Memories of Monte Capanno 1970, Page Five: Entertaining Ourselves

(Residents' comments are in RED).
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Entertainment: Life at Monte Capanno was not only a struggle; it was fun.  Share here your recollections about our wine ceremonies, the games we played, parties we held, spaghetti dances, anything at all that made people happy.

Humorous Moments: Does anyone else remember a time when, as a prank, some of the residents encouraged one of our number, a lad inexperienced in doing laundry, to use a space heater as a drying rack for his underwear, garments that promptly scorched and burned?  Zany moments like these were not rare, so if you recall them, share!!
"Interestingly, the most enduring relationship I enjoyed among my MC-70 comrades was that which I shared with Mark Edward Cohen. I say 'interestingly' because my first impression of 'Gomar' (he hated that nickname, which had been bestowed upon him for some reason by his Allen Hall dorm-mates) was incredulity. Who the hell was this guy? He was no hippie. And he couldn't be your classic nerd because he was a wild man.  Remember him strolling around Monte Capanno singing 'Jesus Christ Superstar' at the top of his lungs? Certainly his rabbi hadn't taught him the tune (in fact, he had been at a showing of the play in London just prior to heading to Italy). Over the years my respect for Mark Cohen continued to grow. He had academic skills, business acumen, a superb sense of humor, and was generous to a fault. Anyway- my favorite Gomar anecdote. As y'all recall, there were few proper washing machines on the farm (one at the Contessa's???), so items of clothing were handwashed and hung out to dry. So Mark Cohen washes his long underwear and hangs them upon the clothesline near the little farmhouse, near the haystacks. That night, a big freeze. In the morning, Cohen discovers his longjohns are frozen stiff as a board. No matter. He sets them up on a screen (or something) in front of the fireplace in the big farmhouse. But too close. They catch fire. I know slapstick humor isn't very sophisticated, but I will never forget Mark Edward Cohen frantically trying to extinguish his burning underwear.  You HAD to love the guy." (by Mark Fissel, December 2000; to read more, go here)


"... drank a lot of Monte Capanno red wine.  Part of the evening was pouring it out of a huge old straw covered demijohn bottle into 26 two litre straw covered bottles.  And drinking a lot of the wine is part of pouring it.  Part of our rent to the Contesa covers one of those demijohns a week.  And if we should happen to drink more than the allowance, we can buy more.   This batch of red wine had been going long enough so it sparkles almost like champagne.  A rare thing, red wine that sparkles like champagne.  And as Andrea told us, very pure from the grape, no headaches." (from the Diary of David Zack, Feb. 17-18, 1970... go here to read more)

"An enormous quantity of Monte Capanno Red and Monte Capanno White was included in our rent.  The figure of 1000 liters is what sticks in my mind; could that be right?  Every week or two, a couple of the guys and I would carry an empty 50 liter 'basket bottle' up to the wine cellar of the Castle where Andre or Bepi would fill it for us.  We then would carry it back to the Farmhouse, set it up on the main table, and start a siphon hose.  With funnels ready, the flowing wine could efficiently be put into our many empty 2 liter bottles, if teamwork had coordinated everything.  Then we would cork them all up for use within a week or two.  However, if a funnel on a new bottle was not ready when a bottle filled, wine flowing at near garden hose rates would have to be put somewhere.  On some occasions, it injected wine into a resident's mouth.  Thus, a nap sometimes followed a disorganized wine decanting day."  (by Gordon, Oct. 2000)

"A demijohn of wine a week.  The "siphoner" was the lucky one.  Once, after my turn, the breadman came unannounced.  Through my blur, I had to be carried down the steps to meet him so I could help translate in my broken Italian.  Apparently we were tired of the saltless bread he liked to deliver.  'Pane con sale!'  I remember slurring through a string of giggles.  I think that began the unraveling of my reputation.  In spite of all the wine consumption, the bottles of vinegar managed to increase." (by Cathee, Oct. 2000)

"Many of us are drinking so much of the time that we don't care if we hurt anyone or if anything loving (or at least kind) comes across to another human being." (from the Diary of Cathee [White] St. Clair, March 23, 1970...go here to read more)

Drugs: The 1960s and early 1970s were a time of much experimentation with mind-altering substances, and the San Francisco Bay Area from which the residents of Monte Capanno chiefly came widely is recognized as a center of this aspect of youth culture in that era.  Any candid appraisal of the experiment at Monte Capanno, and of the 1960s-70s, will lead to some focus on the role that the use of drugs played.

"There was also a group on transportation, in charge among other things of procuring hashish, mescaline and LSD, which have been in short supply since we smoked the last of [deleted's] Philadelphia grass." (from the Diary of David Zack, Feb. 17-18, 1970... go here to read more)

"Last night [deleted] brought some special surprises to share.  Lots of grateful people." (from Cathee's diary, February 21, 1970, to read more please go here)

"I'd have done more if Gordon Bowen hadn't given me a glass of wine and a pipeful (which a fellow from England provided) to calm me down!  But after going back to the villa, where there are fewer people, fewer parties, and more peaceful surroundings, I'm perfectly content.  I can sleep for hours!" (from Cathee's diary, March 10, 1970, to read more please go here)

"We were wholly unprepared both physically and emotionally for real winter. And so the delight and enchantment of the first snowfall at Monte Capanno quickly gave way to ...distress...  Tempers flared and we rather spiralled down into near hopelessness.  One day as the weather offered the very first promise of spring, we were gathered around and in the fireplace, trying to stay warm, heads hung morosely, still rather deep into our winter gloom. In walked a beaming Dierdra with a tape player. As the first cut of Abbey Road broke the silence, she brought out a joint. Our spirits were instantly rekindled as we passed it around. Then she brought out another, and another and still another, a veritable cornucopia! Dierdra had stashed her stash, hoarding it all winter, sharing it with us at just the moment it would do us most good. And it did. It was an act of kindness and generosity I'll never forget." (by Wes, February 2001)

"Michael comes up to me and says Susie and Danny and Gina are stranded in Pontefelcino, where Terry's car broke down.  [deleted] and I decide to drive down there in mine, but not before smoking a joint--me rather greedy for smoke after losing all my grass to the wind some days ago. Turns out then my car won't start.  ...Having tanked up, we drove to Pontefelcino and found Susie and Danny and Gina in high spirits, they'd had a ball with half the town trying to help them start the car.  Apparently the generator was shot.  Terry was quite upset--he'd been planning to go to Luxembourg with that car.  We tried to jump-start it, but the motor was completely dead. . . . (from Joel's diary, May 21, 1970... go here to read more)

"Difficult as it is to admit, I must concede that the one thing that served to resolve hard feelings between the professor and the students was cannabis.  On this point, Dave and the rest of The Elite were quite generous.  Indeed, the timely arrivals of hash or pot at Monte Capanno often served to head off a major confrontation at our bi-weekly meetings." (from Gordon's diary, May 28, 1970...go here to read more)

A major change in the pace of recreational drug use at Monte Capanno came when, after Spring had bloomed, a new guest arrived with a generous spirit.  He pinned, as I recall it, over 2000 hits of blotter paper LSD onto the wall of the kitchen.  Up to that point, the psychedelic aspects of the experience had not predominated, due to lack of supply as much as to lack of interest.  After the arrival of the blotter paper, no restrictions on consumption existed and, while some of us were experienced in self regulation of acid dosage and knew the dangerous potential in even one dose, others were novices.  But both types of residents charged into this opportunity as one might order up another round of beers, a change which would prove to have risks as well as benefits. (by an anonymous resident).

Music: Before, during and after the experiment at Monte Capanno, music played a large role in defining youth culture.  Prof. Zack played many string instruments; the group contributed a diverse variety of musical talents.  What do you recall about the role played by making and listening to music?

Our Albums: For long periods in the winter we had only three records to listen to; they were ___, ____, and _____ ?  "Chicago... The Rolling Stones... Is 'Let It Bleed' on 'Sympathy for the Devil'?  I guess so.  Whatever the case, I'm pretty sure I heard it ("you can't always get what you want") for the first time at Montecapanno.  And Jethro Tull, of course!" (by Joel)

Kazoos: Great numbers of kazoos were taken to Italy by the group: what do you recall of the uses to which they were put?

Parties: "Tonight Paulo and Gigi, two Italian guys a girl met, came over with a record player and records... good ones... something we haven't seen in a long time.  So, we had a feast... bread, cheese, salami, fruit, lots of wine, salad, banana nut bread, etc.   I feel so peaceful living here." (from Linda's letters, February 21, 1970, to read more please go here)
"The highlight of the evening came when Paulo and Gigi arrived.  Two Italian hippies (ha!).  The most far out people!  Gigi has long sandy hair to his shoulders -- and a moustache.  Paulo has shorter hair -- also with a "stash."  They saved the day by bringing more wine and MUSIC.  Real, American (English, rather) albums!  I nearly died along with everyone else.  Ten Years After, Beatles, John Mayhal, Jethro Tull, Jimi Hendrix, Doors, Blood Sweat & Tears, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Simon & Garfunkel and endless others.  A stack about a foot or more thick.  Heaven.  Homesick.  Happy us.  Such a fine, fine way to spend an evening... Lots of grateful people." (from Cathee's diary, February 21, 1970, to read more please go here)

"Tomorrow night's a big festive occasion at the farmhouse.  All the workers, their families, La Contesa, her family, the Marquis on the next hill, the village doctor and some of the townspeople are joining us for a huge American-style party.  I will clean the bathrooms for it.  I will dance in spite of my fears." (from Cathee's diary, March 2, 1970, to read more please go here)

"[In Perugia we] met Andrea [the Contessa's younger son]...  He's planning what he calls a 'psychedelic party' (bring flowers) with a slide show and records.  He bought Craig "The Chicago Transit Authority," John "Let It Bleed," Cindy "Country Joe," & me "Jethro Tull."  All for an evening's entertainment at the big farmhouse.  One problem - we don't know when it will be..." (Cathee's diary, May 21, 1970)

"It was nearly 10:30 p.m. when Danny (Denny? - from Australia - Terry MacDonald's friend) came in and woke me to tell me to come to the party at the big farmhouse.  I was about to refuse, but when I heard that Gigi had brought the Beatles' new album, "Let It Be," and Simon & Garfunkle's new one, I decided to give it a try..." (Cathee's diary, undated but sometime between May 21 and May 26, 1970)

Games we played:

"So many nights by the fire in the big farmhouse with Marti.  Playing cards with Mike & Marti on those sleepless nights.  Fasting in the castle with Chris.  Reading The Last Temptation of Christ.  Riding on Little Mark's bike on the night of his birthday after that heavy scene.  Racing with Terry & Craig & Mark and crashing into the tree.  A midnight raid with Darrel & Rich for makings for 'horsemeat stroganoff.'  My first taste of  REAL ricotta cheese.  Morning glories with Sandee & Terry & Donovan - then with the whole gang (Sandee & I played "ring around the rosy").  Speedy nights grating parmesan cheese.  Gordon giving me prune yoghurt to calm me down." (from Cathee's diary, May 19, 1970, to read more please go here)
"...[Y]esterday and today, the SUN was out.  It was glorious.  Andrea set up a ping pong table in the courtyard of the castle and we played all day." (from Linda's letters, February 21, 1970, to read more please go here)
The 'Romp in the Poppies' Party Day:  "I do remember the day when we all ran through the wheat field with the tall red poppies in them... just before we all left.  The poppies were as tall if not taller than we were!  It was the most uncontrollable urge we all had at that moment!  I don't know about anyone else, but I was in sheer bliss doing this.  The next day I looked out at the wheat field to see if it held the same magic and what I saw was devastating to me.  We had destroyed their crop of wheat for their animals and people!!!  I now know the gravity of this situation because I depend upon these lovely wheat fields for my horses' sustenance." (by Sandee)

"Remember about the time I got there, some other guy from SF got there, who had a lot of trips and everyone on the farm was stoned at the same time? No one could tell who to lean on because you didn't know who was wasted.  I think we went out to dinner that night... I remember gypsies rifling though the bedrooms in the farmhouse when the girls were asleep there.  They just let themselves in.  Heard about the alligatoring in the pasta.  Heard about wine/vinegar.  I remember green fields with red flowers." (Cindy Rippey, May 2002)

"A strange memory stretches
those slender poppy necks
above the wheat.  Asks us to fall
into a stream.  We float
through sticky, man-eating vines
to a jungle-river.  Jan & Martin flash
on 'Nam.  They sink in quicksand.
Sob in mud..."
(from the diary and poetry of Cathee (White) St. Clair; to read more please go here)
"The Spaghetti Dance": A girl nicknamed Mangia,an evening unlike all others at Monte Capanno; what do you remember?
"Ms. Mangia delighted in pasta, and one night with a bit more of the grape in her than usual, she took to the tabletop in the farmhouse, squished the noodles under her bare feet, and danced.  In time, more than her feet was involved; red ooze covered her head to foot, and some of the boys added oil and wine to her and to the mushy mix that spread all about.  It was an extremely sensuous dance, and had Craig not started poking her with a broom handle, it might have gotten the whole group still further 'out of control.'  As it was, things were pretty wild.  The next morning, a mass of her stinking clothes sat on the floor beneath our motto, "the path of excess leads to the palace of wisdom" (William Blake), which earlier had been painted on the wall.  Like all great peaks of emotion, the spaghetti dance had swatted us across the face with its opposite emotion: Ms. Mangia boiled her clothes on the stove to clean them, and the stench was disgusting." (by an anonymous resident)

"The night 'Ms. Mangia' was dancing in spaghetti,  I wasn't there. I think I was staring at the patterns on the ceiling in the 'stables' beneath the farmhouse at the time.  But I remember everyone talking about it the next morning.  (by Cathee)

"The funny thing about living at Monte Capanno was that so few of us lived there, at least not for any great length of time. There was much to see in Europe and getting around was as easy as walking down to the road and sticking out your thumb. So one night I was returning from a week or so in Florence, dropped of by a milk truck or something - tired, underfed and sleepy. Made the long walk up the road to the farmhouse, figuring I'd try to be as quiet as I could so's not to disturb anyone. I heard it a couple of hundred yards from the farmhouse: a deep-thoated chanting coupled with rhythmic foot-stomping. The natives, it seemed, were restless.  Up the staircase and into the communal room. There they were - everyone, I think - a writhing mass atop the dinning table, arms linked around shoulders, circling around, screaming and chanting, a football huddle gone mad. No sleeping here tonight.  Grabbed my sleeping bag and walked out - don't think anybody even noticed me. Made my way to a copse of trees between the farmhouse and the castle and bedded down for the night. Just then I heard footsteps coming from the farmhouse, pause nearby and walk on to the castle. A bit later more footsteps, this time from the castle, drawing nearer and stopping next to me. That's when I heard the hammer clicks of a gun cocking.   I raised my head out of my bag and found myself staring at the business end of a double-barreled shotgun not inches from my nose, behind which was Andrea, younger scion of the contessa, swaying side to side, obviously drunk or stoned (but probably both), fingers on the triggers.

"For those of you who've never had the pleasure of staring at the wrong end of a weapon, I can tell the experience really does concentrate the mind wonderfully. A hundred possible reactions flash through it at lightspeed, each examined in careful detail as to their benefits and drawbacks. One thought in particular was that this was a guy who shot pigeons out the sky, stuffed and mounted their carcasses for trophies and called it high sport.

"I smiled my most self-effacing smile, raised ny hands and called out, "Andrea! Don't shoot! It's me!" Ever the dapper young aristocrat, he profusely apologized, explaining that in Italy only two kinds of people slept in the woods, criminals and the criminally insane, and was ready to battle with which ever group I belonged. I went back to sleep, Andrea went back to sleep it off, and the dance went on all night.

"But I never slept in the woods in Italy again." (by Wes Shaffer, February 2001)

"The Bonfire": One evening a tall blonde resident climbed atop a large pile of logs and scrap wood, poured gallons of kerosene on it, and ignited one huge bonfire.  Those who weren't there for the ignition came over to see the 30-50 foot long flames, pulled by the wind off the hilltop and out into the night air. Though we lacked portable stereos in those days, the group felt the beat and danced around the primal flames.  As evening wore on, some drifted back to the farmhouse, but others stayed.  Who can recall how hot it got around that fire?  "I remember the bonfire ...a mind altering [experience].  My partners may have more to tell than myself but... I am thankful I got nothing." (by an anonymous guest).

"We were having a great time, but the fire was roaring, very hot.  It seemed natural that after the boys took off their shirts to cool off, so would the girls.  We danced and danced, it got hotter and hotter, and some of us ended up completely naked.  We had a great time playing with each other that night, nobody was possessive or jealous.  I know some people might find it embarassing to admit to, but the memory of that night has been sweet for many years." (a second anonymous resident).

"I definitely wasn't around during the bonfire.  Maybe I was traveling???   Darn.   Sounds like I missed a good one." (by a third anonymous resident)


"...Somewhere in Italy
is a hillside of dreams.
I lived there.  Died there.
Woke up
(from the diary and poetry of Cathee; to read more please go here)
Creating works of Art: cartoon by Cathee (White) St. Clair, to view the complete cartoons please go here

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The Trip to Perugia
Daily Life: Eating, cooking, sleeping, keeping warm, etc.
Governance: did Anarchy work?
Entertaining Ourselves at Monte Capanno
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Remembering our Leaders: The Zacks
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