Remembering Robert Stone: Ken Babbs
The pranksters and Kesey in Mexico
In 1966, when we, and I mean the pranksters and Kesey, were in Mexico, where Kesey was on the lam rather than going to jail for a pot bust, Bob Stone came down and stayed with us for a short while. We knew Bob from the early sixties, when Kesey was in the Stanford graduate writing program and Bob showed up there too. His wit and humor and ability to play any part in our experiments, rapping whole novels into a reel-to-reel tape recorder late into the night, are still memorable highlights. He would totally become the character, be it a stodgy professor or a Boston gangster, with perfect dialogue to go along with the part. What I loved about him was how funny he could be.
One time when Kesey and I were back East and visiting Bob we went to see The Godfather. We were sitting halfway back in the middle of the aisle watching without comment or apparent emotion, when Bob suddenly stood up and began haranguing the audience in a loud voice, “Why are you sitting there watching this piece of shit movie without protesting? These are bad bad characters, doing vile acts. They aren’t objects of admiration . . .” and more of the same until the ushers came down and struggled through the people sitting in the row and pulled Bob out and up the aisle and out the door. Nothing for Kesey and me to do but to get up and leave too.
In Mexico, when Bob was there, it was time for us to go back to the States, for our visas were about to expire. Everyone else went in the bus, Further, but we also had a truck slightly bigger than a station wagon with windows down the sides, and I drove that and Bob came along with me. We went separately from the bus and were on our own, tearing through the Mexican night, when the hood came loose and banged against the windshield, blinding me from seeing the road, which was full of big Mexican semis. I managed to come to a stop on the side and we got the hood, bent and dented, no longer fitting its slot, tied down to the bumper with a long piece of rope.
When we got into Arizona in the early dawn, I asked Bob if he would drive for a while so I could take a snooze in back. “I don’t have a driver’s license,” he said.
“Ah, don’t worry about that. On this lonely road we’ll never see any cops. Besides, if you do get stopped I’ll give you my license, that should work okay.”
He was dubious but took the wheel, and after I dozed off, just as he feared, flashing red lights let him know his worries were real.
“Babbs,” he yelled, “what do we do now?”
I fished in my wallet and got out my license. “Just show him this.”
The cop looked at the license, looked at Bob, and said, “This isn’t you.”
Bob glumly shook his head. “It’s his,” he said, pointing to me in back.
That was it for Bob. Stuck in the car with a maniac and now a hundred-dollar ticket.
I had to drive the rest of the way, all the way to San Francisco.
Tom Jenks · Edward Hower · Kem Nunn · Ed McClanahan ·