Safari Through Psychodelia
Updated: May 15, 2018
"If you can remember the 60s, you weren’t there."
If you can remember the 60s, you weren’t there.
For someone at the wagging tail of baby boomers, I sure miss the dog. To my petty satisfaction, being born in 1954 makes me the patriarch of Generation Jones, or the second half of the human outbreak. I missed Vietnam by double measure: first, being underaged; secondly, living in Yugoslavia at the time. In 1966, while the brewery was warming up in San Francisco, I was just a dumb kid in Belgrade, beating the drum in my first rock band. The maiden song we played was “Bang Bang,” by Sonny and Cher. These days when I drive to work via I-10, I pass the sign, Sonny Bono Memorial Freeway, since he was the mayor of Palm Springs. I’ll take this omen as a compliment to my persistence.
Summer of Love exploded in 1967 at the Monterey Pop Festival, with Doors, Janis, Jimi, and Dead...taking the history along for a ride. To qualify, you had to pass the acid test in the Haight-Ashbury district first, to get certified, bona fide. I moved to a new school, bought my first drum set, sniffed the fresh environment. Having all-you-can-eat freedom, other than LSD at hand, I didn’t know better but fight bullies, drums, and diffidence toward girls. Once mildly sick and staying at home, I begged my best buddy Nick to ask my queen if she’d go out with me—and the stupid broad said no.
1968 was a riot of a year here in the U.S., and a milestone one for me there. Rally London-Sydney stopped briefly in Belgrade, long enough for me, and partially Nick, to get the virus and make it my lifelong sickness. Hopefully, they’ll never invent the anti-serum, as long as they keep the EPA dogs on a short leash. I definitely don’t care what they hallucinate about hippies transforming into environmentalists: the bible Papa John wrote and Scott McKenzie sang says none about the fuel efficiency—other than Zippo’s mileage while heating up a spoon.
I can write quasi history as good as anybody alive, even better since I’m the writer of your choice, and I seldom do that: even though as a writer I’m entitled not only to my opinions but to my facts as well; regardless of what Mr. Moynihan used to preach. You are entitled to close the book and badmouth me afterwards, but all other entitlements are exclusively mine, and mine only.
Mysticism and exaggeration go together. A mystic must not fear ridicule if he is to push all the way to the limits of humility or the limits of delight. Nobody ever comes back from quasi history to tell us how hard was the death of the man, and how sudden and overwhelming his last anguish was. Nobody can say with what thoughts, with what regrets, with what words on his lips he died. But there is something fine in the sudden passing away of his heart, from the extremity of struggle and stress and tremendous uproar—from the vast, unrestful rage of the surface to the profound peace of the depths, sleeping untroubled since the beginning of ages.
They used to run that bloody bus through the streets of Frisco, so freakin’ tourists and the preceding generation could watch the wild life in acid rain, the labor pains and the epiphany of the new world unfolding, while wolfing a hot dog as if there were no tomorrow, as if it were their last supper. There’s no reality except the one contained within us. That’s why so many people live an unreal life. They take images outside them for reality and never allow the world within them to assert itself. That is, if there’s anything within them other than hot dogs.
Picasso’s Guitar Player: Digital Art by Alex Nodopaka “Guitar Player by Picasso”
Digital Art by Alex Nodopaka
Boomers did drift away from their epiphany, minding their personal business, while the likes of Hendrix chose the opposite direction. According to Eric Burdon, “I don’t think Jimi committed suicide in the conventional way. He just decided to exit when he wanted to.” I was talking to Bobby Furgo in Yucca Valley the other day—who toured with Burdon and recorded with Leonard Cohen while playing violin for fifty years—when he suddenly pointed across the scenery: “Eric lives just a few miles from here, in High Desert.” I realized once again that I am at the right place at the irrelevant time.
Somewhere along this stormy Monday blues, deep down the chain broke, leaving the anchor stuck in Neptune’s trident. Now, an anchor is never cast, and to take a liberty with technical language is a crime against the clearness, precision, and beauty of perfected speech. An anchor is a forged piece of iron, admirably adapted to its end, and technical language is an instrument wrought into perfection by ages of experience, a flawless thing for its purpose.
The chain itself was a long one, with many a link stretching each other to psychosis, and the search for its lost chord won’t lead us anywhere. Donovan offered a mellow gold yellow link that melted in the quest for Moloch, i.e., shackles for your chain, Timothy Leary... well, you don’t wanna know what good old Tim has to offer. Try asking Alice when she’s ten feet tall, but don’t try it with Grace (Slick), or you might get shot. Try backwardation, a market condition where the price of future contracts is trading below the expected spot price at contract maturity. By the time all the arguments resurface, the flotsam is behind the horizon and beyond recognition. What is left today is the jetsam, vivid memories of a blind man; and a few worn-out “I was there!” souvenirs, or even more pathetic ones. Who was there became a derelict, who came back wasn’t there.
It’s cold here with nobody in the room, even though the lights might still be on. After drinking some hot coffee, like an Arctic explorer setting off on a sledge journey towards the North Pole, I go ashore and roll shivering in a tramcar into the very heart of the town, past clean-faced houses, past thousands of brass knockers upon a thousand painted doors glimmering behind rows of trees of the pavement species, leafless, gaunt, seemingly dead forever.
On the bright side of the Moon, and to the other extreme, riding a psychotic horse through the burning stables is quite a trip—as long as you’re not the horse and Hercules agrees to clean the stables post festum.
This story was originally published in Serving House Journal, and can be viewed here