A DIARY OF COMMUNITY CONSCIOUSNESS



(Chapter 6 of
Dreaming As One
Poetry, Poets and Community in Bolinas, California
1967 - 1980
)

by Kevin Opstedal

 


On July 6, 1971 a new publication hit the streets of Bolinas. The oblong newsletter featured this note on it's cover:

DEAR READERS,
    Welcome to the first issue of THE PAPER.
We hope you enjoy it and we also hope
that THE PAPER fairly represents our
town. We want THE PAPER to be a true
community paper, not the ravings of a
minority element. In this paper every-
body can rave. Each issue will be open
and flexible. The size, appearance,
and content will evolve with the needs
of our town. Hopefully our town will
be a place without fear, where under-
standing and sympathy are as strong as
the wind.

Edited and published by Bill Beckman, the first issue of The Paper sold for ten cents and carried a report on the School Board Meeting, an article on water conservation, gardening tips and a report from the Future Studies Center. The name ''Bolinas'' is never used in this first issue. In some places it is simply blanked out, other times only the initial B. is used. On the back was a photograph by Ilka Hartmann of an oil covered fist raised in defiance. The caption read ''lest we forget january 1971''. The Paper also carried this prohibition, ''NOT TO BE SOLD EAST OF MT. TAMALPAIS''.

The Paper was a significant change from Beckman's earlier bit of loony anarchy, The Bolinas Hit. It was a result of the oil spill and the rallying of the townspeople, who for the first time began to think of themselves as a community. While Bolinas had it's share of zonked-out hippies, there was among them not only a contingent of serious poets, but a very well-educated group of young people, several of whom were former 1960's campus radicals. After the wake up call that came in the form of the oil spill, it became clear that the only way for the town to survive was to come together, on a grass-roots level, and take over the destiny of Bolinas.

The strict growth limits and progressive land-use plans proposed by the Future Studies Center and executed by the BPUD were designed to keep the community small and manageable, on an ecological level. On another level, it was seen as a symptom of an isolationist paranoia (one that could be symbolized by the theft of the Bolinas road-sign, the first incident of which occurred around this time). To many this isolationism was a way of protecting Bolinas. It was taboo to mention the name ''Bolinas'' to anyone ''outside''. There were even plans proposed in The Paper to make Wharf Road and Brighton Ave one-way streets, pointing out of town.

Issues #7 and #8 of The Paper featured, in two installments, a Greg Irons cartoon entitled ''The Creature From The Bolinas Lagoon''. The cartoon, which originally appeared in the first issue of Berkson's magazine Big Sky, was an ecological horror story of what would happen to Bolinas if the proposed county sewer plan was put into effect.

Reading the early issues of The Paper, one can clearly track the new direction of Bolinas and the work in building a community. This community building was later documented by Orville Schell in his 1974 book The Town That Fought to Save Itself. Schell, a Bolinas resident, presented a social study of the Whole Earth Catalog mind-set of organic farming and community building that was at the core of life in Bolinas at that time. Illustrated with photographs by Ilka Hartmann, Schell's book is an useful window upon the central principles and concerns of the Bolinas community during this period.

Interesting to note that Schell, careful to observe the taboo of mentioning the name ''Bolinas'' to outsiders, changes the name of the town to ''Briones'' - Briones being the name of one of the early founding families of Bolinas.

2.
The Paper, which in 1973 was renamed Beaulines: A Diary of Community Consciousness, was the voice of the community. The ongoing reports of School Board and BPUD meetings kept the town aware of local politics, while various articles on composting, organic gardening, and local gossip all provide a window onto the general consciousness and concerns of the town. In issue #12 (April 8, 1972), there is a short piece entitled ''Friday Night'' which was ''gathered from contemporary reports'' by Lewis MacAdams. The article is an account of Greg Hewlitt getting ''fantastically drunk'' and generally raising havoc, which ultimately resulted in Greg breaking his shoulder and collarbone trying to make a getaway on a stolen bicycle. MacAdams, writing under the pseudonym Dorko Solingen, later had a regular gossip column called ''Constant Comment'' that appeared in Beaulines.

Poems also made the pages of The Paper and Beaulines. This was a community that valued and respected their poets, just as the poets, for the most part, valued and respected the community. Creeley, for example, wrote poems for the graduating class at the Bolinas School in '71, '72 and '73. However The Paper and Beaulines included not only poems from the many known poets who were living there, but poems by anyone who sent them in. This democratic editorship, printing just about anything what was given you, was to be employed later in a couple of other Bolinas publications, and is indicative of the philosophic bent of the community. The May 12, 1972 issue of The Paper included a small untitled poem by Ellen Sander:

I swear to God
Me and Angelica
w/Juliet
met a diabetic monkey
in a tree on Hawthorne
in the Sheriff's yard

and if that is not as good
as Tom or Bob or Lewis or Joanne or even Bill can do

You Can Kiss My Ass

As Lewis MacAdams said, ''It's all sort of obvious, but what the outside world thought of as the Bolinas poets was not quite who the Bolinas people thought of as the Bolinas poets. It included those poets, because everybody knew who they were and respected them, more or less, because there were a lot of literate people there, and there were some great poets, but a lot of people just weren't impressed by that.''

A long time Bolinas fixture is the Free Box on Wharf Road. The Free Box was a wooden box into which townspeople could place unwanted items, primarily clothing, that could in turn be taken by anyone who had use for them. Rescued from the Free Box, and finding its way into the hands of Joanne Kyger, was a journal kept by local boat-builder John Armstrong. An entry in that journal may well reflect the perception some Bolinas residents had about the proliferation of New York poets in the town circa 1970:

All the half-assed poets holding hands
New York City creep literary! scene.

Armstrong then immediately offers what he believes to be the Bolinas alternative, writing directly beneath the entry quoted above, ''John Thorpe - good for John Thorpe, so strong''.

3.
In 1971 Bobbie Louise Hawkins wrote a Bolinas column for The Point Reyes Light, a weekly newspaper published in nearby Point Reyes Station. The column, ''The Bolinas Other'', was a sampling of Bolinas social and cultural news, most of which featured the resident poets. The Thursday, October 14, 1971 column starts with the tale of ''Joanne Kyger's New Roof'' and goes on to a list of ''Great Books Lately Published by Locals'' Scenes of Life at the Capital by Philip Whalen, Desecheo Notebook by Joanne Kyger, 165 Meeting House Lane by Alice Notley, and Two Serious Poems and One Other by Bill Berkson and Larry Fagin. Hawkins makes mention of recent visitors (Robert Duncan, Gary Snyder, Richard Brautigan) and of Guggenheim grants awarded to Robert Creeley and Tom Clark. She lists some friends who are traveling (Whalen to New York, Lynn O'Hare to Oaxaca, Kearney to Disneyland, Berkson to ''the Big Apple''), and ends with a note about Donald Allen's new Grey Fox Press.

4.
Ted Berrigan and Alice Notley lived in Bolinas during the summer and fall of 1971. As Notley remembers, ''Ted was pleased to be near Bob Creeley, Joanne Kyger, Bill Berkson, Tom Clark, etc., but he found the organic vegetable and milk your own goat scene extremely delirious- making.''

Notley and Berrigan stayed with Lewis MacAdams during their visit. As MacAdams remembers, ''There was never anybody less real in Bolinas than Ted. Except at night. He and Alice were doing a lot of speed and so they never wanted to be out in the daylight. They'd stay in and read and come out at night. Alice never went out, Ted went down to the bar.'' MacAdams also felt that Berrigan had no patience for MacAdams' interest and involvement in local politics. ''It just didn't seem worthwhile to him,'' said MacAdams.

Berrigan and Tom Clark wrote a book-length collaboration entitled Bolinas Eyewash. A very brief excerpt from Bolinas Eyewash appeared in The Paper, (#7, Nov. 15, 1971) , and an excerpt titled ''8 Snippets from Bolinas Eyewash'' was printed in 1972 in a little magazine out of Chicago called Oink.

The manuscript of Bolinas Eyewash is 103 pages of very free association, or disassociation, all swirling about the Bolinas scene of 1971. Nothing, and no one, is sacred:

Last Friday night the Attorney General of the State of California filed suit against the people of Bolinas to wit that the people of Bolinas cease to dispose of their sewage in their customary matter at once, or pay a fine of $6,000 a day until they do so. Mr. Shao Thorpe of Hawthorne Road replied, ''I don't have any money but I'll be glad to give the Attorney General some of this here broccoli.''

- - - - - - - - -

The word of mouth network plugs you in to what's happening inside everybody else's houses, even if you never go there, & don't even want to.

- - - - - - - - -

BOLINAS
get, in the complexity of our present
responsible elements seething between
impasto excitation & somber, subtly evoked granduer.

- - - - - - - - -

I run into the popular novelist; he's seated on a fireplug at the corner of Barf Road & Wrighton Ave. I ask ''what's happening?'' & he reply, ''Well I'm just waiting for Lewis MacAdams who's gonna meet me here, wearing a hamburger.''

- - - - - - - - -

The professionals are convinced that Bolinas would be an ideal precedent setter for the proper management of human waste.

- - - - - - - - - -

Tommy Nobis & MacArthur Lane come over for dinner with Bob Creeley, John the Butcher, Lucy Rose & young Gus. A good time is had by all except or maybe especially Bob, who keeps wrapping Scotch Tape around his head & yelling things like ''Iwo Jima'' and ''Not Absurdly!''.

- - - - - - - - - -

We swear not to give in to the outside forces that want to twist our words and our tongues and ignore our wishes and dreams of a wide berth on the planet in harmony with our brothers and sisters by pressuring us into a surf ghetto bordering on further subdivisions of the meatball, right?

- - - - - - - - -

It is God's wish that no waste be discharged into any water. We must maintain integrity with the mountains & the sea. Waste is waste, that's all there is to it.

- - - - - - - - -

Every day another Chlorine Rap.

Berrigan's clock wasn't right for Bolinas. He was a big city guy and the pastoral setting of Bolinas just didn't work for him. In his poem ''Things To Do In Bolinas'', Berrigan lists such interesting activities as ''watch the natives suffer - freeze & sleep - yearn for city lights.'' In a piece entitled ''From Journals: BOLINAS'', published in The World in 1973, Berrigan offers this summation:

Bolinas, in the final analysis, for you, for me, there is, alas, quote unquote No Use.
                              The black eye is your favorite salutation.
I don't have time to suffer.

 


 
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