Along the wanders, I found myself in San Francisco, really mostly in Pacifica, one of my favourite hideaways and just south of the city… but anyway, ventured into SF proper to (finally) get some time at the Beat Museum and wow, what a great job these folks are doing. As such, a few notes and artifacts from the museum and history dripping neighbourhood for your amusement and my memory.
Now I could go on and on about the importance of *the Beats* connecting literary traditions, sparking countercultures leading to the revolutionary “pranksters“ to the *hippies* (for lack of a better term), ￼punks (no I’m not talking mohawks here), indie-making artists of all medium, everything… while also looking back to Whitman, cummings (sic), WCW, Wolfe, Twain, Thoreau, Dostoevsky… you get the general gist. Or what I’m trying to see is wide-thinking, free-roaming, do it yourself souls sharing empathy for others, breaking conventions to find out who you really are and then manifesting the distilled results t into one’s own life which infuses your own soul, then effectuates inspiration in others – also (critically) this ain’t always pretty, rarely is. That’s not the point.
Work in progress…
Anyhow, the Beat Museum￼ was (maybe is) undergoing some construction as the building needs an earthquake-resistant upgrade, – I’ve shared some various fundraising campaigns and podcast riffs about their history over the years in this archive maybe you’ve come across and supported their noble efforts… but anyway, the building was surrounded by scaffolding in a bit of commotion and for a guy like me has easily sensory overload it, it could easily be intense but I stepped in and disappeared for an afternoon amongst the curated exhibits.
This is not some fancy-pants museum, this is a grassroots effort with everything done by intention and￼ in an attentive spirit. I took some crappy snapshots along the way just to remember for my own memory as i wander far and wide and sometimes the twist and turns get a little too quick for me to process real time in my noggin.
Artifacts and abstractions…
note: There is a little mini-theatre room looping a film (was it “Pull My Daisy? It’s all a bit hazy now a few countries later), which pleased me for the visual abstraction of Beat life as well as regrouping in a small / dark / cozy room.
Notable artifacts include:
“referee shirt” Neal Cassady famously wore while driving Furthur, the Merry Prankster bus
a plaid wool jacket Kerouac wore (I’ve had one just like it)
A: We were in Canada on that train trip [the Festival Express, 1970] and one morning the train stopped and Jerry was sitting out on the tracks not too far off, in the sunrise, setting “Ripple” to music. That’s a good memory. That was one of the happy times, going on that train trip.
Janis [Joplin] was the queen of that trip. One of my greatest memories is having breakfast with her on the train. She was having Southern Comfort and scotch, and she asked me if I heard that song by Kristofferson, “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down,” and she sang it in my ear. Can you imagine?
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.
Regarding recently deceased Robert Hunter, so much goodness and inspiration and an unreachable level.
I also feel if one passes without much pain, with most faculties intact, with family/pals at hand and over 72ish, that’s a solid exit. Hunter made 78. Even better with a legacy which will last centuries. My erstwhile doppelgänger member of GD collective as he was the one playing the role i play in my head.
Here’s the Warlocks of Tokyo singing Robert Hunter’s (and others’) songs. Some translated into Japanese. Ole Hunter didn’t like to change a syllable yet feel he’d dig hearing his loquacious poetry crossing language dogma.
Hunter was born Robert Burns and had a peripatetic childhood, including some time in a foster home. He took the surname of a stepfather. He had a flirtation, in the sixties, with Scientology and a problem, for a while, with speed. He was a seeker, a restless soul, an outsider. A friend of mine, on hearing of Hunter’s passing, told me that, in some ways, by his reckoning, Hunter had been dead all along. The man seemed to know something about death. After Garcia awoke from his coma, in 1986, Hunter had a new song for him, called “Black Muddy River.” Hunter, who rarely explained where his songs came from, told the writer Steve Silberman, in 1992, that the inspiration for it was his recurring dream of a “black, lusterless, slow-flowing Stygian river. . . . It’s vast and it’s hopeless. It’s death, with the absence of the soul. It’s my horror vision, and when I come out of that dream I do anything I can to counter it.” The lone Grateful Dead hit to come out of the post-coma period was a deceptively jaunty number, composed a half-decade earlier, called “Touch of Grey,” which Hunter worked up while suffering a wicked cocaine hangover. Hunter knew that cocaine was diabolical, and identified its arrival on the scene (around the time he wrote “Black Peter”) as the forbidden fruit to their Eden, but he didn’t always abstain. It may be that some of the wistful we-had-something-special-but-now-it’s-gone undertones of Hunter’s post-sixties songs—the golden-era stuff of “Workingman’s Dead” and “American Beauty,” along with a slew of beloved songs the Dead never recorded in a studio, such as “Tennessee Jed,” “Brown-Eyed Women,” “Wharf Rat,” and “Ramble On Rose”—owe something to the regret that gnawed at Hunter over the effects of cocaine on the whole enterprise.
Rain Man The visionary wordsmith Robert Hunter takes to the stage. By John Donohue, The New Yorker, July 14, 2014
“One sunny afternoon in London, in 1970, Hunter wrote the words to three magical Grateful Dead songs, “To Lay Me Down,” “Ripple,” and “Brokedown Palace.” He is a lyricist with few equals, and, together with Jerry Garcia, he conjured up the majority of the Dead’s original songs.”
Seeking literary hero to admire? Meet Robert Hunter, primary lyricist for the Grateful Dead, ergo:
Robert Hunter joined the Grateful Dead in the fall of 1967, when he arrived at a rehearsal just in time to write the first verse of the band’s classic “Dark Star.” Though he’d never play onstage, he became not only a genuine band member but its secret Ace in the hole. Though Bob Weir’s words for “The Other One” would endure, most of the band’s early verbal efforts would not; it was Hunter’s work that would elevate their songs from ditties to rich, complete stories set to song. Hunter had fallen into the Dead’s general scene in 1961 when he’d met Garcia in Palo Alto, and he’d played in several of Garcia’s early bluegrass bands. But he’d always thought of himself as a writer — probably a novelist — and it was only in 1967 that he fulfilled his personal destiny, and enriched the Dead’s. He’s gone on to write several books of poetry, and is currently at work on a novel.
Upon turning 70 years old, Dave’s dear sensei (since a teenage Utah community college stint), Larry Harper (among various monikers) curated 70 items of advice (at request of Annie Dandelion).
As such, between licks by Grateful Dead and master potter Marty Kendall, he riffs the list – ranging from practical to mystical to almost comical, many including nudity and space. Oh, also includes his ethereal autoharp songs (rescued from a ca. 1991 Zzyxz Rd cassette).
This oversized bonanza of goodness started life as a hitch-hiking themed board game, complete with funny names for various cities, and then, after various knives, scissors, drills, and glue, became a scrapjournal filled with items from Grateful Dead 50th anniversary shows in Santa Clara, CA and Chicago, IL.
This trip was a “big deal” for my as part of my healing process from a chronic and complex consortium of diseases and i pre-populated with all sorts of little inspiration pick-me-ups to keep me trucking on.
The end result is bulging with thick items including programs from each day of the concerts, dried flowers, envelopes of treats, and also includes set lists, messages and signatures from various conspirators, and other new pals met along the way, along with loads of stickers, sketches, road poetry, postcards, and a few sketches by others.
Oh, the edges are finished with hockey tape and a page from a Japanese manga schoolbook. It is huge and heavy and joyful. A few pages shared here for your amusement.
Two separate things happened on August 9, 1995, both by chance emerging from Northern California though they had little else in common. The first was a scheduled event: the initial public offering (IPO) by Netscape, a startup tech firm designed to make software to power the Internet.
I remember walking through the hallway at work that morning, probably heading for a coffee refill, when I saw a clump of co-workers and magazine editors talking anxiously. I thought they were talking about the Netscape IPO, but they weren’t. “Jerry Garcia died,” one of the editors said to me. “We need to replace the front page and get a new headline up, stat.”
Jerry Garcia. This one hit home.
Nobody said “going viral” yet by the summer of 1995, but that’s exactly what Jerry Garcia’s death did, and it was pretty much the biggest anything had gone viral anywhere up to this point.
Jerry Garcia’s death was the first major spontaneous news event to break big on the Internet, and the first of many to follow. There is one simple reason why it took a Grateful Dead member’s death to inspire the world’s first flash mob: the Internet’s early-adopter user base was heavy with educators and scientists and technologists, and educators and scientists and technologists tend to love the Grateful Dead. There was also a remarkable preponderance of Deadheads at magazines like WIRED as well as among the Internet’s most well-known early voices, like lyricist John Perry Barlow, who had recently emerged as the co-founder of the freedom-minded Electronic Frontier Foundation.
It’s because the World Wide Web and the Grateful Dead loved each other so well that August 9, 1995 turned out to be the first day I ever used the Internet to find out where I would be going that evening.
This day was pivotal for me and the day *everything* changed for me. I was a Deadhead and living on th e island of Guam after leaving Japan for a visa run and, after finding i was somehow very employable, i stayed on. Then, 1995 came and instead of joining my pals from BC, Canada and Utah and all points in between, i figured i’d work one for season as a Japanese speaking host at a private beach club – which sounds like a dream job but i could feel my brain atrophying and i’d imagine myself 20 years later as a character from a Jimmy Buffet song…And then in the weird time shifted hours of a 17 hour difference, i got the call that Jerry died. I was crushed and flummoxed and didnt go to work and instead starting making calls to find out “what happened? when’s the tribute? what the fck?” etc.
I couldnt learn a thing and the newspapers operating on a day or two delay was no help – of course this hippie didnt have a TV and then again, watching some make-upped clown on CNN tell me the generic anecdotes was not what i needed. So i went down to a park where i thought i might find some other Heads and sure enough, i found tribe of wide-eyed wonderers in the same state of mind.
I passed around a few little pinner joints – not worthy of the big man but did what i could – and commiserated with the assembled mix of oddballs who end on the island avoiding <something>. And then 2 haoles walked up and started asking questions. By that time, despite my heritage felt mostly local and raised eyebrow with the others at the intrusion and instead starting asking them questions: how? where? wtf? and they had all the answers. Mouth agape, i asked how they knew all this and they replied, “We work at the newspaper (Pacific Daily News for the record) and we have the internet.” “Ummm… The internet?” my reply. “Yeah its send words and pictures of any kind over phone lines and onto a computer,” they explained and i thought “whoa computers can do that?”
The next day, their write up was in the paper including a few of my quotes talking about how (paraphrasing) i’ve travelled all around the world and always found community with Deadheads to celebrate the music and counter-culture lifestyle.”
I realized there was no way i could physically get from Guam to San Fran in time for any memorial and instead tried to call friends who i’d roust at 3AM and barrage with questions quickly as i was paying like $8/minute or something. Still no real sense of understanding so i went to an ISP called Kuentos.Guam.net and took a one night workshop to connect to the internet using Win 3.1 and Trumpet Winsock. I couldn’t have cared less about the tech but wanted to see the words and pictures… and over the 9600 baud modem, i began to see Dead.net appear with words and pictures. The page was about 1/2 way loaded when the power went down on the whole island after a (endemic & invasive) brown tree snake bit into the one of the warm electric wires and shut it all down. I had seen the future enough to know that this was something for me.
Since i was a kiddo, i’d made ditto-machined newspapers, punk rock fanzines, the best school reports, and shared little chap-books of poetry and sketches with pals and now, i realized, i could do this at a bigger scale… take all my weird bits of knowledge and share with a larger audience. Head melted i started my first web page a week or so afterwards, a treatise and clearinghouse about the history of Hemp in Japan. The page was endlessly long as i didn’t realize the concept of multiple pages linking together but like the endless scroll feeling of the page — mountains and rivers without end, its seemed organic and right away, there was conversation and community sparked as i quickly met other folks exploring nascent hemp culture. Within a month, i was importing hemp surf trunks and trucker wallets to sell on island and also sending my research out to publications.
Realizing the my lifestyle/hobby of the Grateful Dead was no more (ostensibly anyhow), i made plans to leave Guam and head to Olympia Washington where i could mop up a long overdue college degree and find a place in all of this new web stuff.
Within 24 hours of landing in a strange climate and town, where i set up a tent in the woods by Evergreen College, i met some heady looking guys setting a booth to sell tie-dyes the next day at an annual campus fair. I asked them for change for the laundry and they asked “are those hemp overalls?” Yeah man,… of course this led to the usual passing of the bowls and swapping tales of tour. The next day i learned they also had just opened an ISP called OlyWa.net. “Come on by,” they said. I did and joined up and crashed coursed myself in TCP/IP, POP, PPP, HTTP and all the other acronyms i could and, seeing the 3 dudes werent exactly “people persons”, i worked my way into the biz as the marketing guy. This was a wild great ride from 1996-2000 when we sold it (a whole other story including the acquiring company requiring me to take a drug test… they tried anyhow).
Then moved back up to Vancouver, working for Raincity Studios making new-school database driven content rich, community building sites, Warner>Rhino was a client and was able to do some work on the site which brought me to the Internet in the first place. I added my fuzzy photos and hazy memories to the list of shows and felt something about full circle. Also by this time, my first web project about hemp in Japan had been published extensively and i had High Times staying at my house and related fun and chaos.
Then, moving on i was the first Marketing Head at Hootsuite – a social media tool in full startup mode. We were 10 in a dingy office and i was charged with growing the audience with basically no budget. But years of hustling the Grateful Dead lot and making enough to get to the next show and have a good time doing it, came in handy as i recruited an international team, fed them stories and together built community around our users including epic campaigns at SXSW where i went back to my Dead roots and created the Hootbus which was a modified short bus turned into a party on wheels as we’d roll the streets of Austin getting people “On the Bus” just like on tour — well kinda anyhow. In my barrage of public speaking which came along with the ride, i shared stories (to tech heavy audiences) of building community on tour, the resourcefulness needed to build and move, the “one hug at a time” ethos which i espoused to treat each user like our favourite.
Then last year, The Grateful Dead did the 50th anniversary shows and Hootsuite reached a Billion dollar valuation. Im still the same guy, sitting on a porch with a smoke and cut off jeans wondering when the next show is and how i can share the story.
My good buddy Mac Kobayashi runs a small farm in Okayama, Japan (really my fave all around place in the country as nice mix of city/country, beach/mountains, trad/modern culture) making goat cheese/milk and serving delightful craft bevvies and meals.
He also has a truly epic music collection, especially Grateful Dead related, but also Allmans, Phish, String Cheese… as well as Americana galore including Wilco, Ry Cooder, Townes Van Zandt, and poets Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Elliott Smith and Courtney Barnett, and more and more and more (!).
I (not shockingly) especially enjoy the GD box sets and books as i see them advertised but never had chance to look/listen/touch myself… until his farm. Such elegant collections in wooden boxes, suitcases and curious box sets. Plus dang near every book ever about GD.
I rounded-up a few snap selection (but not all by any stretch) for my amusement and by-association-collection and invite you to look along. Includes the Europe 72 suitcase pack, the set with a show from each year + 7″ single from 65/95, a stack of books, a set from Fare Thee Well, some backstage passes stuck on coffee cans, and also a photo of the charming farmer himself and some of his happy animals.
Brother Dan and I went to Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary (and final) shows – 2 in Santa Clara, California and 3 in Chicago, Illinois. We roadtripped the whole she-bang from Vancouver, BC to Olympia, WA to Pacifica, Santa Clara, then Las Vegas to Provo where we switched vehicles and rode with some pals across the midwest (camping in an epic storm in Nebraska along the way). We hit all 5 shows and enjoyed the community and music.
Other stops included Phil Lesh’s Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael California and Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado to see Neil Young and Promise of the Real. We parted ways in SLC as i had to head to rescue a broken RV in Mendocino (unsuccessfully as it turns out) and Dan headed back to BC.
Along the way, stopped at various craft breweries, made loads of arts and crafts (including an massive scrapbook of ephemera, road poetry, set lists, newspaper clipping and other sundries) and a series of photos by Lomo camera. Also documented a series of two-fer photos of us enjoying beers or joints or scenery and the company of conspirators. Several of these became a “memory book” i created (via an online publishing service) for Dan as a wee present. When visited his home, i snapped quick shots of the pages (note to self: take better ones next time). Here the are the lousy pics of an otherwise lovely book – for my amusement and your curiosity.