Today’s prompt: in-
I saw the theme for today, and couldn't get this tune out of my head…. from 1968, Iron Butterfly, the title track from their album In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.
First time I heard this I was 12 and in 6th grade. Everybody loved this song. Most of us who owned the album only played the second side, taken up entirely by this one song. We’d sit there for 17 minutes and 3 seconds and listen to the song, and look at the album cover….
It wassn’t long before we realized that the light show going on behind them was actually a picture of sperm cells attacking an egg.
That was a strange time in my life. My dad had died the year before, and Mom was giving serious thought to packing us up and moving to California. We took a vacation to San Francisco and stayed with friends of hers who were there while the husband was working on his Ph. D. I remember there was a day when Mom and the wife went off for the morning. I think that was the day she had her interview. We stayed in Palo Alto, but drove into San Francisco frequently.
That was the Summer of Love. Hippies all over the place. They were fascinating to me. Mom was like, stay away from them, but I just had to see. I wanted to see Haight-Ashbury, which we had all heard about from Time magazine as being sort of the epicenter of everything that was going on. Naturally, we didn’t get there. Mom was determined to keep us on the straight and narrow. Anytime we went into the city, we were in jackets and ties, and I had my hair cut in a Princeton, a crew cut with the front left long, and you’d use a special kind of wax to hold it up. Butch Wax, that’s what it was. We looked out of place, and we knew it.
It really affected me, seeing San Francisco and hitting puberty all at the same time. I went home different. Well, different enough. Turns out everyone else was changing. We had influences, mostly the hippies walking around Loyola University, and the head shops that were opening. We’d go into those places and just hang out, smelling the sandalwood incense and checking out the chicks as they came in. (Girls in our grade were “girls,” older girls were “chicks.” Sounds sexist now, but that was the way it was.) And there were the underground comix, of course. Dedicated more to the “free love” than the dope side. Absolutely disgusting portrayals of sexual encounters. We loved it. Couldn’t get enough. We’d read them, then stick them into books when we went to school and trade them in the classroom.
We stayed away from drugs. None of us knew where to get any, for one thing, and even if we did, they wouldn’t sell to us. No way. Well, maybe they would, but we were chicken. It’d be another couple of years before any of us would even experiment with them. But we had all the accoutrements, the bell-bottoms, flowered shirts, Apache scarves… man, we thought we looked good. I had a Chianti bottle and bought a candle that had different color wax in it. I put it in the bottle and lit it, and watched as the wax ran down the sides of the bottle and stuck to it. I’d burn incense in my room, even though Mom didn’t like that. Thought I was trying to cover up the fact that I was smoking. Which I was, but I had already solved that issue: open the window and lean out. Hell, she smoked, why not? She didn’t have anything to say about it. I took the bulbs out of the overhead light fixture and replaced them with a blue bulb and a red bulb. I was heavy into the counterculture, man. At least as heavy into it as a short, stocky 12-year-old kid with a crewcut could get.
We laugh about it now, but we were dead serious then. Peace, love, dope! Off the pigs!
Years later, my brother moved to San Francisco, and Mary and I went to visit him. He and his wife were working full-time, so Mary and I would go out in the city during the day. I told Mary I had to go to Haight-Ashbury, because I had never made it there when I was in San Francisco as a kid. So she was patient with me and we rode three or four buses to get there. The corner itself is up on a hill, which we had to climb. When we got to the top, a young couple was having a loud and wildly profane argument under the street signs. We decided against crossing the street to get a picture of the street signs when they started swinging at each other and she spit on him…
Anyway, that’s my entry for this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday, hosted by the amazing Linda G. Hill. If you follow the link or click on the picture below, it’ll take you to her page, where she has all the rules and stuff.