Stick Around

Wavy Gravy was a high-visibility referee at the early New Games Tournaments. (Having just written that, I’m either remembering once again how the term “high” visibility came about, or— even more embarrassing—just realizing it for the first time.) Mr. Gravy was the one who bequethed New Games the motto Play Hard, Play Fair, Nobody Hurt.


Wavy and I were both present at the third New Games Tournament in Speedway Meadows of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park (along with 10,000 other people). I had been helping to lead small community play sessions in the weeks prior to help promote the Tournament and was among the volunteer crew who arrived early that day to help set up. Among other activities I remember discussing the historical significance of a Liberty versus May Pole with a fellow volunteer while digging a hole to hoist the Liberty Pole that was used later that day for a May Dance. You can see the hole in Slide 150 of the New Games Slide Show. (scroll down after clicking over to that page)


Wavy showed up in an old, white Dodge Dart and parked it on the lawn under some trees near the general headquarters of the Tournament. Along with leading games and activities and being a high-visibility media center of attnetion, all day long he invited people to help paint the white car yellow with cans of spray paint. While this impromptu automotive makeover made little to all of us, I (along with lots of other folks) contributed a spritz or two to the renovation.


As a volunteer, I stayed around to help strike the Tournament at the end of a wonderful, exhausting day. Just about everything had been taken down and hauled away, Speedway Meadows was pretty much restored (except for one hole in field), and the remaining few of us were ready to leave.


Wavy lit a flashlight, put it under a hollow plastic frog, and taped the frog to the top of the now-yellow Dart. After proclaiming the vehicle a hack cab, he invited a young woman and me to hop in. Had no idea where we were headed, and I was not about to pass up a ride (and adventure) with the icon who had announced "breakfast in bed for 400,000" at Woodstock.


He drove across the Bay Bridge to Berkeley, stopped in briefly at the Hog Farm, and headed off to a charity concert at some club. It might have been the Freight and Salvage, though I'm not sure I trust my memory on that point. Wavy got on stage to make some announcements about local rock bands that may make an appearance later in the evening, then came back to explain that the scene there wasn't happening, and we should check out a different club in Marin County.


The hack cab was so full of stuff that no driver could see through the rear window. Plus, side mirrors were apparently only suggestions for hack cabs. Heading north on I-80, while continuing a non-stop monologue about anything and everything, he would—in mid-sentence—bark out, "Can I change lanes?"


He liked my quick, crisp responses and said I reminded him of himself when he used to ride shotgun for Neal Cassady, Kerouac’s inspiration for the fictional Dean Moriarty in the seminal On the Road. As waves of literary and cultural history washed over me, Wavy then demonstrated how sometimes the spirit of Neal got in him while driving. He pressed the accelerator to the floor and began speed rapping, while jerking his arms and hands on and off the steering wheel. I was so busy swooning over the moment I didn't realize how scared I was.


Wavy pulled the car over after we crossed the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, got out, and asked me to drive. He explained that he was no longer on home turf and the police in Marin County tended to hassle him a lot more than the Alameda County police.


We ended up at another nightclub somewhere on Mount Tam. Wavy hopped out and proceeded to be the center of attention for a new group of admirers. After an hour or so my fellow passenger and I hitchhiked back to San Francisco in the early morning.


One important lesson I learned early on from my experience with New Games is, “Stick around, the party keeps getting better.”