On the Road w/ Cassady, Kesey & Merry Pranksters

FOR-ward, into the past...

In writing about the exploits of the Merry Pranksters in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, I well remember Tom Wolfe describing the phantasmogorical, psychoacoustic redwood grove behind Ken Kesey's La Honda, CA, hideaway. Could this be the same stand about which Joni Mitchell prophesied, "Took all the trees, put 'em in a tree museum?" Of sorts, yes, but more on that in a few moments.First, some digression....

...fly Trans Love Airways to San Francisco
U.S.A., then maybe you'll understand
this song; it will be worth it..

Let's take a little trip (take a little trip, take a little trip)... or maybe it was a BIG sidetrip. It was a trip, of that much I'm certain. Not to be outdone by Mssrs. Kesey and Neal Cassady, and also having been inspired by Jack Kerouac's On the Road and Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, in the summer of '73 Guitar Steve and I outfitted my van with a high-powered stereo and an orange crate full of homemade cassette tapes (the ones that blew your hair back).

Donning white jump suits so as not to be too conspicuous at such establishments as the Iowa 80 Truck Stop en route (w-o-w...LOOK at those colors!), we hoisted the mainsail and steered her west from Detroit via Trans-Love Airways.

Eventually arriving in La Honda (where no left turn is unstoned), I was confused and downright dumbfounded when the MPs (see above) (or below) weren't out in force to greet us. Wouldn't you be? But then, Guitar Steve had failed to open the proper hailing frequencies, so I'm not at all sure what I had expected. Protocol is everything.

What happened here in the 1960’s spread into something like a religion, as Tom Wolfe claimed. In the imagination of those who remember the ’60s, or who revere the ’60s, the house still feels like a redwood ‘Shroud of Turin’ through which something momentous passed leaving a ghostly image.

Terry Adams

Many Years From Now, Paul McCartney's authorized biography, cites Kesey as a primary influence for the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour film.

It being about 10 am and both of us being parched, it was only appropriate that we repair to Apple Jack's Inn for a wee dram and a bit 'o nosh. Looking for a sign—any sign—that Kesey and the Merry Pranksters had indeed once inhaled these parts, I finally found it etched into the wood paneling:

If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with bullsh_t!
Clearly this was a sign—one as prophetic as any (see Joni Mitchell, above). Knowing good advice when I trip across it, I've long endeavored to follow this bit of wisdom. After all, you're reading this, right?

Wolfgang's Vault - Reissue

From a stateside perspective, one can get a fairly good overview of The Psychedelic Era, as it's come to be known, at the '60s site, kindly provided by the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (was Tom Jefferson on the bus?). This is for all of us overly-eager participants of that era, of course, who don't remember it.

If you remember the '60s, you weren't there!

Want more? (Oh, yes, yes, YES!) Well, you're in luck. Although you'll have to jump in the Dymaxion and motor up Route 66 to Cleveland (You ca-a-a-n't get there from here!), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum wants to take you higher...or at least it did. Click here for a (virtual) journey to the center of your mind, where Joni's trees—or Ken's—may be rediscovered.

Postscript: Researching all of this stuff a few moons ago, I acquired a double VHS set featuring original 8 mm footage of Kesey-sanctioned bus trips (the first one with Cassady speed-rapping at the wheel). One evening I happened to watch the credits roll by and, as I did, one name leapt out at me. I say leapt, because there just aren't many leprechauns by the name of Kirk O'Green. As it happens, Skypilot O'Green and I graduated in the same high school class; he remembers me selling him an LP. Anyway, after graduation O'Green sought out the Pranksters at their new Oregon home, toured with them while seeking Merlin in Scotland, and in the end happened to be in charge of the film transfer project. Like I say, folks...it ain't anywhere near six degrees of separation...