It was about 1969 when Ramona and I attended a "Love-in" in San Diego's Balboa Park. "Love-ins" was just another name for "Be-ins" and were essentially concerts in the park or maybe it would be better to say, a cross between concerts in the park and "acid tests" since many in the crowd were dropping acid. I don't remember who played but I do know that it was a lovely day. As Ramona and I were getting ready to leave, some young swabbies started talking to us and offered us a truck for free. Apparently they were going out to sea the next day and wanted to get rid of this old milk truck. We took a look at it and immediately accepted. The only problem was getting it somewhere as Ramona had her little stick shift car and this milk truck had a stick shift.
Somehow, Ramona tried to teach me in five minutes how to drive a stick shift. I remember we needed to get gas and we proceeded very slowly but then we came to a hill and going down the hill, I must have been pressing the clutch rather than the gas and the truck was moving way to fast down the hill. Somehow, I did get into the gas station but I hit the pump and caused some minor damage. The attendant looked at us and realized they were not going to be able to get any damages from us and so they let us go on our way.
Ramona and I decided to bring a group to Los Angeles. We would drive up to Hollywood's Sunset Strip. I was still under age so would not be able to actually get into any of the clubs like the Whiskey A-Go-Go but it would still be a fun adventure. Several blocks of the Sunset Strip were a happening place where young people converged.
Everything started out well. We got just past the nuclear power plant that is along the coast when the truck started losing speed and the engine was cutting out. We pulled to the side of the road. Some of us decided to hitchhike back to San Diego. Other's decided to hitchhike on to L.A.. The group broke up and Ramona and I hitchhiked on to L.A. to the Sunset Strip.
We arrived safely and checked out the scene of young people. We had some joints with us and were having a good time. I believe there was a group, I don't remember who it might have been, that we wanted to see but would have to hitchhike to another area of Los Angeles. As we were getting ready to leave The Sunset Strip, we were offered a ride by some young black men. Ramona was black and these young men seemed friendly and Ramona seemed okay with taking the ride and so I got into the front seat with the driver and Ramona got into the backs seat between two of the young men.
We were driven to some L.A. alley that was not our intended destination. Everything had seemed fine up until that point, when the car stopped and the driver leaned over with a knife to abdomen and he told me to "get out." There was a lot of confusion and fear in that moment but I got out of the car and it sped away with Ramona in the back seat screaming. I started screaming. I was screaming louder than I had ever screamed before. Back porch lights along the alley started lighting up. Soon, a police car arrived.
I told the police what had happened and they put me in the back seat of their car. We sped around L.A. while the officer's asked me questions about the Ramona and the young men. When they heard that Ramona was black and the young men were black, their racist mentality started becoming evident. They insisted that Ramona probably knew these young men, (doesn't every black woman on earth know every black man on earth?) They insisted that Ramona and these young men were probably playing a joke on me, the "whitey."
Somehow, Ramona was found" after having been raped by the young men. Of course, she was very upset but then the police, themselves, made it worse. At that point, all she wanted to do was to get out of there and so we did and we hitchhiked back to San Diego.
There would be several trials for which we had to return to Los Angeles. All the boys were caught. All were found guilty and all served time.
The first time I went to Juvenile Hall in San Diego, I must have been 16 or 17. I think it was after I had been to San Francisco. In those days. San Diego had a curfew of 10m for anyone under 18. Every night, if you were watching television in San Diego and 10pm, there would be a public service announcement and the announcer would say "It is ten o'clock. Do you know where your children are?"
One night, I had been to a beach party after going to The Palace and I had been given something new called STP that was supposed to be like L.S.D. except that it was supposed to last for three days rather than just 8-10 hours. I can't imagine as a senior why I would have had ANY inclination to want to take something like that but I guess I was just young and adventurous. Regardless, whatever it actually was that I took, it didn't last three days.
It must have been right around 10pm and a group of us had stopped to get a bite to eat at a Denny's. As we were walking out of the restaurant, a police car pulled up into the parking lot. We were obviously a group of young hippie types and so the police had to check everybody's id. Of course, my ID would have shown me to be under 18 and out past curfew. I was arrested and handcuffed and put in the back of the police car. I remember telling myself to quit smiling as we drove to juvenile hall. I was really coming on to the STP by that time and I'm sure I had a silly grin on my face but I couldn't seem to stop grinning!! I was handcuffed in the back of a police car tripping my brains out.
When we got to juvenile hall, they processed me and put me in a "seclusion" room. This was a locked room with a small window through which they could check on me. The next morning, I was taken out of the cell by one of the officers, who must have thought I was very high or very stupid, and he tried to make me believe he was giving me a lie detector test while he asked a few questions. I gave non-committal answers and didn't say anything of significance and my mom came pretty early and picked me up. Of course she was furious and told me that if I EVER got locked up in juvenile hall again, she would not come and get me again!!
So a while later, again before I had turned 18, I was hitchhiking on a freeway onramp. It was legal to hitchhike in San Diego but you had to be careful where you did it. Someone had let me off in the middle of an interchange between two freeways, in a spot that knew wasn't legal and there was no way to exit other than going onto one freeway or the other. A police car came along and picked me up and I was taken to juvenile hall again and put in seclusion again!
Even though my mom had threatened not to pick me up if there was a second juvenile hall detention, she relented and did finally show up and sprung me.
When I first lived at 3727 College Avenue in San Diego, it was with mom and George. I was taking adult school classes at Hoover High School evening adult division by this time and trying to get high school credits. I was taking a creative writing class, philosophy class and a drama class. The Philosophy class was where I first learnd of the Bhagavad Gita. The Drama class led to my being in my first play in San Diego. I had done a little theater in high school in Seattle. My drama teacher at Hoover seemed to take a liking to me and cast me as the thief in Jay Friedman's play, "Scuba Duba." I was on a macrobiotic diet for a while during that time and she complained that it affected my performance because I had no energy. After about a week of eating nothing but raw brown rice and water, I was hallucinating and I am sure she was right about my performance!
Mom and George moved to an apartment they rented in the Los Angeles area when George got a job there and left Roger and I to live in the College Avenue house in San Diego. I had several significant events in that house. One was reading "The Psychedelic Experience." The second was going to the Newport Pop Festival. The third was coming to terms with the fact that I was gay. The fourth was going before the San Diego Draft Board to explain to them why I was a Conscientious Objector. I don't remember the order of these events though.
In June, while living in the house on College Avenue, I heard about the Newport Pop Festival that was going to take place over a three day period between June 20th and 22nd that year. I suppose this was a precurser to the Woodstock Festival that would take place later that summer on the East Coast.
Although not as widely reported on and without any theatrical release, the Newport Pop Festival was attended by 150,000 fans and was the largest pop concert up until that time. It took place at Devonshire Downs ractrack. I know that April Nellans came and I think Rosie Flores attended as well. I think that April had a Citroen car at the time and drove up but I thinik I actually hitchhiked there. I'm not sure that I brought a sleeping bag and I don't know that I slept much that weekend anyway. If I did, it must have just been in sleeping in the dirt which is entirely possible.
On Friday, June 20, 1969, Albert King, Edwin Hawkins Singers, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Joe Cocker, Southwind, Spirit and Taj Mahal all played. If I remember correctly, Jimi Hendrix was in a fowl mood and gave the finger to the audience and walked off early.
On Saturday, June 21, 1969 Albert Collins, Brenton Wood, Buffy Ste. Marie, Charity, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Eric Burdon, Friends of Distinction, Jethro Tull, Lee Michaels, Love, Steppenwolf and Sweetwater played. (I don't remember all this from memory but was findable on the internet).
On Sunday, June 22, 1969 Booker T & the MGs, Chambers Brothers, Flock, Grass Roots, Johnny Winter, Marvin Gaye, Mother Earth, Buddy Miles, Mother Earth, Eric Burdon (jam), Poco (formerly Pogo), The Byrds, The Rascals and Three Dog Night. Jimi Hendrix played again and I think he apologized to the audience for Friday and wanted to make it up to them for his being in such a foul mood previously. .Of course he was incredible. There is video of his performance on youtube.
Up until this time, I had been having intermittent sexual encounters with men. This would often be related to hitchhiking. Back then, there was no such thing as a "gay" consciousness really and most of the men that I had these enounters with were closeted and I think most of them felt ashamed and guilty. What was typical of the time was to be picked up hitchhiking and be told that I would be taken to wherever I wanted to be taken after I agreed to have sex with them and had allowed them to take me elsewhere first. Usually, the sex was oral and afterward, once the man driving had their sexual needs met, I would often be left in the middle of nowhere and had to find my own way back. Sometimes I would be further away from my destination than when I had first entered their vehicle! There was no sense of camaraderie or brotherhood or pride that would come in a couple of years after that when the "gay" movement started coming together at the end of the sixties and beginning of the seventies.
The American Psychiatric Association still considered homosexuality a mental illness until 1974, a full five years away. Occasionally I would become depressed about my sexuality. At that time, I had not really come out to anyone. I had experienced my first actual "relationship" with another man that went beyond just adolescent play or quick, meaningless hitchhiking episodes. There came a time that I was realizing that I really was a homosexual and I was realizing it was something that I couldn't change and that this was who I had always been and was who I would always be. It scared me to come to that realization. I had always been able to rationalize that I was just going through a phase or something but now I know that it was more than just a phase. There was no one I could talk to about my feelings and what was going on in my life. I was becoming pretty desperate and possibly suicidal. I think I called a suicide hotline or something but somehow I got the name of a psychotherapist. He had his office near Balboa Park and I made an appointment to see him. I remember being pretty distraught at the time and having much difficulty getting the words out to say why I was even there. When it finally did come out that I was homosexual, he asked me if being homosexual was what bothered me or people attitude towards my being homosexual. He let me see for the first time that being gay was not the problem. The problem was with the attitudes of others. It changed my life.
During this period, while living on College Avenue with Roger, I read "The Psychedelic Experience," a manual based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead By Timothy Leary, Ph.D., Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., & Richard Alpert, Ph.D. It was during the same period that I was studying the Bhagavad Gita in the philosophy class at Hoover night school. I made plans for a "guided" trip using Leary, Metzner and Alpert's book. I taped all of the verses from the book and planned music that I would listen to including the song "Tomorrow Never Knows" by the Beatles that had the lyric "turn off your mind, relax and float downstream..." I planned each thing I would eat during the journey.
I obtained some mescaline and one night when I was alone in the house, I proceeded on the trip. I swallowed the gel capsule containing the tan colored powder that was derived from the peyote cactus. The effects were similar to L.S.D. for me and, of course there is never any way to know what you are actually getting with street drugs. It may have been L.S.D. and just sold as mescaline. Psilocybin was another hallucinogenic drug that had similar effects to L.S.D. and mescaline. The differences were subtle but, for me, with L.S.D., there was always kind of a chemical taste in the mouth. I was told at one time that L.S.D. was cut with strychnine and that it what caused the taste. That never made since to me since strychnine is a poison and I recently looked it up and apparently there is no documentation of L.S.D. every being cut with strychnine so maybe it was just an urban myth.
Most of the night went accoring to plan except when Roger and Steve Arnez came in. There was some disruption but the trip itself seemed to account for such disruption as the entire point was to let go of all positive and negative and to go with the flow and not get attached to either positive or negative. It was another life changing event in that it illustrated the nirvana and enlightenment of non-attachment and letting go. I felt that it was made clearer than ever to me what my ego was and how it was possible to let go of some of that as well.
The Viet Nam war was escalating by this time and when a young man turned eighteen, you were expected to register for the draft. I had known a couple people that had served in Viet Nam and they were never the same afterward. One was a close friend I had when still living with Darlene and Chuck in Seattle. I know it's strange that someone could be a close friend at one point in one's life and then you are not able to even remember theri name forty years later but that is the case. His mom had an answering service and had a big switchboard in their big purple house. She was the first person I had every known that was into Yoga and she brough her son and I to classes in Seattle. I learned progressive relaxation in those classes. After I left Seattle, her son either joined the service or was drafted and I didn't see him for a couple of years. The next time I made contact with him, he was cold towards me and seemed to be seething with anger toward the world. We never did get together after that.
Mark Heideman was another close friend that served in Viet Nam. He had been the bass player for the Luv Please and I don't remember whether he joined or was draftered either. It seems like there was some advantage to joining if you thought they were about to draft you anyway and so it seems like a lot of guys would panic and join rather than waiting for the draft. Mark was shot by friendly fire while in Viet Nam and was disabled after his return. He seemed to have some bitterness as well but was still friendly to me. For some reason, instead of continuing to live in Southern California where we had known him from, he settled in Oregon. Maybe it was because of his wife? I believe he was in Salem at one point. I saw him when hitchhiking through one year and he was single and another time he was married with children.
Zutter was a friend that we met in Toppenish that was in the National Guard already when we met him. He would serve a weekend here and a weekend there and I think he had thought that he could avoid going to Viet Nam but serving in the Guard. At some point that no longer was the case and his unit was being called up and he was going to go. I think that he just didn't report for duty which made him A.W.O.L. and he got arrested. Somehow he escaped though, and fled to Canada. A couple of years later Henry, Leslie and I went up to see him in Calgary with his wife and I think he might have had a child by then. That was the last I saw him although we corresponded for a while.
Roger considered shooting off a toe. I'm not sure if he was just kidding at the time but I actually think he was serious. By the end of the sixties and the beginning of the seventies, it had become evident what a debacal and waste of lives Viet Nam was.and young men were scrambling to escape this meat grinder. At some point during this period, I was in Toppenish and would drive Roger to a quack psychiatrist in Yakima that gave him shock treatments. This same doctor had also given these bogus, useless treatments to both Irene and Darlene and various time.
The truth is, I don't remember ever seeing Roger depressed about anything up until that point in his life, and believe the initial intention of the electro shock treaments was to avoid unnecessary death or maiming in a foolish old man's war. I would drive him to the doctor and then pick him up afterward, dazed and confused with his eyes bright red. Although shock treatments were then and continue to be a controversial treatment for depression, it seems to me that in Roger's case, they were the initiation of problems with depression rather than a cure.
I had known since I was a small child that I would never serve in the military. When Roger would play with is little army men, and wanted to see John Wayne World War Two movies, I had absolutely no interest. When adults would be sitting around discussing their wartime experiences or anything related to combat, I knew that this was something that I would do everything I could to avoid.
I started working on my conscientous objector status long before I turned eighteen. I had written a paper explaining my philosophical beliefs at the time and why they were not consistent with the military. I documented every war protest that I participated in which was only a few by that time. You might ask why I didn't just tell them I was homosexual. The answer to that is that I really wasn't that certain myself up until just about the time I had to go before the draft board. I knew that there were many young men that were heterosexual that were trying to get out of the military by saying they were homosexual and many were drafted anyway. Regardless, I prepared for consientous objector status.
The entire process eludes me now but I know that there came a time that I had to go before the draft board in San Diego and present my case and defend my beliefs. I believe that you submitted forms and your rationale for why you could not serve militarily and then an appointment was made and you went before the board. I think there were about six people that I had to talk to. I did add at the last minute that I thought that I might be homosexual just as insurance although ultimately, the deferment I was givan was a consientous objector status. This did not entirely exempt me from service though. I could still be called up to serve as a medic but at that time, you were also given the option of finding your own position in a non-profit, community service type job and that would be what I would attempt to find for the next couple of years.
While living on College Ave, I know that I traveled to San Francisco for a visit. I don't remember how I got there that time. Possibly I hitchhiked. Somehow I found Leslie and she was essentially living on the streets at that time. I must have gone there for the holidays as I remember drinking champagne with her in Northbeach. At that time, the streets of Northbeach were closed off for New Years Eve and there were thousands of people in the streets. By the end of the evening, we were pretty much falling down drunk. What was amazing to me was that you could actually be falling down drunk in front of the San Francisco Police and they didn't seem to care at all. In San Diego, if we had been acting that way, especially as young as we were, we would have surely been arrested.
I think it was on that trip that I had my first real gay "affair." Leslie and I were hanging out in the Northbeach area and we met a guy whose name eludes me now but it seems like it was Don. That would be strange since my name was still Don at that time and it seems like if his name were Don that I would remember it more easily? Regardless, he was staying in what could probably best be described as a flop house. It was one of those hotels where you could get a room for a couple bucks a night. The bathroom was down the hall. There were a lot of those in San Francisco at the time. Later they would all be torn down and the Transamerica Pyramid and the Holiday Inn would be built.
This guy was an admitted homosexual, ex-heroin addict and somewhat of an intellectual in my eyes. He was probably in his late twenties or even early thirties. I know he seemed older and so much more worldly. Leslie and he slept on his full size mattress which I think was on the floor with no frame under it. I slept on the floor in my sleeping bag but with my feet exposed. Sometime during the night, I felt something wet on my toes. It startled me at first but either he hushed me or I was just too stunned to make any sound. He was actually sucking on my toes and I, in my naivetae had never heard of such a thing before. I enjoyed it and I think he may have actually done a little more beyond that but it was long ago and I don't remember all the details. I do know that Leslie left the next day and I remained with this man for a several days or maybe a week or a little beyond a week. I was pretty infatuated with him. Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" played on the radio.
During the day we would go to City Lights bookstore and he would steal books and we would walk around the block and he would scuff up the books on the sidewalk and then bring them to the used bookstore which was practically next door to City Lights bookstore. He would sell the books at the used bookstore for a few dollars and then we would go to Clown Alley and eat. During the time I spent with him, I was introduced to some new variations on sex which had never even occurred to me. In my innocence, I would have thought that some of the things we were doing would cause immediate death!
There are a few people in your life that make a big difference and even though I can't remember this guys name for sure now, he was a person that made a difference. The reason that I feel like he made such a significant difference in my life is that he gave me a reading list. On the list were Sartre's "No Exit," and "The Stranger." Albert Camus, Alduous Huxley and Kafka were on the list. It was a list of probably twenty or more books that I probably never would have read otherwise. It was like he opened some new doors for me and I always apprecieated that. I tried to stay in touch after returning to San Diego but he didn't encourage my romantic fantasies. Years later, I saw him for a moment in front of San Francisco General and he had started shooting up heroin again and somehow a needle had broken off in his arm.
San Diego’s downtown was pretty seedy in 1967-1968. There was a little plaza on Broadway, the main thoroughfare of downtown San Diego, Behind this plaza were multiple, twenty-four hour adult movie theaters and arcades where the sailors on shore leave could hang out. I met some interesting people in that plaza. I remember one guy that had this huge growth on his neck. I have no idea what it was but when I say huge, I mean that it was hanging down from the back of his neck for about ten inches. A ten inch sebateous cyst? Who knows? He never said what it was and I never asked.
I know that I was in my mom and George's house on Lantana when I contacted the Oracle offices in San Francisco and convinced them to send me some Oracles to San Diego. I don't think they even required that I send them money in advance. There was a level of trust in the hippie community and I think they just trusted me to pay for them after I had sold them.
One night, 7/21/1969 to be exact, while I was selling the Oracle, a couple of sailors came over and struck up a conversation. One of them wanted to buy a “lid” or small baggy of marijuana from the other one but the one that wanted to buy it said that he wasn’t sure what marijuana looked like and he appealed to my vanity and said that he thought I would know if it was “good stuff.” Well whether or not I really would know one way or the other, I liked the fact that he thought I would know, so I agreed to go with them while they made their deal.
We crossed the plaza, away from Broadway and toward a side street. As we crossed in the crosswalk another man of about the same age as the sailor, nodded to one of the two I was with. The three of us walked into a hotel lobby about a block away from the plaza and proceeded to walk to the men’s bathroom off the lobby. When the three of us got inside the small bathroom, the guy that was selling the pot took it out of his pocket in a sandwich baggy and gave it to me to look at. In those days, that amount of marijuana was called a "lid," which is approximately one ounce. That could go for about ten bucks.
I went into one of the stalls. Outside the stall I could hear someone else coming into the bathroom. I started to open the stall door and saw someone wearing a suit, addressing one of the sailors. I put the pot into my right coat pocket and came out of the stall. I probably should have just flushed it but that didn’t even occur to me since the weed was not mine.
I came out of the stall and was confronted with an “undercover” policeman. In the bathroom, he checked several of my pockets, but for some reason, overlooked the right coat pocket where I had put the bag of pot. There were two police officers and it seems like one of the sailors had disappeared and my conclusion was that he was also an undercover officer and that this was an attempt at entrapment. One of the officers suggested we leave the hotel and continue our conversation out on the street. The sailer and the two officers exited the bathroom and luckily they all walked out ahead of me!!! As I exited the bathroom, I reached into my coat pocket and quickly grabbed the baggy and dropped it as I went through the door, leaving it on the floor in the bathroom. When we got outside, the officers searched me again and seemed perplexed that they did not find anything and they had to release me.
I walked back over to Broadway where I had been selling papers but I just wanted to get out of there and started heading toward home but as I was leaving the plaza, a police car pulled up and the officers got out and told me I was under arrest. Apparently they had gone back into the bathroom and had found the marijuana on the floor and thought that maybe they could still make a case.
I got to make my phone call and I called my mom and later, I learned that she had called my uncle Pete and he recommended a lawyer in San Diego or recommended that my mom get me a lawyer. The lawyer came in the early morning hours and I told him what had happened. I was pretty frightened but was pretty sure that there was no real case against me and by morning I was released and was told that this "arrest" would be removed from my record.
I had been in juvenile hall a couple of times previously in San Diego. Once for curfew and once for hitchhiking on a freeway on-ramp. I had been in a jail in Moscow, Idaho, when I was thirteen or so, when my cousin Mary Griffin and I hitchhiked from Palouse to Moscow and the police picked us up. I don't think they had a juvenile hall in Moscow so they just put us in jail. So this was actually my second time "behind bars." The first time in Moscow, it had almost been fun because I was there with Mary and we were singing Sonny and Cher songs. There was no singing in San Diego's jail. It seems like I might have had a black cellmate but I am not really sure now. If I did, I don't remember any conversation but I was just there in the night until after breakfast which consisted of some Elmer's glue like oatmeal mush.
My biggest problem at that time in my life would have been having to pee. There is no way that I would have felt comfortable urinating in a jail cell. I would probably hold my urine until my bladder would burst and I would just die on the floor.
Please visit my youtube page at www.youtube.com/sylvanro.
1967- Sweet Sixteen, The Summer of Love and Psychedelics
I love the San Francisco Bay Area. I came here for the first time when I was 16. I was living in San Diego at the time with my Mom and my stepfather, George. We were living at 4932 Lantana Drive in a fixer-upper home my Mom and George had bought. My bed was in the basement of the house which had it’s own entry door, which gave me the ability to come and go pretty easily as I pleased. George was building stairs from the basement up into the kitchen upstairs but at that time, you had to go outside to get upstairs.
My best friends at the time were Mary Jo, Leslie, and Marnie. We had become friends after Roger and I and our group, "The Luv Please" had played at a "Battle of The Bands" in San Diego. We went to a club called the Palace and we were experimenting with drugs.
I was in transition between an old girlfriend, Kathy, that was concerned about what L.S.D. would do to my chromosomes and my new girlfriend, Edith, who couldn't have cared less about my chromosomes.
Kathy Zaddock and I went together for about three years, from the time I was 13 in Escondido and had gotten kicked out of school for having “long hair” (that story can be found here: (http://sylvanslife.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=16:my-beatle-haircut). I met Kathy roller skating which I did pretty regularly at that time. She and her best friend, Karen Kern, used to come roller skating and I guess they thought I was cute in my Beatle haircut. Kathy was the more attractive in my mind. We went together for three y)ears and we did have some sexual play during that time. I guess you would call what we did, “heavy petting?”
My mother and her husband, George, had left Escondido, though, by the time I was 16 in 1967, The Summer of Love. I had lived in Washington State for a while with my dad. Upon my return to live with my Mom and George, now on Lantana Drive in San Diego, Kathy had started to move on to the man that she would eventually marry and have four children with, and then ultimately divorce some years later. When I first heard of her engagement, I grieved the loss of my first real heterosexual relationship. I was inconsolable for a about a day which seemed like a lot in those teenage days.
Edith would be my second heterosexual relationship. It was very brief- so brief that I don't even remember Edith's last name! I think I must have met her at Jerry Herrera's club, "The Palace," a club for kids 16 and older.
Jerry Herrera had been booking bands in San Diego since the 1950's for dances and concerts. In 1965 he had opened San Diego's first rock and roll club, "The Palace," across the street from the San Diego Sports Arena. The house band was called "Palace Pages" and they would go on to become "iron Butterfly."
My brother, Roger, and his band with Allen Green, Roger Flores, Steve Arenz(?), and others, whose names I don't remember, would play at the Palace. We all went to see them play of course. There was a stage and dance floor. If I remember correctly, there was a balcony area where you could look down at the dance floor. It seemed to get a pretty good crowd. Leslie & Marnie were always there when I was there. Edith and I would dance.
The Palace was where I first remember seeing black light posters for sale. They had a small psychedelic shop that sold the posters and black lights. along with cigarette papers, pipes, roach clips, peace buttons and other hippie paraphernalia.
I don't remember what time The Palace would close. I can't remember if they even served alcohol. I'm not sure if it was actually considered a bar. I was only 16 then and certainly couldn't drink alcohol. Regardless, one night after the Palace, a group of us went to Mission Beach and I’m not sure but that might have been the first night that I dropped acid which was what people called L.S.D. back then which was short for lysergic acid diethylamide.
Timothy Leary and the media had made L.S.D. famous. Dr. Timothy Leary, a professor at Harvard had established the "Psychedelic Research Project" at Harvard in 1960. The Federal Government had classified L.S.D. as an "experimental drug" in 1962. The media talked of L.S.D. on sugar cubes. There were sensational stories of kids taking L.S.D. and thinking they could fly and then jumping out of windows.Leary and Alpert were fired from Harvard in 1963 because of their advocating the use of psychedelics to "expand the mind." California passed the Grunsky Bill in 1966, making the drug illegal in California. In 1967, at the first "Human Be-in," Timothy Leary told the crowd to "tune in, turn on, and drop out," which the media spread immediately to the rest of the country and young people were listening. When you took L.S.D., it was called at "trip."
Ken Kesey had been doing the "Acid Tests" for a few years by 1967 with his "Merry Pranksters." On January 8th, 1966, the "Trips Festival" had taken place at the Fillmore. By the time I had arrived in San Francisco for The Summer of Love, Stanley Owsley had been perfecting his famous L.S.D. and the Fillmore had become a "trips festival" on an ongoing basis. I know I attended at least a couple of Fillmore shows that summer but remember very little about those shows as I was usually tripping.
I would eventually take over a hundred trips between the time I was 16 and my early twenties. I never had any desire to jump out of any windows and came to believe that most of the horror stories about L.S.D. were probably urban myths. In later adulthood, I did see schizophrenics when I worked as an R.N. on psychiatric units that may have had psychosis brought on or exacerbated their mental illness by taking too many L.S.D. trips or other drugs.
I remember laughing a lot when I first started taking acid. It was necessary to set aside about eight hours for a "trip." First, there was the "coming on" phase which usually took about an hour, then the "peaking" phase which took about six hours and then the "coming down" phase which took another hour or two. Most of my experience with L.S.D. was much fun but eventually it became too exhausting. It was easier to find a block of eight hours in my youth for those activities than it was when I got older and busy with the activities of making a living.
I know I was on acid the night I went to San Francisco the first time. I was with Edith at the Palace and then we went to a "beach party" at Mission Beach in San Diego. That night, she and her brother were going to “run away” from home and they had talked this guy, E.J., into driving them to San Francisco in his station wagon. Edith wanted me to go too and it sounded like an "adventure" to me. It was 1967 and the Summer of Love and everyone was going to San Francisco. We had recently seen Big Brother and the Holding Company at the San Diego Convention Center and were in the first row and Janis Joplin invited everyone to San Francisco to see what was happening there.
That night, after The Palace and then after the beach party, five of us piled into E.J.'s old station wagon. EJ drove me by my house so I could get my sleeping bag and leave my Mom a note telling her I was going to San Francisco. It didn’t occur to me that she would worry or be upset or anything. I didn’t perceive it at all as running away. I just saw this as an adventure, kind of like a Tom Sawyer sort of thing. I think my Mom kind of admired my independence.
We probably left San Diego about 3am in the morning. There was EJ driving, Edith, her brother, some other person I remember nothing about and myself. Somewhere along the way, we picked up a hitchhiker and he was familiar with San Francisco and he wrote down an address for us to check out. He thought that we could probably “crash” there. I don’t really remember much else about the trip itself. I know the hitchhiker didn’t go all the way with us but have not idea where we let him out. When we arrived in San Francisco, we parked along side, what I would later learn was called “The Panhandle.” This is a finger of Golden Gate Park that extends into the Haight for several blocks bordered by Fell and Oak streets.
At some point, a policeman came and told us that we couldn’t sleep there in the car. We woke up and got out and walked a block over to Page street and found the address that the hitchhiker had given us. It was a beautiful building with bay windows and a turret at 1666 Page Street. I was struck even then with the difference in architecture in San Francisco from anywhere I had ever been previously in my life.
When we first knocked and a hippie girl answered the door and we told her our plight, she seemed irritated that we had awakened her so early in the morning. The "flat" was on the third floor and one of the guys living there came down the stairs to see what was going on. I
remember them being a little irritated that somebody had given out their address but eventually they accepted us in. There were already about five people living in the house. Edith and I slept on the floor in our sleeping bags. I stayed there for only a week or two. I think E.J. returned to San Diego. Edith made plans to hitchhike to New York after the first few days and she left and I never saw or heard from her again. I will always wonder if she made it safely. Her brother and I hung out for a bit but he was into speed and always seemed kind of weird to me.
A couple of the people that lived in the flat were black and a few years older than us. They were probably in their twenties or even thirties. One had a bit of asthma or emphysema which was exacerbated by all the pot he smoked and he seemed quite a bit older than us at the time. People came and went through the flat. I met my first “out” black homosexual. He gave me a blow job in the throughway between a couple of buildings. The whole thing didn’t last very long but it was exciting and I still remember that. I think that it must have been my first blow job. I had never had int
ercourse with a girl at this point. I had masturbated with other boys, but otherwise, I was a virgin.
Although our hosts were generous initially, they did want us to get out on our own. I panhandled during the day. I went to Love’s Burgers and got a plate and plastic fork and then would take it
down to the panhandle where the Diggers were
feeding people. I stayed at various crash pads.
I went to the Straight Theater, (which was originally called "The Haight" theater but in 1967, in disrepair, was called the Straight Theater and was torn down in the 70's
or 80's). There were no seats in the theater by that time and Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin would practice there and you could see them for free or spare change.
One day while walking down Haight street, at about Clayton, I saw Janis Joplin walking a dog, towards me. I thought to myself, “I have got to say something to her… what can I say… fast… the opportunity will soon be gone…” and I blathered “Spare change?” She walked on past and didn’t even give me eye contact but that was okay. I had spoken to Janis Joplin.
I would hang out on “hippie hill” which was about a block into Golden Gate Park. There were usually somewhere around fifty people sitting on the hill. Often there would be a group of multicultural/multiethnic/multiracial drummers making a beat for us to groove to. Usually there would be the smell of marijuana in the air. In the summer of love, there always seemed to be a lot of marijuana around. I didn’t have money to buy it but somebody was always handing me a joint.
The Diggers were a group of activists and actors associated with The San Francisco Mime Troupe. Peter Coyote, an actor, was one of the founding members of The Diggers. When I arrived in San Francisco, they were providing free food in the Panhandle. The food would usually be a soupy stew concoction served out of huge multi-gallon pots. It was well known that you could pick up a paper plate and fork or spoon at Love Burgers at 1568 Haight and then bring those to The Panhandle to eat. The Diggers also opened a free store at 1090 Cole Street.
Speed was becoming popular in the Haight by that time and people were using it at 1666 Page Street too. There were also warnings out on the street that "Speed Kills." I had never known anyone that injected drugs until then. I'm not sure if that was the same as the methamphetamine of modern times or if it was some earlier variation of that. I remember a women coming to the flat to shoot up, herself. Up until that time, I had not seen anyone use I.V. drugs on Page Street or anywhere for that matter. I watched her carefully cook the white powder in a tablespoon and then use a belt to "tie off" her arm. Then she drew up the drug through a white cotton ball. She shared here "works," the syringe and needle with one of the housemates. This was long before HIV and Aids.
She was ecstatic and wanted others to share the experience but I was afraid of needles and didn't really want to do it. She kept encouraging me to try it and insisted it wouldn't hurt at all. Finally I relented and let her use a belt to "tie me off" and then inject the needle into my vein. I immediately regretted it, as she apparently missed the vein and it WAS quite painful.
For the rest of the night, I was speeding and paced through the Haight until the early morning hours. I remember the air being wet as it sometimes is in San Francisco and the only other people awake are also wired on speed and will babble about nothing for hours if you will listen. I tried not to listen. I didn't see the girl that shot me up for another week or so when I passed her on the street and she told me that I needed to go to the public health clinic to get tested as she had tested positive for hepatitis. I went to the health clinic and got some gamoglobulin and decided that my one episode of letting someone inject drugs into my veins was way too too dangerous and too much hassle and I didn't really like being so wired up, awake all night on the streets, gnawing the inside of my cheek. I never had any interest in doing anything like that again.
As the summer progressed, The Haight was starting to deteriorate with the influx of the crowds and amphetamines. After leaving the flat on Page Street, I stayed in some pretty nasty crash pads that I found through the Haight Ashbury Switchboard. I decided I needed to raise some money so I could get a room somewhere. I sold Berkeley Barbs and Oracles. These were “underground newspapers” that were popular at the time. The Oracles were "psychedelic" and the Berkeley Barb was more political and was famous for it's sex ads in the back. (At another time I would sell the “Helix” in Seattle, but that’s another time and another story that can be found here: http://sylvanslife.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=23:1968-seattle-with-mary-jo).
Underground newspapers were an easy way for me to make a few dollars. I sold the Berkeley Barb in front of the old Emporium that is no longer there, (replaced by San Francisco’s “City Center” mall). I had a loud voice and I would shout out at the top of my lungs, “Berkeley Barb, get your Berkeley Barb right here!...” I think I must have seen someone selling newspapers like that once in a movie or something. It seemed very romantic at the time.
From selling the newspapers, I made enough money to invest in 12 hits of acid that I planned to sell so that I could get my own room downtown in San Francisco's "Tenderloin." In those days, you could get a sleazy room for $2.00 a night or $10.00 a week.
When I was trying to sell the acid on Market Street downtown, Market street looked nothing then like it does now. The street was completely under demolition and reconstruction to accommodate the new subway that was going in which was going to eventually be what we call BART- Bay Area Rapid Transit. In 1967, it was just a lot of holes in the ground and huge beams stacked high intermittently through the street. It made for great cover if you wanted to dodge someone. In San Diego I had been harassed numerous times by the San Diego Police Department for being a “hippie.” I remember a time when I got stopped twice by two different cop cars within a one block distance. In San Francisco, the police never even looked at me. But if they did, it was pretty easy to just disappear among the piles of debris. It was the most incredible feeling of freedom not to be harassed by police. I was 16 and FREE!!
I wasn't selling my acid very quickly. It was late at night on Market Street and mostly speed freaks and insomniacs and street people were wandering among the piles of BART beams. One of the street people, a man, started talking to me and hanging out on the periphery. I think he wanted to get some acid but didn't have the money or something. Then I met a women that was trying to sell her body. She told me that if I helped to find her a trick, she would buy some of my acid. I don't think I had ever met a prostitute before and I had not even had sex with a woman at that time, but here I was, a sixteen year old pimp. At that time, San Francisco was still a navy town and the fleet was in. I was too well mannered to actually be a pimp. I would quietly approach some sailors and politely ask if they were interested in the services of the woman that was nearby. I didn't use any foul anatomical language and the prostitute quickly lost patience with me and would loudly blurt out "you want to buy some pussy, sailor?" My face probably turned red with both shock but I was fascinated, too.
The prostitute approached three Navy boys and offered her wares in graphic detail. Three sailors decided that they would do business with her. The three of them, the prostitute, the guy that had been hanging around on the periphery and I all walked over to a hotel that the prostitute selected. She took the first sailor into the hotel while the rest of us stood around in the night air talking. The sailors bought some of my acid as well so things were good for me. Time went by and then suddenly, here came the prostitute, looking frantic, and saying to me to follow her as she rushed past the sailors, standing there, waiting for their turn and then bewildered as to what had happened to their friend and one dashed into the hotel to find him. The other sailor followed us for some time as we ran through the streets but he couldn't catch us and gave up the chase. Finally he gave up on catching us and went back to join his sailor friends. The prostitute bought some acid and I think she actually gave me some extra dollars and may have given some to the other guy that had just been hanging around. She had waited for the first sailor to fall asleep and then she had robbed him rather than have sex with all three. We dispersed and I never saw any of them again. I LOVED SAN FRANCISCO!
Sometime during that same "Summer of Love" I remember being invited by some other young people to a place called Morningstar ranch. I didn't remember exactly where that was other than north of the Golden Gate Bridge but now, when I Google it, I find that it was in Sebastopol. I knew it was a commune when I visited but did not remember that it was also called "The Digger Farm."
Apparently, according to what I now know from looking it up on the internet, Lou Gottlieb founded Morningstar. He had been a folk singer with the group, The Lamplighters and then was part of the Diggers group that fed us kids in The Panhandle, and opened the Free Store on Cole Street and I believe that they also ran the Haight Ashbury "switchboard" where you could call to find out about crash pads or health care and other information. I remember that Morningstar Ranch was really my first experience with public nudity. It was a little stressful since I did not feel comfortable taking my own clothes off. Others did walk around naked. I think we stayed there for no more than 24 hours, but it did leave a big impression on me and it wouldn't be long before I would be more comfortable with my own body and nudity with others, too.
Back in San Francisco, with the money I had made panhandling, pimping and selling acid, I moved to a sleazy $10 a week Tenderloin hotel. Old, weathered black men rolled dice in the doorway and prostitutes, alcoholics and drug addicts lived there. It had an old rickety elevator and the rooms reeked of urine and other bodily fluids. All of this was a pretty exciting for a 16 year old boy.
The Camelot Hotel was what is now called a "Single Room Occupancy" or SRO. There were many of them in San Francisco at one time and still a few are left. I know i stayed in several in those early years. You would get a room with a bed and a dresser and the bathroom was down the hall. You shared a bath or shower with others on your floor. The rooms often wreaked of urine. There would be people yelling and acting crazy all hours of the day and night. Somebody might even come knocking on your door, inebriated, thinking someone else was still living there.
You could get into the original Fillmore for a couple bucks that could be easily panhandled in an afternoon. I am pretty sure I saw a few shows at the Fillmore that summer but I think I was always pretty high and don't remember much about who I saw other than Cream. I also remember free concerts in the G.G. park with The Grateful Dead and Big Brother for the funeral of a Hell's Angel named Chocolate George
I don't remember how the summer came to an end exactly. I ran into my friend Leslie. from San Diego somewhere in the Haight. San Francisco was like a small town in that way. It was easy to bump into people you knew from other places. Several other friends from San Diego showed up that summer but Leslie was the only one that would stay and establish herself in The City. I remember that when I ran into her, everyone was talking about Rudolph Nuryev, the famous ballet artist being caught in a drug bust.
I often used the Haight Ashbury Switchboard to find places to crash and I think my Mom contacted me through them, begging me to call collect. It had never occurred to me that she would be worried about me. Somehow by the end of the Summer of Love in San Francisco, I returned to San Diego but I'm not sure how I got there. By this time, I had lost track of everyone I had come to The City with from San Diego and I had pretty much just lived on my own.
I went back to San Diego to live again with my Mom and George on Lantana street. I think that it was shortly after this that I contacted the Oracle offices in San Francisco and convinced them to send me some Oracles to San Diego. That was probably still about 1967 or possibly 1968 and I would be arrested for the first and only time and that story can be found at: http://www.n-retrospect.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=22:pot-bust-getting-arrested
1967 was a great year for movies, too. This was the year of "The Graduate." Many of us could relate to the main character.
One movie that came out in 1967 was "I am Curious Yellow." This was a film that had been banned in Massachusetts at the time. It was pretty controversial and so I wanted to see it. I was only 16 at the time, though, so I had to have someone over 18 to take me. My Mom agreed to take me to this movie which turned out to be a little awkward and embarrassing when I realized how sexually graphic it was. It seemed pretty hard core at the time to my naive, innocent eyes, but compared to today's standards, it would probably be considered soft porn. Regardless, it was not the best film for a 16 year old to see with their mother!!!
I was pretty devastated when I found out that Darlene was going to marry Chuck, who was a marine stationed at Camp Pendelton, near Oceanside, a short distance from Escondido. I had always been very close to Darlene and it seemed like we had all finally achieved some stability in Escondido and I didn't want to lose that. When you live with chaos most of your life, you crave stability and fear change. I did not want to lose my sister to the obvious hayseed from Texas. She was way too good for him and I couldn't understand why she would want to marry him.
My uncle, Rex, drove Ole, Gail, Billie and Nola down from Washington to Darlene's wedding. Billie made a beautiful wedding cake. Gail told me recently that she had baked the cake in Spokane and carried it down in the car, "taking great care that it didn't get smashed with the luggage."She then frosted and decorated the cake in Escondido. Billie dyed her own wedding dress that she had worn when she married Joe Secor, for Nola to wear as a bridesmaid.The wedding itself took place on the backyard patio. Darlene has said that "The Luv Please" played at her wedding or after the wedding but, like so many things, I don't have any recollection of that. Gail remembered that we did play that weekend at Camp Pendleton.
I can't remember where Chuck and Darlene lived immediately after getting married. I assume it was probably military housing as Chuck was still in the military. I don't think it was long after she married Chuck that mom and George sold the barn house in Escondido. Roger and I probably ended up in Toppenish for a while. Eventually, I would live with Darlene and Chuck in Seattle. That is another story.
Darlene would give birth to their son, Christopher Michael in Seattle. It was always amazing to me how much Chris was like his dad, Chuck. I am not sure if Chuck was still in the service, but he and Darlene broke up by the time Misty was born. I seem to remember that Darlene came to the house where George and mom were living on Lantana Drive in San Diego. I don't remember ever seeing Chuck again after that. My understanding is that he went back to Texas and remarried there. Chris and Misty visited him there at least once. I don't think that he ever contributed much financially to raising his kids.