I resolve to become more knowledgeable and fill the world with flower punks and psychedelic bands. For heads already in the know, thoughts may turn to the cynicism of the Zappa / Mothers of Invention song of that name.
But we needn’t be cynical today. Listen instead to Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” listen to the 1979 version of “Space is the Place.” Shine on, sister. Gotta reach that highest ground. After reading poems from Thom Gunn’s Moly, the Port of San Francisco flashes like a voice in a dream. Dr. Robert is there with me, as is Homer — consciousness leaping between multiple domains.
Harried with work, days and days of grading midterms, I stumble free mid-afternoon into observation and contemplative reading of the Afros of the White Panther Party, dining on a side of green lettuce. How compartmentalized the days become under capitalist wage-slavery, I think with a sigh. Oscillations, electronic evocations of reality. Abbie Hoffman and John Sinclair in the midst of the last civil war represented themselves on the stage of history as revolutionary superheroes. But department stores are weird trips, man. Compartmentalized to the nth degree. Objects hung from racks in one thinly-populated zone, dense diverse clusters of people and sound elsewhere. How might we reconnect? I pick up a faceted wood vase and tap at it, questioningly. A voice in a nearby aisle proclaims, “it feels so real!” Materials when touched, not what they seem. And these motherfuckers no longer carry my Heinz Jalapeño Ketchup. Reality becomes ever more standardized, with me too jittery and anxious to connect, strike up conversation with others. As in the song, I become “lost in the supermarket.” It’s at least in part a fear of race and sexuality. But mainly it’s a fear that to others I might seem a weirdo, a creep, a stoner. I wish we could somehow become heads together. How do we re-establish communication across the plastic dome?
A dream where, after playing chase around a house with family, we end up camping in the woods. Sustainable green muscle cars park beneath cherry blossoms near an abandoned big-box, sun at my back reflected in a side mirror as it approaches the far horizon.
The communes of the 1960s were utopian experiments — attempts to develop better ways of living. Science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany’s short memoir Heavenly Breakfast provides participant observation and reflection from within one of these experiments. The communes were like irradiated psychedelic seeds thrown to the winds, each free radical allowed to evolve its own local variety, its own distinct mutations, each one searching for alternatives that might survive and thrive. Most communes failed: some because of fundamental errors, others due to an unlucky set of contingencies. Yet here and there, some survived. This process needs to continue. Broad, grassroots social experimentation will have to begin again, picking up where Hippie Modernism left off. And those of you who wish to be cutthroat capitalists — you must allow radicals the space, resources, and freedom from violence to do so if the species is to adapt to the new planetary environment.
When I wake at 2:40am, fresh in my mind are a set of dreams. I visit some sort of gathering or festival on a farm or a fairgrounds in the company of two childhood friends (who from this point onward I’ll refer to as R. and J.). J. asks us to accompany him to a chain restaurant. R. is skeptical, J. apologetic (“you don’t have to come along,” he says, “I’m just hungry”). I try to mediate on J.’s behalf, explaining to R. the restaurant’s location in relation to places we all visited during childhood like the United Skates roller rink. Elsewhere, perhaps in another dream altogether, my mom lays giant white sheets out in the bedroom of my childhood home, only the second floor of the house is airy and open, with huge, tall windows — some entirely different structure from my home in waking reality, but one that to my dream-self seems entirely familiar. Somehow that segues to a shoot for a music video: maybe something my dream-self watches online, starring a contemporary band covering a song from the 60s, pretending to tear down an old door to hang a large antique mirror with an angel head sculpted into the top of the frame. Someone who looks like a minor acquaintance of mine but who my dream-self understands to be Timothy Leary’s son Zach appears in an interview for the video, as does a local artist from the town in which I currently reside. One of them explains to the interviewer, “I guess I’m waiting for some new judgment, hoping that that era didn’t just die out, you know?” When I wake to pee, I immediately associate the doorway with the Siege Perilous, a portal between worlds featured in a series of X-Men comics that I read as a kid. When I wake again at 4:30am, another dream lingers. Walking through a large circular home with friends and family, waiting for some band from the 60s to perform, I carry a wooden folding chair that transforms over the course of the dream into a beanbag. As I tell my aunt and uncle about other large circular homes that my dream-self claims to have have visited in California, a large dog comes bounding over and tries to wrestle the beanbag from my hands, jumping up and licking my left ear, causing me to flinch with fear, at which point I wake with a start. A final dream remembered upon waking at 6:20am: Sarah and her parents purchase a nice, large house for us with large, overgrown grounds, and while Sarah tours me through for the first time (the house already having been purchased without my knowledge), Mick Jagger shows up and we sit around on the couches in the living room and burn a bunch of wooden knick-knacks in the fireplace. Afterwards, perhaps unrelated to the rest of the dream, Sarah races a bunch of kids around a hotel pool and playground, with an alcohol-infused friend providing advice and encouragement to help her across the finish line. Songs running through my head upon waking include “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby” and “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”
I sit listening as a neighbor in an adjoining yard plays an accordion. Hey Mr. Accordion Man, help me remember my dreams. I meditate upon a finely detailed ancient wooden eye staring up into my third eye from my back deck. I appraise it from several scales. Sounds come buzzing, whistling, bowling, crackling: conversations, motors, animals rustling in an underbrush, signal-pulses of birdsong. Seven to ten minutes and then I’m off for an evening of fun with my fellow thirsty nuns and monks.
Start the words, talk the talk, let it rip. Listen to the music. Dare to eat a peach. “Years ago, my heart was set to live,” as go the opening words to Big Star’s “The Ballad of El Goodo.” And here I am all these years later, holding on. Tulip magnolias and weeping cherries. It is time to write to St. Christopher. It is time to commit to love.