Dayglo and Napalm

                      DAY-GLO AND NAPALM: UConn from 1967 to 1971  

                                                 George Jacobi ©2018

 

            A small innocuous on-campus house is surrounded by angry UConn students, its front porch protected by armed, helmeted State Police and University Security Officers. The Riot Act has already been read to the 100 or so protesters, whose shoulders are hunched in Navy peacoats against a bitter north wind. It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, 1968. Some of those students spent the previous night with faces lit only by black lights, psychedelic music swirling around them. Smoke from illegal hash pipes drifted out dorm windows. A relaxed but resolute fellowship, they temporarily dwelt in an imaginary world.                                                               
            Today, back in the daylight, they want UConn to divest itself from the military industrial complex, to stop recruiting for Olin Matheson, manufacturer of missiles for the Vietnam War. In fact, they insist. They chant, they yell, they watch as the most committed among them climb onto the porch to put their bodies in the way of the war machine. This world is far from imaginary. Clubs swing, rocks fly, heads are bloodied. Twenty-one are arrested.
            Within two years, the Student Union Mall will be filled with 4000 UConn students – now the entire college is on strike. What is it with these young people? For many, trust in the establishment, from government to church to the University, has completely evaporated. Something is badly broken. How have these middle-class kids, in just a year or two, come to a point of complete resistance to America herself?

 

            The 50th Anniversary of 1969 is more than an appropriate time for this exhibit; it’s also the last significant anniversary when many participants in this bit of history will be alive. Most of the counter-cultural political drama at UConn took place between 1968 and 1970 – ‘69 is a fitting centerpiece. Despite continued racial and anti-war protests, such communal events as the Woodstock Music Festival made 1969 almost feel like a short respite between the more violent bookends of the other two years.                                                   
            It’s been said my generation was the last to believe the government was benevolent, but sadly, that doesn’t seem to be true. We’re each in our own bubble, and it’s hard to see out. Today America is again divided. Truth, progress, and respect for differences are in retreat; ever-present media make it seem like unrest bordering on fury is on our daily menu. Perhaps increased discernment can come with a look back at a tumultuous period right here at UConn. We continue to live in the safest, most peaceful period in recorded history (although a strong argument can be made that the bill for that hasn’t yet been paid). Technology and medicine have changed the world more than politics. Notwithstanding today’s alarms, since World War Two Earth’s humans suffer and die from war, poverty, and disease at a much lower rate than at any time since the birth of agriculture. And some of that is the result of students in those years directing the world’s attention to healing the environment and the divisions between us that inhibit human freedom and justice. Noam Chomsky: “That decade bore testimony to the value of the democratic idea. It just changed consciousness in a lot of ways.”                                                                                            That short period encapsulated what we refer to as “The Sixties”. Though the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the rest of the political and social trends began much earlier, this is when they erupted into flames on college campuses, and UConn was no exception. As students then, we had a first-hand look at the battle line – and many of us were on it. In retrospect, it’s no surprise that the older generation was alarmed. If the tide had turned further to the left, America would be a very different place now. But it didn’t. As Peter Tork of the rock group The Monkees said, “The revolution was not tolerated anymore.” Forces of conservatism struck back hard, and the generally gentle pioneers were no match. They faded from the scene quickly, taking shelter while retaining their desire for a fair and peaceful world. Most blended into normal society and attempted to make things better for others.                                                                       
            One’s perception of events depends on age and life experiences. My spin on the era is mostly positive because its effect on me was positive. You may suggest that I drank the Kool-Aid (an expression born of those times) and yeah, I did. For me the era was life-changing in consciousness; the political principles that followed came from that initial perception. Despite the fact that it may have all been an illusion, the counter-culture ethos provoked positive change. Human psychology stretches across a continuum from ‘me first’ to ‘all together now’. I see the late sixties as a brief interlude when the forces of community fought back and succeeded (in some respects) against the usual power dynamic of individual greed.                                                       
            These Archive photos come from a University-engaged photographer, who I’m sure we all suspected to be the FBI. Every face tells its own tale, whether they chose to participate here or not. Each walked a part of this path, and many footsteps overlapped. Their comments illustrate a variety of viewpoints, thus this is not a scholarly history of events that forms a coherent story of a time and place – those attempts (and attempts they remain) are abundant elsewhere. As much as we might strive for universal truth, life is ultimately a story of individual experience.                            
            Many of the items here may appear to represent frivolous fads. To some they were; to others the convergence of music, spirituality and anti-authoritarianism made them more than that. Though together they seem to embody the era, no-one represented the accumulation of all these elements. Take this as a cautionary lesson about group-think of any kind. You know how people from Afghanistan – or Arizona – think everyone in Connecticut lives in a Greenwich mansion with a pool and a BMW? History is a collection of opinions and spin that takes place consciously – and unconsciously. Can’t be helped.
            Does this room contain truth? Like viewing an artwork, what you bring to it is as important as what the artist meant. The complete version of this essay is available at fill in later. Within it, I interpret the decade’s history and revisit dramatic events during those few years at this University. It might help you further visualize the “Sixties”, but it is a memoir, a collection of personal thoughts and impressions. I have tried to keep those out of this exhibit space. You can choose to accept it as a valuable reflection of that time or not, just as you can with this exhibit.
            I hope something in here triggers a personal insight for each of you. My understanding of my own life in the Sixties has undergone continual adjustment (particularly since I began this project). On the bright side, finding truth when one is in the middle of an era is even more impossible, and it is a terribly difficult task today. Keep that in mind as you join us in a thought-provoking trip back to UConn in a very different time.                                                                                                

 

            To begin, pretend you’re a white kid growing up in a modest Connecticut town as the Nineteen Fifties become the Sixties. The Mattel Toy Company invents Barbie Dolls in 1959; along with their Winchester Model 94 plastic carbine they are the two most popular toys in our suburban neighborhood. A sandlot baseball game takes place every day of every summer. There are endless fields and woods, and a bridge to jump into the river from. In 7th and 8th grade we sit on the floor in the hall and put our heads between our legs to protect ourselves from an atomic bomb blast. It works! The Cuban Missile Crisis is now recognized as the closest the US and the USSR came to nuclear war. Destroying the PLANET is a concept that is brand new in human thinking. Metaphorically the white picket fence around this New England village, which protected it from too much reality, has started to crumble.
            The radio plays early rock and roll but parents rarely let us listen to that trash at home. We’re not allowed to wear t-shirts, jeans, sneakers, or shorts to school. No pants for girls, no skirts above the knee. It’s only in the back of the school bus that we discover swear words worse than “damn” or “hell”.
            As freshmen in high school, we watch Walter Cronkite choke up on the CBS evening news as the three long days of the JFK assassination coverage burns itself into our brains. Kennedy gave all of America confidence and pride – and now it’s gone. On a small blurry black-and-white screen Uncle Walter shows film every night of racial violence in the south and the beginnings of a war in a far-away jungle to protect our world from the evils of Communism. The TV then goes right back to heroic cowboy shows and situation comedies where all the Dads come home from work in suits and all the Moms wear dresses and stay home to bake all day. This is almost true. It is a rare woman in the neighborhood who has to work – one income supports a middle class life. TV too protects us from an excess of veracity. America is the “shining city on the hill”, not only respected, but BELOVED across the globe. Nobody makes waves because we’re great – we defeated the most terrible evil in world history and now we’ve turned our attention to economic success for all of mankind. The United States makes three quarters of the world’s manufactured goods. Heck, the Moon is within reach. This is how the world appears from small-town New England.
            By sixteen, I am no longer innocent, but because my parents expect continued ethical leadership, I assume any mistakes the United States makes are well-meaning errors of judgement. America is an island of safety and success; since Pearl Harbor there has been no attack on our soil, and everybody wants to be an American. But evidence is trickling in that not all Americans are content – and they have good reasons. The rest of the world too is not so easily fixed.
            As the 50s become the 60s, with a last echo of innocence the Beach Boys celebrate surf, chicks, and cars. Then in February of 1964 the Beatles appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. Suddenly girls want me to comb my hair forward. The world is focusing on teen culture through music, partly because this generation is so huge that the smell of money is in the air. Music is important, consuming, because there are few visible alternatives to an apparently soulless adult life. Until now, even if I knew what was happening, it was outside that white picket fence somewhere. Exposure to alternative lifestyles has been non-existent in a way it is now impossible to grasp, but it is leaking through. Bob Dylan has made folk music about the alarming present, not some distant past; Beat icon Allen Ginsberg remembers hearing “A Hard Rain’s a’Gonna Fall”, and says he knew the torch had been passed.
            Rock music has become a door through which you can create yourself. In San Francisco people are smoking marijuana and experimenting with LSD, trying a lifestyle of sharing and caring. This I see only through the foggy window of LIFE magazine. Though it quickly becomes a mess, much of it is a genuine desire for spiritual or psychological truth. Any drug use by me at this point would have been viewed by my horrified parents and teachers as a severe mental problem. But this town is too small and naïve for drugs to be available to all but maybe the hippest few kids, and with my quietly religious family I’m not one of them. Thoughtful music, not just tacky teen love songs, is taking over the Top 40 on the AM radio. This too, reflects a search for honesty and relevance; the music evolves from gritty Blues.
            It becomes cool for the very first time to be a skinny guitar player, a poet, an artist, not just a jock. As they spread out through the airwaves, these concepts multiply even while the original idea or place becomes corrupted or co-opted, and coalesce into a new way of thinking. They balance the other side of the future, in which America’s inner cities continue to burn, the draft and Vietnam War beckon to anyone not going to college, and nobody inside the picket fence questions any of it. After a brief foray into history, we’ll rejoin me as a freshman at UConn.         

 

 

THE GENERATION AND ITS INFLUENCES

            The political and cultural events that took place at UConn during the years 1967 to 1971 echoed wider American historical forces. These can be broken down into four parts: Politics, Spirituality, Culture, and the Arts. In reality, they were jumbled together; let’s break it down in order to clarify each, this being a rare side benefit of the passage of time.
            Thanks to the GI Bill, the Fifties are a favorable time for most Americans home from the War to have a career and raise a family. Powered by Unions as well, the rise of the largest middle class in history finally includes some Black and Latino citizens. Suburbia is invented. The 1964 World’s Fair in New York asserts we’ll all be working far fewer hours and getting there in a flying car, promising that technology only benefits mankind. Robots will do the tough jobs. The future seems so far away that this is almost believable. Are white kids in New England spoiled? Compared with previously, sure we are, and so has every generation since. Growing up then is generally benign, and the result is a chance to examine ourselves and America with less national responsibility than the previous generation. Our patriotism thus leans toward social betterment, not defense or economic progress.
            Under the veneer of white middle-class American life rumblings of unrest have begun. Academics are suggesting that modern society is unfulfilling. Rachel Carson has shown America that it is in the process of killing nature with chemicals. Kerouac has been “On the Road” and Jackson Pollock has blown up the art world. Jazz has turned from big band dance music into individual expression. Ginsburg writes “Howl” and thus comes out as a gay man; the book is immediately banned. In Greenwich Village people are “suddenly free of the shackles, the baggage of tradition”: Liam Clancy. Beats and beatniks, though, are portrayed as a joke on TV.
            The following list contains that history, phenomena that took place or began prior to 1967. By that year, societal memes are increasingly seen by an influential youth minority as hypocritical or empty of value. It has become apparent that the norms are mythological and serve only the powerful. The trends combine to result in what is initially a quiet insurrection against uncritical acceptance of the status quo. While most of the country isn’t paying attention, there is a cultural shift; all of a sudden something has changed. Several small groups at first, a counter-culture slowly grows. Most folks in America, and at UConn, go about their own lives whether they are sympathetic to this rebellion or not. A majority of UConn students, including us, will spend most of our hours being students.
            How does a profound upheaval begin from such a minor movement? A fifth and crucial factor in the creation of this distinct period is newly powerful television. Starting with the Kennedy assassination coverage, it brings the vivid truth about punji sticks in Vietnam, police fire hoses and German Shepherds in Alabama, to all of America as it happens. It will do the same for college unrest. The Baby Boom generation is at its largest and most potent point in these few years. We don’t invent most of these ideas, but we are poised to take them and run.                                                                                                        

 

POLITICS:

The Korean War: It shocks America by ending as a disappointing
            stalemate, stoking the fear that  Vietnam may turn out the same.

The Cold War: Remnants of McCarthyism, fear of Communism, con-
            tinue to hold America in a tight grip. Nuclear War is a genuine
            threat. The Cold war includes the Space Race, and the USSR has
            a head start. In 1959 Cuba, 90 short miles away, becomes
            Communist. The negative aspects of Capitalism are kept hidden
            in order to compare favorably with Socialism. This is deliberate, a
            relaxing of the right-wing attack on the New Deal. Corporate
            Imperialism is disguised as support for military dictatorships
            around the world as a bulwark against leftist revolution. Propa-
            ganda touts American industrial modernization as the future for 
            the world; the average American’s life improves at the same rate
            as the rich elite for a change. The older generation appears to
            accept conformity as the price of comfort, security, and growth.

The Kennedy assassination in 1963: Almost immediately following the
            release of the Warren Report, it becomes obvious there is some
            kind of cover-up going on. Heavy media coverage helps fuel dis-
            trust of the Government.

The Civil Rights Era: Also in 1963 – Reverend Martin Luther King’s “I
            Have a Dream” speech during a march on Washington. The
            struggle for racial justice in the face of hate is visible to all on the
            evening news. Cities continue burning with anger from coast to
            coast. By 1967, as sad counterpoint to the “Summer of Love”,
            there is a well-documented story from Detroit where racist cops
            kill three innocent black kids. J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI is investi-
            gating King as anti-American, and will do the same to Bobby
            Kennedy. Astonishing to us now, there is a third party Presidential
            candidate in 1968, George Wallace, whose platform actually
            rests on continuing segregation. But calling  it state’s rights or
            the rule of law and order cannot disguise the vicious repression
            of peaceful protest.

The Free Speech Movement 1964: an attempt by Berkeley students to
            have the concerns of the Cold War and Civil Rights penetrate
            their “ivory tower”, to make college relevant to the real world,
            leads to an immediate backlash, including arrests. It’s an early
            warning that those in power don’t like to be questioned.

The Vietnam War: President Johnson continues the war, in spite of
            making no progress, because he refuses to have America lose.
            Through the press, official reports of military success are dis-
            covered to be lies, and the secret bombing of Cambodia
            becomes known. Various reasons people oppose the war in-
            clude that it is imperialism disguised as fear of the domino
            effect, that it is butting into a civil war on the corrupt side, that
            it is immoral, and that it is unwinnable (or all of the above). By
            1966 the Senate itself has hearings about whether to get out
            of Vietnam. In 1968 Eugene McCarthy runs for the Democratic
            Presidential nomination on a ‘Get out of Vietnam’ platform.
            High School classmates are dying because of:

The Draft: This previously accepted fixture of life becomes political.
            The government, by failing to protect Civil Rights marchers and
            lying about the war as well as music, drugs, pollution, and any-
            thing you can name, has lost the faith of young people. They
            decide against being part of such a deadly mistake. It is obvious
            that kids with pull are escaping the draft while poor kids are
            ‘cannon fodder’. Draft cards are being burned. In 1969 the Draft
            Lottery is instituted. When peaceful protests are made, the
            reaction is not just arrests but violence.

 

SPIRITUALITY:

Christianity and Judaism fail to rise to the challenge of the Vietnam
            War and the Civil Rights Movement, on the heels of an inability
            to respond to the emptiness and materialism of the ‘50s. Indiv-
            idual religious figures act, larger organizations are silent. Thomas
            Merton, William Sloane Coffin, Daniel Berrigan, and others cry
            out unheard in the wilderness. How does one believe “Thou Shalt
            Not Kill” is a commandment that doesn’t apply to war – when
            Jesus refused to defend himself? Once people question stand-
             ards and beliefs and find them wanting, they look for meaning
            elsewhere. The stage is set for Alan Watts and Gary Snyder to
            introduce seekers to Zen Buddhism, and for LSD to introduce
            hippies to the idea of expanding their own minds enough to
            discover God – WITHOUT organized religion.

 

CULTURE:

Rebels: James Dean in the movie “Rebel Without a Cause” and Bill
            Haley’s song “Rock Around the Clock” signal in popular culture
            even back in the mid-50s that an undercurrent of unhappiness
            and a search for meaning exists in post-war America.

MAD Magazine: effectively satirizes life in the 50s (i.e. your parents).

The Pill: the first oral contraceptive is released in 1960. The Kinsey
            Report, followed by Masters and Johnson’s research, shocks
            prudish Middle America by actually discussing sex, and women
            gain the freedom, the power, and the understanding to control
            their own sexuality and pregnancy. These are no small things;
            they are a critical key to a changing society and lead to the 1973
            Roe vs. Wade decision. Playboy magazine adds to the ‘decline of
            morality’ with the first published breasts outside National Geo-
            graphic Magazine.

Heavyweight Boxing Champ Muhammed Ali sacrifices his career
            (temporarily) by refusing to go to Vietnam when drafted. An
            attempted boycott of the 1968 Olympics by black athletes fails,
            but the Black Power salute on the medal stand by Tommy Smith
            and John Carlos is seen around the world.  

Hippies/Drugs: In San Francisco and elsewhere, a small group of avant-
            garde folks smoke marijuana, having discovered that it’s no more
            harmful than alcohol, and ingest Psilocybin mushrooms and LSD
            in a serious attempt to expand their consciousness. They piggy-
            back on a decade of scientific research, much of it sponsored by
            the CIA.  Though their use becomes ‘recreational’ (and then
            abused) in a few short years, some are introduced to psychedelic
            drugs as a potential spiritual path. Add live rock and roll and
            sexual freedom to this pot (pun intended) and you have an
            alarming looking curveball thrown at society, which the excitable
            media runs with. This confluence of events colors every bit of the
            following years of politics, arts, and life in general. In 1967 even
            as the ‘hippie’ dream dies in San Francisco, its light spreads to the
            rest of America; the Monterey Pop Festival brings it into the
            mainstream. “A noble experiment”, recalls Ed Sanders. (In an
            amusing coincidence, that year the US, USSR, and others sign
            the “Outer Space Treaty”, barring ownership of celestial bodies.)
            Radical politics is separate from counter-culture, which follows
            the lead of ‘peace and love’. There is no cocaine or heroin in this
            world; that appears much later. In Haight/Asbury, the Diggers
            have raised some issues. At their Free Store, “everything is free”
            is not about self-gratification, but about consciousness.   Is it
            time for a step forward in human civilization in which food,
            shelter, and health care are basic human rights? Fifty years
            later we’re still asking ourselves this question.

FM Radio: This garden of musical freedom on the airwaves, until now
            ignored by commercial interests, is planted (and grows,
            especially at colleges) with the following-         

Rock-and-Roll: Rock is biracial. Musically simple, founded on the emo-
            tional and sexual energy of Blues, rock is instantly frowned on.
            Alarmed by ‘devil’ music, the older white generation cannot re-
            late. The dominant society reacts with racism and fear, stoking
            teen enthusiasm; the more adult America lies about music and
            dance (just as it is lying about drugs) the more popular Rock
            gets. A message that “things don’t have to be this way”, it talks
            to the young; it becomes an actual barrier between old and new.
            By ‘67, psychedelic songs from the hippie culture dominate the
            airwaves, expanding the Generation Gap. As ‘leaders’ of this
            movement, musicians embrace its ethic: most of them act nor-
            mal instead of being stars. No theatrics, no egos. The Beatles
            alternately scorn and hate their own fame and try Transcen-
            dental Meditation when being brilliant, famous, and rich turns
            out to be not enough. Bob Dylan gets tired of being our social
            conscience and explores his own. The Grateful Dead play for
            free to support myriad good causes. Neil Young still refuses to
            let any of his songs be used for commercial purposes. All this
            crashes and burns later in a media storm of cocaine, elitism,
            and cynical marketing, but will not change the lives and beliefs
            of those of us on the ground.

The Generation Gap: This has become a cliché, usually explained by
            stating that my generation reacted to our parent’s lives of de-
            nial and service with a desire for instant self-indulgence. This is
            a simplification which inaccurately portrays Baby Boomers as
            well as 1950s society. The “Baby Boom Generation” refers to an
            eighteen year period on which has been heaped negative trends
            that took place long after the shorter Vietnam Era. There WAS a
           Generation Gap, and it began with music (see above). My research
           suggests that each of us, while responding to previous mores, do
            so for personal reasons that are all different but when united are
            a backlash against the older generation’s acceptance of the ob-
           viously (to us) unsatisfactory status quo. At this point the World
           War II Generation has had enough struggling; they relax. Baby
           Boomers are without an externally imposed purpose. A desire for
            meaning leads each of us to identify with the others, becoming a
            community of individuals.            

Movements: The hippie motto “Do Your Own Thing” has ramifications
            for the Women’s movement, Gay Pride movement, etc. – If Black
            people should be able to live free from oppression, so should ev-
            erybody else. And right now. The Stonewall Riot takes place in
            1969, alongside continuous Red Power and Chicano activity. The
            Environmental movement, Health Food, and Back-to-the-Land
            movements come from mounting evidence that the dominant
            culture is run by businesses for profit without regard for the
            safety of humanity or the planet. This generation is unhappy with
            the glacial speed of positive change and the negativity toward it.
            In short, the struggle for dignity, justice, and freedom includes all.

 

ARTS:

Abstract Expressionism followed by Pop Art confuses and loses most
            of America, but not all. The Beats create a new climate of free-
            dom in literature. The boldness of Be-Bop does the same for
            music. Boundaries of what is acceptable are pushed past the
            limits most average people can relate to. Beatniks dressed in
            black radiate gloominess, though, which makes their ideas less
            attractive. The ideas will catch on with a newer, more colorful
            generation. It is rarely commented on, but most of the cultural,
            artistic, and psychological changes associated with the Sixties
            began with the Beats; most of the ‘leaders’ (Kesey, Leary,
            Cleaver, Rubin and Hoffman, for example) were of that age, a
            few years older than Sixties hippies and students and thus able
            and willing to exercise personal power more effectively.                                          

The Beatles: That they deserve their own category is itself significant.
            Just months after the JFK assassination, The Beatles show up in
            time to renew hope among America’s youth. They create joyful
            invigorating music, the opposite of much Beat art. Already the
            biggest news on Earth, the Beatles meet Bob Dylan, then com-
            bine that joie de vivre with drugs and a new mindfulness. The
            no-longer three minute single Pop song, simple and made for
            radio, now borrows from folk and country, classical, and more
            – and the Beatles make it into Art before our eyes. Indeed, it is
            rock music that pulls together all the other elements; it is rock
           
that creates a community out of young people that don’t have
            all or most of these concepts in common.
Somehow the Beatles
            give us permission to be ourselves, even if normal or nerdy. They
            replace traditional rules of behavior. There is no precedent for
            this. They survive a self-created group mind thing (7000 girls
            rushing a stage), the scary force that looks like Nazism. What’s
            different is that the Beatles blow it off – make fun of the fanat-
            icism as it is happening. Lennon: “We were a ship at sea, not just
            the Beatles, but all of us…and we went somewhere
.” Of course
            despite (or because of) the innocent ‘cosmic’ part of it, the ship
            later sinks anyway, for them and for us. Listen again – electric
            60s rock music not only encapsulates the peace and love ideal,
            but also manifests the dramatic sounds of combat, that of actual
            war. The reason the music is so influential was that it reflects the
            beauty and horror of the times – the same way Elgar captured
            the heartbreak of WW1 in his Cello Concerto, the same way
            Picasso captured Spanish Civil War terror in “Guernica”. Rock’s
            power is reinforced by the raw sound of the electric guitar bor-
            rowed from blues. rock’s power. By the mid-Sixties, the sense of
            freedom and creativity expressed by psychedelic music captures
            the hearts of many. Jimi Hendrix, Country Joe and the Fish, the
            Small Faces, the Dead, and of course the Beatles during their
            Sergeant Pepper/Strawberry Fields phase are playing directly to
            the freaks. At some point it becomes clear that the music is
            transcendent and has been since “She Loves You”. It’s greater
            than the four guys doing it, greater than the notes and rhythms;
            it expresses the spirit of humanity. I pose this assertion: the elder
            generation’s rejection of the Beatles – their music, attitude, and
            even hair – and the music’s own response, was as significant a
            reason as Civil Rights and Vietnam in my generation’s equivalent
            rejection of previous values.

 

                                           

            In fall of 1967 I’m dropped off in Storrs. Like almost everyone in the post-war baby boom, I‘m the first child in my family, thus there is no older sibling to model behavior. Though my Mother, a New Yorker, had a free education at Hunter College, many of my friends are the first person in their family to go to college. Most of us are solidly middle class, with just a smattering of upper middle class kids thrown in; this is UConn, not Yale. Tuition is free for state residents. Economic growth in the 1950s brought plenty of positives. At UConn the opportunity for a meaningful life awaits. But by now roads have diverged, and the one usually followed looks like a dead end. The wearing of a freshman beanie, the ritual of pledging a fraternity, the following of college traditions in the face of political, military, and religious hypocrisy have become ludicrous. Critical thinking about important events is exactly what you’re supposed to do at University, is it not? Surrounding me now in the Jungle dorm, by magic, is a small cadre of thoughtful and alienated freshmen who feel exactly as I do. To a quiet artist who never quite fit in high school society this is catnip for the mind and soul.                                                               
            We are not cosmically lovey-dovey; this is a radically disparate bunch that clings together by some unstated sensibility, drawn close by attitude simply because we aren’t convinced the usual road leads anywhere worth going. The beloved country that we grew up in seems to have disappeared on us. Songwriter Paul Simon agrees: “They’ve all gone, to look for America.”
            As equals, we accept each other’s differences; recognize connections (the music talks directly to us), start growing our hair, and mock the establishment. All, whether we look it or not, are sympathetic to any political or social ideas that might change the world for the better. Community rather than personal ambition is the natural place to start.
            Before long some of us proudly call ourselves freaks. We see the Vietnam War as immoral. We see the laws against drugs and sexual behavior similarly. Smoking ‘dope’ and sharing our affections represent a defiant protest against the repressive mainstream culture. The delightful feeling that we are members of a secret club (a common ailment of collegians) begins there and flourishes. Both stoned and rebellious, we act as if superior in intellect, sagacity, and virtue to the rest of America, our togetherness shielding us from individual doubts. I suspect like me others recognize this as silliness; it’s really only UConn that protects us from the Vietnam War. The Jungle in 1967 is filled with marijuana smoke and that years astonishingly creative burst of rock music. 
            At the end of September 1967 the first protest takes place. Against the accreditation of ROTC and its place on a campus, it attracts 8 students. By December a third protest, against Dow Chemical recruiting, effectively blocks the event from taking place. Forty-five students and faculty take part. Dow is the maker of napalm, essentially jellied fire that the military uses to defoliate Vietnam so that the enemy cannot hide. Peasant farmers always seem to get in the way; they are “collateral damage”, though we don’t use that terminology yet. Less than an ‘Ivory Tower’, UConn and other colleges are closely tied to the military/industrial complex through recruiting and the stock market.                                                                                                           
            The folks that defeated the Depression, then great evil in World War 2, and watched it immediately recreated in Russia are not about to give socialism much of a chance in the US. That group had a lifelong sense of purpose: survive the Depression, win the War. Maybe they need the American myth to justify their own sacrifices, which have been enormous. Maybe they’re tired. We grow up inheriting their respect for order, religion, and the government, but for us it dies a slow death, especially after Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy are killed. Bobby seemed actually angry at America’s failures – just like us. Naivety leads us to think we can make the world fairer, cleaner, more peaceful, more ethical, and it’s now OUR responsibility.                        
            The revolutionary tactics we use most are tolerance and compassion. The logical next step seems like expanding consciousness, which will lead to truer understanding and acceptance of each other, and it looks like it has begun. We have role models: Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Thoreau, and King. A lot of the negative press hurled at my generation for self-centeredness comes from the fact that we DO reach for the skies. Thus when we fall it’s a long way down.                 
            Most of America and UConn, though, chugs on as usual in the late sixties. The ‘freaky’ hippie or radical element is a small part of the 18 year Baby Boom generation; thus when you see a statistic or comment about the lives of Baby Boomers now, it may not be representative of my generational viewpoint at all. My era lasted less than half a decade; babies kept coming afterwards. Nobody I knew was a spoiled rich kid. Everyone got a summer job to help pay for college. There has not been a single study that comes close to my own interpretation of our experience. Voices on the right still deliberately misinterpret us.                                                                       
            By the fall semester of 1968 the UConn antiwar movement is fully engaged. The faculty too is full of creative energy, not just the Political Science or History Department, and not just individual professors who are politically active. Len Krimerman and Robert Luyster find their Eastern Philosophy classes to be full of captivated students. Jim Scully and Roger Wilkenfeld teach a literature class called “Versions of Paradise”. In the Art Dept. Paul Zelanski nurtures the art of seeing, and in Music, Peter Hugh-Larsen demonstrates polyphony with rock music instead of classical. In Psychology, Ken Ring begins studying the near-death experience and Michael Turvey applies his perception to studying perception in standing room only lectures. It’s a vibrant time to think and learn.
            As the Vietnam War persists, news leaks out that it is not going as well as the government says. (In perhaps a mirror of today, America is divided by those who are educated and those who are not). Most of literate America knows Vietnam is a quagmire we cannot win. As a potential draftee, I can accept getting killed for something I believe in. The question is – can I kill others for something I do NOT believe in? On the sidelines now, I have time for contemplation. That’s a luxury that will not continue. The conflict in Vietnam and the Draft has a personal effect on everybody’s conscience and life in a way that has not been repeated since. The lack of a draft today facilitates the continuance of two separate Americas.                                         
            By trying peaceful protest while looking and acting as we do, we bring the might of the inflexible, profit-directed machine down on us hard. Our reaction to this is amazement – we really DO have the power to at least provoke alarm. C’mon, we‘re just making good suggestions. Try sharing some more and not taking advantage of the helpless around the world just for economic advantage. Try living up to the fairness ideal that we pitch to everyone else.                            
            What follows this knowledge is to a gleeful yanking of the establishment’s chain. As you would expect of kids our age. The more over-reaction there is, the more amusing it becomes, until it gets serious. This is why there are Yippies – the combination of political freaks and the counter-culture.  In the case of UConn, an October 31st, 1968 protest (against Dow of course) advertises that the group Students for a Democratic Society will napalm a dog. This effective hoax brings the Humane Society and the State Dog Warden to UConn. Of 130 demonstrators, eight students and four members of the faculty are disciplined, but not before they make the point that there is more concern for a dog than for Vietnamese peasants in a war zone.               
            “In the minds of the older generation and straight Americans in general, the Yippie platform represented what they had long suspected and feared about the hippie counterculture: that lurking beneath the ‘peace and love’ façade was a sinister drug-crazed revolutionary anarchist who had cleverly disguised himself as Jesus when in reality, his ultimate purpose was to destroy the American way of life”: “The Hippies – a 60s History” by John Moretti. It is true I think of myself both as a benevolent anarchist (don’t bother me and I won’t bother you) and also as the conscience of America, the imaginary ethical America that now appears is destroying itself from the top down.                                                                                                          
            Nationally and locally, when a witty demonstration takes place and is instantly crushed, it has the opposite effect intended, creating more sympathy for those of us directly on the front lines. It’s hard for me now to write about those times without being an advocate for counter-culture positions, yet most UConn SDS-led actions were seen by sympathizers as non-productive. (I question this view today.)  Some SDS people, students or faculty advisors, display arrogance and a holier-than-thou-attitude.  While sincere, they have become victims of their own egos. In that they unfortunately mirror national leaders (Leary, Hoffman and Rubin, and Cleaver). I want to be supportive but can’t accept this attitude. Some, too, are die-hard Communists – and it is already clear that is no answer either. Marxism is a fantasy with tragic results. We are cautious; aware there might actually be a Russian ‘mole’ involved. Little effort is given to create a situation in which open and thoughtful discussion can take place. SDS is right about this, though: people are dying NOW. 
            November 11th 1968 brings a 200 person sit-in at Gulley Hall, President Homer Babbidge’s office, which he greets with equanimity. Friends of mine remember him holding the door open. This aura of peacefulness is a mirage, a bubble which pops later in the month. Recruitment for military contractor Olin Matheson takes place November 26 at 7 Gilbert Road, a date now remembered as “Bloody Tuesday”. Efforts by SDS to block the process involve trying to get into the building or onto the front porch, which is protected this time by State Troopers in addition to UConn cops. Professor Jack Roach and others attempt to get themselves arrested if they cannot actually stop the process. It works – and leads to more troopers, the Riot Act read, cherry bombs and bricks thrown, and the porch cleared, not without some swinging of nightsticks and bloody heads. Twenty one students and faculty are arrested. It’s clear now that nobody is kidding anymore. Gentlemanly President Babbidge calls it the saddest day of his life.                      
            I and many others are there, loyal but not sure such a dramatic personal commitment will yield genuine results. This earnest effort pales when compared to 1963 on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama. We are not a warlike fringe group, not the Weathermen, Panthers, SLA: we believe in non-violence. (Note here that despite the reputation of those groups as the dangerous element of the left, almost all of those bombs went off safely in the middle of the night.) 

           

            The whole era is now intoxicating. It is evident that young students are actually moving the needle of world events. As we see it both sides are full of bull much of the time, so we just continue efforts toward creating a community of peace and justice. Mistakes are made; they get spun, exaggerated, in retrospect. The positive ideals of the anti-Vietnam War and anti-discrimination movements continue to attract despite the unsatisfactory reality of each. Alongside the drama powered by the politically active is a much larger sympathetic group busily searching their own consciences.
            In 1968, “Hair” opens on Broadway (are you kidding me?) and attempts unsuccessfully to make the whole climate frivolous. We are not hippies – genuine hippies were long gone by then and we are not inclined to be worthless in order to be ‘free’. Being insultingly called a hippie just means that the name caller doesn’t get it. We might have long hair, might take drugs, might lean toward the most experimental music, art, and behavior, or not. Some are simply determined to express it outwardly. To have long hair is to invite ridicule. In fact, to have long hair and appear unwilling or unable to defend yourself is to provoke physical assault. Looking weak, having hair ‘like a girl’ triggers physical violence. (For example, two weeks after the Kent State shootings 200 construction workers attacked a huge anti-war march in New York City while the NYPD looked the other way. Seventy demonstrators were injured.) For some of us, that’s not a threat, it’s our everyday reality. It both stiffens our resolve to be ourselves – and tutors us in what it is like to be an oppressed minority, in danger just by being alive. And that lesson stiffens our resolve even more.                                                                                                   
            Spring 1969 begins with a March sit-in at a Board of Trustees meeting, students suggesting that UConn go on strike. The UConn Women’s Center is created that year, as is the Black Studies Program. Slow progress has begun but racial confrontations break out through the school year. My summer of 1969 begins at UConn with two art classes. It includes an idyllic mescaline day sitting in the cherry trees next to McMahon Hall. Late summer brings me to the Woodstock Music Festival. I’m glad to have gone but I leave early, driven out by the rain, and hitchhike home. There is no sense that it will become an iconic event. It does, however, reinforce the fact that there is a social divide in America that is growing. In October the second violent racial conflict at a fraternity forces President Babbidge back from a sabbatical. The same month a one-day anti-Vietnam War strike begins at 500 colleges and universities. Yet an impromptu and refreshing get-together at Mirror Lake attracts Homer Babbidge and his kazoo.                                 
            Heads altered by psychedelics have difficulty conceiving of political action as useful without mindfulness. Nevertheless, most of us attend the next demonstration against on-campus recruiting and many choose to be non-violently arrested along with SDS. In an act of civil disobedience, sixty nine line up in the snow, gently shove a police officer, and are peacefully arrested December 11, 1969 at the skating rink. This is no longer just SDS. Professors and close friends are included, now making a personal statement despite the potential negative fallout in their lives.
            At the end of 1969 the Draft Lottery is instituted, a last straw for many of us who have lost all sense of patriotism, and it is so poorly executed it is not even random. No more college deferments; now those of us with low numbers can be called up at any time. I can find no honor left in the government. My choice for the Draft Physical, like that of several other friends with low numbers, is to first see a psychologist whose letter explains my “unfitness” for service. In this climate, my “unfitness” is a point of pride (and it remains so). I will not take part in the deadly charade. Walking up Hillside Road on my return to campus, it feels like there is no going back. An unclouded view of all institutions results from that year, one that has never changed. 
            Time’s momentum carries me toward graduation and an uncertain future. National protests grow angrier and include bombs. They precipitate more confrontations at UConn and elsewhere; New Haven and Washington DC are also on our agenda. John Froines and Dick Gregory speak of revolution to a Student Union Mall filled with Huskies. The country appears to have gone off the rails. It seems important enough to us to put aside normal college doings. The administration and most of the student body have trouble coming to terms with this – until Kent State University in spring of 1970, when four students (not even the protestors) are shot dead by the Ohio National Guard. Immediately afterward, two more are killed and a dozen wounded at Jackson State. The aura hanging over us is expressed in a Neil Young song: “We’re finally on our own. How can you run when you know?” These tragedies precipitate a continent-wide collegiate strike. Here at UConn, it’s an opportunity for those who wish to engage in dialogue about world events instead of Microbiology or Chaucer to do so. Students can choose no final exams and take an “S” (Satisfactory) in lieu of a grade. Efforts to engage classes that want to continue normally lead to discipline and expulsion for more radicals.                                                           
            The first Earth Day, April 22, happens this spring, driven by some smart souls who are not otherwise politically involved. I’m attending Superior Court in Willimantic to watch an SDS friend on trial most of that week, and its significance flies under my radar.                                                            
            On a mid-May Saturday, the Mirror Lake musical event is recreated more formally. Organizers include the Inner College, an experimental education offshoot created mostly by the Philosophy Department in which students invent and pursue their own interests for credit (I build a geodesic dome with friends and study blues music). Rock bands play, hundreds of people attend to listen, dance, and enjoy spring. Called “The Garden”, this of course follows the example of the Woodstock music festival and is a bright spot in a dark time. Like Earth Day recognition, it’s another example of students taking creative action themselves.                                              
            In 1971 the Voting Age goes from 21 to 18. That’s right, all this happened before potential draftees could even vote, or drink, for that matter. Though riots and demonstrations continue, Nixon is thinning out the troops in Vietnam. In June, the New York Times publishes the Pentagon Papers. Sixty per cent of the country is now against the war. There is a turn to harder drugs in society, away from enlightenment and toward “let’s get wrecked”, taking away the last enthusiasm for hippiedom. This decline enables the deluge of negative press later to focus on indulgence, not the initial wave of spiritual exploration. Note that Tom Wolfe called the Seventies the “Me Generation”: that’s the people half a decade behind us. Most “hippie freaks” did not become Yuppies; younger Yuppies, though, are technically part of the Baby Boomer Generation. At UConn and other universities, things begin to settle down. Antiwar activists graduate and are replaced in the fall by a quieter but no less stoned group. By 1973 the Draft is over, Watergate brings Nixon down, and except for the continued social efforts of Black students and women students, campus life turns back to ‘campus life’.
            A talented and caring administrator between a rock and a hard place, Homer Babbidge is gone – he retires in 1972. A final scary thought – what if President Babbidge had been a hardline conservative instead of an open-minded and progressive liberal? Nobody DIED while I went to UConn in an astonishingly turbulent era.                                                                                       
            Some of my UConn friends (and they are still friends 50 years later) include: The High School Valedictorian, a non-confrontational SDS member who spent his life as a teacher, then Director, of a Day Care Center. The Alpha male guy –he retired early from an international executive position to spend more time chopping his own wood, growing his own garden, and fishing. His roommate, from a big Italian family, who was lost and unhappy at UConn, though he hid it well, became a Baptist Minister who keeps a fossil on his desk. There’s a well-off Fairfield County woman who became a Child-care Center Director and lives in a house you visit by driving your pick-up across a brook. My collaborator on this exhibit left the insurance industry to spend 15-20 years as Director of a homeless shelter. The most masculine, athletic and confident guy, who could have played UConn Varsity Basketball, has been an RN most of his life.

            The Sixties challenged me to think about:
            Religion and Spirituality (how are they related?), Patriotism (where is it on the scale between deep religious belief and just rooting for your home team? What about people who think patriotism is above religion?), Brotherhood/Racism (who is ‘us’? who is ‘them’? Is there a ‘them’?), Society and Culture (what of it means anything?), but especially Consciousness (does it exist apart from the rational brain?) We are a naturally competitive species. How do desire and ambition interact with justice and compassion, for me and for everybody else? It looks like fear (generously described as ‘insecurity’) rules many human minds – how much is ENOUGH wealth, weaponry, whatever? How do we spread out power, control rapacity, yet still have freedom and forward momentum? Nothing new here, is there?
            Yes, the vision of a ‘hip’ community is and was a mirage; with time differences became exaggerated. Perhaps it was music that held us together. We knew full well that the ‘counter-culture’ was imaginary. Well, so is a corporation.  We just saw our idea as a better one. Remember to include capitalism and socialism, money, religions, and nations in your list of invented concepts. It was also possible (and still is, with a wink) to view ourselves mythically as a minor mutation in the species, or as messengers from God –somehow born at this exact time and place to fulfill this mission, make this course correction. A lot of stupid things happened, but in everything we complained about we were right. We’re still right. Even aspects of the psychedelic-influenced mind are now seen as positive. The environment became a legitimate and constant priority. The very possibility of world peace, not even a dream before, has become a positive influence on international behavior. Imagine that. Much of the good we accomplished is now taken for granted, under the radar. How did an illusion of togetherness have such positive results? Simply, the Sixties somehow became a bit of history in which goodness flourished.                     
            It is and has always been about the haves and have-nots. Short-term individual gain consistently trumps collective conservation, thus socialism remains tempting to many. We tried to build a semi-intimate community, a village, for its social and psychological advantages. We wished to live on a planet where greed and its children, violence and oppression, are under control, where avarice is recognized as the negative side of ambition. A just and fair world that rules against aggressive economics, instead of celebrating it. In other words, the bonds of that community, an extended family, reproduced in society as a whole. You can make the argument that none of this will ever work, but you can’t deny that trying it was worth the effort. In fact, it may be all that got us to where we are now.
            I remain uncomfortable with the following observation, but I suggest that without the excesses, the threats of violence, the interruptions of others liberty we engaged in, social progress and the end to the war would have come grudgingly if at all. Similarly, Martin Luther King’s pacific message was heeded in part because Malcolm X stood angrily behind him. Turmoil was needed. Great change only comes under great pressure. What sad story does this tell us about humanity?
            There exists an insecurity-fueled savagery in man which has flourished for 10,000 years. Susceptible to magical thinking and illusions of power, we seem ill-equipped for peace and love. It is the job of some of us to fight barbaric evil with equivalent force and ferocity. This we justly call heroism. The calling of others is to strive peacefully for justice and dignity among all people for all time. This is sometimes called childlike naiveté. Yet without it what is the sense of pretending we have civilization at all? So yes, upon reflection I wouldn’t trade those years for any others, and I remember them with pride and affection.                                                                                
            The Earth is now facing an unknown, unimaginable future despite our best efforts and those of well-meaning humans from all generations. The bill is truly due. My friends had a moment on the stage, and left behind an increase in social awareness, one that spawned the Women’s movement, Gay movement, Ecology movement, Yoga and Meditation, Back-to-the-Earth, Organic Gardening, and Health Food, Earth Day and the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. One that vastly improved Civil Rights, led to Handicap Access Rights, respect for the Disabled, and even Animal Rights. One that created the beginnings of our open, integrated multi-cultural and more relaxed society – and as a side benefit, increased variety and choice in the world in ways that didn’t exist before. It never was about self, it was about community. I’m proud we opened wide a door to spiritual consciousness and deepened our connection to the natural world.

Ginsberg, Clancy Quotes: “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” A Martin Scorsese Picture 2005
“Red Brick in the Land of Steady Habits”, Bruce M. Stave, Univ. Press of New England 2006
“Season of the Witch”, David Talbot, Free Press 2012
“Requiem for the American Dream”, Noam Chomsky, Seven Stories Press
“In Search of the Lost Chord”, Danny Goldberg, Akashic Books, 2017
“Buckley and Mailer”, Kevin M. Schultz, WW Norton, NY
“From Head Shops to Whole Foods”, Joshua Clark Davis, Columbia Univ. Press, 2017
“The Hippies – A Sixties History”, John Moretti
“Boom”, Tom Brokaw, Random House 2007
“The Most Dangerous Man in America”,Minutaglio and Davis, Hatchette 2018
“How To Change Your Mind”, Michael Pollan, Penguin Press 2018
          

And a large group of loyal, thoughtful friends

 

 

 

Inspiration Point: Report On Raven Issues GCNP

©George Jacobi 2016

Chapter 1

May 27, 2016 Interpretation Division Briefing                                
(repeated from March 14)

Resource Specialist Patricia Miller reported that a visitor told her the following story:    
           Early one morning he was driving on Market Plaza Road when he came upon the remains of a Mule Deer being consumed by Ravens. There was already very little left of the animal. The visitor honked his horn to scare away the feeding birds, some of which were in the way of his vehicle. Initially they paid no attention. Upon continued honking, though, half of the Ravens (he estimated a dozen) flew up onto his vehicle, screaming and cawing and apparently trying to break the windshield with their beaks and 4 ½ foot wings. The other half of the birds looked, but stayed on the dead deer.
          Feeling genuinely threatened, he backed up quickly and accelerated around the deer remains using the opposite side of the road, outrunning the Ravens that had ‘attacked’ him.                               
          This report was filed at the time and initially ignored as unreliable; events of the past several months have caused a re-evaluation.

 June 13, 2016 – Seasonal Interpreter Duke Preston filed the following report:
          At approximately 3:45 PM, near the back of Verkamp’s Visitor Center a family was having a photograph of themselves taken by another visitor, a Mr. Jacques Kadden. Mr. Kadden was accompanied by his small dog Crisco, who was perched on the stone wall behind him. The family was all grouped at a corner of the wall so that Mr. Kadden could take their photograph with a canyon view behind them. During the photography process, Crisco remained on the wall while his leash became stretched out to its full length. 
          Three Ravens dove onto the scene. One flew directly into the leash between the man and pet, breaking it free from Mr. Kadden’s hand. Accounts differed as to whether the Raven actually yanked the leash with its feet. At the same moment, the other two birds smashed into the dog, taking it over the wall into empty space. A great commotion ensued in which descriptions from everyone there did not entirely match up, but active aggression by malevolent Ravens is a hallmark of each report.
          Not long after, visitors, including a distraught Mr. Kadden, peered over the wall and saw the dead Crisco on a ledge far below, being devoured by the three Ravens. This detail I can confirm, as I arrived not long after this severely disturbing incident.         

June 15, 2016 – Park Maintenance Worker Christopher Malis informed Law Enforcement Personnel this afternoon that after he loaded garbage from Desert View, he sat at a shaded nearby table to eat lunch, his usual Footlong Subway Meat Lover’s sandwich. He said he was “stalked” (his word) by 5 Ravens. According to Mr. Malis, they surrounded and herded him “like the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park” until he threw his sandwich at the nearest bird and ran to his truck.
          Mr. Malis explained that having worked at the Grand Canyon for many years, he is familiar with Ravens and shares Park workers respect for their intelligence, but this event was without parallel. He further states that while he was driving away, one of the Ravens flew alongside the cab for almost a mile and stared in at him with its “cold black eyes” before disappearing.

 July 6, 2016 Science Division Briefing – Resource Specialist Steven Stife is hereby ordered to begin an investigation and turn in a report for Grand Canyon National Park Law Enforcement Division by next week. If he finds any animals being eaten by Ravens, Ranger Stife will pay particular attention to the manner of death as best as he can determine it. While he is to question visitors about Raven behavior, he is not to reveal any information at this time. The same reticence is to be maintained henceforth by other personnel under we get to the bottom of this alarming situation. That will be all for now.

 

Chapter 2

July 15: THE GRAND CANYON VIEW: This previously published article is repeated here for clarity.

May 1, 2016 headline –                                                         
          WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DEAD RAVENS?

          When Maintenance workers showed up at the Town Dump to remove the corpses of the 73 Ravens, they found not a single dead bird. The Ravens had been presumed killed from ingesting unidentified pollutants leaching from the old schoolyard asphalt. Scientists from both the National Park and Northern Arizona University have no explanation for the disappearance. The town has legitimate concerns both about the present situation and the history of the playground where their children spent hours and hours, given the possibility that it was originally paved with fill from a uranium mine. Unrest has begun to grow in the community as we continue to wait for answers.

July 20, 2016Excerpt from Completed Report detailing the timeline of potential Uranium pollution turned in by GCNP Science Dept. Director R. Nott Weinstock:                                                  
          Public Library records indicate that the original Grand Canyon School recess area was, as suspected, paved using tailings from the abandoned Hopi Point Uranium Mine during the summer of 1962. The play-yard surface was replaced in 2005, and the old paving material was dumped on the ridge abutting the Town Dump on Rowe Well Road. When the 73 ‘deceased’ ravens were discovered in late April downstream from the Dump in the reclaimed water ditch, town and Park officials were informed and the consensus was to have Northern Arizona University investigate the ditch for radioactivity and any chemical pollutants. That report is still pending as of today’s date, although we have asked repeatedly that it be released. Since the supposedly dead ravens had disappeared the following morning, it would seem serious effort was in order. This has yet to take place.

July 22, 2016 Briefing – This excerpt is from the final Radioactivity research report from Director Weinstock during this evening’s public hearing –                                                         
          Quoting Resource Specialist Stife: The lab report confirms the presence of large pockets of radioactive material in the mine tailings. These appear to be significant enough to account for the death of the birds, as suggested. For details see page 12 of our report. In addition, there is present in the material several unknown isotopes which we have been unable to identify, and of which investigators have expressed grave concern” – At this point crowd noise made it impossible to hear the remaining part of the presentation. Ranger Stife and Director Weinstock quickly left the podium while Mayor Pagliaro attempted unsuccessfully to quiet the room. 
          Consideration is now being given to retrieving the dog remains for radioactivity investigation, if there are some bones still on the ledge below Verkamps. Let’s continue to keep this quiet for now, people.

July 22, 2016 excerpt – THE GRAND CANYON VIEW:                          
          Dear readers – we insert here for public record this comment, so far unsubstantiated, from a lab assistant at Northern Arizona University who wishes to remain anonymous:

          “I participated in the radioactivity tests last week and saw something that gave me great worry. There was a dead house fly in the chamber during the testing. No-one else noticed it.                           
          When I came back the following morning and opened the chamber for cleaning, a fly flew out and went right out the door. Further examination showed no dead fly in the test chamber anymore. I don’t want to start an alarm, but in light of the issues with the ravens, I thought the community should be made aware. In my opinion, further testing is strongly indicated.”

 

Chapter 3

July 24 2016 BriefingSeasonal Interpreter Duke Preston filed the following report:                                                                                          
          Several Interpretation Volunteers following their noses found the remains of a Bull Elk behind HQ yesterday morning alongside the paved walkway to the rim. The animal had been almost completely consumed. Maintenance was notified and removed the Elk before 8 AM, which minimized visitor concerns.                   
          Resource Specialist Miller inspected the scene shortly after, and found no evidence of Mountain Lion or Coyote tracks. Instead, the ground was covered with what she identified as Raven claw prints. A full grown Bull Elk being almost completely eaten by Ravens in one night is highly unusual. Given that there were no tracks whatsoever made by carnivorous mammals suggests a significant degree of cooperation by the flock of Ravens, perhaps even chasing away any larger carnivores. She stated that Ravens themselves acting as predators on a large mammal, instead of merely being scavengers, is also unprecedented behavior.                    
          Chief of Interpretation Terry Lee directed the staff to keep this information to themselves at present, but to continue asking visitors to be alert for odd animal behavior, and if asked, to mention climate change as a possible factor. She also will ask the Law Enforcement Division to increase readiness for potential problems.

THE GRAND CANYON VIEW Editorial July 25th, 2016

                                    ROLLING OUR EYES      

            Residents of Grand Canyon Village have been concerned for some time now about what some have characterized as the “Zombie Ravens”, due to the disappearance of 73 presumably dead birds from the Dump earlier in the year. This imaginative ‘sci-fi’ tale was dealt an amusing setback yesterday.                                                  
          Three separate citizen reports from Apartment Building #3 at Paiute Circle the night before described the sound of a great flock of birds beating their wings above the building around midnight, as well as a deep erratic rumbling which they interpreted as Raven ‘conversation’. Due to the recent incidents involving Ravens (which have been accurately reported in these pages, I might add) alarm has spread through the Village.                                  
          Upon interviewing every resident of Building #3, Officers responding to the call discovered two drones in the residence of Nicolas Julie. Engines and batteries of the drones were still warm. Mr. Julie then confessed to the prank and ranted at length about gullible people – while on his way to jail in Flagstaff.                             
           Though congratulations for imagination might be in order, this newspaper hopes that minds have been put at ease and life in this peaceful and beautiful community will finally get back to normal. Let’s lighten up. Enjoy the canyon. Enjoy the rest of the summer!

 News Release August 1, 2016: John Quist, Law Enforcement Division Chief, Grand Canyon National Park NPS –

                        FOR INTERNAL RELEASE ONLY

            People: To begin with, be assured the media will be notified by this office immediately following today’s Divisional Meeting with the Superintendent. All of YOU are instructed to follow Government protocol and make no comment whatsoever. Let me be absolutely clear – anyone found violating this directive will be terminated at once and face immediate legal ramifications. 
         The bodies of five hikers were discovered late yesterday approximately 1 ½ miles down Hermit’s Rest Trail. The identities of the deceased are as yet unknown. Due to the underused nature of the trail, the tragedy has remained secret, and the area has been closed to the public. It has been confirmed that the individuals were killed and partially eaten by what initial reports say are Ravens. So our worst fears are apparently beginning to come true.             
          The grim details are as follows: A Ranger on patrol discovered the bodies at 5AM, scattered across a wide area on and off the trail. It appeared that the individuals attempted to outrun and/or fight off the attacking birds. The remains of clothes were shredded and blown around. Each of the human remains was torn to pieces with many parts missing. Numerous slices and gouges covered what was left of each corpse. The eyes were missing from every face. In one case, the largest body part left was the feet, which had been protected from predation by hiking boots.                                
          The Ranger (who is now on medical leave, identity protected) also found two dead Ravens, which are being flown to the NAU lab for investigation as of this morning. I want everyone in this Division on duty now until further notice, armed and alert. Information and direction will follow shortly. P. S. – Call your families and tell them to stay indoors.

 

Chapter 4

August 13, 2016 Briefing (For Internal Release Only)        
– Seasonal Law Enforcement Officer Page Turner filed this report: 

            Late last night a young man named Seth Hurt showed up at LE HQ injured, carrying a dead Raven by the feet, and told the following story to Law Enforcement Officers. He had taken the Red Bus Line to Hopi Point to photograph the sunset, and stayed until he was the last person at the overlook. Just at nightfall he noticed a large flock of Ravens flying into what appeared to be a cave to his right (east). We know that this is the entrance to the abandoned Uranium mine from the sixties. Mr. Hurt attempted to take a photo but it was already too dark.                     
          At this moment the last return bus pulled into Hopi Point, and Mr. Hurt turned to the parking area to get on it. He explained that suddenly a single Raven swooped down between him and the bus and attacked him, slashing at his camera with its talons and at his face with its beak. While he ducked back under the Junipers, swinging back at the bird, the bus left. A Common Raven averages 2 feet in length with at least a 4 foot wingspan, so this type of encounter would be much like an attack by a flying wolverine. During the battle, young Mr. Hurt found himself with one of the Raven’s legs in his hand. He swung the bird against the Juniper trunk, which stunned it enough so he was able to repeat the maneuver until it stopped moving.         
          Though bleeding from the forehead and arms, he courageously picked up the dead bird and brought it back on the two mile walk to Grand Canyon Village in the dark.            
          You all understand what this means to our situation. The boy deserves a commendation, of course, but that would involve publicity that we cannot afford right now. Mr. Hurt and his family are on the way to the airport in Phoenix. The Raven has been taken to the lab. An investigation of the Hopi Point area is underway already and I’m sure you all agree that the time to act is upon us before things get any more out of control. Make sure all of you are here for the 5 PM briefing.                  

August 14, 2016 – THE GRAND CANYON VIEW:

            Grand Canyon Village dump will remain closed until further notice, according to the Mayor’s office. Arrangements have been made for residents to take their trash to the dumpsters at Visitor Center Parking Lot B.

August 17, 2016 – THE GRAND CANYON VIEW:

          Tourist and Seattle resident Quinn Michaels was interviewed today by this reporter about the unexplained explosion/landslide near Hopi Point the night before last. A Demolition Expert, Michaels said he just happened to be here now at Grand Canyon on vacation and volunteered his services to the Park to investigate and attempt to formulate an explanation for the event. Dr. Michaels, who has a Ph.D in Geology as part of his career, said his investigation had turned up no evidence to indicate anything other than a natural occurrence. Though happy to be of service, he refused further questions, explaining that he was on his way home.
          National Park Law Enforcement and Science personnel agreed. R. Weinstock of the Science Division reported that despite the loud sound, what occurred was a minor shift in geologic layers due to tectonic forces. Random as they appear to us, these events are going on all the time underground, mostly invisible and unheard, and should not worry residents or visitors as it is unlikely any similar event will ever occur in the vicinity. Weinstock thanked Dr. Michaels for his expertise and expressed how fortuitous it was that he was here at this time.

Farewell to America

words ©George Jacobi 2018
music “Farewell to Tarwathie”

Farewell to those hoboes                       a riding the rails
And to the lone cowboy,                         his hot dusty trail.                          
So long, it’s been good                             to know you so well                      
The depth of affection                            no tongue can tell.

Goodbye old Miami,                                 sweet Nantucket, Mass                 
New York and New Orleans,                all things must pass.                      
Adieu Turtle Island,                                  like eagles we fly.                           
The tide has been turning,                    the moment is nigh.

Adios, mes amigos,                                   Alamo, Amazon                               
To Midway and Gettysburg,                  Martin and John.                            
One small step for mankind,                 Challenger crew                              
Vaya con Dios,                                              Sandy Hook, too.        

Farewell to America,                                land of the free                               
Your sons and your daughters            now gone to the sea.                 
To capture the past is                              too much for a song                      
Farewell to America,                                 we sail at dawn.                                                                                                                  

Every Spring

© George Jacobi  2011

 Every April staring out the window,
Anticipating trout-lily time.
Never comes too soon for the rhythm,
Always comes with melody and rhyme,                   

It comes in on a storm across the Sound,
Comes in with a wild warbler wind,
Just wait out all the thunder and the lightning,
You can be there when it all begins,
                 It goes:

                         Witchy Witchy Witchy, Sweet Sweet,
                        Teacher Teacher Teacher, Drink Your Tea,
                        Birdy Birdy Birdy, Konk-la-ree,  
                        Zoo-Zee, Zoo-Zee, Zoo-Zee, Zoo-Zoo Zee.

Have you ever been to planet Earth?
Well, no, but I’d really like to go.
Sit down by some river in New England,
On a morning in May and catch the show,
                   It goes:

 We ride on a spinning solar cell.
Each of us a living solar cell,
You can hear the music in the air,
Every spring,    Everywhere-                                                                                                     
                   It goes:

Trail Wood #4 – Thanks

 “That’s right,” I said, “I owe you one. In fact I owe both of you. What’s that, Edwin? Let me try to speak louder; I know this is a very long distance call.”

Saying this out loud doesn’t seem at all strange, although previously the whole conversation has been conducted in silence. So thanks, Edwin. Thanks, Nellie. Our talk has gone on for a decade, I think, if you skip my vague memory of getting one of your books given to me long ago by my Dad. You two would have liked each other.                                                                                        

It was the talking stone wall that did it. I sat down in the sun here in back of your house, by the crumbling stone wall, and it whispered “Let me be. I’m good with whatever happens.” But for the birds and the insects and the gentle wind there was dead quiet, and the wall spoke with your voice anyway. In all the photos of you around here, you don’t look like such a trickster.                       

Not long after, by geologic time anyway, I found myself looking over another stone wall, and on the other side of that wall the earth dropped away for a mile, in dizzying vermilion and jasmine walls of limestone and sandstone. Yeah, I know you went there too. You peered down into the Grand Canyon, wrote just a few lines of your lyrical prose, and moved on, eventually returning here to Trail Wood. If you were leaving some inspiration on the rim for me, it worked. There was a feast of it. I wrote my tail off.

Are you listening, Nellie? One would assume my only connection to you two is through Alison, but I know you both connect with everyone who ventures out on this old farm, as long as their hearts are open to the natural world. I hear you in the song of the white-throated sparrow. I see you in the wide brown eyes of a fawn. That song, Nellie, was enough of a present. But to spend a whole season at one of the seven wonders of the world – are you kidding me?

I never searched out a mentor. It’s funny to have one now in my late 60s, especially a dead one. But your words hover around this writing cabin in a cloud. So thanks, Edwin. Wait; those are just gnats.

Trail Wood #4 – Thanks
                ©George Jacobi 2017

Fishing for Sandy Hook

 

As I walked, salty drops ran down my face,
but they were just perspiration.
Just perspiration.
 Sparse Gray Hackle “Fishless Days, Angling Nights

 

A spring seems like a miracle every time. Right here in the middle of the woods, no place in particular, clear clean water bubbles gently from the ground. It’s a magic trick. A birth. At once, from nothing, a watercourse exists, one that will not quit until it reaches the sea. Six inches wide and one inch deep, it follows the path of least resistance, flowing north down a gradual slope and across an acre of meadow. Born to move, it has only one direction – down – and one mission –keep going. A fine philosophy. Let’s adopt it and follow along.

It is midmorning in “the Hook” after a cool August night and the meadow has only belatedly come alive. Monarchs, Tiger Swallowtails, Admirals, Fritillaries and Sulphurs choose among the Goldenrod, Joe-Pye Weed, and Queen Anne’s Lace. Dozens of bright butterflies dance, half of them Monarchs, the third generation of the year, now with tickets to Mexico for the winter. There is a constant hum from energetic bees and bugs, the song of the meadow. Grasshoppers bounce away from your old sneakers with every step through waist high grass. As if uncertain, the little rill slows crossing the colorful field, triples in size, and just before it disappears into the trees, it widens enough to include a bunch of cattails thriving in the sun.

Past the open space is a partly shaded pond. This young waterway will discover patience here. The Buttonball (an old name for the Sycamore Tree) housing development abuts the area, although the homes are out of sight. A dirt road once went across this brook into a sandpit, perhaps a place to get extra fill. Though any kind of bridge is now gone, the road’s shoulders have slowed our streamlet even more, thus the shallow pond. Only a third of an acre, it is full of fallen trees. What kid can resist these walkways out into the middle?

Out here the marsh is a foot deep. Shade keeps it from being overwhelmed with sun-loving aquatic weeds and turning into a genuine swamp. The horizontal trees host painted and spotted turtles. Saucer-sized bullfrogs hang in the film, as does one snapper, who rules. Small bass and assorted bream are his hors d’oeuvres. Frogs join the turtles and dive to safety before we even see them, leaving only widening circles. Young explorers must acquire patience here too. The snapper’s head sinks slowly from sight, and a Pileated Woodpecker laughs at us like a monkey.

The sandlot, which doesn’t host a kid’s baseball game today, has a steep uphill bank on the far right. The near side, even with the brook, is hidden in a tangle of brush. Home run balls to left field are usually gone for good. This edge, sun to one side, shade and water to the other, is warbler heaven. Insects abound. Gone now in late summer, the migratory birds have left the repast to the Box Turtles and Wood Turtles. A Worm Snake hides, a whole life spent below the bark of a fallen tree. A Ring-necked Snake, so old that it is pale grey, slips out of sight so swiftly it seems a ghost. Walking out of the sandlot, we enter a hemlock dominated ravine along the spring-fed brook, and the temperature falls a few degrees.

Not just darker and cooler, it is much quieter in here under the conifers; the gentle gurgle seems louder than it is. The stream, lively now, averages two feet wide and has holes a foot deep; cool ground water seeps from the hillsides have added to it. Red-backed and Dusky Salamanders live under every damp rock and log. Rocks break up the faster flow and undercut banks hide Brook Trout. Adult trout are only four or five inches long, their vivid primary colors invisible in the shade. Ripples on the surface, gone at once in the quick water, are all that give away their presence. You can lie on the moss and reach ever so slowly into the brook, under the bank, and move your hand upstream until it touches one, finning alertly there, a miraculous lifeform in another world. I bet you can do it if you try. Go on – be a kid. Yet after a mere hundred yards of this dark sweetness, our equally adolescent creek runs under Glen Road and hesitates momentarily – big changes are imminent.

 

Tumbling down a loose pyramid of rocks, the little brook releases its identity into a larger version of itself – the Pootatuck River. Let’s wade across here, at the head of a shallow riffle, so we don’t disturb the local residents. Wet sneakers – who cares? Downstream where it widens out into a pool, any trout will be taking advantage of the brook water at this time of year, hanging along the one bank where it is a bit colder. This little river is not stocked – it’s barely a half mile between the deactivated Fabric Fire Hose factory dam upstream and the estuary mudflat below where it opens into a cove on the main river. The short stream distance is vigorous, running down shale ledges most of the way. Up river, above the equally forlorn Plastic Molding Co. dam, lies the sleepy village of Sandy Hook.                                                                                               

The state plants some trout here and a private club does as well, and some of those fish use spring floods to escape downstream. Here they compete with warmwater species moving up from the cove, and there are no gravel beds to spawn in, to lay eggs beneath. Mixed up biologically, this is not a self-sustaining system, but nevertheless it’s rich.

Raccoons teach their young how to find crayfish. Otter leave tracks while otherwise living invisible lives. Mink, possums, and even the occasional deer can be found by a careful watcher as dusk approaches. When night falls, the clearing across the river from Tuttle’s Glen Lodge lights up with a million blinking fireflies. Just a few baby Pickerel Frogs remain in the grass (and they can now jump quite far) but most have been replaced by new-born American Toads this late in the season. Be careful where you put your feet – they are everywhere, finding bugs and worms to eat. Noise picks up; crickets and katydids fill the field with song.

In the surface film, mayflies and caddis flies are hatching, and every fish contentedly chows down. If a waterway can be described as mature, this one is now. Splashes are constant. So are the mosquitoes – did you bring the bug dope? A pair of Barred Owls hoot to each other. Darkness dominates and the Milky Way stretches across the sky.

 

A nondescript sand bar borders the little stream as it abruptly broadens into the cove. You can stand on the bar and cast for 180 degrees, but all you’ll catch is a selection of tiny panfish and largemouth bass. As always, the upper end of a cove or estuary is the nursery. The cove, though, is five or six acres, and if you can find the channel as it winds toward the main river, that’s where the game of aquatic life and death takes place.

To the left is an endless stretch of fields and meadows, to the right is the hill we came down, and on that shore sits a ramshackle marina. “River’s on the River” consists of two long docks and a boat launch. Kids lie on the ends of the docks on many a summer day, worms wriggling on the ends of their cannibalized and homemade poles. This water is becalmed. Flat and slow, it has no intention of expending any effort. It is killing time, like most of the kids, who don’t care if they catch anything – as long as the sun is warm and school is out, life is good.

A pair of swans glides around the cove, slurping up bugs from time to time. Don’t go near them in your borrowed rowboat unless you want to get hissed at. Under the placid surface huge brown carp, dinosaur fish, sneak by in water two to three feet deep, which stays remarkably clear unless the sand bottom gets stirred up by a storm or an awkward oar. There are just a couple of stumps scattered along the channel, the remains of trees washed down in long-ago storms. They are your clues to the channel, and by each one sits a bass worth catching. But these guys are not stupid – everybody gives them a shot while passing by. Hula Poppers and Jitterbugs aren’t going to cut it. If you want to catch something with a surface plug, try the upper reaches where weeds hide the pickerel. They’ll come roaring out of cover, making a wake, and smack that lure like Mickey or Ted hits a ball left up in the strike zone.

There is a dropoff where the cove ends and the Housatonic begins. Here again the water is visibly moving, albeit ponderously. It seems to know where it’s going and accept the decision made for it. It’s mature, dignified. This is big water – one hundred yards across – yet it too is usually clear. There’s another little dock right across the bridge and upstream. Because the hill is steep here, the bank drops off quickly to six or eight feet before the water becomes too dark to see through, even with your hands curled around your eyes. Schools of yellow perch come by like commuters. Big bass appear and disappear, eyeing the sunfish, rock bass, and pumpkinseeds that hang near
shore.

They call it the “Silver Bridge”, the span that crosses the river here, a little way up from the old railroad trestles. “T-BIRDS” in shocking turquoise, is painted on the cement at the east end. We jump from the road, twelve feet down to the surface, and sink so deep that the cold water is shocking. Bigger kids jump from the second layer of cross braces. Under the bridge, the river is shadowed, mysterious, still holding onto some secrets. Fish all you want. There is something here, but you won’t figure out how to catch it, and perhaps it’s better that way.

One of those secrets – maybe you guessed – is that in here it is 60 years ago. You and I went back in time. We’re still kids in the Hook. All these recollections spin slowly in an eddy far back in your brain, just as they do in mine. Can we touch the past like we once touched the trout in that brook? Only in dreams, I’m afraid.

This water is not the same anymore. It’s now muddy and almost lifeless from that spring all the way to the Silver Bridge, and in the many homes full of new Sandy Hook people there are none who know it as we knew it, feel what we felt. So hold those memories tight – they’re all that remains. Like water, we must keep going.

 

Not a Poem

Painting and drawing
feel like making love.

Writing feels like shoveling a path
through the snow to the mailbox.
Maybe there will be a check in it;
probably not.

Under the Hunter’s Moon

I lie outdoors on my back, slowly surrendering consciousness to the night sky, a ritual I engage in on surprise occasions – it just shows up unannounced on my emotional radar. The temperature is perfect. I am warm in the down sleeping bag, and the slight chill on my face (the thermometer is in the fifties) is refreshing. Tonight is ideal for this. Late October has benevolently supplied a few days of Indian Summer. It will go up into the 70s during the days ahead, but because there has been a frost or two, mosquitoes are gone for the year.  Crickets, though, have yet to give up on the season. Thankfully, their loud sawing fills the night. The only sound I sleep better to is the joyful racket of the spring peepers, a blessing that can cause me to keep a window open during an April night in the forties. (This, of course, can only happen in a separate room from my cozily slumbering wife). There are a handful of leftover Katydids out here too, both insects running out of time fast, calling poignantly for companionship.  Singing (leg scraping) comes from all around me. This earth music begins in July, signaling midsummer. As it does each time, it means the slippery slope toward winter has begun, while also conveying the message to each life in the night, “This is as good as it gets – do it now!” Continue reading “Under the Hunter’s Moon”