On the Road with Ken Kesey, Dean Moriarty and John the Baptist
So, I’m afraid to say, we’ve kind of been neglecting the vineyards toward the latter end of this summer. Maybe it’s because we’ve been lulled into complacency by the fact that we haven’t really had a summer. It’s been one long wet, cool spring from March to early August. The reports we’re hearing from Napa and Sonoma are that the grapes are two to three, even four weeks behind schedule. Certainly the vegetables are on that decelerated plan. I planted Early Girls (which are some of the earliest ripening tomatoes) and I started them in the greenhouse. They are just now starting to ripen. In an area that usually starts its ripe tomato season in June, that’s crazy. But as cool, wet weather continued on through May and June, I started feeling more comfortable with my planned trip to Oaxaca for a three week language immersion course. It didn’t seem as if I were going to miss any summer. In fact, it looked doubtful that we were even going to get a summer as we usually know it around here.
But suddenly, in the last two weeks, we’ve had blasts of weather that have sent everything into overdrive. My corn has gone from barely ripe to almost gone. And we’ve almost missed Veraison — that critical point where red wine grapes turn from green to red and the moment where Verjus is made. We’re set to harvest what few green grapes we have left, crush, and make Verjus this Friday. Cousin John is on board. Stay tuned. It’s bound to be fun.
In the meantime, I’m not sorry I went “on the road”. As anyone knows who followed my blog during my three week immersion course in Oaxaca, traveling is always a liberating experience. I’m not sure I came back with the skills I thought I’d gain. For one thing, I learned that most of the agricultural workers in this area are from the Mexican state of Michoacan. And if there is one area they look down on, it’s Oaxaca, which is much more indigenous than most of Mexico. So I should be really impressive with the picking crews as I shout orders in a Oaxacan accent.
But still, just traveling is a broadening experience. That’s why, the other day, I watched The Magic Trip which is probably about the ultimate road trip. That would be the trip Ken Kesey took with his hippie friends from California to New York in the bus called “Further”. Yes, that bus that was featured in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. I’m not sure I can actually recommend the documentary as a movie as it relies heavily on the footage shot by Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters, who were, apparently, completely high on LSD from Northern California to Brooklyn. Remember those Sixties movies where square Hollywood producers tried to jump on the Hippie bandwagon and show “the Counter-Culture”? They always featured young people in flowing tie-dye communing with nature, speaking nonsense and dancing erratically. Turns out, that is really what tripping people are like — at least if you reference Ken Kesey who spent as much time documenting his shenanigans on film as he did dropping Acid. You know what? Tripping is just as boring to watch when you are not tripping as Hollywood made it seem back when Clint Eastwood (in Coogan’s Bluff) pursued a suspect into the “psychedelic nightclub”, The Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel.
However, the only trippy shout-out I will give to Ken Kesey is that, apparently, the big impetus for this cross-country LSD fueled bus trip was to get from California to Brooklyn to see the 1964 World’s Fair. They showed up in the summer. Guess what?! I was there at the exact same time! The only difference: they were driven by Beat hero, Neal Cassady, the inspiration for Jack Kerouac’s Dean Moriarty in On the Road. I was five years old and taken by my father in the family station wagon. Otherwise, same experience!
Okay, sounds like a parallel universe, but there are always Worm Holes, my friends. John the Baptist is doing extended hours here as we ramp up for harvest. So he’s decided to stay at our tent cabin. Partially to save the long commute back to Northern Sonoma County, but also because he wants to get a jump on some of his work before it’s a thousand degrees at noon. So over a steak dinner, I was able to draw him out about native plants, wildlife and other things.
Turns out “other things” were by far the most interesting topic. Let’s just say John the Baptist lived in La Honda at “THAT TIME” and knew both Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady quite well. We’ll leave it at that. JtB may have his own book deal or documentary in the making.
All I can say is, the Grateful Dead had it right: What a long strange trip it’s been.
Photo above is of Neal Cassady and Timothy Leary on the bus “Further”.
If you don’t think you can spend two hours watching Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady tripping on Acid, YouTube does have this clip of Clint Eastwood walking into the groovy Pigeon Toed Orange Peel nightclub and observing Hollywood’s version of an Acid trip.