Few autobiographers have captured the essence of the sixties the way Michael Tritico has in Stars Above My Hearse. The memoir is at once poignant and entertaining. Tritico’s prose reflects the radiance of the time, and his perspective gives readers a chance to experience its highs and lows.
Often romanticized in literature, the Swinging Sixties was not just about love and peace. On the contrary, it was an era characterized by major socio-political conflicts, which led to the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the unpopular Vietnam War, and the emergence of a culture unlike any before.
In search of this fabled culture, which was unknown in conservative Louisiana, the author left for Reno and later wound up in Yosemite, where he met some special characters. Although somewhat reluctant, as evidenced by his musings, Tritico gave in to the lull of the hippie culture, where love and peace were the main principles, where music, art, and grass melded together to create a psychedelic reality, where justice and equality stood a chance for solid footing.
In the back of the pickup truck, Bob’s friends lit up a jumbo joint. We passed it around. As we got to the Golden Gate Bridge, I began to notice some strange feelings or sensations or something I could not put my finger on. The lights to the bridge seemed to pass in a rhythm that was getting stretched out. I was able to begin absorbing the spirit of the bridge, and I gave thanks for the bonus. We passed under one of the great tall towers that held up the cables. It seemed to be a ladder to heaven. Time passed, and the lights moved by seemingly more and more slowly even though the truck was chugging its same cadence. The cables arched slowly, slowly back upward. The next tower laddered its way up into a cloud. Then the cables came slowly back out of the golden reflected mist, and the lights passed even more slowly—ladders for giants.
Tritico’s vivid recollection paints a world where flower children lived next to picture-perfect American families, and naturalist lectured to Hell’s Angels. It was a world that hoped for love and sought love in the most unconventional ways. Mistakes were made, some of which altered history for good, but this world left a lasting message of hope—“I Have a Dream,” for example, is one of the most illustrious.
This is the same message Tritico hopes to inspire in readers. In the process, he adds an indelible memoir to the world of literature.
Michael Tritico is a retired naturalist. A former resident of California, he joined thousands of other young people who participated in the social revolution of the 1960s. He now lives alone in a remote cabin in his home state of Louisiana.