THREE YEARS LATER
I said, name the day, and I would take fifty assistants and stand up against the massed chivalry of the whole earth and destroy it.
In the summer of ’70, when I was living on the property as a private guest, after doing time in the Northampton, Massachusetts, jail for possession of the sacraments and lewd and lascivious cohabitation with a Smithie, I got another lesson in politics. Billy and I were flying down the Hudson in the helicopter right after the Kent State murders. Even Bennett College in Millbrook, a junior college for girls, which had been given its library by Billy’s mother, as he informed a stunned librarian who had asked us what connection we had with the college one day, was in an uproar. I happened to know one of the leading firebrands, Susie Werneke, very well. Billy was angry also. The Kent State murders and Kissinger’s insane bombing of Cambodia had succeeded in arousing his normally torpid sense of civic responsibility.
“Listen, Art,” Billy said, after making his usual detour to view Pocatino Hills, shake his fist, and yell some expletives down at the Rockefellers below (the Governor was apparently entertaining some nuns at a garden luncheon), “Why don’t you write an editorial right now, and if I like it I’ll print it in Il Tiempo. I mean, what the fuck, what? If a bunch of Bennett girls can get out and do something, I feel I can too, and the way things are going now, what do I have to lose?”
I wrote out an editorial as we flew along. There was nothing in it which would have caused the slightest lifting of eyebrows at the New York Times or even at the Poughkeepsie Journal. My emphasis was on the danger of antagonizing an entire generation by shooting them at random, and so forth. The usual stuff. I can’t usually write the usual stuff, but I guess I was angry enough to do it then. Billy thought it was wonderful.
The apoplectic, anti-Castro editor had been replaced by a more businesslike type who didn’t write the editorials, but who followed the same general policy as his predecessor. While we were having beer and sausages at “21,” Billy handed his new boy my editorial, saying, “By the way, I would really like to see this printed.”
The editor put my paper in his pocket without reading it and went back to explaining how insiders could make a fast buck in collectors’ issues of South American postage stamps. The editorial identifying Nixon and Kissinger as war criminals was never printed. When I asked how the editor had justified this insubordination, Billy shrugged.
“He said it wasn’t right for our audience,” Billy said. “I guess he has a point.”
And that was the end of that one.
Back to 1967.
Wendy and I both had doubts about tying the knot, but there was no doubt at all that an infant was aimed straight at us, head first, we hoped. Another factor was the difficulty prosecutors faced in trying to force spouses to testify against each other. Considering everything, holy wedlock seemed like the right thing to do.
We went every day to the post office in Millbrook, where, with a couple exceptions when $100 bills brightened the day, causing the birds in the trees to sing more melodiously, there would be $10 or $15 at most; enough to buy cigarettes, wine and groceries and, perhaps, to mail out Divine Toad Sweats to those who had asked for them and do the laundry.
Nobody paid regular dues and very few of our members, most of whom were students who spent every spare nickel they had on the lesser sacrament, had stable addresses or stable incomes. I might have been able to come up with another book or a magazine but there was no way to produce either without capital. The irony of our prime patron owning a foreign-language newspaper during this period, when we were entirely at the mercy of an establishment media, seemed pretty routine by that time.
I still hadn’t met Wendy’s parents, but she assured me they would cover the expenses of her having a child, if nothing else. They did. Tim was enthusiastic about the marriage, and readily agreed to perform the ceremony, which would be held outdoors in front of the Big House.
“It’s one of the most sensible moves you have ever made, Arthur,” Tim assured me. Well, maybe.
Tim’s own domestic situation was deteriorating. It was pretty clear that the tent in the hills was not going over much better with Rosemary than the mud hut in Nepal had gone over with Nina. Tim ejected Susan Schoenfeld on a charge of turning Rosemary on to some junk, which always finds a market among those leading the simple life involuntarily. It was the first time I had heard of any heroin being around and, although no one appeared to be hooked on the stuff, Tim’s reaction, if founded on fact, made sense. If any of us had been busted for narcotics possession, it would have done more political harm than a thousand pot or acid busts.
Opiates are not nearly as dangerous as the official propaganda maintains, and if it were up to me I would restore the days of yore when most farm families routinely bought a pound of opium around Thanksgiving to see them through the chills and ills of winter (I have seen the evidence). For most people, it’s much safer to smoke opium than to down a few martinis.
It’s all a genetic roulette-wheel trip, and some predispositions are demonized while others are tolerated or even subsidized for reasons which have nothing to do with health and everything to do with furthering the interests of the owning and ruling classes. Is drug x easier or harder to control than drug y? Is drug x more profitable than drug y? These are the only questions that really matter in the capitalist scheme of things. What is good is bad and what is bad is good.
You say that drug x stimulates the imagination, encourages critical thought and provides ordinary people with a cheap source of home entertainment?
They feel no guilt over their criminal conduct?
Some of them grow their own?
Well, if such be the case, no profits are being made and no taxes are being paid. These considerations, on top of the Sado-Judeo-Paulinian terror of anything that changes people for the better here on this earth, is more than enough to do it. The sky is falling and the end of the world is at hand. Call out the troops.
Prior to the introduction of the powerful psychedelics, I think the American drug laws were best understood in Marxist terms. Since then, I think religious combat underlies it all, but Marxist logic still applies and is good enough to explain things to the satisfaction of most lawyers and shallow thinkers in general.
Unlike psychedelics, however, it is true, opiates and coca are highly addictive in the incredibly concentrated forms in which prohibition forces producers to deliver these drugs to their markets. If it wasn’t for the laws, most people would smoke a little opium for their aches and pains and chew a few coca leaves for a lift now and then and never become addicted.
Neither substance, in any concentration except an extreme overdose, does any direct physical harm. Many addicts, including thousands of physicians, function better on the stuff than off it. W.C. Fields, speaking of booze, had it right: “In my experience, it is most often the absence, rather than the presence, of the substance in question that causes all the problems.”
The property crime and general physical debility associated with opiate use in the United States is entirely the result of the high price that most addicts must pay to obtain their daily ration, and the highly refined form it comes in, and both the price and the potency are direct consequences of prohibition.
As has been clearly demonstrated by the humane and rational European ways of dealing with the problem, an addict who is allowed to obtain what he needs at little or no cost will often eat three meals a day and trudge off to work in the morning just like everyone else. If anything, he is less likely to commit crimes than his non-addicted contemporaries because, once he has his fix, and no worries about getting the next one, he is generally content with a quiet, modest existence and not about to go roaring off into the night in search of cheap thrills the way boozers and speed freaks do. Addiction, per se, is not all that serious a problem. The problem is addiction in a context of high prices and criminal sanctions against use.
It’s an American problem, deliberately created by the stone-hearted American capitalist oligarchy to crush working-class people under as many capricious and arbitrary burdens as possible, to turn them against each other and terrorize them and prevent them from thinking straight about anything.
My wife, my daughter and I lived in “Nieuw Amsterdam,” a huge housing development southeast of Amsterdam, from the spring of 1988 until January of 1991, when we were forced to return to the United States because of crimes committed against us by a DEA agent named D. O’Neill and his co-conspirators in the Dutch police, Mossad, and American Express, who stole our mail, burned our money and attempted to fry our brains with subsonic vibrations, or something. I got this stopped by calling in the fire department to investigate (a little tip there for all you folks having your brains fried), but we were never informed about what kind of infernal machine had been at work, just as we expected we wouldn’t be.
Most of this happened after the Dutch Ministry of Justice, fully informed by me of my criminal record in the United States, had granted us residence, and on liberal terms at that. The American mind police intervened, and had the decision reversed, asserting, along with other lies, that the Neo-American Church (about one-third of the members of which always have been and are now racially Semitic) had a “Nazi basis.” We didn’t have any proof of this until it was too late to do anything about it, and then we got copies of the incriminating documents by accident, or so it seemed anyway. (See Kleps v. The Netherlands, ECHR 19551/92.)
“Love it or leave it?” Not anymore. You will stay on the plantation you were born on, unless drafted to put down insurrections on other plantations, and grin from ear to ear when massa passes by with his lash. Oh yeah, maybe they will let you move if it will help depress wages somewhere else. I always forget about that one.
Putting aside the guardians of law and order, Holland in general compared to the United States as fresh air from the North Sea compared to industrial pollutants blowing up into Texas from the nightmarish industrial slums along the Mexican border. Our spacious, high-ceilinged, three-bedroom apartment, which overlooked a small lake with lots of fish, ducks and swans in and on it, cost us about $200 a month. The finest Moroccan hashish, available from over 250 coffee houses around the city, cost $7.50 a gram. We were surrounded by Third-World immigrants, many of whom were on the dole and many of whom were “illegals” supported by those on the dole and by individual initiatives of various kinds.
The guaranteed annual income for all legal residents included a vacation allowance sufficient for a month in Spain every year. The powers that were had decided that people who don’t have jobs need vacations as much as those who do. I agree. We do.
Opiate addicts were common, but there were also all kinds of services for these unfortunate folks. The community was peaceful, pretty and well-tended. We bicycled around in the genuine parklands between the buildings, even in the late evening, without apprehension. The atmosphere, both physical and social, reminded me of Westchester during the ’30s and ’40s. What more can I say?
Long live the Queen!
The Wendy-Arthur wedding went off pretty smoothly, although for a while it looked like Tim would refuse to preside and we would have to ask Haines to do it.
The problem was Susan Shoenfeld. While I was up at the Bungalow early in the morning getting dressed in some of Billy’s finery and having a couple Bloody Marys, Susan, our most recent outcast, walked in.
Billy, who, like Otto, ranked Susan in the highly attractive category, and did not know about her recent expulsion from the League, immediately asked if she was staying for the wedding. “Sure, why don’t you, Susan,” I added. I had nothing against Susan, and appreciated her style. Although, like Peggy, she was too boyish for my tastes, her voodoo nonsense amused me greatly.
Heretofore, oddly enough, most of my conversations with Susan had been about self-defense. She claimed to have burned Doc Duvalier’s Chief of Police in Haiti a year or so earlier in an acid deal (it was typical of Susan not to bother making excuses for this conduct) and feared the Ton Ton Macoute might find her and carve her heart out, or something. When she asked me for advice, I suggested that she might buy a .22 semi-automatic rifle in town and keep it under her bed.
If any crazed zombies covered with blood and chicken feathers tried to break her door down in the middle of the night, she could fill them full of holes, which might slow the ungrateful dead down long enough so she could jump out the window or take some other evasive action.
Susan, who hadn’t known it was legal and easy to procure a firearm in the land of the free and the home of the brave, immediately bought a Ruger, with a little clip and lots of ammunition, at the Millbrook hardware store. She didn’t hunt with her rifle, but enjoyed shooting at targets in the woods, which was enough to alarm and offend Haines, who eventually seized the weapon and threw it in the smaller lake behind the Gatehouse. Just as he was pitching it in, he told me, a carload of Bungalow visitors passed over the bridge where he was standing (in his robes, as it happened), with his arms upraised and the rifle in his hands, thereby creating an intriguing subject for dinner table speculation, no doubt.
Leaving Susan at the Bungalow, I drove down to the Big House to check on the arrangements. Banners and streamers and shrine areas were all over the place. The black tanka hung from a line strung over the stone steps to the Big House front lawn where the ceremony would be held. I didn’t have the heart to take it down. No matter what the intentions of whoever put it up, it was, Snazzm, a black cat case. Perhaps I should have called off the wedding, but removing the warning sign wouldn’t have accomplished anything.
Tim was not ready to preside. I found him on a tractor cutting grass at the west side of the house, dressed in a pair of old shorts. I drove the Cadillac up to him. What in hell was going on?
“Art, did you invite Susan Schoenfeld to the wedding?” he asked, after shutting off the engine. His face was set in stern lines.
Jesus Christ! News traveled fast at Millbrook.
“Well, yeah, Tim,” I said. “Billy and I did. We didn’t invite her back to live here, just to stay for the ceremony.”
“Unless you have her off the property in half an hour I won’t perform the wedding,” Tim said, not betraying the slightest hint of amusement. He was dead serious. Tim had decided Susan was a “downer” and Tim had no mercy on “downers.”
“OK. I don’t care much either way,” I said. “You had better get cleaned up, though. I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.”
“Just get her out of here,” Tim said, his face relaxing somewhat. “I don’t want that girl anywhere near me. She’s pure poison.”
“I just don’t worship him anymore,” Susan said, when, back at the Bungalow, I asked her what the trouble was.
“I’ll take care of it,” Billy volunteered. “Tell Tim I took her to the station.”
Who performed the ceremony didn’t matter much to me, but when I called Wendy about it, she was insistent that I persuade Tim to do it, as he had promised. The invocation of the name of William Haines (who?) would not have improved her status among the Jewish princesses of New York nearly as much as the invocation of the name of Timothy (no shit?) Leary.
I drove back. All was well. Tim was in his office on the third floor having flowers stuck in his hair by Rosemary. I gave Bhavani, who was standing by, a box of ladyfingers and a small bottle of Sandoz LSD in solution from the large reserve of crystal that Tommy held in a safety deposit box in Barclay’s Bank in London. When Tim saw the bottle, his mood altered abruptly from mild resignation to eager anticipation.
Haines appeared, caught the mood instantly and, after a few coarse remarks concerning the consummation of my forthcoming union, fell with relish to assisting Bhavani in the preparation of the sacraments. Since some straight visitors were already on hand, and more were expected, including Wendy’s family, we agreed that only 25 micrograms per ladyfinger would be a good idea.
Michael Green, wearing only a pair of shorts and a lei, walked in. Wendy and her family had arrived, he reported. Her mother was crying, and her father looked “sort of stunned.” I drove back to the Bungalow and returned with the Hitchcocks, the Clapps, and another car carrying Jack and Jimmy and several cases of champagne, which Jack and Jimmy put down on the porch by a table with the traditional cake. All was in readiness. Tim and Tambimutto were standing under the tanka.
About fifty people, many of whom I didn’t recognize, were sitting on the lawn. To the sound of bongo drums and flutes, Billy, my best man, and I walked to the summer house where I had my first sight of my parents-in-law-to-be. Classic bourgeois Jewish in appearance, they looked as stunned as Michael had described them. But most of our visitors looked stunned when they first arrived, even if they were not there to see their daughters wed to an alien from “inner space.”
Wendy’s sister, Jill, smiling brightly in the sunshine, looked like one of Joe’s Scandinavian blondes. Billy muttered an appreciative comment before we got within hearing range. Her husband, Wally, who operated a company that handed out annual awards for the best TV commercials of the year, looked like the classic MadAveExec that he was. Their four-year-old daughter, beaming like her mother, clutched a bouquet.
We all walked back, appropriately paired and tripled, to the steps under the black tanka. Tim uttered some typical Timisms, Tambimutto read from the Vedas, cymbals clashed, and pipes played. Ladyfingers were passed, and I noted that Tim’s identification of them as “the sacrament of our religion” had not made any impression at all on the straight segment of our audience. Mrs. Williams was eating one and so was the little flower girl.
As soon as the ceremony was over, and everyone was up on the porch sloshing down the bubbly, as Otto put it, and eating cake, Wendy steered me over into the far corner of the porch and anxiously asked, “Arthur, how much did you put in those ladyfingers?” She was relieved when I told her it wasn’t much. Jill’s daughter played happily with the resident kids, who were enjoying the opportunity to have a small dose in an outdoor party setting. Mr. Williams and Wally, both mildly stoned, joined enthusiastically in a baseball game that Tim organized.
Mrs. Williams, however, tossed her cookies and passed out, but regained consciousness quickly. She wasn’t able to describe her symptoms and seemed relieved when we told her she was on a very minor LSD trip and would return to normal consciousness in a few hours. I suspect she had two, maybe three. We put her to bed in the Gatehouse. Later, Wendy said she thought this little trip had loosened her mother up somewhat.
Well, legally staked out once again. At least this time nobody could accuse me of leading an innocent maiden into perdition. I had found her there, and the term “innocent maiden,” in any sense, did not apply.
Surprisingly often during the 1967 “Summer of Love,” considering how many visitors we had and how threatening the political situation came to be, not much would happen on any given day. It was possible to relax and converse, drink, putter around, read, go fishing or swimming, drink, or whatever.
I retain in my memory an unusually detailed recollection of one low-key scene of this kind, probably because it has such a mild, mellow P.G. Wodehouse flavor.
Billy and Tommy and I were drinking beer and discussing the foibles of mutual acquaintances, on lawn chairs in “Swami’s corner,” an alcove in the stone wall that traced the perimeter of the Gatehouse-bridge region. Swami was present only in blithe spirit, but plenty of his more colorful and tuneful relatives were around, chirping it up.
There were no women, rivals, children, servants or courtiers present, just the four of us birds, one ectoplasmic. I’m pretty sure it was a Sunday afternoon. If not, it felt like it.
Things had become so relaxed that, despite the character flaw to which I have already alluded, I was about to bring up the financial condition of the religious institution for which, in one way or another, we were all responsible, present balance zero, when there was a soprano “hello” from the gate.
“Naturally,” I moodily muttered to myself, as I ambled over, glass in hand, feeling more relieved than disappointed, if the truth be told. It was fate. Did I harbor an unconscious dread of the almighty dollar? Should I wear a T-shirt with “Born to be Broke” on it? Could be.
It was the mother of a kid from town who was a schoolmate and close friend of Jackie Leary. The boy had recently been busted for growing a couple pot plants in a window box in his bedroom. The connection with Jackie had not gone unremarked in the press and it was not now going unremarked by the lad’s mother, who had obviously had a few, and who can blame her?
“Well, come on over, have a beer and tell us all about it,” I said, ushering her through the pedestrian gate. What else could I do? And it would be a good idea if Billy and Tommy got this kind of story from a primary source, for a change.
I introduced her, and Tommy gave up his chair, moving to a concrete bench built into the wall. I didn’t introduce Billy and Tommy, thinking our guest already knew them, such was the seeming familiarity of the friendly greetings exchanged.
She was a pleasant sort and, although justifiably pissed off about the situation in general, not really hostile to the community.
I was OK, Haines was OK, but Timothy Leary was a different story altogether. She went on in this vein, one not entirely unwelcome to my ears, for some time.
I noticed that Billy and Tommy were both grinning, and that Billy was egging her on. Suddenly it dawned on me: She hadn’t recognized the twins. For all she knew, they might have been Bertie Wooster and Bingo Little.
“Well,” I said, when the flow slackened for a moment, “what about the people who brought Tim Leary here in the first place? Don’t you think they have some responsibility for what goes on around here?”
“That’s a good point,” said Billy.
“There’s no question about it,” Tommy added. “After all, it isn’t Tim Leary who owns this place.”
Chronic worrier though he was, this situation was just too fraught with comedy for Tommy to resist. Like Billy, he was bursting with suppressed merriment. The junior pot farmer’s mother was pretty merry also, oddly enough. The mood was infectious, I guess.
“You mean that Billy Hitchcock?” she asked. It was evident it took some effort, but if her congenial hosts at this impromptu gathering were inclined to dump on Billy Hitchcock she would add her two cents’ worth.
“Why, that Billy Hitchcock is probably the worst of them all,” she declared, with great emphasis. I poured her another glass of beer. Billy vehemently agreed with her generalization about “Billy Hitchcock’s” location on the moral totem pole, and pressed her for more details about her son’s case, and for anything and everything she might have to say about anything and everything on the place. It went on for quite a while. Rarely, I think, has any woman been given a better opportunity to bitch to a more receptive audience. When the flow threatened to end, I put in a word about how “rich people think they can get away with anything” which restarted the conversation as if I had administered benzedrine to all present.
“I’ve noticed that,” said Tommy.
There are few subjects upon which people with ordinary incomes are more eager to animadvert, particularly when they are in their cups, unless someone rich is present, in which case not a word is ever said about it.
It was good for another fifteen minutes at least. An atmosphere of uninhibited frankness prevailed. If it hadn’t, Milwaukee would not be what it is today.
“Um, if you don’t mind my asking,” the townswoman asked, “who are you two guys? I know Mr. Kleps here, but …”
“Call me Art,” I interjected.
“I’m Billy Hitchcock,” said Billy, with the exact degree of mirth appropriate.
“What? You’re kidding me!” Her startled eyes swiveled to Tommy, who also confessed.
She took it well, considering everything. There was only one, faint-hearted recrimination, and she couldn’t even manage a frown for that:
“You’ve all been teasing me.”
“No, no,” Billy said. “Honestly, we wanted to hear what you had to say.”
Tommy and I chimed in along the same lines. It had been too good a chance to pass up. Yes, it had been pretty funny, but also most informative and interesting. Billy and Tommy were eager to help her solve her problem in any way they could. No lawyer? What about Noel Tepper?
Amidst mutual expressions of esteem and calls for a replay sometime, our little party broke up. Our visitor departed, with a great story to tell back home.
Dinner at the Bungalow tonight? Sure thing. “Now, that was fun,” Tommy said, before he and Billy took off in Tommy’s Chevy.
I think the kid got a year suspended or something like that. If so, it may have been enough to keep him out of Vietnam. Getting busted saved quite a few kids from getting mangled or killed in those days.
I can’t remember exactly when the startling event took place, but sometime in the summer of 1967 Mummy made what amounted to an inspection tour of the property. When the news of her presence at the Bungalow came in, I happened to be at the Ashram, and on good terms with Bill, so I guess it was around the time that the Catechism was being printed. Maybe the Catechism had been printed, and she had seen a copy, which would help to explain what happened and did not happen.
Bill, who may have been on a light dose at the time, was electrified by the news. He seemed to interpret her visit in an entirely positive light, although nobody else did, and rushed to get cleaned up, don his robes, commandeer a car and driver, and dash off for the Bungalow, although no invitation had been extended.
It was clear that visions of sugarplums were dancing in his head.
He was back in ten minutes, looking about as shell-shocked as I have ever seen him look. “You had better get down to the Gatehouse, Kleps,” Haines muttered in an aside to me as he swept past. “She is only here to look the place over and you are definitely on her hit list.”
Questions were asked but none were answered. Bill vanished into his room, and I took off for the Gatehouse.
“Mummy is coming!” I announced to Wendy, who looked properly galvanized by the news. We both rushed around like maniacs, trying to make the dump look semi-inhabitable. I mopped the stairs and dusted as much of the surrounding wood as I could reach, while Wendy concentrated on our barren quarters themselves. Sure enough, about an hour later, while we were both still frantically attempting to make a sow’s ear look like a silk purse, why I don’t know, a Rolls pulled up in the parking lot and a woman attired entirely in black, accompanied by a man attired in similarly funereal garb, alighted.
I swung open a window.
“Hi,” I said. “Mrs. Hitchcock?”
“I’m Art Kleps. Please come up. The door’s open.”
Mummy never cracked a smile, and declined to sit. She stood on the second-floor landing in the doorway, while her companion hung back a little, and shot questions at me and Wendy in drill-sergeant tones. She was obviously a woman accustomed to command, and I must confess to being somewhat jolted by the experience.
Who were we? What were we doing here? Who invited us? Isn’t that illegal? Good-bye.
“Holy shit,” I said to Wendy, as the Rolls rolled over the bridge.
Had we played it wrong? Probably. Would it have made any difference if we had played it right? I doubt it, unless suddenly stabbing the woman in the ass with a hypodermic full of acid would be considered “playing it right.” That would have galvanized a lot of people into action, and made some kind of difference, but exactly what kind of difference it would have made is a whole other question.
And that was the end of that one. I don’t remember ever saying a word to Mummy’s sons or daughters-in-law about her visit or hearing a word about it from them. We didn’t even talk about it among ourselves. It was like one of those minor earthquakes in California. The day it happens, nobody talks about anything else. The day after, people are strangely uncommunicative. The day after that, it’s as if it never happened.
Mummy, according to Billy, did not exactly revel in her status as a prime specimen of the Mellon zillions on the hoof. “Oh, I don’t know, boys,” she would often say as they rolled past Levittown or some other ’50s development of modest new houses, “sometimes I think I should give all the money away and we should go live in a house like one of those over there,” causing little Billy and little Tommy to laugh so hard they fell off their jump seats.
Nor did she approve of Billy’s undisguised greed for more, more and yet more. “Why, you’re nothing but a fast-buck artist!” she told him one time.
Well, we all have our crosses to bear, I guess, as my mother often remarked.
Speaking of mothers, the Arthur-Wendy wedding seemed to stimulate Betsy Ross, who had been opportuned by Howie Druck for some time to make their liaison legal, to make his dreams come true. Their marriage was celebrated a couple weeks later, but this time at the Bowling Alley with Bill Haines doing the honors instead of Tim. Haines had just the right voice for this office: deep, resonant, assured.
It was a pleasure to listen to Haines recite, but it did seem strange to hear Max Muller’s translation of the Prajna-Paramita at a wedding ceremony, which, after all, is addition portending multiplication, rather than subtraction.
But, then again, why not? What better time to remind people of the illusory nature of the world?
I have it on tape:
“Everything passes, things appearing, things disappearing. But when it is all over, everything having appeared and having disappeared, being and extinction both transcended, still the basic emptiness and silence abides, and that is blissful peace. Thus, oh Saraputra, all things having the nature of emptiness, have no beginning and have no ending. They are neither faultless nor not faultless. They are neither perfect nor imperfect. In emptiness there is no form, no sensation, no perception, no discrimination, no consciousness, there is no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no sensitiveness to contact, no mind. There is no sight, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no mental process, no object, no knowledge, no cessation of ignorance, there is no noble Fourfold Truth, no pain, no cause of pain, no cessation of pain, there is no decay and no death. There is no knowledge of Nirvana, there is no obtaining of Nirvana. Why is there no obtaining of Nirvana? Because Nirvana is in the realm of no thingness. If the ego, soul or personality was an enduring entity it could not obtain Nirvana. So long as man is seeking highest wisdom he is still abiding in the realm of consciousness. In highest Samadhi, having transcended consciousness, he has passed beyond discrimination and knowledge, beyond the reach of change or fear, he is already enjoying Nirvana. The perfect understanding of this and the patient acceptance of it is the highest perfect wisdom, that is, the Prajna-Paramita. All the buddhas of the past, present and future, having attained highest samadhi awake to find themselves realizing Prajna-Paramita. Therefore, oh Saraputra, everyone should seek self realization of Prajna-Paramita, the transcendent truth, the unsurpassable truth, the truth that ends all truth, the truth that ends all pain, the truth that is forever true. Oh Prajna-Paramita, oh transcendent truth that spans the troubled ocean of life and death, safely carry all seekers to the other shore of Enlightenment. Listen to the mantra, the great mysterious mantra: Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhisvha! Gone, gone, gone to that other shore, safely passed to that other shore. Prajna-Paramita. So may it be. Wisdom, hail!”
Ladyfingers were also distributed at the Betsy-Howie wedding, but they had much more of a kick to them than ours had had, and Haines made sure that everyone knew about it.
As a result, most of the straight guests present didn’t take any, although quite a few put one or two away for a rainy day. All, however, were treated to a demonstration of what is meant by the expression “freaking freely” which will probably remain indelibly engraved on their memories for life. During the reception, someone shouted, “Hey, who’s that up on the roof?” and all eyes turned skyward.
Pat McNeill, naked as a jaybird, was prancing around on the porch roof in front of Tim’s room. Beatles music floated down to us, as well as Pat’s voice.
She was shouting, “Yoo hoo, Timothy Leary, come on up here. I want to get fucked” and other requests of a similar nature, interspersed with snatches of song and girlish giggles. Someone stepped out of a window and pulled her in. Conversation at the party, which had been somewhat strained, became highly animated.
Tim told me later that getting clothes on Pat had been quite a struggle. Finally, she agreed to put on a pair of Tim’s pants, but nothing else. Two boo hoos from Philadelphia who happened to be visiting that day told me that they had been quietly “meditating” (watching goldfish) in the music room that evening when Pat had appeared and sat down next to them, bummed a cigarette, made some idle conversation, and then asked, in a matter-of-fact tone, “Hey, would you guys care to fuck?” They didn’t, perhaps because they were not attracted to women in general.
“Let’s fuck” trips are pretty common, although Pat’s was more dramatic than most. Her ideation, if any, probably went something like this:
Now that I’m stoned, what do I want to do?
What I really want to do is get humped by Timothy Leary, my sterling guru.
Why not ask for it? It’s natural, and nothing to be ashamed of.
After all, should I be secretive, sneaky and hypocritical about this or come right out with it?
Nobody has the right to criticize me for expressing a natural wish. Dishonesty is one of the greatest curses of mankind.
Why shouldn’t women say they want to screw just like the men do?
Come to think of it, why shouldn’t I take my clothes off and dance on the roof? That would be fun, and men like to look at naked women, don’t they? If I want Tim to fuck me, I should show him what he’s getting.
What about Rosemary?
To hell with Rosemary. All’s fair in love and war.
What about embarrassing my husband and children and Howie and Betsy and so forth?
I’m setting a good example. They should all take off their clothes too, and announce whom they want to fuck. Everybody wants to fuck. Why don’t they take their clothes off and go at it?
If this was, indeed, the way Pat thought, it would have been difficult to refute her at any point.
She wasn’t waving a gun around. She was waving her ass around. Was Pat’s ass injuring anyone?
If Pat had behaved this way in Macy’s basement instead of on the Big House roof, it would have been a different matter altogether. “Location is everything,” as they say, or, as Blake put it, “One law for the lion and the ox is oppression.”
Shortly after the Howie-Betsy wedding, Haines kicked Sarasvati out into the cruel, Sado-Judeo-Paulinian world once again. Perhaps the burlesque show on the Big House roof had reminded him of what his most ardent female admirer really wanted: to be hosed down with his precious bodily fluids. Immediately after getting the heave-ho, Sarasvati appeared at the Gatehouse, sobbing and simpering and asking for my advice.
Since Haines and I were, once again, not on speaking terms, I suggested that she borrow some of my camping equipment and hide out in the woods on the hill overlooking the Ashram, so she could spy on the object of her affections from a safe place. She did, and it drove Haines into a frenzy, as I had expected.
Reports came back to me of Haines blundering through the brush brandishing his cane and vowing to suspend his vows of “ahimsa” (nonviolence) if he caught her. Eventually, much to everyone’s astonishment, Sarasvati, instead of creeping quietly back into the outer circle during a trip, as was her usual tactic, left the property, and wasn’t heard from for about two weeks. When she returned, beautifully dressed and carrying expensive new luggage bulging with presents for the kids, Haines was too flabbergasted, and probably too happy to see her again, to offer any objections. I happened to be present at the Ashram at the time, my latest difference of opinion with Bill, whatever it was, having been resolved or, more likely, totally forgotten.
Her story was incredible even by Millbrookian standards. She had pried $100 out of Susan Schoenfeld’s ribs before she left, and had taken this sum to the nearest race track where she placed the entire amount on the nose of a 100-to-1 shot named Swami, which won. With the proceeds, she flew down to British Guiana where Dr. Mishra, the Ashram’s original guru, was living, his visa to the United States having expired shortly after the Ananda breakup. Mishra treated her with the greatest civility and invited her to stay as his house guest for a few days.
When she left, Mishra gave her a present to take to Bill: a bottle of Scotch whiskey. “What the hell did he give me this for?” Bill asked, turning it around in his hands and then passing it to me. “He knows I almost never drink.”
The rest of us, however, did, and it wasn’t long before Sarasvati was back in her usual rags, rolling around on the floor, giggling and muttering to herself while Bill gave her an occasional friendly poke with his cane.
Probably because the chicken coops, where kid visitors often spent the night, were located there, the worst freak-outs seemed to occur in the ruined gardens below the farm manager’s house, where stern Clum and his brood might hear them, or, if they were really lucky, see them. In one instance, when I happened to be nearby and was called upon to help, the Clum family, if they were watching, were treated to the sight of a Chinese boy screaming and writhing around on the ground as if entangled with an invisible boa constrictor, while a baby-faced, teenage American girl slowly removed her clothes in front of him, as if performing some kind of weird sex-cult ritual. That’s the way it looked when I arrived.
Diana, eighteen, a frequent visitor who had shared some LSD with the Chinese boy and a couple other kids up on Ecstasy Hill a few hours earlier, solemnly explained that she thought the Chinese boy was screaming for her pussy, since that was what he had wanted earlier, but I managed to convince her that this was an unlikely motive for flailing the ground with one’s arms and legs while howling like an animal.
“Come on, Diana,” I said, as I yanked her jeans up, “You’re cute, but you’re not that cute.”
Using the usual soothing syrup, I talked the Chinese boy down. When he came out of it, he didn’t remember his freak-out at all, or anything leading up to it, only the happy parts of the trip up in the hills earlier, looking down on the misty vistas of the Hudson Valley and talking to the other kids about the inner meaning of it all. But he had caused distress in the household of a benefactor, and the way he had been brought up that was a cause for great shame. No problem, Chinese boy. It’s all part of the game. Try it again some time.
Diana later became a full-time Ashramite in Arizona, where she and Betsy and a living doll named Jane did a lot to help relieve the aridity of it all. The Chinese boy, too embarrassed to return, wrote us a nice note apologizing for his conduct and saying he had benefited greatly from the experience. It sure as hell didn’t look like it at the time, but this is often the case.
Otto punctuated the final months with two bursts of gunfire, neither one of which hurt anyone or was intended to. The first burst burst when Sam and Martica Clapp, Billy, Aurora, Wendy and I accompanied him to the small town near Woodstock where, sure enough, he showed us his submachine gun factory under the maple trees in a quiet residential neighborhood. He introduced us to the boss, who praised him as one of their most trusted advisors on difficult technical problems. As a fitting climax to our tour of the premises, Otto, while twitching, sweating and muttering as usual, loaded a few rounds into the drum magazine of a freshly fabricated 1921 model Thompson and fired a fusillade from a back door into a mud puddle in the parking lot. None of the assembly-line workers even bothered to look up from their work.
The second burst burst after Otto appeared one evening at the Gatehouse with a brand-new North Vietnamese army rifle and an equally pristine wooden box of Chinese ammo, and asked to sleep on the floor of my office that night because he had had a premonition that we would need protection. How, in the midst of America’s maniacal invasion and brutalization of Vietnam, had Otto acquired these samples of the ordnance with which these brave Buddhists defended their homeland against the demonic power of the Pope and the Pentagon? I didn’t bother to ask.
Sure enough, at about 3 a.m . some drunks (we presumed) showered the place with firecrackers and Otto scared them off by firing two sharp, socialist shots into the earth near the wall. When the State Police arrived, the noise no doubt having been reported, Otto boldly presented himself, explained his conduct, and showed them his weapon.
They left without even writing anything down, perhaps because they didn’t feel up to an exercise in calligraphy at that hour of the night, or because they had heard as much of Otto’s surreal and detail-filled monologue as they wanted to hear, and didn’t feel like getting all of that down on paper either.
The parties went on.
Aluminum Dreams, a rock group in which Billy had taken an interest, probably because of the female vocalist, who would soon move on to greener pastures, took over the second floor of the Big House. They never made it, and didn’t deserve to. Tim, Bill and I did our best to ignore them, which wasn’t easy if you happened to be within earshot. Billy wrote off thousands of dollars which he had put into equipment and expenses, and almost lost his servants also, because of the imperious demands the three male musicians made when they were at the Bungalow.
Tord found a girl, appropriately Amazonian in appearance, who had come to the property in search of a lost horse. She never seemed to say anything, at least not when I was around, and Tord became increasingly incommunicative himself. They lived together on the third floor for a while and eventually married, off the property.
The “Third World” egalitarian-primitivist group erected a “Tepee Town” back in the woods. Another group, loosely associated with them, came in to make a movie. They had professional equipment but little capital. The general idea was to represent heads as noble Indians and narcs as depraved sheriffs and drunken lawmen of the Old West, but I don’t think there was a plot, as the term is normally understood. There was no script. There was a pink horse, ha ha, but after you’ve seen one pink horse, you’ve seen them all.
Tim, naturally, did his best to convert these extremely amorphous cinematographic concepts into The Life and Times of Timothy Leary. As the producer said to me just before he left, broke and with almost no usable film, “Well, I’ve discovered one thing. You either go on Tim’s trip around here or you don’t go on any trip at all,” which I thought summed up the general situation very well.
If he had simply recorded, without serious interference, snippets of everyday life on the property it might have made a good flick.
A visitor with a shortwave radio set, which he kept in the trunk of his car, showed up one day. Since a small island in the Caribbean was at that time threatening to declare its independence of the U.K. and casting about for support, we all thought it would be a good idea if Billy had a chat with the island’s Prime Minister by radio, to see how he would react to the idea of naturalizing a community of acid heads, some of whom, presumably, would be filthy rich.
Since Billy, greatly amused, said he thought it was worth a shot, the radio was set up in the Bungalow’s library, and a mildly stoned and jovial group gathered to watch the visitor twirl his knobs and tweak his toggles; a waste of time, as it turned out.
All the ham could get over his device were hilariously synchronistic snatches of this, that and the other thing from the Caribbean region, none of which had any practical utility for any of us: communistic denunciations of the rich, homilies on “communication problems,” news of drug busts, etc. The island was unreachable, possibly because the CIA or MI6 or the BVD had jammed the local frequencies.
Billy and I and almost everyone else in the audience enjoyed the farce for what it was, but the best Tim could manage was a tight smile. Leaving the ham aside, he seemed to have been the only person present who had taken the project seriously.
Afterwards, because Tim asked to try out our new used car, I found myself in the back seat with the ham, a young guy with slicked-back, black hair and aquiline features, who looked like the model for a line drawing of a radio enthusiast I had seen many times in my youth, in advertisements in my favorite magazine of those days, Popular Science. Here he was, in the flesh.
Wendy sat next to Tim, who proceeded to take the worst and longest way back to the Big House over the most rutted and pot-holed roads, at an unsafe speed, while twisting his head around to carry on a conversation about radio with the guy next to me.
“For Christ’s sake, Tim,” I finally said, after the car had suffered its third or fourth wrenching shock, “slow down. You’re driving like a maniac.”
“You think I’m going too fast, Arthur?”
“I have complete faith in you, Tim,” said the ham at my side, before I could answer.
“Well, I wish you would slow down a little,” said Wendy.
Tim slowed down. To show all was forgiven, I made a comment about how much of the radio chatter we had heard had been synchronistic with the project or with life at Millbrook in general.
“Yes,” Tim said. “Amazing, isn’t it? You know, there are times when I am convinced there is someone or something up there writing the script.”
“That’s what I think,” said the ham, who then proceeded to deliver a series of routine speculations about how LSD might enhance “outer space communication,” and allow us to contact “higher powers” and such, all of which all of us had heard before ad nauseam from other visitors intent, not on learning anything, but on securing our subscription to their favorite fantasies of deliverance from above. Tim, however, lapped it right up, dropping in a comment here and there demonstrating that he too, could read Sunday supplements and science fiction magazines.
Later, because the car would be needed early the next morning to take someone at the Ashram to the dentist, Wendy and I walked back to the Gatehouse in the pale moonlight and dark tunnels made by the overhanging roadside trees.
I made what I thought was a most disillusioning suggestion.
“Wendy,” I said, “let’s face it. Tim’s a supernaturalist science-fictionalist or something like that. He thinks something up there (I pointed to a patch of stars in the roof of our leafy corridor) is doing it. He doesn’t understand synchronicity.”
“I never thought he did,” Wendy said.
If I had not deluded myself about Tim I might not have come to understand synchronicity myself. There was another strange aspect: It seemed to me that many of the “troops,” who rarely said anything philosophical, had a better general appreciation of the subject, just as Wendy did, than their supposed leader and teacher. At least, in the case of the kids, when they talked about “God” they usually meant something vague, abstract and Emersonian. At best, they were Deists. Transcendentalists. Pantheists. What the hell. That’s about the best one can expect from most people.
Tim, in contrast, believed a gigantic “cosmic” entity of some kind was “doing it.” This, to his way of thinking, was more “scientific.” In the land of the partially sighted, a man who was blind was king.
Otto Preminger visited the community, prior to making one of the least Psychedelian of the commercial “psychedelic” movies which appeared around that time. Tim and Bill brought Preminger down to the Gatehouse to meet me, but I was in town buying booze. In this instance my vice may have saved me from a fate worse than death, but in general, my drinking was getting to the problem stage.
Everything constructive that I wanted to do cost money, and I didn’t have any. All I had were promises and parties, sometimes two of the latter a week. As for developing the place into a self-supporting mecca for Psychedelian religionists, the flaming handwriting was on the wall, and the message was dire.
Tim’s group became increasingly disorganized, disgruntled and diluted with transients. Haines, in self-defense, ceased to concern himself with anything other than the Ashram and its immediate surroundings, as did I in regard to the Gatehouse. It became clear the place was headed towards anarchy and there wasn’t much Haines or I could do about it. If the influx continued, we would merely hold enclaves in what amounted to a public park.
This was dangerous in all kinds of ways but particularly threatening to the owners. “Use easement” and related legal concepts were not part of what might be called the “conceptuaries” of us peasants, but the Hitchcock Cattle Corporation and Mellon family lawyers were aware of such things. The risks that the twins had already taken of torts and criminal defenses blaming everything on them were buffered by an intimate knowledge of what kind of people they were dealing with, that is, nice people, or at worst, harmless—to zillionaires—nuts.
Now, all of that was changing. For all they knew, some Uriah Heepish person they had never seen had already knitted himself a shack of twigs and wattles in their woods and was busily hand lettering page after page of perfectly drafted legalese which would make the surrounding acreage a legal leper colony or a port of entry when filed with the county clerk, and tie them up in court for the next 400 years if they didn’t pay him off through the nose.
Photographs? Tape recordings? There was a boundless scope for apprehensions of all kinds.
Every time Tim went to New York he would get drunk and invite everyone he met to come up to Millbrook. It was clear he was deliberately demolishing the tripartite organization of the place which, for a while, had seemed so natural and promising. Either Tommy, who now made no secret of his dissatisfaction with the swelling population statistics, would revolt or we would be raided again or both. A wide-open Psychedelian mob scene would not be tolerated for long in Dutchess County.
Given the enormous potential political clout of our patrons, and assuming three relatively small and stable groups, a scene which could have been written off by the powers that were as just another whimsy of the rich might have survived much longer, but hordes of anonymous fake Indians from the gutters of New York represented a virtual guarantee of disaster in the near future.
We were up against long-entrenched local Republican ruling families of such reactionary and downright fascist dispositions that they had hated having Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “the Squire of Hyde Park,” living among them. To use Aldous Huxley’s apt characterization of Tim’s much milder earlier conduct, Tim was now “snoot-cocking” these mass murderers and serial killers (warmongers and capital-punishment freaks) in a way they could not ignore.
Tim knew, in a general kind of way, what would happen. Since it would happen anyway, he wanted it to happen sooner rather than later and in a form that suited the wave of populist political rhetoric that he was riding at the time. He wanted to milk it. “It’s all a matter of timing, Arthur,” he earnestly informed me several times.
It became clear that the modest, domestic, essentially reclusive practice of Psychedelianism, which we had enjoyed for a while at Millbrook and which suited the Hitchcocks and Bill and me and almost everyone else around just fine, appeared of little account and eminently expendable to Tim, who cared little for the gods of the hearth, especially when those common-place deities were contrasted with the newly risen and enormously powerful gods of television, the mass media, and the popular culture in general, with whom, at the cost of considerable personal sacrifice and unremitting effort, he believed he had achieved an “in.”
As Tim saw it, our values led nowhere, which was true because they were all ends in themselves, which we already were enjoying and merely wished to preserve, as one would wish to preserve for as long as possible the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The assumption that the whole scene would collapse in a few years, at most, was almost certainly correct if nothing changed radically for the better. I don’t think Tim saw any future in the elitist, defensive, xenophobic enclave concept. Our community was not located where strange things were done under the midnight sun, or where an influx of a million a year or so would bedazzle the local peasantry with visions of down payments on mobile homes, but right smack in the middle of one of the most exclusive residential areas in the United States, which our most powerful and determined enemies considered their own private parkland, more or less by divine right. After all, they owned most of it, didn’t they?
In contrast to the pointlessness of trying to hang on under such unfavorable circumstances, making a “photo op” out of it all and pandering to the kid culture by pretending to be the most communistic egalitarian-primitivist around, would help bring Tim fame and fortune and perhaps support him in his old age. It would keep his show on the road by keeping his name in the papers and his face on the tube.
There was nothing unreasonable about this analysis, but the question that bothered me was: If Billy Hitchcock, Tim Leary, Bill Haines and I (and the core community in general, which had demonstrated many signs of life when given half a chance), with our various assets and complementary talents, couldn’t maintain a stable Psychedelian community, who could?
Well, what reason was there to believe that, at that time and in the United States, anyone could? Even so, if Tim, Bill and I had ever approached Billy with a reasonable (xenophobic enclavish) plan, in which our roles were defined in terms of our demonstrable talents, it’s not unimaginable that Billy (and maybe Peggy and maybe even Tommy) would have funded the community the way it needed to be funded. Maybe it would have been necessary to move the whole works somewhere else, maybe offshore, but was a total crack-up absolutely unavoidable?
Why, in an effort to straighten things out, didn’t Tim, Bill, Billy and I ever take a trip together without having fifty or so other people around at the same time? If it hadn’t done any good, at least we would have had the satisfaction of knowing we had tried.
History is full of these almost unanswerable why didn’ts. The craziest aspects of human nature are often better illustrated by what isn’t done than by what is.
The history of science and technology, which one might suppose to be relatively free of them, is in fact full of these seemingly inexplicable lapses. What kinds of beings are these who waste millions of man-hours by not inventing the cotton gin, for example? It’s said that Whitney first got the idea by watching a cat trying to snatch a chicken by clawing through a fence. Is it really that much harder to imagine the cotton being pulled away from the seeds than to imagine the seeds being picked from the cotton? Why were all those seafarers allowed to perish from scurvy when the efficacy of citrus to revive almost-dead men was common knowledge among sailors for centuries?
There is no shortage of current examples. Why, to cite one, doesn’t every fire engine and emergency vehicle on earth carry a portable tank of dimethyl sulfoxide to spray on burns and wounds? You tell me.
Few people can look back over their lives, after they have been around a while, without thinking of all kinds of simple, obvious things they could and should have done to solve their problems, but didn’t do, for which there seems to be no explanation other than to say “I was blind.”
I don’t think the problems of which I speak can be eliminated, at least not directly, by reforms in the social order. They are manifestations of a universal mental disability caused by imprints and the repetition compulsion (or just plain “habit,” if you prefer), which knows no borders and is stronger than any ideology.
The power of imprints, which are simply one’s original impressions of how things are related, to persist in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence, is illustrated in my case by a “belief” I hold that the city of New York is north of Westchester County. Notice the present tense. Knowing about a manifestation of this mechanism may weaken, but rarely eliminates, the affliction.
I must have acquired this image at about the age of five, when my family moved from the city to Crestwood. I have been in and around and under and over the city and its environs off and on ever since, but to this day, unless I make an effort to see it otherwise, the island of Manhattan points north.
The East River is on the West Side and like the Hudson, which is on the East Side, flows north. I recall being vaguely concerned as a child, when the family car would turn left on the Bronx River Parkway for our annual trip to Vermont, that we were headed in the wrong direction. “Well, Dad’s probably going around the city somehow,” I would say to myself, and return to elbowing my brothers for my fair share of space in the back seat. At some point, when the landscape became unfamiliar, the entire world would make a gigantic 180-degree turn, and both Crestwood and New York City would be behind us, firmly to the south but, in my mind’s eye, with the city closer to us than the suburban county.
Why? It was my original impression, that’s all. The city seemed cold, I guess, in every sense of the term, and Crestwood seemed warm in every sense of the word. Crestwood was therefore south of the city.
Returning from New York in the helicopter one clear and almost windless day, Billy decided to go straight up and hover for a while. The entire landscape of which I speak was spread out beneath us like a relief map. I could see the actual state of affairs in great detail. Billy and I had been talking about the contrasts and similarities of our boyhoods and we both tried to locate my old boarding school in Bronxville. No luck. I suggested that we swoop down and follow the Bronx River but, on consulting the gas gauge, Billy decided we had better be on our way.
Did this experience correct or even diminish this ludicrous mental problem?
Not in the slightest. The Battery’s up and the Bronx is down. I still have two maps of the area in my mind’s eye, one correct and superficial, the other false and powerful.
It’s an irritant when I’m reading fiction set in the area. I know my imagery is warped, and I struggle with it for a while, and then give up. How can I possibly enjoy a good story while twisting maps around in my mind at the same time? It can’t be done. At least it’s conscious. I can, if I must, as when driving in and out of the New York area, force myself to see things right side up, as it were.
Could I get rid of this troublesome imprint on a trip? Certainly, if I insisted on regression to my early childhood for that purpose, and found someone willing and able to assist me in this usually boring and frequently laborious process. It has never seemed worth the effort. If repeatedly jailed because of a compulsion to turn road signs in the area backwards, or something of the kind, I probably would think it worth the effort.
It may all serve a useful purpose, in that I am reminded, whenever the terrain of my birthplace is brought to my attention, which is pretty frequently, of the power of imprints in general. Without these reminders, I might forget why it is so many people believe in so many crazy things. It encourages tolerance, of which combative people can always use an extra shot, and pity for lunatics, of which almost all of us need as much as we can get.
I’m not talking about indoctrination as it is ordinarily understood. If, during my childhood, the doctrine that New York City was north of us had been constantly propounded as what every-one ought to believe, the way supernaturalist “Christianity” was, in our home in Crestwood, and I had been obliged to bow my head and affirm that the city was in a “space warp zone,” or something similar, and to listen to bizarre anecdotes and patently fallacious arguments denying the validity of magnetism and condemning Rand McNally as an agent of the Devil, I think I would have resisted.
Since the subject never came up, there was nothing to resist.
Catholicism is more powerful than Protestantism in this way. The Roman Catholic Church does not, except as almost emotionless mental exercises, trouble to make out any kind of rational argument to its captive audience of little kiddies. Instead, it simply hammers in the images as early as possible and reinforces the habits as often as possible.
The Sado-Judeo-Paulinian zombies who have criminalized Psychedelianism and destroyed the Bill of Rights in an effort to stamp it out were brought up on a vast array of lunatic imprints and are blind slaves to the repetition compulsion. Most of our persecutors are so crazy about so many important particular things that they might as well be called crazy in a general way. For people loaded with the classic American Sado-Judeo-Paulinian religious imprints, the whole world is turned upside down.
This mental derangement, involving, as it does, so many self-destructive compulsions, will eventually polish the place off if it goes uncorrected. Americans are not simply European transplants or the descendants thereof. They are a different breed altogether, and the rest of the world ought to keep its guard up .
Americans, in general and unless pushed too far, are willing to disregard what is staring them right in the face in favor of believing authoritative pronouncements or the standard cant or popular myths on any and all subjects. Compared to Europeans, they are just plain gullible. They “have faith,” faith in anything they want to have faith in. There is no need to “have faith” in what seems obviously correct, or probable. The necessity for faith only arises when one wishes to believe in, or cannot help believing, things that are inherently fantastic or “unbelievable.”
In Vermont, in 1972, I got some plans for a plywood dinghy, and discovered what seemed to be a serious error in the drawings of the bow. I wrote to the company, one of the two largest in the nation, and asked about it.
“You’re quite right,” the reply came back, “the line drawing [sic] on the bow is in the improper position. Over the past couple of years, more than 3,000 Eight Balls have been made, but you are the first one to make a comment on this fact.”
Only a week or so later, I received a letter from the art director of Portal Publications, one of the biggest art print houses in the country. I had complained about the quality of a Maxfield Parrish I ordered; it looked murky to me.
I quote a few lines:
“At last! A real live opinion. I’ve had to contend with oceans of praise. We’ve sold hundreds of thousands … no attempt was made to correct the color. I feel embarrassed and infuriated … disgusted … .”
People who build boats and order art prints are not, generally speaking, stupid. The various generals who repeatedly assaulted virtually impregnable positions with inadequate forces in the Civil War before Grant came along were not stupid. All those cotton planters who never once considered that you could pull the cotton away from the seeds instead of pulling the seeds away from the cotton were not stupid. All those sea captains who failed to include a couple barrels of dried lemons in their list of stores before sailing weren’t stupid.
The builders of the great Near Eastern civilizations who invented astronomy, mathematics, writing, and law, but took 2,000 years to think of making wedge-shaped bricks for arches and vaults, were not stupid.
They were not sufficiently disenchanted. The psychedelic experience is not the spell, but the lifting of the spell, the transformation of the toad, the maiden’s salvation; not the sword in the stone, but the sword out of the stone.
Was there any way we could have prevailed at Millbrook against the monstrous forces of evil arrayed against us? I don’t know, but the first thing required would have been a “united front.” If Haines, Hitchcock and I had set a date for a trip and invited Tim to join us, it’s hard to imagine him staying away. It would have been impolitic, the one and only cardinal sin in Tim’s book. He would have made difficulties about time, place and circumstances so as to give himself an edge, and these manipulations probably would have aroused Haines to a fury, but a meeting to discuss the proposed trip could have been arranged at which, perhaps, Billy and I could have bombed Tim and Bill and, at minimum, things would have lightened up a little.
My memory is hazy about it. It seems to me Haines and I discussed the possibility once or twice. I recall Haines flatly saying, “He won’t do it,” and changing the subject, but I never talked to Billy about it, or did I? I’m sure I never suggested it to Tim. I let it slide. I never made a project out of it, never allowed the subject to fully engage my imagination.
By the time such a trip became a necessity if we were to survive as a community, I was dispirited and exhausted, ready to throw in the towel. The thought of trying to persuade Tim, Bill or Billy to do anything they didn’t want to do made me shudder, quiver, vibrate, flinch, flutter and roll. I had been over that trench top too many times. I was groggy and shell-shocked. It is said victory in battle often goes to the side that makes one last effort when neither side has any heart left for fighting.
At Millbrook a last charge of the forces of right bows and bright dawns was never made.
So we lost the battle. The war goes on.