31 January 2015

Circle close

As it happened (or as Bokononists say, “As it was meant to happen"), I sat down at the computer and turned on the Web-radio to hear Judy Collins’ rendition of Bob Dylan’s iconic,  “Mr. Tambourine Man.” I have lived with this song for fifty years in its multiple versions by a diversity of artists, but I have remained fixed on Dylan’s original version on Bringing it All Back Home and Judy Collins’ 1965 version of the song on her Fifth Album. The strains of the song settled me back to the summer of 1965 when I washed cars and mowed lawns and debated with my schoolmates the identity of Mr. Tambourine Man who could help me forget about today until tomorrow and who would take me “disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind.”
As it was meant to happen, I had originally sat down to write about a sense of the world that began as a significant part of my life in the 1960s, and that seems to have come around full circle last evening. In Washington State marijuana is now legal. And so last evening after a convivial dinner we sat and passed around the bong, and I considered that my life in one respect had completed. I had begun smoking dope when I was 19 years old, almost fifty years ago. Then drugs were all illegal and there was something revolutionary, anarchic, and dangerous about indulging in the weed. I remember sitting in my dormitory room with the windows flung wide open to aid the smoke disappearing out into the air, and with the heel on my bedroom dooropening stopped up by a towel to keep the smell of burning weed from escaping out into the hallways. I remember passing the joint down the row at concerts sharing our stash with everyone about us, and I remember sitting on the New York Subways proudly and seditiously carrying on my lap in my green back pack my recent purchase of a pound of marijuana that I would split with my dear friend and colleague. Smoking dope was a relatively dangerous and glorious experience that I associate with the generally rebellious stance I assumed in my life during those years. If they were for it, then I was opposed to it. I always voted but almost never for anyone who actually won an election; I could could not tolerate my parents bourgeois status (though I continued to benefit from it), and identified with a host of revolutionaries, starting with Ché Guevara. I read Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. I enlisted in the counterculture. I think I became a hippie, though I only owned that identity years later when the history books defined the phenomenon and I understood that I was being described.
But last evening we sat comfortably together in a magnificent home in great warmth, both real and metaphorical, and without a care in the world drank wine and got very high and talked not about how easy it was to tell black from white, or how we knew what was wrong and what was right. No, we talked about the choices we had made, the roads we had traveled, some of which had shattered and all of which had split. I was so much older then . . . but last night I was happy in my comfort even as I had been happy in my rebellion then even as I engaged in the same activity and enjoyed the same flight as I fell under the dancing spell of Mr. Tambourine Man.


Blogger Steve Strieker said...

Wow...that is a post!

03 February, 2015 21:41  
Blogger Amy Block said...

This is just beautiful, Alan!!!! I love when you write about your 'self'! You are such a lovely soul! And...how amazing that you're my brother! Sending you so much love! Carry on. Carry on! Cause, as you know.....the beat goes on!

06 February, 2015 19:17  

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