Memories from Blacksburg

Interview with Virginia Tech student Ally Larrick

I got an interesting call the other day from a Virginia Tech student who was writing a story on the life of Psychology Professor Joe Germana. Dr. Germana was a professor of mine from 1970-1972, and was an integral part of our little band of hippies. The amazing thing is, he is still teaching in the same department, and is soon to celebrate his 52nd year!

The interview with Ally was a real trip down memory lane for me, and an eye opener for her. Since many young adults her age do not even know what a Woodstock is, I had to ask her if she had heard about it. Of course, she said she had, but she really wanted stories that related to Professor Germana. Well, you just can’t get the essence of Joe Germana without understanding the aura of the time, so I did my best to re-create the vibes of 1960’s – 70’s Blacksburg. Of course, it is ethereal and intangible… you had to be there.

I told her about the early hippies in Blacksburg and how they were considered a strange minority. I told her about the fights we had with the rednecks and how the Blacksburg mountain hippie culture was born. Peace and love with leather and knives. I told her about our own hippie Fonzie with his long black hair flowing over his shoulders, his bare feet and studded jacket… and how he beat up rednecks at the drop of a hat.

I told her about eating LSD like it was candy, and how our growing need for more weed sparked an innovative capitalistic pot distribution empire with fingers stretching all along the East Coast. I told her about Andromeda and the hard rock heartbeat of the hip community. I did forget to tell her about the outdoor concert in the country where the whole band was tripping, and the lead singer (yours truly) was slamming the ground with a big club like the apes in 2001 A Space Odyssey. I think that’s the one where I threatened to beat Germana over the head with my club for no apparent reason.

I told her about our semi-conservative values, that even though we believed in free love, homosexuality was not a part of the equation. We still considered it strange… and traditional marriage was a given.

There were some problems, however. Even though our success at pot capitalism generated a wealthy class of dealers, our propensity for pleasure, and cocaine in particular, provided a drain for all that money to go through. Like Robin Williams said, “Cocaine is God’s way of saying, ‘you’re making too much money.'”

How does all this relate to Professor Joe Germana? Well, to be fair, he had nothing to do with the pot dealing network, the acid or the cocaine. But, since the movement began in the college community, and many of the students took his classes, he was a beloved part of something that blossomed into what would later be called the Woodstock Nation.

I don’t know how this interview affected Ally, but she did say that it opened up a whole new part of history that she knew nothing about. Sadly, as I wrote in From Woodstock To Eternity, the magic of peace and love and flower power was over in a few short years, replaced by booze and downers and acquiescence to the lower, baser elements. Such is the progression of man without the redeeming power of Jesus Christ.

Ally, thank you for the opportunity to relive a special time in the lives of all of us who were there. I hope your bio of the good Doctor Germana is successful. And to all my friends in Blacksburg and elsewhere from that magical era, I say this,

“for a little while, for a sweet moment in history, we were stardust, and we were golden.”

Woodstock Chapter – From Woodstock To Eternity

 

Woodstock 48th Anniversary: From Woodstock…

Every year when August rolls around, I have a little flashback to that weekend on Max Yasgur’s Farm in 1969.

I must admit, I have mixed emotions, feelings, and thoughts about the Woodstock

phenomenon, and those thoughts are what inspired me to write my book, From Woodstock To Eternity. I wanted to paint a real life history of the hippie era… its rise and fall, its ups and downs, the good, the bad and the ugly. A final scene in the Woodstock chapter captures the stardust…

He closes his eyes and lets the rhythmical power of the acid rock take him away.  The images of the last three days roll through his mind like a video.  The overwhelming onslaught of people from everywhere.  The gathering of the tribes.  The exhilarating swells of peace and brotherhood.  The generosity of the hog farm, the open market of psychedelic drugs.  The acid reports.  The smiles on everybody’s faces, the “hello, brother,” “hello, sister,” “peace, man,” “this is far out, really far out.”  Jimi says it all in his brief chatter between songs,

“You proved to the world what can happen,” he says, “A little bit of love, and understanding, and sound.”

Hendrix goes straight from “Voodoo Child” into the opening notes of “The Star Spangled Banner.”  He raises his arm high in a salute to the crowd, his fingers formed into the peace sign.  The adoring audience flashes the sign back in unison.   The twisted, exploding version of the National Anthem paints the picture of everything the revolution stands for, and Morgan knows he is part of it.  Woodstock has sealed the deal; he has sold his soul.  A great swelling of emotion rises up in his heart, and he cannot contain it.  He raises both hands into the air, with his fingers forming the “V,” and cries like a baby.

From Woodstock To Eternity is a story of change, of mutation and renewal. In just a few short years, Dustin Morgan and his friend Cutter lament the passing of the beautiful people…

“… We used to talk about the reasons for war, why it was wrong, what made up the human condition, what could be done to improve on that condition.  All we wanted was brotherhood, and good vibes; it was enough just to groove on a good rock beat and hallucinate.”

“Yeh, I know what ya mean.  Where did all those people go?  A whole society has suddenly disappeared!  Did they all vanish into thin air?  Did someone throw some kind of cosmic switch that instantly transformed a whole generation?  It’s like an alien mother ship slowly cruised around the world with a long vacuum hose dangling down to earth, sucking up the beautiful flower people, leaving behind nothing but dull-witted, lecherous, party ‘til you puke derelicts.” 

Cutter goes on,

“Now, the only thing anyone talks about is, ‘Let’s get drunk, let’s get stoned, hey, look at that chick!’  Slobber, drool.  Instead of ‘Why is there air?’ the deepest, most profound question anybody can come up with is, ‘Hey man, got any coke?’”

On the one hand, I wrote the story to give those of us who were there, in that time, a walk down memory lane. It blossomed in Haight Ashbury and peaked at Woodstock, but the hippie movement soon took a downward spiral into debauchery and depravity. Morgan witnessed it for himself at a rock festival in Evansville, Indiana.

The kid is a total mess.  His hair is not quite shoulder length, knotted and disheveled like a bad case of bed head.  His shirt is torn and unbuttoned, hanging loose.  His pants are halfway down his rear, sagging over his bare feet.  His shoulders are stooped and rounded in a slouch… a filthy lock of hair dangling over his face as he gazes downward.  Morgan thinks to himself,

“Is this the picture of the typical hippie?  Is this what the world thinks we are?  No wonder they think we’re disgusting.  I think it’s disgusting.”

The image of the kid playing in the sewage plagues Morgan from that time on.

“Has Woodstock Nation come to this?  This isn’t stardust and golden; this is space aliens in the sewage.  A wasted kid, totally stripped of all decency, full of downers, playing in the piss?  This is pathetic.”

Dustin’s Dad gives him a wise analysis,

“If you’re wondering why all this is crumbling around you, it’s because you have left Jesus out of the equation.  You want the results, but you don’t want to obey the Giver of the results.  Therefore, the Giver withholds His hand.”

Next: The Turn to Eternity 

A Tribute to Ralph

Ralph the Dog:  A legend in her own time!

One of the only subjects who did not get an alias in the book, From Woodstock To Eternity is the hero’s blonde companion, Ralph.  Ralph was unique from all other dogs in the world, because she was a human hidden inside a dog body.  That’s right, I said “she”.  This female German Shepherd/ Border Collie mix was called Ralph because she had an owner for a couple of weeks after she was born, and he said that she just looked like a Ralph.  So, he named her Ralph, which turned out to be the perfect name for a blonde, female German Shepherd.

Ralph could communicate with her eyes and her tail.  Any combination of expressions from these two features would say what she wanted to say.  She could plead, show that she was happy or sad, know when she was in trouble, and give advice on world affairs.  She was a diplomat of the highest order, making herself known in all of the Blacksburg community in the early 1970’s.

From Woodstock To Eternity

From Woodstock To Eternity

Ralph was even featured in a book about the culturally explosive times of the Woodstock era.  Immortalized in print, she became one of the leading supporting characters to her owner, Captain Dustin Morgan.  Here is an excerpt….

You’ve always got the one companion who never leaves you, is always there, patiently waiting.  She doesn’t care if you’re drunk, or tripping, or speeding, or early or late, or anything; as long as she is with you.  She doesn’t complain, doesn’t criticize, doesn’t

Ralph at two years old

Ralph at two years old

whine.  Yes, she’s been sitting out in the truck for hours now, just waiting for you to come back.  That’s what I need to do.  I need to get up right now and go out West.  I need to go to Colorado.

….. Sitting faithfully in the passenger’s seat, overjoyed at his return, is his female companion; his blonde German Shepherd, Ralph.

“Ralphie, girl, guess what?  We’re goin’ to Colorado!  What do you think about that?”

Pound, pound, pound. 

The tail beats against the seat cushion as she licks his hand and whimpers with glee that her master is back.

“You know you’re just a dog.  You’re not a human, and you can’t talk.  You’re never gonna talk, even though you think you can talk.  Now just get all that out of your head.”

Pound, pound, pound.

People still talk about her today, and she will forever be known as Ralph the Dog.

I Remember When

Read this excerpt from a good friend of mine from the Woodstock era:

Can’t believe how much I enjoyed reading your book!
Of course you know I could identify with all the high school and B’burg references.
Let tell you some of my memories of some of the specific incidents you wrote about:
   I was with you and Gregg for the Hardees incident. I recall Slate showing up with a crow bar that be kept under the front seat of his Mustang.

From Woodstock To Eternity

From Woodstock To Eternity

I also ran into Bill on my way home from a summer construction job in DC and told him I thought he had been killed in Vietnam. Don’t remember if I  knew he had died.
   Also ran into Steve E at a head shop in Falls Church and he was pretty strung out at the time.
    I had my draft physical the same day as crazy Jim and rode on the bus from C’burg to Roanoke with him. Remember him in his big black boots and white underwear for the group part of the physical.
    I went to Atlantic City Pop Festival where I heard about Woodstock. But decided not to go to W because I knew I would miss some work and could not afford to do that. Did also go to Evansville though….
Nothing like an eye witness account to tell the stories!!
I believe there are many out there with bottled up tales that they would like to tell.  One of the missions of this blog is to provide a forum for people to vent and tell their stories, so please… leave your comments.
Due to the nature of the culture, it may sound impossible, but kindly leave out the profanity, sex and crude talk.  We want everybody to be able to enjoy it.