In 1968, I was 16 years old and The Summer of Love was well under way, the new generation had thrown off the rockabilly yelps of the early part of the decade and the blue Swede shoes and white bucks made famous by Elves Presley and Pat Boone dissolved into a short life and a footnote in history.
The sounds were electric and tense, wild and untamed and the majority, including the friends I would “Hang With,” were listening to the music of Jimi Hendrix, The Cream , Santana, Traffic, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, The Animals, Janice Joplin, Jim Morrison, Deep Purple, The Who and anything that screamed, “We are, a new generation who will change the stale antiquated ideas of this stuffy world into something our parents could never fathom” and they most certainly, did!
It was during this time growing up in a southern Carolina beach resort where the official state dance was the SHAG, and stock cars were considered red neck yet beautiful, where a case of beer in the back seat with no more than two open containers was legal and where I developed a passion that controlled my every waking moment for the next 20 years. It was 1968, the summer was hot, James Brown could be heard each morning as you passed those old beachside hotel kitchens where black cooks prepared breakfast for resort guests that ventured from there upcountry estate down to the strand for two weeks when the mills closed and where boys like myself, not yet in there teens, yelled as they walked down the center of the street outside those grand historical boarding houses of another age “Charlotte Observer, Morning Paper” on their paper route, hoping someone in one of the many screened porch beach houses on Ocean Boulevard would holler down, “Come here boy” and they’d give you a dime for your paper.
This passion, this one amazing thing I couldn’t stop thinking about, which took me too far off places into nature as a part of its creation and set me upon gossamer wings to conquer the universe, which lifted me at 12 years old far beyond those southern beaches and nights at the pavilion into a world of celebrity was introduced to me by my best friend and hero at the time, Keith Thompson and is something, I have carried with me, in my soul and bones that construct my frame until this very moment, Surfing.
As I grew into my teens during the much talked about drug culture, listening to the music that defined a generation and experimentation with any and everything that was given to you or you had learned about through friends seemed acceptable. It was then, when we were vaulted on those warm, humid windswept weekends to the sounds which filled the air as we cruised by our usual 7/11 and one of us would, under our coat, smuggle a bottle of Bali High or Ripple from the cooler, that we would then head straight to one of the many local nightclubs searching for rock n roll and someone we could love for the rest of our lives.
Easy Rider, The Graduate, Barbara Ella, The Pink Panther, Endless Summer and all of the Bond movies were the rage at the drive-ins during that time where we would scape up enough money to purchase a ticket or two for our driver and his girlfriend as six of us would stuff ourselves into the trunk, kicking each other and occasionally passing gas in hopes of choking any survivors that hadn’t been kicked in the head, always anticipating free surf films or that special feature flashing on the marquee.
Surfing was our life. A culture, a bond, a fraternity sanctified in blood, a family of young men who sought more out of life than any other sport could pull from ones soul, where each day was a competition and being the one to go beyond the edge of our space whether in the water or during those long party filled nights was expected if you wanted to belong. As we traveled from one contest and beach break to another, always looking for that “Endless Summer’s” perfect wave, winning contests and proving that the Carolina’s did have surfers who could rip apart any swell that made its way to our coast. We surfed for surfboard companies and local shops that sold boards like Gordon and Smith, Hobie, Weber and Surfboards Hawaii and lived a lifestyle that surrounded the new, and at the time thought to be a fad, which kept us pumped and in search of the next free board, all of the Hamburgers with fries we could eat, free t-shirts and baggies as well as the chance to meet and embrace all of those bikini clad local girls who showed up on the beach looking for the next East Coast Champion or their date that night.
But I digress!
During that era there was a band from San Francisco whose female singer by the name of Grace Slick (yes she was hot) could melt ones heart (in an Acid Rock sense) as she sang, in a raspy voice, about mystical adventures with undertones of drug laden excursions that only those in the sub-culture’s of the late 60’s could relate. Songs that spoke of fantasy, imagination and knowledge, specifically directed towards anyone who wanted to, as we would say, “turn on and tune out” there music offered the opportunity (especially if you were seeing images that you would swear were real, of melting faces, musical notes streaming from juke boxes as songs played, or rain drops which as they fell on a window would turn into glowing worms that vanished when reaching the sill) to lose yourself without ever taking one step.
Once such ballad by this group, Jefferson Airplane, revolved around a mystical character named Alice from , “Alice in the Looking Glass” (we had all heard that Lewis Carroll experimented with drugs as had Edgar Allen Poe and even Disney) who ventured beneath the earth into a make believe world where hookah smoking caterpillars sat atop amanita mascara mushrooms and where magical rabbits shout nonsensical questions at anyone, ever attempting to discover what time it was or if he were late for a very important date, where royalty was comprised of a deck of cards and where fantasy exponentially grows yet never ends.
A magical song with lyrics that anyone from that untamed generation could relate and where screams resounding from each metal string sent acid filled minds into macabre tremors, where lights burned down upon performers in unorthodox costumes providing those watching with a spectacle never before experienced. It was true acid rock, fantasy driven, heart pounding love, with sounds that created emotional eruptions within indescribable sensations beneath the radar of a generation from which we had evolved and never deciphered by any disciplinary figures in our lives at the time. It was a code, a journey, a reason for what we were doing and and pulled from the roots of our misguided youth, whether good or bad, a reason for whom we were at that moment with justification for what we were doing.
WHITE RABBIT embodies all of the things I have referenced plus the introduction of my children into the mix. All three beautiful, all three gifted and all three musicians who appreciate everything from Death Metal to classical rock, techno to Jazz, all three who understand that in life the choices one makes have consequences, all three have at one time or another influenced my paintings. When producing this piece last winter, I was dancing through an emotional and awakened process that included reconnecting with my youngest son after a rough divorce and seeing his incredible, yet under pursued talent as a guitarist and song writer. Like musicians in the 60’s or surfers who attempted to find life and it’s answers in waves, he as well as all members of a younger generation seem to think that they are the first to ask “that” question, the first to challenge beyond the norm and to ride that untouched wave of new found knowledge that will open the door to answers always sought but never solved. They know more, they know better and they know for certain that their generation will discover a new and evolutionary change in humanity that their contemporaries missed which elevates them into a place that no one had ever been. A place that, once seen as clouds break, where God and only God allows us to be, a world that has everything to offer and where if one reaches for the notes of music they dream about they will discover that it is only LOVE, that in the end matters.