Visit to Santa Cruz – March 1968

By Ralph Abraham

Within the 9-year span, 1964-1972, I was in Santa Cruz only about 24 months. I will begin with clips from an autobiographical text extracted from me by David Thiermann during the years 1988-1989.

What can be told

  • March 1968, First exploratory to UCSC and the Barn Posted 16 january 2003
  • September 1968 to March 1969, 724 California Street
  • March to September 1969, busted in London
  • September 1969 to June 1970, 724 California Street
  • June to September 1970, expelled from the School of Actualism
  • September 1970 to June 1971, Ocean Street Extension

Excerpt from tape recorded January 14, 1989 with David Thiermann.

From 1964 to 1968 I was an assistant professor at Princeton. Married to Caroline, with two small children. In the third year we went to Paris on sabbatical. Some stories about the first three Princeton years and the interlude in Paris occupy the beginning of tape 2A. After returning from Paris, in the fourth year at Princeton, the math department was trying to decide my promotion to associate professor with tenure, a big step. During this anxious time, I became involved in the psychedelic and political movements of the time: late 1967 and early 1968. Suddenly, in March 1968, I received an invitation to join the faculty at UCSC as an associate profesor with tenure. This was the occasion for a visit to Santa Cruz and my decision to move there. Here is the story, as recorded in 1989, with minor edits.

visit to santa cruz, march 1968

I had been in Vermont for family and skiing. Page Stegner was there working as a ski instructor. We had become friends. Maybe we had been friends for a couple of years by that time. He had told me about some colleagues or former fellow students in Santa Cruz. When I got to Santa Cruz I tried to track these people down. Jim Houston was one of them. I went to Jim Houston’s house. He said that if I really wanted to find Fred Shanahan, I would have to go to the Barn. I said, “Where is the Barn?” He gave me directions.

I rented a car and drove out to the barn. It was the place that Leon Tabory was running as a sort of psychedelic social experiment, you might say. I went there looking for Fred Shanahan and got my mind blown. There were paintings all over the walls by Joe Lyzowsky, whom I later got to know — fluorescent paintings with black lights shining on them. A band from Big Sur was playing. These people (it was said) actually lived in trees there. They had some kind of musical instruments that nobody had ever seen before — sculptures by Ron Boise. Tree people from Big Sur playing sculptures by Ron Boise under black lights for an audience of three hundred people–men, women and children–all of whom (it seemed to me) were stoned on acid. My mind was blown.

I met Cheryl, Peter Demma’s sister-in-law. Through her I met Peter. He was the co-founder of the Hip Pocket Bookstore along with Ron Bevirt, one of the original hippies of downtown Santa Cruz.

I decided to accept the offer from U.C. Santa Cruz. Although I wasn’t very impressed by the University, I really liked the town. As a neophyte acid-head myself I could see the possibilities for enormous emotional, physical, moral and material support for the explorations that I was involved in, including the politics and everything.