10 Most Sacred Spots in America

1) Congo Square, New Orleans. This is the actual birthplace of the counterculture, where Native Americans, African slaves, and a wide mixture of European whites first gathered to create an improvisational culture, blending elements of all their histories to create the popular, non-violent, hybrid-vigor culture we know today as the counterculture.

2) Hippie Hill, San Francisco. Located at the base of Haight Street, just steps from the corner of Haight/Ashbury, Hippie Hill was the ceremonial gathering place for the birth of the hippie movement.

3) Laguna Beach, California. Just as important as Hippie Hill was the influence of John Griggs and the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. There is a little-known surfer-hippie connection that has not been fully explored yet. Surfers who took LSD early in the sixties were among the first people to reach true enlightenment. The real center of energy may have been the auditorium on Newport Beach, but unfortunately that temple of surf rock was torn down.

4) Woodstock Festival, Bethel, New York. The first Woodstock was a true gathering of the tribe, and a place where the counterculture first realized itself in enormous numbers. It was our hippie version of the Sermon on the Mount. Also worth mentioning is Magic Meadow, Woodstock, New York. Located near the start of the trail to Overlook Mountain, Magic Meadow is the main ceremonial location selected by early beatniks and hippies who flocked to Woodstock as a haven for counterculture spirituality. Overlook Mountain also had a long history of use by Native cultures as a primary site for vision questing.

5) Strawberry Lake, Colorado. Located on the continental divide, Strawberry Lake was the site of the original Rainbow Family Gathering. The authorities tried to close all access to the site when they learned ten thousand hippies planned on camping there over the week of July 4th, but despite the roadblocks and police presence, all the hippies managed to sneak into the site via the back trails.

6) Camp Winnarainbow, Laytonville, CA. Wavy Gravy is the foremost master of ceremonies of the counterculture and he built the second most successful counterculture community in America. Wavy is the master of improv energy and channeling the fun vibe. His camp is the perfect place to send your kids to learn about counterculture spirituality.

7) Ken Kesey’s farm, outside Eugene, Oregon. The original bus, Further (or Furthur) is parked here. Kesey is our counterculture version of Odysseus, and his magic bus ride was a seminal moment in counterculture history. Wherever that bus resides will always be a most sacred spot in counterculture history.

8) Mount Tamalpias, CA. The birthplace of 420 and the site of the original April 20th ceremonies. Since cannabis is the primary sacrament of the counterculture (and has been used since its birth in Congo Square), the birthplace of 420 will always be a most sacred location for the counterculture.

9) Owl Farm, Colorado. Located a short drive from Aspen, the home of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson radiates with intense vibrations from all the ceremonies held on the site.

10) National Rainbow Family Gathering. Every July 1-7, the gathering is held in a different National Forest so this is a mobile sacred spot that moves around every year. The Rainbow Family is the heart and soul of the counterculture. Everyone needs to make a pilgrimage to this event at least once in their life to see what a world without violence and bigotry actually feels like.

First Trip to the Haight

One night I was sitting in my psychedelic playground otherwise known as the Den of Iniquity, when my Dad unexpectedly showed up with another biochemistry professor from Berkeley, California. I guess he’d come to Urbana to give a seminar. My Dad had told him about me, and this dude wanted to meet me because he was a peace activist. He loved my paintings all over the walls, and pointed out that a peace symbol I’d painted over my desk was missing one of the spokes. That made me feel a little dumb. The amazing thing was, this professor invited me to come spend a week with him in the Berkeley Hills!

I was soon on a flight to San Francisco and I was reading all the Hobbit books at the time and was deep into Hobbitland, which today just seems like a boring remake of WWII done with magic and elves, basically war propaganda. The first book had been great, but the trilogy seemed bloated to me. One thing you have to give the Brits credit for, however, when it comes to magic, they rule. That goes for dark magic and white magic.

I spent the first few days hanging out on Telegraph Avenue when I got recruited to help out at a people’s church that a hippie pastor was setting up. There were two guys working on this project and I became the office assistant for a few days. My host seemed a bit dubious of the Christian-connection. He was an atheist and distrusted organized religions.  He’d drop me off on his way to his lab every morning, and pick me up at 5:30 every night to go home, where we had dinner prepared by his beautiful Swedish wife, and then played a game of chess or two.

One day while walking down Telegraph, this hippie started talking to me like he’d known me his whole life. His name was Jinglebells and he was originally from New York City. Jinglebells had really long hair and was wearing high-top suede moccasins with bells around his ankles. He wanted to know if I wanted to hitchhike with him to the Haight. He knew a place we could crash. This was too good an offer to turn up, so I soon found myself wandering around the Haight. After it got dark we went to the all-night church where all the runaways congregated who didn’t have a place to sleep. It was really crowded. Then Jinglebells took me to Page Street to visit a commune. There was a beautiful girl who seemed to be at the center of this scene. She said Country Joe had come over the night before and sung songs with his guitar all night while everybody tripped. Country Joe had led the Hari Krishna chant for hours, apparently. There was a guy in a Navy uniform and he was hitting on a plump hippie girl. Everyone fell asleep while this couple eventually had sex on the living room rug. In the morning though, the whole vibe changed and the beautiful hippie girl was mad at us. “This is not a crash pad!” she said. I also heard her say she didn’t know Jinglebells well enough to trust him. Pretty soon, I figured out she was surviving by buying bricks of Mexican weed and selling lids on the street.

Jinglebells decided to hitchhike on down to Big Sur. “It’s a beautiful scene down there,” he said. “You should come with me.” I was sorely tempted, but decided to hitchhike back to Berkeley and walked miles uphill before I found the house I was staying at. The Swedish lady was really pissed at me and made me call her husband immediately. I made up some story about how a friend had been arrested and I’d gone to the police station and spent the night trying to get him out of jail. “Why didn’t you at least call us?” they wondered. The visit was over in another day or two anyway. Things were pretty somber at his house after that incident and I guess now he understood why my Dad was so frustrated with me. But I couldn’t get that close to the Haight and not at least spend one night soaking up the vibes there.