Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Hippies Were Right

It is more than ironic that those who came of age and consciousness in time for the first Earth Day in 1970, now find hope not in the leader of their own country, but rather in the leader of an Andean country of indigenous peoples. Maybe not so ironic, however, considering that the Hippie movement that launched the celebration of life and love at Woodstock and in San Francisco also catalyzed environmental awareness, based in part on indigenous philosophy.

Perhaps to the credit cartel's chagrin, it was also the Hippies who reintroduced the concept of communal ownership, establishing community gardens and cooperative schools and stores throughout the country. When one examines the Hippie philosophy in its entirety, it is hard to find fault with its substance, even if one is not inclined to adopt the style.

After enduring forty years of mockery by the mainstream, it is fair to say that the Hippies were, and are, right. Put that in Wall Street's pipe and smoke it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bon Taj Roulet

In the 1960s, local musicians like Janis Joplin and Grace Slick used to do benefits for public good all the time. Two of the greats from the Bay Area are still at it. You can catch Bonnie and Taj on tour.

Friday, April 17, 2009


The commute to my half-time library assistant job, Tuesday through Thursday 10 to 4, began with a half-mile stroll through the redwoods from my studio apartment to the Golden Gate Transit bus stop next to the plaza in downtown Mill Valley. Usually I arrived early for my bus and sat next to the two old-growth coastal sequoias watching squirrels hiding acorns under oak leaves that were later confiscated by scrub jays and crows. Sometimes I just stood in the sun staring at Mt. Tamalpais or the fog hovering on the Marin Headlands ridge.

At 8:42, I queued with the money managers and secretaries for the #4 San Francisco Financial District and tore a pink ticket from my book to stick in the toll box. Most days I day dreamed for the hour-long ride past Sausalito and over the bridge, but some mornings were so brilliant with gentle surf breaking below Sea Cliff and the Presidio that my free-ranging was refocused on pelicans and tugboats.

At the corner of Pine & Battery we were disgorged into the city’s morning bustle amidst the aromas of coffee and sweet rolls where I fell into the brisk pace of the crowd headed for the Montgomery Street BART Station two blocks away across Sutter from See’s Candies. Occasionally I’d grab “poetry for a buck” from the old guy in a trench coat in front of Noah’s Bagels. The first week of the month, I always stopped to buy a copy of the newspaper on homelessness from the disabled Vietnam vet who leaned on his cane or a parking meter in front of Citibank.

As I descended into the subway, I could tell who was playing for coins by the music that wafted up the staircase. Beethoven on violin meant the octogenarian former symphony player was picking up something for his meds not covered by Medicare. A rich Iberian guitar was the fellow from Spain about my age who was hoping to cut a CD, but could never quite afford the studio time due to the illness his mother came down with the previous year. If I had a buck to spare I’d give it to them, but I never passed without pausing to ask how they were and dropping in a coin or two.

When the train arrived at my stop at 16th & Mission, it was often quiet, but now and then the Irish guy played his fiddle and tapped his foot next to the escalator. At the top, Mayans and Mestizos sold flowers for five bucks. But at this point in my trip, I saved my remaining alms for Rose, the elderly black woman with diabetes and no teeth who hung out in front of Muddy Waters Coffee on Valencia Street. In some strange way, even though I’m white, she reminded me of my grandmother. Maybe it was her cheery smile and positive attitude despite her circumstances. Who knows?

Sitting outside the campus café across from the library I often found Paul, my Lakota buddy who was thinking about writing a book about when he and Dennis Banks were at Wounded Knee surrounded by the U.S. Army and later took a group of young Sioux cross-country runners around the world on a goodwill tour. I usually asked him about his latest art project. He mostly commented on my clothes being out of date and reading books being a waste of time.

Later in the day, when his blood sugar was readjusted, he’d ask me why groups of young co-eds squealed before scurrying across to the humanities building, and then stopped to laugh after reaching the other side. I told him I had no idea.

Full of Surprises

I remember at the dawn of this new century, as I was absorbed in graduate school, thinking that the investment I was making in my future was worth the sacrifice of living on the $1,000/mth I received from my work/study, student loan and scholarship. Looking back from the present, those were the luxurious times, compared with the present where no jobs are to be had and the future looks grim.

In hindsight, the skills I acquired in social analysis, and the discipline I established of writing a journal of my thoughts, is now the sole benefit of that earlier effort. Not that this is of little consequence; it's just that it wasn't what I had expected.

Sometimes, life is full of surprises.