Two days out and the sailing is easy. A steady breeze out of the southwest has kept us moving at an even clip. A cool, gray blanket of fog is with us, keeping our nerves easy and our minds calm. Even the spooky San Fancisco night seems oddly friendly and welcoming. It’s like a homecoming, a reunion. And today, as we lunched on full, soft San Francisco burritos, it felt as if I could stay in the Norcal basement for good, like the concrete bunker of our collective hearts where Saddam Hussein, Hitler, and Dick Cheney hide out to evade the fine souls they’ve wronged.
The day moves quickly to night. Around 6pm or so we remind ourselves that the long night is near. We leave the machines and emerge onto the streets for some last minutes of sun. Okay, that’s enough. We’ve got work to do.”Raised by Hippies” is mixed and put to bed, here’s a shout out to Dave Zirbel for an epic 1972 NRPS pedal steel solo. The spirit of 1972 is back, and a fine spirit it is, too, a faery mellow and alive with possibilities.
In 1972 I graduated from Loyola High School, went on a 14 day backpack down the John Muir Trail, and moved into the dorms for my freshman year at UCLA. I was reaching eagerly for the gossamer tail of the hippie revolution, and I surfed it for all it was worth until it vanished under the 1976 avalanche of Bicentennial belt buckles, coffee mugs, flag decals, and a bizarre groundswell of pre-Vietnam red white and blue fervor, like a zombie you thought you’d killed but is rising again from a moldy crypt.Ah, but 1972: all was bright green, and blue cool breezes. I met legions of longhairs in my dorm or jamming on bluegrass in the submerged lawn behind the Engineering building, and I plunged into psychedelia, culmination a peyote trek that still haunts my days; a protector faery always nearby. Life was easy. Rent was nearly free, and you could save your money for hitting the road. No one watched TV, ever. The turntable was our guide to our souls.
In my senior year at Loyola H.S. I prepared diligently for my upcoming service in Hippie Nation, growing my hair as long as the Jesuits and my Nixonian dad would tolerate, started playing guitar and reading Whole Earth Catalog.Everyone at Loyola High School was enlisting in Hippie Nation. Some had achieved surprising long hairedness, and many played folk rock on acoustic guitars. Instead of Thomas Aquinas, Douglas MacArthur, or John Kennedy, senior quotes quoted Jefferson Starship, Cat Stevens, Captain Beefheart. Our football team had its only disgraceful season in the history of the school. It just wasn’t the time to pound heads, compete, get uptight. It was on to better way of life.
For the hippie culture was going to grow and grow and grow. There would be millions of us, and peace would cool America like a summer shower. I had no doubt. We would all read Whole Earth Catalog, order farm implements and seeds, live and grow organic food on a commune nestled into a mountainside. With two friends I built a towering Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome for the Loyola end of year school fair. The dome was a spiderweb structure of thin steel rods, startlingly strong, like a beanpole tai chi master who can spin you off on a long arc, pure idealism. Father Koch, a nihilistic Jesuit, brilliant and artistic expositor of physics, an utterly free soul in a black cassock, was our guide. As ethereal thoughts illuminated his eyes in the middle of a lecture, we knew he was not gazing upward, but outward, to the horizon of our possibilities. I hope we meet again.
The instructions for the geodesic dome were to be found in the Whole Earth Catalog, and I absorbed it like a comic book, seeing the totality of gray water irrigation, solar heating, composting, nonviolence, wind power, I Ching coins, and country rock. The catalog sold all things practical and visionary, everything a hippie needed cultivation, harvest, preserving, sheltering, and amusement in a techno rural paradise.Summer of ’72 brought The Grateful Dead and New Riders Of The Purple Sage to the Hollywood Bowl, and herein I passed over to the brother and sisterhood, mellow and ecstatic in carefully patched jeans and skull and roses, patchouli and backpacks. As I entered UCLA I tacked difficult subjects–geology, Virgil’s Aeneid, Berkeley and Descartes–but the guitar captured my will, my focus, my purpose.
A last big anti-war rally with ritualistically angry cops, a giant dormroom hookah on a Persian rug, sifting seeds on a Santana album cover, stuck in Santa Barbara with the other hitchhikers, on the way to bluegrass festivals and Sierra trailheads; mescaline, motorcycles, Mexico, a last pair of bellbottoms and big leather hiking boots. And then the hippie dream was adrift, bleached out, and floating away. It was over. Ford pardoned Nixon. We stood in line for gas and became enraged. The tall ships sailed under ambitious Bicentennial fireworks in New York City. I came back from vagabonding folksinging in Europe and got a temp job. The distant ’80s already rumbled.Ah, the ’80s. I was eight years old when they arrived. I was at a New Year’s party with my family at the home of my parent’s friends the Mair’s. Dr. Mair was a kind Pediatric Cardiologist. He was almost entirely bald on the top but he stubbornly maintained a barely passable comb-over. He and his sons took my father and me along on a few fishing trips to Canada. Dr. Mair’s father was Lester. He was well into his eighties at the time of our trips. He was grizzled and gruff in contrast to his son. He drove a huge gold 1973 Cadillac and us kids would ride three across the huge back seat on the drive up. One time we flew on a pontoon to a remote lake in Ontario. The plan landed and coasted up to the dock of a well-supplied island cabin and dropped us off for a week. The cabin had several sets of bunk beds, propane lights, and a cabinet full of canned beans, corn meal, flour, oatmeal, lard, onions and potatoes. We’d fish for Walleye all day, jigging our weighted lures on the bottom of the deep glacial lakes. And we’d catch ’em too. Lots of ’em. Whenever anyone got a bite Dr, Mair would call out, “Fish On!”
The Mair sons were Scott and Todd. Scott was older than Todd and me by a couple of years but they both seemed to know so much more about everything than I did. It was easy for them to have fun and this was a real revelation to me. Fishing was torture for my dad, He hated being stuck in the boat, couldn’t bear to sit still. It wasn’t clear to me why we were there. Mixing is not too different from fishing. Both activities take place in a boat, of course, but they also share the lures, the tackle, and the long periods of downtime. Away from families and sequestered away from women allows a man the space to let his mind wander. The boat, the submarine, and the studio are all places which nurture this subconscious reverb. We’re far from shore now.
The Neve console in Studio A (where we’re mixing) looks as if it could have been used to launch John Glenn into space in his Mercury capsule. The faded red and black and white knobs are reassuringly big and heavy and they make a satisfying clicking sound when Gabe twists them. A red sunset has us worried about the weather but tomorrow, rain or shine, we fish for Slash.