April 11, 2022by Jon Kramer

Psychedelics, Part 1 Go Naked

Copyright 4-11-22  /   635 words

by Jon Kramer

Nonfiction.  These events took place around 1970 in Maryland.

In the late 1960s / early 1970s – during the height of Free Love and the Vietnam War – such was the schizophrenic nature of the cultural beast at the time – the social situation in the mid-Atlantic was dismal.  There was violent unrest in many places and curfews were commonplace in many east coast cities.  One of these was the Maryland beach capital of Ocean City – OC, to those in the know – where only essential workers were allowed to move freely between sundown and sunup.

Despite this impediment, our family flew the coop of the nation’s capital and made for Ocean City multiple times each summer.  We’d rent a cottage outside town, a few blocks from the beach.  The place had only two bedrooms, so our parents took one, Diane the other, and Mike slept on the fold-out sofa-bed.  My brother Bill and I would sleep outside on the porch, joking around and talking late into the night, as if we were camping.  The rhythmic cadence of the waves lulled us to sleep.  We loved it.

To this day, and for the rest of my days I’m sure, the sound of waves – be it the gentle lapping along Precambrian granite at a Northwoods campsite, or crashing thunder along a rocky California serpentine coastline – bring me great comfort.  If, in the decrepitude of advanced years, my mobility ever becomes limited, I pray my residence will be nearby the shore, close enough to hear the waves, just as Pablo Neruda’s Casa de Isla Negra in Chile, or Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House in Carmel, California, both of whom chose the seaside as their final place of rest.

At the time, the surf shops and tourist traps in OC featured the sunny rainbow colors of Peter Max and the trippy posters from Zap Comix artist Rick Griffin, whose avant-garde psychedelic expressions were employed by, among others, the Grateful Dead.  Jimi Hendrix was the feature in the accompanying store audio with hits like Crosstown Traffic and Are You Experienced.   All these artists will be subjects of future Psychedelics series, so you needn’t Google any of them just to be hip – I’ll dial you in later.

Although our parents were very liberal and not what kids would call – in the parlance of the time – “uptight”, they were concerned about us becoming “radicalized”, whatever that meant…  So whenever the family went to the beach, they naturally were a little guarded about where we’d wander off to.  Nonetheless, my siblings and I would disappear on occasion, as kids do, and venture into Boardwalk counterculture headshops and ratholes.  On these forays we’d come back with whatever trinkets our allowances could afford.

Of all the swag we purchased and brought back to the beach house over the years, I remember only one item in particular, and it wasn’t even my own.  One sunny day ( I always remember those beach days as sunny) we, as a little group of sibling hellions, took off from the confines of parental oversight and ducked into one of the many psychedelic storefronts along the Boardwalk.  As Diane, Mike, and I ogled over black-light posters, incense burners, and lava lamps, our younger brother Bill wandered through the shop without much interest.  When we all finally got to the counter with our junk, Bill had picked out only one tiny little button – about the size of a quarter – which he promptly attached to his T-shirt.  On a white background with dark blue letters, it summed up reality as we would have it.

It read, simply:  GO NAKED

Mom had a fit.

Dad laughed.

Bill wore the button.