Halloween 1970

This story appeared in a collection of stories edited by Paul Krassner, “Pot Stories for the Soul.” The collection provides a rich view of the 60’s counter-culture, of which I was a part.

Halloween 1970

By Lenny Lipton

Behind me lay the Sacramento Valley, the A & W Root Beer drive-in in Redding, a hash joint in Weed and the ever-looming Mount Shasta, the Siskiyou, Ashland and the long glide downward into Oregon. Before me, across the road, that Halloween moonlit night, I heard the sounds a rock band coming from the big old house with the Jeffersonian columns. The house sat on a knob of land formed by a bend in the Mohawk River, just a few miles outside of the town of Marcola. They said it had been used in the Jimmy Stewart movie Shenandoah, and true or not, the story lent an air of glamour to the downtrodden manor.

I parked next to the pasture and apple trees where Chief and Apache daily grazed, and after fourteen hours on the road emerged from my fire truck red 544 Volvo. The music grew louder as I walked across the cold hard lawn, opened the door under the columned porch, and feasted my eyes on a mob of laughing, singing, dancing, howling, hooting, and jumping fiends–what we used to call long haired freaks–people with names like Sunshine, Nixy Knox, Belle Donna, Tangerine, Sky, One Eyed Joe, Pink Cloud, Oxygene, and Gentle Waters. They wouldn’t be put off if you called them freaks. They’d like it, because freaks is what they were–hippy freaks.

Zigzagging through the throng I came upon Ken Kesey, Master of the Mystic Arts, who had learned the secret of clouding men’s minds from Dr. Strange et al, sitting at a round table doing five and dime magic tricks. He was fooling with decks of cards, little paddles, shining metal cups and colored balls, amusing a dozen friends. Piled next to the tricks were what I assumed to be uppers and downers sprawled in a colorful heap. At first glance you couldn’t tell the pills from the magic apparatus, and as you will learn, it is this and the Master’s sleight of hand that kept him out of the joint.

I had had only moments to drink in the scene when a hippy jumped into the room raving: “The pigs, the pigs are coming!  We’re sur­rounded by the pigs!”  My first thought, an attempt at denial I admit, was that this was a brother’s paranoid fit, but alas, within moments we got another such report from near naked people who had been steaming in the nearby sweat lodge perched upon the banks of the Mohawk. Bummer!  The police, we were told, surrounded us and sure enough, when I looked out a windowpane frosted with patterns of crystalline lace, I saw three police cars parked on the lawn like panthers ready to pounce. But the music, dancing, and magic tricks continued–the threat taken in stride; for these partying fools were psychedelic commandos–veterans of acid tests, bad acid,  newspapers and television, Jerry Rubin speeches, Timothy Leary declaring victory again and again, police riots, tear gassings, Jerry Lewis telethons, and their parents’ scorn.

In clumped a couple of properly costumed and armed cops; you couldn’t tell them from the real thing. One of them sauntered up to Kesey’s magic roundtable. “What are you doing here officer Doogle?” said Ken. Maybe Doogle was what Ken said, and maybe it wasn’t. If it wasn’t, that’s the only thing I’ve made up.

“We believe there are minors present, in a place where alcohol is being consumed, and we want to look around,” said Doogle.

“Where is your warrant?” said Ken, who without so much as a moment of hesitation continued on with his magic act. He told Doogle that this was police harassment, for this very Doogle was the same officer who had arrested Kesey, a few months before, for the crime of walking a dog without a license through the streets of Eugene. At that instant Kesey proved that he was indeed a Master of the Mystic Arts; his was the greatest magic act I’ve witnessed, dwarfing the disappearance of a stage full of elephants, for right before Doogle’s eyes, Ken hid the dope. The argument between the two of them had so diverted Doogle, that Ken’s manipulation of the pills looked like part of his magic act–he vanished the stash.

Other policemen entered the Marcola House and began to slowly scan each room–looking for crime. I went upstairs and found a scene of panic and chaos, for it was in these quarters that the serious offenders had been medicating themselves. Word of the raid had created a panic, and I saw one man leap out a second story window into the night. Others, like my friend Terry, were frantically attempting to dispose of their dope. He had impul­sively dumped the contents of his baggie into a toilet bowl in order to flush it into the void. Some of those who survived the glorious counter-cultural revolution learned a lesson:  You can’t flush grass down a john.

As the police came up the stairs Terry disappeared leaving me gapping into a toilet bowl. I had a flash born of desperation, and I bent over the toilet making the raucous sounds of vomiting. How much better it would have been had I had something to throw up, I thought, as I stared at the leaves and seeds floating inches from my face. No matter how I tickled my throat with my fingers, I could not barf and by this means conceal the contents floating on the waters below. I made all manner of retching sounds, but it was noise without substance. I sank to my knees to perfect my performance.

“Too much of a good thing,” said a compassionate cop as he watched me through the open bathroom door. He wasn’t getting paid enough to look into that toilet bowl.

After their search the police decided that this was a proper Halloween party; they saw no crimes in progress. Don’t ask me to explain it–nothing is as nutty as the truth. They had had their little Halloween prank; they had come without saying hello, and they left without saying goodbye. The magic had reached a peaked when they were present; it was a more exciting party when they were there, but we didn’t miss them after they’d gone.

*   *   *

Thinking about that Halloween night, after almost thirty years have passed, makes me wonder about what’s happened to the playfulness, the foolishness–the magic in the world. Today the long haired freaks have short hair and the crewcut police have let theirs grow. The hippies have gone straight; they’ve become lawyers, stockbrokers, and college professors. And the police, who after all, are only following orders, are still doing their thing–steadfast guard­ians, with fidelity transcending comprehension.

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One Response to “Halloween 1970”

  1. Neil Feldman Says:

    Wonderful tale, Lenny

    Especially in light of dear Dr. Hoffman’s passing last week…

    Hope all is well with you,

    -Neil

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