The Diggers

Something's astir on Haight Street. Thousands of hippies are making the scene when a roving band of mysterious characters suddenly appears among the day-trippers, passing out handbills that bear two enigmatic phrases: Street Menu and Carte de Venue ("Your ticket to somewhere"). It's the beginning of a street theater spectacle put on by a gangster performing troupe who call themselves the Diggers. The theme on this occasion is "The Death of Money and the Birth of Free." A bizarre funeral cortege is making its way up LSD Avenue. Leading the procession is a group of women mourners dressed in black singing "Get out my life why don't you babe..." to the tune of Chopin's Funeral March. They are followed by three hooded figures hoisting a silver dollar sign on a stick and a half-dozen pall-bearers carrying a black-draped coffin. Even stranger are the huge animal masks--at least five feet high--worn by the pallbearers. There won't be any reruns of this event, no encores or applause- in fact, there aren't even any spectators. Everyone's part of the show. The entire neighborhood becomes the stage as twenty death-walkers at the rear of the funeral march give away flutes, flowers, penny-whistles, and lollipops in preparation for the next "act," so to speak, a cacophonous orchestration mocking the law against being a public nuisance. Public nuisance equals public "new sense," get it? Hundreds of hippies line both sides of the street with instruments in hand, goofing and spoofing, and so it goes, one scene after another for hours at a time.

As twilight approaches, a few hundred rearview car mirrors procured from a junkyard are distributed to the mischievous masses, who are encouraged to climb atop the buildings and reflect the setting sun down onto the street. Meanwhile a chorus of women in silver bell-bottom pants, bolero tops, and tie-dye outfits raises a banner of marbelized paper inscribed with a poem and chants back and forth to some other women perched on the rooftops. Thousands pick up the cue and chant poetry, and soon the police arrive to clear the mob scene--a rather formidible task, considering that the crowd has swelled to unmanageable proportions. The spontaneous interaction between cops and hippies (call it a riot) becomes part of the performance. It's all for free--a free-for-all: anarchist antics scripted to make something wide open happen. "Street events are rituals of release. Re-claiming of territory (sundown, traffic, public joy) through spirit," proclaimed a Digger manifesto. "No one can control the single circuit-breaking moment that charges games with critical reality. If the glass is cut, if the cushioned distance of the media is removed, the patients may never respond as normals again. They will become life actors...a cast of freed beings."

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An excerpt from Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties and Beyond, by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain (Grove Press)
Copyright 1985 by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain
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