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Interview with Mike Marino

Thanks to the internet, we now can travel to far away land, far away places as well as travelling back to the past and reminiscense about our life's experiences way back. We can also travel back to the places where we used to live and how they were back then. There are many web sites for baby boomers that take us back to the journeys of the past. Journeys that we might have done ourselves or journeys and trips that we wished we had or we just dreamt about.

Here we are honored to be able to share a conversation with Mike Marino, an author of ROAD TRIPPIN' USA book.
Mike's web site and his book will take us back to mystical journeys from the 50's, the 60's and the 70's.

Question: (Jeri Maier) For an opening question-first can you tell us a little about yourself?

ANSWER: (Mike Marino)
In addition to being a freelance writer and starving, yet published author, I've also had a career in rock n' roll radio in the rustbelt known as the Motor City, where I was born. Actually in Detroit, babies aren't born, we roll off the assemblylines. Cars and cruisin' were always a part of the chrome-magnon car culture there and Woodward Avenue and rock n' roll were the fuels that propelled that generation, at that time, and especially in that town.

The neighborhood was decidedly Italian and Sicilian, with names like Marino, Vitti, Scalisi, Russo, and Mafioso, you know, vowels at the end of names, not like the Irish, with vowels at the beginning. After a few years on the road living in Hawaii and San Francisco, with a brief stint living on Sunset Strip in LA, I ended up in radio somehow, completely by accident by the way, and it eventually took me to my adopted hometown of San Francisco, where years prior, previous lifetime, I had lived a somewhat streetwise existence. Now as a broadcaster, I enjoyed ten years flying around the airwaves and had a rock n' roll oldies show on Saturday Night called "The Blue Suede Cruise". Greased and gassed, we rocked for 5 hours every Saturday with all requests and had a feature we called the Dovetail Doubleshots...two psychedelic tunes in a row..of course some of those songs are 14 minutes long and leaves plenty of time to eat pizza among other things.

I started writing a few years back in response to a magazine who saw my website and had me write an article on whatever I wanted, although it had to be travel oriented. So, North Beach: The Beat Goes On! followed by Haight Ashbury: The Spare Change Tour! came about. Once these appeared online, I was approached by other editors who wanted to use them, as well as a supply of fresh stuff from the literary weedpatch, so it just grew from there. Then I was coaxed into writing a book, rambles on Pop Culture, and wrote it as a labor of love and badda bing, badda boom, well, now it's buydabook!

Question: (Jeri Maier)
Reading your book, one can imagine travelling back through time and spaces. Time in the 60s and 70s... spaces, places where all the dramas of those time happened when we were young and innocent.

ANSWER: (Mike Marino)
In retrospect the Eisenhower '50s and the madcap '60s do seem innocent to a point until we strip away the veneer and look below the 1950's for example The Cold War was bearing down on not a few continents like a political and possibly, nuclear Ice Age and the south was still a cauldron of hatred and lynchings and segregation was still alive. Then in the 1960's Vietnam was sharing the psyche with V-8's, two Kennedy's were gunned down and Martin Luther King, Jr in Memphis, and folks were getting their heads beat in on the streets of Mayor Daleys Chicago. Then their was The Bay of Pigs invasion and the Warren Commission, and in the 1970's winding down in Vietnam and of course, the debacle of Watergate, and the resignation of a US President for the first time in History as we all did one day at a time, the big picture wouldn't be clear until much mental re-runs that we humans are famous for. It was too large of a picture to comprehend at once at the time of it's happening and we all suffered from a "can't see the social forest for the tree's" visibilty. Today, in retrospect, they were innocent, at least we were as to the full impact of the times and managed to grow and be influenced by them as few generations have before, excepting of course, the generation prior to ours.

Were they the good old days? Only time will tell, but I can tell you this, sitting in a small apartment in the Haight, it's two in the morning, the wee smalls, a fog in the room and Surrealistic Pillow on the record player..yeah, they were the good old days and wouldn't have wanted to live at any other time..except maybe in the 1600 or 1700's..always wanted to be a pirate!

Question: (Jeri Maier)
I noticed that you talked about living in San Francisco in one of your articles. Tell me about The Beat and of living there

ANSWER: (Mike Marino)
North Beach is a very interesting neighborhood. In the mid-1960s the bongos and the beats were still jazzin' it up on Columbus Avenue and when I got there in 1965 it wouldn't be long until the counter culture court jester, Lenny Bruce would die in 1966, and Jack Kerouac would cash in his chips in 1969. So the Beat scene was on the edge of the darkside of the moon. Kerouac had already told the up and coming generation "to leave him alone and find their own heroes" and would begin hangin' out with folks like William Buckley, Jr, and Lenny was talking only about his drug busts and wasn't funny anymore and stopped holding up the societal mirror in our faces.

I had arrived in North Beach after a couple of years living on the beach in Hawaii, so the beachbum years were behind me, see, there's that pirate thing again, and after returning to the mainland to LA decided that the Sunset Strip was a bit too glitzy for my Midwestern, plaid and proud tastes, so took a 'Hound north to North Beach.

The most striking thing about the area were the smells of foods. Good Italian foods of course, and the bars, but was too young to get in or get served, but when your 17 in North Beach the sounds are intoxicating enough. At night, the Beach was at it's tawdry best. Neon and strip clubs with jazz and other forms of music coming from darkened doorways, street barkers hawking away the peep shows and of course, Carol Doda launching the age of topless dancing and testing the moral fiber of America with her lethal weapons!

Apartments were cheap at the time and temporary to say the least. Just crash pads really and if you got to know people, you could have a place most nights. Food was easy and even underage, you could get a cheap bottle.

Found out later that Jack Kerouac was living at 23 Russell Street just north of the Beach when he wrote "On The Road" and in later years made the pilgrimage to the alley street just one block long and there it was, is to this day. Also next door to City Lights Bookstore is an alley with Vesuvio's on the other side and it's appropriately called Jack Kerouac Lane..and the Beat Goes On!

In 1966 the Haight was beginning to sprout into full blown psychedelia within a year and living in North Beach used to go up there "on vacation" as we called it and in 1966 made the move to land of peace, love and spare change. It was colorful even then and had more of a sense of community unlike the circus atmosphere that would take over with a flood and influx the following year. I do remember the first day on the street I walked straight into one of my writing idols, Richard Brautigan! That cinched it for me and made plans to dig in deep. After sleeping in crashpads and the like, I got it together and with someothers got a place right on Haight Street over the Jukebox Bar. Shared kitchen, bathroom and all that, not a loft apartment by any stretch of the imagination!

A group called the Diggers had a paper called the Digger Papers and also ran the Free Store where literally everything was free. Cigarettes, books and magazines on the mezzanine level and clothing, mainly jeans in the basement along with some field jackets that came in handy on foggy Ess Eff nights.

At night you could hang out at Tracy's Donut Shop listening Bob Dylan songs and in the daytime you could crash in the back room of the Psychedelic Shop for a few hours amongst, the music, the sitars, the incense and the blacklights. Sometimes at night the Park Station cops would sweep the streets looking for runaways and enlarged pupils, no not big students, but chemical reactions in the eyes and bust people left and right, I guess politically mostly those of us on the Left! Whenever they started heading down for a sweep the word went out and evrybody scattered like birds on the wing.

It was a neighborhood of Grateful Deads, Hells Angels, and yep, even Charles Manson lived on Cole Street for awhile so there is the dark side of tie-dyed! Bands would get up on the flatbed trucks in the Panhandle and entertain and the Diggers would feed the masses beans and hamburger around 4pm most days.

The Filmore was a cheap date and for pennies you could see some of the greatest amalgams of acts on the planet and get a free apple on the way in too!

'67 saw the largest assemblage yet and things were getting crowded. Bus tours, wannabe's and junkies started moving in and soon Hip Was Dead and actually buried that year. The Summer of Love was about to fade into memory and was at that point I moved out of the Haight and into North Beach again. Soon I made my way back east and like anyone without any discernable skills, went into Radio!

Years later in 1996 went down to the Haight with my kids to show them the neighborhood and started taking a picture of the GAP, old apartment now gone, up in smoke I suppose. Anyway, a street guy comes up to me and says "Man, why you takin' a picture of the GAP for"? I looked at him and said, "30 years ago that was my apartment" He looked, eyes got wide and he said, "Damn, let me take your picture with it in the background" He did, I have it today, and he got 5 bucks! The cost of spare change has gone up but well worth the price of that picture with me and my kids!

Question: (Jeri Maier)
That is fascinating! How about Route 66 - can you relate about the experiences you had and if you have done some travelling on it?"

ANSWER: (Mike Marino)
I was lucky in a way to actually travel on Route 66 when it actually was Highway 66 and not dotted with brown "historic" route signs..nope, it was the real deal then and as ornery a two lane as anyone could build. I did travel to and fro to the Midwest on occasion to visit my family and always on the way back either hitched the southern route (easier to get rides on it in those days than the closer Highway 50, plus it eliminated nights sleeping in the mountains in the cold fall and early spring). Once got a ride where you share the expenses out of Detroit so drove the whole length (from Joliet anyway in Illinois) with two others.

Food was cheap along the way and the desert always comfortable at the right time of the year. The cacti in bloom and the Panamint Mountains kind of purple like in the distance. Hitching was a recognized mode of travel in those days, however, wouldn't recommend it today. Steinbeck called it the "river of immigrants" as the Okies trudged to California, and in the '60s the floodtide of new immigrants also hit the road to paraphrase Kerouac here, "leave your youth behind in the east and seek your future in the west"..something like that.

Route 66 was the Mother of Roads to many and the roadheads and dharmabums of the 1960's were also her beloved children. Today it's all memorialized by many who decry her demise, and it's not the two lanes that are missed but the times themselves. Two lanes are wonderful, but Interstates also Kick Asphalt!

Continued To Part 2

Read some of Mike's articles

The Roadhead Chronicles
Where Pop Culture and Chrome Meet Asphalt and Art! - Order Page

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