1970, August or so: Letter from Peter to Dobe and David

Undated, but internal evidence suggests that it was around the same time as Marcy’s July 1970 postcard.

Four pages, hand-written on three-hole-punched lined paper, oddly only on one side of each page.

Content warning for mention of a dog that’s named after a Native American people.

hi brothers--

o wow--we’ve finished moving! our incredible! accumulation! of household furnishings, “etc.” (o so much “etc.”…)

we stressed parents some the first time they came through--they were in a hurry to leave & said they wouldn’t be back through--were going to reno, las vegas, & gomorrah (?) to “drop a few nickels”… well they did come back, we didn’t stress them any (that is, any more than just our being present does), & they sent a card thanking us for “such a nice visit” (“don’t, please don’t stress us: we don’t want to change: we’re comfortable with the neuroses & ailments that we have now--any change might be for the worse…”)

so many, many changes--for one thing, some alumni of a certain hot-springs resort have seen their way clear to buying x some just-right land, very choice. it’s in two parcels, in new mexico; the bottom piece is entirely arable, maybe 140-acre; the upper piece is inaccessable by jeep, only horse or backpacking. the same stream runs through both… only one building on lower, a sawmill able to run by water-power… no buildings at all on upper 30-acre piece which borders on national forest… lots of deer, bear… SO, anyway, we were invited to come & live in paradise if we were ready… decided yesterday i’m not quite ready… need to more rigorously train myself (“train at home in yr spare time”) for 1½-2 yrs.: so we’re staying here in married students’ housing & i’ll continue to attend u.c. & learn computer programming in my spare time…

Sideways in margin: about “color guitar”: no mistake, yes, the strings are all tuned a fourth apart: this means that chords, intervals have same fingering anywhere on fingerboard…

another big change: while i was on a produce run at s.f. farmers’ market for food conspiracy, i ran into karl y. & helen and their kid (jed’s age) (from n.y.--remember, john?)--they too were on a p.r. for f.c.… so they’re living in a commune* in berkeley, and are getting filthy rich working together as an environmental design co. named “the big rock candy mountain”… doing interiors for computer companyies etc. … they wanted to know, had we heard of any land for sale around sierras or rockies, bordering on nat. forestland… well, ho ho ho, it’s a big backyard, neighbors…

Sideways in margin: * 5 couples + 3 kids

speaking of f.c., seven of us were preliminarily interviewed by a life mag. rep. here at our house apt., to determine if life was interested in doing a spread on the berkeley food conspiracies as one article in a series on alternative life-styles… the rep. was fairly excited, it may happen…

well, now that i’ve eliminated meat, refined sugar, chicken, & fish from diet, eggs, grains, dairy products (cheese & sour cream, we stopped drinking milk a while ago), & starchy vegies (like brocolli, cauliflower) (in that order) are next to go, so as to attain to a x fruitarian diet (fresh fruits, nuts, & maybe greenleaf vegies sometimes): maybe we’ll all live to be 170… or if not, be filled with health & vitality & joy at least…

joaquin had his first drink of water today--it was from crystal spring, coming off magic mt. tam near lagunitas, beautiful water… jed had his first haircut a week or two ago, when marcy asked him if he wanted it cut instead of her fussing with the tangles & he said yes… i cut it & brushed it & he looks more beautiful than ever… i had my hair cut by marcy a week ago, early beatle style, feels good… also shaved beard, left mustache… father stuffed a $5-bill in my pocket, walked away fast, wouldn’t say what it was for: asked mother, she sed it was for a HAIRCUT!

michael j. came by today, he & sandy & dog shawnee have moved to crockett, nr. vallejo bridge… he’s looking good… he borrowed our coleman stove we bought for $1 at berk. flea market, to make candles.

our new apt. (in “u. village” of 1000 familes) is one of 8 in this bldg., it’s in a very nice location bordering strawberry creek, so that our evenings are filled with frog chirps… it’s 2 bedrms, bathrm w/ stall shower, a storage closet, living rm., & kitchen. pretty small after 3 bedrm. house we were in, but it’s adequate*… & the rent is $62/mo. including utilities. (vs. $150/mo. plus)… also advantages like a cheap laundromat (in the village, one block away along creek) (15¢ wash + 10¢/15 min. dry), free plumbing repair, free “swappe shoppe” (free store), and closer to school…

Sideways in margin: * there’s plenty of room for either or both of you to stay here on yr way north, when you get out… we can arrange to pick you up… let us know the date as soon as you know… we’re looking forward to your release more than anybody (except yourselfves), and will be so very glad to see you, even if it’s only for a day… much love, p, m, j & j

we traded our ’58 vw bus for a ’58 bug, then sold the bug after marcy had slight collision… with no insurance, it’s just not worth risk… so i’ll be taking bus to school, direct from village for 20¢ if i buy a ticket-book…

we’re still tending our garden at old house--we got a couple of 2-ft.-plus-long daikons (japanese radishes) from it… many tomato plants… the corn plants are earing (b-earing?)… we’ve harvested the onions and garlics, they’re superfine… the banana-squash, which we didn’t plant but just grew from seeds in the organic-garbage-compost, has nearly taken over the garden, enormous…

reading: i too read UBIK by phildick recently, it was ok, but not to be compared with “man in the high castle” (plot programmed by i ching) or “three stigmata of palmer eldritch” or, “our friends from frolix 8”… i read a superfine poem by d. hartman… other things: “the santaroga barrier” by frank herbert (berkeley medallion book, 1968) as rich as “dune” but earlier… recommended… “human & other beings” ed. by DeGraeff, partic. x “all the colors of the rainbow” by leigh brackett, tore me up… “nine hundred grandmothers” by madman r.a.lafferty (ace, 1970), partic. enjoyed “primary education of the camiroi” and “snuffles”… and “nine chains to the moon”, bucky fuller’s most metaphysical tome. enclosing an unsigned poem*, possibly by g. snyder or k.patchen.

Sideways in margin: * it’s written on back of a used-to-be-gummed strip of joh-rei insignia stickers…


I assume this was Peter making a joke. (But possibly could have been a joke made by one of his parents.)
“a certain hot-springs resort”
Which is to say, Harbinger. This letter is the only time I know of that Peter mentioned the New Mexico property. I’m intrigued as usual by the prospect of an alternate life; in this case, one in which we did move to NM and I grew up surrounded by deer and bear and national forest. …I wonder what kind of training Peter felt he needed to spend a couple years doing before we could move there.
“married students’ housing”
For a bit more about Albany Village/University Village, see notes on Apr. 17, 1971 letter. I’m not sure whether the whole Village was populated by married students, or just part of it. Also not sure whether students had to show a marriage license to live there—I don’t know whether the university had a place for unmarried-but-living-with-someone students.
“color guitar”
For more, see Mar. 5 letter.
“food conspiracy”
For more, see Jan. 26 letter.
Also, the Life magazine article did get written and published; you can read it online. And you can read more about the Food Conspiracies from someone who participated from 1971 to 1973. (Thanks for these links, Jay!)
“fruitarian diet”
Fascinating. I have no memory of this phase. By the time of my earliest memories, we had re-added chicken and fish to our diet; I don’t recall Peter ever espousing or aiming for a fruitarian diet.
“mt. tam”
Mt. Tamalpais, which I think is where Peter and Marcy were non-legally married by a friend of theirs sometime in 1967. For a couple of photos, see my 2015 Facebook post and blog post. Oddly, I’ve never been to Mt. Tamalpais since I was old enough to remember; someday I’d like to visit it.
“poem by d. hartman”
That would be my uncle David, one of the recipients of this letter.
leigh brackett
Huh, I don’t think I remember Peter ever praising Brackett in my presence. But I probably did first encounter her work somewhere in his old science fiction anthologies.
“unsigned poem”
The poem is not with this letter, so I don’t know anything more about it.

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