Tuesday, October 30, 2007

'Twas In Another Lifetime...

...a world of free-spirited primal-dancing flower children
Click on photo to enlarge - © 1972 jim otterstrom
"Happiness runs in a circular motion,
Thought is like a little boat upon the sea."
Donovan Leitch
From the children's round 'Happiness Runs' on Donovans 1969 Barabajagal album.
A Dear Old Friend - Cheryl - Agoura, California 1972Click on photo to enlarge - © 1972 - jim otterstrom
Check out those sexy skin-tight hip-huggers and that chicken bone necklace!
Still lookin' fantastic Cheryl!
This was taken just about the time we were all beginning to face the fact that the '60s really were over, but some of us will never give up.

I rediscovered the negatives for the monochrome pictures below in a throwaway box sometime last year, with a bunch of other 'bad' negatives from 35 years ago that somehow never got thrown away.
Instead, they sat around in hot, or cold, leaky storage sheds & attics all these decades, gaining age and character like good vintage wine.
These particular gems were all taken with and old Zeiss Ikon camera I found in a secret compartment hidden beneath the floorboards of a little shack where I once lived in the '60s.
The camera used 2 1/4 X 2 1/4 (medium format) film and took very nice photos when it worked properly, which it rarely did. Something was amiss with the film advance mechanism so the great majority of the pictures came out as partial double exposures, like the sepia-toned photos below and the still-life at the top.
You can easily make out the double exposures in the pictures, which is why the negatives ended up in the junk box. But the passage of time has a way of making junk more valuable and now I consider these to be priceless artifacts.
The two monochrome negatives were so deteriorated from exposure to extreme elements; heat, cold, dust, dirt, abrasion and moisture, that I all I could do was smooth them out in Photoshop enough to make them legible.
The color transparencies above, of Cheryl, and the still-life of the window, were found in a different box. They didn't fare much better over the years, and also required considerable manipulation to get a usable picture. I used Photoshop brush & watercolor effects to cover scratches and age spots in the emulsion.
For me, these images capture a much more hopeful & free-spirited time and place, where money didn't matter because there wasn't any. A simpler time, where life was lived for the joy of it. We had nothing in those days, but we arranged that nothing beautifully, decorating our lives with the cast-off junk of the wasteful world around us.
The distasteful world of war, racism, violence, hate, greed, consumption and competition for the almighty dollar, a world we were attempting to reject.
Our communities, and our very lives, became an experimental art form in search of love, peace, and freedom. And, for awhile, we thought the world was changing, and that we might live out those sweet idealistic lives.
We were mistaken.
To those who weren't fortunate enough to be there, this may look like poverty, but anyone who truly lived & breathed the 1960s counter-culture will recognize something in these photos, and be reminded of how very much we've lost...
...of our innocence, our joy, and our optimism.
During the 35 years since these pictures were taken, every incremental increase in the material wealth & convenience, now being enjoyed by the privileged few of our richer countries, has come at a very great cost to freedom, democracy, human rights, and the natural diversity of Earth.
Billions of human beings suffer needlessly today because of our gluttony, greed, and indifference.
And much more of the planet now resembles a pigsty than a living garden.
~We have literally sold our souls~

Cheryl's Living Room
Click on photo to enlarge - © 1972 jim otterstrom
Cheryl's daughter Olwen at the Triunfo Canyon house where they lived for several years. This is the same window in the picture above.
Click here if you haven't seen the 'Grandfather Frog Gets A Ride' photo I took in Olwens room, later on in my Nikon era.
Cheryl's Kitchen
Click on photo to enlarge - © 1972 jim otterstrom
So what went wrong with the counter-culture?
Partly, it was our own success...
We were having a hugely positive effect by influencing societal & governmental change, in forcing issues like civil-rights, the Viet Nam War, and the environment to the forefront of public debate.
Our highest values were being strongly represented by the media outlets of TV, magazines, newspapers, and most effectively, FM radio, and, we could hear our own voices resounding in many political speeches of the day.
...and partly it was the naive recklessness of being young.
We were just kids, photogenic, hedonistic, and obviously reveling in our youthful sexuality. So Hippies became the sensational media darlings of the time (somewhat like the Paris Hiltons' and Britney Spears' of today) which sent millions of kids running off to join what was being inaccurately hyped as one big naked love-in of sex & drugs.
And then there were the so-called LSD gurus, lime-light seeking publicity-whores such as Timothy Leary, who especially contributed to the circus-like atmosphere that would overshadow a once creative, democratic, and highly participatory social movement, but I believe these problems could've been overcome with time, experience, and maturity.
Social consciousness, an unabashed passion for life, thumbing our noses at convention, and courageously speaking truth to power was the initial charm of our generation, which also spawned a large back-to-the-land culture.
As the movement grew larger, so did the excesses, until we were becoming caricatures of ourselves. I began to suspect things were unraveling in other ways too, when I started seeing peace signs, gods eyes, and ankhs for sale at big chain stores. Corporate America had discovered there were $$$ to be squeezed out of Hippies after all. We were being commercialized, turned into a commodity for sale.
But, in my opinion, the final death knell of the '60s social movement, our own cultural 9/11, was the infamous Manson Family (They weren't a family---and they certainly weren't flower children---they were a gang of drug-addled thugs who preyed upon Hippies.)
Once this psychopathic ex-convict unleashed his 'family' of mental cases upon the world, the media wasted no time in portraying these depraved violent lunatics as a Hippie family.
The political/corporate establishment---who had been caught way off-guard by the strength and tenacity of our rebellious generation---was all over that like flies on shit, using fear, once again to mold the minds and emotions of the American people.
Hippies instantaneously became monsters, the terrorists of the day and our voices were silenced much like the voices of the few who would call for calm and reason in the revengeful war-mongering aftermath of 9/11.
Fear & hysteria prevailed, and within days of Manson's arrest I could feel the difference in my world.
Where just a few weeks earlier, grandmothers & little children would come up to me chatting and exchanging pleasantries, now, people I encountered in public would cringe and recoil, grabbing hold of their kids, who were sometimes asking if I was part of the Manson Family.
Fear and hatred became palpable, you could almost taste it, like Arab-Americans (or followers of Islam anywhere) certainly must since September of 2001.
There's no limit to the societal damage and hateful destructiveness that can be perpretrated upon the world, simply by making sure people are very afraid...
Ironically, the prototypical flower child troubadour, Donovan, released his Barabajagal album (top photo) on August 11th of 1969, just 5 days before the Manson gang was arrested for their horrific murderous rampage.
It would be Donovans last highly popular album. The vibe had changed, the feeling was gone.
PEACE & LOVE went out of style.
A generations message of Universal Love was recast into one of Universal Fear.
'Tricky Dick' Nixon was the newly elected President, Alvin Tofflers 'Future Shock' was about to be published, and the world was on its way to where it is now.
"What became of the changes we waited for love to bring?
Were they only the fitful dreams of some greater awakening?"
Jackson Browne
From 'The Pretender'
As long as I'm quoting Jackson Browne, here's one of my all time favorite songs, a sort of requiem for the '60s...
Before The Deluge
Some of them were dreamers
And some of them were fools
Who were making plans and thinking of the future
With the energy of the innocent
They were gathering the tools
They would need to make their journey back to nature
While the sand slipped through the opening
And their hands reached for the golden ring
With their hearts they turned to each other's hearts for refuge
In the troubled years that came before the deluge
Some of them knew pleasure
And some of them knew pain
And for some of them it was only the moment that mattered
And on the brave and crazy wings of youth
They went flying around in the rain
And their feathers, once so fine, grew torn and tattered
And in the end they traded their tired wings
For the resignation that living brings
And exchanged love's bright and fragile glow
For the glitter and the rouge
And in the moment they were swept before the deluge
Now let the music keep our spirits high
And let the buildings keep our children dry
Let creation reveal it's secrets by and by
By and by--
When the light that's lost within us reaches the sky
Some of them were angry
At the way the earth was abused
By the men who learned how to forge her beauty into power
And they struggled to protect her from them
Only to be confused
By the magnitude of her fury in the final hour
And when the sand was gone and the time arrived
In the naked dawn
Only a few survived
And in attempts to understand a thing, so simple and so huge
Believed that they were meant to live, after the deluge
Now let the music keep our spirits high
And let the buildings keep our children dry
Let creation reveal it's secrets by and by
By and by--
When the light that's lost within us reaches the sky
Jackson Browne
I am currently reading Naomi Kleins 'The Shock Doctrine - The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism'.
And last night we watched the DVD 'Ralph Nader - An Unreasonable Man'
Very good stuff for those of you who might be wondering 'whatever became of Democracy'?
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world.
The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.
Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

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Blogger roger said...

nicely put jim. my own view is that gnossis broke out a little too large for the masters to contain, at least for a while. perhaps we did go a bit overboard on the dionysian side back then. thanks for the pictures. humboldt county, where i lived in a house that looked like cheryl's, is a long way from socal in miles, but back then it was just a heartbeat away. colder, but with the same style.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

hi roger-

I thought you would appreciate those pictures. We are lucky to have lived in a time when "gnosis" overpowered greed for a moment or two.
Probably a once in a lifetime thing, but every now & then I feel that energy again, when conscientious people take to the streets in great numbers.
But economic pressures, and the momentum of brute force, are so strong now that most folks are too overwhelmed, too afraid, too ill-informed, or just completely confused as to the which of their fears are more terrifying.
Hey, did you ever know my old friend Joel Pennock up there in Humboldt?

11:40 AM  
Blogger roger said...

can't say as i recall a joel, but it was a time of self-induced confusion and i certainly met many people without always catching a name. you might ask him if he knew of "cold comfort farm" in fortuna.

8:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, that quintessential hippie-chick look. Serious. Thoughts some where else.

I was 19 in 1972 and newly arrived in Atlanta. I found myself frequenting the "Strip" (although I had come for an entirely different purpose) which had been the hippie hangout but by then it had passed away and the only sojourners left were hard core druggies that had no place else to go.

Yet in the wake of all that I picked up the pearl that was the pivot point in all I believed and did afterwards. And still do to this day, reflected in the forever quest for Right Thinking, Right Action, and Right Livelihood.

It was all like a ripe seedpod, and as in nature, not all the seeds found a place to grow.

Some did though.

When I was reading your nostalgia about the times I was reminded of the round:

"When we are gone, they will remain,
Earth and fire, wind and rain.
They will remain, when we return
Wind will blow, and fire will burn."

2:27 PM  
Blogger Endment said...

What memories!!!
The Shaw quote is nearly a matra for our family :) I keep reminding myself - we are still not too old to make a difference.

4:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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2:51 PM  
Blogger clairesgarden said...

I am quietly delighted in amongst my daughters 'orrible bad taste modern music I keep having to retrieve my Bob Dylan cd. ha.

2:48 AM  
Blogger CG said...

in 1972 I was eleven years old. The Honeycomb kids were about as hippy as I got. I have my take on it all, but I think I'll shut up because what do I know. They are beautiful photos. But protest will never be enough.

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm afraid CG has answered your question as to what happened to the counter culture. Protests are never enough.

4:27 AM  
Blogger CG said...

yeah, I suppose the Jesus Freaks said something that has never left me -- Walk Your Talk. And it is a deadly serious thing, a not comfortable thing. Anyone speaking from comfort basically has nothing to say.

You know, Mother Theresa had something to say, she walked her talk. The Pope, not any of them because they live in luxury. I mean that just as an example (that is, I'm not a Catholic, or even a Christian, and certainly no expert, it is just an illustration about what I mean).

9:19 AM  
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3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


"And what of the hippies who marched by the score

to end our involvement in the Vietnam War?"

A favorite Wizard of Id cartoon shows the Duke and the King sitting on a sand dune while the Wizard is at the shoreline with lightening bolts coming from his fingertips and the caption reads, "He may not be much of wizard, but I'll give him this: he's persistent. He'll make that tide go out even if it takes twelve hours."

The VietNam war had run its course, there was no longer any political or economic hay to be made from it and it came to a logical end. Do you really think that had it not been for the protests that we'd be fighting in VietNam to this day?

Remember that "Post hoc ergo proper hoc" is a fallacy.

As for Gandhi, he did much more than protest. The boycott of English cloth was a crushing blow to the British economy and brought about the change. I'm afraid the CG had this one right. Mere protesters have never changed anything, it's those who act who do and incidentally they may protest a bit along the way.

The Montgomery protest was accompanied by an economic boycott of the buss system. Look at how ineffective the protests had been to that point. Had King's followers just boycotted the buses and said nothing, they would have accomplished the same thing.

Protests feel good and you can engage in them without any sacrifice or even much inconvenience to yourself, but they accomplish little and often do more harm than good. It is action and personal change that make the difference.

5:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:17 AM  
Blogger ShawnXian said...

Is it unusual to be "homesick" for a period of time? When I gaze upon your images I feel a longing welling up in my chest as my vision blurs and today fades into yester year. There was so much promise, promise that I am today following with noetic intent. We were all so beautiful then. And the ragged lives were hints and possibilities....

I love that poem of eyemkmootoo's.

11:56 PM  
Blogger Jim said...


Joel had a farm in Petaluma during the '60s, but his crop cost him some time behind bars. I think he's making a living as an artist up near Arcata these days.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Jim said...


a nice earthy "round" there, thanks for that.

and i agree with you and CG, "protest is never enough", but sometimes it is an important ingredient in the stew.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Jim said...


I'm really happy that you enjoyed this post and those truly were wondrous times in my memory, but I was just a kid, what did I know, really?

Still, when I look at the world today, in comparison, I'm so glad I was young in those heady times.

The world is a much faster, meaner place today, and I believe those of us who still remember that slower, less competitive time do have the capacity to make a difference in how people choose to live their lives today.

The masses are literally fighting for their lives now, and rats on a sinking ship rarely have time for contemplation, and I know that your comptemplative observations very often inspire me.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Jim said...


thanks for your delightful poem.

"I have no diploma and can be quite obtuse.

I'm no Will Durant, just a lame Dr. Seuss"

your friend,

The Lorax

9:49 AM  
Blogger Jim said...


This is one of the nicest things you could've said to me, that my images make you homesick...

"When I gaze upon your images I feel a longing welling up in my chest as my vision blurs and today fades into yester year."

That is exactly how I feel when I look at those old pictures, and I thank you for knowing, and feeling what those memories are about.

Let us also remember that memories are made of moments, and these moments we're in right now are the good old days of tomorrow.

Every moment matters...

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am working my way through an old collection of Mother Earth News magazines from the early '70's. I was born in 1970. My husband and I are saddened and disappointed that our parents fell into the corporate trap that happened after Carter, or maybe as Carter, left office. Was it all the assassinations that turned my mom bitter on political change?
These magazine articles could have been written today. They discuss global warming, chemical additives in food and their effects on behavior, how the large companies were purchasing all the plans and patent rights to solar energy ideas, etc. It is surreal.
We have come full circle, and I'm not sure that we have learned much. We seem to recognize the problem, but as Jim has pointed out, there is no time left for contemplation.
I believe that is by design. We are meant to be so busy and just "comfortable" enough, but not completely comfortable, that we perceive that we must move faster or lose everything.
I have no answers. I wish I knew how to bring us back to the individual self-sufficiency and common sense living we came so close to achieving as the TRUE American Dream.


10:53 PM  
Blogger Maryanne Stahl said...

oh man. I came here via dharma bums and have been reading through your posts. don't know whether you'll ever see this, but man, you take me back.

you take me back.

but maybe now


we can!


6:57 AM  
Blogger Jim said...


I'm so glad you dropped in and found some kinship between us and I hope you enjoy much of what you read here.

Finding those old pictures took me back too...

...way back when.

Peace & Love

7:51 AM  

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