I’m looking forward to January, a time of fresh starts. Mostly though I am looking forward to the end of the holiday season with its semi-mandatory manufactured cheer.
The whole war on Christmas pile of right wing bullshit has made life harder for apathetic atheists to not become grumpy atheists.
I’m currently enjoying three books: Alan Berube’s, Coming Out Under Fire – The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two. Pam Tent’s, Midnight at the Palace, My Life as a Fabulous Cockette. Susan Jacoby’s, Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism.
They all present hidden history one does not find in standard high school or even grind History 101,102 classes.
Can’t have history that contradicts the the commercially pushed programming.
This last month several stories have intrigued me that I didn’t have time to blog about. There is a story of a four year old boy in Mesquite, who is being punished by the school for having sort of longish hair. This cute little moppet contradicts the conformist ideal simply by having slightly long hair. There are all these writers in the letters section expounding on and on about how rules are rules and if you let a four year old have long hair you are teaching him he doesn’t have to conform.
This brings me to Pam Tent’s book. I lived in Berkeley during that period after the decline of the Haight Ashbury. It was a wonderful era of non-conformity, when people were able to be free spirits, before the corporations were able to copy right and patent that rebellion to sell back to us in manufactured form something that was neither as much fun nor anywhere near as radical.
Some of us were political radicals and some of us were cultural radicals and many of us were both. The most threatening thing about us wasn’t our demonstrating in the streets even though that was the most obvious.
The most threatening thing about the counter culture was that we heeped scorn upon the plastic fantastic packaged consumerist lives. The Fugs, beat poets from the Lower East Side, the Alphabets of the East Village sang paeans to “Slum Goddess”.
We demanded free love because in the words of Emma Goldman. “How can love be anything but free?” We knew that father didn’t know best.
Transsexualism was was very DIY in those days. Queer/hip script writing doctors would give us a poke for a few dollars and a script to go up town or down for a lecherous feel.
I remember the Cockettes. I met Hibiscus at the Pentagon before his wings sprouted. He is the one in the famous photograph putting flowers in the barrel of the rifle. One sister I met at Stanford where she was getting SRS. Sylvester opened for Bowie at Winterland. Pristine Condition and the Tubes opened for the New York Dolls when they played North Beach.
A few months later I was living on Sunset and making it with lead singers, lead guitars and movie stars, although usually of the B-list. I made a point of going to bed with David Johansen. And others too…
You could live on air and the kindness of strangers in those days.
But then the economics got harder and the rents soured. Everything cost more and they convinced us all our lives would not be complete unless we had all this stuff. We worked more hours and tried to recapture the sense of freedom we once had when we were penniless but had lots of time to let our imaginations fly. The contradiction is that things do not really replace living. Pre-shrunk, pre-fab, pre-digested and packaged with a designer name and label for our consumption products do not make up for the emptiness of our lives.
Perhaps it is because I am of an age. I miss the freedom to be and not to buy.
I too caved in to becoming a wage slave and yes I like my possessions even though they possess me as much as I possess them.
Yesterday I was reading the New York Times and was reminded of what is missing. John Lennon was murdered shortly before Reagan took office and the decline of America to the place we are today accelerated. Reagan hated freedom and non-conformity. In 1969 he proclaimed (regarding People’s Park): “If it takes a blood bath, let’s get on with it.” A year before Kent State the police fired upon us, killing one and wounding many.
And so it goes. Now the battle lines include pre-school boys with hair too long, but shorter than John Lennon’s when he and Yoko first presented this ad 40 years ago.