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Tag: Hippie (page 1 of 2)

Taylor Camp: Free Expression in Community


Diane’s house by John Wehrheim

“The great challenge of adulthood is holding on to your idealism after you lose your innocence.” —Bruce Springsteen
If we keep our little flame alive, our first feeling of enthusiasm of who we are, without the influence or intervention of others, we will prevail.” —Patti Smith

One morning I walked into my local, non-corporate coffeehouse, deep in thought, fully intending to hunker down and work on my book. A mix of millennials and Boomers were hunched over their laptops doing status updates. Then I saw a friend focusing on his project in the prime window space. After I settled into a spot in the other room, this character came over. The conversation led to the Big Question, and my recent apostasy from a 25 year church membership pushed into that unresolvable riddle: The meaning of life, of my life and the world. We are similar in age and like me, he has forged a new mission after a traditional job/career. He works daily on a mathematical formula that explains the laws of the universe. We engaged in an hour-long conversation on his theories. Then I asked him point blank, “Joe, what is your purpose in writing this paper?” He flubbed around and finally said, “I need to do it.”

Believing that there are no accidents and each path offers value if we can see it, I realized that our conversation led to my dominant question those days: “How do we find meaning in life and sustain a vision, after we have experienced fifty or sixty years and the inevitable disappointments and reality checks?” The topic had been taunting me for a couple weeks. It rose to the surface again a few weeks later, when the manager of a B & B in Maui where I was staying mentioned a recent documentary film about Taylor Camp, a ‘back to nature’ commune in Kauai, Hawaii in the ’70’s. Memories of my first time in Hawaii came forward, it was a time when the hippie culture’s idealism offered quick solutions to life’s basic issues of work, community, war and freedom were sought at Taylor Camp.

In 1976, I accidentally found Taylor Camp while driving around Kauai in a rented camper with my girlfriend. We had escaped to paradise. In love and free of jobs, school, and home—we found heaven on earth. One day a young guy of my tribe knocked on the door of the camper and offered to sell some marijuana. Ahh… total satisfaction. I bought a bag and he invited me to the camp that evening.

The communards welcomed us to their feast and celebration, even though we were complete strangers. We were of the ‘tribe’—young people looking for an alternative to the disillusion and hypocrisy of the post-hippie, post-Vietnam 1970’s America. They shared home-grown dinner, lilikoi and vodka punch, and cannabis (or as we used to say ‘grass’). The evening evolved into a big campfire celebration complete with singing, guitar playing, and drumming. Always a documenter, I made an audio recording of the free-form sing-along, and drum circle. When it ended, I purchased a large quantity of their home grown herbal products. I played that cassette once at home, but then it disappeared forever. Unfortunately, I also lost/forgot that joyous night of spontaneous celebration of life and community.

Fast forward about 35 years to the B & B on Maui. The proprietor’s comment woke up something in me, like a zombie, I opened the doors to this recovered memory. Slowly, I stumbled on an understanding of what my young spirit could teach me for this time of life. Today, I am as free as I was at 25, perhaps freer because the economics of the next month or year or decade are handled. I reflected on that moment at Taylor Camp and felt a deep, hidden yearning I have carried all these years. On the surface it may be seen as nostalgia for youthful freedom from responsibility or perhaps the urge for community or belonging. But for me, it also represented a call to adventure of the unknown, the fresh, the novel and the uninhibited.

Many threads weave through this long-ago experience but for me they all point to the ultimate question, the one that most people have at some time in their lives and the one that my mathematician friend at the coffeehouse is tackling. What is this life all about? How can I revive my sense of purpose in life? And how do I ride its roller-coaster?

The answer is always personal. Eventually, we form our own opinions and solutions to the Question.  It may be in religion, work, pleasure, or family. After sixty, it seems more pressing since the above ‘have tos’ are eliminated and the time left is more limited. My mathematician friend asserted he finds meaning when “the inner self no long feels separate from its experience.” A moment in time at Taylor Camp back in the day was like a floodlight shining on a glimpse of meaning for me . . . free expression in community.

Inner Journey: 

Recall a time when you happened upon a fun and exciting event. Did you jump in and participate? Or did you leave?

What is your opinion about living simply in community? Does it repel or attract?

Action Steps:

Retrace your ‘lost’ youth, and go to a place where you experienced a lot of fun, community, and expression.

[Ed.s’ Note:  RW Klarin’s memoir/ self-help book—Living the Dream Deferred (2015)

is wide ranging as he visits (and, in many cases, re-visits) places and people that were part of an era that is too important to forget – enjoy his journey!]

Called Out by My Young Self on Maui


 

RW, Joshua, and a crowd of new hippies at Little Beach, Maui, 2015

“Hey man, why you reading the paper? It’ll bring you down,” said a young man at the weekly celebration at Little Makena Beach on the Hawaiian Island of Maui. Awoken from miasma, his words blasted me back to the present. I came here from LA to change my routines and attitude and, after only two days, I fell right back into my pattern from home: Distracting myself with reading. In front of me a crowd of 20 free-spirits danced, drummed, twirled batons and hula hoops and surrounding them a 100+ multi-generational crowd mostly indulged in the clothing optional-custom of this hidden beach.

My accuser was a skinny guy, about 23, with long, blondish hair wearing a headband and glistening smile. He moved easily and quickly from one group or individual to another like he was the host of the event. But no one leads this neo-hippie scene, the whole event emerges ad-hoc. But this man, Joshua, played the maitre’ de of Little Beach, first drumming, then pulling a six-pack of beer out of a cooler and passing one to whoever he meets, myself included, then stopping for a hit off a joint and talk with a group of three young women, and then prancing down to the beach for a chat with an older guy with a long, gray beard.

The tropical sun blazed down on the revelers and I desperately sought some shade. Back home I enjoy hot, sunny days, but this was too much and I hid in the shade of trees on the periphery of the beach. That’s when the young host zapped me with the lightning bolt—‘Be here now’—after all I’m on the island where the popularizer of that phrase, Ram Dass, lives.

After several miles of big condo developments and tourist shopping centers in Kihei, the road goes through the antiseptic, planned community of Wailea with its luxury hotel resorts and golf courses, and then its speed limit suddenly ratchets down to 20 mph. Not surprisingly, hiding around corners and in the bushes, police wait for the Little Beach celebrants.

All ages bacchanal at Little Beach by RW Klarin

As is often the case in the coolest places I’ve seen all over the world, the original tip came by word of mouth. Decades after my first visit, I still remember that whisper about a hippie haven just beyond a lava outcropping.

Big Makena State Beach offers a wide comfortable beach and some basic facilities, but back in the day, we original hippies crawled over the rocks and in the secluded cove, let go of clothes and inhibitions and ‘cleverly’ named it Little Beach. The word spread and the Sunday afternoon bacchanal grew into a legendary tradition in the hippie world. One sees mostly younger folks nowadays, like the young man who woke me up that day, but mixed into the crowd are many gray-haired celebrants.

Overall, Maui is like that now, too. Beautiful scenery ranges from volcanoes to deserts to rain forest to tourist beaches, while at the same time it is a typical American small city with all of the conveniences from Costco to El Pollo Loco. But my first visit in 1976 etched the place into my soul as a tropical idyll, a nature adventure. We rented a converted pick-up trucks from Beach Boy Camper Holidays and camped at any beach park for free (no permits needed). It was the anti-tourist tour of Hawaii, a mix of my priorities of freedom of movement and comfort. It’s the same—relax where and when you feel like it—appeal of the RV culture of today.  This ‘tour’ is not possible today.

Unlike most of Maui, the show doesn’t end at sunset; a night tribe comes out with fire sticks.  The whole world is a lot more managed these days. But participating once again in the free expression of Little Beach revived the part of me that is still 25. As I don’t travel in those globe-trotting young peoples’ circles these days—no hitch-hiking, not much hanging out in bars, and needing a bit more comfort (bed and warm shower)—that youngster doesn’t often show up. Stoked, I stayed till almost sunset and, as I left groups of people were just arriving with their drums and batons and ice chests for a wild fire dance to welcome the moon.

On this trip to Maui I rented a room via AirBnB because I wanted to stay in a locals’ neighborhood, Paia. The room and the house provided what I needed, plus the unexpected benefit of hanging with free-spirited youth. As it happened, the owner was out of town and he had a friend stay to supervise the rooms. About 24, she quickly invited her new boyfriend . Around the same age, with long hair with an occasional penchant for wearing long dresses, he had recently left a work/ stay arrangement at an organic farm on Maui. The next day, a friend of his from home (Grand Rapids, MI) arrived who worked on island as a tree-cutter. And then a third guy, a medical marijuana care-giver, came from Michigan, too. So, we had an instant communal crash pad, just like I experienced in the seventies. Someone scored a place to stay in a cool place, and the crew showed up.

Like me, they had come to Maui searching for something different from home and its routines. My Venice home serves me well, but it gets old after a while, more so since I quit the rat race (some call it career). Many of us older, retired people share this with young people: We’re both free of most responsibilities and when wanderlust hits the world calls, and the bold ones are off to on a new adventure. For me the remembrance of revelry, expression, and community of Little Beach made for a good excuse to visit Maui, yet again.

We all have that need for novelty, the unknown, and the exotic. Sometimes it is deeply repressed and / or covered by excuses, but it is usually possible to seek and find your own Little Makena Beach, just past the rocky point.

RW Klarin ponders the transitory nature of life at Buddhist cemetery on Maui

Inner Journey:

Recall a ‘magical’ place or experience you had in your youth and haven’t revisited. Imagine what it felt like. How does it feel now?

Action Steps:
Throw away most of your caution and security and go back or do it again. Example: I stopped playing golf when I was 20, recently I picked it up again and it is fresh and fun.

[Ed.s’ Note:  Other essays can be found in RW Klarin’s memoir/ self-help book—Living the Dream Deferred (2015)

Beyond taking you back to one of the most interesting  times in American history, the book can help move you forward on your own mission. IF you DO the Inner Journey and Action Steps that are part of its format.  Then you, too, can head out to exotic isles or create your on wonderland at home.]

Burning of the Age of Aquarius, Harbin Hot Springs


Hair’s long run on Broadway reinforced the counterculture imagery

Dragon gate welcomes still

I attended a revival of the first rock opera, Hair, a few years ago and, out of nowhere, tears flowed down my face during a rendition of  Let the Sunshine in/ Aquarius. I looked over at my girlfriend and she asked “What’s wrong. It is a joyful song, it is a hopeful message.” I responded, “You had to be there.” She is from a different country and generation, and to her the Age of Aquarius was just a song. For me and many of our generation ,Hair codified our culture’s ideals and vision. In September, 2015, a real world expression of that vision incinerated. It is being rebuilt, but it won’t be the same. Harbin Hot Springs’ latest incarnation was a direct descendant of ‘flower power’ in the best sense of that term. But when it rises again, like the phoenix, will it be true to its Sixties’ tradition?

Harbin’s Temple pre-fire

When the Valley Fire in 2015 descended on Harbin Hot Springs, buildings over a hundred years old turned to ash. All that remained was the twisted dragon-shaped iron works and the pools. Originally a haven of the local indigenous people, nineteenth century entrepreneurs capitalized on the then massive demand for the ‘water cure’ and built a succession of resorts in this spot in northern California in an out of the way canyon near Middletown, CA (named for its location as a stage stop mid-way between Calistoga and Clear Lake).

A lifelong counterculturalist (even in my disguise as an inner city high school principal), I discovered Harbin Hot Springs in the mid-90s. A quirky poet friend told me on the down-low about this mysterious place. One weekend we rolled up from LA. That first day felt like a homecoming for me. Disregarding the signs that prohibited alcohol and drugs, we fired up before entering, then perched in the oaks overlooking a motley crowd of hippies of all generations, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and life-styles. After the first few minutes, the titillation of dozens of naked bodies strolling around wore off and a kind of reverie settled in. Peace, love, and happiness prevailed. The natural hot springs pool accommodated about a dozen people—all in mandatory meditative silence. Around the regular pool and the heart-shaped pool, people carried on soft conversations, but mostly sat and read or napped.

 

Temple meadow now

Harbin developed into my own Shangri-La, where I regularly sought respite from the pressures of career, modern life, and my everyday self.  At Harbin, I could count on meeting new friends, sometimes amorous, whether alone or with a friend. Odd encounters frequently happened, as in the time I ‘accidentally’ ran into an acquaintance from home two years running. Or, a few years ago ,when I wanted to watch the NBA finals and went to the local brewery and met someone I had just spoken with in the pools. We were all from the same Aquarian tribe.  Like the vibe back in the sixties/ seventies, when every kid at the concert or the demonstration was a friend simply because we were there. We shared values and culture. Harbin felt the same. It attracted like-minded souls from around the world. I once had a didgeridoo healing from a young woman from Israel which touched me so deeply I cried.

The hippie Harbin was resurrected from ruins of a failed commune by Ishvara (originally Robert Hart) in 1972, who then sold the property to a religious corporation , Heart Consciousness Church, which he heads. For the 20 years on my annual trip I marveled at the on-going, quirky enhancements to the magical vibe. One year they added a winding path decorated with dragons and hobbit-like railings from the store front to the market. Several years ago a major improvement arose in the form of the Temple which looked like an old time big top circus and had perfect acoustics. The pools stayed largely the same except for the addition of sauna and steam bath rooms.

 

 

Harbin wasn’t all quiet and peace. They could party with either unconditional dance or live concerts providing entertainment in addition to the nightly free movies. At the dances, free flowing half-naked guests and residents gyrated to dj music—No partners (just like psychedelic concerts at the Fillmore in San Francisco).  Community vibes could happen anywhere at Harbin. The communal kitchen operated as the center for visitors. You could leave excess food in the community box. Help yourself. That applied during meals as well. Many times I shared my food with strangers. Of course, no meat was allowed in the kitchen.

The heart of Harbin was the staff: Over the years, I had many engaging conversations with them and they all had a story. Not drop-outs, but drop-ins to a calmer and freer lifestyle. I’ve met engineers, clowns, and teachers, who now played the roles of housekeeping or cook or security. For some, Harbin was a temporary refuge from the struggles of the world, and for others it became home.

 

Hippie ideals of peace, love, and community rooted and prospered at Harbin largely due to the vision and commitment of Ishvara. Ishvara was not a man who sought notoriety, but at the same time had always harbored big dreams for Harbin. As true hippies they honored the history of the place and the character of the 100 year-old buildings. Our parents’ generation had celebrated the modern in all things; new tract homes were preferred to older areas like Ocean Park and Venice and when hippie evolved out of beatnik, the hippie converts gravitated to older neighborhoods, like Haight-Ashbury. Old stuff had character and soul. We craved—authenticity. In those days the approbation slung at someone or something hopelessly square was—Plastic.

Under Ishvara, the old buildings were rehabbed and restored, links to earlier times. Nothing at Harbin was plastic, ersatz, or bogus. But the classic old buildings that had survived numerous fires before  are now gone. Only ruins of the concrete foundations, the stone fireplace chimney, and the pools remain.  The Age of Aquarius prospered and flourished at Harbin Hot Springs from 1978-2015, almost forty years. And now it is gone.

 

 

Heart pool right after the fire

Yes, it will be rebuilt, but the vision expressed in its last incarnation is over. Hippie dreams have completed their cycle. We had 130 acres of our vision and whatever rises in its place won’t be the same. It won’t have the same weight of history,  connection to the lineage of the 1960s, or heritage of the original settlers. The bromide ‘change is constant’ doesn’t mean much until we face major transitions which compel reinvention.

Harbin’s oasis in the Age of Aquarius is now returned to dust—whatever shall rise up will surely be 21st century. This old hippie, though, hopes they will keep a remembrance of a glorious place where hippies of all ages, ethnicities, and classes thrived in harmony with each other, and with nature. Nature has its due, and we are part of nature.

Hopefully, Harbin, will be, as is the Los Angeles Free Press, reincarnated with the ideals of old, along with new thoughts and strategies for creating a freer, more just and harmonious world. Time is real and there is no rewind, but we can influence its unfolding.

 

 

 

Hot pool is back, 2017

[Ed.s’ Note:  Read more by RW Klarin in this secction of the LA FP – Remembrances – or a whole more in his memoir/ self-help book—Living the Dream Deferred (2015)

In fact, you can even read about him with a short jump to our LA FP Staff page with a simple click HERE.]

Wish You Were There


The Sixties Generation is not done yet.  Last week we had a ‘local band done good’ playing live once again in Venice, and back in June Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters played Staples Center, DTLA. The Strawberry Alarm Clock’s music landed well with its classic sound and old hits.  Waters, though, revived the classics on a whole other level, expanded them with new material, and injected spectacular visuals; they commented on today’s political takeover by the .01%.

Pig drones, curtain dropping screens, video perfectly synched to the lyrics, and a note perfect band all added up to more than a concert—an event. A mature artists’ statement of his past ideals which he still lives, meshing perfectly with current material and current events. He played his break-through work with Pink Floyd in the Seventies, enhanced and updated with new material that continues his themes of alienation, the ‘machine’, intoxication of materialism, and unity of life.

I first saw Waters/ Pink Floyd at Pepperland in Marin County in 1970. Pink Floyd was totally unknown to us and performed in an environment made to look like the Beatles ‘Yellow Submarine.’  On this tour Waters exceeded that decades old exploration of the edge of reality and society. Unique among old rockers, Waters insists on pushing his own boundaries while at the same time honoring his more than forty year-old material. It works because he explored timeless questions back then, and can now invigorate the old skin with film of the current political climate. Images of Black Lives Matter, Trump, starving kids, factories and much more highlight the old lyrics into the context of today.

The timelessness of such art was illustrated for me on the train to the arena. Being a native Angeleno, I’m wedded to my cars. I drive everywhere, but these days driving to DTLA is just untenable…can’t do it and maintain equanimity.  On the Expo, I bonded with a fellow-traveler, a Millennial age young man, who was also wearing a Pink Floyd T-shirt.  We traded notes on the appeal of the music, the application to today’s world, and appreciation of the depth that Waters brings to his art. Waiting on line to get into the packed room, I noted that the majority of attendees were NOT Boomers.  Many young twenty & thirty somethings filed in and stood-up for virtually the entire show. Waters is not an oldies act.

Near the end of the two-hour show, thousands of strips of paper printed with the single word—Resist—floated from the rafters. Where Waters stands is clear. But then second from the end, he closed with Us and Them from Darkside of the Moon. An inquiry to the positionality of people into tribalism, the song concludes we’re all just ordinary men–even as we resist regressive policies from Washington and fight for justice. Concluding the event with a rainbow laser light show that referenced the Darkside of the Moon album cover AND the current use of the rainbow as an LGBT symbol, Waters underlined the role of a true artist, to remember and to point the way forward.

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