The First Few Friends I Had

First Few Friends Cover005

The Pondering Pig is relieved to announce his long-sought collection of stories about being young in San Francisco during the maelstrom of the early 1960s – is finally done, published and available on Amazon.  Here’s the link:

The First Few Friends I Had

and here’s what I said about it:

Someone asked me who the first hippies were, those unknowns who kicked off the psychedelic era of the 1960s. Were they born-too-late beatniks who arrived at the party after everybody had gone home? Or were they something else? Something new?
I actually knew some of those first freaks. In fact, they were the first few friends I had.
This trip starts in Nineteenth Avenue Park, San Mateo, California, winter of 1958, muddy raw subdivision streets, brine shrimped salt flats stretching to the Bayshore Freeway and beyond to sorrowful tract houses of Norfolk Street. The ground I sprung from.
But we won’t tarry. We’ll hit the road through the vast Sonoran Desert on solitary two-lane highways spring of 1961 to adventures in Mexico, then on to steaming East Village summer to swirling fog over North Beach, broken hearted spring of 1962.
Along the way, we’ll stop at the corner of Seventh and Judah Street in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset to watch a girl named Solveig rush out our door with ‘Ban the Bomb’ placards banging against her shoulder. We’ll scene shift till midnight to watch Peter Weissinger swing over the stair rail into teens crashing our big peacenik party and whomping on them in peacenik joy. We’ll contemplate a ghostly Carmen O’Shaughnessy stride through the archway in badass logger boots, tawny lionhair in long braids, brassy confident smile and my handmade Mexican chaleco.
Snow is falling over Long Island, the first winter rains are pouring into the sewers of Lily Alley, San Francisco. Carmen has jumped off the bus in Barstow, hitched home across the desert and there is not a damn thing I can do about it.
Summer 1964 in the Langley Porter Psychiatric Day Care Center for Mind-Blown Proto-Hippies and Hysterical Teenagers, the passengers are unraveling hidden meanings within Sally Go Round the Roses by the Jaynettes. They hear the Bomb, the war, the police dogs attacking demonstrators, fire hoses of death, J Edgar Hoover vs the Commies, peyote, pot, fear, angst, and – hey everybody, it’s Mashed Potatoes Time.
Look, the sky has gone blue, the golden city beckons. It’s spring again. Let’s stroll down to the North Beach Arts Festival to find my friends. Come on, they want to meet you. The First Few Friends I Had.

It’s been getting great reviews so far – so I hope you have a chance to check it out soon.  PP

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On The Pondering Pig’s Unexplained and Really Quite Mysterious Disappearance.

For a long time I thought the Pondering Pig might be sort of like King Arthur. If I looked, eventually I’d find him in a cave over in Cornwall somewhere, thinking deep thoughts for two thousand years, and then he would come out and explain everything to everyone, including the whereabouts of the cheese.

So I waited around until one day it occurred to me he might just be taking a very long afternoon nap up on the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais, while his readers waited hopefully, and those snooty little dwarfs pitched their bowling balls down the mountainside.

So I decided to go looking for him.

It didn’t take long. I knew all his haunts from the old days. I figured he’d be over on the west side of the mountain, where it’s sunny and breezy and you can look out over the Pacific as you doze off. But he wasn’t around anyplace, so I wandered up Bootjack Creek toward Laurel Dell and those jolly camping spots above the fog line.

1974 05 SF fr Mt. Tam_edited-1

Being as it was a warm day, I sort of sat down to think some deep thoughts myself, and, when I awoke, I distinctly heard the sound of typing nearby. Somebody was using an old-fashioned manual typewriter and was going blue blazes, except for the occasional shout of "Oh Fiddle!"

Ponderpig has built a little cabin in a clearing up there, or, more likely, he moved into one that happened to be available, and he is up there even now, working on everything he always wanted to write. He’s writing longer pieces that won’t fit on the blog, and, as I figured, they will finally explain everything about everything to everybody.

While I was sitting there he knocked off 11,000 words about his old friend Solveig Rimkeit, and her adventures in the American South during the freedom rider era, and how she hitchhiked across America in 1962 and how Piggo used to sit around and eat pickles with her when he wasn’t moaning on and on about his mean girl friend, Carmen O’Shaugnessy.

He actually gave me a copy.  I have it here in front of me and I’ve been wondering who might publish it, because it explains exactly what it was like to be young in San Francisco in 1962. Pig calls it "Solveig Hitches Home."

Then he showed me the novel he’s been working on.  It’s about three Haight-Ashbury kids in 1965 who find an old-fashioned kitchen radio in a dumpster at the corner of Page and Clayton Streets and when they turn it on to see if it works, well, the results are unexpected, to say the least.

I scanned it while the Pig was out rooting up his dinner. It’s already 35 chapters long and it’s funny and exciting and really deep, but the Pig said I couldn’t tell anybody about the details until he’s finished it.

So he is actually working on a lot of projects, none of which he is yet is ready to publish. The next time I go up to Mt. Tam, I will ask him if I can post a few pages from “Solveig Hitches Home,” so you guys can take a peek at it.

Oh, that reminds me. He also asked me to say thanks to his readers, who continue to log thousands of views each month at his site, even though it has been untouched by porcine hands for quite a while. And a special thanks to all the fans of Grace Slick, who refuse to believe that was really Linda Ronstadt up there with the Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock.

Ochity Bochity, Diggery-Doo

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Look.  I’ve got important things to do. So I have asked my poet friend Beatitude Tutman to write something for the Pig.  Something really deep that no one can understand but makes them want to try so they can argue about it in the comments while I get some work done.

Tutman, as you may know, lives in a beach hut in Matzatlan on the Pacific coast of Mexico, trying to maintain a traditional beatnik life style while surrounded by drug lords shooting at each other.  He says he has to write really fast which is good because that’s how you get to the real Zen Tutman truth.  Here’s what he sent.

Ochity Bochity, Diggery Doo

by

Beatitude Tutman

 

In the frothy bubbling bowels

that bled so blithely when they

disemboweled  the basement

I found a secret signet

that secretes a certain substance —

and it certainly surprised me.

 

It warbled awful cheerily

and improbably began:

“Twee-dee, Twee-dee, Ti-twittery-tee

The bulk of the middle comes

after the ending.

The bulk of the ocean got sucked by

the sand.

I’ll tell you the rest before I’m embittered

I’ll tell you the rest before I begin.

You mustn’t relax or rely on the mountain

Or stop up the children by dreaming up rivers.

You must tell the truth or be bitten by raindrops,

You must eat the apple or box up your goods.

Twee-tee, Twee-tee, Twee tittery-tittery, box up

your apples or lap up the sand.”

 

The question of time bombs (not brought up till later),

inevitably darkens the humble remains.

The landscape did quiver, I felt up the lightning.

It felt like a desert laid out on the plain.

I questioned the meaning of all of this questioning,

I could hardly believe it had lasted so long.

I trembled and quibbled like Awful John Littleton

but wouldn’t relieve the recalcitrant throng.

 

“Beware of the mongoose, old brother, old beezer,

The twitch of his tail may erase your amends.”

He toddled off dripping like the old veterinarian

had addled his hardly incipient brain.

The hair on his head stood up brightly

like clover.

I begged him to cover his hideous stew.

 

The elephants gamboling like rainy-day women

could only incite him to riotous actions

like milkweed, like mosses, like elegant linen.

Like action, like unction, and pious remarks.

“Oh why”, said the carpet, “you tred like

an angel.

It bothers me mightily.”

 

I can’t help my silly self.

Ochity Bochity, Diggery Doo.

 

Like Tinkerbell, Beatitude depends on the faith of children to maintain his tenuous lifestyle.  Let him know you believe or he might disappear.

 

photo credit: http://www.traveljournals.net/travelers/adamhunt/pictures/

Linda Lovely’s Journal – January 1966.

Voices from the Haight #2

paisleylinda

The original Linda Lovely has given me permission to post portions from her letters and journals of the Haight-Ashbury period. The photo above was taken about a week before these entries begin…

January 1, 1966 Saturday

Last night was cold and frosted.  I kept trying to get into the bathtub – always someone wanting to use the toilet.  Cold water and cramps and Rolling Stones full volume.  Menthol cigarettes, my trip for the new year, velvets and bangs and opera hose.

Cold, icy Haight Street.  Michael, Diane, Chris and me four abreast to Psychedelic Bookstore.  Books and every record the hip society demands and the proper splashy paintings and the proper Ravi Shankar music.  And paisley.  This is a year for paisley…proper paisley.

Party on Fillmore Street.  Sunset Strip cellar.  Micheal’s face pulling and pinching together tight.  He tolerates the place, puts on a front of enjoying himself.  Diane with a baggy camel coat knife eyes everyone through her glasses with one lens gone.  Plastic turned up frames and missing one lens she darts her eyes about never missing anything chewing on wisps of metallic hair.  She appears frumpy to me all night, the coat, the shoulder strap leather bag, the low heels and glasses and her face never is consistent with the rest of her.  Her face defys you to come to any conclusions whatsoever about her.  She dares everyone to judge her at all.  She is without expression most of the time.  You never know what she might be thinking.

Then to the Matrix and watched the Charlatans, George Hunter dancing and springing about the stage looking like the devil himself.

January 10 Monday

Flu.  True humor begins when a man ceases to take himself seriously. (Pablo – Steppenwolf)

Nightime

Chris brought me a canvas.  I have been begging for oils and canvas for months.  Now – why do I panic?  It frightens me just to think of painting on that huge black empty space.

January 16, Sunday

A delightful Golden Gate Park day and inside De Young Museum I go.  Lost in the paneled rooms and stained glass windows and Saint Peter statues – everything so old – I for the first time Wow I really believed.  Comprehended the time, the years, medevil religious feeling was there and I let it take me for hours (just a visual and down in the stomach between my ribs trip.) A feeling of hushed reverence for everything I saw.  And for everything I saw – a window or tapestry – there was music in my mind to go with it.  And a castle or German sitting room or candle burning church.

This final ability for involvement is due to grass, I am sure – the involvement with sun shining through an 18th century chandelier, just digging it for the longest time is like on grass crawling inside a string quartet or Beatles music, nothing else exists and so whatever I am concentrating on I feel, see and am wholly and completely.  To do this on will or spontaneously is a great thing to me.  You know, I’ve always been too hung up with me before to even begin to go beyond to anything else.  Even a movie.  I gave so little attention to in the pre-days, the dog days.

Awareness of self first always but not to stay on that trip for 20 years.  Aware of self, dig self, work with self – then jump out of self and be free.

I’m Going To California

Patrushka and I leave Wednesday for California – for a week in the home country.  I’ll try to keep a record of how my homeland looks in the summer of 2008.

I’m a little afraid of what I’ll find there.  Will there be a pall of  yellow forest fire smoke over the land?  Will gas cost $5.00 a gallon?  Will temperatures away from the coast top 110 day after day?  Will the live oaks that cover the golden hills be withered and leafless from sudden oak death blight?

We’re going to fly to Oakland, rent a car there, then make our way down the coast 350 miles to Santa Barbara for a big family wedding.  We’ll stay a day, then turn around and roll back up the coast for a couple days in the City before we fly back to the North Country.

I wonder if this will be the last trip of this frivolous kind I ever take.  In a way I’m squandering resources on a trip I don’t really need to take, just as if global warming and peak oil had never happened.  Like most everyone else, I’m having trouble adjusting my worldview.

It’s only my great-nephew’s wedding (gad, that makes me feel old).  If we don’t go, we won’t be missed.  Except possibly for my sister and my niece.  I hardly even know the groom, I haven’t seen him in years.  But I want to stay in touch with that side of the family.  Family is, well family.  You only get one.  And I’m lucky enough to like mine.

Like so many Americans of my generation, I’ve spent my life wandering from place to place.  Itchy feet, I guess.  Wherever I saw a deck of cards I laid my money down.  Now my own kids are scattered all over the forty-eight.  Patrushka and I landed in an isolated little city far off in the northwestern farm country.

My older sister, on the other hand, never left home.  In 1955, she moved across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito where she’s lived in the same house ever since.  Now she is matriarch of a great tribe of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all of whom still live in Marin Country, and some of whom are probably hanging out together at this very moment.  They’re a tightly knit clan, and I, an outsider, a wandering ponderer, look at them with awe and respect.  Good going, guys!

So we fly to California tomorrow to celebrate another wedding in that noble family.  I’ll keep notes and file a report on our return next week.

Photo by Patrushka

How The Beatles Saved The Great Wolf of Pudley

You know how legendary stories tend to gather around the names of famous real people? Here’s an interesting one I came across the other day...

How The Beatles Saved The Great Wolf of Pudley

One winter’s twilight John, Paul, George and Ringo were walking back from the village of Pudley to Liverpool when a large but scrawny wolf leaped out of the bushes beside the towpath.

“Eh ooup lads”, quoth the wolf, “would thee have so much as a bit ‘o black pud about thy persons?”

Ah, black pudding, jewel of the North. A luscious blend of rare spices, fat and pig’s blood all wrapped in a delicate intestine lining and fried to perfection!

“Sorry, mate,” says John, “We’re skint. Not a chip butty left in me overcoat pocket.”

Ah, chip butties, also jewels of the North. Great long rectangles of potato deep fried in the finest fat, then layered between thick slices of white bread and downed with large mugs of milky Yorkshire Blend Tea.

But they didn’t have any.

“What a shame,” sayest the wolf, “Then I’m afeared I must eat YOU!!!” And with a terrible leap the wolf launched himself toward the hapless moptops. He was about to land when suddenly John held up his hand and boldly sang in the words of their friends The Supremes:

“Stop! In the name of love!
Before you eat us up
Think it oh-woe-ver!”

And Paul and George added in querulous voice, “wooh-hoo”.

The wolf froze in mid-air, never an easy feat even for the healthiest of wolves, and with a puzzled grimace responded,”What’s to think about, Johnny me boy? I haven’t had a bite in days and my insides are caving in. Look at me! Naught but a shadow of my ferocious self.” Then he too burst into song to the tune of The Beatles’ favorite cover song, Please, Mr. Postman

“Please little Moptops, look and see
Is there a sandwich in your pocket for me?
I’ve been starving for such a long time
My stomach’s hurting and it’s really a crime!”

Ringo got out his drum kit and set up on the towpath while John answered the wolf in song and Paul plugged in his Hofner bass.”

“Hey, Wolfie, there’s a much better way
For a wolf to make his living today.
Come back to Pudley and we’ll have a nice cup
Rosie at the teashop will soon fix us up.”

They carried Wolfie back to Pudley
Introduced him around.
At first the people hid because the wolf was in town
But when they saw his aged snout without any teeth
They said, “You shouldn’t have to live way out on the heath!

“Mr. Wolfie, you can come live with us!
We will promise not to kick up a fuss,
You needn’t worry that you’ve not any wealth
We’ve got a dentist and a chemist on the National Health!

“If you’ll cool it, Mr. Wolfie, not eat any more kids,
We’ll buy you lots of hair gel, help you screw off the lids.
You’ll look like Johnny Rocker when you fall by our pub.
We’ll stand you to a pint but keep your mitts off my pug!

“We’ll get you on the short list for a nice council flat
Where you can watch the telly then lay down for your nap.
There’ll be sausage rolls at midnight,
There’ll be pork pies for tea
And every holiday we’ll send you down to the sea!”

Mr Wolfie!”

Their little song ended. The Great Wolf looked at the crowd with tears in his old rheumy eyes and sang back to the townspeople to the tune of the Beatles’ It’s The Word Love

“In the beginning, I misunderstood
But now I’ve got it, the word is good!

Because you blokes have set me free
I’ll guard your town
Industriously.
No evil men shall cross your gate
Your gift of love destroyed my hate.
It’s so fine
It’s sunshine.
It’s the word….love.”

Exit the townspeople dancing with Wolfie as the Beatles pack up the gear and start walking home to Liverpool once more. Who will they meet this time?

With apologies to Ugolino Brunforte.

What’s Your Purpose?

If you’ve got a reason To live on and not to die, You are a lucky man
Allen Price (1973)

What was Allen Price’s reason to live on, way back when he wrote that song? Maybe he was seeing his career going nowhere and he hoped creating a soundtrack for a Lindsay Anderson movie (O Lucky Man) would put him on the map again. I don’t know and he ain’t talking.

But actually I want to know if you have a purpose in life and, if so, what is it and why is it? I was reading an old prayer the other day and this phrase struck me as it possibly will you: “in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose…”.

I think the idea is that somehow we’ll be more connected, more in a state of rightness, feel more one with the Force (somebody help me here – I’m floundering) when we let God use us for whatever he has in mind rather than working only to meet our goal of, say, financial independence, a Ferrari, and membership in the exclusive country club on the edge of town by age 40.

When I was a salaryman, I didn’t think about my purpose too much. I knew what it was – to go to my stupid job for one more day, and earn my salary for another month so I could pay the mortgage and insurance and taxes and car payments and the kids’ music lessons. I didn’t feel a bit connected with Eternal Oneness — I was just doing what I had to do. So what else is new?

Now I’m old and rich. I sit in my exclusive award-winning pigsty at the tippy-top of South Hill looking down on my extensive grounds with their graveled paths and fountains and rose gardens and I have to ask myself – now what? What is my purpose in life?

Remember that gods and myths guy who was in vogue in the Eighties, Joseph Campbell? His memorable phrase for the secret to life was “Follow Your Bliss…if you follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

Most folks don’t have that option, but some of us do. I was wondering if ‘following your bliss’ is the same thing as ‘fulfilling Your purpose’ in the prayer I quoted. Is feeling right about what you’re doing a kind of litmus test?

To go a step further, if you love doing something and feel you’re where you’re supposed to be when you’re doing it and just want to do it more – just for the thing itself and not for any kudos or toys that might come of it – is that a sign that you’re not only fulfilling your purpose – but also God’s purpose for you?

In the past, I’ve usually heard explainers say that ‘fulfilling God’s purpose’ meant not thinking about yourself but only about fulfilling God’s plan, which to them meant you should be a missionary or plant a church in the next town or teach Sunday School or something in the religious line. But that doesn’t seem right to me. It’s imposing very severe limits on God’s plan!

If you do all that stuff but don’t enjoy it and aren’t very good at it and wish night would come – maybe it’s because God always thought you’d be perfect for schmoozing with people down at the flea market or fixing their cars for them. Or even playing video games, if you are passionate about it. One thing leads to another you know.

What do you think, gentle reader?