Welcome to the fourth edition of Fellow Book Benders, a free monthly online newsletter about the ridiculous truth and historical tidbits of San Francisco and the Russian River. Can you spy a glimmer of yesteryear from these tales? Hold on tight for a slippery ride down memory lane.
A True Story(or so I've been told):
Bobby was sitting alone in the rental cabin up in Canyon Two in Rio Nido, switching the dial on the television, adjusting the rabbit ears. His dad wouldn't be up for another couple of days, after his security shift at Hamm's brewery in the City. Mom was on her third gin and tonic down at the lodge, playing Pedro with the ladies. Bobby slouched back into the couch, bored. Nothing of interest on Dark Shadows or Guiding Light or As the World Turns.
Then a light lit up his brain and he dashed to his parent's bedroom, searched through the dresser and found a black sock stuffed with promise. A joint the size of a Cuban cigar came to his lips. He retreated back to the living room and the TV, taking a couple of drags, hacking away like a typical newbie until he got in a rhythm.
Moody background music introduced Reefer Madness. The black-and-white screen took on an eerie sheen. Bobby sat ramrod as drug pushers lured a teenager to try some pot. The melodrama's intensity increased in proportion to Bobby's smoking. Another hit, another frightening plot twist. The scenes shifted from a car accident to manslaughter to attempted rape to the end of all ends--suicide.
Bobby's eyes went wide with fear as if he had become a character in the film. He flipped his joint aside and swiveled his head around, searching. Frantic, he got on all fours and crawled to the entrance, reached up and dead-bolted the door. Still on his hands and knees, he scurried to an open window and slammed it shut.
The cops, they would show up at any moment. He was convinced that the rest of his summer would be spent in an eight-by-six at juvie. Then another fear, no less frightening than the first, overcame him. Would he be driven to madness as well? Have to stay awake, he told himself. He paced the hallway, back and forth he went, the darkness his only friend. And then the doorbell rang.
The Grateful Dead have long had a connection with the North Bay. The group was formed in 1965 amid the rise of the counterculture movement. Jerry Garcia spent part of his early years in the tough outer Mission District of San Francisco before moving up to Sonoma County. He attended Analy High School in Sebastopol where he won his first battle of the bands.
Later, he helped write “Dark Star” in Rio Nido while performing there in September, 1967. The lyrics were symbolic of how “far out” the universe could get, and Captain Trips wanted to stick around as long as possible to see how weird it all might become. Unfortunately, however, he retreated to Marin where his demons caught up with him, dying of a heart attack in 1995.
The Grateful Dead have performed at several venues in the North Bay including The Barn (Rio Nido Dance Hall), River Theater in Guerneville, Inn of the Beginning in Cotati, and the Veterans Memorial Building as well as the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rose. Also, for a few months in 1967, the Grateful Dead lived and gave concerts at Olompoli in Novato, alongside Grace Slick and Janice Joplin.
Bob Weir, the youngest member of the original ensemble, played rhythm guitar and shared vocals with Jerry. Bob now lives in Mill Valley and tours with his band, RatDog. Phil Lesh was a classically trained trumpeter and played bass guitar for the Dead. He has settled in San Rafael where he manages Terrapin Crossroads, a restaurant and local music place. New Yorker Mickey Hart joined the band as a second drummer during the Summer of Love and played several other percussion instruments as well. He has taken roots in the hills of Occidental where he is still experimenting with musical radio waves and brain patterns. Rumor has it that Mickey is using members of Monte Rio’s Bohemian Grove as guinea pigs. Long live The Dead!
Reefer Madness, filmed in 1936, was originally financed by a church group to show the evils of marijuana. In the seventies it regained new life by the religious right and other advocates of cannabis policy reform. I wonder how that worked out? Pedro (pronounced "Peedro") is a trick-taking card game in the same vein as Bridge. The original version was developed in Denver in the 1880's. However, the more popular California variety (players are dealt 9 cards each) was supposedly created in San Francisco, perhaps at Dago Mary's in Hunters Point or at the 500 Club in the Mission District. Hamm's opened its San Francisco brewery in 1954 at 1550 Bryant Street. Its 20-by-80 foot sign, with a three-dimensional 13-foot beer chalice on top, appeared in the first Dirty Harry film and was a local landmark. The brewery closed in 1972. In the early 1980s, the beer vats were first squatted and then rented out to approximately 200 punk rock bands.
The oldest known written record on cannabis for medicinal & recreational use comes from the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2727 B.C. Greeks and Romans were also familiar with the herb. In North America, cannabis was grown on many plantations for use as rope, clothing and paper. We have, however, finally caught up with the ancients, using it as originally intended--for pleasure and healing.
Jerry Garcia never liked the nickname, Captain Trips. He did not consider The Dead as a psychedelic band, more of a rock 'n' roll group. He once described their long jams as being very useful in a roomful of zonked-out dancers "who'd lost all concept of time." The Grateful Dead album was released in 1967 and featured the song, "Viola Lee Blues", recorded live at Rio Nido.
The River Theater was built in 1947, showing double features. In the sixties, it spotlighted concerts in addition to the movies in order to survive. Besides The Dead, some other music groups that have played there were Rickey Nelson, Buddy Holly, Frank Sinatra, Emmylou Harris, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe McDonald, Merle Sounders, Martin Fierro, Ronnie Montrose, Elvin Bishop, Buddy Owen Band, and Joules Brossard.
Perhaps you have a story of your own you would like to share with Fellow Book Benders. Go to www.johnmccarty.org and click on "Contact" and tell all. The taller the tale, the more majestic.
Ifyou have enjoyed reading one of my novels, a short review with Amazon http://www.amazon.com would be appreciated. As Red Skelton used to say, "Good night and may God bless."
In September, Bobby hooks up with some hippie squatters in Rio Nido and squares off against the local sheriff. Also, the Summer of Love comes full circle. Until then, my friends, keep turning those pages. For Summer Discounts on any of the novels below, go to http://www.johnmccarty.org. Free shipping, handling & a personal message included.