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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

3-4-24 PDF
March 4, 2024
2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Peace, Keez

Heard the news on my answering machine. Decided to take the long walk, the last trip, huh? Ken Babbs wrote that even in death you did well, just stole away in the middle of the night of the 10th, 3:45am. I’ve got to say it suits you. You never seemed one for a lot of hoopla. A lot of people from my generation probably don’t even know who you are. And yet, your fingerprint, your day-glo impression, has been imprinted on the consciousness of America, like a tab of blotter on the tongue.You brought us the Grateful Dead; you’ll be sainted for that alone. Though they were the Warlocks when they were the house band for the Acid Tests. But without you to throw those parties, to expand the minds of American youth like stretching a slinky over the edge of a cliff, we’d have none of Jerry’s sweet leads, no travelling thirty-year tradition of love and music and kindness. I can practically see the light of you and Jerry’s halos gleaming off this page from above.Without the Dead, the acid tests, your vision to bring consciousness in the form of LSD laced chili and Kool-Aid to the folks out west, there would have been no Haight-Ashbury, no Summer of Love, no Merry Pranksters, no Furthur bus, no story for Tom Wolfe to tell. You were the one that made it happen, Keez. You were the man behind the movement, the man the US Government feared was going to take over the world with his legions of long-haired hippie freaks, the “salt in J. Edgar Hoover’s wounds.” You helped bridge the gap between the Beats and the Hippies, making Neal Cassady, the hero of Kerouac’s “On the Road,” the Merry Pranksters’ personal driver, twisting that day-glo school bus down the mountain roads, through the Midwest plains, and the city streets of America tripping out all the folks in between. And yet, when an eighteen year-old kid on his first road trip passing through Eugene, OR looked up your name in the Yellow Pages and called you up to say he was an admirer of your life and work, (he lied, you were really his lifetime hero, the prototype for the man he wanted to be) you didn’t tell him to get lost, or even that you were busy. Instead, you invited him and his friend up to your farm in Pleasant Hills.When they got there, your wife, Faye, escorted them out to the Bus barn where you stashed Furthur when it wasn’t tripping across the US, (empty then, it was on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the summer). You were working, (you stayed busy until the day you died, “a natural born world-shaker.”) but you invited them to sit down and relax, offering them Dixie cups full of the Olde English from the 40 oz. you and Babbs were drinking. Then you rapped with them about the past, showed them videos of that legendary bus trip in ’64,’ answering all the questions they asked with a courtesy, patience and humor seldom seen in those that have forged a new world from their hands, (and head). You led them outside and showed them how to paint their yellow VW bus, tracing trails in the dust around the decals on the back: “This is great. You just work with what you’ve already got. School bus yellow’s a better base to work with than white.” Then you told them to follow Happy, your dog, across the field out into the woods where the real one, the first Furthur was parked, and had been parked, for the last thirty years. Happy led them over a creek bed and a single-board bridge, into the mossy wood behind your house. And there it was, rusting, trees growing through it, inert since you parked it there: the bus Neal drove, the one the Dead packed their equipment into, the bus Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary reclined in, the Cuckoo’s Nest itself. You refused to give it up to the Smithsonian even though they begged you for it, (they called you on the replica you drove out and tried to pass off to them).You probably saw it written on their faces as they returned across the field to thank you and part ways, a dream had been fulfilled, the history and the source of all they loved and admired had been revealed and they had touched it, smelled it, received a contact high off it.And when the kid that called you stopped by again three years later with his girlfriend, you invited them to follow you to work. Babbs, once again was there, asleep on the couch: “I’d get up, but I’m lyin’ down,” he said. Once again you entertained without thinking about it, these strangers, like so many before them, who had shown up at your door. Dropping tidbits of history, quick-quipped jokes, and gems of knowledge into their eager minds, all the while grinning that sideways grin you wore as naturally as a boy wears a mud-puddle. Then you excused yourself to pick up supplies, paints to for the tie-dye party you were throwing to paint the video-cassette boxes for the film of the ’64’ bus trip you and Babbs spent thirty years editing, (a hundred hours of footage cut down to two). But just before you left, the kid commented quickly how weird it was to talk to someone he admired so much just like he was talking to a friend.”It’s weird on both ends, kid.”So here’s to you Keez. Here’s to a man who rocked the boat early, and made it take in water ever since. You never ran the risk of missing the next big thing, because you were always it, forging a path across consciousness in a trippy school bus, (Washington couldn’t have done it any better). You brought it all to you man, and then you gave it all to us. Give a nod to Jerry for me, would ya? I’m sure you’ve got a lot to discuss. I won’t be able to attend your memorial service-bummer. I can imagine the scene. I’m sure you’ll tell me all about it when we see each other again someday, through that angelic, golden grin. But for now, I’ve got my own history to make, and further, so much Furthur to go…

Erik FoleyCAS, ’02