Whether it's characters from a book or real-life people, understanding where they came from provides a window into their souls. Here's an excerpt from my newest novel, A Groovy Kind of Love, which will be released Monday, 1/12, that introduces the Pearsons, owners of the juice bar Ambrosia and Spring's parents.
A Groovy Kind of Love
San Francisco, California, 1980
Spring Pearson was the result of her parents’ impetuosity in the women’s restroom of the Oakland Coliseum after a Grateful Dead performance. Jefferson Starship was there, as well as another band, but Bob and Donna couldn’t ever remember which one. Unable to control themselves any longer, the two ran into a stall and, well, you know. This being a Dead show, female concertgoers were used to seeing all sorts of strange occurrences, real or otherwise, so no one paid them any mind. After all, rumors had circulated about the band pumping in hallucinogens during some of their shows.
Bob Pearson had been in the maternity ward waiting room for almost eight hours, there the entire time, except for forty-five minutes when he grabbed a sandwich from the cafeteria and made two phone calls to their parents, updating them on Donna’s status. The baby simply refused to come out.
“Mr. Pearson?” A nurse dressed in pink scrubs rushed toward him. “She’s dilated to nine, almost ten centimeters. It won’t be long now.”
“How is she?”
“Doing well. I’ll let you know when it’s over.” She scooted back through the automatic doors.
Bob wished he were by Donna’s side in the delivery room, like some hospitals were beginning to allow, but County General wasn’t one of them. Crowd noises escalated from the waiting room’s television, where New England Patriots kicker John Smith made his way onto the field. Bob had been there so long, he’d almost forgotten it was Monday night. Stressed out and anxious, he was craving some sweet Mary Jane. He wanted to mellow out with the outta-sight Hawaiian Punta Butter on his dresser, but he probably didn’t have enough time to get home and back before the baby was born. “Would you turn that thing off?” he harped at the orderly tidying up a magazine pile. “My wife’s in labor.”
“No kidding,” the orderly answered, stacking Sports Illustrated on top of Time. “Shush, be quiet.”
Monday Night Football announcer Howard Cosell was saying something about an unspeakable tragedy in New York City. The orderly turned up the volume. Former Beatle John Lennon had been shot outside his apartment building. He was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
The girl behind the reception desk gasped.
John Lennon? Who would shoot John Lennon? Bob and Donna had seen him perform with Yoko, Stevie Wonder, and Bob Seger at the rally to free John Sinclair in Michigan back in seventy-one. “Working Class Hero” gave Bob the chills. Now he’s dead? He held his head and closed his eyes, trying to absorb the words.
“Mr. Pearson? Mr. Pearson?”
“You have a daughter.”
They named her Spring in hopes of a better world, one in which people like John Lennon would not be shot, a world of love and respect for all humans and creatures of the earth, a world with true freedom and open-mindedness, a world free of corporate greed.
They were still waiting.
Born in 1950, Bob and Donna Pearson were both products of what society deemed “proper sex,” which was pretty much reserved for straight, white married couples. ’Twas a Puritan age in which elders warned against premarital relations and nuns told horny teenagers if they masturbated, they would either go blind or get hairy palms. They were sixteen years old when Masters and Johnson’s Human Sexual Response was published, and suddenly everyone was talking about “it.” The Sexual Revolution hit America, and if it felt good, teenagers everywhere were doing it. Skirt hemlines got shorter. See-through blouses and other exotic clothes became fashionable. Bell bottoms. Hip huggers. Middle Eastern caftans. Halter tops. Tie dye. Velvet. Paisley. Nehru jackets. Jeans. Feathers. Beads. Nude beaches. Afros, long hair, sideburns, mustaches, and beards for men. Women stopped shaving their legs and underarms and ditched their mini-corset bras. Exotic-sounding deities replaced the old man god of the Bible and had names like Ganesha, Shiva, and Buddha. The only rule was “No Rules.” They were free, man, and it was far out!
“They don’t know what to think of us, man.” Bob’s friend, Jim, took a long drag and inhaled deeply, careful not to allow any smoke to escape, then passed the joint to the chick Dave had been ballin’ for the past week. “They don’t get what freedom really means. People have to express themselves.”
“Freedom is the enemy of the establishment,” Bob added. “Institutions enslave people, dude, whether it’s the government, the church, or the class system.”
“Right on, man.” Jim got up and held Bob’s shoulder, steadying himself. “Got a line on some White Lightning. You want in?”
After a bad trip three months before when he woke up on Telegraph Hill under Coit Tower, Bob had been staying clear of acid. He still hadn’t found those pants. “Nah, I’m pretty fried.”
The girl struggled to rise, looking more like a newborn giraffe than the sex freak Dave raved about. “I’m in.”
“You got bread?” Jim asked. The chick was a notorious joneser.
She rummaged through her crochet-fringe macramé purse and pulled out a wad of bills. “See? I’ve got the dough.”
“Then, right this way, my dear.” Jim put his arm around her, and the two sauntered out the door.
Bob took one last toke.
“It’s true what you said about institutions oppressing people,” said a girl with long brown hair parted down the middle. She was thin but shapely in her orange T-shirt with a fat dove on the front, long, printed skirt, and Birkenstock sandals. “It benefits them to keep up the status quo. Changes throw them off balance and threaten their power base.”
Bob thought she was plain adorable underneath that straw hat with those heavy black eyeliner dots around her eyes that made them look like sunflowers. “What’s your name?”
“Want to get something to eat? Munchies, man. I’m feelin’ a burrito. How about you?”
Inseparable, Bob—who later changed his name to Raindancer—and Sunshine—who’d been christened Donna—went to the same college, the University of California at Berkeley, and spent their summers touring the country in a Volkswagen van with huge orange and yellow flowers painted on each powder-blue side in search of the grooviest concerts and the most influential sit-ins and marches.
In 1968, they were among the anti-war protestors who joined with members of the Youth International Party and the Students for a Democratic Society, ten thousand in all, who shouted, “The whole world is watching,” while the Chicago Police drove a paddy wagon right into the middle of the crowd and began wielding their clubs. They hurled tear gas into the crowd. Sunshine stumbled, gasping for air, each breath a thousand flames. Tears streamed down her face. Unable to see where she was going, she ran right into a cop, who cuffed her and threw her in the paddy wagon. Fortunately, Bob had managed to get away and came down to the station to bail her out. They had an emergency plan in case of such an event. It wasn’t the first time either one had been arrested for civil disobedience.
Bloodied and bruised afterward, Sunshine wondered what was so wrong with peace… well, except that it inhibited to the military industrial complex’s profitability. War had gotten the United States out of the Great Depression. War was “good” for the economy. “And what about freedom?” she would ask anyone who would listen. “Wasn’t that supposed to be one of America’s founding principles, too?”
Only for those with power and money.
And the Hippies had neither.
Those were heady days, back when they thought they could change the world, and they did, to a certain extent. The antiwar, pro–civil rights, pro–women’s rights marchers changed cultural norms and broke barriers for many Americans. They did not succeed in transforming much of the government’s policies, however, something that stung Sunshine’s heart more than the tear gas in her eyes.
Before long, the movements started to disband, as movements oftentimes do. Raindancer and Sunshine were getting older. Floating from crash pad to crash pad and living out of the van grew tedious. How would they support themselves? They hadn’t put in all those hours of marching just to surrender to some nine-to-five, conformist, corporatist life. Bob had some money saved from a small inheritance from his grandfather, so they packed up the baby and what little they had and drove to Illinois because they heard property was a lot cheaper there than in California. Unfortunately, the Second City proved still too pricey for the Pearsons, so they settled about forty miles west of Chicago, in a town called Naperville, and purchased a storefront property across the street from the DuPage River on the border of downtown. At that time, real estate was cheap, just the right price for the two transplants from California once known as Raindancer and Sunshine. Plus, the building came with a small apartment above the shop. There they would begin building their own little utopia with peace, love, and organic ingredients.
Copyright © 2014 by Karen Wojcik Berner
A Groovy Kind of Love is available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Kobo.