On the first Saturday in March, I drive down I-19 from Tucson, then get off at the Amado exit and head west to Arivaca, AZ, a tiny hamlet just 11 miles north of the Mexican border, where Programmer Bart Santiello has created an annual Cinema Paradiso in the desert. I’m thrilled to find an audience of nearly 90 people squeezed into the community center for Hippie Family Values. It’s the final film of the two-day program, and after a lively Q&A, the crowd segues into the courtyard for a potluck dinner, but I must head down to La Gitana Cantina, the oldest bar in Arizona. The Wayback Machine is playing an after-party there, and soon people are crowding onto the back patio to join us for dancing under the stars on this cloudless spring night.
The following Saturday I’m in snowy Corvallis, Oregon, for a sold-out showing at the Darkside Cinema, a funky alt/indie/ movie theater in the historic downtown. Then in April, it’s back-to back screenings in Kansas, at Emporia State University (see review in Emporia Gazette) and the Lawrence Public Library. Just as in Arivaca, about 90 folks show up for the library screening, and we have to keep setting up more chairs to accommodate them. Joining me for post-screening discussion are eminent communal studies scholars Tim Miller and Deborah Altus, who conducted hundreds of interviews with commune dwellers from Florida to Alaska (with NEH funding!), and thus put the stories from the Ranch into a much broader context.
I love discovering these local countercultural scenes at each screening, and finding the connections from place to place, past to present, in the hippie diaspora that stretches across the continent.