The Gentlemanly Art of Spanking

The Rise and Fall of the HoneyBun Empire; Riding the Wild Bubble—Berkeley To Frisco To Hollywood To Vegas & Back; Intimations Of Immortality On The Technicolor Lam, Sober.

Chapter 7 ~ Cloud Stories

If you’re hanging onto a rising balloon, you’re presented with a difficult decision. Let go before it’s too late or hang on and keep getting higher, posing the question: how long can you keep a grip on the rope?
They’re selling hippie wigs in Woolworth’s, man.
—Danny the drug dealer, Withnail & I (1989)

First they killed Martin.

Then they killed Bobby.

April/June murders.

The dawning of the Summer of ‘68.

This where the Sixties and the United States of America ended, although I didn’t understand it at the time; such wicked knowledge came later.

T.S. Eliot wrote:

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

I graduated from Berkeley High in June and two weeks later started my first quarter at UC Berkeley, studying Art, Music, Anthropology.

My art professor was in his forties. of a bohemian bent, he possessed a pre-hippie mien. The course, Composition 101, was a prerequisite for just about everything else artistic in UC’s College of Art & Sciences.

There were some very cute co-eds in the class, as well as a kid with whom I had gone to Berkeley High. The other male students didn’t register: my only competition for the women was the professor and I knew I couldn’t compete. I was only seventeen and he was le professeur.

As such, I couldn’t stand him.

All art was done in charcoal, as this was a class about composition, existing outside of color. Most everybody brought in vague abstractions. I would bring in large, cryptic doodles in the style of R. Crumb’s ZAP Comics.

Critiques were anonymous, our pictures tacked to the wall with no identification. He would go through them, one at a time, as we sat and absorbed his wisdom. One time, after critiquing ten pictures or so, he walked over to mine, turned to look at me, and said, “What are you trying to do, Bronson?”

I didn’t have answer. I was clearly trying to make a statement

“Up yours, grandpa!”

I don’t know what I was trying to do, even now. I was seventeen.

The quarter came to an end; I turned in my meager portfolio. The professor invited us all to a party at his house in North Berkeley. I figured he had calculated it was his last chance to get into some coed’s pants. I didn’t go to the party.

I received my report card for the quarter. Three F’s in Music and Anthropology and a C-minus in Art. What can I say? It’s hard to focus on school when you are busy smoking pot on the Student Union steps and running away from the riot police all of the time.

I ran into my Berkeley High friend. He had gone to the professor’s party. He said, “I was talking to Mr. Prescott at the party and he said, ‘Yeah, I decided that Bronson had developed doing nothing to such a high degree that he had actually created a new art form and I figured he at least deserved a passing grade for that.’”

My man!

I still think very fondly of him. Even now, I am smiling as I write this. I hope he got lucky at his party.

Blue Wedge acid made its appearance in Berkeley around this time. It was potent and pure.
My friend Dave and I took a fairly sizable dose of Blue Wedge one twilit evening and, as it came on, we hiked up into the Berkeley hills behind where we lived.

Arriving at our favorite spot on the hill, we had a view of the whole Bay Area, the Bay Bridge, San Francisco the gleaming city, the bay waters darkly shimmering as the sun finished setting behind the Golden Gate Bridge. It was getting dark fast.

There was a low, thick cloud cover.

We sat there, getting higher and higher, as the sound of sirens reached us from the flatlands of Berkeley. We looked down to see bonfires in the distance, on the south side of the UC Campus.

Another riot had broken out. Lord knows how bad this one would be.

I can’t speak for Dave, but as I looked out over the city and the moving headlights and the lighted buildings and the bonfires, the oppressive cloud layer, and heard the sirens, and I thought about the riots and Martin and Bobby, it was the stuff of nightmares and it seemed that it was all coming to an end and there was no way to avoid the incipient collapse of all things.

I sat there, keeping my thoughts to myself. Dave was silent, too. And then, we both looked up …

Above us was a perfectly round hole punched into the dark cloud layer and through that hole we could see blue daytime sky, the kind of blue sky made of sunlight and air, in which fluffy clouds drift, birds fly and bees wander from flower to flower. We were trapped in the Coming of the Great Darkness glimpsing through a portal beyond which was a dimension of light and song and justice.

As one, we both cried, “Aaaaaaggggghhhhh!” and fell backwards into the grass. I don’t remember if we said anything else to each other. It was not a hallucination.

After a while, I got up and sat down very close to a eucalyptus tree, a beautiful tree that gently calmed me down and stayed with me for the rest of my trip.

At some point, Dave and I walked back down the hill to our homes and safety.

In November, I was peaking, once again, on a potent dose of Blue Wedge, in my bedroom, when “I Am The Walrus” by The Beatles came on the radio for the very first time. I believe, to this day, that the combination of John Lennon’s surreal genius, George Martin’s technicolor production, (Ringo holding it all down as always), and the acid, permanently warped and rewired certain synaptic routes within my brain. I am grateful for how it has informed my perception of the world ever since.

A life in Toontown.

A few weeks later, I was at a Christmas party at the house of a Berkeley High English teacher. A mixture of adults and students drank red wine, smoked cigarettes and talked about art and music and who knows what. A friend of mine from school said, “Want some acid?”


Stupid! Acid does not mix with booze. The booze has to wear off before you can feel the acid, so you are usually suffering from a minor hangover as the acid comes on.

Shortly thereafter, we made our way to his house in the Elmwood district of Berkeley. An acid trip ensued, a not particularly fun one.

At three a.m. or so, I left my friend’s house and meandered up College Avenue to the UC Campus and walked around there for a while. It was calm and quiet, getting light.

I walked down to Telegraph, no one in sight, no cars. Graffiti on a wall:

The streets belong to the people!

I decided to walk to Tom’s apartment. He was now a student at Cal and had a little studio near Ashby on Grove (Martin Luther King) Street. It took a while. I was in no hurry.

It was early daylight as I got close to Tom’s place. I was pretty much fully down off the acid. At least, I was no longer hallucinating. I walked down Adeline, which cut diagonally south and west and would take me to Tom’s on Grove.

After I crossed Ashby, I stopped mid-block to take in the morning. The sky was clear, the air fresh and cool. There was still no traffic and no one else about.

Standing on the sidewalk, I looked to the east at the Berkeley Hills. I was feeling a little better.

I watched as a little white cloud rolled up over the top of the hills and down the western slope, like a ball of cotton candy. It seemed to be about two hundred feet in diameter. It’s hard to gauge a rolling cloud’s size. It was a compact little cloud and appeared to be moving toward me with purpose.

It hugged the ground as it rolled down the face of the hills and across the flatlands toward me. I stood there and watched, transfixed. I do not remember what I was thinking. This was just another one of those things that can only happen when you are on acid. Real, but impossible.

It rolled silently right over me at a brisk pace—it was like standing in a dense fog bank for a few moments, a slight breeze blowing west, not east as it usually did—and just kept rolling toward the bay. I turned around to the west to watch it until it disappeared over the waters of the bay.

This took place over the span of about ten minutes.

Tom let me into his place and got ready to go to school and left.

I was starving, so I made a potato pancake. Still a little wired and not sleepy, I lit a cigarette and looked around the small studio for a book to read, found Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre.

This is not the book to read after an already weird acid trip.

I read a few pages, put down the book, and contemplated how I might commit suicide, for it was the only thing to do in light of the emptiness and meaninglessness of existence as portrayed in Sarte’s stark prose.

I decided I would lock myself in a room somewhere and listen to the Beatles’ White Album until I starved to death.

It wasn’t long before I realized how completely ridiculous this idea was and was then able to fall into a restorative sleep. I’ve never read Sartre again.

A week or two later, my parents told me that they wanted to send me to go live with relatives in Hawaii. They wanted to get me away from the chaos and confusion of Berkeley. After a couple days, I said okay.
The only things of import that happened during the year-and-a-half in Hawaii were

1. My uncle explained to me that he and my father were functioning alcoholics, which sounded pretty good to me.

2. He taught me how to pace myself when drinking so as to not get drunk really fast and pass out, like I always had before.

3. My seven-year-old cousin, Andria, named her hamster Knox.

The Beatles would break up within the year. The greatest decade in human history, as Danny the drug dealer put it, was over.

I still think about the oppressive veil of dark clouds through which Dave and I apparently blasted a hole with the power of our LSD-super-charged minds and the placid and radiant blue sky
on the other side of the clouds and the sirens and fires burning below us in the south campus flatlands of Berkeley.

I believe we were being offered a glimpse of Reality, beautiful, bright, and pure, from this side of the veil, where we were trapped in the Great Deception.

Remembering that compact little cloud that coming up and over the crest of the hills, bright white in the morning sun, traversing the flatlands, passing over me, and hitting the eastern edge of the bay at the Emeryville mud flats, home to salt-water harvest mice and driftwood sculptures jutting into the sky, I wonder how far it made it out over the San Francisco bay before dissapating into the air.

I wonder who else saw it.
I wonder if it ever happened again.