Further 2, a flamboyantly painted 1947 International school bus parked outside of the McDonald Theatre in Eugene, was there to greet an anxious crowd of movie-goers for the Jan. 16 pre-screening of the Oregon Public Broadcasting-sponsored documentary Ken Kesey.
A Springfield native and University of Oregon graduate, Kesey was the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion. He was also a key figure in the progressive psychedelic movement.
As Lane instructor Patsy Raney said, “Kesey is Oregon!”
Although Further 2 is not the original bus that carted Kesey and his Merry Pranksters across the country, spreading the joys of hallucinogens and adventure during the progressive 1960s, it represents the spirit of an age in history and a trip that would become a legacy.
“The first three pages of Cuckoo’s Nest were written on peyote,” Kesey says in this documentary.
He stumbled onto LSD while living in California. He needed money to support his family, and became a test subject for clinical drug trials, which paid $25 per visit. This bout of psychedelic drug testing inspired the “electric Kool-Aid acid tests,” a series of informal experiments in which participants either dropped acid or remained sober and observed.
It also inspired an introspective ideology.
A marijuana possession charge prompted Kesey to fake his suicide and drive to Mexico, where he stayed for six months.
The film depicts the inception of tie-dye — apparently the result of a stranded bus, time to kill, mud and paint — and other crazy antics, like Kesey’s inability to make hippies leave the Kesey Farm after the bus ride had ended.
Kesey’s family, who also attended the showing, played a heavy role in piecing together this film. His mother, wife, children and eccentric friends helped paint a portrait of a fun, mischievous man who had a passion for telling stories in a unique way.
While these are mentionable characteristics of this well-known man, the hourlong documentary sheds light on Kesey’s depiction of these adventures, which is a great relief. The film explores deeper elements than just his notoriety in pop culture.
Perhaps because of the involvement of Kesey’s family and friends, the documentary indulges in idolizing the countercultural icon.
But even when it’s spinning his faked death into a positive, it’s at least entertaining, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, thanks to the colorful anecdotes and characters, which makes this documentary a must-watch for Oregonians.
(Ken Kesey airs on Jan. 24 at 4 a.m. It is also available to stream on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s website at http://tinyurl.com/odvefrg.)