Boom! Colonel Possum Reviews Tom Brokaw's Book on the Sixties

Filed in Uncategorized by on December 3, 2007 0 Comments

“It’s here!” Big Molly hollered from the porch, “Oooh-Weeeeeee!” 

I didn’t hear Big Brown roll up our gravel drive but knew what Molly had in her hand. Dropping a stack of cat bowls I headed to the front of the Old Hippie’s Corner (OHC) and ran into Elko Mono and Sage on the way. 

“The Sixties are here! The Sixties are here!” Elko cried out pulling away from Sage and me at full-tilt boogie. 

When we converged on the porch Molly had already ripped off the UPS shipper from Random House. She held Tom Brokaw’s new book, Boom! Voices of the Sixties, high above our heads. With moccasin-foot agility, Elko leaped up and grabbed the prize from her half-sister. 

Hot pursuit at the OHC. 

“Oh,crap!” I thought chasing these three aging hippies around the barn, “Gather asked me to seriously review a book about the Sixties and it’s heading straight for the compost pile.” 

Molly brought Elko to the ground, Elko fumbled the book and Sage saved Brokaw from flying into our biomass experiment, “The Sixties are mine now fair ladies, I get to read it first!” 

Those at Gather that follow the goings-on at the Old Hippie’s Corner know we have a fairly deep bench when it comes to the Sixties. Molly and Elko are now big ole gals that drive and repair big ole trucks, but in their day… Oooh-Weeeeeee! 

Molly grew up in Big Sur, a verdant garden of delights for flower children that hitch-hiked California’s Pacific Coast Highway or so-called “Hippie Highway.” She dropped Owsely LSD with Heavy Duty Dave of Lime Kiln Creek while her half-Paiute half-sister Elko experimented with Native American medicinals in a Northern Nevada commune. Sage escaped the tight embrace of the Deep South in her Volkswagen to travel the same road as Janis Joplin and catch what Jim Morrison called the “Western Dream” in his song by that name. She ran into Big Molly in Big Sur and…wait a damn minute! This is supposed to be a book review, the Colonel better stop telling tall tales and get down to business. 

“I’ve got dibs because I got it first.” Molly whined brushing coffee grounds and other odd bits of organic waste from her bib coveralls. 

“You’re just going to look at the pictures Molly!” Sage countered, “God knows, Brokaw will probably end up under a screw-jack in your weld shop!” 

“I’m going light up some salvia pachyphylla and sleep under the stars with the Voices of the Sixties for my pillow,” Elko said raising her arms and hands to the heavens. 

“And what will that prove?” Sage rolled her eyes. 

“I won’t need to read the book, I’ll SEE the book in my dreams, I’ll HEAR the VOICES!” 

“Hold on gang, this is all cool and far out but I’ve got a deadline and a book review to write!” I snatched the book from Sage, “Here’s an idea. Why don’t each of you contribute something to the report from your…uh…Sixties viewpoint. I’ll start reading and writing and fold your stuff in as I go.” 

“Do I still get to do my vision thing?” Elko asked a little deflated. 

“Yup!” 

“And I get to pick out the best pictures?” Molly picked a sliver of watermelon rind from Elko’s waist-length braids. 

“Yes, of course, Molly. Sage, why don’t you…” 

“I will trip the lights fandango, I will PAINT the Sixties, I will DANCE the Sixties!” Sage twirled and dipped gracefully. 

“OK, why don’t you paint Elko’s vision of Tom Brokaw’s book and we’ll drop an image in the review.” 

“Groovy.” 

With consensus and a game plan in place, I started my task. Most everyone that has turned on a T.V. is familiar with Tom Brokaw. He started his reporting career in the early Sixties and has been a news icon at NBC for decades. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles and the boyish face of Tom Brokaw appeared on Channel 4 every night to tell us what was going on during those trip-the-lights-fandango times. 

His new book, Boom!, covers a period in our history from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974. Brokaw claims this period is the time most people remember as the “Sixties” with a good chunk happening in the 1970s. This of course brackets America’s primary role in the Vietnam War (1965 – 1973), assassinations, urban riots, trips on acid and trips to the moon. Sage didn’t begin her odyssey to California until the 1970s but would tell you straight in the eye that it was every bit a Sixties experience. 

Brokaw has got his timing dead right on this one and did a lot of first hand reporting of key events; Haight Ashbury, Bobby Kennedy’s death and the Los Angeles Watts riots to name only a few. Weaving personal and reporting experiences into his story lends a high degree of credibility to the book. For chronology buffs (like the ole Colonel), there is a blow-by-blow, toke-by-toke timeline at the back of the book. 

Good writing, attention to detail and first hand experiences don’t necessarily make a good read without a sound book concept and Brokaw has a doozy: 

“I decided to organize a virtual reunion of a cross section of the Sixties crowd, in an effort to discover what we might learn from each other, forty years later.” 

Brokaw’s “Class of ‘68” puts an emphasis on one of the most volatile years of this period: the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the LBJ I’m-outa’-here speech, assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and the release of the Beatle’s top-selling White Album. 

“Colonel, are you humming Rocky Raccoon?” 

“Oh, hi Molly. Yes, I was just telling our readers about the Beatles and 1968.” 

“Uh-huh. I got my favorite picture picked out.” 

“Cool. Hey, that’s funny. I was just going to talk about Kris Kristofferson.” 

“He looks handsome in that soldier suit,” Molly patted the photo on page 265. That Kristofferson was the crew-cut helicopter pilot before he “did a one-eighty” in 1968.  I find the Brokaw interview with the man who brought us “Bobby McGee” and so many other great songs to be one of the best in Boom!

“Colonel, I just saw on the tube that Brokaw is doing a show on 1968.” 

“No kidding! When?” 

“It’s on the History Channel December 9.” 

“Bitchen!” 

“Later Sir, I’m going to tape a copy of this cute soldier in my tool box.” 

After having read the book and lived the times, the ole Colonel can’t wait to see that show! 

Brokaw’s Forty Year Class Reunion includes other “voices” then and now that include the famous and ordinary folks too. Brokaw often pairs interviews to give two sides to a significant Sixties event. For instance, the Woodstock Festival in 1969 is visited through the memories of folksinger Arlo Guthrie and fellow journalist, Tim Russert. 

Arlo’s stoned rap to the audience is a classic from those times, “Yeah, it’s far out man. I don’t know if you…I don’t know, uh – like how many of you can dig how many people there are, man.” 

Russert arrives at Woodstock on the other side of this rainbow with three pals and eight cases of beer. His recollection of the cold and rain, the drugs and the music are hilarious. 

After writing the wildly popular “The Greatest Generation,” some wondered if Brokaw’s new book might be called “The Worst Generation.” I don’t believe this is the case at all and found the treatment of those times to be thorough and journalistically fair. Tom says it best: 

“…one essential lesson of the Sixties: For all the assaults on convention and all the temptations along the way, strong personal values and affections survived – indeed, thrived – rather than crumbled in the face of divorces, deaths, addictions, rehabilitations, turmoil and triumphs and defeats, fame and wealth, satisfactions and disappointments.” 

Oh-oh, here come all my gals now. Big Molly is toting a big canvas that Sage just finished painting. 

“Whoa! That’s cool!” I said, “Is that a big red sun?” 

Molly placed the painting against the barn and stepped back.

 http://media-files.gather.com/images/d304/d489/d744/d224/d96/f3/full.jpg

 

Sage wiped some paint from her hand on the tails of her work shirt, “This is Elko’s dream.”

“I slept under the stars last night and heard the VOICES of the SIXTIES!” Elko closed her eyes and pressed her palms together in a reverent posture. 

“Is this the sun of the Sixties?” I inquired. 

Silence. Sage began a slow dance about Elko. 

“Is it a sunrise of new beginnings?” 

Silence. Molly followed Sage’s lead and moved in a larger orbit about her sister. 

“A sunset?” 

Silence. 

“The end of an age? The end of..uh..the Age of Aquarius?” 

Silence. I watched this small solar system of old hippies turning, turning. Perhaps Sage painted a sun no longer at the center of our world but a star not too far away. 

The dancers rushed toward Elko and embraced. Three old hippies arm-in-arm spinning, spinning. 

Without cue Elko, Molly and Sage explosively broke away from each other and raised their hands to the sky shouting a single word. 

BOOM!

Cheers, 

Colonel Possum

You can read more about the Sixties adventures of the Colonel, Big Molly and Sage by clicking here

Copyright Colonel Possum Publishing Co.

About the Author ()

Howdy! I'm Colonel Possum. I'm retired and live with three ole gals at the Old Hippie's Corner (OHC). Sage is an artist and my sweetheart of 30-years. Big Molly and her half-sister, Elko Mono, are old friends of ours that live in the OHC bunk

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