The Roads You Take, The Ones You Leave Behind

Andy Romanoff
Oct 12, 2017 · 7 min read
ASP110, the bus I used to live on

The Hog Farm Reunion, Wavy Gravy and the Bus I used to live on

I joined the Hog Farm in 1969, a long time ago. I left a year later, got back on the bus for a minute here and there, spent time hanging out with the family at Pacific High School, met up with them at other stops along the journey, but as a family member, I was gone. I left, but I never quit. I became an executive, an Academy member, a temple goer, I lived a hundred other layers of life, gathering identities as I went. Still, always among them, I remembered I was a Hog Farmer.

You may not know much about the Hog Farm, so here’s a short history. The Hog Farm is the longest living commune in America, a bunch of 60s hippies welded together by common desires and trust and time. It came together in December 66, started by a handful of people living in the hills of Sunland, California, who built a bus to replace the one some of them had once lived on. That first bus was Further, the mythic bus of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. The new bus, called Road Hog, was slowly joined by many busses, became a traveling commune that was the free kitchen and trips tent at Woodstock. About a year after Woodstock, I met the Hog Farm in Chicago. I climbed onto Road Hog one bitterly cold afternoon, and stepping aboard altered my life.

Butch driving the ASP

I didn’t plan on getting on the bus for good that day, only stepped aboard to help get it started, then went for a ride and watched a legendary Hog Farm driver named Butch charm a Chicago cop into overlooking a slew of violations while transforming his suspicions into a recognition of commonality. That day I glimpsed firsthand how attitude could be translated into actions that change the course of events, and that vision has never left me even if I forget it all the time.

I joined the Farm some months later, riding the dog out to California just in time to become part of the crew on a new Hog Farm bus. We called it The Fast Bus or the Incredible ASP. The ASP was a 1947 Greyhound Silversides, a diesel-engined long haul machine, the first post-war bus built by the Greyhound bus line. By 1969 the ASP probably had a few million miles on it and had been replaced in the Greyhound fleet by a newer generation of advanced and powerful machines but to us it was truly a magic bus, a huge step up from the gas-powered, brightly painted, beaten down school busses everyone was then living on.

Camping in the Sangre de Christo mountains, our beautiful bus, my beautiful traveling companions

The ASP was sleek and beautiful, with long silver side panels and rounded airplane windows. Without a trademark psychedelic paint job on the outside, it was totally invisible on the road. We were a hand-picked crew of a dozen, ready to drive night and day across the country in our vanilla on the outside, richly collaged, tie-dyed hand-built on the inside home. In 36 hours, we could sail the highways from LA to Miami, be there in time to make a difference at a festival, a demonstration, a party, anywhere someone thought we could be useful. I loved it like few other experiences of my life. For me, the Hog Farm was a Dionysian dream, a rich collection of experiences; people, events, cop shows, politics, celebrity, sex, drugs, and rock n roll. The bus was my home, a rolling party, a band of companions, a crystal ship cruising through the night, a young man’s dream.

Wavy Gravy singing and playing

I left after a while because even all that was not enough. I slipped off the bus and lived in Oregon with the Prankster remnants for a while, then moved to LA to be Captain Gas and to work in the movie business and to have different kinds of adventures. But the deep core of belief in people, the fundamental love that is the gift of Wavy Gravy, was not forgotten.

Oh yeah, I guess I should mention here that for me, it was all about the party, but there were others who were a little more mindful. I don’t think I recognized that then. Wavy was Hugh Romney, a Merry Prankster legend, the Tom Wolfe Electric Kool-Aid guy connected directly to the Kerouac beatniks through Cassidy, and Cassidy was the real deal let’s party big time, got to get me some of that, oh yeah, real deal. Wavy was also more than that, but I wasn’t interested in that part then. That comes later

So I left the Hog Farm behind and I became successful, while Wavy and Jah and Larry and Girija Brilliant, Calico, Goose, and Cedar…many others went on to India and some started SEVA, the charity that gave millions their eyesight back and others became part of a hundred other meaningful acts of caring, putting their lives where their ideals were. Nowadays, when I reflect on paths taken and not, I am in awe of what they did.

Regardless of my path, they kept me in their hearts along with most everyone else who passed through the family, and I would see them every five or ten years, and slowly, the time passed.

Now we are growing older. Wavy is 81; I am 75. Many of us have stopped getting older, and for those of us who remain, the time is sweet. A few months ago, a 50th reunion was announced. It was to be a gathering of all of us, the ones from the beginning, the ones that came later, the children that came from all of this and their children, and the friends we made along the way.

The Hog Farm owns a ranch outside of Laytonville, a town about two hours north of San Francisco, so we gathered there. For a weekend, we peered into impossible old faces looking for our young beauty, and once we found it, it was as if the time had never happened. We talked and kissed and hugged and remembered, and for a while, we suspended time. What a pleasure it was.

The Hog Farm 50th reunion, 2017

I brought a camera and made pictures to help me remember all I saw. On Saturday, I shot the whole family, everyone who could make it, and what a splendiferous assemblage it was. Saturday night, there was music on a stage, and a light show put on by some of the people who put the light show into the lexicon of the sixties, and when I was tired, I walked away and went to my bed next to the stage and fell into sleep.

I woke around two to country silence and stepped out into the soft darkness of the night. Not far away in the center of the camp, there was a campfire and people sitting around it, and there was quiet music.

Making music for each other in the beauty of the night

Wrapping myself in flannel, I walked over to the fire and stood there listening to Stacy and the others making human-scaled music, singing and playing for each other, and I was transported to an understanding of music’s birth and how deep and old it is, and I was humbled.

Kevin, the fireman, tends the fire

When the fire softened, The Fireman appeared. He circled the fire, a wizard at work, looking intently, then judging and placing a new log exactly, stirring and tending till the circle of fire was perfect again. I made some pictures, the scene so dark each image came up a surprise, and at one point, I went back to my bed and got a bottle of Irish whiskey, opening it for all and leaving the cap behind. I stayed till 3:30 privileged and grateful to be part of the elemental ritual, and then I went back to sleep.

This is all we have, this and a thousand other moments like it, our bodies, our hearts, our minds, our comrades and our family. These few precious moments while we are alive and know what a gift that is. Even as I write this, I am alive again. What a great reunion.

You can see more pictures of the Hog Farm

and you can read more of my stories

And here’s a link to pictures I offer for sale;

Stories I've Been Meaning to Tell You

Stories, pictures and ruminations about life, photography, adventures on the road, my friends and the times we all are sharing

Andy Romanoff

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These are the days of miracles and wonders. This is the long distance call — Paul Simon

Stories I've Been Meaning to Tell You

Stories, pictures and ruminations about life, photography, adventures on the road, my friends and the times we all are sharing

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