Stories of the Street

Some memoirs of Brian Crawford during the hippie years.

The Haight

May 1967 – I was between quarters at Antioch College and longing to get out to Haight-Ashbury to see what all the hype was about.  I hitchhiked from Yellow Springs, Ohio, to Los Angeles, then worked my way up the coast.  I was dropped on the corner of Haight and Van Ness and started walking to Ashbury.  It was much farther than I’d imagined, and I arrived well after dark on a cold, windy, foggy night.  The street scene had gone indoors, and I slept in Panhandle Park.  The next day I went to visit a girlfriend from college who was working in San Francisco that quarter.  But soon after I went into her apartment, a drug bust came down on the whole building, and I was swept up with the rest.  Spending a night in the digs of the City and County of San Francisco, I got a taste of what life in the Haight was like.

Candy Man

September 1967 – I was theoretically attending Antioch College in Ohio, but mostly just hanging out, getting high, and selling drugs to get by.  When dope supplies in Yellow Springs ran low, I borrowed a lot of money from friends and made a run to New York for a big score.  Even after satisfying all my regular customers around Ohio, I had more than I could use.  On a whim, I jumped a Greyhound Bus to Champaign-Urbana to try my luck at the University of Illinois.  I met a beautiful woman Elissa, who introduced me to her hippie friends.  I sold my entire inventory in one memorable sale and went home with a stereo, a record collection, and fistfuls of cash.

Peyote

January to May 1968 – I dropped out of Antioch College in Ohio, becoming prime bait for the draft, and hit the road for California.  I hitchhiked to Boulder, Colorado, where I first encountered the psychedelic cactus peyote.  With a diverse group of characters, I set out in a 1947 Cadillac ambulance on a search for the fields where peyote grows.  After many adventures with Navajos, vigilantes, and rednecks, we find the fields, but are soon busted by the Border Patrol and spend a week in jail in Rio Grande City.  I have interesting conversations with some local high-school hippies.  When I get out of jail, I hitchhike to Fort Worth and fall in with a hippie commune.  My 21st birthday party is busted by the cops and I go to jail for vagrancy and loitering.  After more adventures, I finally get back on the road for California.  Paperback, 163 pages, illustrated.  $9.00

Eight East

July 1968 – Busted by an undercover narc for the sale of mescaline while at Antioch College, I make a dramatic statement, resulting in a five-day evaluation in a mental hospital.  I give a symposium on the drug street scene to the staff, and discuss life, love, politics, and the meaning of life with the other inmates.

The Big One

February 1969 – Just as Californians roll with all the minor earthquakes, by 1969 I had been arrested four times but never served hard time.  But just as Californians dread The Big One, I was worried about The Big One bust, the one that would ruin my life.  My girlfriend Ann and I had bought a VW bus and decorated it hippie-style, then took off for a road-trip adventure to California.  I wanted to stop in Fort Worth to see my friends at the commune there (see Peyote above).  A group of us decided to attend a big underground film festival in Dallas, and eight of us dropped acid and piled into my bus.  After the event, the police pulled me over and searched the car.  Even though we’d been extremely careful not to have any illicit substances with us, they planted some roaches on us and hauled us all off to jail.  Under Texas law, since I already had an arrest record, the sentence for possession of marijuana was a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole.  My attorney told me, “If you walk into the courtroom, you’ll never walk out.”  This was indeed The Big One.

Pirates

January 1971 to August 1972 - “Caribbean Sailing Adventure.  Treasure-diving cooperative seeks volunteers to crew a sailing ship to the Caribbean to search for sunken treasure.  No experience necessary.”  I was then a 23-year-old hippie living in San Diego, and I couldn’t resist answering this mysterious ad.  I found myself a member of the Summerland Pirates, a strange "para-naval" adventure group of unforgettable characters and misfits, living outside the law and conventions, with a dream of sailing an antique sailing ship to the Caribbean to search for Spanish treasure.  With diving and cinema equipment, military vehicles, boats, and weapons, we drove across the continent to Nova Scotia, where we bought an old fishing schooner and set out into the winter North Atlantic.  Buffeted by multiple storms and the authorities of two countries, we worked our way down the east coast, first to Massachusetts, then Virginia, where Hurricane Agnes blew the ship from its anchorage and a near sinking almost ended my adventures. Paperback, 160 pages, illustrated.  $10.00

Warana

July 1973 to January 1974 – I set out to see the world and have adventures.  After nearly two years on a schooner in North Atlantic gales, I was looking for warmer water.  I flew to the Kingdom of Tonga, where my brother was training Peace Corps volunteers.  Although I loved the people and country of Tonga, my tourist visa expired and I had to leave.  With no money, my options were few.  Then I found a yacht that would take me on as navigator – Warana, the Australian nuclear protest vessel, bound for Mururoa atoll in French Polynesia, to anchor at ground zero to prevent the French from testing more nuclear weapons there.  I joined a disillusioned and discontented crew of misfits, all of whom soon gave up and returned home.  With the skipper Peter Sturgess and a crew of American hippies rounded up from waterfront bars, I began the voyage to Australia, visiting Fiji, New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), New Caledonia, Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.  There I helped refit the boat for racing and set out on the grueling 650-mile Sydney-Hobart open ocean race.  Paperback, 200 pages, illustrated.  $11.00


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