Brokaw Should Have Talked To Me

11/12/2007 09:12 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

By Tom D'Antoni

My ex-brother-in-law gave me my first hit of LSD. He drove us toward Western Maryland, I think. I didn't notice the scenery too much because the clouds wouldn't stop changing into figurative sculpture, organizing themselves into moving morphing dancing figures for what seemed like hours.

I don't remember talking to him. I know we ended up at a party, or was it people just hanging out, musicians maybe, in a hippie apartment in the building next door to mine. I brought the clouds in with me, it seemed. They could have had them painted on the walls. There could have been black lights. All I knew was that they were there and rounded out my first psychedelic experience.

That's how I ended up as editor and publisher of Baltimore's underground/hippie paper of record, "HARRY." Yes, all caps, no I don't have room to tell you why the name.

We printed the going rate of dope and baited the cops and lived what we preached. I spent the summer of 1970 walking around without shoes.

To our everlasting shame, P.J. O'Rourke wrote for the paper.

In July of that year I wrote in the July 17,1970 issue of HARRY:

"Scene: July4. The Lincoln Memorial--it's alabastard columns and its simple dignity--symbolic. It's like the Parthenon, the Coliseum and the Reichstag--symbolic of an empire. Undimmed by human tears but goddamned sooty from the pollution.

Pan back: The army chorus, senators, congressmen, Kate Smith, Bob Hope, the army band, 4,000 hard hats, Nixon freaks, flag freaks, God's own prophet--the gospel of America incarnate--Billy Graham, a huge American flag and your mother and father on the steps in front of the memorial. They are singing the Star Spangled Banner, which as you know, is the former national anthem. Some guys somewhere in the back of the memorial are firing a fifty-six gun salute.

Pan back further: Two thousand freaks on the banks of the reflecting pool doing a number of interesting things including: (a) giving the scene in front of them (1) the fist and (2) the finger; and (b) just sitting there saying, "far out, far fucking out!"

It seems we had the smoke-in after all.

Right and Wrong ripped us off and the "movement heavies" couldn't get it together, so we did what we've always done from Woodstock to the last Balto-Cong demonstration in May--we just did it ourselves--TOGETHER.

There was no admission, there were no fences, no speeches, no collections, no march routes and NO fucking marshals.

People started arriving as early as Thursday and the D.C. free community put them up until The Big Day. Some crashed on the grounds of the Washington Monument on Friday night. Unfortunately, they were forced to play a rather unfriendly game of hide and go gas with the local constabulary. I heard they didn't mind too much, though. Matter of fact, some of the people I talked to kind of dug it. Of course, they were stoned when I talked to them.

I arrived at dawn--stoned. There were about three hundred freaks there--including a large contingent of Yippies who were painting people's faces with orange and blue war paint. I got some of the blue but none of the orange.

Everyone was sitting on the lawn in front of the Washington Monument smoking them funny looking cigarettes and puffing on pipes. I joined them. Fast.

Was the dope good? Let me put it this way--I took fifteen pictures before I realized I had no film in my camera. Yeah, it was good dope.

By nine o'clock the crowd numbered around a thousand--all stoned. The Billy Graham Honor America Before It Honors You, Buddy Day ceremonies were getting ready at the Lincoln Memorial so I walked over to the area of the press trailer so I could get press credentials. I was prevented from doing so by a cop.

"I can't even get to the press trailer to see whether I can get credentials?" I said.

"That's right."


I was really stoned.

After an uneventful stroll around the reflecting pool and Lincoln Memorial--well, I did rip off an American flag from a vendor and tied it upside down around my arm--I walked back to the Washington Monument grounds and found the number of freaks had almost doubled. Upon visiting the Yippie tent (a large tree) somebody laid a tab of that dynamite white acid on me--FREE. Yippies are like that.

From then on things became a little strange. Let's see--I remember ripping off a vendor for a box of Crackerjacks. I remember that.

Well, I trucked on over the Lincoln Memorial again and found that there were lots of freaks in the reflecting pool. Just then Deliverance Billy and Friends cranked up their Gods and began their show.

There was one disturbance at the Lincoln Memorial end of the reflecting pool when the cops used horses to keep the freaks from storming the ceremonies. Couple of people got kicked in the head by the horses.

I got off.

I'm afraid you're going to have to ask your friends about the details of what happened after that because--well, I know what I saw but it's hard to tell how accurate any of this is..

For instance, I don't think the Lincoln Memorial really turned into the Reichstag. I mean there really weren't any Nazi flags, were there?

As far as I can figure out, there was some head busting and gassing. This may have been caused by thinks like Yippies liberating a giant supermarket opening floodlight, tossing it in the reflecting pool and using it as a raft.

By the way, there was a huge thunderstorm--high winds, lightning, and lots of rain. We caused that. There was so much fucking freak energy that it directed itself upward and the heavens broke loose on Bob Hope's festivities. Well, it's a nice thing to believe, anyway.

One disturbing thing--and I have no logical basis for this statement--it's just a vibe I felt. This is going to be the last D.C. good time demonstration. Don't ask me why.

So it was fun. It was also a microcosm. It was a confrontation on an intellectual level with the empire when we smoked dope at the base of the Washington Monument with a couple hundred cops watching, and later when we skirmished with them.

It was a confrontation on a personal level when we had to deal with the straights who were there personifying our cultural struggle first and our relationship to our families second. It's quite easy to talk about smashing the state, but doing it when you're face to face with the "ordinary" silent majority is another thing altogether.
I wonder--when faced with this kind of confrontation--how many of us would stick our thumbs in our mouths and curl up in a mentally fetal position.

I sure don't have the answer to that."

Looking back is a bitch. I can report, however, that I still write in the same voice, I just spell better due to computers. I smell better, too. Also, that in the midst of all the hippie-cop violence, and tripping my brains out, I managed to find my car and drive back to Baltimore. One wrong turn took me in front of St. Elizabeth's Hospital, a mental institution (the one they keep John Hinckley in). I saw what it was and quickly got away from it as fast as I could.

I must say, I always enjoyed my LSD hallucinations, no matter how horrifying. I mean, I knew that the origin was inside my head. I still enjoy the inside of my head from time to time.

I knew I was ok when I spotted Nipper, the big RCA dog, on top of the building at the edge of downtown Baltimore. THAT was NOT a hallucination.

And by the way, I don't regret a thing except my naivety.