A course begins to take shape before my eyes. Are there works of literature, I wonder, that can be usefully classified as examples of “hippie modernism”? Works by the Beats, certainly, and the Black Mountain poets. Thomas Pynchon. Richard Brautigan. Philip K. Dick. Utopian science-fiction writers of the 60s and 70s: Marge Piercy, Samuel R. Delany, Ernest Callenbach, Ursula K. Le Guin. If only there was a way to teach this material in conjunction with other media. My interests are always broader than the merely literary. Consciousness set loose explores countless ontological realms, digital abstractions accessed through screens and hashtags. I’ve somehow only just now discovered the manifold psychedelic riches of Adult Swim’s anthology series Off the Air. What’s the value of hippie modernist literature when one can feast one’s eyes on Hiraoka Masanobu’s “Land”?
Punch buggy (grey? beige? needs a new paint-job?) turns a corner as I sit in my car paused at a light. The sight of it fills me with an inexplicable sense of cosmic benevolence. Spotify plays me “The Lemon of Pink” by The Books as the shadow of a hawk, wings outstretched, floats across the surface of the parkway in front of me.
When I return home, I recline in my yard and listen to Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants surrounded by a perfect atmosphere of birds, trees, air, and sunlight. Stephen Holden savaged the album in “The Last Flower Child,” his review for the Village Voice. Despite its many dips into schmaltz, however, Journey more than compensates, whether with the intricate mythology of “Same Old Song” or with the sleek proto-Brainfeeder future funk of tracks like “Race Babbling.”
Shifting to the couch in the living room, I snack on potato chips and check Twitter. Marc Masters points me to International Harvester; Byron Coley points me to several new releases on Feeding Tube Records: Weeping Bong Band and Delphine Dora & Sophie Cooper’s Divine Ekstasys.
A friend texts me about a book I need to read: Federico Campagna’s Technic and Magic. The universe inflates, appears as a vast hippie modernist inflatable, like the ones assembled and promoted by groups like Ant Farm. The feeding tube grows in two opposite directions at once: attracted or pulled, take your pick, both by gravity and levity. One part of me snacks on Caramel Delights, while another part receives the gift of Joe Henderson’s “Earth,” my pick for the greatest soul-jazz track of all time.
“Earth” announces itself again, a refrain throughout the day, the second time in the form of an 11-minute video from Adult Swim. Melting, morphing screens, mirrored surfaces, cut-screens between dimensions. All this and more is ours to explore when we blow the realm of necessity to pieces (as in the Alice Cooper song) and flee to the realm of freedom.