There are a lot of vibe trails, good and bad, but the fun vibe is the best. It’s a delicate trail, easily lost. Sometimes it can disappear for decades. As legend goes, Neal Cassady surfed the hum of a gear-shift, scouted the fun vibe and gave it to the Beat Crew. The Pranksters got the trail from Cassady and shared it with Jerry Garcia, Timothy Leary and the Beatles. Some people dream about being a rock star, but I always dreamed of being a Merry Prankster and riding Furthur’s top deck with Cassady at the helm.
In 1997, High Times began advertising the ﬁrst Hemp World’s Fair in Oregon, just a few miles from where Ken Kesey, Ken Babbs and the Merry Pranksters were living. Our hope was to combine forces with the best vibe scouts we could ﬁnd, hold a sacred ceremony and ﬁnd the center of the true fun vibe.
Early in the spring, I ﬂew out to Oregon and met Ken Babbs and the owner of a possible 15-acre site. Well, the site looked good and plans were going great. The focal point of the event was going to be a silent meditation on Sunday from dawn until noon, followed by an OM. Babbs gave the event its name (WHEE!).
But we hit a glitch as the Pranksters unexpectedly pulled out.
“We have to do a July tour in Europe for our record company,” said Babbs sadly over the phone. But I still had Stephen Gaskin, Paul Krassner, John Trudell, Dennis Peron and a bunch of other good scouts. It was too late to call WHEE! off. The truth, however, would emerge at 4:20 pm on opening day as the Pranksters intended to play a prank on me all along.
After months of preparations, I arrived to start construction. Although the main stage was built and water and power lines had been dug for some booths and kitchens, it was really just a barren ﬁeld with a two-stories of twisted metal, rotten wood and garbage piled in the center. About 40 people were camped around the property. Zero and Roberto rode into camp with me.
Just looking at the pile of garbage made me dizzy. The Oregon sun was blazing. The only shade was a grove of pine trees way over in the parking lot. I knew the crew would melt down quick unless they got a steady supply of food and water. Fortunately, Sun Dog Kitchen was on site, straight from the nearby Rainbow Gathering.
I entered the Sun Dog camp and immediately caught sight of some freshly born pups. “Aww, puppies,” I said lurching forward. Like a fearless Zen master, the mom darted out from a picnic table and sunk two teeth into my Levis at the knee. “Damn,” I said, “You just ruined my best rainbow-stripe jeans.” Meanwhile, I’m thinking what a bad omen this is. After I customize my jeans, I tend to get overly attached to them.
“I ﬁngered the hole and noticed the strike was surgical, not a mark on my ﬂesh. The Sun Dog crew jumped out of the corners to get between me and the angry mom.
“There’s no dogs… supposed to be here,” I snarled.
Roberto appeared. “I have a dog,” he said wistfully. “Look, there’re dogs all over the place.” As he swept his hand across the horizon, I noticed three or four more dogs scampering about.
Lee, Stevie D’s straw boss, let me know he was vexed by the mission of preparing 3,000 free meals over the next week.
“Whatta ya need, Lee?” I said. “Give me a wish list.”
I walked out into the ﬁeld and called council. Mostly young brothers came, many of whom seemed to be from One Love Zion Train, a tour group sponsored by Universal Life Church of One Love. They handed me an envelope ﬁlled with ﬂyers and propaganda on their noble quest to scout the vibe all summer.
“Come on, boys,” I shouted. “We’re on a sacred mission to build hippie Disneyland! And we only got six days to do it!”
“What do you want us to do?” asked ﬁve voices and 40 faces.
“First, we gotta get rid of that pile of trash!” In a matter of seconds 80 hands hit the garbage pile.”
“Come on Stoney,” I said walking toward the rented Ford pickup. “We gotta make a supply run. Where’s that wish list?”
Before the day was through, Stoney and I visited every discount center in Eugene, and that Ford had with enough food and drink for 50 people for three days, along with every other type of supplies we might need, including 20 pairs of work gloves and a precious erase board and ﬁve ﬂuorescent erase markers.
At sundown, after we made it back to the site, the garbage pile was half gone. A gorgeous sunset cloud formation appeared over the stage, while behind us, an almost full moon rose over the mountains. A dozen geese ﬂew past in V formation. “Squawk, squawk,” said Alpha Goose as they whooshed toward the sunset. I felt their bird energy as they scouted their vibe trail. Sun Dog blew the conch for dinner. We circled up, held hands and did an OM, followed by everyone throwing their hands in the air and yelling, “Whee!”
We believe in doing what is right and respecting others, with no judgments or dogma, only true love and respect for all living beings. All faiths are connected to the One and the One is connected to us. The train is an ongoing experience for the caravaners of voluntarily spreading the unity love vibrations that make this the 30th anniversary of the Summer of Love.”
I was sitting in the back of an RV parked next to the stage reading a flyer created by a large tribe of volunteers who arrived first on site. The radios arrived late, so it was hard to get the crews properly coordinated. So far, we had 14 members of Sun Dog and 73 other assorted volunteers on site, two dozen of whom were part of the Zion Love Train.
Garrick Beck rolled in, set up his tipi and split. Garrick, Plunker and John Buffalo were hired as crew chiefs on the Temple Dragon Crew (TDC), which was supposed to handle people problems inside the venue and protect the ceremonial spaces. I tried to encourage them to arrive early by saying whoever rolled in and started work first would be security crew chief. That turned out to be a big mistake. Three days before the other two, Buffalo reported in.
Hippie security is a little-known art form that has been evolving inside the counterculture for over 40 years. Groups like the Diggers in Haight-Ashbury were among the earliest proponents of this art form. Whenever anything bad would happen on the streets of the Haight, local residents would try to handle the problem using nonviolent persuasion. For example, if some brother disrespected a sister, that person would suddenly ﬁnd himself surrounded by people wanting to discuss, in a quiet, rational manner, why the brother felt it was okay to be disrespectful. The fact no one would resort to anger or violence would usually throw the perpetrator so off-guard that he’d end up analyzing and apologizing for his inappropriate behavior. Techniques of nonviolent communication were eventually perfected even further by the Merry Pranksters, who knew how to “create a movie,” pull a person into that movie and alter the perceptual frame of reference of a situation to their own beneﬁt.
Many professional security guards rely on telepathic hostility and thinly veiled threats of physical harm to enforce rules. But hippie security never resorts to hints of violence. Every security situation is unique and negotiable. Over the past 30 years, the Rainbow Family Gathering has been a superb training ground for people interested in studying nonviolent security techniques. The Shanti Sena (peace eyes) is the name that has evolved for this group. The subculture emerged out of Vortex, an event actually created secretly by the governor of Oregon to lure protesters away from Portland by allowing them to hold a free rock festival in the woods far from any cities. The event was so successful, the governor came out to help with clean up and thank all the hippies. He ended up in a giant OM circle and was apparently never quite the same again. And neither were many other participants in the OM for they were soon planning an even bigger gathering to be held in Colorado. They landed near Strawberry Lake close to the Continental Divide.
Plunker and Amazin’ Dave are the leaders of the Rainbow Shanti Sena. Both are Vietnam vets, except Plunker came from the backwoods of Montana, and Dave’s family are big-wigs in Texas close to the Bush family. Dave and Plunker have been hard-wired together since Vortex. For decades Dave served as Rainbow’s FBI-liason and assisted their investigation into the murders of two women who attempted to hitch-hike to the West Virginia gathering. That case dragged on for years and took many twists and turns before the man convicted ended up being exonerated.
The strangest thing happened on the day the radios arrived and were turned on for the first time. We were getting massive interference and had to call in the radio rental company to try and fix the problem. The engineer they sent out did a sweep and found a transmitter inside the front-right hubcap on my RV. I assumed it was a low-jack-type device, but after the event was over, I asked the owner and she assured me her RV did not have a GPS transmitter.
Amazin’ Dave showed up and I hired him on the spot. He moved into the Mission Control RV with me to handle the late-night problems while I was asleep. Six22 was handling the boo-boos. His cat Ganja moved into the RV with me and Dave.
By the end of the day, the garbage pile was gone and the fence was ready to go up.
The professional, licensed-and-bonded company we hired for 24-hour security had rolled in and set up on the 15th. I explained we had our own internal security crew. I wanted the professional crew to work the perimeter and guard the fence, but I didn’t want them to deal with people. That was for TDC. If we had serious problems, we could always call in the professional security guards. But I was conﬁdent TDC could handle the job.
However, during the night, the professionals suddenly packed up and left without so much as an explanation. I stayed up all night at the front gate without a single security guard on duty, feeling like Michael Corleone at the hospital in The Godfather.
John Buffalo arrived early in the morning and I explained the situation. “I’m making you crew chief of TDC, and you have to coordinate all security,” I told him.”
Meanwhile, Diego’s bus rolled in to set up the Gypsy Village, and Felipe’s bus rolled in to set up Family Village. The site map had changed drastically already, so I drew the current map on the erase board and discussed possible locations. Both crews picked new sites and started putting up tents and tarps. The Gypsies brought a huge circus tent for workshops and seminars.
We had a fence crew, sign painting crew, vendor staking crew, carpenter crew, ﬁre pit crew, kitchen crew, Gypsy crew, tipi circle crew, stage crew and Family Village crew all working feverishly by mid-afternoon.
The biggest change in the map came when I staked a huge area overlooking a small pond as Doggie Village. There were supposed to be about 50 vendors on that very spot, and I was already wondering how I was going to explain this to people who had paid for those booths.
The vendors started arriving early in the day, and most were shocked to ﬁnd the site map wasn’t the same anymore. Beth, who had been recently hired as vending director of the Hemp Expo, was greeting vendors as they rolled in. Poor Beth was engulfed by hysteria. I could identify with her situation and tried to help. The most remarkable thing about the whole event was how Beth kept her head and never melted down once.
Most of the vendors were actually quite nice and friendly and easy to deal with once the new site was explained. However, we had a few problem cases, like the Babylon vendor, who was selling Pepsi and hot dogs out of an RV with a generator. I put him in Bus Village, where he belonged. He happily took that spot, but by the end of the day, he tore down the fence separating Bus Village from the site and demanded to be moved inside. Garrick moved him to the Gypsy camp, but the Gypsy crew exploded after he turned on his generator. The fumes were blowing right into the Casbah Tea House. So we moved him again, this time right next to our beautiful ﬁre pit, where his exhaust blew into the amphitheater. Even so, he kept complaining about all the money he was losing.
“Nobody wants your Babylon food,” I said ﬁnally. “Why don’t you go solar and sell organic food, or better yet, pack up and leave?” Of course, he was making plenty of money and had no intention of leaving.
Around this time, most of the High Times staff were arriving for the ﬁrst time, and there was tremendous confusion between the property owner, the Rainbows and the newly arrived HT staff. This was my fault for not holding an orientation meeting, but everyone was working so hard, I didn’t want them to stop. Some people continued to be confused because the site had changed from the original map. There were over 30 radios on site, plus a large number of CB units, and Thursday was the day of radio screaming. If the slightest problem came up, meltdowns would start yelling on the radio.
Plunker saw me starting to melt down, came in, led a silent meditation circle, and we went back to work. Plunker had taken charge of the ﬁre pit. Fire was a real hazard, due to a lot of dry straw on the ground. Plunker led the response to the Great Wyoming Rainbow Gathering Fire, when several thousand Rainbows stomped out a three-acre blaze which had topped the trees and threatened to destroy an entire national forest.
The ﬁnal ﬁre pit was heart-shaped, facing the Gypsy stage, with four rows of amphitheater seating carved out of the mound of earth displaced to make the pit. It was so beautifully constructed I almost burst into tears just looking at it. Felipe came down from Family Village to lead a service and sanctify us with sage as we lit the ceremonial ﬂame at sundown.
That night, the vendor crew stayed up until 3 A.M. leading convoys of vendors into the site, making sure their vehicles were parked safely.
On opening day, the medical crew that had agreed to work the event did not show. Another crew, led by midwife Daphne Singingtree, came in on an hour’s notice. Daphne had been lobbying hard for the job for three months, so I was happy to see her roll in with an entire medical team.
Cathy Baker and her mom Judy had arrived to take charge of the money. She was jumping around with a big knot on her third eye, all frantic, unable to make clear decisions. I’d already lost my voice from having to talk to large crowds for six days, so I tried to stay low-key and not let her energy penetrate me. She spent most of her time asking people what I was doing wrong so she could demonstrate her power and influence over me. She never asked me what needed to be done. But Cathy was surprised to discover the hardest working staffers were volunteers and loyal to me. “Why do you listen to him?” Cathy would ask them. She’d been trained by the lawyer who stole High Times to mistrust my motives.
“Listen,” I said softly, “I’ve got an important mission for you. I want you to go to Sun Dog, pour yourself some fresh lemonade and wait until I get there.”
Neither Cathy nor her mom stayed for the Sunday ceremony (the whole point of the event). They ended up vastly overpaying most of the volunteer crew, and then stiffed the property owner. He had invited them into his home because he wanted a meeting without me present. But he didn’t realize the scope of their imperial standards. Judy was so upset by having to sit on a stained chair in a filthy house she departed the site without giving him the $5,000 he was still owed.
Commander Gorman had taken over the mic at Mission Control. Early in the day a few people ran up on him with requests over the radio he didn’t feel like dealing with just that second. In retaliation, they changed the name of his post to Mission Impossible. The new name stuck for the remainder of the event.
The parking lots were in chaos, but inside the fence was peaceful hippie heaven, with lots of good food at low prices. The stage was even running close to schedule. The 420 Show with the Cannabis Cup Band rocked and was the main event of the day. Engineer Charlie sculpted a wonderful sound. A crew meeting was scheduled for 11 P.M., just after the main stage closed.
Since I could barely talk above a whisper, Garrick was crew chief on the meeting. I drew a map on the erase board to show how the site had changed and where the new ﬁre lanes were. Then all hell broke loose. Everyone was pissed about the problems in the parking lots (which were being operated under the supervision of the property owner), and the lack of laminates for free food. For about an hour there was a lot of hot air, but no solutions. Then Gideon spoke.
Gideon is not the sort of brother who does a lot of talking at council. Although he’s a big bear of a man, he scouts a very mellow vibe. But Gideon was all ﬁred up, like Crazy Horse talking to the Lakota warriors before the Custer ﬁght. He laid out a plan and offered to hold down the night gate himself. Then he led the crew in a chant of “Break even, break even.”
I drove into camp around 8 A.M., having spent the night at the Ramada Inn. Gideon was still on the gate, a big wad of cash in his fanny pack. I parked and walked around camp, moving signs to their proper locations, stocking the info booth that hadn’t quite happened yet and checking the ﬁre lanes.
While I walked TDC on the backline, I pulled up on a huge spotted male dog, who could have been cast as White Fang in a Jack London movie. The dog held a long stare on my eyes, and I stared back while I reached for my radio mike.”
“Mission Impossible, we got a big Alpha off its leash.”
“This is Doggie Village, what’s your twenty?”
“Between Doggie Village and Gypsy tent.”
“We’ll pick up the dog.”
“Ten-four. Over and out.”
It was amazing how fast the radio could ﬁx things. It was like a magic wand that made energy clouds appear like so many tornados.
Later that day, I got a big surprise when Ken Kesey and the Pranksters, all wearing green masks, pulled up in front of Mission Impossible in a white Cadillac convertible. Babbs jumped out of the back seat and showed me his watch.
“Look,” he said triumphantly, “it’s exactly 4:20!”
“Commander Gorman, get this crew on stage immediately!” I shouted.
“Ten-four,” said Peter.
Babbs handed me a green hemp scarf with rainbow stripes. It had two holes cut for my eyes.
There was a lot of noise and chaos. Everybody was pressing toward us because they wanted to meet the Pranksters. But I had a telepathic moment with Babbs, when time slowed and the background faded. He spoke to me in a silent way only Kenmasters know how to do.
“If you put on this magic mask,” he said, “you’ll become invisible.”
A ﬂock of geese ﬂew overhead and burst our bubble. Everything sped up and got crazy again. Next thing I knew, I was on stage wearing the mask, being introduced by Fantuzzi as Phoenix 420.
“One week ago, I fell asleep in the back of a car after a party,” I said. “When I woke up, the car was parked in the center of this ﬁeld. Only it didn’t look like this. There was no hippie Disneyland. There was only a two-story pile of twisted metal, wood and garbage. And forty hungry, homeless hippies! And the next day we were a hundred homeless hippies! And we built this New Jerusalem! I guess they wanted me to say this because I was one of the crew who worked so hard! So let’s hear it for the crews, who worked for free!… In case you don’t know, WHEE’s name came from Ken Babbs. He’s one of the Merry Pranksters, the greatest vibe scouts of our time. The Merry Pranksters couldn’t be here because of some Babylonian record-company tour. But we do have the Green Vipers, so let’s have a warm welcome for the Green Vipers!”
And out walked Kesey, Babbs, Mountain Girl and their crew.
Meanwhile, I melted into the crowd to explore my newfound invisibility.
Just then the strangest thing happened. I began reading auras for the ﬁrst time in my life. The overwhelming majority of people at the event were radiating happy vibrations. But there was a very small minority with darker emanations. Instead of walking around the site, I found myself seated on the ground in a hidden spot with a clear view of the kids’ playground. I was convinced an evil force was watching the children, and I began paying close attention to a tall, middle-aged man with a military haircut who was hanging out at a vending booth next to Family Village. He was watching kids playing on the swing sets and jungle gyms we’d erected. I noticed the man did not have a wristband, indicating he had not paid to enter the venue. I decided to work my best Temple Dragon magic on him, so I walked up with a big smile on my face.
“Howdy, brother,” I said, “are we having fun yet?” He eyed me suspiciously and gave no comment.
“Hey, where’s your wristband?” I continued. “Everybody’s got to have a wristband.”
He smirked but said nothing.”
“I’ve got some extra wristbands if you need one,” I continued, reaching into my purple hemp fanny pack. “You should put one on so security doesn’t kick you out. If you can’t afford to pay the admission fee, that’s no problem, I’ll give you a wristband anyway. But if you can make a donation, we’d really appreciate it because we didn’t break even on this event. In fact, we’ve lost thousands of dollars. So if you could afford a small donation, we’d really appreciate it.”
“I don’t haf any money,” he said with a thick German accent.
“No problem,” I said putting the band on his wrist. “Why not just open your wallet and show me? And if it’s empty, then you don’t have to pay anything.”
There was a long pause and I watched him take mental notes on my Temple Dragon belt, with its radio, ﬂashlight, medical supplies and various Batman-like emergency tools. He knew he was dealing with someone who could call in reinforcements. Although I was all smiles and happiness, inside I was beaming telepathic messages that I knew what he was all about and I could read his mind like a book. Rather than show me his wallet, he reached in his pocket, pulled out a wad of cash and handed me a 20.
“Gee, thanks,” I said.
Just then Felipe walked by and I made a big deal of introducing him to the stranger. But he abruptly broke off from us and walked away without telling us his name.
“There’s something funny about him,” I said. “He’s been staring at the kids and I don’t like his vibes.”
Felipe nodded his head and agreed he seemed a bit out-of-place. We began spreading word among the TDC to keep an eye on him. But he must have known something was up because he left the site within an hour and never came back.
By 8 A.M. it was apparent Sunday was going to go into the high 90s with high humidity. A silent meditation was planned for the main meadow. We made a supply run for ice, water, soda and coolers. As we passed Family Village, the “no smoking of any kind” zone, Felipe, the ceremony crew chief, emerged.
“We better postpone that ceremony until sundown,” I said. “Otherwise people will be fainting out there. We also need a pole for people to circle around.”
“I’ll work on that,” said Felipe.
On the way back to Mission Impossible, I changed the daily event sign at the entrance to read: “OM at Sunset.”
I rode the TDC vibe for the rest of the day, cruising in Gideon’s golf cart. “This is more fun than golﬁng,” I told everyone. I found two kids at Family Village who wanted to see their mom at Doggie Village. “Wanna go for a ride? Only if Felipe says OK.”
I took the back ﬁre lane so they had a great view of the pond on one side and the dog run on the other. All sorts of dogs came out to greet us as we cruised past, some staked and some running free. When we got to the corner, I noticed the big Alpha I’d seen on the trail, all fenced in tight by himself with a sign reading “Doggie Jail.” “Why is that doggie in jail?” “Because he’s not a nice doggie.” “Can we go inside Doggie Village now?” “Yes, here’s your mommy.”
As I drove off, I heard the kids shouting, “Mommy, there’s been a mistake, this is not a bad doggie!”
“Mission Impossible, we got a jailbreak at Doggie Village. Two dangerous suspects from Family Village, about four feet high, just tore down the walls of Doggie Jail.”
But that Alpha walked out so meek and gentle and grateful to those kids, that the Doggie Village crew never put him back in Doggie Jail again. Isn’t it funny how adults can learn from kids?
Mission Impossible called me on the radio to tell me that a Krishna crew wanted to come into camp for free. I drove to the gate to greet them and make sure they were comfortable. “Be sure and catch the OM at sunset,” I told them.
Backstage, there was the typical moment of confusion because I always insist the ceremonies be as spontaneous as possible, with lots of improvisation and no script. Naturally, this drives the tech-heads up a wall! And the ceremony crew gets blamed for ruining the clockwork machinery of their rock show.
But because it was Sunday, the stage manager Alvin gladly powered up the wireless so Felipe could scout the vibe by the sacred Peace Pole that had been hastily erected. An old, well-traveled pole it was, with lots of carvings and a purple quartz crystal on top. Gaskin, Plunker and many others started to form the circle, but the circle got confused because there were too many people for just one circle in such a small space.
A Japanese monk jumped on the line and began spiraling it toward the center. Everyone got involved in the spiral hand-dance. When it ended, everyone was holding hands. A call went out for the crew to come to the pole. Gaskin and I walked slowly to the pole and were actually the ﬁrst to get there. I hugged the pole while the entire 300-person crew hugged me. Tear ducts burst open in every eye, like waves in a sports stadium. My heart opened and I sobbed with joy from the telepathic energy.
Then came the WHEE! OM. “Whee cranked the vibe,” I said while hugging Gaskin.
Late that night, I was getting weird vibes from Plunker who began shadowing me around the site keeping me under surveillance. A large group of the working crew were his associates from Rainbow, and some of them had obviously developed a negative attitude on me. I was being portrayed by some as an exploiter of Rainbow. Apparently, by not anointing alpha Plunker as TDC team leader had been a blunder as there was a lot of ego-jockeying going on. Plunker seemed convinced I was planning to flee the site with the cash. At least I heard him muttering something to that effect to his amigos. This evil intuition on his part could only be due to the fact Plunker handles the cash collected at Rainbow. He could never figure out where the money came and went to because he was watching me and what Plunker never understood about me is I never touched the money at any of my events, or even took any money beyond my High Times salary and travel, room and board during the event. The most common cause for getting fired at High Times was getting caught stealing, and it happened frequently, but the lawyer who stole High Times could never fire me for stealing because I never touched the money, although he had investigators digging into my financial situation to make sure, something he once confided in me. So Michael Kennedy had to look for other reasons to get rid of me. He ghosted my attempt to seek his assistance in mounting a religious rights case to the Supreme Court even though Constitutional Law was his specialty and began spreading the story I was a wanna-be cult leader.
I was on a sacred mission of peace and had no interest in enrichment beyond the satisfaction of attempting to hand down peace culture to the next generation.
Babbs came out to the Ramada to meet the clean-up crew. Zero, Tammy, Donna Eagle, Alvin, Edison, G. Moses and me. We held a playful ceremony upon his arrival and Babbs was so honored he made up a little song on the spot just for the crew’s pleasure.
When is it all right to be too tight?
I can think of one extraordinary night when it was all right to be too tight.
I was so drunk
I couldn’t even stand up.
I fell asleep on the riverbank.
The cops came and arrested everybody else and they never got me.
So it was all right to be too tight.
But you still… can’t… roll… the joints… too tight.
“Thank you, thank you,” said Babbs. “That was a spontaneous song I’ve been practicing for the last twenty-two years and this was the ﬁrst time I’ve had a chance to sing it. I want to thank you for lasting through the whole thing.”
After the song, I ﬁlled Babbs in on the baby girl that had been born in the pine trees at 2:22 Monday morning.
“There was a cry in the woods of ‘help me, help me,’ and TDC came running fast ’cause we thought a sister was being raped. Her cousin was with her and said, ‘Calm down, everybody. Jamie’s just having a baby.’ The cousin caught the baby coming out, and was assisted by a former EMT medic named Sunray. The baby was named Cassady Sunﬂower Phoenix. The cord was tied with Amazin’ Dave’s hemp twine. Garrick was on the scene. I rolled up just as the baby popped out and interviewed everyone involved. Daphne Singingtree was there, too. It was a real warrior birth. That child might be a great leader some day.”
“It just shows to go you that when things happen, they come into a lot of minds at the same time,” said Babbs.
Babbs wanted drink, but the crew kept feeding him water and pizza. “Don’t end up like Jack,” I said. “Don’t melt down and stay melted. Big Sur, that was his best book. He could’ve called it Big Meltdown.”
“Kerouac, Ginsberg, they died relatively young,” said Babbs. “It’d be great if they were still around. Cassady was unique. All the factions of the Beat crew revolved around Cassady because he knew what they were all talking about. They all strove to be like Cassady. You know what it was? Cassady really dealt on the lag. The one-thirtieth of a second between when you think of something and when you say it. He was always trying to beat the lag. So what he said had to do with what was happening right then. That was Cassady’s thing. And he was always working on it as an artist. And at a certain point he knew that’s what he was doing. But it was such a dangerous thing because speed freaks would try to emulate him, to be rapping all the time, but they weren’t talking about anything, whereas Cassady was really talking about something. He was the true Avatar. The True Seeker of the Vibe.”
“Then the crew introduced Babbs to Cassady the dog, the same dog the kids had busted out of Doggie Jail.
“He was abandoned on the site,” said Six22. “He’s my dog now.”
The evening turned into a fun ceremony while Babbs relayed details of staying on the vibe trail. I caught on right away it was wrong to say “we crank the vibe.” The vibe cranks itself. You have to be humble when you scout the vibe. Babbs put this information across in such a gentle manner everyone knew it was truly so.
“Hail the fun vibe,” said the crew.
“I pulled a prank with the Merry Pranksters,” I said to Babbs, falling to my knees. “Can I be a Merry Prankster, too?”
“Sure,” said Babbs. “Let’s go out in the moonlight and do the induction right now!”
Since the Ramada was located inside a freeway cloverleaf complex, the crew was reluctant to set foot off motel property, but Babbs led us through some bushes and we unexpectedly popped out on a river bank near a rose garden.
“Everyone take a big whiff,” said Babbs, while pointing at the rose blossoms with a large speckled hawk feather. The feather shimmered and sparkled in the moonlight.
I got sleepy right away and lay down on a grassy knoll. The full moon had an orange glow around it, with psychedelic trails busting out all over. There was a roar of thunder and a cloud of dust, and Furthur, the original psychedelic bus, pulled up with Ken Kesey at the wheel. Babbs led the crew up the back ladder to some seats on the roof. The bus blasted off toward Interstate 5, and actually left the ground and ﬂew into a dark, angry twister that looked about ready to touch ground and create all sorts of havoc.
When the black smoke cleared, the bus was cruising through a hundred miles of hempﬁelds on both sides of the road. The plants were lush with birds of all colors and descriptions which ﬂew up to us in great ﬂocks and sang about how much fun it was to live in a hempﬁeld, with endless food in all directions.
Furthur stopped on a cliff overlooking a lake with a view of the sunrise. There was a bonﬁre party going on. Krassner and Gaskin were there. So was Patti Smith talking to Bob Dylan. Julian Beck, Judith Malina, Joan Baez and the Tin Man were having a conversation with Jack Herer! But the most amazing thing was that all four Beatles were listening to Neal Cassady, who was hanging onto a gearshift knob with one end in the ﬁre. And Cassady was talking about scouting the vibe!”
I found myself walking between Kesey and Babbs, headed straight for the ﬁre. “We noticed this with Cassady,” whispered Kesey. “The gearshift is the chord. The crew harmonizes because everyone is on the same gearshift chord.”
Kesey stopped and turned to me as if to say something really important. “Strong pot without a message is just a buzz. If you take cocaine, you’ll often pick up a real bad vibe because it’s traveling through those hands. Real nice dope, there’s nothing wrong with it… doesn’t have to be strong. You can tell how important it is by how much energy is raised to ﬁght it.”
“Is this when I get inducted?” I asked.
“Don’t you know?” laughed Cassady, slapping me on the chest. “You’ve always been a Merry Prankster in your heart.”
Everyone laughed because I had what I’d wanted all along and never even knew it. I also felt embarrassed because I’d been so overly caught up with the money situation during the event, just trying to break even somehow. I felt if the event lost too much money, I’d end up losing my job at High Times. But now I instinctively understood if you want to hold a true counterculture ceremony, admission must always be free.
Next thing I knew, I was asleep on the riverbank near the rose bush, almost alone, only the dog Cassady watching over me. On the way back to the Ramada, I found a large speckled hawk feather, and it remains in my straw cowboy hat to this day.”
If you doubt any of this, just watch the video replay: