When I first met Ken Kesey
it was a simple telephone conversation. He was about to be awarded the Oregon Book Award
for lifetime achievement
and one of his films (The Acid Test
) had been recently selected by the Whitney Museum of American Art
to be included in their Millennium
ending film show.
At the time I was working for the Eugene, Oregon NPR affiliate and I had the bright idea of interviewing Kesey.
He had long been one of my heros and also one of the major inspirations to move to Oregon and study writing in the first place. So I asked my news director (named Trip Summers - a burly broad shouldered bear of a man, more like a lumberjack but with the head of hair of an unrepentant refugee from the 1960s.
Trip says yeah give the old man a call, his number's in the book (Trip and Ken have had dealings in the past).
When I call Kesey's home number I reach his wife Faye Kesey she's very nice and tells me Ken is at the office editing his video Intrepid Traveler and His Band of Merry Pranksters Look for A Cool Place. I call Ken there and ask him for the interview. He says yes, sure, we can meet on Wednesday at the University of Oregon Museum of Natural History (he was going to be there anyhow with his granddaughter Kate).
I say what time and he says we can meet "at the time the Chinaman went to the dentist."
"Uh, Mr. Kesey," I say, "what did you just say?"
"I'll meet you at the time the Chinaman went to the dentist."
"And what time is that?"
"Tooth hurtee," came the deadpan response.