Chapter 11 In Case of Riot – Break Glass

“It still bothers me, why she left.”
“Did you love her?”
“Maybe too much. I was rather possessive.”
“Were you single when you went looking for a job?”
“No we actually went looking at the same time for contract jobs and supported each other. She had less trouble. When I went looking for an actual professional job, I lied by omission; No trucks, no logging crews, no dishwashing at the Silver Spoon. No turning wrenches at the Black Duck Motors garage. I did leave in the KRAB radio time where I was a producer and on-air host. All except that has some pretty rough edges and the KRAB part played well in the HR interview. And by then, of course, I had a college degree.”
“You were a radio producer?” said Agnes. “I’m astonished. “How did you get involved in that and what did you produce?”
“Yes, I was a writer, producer, and director, and the engineer and the interviewer. Why is that surprising?”
“I guess I’m not really astonished. It’s just not consistent with what I expect is the story of a homeless vet or at least what you’ve told me so far.”
“Actually, it was part of the recovery. I could think of myself as better. I told myself I was not down and out, just being a hippie living on the margins. I had to keep up some sort of fiction about myself. But deep down inside I felt down and out.”
“Actually, what is hard for me to imagine is that you were ever down and out, based on what I knew of you in Saigon. I remember you as a great problem solver. I even imagine you creating problems for yourself to solve but never as a victim.”
“Thanks. Sometimes I have a tendency to wallow in that when I get lonely. But then the sun comes out and I get a new idea and go off chasing that. Sometimes they turn out to be rainbows and sometimes not but so far I haven’t found the pot of gold.”
“Pot of gold?”
“The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, you know, the legend.”
“No, I don’t. Is that some American tale?”
“European. Medieval I think.”
“So you produced some sort of interview program? What about?”
“That’s a story that could take all night and into tomorrow. How much time have you got?”
“All night or as much as you want to spend on it.”
“OK, I’ll give you the movie trailer version.
“You arrived in the Bay Area when? 1972-3?”
“Seventy three, yes.”
“So there was still a good bit of the hippie scene happening then, right?”
“Yes….. but I lived in Berkeley and it was more political than hippie. So what does this have to do with producing radio?”
“OK. Several years after I got out of the army I settled in a town beyond the edge of the city sprawl where people were doing a sort of back-to-the-land lifestyle. Many of the people were artists and others were part of what I call the Digger Diaspora. Some had lived in San Francisco and been part of the Digger movement.”
Agnes wrinkled her forehead in thought. “I remember talk about that in Berkeley but they were gone by the time I was there. I never knew why. I wasn’t part of American culture and could only relate to what I saw in terms of Paris in the mid sixties and early seventies. When I was in graduate school, there was a sort of hippy overlay to the political scene but I always felt it was an imitation of something. I could never tell what. Bellbottom pants, mustaches, bare midriffs and all that. It was just fashion.”
“That’s how a lot of the American counterculture felt at the time too, especially to the Diggers. The ones I’ve met said that after the summer of ’67 the city was flooded with scene chasers attracted by all sorts of media excess. And the drugs! particularly cocaine. It became unlivable. Somebody even wrote a book about it titled “Snow Blind.” At the time the Diggers claimed publicly that hippies were a media creation. Anyway, I watched the scene from the outside all the while I was in the army and I wanted desperately to be a part of it. But in the end I could only do it vicariously through the radio.”

“You were going to tell me about producing radio. Did you tell the Digger story?”
“In a way I did but I didn’t know that then. It was almost ten years ago now. I just got interesting people I met to tell their crazy stories, sometimes their dreams, literally. Their dreams. One had a dream about a nuclear holocaust. Some were about events, rock concerts, a piano drop just to hear the sound. Some were about communities I found tucked away in the countryside trying to create a new paradigm. One was about part of a rural town running on a gift economy.
“So there were some very interesting people in the area doing things I had never thought about. So I did my best to get them talking on the air. Things that I now see harkened back to the Digger aspects of the Hip San Francisco of the early to mid sixties. The vestiges of that were still seen on the streets by the mid seventies. What I didn’t know was that as a cultural phenomenon the hip counter-culture was dying just as I was trying to get on board. I had missed the train. But there were still lots of imaginative people with amazing stories to tell.

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