The Sad Story of Everpresent Anxiety

Continued from last time…

Back in ’66  me and a couple of pals got this idea for a power trio.  Nobody was doing power trios then, I guess because nobody was good enough – but not being good enough didn’t stop us!  No way!  I practiced up on fife,  Jascha figured out how to play fiddle and of course Prackers held down keyboards.  After a few weeks, we were rockin’.  Unlike most of the bands of that era, we were so hot we didn’t even need drums.  Jerry Garcia used to always say he was going to drop by to jam with us one of these days.  So that’s how we knew we were good.

I liked it when we practiced.  Pretty soon the police would be breaking down the door and it got really exciting.  Plus the free publicity!

We decided to call ourselves Everpresent Anxiety.  Jascha was into this Kirkegaard thing so each of us took one of his books and wrote songs out of them.  I worked out Fear and Trembling – did a Chuck Berry thing with it with some folk-rock mixed in.  Did you ever read Fear and Trembling?  It’s really long! Truth is I couldn’t remember all the words, so when I got stuck I would just wail on Tra La La!  Tra la la! Really spontaneous, you know?

The high point was our version of Is There Such a Thing as Teleological Suspension of the Ethical? Oh, our friends all told us it couldn’t be done, the teenyboppers wouldn’t get it, and on and on, but we just took that as a challenge.  It was a time of experimentation, new frontiers,  breaking the boundaries – and we were breaking Kirkegaard!  Philosophy Rock!

Finally we were ready.  We took the bus down to the Avalon to audition.  We started off with one of our strongest numbers, Sickness Unto Death, and Chet Helms said he thought we had something.  Maybe we should all go home and rest.  But finally he came around.  He said if we stuck to Rolling Stones covers we could have a Sunday afternoon slot.  The only thing was – the name had to go.

“What’s wrong with Everpresent Anxiety, Chet?  It’s perfect for our new sound.”

“Yeah, but it sounds too much like Everpresent Fullness. “


“They’re a band!  They playing on the same bill with the Sir Douglas Quintet next week.  That’s their name!”

We couldn’t believe it.  How dare they!  Probably from LA too!  We rode the bus back to the Haight shaking our heads.  Why would anyone name a band after a digestive problem?

But Practical thought maybe bands named after digestive problems would be the new thing and we should have one too.  Prakky always had good ideas so we worked on it.

Jascha said, “Well, how about Duodenal Ulcer?  That’s a digestive problem.”  Prac thought about it while we transferred to the Haight Street bus.  Pretty soon he said it was good but he thought Peptic Ulcer would be even better.  Sounded peppier, you know?

Me:  “Ulcers Schmulzers.  Lets call ourselves Heartburn!  It’s got everything!  Romantic desolation, rage against the system and digestive problems all in one!”

But we never could agree so after a couple of weeks we gave up and just called ourselves The Three Pigs.

I think it was the name, but maybe hippies just weren’t ready for three guys wearing sailor suit jackets and no pants.  Our big Sunday afternoon tryout fell apart.  The hippies didn’t even want to hear Teleological Suspension.  They just kept shouting Off The Pigs! Off The Pigs!  It was a debacle.

Finally, we fought back.  Improvised an incredible Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?, chanting the final Tra la la  Tra la la like we were Vanilla Fudge.  Show them!  Chet finally had to cut the power and the rent-a-cops led us off stage in handcuffs.  It was so embarrassing!

I don’t know.  We tried to regroup, and we got a few gigs around the Bay Area, mostly playing nursery schools and zoos.  Finally we threw in the towel and went back to building houses out of sticks and things.  All because of Everpresent Fullness.

I Remember Love

Did you ever look at an old rock poster and wonder who the acts advertised actually were?  Like this one for instance…

Some ugly looking poster, huh?  Actually it’s a handbill, but that’s no excuse.

Love.  Rock scholars and sixties people will recognize the name right away. They were from LA, came up to San Francisco from time to time to try to break into our In Crowd,  and finally went on to rock and roll glory with their 1967 album, Forever Changes. It’s a great album. In fact, it’s the best of all the American takes on Sergeant Pepper, and possibly the only successful take ever (The Rolling Stones’ shot at it, Their Satanic Majesty’s Request was grim- their biggest mistake of the sixties).  But Forever Changes is pretty damn good.  I listened to it regularly until my turntable gave up and I gave all my LPs away – oh whadda fool!

Even their early single, My Little Red Book, deserves a three-decker rock and roll cake.  It blasted pure rock and roll fervor at a time when the music was getting just a little too flabby for my taste.   I downloaded the song from Itunes just now to check and, yes, it’s still drives like a 1966 Batmobile.   But in 1966 to my piggy ears they were just another okay band from LA.  Let them entertain us if they choose, but never shall they be invited into our superior society, he sniffed with snout held high.

At the time of this concert, Love’s first album was in the stores.  It was regularly seen in Haight-Ashbury collections because, unlike the  the Jefferson Airplane’s boring first album was and the Grateful Dead’s first outing – which, not to put too fine a point on it, stunk, Love’s first wasn’t half bad.

But who in heck was Everpresent Fullness?  Therein lies a story…

Next: The Pig’s Sad Story

A Birthday Party in the Haight-Ashbury, 1967

By 1967, the original hippies were already raising their kids in the Haight. Here’s documentary proof. While the Summer of Love was going bonkers on Haight Street, two blocks away Bill and Barbara Laird were cutting cake and dishing out cherry vanilla ice cream for their four year old’s birthday bash. That’s the Pondering Pig wondering what’s become of his shoes while his erstwhile wife Linda Lovely decides whether to stick him with her fork. The blondie in the flowered dress with her back to the camera is our daughter Jenny – already four years old.

On Meeting Chet Helms

I suspect most readers will recognize the name Chet Helms. He was a seminal figure of Sixties San Francisco and a friend. Unusual for The Pondering Pig, we’re turning over the space today to a reminiscence of Chet written by another friend, Greg Hoffman of San Mateo, California. I met Greg one night nearly three years ago when he called to interview me about my early memories of Chet. Since then, he has interviewed nearly two hundred sixties survivors and family members as he researches the first authorized, authoritative biography of the man. Here’s Greg Hoffman…

At precisely 6:00 p.m. on November 9, 2004, Chet Helms closed the door of his small, cluttered, ground floor apartment on the corner of Bush and Mason in San Francisco and stepped out into the damp, bone-chilling air.

He was wearing a pair of thick-soled, black shoes; baggy, wrinkled khakis and a heavy black coat that was buttoned up to his neck, around which was wrapped a bright red scarf. A black bowler was perched atop his head which was ringed by his flowing, white hair and long, white beard. He looked like someone who might have fallen out of the pages of a Dickens novel.

Chet crossed Bush Street and continued down the steep Mason Street hill to Sutter, where he turned left. A half-block later, he entered the Hotel Rex and walked past the reception desk into the spacious, dimly-lighted lobby that doubles as the hotel’s bar in the evening. There were a dozen people, mostly couples, scattered throughout the room, talking quietly. Several of the patrons nodded at Chet and he acknowledged the greetings with a smile and a small wave.

He carefully folded his tall frame into a straight-backed chair at a small, round table near the center of the room and crossed his legs. Once settled, he slowly unbuttoned his coat and removed his scarf, which he draped across his lap.

A few minutes later, a young, Asian barmaid approached the table. Chet ordered a cup of hot tea and honey. His soft, deep voice carried the hint of a Texas accent. His enunciation of each word, of each syllable, was impeccable.

The waitress soon returned with a delicately-patterned, ceramic tea pot, a matching cup and saucer, a spoon and a small container of honey.

“Thank you,” Chet said, almost inaudibly, but with unmistakable sincerity. He didn’t just say it, he meant it.

He spent the next several minutes meticulously preparing his cup of tea. His movements, from pouring the water to spooning and stirring the honey, were excruciatingly deliberate and almost hypnotically graceful. It was as if he was performing some sort of ancient, sacred ritual that required a precise choreography.

When he finished, he encircled the tea cup with his large right hand, raised it to his lips and took a small, exploratory sip. Satisfied that he had achieved the desired result, he gently placed the cup back onto the saucer, leaned back and laced his fingers together across his ample stomach.

Then he did something he loved to do, something at which he was well-practiced, masterful and indefatigable.

Chet Helms began to talk.

He began to talk about himself.

Greg Hoffman is inaugurating his own blog. He”ll devote it to tales of the people he meets and stories he hears on the research trail. It’s got to be good – The Chet Helms Chronicles: Documenting A Life.
Better bookmark it.

It’s Too Late, She’s Gone

Yesterday I learned Beth died. The beautiful girl whose strings are tied into my heart as fast today as they were the last time I saw her in 1968. My sad girl, my wicked girl, a friend who was a lot like me. Somehow I always thought I’d see her again one day and she’d tell me she was all right. She had come through. But she never did.

I first met Beth at San Francisco State in the fall of 1961. I was new on the scene and didn’t know anybody yet. I’d just transferred to State after a season of traveling in Mexico and New York. One night in October or thereabouts I went to an all-night vigil for peace outside the Commons, the schools’ poor attempt at a student union. I brought my Mexican guitar and sang Pretty Polly and We Shall Overcome and There Once Was A Union Maid through the night as the frat boys taunted us and threw eggs. By morning I knew all the peaceniks, the people who became my comrades for next few years, Solveig Otvos, Don Auclaire, Peter Weiss, Bob Kuehn, Eva Bessie, Peter Kraemer, Carmen O’Shaughnessy…and Beth.

Beth didn’t notice I existed, of course. Isn’t that how these stories start? Maybe she smiled at me once, I’m not sure. It wasn’t till months later I realized she was nearly blind without her glasses, which she refused to wear and she probably couldn’t see me.

Somebody invited me to a party on Clayton Steet that weekend, and Beth was there. Some haunting quality in her face drew me towards her. It must been her face because we’d never spoken. To me she was a charming, Audrey Hepburned sort of long-haired, brunette, eighteen or nineteen, mildly pre-Raphaelite, the kind of girl we called ‘woodsie-nymphsie.’ She had a big crush on a pink-cheeked, black bearded young radical named Steve something. She looked longingly at him, I looked longingly at her, and I sang “Oh my love, I’ve hungered for your touch a long lonely time” with great feeling. The party got real quiet. I had a good voice in those days and I knew how to sing.

Well, Beth and I never got together in the way you’re expecting, because Margarita got in the way. Margarita Bates. For now, let me just say she was peerless, I hungered for her magical presence, and Beth disappeared in her shadow – except she didn’t really. Instead, the oddest thing happened. Beth and I became friends.

As my love affair with Margarita proceeded from horror to horror, I found solace with Beth. She understood. She listened. She cared about me. As we got to know each other better, I discovered we also shared sensibilities. We both liked the same books, the same films, the same foggy streets, and we shared the same sliced up feeling inside.

As the sixties slowly burned down to the stub, I was never far from Beth. We spent days together wandering North Beach, drinking coffee in The Enigma or The Hot Dog Palace, playing Desafinado over and over on the juke box, sharing intimate secrets or just gossiping about mutual friends. I called her Ivich, after the character in Jean-Paul Sartre’s Roads To Freedom trilogy.

Late one afternoon in 1962 we were hanging out in Solveig’s place on Page Street. Solveig wasn’t home from work yet and there were just the two of us, listening to the Modern Jazz Quartet on Solveig’s record player. The late afternoon light faded away until there was only the light spreading from the little kitchen. You can guess what happened. Our buried longing for each other took over, and we lay together on the couch in the darkness until Solveig got home.

I felt horribly guilty, because I was married to somebody else, who was pregnant with my child. Cheating on my wife was the last thing I wanted to do, I thought. Turned out I was wrong. We never touched each other again. But I couldn’t keep away from Beth. I loved her.

Funny, I never considered that spending so much time with another woman was a form of cheating.

Beth was never cool, never a freak. She got her BA in English in the requisite four years, married an earnest young carpenter, settled down in an apartment on Downey Street and got a big dumb Afghan dog. She grew fat. She was unhappy. She was a bore. She didn’t go to the concerts or listen to the bands. But I couldn’t keep away from here for long, she was too deep a part of my life. Their apartment was a regular stop on my rounds of the Haight-Ashbury. Her husband got me work on his remodeling crew. By 1967 though, we had lost touch. Our lives had finally diverged too far. It was around then they moved home to Marin County.

OK, my first wife and I eventually split up and by mid-1968 I was living in the Eureka Valley neighborhood. The Haight had become a threadbare circus. The Hell’s Angels and meth freaks were taking over and the original hippies had mostly moved on.

But one morning I was over there for some reason, and standing and laughing on the street with a group of freaks I’d never seen before – I saw Beth. She was thin again. She was extroverted. She was merry. She was delighted to see me. She introduced me to her new friends and I was polite but I could see right away they were creeps, and they gave me the creeps. OK, I admit it. I was a complete snob in those days. Only the original hippies were cool. Everyone else please show your hip credentials before I’ll speak to you. But I knew a creep when I saw one, and they looked like creeps to me. Speed freaks.

We exchanged phone numbers and Beth (who by now was calling herself Lenore) invited me to a party at her house in Marin that weekend. I was playing guitar and singing with Hugh Harris at the time and suggested he come with me so we could try out our new set at the party. Saturday night we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge in Hugh’s VW bug, and soon we were somewhere deep in the redwood sided streets of Corte Madera.

‘Lenore’ met me at the door in a transparent gown with a drink in her hand. Her new friends were eating and drinking and grinning at me, showing off their missing teeth. Scott, Lenore’s husband, was kept busy running out for more beer. While he was gone, Lenore made laughing, snide comments about him. His earnest, straight-forward self was comedy material to her new crowd. There were no other women at the party.

I got the creeps big time and withdrew into myself. Hugh and I played some tunes, I talked with Scott a little bit, and we left early. On the drive back to the City, I realized we’d been dosed with MDA, the “love drug”. It must have been in the punch.

The high itself was nice, pleasant. It wasn’t that. It’s that she hadn’t told me. It was her little joke, a mischievous joke on me.

That was it. I wrote Beth out of life. She shouldn’t have done that. She broke my trust. And I didn’t dig her new friends.

I’ve never forgotten that night, and the knowledge I knew my dear girl was in trouble and I just wrote her off. Why didn’t I say something? Beat her up? Ask her what the fuck she was doing? Listen to her like she’d listened to me. Cared about her. Been there for her.

I was such a hippie. No interference. That’s cool, man. Good-bye.

I looked for her half-heartedly over the years. She’d moved. Changed her name. Who knew? But I always thought one day I’d see her again. And her face has haunted me these long years.

The other day Greg Hoffman mentioned he was going to interview Wes Wilson for his new book. Wes is the artist who basically created the psychedelic dance poster in his early work for the Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms. I remembered his wife had been Beth’s best friend in those early days at State, so I asked Greg to see if Eva knew what become of her. Last night Greg called me. She’s laying in the ground these fifteen years. From uterine cancer. I’ll never see her no more. It’s too late, she’s gone.

One More Once for The Summer of Love

Writer and itinerant hipster Greg Hoffman just sent up a few photos he snapped at the Summer Of Love 40th Anniversary Celebration in Golden Gate Park Sunday before last. I put them up without further comment on how old everybody is and how long ago 1967 was. Survival must count for something.


Unless you were hanging around San Francisco in the mid-Sixties, you’ve probably never heard of The Charlatans. But they had their moment. The very first Haight-Ashbury band – and the standard bearers of psychedelicized rock and roll. They never had any hits, it’s a wonder they recorded at all. George, the leader, the guy in the straw hat, couldn’t play an instrument. But he had a great fashion sense and designed the band for the pop world that ruled before guys like Jimi Hendrix and James Gurley changed the rules. Here’s a picture of them circa 1966:


When The Charlatans were having a good night, they were the best dance band on the circuit. And, in the early days, the psychedelic ballrooms were all about dancing.


Actually, the beauty is James’ wife, Margaret and the itinerant hipster with the press pass is Greg Hoffman. For a year or so, Jim Gurley (as he was known then) was king. As lead guitarist for Big Brother and The Holding Company, he went further out then anyone had gone before. I thought he was inspired and I knew what was good in those days. Street legend said that Gurley learned to play lead guitar by sitting in a room on Pine Street for weeks on end listening to and copying John Coltrane solos. Not note for note – but in the spirit. You can hear his work on Janis’ best album, Cheap Thrills, and decide for yourself.Here’s Jim as Haight-Ashbury pinup:


No disrespect. This Bob Seideman photo became a popular poster and could be seen in kitchens and bedrooms across the Haight-Ashbury for at least a year.

September 2, 2007
San Francisco

More photos of the anniversary party from Clara Bellino.

San Francisco Chronicle’s story:Summer of Love bands and fans jam in Golden Gate Park.
Relix Magazine’s story: Old Hippies Come Out of the Woods for Summer of Love 40th.

Where Are the Liverpool Invasion Three?

Sorry I haven’t been around today. I’ve been out shopping. Up and down Main Street with my shopping bag looking for a skull. I needed one so I can go up in my pear tree and meditate on the transitoriness of life. St. Francis thought highly of the practice so I thought I should try it.

Well, I finally found one and it’s pretty nice. It was in the back at the Dollar Store. In fact, there was a whole box of them. I think the Pirates of the Caribbean ride must have been overstocked. But I like it fine. It glows in the dark too, which could come in handy in the pear tree if I’m up there at night or if I want to play a joke on the neighbors. And it has a lid I can take off and put things inside.

So far it hasn’t worked out too well though. I try to meditate on memento mori, like my blogger friend Paula says, but my visions come out more like besame mucho. Instead of the yawning pit, I keep having visions of tiny Snickers bars. And little Butterfingers.

Anyway, while I was out shopping, I got to thinking about the Liverpool Invasion Three. You might not remember them but they were pretty big in 1965. They even played my high school once. I still have Nigel Twist’s autograph somewhere.

Those guys had some interesting songs. Of course there was their big hit, Just A Bit of Fun, but in a way their famous “answer songs” were even more interesting. Like when the Righteous Brothers had their hit, You Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, the LI3 came out with Hey, I Found Your Lovin’ Feeling (You Left It On The Counter At The Market.)

Come to think of it, I guess it wasn’t as clever as I thought it was at the time.

Maybe they were more of a cult thing. They never got really big, like, say, Herman’s Hermits or Freddy And The Dreamers. But they were big in San Mateo, where I grew up. With their high pointy collars and skinny black ties and winklepicker boots — it was like they brought Carnaby Street right to my hometown. Ziggy, Ignatz and Nigel – I wonder where you are today?

At the time I actually had a friend Ignatz who lived down the street from me. It was uncanny how much he looked like Ignatz Loverman from the Liverpool Invasion Three. But he was a San Mateo kid like me. Plain old Ignatz Ratzkiwatzki. Kids made fun of him on the schoolbus. But sometimes when he’d been using his pimple cream, in a certain light with a Beatle wig on he could almost be one of them. It made me wonder but I never asked him about it. I think he must have wanted to be just like Iggy though, cause sometimes I would catch him practicing talking with a Liverpool accent. And he would go in his garage for hours and practice all Iggy’s famous bass runs. It’s too bad that when the LI3 played our Grad Night, poor Ignatz didn’t show up. He was so shy.

Well, life is strange, eh? Today Ignatz Ratzkiwatzki owns the Family Pharmacy at 3rd and B Streets. He’s real big in the Rotary Club too. As for Iggy Loverman, he just disappeared forever like so many great musicians of the past. Someday I’d like to find those guys but I guess it’ll never happen. The good die young, they say…

Last Days of Playland-at-the-Beach

Note: This is Part 3 of the Playland Story. It’s full of occult hippies and glamorous pop stars and stuff you’ll want to read about — but if you came in late, you might want to start with What Happened to Playland at the Beach? just below.

By the mid-Sixties, Playland at the Beach had lost it’s magic, even for me, and certainly for the Whitney family who owned the park. After George Whitney Sr., its entrepreneurial genius and founder, died in 1958, the family business slowly disintegrated in law suits and ill will, with the children — able people in their own right — battling their mother who still controlled the park and who finally forced them out of management roles.

If I ever went to Playland, it was late at night, probably with a carload of hippies who had the munchies. The Pie Shop still sold fourteen kinds of pie, and the Hot House next door still sold enchiladas we could eat sitting on the seawall across the highway. Skateland, the roller skating rink across Balboa Street from the Midway held on, and George Whitney’s collection of Victorian fortune telling mechanical gypsies, peep shows, steam pianos, and a working toy carnival made entirely out of toothpicks were still on exhibit, but somehow they weren’t trippy any more.

Yet, in 1969, as the old world of Playland ebbed, across the street the brave new plant of San Francisco pop culture was sending out a hot tendril.

The Family Dog, the rock dance commune centered around original hippie Chet Helms, lost its lease on their Avalon Ballroom headquarters and moved west, out to the beach, out to a rickety wooden building where generations of San Franciscans had come to eat fried chicken, roller skate, play with their slot cars and now…dance to the Grateful Dead.

Soon longhaired freakos, velvet swathed teen heart throbs, spotty faced boys and undercover narcs were converging on the fog-shrouded building across the street from the kiddie sailboats dripping in the foggy night dew. The guys running the ski-ball concession looked at each other incredulously as Pigpen’s blues organ drew the few lingering drunks across the street.

Monday nights acid guru Steven Gaskin was filling the same hall with a kind of revival meeting for hippies called the Monday Night Class. I can’t beat Albert Bates description: “Monday Night Class became a weekly pilgrimage of throngs of hippies from up and down the coast, from high schools and university campuses, from army bases and police academies, from mountain communes and Haight Street crash pads. Thousands of people, in various states of consciousness, came with tamborines and diaphanous gowns, love beads and bangles, Dr. Strange cloaks and top hats with feathers. The open-ended discussions ventured into Hermeneutic geometry, Masonic-Rosicrucian mysticism, Ekenkar and the Rolling Stones, but opened with a long, silent meditation and closed with a sense of purpose.”

Gaskin was teaching the kids the original Huxley-Alpert-Leary hippie vision of LSD as a life-changing sacrament, not a thrill ride or a Friday night high. Challenging them to change their lives, not just trip. And the continued success of The Farm after nearly forty years implies he was to some degree successful at it.

I could never take him seriously though. Not his fault – but to me he was just good old Steve Gaskin, my hip grad student acquaintance at SF State who had a teaching assistantship in creative writing, I think. I remember when he came back from Mexico absolutely charged with psychedelic adrenalin. The guy had had a life-changing experience down there and he was telling everybody who would listen. But I wouldn’t. Like Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor, except to his old pals.” Or something like that. But basically I thought Steven was okay.

But there were all those other guys climbing onstage at the Avalon. OK, I’m not a big swami fan, and my prejudice colors the rest of this picture. I was at the Avalon the night Allen Ginsberg introduced Swami Bhaktivedanta on stage. He was the guy who introduced the Hara Khrisna movement to the West. The two of them chanted Hare Krishna together for a while, and clicked their little bells and Om-ed it. I thought “Hmmmm… is there something in this?”. It was interesting. I’ve still got the poster for that night in a box under my bed along with a lot of other remnants of that life.

Well, it turned out there was something in it. There was macrobiotic food and colon cleansing and kundalini force for the masses and Esalen Human Potential Seminars, Khrisna Consciousness with extra child abuse for no charge, The Children of God, Werner Erhard, transcendental levitation and the whole soggy descent into dopey earnest astrological unreason that has plagued the rest of the twentieth century. Thanks a lot, Allen. Thanks a lot, Chet, for letting that fakir onstage.

Hmm, I seem to be wandering off here. Just to wrap up the obvious, the hard beat Sixties I had entered as a seventeen year old kid were over. Playland would be closed and ripped down in 1972. The Family Dog was going broke. And the soft and goushy, it’s-all-about-me Seventies were on us. Help! Run!

Photo 1: Playland’s End. September 24, 1972. Photo by Patrushka.
Photo 2: Site of Playland today. Photo by Patrushka.

Ooh, ooh, ooh, what a little blogging can do…

Back in February I posted a little story about my life in the Haight-Ashbury in 1966 and how I didn’t meet Janis Joplin. But actually most of the story focused on my zany, totally original roommate, Melanie Kinkead.

You know, when I’m writing about someone I haven’t seen in a long time, I often give them a similar but different name. I figure they may not WANT people to know how much dope they smoked in 1966 – or whatever makes them worth writing about to me.

But in Melanie’s case it was different. I think somewhere deep in an obscure heart corner I was still worried about her. You know what I mean? I wanted to know she had had come through those times all right, and I was afraid she didn’t, and it was just a little shadow of a doupt emanating from 1967, the last time I saw her.

Do you ever feel that way about friends you have lost touch with?

Well, I do – so I used Melanie’s real name in the story, just in case someone saw it and took the time to write in.

Monday someone did – and sent the link to Melanie – and folks, here she is right now – my honored Pigsty guest – the one and only Miss Melanie Kinkead, blithe spirit of the Haight when it was the happening place to be. My dear, strange but delightful friend. Here’s a link to the Janis story if you want to check out her comment.

Counting on my trotters, I think it has been thirty-nine years since I’ve said Hi to her. Melanie has a shop on Ebay, and if you would like to experience the company of a delightfully unreconstructed original hippie selling exactly the same things that made unreconstructed original hippie girls gaga, I recommend her site to you.

Here’s the link to: Dolphinarts. Just her charming prose product descriptions are worth the (free) price of admission. Buy her stuff. It’s not that easy to find a genuine 1950s Elmer the Cow Bar-B-Q apron any more.

I am just so thrilled I have to share this. Solveig, you’re next!

PS: I guess that headline is a little obscure. It’s from a Billie Holiday song where she discovers the joy of blogging. True! I’m listening to it right now!
PPS: The pic is by Gene Anthony and he retains all rights, okay?


Famous People I Never Knew #2: Janis Joplin

(Here’s Janis as a normal person, shot by my friend Herb Greene about 1966 and rights owned by him.)
In the Fall of 1966 I was living with a bunch of freaks at 626 Clayton Street, about four doors up from the circus that was San Francisco’s Haight Street. I didn’t actually want to go to the circus everyday. But Haight Street was home. All my friends were there and where else would I go?

I’d walk down to the corner to get a sandwich or a bran muffin or something and get engulfed in a sea of strangers, kids from LA and Vermont and all points in between, spare-changing like I’d done just a few years before and looking bedraggled and innocent, foolish as lambs.

Where was my nice Haight Street of the year before when you could walk in the red neon fog at midnight and see maybe two or three other freaks on the street? Where I knew everybody and everybody I knew was cool? Where nobody was checking if it was true smoking dried banana peels could get you high.

“Hey, Donovan said so, man…”

The Diggers, a radical, anarchical, poetical offshoot of the San Francisco Mime Troop, were already beginning to give away free food in the Golden Gate Park Panhandle just to bless the sixteen year old runaways a little bit. Somebody had to.

The Pondering Pig is not a cynical pig but he was beginning to wish the newspapers would stop writing about hippies all the time.

And the Summer of Love was still nine months away. Gad!

I split the Clayton Street flat’s rent with Melanie Kinkead (I use her real name because I hope someday she will read this and write back, “Here I am – I’m OK!”) — I loved Lanie, so sweet and sad and vulnerable. She affected the ultra-feminine side of hippie dress, with frills and flounces, hair in a tumble of curls, masses of eye shadow, miniskirts with white tights and and possibly even Mary Jane shoes. Or I may be hallucinating here – my memory doesn’t really extend to Lanie da Kink’s shoes. In any case, think Mary Pickford circa 1915. Mel was the daughter of a San Francisco travel writer and PR guy. Robin and his wife didn’t know what to make of their ultrafeminine (can a heterosexual girl be described as effeminate?) daughter. Once they invited me to their swank Pacific Heights flat for dinner and to discuss what could possibly make her tick. I hadn’t a clue either. I just loved her like a big dumb older brother. Just not enough to protect her from her fate.

Besides Lanie, we split the rent with Diane W., who was already exploring the joy of putting crystal amphetamine in her arm; Alice, a pleasant plump stranger with a big dog; and some kids in the front – I had no idea who they were — Teens from LA who were here to drop acid in large quantities and wear striped bell-bottoms. Well, it takes all kinds. I think Way Out Willy and his dog Arthur lived there too.

Alice’s major weakness was she let her big black lab shit in the hallway or kitchen or wherever the dog happened to be and then let the dogshit lie on the floor for days until somebody, usually Melanie, cleaned it up. Taking a dog for a walk involved walking, which was often physically impossible.

Kvetch kvetch – what’s a little dogshit? “Peace, man. Don’t be so uptight.”

I think my trouble was I was getting older, and, at 24, I had seen a lot. I had decided to finish school and, with Revolver spilling sitar notes full volume down the hall, I was trying to write a paper on William Wordsworth or somebody. I burned Japanese incense all day and covered the doorway to my room with an Indian print bedspread. I had a daughter lived up the street with her mom. I was hoping to get back together with Linda if we could just stop fighting continuously and every minute.

I thought literary criticism was the world’s most stupid activity but a great introduction into the absurdity of life, – hey, just read the book! But I did tend to prefer the company of Will Wordsworth to the kids in the front.

So I wasn’t in, like a totally psychedelic place, dig?

Groan. But sometimes Haight Street was still cool. It wasn’t the Summer of Love yet and I still could run into cool people whenever I walked out. I suddenly remember talking to Phil Lesh like that one night, so excited about his new life with the Grateful Dead and just boiling over with enthusiasm. Or Chet Helms walking up the street handing out posters for whomever was appearing at the Avalon that weekend and we’d talk briefly about his split with Bill Graham or something.

Or like Janis Joplin. One day I was standing in line at the Hibernia Bank around the corner on Haight Street and there was Janis standing in line a couple of people ahead of me. She was carrying a bag of groceries. I had no impulse to run up saying “Oh Miss Joplin, I just love your ultimate forever take on Take it, Take Another Little Piece of My Heart Now Bay-bay.” Although I did, and do. I was cool. Cool people stayed cool. It was still just a normal day, even though Big Brother was already the hottest attraction at the Avalon because of her. We were still all just young people sorting out our lives and her way led to an exploding burnout nova death. Bah, humbug. I’d rather remember her standing in line at the bank with her little bag of groceries and all the future ahead.

I was cool but when I got back to the pad, I still said to Melanie, “Hey Mel, guess who was standing in line at the bank with me today – Janis Joplin!”