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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
I’m proud (and excited) to announce my fun coming-of-age ’60s memoir, Groovin’, has won a Readers’ Favorite bronze medal!
Here's the Readers’ Favorite press release:
The Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest featured thousands of contestants from over a dozen countries, ranging from new independent authors to NYT best-sellers and celebrities.
Most people who participated in the original Summer of Love in 1967 would agree it was a profound, life-changing experience. Over the last few weeks, as many have celebrated the 50th anniversary of that iconic time, I’ve discovered a range of impressions and memories from those who were there.
For many, that remarkable summer was all about the music. The Monterey Pop Festival kicked it off with Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, the Jefferson Airplane, the Mamas & the Papas, the Who, the Grateful Dead, and dozens more. The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” flooded the airwaves as love-ins sprang up in the San Francisco Bay Area and other places across the nation.
For those who formed the hippie culture, pot and acid defined the transformation of thought that questioned society’s antiquated status quo. Seeing life through this revealing lens gave birth to a renewed women’s movement, accelerated the civil rights movement, and fueled the anti-war (peace) movement.
“Make love not war” became our battle cry and led to protests that rocked the country. The music of the time inspired and fueled our pursuit of freedom and justice for all.
Of course, the Vietnam War and the draft affected a wide swath of American youth. If you went to war, you didn’t come back the same. If your consciousness was jolted by drugs or the rebellion of thought around you, you struggled with the draft and your responsibility to weigh right versus wrong. Several chapters of my book Groovin’ describe my own emotional roller coaster with this issue.
If you were among the brave fighting in the jungles of Vietnam, there was no Summer of Love. Just so you know, those of us who opposed the conflict weren’t against you—we were against you dying in a senseless war. And we saw no reason to add our own lives to the carnage.
When I think of the Summer of Love, San Francisco’s Haight-Asbury district often comes to mind. As a wandering, rag-tag group of youngsters living on love, many of us stopped at “the Haight” for a short time, and we experienced a high-hearted, magical place. People embraced one another in a great experiment of tolerance and cooperative living. Scott McKenzie inadvertently became Haight’s pied piper with his song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).”
Things were great in the Haight for a while—then that piece of real estate became too well known! That’s when the rascals and vermin moved in, lured by the promise of free love, food, and drugs. Too many came to take advantage of a gorgeous attempt at utopia. If you experienced the Haight at the arc of its rainbow, you probably walked away with a beautiful memory.
But if you were there through the whole evolution, you probably remember its decline, plagued by overcrowding, violence, bad drugs, and deprivation. As with all of nature, every flower has its season.
Many never comprehended what the essence of that unique occasion was all about—or worse, they have forgotten the magic or dismissed it as a youthful ideological whim. For me, the Summer of Love was never confined to music, or a place, or even a time in history. It was about the evolution of thought, freedom, and adventure.
And it was about discovering the wonder that surrounds us and the beauty that resides within us—a life-affirming mindset that is more important today than ever before.
Believe it or not, we’re getting close to the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. If you were there, immersed in the magic as I was, you might be saying, “Fifty years? How can that be? What a trip!” It was a time when Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” was blasting from our AM radios, an era when thousands were lured to Haight-Ashbury, marching to the refrain “turn on, tune in, drop out.”
In 1967 I was 22 and thirsty for adventure. Wanting to spread my wings, I turned my back on the city by the bay and hitched east to the world's fair in Montreal, riding on the breeze of compassionate drivers, supported by an underground community of welcoming long-hairs. The feeling of family fueled a fearless strength that spread far and wide. We were brothers and sisters in love with life and hell-bent on fighting injustice and changing the world.
Along the way, I participated in an Aspen love-in and war protest, plunged naked into a steamy hot springs, ate the absolute best BBQ ribs ever in Kansas City, had a run-in with an ornery carnival boss, and nearly shook apart in a super-rattly semitruck ride.
The pinnacle of the trip was a steamy romance with a lovely maiden who studied in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Together we toured the world’s fair, awestruck by the AT&T Picturephone, a futuristic device that would actually allow you to see the person you were talking to. Wow!
That summer was an intoxicating romp, full of freedom, enthusiasm, growth, and optimism, as were the several years that followed. It was an iconic cultural turning point that reshaped American history in profound ways. The sixties were so special to me I wrote a book to give readers a taste of what it was like to be a part of it. Unlike books outlining the history of the sixties, Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes offers people the chance to experience what it was like to live during those transformative times. For those who were there, I also hoped to trigger a few treasured memories.
This golden anniversary is not going unnoticed. San Francisco is pulling out all the stops—over 60 different organizations (cultural, civic, arts, music, and social services) are celebrating the Summer of Love. A painted magic bus complete with music and projections is touring Haight-Ashbury, North Beach, Hippie Hill, and other attractions. The famous de Young Museum’s exhibition includes a psychedelic experience, and the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate park turns trippy at night with light projections seen from afar.
San Francisco isn’t the only city jumping on the band wagon. Museums, universities, libraries, county fairs, musical events, and even ballet groups in cities across the nation are themed to this flowered anniversary. There are even Summer of Love celebrations planned in the UK.
Unfortunately, the most authentic event might not take place. Efforts to stage a free Summer of Love concert in Golden Gate Park, like the one they did back in the day, were turned down twice by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission. Bummer, right? Not so fast. The city of San Francisco just announced they will host a smaller free event, the Surrealistic Solstice, on June 21.
It’s great that this iconic time is being recognized, recaptured, and celebrated, but let’s not forget what it was originally about. The summer of the flower children, along with its wacky happenings, was about promoting peace, embracing individual freedom, fostering harmony, caring for others, protecting the environment, and viewing all flavors of humanity as equals. Those were the elements that made that magical snapshot in history so unique and beautiful!
Were you there during the Summer of Love? I’m collecting stories from that time, and I’d love to hear yours. If you have a memory you’d like to share, please submit it here. Those with the best stories will receive a free copy of my memoir, Groovin'.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, FLOWER CHILDREN!
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