Originally published August 15, 2016.
On my way back from LA the other night, I was in such a good mood. After two weeks in Cowtown, one night in Hollywood felt like a week in the country. So I picked up a hitchhiker and his dog in Gorman, on the Grapevine. He was headed for Oregon, writing a book about his wanderings across the country. After about an hour of driving, I convinced myself he needed to be on Hwy. 1, not the 5, so I cut over on Hwy. 46 through the beautiful rolling mid-state wine country hills to Cambria (let’s be real here: I just did not want to go back to Cowtown!). When we got to the edge of the continent, I looked out over the Pacific to see the red sun hovering in the oceanic mists, pulled over instantly to snap this pic.
I call it “Sea Raga Song.” You say, “Knox, that is a ridiculous title.” I say, “Yes, of course.” I knew a guy at Berkeley High School in the late sixties. Michael something. He was the ultimate peace-and-love hippie. He wrote Donovan-inspired lyrics for songs without music (as far as I knew). I was at his apartment one afternoon, up near where Chez Panisse would later open. I remember one neatly written page, a song with the title “Sea Raga Song.” Even then, at the age of seventeen, I knew it was a little too precious, but it stuck, obviously, in my mind.
I didn’t see him again for about five years, when he had just gotten out of prison for bank robbery. He had gotten addicted to cocaine and robbed Berkeley banks to support his habit. His complexion had gotten so bad from the drugs that the Berkeley Gazette had referred to him as the “Pizza-faced bank robber.” I ran into him at my parents’ house, actually. He was hanging out with my sister at the time. I never saw him again, don’t know if he made it or if he ever wrote another Sea Raga Song.