Tune in, turn on, drop dead; the road to hippie hell is paved with good vibrations. Brown acid and brain damage combine with the darker, violent side of human nature. Blissed-out bacchanalian love-ins and cosmic consciousness teeter into full-totter bad karma and choking-on-your-own-vomit bummerdom. Before you know whether it's tomorrow or just the end of time, the Woodstock nation's freak-flag is at half-mast and you've helter-skeltered into your own private LSD-is-groovy-kill-the-pigs Altamont.
Man, we have got to get back to the garden.
The Northern California commune Drop City - as chronicled in T.C. Boyle's incisive and savvy and big dumb fun book of unexpected counterculture encounters, free love and new tensions, altered realities and shifting alliances - may or may not be that Edenic refuge for all who would be stardust and golden in 1970.
And certainly, for those to whom it may disconcert - neighbors, health inspectors and the Sonoma County Sheriff - its hear-the-colors-see the-sounds psychedelic-shackled existence as a "summer camp without the counselors" makes for a less-than-heavenly coexistence. Hassles from the Man and a bizarre car accident (stoned hippies, a horse and a Ma and Pa Kettle-ish couple come together on Druid Day, but not in peace and harmony) draws the attention of those who have a warrant and who are going to come in. The Drop City dropouts pull up stakes and stalks, and pull up the '60s, too, seemingly, for a sudden move to the outskirts of the unseen backwater Nanook-ville of Boynton, Alaska.
It's "a place that made nowhere sound like a legitimate destination" and it's where the commune's leader and guru, the gold- toothed, out-of-the-norm Norm, has inherited a cabin and some land, aspiring to "persevere in our mission and our philosophy and all the love and truth and the beautiful vibes of Drop City."
Relocation, relocation, relocation! The reborn Norm of the North, who "tended to talk in paragraphs as if he were getting paid by the word," sells the idea for Drop City North to his reluctant followers, pointing up the appeal of a place where there are "no rules, no zoning laws, no county dicks and ordinances," not to mention, in a so-far-away-and-yet-so-close manner, a place civilized enough for anti-government types to still get their government handouts.
It's so far out it just might work. So a rolling blunder revue is set in motion on a colorful and rickety bus Joad-loaded to the hilt (without the kitchen sink, maybe, but only to make room for the goats). And the stage is set for some new and risky challenges for a half-bag bunch of idealistic and naive - and perhaps less than hardy and resourceful - "cats" and "chicks" as they make the transition from the lower 48 to the Last-Frontier 49th, with all the climatic and cultural shocks that come with new territorial pissings. For all the talk about living off the land and the environment, little thought is given to what happens when nature turns a cold shoulder and flower power flounders, lying fallow under frozen tundra or mislaid amid drawn-out dawns and endless nights.