Scooby-Dooby-Doo, Where Are You? (R)

BE SURE TO WEAR FLOWERS IN YOUR HAIR


By afternoon we had traded the desert for the coast. The white-crowned breakers of this friendlier sea pulsing and pushing us up the PCH, faster and faster – past L.A. and the crooked, beckoning finger of Hollywood, escaping her embrace into the winding cliffs beyond.

It wasn’t the best of days for me. Returned to my accustomed place, not just in the van but in our emotional quadrangle, I sat and watched the two up front as they steered us ever north with the unerring compass of their love. Yes, sir, Fred was one lucky s.o.b. – and I knew it better than anyone.

We couldn’t stop, the salt air sustaining us as we all took turns behind the wheel. Even Shaggy. Day became night and the ocean swallowed the grapefruit sun. Sometime past midnight we made the Bay.

Greater poets than I have framed the beauty of San Francisco and who am I to compete with their gilded constructs of hyperbole; indeed, in the face of every ode, laud and hymn rightfully bestowed upon this city, I have only this to say: They’re selling the place short.

Even as we arrived in darkness, the lights from the cereal-box buildings stacked in rows along the hills making the city seem like a giant dominos stunt waiting to happen, we knew we had, with semi-divine guidance, found our true home. Scooby sensed it too; the dog was more alert than I’d ever seen him, his big wet nose pressed to the window. Shaggy just grinned and nodded. There was a charge here, the air was electric, the city was alive, even the rise and dip of its streets giving a pulse to the last mile of our vague mission. If San Francisco was the heart of this wild and troublesome thing that was our genera­tion, then the Mystery Machine was just another cell being pumped through its veins.

Along a crowded side street bordering Golden Gate Park, we heard guitars and tambourines and laughter. We stopped driving.

The fold welcomed us with open arms and plenty of grass. It seemed like we had an entire city full of friends and we soon found out that we hadn’t even traveled the farthest to join the parade. We met hippies from Canada and England, Sweden and Belgium; you could hardly walk five feet without bumping into another Indian guru. Okay, perhaps I exaggerate, but in that city at that time, it was easy to believe that we had, in fact, won. It seemed like we’d taken over and all the cops and the conservative, tie-wearing, middle-aged public were just spectators who held no real power. The sense of commu­nity was overwhelming and in no time at all our little group had a place to crash.

Home base was a 3-story house on the corner of Oak and Clayton owned by somebody we never met and rented by a constantly shifting number of Jesus freaks and Hell’s Angels, but we fell for it immediately with its ridiculous gables and bay windows. We stayed there, as a group, right up to Watergate, before things finally got too complicated. But it was perfect, just a couple of blocks uphill from the thick of Haight; the basement of the house next door was a four-star acid lab and the Grateful Dead were practically neighbors.

We had earned our hippy credentials by now; we’d dropped out of school, alienated our parents, scoffed at the law, protested the war, and done enough drugs to make this memoir at times too hazy to pull together; yet we had missed out on a lot of the big events that the youngsters are so anxious to hear tell of. For instance, to our eternal chagrin, we missed Monterey Pop by hardly more than a month, and as for the Human Be-In, we were still tokin’ away in our dorm rooms in Rhode Island while the tribes gathered in Golden Gate Park. Still, there were face-offs with the National Guard in Berkeley, marches down Market Street, parties where you were likely to end up on the roof with Dr. Timothy Leary or have Allen Ginsburg ask you where the bathroom was. And, of course, there was always the music.

Even after that ol’ bugaboo “responsibility” kicked in and forced us to look for jobs, we still made time for shows at the Fillmore and the Avalon. Thanks to Bill Graham we saw them all: Janis and Big Brother, the Jefferson Airplane, the Dead, Moby Grape, the Byrds, even the Doors once. But soon, for Shaggy, there was only one band that mattered. After catching them live in the middle of a packed bill at a nowhere club in the Mission on a Thursday night, Shaggy claimed to have seen, or at least heard, God. And, apparently, the Deity had a kick-ass horn section and went by the name of Sly and the Family Stone.

It was a surprising choice for Shag, whose scarecrow limbs were awkwardly fastened for funk and whose sedate soul was a bit too relaxed to locate his “groove thing.” But, then again, it was per­fectly logical – amongst the mindless psychedelica and apocalyptic message rock of the time, “Sly Stone,” nee Sylvester Stewart, and his interracial family of a band pumped out a radically fun vibe; they were a carnival of positivity that promoted a sense of hope for the future. “You’re in trouble when you find it’s hard for you to smile, a simple song might make it better for a little while.” Shaggy believed it.

I’m not sure at what point he officially became their roadie, but by the fall of ’67 Shaggy was lugging their equipment about and supplying the band with his new and improved Scooby snacks. They were a funny, sweet bunch and they even invited Shaggy and Scoob into the studio as they recorded their breakout track “Everyday People” which includes their inspired tribute to everybody’s favorite Great Dane – “and so on, and so on, and scooby-dooby-doo.” Now you know.

This rather unlikely entry into the music industry made Shaggy the first among us to find a job, but we soon fell in line. Daphne took the high road, working essentially for free with the Diggers, an anarcho-socialist collective whose purpose was to lend a hand to the flower children who hadn’t planned on necessities like food and shelter. Fred, on the other hand, found a more lucrative gig somewhere on the low road by becoming a teller at the Bank of America. With his stylishly shagged but never hippy-length hair and his Neil Armstrong looks, it was possible for him to slip in undetected under The Man’s radar. We used to joke that he was our “double-agent.”

Myself, I happened to be in the right place at the right time. It was at a post anti-war rally shindig that someone introduced me to Gabe Katz who, at the time, was editor on a fledgling independent rag called The Oracle. Though I think it was just his ever-so subtle way of hitting on me, he did offer me an assignment as tryout for a spot on the paper. Gabe had me do a piece on the closing of The Psyche­delic Shop on Haight, the Thelin brothers’ first and foremost head shop. Though it was still a going concern, Ron and Jay decided to close their doors on October 6th which they officially declared “Death of Hippy Day.” Grown disillusioned by the (inevitable) corruption of the hippy ideal as a tool for advertisers and every bored middle-class teen without an idea of their own, the Thelins put up an obituary notice and filled a coffin full of beads and flowers and peace-sign posters, all the stereotypical accoutrements. They solemnly marched that wooden box to the panhandle of the park then set it ablaze. It was a funny, sad, and markedly prescient occasion, and it yielded up a decent article full of my wry commentary and probing insights.

Katz didn’t print it and admonished me for my wry commen­tary and probing insights, but he hired me on anyway as a copy editor and sometime feature writer. It was a nice place to start.

In due time and in recognition of my status as a fledgling lesbian radical, I was handed the “gay beat,” which in San Francisco covered considerable ground. I became a sort of voice for a sub­culture within the counter-culture and, as such, attracted my first real following … and lots of dates with fervent young dykes. The response my columns garnered was far more broad and meaningful than my campfire bullshitting sessions – I was part of a community that was just beginning to take pride in its unity and it felt good, felt like family. And when I was approached by a small, lesbocentric publishing house, Maedchen Press, about putting out a compilation of my articles, I said, of course, yes – but with a condition. They also had to publish the novel on which I was currently working.

What the hell, they responded, envisioning a vanity release with a miniscule print run. Contracts, such as they were, were signed and months passed. Tucked away in my little attic room, I wrote and rewrote, hammered and polished that stack of paper into something resembling a novel. It was freeing and terrifying work but it became my life for a while – in fact, Shaggy had to physically drag me to the TV one July night to show me what looked like a flickering black-and-white movie about a man on the moon. A cheesy spacesuit and a Satur­day-morning-serial backdrop. I didn’t realize what I was seeing, much less its importance, until later – until that damned novel was finished.

Meanwhile, the book of essays, called The Girl Who Came To Stay: Notes from the Sapphic Underground, was published to near universal indifference. The sales trickled in and then stopped completely, the total count falling well short of the first printing. It is one of my fondest fantasies to someday run across a dusty, yellowed copy still buried in the stacks at City Lights. It sure wasn’t funny then, how­ever, and I turned over my new manuscript with sweaty hands, sure that their offer to publish would be reneged in light of The Girl…’s poor showing. I needn’t have worried for the gals at Maedchen were as good as their word. Loose Lips, my first published mystery and the debut of my first successful character – lesbian P.I. Ramona Eloise D’artagnan – was on its way to the printers. A novelist, for better or worse, had been born.

I’ll never forget that day, November 18, 1969, when I first held the thing in my hands. The smooth weight of it, the glossy sheen of the cover, and the slight crackle of the spine as it opened. Even the cheesy cover art – a death certificate blotted by a blood red lip-print; it all just meant real. Mine. All those obedient little black letters falling in line on those white, white pages in the formations that I had ordered, me, the person whose name was on the cover. I tucked my baby under my arm and caught the next bus home.

The place was dark and quiet in the middle of the day. Shaggy had been to Woodstock and back by then. As he remembered it, he had dropped some friendly acid as he loaded the Family Stone’s gear onstage and ended up hugging onto a speaker stack for ten minutes, delaying Sly’s history-making bow at the world’s largest outdoor concert. He’d gotten some of the bad stuff and it took four security guys to pry him off and hustle him backstage. Shag described a vision in which he saw the mind-boggling crowd of muddy hippies as rows upon rows of little brown teeth snapping at him. Eleven hours later he found himself in a first-aid tent watching as the woman with the giant Scooby head, which was shaking at him rather judgmentally, dissolved into Cynthia, one of the horn-blowers in the band, asking him if he was okay. Well, here it was, almost three months later and Shag was still recoiling from the nightmarish sensory overload. He’d spent his time since then with the blinds drawn and a pillow over his head. “Okay” in regards to Shaggy became an increasingly relative term.

His fragile emotional state didn’t stop me however from busting into the living room with my novel thrust before me like a shield.

“Guess what!” I announced.

Scooby was already receptive, tongue lolling and tail wagging; it took Shag a couple of beats before he could lift his head from the couch to intone, “Wha- Vel – ?”

Which is when the front door exploded inward and the sun’s reflection off two pairs of perfect teeth thoroughly stole the wind from my sails, leaving me adrift in the middle of what should’ve been my Big Day. We were both squinting, Shag and I, as the happy couple shrieked at the top of their happy lungs, “We’re getting MARRIED!!!”

Scooby promptly ran for the open door and wasted no time in “laying his burden down” in the middle of Daphne’s flowerbed. As omens go….

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