Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Where Did All the Flowers Go?

My flower child wife in 1967, during the innocent days of love and peace.

It is hard to pin down that decade. It wasn't really the 1960s. The first few years of the 'sixties were like a slow fade out of the Rock 'n' Roll revolution of the 1950s. Did it begin in February 1964 when the Beatles were the vanguard of the British Invasion upon the musical shores of the United States? This date certainly marked the beginning of a whole new creative breakout within the arts. I'm inclined to place it a bit earlier at the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, and end it on August 9, 1974, when Richard Nixon left the White House in disgrace. Those dates certainly seem to border my own entry and exit of the Psychedelic Philadelphia period.

Although aspects of the movement date back to the Bohemians and the Beats, and small contingents of self-called Hippies exist today, as far as what people call the Hippie years was a very short period. It basically blossomed as a sub-culture with the January 1967 Be-In at San Francisco and the following Summer of Love. Its death began at Altamont in 1970.

The term Hippie was apparently coined in a 1965 newspaper article by journalist Michael Fallon about
the migration of Beatniks into the Haight-Asbury area of San Francisco. The exact meaning of the term is vague and uncertain. If it derived from "Hip" or "being in the know", it was a misnomer. I think Hippies were naive and escapist. The 1960s were hardly the "Decade of Peace and Love ". They were rather chaotic and violent, with police dogs, firehoses, cities rioting as the civil rights movement burned across the nation, and bloody and deadly as the Vietnam War raged overseas. Sticking flowers in the barrels of rifles ignored human nature and eventually someone pulled the trigger. The resulting images of My Lei in November 1969 and Kent State in May 1970 made this all too clear.

I suspected at some point the FBI or some such authority was reading my mail. My envelopes were coming to me opened or partially resealed. Why bother with me, pretty much a nobody. Who knows in those times? My wife and I had attended various protests in the city. We had been on a thing called "Pollution Trail" during the very first Earth day, riding about the area in a bus with fellow demonstrators, stopping at those places we considered the worse offenders against clean air and water, singing at them, shouting at them, getting our pictures taken by the mews media. I was writing for ultra-revolutionary underground publications, as well as letters to the editors of local newspapers, debating ministers and sending angry complaints to CEOs. I had supported and voted by write-in for Dick Gregory in the 1968 Presidential election. I subscribed to left-leaning magazines, such
as "Evergreen Review" and "Avant Garde".

One day I found a subpoena sticking from our mailbox. I was summoned to court on the grounds I had fraudulently registered to vote. This was in August of 1969. I had just begun a new job, circulation manager at North American Publishing Co. (I also wrote book reviews for their education industry magazine "Media & Methods"), and I had to take a day off from work to appear in court. When my wife and I moved to Philly we had registered as Democrats. She did not receive a subpoena, I did. I attributed this to the fact she listed her occupation as "Private Secretary" at U. of P., while I listed mine as "Writer". Arlen Spector was running for Mayor on the Republican Ticket, an office he would lose in a close race. The Republican Party was making an attempt prior to the election to take away the votes of students in the University City area on the belief they were mostly Democratic voters and I was swept up in their net. This event became the basis for my story "Toward Last November".

The people I knew or met and the situations of my life often became stories and that time frame was a productive period for me and 45% of my short fiction was penned between 1963 and 1974. The stories directly concerning my Psychedelic Philadelphia Days were collected in Keep All the Animals Warm (2004).  These were autobiographical  with "Cold", "Singing in the Streets", "Subway Stop", "City Scenes", "Tea and Coffee" and "Toward Last November" being especially so.

So where did the flowers in my bouquet go?

Diane, who wished to be a writer, just kinda drifted away.

Girard was older than the rest of us, married, divorced and father of a daughter who didn't understand the situation. He was a writer and trying to be a free spirit, but never came out into the nights and haunts with the core of our group. His situation with his family became the kernel of my story "Christmas Last" in my collection Daily Rhapsody (1971). It is the danger of being friends with a writer, your life becomes fodder for the mill of the writer's imagination. (Half of the stories in "Daily Rhapsody" were about people I knew at either ARCo ("Beach Boy", "Christmas Last", "Papier-Mache", "Most Admired Man in Rounke's Bar") or Lincoln Bank ("Fat Gal").

I do not know the final destinations of most of the core group, other than some apparently dropped their artistic dreams.

Jane (pictured right), who I often traveled up to Temple University with, for she lived in North Philly, may have defected to Cuba, but I really don't know. She was studying art and was active in the Black activist community. She was the one who introduced me to an editor in the Underground Press. Her boyfriend was a photographer in those same publications and by 1970 he had defected to Cuba. Jane kept urging me to not take day jobs, to trust my talent and live by it. Sometimes, perhaps more so, I wish I had listened to her.

Jim, who wanted us to start the band "Ethereal" became a Doctor of all things, perhaps the last thing any of us would have expected.

Joe (pictured left with my wife) and I had collaborated on a few pieces, but he was never fully committed to the kind of life the rest of us dreamed about. He was content to sit in Jim's basement or go to the Square with us. His number came up in the draft lottery and he ended up going to Vietnam, where he was wounded and heroic. After he came home he married and named his first child after me, stayed with ARCo and moved to Los Angeles when they moved their headquarters there.

I lost contact with him sometime after 1980.

I do not know what happened to Dot, the poet (pictured left), or to Michael and Maureen, the Actors (pictured right). I have googled the
names, but turned up nothing. If Michael and Maureen ever fulfilled their hopes of the Broadway Stage I do not know.

Part of the breakup lies with me. By 1970 I was getting published regularly and had also begun selling stories to the international pulps, "Magazine of Horror" and "Startling Mystery Stories". In a way I had moved beyond the group. The chatter in Jim's basement and around the Rittenhouse Fountain was always about some future time when we'd all be famous in our
fields. It was talk of projects we planned to do. It was talk and not doing. But I was doing. More and more I was writing and less and less going to these get-togethers to gossip and dream.

And then we moved from the city and after that the decade called the "sixties" had disappeared into the mid-seventies and everything changed and new eras began.

We lived during those Philadelphia days near Clark Park. Clark Park had the distinction that Charles Dickens once spoke there on his American tour. The Park was on the edge between the West Philadelphia communities and the Universities. During that decade it was decided to make the park a symbol of Love and Peace. It was the darling of the media for a while, but in the end it remained Clark Park and nothing more. (I based my story "Community Park" on it.)

Writers can't help but write and all the world becomes ink for their pen.

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