(Unofficially) Peter S. Beagle

The California Feeling

The California Feeling: A Personal View
Text By Peter S. Beagle
Photographs by Michael Bry

with additional color photographs by:
Ansel Adams, J.R. Eyerman, Philip Hyde, Neil Lakata, Fred Lyon, John Waggaman, Baron Wolman

Published by Doubleday & Company, 1969

Peter Beagle
Peter Beagle

Michael Bry
Michael Bry

While remarkably similar in tone to I See By My Outfit, Beagle's cross-country trip via motorscooter, California reads more as a documentary than a travel story. At this point, Beagle's been there for six years after we last saw him, wobbling up to Enid's door, arm in arm with Phil Signuick. Now, he's off on a new adventure with a new companion. For a full year, Beagle and Michael Bry, his photographer friend, travel up and down and through the state of California, observing anything and everything, from the rise of the mini- and mega-malls, to the rapid deterioration of small towns and the lifestyles that depended upon them. And they do it in a 1957 Volkswagon bus named Renalda Tebaldi, who "went everywhere, andante and in 4/4 time, but she got where she was going, and she put up graciously with the erratic tenors..."

It's a wonderful snapshot of the late sixties. Ronald Reagan is governor of California. The famous scenes of love ins and folk music at Berkeley are steadily being replaced by anti-war rallies and talk of draft boards. "They don't have subways, of course; though there will eventually be one in the Bay Area, in spite of the people doing it..."

And of course, they talk to everyone along the way. There's Jim McClarin in Willow Creek who spent his entire summer carving a statue of Bigfoot out of a tree stump more than twice his height. And Chuck Pratt, who risks his life on a regular basis climbing the rock faces at Yosimite. And the Beagle/Bry team continues Outfit's tradition of finding adventures around every corner, whether it be investigating cockfighting, or hearing the story of race relations in the tense atmosphere of post-riot L.A., or witnessing a concert by some energetic young girl who calls herself Janis Joplin and of whom Beagle predicts, "This one will last, however the music changes. That edge is there."

The photographs are as heartbreakingly beautiful as one could hope. I can only guess that the California landscape and population lend themselves quite readily to portraits, and yet with such an amazing caliber of photographers, every landmark, scene, and moment is captured and preserved with exquisite skill.

Without a doubt, California is a book which would do any bookshelf or coffee table proud.


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