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Morning, Lake Merritt, Oakland

November 10th, 2001

To All The Pranksters
Today was a weird edgy day. One of the people at work invited all the vets out onto the lawn behind the building at noon for a shot of brandy to celebrate Veterans Day. I've shot some Veterans Day parades, usually pretty sparsely attended these last few years, although I suspect less so this Sunday, but other than photography I've avoided anything having to do with the military. The Vietnam era is not a time I remember fondly. The people I knew in the service, good friends, yes, but otherwise an experience I'd like to forget. I had that shot of brandy with twenty others, veterans of various eras, some of them from mine, some who served in Vietnam, and I've been feeling edgy since. Pissed. Upset. I obviously have issues.

I realize I'm not sure I want to go up and stay with my sister over Thanksgiving. The whole idea of the travel, a relatively tight schedule, Mr. Wuss here in the apartment - except I'll probably have to board him at the vet, something I promised never to do again - the fact my old landlord is arriving to look at the old apartment (cat urine in the rugs, chapter three), all of this has me a little crazy. Add the noon hour brandy with the vets, the situation at the office (They're getting ready to bounce a bunch of us out into the street and they're telling us nothing.), all of it leads to a certain level of madness in moi. Moi madness. Edgy. Weird.

It is now Saturday morning, after breakfast, after lunch, after noon. Wuss has put a puddle on the bed and I've just finished stripping the sheets and the cover, scrubbing the wet mattress with the cat pee cleaner. He's been bugging me to feed him, since the food in his dish has been there since this morning. Either the food goes off quickly or I've let him develop wasteful habits. I am not going to have another cat after this one, I think.

They announced on the news that Kesey has died of heart failure convalescing after anKen Kesey operation for liver cancer. There's a brief statement on the Intrepid Trips site by Ken Babbs. He was 66. A denizen of a parallel universe, one of those people you think about now and again - "what's he up to, how's he doing?" - just in case, well, you know, he might have stumbled onto something. Kesey, in word and deed, with bus and Pranksters, Neal Cassady at the wheel, forging his connection between Hippies and Beats, rolling on the road to God knows where: a voice, a presence, an attitude, if you will, to whom we all, at one time or another, paid homage. He was ahead of us out there on the edge, looking for what we were all looking for - now what was it exactly that we were looking for? A peaceful hour? The cosmic giggle?

Seems a long time ago, now, LSD and all that, crazy times, crazy people. Stupid, naive stuff, children dancing in jester's costume. Still, I remember, young, just out of school, just out of the army, alive, in one piece, looking, wondering what in the hell to do with myself, what was all this stuff going on all around me, the Beatles singing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Strawberry Fields Forever, wondering, wasn't there maybe something more to look forward to in this life than the narrow life and lives I'd lived and seen so far?

He was the twinkle in the eye, was Mr. Kesey, the fools cap and the scepter. A grin and a smile and a leer. We said hello a few times in those early seventies, he wouldn't have known me now from Adam, but I, like many, am happy to have been here on the same planet with him as he was passing by. Good luck, Ken. Good luck to all the Pranksters.

The banner photograph was taken in the early morning last weekend at Lake Merritt. Ken Kesey's photograph was taken from the Intrepid Trips web site.