Back in the days of rambling around to Grateful Dead shows with pals in various (usually Volkswagen) vehicles, cameras weren’t really part of the kit. Usually, ticket(s) if possible, contraband if practical, maybe extra clothes to accomodate climates, hopefully a few bucks.
However, as part of my documentary instincts, i hauled along a tripod and a 35mm Alpa camera for taking “family photos” in which i would cajole (with much whingeing usually) the assmebled renegades to pose, i’d hit the timer and run back (as such usually right in front) and take 1 and only 1 shot. Years later these would usually get developed.
Many are lost to the fog, however, some are gathered here for posterity and memorial.
A high school i attended for 1-1/2 year-ish in Utah held a 20 anniversary for my graduating class in summer 2018 – while i wasn’t technically a graduate (nor did i attend the event), i added my dispatch for the record. Shared here for the posterity etc.
A few flashbacks… (PS i was Dave Elliott in those years)
I was a sorta “walk-on character” in the Orem High sitcom – arriving from Canada for the last couple months of 10th grade and then dropping out 2 weeks into 12th grade but dang,… made 11th grade count.
* Running Paul Moody’s “campaign” for Student body president including the “fascist takeover” at the assembly and screening of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” in lounge for a campaign promotion – and the acknowledgement speech at assembly in which someone temporarily declined to announce the winner because of the number of “refused” ballots
* The (notorious) Martin Luther King day protest including long banners on newspaper roll ends covering the lockers with rather controversial slogans
* Making a “Stop Aids” balloon/flag/kite and running it up the flag pole with Cory DeMille and my brother Bob Olson (now the US military’s 2 finest examples)
* Thought i wasn’t enrolled in Unified Studies, my attendance was almost perfect
* KOHS, possibly the best invention in the history of highschool (until my FCC license was revoked)
* Ace-ing AP US History with a 98% on the test but failing because of the tardy/absence policy (drop a grade each time or something) – it *was* the first class in the morning
* Being amazed at seminary – meaning you could sign up and have basically a period off (before moving to Utah, i had attended early morning seminary (imagine the horror of riding to church house on cold Canadian mornings at 5AM!)
* Swim team – i wasn’t cut out for football, basketball etc so signed up for swim team which basically meant roadtrips to other schools, hanging out in a Speedo waiting to lose to “whichever school we were competing against” – our girl’s team won all the time though
* Having no idea was the heck a Sadie Hawkins dance was until getting invited by a card written in Alpha-bits cereal – was completely baffled (later Napoleon Dynamite made this clear)
* Umm… after growing up in a very multi-cultural part of Vancouver (little Punjab), arriving to a ummm… sorta non-diverse school
* Feeling like a total outsider but quickly making friends by virtue of driving a limo to school – which was later replaced by an even more fun VW bus (Spicoli had nothing on me)
* Wearing shorts every single day of the school year – usually with wool socks and duck boots and flannel shirts – i didn’t exactly invent “grunge style” but do deserve an honourable mention
* Frequently teased for using Canadian spellings / we like to put in extra an “u” and switch around “re” instead of “er” and saying “zed” instead of “zee” #sigh
* Requiring a note to read Catcher in The Rye in 11th grade AP English > also realizing the teacher had absolutely no idea why the book was “banned” in some alien circles
* Amazed that so many girls looked like straight out of a magazine or movie #outofmyleague – i was more accustomed to punk rock girls
* Never attending a single football game (now if there was a hockey team…)
* Coming “back” for 12th grade homecoming dance and bringing non-Orem high pals and taking photo with the reggae band (Irie Heights)
By the way, when i bailed on Grade 12 (12th Grade), i went to Utah Technical College (later Utah Valley Community College, Utah Valley College, Utah Valley University, Harvard of the West…) and “earned” an Alpine School District Adult High School diploma after rigorous schedule of ceramics, mountaineering, photography and “independent study” – also creative writing (which turned out handy). I did attend class of 88 grad as a spectator.
Later? after a run of a few more higher-ed institutions (University of Utah, University of Guam) i graduated from Evergreen State College, just took me a few decades. Since, travelled 40+ countries, 100 weird jobs (most recently VP at Hootsuite (social media company), gave TEDx talk (not near as popular as Jani Radebaugh‘s) and now live on various remote small islands making poetry, podcasts and paintings (also deal with a weird complex illness #boring).
Dave OlsonFunny how in those impressionable days of high school, we get defined, &/or define ourselves… I guess I was a little naïve about the different cliques and hierarchies of high school in the US… I had gone to four different schools in 10th grade and just desperately wanted to find a tribe to hang out with so tried to be friendly to everyone. Of course most people had known each other for years through junior high or the same church groups or whatever but I came in with none of those preconceive notions.
I’m sure I overcompensated for my nervousness with too much chatter and goofballery –
As it goes, no matter how “popular” one was in high school, we all had to go out in the world and find someway to make a living and make ourselves happy. It turns out there’s a little benefit to “peaking early” And being “cool” in high school doesn’t predict a future of life success/happiness.
Rick HerleviI was telling my kids the other day about the one and only time in my life that I hiked the Y. I skipped class and went with Kraig Kiggins, I think Cory was there and the two Canadian brothers that drove a limo and hiked they Y. Why would I ever want to do it again after that pinnacle experience.
Kelli Robison HerleviThis convo definitely did take place very recently. It was probably our FHE lesson. I thought Rick was making up the story so he didn’t have to commit to a “Y” hike. But it looks like there’s truth to his story. I won’t make him hike the “Y” again. I can’t compete.
Dave OlsonNext time, we will just drive the limo up to the Y with a catered picnic – It’s all true, even the parts that aren’t 🙂
Cory DeMilleMany great memories in this bus! Remember our Good the Bad and the Ugly video Party and camping in the bus in full cowboy regalia on OHS campus? Now that would be considered a terrorist incident!
Dave OlsonCory DeMille Oh great memory! Just the sound of popping popcorn on the bus’s stove would’ve created phone calls to the police about suspected gunshots
Dave OlsonAlso remember driving around and shooting Roman candle bottle rockets out the back of the bus, and later water balloons (filled from the bus’s sink) and big gulp cups through the “accidental” sunroof – would soak BYU students and act all nonchalant like “it wasn’t us”… Sometimes when chased, the only reasonable strategy was to drive really slow rather than trying to out run them. Those activities did produce some actual police incidents however￼
As documented here and there, i once owned a 1974 VW bus and travelled all over the place and enjoyed many adventures and undertook extensive repairs and renovations. as it goes, it sat in my Granny’s backyard as my travels took me further afield to foreign lands, as such, i passed it along to cousins who sold it to a fella called Zac, who also let it sit for sometime in garage before some adventurous and creative folks called Honi and (Dayglo) Dave bought it for a daughter and quickly realized that it would be an unfit vehicle due to reliability concerns.
You see, Honi and Dave have some great rental lodges and extensive compound in Big Cottonwood canyon (outside of SLC Utah) which they rent primarily to skiiers/boarders and other recreate-ers. They already have a hottub, tipis and so on and converted the noble “Earthship” into a sauna. We connected over some serendipitous internet-happpenstance and i rallied up a gang of pals to go visit. H&D were wonderful hosts and the visit soon turned into an all-night party including hot boxing the sauna (in a couple different ways, soaking in hot tub, and firing up the jukebox in the Mangy Moose cabin. Incidentally, a momma moose and her kids paid a visit.
The bus has been privy to weddings, parties and all sorts of merriment. As is obviously, its extensively painted and decorated, the insides gutted (who knows what lost items were found) its parked in a flower bed of sorts. They presented me a key which travels with me all ’round the globe.
Here are a few pieces of documentary evidence snapped wth Lomo La Sardina (sardine can) camera. Also made a series of friendly postal pictograms with these images. Many of these snaps were captured by Jamielee Eldridge.
Snapped with Lomo La Sardina (sardine can) camera – some pics by Jamielee Eldridge – of my old VW bus (dubbed “The Earthship”) which is now a bus sauna at Mangy Moose Lodge in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. Pics stuck to watercoloured paper, annotated or otherwise embellished and mailed to folks.
Lowdown: Parked in the ‘back 40’ of my Grandma’s house at 456W 200S, Logan, UT . Go around the barn tothe back area to check it out. It is the big tall blue and white dome bus – well appointed with stickers.
Details: 1974 VW bus with full dome with sleeping and storage up top. Custom insulation, wood panels and bed/cupboard set-up within. 1800cc engine (rebuilt years ago – maybe 1987), Weber progressive carburetor and replaced transmission about 1992.
Story: The “Earthship” has sat since 1993 when I drove it from Vancouver and parked her before going to Japan the second time. The first 4 years were in inside storage shed. In 1996, I started it (without jumping) and drove it to where she sits. Mechanically the bus needs work but inside it dry and in goodshape. The body is mostly rust free (a few scrapes which were sprayed over a few years back). Though the hoses are cracked and tires flattened, it isn’t in much different shape from when I last drove it.
Deal: Since I have to move it out of Granny’s yard and am planning to go to law school somewhere soon, I wish to sell it as-is/where-is for $420. I will come down to haul out any personal belongings and exchange the title. Bear in mind these full dome buses are rare and in good shape have a $3-6,000 market price on eBay.
Bonus: I will leave any spare parts and a copy of the “Idiots Guide to VW” plus the official factory service manual with knowledge on everything from fuses to overhauls. There are even baskets of mountain bike parts and whatnot and a few paintings which may come along with the deal ;-)
Story: I am (admittedly) a bit blue about passing the bus along as I have a heavy emotional investment so to speak. I bought it in 1986 and rolled throughout USA, Canada and Mexico in that van. Slept hundreds of nights while going to University of Utah, dozens on Grateful Dead parking lots, fat tire festivals, held hostage at gunpoint in New Mexico, rolling from east coast metropolises to deep into canyonlands, across prairies, Baja beaches … well you get the idea. I had always planned to fix it up again and again roll on down the road but alas I must deed further adventures to a new captain.
Once upon a time, I wrangled a community of renegades, weirdos and soul-seekers from various Utah suburbs and old pals from Vancouver area to ramble up to, and rendezvous at the Grateful Dead shows in Eugene, Oregon. I recall calling the BC boys from a payphone on University of Utah campus declaring they must be there though they were hesitant. The Utah crew was handpicked but i have no recollection how. There were many ladies i knew from the community college and friends of friends or something. Either way, it was a fine combo of folks.
The Utah contingent for the most part rolled up in my beloved 1974 VW “turtle top” micro bus and Heather’s Subaru, while the BC boys rolled down in Brad Rees’ Datsun with an emergency radiator repair by Chris Gorin’s dad (done with a garden hose and zip ties if i recall correctly.
The ride up, mostly straight through from Provo to Eugene was a rollicking affair to begin with – between the soon-to-be legendary Cary Brown’s drunken revelry and bottle throwing target practice from the side door and various combos of cuddling, we ambled up and camped in the Eagles (or Lions) park across the street from Autzen stadium and launched ourselves into the pandemonium of the Dead lot which featured grassroots vendors selling everything from ganja goo balls to liquid LSD to grilled cheese sandwiches and veggie stir fry.
Walking back to out little camp late in the night, and spinning high from a mixed bag of goodness (for my part anyhow), Denise Robison and I heard a racket coming from the general area. As we ambled over, i recall saying “wow glad that’s not our camp” but as it turns out, Cary, who was a psychedelic (among other) veteran far beyond the level of any of us had decide to take a warrior’s ration which spun him to a unprecedented level of strange consciousness which led to him many strange acts from which he could not be persuaded to stop. Tough and rangy like an angry moose, he trashed my bus, then proceeded to battle a winch on the front the neighbour’s 4X4 with head, he was Jesus, Satan, a ninja and shouting oaths of all manner.
Despite the long suffering, kindly and experienced “talker downers” who with best intentions tried to help, the man was a menace to himself and a danger to others and would not be subdued. My instinct was to get the fck outta there and avoid the bad trip. However, an ambulance drove up and shit got real. My details are a bit hazy but i recall they strapped him down to a board (probably after some sort of injection) and began to haul him to the hospital – Dear thoughtful Denise (who remains a tender and talented caregiver with near magical powers) either insisted on hopping in the ambulance or managed to walk there (again im hazy on this front).
Our comrade was in an ER/intensive care unit (likely still bellowing his epithets) when Marty Kendall arrived complete with missionary identification and declared he was Cary’s clergy and would “take it from here” – Indeed Marty knew Cary well and managed to secret him away from the hospital (avoid a bill i believe) and the next day Cary had returned to the camp, and sat like a Buddha – silent and sweating.
The rest of the tribe went in to hear our future in the sounds of Jerry’s soaring guitar, Phil’s bombs, the 2 drum attack, Bob’s staccato rhythm riffs and Brent (who died shortly thereafter) hollering soul singing and keyboard poundings.
Other bits i recall are some of the gang going to sandy coastal Florence for a part of a day trip, Cary not paying gas money because “he was here to be the mechanic” and me limping my battered bus up to BC after the shows to work at a bike shop while the Utahns heading southwards.
Far more important than the chaotic story we all went home with was the bonds we forged between the gangs from both sides of the border which continued through many other Grateful Dead and other festival shows, budding romances and languid river and roadtrips.
Some of the folks remain my fondest friends while others i still follow from a distance.
My comrades who were on the trip can no doubt fill in my hazy gaps and fact checks and add their perspectives – as addled as they may be these years later.
Included are snaps for evidence. Can you pick out the characters?
PS Kathryn, sorry for my big melon blocking your face.
Audio from the show: https://archive.org/details/gd90-06-24.sbd.unknown.12092.sbeok.shnf
Chris GeeI found myself wandering the dead lot in wonder. Never before had so many whispered in my ears doses. Mushrooms. It was a symphony of color that night. Searching for my 20 dollar ticket. I woke up in the middle of some gravel lot somewhere between the lions lot and the stadium. Some one had given me a blanket and pillow. I was foggy rather groggy but happy as ever. As I was folding my blanket a fellow was wandering serving breakfast cereal and milk. I enjoyed this gratefully. Yum. A tear came to my eye as I also realized a ticket in my shirt pocket and my 20 bucks gone I was in. Hell yeah here we go. Epic much more tour to follow.
Dave OlsonLove your recollections Chris, hope others chime in with their flashbacks. So many more tours, so many more shows – each one a greater adventure than the last. But this is what started our journey and opened our eyes to the circus and the magic. Chris, the stories of your school buses and VW buses and station wagons and crews of folks and your curious ways of keeping gas in the tank are all a huge inspiration man – I’ve been thinking a lot about the cleansing ceremony and your journey with Aya and look forward to learning more.
Chris GeeYes. The love of the music on highest of levels. Fractals of infinite language one can hear As they flip and turn if your ears and mind are wide open … The bus came by……..when back in van let’s connect when it’s best. Much to share ad well as more research has been done here to assist with what we gave begun. Happy LSD day. !!! One great show was a one named just that. LSD daze …leguna seca daze California. With phish and govt mule?? That’s where I believe I saw bob snot grass ?? Spelling ?? blowing glass the first time and where I could not see the ship in one of those pics where you have not focus but look through. I was pissed. Everyone saw the ship. But did they see the flying dragons over the stage that night ? Hmmm group trip ? Awww who knows!?!
Bryan ReesI miss that shirt and those jeans make my crotch look huge. This must have been taken at the end of the weekend as Buddy on the left was in the hospital for most of the beginning then slept in the van for 30 hours straight.