Sunday, March 27, 2011

Owsley, an Ode

First, my credentials: I did attend a Cream concert at the Denver Coliseum in ’68, but fell asleep. Although a mere fifty miles from the event, I did not attend the ’69 Woodstock Festival, nor once ever lied and said I did. I did attend the 1970 New Year’s Eve Jimi Hendrix concert at the Fillmore East, but fell asleep. If I were French and old enough I would admit I was not in the French Underground.

I posit the above to help you believe the relevant assertion; I did ingest one of the famous Purple Owsley tabs of acid in June, 1967. Oh my God, did I ever.

I was not, and am not the Robert Parker of LSD tasting, but by the tender age of 16 going on 17 my fairly expanded consciousness was able to discern good from bad psychedelic bouquet, and with Owsley’s recent death (from of all things, a car accident) it is fitting to pay tribute to his greatest achievement.

I rolled into Haight soon after ‘Sergeant Pepper’ was unleashed, with ‘Lucy’ skying from every tie-dyed curtained window, halter-tops the eye-boggling rage, the Straight Theatre in full blast, and the San Francisco Oracle office ephemerally posted on 1371 Haight Street. In that stark office foyer I was offered the tab.

The Monterey Pop Festival had just ended days before, which I mention because someone said Owsley whipped up the batch of Purple specifically for that event (which I missed; more cred, no?).

Purple. Such a lovely, tempting purple had never lain in my palm, another testament to Owsley’s absolute combination of science with esthetics. The enticing color overwhelmed my usual half-tab wussiness, and I downed the whole thing.

The Summer Of Love is true and sad, true that there had never been a moment of such generational bond, sad that it evaporated by August. No surprise, six weeks had to be the limit for such a good binge; the effort to maintain the high inevitably unveiled the rather seedy core of peace & love (as George Harrison would identify and complain about later that summer).

But baby, this was June, and who knew?

From the Oracle we wandered into Golden Gate Park (friendships were so easy to strike up), where after just minutes the back of my throat tingled, followed by a radiance felt throughout the body, and then… see how astronauts describe that moment when the engines are fired, and the scaffolding falls away...

Or try; WHOOSH, “tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones and good in every thing…”

Or, perhaps most usefully, abandon astronauts and Shakespeare and summarize the sensation in today’s parlance, :-) :-).

Anyway, with fireworks blazing we were off to the Avalon Ballroom for a Canned Heat concert. While waiting in line, one of my mates went cosmic (a good rehearsal; several months later he would remove everything but his glasses and run down Avenue B in the Lower East Side; it got him out of the draft), but we ushered him inside, and into an environment where a nuclear fuel rod could have melted without attention. Wow, the drummer passed out!

Then it was over to the Spiritual Mother’s place on Frederick, where I would be introduced to the milieu’s version of a den mother; unfortunately she had not yet arrived home from the hospital to where she had been sent a day or so ago after self-introducing an abortifacient with both desired and dire effect. While waiting for her homecoming with several bearded cub scouts, her twelve year old son, dressed as a cowboy, kicked incessantly at my shins. I was told that Owsley tested every new batch on the buckaroo; if true, well, every great man has his smirch, although at the time I thought, gosh, how cool is that?

It was the only trip where I had the honest-to-God ‘white light’ experience. I somehow had shucked off the little buckin’ buckaroo to enter into a quiet meditation, during which the universe vanished, and I looked into the Void, almost white; a little golden glimmer flickered in midst of the infinite expanse, it grew more glittery, it gestated a form, it became a... empty quart carton of Knudsen milk sitting at the top of Spiritual Mother’s garbage pail.

;-) ;-)

She arrived! Indeed, carried in like a pasha and settled on the sofa and immediately provided with a bottle of Ripple from a six-pack (cowboy was, too). She looked a hundred — everybody over thirty did — and to the question, “How was it?” she answered, “Embarrassing, I went into the emergency room crying, ‘My baby, oh, I’ve lost my baby’ [abortion very illegal in ’67] and they find this gigantic spike in my womb.”

What happened after that?

Well, here I am after all these years. Last acid I dropped (and it wasn’t an Owsley; nothing like it) was the day Nixon resigned (I scribbled on a pillow, “Nixon Failed History;” it seemed very clever at the time). Jobs (plural), wife (singular) and kids (two). Been a long, but I wouldn’t say strange trip.

It won’t be long before I’m sucking up the Social Security, and the disposable income my cohort enjoyed in the Haight (did I mention the Free Store?) today’s tykes will never know, what with digging deep to make sure I get my monthly check. I hear that the reefer’s gotten a lot better, but sold for a price no kid wandering into Haight today could possibly afford. That whole era seems like a hallucination; money did buy happiness, at least six weeks of it.

I would say goodbye to Owsley, except I thought he died decades ago, and I’m still weirded out that his name was Owsley Stanley.

So, goodbye to all that Purple Owsley; it sure kept me awake!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

No Hell For Becky

It’s getting tough for Christian baiters, what with the Pope exonerating Jews for the murder of Jesus and evangelist Bob Bell expressing doubt about Hell and eternal damnation; what supple targets are left? Yes, the Virgin Birth, and sundry miracles, but really, what are they compared with God damning all practitioners of a particular faith, or allowing Satan his indestructible Abu Ghraib to house them for eternity?

Doubt first gnawed at me in second grade while watching little Becky Goldberg ply her numbers. Her father, Dr Goldberg, by then several times had stuck me with needles while blathering about polio and tetanus and ignoring my wailing, he had even made my mother complicit in the torture, and my vague understanding that he would spend all his afterlife consumed in flames for killing Jesus was not altogether hideous, but Becky, too?

I’ll just say this about Becky; she was the prettiest, sweetest girl in school, and my faith in the Internet is repeatedly shaken to its core by its inability to locate her. She sat two desks up and one over, and my perfect, uninterrupted view of her made me a casuist. She would go to Hell with her dad for killing Jesus, you see, and right over there sat Billy McKay, who, when not tearing wings from flies or tossing toads into his family’s outdoor incinerator or discovering some new, awful thing to do to stray cats, would beat up his kid sister. And all Billy had to do was ask Jesus’ forgiveness and he wouldn’t go to Hell like Becky, in fact, with the right words he’d have his own cloud, and worse, if he got run over and killed that day he’d even get one of those neat, little bow and arrows to play with in Heaven.

I began then to think God got it all wrong, and I was pretty sore at Him for having made up His mind a long time ago that Becky was going to Hell with her dad (who deserved it). Such had grown my apostasy that I eventually thought Dr. Goldberg deserved a pass, too. Billy McKay was that bad.

Anyway, the Goldbergs became my ammo during my late teens and early adulthood (such a period existed then) whenever some Christian tried to re-enlist me. Usually the first thing they’d pop out was “God Loves All His Children,’ and I hit right back with Becky accused of killing Jesus and her going to Hell for it. They tried the ‘Well, Becky can always convert,” and I’d say, “Yeah, and meanwhile her grandma Goldberg sits in Hell.” And some of them shot back, “Sometimes Mother Mary can get somebody out of Hell,” and I’d say, “Show me that.” Of course, they couldn’t, it was an idea that somebody cooked up to lure people like me who liked Becky too much to re-enlist.

I slowly backed into God by, if I may coin the word, develation. I had started out in life, as you may have inferred, accepting the whittled down Christian teaching for naughty tykes, which linked the Thou Shalt Nots with God. I can say, with the perspective of years, that Thou Shalt Nots formed at least a basis of morality. Perhaps that had been the original intention, to instill the idea that we come from perfection. Unfortunately, for my Christian soul, as my corrupt flesh entered into puberty the ephemeral flames of lust for Becky, now a budding seventh grader, coupled with masturbation that barely knew bounds, it became expedient if not altogether necessary to parole God and Thou Shalt Nots in order to fend off nightmares of the eternal flames of Hell.

Paroled, but not forgotten. How could they be forgotten? Especially in a world with tons of people who never knew Becky, never masturbated, and therefore never stop shouting into television cameras about Thou Shalt Not and God. As I suspect with every Christian cum atheist and/or disciple of Becky, Hell still wanders on the other side of the fence, and there being no way of really getting rid of it requires the endeavor to build the fence higher to at least hide it.

Ironically (because he professed atheism), it was a Mark Twain’s essay on Shakespeare that began my process of develation. Twain agreed with the scholarship that doubted Shakespeare’s authorship of the Canon. By Twain’s time the question had already been raised concerning how a man from some backwater with scant education could produce works implying the author’s close acquaintance with Latin, the Court, law and philosophy and other disciplines assumed beyond the grasp of native intelligence. One answer provided, as you know, is that a well-educated lord of the realm actually wrote the Canon, but attributed the work to a lowly theater manager because dabbling in theater was too beneath the dignity of lords of the realm.

Twain’s essay resurrected this not unusual ho hum. Twain, however, raised one additional question, and not a bad one; why was Shakespeare’s will, that legal instrument famously gifting his wife with his “second best bed,” completely silent on the bequeathing of books? Books, Twain argued, were a very valuable commodity at the time of Shakespeare’s death; he further postulated that whoever wrote the Canon must have had books, and the fact that Shakespeare apparently had none to bequeath led Twain to conclude that a lord of the realm had to have written the Canon, and that Shakespeare was no more than a lowly theater manager, and that if he had written anything it was no more than a ledger explaining, say, how Titus Andronicus previewed a hundred times before taking a 65 million dollar bath. Or something like that; it’s been a while since I read the essay.

Any way, the matter of no books mentioned in Shakespeare’s will shook my belief in the potential of native intelligence.

That is, until the next time I laughed through a whole scene of Shakespeare’s low comedy. You know, farting, belching, body parts, that stuff you find scattered through his plays from Richard III to All’s Well That Ends Well, from Lear to the Merry Wives of Windsor. Now tell me; what lord of the realm could write that? Who could have tea with the Queen of England in the afternoon, and then repair to his manor to construct, for instance, Toby Belch? My answer to this, let it be known, is I’m right back in under-educated Shakespeare’s corner.

That’s my metaphor for ‘develation.’ First I believed, then I didn’t, then I did again by asking, what lord of the realm could stick puns on body parts into Hamlet?

It exposes my reliance on native intelligence and lack of exquisite education to admit that this whole question of God, for me, now is rephrased, What the fuck else could ever come up with all this? The answer that it all sprang from some entity we’ll never really know or comprehend not only satisfies me, it’s the only answer that can satisfy me. It’s not very Christian or sophisticated, and I’m not trying to get you to buy in.

But now that Becky Goldberg is innocent of killing Jesus, and now that there is no Hell, I’m expecting her to read this and get in touch.