16—GOD BLESS THE HIPPIE
While waiting for the Boardinghouse to open—living in my mother’s apartment, on a pile of blankets on the floor, with husband, boy and baby—I wrote a few new songs, including ‘God Bless the Hippie.’ This was/is a hectically fast flat-picking song in typical C chord progression, and as it has been so omnipresent in my life ever since, I’ll just lay it out right now.
GOD BLESS THE HIPPIE @KAJSA OHMAN 1970
In a ’57 Chevy 6 that Richard loaned to me,
With a burned-out generator, out on Highway 93
I was all alone and stranded as the shades of night drew nigh—
With the snowflakes whirling ’round me, lord, I knew I’d surely die.
I stepped into the highway to extend my freezing thumb
And I could have stood that way, my friends, till the day of Kingdom Come.
Many cars went roaring past me in a cloud of mud and snow
Till an old Dodge panel truck pulled up, and a hippie said “Hello!”
God bless the hippie, wherever he may be—
He’ll be a friend to you—oooooo, he’s been a friend to me.
His hair hung down like feathers upon his velvet coat,
He jingled when he walked and smelled of incense when he spoke.
He was covered with medallions, to protect him from the cold,
And he handed me, in a friendly way, a joint just freshly rolled.
He looked into my engine, and he told me in a flash,
“I’ve an extra generator this dude traded me for hash!
I’d be glad to lay it on you, if you’d be so inclined,
’Cause these ’57 Chevy sixes really blow my mind.”
God bless the hippie………..
I asked, “What do I owe you?” and he said, “The pleasure’s mine.”
As he stood there smiling down on me, the sun began to shine,
And many happy hours we spent in Richard’s Chevrolet
Till the breaking dawn reminded us we must be on our way.
He wrapped me in his jacket and he held me by my hand
And he promised me we’d meet again up in God’s golden land.
He gave me half a dollar and he gave me half a lid,
Climbed aboard his panel truck and shouted, “So long, kid!”
God bless the hippie………………..
Okay, keep this song in mind, because the spirit of it gives the flavor of the next few years. The spirit, that is, of Hippie-dom, which despite sensational exceptions that were featured in the news was always based on Love. Love the one you’re with. Love the trees and flowers and the open highways, the home-baked bread, the home-written songs, and the home-grown leaf—though you didn’t necessarily have to love club owners, rival musicians, or people in Cadillacs who would not stop to help you when you broke down, which you would, because we really did drive a bunch of sorry wrecks back then.
While waiting for the Boardinghouse to open, an event that was put off again and again while days turned to weeks, I was delighted to run into John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers. John said they were playing right across the bay at THE LION’S DEN, and I should come over and see the show. He’d leave my name at the door. In fact, I should bring my guitar and do a song.
The next day, accordingly, was a busy one for me. First, I needed to finish ‘Hippie,’ memorize the lyrics and learn to play it. I also needed to sew a dress, and for some reason it had to be a complex one. [For those interested in such things, I already had three yards of Kelly green silk splashed with roses, and I made it up into a form-fitted gown, ankle length with a scoop neck and scalloped hem, scallops also along the edges of the short, ruffled sleeves. With a side zipper. So I had to learn, or devise, how the make a scalloped hem, and this is a thing I’ll doubtless never attempt again.]
After I got whatever sorry wreck we were driving then across the Golden Gate Bridge and managed to find the club, the rest was gravy. The Ramblers were doing a terrific show, and the audience was in fine fettle. In the break, I came out in my rosy green dress and played and sang ‘God Bless the Hippie’ as if I’d been doing it all my life. The crowd cheered and hooted for a long time, banging their fists on the tables, which as I recall were wooden barrels on end. The Ramblers hugged and kissed me and shook my hand. For that night I was golden.
They thought I should stay and meet the owner later and see if I could set something up. But I couldn’t stick around. Good though it would be to stay on this superhighway to success, I was pretty worried about driving back home by myself. Not only that, I’d been too long away from my baby, and milk was starting to seep out and soak the bosom of my new silk dress. Enough was enough—but thank you.
Now, about this superhighway to success: Can it possibly be that it exists in many forms? It occurs to me that moments like that one are the success. So it doesn’t happen again the next night, so what? Even the best superhighways in the land are occasionally broken by roadwork, or some other problem of discontinuity. You find yourself lost on a detour, or maybe you like this place you’ve driven through so much you decide to live here for a while. You take a scenic route, your generator goes out, and suddenly there’s the Hippie, who you never would have met had you kept on succeeding in whatever you thought you wanted.
At any rate, after playing the Boardinghouse, which I suppose was some kind of success (a review of opening night by Phil Elwood of the Chronicle said I got off to a shaky start but redeemed myself eventually), we drove down to Santa Barbara where we would live in a very small trailer in a friend’s canyon for a long time. There was more mileage to be gotten out of the Scragg Family; Peter and his wife were now running THE BLUEBIRD CAFÉ, a railroad-car-shaped room with beer and wine and a stage. As long as there’s a stage, I’m in. Except right away I managed to get the flu and hang on to it for three weeks, losing some weight and hair and confidence. Photos taken at the Ash Grove by PHIL MELNICK after that showed me looking fragile, dyspeptic and pale, la bohème wrapped in a fur coat and smiling wanly. Hardly the heroine of ‘God Bless the Hippie.’