February 13, 2016

Ceremonies of the Horsemen

The Green House, Berkeley California, in 2008

The cloak and dagger dangles,
madams light the candles.
In ceremonies of the horsemen
even a pawn can hold a grudge.

--Bob Dylan

None of this ever really happened.

1. Prologue

To tell the truth about those years, you'd have to begin with the observation that truth was, like all precious commodities, in very short supply. Like LSD from Sandoz or pharmaceutical cocaine, truth was rumored to be everywhere but became scarce when you attempted to score.

If your ambition was to make a market in Truth Futures, you were in business. No problem and plenty of willing buyers and sellers. But if you just wanted some truth of your own, to get you through the night, your head was straightened on that score in no time. After a few attempts to lay you hands on some actual truth, you came to understand that such a quest was against the secret rules. Scoring pure, uncut truth was not even a part of the game. It wasn't what was "happening, man."

What was happening wasn't, to be sure, the only game in the big BeHereNow Casino out on Sunset trip, but it was the most fun and everyone, well, almost everyone, wanted to play at its table hoping that their new and improved revolutionary system for revolution would beat the dealer. No matter what you wanted to be at that table and be happening. After all, not to be part of what was happening in those years was, in a sense, not to be.

So you learned that as long as you confined yourself to speculation of what the Revolution might be like and what the world after the Revolution would be like, there was no end to truth. But if this made you nervous and you asked any of the fellow players for a little hard truth, a little coin of the realm to cover your margin and theirs, they were quite content to drop a brick of Acapulco Gold on your head and call it The Philosopher's Stone. And because stone was a state of mind, you were left with a headache, a heartache, and overdrawn at the First National Bank of Angst.

Man, you weren't happening.

What was happening was all that mattered. It was the predominant concern of the decade. "What's happening?" was a greeting and a secret sign that would determine if you were one of the elect and the saved. It was later compressed, as was most of our secret language, into a statement: "Happening, bro." Hard to translate now, but it made sense at the time.

Like the ancient and biblical phrase "What is truth?", "What's happening?" did not demand any response more specific than a shrug and a suitably stoned smile. A verbal response would be offered only as long as it began in and returned, at regular intervals, to a rippling fog that covered all our shared mental landscapes like the mist in a Japanese Samurai movie. This perpetually foggy language indicated that the speaker was a member in good standing of the lighter-than-air bunch and not really on the planet. It was the progenitor of an act of mental levitation which was much later converted by Transcendental Meditation into groups of people who learned to jump into the air from the full-lotus position.

"Not to be on the planet" was to "be in touch with the Cosmos", with "what was really happening, man." This bliss was a state that was yearned for, pretended to, envied, emulated, and approximated. It was rarely achieved. After all, what was really happening usually contained not a few items, mental and material, that were recognized as "bring-downs". Still, not to worry, bring-downs were like highs: all part of what was happening, and were, in the cosmic view, cosmic. One had to go with the flow. It was what was happening.

The decade was burnt as crisp and dark as a napalmed child; was as grotesque as a President dangling beagles by the ears or lifting his shirt to display a scar the shape of Southeast Asia on his paunch. But although the grotesque darkness was visible from a distance, it was nearly impossible to discern in close-up. Only perspective makes proportion visible and perspective was, like truth in those years, something always in very short supply.

The world beyond our sheltered enclaves was etched in high relief and we despised it. Our own little hamlets and personal universes were said to exist somewhere beyond the linear-verbal, over the rainbow, on another bardo, and boasted sweeping views of the Twilight Zone. It was a housing development constructed in the ether and, as such, it contained no firm place to stand. It had lots of golden levers of great length and a host of theories that would serve as crystal fulcrums. In conversations fueled late into the nights by espresso, tobacco, jug wine and gage, hashish,and Tiajuana Gold, the levers and fulcrums were manipulated without pause and with great skill. But with the elimination of the ether and the sphere of the fixed stars there was, at the end of those long nights and their dreams, no way of using these ornate tools -- no matter how long, no matter how precise -- to alter the orbit of the earth.

So it was that we spent most of those years polishing the levers and fulcrums while blithely ignoring the absence of foundations. This didn't faze us. We were the Cosmic Commandos. To us, truth and lies, granite and quicksand, were mere illusions, shabby manifestations of the material plane, that old rusty reality that everyone on Earth would junk as soon as they saw what we saw, and we saw The Light.

Towards the end, though, more than a few of us began to understand that there really were no truths or foundations, only shared dreams. Dreams that became increasingly bizarre and terrifying as we all approached that morning when we would awake alone in one of a million or more tawdry rooms.

Rooms of mildewed closets in run-down neighborhoods, with paper flowers covered in a patina of dust and arranged in a cheap, chipped vase from Chinatown set askew on a dresser of deal. Rooms centered on a mattress laid out on the floor and covered with a crumpled bedspread in a paisley print we'd shoplifted from Cost Plus. Rooms whose warping rented walls were distinguished by posters celebrating disturbing retinal patterns, political and metaphysical bromides, and contemporary personalities that amused, inspired, or revolted us.

These were the rooms in which we had hatched our plots or wrote our songs and poems while lying on the Oriental rugs from Belgium fading in the sunlight falling through the one small window overlooking the rubble where they were always rebuilding the city; sunlight falling to finger the drifts of essential paperbacks, relevant manifestos in mimeograph, and a slumping stack of back issues of Rolling Stone where the cat that nobody owned had chosen to sleep. In the darkest corner was a Sears & Roebuck stereo and a pile of scratched record albums that seemed, in that long bleak morning, to be our only concrete emblems; our sole testimony to the shared reality of the dreams.

I was alone, I took a ride,
I didn't know what I would find there.
But if I could, maybe I would,
Find another kind of mind there.

Because to tell the truth about those years, there was a reality within the dreams which our music returned us to again and again.

Once we had consulted these albums as oracles. Now, as we leafed through them in the way one pages through an old scrap book, we became not nostalgic but haunted by those dreams -- seeing their vivid colors shining brightly above out current favored hues of warm gray, navy blue, and black. We felt and would always feel, with the first few notes of any one of a thousand songs, once again present with the numberless mad faces dancing under diamond skies, or flying through roiling clouds of talk, ideas, associations, relationships, insights, inanities, arguments, poems, ideals, prophecies, hallucinations, despairs and ecstasies with neither the need nor the desire to take to the high roads with these things. We were the roads. We held the keys to the highway. We were the departure point and the destination. We were, we were certain, the children of the sun, Alpha and Omega, the Crown of Creation.

As we listened one last time,
And we watched with one last look,
Spellbound and swallowed til the tolling ended.

Tolling for the aching ones
whose wounds cannot be nursed,
For the countless confused, accused, misused,
strung-out ones and worse.
And for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe,
we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

The songs were the shared center of our universe around which, like comets, we plunged. They were the warp and woof of our dreams; the shimmering wires on which the disjointed, rare, beautiful, and grotesque faces, names, deeds, and images of the long sleep were strung like bright glass beads. As such they endured even after the dreams were dissolved in the waters of oblivion or buried deep beneath the trivia of daily life that followed in the years that came after our awakening.

These days, under the harsh and unshaded fluorescent lights of the mall or the office or the night, one can still sometimes discover another who was part of the dream years by watching closely when a song from that time finds its way into the awareness from a passing radio in the park or, more certain still, from a pre-programmed and processed tape playing in a crowded nine a.m. elevator. Only the melody, however altered, is necessary.

At such moments, if you do not look too directly, you can see such a person's facade erode as a quiet look comes into the eyes. The surface of three-piece suit, designer glasses and thin-soled Italian shoes, seems to diminish and to fade, becoming almost ghostly, as the tune turns him like a lodestone towards the true north of his being, remembering, almost remembering, almost ready to descend in that elevator, to find his way back to that house, to that rented room with the paper flowers, and to lie down on the paisley covered mattress in that patch of sunlight and let himself drift back into the dream on the winds of the music.

We'll go dancing, darling,
Then you'll see,
That the magic's in the music,
And the music's in me.

But the elevator halts as always on the twenty-first floor. The doors slide open. The people step out smartly and rush towards their offices, filing cabinets, pink telephone message slips checked 'Urgent'; to their endless letters beginning "Dear Sir or Madam, A recent examination of our records shows...."

The doors slide shut behind him cutting off the song. The man snaps back into his body, into the present moment and, with a cold shudder at the sheer ordinariness of his life, steps doggedly towards his assigned cubicle forgetting for perhaps the thousandth time what he most desires to remember.

love was such an easy
game to play.

What of it? It was yesterday and in yesterday today was a tomorrow which would never come.

Yesterday's gone.
Yesterday's gone.

What of it? It was less than yesterday, it was yesterday's dream. Today the world has neither the time for dreams nor mercy for dreamers. The child's tuition must be paid, even if the child learns nothing. The mortgage on the condominium must be maintained, although it is a shabby and cold series of rooms where night's sirens make sleep fitful. The career must be advanced if expectations are to be realized, even if it will be a near thing to realize last year's expectations by this time next year. The romance of the marriage must be renewed, although both parties secretly think "Ah, as well you as another." Above all, the sleek almost-new car must have its oil changed, carburation adjusted, tires rotated when the odometer dictates.

Above all, one must be on time for work.

Yes. Yes to all of it. Yes, but...

But what of the green house?

If that house was not real, if it was not true, if it did not exist, what did exist then? What exists now? Where is the street beside the pale green house on the bright green lawn ringed with violet crocuses in the spring, shaded by three elms near the sidewalk and a rambling blackberry vine that clambered up the outside of the stairs and porches that linked the four apartments? That house where a few of the dreamers lived and others met, ate, loved, slept or passed through. What happened there between those ghosts made not of shadows but sudden shafts of sunlight?

Could they be called up? Brought back from the distances? Can they be commanded to emerge from the dream and inhabit this waking world amid the gaudy tokens and worn rewards of our despised surrender?

Would they, if caught in a web of words, stand and unfold themselves as they were, as more than they were, as emblems of the dream, wavering like rushlights in rooms made from mist, running along beaches smeared with seadrift and sunset, lounging against phantom trees on those parched and lawn-lined avenues, talking and laughing in whispering echoes on porches through the warm, dusky evenings when the falling light caressed the harps of bridges across the bay and the music was made of its light, and the clouds flowing in from the sea over the shadowed hills moved to the music through all the past lost years like ships setting out for the Fortunate Isles beneath the burnt orange strings of the sun's lyre stretched across the mouth of the bay?

That lyre is an old lie. And there was no truth. And without truth, there was no foundation, and, hence, no enduring reality. There was only America, only one dream of America. No better or worse, no more or less real, than a thousand other dreams of America. It was a dream woven on the loom of the stars and the ocean that enmeshed that western city on seven hills which we watched at night from the green house on the flatlands across the bay. A thousand and one nights watching and telling tales which were, in the final analysis,only variations on a single theme of light reclaimed and held against the flooding dark for but a moment.

And then the distant guns coming closer, the clang of the brazen bells, the rising sirens, the chopping whir of helicopters, the boots falling in lockstep, the thud of nightsticks, the crackling orders on two-way radios, metallic clicks from the blue steel chambers, shotgun fire, the blood and the bodies and the screaming ....

We awoke in a metal dawn. The air tasted of rust. The smell of burning automobiles and tear gas was woven in the morning breeze and we slowly came to understand that the dreams were gone and only the nightmare was left. It was a slow nightmare which -- if not exactly true, for truth in the nightmare was only propaganda -- was at its bottom as real as the black neoprene bags waiting in rows on the tarmac in Saigon.

And this reality in time revealed to us the final face of fear -- a fear that was not a fear of death, but of continuing failure; of our failure to sustain the dream, to make it real, to constantly renew it. And this fear, a fear seldom spoken by any but known to all, kept us awake through all the years that followed and forced us, in the end, to deny not only the dream, but the very possibility of dream.

And in time we became like all the others before us although we had, like all the others before us, sworn that we would not. We forgot the dream. We sold most of the records and purchased color televisions with cable hookups. We sold all the books and subscribed to a news weekly. We moved from the rented rooms, leaving the mattress, rug, and cat to shift for themselves, and made from what was real our cold comfort.

These days there is money to be made and property to be acquired. Now there is important work to be done. Now we have responsibilities to meet and, oh, that was all long ago. The green house is gone and we are changed, changed utterly. We no longer remember.

"Time," she sang, "keeps movin' on."


Do not go.

Rest easy here with me.

I have not forgotten, nor have you. Together, we will remember. Together we will recall it all, as it was or as it should have been; it makes little difference. We shall walk back and raise it up; a testament to foolish desire, mistaken ideals, strong hopes, and white nights; a place where there will be light and warmth and we will abide forever together as we were and as we wished to become. A small green house where there is always room for one more, if memory serve.

And memory shall serve. It is ours to command, is it not? It is the one thing of value which can be given but not taken. It is our past, our common history. We know it is beyond price. Why else have we been such haste to pawn it? Because it lends light to our present lives and hence we fear it?

Who among us does not secretly despise what we have made of our dreams? Who among us does not secretly loathe what we have become for the sake of this dubious reality?

It was better, clearer, cleaner and more strangely beautiful when we slept in the green house.

It was not a special place. It was ordinary. The most ordinary place in the world. If it was neither real nor natural, it was fraught with a strange excitement, fecund with endless possibility. It was built of a metaphysic so loose that the most absurd accident could happen and it would only be a part of the Grand Design. It was a place where revelation and prophecy were daily events, the Second Coming scheduled for tomorrow after lunch, magic considered merely another, older branch of science, poetry an acceptable mode of speech, and caricature a widely appreciated attitude. As far as we know Rasputin, William Blake, St. Teresa, and Walt Whitman had never lived in the green house, but they would have been welcome if they had wandered in.

Let's go then and knock on the door.

All you've got to do is step right up.
All you've got to do is ring that bell.

You can come as you are and you can leave your hat on.

There's nothing to be hung about.

There is some wine for the asking, music always playing, pipes forever smoking. Perhaps there will be some hashish, or the more exotic opium. Perhaps there will someone to meet and take home later. Perhaps there will be a chance for love among these phantoms -- among these phantoms we have set to sleep in music that our dreams remind us.

Posted by Vanderleun at February 13, 2016 12:21 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Too much truth and beauty for one sitting. Sir, you have surpassed yourself.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at November 19, 2009 9:09 AM

>>friend and alphablogger whose judgement I respect writes to ask that I write more about what I saw moving through the 60s like some long-haired WASP Zelig.

I'd like to read more of that too. It fascinates me: I was born in 1968 and I have no appreciation for "counter-culture" for I've never had a culture.....

I'd like to learn about What the Hell Happened Then in order to understand how a time I didn't live in affects all I see, read, hear, or think.

It's frustrating: There is a huge sub-structure of common beliefs and nostalgia underlying current American life that is largely inaccessible to my wife (born 1970) and I. We, and our small cohort, wander around and discover these unstated common beliefs and prejudices like Humvees "discover" IEDs.

I need an experienced bomb-sniffing dog to avoid casualties and trauma.

Thanks, Gerard; you have a shiny coat and bright eyes

Posted by: Gray at November 19, 2009 9:25 AM

I wish, I wish, I wish in vain...

Posted by: Rob De Witt at November 19, 2009 9:46 AM

I eventually concluded that the Aquarian Age was constructed as much by the Beat Generation that preceded it as it was by the young 'boomers. Those old beatnik reprobates needed to create an orgiastic ocean they could swim in after years of being treated by the general public as the degenerates that they actually were.

The 60's (really 1966 to 1972) were a great venue for sociopaths.

Posted by: Don Rodrigo at November 19, 2009 11:09 AM

A great, if somewhat sentimental, description of those times. Hard to believe I was really that full of crap back then, but there it was.

Posted by: Mike Anderson at November 19, 2009 12:28 PM

You sound haunted, Gerard. But as a guru of the mind told me years and years ago - you have an affection for your particular ghosts.

God those were awful years. My husband helped patch up those boys returning from Vietnam. We were all a mess back then. Wouldn't relive those years for anything.

I will read your book, though. Get crackin'.

Posted by: Cathy at November 19, 2009 3:55 PM

That was good, Gerard. I'll look forward to more when you get around to it.

I'm a bit younger than you and I don't have the same memories of the 60s. My strongest memories of that time are watching the Gemini and Apollo flights on TV. (I'm a little too young to remember Project Mercury.) Also vacations in the family car. And our dachshund, Hans.

Several months ago I heard Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" in the supermarket. Again, I'm too young to have known that song when it was new, but I was familiar with it, and I hadn't heard it in a while. It brightened my day.

Posted by: rickl at November 19, 2009 7:08 PM

Oh, and I just saw Uncle Bob this past Monday night in Philly. While he didn't play "Chimes of Freedom", it was still an excellent show. He also featured a number of his newer songs, which I think are very good indeed.

I don't go to many concerts anymore, but I try to see him whenever he's in my area. That's the second time I've seen him this year, in fact.

Posted by: rickl at November 19, 2009 7:17 PM

Beautiful, and achingly sad.

I remember the 60s, with all the turmoil and pain. Saying good bye to my cousin as he went off to war. Writing letters, sending him home-baked cookies, waiting anxiously for his letters. I remember the knot in my stomach when no letter came for an overlong time, and when it did, it was smeared with red clay, and I knew something had happened, and I cried. Many years passed before he told his family that his best friend had been killed. He still carries shrapnel lodged in his back during his efforts to pull his buddy out of a burning tank.

My uncle, who had attempted to enlist in every branch of the military during WWII, despite missing half of one leg, who proudly served his country in this war by hauling bombs to the Port of Oakland, telling us of the girl who laid down in front of his truck as he waited in line for the bombs to be off-loaded, and how he pulled her out from under the wheels by her hair. She's damn lucky he didn't kill her.

My boyfriend playing Alice's Restaurant over and over, and his mother crying, because her other son was in Vietnam, flying Cobra gunships. When he returned, choking back tears, he would tell his family about rescuing villagers, only to have the helicopter crash, and kill most of them.

I remember the 60s, and the people who thought it was their right to destroy the very fabric of our society. They broke it open, and the pieces continue to chip off and disappear into the abyss.

Posted by: JanB at November 19, 2009 9:51 PM

"Never be afraid to share your dreams with the world, because there's nothing the world loves more than the taste of really sweet dreams."

We are still paying the freight for those years. We had some really, really bad, drug induced ideas.

Nice writing though.

Posted by: RagnarD at November 19, 2009 10:57 PM

My sixties in 100 words or less, took Owsley purple flats in the summer of '67, a year later I was in the Hobo Woods in the 25th infantry Division, came home to watch a platoon of friends killed by Sister Morphine, ran coast to coast out of my freakin' mind for the next decade until I met the man from Galilee at the end of the '70's .Now I'm fat ,happy and better for the journey.

Posted by: bill at November 19, 2009 11:09 PM

You succeed well in writing about this complicated time, and you show more understanding and compassion than many readers can process. Lifestyles were sought in simple terms, but fate and inexperience caused differing lifestyles to merge and combine. Few (many?)had the skill to make it all work--to have it all. Some died. Some were luckier. Some were blessed beyond deserving. Some do not understand their good fortune, or their bad fortune, for it is like trying to say a few words about something vast. I suppose many no longer seek. Many others have sought to acquire the signet ring with the true sign, or the pillow with that ineffable mandala upon which to rest. Better to continue to seek...to "lean out" for truth as possible.

Posted by: John Bailor at November 20, 2009 7:59 AM

"Lean out for truth" I like that.

Posted by: vanderleun at November 20, 2009 8:47 AM

"We held the keys to the highway. We were the departure point and the destination. We were, we were certain, the children of the sun, Alpha and Omega, the crown of creation."

There are dreamers still dreaming the dream, who have seen the light, and they are in the White House administration today, and they're only here to help you.

ah...I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."

Posted by: Adagny at November 24, 2009 11:48 AM

A minor point: I think the line "And, there's another side to this life I've been living." comes from a song by the Lovin' Spoonful. Pretty sure, but I can't check because I don't have the record anymore, or a turntable. Anyway, another fine piece of writing by you.

Posted by: Paul Dussel at April 2, 2010 6:01 PM

Do not just write this; say it, yourself, in your distinctive voice. Be your distinctive self, in other words, and put it up on YouTube for the rest of us. They - whoever they may be - will take heed, will listen, will consider. Do it, man.

Posted by: Everyman at March 23, 2013 6:13 AM

I was much younger than you were during this time, Gerard.

My memories are of a proud, strong blue collar neighborhood whose basis for existence just plain disappeared over over fewer years than I could hold in my small hands. Riots and dislocation followed quickly. Gangs and porn shops filled the empty spaces at the same pace that graffiti filled the blank walls. We became part of the dislocation, and like pied noirs and or banished "settlers" in other 20th century diasporas, we found ourselves sinking shallow roots in a new neighborhood, half ashamed of who we were.

Posted by: el baboso at March 23, 2013 7:27 AM

I spent the first five years of the '60s flying back and forth across the Atlantic, with more time in Europe and Africa than in the U.S. I spent most of the second half in the Canal Zone, flying all over S. America. I never heard or saw anything of the "60s" until I moved to LA in the '70s and observed the dying and the wake. To me, the world has generally looked and felt the same after the "60s" as it did during and before. I suspect the "60s" profoundly affected the comparatively small number of people who were "there"; the rest of us, not much..

Posted by: BillH at March 23, 2013 8:40 AM

To quote Charles Bukowski: "we carried the chairs back upstairs, the revolution was over."

Posted by: Jim in Alaska at March 23, 2013 11:11 AM

An attempt at a return to innocence. Washed free of the dirt of Western Society and all the baggage that came with it.

The Brotherhood of Man.

Its a nice place to start, sir. Those are good memories - don't lose them as I believe the intent was a pure one. I hope that your search for the Promethean fire of Grace was achieved and if so, that it still burns to this day.

Posted by: Cond0011 at March 23, 2013 11:18 AM

My late husband used to tell me about flunking the physical at the Oakland Induction Center. He'd tried to enlist, but they were only interested in draftees. He was outside the building, when this old black woman stopped to talk to him. He told her that he'd failed the physical. She grabbed his hands and started jumping up and down with him.

Not all of us wound up with big paying jobs and fancy suits. Some of us went back to the land. Some are out there still, raggedy ass poor, getting by. I can tell you that living in a travel trailer in the woods at 1700 ft, pushing 60 is not a good place to be, no matter what your dreams are. I don't know if it was that or the exposure to pesticides when doing farm work in the 70s that led to my husband dying of pneumonia at 59. At least he was happy in that place.

There were things about the 60s that have been forgotten. The joy of making things with your hands again, creating stuff that didn't look like it was made in a factory. Yes, a lot of it was crap. Some of it was very beautiful. There was that brief period where women weren't judged on their beauty alone. And that time when you were supposed to be suspicious of the government. Yes, we had stupid unrealistic drug fueled dreams, but I don't see that it was any stupider than the dreams of my 23 year old stepson.

I hope to read the book someday. I've been reading some of the books written by hippies and their children. I find the children's view point more interesting, as they can see a lot of the problems with those dreams.

Posted by: Teri Pittman at March 23, 2013 11:35 AM

It took the Age of Aquarius a long time to penetrate deep East Dallas. In 1969 my mother still wore stockings to the grocery store and dressed me up in a little Sanger-Harris suit to go to the doctor. In 1969 we boys all had crew cuts and played army with our cousins in the front yard. In 1969 the only music we heard on the car radio as we drove to the Pig Stand on Buckner Boulevard was country music ("K-B-O-X, 1-4-8-0"). Radio was actually something a normal human being could listen to in 1969. It was produced by human beings, at least. In 1969 you could let a child read a magazine, check out the comic strips in the Times Herald, or watch television all day without worrying about what he'd see.

And in that East Dallas neighborhood now? Ruin. The culture, the civilization we knew fled to Collin County when the civil rights laws passed. You won't hear Buck Owens blasting out of any car stereo on Buckner Boulevard now, that's for certain. What you will hear will be transmitando en EspaƱol, or else it will be unintelligible grunting straight out of the jungle. KBOX is gone. The Pig Stand is gone. The Times Herald is gone. Sanger-Harris is gone. Crew cuts were replaced Donny Osmond hair-helmets by 1972, and soon thereafter by the Afro. Kids shoot each other for real in the front yards now. The babymamas that go to the convenience store for junk food (there are no more grocery stores in the neighborhood) don't wear stockings anymore. if they wear pants at all they wear sweatpants or pajama bottoms.

Compare deep East Dallas before the 1960s and after. Which was the better place to live? And why did things go so bad so fast?

I blame "the Sixties". I blame the World War II generation for the laws they passed, the adults of the era for giving in to easy divorce and birth control, and all of them for allowing the youth of America to spread the cultural and spiritual poison that drove the country mad. I blame the fashion industry for making the gray flannel suit and tie look tight and stupid and wrapping America in circus colors and flared pants. I blame academia for tossing aside six thousand years of reason and sobriety and taking science from Is to Ought. I blame the Second Vatican Council for opening the windows of the church and letting the sunshine in and the incense out. I blame LBJ, the recording industry, Hollywood, the news media, and the TV networks for denigrating the boring, working-class white guy in East Dallas and glorifying those beautiful San Francisco middle-class kids with all that beautiful hair who were going to change the world.

They changed the world, all right. Today, East Dallas is a filthy slum.

And who is to blame for this? Not me. I was just a kid.

I can only blame the people who were voting, buying, and running the show in society at the time. The same people who sit on their fat asses in the suburbs today, cashing in their retirement plans and voting for more sexual "freedom", more jungle grunting, more ruin.

Am I bitter? You're goddamned right I am. The adults and youth of the Sixties took a baseball bat and smashed everything that was good about Western Civilization to pieces. Am I supposed to love them for it?

Well, I don't. The Sixties represent everything I hate. The people who were legislating and grooving and voting and consuming and reporting and setting fashions and getting high and entertaining one another during the Sixties destroyed America more thoroughly than any Soviet nuclear attack eve could have.

I'm glad you had a good time, but for my generation, the Sixties were a disaster, and I wish they had never happened.

Posted by: B Lewis at March 23, 2013 12:32 PM

B Lewis,

You might also blame the "greatest generation" for having all those babies at the same time, causing a huge number of young people, perfect for marketing. And how about the idea that the Boomers are supposedly all one generation from 1946 to 1964?

My generation didn't create those things you mentioned. They targeted us with them. Every time I hear someone trash the Boomers for the the Social Security mess, I point out that most of us did not have pensions, have had declining wages since the 70s and may or may not have bought a house back when they were really cheap. Many of these things really came from our parents' generation. And does that matter? Not really. The end to WWII caused a change in society and morality, just like the end of WWI and other wars have done. After a long period of sacrifice, people want to put it behind them.

All the things you say about 1969 were true in Oklahoma City too. And the neighborhood I grew up in is full of low lifes. Back in the 50s, I remember neighbors that had a fight every Friday night, complete with his clothes being thrown out on the front lawn. They were the same people you talk about ruining your old neighborhood. They existed then and now. It was covered up better back in the 50s and meth certainly didn't exist then. We have lost the institutions in this country that kept them in check and supported people in living a responsible life. Don't kid yourself. Your generation plays a part in this too.

Posted by: Teri Pittman at March 23, 2013 1:55 PM

We were delusional and full of ourselves. We did not understand the concept of "the wheel of time".

Posted by: Grace at March 23, 2013 3:26 PM

I was born in 1958. One of my enduring memories was staying up late to witness the event that will echo down the ages, to a time when the Pyramids are dust and nothing we did in the Second Millennium will be remembered, except for those few seconds on Tranquillity Day.

Some of us still have the Dream. And maybe, just maybe, one or two of my sister's great-grandchildren might look with clear eyes on the Endless Deep that our sky hides from us; might walk the snows of Enceladus or see the rings of Saturn close up.

It's too late for me.

Posted by: Fletcher Christian at March 23, 2013 4:26 PM

I remember the 60s more vividly than than the 70s. But I find myself asking, "Did it really happen?"

Regarding the cultural flotsam bequethed to us by the 60s, I agree with B. Lewis. It was the "greatest generation" that was in charge and should shoulder the blame.

Posted by: Steve at March 23, 2013 6:53 PM

I think the 60's shaped me in ways I can't quite fathom. Was it the psychedelic drugs? Even my memories of being in the war are like not at all about God and country but a wild ride in the eye of the hurricane, smoking weed at fire bases, charging bunker complexes like I was still 9 years old,riding Hueys over the land of a thousand bomb craters.
When I came home, nothing seemed like it was.Living a regular life was terminal boredom, most of the long hairs were taking time out before they started selling insurance.Donald Fagen captured it in "Kid Charlemagne"...'all the day-glo freaks who used to paint their face/ they've joined the human race'...God knows I tried better living through chemistry, all I got was crazy.
When I met Christ in 1978, he didn't make me a member of the Chamber of Commerce. I think it's still okay to be radical, just to different ends, love people , raise your family, be useful.

Posted by: bill at March 23, 2013 9:21 PM

My parents were, chronologically, slightly older than you and your generation, characteristically they were from the time before, so nothing like your generation.

However they had me rather late in life. Meaning that the vast majority of my generational cohorts were the children of people from your time and place.

Perhaps you intend to address this later, or perhaps you are not aware that your generation, while themselves having moved on as it were, spent a great deal of time and energy trying to pass on this unrealized 'dream' quest to their children.

Much the same as the aged high school football start attempts to relive his glory years through his child. And just as pathetic, self indulgent, tawdry, futile, and ultimately destructive of the child. I know, I've seen it played out over dozens of lives.

So, please forgive me if I do not the rose inside.

Posted by: ThomasD at March 24, 2013 7:01 AM

They were looking for truth that was already on bookshelves in their own homes but wanted no part of it. They even had the power to change a handshake to thumb against thumb as if everything we did before in our culture was wrong. Anyone with any sense knew something had gone horribly astray when they made murder legal forty years ago. Two thousand years ago another man warned them clearly of the hopeless disaster awaiting those that have faith in a "goodness" and autonomy of men. Now it is indeed too late. The flower idiots and the people that voted them into office have dug us an idolatrous economic and existential black hole. - Let the games, suffering and rape of Lady Liberty begin.

Posted by: Denny at March 25, 2013 8:15 AM

I dunno if I can totally blame them--that "greatest generation" was brought up in the shadow of 2 world wars, and having fought the 2nd one, it looks to me like they tried to make things better.

Throw out the old? Well, when it led to the Somme, Verdun, Normandy, Kursk, Auschwitz, Iwo Jima and Hiroshima, well, I can't say I blame them much for thinking that there had to be something else.

So it didn't turn out as expected. Nothing ever does now, does it?

Mr. Lewis doesn't like what East Dallas looks like today, but makes a telling remark: "...after the civil rights laws had been passed..." Well, things might have been dandy for him before that, but for others it was most emphatically not, and I don't see how one can be surprised that those people wanted things changed.

I do not have an answer to make everything better, but I will observe that hate, in the end, will not serve well if history is any guide.

Posted by: Eric Blair at March 28, 2013 7:31 AM

It is nice to venerate one's adolescence.

Posted by: chasmatic at May 3, 2015 10:39 AM

"It was better, clearer, cleaner and more strangely beautiful when we slept in the green house. It was not a special place. It was ordinary. The most ordinary place in the world. If it was neither real nor natural, it was fraught with a strange excitement, fecund with endless possibility. It was built of a metaphysic so loose that the most absurd accident could happen and it would only be a part of the Grand Design. "

Dreams (Poetics) make life worth living, Gerard:

'It doesn't matter if those things are true. A man needs to believe in them, because those are the things worth believing in.'

www . youtube . com/watch?v=duu0bCkSlUo

"That lyre is an old lie. And there was no truth. And without truth, there was no foundation, and, hence, no enduring reality...And this reality in time revealed to us the final face of fear -- a fear that was not a fear of death, but of continuing failure; of our failure to sustain the dream, to make it real, to constantly renew it."

The Poetics of life without the complement of the Mechanics of life is the madness of a Hot Hell on Earth.
The Mechanics of life without the complement of the Poetics of life is the Tyranny of a Cold Hell on Earth.

Fire and Ice.

(Even Disneyworld needs its Actors, Mechanics, & Cleaners if its going to be paradise.) ~Cond0011


Posted by: cond0011 at May 3, 2015 1:22 PM

A wonderfully lyrical romp through the unique time that was the 60's. The excesses were both wonderful and wasteful. We discovered a world that wasn't there, then quickly succumbed to it. Ahhh

Posted by: tripletap at May 4, 2015 5:25 AM

The Sixties were a web of dark paths for me; the early Seventies after my handlers cashiered me out were spent erasing what I could and making up for lost seasons, heck, lost years.
I reckon I didn't fit in too well with the rest of the flock. Made 'em nervous I did.
Dylan helped. To this day patchouli oil triggers some memories for me.

Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, the battle is between two 'wolves' inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Posted by: chasmatic at May 4, 2015 10:20 PM


That was haunting, and beautiful. Love the comments, too. We were all messed up. Looking back has helped me ask for forgiveness . . . because my own judgment about truth was as spastic as everyone else. Great piece. Peace.

Posted by: Bruce Hanify at February 14, 2016 6:21 PM

I failed my draft physical in 1970. My Dad cried--he was wounded in North Africa in 1943 and always said that was enough for one family. Had I passed he was going to drive me to Canada. I still have survivors guilt for my buddies who died in Vietnam--they never got to live, to love, to marry, to have children and now grandchildren--I weep for them.

Posted by: rocdoctom at February 16, 2016 7:17 PM