"An Elysian Field"
A "Gathering of The Tribes," akin to the now famous 'Human Be-In' held in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park occurred in Los Angeles during a small windowpane in time that (at least for the afternoon), brought together the diverse factions of LA's Underpublic, then living in and around Echo Park, the Silverlake district, and in what would come to be known as Mondo Hollywood. The Elysian Fields are located near Dodger Stadium, where today, a good-samaritan effort is under way to save LA's oldest park - 112 this year - (http://www.echopark.net/). It was in this scenic local that the colorfully diverse, and ill-documented "Gathering Of Tribes" was held, and what follows is my: It Was More That Thirty Years Ago Today look back upon that somewhat quixotic day in the sun.
At the time, I was living in Orange County near Laguna Beach, and among my Underpublic associates were the angel-headed surf-empresarios now referred to as "The Brotherhood of Eternal Love." So, the day before heading north to play in the Elysian Fields I stopped by to visit my friend 'Jimmy The Clerk' to pick up a powderbox full of Orange Sunshine party favor. Jimmy suggested what a trip it would be to be the first Being at the Be-In, so, I took his comment to heart, and set my alarm clock for 4 am - allowing me plenty of time to arrive on the Elysian set before anyone else.
I arrived well before dawn, and was infinitely pleased to find that I was indeed the first quasi-tribe member to light up a joint, and began wondering about the dew covered grass in the early morning fog until I came upon an old growth oak. I took this to be the perfect redoubt for my Be-In look-out post, so, I spread out my Navajo blanket to observe the anticipated Tribal arrivals. As I sat there contemplating the vast whatever I noticed a gossamer-like figure strolling in my direction, and waved him over. As he came closer, I discerned that the gossamer was actually a head-full of Anglo-electrified hair, and that the Being was body-suited in a full set of well-worn leathers with a Tibetan shoulder bag slung across his chest. "Whooah!" said the Being, "I thought for sure I would be the first one here!" "Hey - let's call it a draw," I returned, and pulled out my powderbox to offer my new acquaintance in the fog some Orange Sunshine Love Dust, which he quickly gobble-snorked with uninhibited Tribal glee - "Whooah!" he refrained.
As we chatted away in the rising dawn, my guest told me that he wasn't part of the LA set, and had driven down from 'The Haight' to scout out the Tribal scene in Hollywood. I remarked that I periodically visited 'The City,' and he gave me his address with a "Whooah! Stop By Anytime Man!" and prepared to Be-On his merry way. "On second thought," he added, as he pulled out a plasmic vial from his Lama bag - "Here man - Whooah! Share this with your friends," and handed me an ennie-meany little joint before disappearing into the bushes. "Whooah!" I thought, staring at the paper twig before firing it up, thinking that I'd be lucky if the ennie-meany thing had enough material to get me high, much less my "friends." Match lit, I sucked in really hard on the pin-like object, and nearly consumed the entire thing in one enormous inhalation. The micro-second the smoke surged its way toward my unprepared brain I knew I had terribly misjudged my blanket buddy's offering - this was an ennie-meany joint full of DMT!
When I came back to reality, I was staring up and into the sunshine faces of a dozen or more Tribal Gatherer's who had formed a rotating OM circle around me! It was now late morning, and the Gathering Of Tribes had obviously been underway for some time. I struggled to sit up, and I remember thinking that being the first "Being" at the Be-In hadn't exactly worked out the way I had anticipated. Navajo blanketless, I stood up to join the OM circle, and one of the gathered commented that they thought I would never wake up - OMMmmm.
The morning incensed into afternoon and a freely formed diversity ruled the day. Hundreds of smiling Tribe People wondered about the Elysian Field clad in their beady finery, macrame dresses, proto-tie-dyes, and loin cloths, as pounding waves of Acid Rock spewed from not-much-of-a stage over the vibrating heads and into the multicolored foliage. Many of the local groups played the play that day, including (to the best of my fainted memory), The Flamin Groovies, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, The Seventh Son, and The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band.
Folk Singer Barry McGuire was on hand - but, due to the condition his condition was in, he refrained from singing. Instead, and smack dab in the middle of the Elysian Field, he covered his barely-clad self, and a lovely young woman in a blanket (not my donated Navajo), and quite uninhibitedly made Love-In with her. This is one of the few events that day to make the national papers - and over the years, the photo documentation of Reverend Barry's underblanket consummation has been reprinted in numerous publications.
Gypsy Boots, the Mojave Desert Vegemaniac with a blender, and health food promoter well before his time ran around wearing a suit of animal pelts, handing out his marvelous 'Energy Bars,' followed by lengthy excerpts from his never-ending story - quite a guy Gypsy, and his grandiose, emotive humor is sorely missed in the stoic vegan world of today. Among the many intriguing characters I met that day was a blind poet-composer by the name of "Moondog" (Louis Hardin), dressed in his Viking garb, and who introduced me to a locally blind group of psychedelic oil painters who had a small gallery near the Silverlake District, where they exhibited their LSD influenced visions on canvas. Along with his many avant-compositions, the late Moondog is the madrigal composer of "All Is Loneliness," slightly revised by Janis Joplin, and recorded by Big Brother and The Holding Company on their debut album.
By mid-afternoon my powderbox of Orange Sunshine give-away had long gone into the minds of others, and I danced the dance of dancers gathered all every which away in the California sun - patchouli oil, frankincense and marijuana ruled the air - hundreds of watermelons were delivered by the DiggerFree contingent and a psychedelic water melon toss ensued - the bands played on into the late afternoon, and all was well and good in the Elysian Field.
That is, until the Hell Bent For Leather motorcycle gang Satan's Slaves decided that the Love-In was over! Without warning, the hairy minions of Beelzebub roared out of the bushes on their screaming hogs, and rode over the meadow spinning donuts in the sun, causing an immediate Scattering Of The Tribes. The Beings at hand were panic stricken, and I ran to the shelter of my Ford Fairlane and locked the doors - it was time to go home.
A few weeks later I was in San Francisco, so, I decided to pay my Elysian DMT donor a visit in The Haight. My fuzzy haired friend was chipper as ever and perfectly glad to see me, "Whooah!" he said when I told him about my daze following his departure in the field. We went into his neo-Victorinan kitchen to get something to drink, and when he opened the refrigerator there sat a lab tray holding what looked like a hundred or so ampules from Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland! "Whooah! Here have a soft drink, we'll drink some of that later," he gleamed - and then the door bell rang. Before we could get to the door in tromps a group of wildly dressed long-long-long hairs, and my friend introduced me. "Hey Hammond meet my friend John Cippolina and The Quicksilver Messenger Service."
"Whooah!" and the rest is sweetly remembered history.
(C) 2001 Hammond Guthrie
Hammond Guthrie-Writer/nonobjective-abstractionist painter (Vorpal Gallery S.F.) lives in Portland, Oregon-where he recently completed a book of memoirs: AsEverWas (A Self-Descriptive Biopathy) from which the vignette "An Elysian Field" is taken. Over the years, and in various locales around the world, Hammond has been an acquaintance-if not out right co-conspirator-with numerous Beat/Neo-Beat artists and brave experimentalists, including Philo Farnsworth III, son of the man who invented television; Del Close, the late Director of Second City and Committee theaters; "Hube the Cube" Leslie; Allen Ginsberg; William Burroughs; John "Hoppy" Hopkins of the Arts Lab in London; and Jasper Grootvelt, mentor for the Dutch Provo activist group—to name a few. Currently he is at work on a second volume of vignettes: Biopathic Tendencies: (1976-1992). You may write to Hammond at email@example.com.