Created by the late Bob Moomaw. Bob worked as a railroad clerk and tax assessor, but did not like either job. As an eccentric, independent artist with strong beliefs, he was able to give voice to his feelings, passions, and opinions through his art and the writing on the sides of buildings. He created the 62-foot-long artwork starting in 1992 to say something about his life and the era during which he lived. A nearby marker gives an interpretation of his work.
One and Only Hippie Memorial
While he was alive, Bob Moomaw was Arcola’s town crank. Not crazy-crank. Not village idiot-crank. A crank like Thomas Paine, Captain Nitwit, or Ski Demski: a patriotic thorn in the side of the powers that be. A guy who would defend with his life your right to flip him off, as well as his own right to paint incendiary slogans on his building located right on Main Street (which is why you flipped him off to begin with). A populist defending a populace that would just as soon he defend them from twenty miles down the road.
Arcola is a mixing pot of Roadside Quikcrete. A few miles away is Rockome Gardens, the Amish Amusement Park, known for its Haunted Barn and buildings made from empty bottles of caffeine-free 7-Up and Fresca. It was the birthplace of Johnny Gruelle,creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy. A local museum, monument and yearly festival honors them. Arcola is the “Broomcorn Capital of the World.” There is a gourmet French restaurant in a bowling alley (June 2005 – Oops, reported moved out of the bowling alley). This, in a town of 2,700 some forty miles from Champaign.
For many decades, Bob Moomaw lived and worked here. He served as a tax assessor and railroad clerk. He didn’t like either job. His joy and duty was painting messages of alert on the side of a building that he owned. According to a Chicago Tribune story from 1993, the messages included: “America you’re turning into a nation of minimum-wage hamburger flippers. Rebel. Think for yourself. It works!” And “Oh wretched world, more rank each day, and ruled by lunatics, the heroes have all gone away!” The messages changed several times a week, much like those on the outdoor signs of quirky motels, dry cleaners and churches.
He told the Tribune reporter: “My life has been the opposite of an adventure, it’s been one long dental appointment broken up by episodes of nothing happening.” Moomaw lost a leg to cancer in the late 80s and had bypass surgery just before starting the Hippie Memorial in 1992. In April 1998, Moomaw died of a heart attack, bequeathing the memorial to Gus Kelsey, a former Arcola hippie who had moved out of state. Kelsey refurbished it, and the city allowed it to be placed downtown, near the old railroad depot.
The artwork is 62 feet long, with each foot representing one year of Bob Moomaw’s life. The first 26 feet include The Great Depression, World War II and 1950s hypocrisy. “The idea is that as my life passed through time, other people’s junk stuck to me and made me what I am – the product of leftovers from a previous existence,” Moomaw said.
The middle section is higher and more colorful, representing the Kennedy years and the coming of the hippies. It salutes their influence on freedom of expression and dissent. One of the metal pieces during this period is a personalized license plate reading “WOODSTC.” Other scraps are brightly painted with many of the classic peace symbols, including the Vulcan double-fingered greeting from Star Trek. This colorful period runs some twenty feet, from 1960-1980, and presumably also includes Nixon, Viet Nam, Stagflation, the bear market of ’74-75, and avocado green station wagons.
Small mindedness returned in 1980 with the election of Illinois native Ronald Reagan, and the last 18 feet are embedded with plain rusted scrap.
The work was dedicated at the first (and apparently only) Hippie Memorial Festival in June 1999. Plans to add a hippie movement flag, Volkswagen Beetle and a “twirling, three-sided neon peace sign” never got together, man.
Sharon Moomaw, Bob’s wife, described the work in her dedication speech. It is reprinted on a large sign next to the memorial. This is good, because without it, a new visitor has no idea what is going on. For example, since his life post-hippie was nearly as long as his life pre-hippie, the higher, more colorful center section looks like a simple bow to symmetry — a concept we would think foreign to Moomaw.
The speech also makes it clear that he was a pot-stirrer, not a pot-smoker. (Well, maybe he was that, too, but you know what we mean) “Was Bob Moomaw a hippie? NO. He did have a beard and a ponytail while attending the university. He was THERE at the same TIME and PLACE as the hippies were, but he was raising his children then…to his shame, he was no hippie.”
Since he passed away, Moomaw’s America has become a different place, as shown by a new memorial in Arcola. The Hippie Memorial is on Oak Street. Just over the railroad tracks on Chestnut Street is a big marble monument urging remembrance.
Dedicated on Memorial Day, 2002, a black marble globe sits on top. Below it are chiseled quotes from Generals Patton and MacArthur, the Bible, Walt Whitman and George Bush, cheering fighting men and women. On both sides is a photo-etched American flag, with “Arcola, Illinois” and the zip code beneath in big letters. A time capsule is buried, to be opened on Memorial Day, 2052. At the far end of the little park are two small benches. One reads “Always Remember Dec. 7, 1941,” and the other reads “Always Remember Sept. 11, 2001.”
Bob Moomaw might have hated this park, but he would have defended its creators. They, in turn, have defended his Memorial in his absence. Which makes for a cranks’ gnash equilibrium – and another reason to visit Arcola.
GOOD OLD BRITISH RAIL
the old train
yells in his
he clips my
in the wet
THE ENGINE SIGHS
I hurry the
to the red
to the belly
of the earth
I hurry to be
RICHARD BRAUTIGAN -HIS LIFE-HIS BIOGRAPHY,A READING AND POEMS
The Brautigan PagesPosted by jen. Sponsor a Poet Page | Much of the information regarding Richard Brautigan’s life and death is uncertain. He was born in 1935 in Tacoma, Washington. His father left home before he was born, and his childhood was apparently a troubled one marked by poverty. He did not attend college. At some point in the mid-1950s, he left home for San Francisco, where he became involved in the Beat scene. In 1957, Brautigan married Virginia Dionne Adler, the mother of his only child, Ianthe. (They would divorce in 1970.) Although Brautigan, whose work largely defies classification, is not properly considered a Beat writer, he shared the Beats’ aversion to middle class values, commercialism, and conformity. Brautigan’s success as a poet was marginal. He published several slim volumes, all with small presses, but none of these received much recognition. It wasn’t until the publication of Trout Fishing in America (1967), which many consider his best novel, that Brautigan caught the public’s attention and was transformed into a cult hero. By 1970, Trout Fishing in America had become the namesake of a commune, a free school, and an underground newspaper. In 1972, Brautigan withdrew from the public eye and went to live on in a small home in Bolinas, California. In the eight years that followed, he only rarely accepted invitations to lecture and consistently declined to be interviewed. In 1976, he made his first trip to Japan, where he lived off-and-on until his death. There he met Akiko, whom he married in 1978; the marriage failed, and they were divorced two years later. During the year of 1982, Brautigan taught at Montana State University in Bozeman. He then withdrew again. In October of 1984, his body was discovered at his home; he had shot himself in the head some four or five weeks earlier. Richard Brautigan’s poetry collections include June 30th, June 30th (Delacorte, 1978), Loading Mercy with a Pitchfork (1975), Rommel Drives on Deep Into Egypt (1970), The San Francisco Weather Report (1969), and Please Plant This Book (eight poems printed on separate seed packet envelopes, 1968). His novels include The Tokyo-Montana Express (1980), Willard and his Bowling Trophies (1975), In Watermelon Sugar (1967), and A Confederate General from Big Sur (1964). Brautigan’s last novel was recently discovered and published posthumously, under the title An Unfortunate Woman (Rebel Inc., 2000). A Selected Bibliography Poetry June 30th, June 30th (1978) Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork (1976) Rommel Drives on Deep Into Egypt (1970) The Octopus Frontier (1960) The Return of the Rivers (1957) Prose Willard and His Bowling Trophies (1975) In Watermelon Sugar (1967) Trout Fishing in America (1967) A Confederate General From Big Sur (1964 – See more at: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/678#sthash.CI1wcSPh.dpuf
RICHARD BRAUTIGAN INTERVIEW AND POETRY
Books of The Times
In Pursuit of Pleasure and Trout
Richard Brautigan Biography, ‘Jubilee Hitchhiker’
Vernon Merritt III/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
By DWIGHT GARNER
Published: May 22, 2012
For a committed sensualist and prototypical hippie, a man who wore floppy hats, granny glasses, love beads and a droopy mustache that made him look like General Custer at an acid test, Richard Brautigan (1935-1984) had a potent work ethic.
The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan
By William Hjortsberg
Illustrated. 852 pages. Counterpoint. $42.50.
Alessandra Montalto/The New York Times
He wrote nearly every morning, regardless of keening hangovers. He spent the rest of the day, William Hjortsberg notes in “Jubilee Hitchhiker,” his sprawling and definitive new biography of this most offbeat of American writers, “in pursuit of happiness.” Happiness for Brautigan usually meant, to borrow the title of an undervalued W. M. Spackman novel, an armful of warm girl. In San Francisco, where he mostly lived, and elsewhere, he had groupies and would hit on “anything that wasn’t nailed down,” one friend commented. He put some of his favorite bohemian cuties on the front of his books. “Richard’s sexual archive,” another friend said, “is reflected on his book covers.” Happiness meant seeing plenty of movies. Once he began making money, in the early 1970s, it also meant good food (oysters, pork buns, the most expensive lobsters at The Palm steakhouse) and guns, which, when drunk, he would frequently discharge indoors. Brautigan and the film director Sam Peckinpah, a friend, once opened fire with a .357 Magnum and a .38 Colt at an alley cat through an open hotel room window.
Brautigan’s signal pleasure, though, from the time he was a young boy, growing up poor in a broken family in Tacoma, Wash., until the end of his life, was trout fishing. It was an obsession that fed his first and probably best novel, “Trout Fishing in America,” written in 1961 but not issued by a major publishing house until 1969.
Generations of anglers have picked up “Trout Fishing in America” based on its title alone, expecting a how-to volume. What they get instead is akin to a gentle tab of LSD: an eccentric and slyly profound novel, seemingly narrated by the ghost of trout fishing past and filled with surreal post-“Walden” visions like a dismembered trout stream for sale at a junkyard.
Brautigan wrote his best novels — “Trout Fishing in America,” “A Confederate General From Big Sur” (1964), “In Watermelon Sugar” (1968) and “The Abortion” (1971) — and books of poetry, notably “The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster” (1968) before fame swamped him in the early ’70s, when he was in his mid-to-late 30s.
He got rich suddenly and enjoyed himself vastly. His writing got woolier and worse, however, and the critics turned on him. He spent most of the money. His looks began to go. (One of his best-known poems is titled “My Nose Is Growing Old.”) Neurotic and increasingly in debt, he committed suicide with a handgun in 1984, at 49.
Critics have clashed over the merits of even his best stuff, many agreeing with Jonathan Yardley, who said that Brautigan was “the Love Generation’s answer to Charlie Schultz. Happiness is a warm hippie.” But the novelist Thomas McGuane, later to become a close friend, reviewed an omnibus edition of his early work with admiration in The New York Times Book Review. In a letter, the critic Malcolm Cowley called Brautigan’s poems, “pensées, like grasshoppers in flight.”
In this overly long but involving new biography, Mr. Hjortsberg, a novelist who was a friend and neighbor of Brautigan’s during his Montana years, nails the qualities that I’ve admired about Brautigan’s work, notably his “easy offhand voice, his concern for average working-class people, his matter-of-fact treatment of death, and his often startling juxtaposition of wildly disparate images.”
One of the merits of “Jubilee Hitchhiker” is that it not only tracks Brautigan’s life but also deftly flips open any number of worlds, from the Beat and counterculture scenes in San Francisco to gonzo times in Montana with writers like Mr. McGuane and Jim Harrison, and wildcats like Warren Zevon, Rip Torn, Jeff Bridges, Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton.
Brautigan was essentially a loner, but he had a Zelig-like quality and seemed to know everyone and go everywhere. He drank heavily in Western bars with the young Jimmy Buffett. He shot basketball and tore up money (a long story) with Jack Nicholson. He had an impromptu pasta sauce cook-off with Francis Ford Coppola. He drunkenly pointed a rifle at Wim Wenders, who had mildly criticized the translation in one of Brautigan’s German editions. Janis Joplin wanted him to name her new band.
Bored at a party one night, he hurled a brick through a window, a typical Brautigan performance. When the host screamed at him, he replied, “I don’t want things to be predictable.”
Brautigan and his three siblings grew up in and around Tacoma, Wash., (and later, Eugene, Ore.); his mother worked as a cashier, among other jobs. He never knew his father.He was a tall, shy, pale kid, a Boo Radley whom few at his high school paid attention to. He knew from a young age he wanted to write, but didn’t attend college.
When Brautigan was 20, sick with unrequited love for a girl named Linda, he wandered into a police station and asked to be arrested. To make sure he was, he threw a rock through a glass panel. He ended up in a mental institution, receiving electroshock therapy 12 times.
A year later, in 1956, Brautigan made his way to San Francisco, falling in with a scene that included the poets Jack Spicer, Robert Creeley and Gary Snyder. Allen Ginsberg didn’t like Brautigan, nicknaming him Frood. Brautigan was livid when the publicity material for his novel “A Confederate General From Big Sur” linked him with the Beats.
He slowly developed his literary style and cultivated his look. By the mid-’60s he was a San Francisco celebrity. He printed poems on seed packets and gave them away in a collection titled “Please Plant This Book.” He appeared regularly in Herb Caen’s popular San Francisco Chronicle newspaper column. In the late 1960s he published some two dozen short stories in his friend Jann Wenner’s new magazine, Rolling Stone.
Brautigan went national in 1969, when Delacorte Press published “Trout Fishing in America,” “The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster” and “In Watermelon Sugar” in one volume. Before long he dearly wished to shed his whimsical image.
He never could. When he got drunk and said something cruel about Mr. McGuane in public at a party, the author writes, Mr. McGuane spat back, “You’re nothing but a pet rock.” He then called Brautigan a “hula hoop” and concluded, “You should get down on your knees every day and thank God for creating hippies!”
Brautigan was a generous man who had a dark side. He was prone to anger and jealousy. He married twice but was never faithful for long. He was sexist, even for his time. He had a bondage fetish that spooked some women. He wrote a comic poem about venereal disease, but his own recurring bouts of herpes weren’t funny at all.
This jumbo-size biography is perhaps an odd tribute to a writer whose books were tiny, like small sachets of fragrant rice. It’s on the Robert Caro side of things. It’s total overkill. But it’s an enjoyable soak in American literary bohemia, and a cleareyed portrait of a man whom Mr. Hjortsberg aptly calls “a connoisseur of the perfect moment.” His book is full of them.
30 Cents, Two Transfers, Love
by Richard Brautigan
Thinking hard about you
I got on the bus
and paid 30 cents car fare
and asked the driver for two transfers
that I was
The Beautiful Poem
by Richard Brautigan
I go to bed in Los Angeles thinking
Pissing a few moments ago
I looked down at my penis
Knowing it has been inside
you twice today makes me
January 15, 1967
by Richard Brautigan
This poem was found written on a paper bag by Richard
Brautigan in a laundromat in San Francisco. The author is unknown.
By accident, you put
Your money in my
By accident, I put
My money in another
On purpose, I put
Your clothes in the
Empty machine full
Of water and no
It was lonely.
and then to lie silently
like deer tracks in the
freshly-fallen snow beside
the one you love.
by Richard Brautigan
It’s so nice to wake up in the morning all alone and not have to tell somebody you love them when you don’t love them any more.
LET’S NOT FORGET THE HIPPIES
San Francisco Oracle
The Oracle of the City of San Francisco, also known as the San Francisco Oracle, was an underground newspaper published in 12 issues from September 20, 1966, to February 1968 in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of that city. Allen Cohen (1940–2004), the editor during the paper’s most vibrant period, and Michael Bowen, the art director, were among the founders of the publication. The Oracle was an early member of the Underground Press Syndicate.
The Oracle combined poetry, spirituality, and multicultural interests with psychedelic design, reflecting and shaping the countercultural community as it developed in the Haight-Ashbury. It was arguably the outstanding example of psychedelia within the countercultural “underground” press, noted for experimental multicolored design. Oracle contributors included many significant San Francisco–area artists of the time, including Bruce Conner and Rick Griffin. It featured such beat writers as Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Michael McClure.
Every movement creates its own primary sources, and the hippies of 1967 San Francisco had a psychedelic one: The San Francisco Oracle. Published in 12 fantastic issues from 1966 to 1968, the Oracle is a fascinating artifact of the times.
With theme issues like “Youth Quake,” “The Aquarian Age,” “Psychedelics, Flowers, and War,” and “The Politics of Ecstasy,” the newspaper spoke directly to young people’s imaginations and concerns. Whimsical, hand-drawn ads touted bookstores, concerts, health food stores, coffeehouses, shops selling hippie fashions, and music sellers. And the publication’s wild page layouts, drawings, photo-collages and other graphics became icons of hippie culture.
Hippies sold the Oracle on Bay Area streets to support themselves, and the newspaper made its way around the world by subscription. Print runs grew to nearly 125,000 by issue #7. The editors estimated their circulation topped half a million when taking into account the number of people who shared each copy.
The Oracle’s articles, interviews, letters, commentary, and poems explored hippie consciousness in a variety of ways. For example, in issue #6, Tom Law wrote a piece called “The Community of the Tribe” that obliquely referred to Fifties consumer culture, the Cold War and the war in Vietnam, contexts in which hippie attitudes had emerged:
“We are all — squares and the psychedelically enlightened alike — involved in our world of now. To take up the call, to respond to the cosmic forces, we must be the hard-working, harmonious, respectful, honest, diligent, co-operative family of man. Our words are inspired. Our feeling is deep and complete. Our devotion is strong. The precious revelations which have come through us with increasing magnitude must be fathomed until we are one with each other and can extend our awareness beyond the tribe to our entire planet.
What is the natural karmic duty of a generation whose brothers, neighbors, and childhood friends now promote hate by killing innocent human beings around the world? It is to balance their jive and immature actions with the light of intelligent goodness; fearlessly to deal with the money-mad machine in order to release its hold on our bowels — the bowels of mankind.
Practically, this means that all excess profit is turned back into the community. That means all money, material things, food, etc., which are beyond the basic necessities of a happy, healthy, human existence…”
Read this reminiscience by Oracle co-founder Allen Cohen about how he first imagined a “rainbow newspaper,” or go to Regent Press to learn more about the Oracle (both links are to pages not on PBS.org).
Many thanks to Regent Press for the use of some of the original Oracle graphics on this Web site. Others provided by Ana Christy.