The following is the next in a series from Colonel Possumâ€™s Tall Tales from the Sixties now reposted to Tom Brokawâ€™s new group Boom!
Part III to a Multi-Part Series, "Weekend in San Francisco":
Preface to Series: When Small Rock Bands First Roamed the Earth click here
Part I: Have You Seen Ken Kesey? click here
Part II: Riding the Hippie Highway click here
"Where were you when John Kennedy died?" The answer to this question is the place no one who lived through the Sixties can forget. There is another question with a nearly equal neuron imprint for kids growing up in those times, "Where were you when you smoked your first doobie?"
I've noticed some folks my age engage in selective memory when responding to the latter question. Many of them are fathers and mothers and even grandpas and grandmas. They've successfully raised their own kids and may be taking care of the grandkids. Their wild days of yore no doubt shape the good example they now project. They hedge when the little tagger asks, "Grandpa, where were you and grandma when you first smoked pot?" They respond with responsible sounding stuff like, "What? Not us! Don't you know drugs are bad? Now be good and go play with your Xbox."
The Bellamy Brothers captured in lyrics the dilemma facing aging flower children in their song "Old Hippie":
Well he stays away a lot now
from the parties and the clubs
And he's thinking while he's joggin' 'round
Sure is glad he quit the hard drugs
Cause him and his kind get more endangered everyday
And pretty soon the species
will just up and fade away
Like the smoke from that torpedo
just up and fade away
It is impossible to tell tall tales about hippies in the Sixties without mentioning marijuana and other drugs. That would be like talking about fish and not the water they lived in. I report in this story what I experienced and don't intend to glorify any particular life style or life choice. In those days there was always a lot of weed going around, on the road or at an open concert or standing in line to see Jim Morrison at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go. Passing a joint to a stranger was as casual as a handshake.
I smoked my first doobie with Bill in the Borgward sometime between the Kennedy assassination and our big trip to Monterey. At the time the only smoke I ingested on a regular basis came from the squealing tires at the San Fernando Drag Strip. More familiar with marijuana, Bill had scored a small baggie or "lid" in West Hollywood off the Sunset Strip. He picked me up and we headed for the remote hills above Malibu. After parking the bomber on a turnoff overlooking the Pacific, we got busy rolling. We created a mota monster as neophyte reefer rollers often do; two Zig Zag papers joined at the sticky seam, stems poking out through the sides, big dog-lick-twisters at either end. This was not a torpedo. This was a submarine with portholes, man! It generated more steam than smoke as we struggled to light one wet end.
Â (Big sucking sound)
"Oh yeah, bite the tale off that twister."
"â€¦ahhh, much betterâ€¦huh? Hold it in? Hold what in?"
"Oh, OK man, how long?"
"What's the popping sound? Ohâ€¦seeds?"
(Pop. Cough. Pop.)
"Whoa! Its burning in the middle!''
(Cough. POP! POP!)
"OW! Bummer! I jus' burned a hole in my jeans!"
OK. Maybe reflections about that first doobie should only be shared with friends around a campfire, you know, after the young'uns are safely tucked away. I assure you it wasn't a topic of conversation when Bill and I sat around our fire at the conclusion of Day Two of our adventure. Other things were on our minds. If "Sex, Drugs and Rock n' Roll" are the scoreboard for the Sixtie's experience, we were batting close to zip.Â No sex, no weed and the last rock n' roll pooped out a little north of Morro Bay. The trusty Bomber's German tube radio was best of breed but couldn't pull a decent signal along the winding coastline.
Highway 1 hugs the precipitous cliffs south of Jade Cove as tightly as a swamp snake hugs a cypress stump. We were relieved to see the road straighten out near the cove bordered by Monterey pines on the mountainside and a large meadow sloping gently to the ocean bluffs. The bomber kicked up gravel as we spun into the nearby Plaskett Creek Campground, a beautiful haven compared to the digs the night before. Bill and I unrolled our wet sleeping bags at a campsite to stake out a spot and asked a passing Ranger where we might provision. He told us to head north a few miles to the Pacific Valley Store.
The "Store" was a real hangout for locals in those days and had everything we needed. Bill and I filled the bomber with gas and bought eggs, bacon, American cheese, baloney, mustard, potato chips and a six-pack of Mountain Dew. Leaving the store we noted two young women sharing a joint on a bench outside the door. Bill checked them out with all the restraint of a surfer on a big wave day at Malibu, "Yee-hah! COWABUNGA!"
They were both dressed in Big Sur chic. The petite one nearest Bill had waist length dark hair and wide pupil eyes. Silver and turquoise necklaces and knee-high granny boots complemented a short (very short) purple velour shift. Cowabunga!
The larger of the two looked as if she'd be quite comfortable behind an axe and a cord of wood. She had shorter hair twisted with red yarn into braids to frame a face cut from a seasoned log. Mountain mama! Very ample bosoms held her flannel shirt up and out of her Levis. Her shoes were J.C. Penney work boots. COWABUNGA!
"That's a groovy little car! What is it?" queried the girl with long hair. Bill and I looked at each other speechless. Plan B had just caught a gear.
Â "It's a Borgward," Bill answered with a lot less volume than the Yee-hah opener.
Â "It's a piece of CRAP!" growled a voice behind us.
We turned as two big dudes in buckskins exited the outside restroom door. The tallest one with a coonskin hat barked at the bench sitters, "Sage! Molly! Quit flirting with these geeks, let's go!"
Big Molly took a long hit and slowly exhaled a funnel of smoke. She cracked a big log-splitting smile and extended a middle finger at the tall guy. Sage followed her lead and two fingers pointed to the sky registering displeasure at being ordered about.
Hmmâ€¦weird vibes. We watched in silence as the first phase of our Plan B hopped laughing into a Volkswagen bus and sped off with Davy Crockett and Buffalo Bill. Only two words were uttered during the drive back to Jade Cove. Teenage Casanovas don't exchange a lot of post analyses after failed conquest. Struggling to salvage something positive from the encounter, Bill crunched a few potato chips and reflected, "Nice tits."
At the campsite we scarfed down baloney sandwiches, knocked back a couple of Dews and placed the rest in Plaskett Creek to keep them cool. The fog had lifted and it was a nice warm day in Heaven. The time had come to execute the recovery phase of Plan B. Bill and I crossed the highway to recon what might be grazing in the meadow.
The highlight of that patrol was the discovery of California jade hidden like green Easter eggs in the look-alike serpentine cliffs of Jade Cove. We met a friendly fellow at the bottom of a very narrow switchback trail that leads from the meadow bluff to the ocean. He showed us how to scratch the rocks with a knife to separate the jade from the serpentine. Serpentine is soft and leaves a white scar; jade is hard and does not. I still have and cherish the jade I found there.
Our new friend appeared our age and called himself "Tork." He claimed he had lived in the area all his life and didn't have a last name. I found this quite believable and wondered if benevolent wolves in the canyon above our campground might have raised him. Tork stood barely four feet tall, wore sandals, a leather shoulder bag and a tunic made of sailcloth with lots of loopy stitches. His hair was long and scraggly with an occasional chunk of seaweed. I surmised he had just taken his daily bath in the cove. He told us that we should checkout Limekiln Creek a few miles north. There was a commune up there where you could do work for food and weed. Bitchen!
Unfortunately, we missed a shift on Plan B, at least for the day. There were more Sage and Molly types frolicking in the meadows, but they always seemed to be with dudes that looked a lot hipper and older than either Bill or me. At seventeen my hair was still pretty short and my "ISKY Racing Cam" T-Shirt and Keds hi-top tennis shoes might have passed for cool at the drag strip but weren't turning any heads around these parts. Bill's hair was a lot longer and he was a nearly a year older but the shores of Jade Cove were not Malibu or the Rincon. The only surfers on these angry waves were seals. The day ended around the campfire with barely more words than Bill's action report after the showdown at the Store.
"What do you want to do?"
"I dun'no, what do you want to do?"
"I dun'no, want to checkout Limekiln Creek?"
"Sure, why not?"
A year and a half before our Monterey trip, Bill and I heard along with the rest of America's school children that someone shot John Kennedy. That was November 22, 1963.Â I was in my Junior English class struggling through an Old English recitation of Beowulf when a classmate ran through the door and shouted, "The President has been shot!" Our teacher, Mr. Dill, was a portly old geezer with jowls and half glasses that were intently focused on his left hand. He had somehow cut it the week before and was preoccupied with picking at a freshly formed scab. After the surprise announcement, he continued picking away in silence. Time did a double-clutch downshift to granny low. Pick. Pick. Pick. Pick. Finally, Mr. Dill looked over his glasses at the distraught messenger and said, "That is indeed a shame." He then turned slowly to us and commanded, "Back to Beowulf!"
Next episode: click here
Â©Colonel Possum Publishing Co.