Cuban Missile Crisis

In the fall of 1962 Ira Sanperl and Roy Kepler were the scene's pacifist/political logicians. We knew from them that if the missiles the US had poised to launch at Cuba were actually deployed, hundreds if not thousands more around the world would be sent, resulting in global thermonuclear war.

 

At the very height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, on October 27th, probably around 4:30, Jerry and I climbed the hill behind The Chateau and hiked up to where we could see the sawtoothed pine ridge of California’s Coastal Range to the west. There were no houses or any of Stanford's sprawling tech facilities like the Linear Accelerator built yet; we were surrounded by sensuous golden hills dotted with black oaks. We sat on a knoll in a field of gently waving grass that warm Indian summer afternoon and the light felt infused with honey. If this was the end of the world--a very real probability in our teenage minds --we wanted to be together, awake and face it head on.

 

Jerry played "Go Down, Old Hannah" on his guitar and sang as the sun set and the sky turned vermillion. We wept for our lives not yet lived and held on to each other. We somehow had to do our part in hastening the day's end as there was the notion that if we got through this particular 24 hours of saber rattling with the Soviet Union, we would all survive.

 

We did, but that sense of dread and grief for the precariousness of planetary life at the hands of humans has never left me; it simply went on to the back burner for several decades. The deeply felt awareness that we could all die at any minute has informed my life and the truth of impermanence was most assuredly a subliminal driving force for Jerry and the subsequent phenomena of the Grateful Dead culture. I was very late getting home that night and my parents told me they were worried sick. My mother embraced me in relief and asked if she could warm up some dinner while in the background Walter Cronkite broke the news of a fragile, highly conditional truce between Kennedy and Khrushchev.

All work protected by copyright © 2017 by Brigid Meier