever our job, excepting only, to some extent, artists. The social face is maintained by interaction with the social faces of others. Stray too far from the expectations projected by others as part of their social face and sundry disasters ensue—firings, expulsions, divorces, disinheritances, fights, etc.

It is only the projected social face that most others see and respond to. How much that social face corresponds to the person experienced by the one wearing it, i.e. who you are to yourself, will vary widely from one individual to the next. I believe, along with thousands of hippies who would scorn this discussion as hopelessly academic, that the greater the distance between the social face and the inner face, the greater is the potential for neurosis and depression or for merely the loss of meaning in one’s life. Marijuana makes it very difficult to sustain a social face that varies greatly from the inner face. Loss of the ability to sustain the social face, in fact, will probably be one of the earliest symptoms of a weed high. While it is true that paranoia is a possible reaction to that loss, I have found, along with cannabis researchers,13 that most users learn to control, head off, avoid or otherwise adapt to the potential for paranoia. If you do not and you continue to use it, then I would say you are either a fool or a masochist.

Because marijuana  affects those perceptions and skills required to sustain the social face, such as time perception, language skills, and logic, users adopt a fuck-it attitude toward sustaining the social face. It just requires too much energy. So, a group of users is much more likely to be interacting with each other from their respective inner faces than not. If they are a bunch of people who are violent and irresponsible inside, it may well enhance those qualities as the inner face emerges. Much depends on how deeply one has incorporated the basic value of not harming others into one’s inner face. But if, which is more likely, they are just ordinary love-seeking humans, what will come out as the true person will be honesty, laughter, fun, joy, sex, music and dare I say it, yes, love.

Based on my own personal experience, and my reading on left brain/right brain research14 I suspect that cannabis reduces the action of the left brain, the seat of logic and language, which is the part of the brain that normally expresses itself. That frees up the right brain to acknowledge, process and express non-linear patterns, including non-verbal social interactions such as body language, pheromones, artistic expressions and non-linguistic vocal cues. Marijuana makes one more open to subtle kinds of communication missed when the left brain is in charge and masking the operation of the right brain. While this effect may also explain its tendency to encourage paranoia, it is a more direct form of social contact that diminishes the need for small talk and lies and encourages exchanges users see as “real.”

The long and short of it is that if you are sitting in a room full of people when you are stoned, you cannot hide who you are. That is the reality for all but a few, who become skilled at maintaining a social face when stoned in order to manipulate people who cannot do so. We used to call these skilled people “mind Nazis.”  It is very hard to keep up the outer face when stoned. So then, you discover what it is like to be with people when everybody is being who they are to themselves. You make contact with other people and with your environment. You make contact with the ocean and the trees and you find that it is just easier to be that way. Once I felt that feeling, standing in line to go into the Fillmore for the San Francisco Mime Troupe Party, I found it harder and harder to continue maintaining a social face, stoned or not, that did not correspond with my own experience of myself. When all of these individual experiences take place in a collective setting and everybody is doing it with everybody else at the same time, over time, new social rules and values are inevitably generated. There is some hope there. If booze is courage in a bottle, then marijuana is hope in a reefer. Thus, the counterculture.

What the counterculture said to me and everyone else was, you are okay. Everybody is okay, whoever they are, short of harming others. You have nothing to hide. Why the hell are you hiding it? In Bob Dylan’s immortal words, “You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.”14 When I finally dropped out for good, the relief of jettisoning the pretenses was immense. Let it all hang out, we said, and I was very down with that. One of the countercultural corollaries of being one’s self is that you, perhaps eventually, become much more open to people and their stories and their problems because you know the true extent of your own.

Another corollary is that you see the limitations of language in describing experiences—love, God, connection—that feel more real than those that can be described by language—work, traffic, finances. Having those experiences and knowing that you are in the company of others you know have had them, too, is a bonding mechanism that cannot be overestimated. I was there, you were there, too. It is a shared understanding beyond the need for words. An aspect of hippie interaction that newbies often find most alarming is their ability to connect immediately with other hippies new to them and immediately fall into long personal conversations that would never, ever happen at your average professional cocktail party or the corner bar. It is because the knowledge of the shared experience replaces the need to establish common ground with small talk. We’re both there already, man, so let’s get real.

In my own case, marijuana and psychedelics helped me understand how much energy I was devoting to sustaining the face that would best serve me professionally. Whereas an observer at the time might question whether I was doing a very good job of it, given my obvious political positions and barely concealed contempt for the hypocrites and warmongers in my milieu, this is a discussion of my experience of the tension between who I really am and who I must convince the world I am in order to succeed, so it does not really matter how good a job I was doing at projecting an acceptable social face. Inside, I knew I was a southern hick very close to the bottom of the class system, that I had only the dimmest idea what was required of me, other than tuition, high grades and a semblance of respect where true respect could not be generated.

I knew I had only come as far as I had through obstinance, rebellion, persistence and acting skills. True, I was a damn good student and a hard worker. But, others around me had been raised to fit into the academic scene and I had been raised to not fit into it. I knew how much pretense even I was engaged in and as the world around me became more and more chaotic, I became less and less confidant that I had any idea what I was doing in it. The barely plausible professional social face I had developed became harder and harder to maintain as my understanding of my inner face was encouraged by the holy herb. I was definitely getting saner all the time.

The more acid I took, the more marijuana I smoked, the more I valued myself as the down home person who had managed to escape the South, the Baptists, her roots and the confinement of marriage. I got less and less verbal, in general, but more and more artistically expressive—when under the influence at first, then all the time. I got much more attuned to creative pursuits other than writing academic papers, which may or may not be considered creative.

For instance, after marijuana and increasingly with the rise of the counterculture, I got even more into dancing, an activity that, before the counterculture, had had its own highly restrictive rules. You have to have a partner. You have to do “the dance,” whatever it was, from the fox trot to the Watusi. In high school, I had defied my pastor to dance. In Georgia, I had actually been forbidden to dance under threat of expulsion. Now, I could return to the joy I had experienced as a ten-year-old that golden summer I took tap lessons. I could dance alone and in any way I chose, short of invading the space of others. I could explore movement to music and just not give a damn how it might look to someone else not doing that.

Detail of a poster by Arcata artist Alan Sanborne, showing me dancing at a street fair in the 1990s, something that would never have happened if marijuana had not given me back dancing.

Any chance that there was to dance, I danced— parties, Hippie Hill, Provo Park, happenings, free bands anywhere. If there was a free band playing, unless it was really, really bad, I would be one of those crazy chicks down in front of the bandstand. If you were with me and you were not dancing with me and you were embarrassed that I was dancing, my attitude was “go away and find something you want to do and leave me the hell alone to dance.” Many is the man in my life who has tried to make me stop dancing and to whom I subsequently said “hit the road, Jack.”

In addition to the creativity involved, dancing was an excellent way for me to break out from the last vestiges of my training as a lady and a way to passively resist the academic demand for decorum. It was my physical route to feeling free. Later on, when I read Wilhelm Reich,15 that part made great sense to me. According to Reich, bad memories are stored in muscles as part of muscle memory, a phenomenon he calls “armor.” My dancing was very much a shedding of Reichian armor. My muscle tension was reduced as a direct result of my marijuana use and probably also by my marijuana-inspired dancing. I believe the dancing played a role in the reduction of both my physical and my mental symptoms— random pains, vague headaches, backaches, menstrual cramps, stomach pain. There had been diagnoses, such as somatic disorder, incipient ulcers, bad optometry and allergies, but only the psychoanalysis that helped me leave my marriage had had any affect on these. After marijuana, the symptoms began to wane, I think, not only because my muscles were not so tense from the effort of my ambition, but because the marijuana inspired me to dance. I believe that I had been tense not only from social pressure but because, as Reich describes, I was carrying all the memories of my sorry childhood in my muscles.

Early on in Berkeley, I dumped any inhibition about dancing alone, which was a great breakthrough for a wallflower like me, and dancing alone is a different experience than dancing, however peripherally, with a partner. If I had a boyfriend who danced, then I would dance with him, but such occasions were rare so, before the counterculture but soon after marijuana, I gave myself permission to dance alone. When the counterculture began presenting me with opportunities to dance and I saw that others were dancing alone, I did not hesitate to take advantage of this new trend. John was not a dancer, but when I was with him, he was pleased to stand by and watch, and I knew I was protected if anyone tried to bother me.

I believe the difference between alone dancing and partner dancing may be especially true for women because women are so specifically trained, at least in our culture, not to move their bodies in a natural way, and so my marijuana-inspired dancing-related liberation was also a feminist liberation. Modern women have shed their girdles, corsets, high heels and garter belts and some of us, their bras, but, at that time and now, women are encouraged to relate to their bodies as if they were still wearing those items. Dancing with a partner is a similar kind of experience, more or less. The partner has expectations and since the partner is male, these are male expectations in exactly the same way that the corset, girdle, garter-belt, high heels and bra are expectations. You may move your body in these specific ways and I’m leading. The only dancing expectations I can handle are the ones contained in the choreography I later learned to love as a performing amateur dancer in dance troupes. Extremely rare have been those men I could partner with happily.

If I am dancing alone, no one has expectations. The dancing I did as an early hippie was the opposite of the male-female ritual involved in formal dances with complementary steps. I was dancing alone but in the context of all the dancers dancing, including couples, groups, circles and other solo dancers. Instead of building a vibe with a male partner, a vibe I may or may not wish to build with him, I am building a vibe with everyone. Later on, I would feel this even more at boogies in SoHum. In that case, dancing to local bands comprised of people I knew, I could spend an entire delightful evening dancing with the band, that is, dancing close enough to make eye contact with a particular musician and knowing that that musician is watching me and using me as feedback on the quality of the band and/or the sound system. I know, because such musicians have told me, that it is of great help to them to watch a good dancer, to get the rhythm together. Once it is together, I can feel that the band itself is who I am dancing with. It is a relationship I treasure far more than trying to please some male dancer far less into dancing than I am. And, on a sunny day outside, one can also dance with one’s shadow, especially when stoned.

The interrelationship between psychedelics, dancing and liberation in my life was validated in later years by one of those odd Gumpian coincidences to which I appear to be prone. Sometime not long after I moved to SoHum in the early 70s, I went with some Berkeley friends to a folk music concert at Black Point, an outdoor venue in the Bay Area. I had taken some mescaline, knowing that my friends would take care of me. At some point, even though it was a folk concert, I found a spot on the grass to the side of the hay bales on which the audience sat and, with a few other eccentric souls, amused myself dancing. I can dance to pretty much anything and a lot of folk music is blues or bluegrass.

This went on for some time, as the others dropped out and I continued to dance. Eventually, I was approached by a very sweet looking older man who emerged from backstage, walked up to me and said, “My friends and I have been watching you dance.” He pointed towards backstage and I saw a group of people, including Joan Baez, watching him. He went on, “I want to tell you that I love WHAT you dance. Not the dancing itself, but WHAT you are dancing.” I was too stoned to reply, so I just danced my reply, bowing over Indian prayer hands and smiling sweetly. I was pretty sure I knew what he meant and that it was a compliment. He smiled and went away.

Mimi Farina looking somewhat as she looked when she invited me to a post concert party in San Francisco.

A little later, a beautiful somewhat familiar looking woman also emerged from backstage, came over and sat down on a hay bale and watched me dance for a while. By now, I was a little more verbal and was beginning to realize that I might be the last of the crazy chick dancers left on the planet. Evidently, these people had not seen one lately. It was surely obvious that I was under the influence of something more than weed. But, hey, what did I care. I danced for her, looking into her eyes, smiling I am sure. I might have been trying to get her to dance, too, who knows? Then, she introduced herself, since I had not recognized her through being stoned. It was Mimi Farina, inviting me and my friends to an after-performance party at a nice old house in San Francisco. She gave me a smile and handed me an address written on a piece of paper.

Zohn Artman, well-known San Francisco gay activist and colleague of promoter Bill Graham, looking exactly like he looked telling me he loved what I danced.

My friends did not want to go, or else simply did not believe I had been invited to a party by Mimi Farina, so we went back to SoHum after the concert. Many years later, I went to visit a good friend who was care-taking a nice old house in San Francisco while its owner traveled. I would spend the night there and visit with my friend. While there, I inspected what was posted on the fridge with magnets and was excited to recognize the man who had complemented me on my dancing. “Hey, John,” I said, “I know the guy here in this picture.” John came over and told me it was the owner of the house, Zohn Artman, who had once worked for music promoter Bill Graham. It was then I realized how close a brush my dancing had caused me to have with the very center of the counterculture and that the party I had been invited to had probably taken place in the house where I was now going to sleep. Dancing, it appeared, was my best claim to hippie.

The counterculture

Sociologically, the counterculture was a response to the pathology of American culture, a subject on which I was strictly forbidden to speak in the anthropology department. By the time it happened, I think we were all beginning to see that the problem was much bigger than the war and much bigger than the Civil Rights Movement. It was the culture itself that was sick. It was the whole American way of looking at things that was sick. One by one, I think, we came to the realization that, instead of trying to change “The System” in a direct confrontational way, you just drop out of it, stop supporting it and live it the way you think it ought to be. It was what the People’s Park movement had, whether the participants knew it or not, tried to demonstrate concretely. Build it, live it, stop talking about it. Rocker Barry Melton says this so well in Berkeley in the Sixties when he says that his “pretty left wing” parents wanted to talk about “how wealth was divided up” but “we were actually living communally instead of talking about communism.”16

For me, the penultimate weekend hippie, my countercultural consciousness was greatly advanced by the trips John and I took, on those weekends when I was not studying, to the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. We had gone there at first to pick up his children when it was his turn to have them, but we soon began going on our own just for the fun of it in about 1966, before what later came to be called, by the media not us, the “Summer of Love.” I had been to the Mime Troupe party and Ken Kesey’s Trips Festival, but this was a smaller version of the same thing on a regular basis. We would take the bus and the trolley, get off on Haight Street and walk to Golden Gate Park, where one could get stoned and enjoy the museums, the Japanese Garden, Stow Lake on which we loved to paddle the boats, and the area near the carousel that came to be called Hippie Hill.

Hippie Hill had no attraction whatsoever save the people. That was the attraction. It was a non-stop happening, sometimes called “the parade.” There were stoned and peaceful hippies, but there were also non-stoned ordinary people just enjoying the park. There were old people sitting in the sun. There were frisbees, frolicking children, mothers with babies, lovers, walkers, skaters, thinkers. There were no bands, but there were scattered acoustic musicians that only became annoying much later when there were too many, too loud. People would be playing drums. If you felt like dancing to them, you just up and danced, it did not matter whether you were a dancer or not.

Hippie Hill in days of yore.

It was understood that all of us were there working on our heads, one way or another, even those who were not hippies and, ideally, everyone respected everyone else’s trip. Hippie Hill was like a concentration of life as it might be like in a time of peace. You were there to experience people, to experience life instead of reading about it and analyzing it. For me, it was a reality hit, a welcome change from the ivory tower. For John, I think, it was a no-pressure excursion into a world very different from the one he was used to, as well. And, that was what we did every weekend I could. We went to Golden Gate Park, we walked up and down Haight Street, and I rejoiced in the feeling that right now, I do not have to be going anywhere or doing anything. Go with the flow, I learned how to do that on Haight Street and Hippie Hill.

My very best memory of those days is the San Francisco Mime Troupe, which would set up a stage near Hippie Hill and put on a completely free performance just for the hell of it. They had a particular wordless tune they would sing, with la la las, as they approached the stage dancing—I could hum it for you right now. I would hear that tune in the distance and jump up to run to their spot and watch whatever outrageous dramatic and comedic political statement they were making, with undisguised glee. Peter Coyote, I remember him when. Well, who I remember was probably him. In later years, I was delighted to make the acquaintance of former members of the Mime Troupe in SoHum. One of them was my first post-tap formal dance teacher, Jane Lapiner, who had also been active in the Diggers, a Haight-Ashbury help group. What a fantasy come true, I thought then, that I should know and learn from people I might have seen performing when I went to Hippie Hill.

San Francisco Mime Troupe at or near Hippie Hill.

There were only two years of the real Haight-Ashbury, before the news spread, runaways headed straight for it and who could blame them, hard drug dealers followed the runaways along with other kinds of exploiters, police followed them, and the Haight culture became unbearable. What killed it was an inundation of people who had come with no hippie street smarts, no support system and no sense of hippie values. All they knew was that they had to leave something. With little or no guidance, they were easy pickings.

Everything that happened, up to and including the Summer of Love, had a logical sequence. Strange as it sounds, there was a culture in the Haight and it had a certain kind of order to it. There were understandings and, as anthropologists would say, implicit assumptions. That was certainly the case with drug use in general. I knew the folklore, but most of the later Haight-Ashbury people did not. With very few exceptions, all of the people I knew using hallucinogens were doing what I was doing. They were very responsible about their drug use. Of course, all of the people that I knew were students, which might have raised the probability that they were responsible.

The influx that hit the Haight around 1967, however, consisted largely of people who were merely looking for something new and the only thing they could focus on was the drugs. They had no use for any of the culture surrounding it. There were a lot of bad trips and a lot of dangerous drugs and a lot of kids much too young to be taking psychedelics, especially on the street. The social structure that developed into the counterculture was too flimsy and too based on a smaller number to accommodate the sudden overpopulation of indiscriminate drug takers. By 1968, the Haight had lost all its appeal for me but, by then, Berkeley had developed its own Hippie Hill, so I did not have to experience the down days of the Haight.

I have been asked if I regret having been even as involved as I was in generating the counterculture, given what happened in the Haight and similarly to other nexes of the counterculture. To that I have always replied that I am no more sorry for that than I am for my role in the anti-war and Civil Rights Movements, though they have both been blamed for the alleged downfall of UC Berkeley. As Frank Bardacke says in Berkeley in the Sixties, “When you’re in a mass movement to change society. . .you don’t want it to end. You want the storm to continue. . . .You might not be able to keep the rowboat straight or up, but you don’t want the storm to die.”17  My version of that sentiment was written in a flyer I had distributed anonymously in SoHum years before, defending marijuana growing, in which I said, “Rocking the boat stirs up all kinds of commotion in the water. It doesn’t mean you don’t rock the boat.” While the alleged communist idea that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet has never appealed to me, the imagery being much too violent, the storm and the commotion, I can live with.

The last countercultural event I remember attending in San Francisco was the Human Be-in, in Golden Gate Park, January 14, 1967. It was billed in the San Francisco Oracle as “a gathering of the tribes,” certainly an idea alien to us Berkeley politicos, and perhaps the first time I had associated the counterculture with the idea of a tribe. The Be-in part of the name, obviously, is a play on sit-in and intended to contrast the kind of serious and grim ambiance of a sit-in to the kind of ambiance I have described for Hippie Hill. We all understood we were not going to sit, we were going to be. Technically, it was a response to a recent law banning the use of LSD, Oct. 6, 1966, but I cannot say that I even knew that at the time. It took place in the polo fields, was attended by 20 to 30,000 people and featured a long list of countercultural speakers, such as Ram Dass, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsburg and Stanley Owsley, the acid engineer, as well as such local bands as Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, and Big Brother and the Holding Company. The publicity that came from the be-in has been blamed for triggering the Summer of Love, therefore the death of the Haight.18   

John and I, by that time in possession of a VW bug, drove to San Francisco, parked the car and then smoked some very potent weed. I had zero interest in speakers, I had come for the free bands. I remember being utterly astonished at the turnout. It was a beautiful sunny day, no fog, and I got a terrible sunburn I did not notice until I got home. Turning away from the speakers after a few minutes, John and I simply walked around checking out the scene until such time as the bands would play. My entire memory of the day consists of dancing and eating, and meandering about. It was like Haight Street on a grand scale and condensed into one large spot, rather than distributed along a street. I saw John’s ex, Gloria, dancing in the center of one group of African drummers with other African dancers, perhaps her students, and was impressed with her apparent status as a Haight-Ashbury leading figure, but that was the only person I saw that I knew.

Most of the day is a blur, except for one very notable memory which I know became the signature event for more attendees than just myself. That was the parachute. Towards the end of the day, in the late afternoon, a plane flew over the field, and an orange parachute came out of the plane. I happened to have been looking right at it. As the jumper came slowly drifting down, more and more people looked up, until thousands of stoned people were riveted on this one guy coming down on a parachute. It was clear that he was going to land on the other end of the field. I was amazed, and like everyone else, could not tell if it was part of the show or if the poor guy just did not know about the event and had planned to land in a great empty field. Whatever the explanation, I wanted to be in on it. If the latter, I wanted to see what he would do when he was greeted by thousands of stoned hippies. Would he run like hell or join the party?

So I, with hundreds of other people, began running to the other end of the field to meet the jumper, all of us laughing like hell and yelling what we hoped were witty things at each other. When we got to the end of the field, I experienced a moment of anxiety, fearing that people would swamp him, grab him, scare him, I didn’t know what. But, they formed up at the end of the field, making a nice little clear space for him to land on in his parachute outfit. And, there he was, surrounded by a sea of completely stoned out hippies, all grinning at him from ear to ear. Some women ran out, wanting to hug him. I cannot remember if they succeeded, but I do remember that the look on his face was one of holy terror.

His expression settled for all time the question of whether he had been hired to be part of the event. Clearly, it was something he normally did, the field was normally empty and it just so happened that on this day it was full of stoners. I felt very sorry for the guy, but on the other hand, the running had been such fun that I could not stop laughing. He opted not to join the party. He did not even pick up the parachute. Once free of it, he took off running, slipped a bit, corrected, then ran like hell off the field and presumably, out of the park. In later years, when I told this story to Mark Kitchell, director of Berkeley in the Sixties, he informed me that, indeed, it was a total fluke and the parachutist had later been found and quoted as saying he found the whole experience scary as hell. I hope he made a thorough and speedy recovery.

It was an altogether wonderful day and if the goal had been to make us feel tribal, or as close as non-tribal people can feel to tribal without diminishing the true tribal experience of truly tribal people, it worked. It certainly demonstrated that hippies could be political and politicos could party and they could do both together at the same time. I have no problem associating how I felt that day with my understanding of the People’s Park movement or my later unabashed joining of the counterculture, SoHum tribe.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: