When Bill and Hillary were living in Berkeley in 1971, a period described by the NY Sun The Clinton's Berkeley Summer of Love, American Digest's Gerard Vanderleun was coincidentally living 4 blocks away.
By 1971 I'd been around Berkeley and the Bay Area for some time. And I was there, living in a house on corner of Fulton and Ward streets not more than four blocks from the Derby Street apartment. If the Clintons ventured outside onto Telegraph Avenue at all we would have passed each other on the street, skulked around Cody's books, and had cappuccino at the Med. On this you can bet your stash of primo Afghan hash.
While every time and place is unique, Berkeley, 1971 was that rarer thing: storied, that is to say celebrated in popular memory, as in Pearl Harbor, December 7 1941. Everyone from out of such a time and place is compelled, like the Ancient Mariner, to tell his tale. And Gerard says:
And I am here to tell you that there was no such thing as an unstoned student activist/hippy living in that neighborhood at that time. It was non-stop sex, drugs, rock and roll, and activism. I know. I was there. And while I don't remember everything, I remember a lot. More than I should given the quantity, quality, and diversity of the drugs that were on the scene, on the street, and in the bodies of all of us at the time in that place. ...
So unless the Clintons were very, very unhip at the time.... and we have it on his own good authority that our sax playing, jive talking, hypercool ex-president is the hippest statesman in the world... unless they were very odd, then they were -- off and on -- very stoned.
Read the whole thing.
One of the things people know less about is how the echoes of the Summer of Love played out 8,000 miles west across the Pacific. I was at the time spending my weekends around the mudflats, high grass and shanties of a town called Taguig, hard by a huge lake across which the dominating peak of Mount Makiling bulked, a place about as different from Berekely as could be. And yet a surprising number of the things that Gerard mentions -- such as for example the music albums -- occupied exactly the same place in my memory as it does in his. I may not have been typical in this respect; one of my other hangouts was with a small group who seemed to be determined to participate in the Summer of Love at long distance. I can still remember coming in from the rain and hearing someone play the chords from Blind Faith that seemed to describe the entire time and place.
Come down off your throne
And leave your body alone
Somebody must change
You are the reason
I've been waiting so long
Somebody holds the key
Well, I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time
Well, I'm wasted and I can't find my way home
I didn't do any drugs at all; not out of virtue but out of a kind of vanity. I was the mystery man with my own special ju-ju; and felt that would vanish if I took a toke. So I stayed away from drugs (and never smoked a cigarette either) and kept the mystique. But I did play endless rounds of Killer, which was a game in which you tried to guess which member of the drinking circle had a slip of paper with "K" on it. And if you guessed wrong you knocked back some vodka. That game usually went downhill pretty fast. And then it was out into the rain to get back home to study -- if you could call it that, for university classes I attended. And as I looked back at the light streaming out the doorway, a doorway I know is gone now -- I'm sure Gerard -- and possibly Bill and Hillary -- can guess what lyrics were running through my head.
In the quiet silent seconds I turned off the light switch
And I came down to meet you in the half light the moon left
While a cluster of night jars sang some songs out of tune
A mantle of bright light shone down from a room
Ahead lay many things: the anti-Marcos underground, Harvard, family, career, the Belmont Club. Maybe there's still a little more to go.