Ceremonies of the Horsemen

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