Born-Again Hippies

It takes more than a bag of weed to forge a hippie heart. In fact, most of the time, it takes a major ceremony. I spent a long time searching for answers throughout much of the sixties, but I didn’t get truly “zapped” until I attended the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival in the summer of 1969.

I’d planned to meet up with Larry Green and Carole, but they were coming from New York City, while I was traveling south from Cape Cod. Once the highway was closed, I feared they’d been turned away.

As it turned out, however, meeting people at Woodstock was no problem. I ran into James “Chef Ra” Wilson almost immediately. I could tell Jim was already zapped. His life would never be the same. Davy Goldwasser, one of the brightest kids in town, stumbled into our camp in the middle of the sea of humanity. When the rain came, we hid under a tarp Davy had brought along. A photo of us appeared in a German magazine (left). Note the fence I constructed to keep people off my comfy bed. I remember Larry was really pissed at me for changing into my dry clothes right after the rain blew over. I think it was about the only negative second we experienced at the event, and Larry was afraid the straw we were sleeping on was getting muddied, although I suspect the real reason was Carole’s frequent whispering in my ear.

The zapping I got at Woodstock sure faded over the years, as I went back to college in California and then back to Illinois as I had to work my way through a couple of degrees. I’d lost most of that non-violent telepathic energy by the time I hit High Times in the late 1980s. When I’d first moved to New York at the beginning of the 1980s, my primary interest had been experimental theater, and Julian Beck’s Living Theater was one of my biggest influences. Imagine my surprise when I saw Julian standing on the corner outside my apartment on 98th Street shortly after moving in.

Many years later, however, I’d meet Julian’s son, Garrick Beck, one of elders of the Rainbow Family of Living Light. Soon after meeting Garrick, I attended my first National Rainbow Gathering, which is where I got re-zapped.

That’s when I also decided to inject some ceremonial elements into the Cannabis Cup and WHEE! festivals I’d created. I was hoping to pass this non-violent culture on down and let the future generations get zapped by our peace-love vibrations. We really need a return of this culture in order to heal some of the trauma of the last few years, especially all the shootings. By showing respect for non-violence, you can help turn the children away from the allure of violence. But when you disrespect the cultures of non-violence, you actually urge children toward prejudice and bigotry.

Sad to say, many people walked through these ceremonies over the years and never got zapped by anything. Nothing even close. If anything, they developed a further hatred for hippies, vegetarians and the Rainbow Family. However, there were plenty of born-again hippies created as well. I know because many of them came up to me and told me so, while thanking me effusively for putting them back on the path of non-violence.

3 Replies to “Born-Again Hippies”

  1. Steve, you cut me to the quick! A wise politician once told me, “It’s not when they are lying about you that you have to worry, it’s when they start telling the truth”. So, yes I was a mess, and insanely jealous when it came to Carole. But that’s all water over the dam, and we are all living happily ever after. At least I hope we all are.

    Those were magical times, and Woodstock did change some us in profound ways. I hope that I still have some of that idealism and sense of comedy and community that broke out there.

    We never thought that we would find you at our agreed upon meeting place, which was, “in front of the post office of the nearest town”. When we finally found the post office, there was a mass of people waiting to meet their friends and hundreds of notes all over the front of the building. (remember, this was before cell phones)

    I will always be thankful that the three of us got to experience Woodstock together.

    1. Hey, there was just that momentary blimp of negativity, and it happened to be caught on camera by that photographer, so I felt compelled to give the background details. I was way too isolated at the event, at least you and Carole walked around and checked the swimming hole and Movement City out. Strange to think the Pranksters were there and it would take several decades for me to finally catch up with them. We could have stuck around after the event and met everyone. Instead we flew out of there like a bat out of hell to Rochester, New York?

      1. I had several freak-outs at Woodstock. We had tried so hard to make a pad above the mud and wetness. When the rains came down hard, we tried to keep it together, but eventually nature won. When a rush of water came through our little encampment, I lost it. I should have realized that it was pointless to try to stay dry there, instead of jumping around like a fish out of water. Oh well.

        My favorite memory was waking up to Jimi Hendrix. I thought, “where the hell am I? Then I realized it was Woodstock and that we were all a part of the beginning of a new era, and everything would be different from then on. Which it was, kind of.

        Yes, it was Rochester. But we didn’t have enough money to fly, so we had to panhandle to get it. We were literally “dirty hippies” and got lots of scorn from what was, at the time considered the straight world.

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