Laguna on Acid

The Great Hippie Christmas Invasion of 1970

In Kelley's store, the evening is coming down, shadows are lengthening, and the memories are spinning out. "Do you remember the troopers from the Brotherhood coming through the crowd, passing out acid?"

"Everybody mellow and happy . . ."

"There was that guy up onstage, and he was trying to get them to chant, 'Down with Nixon; down with Nixon,' and nobody wanted that then, and they all started chanting back: 'Love! Love! Love!'"

"Everybody has their own reality."

"All the cops lined up on the hills like Indians . . ."

"There was one girl who got back in and gathered up all these abandoned quilts and blankets, and she lived for a couple of years on the clothes she made from them."

"The next spring, pot was springing up everywhere from the seeds that were dropped."

And then, suddenly, the conversation runs out. The traffic noise comes to us, and a clatter of car horns from toward Main Beach, and from somewhere closer at hand, we hear the bass thump of a rap tune. "It seemed so magical back then," says Chaney. "So magical, like things were coming, things were happening."

Kelley nods, but almost in a distracted way. "Weird and wonderful."

"And then," says Chaney, "there was this attitude like, 'Nip it in the bud,' and the hippies got driven out. And then everything changed and everybody got hard-eyed and into coke."

For a moment, he brightens. "But still, today there are all these people going to Dead concerts, and people are still trying to raise their consciousness, and there are these young kids coming up interested in the '60s and '70s."

Kelley leans back against a glass case of jewelry, his long hair lank in the dusty airlessness. "The new generation . . ."

"They want to hear the stories," Chaney says.

"Well," Kelley says, and then for a moment or two, he adds nothing. Finally he smiles a strange soft smile. He raises a hand and softly flutters his fingers in the air. "And there will always be people who are telling the stories," he says. "It's important to remember the stories."

One afternoon, Leeds and I park along Laguna Canyon Road, make our way through the barbed wire and past the "No Trespassing" signs, and follow a trail through the grass of Sycamore Flats toward the low brown hills. As everything comes back into her memory, she points out the sites. "The medical tent was here," she says. "The stage was up there against the hillside, and there-past those oak trees-was where I cooked. Right about there was my little tepee kitchen. We got the bamboo from that grove in the gully, and we leaned it up, and we put that star on top of it." She points to the right. "That grove of bamboo there."

And then her hand comes slowly back to her side. "It was the most peaceful, beautiful joining of minds," she says finally. "We really felt like things were going to keep on. Wouldn't it be wonderful if it happened again?"

We stand for a moment, listening to the breeze through the grass and the brittle oak leaves. "It could happen again," she says. She turns to me and asks, "Couldn't it?"

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