By the autumn of 1972, the countercultural attempt at utopia was raggedly running parallel with the machinery of an entrenched military-industrial complex and a vague, sinister notion that both were on a collision course. Exile on Main Street was the soundtrack of our beggars’ banquet, and decadence was the plat du jour. Black Sabbath’s 1972 concert tour contract included a $75,000 cocaine budget. Deep Throat had premiered that summer as the first publicly viewed porno-film smash, soon to be appropriated as the moniker of a shadowy figure who would bring down a president.
In the Travelodge—a momentarily melding nerve center of the SoCal surf clan—the Saturday-night revelry raged, a Nixonian fiddle playing as the country burned. In the back of the lobby, a mini-skirted bleached blonde was pretending to make out with various guys, but instead, just before their lips met, would bite their face and then run away. Several sheepish guys could be seen with bite marks; one was bleeding. Two dozen others were in the corner, shooting beers. They were then on their fourth. Staggering became the mode of movement.
Around ten-thirty, a food fight broke out on the second floor and spilled down the hallways and into the stairwells, its combatants setting off fire alarms and smearing the walls with chicken legs and mashed-potato blobs. Teenage girls squealed at the antics while the event organizers wrung their hands.
Peter Townend excused himself early. “I’ve got the first heat tomorrow,” he said. “Need to get some rest. I’m here to win it.”
When the girls had mostly disappeared, we left the hotel and headed home. The night was clear and a cool wind swirled along the streets. A sliver of the nearly invisible new moon hooked low in the tar sky.
“What’s going to happen?” I wondered aloud. “Will they finish this thing tomorrow or is it going to blow up?”
“Doesn’t really matter,” Diemer said, never one to cast conjecture. “Either way, it’s going to be the end of the world.”
[To read “Thirteen O’Clock: The End of the Worlds, Ocean Beach, October, 1972,” click here to pick up a copy of TSJ 31.6]
[Feature Image courtesy of Peter Townend]