Library of Articles

  • Library: Articles

button down Print-ready version

by Rhymer McClure
San Francisco Good Times
September 18, 1969
Original article: PDF

The drive down Highway 1 to Big Sur is a delight. All that sky and ocean, the cliffs, the winding road, the Provinces and the Fort Ord rifle range. The last sight is the only touch of unpleasantness in all the 160 miles or so from the City to the Esalen Institute. It's a drive like that that puts you in the right frame of mind. You're out of the City and your lungs are about to burst with good clean Pacific Ocean/country air. Wow! You're feeling fine! and ready to hear some of the best music around.

You park your car and head for the sign - Esalen Institute, Reservations Only - something slightly evil about signs like that, but you don't think anything more of it, 'cause you're here to get behind that music. You see hundreds of folk sitting along the highway looking down at a speck of blue that seems eternally far away. Then you realize that these people are not going in, and you wonder why. So we stand in line to get tickets. That'll be eight dollars. You shell out the bread and then step to another table to get your hand stamped. Down the asphalt road to that speck of blue, but you are stopped about five times by the people wearing Y in Yang buttons of red and blue who speak out brutally - lemme see your stamp - oh groovey, man, go right on. Five checks I say to myself? What the fuck. The speck of blue is a swimming pool and behind it are the musicians. Joni Mitchell is just coming on.

Well, it's true, some of the best music around was there, but there was something in the air other than Ocean/country freshness, something low key and something subtly pungent.

Joni Mitchell is really a fine woman. Her singing, pregnant with strong sensitivity and quiet gentleness and her presence, created a good mood. Joan Baez did an a cappella thing that moved the surrounding hills with its beauty. Dorothy Morrison is simply out of sight. She is polished and very heavy. Her singing, gospel rock perhaps, is loaded with exuberance. She makes joyful music. Crosby, Stills & Nash - you've already heard what they were into. They're the very best anywhere.

While all this is going on, the Esalen people are also going on. They are ugly. If you happen to be in that posh upper middle class "hip" set, you might get the idea that they are far out, but we know where that's at. Let me tell you a little about these Esalen creeps. The show was four bucks, right? Well, not everyone in the world has that, including many of the people who were sitting on the rocks along Highway 1 in front of Esalen. Some of these people tried to sneak in. I hope lots of them made it. I saw one guy emerge from the woods, that great free road, only to be apprehended by the Esalen robots. You gotta pay. I got no bread. You gotta pay anyway. I can't. And he walked on. The robots grabbed him, threw him to the ground and kicked the shit out of him. That, I guess, is how Esalen feels poor people should be dealt with - remember, Esalen Institute, Reservations Only.

Everywhere I looked there were these robots in their blue and red Y in Yang buttons pushing, shoving and being nasty and rude and inhuman to people. I had several run-ins with the Robots, one of which is very telling: You got a button? (I must have heard that one seven thousand times). You see, I was on the blue speck area, with my camera, getting ready to photograph Sunday's doings, and that area was restricted to those with BUTTONS. No, but I gotta press pass and I was here all yesterday with no hassle. You gotta have a button to be here. The cat was really nasty too, no humanity. Add seven more Robots, all being nasty and uptight at once - where's your button where's your button? You gotta have a button.

Scene now getting very heavy; I'm surrounded by uptight Robots and they are beginning to push me. You gotta go to the office and get a button. But I shot all day yesterday without a "BUTTON." I'm real. Get to the office, fucker or anywhere else, just get outta here, you got no button. These people are now very ugly, pushing and pulling me, who is just a little confused and put off at this point. Sure, man, I'll go get your button, but first let me tell you a little something about Esalen. I don't want your opinion, you fucker, get out. The pushing is now very intense, even manic. We don't give a shit what you think, the robots chimed in. Said one particularly ugly robot - I saw you here yesterday. I don't like your style and I don't want you in here today, understand? Get out.

Don't you guys see what I'm trying to say about Esalen? Don't you understand anything? Well, they didn't see or understand that they are paradyme creeps with uptight, possessive, self-righteous minds and no souls or hearts. They 86ed me. Went to the office after I dusted myself off and talked to the Issuer of Buttons. He gave me what I wanted and bemoaned the Festival at length and all of US - you and me, brother - for being invaders and plunderers of God's own children's ESALEN INSTITUTE, RESERVATIONS ONLY.

Esalen's idea of a Folk Festival is my idea of an Esalen Freak Show at the most sordid of Esalen carnivals.

Copyright protected material on this website is used in accordance with 'Fair Use', for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of the copyright owner(s). Please read Notice and Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement.

Comments on button down

Comment using your Facebook profile, or by registering at this site.

You must be registered and log in to add a permanently indexed comment.

Facebook comments