Tag Archives: personal reflection
Moments of Eternity
Moments of Eternity
Sometimes now I think back to moments when I lived in eternity, and that seems to put a meaning into the arc of my ordinary and unremarkable life.
I look across the valley of my wooded canyon to the ridge beyond. The morning sun sprinkles bright highlights on the green leaves of eucalyptus quavering in the breezes sloshing up and down the canyon, as the thinnest vapor of moisture glides up the corridor of light between the ridges, veiling the far side in a gauze of renewal. The massed fronds of the far side forest sway in small gentle random palpitations as if polyps in a coral reef feeding in the tidal surges of sky that sweep through our living space.
I see a sunburst sparkle a pine-top against an azure sky on a chill January morning.
I see my little girl splash in a muddy puddle on a frigid February day in a park abandoned by all but two ducks standing one-legged on the island in the little pond, and then again that night when she fell asleep on my warm chest against my heartbeat on the couch.
I see a hummingbird eye-to-eye a beak-length away from my nose on a languid August afternoon lounging with wine and the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch.
I see gleeful tussles with my children on the couch and pillows and carpet, their joyful splashing in their bath, their dinner made while the bathroom floods, their drift into innocent sleep, city lights on the distant horizon of a clear evening, and watching the cactus flower bloom all through night with the cats electrified to live that outside darkness with me as I stretched to reach into it to the stars.
I see me writing out with pen the Greek symbols of mathematical equations realizing I’d solved a problem no one else had ever seen, while outside birds get drunk on fermented pyracantha berries in the ripening afternoon sun of late summer, and watching that light rest still, knowing.
I see me walking across campus into the first Earth Day celebration in 1970 to the realization that I now knew my life’s mission, and catching the sight of my sweetest lover walking with a smile toward me, both knowing we would share the music of the day and the poetry of the night, vindicating the gifts of our youth.
I see me canoeing out across the summertime lake to the far island near the girl’s camp, to slip out of sight behind it, beach my canoe, and swing from the rope tied to the overhanging tree limb to plunge into the fresh water, before waving to the girls on the beach across the narrow channel, who waved in their own delight, and paddling back to the boys’s camp so fulfilled in my solitary reverie.
Seeing Through The Fake Smiles
Sometimes it is charitable to interrupt a person’s illusions with the truth, and sometimes it is charitable to refrain from interrupting and let people drift to their consequences. Which is better depends on how much harm to all others can be prevented. You gain merit by making that choice wisely, and by containing the inevitable pain of your awareness within your necessary silences.
How do you succeed in life?: Luck.
How do you succeed in business?: Crime.
How do you find fulfillment?: By not letting a need for success rule you.
I try not to hate but it’s not easy. When I do, I remind myself that cruel and heartless people have too much fear to be kind. And I tell myself: don’t be like them.
Truth be told: nobody cares what struggles you had to go through to arrive at this point in your survival, but I in my endless and selfish imperfection am glad that you have arrived — if done without malice. I remain a dreamer wanting a better world.
Youth must always rediscover reality on its own. Wise parents accept their own eclipsing with equanimity.
It is so satisfying to stand next to the heater and ward off the December chill; to look out at the glorious morning light streaming westward into my green-glowing canyon freshly drenched by a week of rain; to see my night-cloud of a cat coiled up in a sleeping spiral on my bed.
On this bright warm spring day in early February I watch my unseen world passing to the sound of birdsong.
8 February 2022
Officially Old, Once Gifted, Now Joyfully Grumpy Marxist
This is a compendium of recent items of mine, because I like seeing them together this way.
Shoveling Snow, Mowing Lawns
When I was a kid I used to earn spending money by shoveling snow off other people’s driveways, in winter, and mowing their lawns and planting their trees in summer. This was the ’60s. Winter snow was great fun to go sled riding in, on the biggest hills I could find, some pasture and some very wooded. I’d sweat inside my sweater and coat doing the work, and the play, and it would then freeze hard on the way home (it used to be cold back then). When a job or play finished after sunset the walk home through the hush-white quiet was quite wonderful, especially if moonlit. In December there would be Christmas lights on houses casting their colored lights out from star-like pinpoints. I’d think of music, like Rachmaninoff, on such walks: magical. The summer lawn jobs were an altogether different experience. First off, it was always hot and muggy; you’d get sweaty and grimy doing the job, and also hay fever. But the one compensation was the panorama when you got paid. The suburban housewives were always in stretch-tops and shorts not doing housework inside, and come to the door, often a step up, with Cinerama at eye level. Once one came to the door and stood there with a cocktail in her hand and a Gloria Grahame smile on her face. That was my tip. Others would be out back in their bikinis sunning themselves by their pools. I’d have to go back there when there would be no answer at the door. I had repeat customers for a few years because I was cheaper than the professional services, with snow-blowers, gardening trucks and power tools. But my favorite customer was an old wheelchair-bound disabled man who had a painting studio. He showed me how to paint clouds, with oils, correctly. A great tip. Honest work always deserves just and decent pay, but sometimes the tip is the best part of the job. 
Response to Peter Byrne, my 92-year-old mentor
Eureka! I’ve finally understood what separates me from Manuel. While he worked the lawns with teen zeal in the Pacific breeze, I, earlier, mowed the grass in Chicago’s Holy Olive Cemetery. I learned about capitalism from the grave up and became a lifelong pessimist. He, no grave dodger, gathered all the bad news and nevertheless managed a sliver of optimism. More power to him.
The breeze was Atlantic, wafting across Long Island for East and West Egg to Fire Island, but all else is true. I wanted to “save the world” by unlocking nuclear fusion, and championing solar energy systems any do-it-yourselfer could assemble. I also wanted a Ferrari, so youthful (and very unrealistic) optimism for sure. But even “knowing the score”, from an 11-year-old during the Bay of Pigs (cutting me off from my desired “homeland”) on through the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 (when both the Havana and NYC branches of the family were targeted for the fryer), and all through my junior high and high school years following the daily news of Vietnam and Laos, trying to steel my mind to somehow cope with the draft I was invited to join at the peak of the war, 1968-1969, I knew the score and that optimism was whittled down to a sliver. Life thereafter only whittled it down to a hair, but I had sweet kids who needed positive dreams to grow into their own happy lives, so I hung onto that hair and tried to shine its luster into the wider world, for them. But, they’re all grown and gone now, as of this year, and I am now purposeless, and have fallen quiet because that is the best “positivity” I can offer the wider world — the Eloi — whom I am left to watch drift thoughtlessly into their unnecessary but self-selected certain fates. My creativity is exhausted, as is my “knowledge”, I have nothing left to “teach”, so silence is good for me since I have nothing of value to offer, and it won’t matter anyway, just as it never mattered for the Eloi I offered my arts and works to since the beginning. What I have for compensation now are my physical senses with which to observe the flow of Nature about me — today the rain onto my forested canyon, and the tweeting of the hummingbirds ever vigilant to make sure I keep their sugar-water feeders fresh, other days with sun and hawks wheeling overhead — and I have books to read so my mind can wander in other worlds, both real and fictional, that writers with sound hearts and clear minds wrote to speak their truths to the ages. And I have music. My art now is entirely in seeking to know, just for myself. And also to remember, just for the pure pleasure. Sometimes, there is even another wise soul to talk to. So it goes. 
Quantum mechanics is the condensation of existence out of nothingness, which statistics coalesce into continuity and causality, to roil as an ocean of heat that expands into entropy dissipating all memory into a fathomless frigidity of unbeing. God is in the hopes and hubris of man, Goddess is in the anxieties and emergent life by woman, the Afterlife is the Afterdeath of Consciousness dissolved and reabsorbed. Humanity will flourish to the extent it is generous, and it will perish to the extent that it is selfish, enlightenment is to know, salvation is to do, every Heaven is ringed by its necessary Hell of exclusion. Your only glory can be to light a brief candle in the eternal dark, whose afterglow carried in your heart would be your peace on sinking back into the emptiness. Reincarnation is the eruption of knowing from unknowning, the birth of future and past embraced, to diverge on each side of present until they merge once again into the embrace of nonexistence. Wisdom is the glare of sunlight streaming through a rain-bejewelled forest onto the eyes of dreamers lost in their shimmering illusions, moonlight shattered into sparkling ripples on the dark sea of night breathing silence, the entwined songs of life eddying and cascading, rivers to the sea, rains to the mountains, I am all that can be: a moment of the fountain.
Response by Peter Byrne:
“And don’t be discouraged if your fingers get burnt lighting that candle.” 
Freedom versus Slave Mind
White Supremacy will end with human extinction. The angry rage of conservatives and fundamentalists, in the face of godless skepticism, is really an anguished cry of: “don’t make us question our bigotry!” For working class people who can’t think better, White Supremacy is a psychological compensation for an inferiority complex. That complex is learned from infected parents, and indoctrinated into one by a capitalist class society intent to exploit and enslave people by controlling their minds with a programming for obedience to higher authority, a sense of inadequacy and neediness, and with race- and ethnicity-based prejudice, to cause disunity among the great mass of the working class. Working class white supremacists are simply abused children passing on their abuse to younger generations and lower seniority workers and employees: ignorant slaves seeking to compensate for their hidden lack of self-respect by trying to depreciate and enslave others “below them”. The capitalist upper class propagates this mass psychology illness of low self-esteem, neediness and bigotry, because it is the method by which the union of the rich few control the disunion of the poor many. “Divide and conquer” was how the Roman Empire was ruled, and so with America today. Ending White Supremacy before human extinction occurs would require a Marxist Revolution to full Communism. A first step to that political goal is Labor Union organizing so the Labor Union Movement expands to the point of controlling the national economy. Then a Social Revolution can occur, which ends all interpersonal prejudices. Such a political-social progression is the only way militarism-imperialism can be overcome, and Climate Change finally seriously confronted. Such a Paradigm Shift is deemed “impossible” by capitalist indoctrination in the Slave Mind. And it may be unlikely in your lifetime, but that does not prevent you from working toward that Paradigm Shift — The Revolution — beginning with your own transformation out of Slave Mind, and then with the activism and organizing you may choose to do. The Revolution is not merely a desired socio-political event at some time in the future during the course of human history, it is a living process carried within the individual lives of people who have freed themselves from Slave Mind, and by their living examples push back against the oppressors’s imposition of Slave Mind and its White Supremacy illness, even onto the last day of human existence if that is to be our collective fate. Be joyful in your freedom. 
 Shoveling Snow, Mowing Lawns
12 December 2021
14 December 2021
 Freedom versus Slave Mind
16 December 2021
Shoveling Snow, Mowing Lawns
Shoveling Snow, Mowing Lawns
When I was a kid I used to earn spending money by shoveling snow off other people’s driveways, in winter, and mowing their lawns and planting their trees in summer. This was the ’60s. Winter snow was great fun to go sled riding in, on the biggest hills I could find, some pasture and some very wooded. I’d sweat inside my sweater and coat doing the work, and the play, and it would then freeze hard on the way home (it used to be cold back then). When a job or play finished after sunset the walk home through the hush-white quiet was quite wonderful, especially if moonlit. In December there would be Christmas lights on houses casting their colored lights out from star-like pinpoints. I’d think of music, like Rachmaninoff, on such walks: magical. The summer lawn jobs were an altogether different experience. First off, it was always hot and muggy; you’d get sweaty and grimy doing the job, and also hay fever. But the one compensation was the panorama when you got paid. The suburban housewives were always in stretch-tops and shorts not doing housework inside, and come to the door, often a step up, with Cinerama at eye level. Once one came to the door and stood there with a cocktail in her hand and a Gloria Grahame smile on her face. That was my tip. Others would be out back in their bikinis sunning themselves by their pools. I’d have to go back there when there would be no answer at the door. I had repeat customers for a few years because I was cheaper than the professional services, with snow-blowers, gardening trucks and power tools. But my favorite customer was an old wheelchair-bound disabled man who had a painting studio. He showed me how to paint clouds, with oils, correctly. A great tip. Honest work always deserves just and decent pay, but sometimes the tip is the best part of the job.
On Wings of Light over Canyons of Blight
On Wings of Light over Canyons of Blight
Beam me up, Scotty!
I’ve got to get off this doomed planet dominated by Archie Bunkers, Gomer Pyles, Karen Dingbats, and their Toxic Bratspawn!
Power up the Phasers and load in the Photon Torpedoes when I get there!
We’ve got to blow all this wasted cytoplasm and ectoplasm back into the Gravitational Recycler of the Galaxy!
What I’ve learned from 9/11 ‘truthers’, anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers is that there is comfort in stupidity because it offers certainty in a world of doubts!
What can I teach? Nothing! Everybody already knows how they want to be ignorant!
Isn’t it amazing how something as brainless as a virus can outwit multitudes of the most pampered technologically-enriched populations of humanity: an emotional commitment to suicide by anti-thinking!
I am living out the opposite polarity of The Cabinet Of Doctor Caligari!
And so I cry out today… But…, a century earlier:
Nikola Tesla is sitting on his park bench on a crystalline crisp February morning tossing seeds and crumbs to New York City’s flocks of Rock Doves, who know him well for the regularity of his largesse. They wheel about him gracefully and wing down so elegantly to scuttle about his feet, pecking at the bounty of nourishing granules offered to them.
I have no doubt he would long watch them approvingly, delighting in their cooing and motions, while thinking to himself:
How different they are from the race of men: reliable in their behaviors, in expressing their wants honestly and without shame, and never pretending to be unselfish or — despicably — to be betrayers. How admirable they are as pure, unpolluted works of Nature. If only men could be like this instead of the myopically petty self-absorbed self-limiting disappointments they insist on condemning themselves into being.
It is so refreshing and enlivening to just sit in this cathedral of bright chill sunlight, sliced by long fingers of canyon-wall shade, immersed in the expansive subaural hum of Nature’s breath, and just watch the infinite cascade of Life’s eddies surrounding and enveloping me.
How sad that all the midget blind cyclopses of my species will never know they can live — transformed — in a Paradise they could extend forever. But here on this bench, at least, I have the comfort of experiencing that infinitude of joy for myself, alone.
“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
I sat out under the high sun in front of my tall trees this morning, looking out across my modest wooded creek canyon as the gliding shadows of two hawks — their trailing edges emblazoned by the warm cascading radiance — passed over me in waves. What fools these mortals be that blind themselves to wonders such as these.
ON BEING A SUCCESS:
My great discovery — and rueful awakening — about “being successful” occurred when I was at ‘peak career’, and had gained enough experience and produced enough technical successes to apply for and deserve a promotion into “management.” Then it was all made very clear to me, not just by rejection, but by seeing who got promoted and why. The essential quality sought by higher-ups for moving ‘you’ up — below them — is a proficiency at lying to bring money into the organization and making the boss look good, and a demonstrated bullet-proof reliable loyalty at servicing the career advancement schemes of your boss and the boss class above you.
YOUR advancement comes when a bigger boss poaches you from your smaller boss, and your success is assured by applying the same technique for acquiring your own growing troop of faithful vassals below you. The organizational hierarchy looks like a troop of monkeys in a tree. The leader sits at the top, and the other monkeys are arrayed in the branches below him in descending rank order. The leader looks down to see a sea of smiling faces. The bottom ranked monkey looks up to see a sea of assholes. And the shit always rains down.
What I also learned from this awakening was that the merit and value, or venality and worthlessness, of any organization is entirely expressed by the actual (not public relations crafted) personal merit and (always cloaked) venality of the management leading and controlling the organization. Successful liars being in charge indicate a lying and exploitative organization — by design.
This may all seem obvious when stated as I have here, but it is not lived and felt as obvious by most people in the real ‘working’ and ‘political’ worlds. And this is why the rueful awakening — if it occurs — leads its no longer naïve sleepers startled out of their dreams, to the sinking realization: everything is a lie.
The one consolation (needed after the loss of income, perhaps precipitous) that can be gained after this point is the thought: do I really want to be the kind of person that becomes a careerist success by being a completely servile lying sycophant and back-stabbing betrayer? If your answer is “no,” you have discovered your self-respect as your central treasure and source of freedom, and you will have saved your soul. I can’t say this will fill your belly, but I can say this will let you die at peace with yourself and without shame.
Acknowledging the achievements of others — especially in your own field, and especially if superior to yours — is a mark of superior character, which too few have.
In the vastness of their popular cranial vacuity, Americans are enthralled with a celebrity culture to which they abjectly submit with expressions of envy over their own insignificance, and for the most deluded with pathetic expressions of self-inflationary grandiosity. Thus, American popular culture is an ocean of bullshit acidified with envy.
Sic transit gloria mundi.
Some Thoughts About My Cuba
Some Thoughts About My Cuba
This is a stream-of-consciousness outpouring of my thoughts and memories and learning of Cuba, without any additional research, or “fact checking,” because I am sure whatever details I may have “wrong” are inconsequential to the truth of my testimony. And besides, I’m in my “don’t give a fuck what you think of me” senior years. Let the picayune, pedantic and nit-pickers do their own fact-checking (it’s easy enough today). But, to those with poetic and musical and socialist souls: welcome!
My family lost everything in the Cuban Revolution (from 1959): family business, property, grandparents’ health (early death); 1961-1967 were hell for us that way. Because of the rabid U.S. assaults on the Cuban Revolution, Fidel followed Raul’s lead and looked to the Communist Party — i.e., Russia — for help (I saw a Russian freighter in Havana harbor in 1960), and in reaction to those assaults, Castro banned rock music and the Beatles (in ~1965-1967; yet Juan Formell, famously, penned the seminal Cuban Rock-and-Roll classic, “Llegué, Llegué / Guararey de Pastorita,” and founded Los Van Van in 1969, https://youtu.be/75VYMyYVPhA).
BUT, my father forever refused to ever play golf (the signal Republican/Conservative/Imperialist/Reactionary/Fascist “sport”; I had offered to buy him golf clubs as a retirement present), and refused to ever visit Miami, where his old Upper West Side NYC buddies from the 1940s-1950s had gone in their senior years, because he did not want to go where “the pain in the neck” Cubans were.
My father had sent money sub-rosa (for bribes) to help his two childhood friends and their families to get out of Cuba in the later 1960s, and he cried when thinking back on it all, saying the U.S. had “destroyed my country.” Che Guevara was executed on my father’s 43rd birthday.
So, I know that Castro made many mistakes, and had dictatorial tendencies, but he was exponentially better for Cuba than the U.S. ever was or ever will be (Cuba si! Yanqui no!, I saw that grafitto painted on Cuban walls in 1959-1960). And the Cuban government always has the U.S. and its embargo and its CIA, as an easy excuse for and distraction from its own mistakes and heavy-handedness in managing Cuba; but there is an abundance of truth in that excuse nevertheless.
Despite its evident poverty, Cuba is what Puerto Rico (I am 50% Puertorriqueño) should be: independent; “the Cubans will never bend the knee,” as the last East German premier has said. Despite killing 2 to 3 million Vietnamese (between 1965 and 1975), and toxifying much of their land with Agent Orange and Cluster Bombs, the U.S. has “forgiven” officially ‘Communist’ Vietnam because it has let itself become a sweatshop for capitalism; Cuba remains unforgiven because it has not. And THAT is a dagger pointed at the heart of American imperialists’ greatest fear.
By the way: rock and roll is, deeply, a Cuban invention. The “French Quarter” of New Orleans is considered by US Americans as the birthplace of rock-and-roll through the African-American roots of Delta Blues, R&B, and Gospel music (rhythmic and charismatic African call-and-response choral music – originally without drums, which were forbidden to American Black slaves).
The French Quarter was actually built by the Spanish governor of New Orleans during the ~25(?) years of Spain’s ownership of that port, by treaty with the French (who had established and owned it previously, and then owned it afterwards – eventually selling it to the Americans in 1803 – all by treaties between France and Spain, because of European wars in the 18th & 19th centuries).
The rhythm-based African music was imported to Cuba with the slave trade (Cuban slaves were allowed the freedom to drum at night, which was forbidden in the U.S. over fear of “signalling” a slave revolt). There was a huge trade from Havana (of Cuban sugar) to New Orleans (and back with furs bound for Europe), and with it rode in Afro-Cuban musicians to New Orleans, who by then had already incorporated colonial Spanish instruments (guitar, flute, violin, brass, piano) into their bands. Those musicians brought in the roots music of what would eventually flower as Blues, Jazz and Rock. Chuck Berry’s “Louis, Louis” is a pure cha-cha-cha.
Today, Cuban popular music incorporates hip-hop (reggeton, via Puerto Rico, and via the many back-channels Cubans have used to gain access to foreign recorded pop music: Cubans are the most talented and accomplished “pop” musicians of the world, and the tap root of it all is Africa). All pop music worldwide is basically African-based, which is why, (pop) musically, Cuba is the “ombligo del mundo” and Africa is its placenta.
From Fractiousness to Sustainability, Is It Possible?
From Fractiousness to Sustainability, Is It Possible?
I think the essential story of the United States of America is a weave of 5 historical currents:
— the struggle of Native Americans against their genocide;
— the struggle of African-Americans against their enslavement, and to find their own unrestrained identity;
— the struggle of immigrants to establish decent lives for themselves and their families;
— the struggle of labor against its exploitation by capital;
— the struggle of the Natural World to withstand the assaults by capitalism.
The struggle of women almost everywhere in the world including the United States to overcome the many forms of abuse, depreciation, exploitation and inequality that they can be subjected to could also be added as a sixth historical current of the American story.
All these struggles continue to this day.
I do not think the triumphalist story of capitalism’s ascendancy and of the personal successes of notables gaining wealth and attention, as well as the glorification of American wars and imperialism, is a historical current with any depth of meaning for the definition of “America,” even though it is the predominant ideological myth promoted by the official scribes and propagandists of the American ruling class.
It took me many years to crystalize this realization, which has long been known and expressed by many alert people. So, then I was asked by a friend:
Q: “What happens to societies when people only care about themselves?…”
A: They become very cruel and disunited, and nationalistically weak.
Thucydides describes this as a danger to the Athenian society of his time, during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC):
“Some legislators only wish to vengeance against a particular enemy. Others only look out for themselves. They devote very little time on the consideration of any public issue. They think that no harm will come from their neglect. They act as if it is always the business of somebody else to look after this or that. When this selfish notion is entertained by all, the commonwealth slowly begins to decay. ”
It was the leading cause of the Fall of the Western Roman Empire in the middle of the 5th Century, which devolved into feudalism. It is a feature of the moral corruption weakening societies that are subsequently conquered, as was France by Prussia in 1871 (read Guy de Maupassant’s short story “Boule de Suif,” for an evisceration of that class society) and then again by Germany in 1940 (read W. Somerset Maugham’s book “Strictly Personal,” about his travails in France during 1939-1940, and how the French capitalists would have to back postwar socialist policies for the working class, who would do all fighting and dying to liberate France).
Q: “… and unless compelled to act otherwise by some authoritarian or autocratic government.”
A: Revolutions, like the French (1789 and 1871), Russian (1917), Spanish Anarchist (1936), Chinese (1922-1949), Vietnamese (1945), and Cuban (1959), erupt in reaction to endemic societal corruption, cruelty and top-down injustice, and foreign invasion, and they all-too-soon harden from populist-socialism to authoritarian command societies.
While the socialism of the Cuban Revolution is incredibly admirable, and the type of thing needed everywhere (especially in the U.S.A.), it is nevertheless unfortunate that a part of that Cuban socialist solidarity had to be compelled in order to assure the survival of the revolution and the independence of the country from the Colossus of the North. , 
The French Revolution ended with Napoleon (in 1800); the Russian Revolution ended with Stalin (by 1934); the Spanish Anarchist Revolution ended with the Stalinists gaining primary influence over the Republican Government (in May 1937); the Chinese Revolution ended with Mao Zedong; and the Cuban Revolution was spearheaded by Fidel Castro and still struggles to free itself from authoritarian measures imposed because of two political forces:
— the unrelenting military, economic, diplomatic and propaganda war waged against Cuba by the U.S. (since 1902!!),
— and by the all-too-human motivation of the Cuban political leadership to stay in control of the Cuban government.
Some kind of force (“Security,” “the Army,” “the Police,” “Intelligence”) is always necessary to defend socialist societies and restrain those who would seek to dominate them, and yet the existence of such forces are themselves breeding grounds for such would-be supervisory dominators.
Q: “I think my question is unanswerable, but I periodically voice it when I feel despair over people’s inability to learn from the past, to go beyond their tribalism, and to fail seeing their intrinsic connections to the rest of humanity. I rail against all that after once again being subjected to other people’s benighted opinions that are examples of those failures.”
A: I see that many people seek to address your basic question with:
— elaborate political ideologies and theorizing (my Marxist friends);
— appeals to religious do-gooderism (traditional soft-Christian fluff, largely delusional);
— commitments to charitable social work in hopes that that ethic spreads by their example (real do-gooderism with hopes for the future, perhaps in vain; as done by exceedingly admirable people like Dorothy Day);
— progressive political activism, (mucking in the tedious turgid nitty-gritty of party politics, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, extremely admirable people trying to be pragmatic in advancing progressive policies — or as some would say “lesser evils” — that seem to have some finite chance of reaching fruition; such efforts are derided by Marxist and Anarchist theorists, who consider them ideologically ‘imperfect’ and incrementalist: pipe dreams);
— all out revolutionary action in hopes of sparking a general uprising (being a violent outlaw like Fidel Castro at the Moncada Barracks in 1953 and in the Sierra Maestra in 1956-1958; a delusional and destructive alternative most of the time, but on rare occasions it works);
— giving up and sinking into hedonistic dissipation or self-terminating depression (a very sad and yet too popular option, which in the extreme can lead some to emulate the Marquis de Sade or become suicide bombers).
The options and resources available for solving a difficult problem depend very intimately and strongly on the attitude you bring to the situation confronting you, and the attitude you are prepared to live with in order to obtain a solution. This is very clearly seen when contemplating the problem of the sustainability crisis characterized by global warming climate change and biodiversity loss, faced by our fractious capitalist world.
My own rather Fabian-Utopian approach (in answer to the question) is to urge action in response to global warming climate change, because I know that to really solve that problem (the sustainability crisis) will require:
— social unity (the problem is planetary, there are no local nor piecemeal solutions);
— a leveling of standards-of-living (worldwide!);
— massive demilitarization (resources reallocated for broad social benefit);
— a heavy reliance on intelligent planning and Earth-focused scientific research and engineering (technology for human and social benefit, including those for nutrition, drugs and medical care worldwide);
— and de-growth de-capitalization (economics as if people mattered — a.k.a. socialism — and resource reallocation and employment for broad social benefit).
The compulsion for advancing such global initiatives would come from Nature itself in the form of the rapid erosion of the sustainability and climatic conditions of the many environments provided by Planet Earth to its human tenants. In this analogy, Nature becomes the autocrat dictating our conformity into World Socialism. I suppose this is a grimly utopian view.
Nature’s sustainability-crisis push on our bitterly fractious self-focused human world society seems quite capable of producing the same kind of effect on us as the German invasions of Rome during the 4th and 5th Centuries had on the bitterly fractious self-focused society of the Western Roman Empire: the collapse of a rotten structure into impoverished chaos out of which violent strongmen would carve out fiefdoms in a new Dark Age, and perhaps this time the last one.
On the other hand, maybe Nature’s sustainability-crisis push will spark a world revolution in human thinking and humanistic identification, and from that a totally new world socialist paradigm will come to define organized human life on Planet Earth. It is all a matter of choice. Only time will tell.
Thanks to Ann Harmless for prodding my thinking with her questions.
 Cuba and the Cameraman
 Cuba Libre
Strictly Personal, 2020
For me, the sustainability crisis — of which global warming climate change is a very prominent symptom — is a moral issue.
The locus of immorality driving that crisis is the nature of our civilization. Undoing that immorality would require destroying all our politics and economics, and abandoning all our ideologies and religions — which are basically just categories of excuses apologizing for varieties of egotistical selfishness and separatist bigotries — and rebuilding our entire civilization from zero on the basis of a homo sapiens wide solidarity and intelligent compassion in harmony with Nature and with a reverence for All Life on Planet Earth.
All other attitudes about the sustainability crisis are excuses to avoid facing it, seeing it as: an economic, or political, or technical, or emotional issue, or opportunity to advance an agenda during the course of its inequitable immiseration of humanity and destruction of the non-human natural world.
Overcoming that crisis would certainly require taking economic, political, technical and emotional actions, but all these would just be tactical aspects of living out a cohesive moral imperative.
Whether such a globally cohesive moral imperative ever materializes into real action is a matter of probability — admittedly quite low — but it is not an impossibility by either the laws of physics nor the limits of human imagination.
And that’s it. No further Jeremiads, ideologically political and revolutionary tracts, self-pitying psychobabble of angst and despair, or jargon-laced obfuscation palmed off as erudite policy statements, are needed.
Face the facts, World, and take the consequences for your actions or non-actions in response. “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Character is fate.
It is interesting that today — 589 years after the execution of Joan of Arc, burned at the stake at the age of 19 by the English for having had visions that rallied the French to defeat them in the Lancastrian (last) phase of the Hundred Years War, and subsequently canonized as Saint Joan by the Catholic Church — that the peasants, workers, wage-slaves and youth of the Earth see their hopes for a just and sustainable future as radiated out by the visions of a 17 year old Greta Thunberg, our Saint Greta of the 21st Century, whose public persona is figuratively burned at the stake by capitalist-apologetic corporate media.
So, I will not berate you further (at least for today).
Escapism being preferable to reality for most people, let me entertain you with the following.
My favorite 50 movies (today, in order of personal preference) are:
#01 Casablanca (1942)
#02 Citizen Kane (1941)
#03 The Big Sleep (1946)
#04 The Maltese Falcon (1941)
#05 The Grand Illusion (1937)
#06 The Rules of the Game (1939)
#07 The African Queen (1951)
#08 Goldfinger (1964)
#09 Seven Samurai (1954)
#10 The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
#11 Captain Blood (1935)
#12 The Dawn Patrol (1938)
#13 The Three Musketeers (1973)
#14 The Four Musketeers (1974)
#15 The Night of the Iguana (1964)
#16 The Moon and Sixpence (1942)
#17 My Man Godfrey (1936)
#18 In A Lonely Place (1950)
#19 Dr. Strangelove (1964)
#20 Catch-22 (1970)
#21 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
#22 Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
#23 Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973; 1988 version)
#24 The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
#25 Hiroshima mon amour (1959)
#26 Stolen Kisses (1968)
#27 Jules and Jim (1962)
#28 La Dolce Vita (1960)
#29 Otto e mezzo (1963)
#30 The Earrings of Madame de… (1953)
#31 From Russia With Love (1963)
#32 Forbidden Planet (1956)
#33 Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)
#34 The Crimson Pirate (1952)
#35 Women In Love (1969)
#36 Betty Blue (1986)
#37 King of Hearts (1966)
#38 The River (1951)
#39 La Vie Extraordinaire de Lola Montes (1955, the Nov. 2008 restoration)
#40 They Were Expendable (1945)
#41 The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
#42 Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
#43 Yellow Submarine (1968)
#44 The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
#45 North West Frontier (1959)
#46 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
#47 Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)
#48 L’Atalante (1934)
#49 The Producers (1967)
#50 Rodan (1956)
I like many more films, and numerous of those could easily be inserted in the above list.
Books/stories/plays I read (or re-read) between ~2017 (most since 2019) and 2020 include:
John Keats (Selected Poems, edited by John Barnard)
William Wordsworth (selected poems)
Sky Above, Great Wind; The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan (Kazuaki Tanahashi)
The Cid (play by Corneille)
Phaedra, and Andromache (2 plays by Racine)
Tartuffe, The Misanthrope, The Miser (3 plays by Molière)
Moby-Dick (Herman Melville, re-read)
Bartleby The Scrivener (Herman Melville)
Benito Cereno (Herman Melville)
Le Père Goriot (Honoré de Balzac)
Cousin Bette (Honoré de Balzac)
The Wrong Side of Paris (Honoré de Balzac)
The Human Comedy, Selected Stories (Honoré de Balzac, edited by Peter Brooks)
Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert)
Sentimental Education (Gustave Flaubert)
Three Tales (Gustave Flaubert)
Bel Ami, and 98 of Guy de Maupassant’s short stories
The Plague (Albert Camus, re-read)
The First Man (Albert Camus)
All Quiet On The Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque)
Wind, Sand and Stars (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
The Drowned and the Saved (Primo Levi)
The Periodic Table (Primo Levi)
The Upanishads (Juan Mascaró)
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (Paul Reps, re-read many times)
Japanese Ghost Stories
– (Lafcadio Hearn, edited by Paul Murray; have read earlier Hearn books)
Siddhartha (Herman Hesse, re-read)
Magister Ludi, The Bead Game (Herman Hesse)
F. Scott Fitzgerald (all 5 novels and most short stories)
My Wicked, Wicked Ways (Erroll Flynn, re-read)
Earth Abides (George R. Stewart)
A Canticle for Leibowitz (Walter M. Miller)
In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed The World (Ian Stewart)
The Invisible Invaders, Viruses and the Scientists Who Pursue Them (Peter Radetsky)
The Best of Medic In The Green Time; Writings from the Vietnam War and its Aftermath
– (Marc Levy)
Catch-22 (Joseph Heller, re-read)
Catcher In The Rye (J. D. Salinger, re-read)
Three more items:
#1 I am now 100% introverted, and never going back to extroversion.
#2 My special skill is shutting people up, with the truth.
#3 The mark of superior people is the ability to acknowledge the achievements of others, especially those they wish they could have done themselves. Few have the courage to do this.
Life is a gift; Have fun; Be kind.
Magic Mirror of You All
Magic Mirror of You All
This is my Roseanne Roseannadanna equivalent of a response to the many skeptical good-hearted people who have replied to any of my scribbles.
Thanks for writing and sharing your own memories with me of the ‘good old days,’ whose madness by luck we both managed to survive. Such recollections by others help me sharpen my own memories, and improve my interpretations of my old and often confusing experiences. Learning never stops for anyone really intent on living.
Maine I loved (like you), Wes Montgomery records I have (like you), piano lessons I took for years in my adulthood (instead of your clarinet), music is a touchstone for me. Hippy I never was, though I let some coeds who insisted I was to keep thinking so because it was better for me that way. A lost world, 1969. I loved some of everywhere I’ve been, some of everything I’ve heard, some of everything I’ve seen; and some of that love was only realized long, long after the ‘now’ of the original experiences.
In fairness to you as you make your corrective judgments on my words, let me share my biases: between Guy de Maupassant and Anton Chekhov, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, I prefer: Maupassant, Fitzgerald, and Camus.
Since I haven’t worked for anybody in a long time, have no career ambitions, no reverence for authority or wealth, nor interest in any ideology or religion; no need for recognition, attention, ‘honors,’ votes or even “likes,” and have nothing I can be blackmailed for, I have devoted my external interests to presenting the truth as I find it.
In doing so, I have learned that no rational argument can overcome an irrational belief, and that religious fantasy in a myriad of forms is part of every human personality. And that is why COVID-19 is “just a flu,” anti-pandemic masks are “loss of freedom” while guns make you free, vaccines cause autism, and the televised American Fatima on 11 September 2001 was a divine revelation bestowing on the souls of true believers an instantaneous graduate degree in engineering and physics. Amazing grace.
I don’t argue: people believe what they want to believe, facts don’t matter.
Why? Because it is part of a person’s self-image and self-definition, and protecting that from modification against the pressure of cognitive dissonance can be achieved by fashioning psychological armor against reality out of fantasy. People don’t reason, they rationalize.
Humans have always made sacrifices to propitiate the gods — the powers beyond them and which control them — to help them live through their fears; and that is why they invented those celestial potentates in the first place: whether elevated on Mount Olympus, or by the Electoral College. And the sacrifices?: their minds.
So, yes, I know I am embarrassing and annoying (and wrong!). I make no apology.
From my earliest days, I realized that people, generally, are very inattentive; in a word: unaware. They amble blithely in their personal little bubbles oblivious to all that lies outside them. They babble loudly in their little groups in cafés without any thought to disturbing the people around them. They drive their cars with minimal notice of traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians. They have an unfailing ability to not-notice you if they are waiting tables or behind a counter you are in line in front of. There are just an uncountable number of ways that people can not-see, not-hear, not-notice and not-know. Of course, sometimes this not-noticing is intentional, arising from laziness, envy, fear or hostility. But, most of the time it is just simple short attention span mindlessness.
Because of the commonness of human narrow-view, short-focus bubble-vision, coupled with perceptual insensitivity, communications are often garbled, incomplete, misdirected, mistimed and ineffective. Who is without complaint on this score, whether at work, at school, among family and friends, and out and about in public?
Millions have been painfully and pointlessly consumed unseen by such blanket unthinking ignorance, like with the Vietnam War, whose discarded memory in the United States has been given the finalizing punctuation of a Black Wall past which the untrammeled unchanging national amnesia and human-reduced-to-robot OCD proceeds locked onto the almighty unending ‘grab.’
So, I have learned that it is necessary to be quite redundant in my verbal and written communications: repetition is the essence of pedagogy. Repetition is the unavoidable necessity of successful communication. So, when I want to ensure that my message is received by another consciousness, I repeat myself: in the speaking of the message, in the writing of the message, and in the repeated sending of the message.
Those who notice this repetition easily form the impression that I am “old,” and even “dumb.” But, I have made the calculation that it is acceptable to be taken for a bit of a clown if that ensures that the messages I care about have been effectively transmitted.
The messages I care about are those that will make for better lives for my children, and also all children; even though I think most American kids (and adults) are spoiled brats. But, “man is a social animal” (as Aristotle said), and the second best way to ensure a good future for my children is to advocate for a just and peaceful society of benefit to everyone.
This motivation has led me to advocate for the left-wing political causes and candidates I’ve written about. Astoundingly, advocating for a real response to global warming to cut off the Sixth Mass Extinction (which includes us) is branded by the status quo as beyond-the-pale radical left-wing extremism!
Sometimes in giving out my truths (the rational) and opinions (the somewhat less rational), people smile at me (agreeing), and sometimes their assholes pucker (disagreeing), but usually I glide through a human sea of not-noticing — both conscious and unconscious. I have plowed up a mountain of embarrassment before me, and I trail a wake of relief behind me. And, I don’t care. Transmission gets through (as best as it’s ever going to).
I have high hopes for the new generation resplendently buoying up the revitalized identification with “socialism” in America. But, I also have no confidence in the character of the Americans who see themselves as part of the establishment, or who fool themselves into believing they are entitled to its privileges by dint of their heritage and attitudes. It is disheartening to realize that Donald Trump can claim 74 million Americans as devoted fans.
Former president Jimmy Carter is correct to say that the United States “no longer has a functional democracy,” because incorporated Big Money can and has bought politicians and elections, so that the vast bulk of the public has little impact on government policy, which they are paying for in money, blood and impoverished futures for their children. And, all that sacrifice subsidizes the obscene corporate looting of the public commons, and the subversion of government to the service of very selfish and destructive special interests.
Even so, the remnant of democracy that we still have seems able to produce political figureheads for the oligarchy, whose dismal characters do reflect the embarrassing reality of the dominant traits of the American electorate: morally weak intellectual mediocrities who are tolerant of corruption, sloppy to the point of incompetence, and cravenly selfish. Not everybody, and for most not all the time, but in aggregate just too much.
If this were not so, Bernie Sanders’ mildly utopian mildly socialistic vision would have been implemented long ago. The opposition to the political visions of Bernie Sanders and young champions like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and “The Squad” is really of the same type as that before 1865 to the vision encapsulated in the 13th Amendment. I like to believe that the socialistic vision of Eugene V. Debs through The Squad will eventually prevail in the United States, when the evolution of the aggregate character of the American people finally arrives at the requisite “higher level.” But, it’s so damn slow getting there!
So, for my outnumbered fellow rational thinkers and fatigued ethicists, let me leave you with this summation by W. Somerset Maugham (himself quite a flawed and compromised human being — and who isn’t? — but also a much better writer), from his 1944 book “A Writer’s Notebook”:
“There is a nobility which does not proceed from thought. It is more elemental. It depends neither on culture nor breeding. It has its roots among the most primitive instincts of the human being. Faced with it, God, if he had created man, might hide his head in shame. It may be that in the knowledge that man for all his weakness and sin is capable on occasion of such splendour of spirit, one may find some refuge from despair.”
And some of those ‘occasions of splendour’ have been sprinkled randomly on me through unexpected letters.
19 June 2013
The Smoke Rings of My Mind
The Smoke Rings of My Mind
I landed in college as a green wide-eyed freshman, at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (NOT Penn State!), in September 1968. This was an explosive year, to my mind the most pivotal one in the United States since 1945. My dorm room was in a short cul-de-sac second floor hallway of the large antique pseudo Oxford-Cambridge style ivy-festooned stone masonry men’s dorm quadrangle building off Spruce Street.
I felt really good to finally have gotten out of the prison day-camp Catholic boys high school I’d been in for 4 years, and out of the nice suburban North Shore Long Island town my family lived in during my adolescence (before that being in New York City); and I had a brand spanking new draft deferment that I thought would insulate me from the carnage of the Vietnam War, which was at its peak at that time with the Tet Offensive.
In fact, Lyndon Johnson’s televised speech with the surprise announcement that he would not seek reelection in November 1968 happened two days after my 18th birthday, after which I had to troop down to the post office and register for the draft. That didn’t feel too good believe me, because I’d watched the news and read the papers daily all through high school. Those were my “Greta Thunberg” years, 1964-1968: from the Bay of Tonkin con-job and 1965’s Marine invasion of South Vietnam — “escalatio” as Tom Lehrer called it — to Tet, erupting on January 31, 1968, and pulsing through three bloody phases that year; when I was dreading the fucked-up situation the adults were shoving my way (you know: die for us, it’s good for “the country”).
My own priorities were: #1, study engineering so I could become the next Enzo Ferrari and build my own sports cars; #2, find receptive female companionship to find an outlet for my raging testosterone levels; and #3, stay out of Vietnam. I was not wise as an 18-year-old, I was NORMAL, having been instructed about women (“girls” was the pre-feminist term used then) by Beach Boys songs (those cherub troubadours of the white colonial culture of the Occupied Territories of Mexico’s northern part of Baja California) and Sophia Loren movies.
In the decades since then I’ve come to realize how difficult it is for women everywhere, and most certainly in the United States with its huge proportion of knucklehead males, to accept becoming the “second mothers” to so many needy fake-macho lunkheads: pickings for good husbands, mates and sperm donors (drones in the Bee World) can be slim for so many alert and intelligent women.
But, in the fall of 1968 I was feeling good and with high hopes. I burrowed enthusiastically into my school work and got on the Dean’s List. Three of us in our hallway were socially awkward and stayed in at night from lack of alternatives and fear blunting initiative. Besides, all the coeds had lots of upperclassmen to pick from and who owned cars and had money to spend. So, Joe Williams invited two or three of us to listen to his Bob Dylan records (note: using a plug-in electric machine that played vinyl discs to produce recorded music sounds).
Now, I had heard all the pop music of the day every day before that, because I had gone to my somewhat distant high school in a carpool driven by a neighbor boy’s father (a NYC fireman with rank, so lots of time to call his own), in a Ford Econoline van (a very cute unsafe-as-hell design), and Robert (the son) would put on the radio for every trip. Beside hearing it all in this way (the grating falsetto Sherry Baby too, too many times, but the Rascals on “Good Lovin’” was the best), and outside school it was so easy to hear spillover sounds from radios playing everywhere. At home I listened to the classical music and Spanish Zarzuelas (operettas) so close to my heart. So, by September 1968 I knew about Dylan’s hit songs up to that point.
But, Joe Williams said we had to hear Dylan the right way. Joe turned us on to grass: marijuana. We would sit up through the night listening to Dylan’s 1965 and 1966 albums: “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” and “Blonde on Blonde.” We laughed our asses off totally stoned listening to “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35” — “everybody must get stoned!” — yeah. It was so hilarious to read the “adult” press on this, where the experts saw in this song a deep poetic cry of alienation. Man, the adult world is just one big blivet of puffery.
I had heard all the popular folk music during its period of prominence, which coincided with the Civil Rights movement from about 1961 to its crescendo in August 1963 when Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed his dream to the nation and world from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (which is my favorite single building in Washington D.C.), until its triumphs with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
At that point Bob Dylan checked out of the topical political protest folk singer-songwriter role he’d mastered, and moved on artistically. No creative person can stand typecasting. Dylan’s early career in pure folk music was masterful, but I wasn’t into folk music. I turned onto Dylan when he went electric. For me a good song has both good words (even poetry) plus lots of really good instrumental music. And this essay is, believe it or not, about that.
Bob Dylan went on tour in 1966, backed by a 5 piece rock band, 4 of whose musicians (except the drummer) were a longtime group that would emerge on their own in 1968 as “The Band.” Dylan was booed at all his concerts in Europe and at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, as a “traitor” to the pure folk music style his earlier audiences had typecast him into. Even his pals Pete Seeger and Joan Baez were put off. Why?
In the late 1930s, Frank Sinatra exploded into popularity because he revolutionized how pop music was delivered to the fans. Earlier singing phenomena, like Bing Crosby, knew how to croon with projection to make up for the deficiencies of the crude electrified public address systems of the times, if one even existed in the halls they sang in. By Frank’s high school years (which he bailed out on) microphones and amplifiers were improving significantly (“modern” hi-fi equipment was finally introduced by RCA in 1941).
Tony Bennett has perceptively pointed out that with this new equipment Frank Sinatra did not need to project, so he “made love to the microphone” and sang in a very intimate style, and which every listener in the dance halls and over the radio broadcasts felt was delivered just to them, person-to-person. The Bobby-Soxers went ape-shit over this, a mega-scale precursor to the Beatlemania of 20 years later.
This is where Frank Sinatra was a pivotal figure in the evolution of broadcast popular music: he had that smooth melting crooner’s voice (and had even taken voice lessons from an ex-Metropolitan Opera vocal coach), he had lovely breath control (much learned from Jo Stafford, listen to her meltingly wonderful “The Nearness of You”) with which to fashion long lingering phrases, and he had that intimate emotional and yet cool even vulnerable at times feeling, which he conveyed so convincingly.
Bob Dylan’s folk music was conveyed to his initially small audiences in just this intimate way. Even without a P.A. system, a non-projective (non-operatic, non-Irish tenor) style of singing was just fine in the always small coffee houses and folk clubs of Greenwich Village in the 1950s and early 1960s. And of course, Dylan’s albums from 1961 to 1964 carried his recorded intimate-delivery folk music far and wide.
Now, the American folk music of the early ’60s was nothing like the polished hip big band standards that Frank Sinatra put out, but even at its most angry, and ‘protesty’ and ‘shouty’, the folk music of those years was essentially intimate (think Phil Ochs): it spoke to the personal feelings for and dreams of social transformation in each of the audience members, and with minimal acoustic instrumentation. Those songs were usually not stadium-sized sing-along sonic-boom anthems like Freddy Mercury’s “We Will Rock You,” even though Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-changin’,” and “Blowing In The Wind” sort of became ones.
So by 1965, Bob Dylan was typecast by his folk fan base as “their” intimate public voice. But by then Dylan had gotten stoned and was now deep into making group electric music for being stoned. That was the first pop music that could burrow into your stone-cave and light up the panorama movie screen of your stone-mind with its soundtrack — for so many of us lunkhead males, and also for plenty of girls (sorry: women) as I soon learned from direct experience —: the blazing folk-rock of Dylan in 1965 and 1966: “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” and “Like A Rolling Stone.”
The poor folkies who wanted to be aurally cuddled by their post-Beatnik second daddy folksong troubadour wailed about their Big Brother’s abandonment of them. This is where Bob Dylan is a pivotal figure in American (U.S.) broadcast popular music: his was the folk-blues phantasmagoria of proto-rap lyrical torrents cascading out on streams of blazing hot blues-rock electric music that engulfed the newly stoned minds of the emerging adolescent and young adult nymphs, and the innocent drones and satyrs scheduled as cannon fodder for the Vietnam meat-grinder. That was me.
In 1969, I lost my deferment (2S) and was classified as ready for war right then (1A), because of some screw-up where it was reported to the draft board that “my” grades were failures. For those people any boy Garcia was the same person, so I get pegged with someone else’s failure. When I called the draft board to complain about this clerical error, telling them I could send them a copy of my dean’s list letter from the school, the old lady scarecrow on the phone just said to me “once we start the process we just keep going.” Up to 1968, 50% of the Vietnam War casualties among U.S. soldiers were Blacks and Latinos, always sent out “on point” by their white-boy lieutenant platoon commanders ‘leading’ their men, from the rear, into jungle ambuscades (I heard about such things from first hand recollections by Puerto Rican veterans who survived their 1960s in Vietnam).
So I basically lost my mind, desperate to achieve my goal #2 before being done in by a failure to meet goal #3; and I kept up my studies in the hopes of being ultimately able to proceed with my career ambitions to do engineering and science in a creative way, should I survive. I eventually lucked out by getting a very high number in the draft lottery of December 1969, and so I was passed over for being inducted into the U.S. military.
And during those years of 1968 and 1969, I listened to much music designed to accompany being stoned: Dylan, Doors, Janis Joplin, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and even Crosby Stills and Nash. Janis and CSN were favorites in the girls’ dorms (dorms were segregated by sex in those days, so making an overnight stay involved careful planning and inside help to pull off, like a bank heist caper). I learned much about all this music from the young ladies — all of them far more socially aware than me, keenly informed about pop music, and all very bright — who accepted me into their group company to listen to records at night.
After 1969 I started becoming an adult, but that is another story. Last tip: put Crème de menthe into your bong instead of water, especially helpful with hashish.