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What a great story ("Laguna on Acid: The great hippie Christmas invasion of 1970," Dec. 25)! Bob Emmers is a genius for tracking it down and writing so accurately. He told the story from so many perspectives, and the readers can see it did change each person involved. It was a spiritual event from that standpoint alone.
Emmers' GREAT story enhanced a particular flashback of my own. It was 1967 or 1968. The underground papers were advertising something big, something that was going to happen at Elysian Park in Los Angeles on Easter Sunday: a love-in. Everyone was encouraged to come and share the good vibes. Radio picked up on the buzz, and soon the word was out to all. It spread like a rash. My curiosity and excitement built as I waited for the day.
I arrived early with my brother and his girlfriend, and we were amazed to find thousands of fellow brothers and sisters already quite into doing their thing. The aroma of pot, spices and incense filled the morning air like London fog. Walking into this growing crowd of mellow faces was a powerful experience. The colors of their clothes were blinding. Massive tents and flags had been erected for various tribes. Within an hour or two, the word was that close to 100,000 of us were there.
Bands jammed on a small stage. As the Mothers of Invention sent wild sounds out to us, I noticed that every few feet, there was a burning roach lying on the ground with the intentional purpose of being found and enjoyed. I crawled around like some space dog, toking from roaches that appeared to be as prominent as confetti. Candy hearts were passed around like notes at junior high; it was some of the best acid I had ever taken. Beautiful nude women, their bodies painted with peace signs and other logos of the times, were lying here and there. Everyone was smiling and laughing. Hells Angels tripped with straight-looking folks. Old faces shared good thoughts with young ones. The crowd was on the scale of some Bible story. There was no violence to be heard or seen anywhere.
Then a line of police appeared out of nowhere. Wearing riot gear and holding nightsticks, they stood at the top of the hills looking down on the scene. It was like ice water poured over your fevered head. I had visions of the army waiting to attack Spartacus and his people. Then something wonderful happened. They did nothing. Once again, word passed from face to face. It had been decided to ignore the drugs for the duration of the day. Pot was legal. The police watched as the people shared and tripped. They stood like sentinels but made no attempt to cause any trouble.
The society that hated us back then is probably wishing to its gods from behind its iron-barred windows that we, those crazed freaks, were back. We tried to hand them flowers and incense. They now have drivebys and carnage on the streets they live on. As for me, aside from the indelible memory of this great event, all that remains are two little candy hearts that I keep in a bottle with other souvenirs from those times. To Bob Emmers, I offer what is still legible on one of them: "YOU'RE SWELL."
Emmers must be really hard-up to write an article like that. No one has an interest in the 1960s-1970s anymore except as a joke. And for the people who lived in the period, it amounts to a failure to make lasting and needed change. I doubt they want to relive the period either. Most are either grandparents or dead. All parties were and are clueless: police, local residents, the so-called hippies.
Is it any better now? New buildings saturate the area, milking the locale to the point of financial exhaustion. Once the real estate has no upward value, you will have a massive slum. The people with money will move out, and the people living off programs will move in.
Every generation since the 1950s has openly mocked the previous generation. Children subconsciously hate their parents' values. They're all trained to memorize the Pledge of Allegiance in grammar school, and by high school, they're trying to overthrow the government within the context they know. The high school kids speak the truth since they have no financial biases-yet. Those few years of physical maturity and freedom from financial burden are much closer to the real freedoms all people should enjoy. What we have now is a form of financial slavery where the government sucks the life out of any real freedom that might be bought from hard work.
It would be fitting if the hippies had the direction to take the lifestyle to the ultimate expression: to overturn money-based values and simply live for themselves. Spooks like the IRS and the government would be powerless against very large numbers of organized non-participants. Writers for Star Trek create large-eared capitalists with teeth like piranha fish, touting ridiculous values in the lust for wealth. I suggest the distortion is nowhere near as ugly as the real thing in the home and on Wall Street.