Another Slant on the Sixties
I was having a conversation with a bright young woman in her 20s, when she asked me what the ’60s were like. This is one of the reasons I wrote my memoir, Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes. I wanted people to be able to taste the freedom we hippies experienced during that amazing period.
A lot about that era has appeared in print and media, but most of it deals with the unrest: the political climate, the Vietnam War, civil rights, and feminism. There’s also a profusion of material that reflects on the music scene. Even though those elements influenced our lives, there’s more to the ‘60s than the revolutionary components.
Those of us early to the hippie scene experienced a wonderful love-based brotherhood. If you were a traveler and needed food or shelter, you were welcomed by like-minded youth as a matter of course. As a group of free-thinking, deep-feeling individuals exploring a unique new paradigm, an effortless bond existed.
Unfortunately, the purity of our scene was short-lived. Media coverage attracted a less conscious element, lusting after drugs and free-love—spoiling the integrity of the movement.
Many other elements of the ’60s are rarely mentioned.
It was a whole lot easier to survive back then. Of course, wages were lower, but if you were content with a simple life, you could work for a week or two and live for months without breaking a sweat. In 1969, I bought a ’55 Chevy pickup truck for $150 and my carpenter buddies built a primo camper on it—just for the heck of it. And with gas averaging 29¢ a gallon, I could roam the country in my house on wheels for a very small sum.
It’s hard to imagine today, but our national parks and forests were free to the public. With much less traffic on the roads, you could pull into a campground, find an empty spot, and camp as long as you wanted—and it didn’t cost a cent!
A quick stroll around any campground put you in touch with others of your kind. It was common for wandering long-hairs to congregate at supper time, sharing whatever they had to offer. If you didn’t have food to put on the table, you contributed a good tale, a tune, an intoxicant, or simply some quality company.
We were family and we took care of one another.
In the ’60s, wildlife, birds, and insects were plentiful and our waterways and oceans were more pristine. I had a personal kinship with monarch butterflies and used to see them everywhere. Now it's rare to spot one in most parts of our country.
I remember the excitement of the first Earth Day. It signified a new awareness aimed at protecting our environment. Now, nearly 50 years later, it's sad to see how little we’ve done to preserve our planet’s precious gifts.
I was lucky to have grown up when I did and fortunate to have participated in a remarkable counterculture. Though it’s not impossible today, it was far easier to thrive as a free spirit back when I was a youth. Despite the challenges, I’m glad to report that there are plenty of hippie-minded souls out there (both young and old) still kicking up their heels.
And I’m grateful that most still sing the same song—one of inclusion, love, peace, and harmony.
Soon you'll be able to enjoy Trippin’: Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails FREE. That’s right. It’s my way of thanking readers who have enjoyed my true-life (sometimes outrageous) hippie adventures. Each chapter of the sequel to my award-winning memoir, Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes, will be delivered directly to your inbox. Sign up here.
How Hard Is It to Care?
I hit the lottery when I came into this world.
Not only was I alive, healthy, and born in America, but I found myself with a magnificent capacity for compassion. I also lucked out with Caucasian parents who were well educated, made a decent living, and possessed good values.
White males like me, for some stupid reason, have been given a privileged status in our society—a delusion propagated by ... white males. “Privilege” should be reserved for the human being, who, in its essence, is kind and caring. Humans have a magnified capacity to evaluate our feelings and the freedom to decide how we will behave—making human consciousness a precious gift.
What we do with it—that’s another story.
I may not be a woman, but I like it when things are fair. I believe every woman deserves respect, equal pay, the power of choice, and freedom from any form of sexual harassment. I cheer in support every time a woman triumphs or has the courage to speak up for diversity. It’s about time more women share our leadership, despite the ravings of the insecure.
That’s just fair—and fair is right.
I’m not an African American but I believe black lives matter. I believe all lives matter. I don’t care if you’re black, brown, yellow, red, or purple, if your blood runs red and is pumped by a heart like mine, we are the same at our core. Who of us had a say as to the family we were born into?
Equality is everybody’s birthright!
I’m not an immigrant, but I have compassion for those fleeing danger, trying to protect their families, begging for help from their more fortunate neighbors. Yes, we need a sensible immigration system, but how hard is it to care? Unless you’re a pure-blooded Native American, you come from an immigrant family. Think about it—if this country didn’t take a chance on your ancestors, you wouldn’t be a US citizen.
Why shouldn’t today’s immigrants deserve this opportunity?
I’m not gay, but I support the LGBTQ community. Who gave “conventional” folks the right to decide how others should live or who they have the right to marry?
We all should be able to celebrate our love.
I’m not a Muslim. In fact I was raised in a Jewish household, but I don’t see Muslims as the enemy. Sure, there is a radical element in this world, but the overwhelming majority of Muslims are peace-loving, goodhearted, hardworking citizens. It’s not like there aren’t radicals in every religion. How many white Christian males have committed mass shootings?
Does that mean all Christians are dangerous?
I’m not poor. I’m not rich either, but I’ve lived a comfortable life. That doesn’t mean I can’t feel compassion for the single parent struggling with three jobs to put food on the table or the homeless man seeking a safe place to bed down for the night. That could be any of us—disadvantaged in the blink of an eye—whether we choose to believe it or not.
So the question is this: How hard can it possibly be to care?
It’s not about who we are or who they are or what our religion or political affiliation is—it’s simply about caring!
It’s about being a human being!
These values aren't new to me. The heartfelt adventures in my '60s book Groovin' will attest to this. Available on Amazon and Audible.
This blog was inspired by a twitter tweet.
What Do You Stand For?
Do we need to sacrifice our values to stand up for our principles?
Are you concerned about the state of our Union? I certainly am!
Not a day goes by without some outrageous incident making the headlines. It’s painful to see the standards that have defined our country ignored and abused. Honesty, integrity, empathy, compassion, freedom, and equality have always been dear to me. Ideals, until recently, I believed were esteemed by the majority of Americans.
Our government’s behavior today brings to mind an inner conflict I struggled with back when the Vietnam War was raging.
I was never prone to politics, but with the draft breathing down my neck, I was forced to make some tough decisions. If you’ve read my book Groovin, you know about my personal dilemma and the thoughts and emotions that plagued me at the time.
I decided to fight for peace and compassion—but protesting the war caused my behavior to change. Instead of the loving human being I had been, I began to experience hatred. My animosity was aimed at the government, the hawkish politicians, and the military mentality.
Fortunately, I had the sensitivity to notice the absence of peace in my life. Feeling out of sorts, I recognized the hypocrisy of fighting for love while expressing hate—and saw the need to step back.
Today I find it difficult again to watch greedy politicians make heartless decisions and defile and dismantle our democracy. It fuels anger and resentment—emotions that run contrary to the person I strive to be.
There’s a classic country song by Aaron Tippin with a line that says: “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”
So how do I speak up for the principles I cherish without sacrificing my own peace of mind?
Determined to learn from the past, I’ve decided to retain a civil stance toward my opponents while standing up for the injustice I deplore.
I’ll be the first to admit it’s difficult remaining positive during these trying times. It takes commitment and, for me, plenty of meditation to remain connected to my heart.
Sometimes I fail, wishing terrible things on those who threaten the principles I adore. But most of the time, I’m able to remember that there are far more gentle, caring Americans than the misguided few who dominate the airwaves.
I’ve realized that we may be underestimating the power for good that exists in our country—and the fact that a large opposing coalition is forming. Our greatest obstacle may be underestimating our strength together and the importance of each of our votes.
The words and actions of our current leaders have offended many factions of society: women, hispanics, blacks, Muslims, emigrants, conservationists, scientists, the LGBTQ community, the handicapped, and the press.
They’ve even inflamed farmers who’ve been forced to plow under their crops because of a shortage of laborers and the results of Trump’s trade wars.
Even though the Democratic Party is far from perfect, I want to do everything I can to see them back in control of Congress. Since most millennials, Gen Xers, and Gen Zers welcome diversity and inclusion, I hope they, as well as older, principled citizens, will make the effort to vote, starting with the midterms. Together, we have the numbers to make a difference.
As freedom of speech is demonized and the powers of the presidency are used to punish those who speak in opposition, it’s easy to become angry.
Anger fuels action—but let our actions be based on the love and compassion we are fighting for—not by hatred for those who act in ignorance and fear.
We will feel better about ourselves and be more effective in creating positive change.
It’s possible to create something today that will produce benefits for years to come.
A letter I recently sent tells my story:
To the workforce of Rainbow Grocery,
I imagine none of you know who I am, but I wanted to commend you all on your work and the service you offer the community. I’m proud of the part I played in the beginnings of Rainbow Grocery, 45 years ago this summer.
I know the history of Rainbow is posted on your website, but perhaps I can add a few details to the store’s origins.
In 1973, after doing construction work in Colorado for a few months, I returned home to Quincy, California, to attend to a book I co-authored that was ready for release (Homesteader’s Handbook).
When I arrived, I found that many of my friends had moved to San Francisco to participate in a communal living experiment, made up of others like me who practiced a meditation method taught by Prem Rawat, also known at the time as Maharaji, a title he picked up in his native India.
Over 100 people were in the group, sharing resources and living together in a dozen houses across the city. Some worked full time to provide income, and others had particular assignments to help the community function. Always eager for adventure, I relocated to the city, where, along with my canine companion, Charlie, I joined the community.
Because I had experience as a volunteer at our mountain food coop, the group coordinator asked me to start a similar operation in the house where I was living on 5th Avenue in the Inner Sunset District.
Entrusted with a budget of $2,000, I started out gathering food sources. The workers at the nearby Noe Valley Community Store offered their help. I bought 15 round cardboard bins for bulk products and a glass-faced cooler unit for perishables, and then set up the equipment in the attached garage of the house.
The community supplied me with enough cash to keep things stocked, and twice a week, a representative from each household came by to pick up what was required to feed their inhabitants. This arrangement continued for nearly a year until, assisted by John David Williams, we moved the operation into a warehouse.
In 1975, I lived on Albion Street in the Mission District with Bill and Janet Crolius and a few others. Together, we decided to open the store to the public and name it Rainbow Grocery.
We moved the co-op into a vacant storefront on 16th Street, just around the corner from our rented flat. This soon expanded into two storefronts, one for food and the other (the General Store) for non-food items.
My start at Rainbow propelled me into a 12-year natural foods career, culminating as purchasing manager of a large Denver-based natural foods distributor.
It’s amazing how small efforts made today can offer enormous rewards over time—touching the lives of many. I see by your website, that you now employ a workforce of over 250. I never imagined Rainbow Grocery would become so large, much less still be around 45 years after I first gathered those simple cardboard bins.
There’s no way of knowing how many customers and workers Rainbow has served and benefited. So never underestimate your contributions.
I can see by reading your mission statement that the values we embraced at Rainbow’s creation are still in force today. Many thanks to the current workers—and to all the others who came before—for making Rainbow Grocery a long-standing community icon.
Note: Rainbow Grocery let me know that they were thrilled to receive my letter and enjoyed reading about the history of the cooperative from one of the founders. They have tentative plans to add the photo and story to their website.
Has something like this happened to you?
Please share your story in the comments below.
Groovin’ is available in audio!
You can now listen to my escapades during the late 1960s. The perfect summer entertainment!
Narrator J. R. Moorland brings my stories alive as I hitchhike across the country, work at a circus, and ride a horse hundreds of miles through the Rocky Mountain wilderness—just one step ahead of the draft and the Vietnam War.
Join me and my canine companion, Charlie, as we meet one colorful character after another, from a loudmouthed carnival boss to an ax-loving dishwasher to a sultry flower child, whose bewitching powers lead to lust and longing—and heartbreak.
Listen to a sample here:
Against the backdrop of a unique period in American history, Groovin' is certain to warm your heart, bring a smile to your face, and inspire you to make every day an adventure.
The Groovin' audiobook is available on Amazon and Audible
What are you doing this summer?
Leave a comment below and receive a FREE audiobook (first 10 people).
Note: The audio is an abridged version of the print edition.
One Word: Plastics!
When we celebrated Earth Day last month (April 22), it brought back memories of my first Earth Day celebration in 1970.
It was an optimistic time, but I never guessed that it would become an annual event—a yearly reminder of the need to do our small part to preserve the health of our planet. And none of us had a clue how much damage mankind would impart upon the earth in the upcoming five decades.
“One word: plastics!” This was the career advice that a middle-aged neighbor gave Dustin Hoffman in the 1967 movie The Graduate.
I’m sure people made their fortune producing and marketing the popular man-made substance. But no one back then could have imagined the devastating consequence to our environment. It’s no wonder that the 2018 Earth Day theme was End Plastic Pollution.
Plastics have benefited mankind for decades, offering durable inexpensive products, including toys, office supplies, tools, food storage containers, construction materials, innovative fabrics, medical supplies, and numerous other items.
The durability of plastic can be useful, but it’s also a curse. For example, the average time for a drink bottle to break down is 450 years, and some can take as long as 1,000 years to decompose. In the US, plastics production accounts for nearly 16% of our municipal waste, filling landfills to problematic levels—25% of hospital waste alone (approximately 106,000 tons annually) is made of plastic.
Worldwide, over 300 million tons of plastics are produced every year, and 10% of it ends up in the ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating collection of mostly plastic trash midway between Hawaii and California, now covers an area of 600,000 square miles. That’s twice the size of Texas and only one of five large masses floating in our oceans.
Plastics in our waterways and oceans are killing wildlife in enormous numbers through ingestion or entanglement. Carcasses of sea birds and marine life have been found with their intestines clogged with dozens of plastic items.
As durable and inert as most plastics appear, it doesn’t prevent them from adding toxic chemicals to our environment. Many of our food containers leach neurotoxins into our foods only to end up in our bodies. BPA, linked to cancer, infertility, and diabetes, is just one of these dangerous substances.
Another problem stems from microfibers from our clothes. Every time we wash our synthetic fabrics, fibers are released into the drainage water. Millions of these tiny filaments eventually make their way through our rivers and streams to the sea where they are ingested by fish and other marine life, causing damage to aquatic species as well as those of us who eat them.
Sorry for all the doom and gloom, but awareness is the first step to taking action—and preserving our planet for future generations demands action now. I find it embarrassing as an American to be one of the only countries on the planet not involved in the Paris Climate Agreement.
There is some good news, however. Teams of scientists, inventors, and conservationists are hard at work, looking for solutions to all our environmental problems. In spite of the lack of commitment from many of our leaders here in the US, some countries take science and these planetary threats seriously.
Europe has been a leader in regard to sound ecological practices for some time. The European Union’s strategy is aimed at making all EU plastic packaging recyclable by 2030. Plastic bags have been banned in many European countries, and France is the first country to ban plastic plates, cups, and cutlery.
Sweden has developed a way to convert their trash into energy without polluting the air, using a process that provides heat and electricity for their citizens. In fact, only 1% of their waste ends up in the landfill, and they have become so proficient at recycling, they have a trash shortage—causing them to import trash from other countries.
Numerous technologies have been developed, aimed at removing floating trash in the sea and combating microfiber pollution. The Ocean Cleanup is aimed at containing and cleaning up the five large garbage patches in an optimistic five-year period, starting with the Pacific patch this summer.
There’s also a coastal cleanup project that started 30 years ago and has grown to include 100 countries. September 15, 2018, is designated as International Coastal Cleanup Day.
Springtime reminds us of the miracle of our surroundings. As we watch trees green up and explode with blossoms and delight with the first flower blooms popping from the earth, it should serve as a reminder how lucky we are to live on this beautiful planet.
With so much beauty to behold, how can we not be inspired to preserve this precious gift.
What can you do to help?
Enjoy the summer, everyone!
It's coming soon!
The abridged audio version of my award-winning book, Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes will be available by mid-June. Now you'll get to listen to my wacky stories, including my horseback adventure through the Rocky Mountains.
A Change of Tapestry
I have lived nearly half my life just outside Boulder, Colorado, and have grown to love it here.
It’s only a short drive to the high country if you want some relief from the summer heat, and the winters are relatively mild. With 300 days of sunshine, when a storm hits, the roads are often clear of snow the following day.
Still, it’s nice to escape the chill of winter with a short respite to a tropical place.
At the beginning of January, hungry for palm trees and surf, my lovely wife, Doris, was combing the internet looking for warmer places. We were considering Cozumel, a destination we’d visited several times in the past.
Then I recalled that a dear friend had recently moved to the town of San Miguel de Allende, 7,000 feet in elevation and several hours northwest of Mexico City. Maybe we could include a short visit to her home in our travel plans.
I emailed my friend, who I referred to as Rosehips in my memoir, Groovin. She informed us that in January, she would be staying in the tiny fishing village south of Puerto Vallarta: Boca de Tomatian.
She also wanted to escape the winter cold!
Doris searched for lodging and found an Airbnb rental in Boca. After booking our apartment, we discovered to our delight that Rosehips would be staying directly above us.
What are the chances?
We also found another surprise in Boca. Look carefully at the photo above: the sign adapted from the rear panel of a boat reminded us of home.
It was refreshing to be among the easygoing, warmhearted Mexicans in a small town that had more chickens than people. This fact became apparent every morning at 4 a.m.
Fortunately we packed ear plugs after advance warning from our friend. But even those were no match one sleepless Saturday night when 12 hours of electronic ranchera music blasted from gargantuan speakers directly beneath our windows!
Along with the chickens, the area featured many large wild birds, including storks, herons, frigate birds, and pelicans. We never tired of watching the sea birds dive for fish.
Doris calls this kind of getaway “a change of tapestry.”
It was also a relief to spend time sheltered from the disgusting political scene north of the border. The only reminder we had was at one of the touristic souvenir stalls along Puerto Vallarta’s river walk.
The vendor displayed a bright blue T-shirt boasting “Safe on this side of the wall!”
PS. The abridged audio version of my memoir, Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes is almost ready for release. Now you'll get to listen to my wacky horseback adventure through the Rocky Mountains. I'll keep you posted.
Youth to the Rescue
Heartache | Anger | Pride | Inspiration
Hope | Déjà Vu | Gratitude
These are some of the feelings I’ve experienced recently:
Heartache that another senseless mass shooting has taken place while our legislators continue to stand by and do nothing.
Anger that again and again we hear sympathies from our congressmen rather than action to curb the violence.
Pride for our brave, young survivors for rising from the ashes of tragedy and channeling their grief and anger into powerful and positive action.
Inspiration from our brilliant, courageous youth, who have so eloquently challenged our political leaders, proclaiming they will not be denied the safety they deserve. These kids are holding the legislators hands to the fire, making small dents in the fabric of today’s politics. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Hope that at last the large population of decent citizens is beginning to wake from their slumber and demand that change happen. And that gun violence is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the issues that desperately need to be addressed.
Déjà vu as today’s events mirror my own experiences from the ’60s, causing me to relive Vietnam era anger, hopes, fears, and doubts, all expressed in my writings. I’ve found myself again observing how exposure to ongoing injustice takes us as a people to a boiling point—forcing us to demand change.
During the ’60s, we marched to the battle cry of “Make love not war!” Today we find ourselves rallying behind the slogan “Enough is enough!”
Gratitude that never before has greed, narcissism, prejudice, pettiness, homophobia, and misogyny practiced by many of our top legislators been so transparent—not to mention a disturbing disregard for the environment. There has always been corruption at the upper levels of government, but I’m appalled at how shamelessly widespread it is with our current lawmakers.
This makes it all the more difficult for those of us who value honesty, integrity, freedom, and equality to ignore the daily affronts to these treasured attributes. After all, aren’t these the cornerstones of our democracy?
Here’s hoping that today's unrest is the kindling for positive change.
Why I’m Not an Olympic Athlete
Like many of you, I was absorbed by the Winter Olympics.
I experienced ridiculous highs as athletes achieved their dreams, the result of years of focused hard work and determination. I also cringed in agony as hopes were dashed with every fall, wipeout, and miscalculation.
I’m the last person you’d call a winter sports enthusiast. Still, I found myself glued to the tube, squirming and rejoicing for hours.
Born and raised in the Sacramento Valley, I experienced snow for the first time as a teenager on an Explorer Scout skiing trip in the high Sierras. It didn’t end well. Someone cut me off, forcing my skis into a snowbank. The result—a twisted knee and ankle.
I tried the sport again in the early ’70s, managing a few mediocre runs on a small hill near my home in the Sierras.
Over a decade later, I met Doris, a Swiss woman and my future wife, who had been an avid skier since childhood. Our friends Misty and Steve, invited us to their place near Vail. (Yes, the same Misty from my book Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes.)
That’s when Doris talked me into accompanying her on the slopes.
I gripped a color-coded map showing the paths of multiple ski runs printed in green (easy), red (difficult), and black (wet-your-pants terrifying). I started out on the green-rated bunny hill, where my wife attempted to give me some much-needed pointers.
Even though I couldn’t get the hang of stopping, I found if I curved back and forth horizontally across the slope, I could keep my speed in check. Using this method, I was able to maneuver along without much trouble, kissing the snow on only a couple of occasions.
Knowing Doris was anxious to test her limits on the black diamond runs, I urged her to be on her way. After we agreed to meet in the bar of the lodge at the foot of the mountain, she disappeared down the slope. On my own now, I studied the map and found a wimpy green line that descended all the way to the lodge.
With visions of a steamy Irish coffee in my mind, I started following that green trail downhill. Despite a steepening incline, things were going well as I weaved back and forth across the slope, keeping my speed at levels that would make an old lady proud.
But then something unexpected happened—the trail narrowed. All of a sudden, there was no room for weaving, and I started to accelerate. I could see that the slope was going to be constricted for quite a distance, so I attempted the stopping technique as instructed.
When that failed, I did what I had to do—I dropped to the ground, nearly burying myself in the soft snow.
I stayed there for a few minutes formulating a plan. With resignation, I slipped off my skies and began the long walk down the mountain with my gear slung over my shoulder. With snow up to my hips, it turned out to be a forty-five-minute arduous trudge to the bottom.
Did I say “No sweat”? When I arrived at the parking lot, I was drenched in perspiration. I stripped down to my undershorts and sat in the car until I cooled down. Heart rate and body temp finally near normal, I put on my clothes and went in search of that well-deserved Irish coffee.
Since that day, my version of winter sports has been limited to channel surfing, a skill that came in handy during the televised Olympics. Fortunately, my distaste for skiing wasn’t a deal breaker as far as Doris was concerned!
Though I often wonder what drives some contenders to risk life and limb with death-defying aerial acrobatics, my hat remains off to all the impressive athletes for their inspiring performances.
Here are some of my favorite 2018 gold medal moments. What are yours?
Shaun White’s final half-pipe run
Women’s hockey: USA vs Canada
Russian women’s figure skating rivalry: Alina Zagitova vs Evgenia Medvedeva
Men’s curling: USA vs Sweden
Who would have thought curling could be so exciting?
Can You Laugh at Your Troubles?
If you want to enjoy every single day, it pays to develop a good sense of humor.
This is the advice I’ve been telling myself lately, and I’m offering it to you as well. Let’s face it: as beautiful as life can be, there’s no way to avoid a few bumps along the way. It’s not unusual for everyday problems to knock us around, but a “lightening up” strategy can work wonders.
When I'm not working on my sequel to Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes, I like to play poker with my buddies. My favorite game is Texas Holdem—a game that requires you to master over 50 skills to become a great player. And even if you become proficient at the game, you still have to make good decisions and deal with that mischievous Lady Luck.
Sometimes I push a lot of chips in the middle with what I hope is the best hand, only to find out my opponent has a better one. Or worse yet, get called by a crap hand and the other player gets crazy lucky and outdraws me. This can be a bummer, but if I go “on tilt,” my judgment can be compromised.
I follow a poker rule called the "20-year rule." The basic premise is to ask yourself, "Will this matter in 20 years?"
Isn't that great advice? I find it also comes in handy when dealing with life. If I apply it, I can dismiss the emotional impact of most situations.
So when serious problems come your way, take the edge off by tipping your perspective toward the comical side of things. This requires some practice, but I urge you to give it a try.
A hearty sense of humor can truly be uplifting.
Are you ready to lighten up with me today?
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Youth to the Rescue