In Praise of Tom Wolfe

wol0-007While Paul Krassner’s Realist was covering the Merry Pranksters from inside the bubble, Clay Felker sent Tom Wolfe to write the story of the Magic Bus for the Eastern Media Establishment.

Fortunately, Wolfe was a creative genius surfing the improvisational fusion Kerouac had started (only Wolfe took it to flamboyant levels not surpassed until Hunter came along).

But early into his book on the Pranksters (who were my biggest teenage influence), I recognized Wolfe was actually an outsider, which is to say he was a Yale insider, but Nick in Gatsby level.

Shortly after arriving in the Haight, Wolfe began talking to some hippie about vibrations, and I could tell right away, Wolfe didn’t comprehend the shamanic secrets of telepathic manifestation. He wasn’t a head.

It didn’t matter though because Wolfe was such a good reporter, and mostly stuck to the facts, with his own comic spin, of course.

The lesson of the Magic Bus Wolfe missed out on was simply this: People have the Power. Form your tribe, set out on a sacred mission, and don’t be afraid to employ natural plant sacraments. (But forget about synthetics, because they burn-out brains. That’s what the LSD graduation was all about).

The next thing Wolfe was drawn to after the Pranksters were surfers. But instead of checking out the Brotherhood of Eternal Love in Laguna, he went for the teenyboppers further down the coast. Otherwise Johnny Griggs might be as famous as Ken Kesey.


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