The Long Strange Golden Road by Courtenay Pollock - Chapter 1
I had spent an idyllic summer of 1969 in South Londonderry, Vermont on a 500-acre farm. We were a small commune of just five young men and four young gals. We did craft shows to cover our living costs and I had an extraordinary time creating the environment for the Stratton Fine Arts Festival at Stratton Mountain Ski Lodge just a 20-minute drive away. When fall came and the bitter winter weather of New England threatened we decided to vacate and I headed west to San Fransisco.
Arriving In the Haight ( by Ashbury ) I went into this tiny ( hole in the wall ) office advertising accommodation finders. I requested a place with rolling green hills and privacy which was the living style I had just left in our commune in Vermont.
They laughed and said they were about finding ‘Crash Pads’ for vagrants but one guy said: “Oh you want to live in Marin County where all the rock n’ rollers and rich dope dealers live”. Another guy said, “ Hey, there’s a man calling in to share his place in Marin right this moment “, and he handed me the phone.
I agreed to meet my potential housemate that afternoon.
I met with this fellow Gerry Buckley at the San Raphael greyhound station in Marin just after he got off work at 5 pm. He was, at that time, a straight accountant guy who had listed with that (hole in the wall) office called ‘Switchboard’ because he wanted to meet people from the ‘counter-culture’. He was disillusioned with the ‘Straight world’.
I was wearing a tie-dyed shirt and patched jeans and he wore a suit and tie. He had just got the rental for a two bedroom cottage in the Redwoods of this 150-acre private estate in Nicasio Valley. The house was built around two giant redwoods and still had a little stonework to finish on the chimney stack. The owners were affluent liberal people who wanted to share their largess with some worthy young folk The rent was only $80 a month, my half was $40. Wow! I had less than $100 so I paid up happily and still had funds for food.
Gerry said he’d heard there were some ‘Hipsters’ living down the road a little way so the following morning I wandered down the county lane with an eye open for a ‘Hipster’ house.
Nicasio valley road was open, rolling green hills on one side of the valley and Redwood forest on the other. The properties were on small ranchettes and private estates and as I walked by this one driveway I looked up and kind of recognized that this place was probably tenanted by ‘Counter Culture' people. I had walked up the driveway and seeing this fellow feeding horses in the pasture asked if anyone was in the ranch house for a visit. I chatted with this character Jerry Durham for a time and then went up to the house to introduce myself. That’s when I met little Frankie and she delightedly invited me in. At that time she was Bob Weir’s partner.
When I first got involved with the Grateful Dead the times were still filled with magic and great expectations. The company and crew were a host of unusual characters each one unique and colorful in their own ways.
My first meeting was with members of the road crew at Bob Weir’s house at the Rukka Rukka (Stud) Ranch in Nicasio valley road, Marin County, a then beautiful garden county across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.
I was invited in for coffee and refreshments by Weir’s then partner Frankie. She suggested I put up some of my art cloths around the room to show as the crew would be arriving ‘any time now’. As she came in with coffee and smokes some of the road crew drove in and came into the house. They stopped inside the living room to look at the tie-dyed panels on their way to their rooms and made noises of approval.
At the time I didn’t know who these people were.
“Far out man’, said Sonny Heard, “You can do our speaker fronts”. Rex Jackson stepped up and said, “ Right on Sonny, I’ll put it to the band “. Joe Winslow said “ Yeah man. Looks good“.
A little later I met Ramrod and Parish. I visited with them all for a bit and then thanked Frankie for the hospitality and said I would come by the following morning.
So that following morning I’m walking down the road to visit again and a car pulled up alongside me and this handsome, ponytailed young dude asked if I would like a ride. He asked where I was headed and when I told him he said “Well that’s my place” and we started chatting.
I had come across the country on a Greyhound bus following the advice I perceived from the throw of the ‘I Ching’ Chinese Oracle. ’Fortune in the West’ was the opening sentence of the first paragraph of my hexagram and so I had pooled my resources and got a bus to San Francisco.
So I’m just finished relating my journey to Bobby Weir when we arrive at the Rukka Rukka ( Stud ) ranch and he asks me if I need to make some money. I spent a few hours splitting and stacking firewood with an audience of hardcore roadies who’s ribald humour kept me going till ‘Chow Time’.
After dinner, Weir saw my artwork and approved the commission for covering the stage speaker fronts, after the band's approval of course.
I stayed around to party for a while with the guys and Frankie then Bobby Weir and I went for a walk. We found we shared many commonalities and both of us were into the tranquility of nature and cosmic attunement’. Bobby Weir at that time was really laid back and spaced into the moment. We were destined to be fast friends.
The next morning I went with Weir to the Front Street Studio and met with the band members who all approved me and my work to join their company. I had joined this motley family of cool and colourful folk.
To Be Continued... Chapter 2