“You there,” says a cursor, a pointing finger: “Feed your head.” DC hardcore bands of the 1980s laughed off the hippies, refused to remember what the dormouse said. Contra Jefferson Airplane, they clamped down defensively, shouting “Flex your head” through speakers and sound systems across time. That stance appealed to me. I was hailed by it. It formed me into a position as a particular kind of subject. Emanating from the capital, coeval with an era of federally-waged drug war, straightedgers like Ian MacKaye denounced drugs as “crutches.” The stance conveyed an ableism that was simultaneously hyper-defensive, its anger a reaction to fear. As punks, MacKaye and his friends and bandmates faced routine bullying and marginalization. Early episodes of teenage drug use led to denunciations of party culture, as on Government Issue’s “Rock’n Roll Bullshit,” and dramatic public acts of abstention from drug-assisted Dionysian revelry, as on Minor Threat tracks like “Out of Step” and “Straight Edge.” Always flexing, never feeding. It took years for me to recover and loosen up — but loosen up I did.
Hints of other storylines lie about. Pay attention to what is changing: the growth and the decline, the continuity of an always ever-changing ever-changing “always.” It’s a narrative of “Individuation.” Baby busting out of its prison. That storyline, at various levels of being, staged alongside related myths of enlightenment and awakening. Sarah suggests I refine my focus. The book I’m writing is on acid and radical politics. The other stuff is just part of the theorization of that. The brew that rocked the boat. An elaborate Heavenly Breakfast-for-dinner feast. Feel better and change the world. What are we to make of this thread of desire that runs like a fuse through being: the desire to overcome the alienations imposed by capitalism and Western rationalism and patriarchy and settler colonialism and modernity? Can it be done by a living theatre? Can it be done by fusing art with life? What happened to Sam Cooke? The authorities were frightened of him. Cooke was having fun, putting trouble on the run with his support for Malcolm X and Black Power. Killed, Sarah says, under suspicious circumstances. Hard shift to Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome,” which makes me think of my father, a photographer who worked on a photo shoot with Muhammad Ali. Spotify extrapolates a playlist for the occasion, leading to Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up” and Ray Charles’s “What’d I Say, Pt. 1 & 2.” Afterwards Stevie Wonder warns of belief in “Superstition.” Van Morrison replies with “Into the Mystic,” after which point I lean back and marvel at the fact that this entire month is 4/20.
During break time, I stare at pinwheels, rosemary bushes, a neighbor with a cat on a leash, a Royal Enfield motorcycle with a Cozy sidecar parked in front of another neighbor’s home down the street. I walk about, listening to birds, the wind as it rustles the leaves in the trees, motivating as well some wooden wind chimes. The cry of a waking baby returns me indoors, where we dance to tunes by NEU! and Pere Ubu. Time for redirection. Sarah’s suggestion: download into being a children’s book on Buckminster Fuller. The baby rests on Sarah’s knees as the three of us chill on the couch vibing to Future Shock — Volume 1, a compilation released by Names You Can Trust.
As the sun descends, shining through the window in the room above the garage, I stare down at a book propped open on the dining room table: The Living Book of the Living Theatre. I learn about Judith Malina and Julian Beck and the direction they took from the philosophical anarchism of Paul Goodman at the time of the Theatre’s founding in the mid- to late- 1940s. The couple launched the Theatre at their 789 West End Avenue apartment in New York. In 1951, they staged four one-act plays by Goodman, Gertrude Stein, Bertolt Brecht, and Federico García Lorca. In later years, the Theatre became communal and nomadic.
Is the bourgeois subject the one who finds by way of money-power the way to a home? Shouldn’t self-determination of Oikos through communities of mutual aid take place wherever it can? Can we get a revolution? Jefferson Airplane seemed to think so in their 1969 song “Volunteers.”
“Look what’s happening out in the streets,” they sang. “Got a revolution / Got to revolution.” The revolution means dancing down the street like in a musical. Get people out singing in the streets. John Sinclair’s version was a bit more like West Side Story: “ROCK & ROLL, DOPE AND FUCKING IN THE STREETS.” But then others like the Stones demanded “Gimme Shelter.” And for them, that meant “Make Love Not War.” (Sinclair’s papers, but the way, are held at the University of Michigan, with boxes dedicated to Artists’ Workshop Society, Trans-Love Energies, and the Rainbow People’s Party.)
Aloha, fellow islands in the net. This social distancing thing is weird, y’all. Takes some getting used to — even as that is exactly what we don’t want to happen. We go on walks amid flowers and vegetables. What will it be like when we move to a new home on the far edge of the city? We will walk amid our garden. The song on the soundtrack is a sad one, Link Wray’s “Ice People.” But then ESG comes to the rescue with their song “Come Away,” and all is better.
A neighbor broadcasts at a faint volume a punk song while birds sing in the trees. I sit at an old weather-worn picnic table, out of the center of which grows a cute tuft of fungi. Onto a table of another sort, a virtual turntable, I drop Foodman’s Dokutsu EP and rouse myself to help others. It needn’t be a trial. Yet part of me, stimulated by electronic nervous system, wonders, “Where’s the fun? Where’s the joy?” Roger K. Green’s book lands me into new territory: Leary and Alpert’s Castalia Foundation, named after the society that serves as the fictional setting for Hermann Hesse’s novel The Glass Bead Game. It also appears to be a town here in North Carolina — though too far from me to be of much use. The Hesse novel is one I wish to read so as to better understand the psychedelic utopianism of Castalia and Millbrook. It seems to have had upon Leary and Alpert an impact as great as Huxley’s Island. Reading it must be like opening a door and going through it and then always going back out again. Intentional passivity as a form of action.
We bounce, you and I, you draped Sphinx-like across my chest, beside books like The Streams of Consciousness and Expanding Dimensions of Consciousness. I think about the career of Ray “Raghunath” Cappo: from lead singer of NY straightedge hardcore band Youth of Today to yoga teacher, jiu-jitsu fighter, and Hare Krishna monk. Ray’s lyrics for Youth of Today connected with me for a time as a teen. Some projection, I suppose, of a path I sought. Tough-guy jock masculinity refashioned via Eastern spirituality. Whereas nowadays I prefer to listen to “Hallogallo” by NEU!
Flying Start turns up in the bins, the second album by the Blackbyrds, the group Donald Byrd assembled while the head of Howard University’s Department of Jazz Studies in the 1970s. Curious, I look up info on the department — the first of its kind, established in 1970 “to preserve and perpetuate jazz through instruction, performance, and research.” From there, I’m off reading about a Beatles song released in 1968 called “The Inner Light,” the lyrics of which, written by George Harrison, paraphrase a portion of the Tao Te Ching.
Then onto the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Stanford University, as described by Stewart Brand in his 1972 piece for Rolling Stone magazine, “Spacewar: Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums.”
Cartoon images play across the backs of my eyelids like the surface of a scramble suit, an animated sequence of metamorphosing characters and places. Then back to baby care. Sarah passes her to me. After some adjustment of my arms, I comfort her, her beautiful eyes gazing up at me. Thoughts turn to a song new to my ears: Fountainsun’s “Ripening Sheaves.”
Fountainsun is a music project featuring Fumie Ishii and Daniel Higgs. I saw Higgs perform with his band Lungfish sometime in the late nineties. I’ve remained a fan ever since.
Arrived home from work, I go for a short walk around my neighborhood and stare up at trees full of red-chested robins. More than a dozen robins at varying heights above my head. They talk: I listen. Rustles of leaves and feathers, cheery tweets, blissful songs. Beatitudes performed for me, or at least tolerant of my listening. Performed first by the birds and then afterwards electronically, by a car that pulls up beside a park, bass sounds reverberating outward even with the car’s windows rolled up. That’s what I like, something suburbs often lack: neighborhoods with music (especially when the latter is of a spontaneous or locally improvised sort). When I return home, I sit and hold her, marveling and rejoicing, struck with a sense of beatitude as I behold my daughter. One day I wish to read Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954. “I promise I shall never give up, and that I’ll die yelling and laughing,” Kerouac wrote in an entry in the book from 1949. “And that until then I’ll rush around this world I insist is holy and pull at everyone’s lapel and make them confess to me and to all.” Always and forever I’m filled with the awareness of countless books unread. From Kerouac to Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov to Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe.