Thursday, May 22, 2014

In order to live free, I had to explore the truth. I had to be stunned and rocked by it. I wanted to FEEL it. From a society of look-good, act-proper, and feel-nothing, my family ran by a set of discombobulated rules. So much was fake, and secret, and I had to run forward (never “straight”) and not look back. A fresh reality and daring headspace were in my future. I knew it, I needed it, so I went looking for it.

            It wasn’t a part-time pursuit. I had to indulge fully. The impetuses for running were my restless heart and soul. I had dabbled in independence and in the shakiness of truth. It shook with energy, power I couldn’t resist. It was breath and survival to me. It also shook with fear of untapped emotion.
So what did I do? There appeared to be only one path…
Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out!!

According to Wikipedia, Timothy Leary coined this expression in 1966. He explained: “It urged people to embrace cultural changes through the use of psychedelics and by detaching themselves from the existing conventions and hierarchies in society.”  Made sense to me. I was into the experiment...

In reflection, Leary said this in his 1983 autobiography, “Flashbacks”:

“Turn on’ meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them. Drugs were one way to accomplish this end. ‘Tune in’ meant interact harmoniously with the world around you – externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives. Drop out suggested an elective, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. ‘Drop Out’ meant self-reliance, a discovery of one’s singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change. Unhappily my explanations of this sequence of personal development were often misinterpreted to mean ‘Get stoned and abandon all constructive activity.”

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Thinking a lot lately about what it meant to be free in the 1970s. Several non-definitions come to mind:
  • Living free didn't come without cost. It didn't mean without struggle. But it did mean with options, heart and mind open, and willing.
  • Free living did not mean freeloading off your parents or society. It meant making choices in which you were in charge and being respectful.
  • And the freedom we were seeking in that time of experimentation had a personal accountability to which we all (the survivors anyway) lived. The mores of our society were clear, but elastic. They could be bent, tugged and challenged but never broken. Those who regularly misbehaved threatened to tear the fabric of our bond and lifestyle, they were shunned. The code was fairness, love, caring, and sharing.                   

                         Richie Havens: FREEDOM @ Woodstock

      When I went in search of freedom, I was looking for a clutch of peers. My goal was to be free of attachments, not to be alone. It was to belong to a group of freethinking individuals who drifted together in the same space. To share ideas, resources, care and joy, while working hard. We were insolent with humor. We broke the rules, and tiny laws… not the big ones. We wanted to remain free to roam and explore and define ourselves.
When the mood or circumstances changed, moving on was simple in a free society. It was what we wanted. We could have found it in any numbers of communes, those with names and those off the grid. The popular places were in Berkeley or the Haight or Greenwich Village or Vermont. In Jackson Hole, there were no such communes. There were only cowboys, cops and confused kids.
Anyway, at sixteen, I would have been considered undesirable. I was too young to be on my own. But I was confused and angry. I left home. I was on my own. For a time, I flopped at my best friend’s house. While she and her mom were at work, I smoked pot and wedged my head between their two giant speakers. I cranked up Led Zeppelin. I let my brain spin, my heart feel, and my body electrify. I had turned to drugs and music for comfort and understanding.  They understood me. I didn’t look back I didn't dare! 
I was on the road to find out.

Friday, February 7, 2014

“I feel that my whole life is a contribution.”

Pete Seeger
May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014

    On the day Pete Seeger was born to musicologist Dr. Charles Seeger and concert violinist Constance Edson Seeger, the first American passenger flight lifted off from NYC.

    Now we all know that Pete Seeger was a champion of the common people, that he wrote some of the greatest ballads of our time, and that he was a man of peace and protest, but there are many cool factoids about Mr. Seeger that prove he was a great contribution to us all.

   Pete dropped out of Harvard College (classmate of JFK) and in 1940, he met, traveled and performed with the great topical folksong writer Woody Guthrie. He was inspired to write his own songs, dedicated to “the music of the people.” With this, he lifted our nation to a new consciousness.

“Being generous of spirit 
is a wonderful way to live.”

    In 1942, he was drafted by the army, and served in the Pacific. Upon his return, Pete formed the Weavers. They turned Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” into an American standard, and its version of Leadbelly’s “Goodnight, Irene” topped the charts for six months. They were blacklisted during the McCarthy era for alleged Communist sympathies and for Seeger’s refusal to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee:

“I love my country very dearly, 
and I greatly resent the implication 
that some of the places that I have sung 
and some of the people that I have known, 
and some of my opinions, 
whether they are religious or philosophical, 
make me less of an American.”

    During the ’60s, Pete participated in the Freedom Marches in Selma, Alabama, and Washington, DC, with Dr. Martin Luther King and helped bring an adapted version of the gospel song “We Shall Overcome” to the civil rights movement, where it became an anthem of hope and determination.

 “I have sung in hobo jungles, 
and I have sung for the Rockefellers, 
and I am proud that I have 
never refused to sing for anybody.”

    When the folk boom of the early 1960s exploded, performers such as the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary and the Limelighters actually had hits with Seeger compositions “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” As folk turned to rock in the mid-’60s, The Byrds brought Pete’s songs to a young, electrified audience with their version of his “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

In 1963, he wrote in Seventeen Magazine:

DEAR FELLOW HUMANS:  I usually mistrust older people’s giving advice to younger, because while often their advice is very good, they forget that younger people usually know one of the most important things of all: the value of enthusiasm and enjoyment of life.  
See the rest of his enlightened commentary here:  Seventeen Magazine - May 1963
Watch this: Little Birdie - 1965

    Pete and his wife of 60 years, Toshi, based in Beacon, NY, in the cabin they built using instructions from library books. He chopped wood, he recorded some songs, and, like Steinbeck’s Tom Joad, “Wherever little children go hungry and cry / Wherever people aren’t free / Where working people are fighting for their rights,” that’s where Pete would be – on the front line. Rare is the person whose life and art are seamless, who has the strength of his convictions and the courage to admit it when he’s wrong, who never stops trying to better the world. Pete Seeger was such a man.

"Singing with children in the schools has been the 
most rewarding experience of my life."

And watch this: 2012 - Forever Young

He will be forever young...

~ text from ~
~ all quotes: the words of Pete Seeger ~

Friday, December 6, 2013

1969: Whole Lotta Love:

            That day, and for the coming year, as Betsy and I walked the halls of Jackson High School, a forest of dusty cowboy hats and lacquered bouffant hairdos would part, like our hippie style was contagious.  Betsy’s elbow settled into my ribs.  What we were finding in this small western town was not free, pioneer thinking, but a strangled conformity with no interest in reform.  We couldn’t even pretend to fit in.  We were in transition and adrift, alone together.  I joined the ski team, and trained at Teton Village, with cutting-edge Head Standard skis and Lange (-bang) boots.  Exploring her artistic self, Betsy sketched with pen & ink and changed her name to Eliza.  Sarah took up biathlon, carrying a rifle and racing on cross-country skis with her junior high pals.
By October, a few “hippies” had broken out and became a rag-tag gang for Betsy and me.  After school, and sometimes during, we got high.  We ate or smoked LSD, hash, mushrooms and any other substances that made it across the frozen plains of Wyoming, up the Hobacks and into the valley. We explored the highlands and buttes of the valley, stoned out of our minds. The Rocky Mountain fall was psychedelic in color and texture and no place better to be, high and reveling in it.
Our friends were born and bred Jacksonites. Some skied, some didn’t. Few were cowboys, though there was the occasional welcoming ranch kid. For all Teton Valley was their playground and they knew it intimately. Teenagers full of omnipotence and guts, strong and savvy to the wilderness, they took us along, challenging us and entertaining themselves with our naiveté. We were in for an introduction at breakneck speed.
Come winter, the depth of snow and cold surprised us. The mercury rarely rose above freezing, often overnighting below zero. The famous Teton powder, Cowboy Powder, piled up in fluffy heaps and the powder hounds went a little freaky. I took to the tram, hoping to find untracked cold smoke, and skied hard and fast, building lung capacity and trying to keep up with the ski team. There was plenty for all in the 4,100-feet descent from the top of Rendezvous Bowl.
At night, on those long winter nights, we’d pile into Denise’s VW van and Pete’s bug, in full ski gear with toboggans and sleds and head up Teton Pass. After long pulls up the steep switchbacks and long drags off the passed joints, we’d pull off on a wide turn and pile out. One car would head down, watching for traffic, planning to honk wildly if warning was needed. Stoned and bold, we’d gain our night vision, and then flop onto sleds and a convoy of winter trajectory would race down the pass. The other car followed, hopefully blocking any downhill traffic. We’d bank the turns, fly along straightaways, howling and laughing and crashing all the way. Gathering where the road flattened into the valley, and our toboggans slowed, we’d repeat the process over again and again until we claimed collective exhaustion… or were overcome by the munchies.
In 1969, there was no night traffic on that treacherous pass, none that I remember anyway. We were free, frozen and happy on that icy state highway. That pastime remains one of the highlights of my Jackson year, and a trick and skill gained from my Teton Valley lifer pals.
Joy, elation, love, and distraction were the mantras of those sky-high days and nights, and silenced the angst during my alpine initiation.