SECTION SIXTEEN 

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COLUMN NINETY, MAY 1, 2003
(Copyright 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)

BOOK REVIEWS


 (Copyright " 2003 Joyce Metzger)

AsEverWas, memoirs of a beat survivor by Hammond Guthrie; SAF Publishing Ltd., London, England, 2002 (H/B D/J 224pp)

'the first page is so marvelous it should be published as is."     --Richard Kostelanetz

"When we played in Portland, Oregon Hammond entertained us backstage with fragments of his psychedelic memories leaving me itching to hear more. AsEverWas provides the perfect  vehicle for me to do so.                  "Nick Saloman, The Bevis Frond

"A good record of experience, and memoirs are the in thing!?     --Barry Miles

"Hammond Guthrie is an extraordinary writer who has been there, done it and has now written the book. An important yet rather anonymous figure of the alternative scene from the 60s to the present day " Hammond has rubbed shoulders with enough pranksters, activists and psyche delic rock legends to form a dozen supergroups.  AsEverWas documents these fascinating times in Hammond's inimitable way.                                                 --Adrian Shaw, The Bevis Frond

Hammond Guthrie was born in California to C.Robert and Sonya Guthrie, but we soon learn that his parents were divorced at his early age of four years old. Hammond's father was a well known criminologist who "occasionally served as an unidentified advisor to sitting Presidents, the FBI, and to the anonymous Directors of Central Intelligence."  C.Robert Guthrie was remarried later to  Arlene. They resided at that time in South Pasadena but their passion became a sailing boat.

Hammond Guthrie got his start in the submerged community when he collaborated with a number of luminaries, including Del Close; director of The Committee and end City, "Hube the Cube? Leslie, Philo T. Fransworth III; son of the inventor of television, Liam O?Gallagher, William Seward Burroughs III, John "Hoppy? Hopkins of the Arts Lab in London, Emmett Grogan of The Diggers, and Robert Jasper Grootveld; mentor for the Amsterdam Provos.   A multi-talented artiste, Hammond's non-representational paintings are represented by Vorpal Gallery, 393 Grove Street in San Francisco.

During the mid-60s when free love, acid tests, merry pranksters, hipster music and draft dodging were in vogue, Hammond hung out in Los Angeles and San Francisco with the myriad of West Coast freaks and beatsters who actively engaged in the birth of the hippie movement.

"I really didn't know much if anything truthful about the Hell's Angels, but I knew enough to be very polite, and thanked them for intervening on my behalf".

"I went to school with the potentially rich and semi-famous sons of some of America's elite. The son of TV's Edgar "Judge Roy Bean? Buchanan; Tony Miller, scion to the bawdy Henry Miller; and Pete Levy, child to one of the famous Andrew sisters."    (Guthrie quotes from AsEverWas).

'take the Acid test? (Ken Kesey), became an open invitation for Hammond Guthrie's inquisitive initiation to LSD during a foray to the "Futhur," Ken Kesey's traveling, psychedelically painted touring bus.  Later, with his roommate Chip, Hammond explored Tijuana, Mexico where they met the harsh reality of a drunken wild bash, while being relieved of all their cash.

Hammond's words swing from aggressively intellectual to ardent expressionism, from youthful naivete to risky adventuresome. Often the memory of raw emotions take precedence over the coherence of any sane action.  He constructs a social and cultural portrait of the gritty environs of a scrappy beat life criss-crossed by bouts of lucid word activity (initially via music and art), sheer luck, socio-contacts, and random wanderings, from the USA to London, Paris, back to London, Amsterdam, Spain and then later, to Morocco.

His exploits, after marrying Wendy, included moving to England and immersing himself in theworld of International Times, London's UFO club and the nascent 'time Out."  The free wheeling personable Hammond always "lucked out."  We learn of his globetrotting spurred by marijuana, drugs of choice, and the freedom to act accordingly, almost without restriction, from any authority.  We learn about divine intervention, hardboiled karma, red chalk circles and the exhilaration of nimble, carnal minded spirits as fast motion dwindles to slow motion, trickery, chicanery and confessions lubricated by seldom-aborted plots and experimentation conceived in often befuddled, but dangerous minds.

Within a fractured time sequence, as readers, we learn that the globe trotting Guthries and their expatriate friends simply had too much fun, cared little about authority, and were able to easily circumvent most trouble.  One seldom finds true love without feeling that certain touch of ferocity, disappointment and fable wrapped around all events.

There are comic moments, sadness, poignant desires, and almost despair, but for all the oomph, one senses the balloon will not soon burst, the hapless and hopeless will regain footing, and stalwart characters will emerge to bow as the perspective shifts from deeply insecure screw-up, to the delicious redemption within the near-silence of a missed heartbeat.  We have been introduced to the meeting, and connection between, Guthrie and Allen Ginsberg; to his life-long friendship with "Hube the Cube? Leslie,  David Harris, Richard Brautigan, Bob Levy, Del Close, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

"A true astronaut of the beyond, Del's astute knowledge of all things obscure and his quiet con sumption of inspiring narcosia were prolific. Ever the improvisationalist, he cured his monstrous addiction to cocaine through Witchcraft and became the coven's Warlock,? Hammond Guthrie writes.   Del Close was a member of the Compass Players ensemble with Elaine May, Mike Nichols and Severn Darden. He played the conjurer Svengali, was in American Graffiti, and The Untouchables with Sean Connery.  "In the 1960s Del and the late poet/actor John Brent recorded a hilarious album, and in the late 1980s Del was responsible for Saturday Night Live hosting writer William Burroughs, who exquisitely drawled from his cut/up novel Nova Express."

Of Allen Ginsberg, Hammond writes; "We sat for an hour or so in the Express, reading Allen's correspondence and chatting. Allen was quite friendly in a strictly non-sexual way, and after catching up on Hubert (Hube the Cube) we exchanged on the spot poems and mailing addresses. Regrettably I never got the chance to visit, though we began a periodic postcard correspondence and our intrepid paths would cross numerous times in cities around the world."

Hammond Guthrie spent nearly eight years abroad, in England, the Netherlands, Spain and Morocco. During the many high jinks, hair raising adventures, near poverty, wallowing on luxurious estates,  seeking and yearning, the Guthries met, entertained, and partied with a group called the Bobbettes.  This group, especially the leader, Bob, virtually spelled the destructive demise of the Guthrie marriage.  Wendy became enamoured with her best friend Nancie's ex-husband. Bob, a "well seasoned miscreant and drug smuggler on the hard lam from America," writes Guthrie. Wendy began an extra-martial affair with Bob, and encouraged Hammond to also seek pleasure outside their marriage.

Hammond? connection with Kees Hoekert, the marijuana grower, aboard 'the Dutch boat with the American flag,?in Amsterdam, and the subsequent adventures prove hilarious.  His contact with  William S Burroughs is inspired as a personality commentary with recorded observation.

Hammond Guthrie counted Richie Furay (The Buffalo Springfield), Max Crosley, Richie Havens (The Muddy Waters), Carmen McRae, Gregory Corso, Emmett Grogan (The Diggers), Richard Brautigan, Neal Cassidy, Claude Pelieu, Nanos Valairitis, Joe Buttone, Martin Mosco, Janice Blue, Laim O?Gallagher, Bob Kaufman, Bill Graham, Barry Guy, Barry Miles, Zavin & Co,  Robert Jasper Grootveld, and many others, as either long time friends, or acquaintances.   He wrote anecdotes about many of these people, or, recorded information about the groups.

"Robert Jasper Grootveld is an infinitely creative shaman, a brujo of psychedelic mystery, and a metamorphic shape shifter. Jasper's solo activities in Amsterdam provided the initial construct for his later Happenings and the magico-radical, sociopolitical grouping known as Provo.

"Jasper and his marijuana-friendly compatriots applied their creative genius and prolific visions for the existing social order to the heater of protest " putting on original Happenings, and un explained manifestations for change they called acts of "Descundalow? after the magical activities of their national leprechaun-prankster, Herr Lefertie."   (Hammond Guthrie quotes)

Everything unfolds, including charlatans, scoundrels, cynicism, unlawfulness, divisiveness, Good Samaritan acts, cuckoldry, and revenge, in Tangier where "indigent beserkers might run amok at the drop of a hat? as Hammond visits The Medina, the Petite Socco, the Zoco Chico,  the Parade Bar, or the Kasbah.  Their 1973-1974 adventures are memorable as the Guthries try to win the freedom of the Bobbettes from the drug smuggling incarceration charges.  This daring eventually sealed an ultimate finality stamp upon the Guthrie marriage.

The final pages of AsEverWas came as a surprise, perhaps a bit too quickly.  I had the distinct impression that the 'real? Hammond Guthrie, now returned  in 1976 when he boarded a fateful passage on the Southern Pacific at Oakland, was still hidden within the folds of his own reality.  Perhaps, though we have traveled through space, time, over oceans and continents with youthful Hammond Guthrie, we still have not met, vis-?-vis, with the evolving persona of this intrepid wandering voyager.

I was also left with the curious impression that AsEverWas might well have been the first installment of a larger, lengthy work, still in un-rolling progress.  Perhaps this was because his final three written words were:  To be continued?".

An excellent read.  A challenge to actively engaged intellect, and a behind-the-scene revelation about many of the personas (private and public) and events we have only heard whispers about until now.   Contact  www.safpublishing.com for ordering information.   Thumbs up on this one!  

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