Kesey's bus on magic road to resurrection
Zane Kesey picked at moss competing with swirls of brightly colored paint and patches of rust to cover the 1939 International school bus...
The Associated Press
PLEASANT HILL, Ore. — Zane Kesey picked at moss competing with swirls of brightly colored paint and patches of rust to cover the 1939 International school bus that his father, the late author Ken Kesey, rode cross-country with a refrigerator stocked with LSD-laced drinks in pursuit of a new art form.
"This comes off pretty easy," he said, a fond smile playing over his face. "It's amazing, some of the things that are coming out — things I remember."
For some 15 years, the bus dubbed "Furthur" has rusted away in a swamp on the Kesey family's Willamette Valley farm, out of sight if not out of mind, more memory than monument.
That is where Ken Kesey — author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and hero of a generation that vowed to drop out and tune in with the help of LSD — intended it to stay after firing up a new version.
But four years after his death, a Hollywood restaurateur has persuaded the family to resurrect the old bus so it can help tell the story of Kesey, the Merry Pranksters and the psychedelic 1960s.
David Houston, owner of the roadhouse Barney's Beanery in Hollywood, Calif., said he read Kesey's books while in high school and college.
"The story of the bus was always very compelling. To find out it had been just left to go — I really wanted to restore the bus and tell its story to the world."
Houston hopes to raise some $100,000 to get the bus running and looking good. The Kesey family will maintain control of the bus, taking it to special events.
"People think of a bus as transportation," said Zane Kesey. "No. It's a platform, a way to get your messages across."
Last fall, a group of old Pranksters hauled the bus out of the swamp and parked it next to a barn to await restoration.
The restoration will be a tough job. The body is badly rusted. The paint is peeled. The roof leaks. The engine, not original, and transmission have both been underwater. The original bunk beds and refrigerator are gone, though the driver's seat remains.
Fresh from the stunning success of "Cuckoo's Nest," Ken Kesey bought the bus in 1964. The plan was to drive it to New York for the World's Fair and a coming-out party for his new book, "Sometimes A Great Notion."
At La Honda, Kesey's home in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco, they installed a sound system, a generator on the back, and went wild with the paint. Artist Roy Sebern painted "Furthur" on the destination placard as a kind of one-word poem and inspiration to keep going whenever the bus broke down.
The day they were ready to go, Kesey recruited Neal Cassady, the wheelman in Jack Kerouac's "On the Road," from a bookstore where he was working, recalled one of the Pranksters, Ken Babbs. Pulling out of the driveway, the bus ran out of gas. That was quickly remedied, and down the road they went, Cassady spewing the speed-talking rap-babble that inspired Kerouac's writing style.
With short haircuts and preppy clothes, they got stopped by cops but never arrested, though they were carrying orange juice laced with LSD, which still was legal at the time. Kesey had been a guinea pig in government-sponsored LSD tests and was trying to turn the entire country on to it through events known as the Acid Tests.
The film and tape rolled constantly, but when they got back to La Honda, they could never get the two to synchronize.
Author Tom Wolfe used the material for his book, "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," but the movie lay dormant until 2000, when a digital editing machine made it possible and Kesey issued "Intrepid Traveler and his Merry Band of Pranksters Look for A Kool Place."
"When people ask what my best work is, it's the bus," Kesey said in 2000. "Those books made it possible for the bus to become.
"I thought you ought to be living your art, rather than stepping back and describing it," he said. The bus is "a metaphor that's instantly comprehensible. Every kid understands it."
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.