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Today at the pump

The Sole Prop's Sister?


Under here.

April 2, 2010

Don't Like Stress
Friday. I drove to the Grand Lake theater last night thinking I could easily walk, but would rather drive home after dark. I made the mistake of not bringing a camera, thinking this is a movie release of some kind, and they usually restrict cameras to those on their payroll. Not useful pictures of their actors showing up on web sites and such give them ulcers. I was forgetting this was Wavy Gravy and his people really don't give a flying leap. Still, I'd have only taken one or two at the end during the question and answer session, I was not up for making an asshole out of myself by poking a lens into people's faces, not at a party anyway. Who are you? Why are you here with a camera? Nice to have had a shot or two to display, but this is not the first time I've had to say that.

So, how did it go? How was the movie? The party before the showing had about sixty people attending, Wavy himself showing up a few minutes late because of heavy traffic, having attended the St. Stupid's Day Parade earlier in San Francisco. I kicked myself for not remembering it ran on April 1st, April Fool's Day, but realized I'd been in no condition that morning or afternoon to go over and shoot pictures. Still....

As I mentioned, I thought I'd go to this thing as I lived a short distance from the theater and I'd both been aware of Hugh Romney (he later legally changed his name to Wavy Gravy) and his wife Jahanara through parties they attended at the Rip Off Press in the early seventies and because there were a bunch of us who came to San Francisco in the first place looking for Kesey, having read Wolf's Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, and knew of the Pranksters, acid and whatever else seemed to be happening in this Beat related literary world.

My thought was, well, maybe I'd see one or two people I knew from those days and at least hang around listening if not saying hello. Wavy looked really tired after participating in the St. Stupid's Day Parade and clearly had trouble walking, something they covered in the movie. He said hello, we went over briefly where we'd met, what Gilbert Shelton was up to, how he and his wife had visited briefly with Gilbert in France recently and how he'd been using some Freak Brothers art work in his Nobody For President campaigns that Gilbert had specially done for him some time ago. Cool.

The director Michelle Esrick and Wavy's wife Jahanara were good about saying hello to everyone present, none of whom, with the exception of one or two, looked familiar. Maria Muldaur was there, I noted her presence, but had no idea who she was until she along with others were introduced to the crowd after the screening. There were a number of young clean cut men and women who also turned up later in the film: Wavy and Jahanara's children. There were some of the old Pranksters and hippies of various stripes present, more than a few well known musicians, but I had no idea who any of them were and made no real attempt to say hello. But still, an interesting evening.

Saint Misbehavin’ has evidently been in the can now for over a year after ten years in the making, it's first showing at last year's Austin SXSW festival. Part of this showing was to raise the ninety thousand dollars needed to pay the music licensing fees, necessary before it can be put into general release. Some of the major distributors want it, but don't want it enough to put up ninety grand. I know nothing of such things, but the sound track was tasty, as you'd expect. Wavy Gravy was a close friend of Bob Dylan's in New York City when Dylan was just staring out, Wavy (then Hugh Romney) the young Beat poet was managed by Lenny Bruce in those days and knew too many interesting people to list.

Saint Misbehavin’ started with the early New York days with Dylan, the Prankster days with Kesey, the Hog Farm and Woodstock. Wavy had an anecdote or two about Austin and the people they'd met on the Prankster's original trip to the east coast to meet Leary in Further. Yes, some Woodstock clips, some interesting background information, and then a laying out of what's been happening since, most of which I was unaware of. The trips through Europe, driving over the Khyber Pass in the seventies (eighties?), bringing medical supplies to places like India and Nepal, sponsoring cataract surgery teams that have saved the sight of over two million people. Can you see driving a series of old beat up buses through the Khyber pass on a load of acid with a load of kids in tow? Your kids? Out there in god knows where? I can't, I don't have the imagination.

That is the aspect that's always slowed me down, more a lack of knowledge of the realities involved than anything else. How much of this was done on drugs? Acid is a hell of a hammer and being out in the middle of nowhere in say Texas, let alone Bulgaria or Nepal on acid, is not something I can get my head around. Now, were they doing acid in Bulgaria? Who knows, but my reaction probably says more about my own fears, lack of worldly knowledge and how my head is put together than anything else. Jahanara seemed focused, relaxed, very competent in keeping things rolling.

Evidently a life with these kind of experiences - no money, no roof other than a bus over their heads, giving birth for the first time at a truck stop - didn't slow her down. I wasn't sure I wasn't in the midst of mythical creatures last night, I thought they looked, well, perfectly normal. Are mythical creatures supposed to look like the folks next door? OK, Wavy Gravy was in a clown costume wearing a red plastic nose, but that's to be expected. This is show business, a bit of flair in the introduction of a movie. Something I know little about.

So good. The movie was well worth the wait, it filled in a bunch of history I found useful. One little aside: I had one of those brief “hallucinatory” episode I've described too many times now come on as the movie started, a period of maybe twenty minutes during the Beginning-Prankster-Woodstock period when my eyes seemed to have trouble focusing on the screen, seeing double and the head drifting into what is now becoming familiar territory. The double vision may have been the film itself, relying on old less than professional footage for the early years (I could focus easily on the head and hair of the young woman sitting in front of me, but I was clearly having difficulty in keeping the real separated from something else). But who knows? It cleared right up, the rest of the movie was fine and I felt a bit speedy, sharp, in good fettle by the time it was done. But yes, this marks two or three of these in the last few days, time to see that neurologist.

As an aside, I overhead a conversation between two women behind me whom I assume were my age talking about how they'd been handling pain management for this and that over the last years. Pain management? The people I overhead looked to be your standard issue older everyday middle class, maybe upper middle class matrons, entering what is now obviously challenging territory. As, I guess, are we all.

The movie described Wavy Gravy's back problems, the pain he's experienced through much of his life, brought on by having been beaten by police and the occasional group of right wing asshole's while participating in anti-Vietnam peace demonstrations and such. No wonder he has trouble walking. I'm surprised (as he mentioned he himself is surprised) he's alive. He made the comment in the movie: one reason he moved finally from ‘The Fool’ persona to ‘The Clown’ persona was because police had trouble rationalizing beating up a clown.

Clowns were non-threatening images. He had similar luck in Santa Claus and bunny rabbit outfits, a bit of insight from the front lines. In one instance, a day after having a disk fused in his back, trussed up in a metal brace, confronted by police, he opened his coat to show the brace and explained he'd just gotten out of the hospital, arrest him, but please don't break his back. They threw him against a car grill and he was out cold and back in a hospital ward. It's not easy saying to power you don't like their fucking wars from under a fool's cap or wearing a bright red rubber nose.

So I'm up this morning after breakfast, the sky overcast, intermittent rain forecast for the weekend. (I'm getting tired of their breakfast menu, most of which involve bacon, fried potatoes, eggs and such, most of which I avoid. Some cereal, would be nice. I've been thinking I've eaten enough blue berry waffles with a sliced banana on top, no syrup, no butter for one person's life.) There are three or four events I'd planned to photograph today through the weekend. Right now I'm in the mood, ready to go, but after the ups and downs of the last week I'll know if I've gone to any of them when Sunday comes.

Later. Off and on almost rain so far looking like it really is going to rain this afternoon. There's a demonstration of some kind going on in front of Oakland City Hall from five to seven, maybe I'll go if it's not raining, but things don't look good. I don't quite remember what it's about, if it's a demonstration for something or against something and I could look it up, but what's the difference in pictures? I'm a little tired, but better than I was yesterday, so we'll see how it goes.

The computer has died a half dozen times today, booting without the mouse and keyboard working. I've had them freeze up in the middle of things too, but this not working when it boots is relatively new. I've got it going now (obviously), but I suspect more radical measures will be required. Unfortunately “more radical” usually involves money and I've been spending too much money. Not enough to stop me from keeping this computer going, but it raises the stress. I don't like stress.

The photograph was taken at the Oakland City Center with a Nikon D3 mounted with a 24 - 70mm f 2.8 Nikkor G lens at f 9 at 1/400th second, ISO 200.