Once upon a time I was an anti-Vietnam-War protesting, civil rights marching, women’s movement supporting rock-and-roller. Although for this old beatnik, the flower-child, hippie mantle never fit, I certainly was part of the Sixties scene. That fifth photo from the left in the banner above is what I looked like in those days.
San Francisco had Haight-Ashbury and New York, where I was living, had the East Village. I think there might have been some rivalry between the two neighborhoods’ individual claims to being the ultimate in cool, but The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, Country Joe, Joe Cocker, Richie Havens and all the rest sang the anthems of the era to all of us, whichever coast we were on.
If you were too young to have been there or too old to buy into it, you can’t know the tenor of the times – our naïve belief that we really were going to change things and its opposite, the dark side of that dream that for some turned into a drug-induced nightmare to accompaniment, ironically, of the best popular music this country has ever known.
Every now and then, someone writes a book about the Haight or the East Village or the political scene or the music scene of the day. Some are reportage; others are memoir with a few biographies and autobiographies thrown in. I read many of them when they appear and I’ve never found one that caught the feel or sensibility of the time that I remember.
Even those written by people I knew back then are off in some manner, enough so that I question now every social history I read. I mean, if the stories published about a time in which I was deeply involved are not quite right, other books of periods I don’t personally know are probably off the mark too.
Cut to about four years ago. I was just starting to read blogs regularly. TGB was no more than an undeveloped spark of an idea in the back of mind, and one of the first blogs I bookmarked to read regularly was Pure Land Mountain written by an American ex-pat, Bob Brady, who has made his home in Japan for three decades. I wrote about his blog here a couple of years ago; it is one of the best-written blogs there is.
Who knew such talent runs in the family. A year or more ago, Bob and his brother, Mick, who lives in Santa Barbara, launched The Blog Brothers where they take turns recalling their childhood in Albany, New York (these boys do get around, don’t they) with beautifully evocative stories not just about their personal lives, but popular artifacts of the period we can all recall.
For more than two months now, however, The Blog Brothers has lain dormant – no postings from either side of the Pacific Ocean until last week when Mick published a new story – the first in a series – titled Instant Karma Nearly Got Me. Mick got me with his first paragraph (which I’ve broken in two for ease of reading:
“I'm slouched behind the wheel, alone in a grimy yellow cab, my windshield hazy from the splattered mist of a midmorning shower. I've been cruising in a series of twenty- or thirty-block ellipses in midtown Manhattan for the past hour or so, angling for fares. A slow day so far, late morning on a Saturday, just riding the wave of greenlights up and down the island.
“It's kind of hypnotic, sort of like catching a big, slow breaker on a surfboard; nothing to do but hang ten, kick back and enjoy the ride. A good time to think, normally, but today my thoughts are drifting darkward. In fact, they're heading in the same direction my life seems to be going.”
That’s not an opening I can ignore and neither should you. It has the sensibility of a hard-boiled detective novel about it, but it's not fiction, and the rest of the post is even more compelling.
What Mick has done is set the stage for his Sixties sojourn in New York City, and in all those books I’ve read about that singular time and place, none has evoked the real-deal feel that I remember as what Mick has written in this short chapter one.
Mick hasn't said how long this series will be, but I’ll be there for every episode and I urge you to be there too.
[Mick also keeps a personal blog at dancing in tongues – wide-angle views from the land of milk & honey.]