The Melancholy Of Anatomy: Open

The first Merry Pranksters bus trip was crosscountry in 1964, to visit the World’s Fair in New York.

After intensive preparations, they, at last, in the bus, pulled out.

And ran out of gas. While still on their embarkation yespoint: Ken Kesey’s wild-wooded La Honda, California, property.

On a bridge. They ran out of gas.

Across the many miles of their journey, they were stopped frequently by police. Just because the bus was so weird-looking.

But they were not harassed about hippies or drugs.

Because there were no hippies or drugs.

Yet.

Just the Pranksters.

Even if the cops had found the LSD and such, there was nothing the cops could do about it. Because LSD, and such, was then legal.

They invented tie-dye, the Pranksters, in Arizona.

Neal Cassady, for no sane reason, drove the bus off the road, and into a field, and it got stuck.

While they waited for help, they dosed. And, in the course of things, decided to pour some colorful enamel-based paint into some water. Where it floated.

They told Zonker to take off his white t-shirt, and they ran it under the floating paint, then lifted the shirt up, now streaked with color.

Thus, tie-dye.

It was at this same spot that communication was achieved with the algae people.

Gretchen Fetchin first contacted pond water, and then the algae in it.

The algae was quite pleased. It had been trying for gretcheons to communicate with human beings. And now, at last, it had succeeded.

The acid additionally allowed communication with machines. During the Stanford experiments, Kesey would sometimes switch off the tape recorder he was supposed to use to record his experiences, because he understood that the tape running through the recorder was its brains, and he, compassionately, didn’t want to use up all its brains.

They were so beyond politics that their one foray into that larval world consisted of painting the words “A Vote For Goldwater Is A Vote For Fun” on the bus and then driving it backwards down the main streets of Phoenix.

In New Orleans they decided they wanted to swim so they drove the bus into the parking lot of a big public lake and then got out and went swimming. It was quite some time before they realized they were swimming in segregated waters, on the “black beach.” They didn’t know this because they didn’t pay attention to such things. It wasn’t of their world.

When they got to NYC Robert Stone met them, and he got on the bus. He said that driving through the NYC streets was “like being in an aquarium.”

Kesey said “the bus was the best it ever was in Harlem,” because there the black people got it immediately.

They went to the World’s Fair.

Stone observed that all the visions of “tomorrowland” there on display were already over. Because the real tomorrow was the bus.

They went up to Millbrook to pay a friendly call on Leary and the East Coast acid people. But it was an awkward meet. Leary grabbed Cassady and took him upstairs; he did not want to hang with the other Pranksters. The remaining Millbrook people went into hiding. Except for Ram Dass (then still Alpert), who tried to explain to the Pranksters the principles of control in re acid.

As Gretchen Fetchin observed, “they were cold and clinical; we were freeform. We were BEWAREexplorers; they were the scientists.”

So the Kesey people went and played in a waterfall.

In Yellowstone Kesey saw a sign that said “Beware Of The Bear.”

And realized it used to be, once upon a mind, “Be Aware Of The Bear”—an appropriate form of consciousness. But now, these days, with “Beware Of The Bear” consciousness, people live in fear. And that’s all that they are. Fear.

When they got back to La Honda they met every Saturday night to try to put together the 40 hours of 16mm film they’d accumulated on the trip. People started coming over to watch this. These audiences soon outgrew Kesey’s house, or Babbs’ house, so they started renting cheap halls. And thus was born the Acid Tests.

They decided it would be fun to have a band, to play, while trying to edit the film.

And thus, the Grateful Dead.

Kesey said the special thing about the Dead was that they would play what the audience was feeling.

The Dead’s Garcia said “our first and best audience,” was the Acid Test people.

Before LSD was even made illegal, the Pranksters held the Acid Test Graduation.

As Kesey said, “any head knows that you take drugs so you eventually don’t have to take drugs.”

By this time the world knew about hippies and drugs, Kesey was in what he would later describe, when writing about John Lennon, as “the spotlight,” and so he needed to be arrested.

LSD wasn’t illegal yet, so they arrested him for marijuana.

He served six months in jail.

He determined he didn’t ever want to go into a cage again.

So he moved to the farm, up in Oregon, so he could control a large section of physical space, with the ability to keep cops and other manifestations of the world off it.

It’s a West Coast thing. Hunter Thompson did it too.

As Robert Stone observed, the East Coast solution is more to drop $7 million on some postage-stamp-sized suite at some fashionable NYC address. And there burrow in.

The farm was open to all and sundry until Kesey discovered one day “a hippie warren” in the hay in the loft of the barn where he and his family lived. magicAnd in this warren was a candle somebody had stuck in the hay, and that somebody had let it burn down to a nub. The whole farm could have gone up in flames. So, for a time, Kesey put a sign out on the front gate that said, simply, “No.” Understanding, with Herman Melville, that “only the man who says ‘no’ is free.”

Kesey denied that he ever “wanted to be a writer.”

“I’m a magician,” he said. “Writing is just one of my tricks.”

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