God, LSD, and the Summer of Love

The unusual (to say the least) conversions of four San Francisco hippies: an excerpt. /

Ted and Elizabeth Wise were part of the vanguard of Beat-sympathetic free spirits that predated the 1967 Summer of Love in the Bay area. Ted Wise was a native of Lakeport, California, a small community on the shores of Clear Lake, about seventy miles north of San Francisco. When he was a child, his family had moved to Auburn, where he nourished an interest in art and literature until joining the Navy in the mid-1950s. While serving aboard a Navy tender in the Pacific Fleet, he learned how to work with canvas and began learning the sail-making trade; on shore leave in Japan, he experimented with marijuana and heroin.

Even as a child, Wise had been fascinated by the idea of drug use; he cherished a magazine photo of a Mexican peasant with an array of mind-bending mushrooms. As a teenager, he was captivated by the 1955 Frank Sinatra film The Man with the Golden Arm, which he remembered made heroin addiction look attractive: "All you had to do was roll around in agony a bit . . . the worst thing that could happen to me would be to meet Kim Novak."

Upon returning home to Auburn, Wise enrolled at Sierra College. While he continued to nurse his interest in the "jazz musician's smoking preference," he met Elizabeth, a young woman who, like Ted, was interested in art and poetry. At Sierra, they were devotees of an English professor with connections to the Beat scene in San Francisco. The allure of the exciting artistic and literary scene there prompted Elizabeth to move to San Francisco in the summer of 1959 in hopes of starting a career in modeling; Ted followed her shortly thereafter and enrolled in the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. Once in town, they quickly moved into a Beat ...

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