April 09, 2005

Hippies arrived in leather and brass and brought their puppets and movies in for next week's entertainment

This is another piece from the collection of found stuff mentioned below.

It is a letter, written in blue ink on eight pages of stationary from the La Posada Inn in Santa Fe New Mexico, to "William A. O." from "J." It's not dated, but I'd guess it's from 1964-5, like all the other stuff in this packet. It was found between the pages of a Teach Yourself Swahili book which was, according to the paper dustcover "borrowed from the Currys"- and apparently never returned. (If Will Spires never learned Swahili it wasn't for want of trying: the book is heavily annotated and underlined, though he seems to have given up around halfway through.)

The letter is very long, and not terribly fascinating, perhaps, on its face, but it tells a classic story: J. and a couple of friends from Berkeley's counterculture take a road trip to the southwest in their hearse, pausing to take in the sights and ridicule the yokels along the way. The resulting letter is a travelogue and essay at fine arts criticism rolled into one. It's refreshing, in a way, to see how little has changed since 1965: the distinctive Bay Arean admixture of condescension, self-importance, and contempt for ordinary folk (despite taking care to pat some of them on their sweet little ethnic heads from time to time) is very recognizable today. If J. was the same age as Will, she would only have been around 22 when she wrote this letter: but she is clearly an NPR public affairs program pledge drive waiting to happen. And that has a certain charm.

The highlights (just in case you don't feel like reading the whole thing - for which I wouldn't blame you): (a) J.'s theory on "co-educational" public toilets: "must be that making them coeducational would upgrade women's johns." Hence the pretty cutpaper curtains that are not generally found in women's restrooms. (b) the meeting with a "big wheel in the atom machinery" at Los Alamos. "We gave him," writes J., "the inside story on Berkeley." (c) the unexpectedly charming attempt to write lyrical, sweeping descriptions of natural panoramas with very few complete sentences. Ravens! Crows! Shining black in white snow! Adobe everywhere!

And finally (d) this awesome sentence: "Hippies arrived in leather and brass (local effect) and brought their puppets and movies in for next week's entertainment."

Hello William A. O. - We came down from Colorado across the great barrow wastes with ravens shining black in white snow, giant cottonwood trees (los alamos) we went through a town in the mountains called WATROUS which is owned by one family (named guess what) we walked in the deep ruts of the real honest to God Santa Fe trail which was covered with snow - saw rainbows of colors in the high cirrus clouds from brilliant sun, went through steel mill town Pueblo (called here PEBLO) (they hate Mexicans and the language) full of filthy smog and smoke, saw abandoned big adobe churches on hillsides, ate potato chips, turtles, gum, sandwiches, in the hearse while travelling (and home made cookies) Into New Mexico the earth becomes in occassional spots a really brillant brick red. Gholla cactus. Pinion pine. Ravens. Crows. No people. There are fewer people in the whole state of New Mexico than in L.A. or Oakland. (950,000) Saw Blood red sunset on snowy peaks circling Santa Fe.

Narrow streets. Much mud. Very uncommercial. Adobe everywhere. Churches OK, but the really old one completely commericialized with a slimy guy (Charles said he was a bull nun) at the door in black gown holding out palm. Damn. Alienated me out of seeing their old bell which Jennifer said had a very beautiful tone.

Found Santa Fe "Continental Coffehouse" and had good food. Run by the usual fag (he is everywhere, there may be only one, who takes a thousand forms from coast to coast in every continental coffeehouse) Hippies arrived in leather and brass (local effect) and brought their puppets and movies in for next week's entertainment. Rotten paintings (except for 3) on the walls. Very old building, like 1760 - Pretty cutpaper curtain things on the windows of the co-educational john. Prettiest john I ever saw - must be that making them coeducational would upgrade women's johns.

Long street "the Canyon" in Santa Fe is repro of G. Village, Telegraph, Cost Plus.

Wintertime is not it, here. Much quiet - good for people who hate tourists (like us).

Jennifer and Charles building pinion pine fires every night in the Indian fireplaces (in all hotels, motels, homes, restaurants, gas stations) Very nice. Small opening. Shallow inside. Throws heat like crazy. Pinion pine smells good.

Found a really GOOD classical guitarist in a bar in Taos. He was backing Cielito Guido for the local anglos who like to play Mexican when they get drunk, but when we arrived he switched to Bach, gave us 2 hours of J.S.B, Soar [?], Murrado and everybody else including his own compositions and some Aztec folk talkes his grandfather told him. Very startling. Very fine.

Indians in Taos walk around with thin cotton blankets (like pink & white plaid-esque) wrapped over heads, over blue jeans & shirts. I really thought they were kidding when I first saw it. But they aren't. Saw an Indian kid in blanket carrying baby sister in blanket, carrying doll in blanket.

It is obviously best in Taos or Santa Fe to know somebody local. It's been fun and good but not quite as good as I'd hoped.

Strange country. Land all snarled up in Spanish land grants and tenant claims and etc much etc. Saw an ad for somebody stating "I do hereby challenge the following people to put up their claims to section 467.5 by March 4 or shut up forever - followed a list of 532 names. Yes. I counted them.

We went to Bandelier and climbed into the Indian caves dug in the cliffs about 1200 A.D. Found pictographs and some pottery shards and a piece (large) of obsidian and deer bones gnawed by a puma. People in ordinary stores (like getting a lemon coke in a plain ordinary drugstore) speak constantly a mad patois of intermixed Spanish and English. Everybody. Newspapers have a Spanish section.

Went to Los Alamos to see friend of Jennifer - big whieel in the atom machinery. We gave him the inside story on Berkeley. He'd heard "it was financed by foreign money." Saw a supremely miserable theatre thing there by local actorettes or actorasters or actorites - S. V. Benets John's Brown Body. Just awful, except last 3/4 of last act which was piquantly backed by sonorous and delicious snores from an honest man in the back rows.

The legislature is meeting in Santa Fe. The town is full of Texans who come to lobby. Texans are buying as much of New Mexico as they can get. In the lobby of La Fonda (the big hotel) one sees tall lean guys with cordovan brown faces wearing stockmen's suits - hand tailored, narrow pants, snug, short good looking jacket, dripping silver &/or gold nugget lanyards and hand made beautiful boots and big hats - they stand around the lobby talking stock market and checking the ticker tape for the latest prices. Out here money takes a different form - except the women - they look about the same as any peroxide and mink type.

We're leaving soon. I'll be in L.A. soon - looking forward to picking up my mail and getting news of youse. youze. You.

We're going to Albuquerque.

We went to an old little village called Chimayo and the old lay in the grocery told us all the local folk lore in mixed English-Spanish. Every story was about La Muerte and she even said La muerte es suerte.

Are you taking care of Bill and figuring out what you need and how to get it? Give Kathy a handful of love & regards from me and keep working on th your journal, hey? - J.

Posted by Dr. Frank at April 9, 2005 12:05 AM | TrackBack

Frank, it sounds like you found a time-warped blog version of "Take it Easy" there.

"Today, we ran down the road, planning to loosen our load. I had women on my mind. Seven, actually. Four of them want to own my, two want to stone me (which would really be fine with me right now), and one says she's a friend of mine. Sweet, really. We decided to take it easy..."

I'm sure others can continue, if they dare, in this vein...

Posted by: Nick at April 9, 2005 03:49 AM

That's actually a pretty funny observation Nick. Good eye. I will say that The Doc always manages to find the coolest stuff at the oddest places, like that couples stuff a couple of weeks ago. This seems a little more intersting than that, I'm just saying, even with all of our thrift stores, mom, and pop record stores, Flea Markets, and alleyways, I have yet to hear of any fellow Connecticut inhabitants finding anything of this caliber.

Posted by: Rich at April 9, 2005 04:13 PM

I know you're trying to make another point against the hypocritical liberals in decay, but really I don't see a lot of the condescension, self-importance, or ridiculing of yokels you allude to in this. Maybe I'm too engrossed in my own forms of the above, but it seems a rather sweet travelogue to me (and for the record, Santa Fe and Taos are still quite similar, though infused with a lot more money these days from artists, tourism and skiing). Someone mentioned Cometbus in the previous comments, and J.'s observations seem in much the same mould as Aaron's travel chronicles (keeping in mind I haven't read a Cometbus since about 1995). It's certainly an outsider-looking-in narrative, but it doesn't seem particularly intolerant.

Posted by: Wes at April 9, 2005 07:34 PM

Well, Wes, it doesn't strike me as very Cometbus-like, but maybe I was reaching a bit with the plus ca change stuff. Still, I believe there is a supercilious quality that seems very "Berkeley" to me.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at April 9, 2005 10:54 PM

There's a bit of the disdain for regular folk Dr. Frank was talking about in this paragraph.

"Strange country. Land all snarled up in Spanish land grants and tenant claims and etc much etc. Saw an ad for somebody stating "I do hereby challenge the following people to put up their claims to section 467.5 by March 4 or shut up forever - followed a list of 532 names. Yes. I counted them."

I think.

Posted by: josh at April 11, 2005 03:00 PM

This post reminds me of Asheville-ites of old...now it's mainly yuppies moving in pretending to be new-age intellectuals.

Posted by: Van Serpico at April 13, 2005 07:17 PM

i dont really now what this website is about but love hippies because i have studied them in depth for both my art an textiles course work an i maybe a stupid 14 year old but i shall tell u 1 thing an thats that i want to be a hippie an its not fair that u were all able to be hippies an i wasnt lova ya bye XX

Posted by: Daisy at February 25, 2006 03:49 PM
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