One Summer of Love
The summer of 1967, known as “The Summer of Love” to those not familiar with some of the jargon from that era, is remembered as the supposed seismic center of the hippie / counterculture experience. What happened then affected nearly everybody in some way and has people from every walk of life still trying to take it all in. I believe very few people in 1965 would have had a clue as to what would unfold from 1966 to 1969. It has been romanticized, demonized, trivialized and as the Chambers Brothers would put it: "psych-o-delicized". Many others had far more interesting adventures than me that year and far from being a time of carefree youthful abandon, that year for me contained moments of abject misery. And not really any real love in it.
But that made it no less life-changing. This story is one person's summer of self-discovery.
I graduated high school in 1966 in Hermosa Beach, a charming beach town, quite different in the 1950’s than it is now. Back then, it was a great little city for families with the beach, wonderful schools, Boy Scouts, Little League and events like “1912 Days” and the Pier Avenue Carnival with a full size Ferris wheel. Yet even then, it had real vestiges of something iconic—and was somehow different than its larger and slightly more mainstream neighbours, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach. It had the legendary jazz club, The Lighthouse, and also a great representative of the Beat Era, the Insomniac Coffee House and Book and Art Fair Annex, which featured performers such as poet Allen Ginsburg, who read “Howl” there, and beat-era comedians Lenny Bruce and Lord Buckley. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Dave Van Ronk and a young Van Dyke Parks also played at the club. By 1967, the Insomniac had been closed for two years due to run-ins with the law, but now just up the road was the five-tiered very counter-culture Either-Or Book Store.
The fall of 1966 found me majoring in Math at the University of California at Riverside. I had previously known Riverside only as a hot rest stop, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, on the way to the infinitely more interesting Palm Springs and other scenic communities of the lower desert. Although there were a few surrounding hills that were decent, particularly the one sporting the large “C”, emblematic of the university there, the city was largely lacking in any significant atmosphere. One exception might have been the picturesque Mission Inn, where Richard Nixon was married. The Riverside Raceway attracted auto racing enthusiasts but I wasn’t a car guy.
It was a fun and eye-opening semester, making new friends, living the dorm life, enjoying a pre-hippie beer culture, and attempting to pursue romance, with a bit less than checkered success. I started decently with a 2.75 GPA—although my one C was in Math, which, being my major, definitely portended something. By winter quarter, the various distractions dropped me to a 2.0.
Fortunately, Easter break arrived and gave me a well-needed respite from the Riverside heat. Unworried, I headed back home to laid-back Hermosa with the folks … until another bad omen hit me hard - a bad flu. When it should have subsided, I felt very fatigued and could not shake it. My mother took me to the doctor and after a blood test, I received the word— it was no mere flu. I had contracted mononucleosis, a “popular” malady of that time, called by some the “kissing disease”. I was pretty much confined indoors for what seemed a month. When the doctor reported that my blood still tested positive, my good times at UC Riverside were put on indefinite hold. I was devastated. My taste of college freedom was now reduced to a memory.
My parents were typical of the times with some genetic bragging rights: Charles and Miriam were both born in 1909, both in some way examples of fallen aristocracy. Charles came from the real ancestors of ex-president Gerald Ford. Miriam’s lineage included ex-Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall. Charles’s kin hailed from Wyoming. Miriam’s father was an army colonel so she was from all over (was in Honolulu during Pearl Harbor), but her parents settled in Beverly Hills and knew celebrities like Loretta Young and Randolph Scott, and in fact was given a German Shepard by Ava Gardner. They both ended up being Republicans---I remember mom working for Barry Goldwater in 1964. Miriam was easily the smarter of the two---had a B.A. in Economics from UC Berkeley in the early 1930’s. Charles was more or less an average Joe.
During my recovery, friends visited, and I had time to lie in the lazy Hermosa sun and absorb Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, which turned out to be a good deal less interesting than his classic, The Brothers Karamazov. Finally in May of 1967 , I was allowed to go out with my buddies, mostly with one in particular, who I will call Matt. I envied him, having had such a very different and interesting background than myself, living in many different places and especially for having seemingly very lenient parents. He was so much more worldly than myself in regards to women and “other things”. One of those other things in particular was the dreaded devil weed, the corrupter of wholesome American youth, the notorious source of “reefer madness”…yes, marijuana.
Both Matt and my other best friend, Jason, were well-experienced in this notorious high. With nothing but dead time on my hands and a deprived taste of recent freedom, I was prime bait. I couldn’t wait to try it! The first two attempts I felt nothing. “Keep trying”, I was encouraged, “it will happen”. My third attempt, on a non-descript night in May, at my old friend Phil’s apartment in Santa Monica, was the charm. It worked, and how! I remember that first feeling washing over me and growing. I was amazed. Perceptions of time and even space altered. Phil put on a Byrds album, and I could very succinctly differentiate the lead, rhythm, and bass guitar, as if they were isolated separate tracks. The hard to define scent, easily more appealing to me than tobacco, added to the mystique of it. It was a feeling so unlike anything I had ever experienced. To this day, with the many times I have had with it over the years, it remains my absolute favourite weed encounter.
As conservative as my parents were, it was critical that I keep my experimenting undercover and swore my friends to secrecy. They understood, as all young people did. To us, marijuana was our rebellious version of our parents’ suburban cocktails--harmless and fun. But to them, it was the open gateway to LSD, heroin and a life of ruin. I was in real fear of how they might react if they knew what I was up to.
Nevertheless, I was on a summer roll and that didn’t stop me! Matt, and the person who was the drugs source, a very colourful, creative, and humorous Italian high school dropout, DJ, had tried LSD and again, I was next. There was something very mysterious and intriguing about the drug, particularly to the artistic and intellectual set. Notables such as and Timothy Leary and Stanley Owsley felt that LSD had the power to revolutionize society and that it should be spread as widely as possible and be available to all. They extolled the mystical and religious symbolism often engendered by the drug's powerful effects, and advocated its use as a method of raising consciousness. Other personalities associated with the subculture, gurus such as Ken Kesey and psychedelic rock musicians such as the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane and The Beatles soon attracted a great deal of publicity, generating further interest in LSD.
So on June 15, 1967, one year exactly after my high school graduation and really the official start of my summer of love, we dropped acid, as LSD was called, at the same Santa Monica apartment, with Phil playing the role of downer—which meant he was the straight guy who would supervise us in our very stoned state—Phil was very responsible. The marijuana experience was one thing, but this, no surprise, was levels beyond! So much has been written about this drug with emphasis on phenomena such as hallucinations. I think this misses the main aspect of this particular state of mind. It’s hard to verbalize, but what impressed me most about it was its ability to engage one’s mental / intellectual / ego involving thought processes. I could go on and on trying to explain it, but it’s really impossible.
Importantly, thanks to the safe environment provided by Phil, and good vibes projected throughout by him, his friend Mark, and Matt, it turned out to be a fascinating and very fulfilling night. Even so, at the end of it, as I tucked myself into bed in the morning, I noticed myself with an ever greater appreciation of a solid, grounded, every day, mundane, and non-high mind set. Something like acid had to be approached gingerly, with great care and lots of planning!
So my summer of love was off and running! Marijuana stonings became a bit more frequent. Two other guys joined the mix: Kirk, an easy going, very intelligent, casual friend from high school, had inexplicably flunked out of his first quarter at UC Santa Barbara with two F’s, a D, and a C, and was back in the South Bay. Also, Layton, a non-academic, but charismatic and street smart high school friend, who dropped out after his junior year and was now managing his third consecutive shop—shops that had evolved from art shops to hippie head shops---and he had a happening one now right on the main thoroughfare of Hermosa Avenue. (A head shop was an atmospheric establishment catering to products emanating from the counter culture such as black light posters of assorted rock groups, tie dye t-shirts, tapestries, beads, buttons, incense and often marijuana-related paraphernalia such as wooden and metal pipes, roach clips and the like).
As if the drugs themselves weren’t stimulating enough, something else was happening---the music, and oh what music!! To me, it was nothing less than the most creative burst of song writing, playing, and singing humanly possible! The Beatles had come a very long way from “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to release a musical acid trip called “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, wherein the “L.S.D.” of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was rumoured as a suspect drug reference. The Rolling Stones, rival pop charters themselves, went from “Lady Jane” and “As Tears Go By”, to their psychedelic-drenched 3D cover, “Their Satanic Majesties’ Request”, which rivalled “Sgt. Pepper” for unsavoury suggestiveness.
But the West Coast bands were hot on their heels! The Jefferson Airplane had been around for a couple of years and this was the year they released their own masterpiece, “Surrealistic Pillow”, with “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit”. Joining them from the Bay Area were The Grateful Dead, Country Joe and the Fish, the Quicksilver Messenger Service, and possibly the most electrifying and galvanizing live act of them all, Big Brother and the Holding Company, with the incomparable Janis Joplin—you had to see her to believe her! From Los Angeles, the established folk rock groups The Byrds, the Mamas and the Papas, and the Buffalo Springfield were overpowered by Arthur Lee and Love, who in turn were overwhelmed by the most auspicious and ground breaking rock debut album ever by the Doors, led by the poetic, sexy, unpredictable, charismatic Jim Morrison. I remember so well driving around that summer and all these car radios were playing the long version of “Light My Fire”.
And this was also the year of Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde”, Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman”, and Cream’s “Disraeli Gears”. Every week another wonderful group came and went: Canned Heat, the Seeds, the Electric Prunes, the Sons of Champlin, Vanilla Fudge, the Young Rascals, the Fifth Dimension, the hipper Eric Burdon, Paul Butterfield, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Kinks, the Yardbirds, and yes, even the Monkees. My parents of course could not stand this music and regrettably, my father Charles even referred to it as ni***r music. Compared to this explosion in pop music, their tastes ran to Tommy Dorsey and Broadway musicals.
Unfortunately, more portent was right around the next corner. My second LSD experience would turn out to be a far more disturbing trip than the first.
DJ, the Italian drug source invited Matt and me over to his house, assuring us that his parents and cousins would be gone all day at Disneyland. Things started fine---we warmed up with some weed and then the acid took effect. After a while, Matt and DJ entered another room, which caused a strange ‘bubble’ to appear in the doorway, separating the rooms. Then, while I was trying to take a leak, I heard what sounded like minor explosions! I re-entered the living room as DJ’s relatives were barging in the front door making a lot of noise! Our grand plan was blown. We somehow got out of there with our reddened eyes and dilated pupils. What to do? We decided the safest bet was Matt’s condo with his lenient parents.
En route, two so very unfortunate things happened-- it was as if satanic forces were at play. DJ accidently burned me with his cigarette lighter which was raging hell in my over-sensitized state--much like the devil’s pitchfork in my flesh. Worse still, Matt was driving and unbelievably, the gear handle which was attached to the wheel shaft came out of the socket! I remember him holding it up in the air with a confused look on his face---and the car was still moving! What the hell do we do now?
Now I KNEW that Satan was controlling things.
Somehow, we recovered from that and made it to Matt’s. Although his parents were easy, they were still parents and we were in an altered state. We retreated to the billiard room where we slogged through the hours awash in paranoia. We desperately needed somewhere safe to hang loose, so we headed to Layton’s head shop and finally started to relax. After 45 minutes, I even felt loosened up enough to hop on his drum set and attempt to bang out some rhythms. That’s all it took.
Suddenly flashlights and a knock on the door—and DJ still had the weed! It was the police and DJ and Matt rushed to the bathroom and barely managed to flush it down the toilet in time. Satan had re-emerged---he was never gone. Luckily, the police were cool and just told us there was a noise complaint, to keep it down, and they departed. It was not long after that that I was given a ride home---and I remember tucking myself deep into my bed that night with thankful prayers that I/we had survived. I guess it was poetic justice that I had to go through my “bummer”. So far, my parents did not suspect anything—or at least they never let on that they did. Family life was still relatively placid.
At around this time, Matt, Kirk, and Jason moved into a front house on a duplex on Warfield Street in Manhattan Beach. It became known as ‘Warfield’, a great and easy place to hang out. One of the agreements Matt and Kirk made with the landlord was to do some maintenance along with the rent payment. Of course, it never got done. Early on, Jason got in some argument with Matt and Kirk about stealing some food in the refrigerator. He eventually phased out and began spending more time with his girlfriend, Allie. Frequent visitors to Warfield were me, DJ, and Lars, a brilliant but sometimes obnoxious friend. Also, a somewhat down and out but likeable hippie girl, KC, moved in temporarily and shared Matt’s bed. She complained though about some of DJ’s lecherous advances, although I was never around to witness them.
Another great thing happening that summer was the Griffith Park Love-Ins. Beautiful, colourful people of all races and ages gathered there to see bands and mingle. Long hair and striking clothing was abundant, and the girls were beautiful. Besides the bands, other music was going on including guitars, fiddles, banjos, flutes, and the ubiquitous bongos. The smell of incense, marijuana, and food mingled---and the food was free! There was magic in the air and it was infectious!
However, 1967 was not all drugs, music and good friends. I cannot tell this story without mentioning the Vietnam War. America’s involvement in this increasingly unpopular war tore the country apart, largely upon generation lines. Were we stupidly entering a conflict that was really a civil war between the communist and non-communist sides? By 1967, our troop strength there was 485,600 and casualties were mounting fast, casualty counts broadcast into every small town American living room. The counter culture was increasingly against it, and they were letting President Johnson know about it in colleges and other forums across the country. A credibility gap had opened up—people were beginning to doubt the optimistic forecasts about the war. In another six months, even Walter Cronkite would turn on it! Of course, my parents, being good Republicans, were for it.
Since I had dropped a whole quarter of college due to the illness, I now had to make that up and I enrolled in UCLA summer session. In those days, if you fell behind in units, you were subject to get drafted into Lyndon Johnson’s army and that was a death sentence. I signed up for Physical Science, Philosophy, and Symbolic Logic. I was still enjoying myself---being well again, hanging out with good buddies, Matt, Phil, Kirk, Layton, and Lars, and getting stoned—a couple of minor dates but no big deal. However, a shoe was about to drop, and it did—hard.
Way back before my mononucleosis diagnosis, back at UC Riverside, I received letters from Matt and Jason. They contained drug references, and sordid adventures like visits to Tijuana strip clubs. It was all amusing, so when I came back home to Hermosa for Easter, I shoved them in a drawer and promptly forgot about them.
But I never would have imagined how someone else’s sordid good times would trigger a major family crisis and change my own life. Maybe Satan was watching and waiting the whole time, sending me those little warnings? No matter. I was in his sights.
It was July 1967, after a stoning hosted by Gil, I returned home at around 11:30 p.m. Oddly, my parents were waiting for me in the living room. I tried to ignore the bad sign. I briefly said hello and began my walk to the bedroom, when my dad said “stop”. I turned around, and there were those incriminating letters in their hands, and glaring eyes that said “explain!” I was grilled for what seemed like two hours. While still stoned. I resorted to the only defense that I could think of---which was I could not help what somebody wrote me. One of the letters, written by the careless J, contained some insult about my mother Miriam, which was what really lit my father, Charles’s, fire.
I mentioned earlier that Charles was more or less an average Joe. That was then. He became something else once the letters were discovered. Already, the hippie culture and everything associated with it had made him see red. I remember one time I was on my way to an anti-war demonstration in Century City in my hippie striped mod pants. He intercepted me and made me change into regular Levis. I mean really, what difference would it have made? But now he was full-bore Darth Vader, J. Edgar Hoover and John Wayne, all rolled into one.
Rather than have the least respect for his own son’s privacy or give me a chance to explain, dear old J. Edgar Dad had already taken the letters straight to the Hermosa Beach Police who concluded, “if your son’s friends are indulging in these drugs, it’s highly likely your son is too”---not the stuff that Charles and Miriam wanted to hear (even if it was true!).
One Saturday morning, I even woke up to find Matt’s father Edgar, sitting on our living room couch. Charles and Miriam had called up the other parents and obviously some conference had to have taken place--- the three sets of parents ended up blaming DJ for everything, an easy scapegoat. Now, most of my friends were banned from even coming over—Matt, for not only the letters but for his hair length, boots and beads. I think Charles was enraged more by long hair than by the drugs. I was still allowed to go out but the atmosphere was tense.
Apparently Matt told Jason, “We have to get Steve out of there”. They were more right than I knew.
My UCLA summer classes began to suffer. I couldn’t concentrate. Philosophy was becoming very difficult and Symbolic Logic turned impossible. That was supposed to be the fun class, figuring out the logic of word problems, etc. Nothing doing. It was all symbols, modus polens and modus tollens. What the… ? I ended up with my only F in my college career.
A little life relief… Kirk’s mother got her son, Matt, and me part time jobs with Pacific Blind Products. We manned the phones and attempted to sell products made by blind people. It was kind of cool—there were about seven of us, we could look and dress pretty much how we wanted.
But home life was a different story. The tense atmosphere of the summer was a constant, as if building toward something unforeseeable and inevitable. I began to feel what it was like to approach a nervous breakdown.
Then the building tension snapped.
One night in mid-late August, I was supposed to meet some of the group at Layton’s head shop. I was combing my hair in the bathroom and heard my dad ask “Is DJ going to be there?” I answered “yes” in a tone he didn’t like and that was all it took. All his anger and frustration with me boiled over and he charged in like a cape buffalo! At the time I was about six feet and weighed maybe 155 at most. He was about 5’ 11 ½ and weighed maybe 225---a fair amount of fat but still three times as strong as me. He threw me to the floor and then against the walls. He never hit me with a closed fist but he kept hurling me around. My mom screamed and tried to intervene, and he even shoved her away. He threw me around a little more and finally left.
I lay on the floor stunned, but thoughts were forming quickly. I went into my bedroom where my younger brother Ernie was lying down and exclaimed, “You know what this means.” He answered quickly “you’re taking off”. “Yep” I replied. I opened the drawer and shoved some underwear and all the cash I had, maybe $40, into my pants and said good bye. I walked out of the house and sat briefly on a stone wall outside. Miriam came out and tried to talk to console me, but it was useless---I was leaving.
Down at the head shop, I explained my predicament to everyone, saying to Kirk and Matt in particular, “I’m not sure what you guys are going to do but I’m taking off to the Bay Area”. In those days it didn’t take much to come up with a reason for an adventure. After maybe ten minutes, we were ready to hit the road. Having no formal plans or time frame for return, I was putting my college status and therefore my tenuous draft status in jeopardy. And I couldn’t care less. Wherever I ended up and for how long, I would just be there.
It was 11PM on Lincoln Boulevard, just north of Los Angeles International Airport, where our long hitchhiking odyssey commenced. This was the perfect trio to undertake my escape. All three of us were easygoing, supportive, with no hidden ego battles going on between us. This was friendship at its peak.
Ironically, even though the golden glow of the summer of love had been beckoning, it took a reactionary, intolerant, hippie-hating Archie Bunker to compel me to embrace it.
Our group always had a thing for naming and labelling things. Having spotted a campaign sticker on a bridge in West L.A. advertising a ‘Jason Lane’ running for some office, the trip became known in our lore as the Jason Lane Trip. Why?—there didn’t need to be a reason. No reason was the best reason.
After not sure how many rides, we arrived at State Street in Santa Barbara and saw a common site at that time---12 or 13 groups of young counterculture “freaks”, as we proudly called ourselves, thumbing rides for all points north, almost all holding signs reading ‘San Francisco’—the promised land of 1967. Outside Santa Barbara, one car picked us up with two girls and a guy, all of them with dark hair and somewhat folksy. They became the “Joan Baez Hopefuls”, and they gave us our longest ride to somewhere near Monterey.
After some more rides, we finally landed in Haight-Ashbury around 2 a.m., roughly 26 hours after we started. We were tired, but luckily we had a contact. She was Sarah K., a girl who had attended our high school and had relocated to San Francisco. If ever there were a true flower child, Sarah was it. She had an extremely natural loving nature, a pleasant if not beautiful face, wavy blonde hair, and a ubiquitous smile. She was the Angel of Mercy I needed after the circumstances causing my departure.
After letting us crash on her living room floor, we emerged on Haight Street the next morning and beheld what seemed like a circus! Hippies of all shapes and sizes, guys with either long hair to their waists or frizzed out like Noel Redding in Jimi Hendrix and the Experience’s first album---and everything around and in-between. Women with colorful, sometimes Victorian clothing, and both genders with headbands, hats, beads, and always more smiles walked up and down the street and among the shops. Just up the street from Sarah, was her older brother Steve K’s very hip clothing shop. He seemed to know just how to work the entrepreneurial end of the Love Generation. There really was a feeling in the air---it was undeniable! On that first morning, we walked into a Free Store----that’s right, you could just pick something up and walk out with it. My eyes spotted a grey striped pullover shirt that was a little too big for me. It became my “railroad shirt” which I cherished and wore for a long time afterwards.
Fortunately, we had another contact in the Bay Area on the other side of the Bay Bridge. This was Scottie, who was a radical engineer and Allen Ginsberg look-alike. He and his very pleasant but matronly wife were raising seven children in a house in North Oakland near the Berkeley border. We had originally met Scottie on a hitchhiking trip the previous December, from two guys named Benny and Phil in Oxnard. As usual, the conversation got around to drugs and they referred us to Scottie, who at that time was living with his family in a boat in the Oxnard harbour. We knew that Scottie and his family had relocated to Oakland, so we sought them out there.
It was a nice, intriguing, and typically unconventional scene. It’s shocking in retrospect, but Scottie and his wife gave LSD to their kids, including the eight-year old girl. Today it would be intolerable by any measure, and maybe I should’ve raised concerns, but as eighteen year olds on our adventure, we weren’t there to pass judgement, only to take in the many curious experiences along the way. Scottie also harbored draft dodgers, which made him our modern day Harriet Tubman, casting his little blows against the empire. That gave him a heroic outlaw counterculture cred, though it didn’t quite compensate for his bad child-rearing judgments.
To this day, I can’t not wonder whatever happened to that family…
We spent the weeks hitchhiking back and forth between Sarah’s and Scottie’s, from the Haight to the East Bay. It was a great way to travel and be picked up by people smoking a joint, almost like we were all part of some extended family. The Youngblood’s counter-culture classic anthem “Get Together” would hit the charts two years later in 1969---but it was already playing in the Bay Area in 1967.
The Berkeley scene was also memorable and was centred on Telegraph Avenue, which ran perpendicular to the southern border of the university. Three blocks or so down the avenue was Pepi’s Pizza, a real locus of hippie activity in Berkeley. Characters of all types hung out there and the pizza was good. We introduced Kirk to a couple of characters Matt, Jason, and I had met the previous December on a different adventure. One of these was a pleasant, tawdry middle aged guy called Ray, who had carnal relations with his Irish Setter. Another guy, Bob Pickens, was a tall, bespeckeled, geeky dude with odd mannerisms who would rest his hand on ours while seated at the table. Who said we would only stumble across the best and the brightest?
Some fun snapshot memories….One time in San Francisco, we were picked up by an odd threesome. The driver and the guy riding shotgun sported very long hair with requisite hip accessories. The guy in the middle was a short haired nerd with glasses. They became “Freak Center Freak”. I asked driver freak if he ever got paranoid driving around with weed. As casual as could be, he drawled, “Nah, we’re too scary”. I had no comeback for that… Another time, walking on the UC Berkeley campus, one of us remembered the selling job we had back in Redondo Beach. How could we forget? The supervisor, June Lopez, was a nice lady, and it wasn’t easy to tell someone that 3/7 of her work force had left for good. One day, we got lost hitchhiking and ended up at the Alameda Naval Base. Due to our scruffy appearance, we were held by the military police in security until Kirk’s aunt and uncle, who lived in Alameda, managed to rescue us.
While I was basking my life away in the hippie Land of Oz, apparently Charles and Miriam received a phone call one night from the “the fuzz”, as the police were known, for their flat-top buzz cuts. My parents didn’t need to be told the sordid details – their wayward drug-addled vagabond son had managed to bring even more shame to the good family name from afar. Well, yes and no. There was more shame and it was brought by their wayward son. But it was the other wayward son! Apparently my younger brother and his buddies had been drinking beer and carousing on an elementary school playground and been busted by the local cops. So much for the good family name. I can just imagine my parents picking him up and wondering “What did we do wrong?”
Day ten and the money was starting to run out. The time had come to say goodbye to our friends up north, gather our things, and start our long journey back down south. But what was waiting for me? I sent a postcard to my upcoming college sophomore year roommate, Tim, describing the adventure I was on and mentioning that Charles and Miriam held the key to my return or non-return. Would I be forced to listen to non-stop recriminations from them for my leaving? Could Charles attack me again? Would they continue to pay for my college? If not, I was subject to being drafted. Only by returning would I know and that time had come.
Back on the road. After one or two short rides, we fortunately got a long, long ride that took us all the way south to a drop-off north of Santa Monica. I remember it being a station wagon, the people riding were cool, and that I was squeezed between the driver and the guy on the passenger side. I think all my accumulated fatigue and stresses caught up with me at this point because I slept for a good seven hours during this ride. It felt great!
However, the forces of darkness once again beckoned in the form of some muscular jocks who picked us up, exuding hostility towards us and our appearance. I remember some tension and fear, but somehow, but we were able to extricate ourselves from the situation. A couple more rides and we made it to Manhattan Beach around 1 a.m., the last driver giving us a joint for the road. A good omen, but a mixed blessing as we had to walk a couple miles inland to get back to Warfield, all the while wondering if the police would stop and search us, and still feeling the effects of the scare in Santa Monica. It was as if the glow of the Bay Area was casting its effect on our trip all the way back to the South Bay.
Upon entering the secure base of Warfield, we awakened DJ, the only occupant there. He told us the sad story of Rodney, a friendly temporary lodger there. Rodney had been hitchhiking and was picked up by some guys who took him up to the Hollywood Hills and attacked him with crowbars. We immediately thought of the jocks and what might’ve happened if we were one instead of three. Rodney was never heard from again, nor anything about him. It was a restless sleep, knowing that tomorrow meant the long-dreaded confrontation: Charles and Miriam.
Next morning, I walked into the home I had left in a state of confusion, rage and defiance only ten days prior—but what a life-changing escapade lay between! Conversation was minimal. Miriam talked quietly in general tones and Charles was mute. I now knew they knew I could and would take off at any time. It was a new power I had. This period of uneasy quietude lasted only about five days. I received my grades: Physical Sciences—B; Philosophy—C; Symbolic Logic—F. No surprise, but I still had units to makeup to stay on schedule. Not too much happened in those final three weeks in Hermosa Beach as I prepared myself psychologically to return to my new housemates and good friends, Tim, Woody, and Chris in Riverside. I do remember the tension beginning to rise with Charles again and I felt that I was getting out of town in the nick of time. Sometime near the end of August, both parents gave me a ride to our new abode. My summer of love officially ended. But my life had really begun.
Fall quarter had its fun moments, but by January, my spirits dropped. A couple of romances collapsed, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was a Physiological Psychology class that required the memorization of 140 separate parts of a sheep’s brain. I withdrew from the university, returned to the South Bay, enrolled in a junior college (horrifying Charles and Miriam), and took up residence in a hippie cottage in Lawndale with Matt and Kirk. By 1968, the counter culture had spread, but it had taken on a harder edge and was more political, and less interesting to me. By 1969, the mainstream culture was co-opting large parts of the counter culture. The pad with Matt and Kirk only lasted four months.
Matt, married most of his adult life, is now content being single and lives quietly in a Cleveland suburb. Kirk is married with a teenage daughter, still works, and lives with his family in Seattle---and keeps a respectable distance between his family and his old mates. Phil is a successful professor of political science at the University of Texas. Layton, owner of the head shops, disappeared long ago in Las Vegas. DJ developed a brain tumour as far back as 1973 and is presumed dead. The briefly mentioned characters Gil and Jason, died respectively in 1979 and 2005.
Saddest of all was the fate of Sarah K., flower child and earth mother extraordinaire. She was apparently raped, became obese, and died quite a while ago. Me, I am retired and live in the Philippines with my girlfriend, part of her extended family, and eight dogs. Some have prospered, some are treading water, and not everybody survived.
About the author: With a childhood grounded in the peaceful, predictable, family-centered, Eisenhower 1950's, Steve was raised in the surfing environment of Hermosa Beach, California. He attended high school and college in the tumultuous 1960's, finishing at UCLA with a B.A. in psychology. Twenty-eight years later, he earned my Masters in Public Administration at California State University at Dominguez Hills. He now has three self-published Amazon eBooks. His children’s story was included in anthology published by Studio N.I. entitled Tense Situations. He has also written book reviews which were published by Hollywood Billboard. He is influenced by a whole range of authors, from skilled crafters of children's stories, historical fiction by the likes of Michener and Vidal, Mailer, Updike, Nelson DeMille, Dickens and Jane Austen, extending out to the more esoteric fantasy writers like Philip K. Dick, Dan Simmons and my famous namesake, and everything in between. Nothing fascinates him more than the human mind and new and different ways of perceiving life and people.