Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ghosts of Christmas Past #1: Acid, Incense, & Abject Terror of Nothingness

In other ways, too, our laments for lost paradises may really have much more to do with our own state of mind than with the state of the place whose decline we mourn. Whenever we recall the places we have seen, we tend to observe them in the late afternoon glow of nostalgia, after memory, the mind’s great cosmetician, has softened out rough edges, smoothed out imperfections and removed the whole to a lovely abstract distance. Just as a good man, once dead, is remembered as a saint, so a pleasant place, once quit, is recalled as a utopia. Nothing is ever what it used to be.
Pico Iyer
Christmas 1986, I’d just dropped out of college for the first time and, once the family thing was out of the way, flew out to San Francisco to fulfill a life-long dream of being a real-live hippie...Melinda asked if I we might’ve met, but we probably didn’t...I was one of those 80’s Grateful Dead types who, for the most part, the more punk types couldn’t stand...though, I didn’t fit in with the latter-day hippies too well, either...both too overtly cynical and, ironically enough, too into the Clash and Sex Pistols...who, ultimately, were as out of sync with the Reagan/Rambo/Van Helen/pre-yoga-Madonna present as the Dead....though, at that point, anybody else’s past seemed better than my own....

...acid, incense, and balloons...
the Jefferson Airplane

...no future for you...no future for me....
the Sex Pistols

...everything I owned fit into a backpack on the floor of a tiny unfurnished room with a bare lightbulb and mattress in a college friend’s sister’s apartment on Page St., just a block or two from the corner of Haight & Ashbury...where strung-out derelicts and runaways, well on their way to being derelicts themselves, breathed in two-decades-stale pretensions of creating a new society...$300 a month, which was a lot then, particularly for somebody trying to scrape by as a Greenpeace canvasser...a job at which, it should be mentioned, I was singularly lousy...lived on peanut butter and weed....then, one night in January, seeing the Dead at the San Francisco Civic Center, I got lost in some lonely, dark place between galaxies...unmoored...inconsequential...every body and every thing I might reach for dissipating into white space vapor....afterwards, having landed somewhat uneasily in the park across the street, a friend and I got grabbed by undercover cops who read us our rights before, following a quick search, deciding we weren’t worth their time and effort...and so, for just a moment or two there, I felt good about being inconsequential....

15 comments:

Melinda said...

So, you were a non-traditional deadhead! Why does that not surprise me! I used to love the dead--even as a punk rocker. When I moved to SF, I would go see their free concerts in GG Park--although I admittedly was far more drawn to the Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, and the Dead Kennedy's than I ever was the Dead. I just loved a free concert :).

You really took me back to the Civic Center in this post. I lived down there for awhile, during some *dark* days. The cops almost always decided I was worth their time . . . lol. I spent a lot of nights in the SF jail along the way.

Thank God that nightmare is over.

Melinda

Lydia said...

That's a great quote at the beginning of your post. After (mildly) living the hippie life between 18-20 I somehow wound up working in a savings and loan during college and living with one of Reno's shining-star young attorneys, definitely not a hippie so I dialed myself way down for him. He was licensed in both NV and CA and was working on a trial with a SF attorney. This was around 1973. The SF lawyer had us over for dinner at his great place on a hill there and served a really rich lasagne. The main ingredient was weed and after the meal was finished I had the delight in seeing my guy loaded for the first (and surely only) time in his life.
I was straddling worlds then.....

Seeing Eye Chick said...

"I got lost in some lonely, dark place between galaxies...unmoored...inconsequential...every body and every thing I might reach for dissipating into white space vapor"

The space inbetween. An excellent vantage point for those who dont get lonely. I often end up there sans acid. But I havent mastered the *not getting lonely part. Its often followed by those feelings of inconsequence and futility. Perhaps this was your first real look at the continuum of impermanence.

ellumbra said...

Just had a thoroughly enjoyable read here - many thanks.

Aggie said...

I loved Jefferson Airplane ... I always wanted to be Grace Slick and belt out those fantastic tunes.

Christine Vyrnon said...

Try as I might, I've not yet had a dead epiphany... whereas the likes of the sex pistols have pulled through for me, so to speak.

Erik Donald France said...

My God, this triggered a flashback of my uncle -- who's a year younger than me (don't ask) handing me the initial opium-laced "Buddhist" Thai stick . . .

Cheers, from a more Sex Pistols/Clash oriented dude, but no enemy of the Dead or Dylan, or disco for that matter.

I did get arrested protesting Reagan's Central America policies, though -- oorah!

Rhiannon said...

My ex was a dead head through and through...then he met me...O)..I wasn't into the dead but all his friends were..they outcast me for a wee bit..but then I turned them onto some music they had never listened to before and slowly I got to share some of my fav musicians with them, which they really began to like.

I learned about David Gilmour's cd "About Face" from my ex and we used to turn the tape up loud in his big ole blue pick-up truck, driving along as we sang to it at the top of our lungs. I still love that CD. Then we went to see David at the Filmour...it was an incredible show.

My ex's friends liked me okay but got po'd sometimes that I wouldn't do pot or drugs..oh well..wonder if they are all still doing the ole pot thing? I figure my ex still is and probably always will. I don't think he'll rock out and dance "wildly" and play "air guitar" with anyone else again the way he did with me though..those were the days..

I kind of liked the Sex Pistols, David Bowie, some punk stuff, what was that song "All the way from Memphis" by who was it? Darn I can't remember..oh Ian Hunter and his band I think..I used to wear my hair kind of like Linda McCartney back the..sticking straight up on top but with the rest long hair.

Lots of good music around in the past and in the present also..I am a lover of all kinds of music..except for "country" no thanks..

Thanks for the memories..

Blessings,

Rhi

Janet said...

Loved the bit about memory being the great cosmetician:-)Haven't we all experienced that height (or is it the depths?) of self-indulgence: falling into feeling that anyone/everyone else's past is better than our own? And in the end we must still confront the three fears of No Center, No Meaning, and No Self. Really nice, Jay!

Daisy said...

That kinda stuff used to happen to me ALL THE TIME! :D

1986? Oh wow! I thought they had completely gentrified the Haight by then, or were they still fighting over it?

timethief said...

A non-traditional deadhead!
Me too ... lol :P

the walking man said...

I hit the Bay area a decade earlier when the hippies of the day had all gone to the place of laying on the sidewalks of the Haight, panhandling and checking in Peoples Park to see if anyone had left anything usable.

Now that place between the galaxies; I wonder when I will land, this space ship of mine has been traversing them since time began, propelled beyond the measure I ever thought a little orange pill could.

earthtoholly said...

Wow drjay...you lived in Haight Ashbury...quite frugally, it sounds, worked for a cause (whether or not you were good at it), saw the Dead on the land from whence they sprang and escaped jail time just for "relaxin'"...I'm jealous! I only visited the Haight a few years ago, ahem, as a tourist and saw the Dead in Largo, MD...ugh...(not ugh the Dead, ugh Largo, MD)...it's just not the same... :o(

Adria said...

"I got lost in some lonely, dark place between galaxies...unmoored...inconsequential...every body and every thing I might reach for dissipating into white space vapor"
Creepy a little, how this pretty much describes how I feel NOW.

Betty said...

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Betty


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