The Saga of Macramé Park (1973)

In the coastal Northern California town of Bolinas, an isolated community of artists and vagabonds
commune to construct a play structure built entirely from felled trees and Macramé. 

Written, Directed & Produced
Ben Van Meter

Alexandra Jacopetti Hart

Saga Genesis by Theodore Barrow

Everyone has their genesis story of how they ended up in Bolinas. Ours was this: my father and his first common-law wife were living in Potrero Hill with their children. He was working as a carpenter but couldn’t join the union because he liked eating with the Black tradesmen on his lunch break, something the other union men didn’t do. He also worked at a bar in North Beach called The Place. One night, he asked his oldest daughter what she imagined to be at the end of the universe. She pictured a concrete wall. Within the year, they moved to Bolinas, back to the land.

There, my father and his family joined other families of artists, Zen lunatics, poets, drifters, and weekend-spangled hipsters in something whose faint outlines later looked a lot like a movement. Who knows what it felt like then. Ben Van Meter shot the film; Alexandra Jacoppetti Hart was the primary artist and narrator. Like most things, it was a collective effort. For more on her work, check out Native Funk & Flash.

When I say that this group formed the faint outlines of a movement, this was a movement that was woven together through the ideas of collectivity, craft, agriculture, and independence that united a lot of utopian communities in this time, the political beginnings of the counter culture of the 1960s. It could be clothing; it could be a playground, it could be an organic farmer’s co-op, or it could be defending the town against incursions from the county and state, protecting the delicate ecology of a small pocket of coastline north of the City. Watching the film now, there is more beach, fewer buildings, and the crumbling cliffs figure more prominently on the horizon. They, like the playground itself, have taken another form altogether some nearly fifty years later.

My mother met my father when she was a teacher in Berkeley, and Bolinas was the place to be on the weekends. At the first public screening of “The Saga of Macrame Park,” held at Art Carpenter’s showroom, my mother boldly snuggled up to my father, and that led to my own genesis, sometime over the next few years of her driving over the hill every Friday, listening to “Country Roads Take Me Home,” eventually to move into my father’s half-built house in a hidden valley that he shared with my teenage half-siblings. Less than two years after my birth, we moved to central Texas, and my father vowed never to return to California. That’s him with the chainsaw in this saga.