Journeying the Sixties: A Counterculture Tarot     index     <prev     next>


"We were living at 710 Ashbury Street and just kind of aghast at the amount of people that showed up down on Haight Street everyday . . . It was sort of like a farmer unloading a truckload of onions. That's kind of how it felt, that the streets were just filling up with people, vegetables yearning to be free . . . We gave ourselves permission to be weird . . . We also gave other people permission to be weird. I think that's been terribly useful."

--Hippie Princess Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia reflecting on the 40th Anniversary of the Summer of Love in San Francisco, 2007

Flower children experienced a childhood notably longer than that of any previous generation and in the enjoyment of its benefits they sought to prolong it. We were not to "trust anyone over 30," a spontaneous lengthening of childhood into what two generations before had been considered middle age. The power of play guided so many choices, many of them wonderfully creative, some of them astonishingly indulgent and shortsighted, but all made by stumbling, passionate, raw and infatuated children struggling to describe new identities and declare new affections. It takes approximately a decade for a child to grow from pre-pubescent latency into a legal and functioning adult, a time period that fits like a template over the epochal Sixties. As psychologist Louise Kaplan writes, "The purpose of adolescence is to revise the past, not to obliterate it . . . Adolescence entails the deployment of family passions to the passions and ideals that bind individuals to new family units, to their communities, to the species, to nature, to the cosmos. Therefore, given half a chance, the revolution at issue in adolescence becomes a revolution of transformation, not of annihilation." Was the decade's soaring ride simply the noisy hoopla of the loudest and most abrasive adolescence in history? Of course not, but the period's seminal emotional power, and the initial applications of its critical mass, were rooted in what was popularly termed a Children's Crusade.

Carolyn Adams had a head start on the Summer of Love. After growing up in an upper middle class family in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., she came west in 1964 and in one of those seemingly typical synchronicities of the time was picked up by Neal Cassady at a Palo Alto coffee shop. Cassady, who had given up his life with the Beats to help Ken Kesey become the Johnny Appleseed of LSD, took Adams back to Kesey's home in La Honda where she was named Mountain Girl and, while taking her first acid trip, joined Kesey's band of Merry Pranksters. "I remember looking down at my feet and seeing all these little redwood needles rearranging themselves into these incredible patterns," Mountain Girl later recalled to Martin Torgoff, author of Can't find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945-2000. "Look, they're marching! They're making little armies!" she shouted in an ecstatic epiphany. Within three months the 17-year-old Mountain Girl was preparing for the Pranksters' cross country trip to New York in a 1939 International Harvest School Bus named Furthur. Along the way the Pranksters would detour into cities and stage the public "acid tests" that were harbingers of the psychedelic movement.

The Merry Pranksters originated so much of what today we think of as the hippie lifestyle: bizarre and brightly colored dress, communal living, light shows, psychedelic drug use, impromptu rock concerts, and the caravanning road trip that blended the voyager spirit of Kerouac's On the Road with the mind-bent consciousness of a crew of acidheads. Kesey, spending the money he had earned from his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, was the founder of the feast. In a short time, Mountain Girl was romantically involved with the author and pregnant with his child. When the Pranksters' free distribution of LSD got them into trouble with the law, Kesey and company fled to Mexico where Mountain Girl gave birth to Kesey's daughter, Sunshine.

After marrying Prankster George Walker, Mountain Girl met Grateful Dead lead guitarist Jerry Garcia who frequently played for Kesey's acid tests before the Dead developed a loyal following of its own. By the Summer of Love, Mountain Girl lived with Garcia and his band in the Haight-Ashbury. Before actually marrying Garcia in 1981 Mountain Girl bore him two daughters, and then moved in and out of Garcia's life until they divorced in 1994. Mountain Girl's free-spirited and drug-enhanced life at the Counterculture's threshold characterized the earnest and provocative impulses that seemed to drive the new youth culture.