Two months ago, Martha Esch, flying in the face of convention, set out from Orlanda, Fla., to hitchhike around the contiguous 48 states. Last week she touched down in Camarillo aboard a 1938 Lockheed Electra 12-A. On Tuesday, she left Torrance on a '39 Waco, en route via Santa Paula to the 31 states she's missed so far.
While in Los Angeles, Esch took the controls of the Goodyear Blimp, and later dreamed of what might have been in the cockpit of earthbound Spruce Goose. ("Usually only crew members got to sit here," she marveled. "Oh, and Howard Hughes.")
Blimp and Goose were merely side excursions, peripheral to Esch's single-minded but often biplaned mission: to travel the 48 states exclusively by vintage aircraft. Vintage means at least 25 years old, and Esch's odyssey (about 83 free rides so far) has included: "a photography flight over Pensacola Beach in a Bird Dog; a smoke-trail climb-out above Kansas in a shiny, silver, 600-horsepower Harvard; a full-throttle, at-level flight in a Pietenpol Air Camper; a ride in the last St. Louis Streetcar YPT-1 (only 13 made by the St. Louis Streetcar Co.); a high-speed dive in a P-51 (Mustang) somewhere over Nevada. I even got to take the controls of a DC-3 through the New Mexico mountains. It's been a blast!"
And a long time in the planning. Esch wrote to hundreds of vintage-plane owners, "and more than 200 responded, inviting me to their 'aerodromes' to fly with them in their 'aeroplanes.' " The language, of course, is appropriate to the era, as is Esch's low-tech aviatrix garb, complete with white-silk scarf and goggled leather helmet. As she passed through The Times' newsroom last week, heads popped out of office doors in disbelief: "Good Lord, they've found Amelia Earhart!" To which Esch simply smiled and dipped her wings.
The University of Psychedelia
Dr. Oscar Janiger takes amused issue with the press release. Tonight's "benefit lecture" at the John Anson Ford Theater (8 p.m.; $15 donation)--a program titled "Beyond the Doors of Perception"--"will explore the impact of the psychedelic experience on human consciousness," the release says. "Nonsense," Janiger says, or words to that effect. "It's going to be an entertainment.
"The only heavy parts will be my introductions," continues Janiger, longtime teacher at UC Irvine. "Timothy Leary will do his shtick, and (satirist) Paul Krassner will do his. Ram Dass will do what he does: a sort of semi-serious Zen comic relief. And some others and some musicians. . . . It's all designed to raise money for this venture."
"This venture" is the establishment here of the Albert Hofman Foundation. The foundation, and the definitive library to be housed therein, will be named for the prominent Swiss chemist who first decided, in 1939, to taste lysergic acid diethylamide tartrate (LSD).
Janiger, on the board of advisers, will contribute his considerable archives, "and so will just about everyone who's been involved in the psychedelic scene," he says. "My cousin (poet) Allen Ginsberg is giving us some of his stuff; so is Laura Huxley, Ken Kesey, Leary, Ram Dass. . . .
"In October comes the heavy-duty part, the inauguration of the place. We expect to have most of world's pioneers who first worked with substances. It's remarkable that so many are still alive, including Hofman himself."