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Kesey, Ken Essay, Research Paper

One Intrepid Trip

During the 1960 s, America was living in an era that is not forgotten by many. The Vietnam War was being fought overseas for a cause that was not lucid in the minds of many. As an outcome, many protesters spoke their minds in different ways. Drugs, art, music, poetry, and written books were amongst these options.

Ken Kesey, who was maybe one of the leading hippies of the day, displayed his thoughts though a combination of LSD and writings. Ken graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Speech and Communications and used a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship to enroll in the creative writing program at Stanford.

In 1958-1959, Kesey volunteered for a series of drug experiments at the local Veterans Administration Hospital in Melo Park, California. Every week he would attend for $20 per session that would change his college life like life style to a more drug prone, psychedelic author that he is know as today. Two years later in 1961, Ken got another job at the same VA Hospital as a ward attendant where he got his ideas for his best-selling book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest, which was published in 1962 (Dingler 231).

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Throughout the time spent working at the hospital, the Kesey s lived on Perry Lane. Perry Lane was known for its cheap and affordable living quarters for starting out hippie authors, artists, and musicians. The Lane was used during World War I for living quarters for troops; the remaining were used as apartments after the War. After Perry Lane was torn down because the living standards weren t close to acceptable, Kesey moved to Oregon where he write his second book, One Great Notion (Mote 527).

Before the publication of the book, Kesey bought an old school bus and drove it back to California where he met back up with old Perry Lane friends. There he named the bus Furthur. They painted it pink, orange, blue, red, and yellow with swirls and blobs of paint. On the back was written, Caution: Weird Load. The seats were taken out and beds replaced them. The roof rack held all the cameras and luggage and a refrigerator filled with acid-laced orange juice. Ken put Neil Cassady at the driver s seat and decided to go cross-country with the bus. The group was later to be known best as The Merry Pranksters (Key-Z 1).

Their trip would take them from La Honda, San Francisco to Arizona to Texas and then to Louisiana. There they decided they would travel north to Timothy Leary s New York religious organization, The League for Spiritual Discovery. They preferred LSD to liquor and had random acid tests, a multi-media happening that consisted of rock and roll (usually the Greatful Dead), a psychedelic light show, black lights and Day-Glo (fluorescent paint), strobes, portions of the bus movie and raps by Neal Cassady. One of the unique properties of the Acid Tests was it was a show that was not divided into performers and audience. Instead, it was what is known as audience participation,

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meaning the audience was as much a part of the show as anyone else. Everyone at the Acid Test would have a certain job to do. One person would serve the Kool-Aid, someone else did the light show, someone else ran the mixing console, someone else would run the film projectors, and so on (Selected Biography 1).

By the end of 1965, according to Kesey s wife, Faye, Intrepid Trips Inc. (their motion picture company built on the capital of Kesey s two novels) had spent $103,000 on various prankster enterprises. Living expenses for the whole group ran about $20,000 for the year, a low figure considering there were seldom fewer than ten people around to be taken care of and usually two or three vehicles. Kesey took care of all the food and lodging (Selected Biography 1).

Once relocated to La Honda the Prankster enclave expanded rapidly. Among the many that journeyed from La Honda was Carolyn Adams, known as Mountain Girl. She became a core Prankster almost immediately and later gave birth to Sunshine Kesey, her first and Ken s fourth child. The parties also did not escape the notice of local police. Knowing their home was under surveillance, the Pranksters made a huge sign, intended for Federal Agent William Wong, which they hung on top of their home. It read: WE RE CLEAN WILLIE! The police, unconvinced, obtained a warrant (Tarnished Galahad 2)

On April 23rd, 1965, at 10:50 p.m. the sheriff, seventeen deputies, Federal Agent Wong, and eight police dogs made a raid on the bus. The cops claimed they caught Kesey trying to flush a batch of marijuana down the toilet. Kesey claimed he was only in

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there painting flowers on the toilet bowl. Kesey spent 5 months in jail and missed the Summer of Love (Tarnished Galahad 2).

Ken Kesey has since written a number of books about his experiences. Tom Wolfe wrote about the bus and the Pranksters in a story called, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test . Kesey lives on his farm in Oregon where he plans to live for the rest of his life. He writes poems and short stories but is for the most part a retired farmer.


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