Memories of Monte Capanno 1970: The Genesis of the Trip

Twelve pages which follow present what we recall about these topics.   (Residents' comments are in RED).
( click on a topic to jump to it)
The Genesis of the Trip
The Trip to Perugia
Daily Life: Eating, cooking, sleeping, keeping warm, etc.
Governance: did Anarchy work?
Entertaining Ourselves at Monte Capanno
Our Guests
Remembering the Zacks
Our Memories of Each Other at Monte Capanno
Our Italian Neighbors
Trips taken elsewhere around Italy and Europe
Remembering Perugia
Assessing the Meaning of it all
(note: if this list is not complete, create your own topic and submit information/comments on it to: lindabowen2@yahoo.com , or post your memories here  and we'll figure out where they fit).



In 1968, two years before the experiment at Monte Capanno came to life in rural Italy, a San Francisco (California) resident and art professor named David Zack published an obscure book, Playing Songs.  It included the following free verse comment about the house depicted below: "we're painting our house rainbow the writing why why to trade with you reading this with me reading it ten minutes from now after supper in a year a million years after." Now, thirty some years later, comment and analysis again begins about the experiment that took shape in that very house, and about the meaning of it all.
 
The Genesis of the trip In California, how did this get organized, by whom? "We began in June 1969 to create a student initiated accredited semester.  By fall the 15 of us had grown to 25, and the department had hired a highly innovative young professor, David Zack, to whom the idea of Europe was appealing.  In mid-November, the Trustees of the State Colleges had approved a curriculum for us revolving around the role of Art in Society.  Perugia, Italy was chosen to be the site for the experiment, and David wrote to secure accommodations in a nearby villa or country house of the aristocracy."  (from Gordon's diary, go here to read more)
 
"In the Fall of 1969, several of us went to Rainbow House in the Fillmore District of San Francisco to meet David Zack, Maija, and their friends for some 'planning dinners'.  I don't recall who exactly went with Mark, Linda and me to these meetings.  And they may not have been the initial planning meetings.  But David was a strong force behind the trip, and was instrumental in pairing the members of the group with the students of a friend of his, an Art Prof. in New York City.  These strangers put us up for four days in New York City, which was very helpful since our flight to Europe left from NY, not SF." (by Gordon)

"I remember Maija chopping ox tails on a counter at Rainbow House, to make soup for the group." (By Mark)

"Not just at these San Francisco 'meetings' (they were more parties!) at Rainbow House, but at Monte Capanno, too, Maija taught me a lot of what I know about how to cook, especially how to feed big groups." (by Linda)

Planning also took place on the San Jose State campus:  "The Tutorials in Letters & Science program was housed in a rickety old building (since torn down) in the very center of the SJSC campus, adjacent to Morris Dailey Auditorium & the Tower. It was an island of experimental education in the midst of a comparatively 'straight' campus in Nixon's America. So Zack schedules an organizational meeting. Hah!  Zack's half-hearted attempt at imposing order on an enterprise that he only half-secretly hoped would become an anarchist's holiday!

"We met in a larger faculty office on the first floor of the building, maybe three weeks before departure.  We pulled the chairs into a sort-of-circle, and people began examining the correspondence we had rec'd from the New York art students that Zack had put us in contact with.  According to Zack's plan, we would be stopping over in New York City for three days, prior to our departure via Icelandic Airways, NYC to Luxembourg. This getting-acquainted process with the NY art students included the exchange of weird artsy-craftsy objects, one of which contained what appeared to be a wheat-straw paper joint.  The NY student wrote that she was sorry that the reefer was bogus, but that we got the idea any way. So some wise guy lights up the NY wheat-straw joint, and passes it round.  In the meanwhile a gallon of red wine was being circulated, so we were all acting a little paranoid anyway, yet brazenly because, what the hell, we were splitting for a semester.

"Thus I pulled one of the better pranks of my college career. For, with great fortuitousness, I had rolled a couple of REAL wheat-straw paper joints that morning, and had tucked them into my shirt pocket.  When the fake joint got to me, I palmed it, let my hand drop to the side of the chair, and extinguished it. Quietly, I slid a real doobie out of my pocket, placed it in my right hand, and acted as if the fake joint had gone out.  The room smelled of tobacco smoke and wine, so nobody really noticed as I fired up genuine Mexican cannabis.  Took a couple of hits, tried not to giggle, and passed  the reefer on to my left, to a pal sitting next to me (he too shall remain nameless), as if nothing had happened.  Well, the joint made the rounds, all the way to Zack, sitting across the room from me.  Damn, but it was hard not to laugh.  Zack drew a little smoke, and then the realization swept across his face.  It was real dope. A wisp of a smile on his lips, he casually glanced back at those who had already handled the doobie, trying to ascertain who had pulled the switch.   Hah. College was great." (by an anonymous student member of the community).
 

An alternative explanation of the origins of this trip to Italy was brought to our attention in February 2001. The Monte Capanno 1970 project was contacted by Adrienne DeAngelis, a fellow student in the Tutorials Program at San Jose State College in 1968-70.  She wrote that:
"David Zack didn't think up the idea of taking off for a semester, I did. There had been an independent study type of trip from SJSU a few years before to Riekja (sp?) in Yugoslavia, which ended, as I remember hearing, with all students from SJSU being banned from Yugo.  Something about a bee-bee gun and policemen. Anyway, I suggested, as I was dying to get out of San Jose, that we in Tutorials put together a trip to some nicer place, like Italy (country of my dreams), luring along a token professor. Before I knew it, smartie pants Zack had manuevered his way in. He was a new prof in the program who was admired by some of the other profs because he had a tangential relationship to the dregs of the beat crowd in SF ("the City"; SJ was nowheresville), and so was thought to be cooler than they were. He claimed, as some might recall, to have access to a villa in central Italy (which turned out to be an unfinished farmhouse). I pulled out at this moment, for two reasons: I wasn't about to move to the back of beyond when all of Italy was calling me, and then, and this was the most decisive moment, I remember coming upon Zack stretched out on the lawn in front of Building R in full tweeds, smoking a pipe. It hit me that he was an extremely strange person, and that he was not trustworthy. I didn't want to trust my safety to him, and so bye-bye (posting of Feb. 24, 2001)..." "I actually went to Eugene Bernardini and asked him if he'd be interested in being our Italian prof.  He showed a bit of interest, but when Zack showed up EB bowed out (there was, as I  recall, some discussion of having them as co-directors).  Also, Perugia wasn't "selected" to be the program's location; that's where the farmhouse,  oops, villa was that Zack knew about.  And on a much more trival matter: I  don't remember anyone at the time characterizing Zack as 'charmismatic.'  He  had contacts with the Beats in S.F. and, I do believe, with Fluxus in  NJ/NY. Well, I guess if you have what appear to be impeccable oldtime countercultural credentials your coolness automatically makes you charismatic." (letter of March 2, 2001; to read more, go here)

 

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Navigation Guide: There are eleven pages of Memories of Montecapanno, you are on page 1.
 
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The Genesis of the Trip
The Trip to Perugia
Daily Life: Eating, cooking, sleeping, keeping warm, etc.
Governance: did Anarchy work?
Entertaining Ourselves at Monte Capanno
Our Guests
Remembering our Leaders: The Zacks
Our Memories of Each Other at Monte Capanno
Our Italian Neighbors
Trips taken elsewhere around Italy and Europe
Remembering Perugia
Assessing the Meaning of it all
(note: if this list is not complete, create your own topic and submit information/comments on it to: lindabowen2@yahoo.com , or post your memories here  and we'll figure out where they fit).


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This web page last was updated November 10, 2004 ,
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