A process of self-discovery

Last day to get Hippies free on Amazon

A new sample (“A process of self-discovery”) is below …


“Jazmine, the doctor,” said the woman benevolently.

Yes, the doctor, thought Jazmine. She could not grasp what doctor they were referring to, but it sounded right. Yes, of course, there was the doctor. She followed the woman into the house and through a rustic maze of hallways. They came out into a wood-paneled study, refreshingly lit by high windows with brown curtains pulled back. The small room was easily filled by the couch, two upholstered chairs, and a desk with a straight-back chair. The room looked familiar to Jazmine. A fortyish woman with tight lips and glasses stood and stepped around from the desk when Jazmine came in.

“How are you feeling today, Jazmine?”

“I think I’m a little better, Dr. Meyer.” Yes, she recognized Dr. Meyer now. It was all coming back to her. “Definitely a little better. I guess it just takes a while for things to fall back into place.”

“Yes, that was quite an event you had, Jazmine.” She sat in one of the upholstered chairs and gestured for Jazmine to sit on the couch.

“You were quite broken down. Do you remember where you were when we found you?”

“Not exactly. I mean, it’s coming back but not completely. We were sleeping in the car in a parking lot. A train station parking lot. I got out to go use the bathroom in the station. But something in the station. Something horrible. It made me think that the car wasn’t a car. It was a box. It was all some big mistake. I needed to get out and get away from that box. I remembered I needed to get to another station to meet someone. I needed to get to Rhinecliff. Everybody said to go to Rhinecliff Station. Somehow I got there.”

“Yes, good,” said Dr. Meyer. “Yes, you were in Rhinecliff. Do you remember talking to me about it?”

“Yes, now I remember. I’ve been here a few days. You and I talk about it every day at the same time.”

“Good. Now we just need to unravel the story backwards until it fits, until you remember the parts you’ve blocked.”

“It’s all coming back. The tan acid. I took the tan acid and it gave me weird flashbacks. I was in Medieval Germany. Rebecca was my name. There was some kind of divine thing in my body. It appeared like a disease, but it was divinity. It was like the divinity was in my body but I couldn’t feel it right. Like I was repressing something.”

“Yes, good, Jazmine. We’ve been through this, but now you’re awake, you see it yourself.”

“Yes, Meister Berold knew. He wanted to help me. And Jeremiah was going to help me. But something bad happened. Something bad happened to Ragman. But that’s where I lose the thread. Ragman was in a whole different time and place. New Orleans, recently.”

“Do you know what we found in your pocket, Jazmine?”

“Something. I can’t quite remember. I had some coins. A coin purse. I don’t know.”

“Do you remember what it was at the train station? The horrible thing?”

“No, no,” said Jazmine, becoming agitated.

“You’re close, Jazmine, we need to look at these things together, consciously, so you can control them instead of having them control you. Think, Jazmine, think. The train station. You put something in your pocket.”

“Yes, I put something in my pocket.” Jazmine was starting to break down again.

Don’t you want to know what it was, Jazmine? Are you ready now? Do you want to wait until tomorrow?”

“Yes, I want to know what it was. I’m ready. I can almost feel it in my hand. In my pocket. I had my hand in my pocket and was squeezing, crumpling. It was paper.”

“Good, Jazmine. I think you’re ready to cross the next bridge.”

Dr. Meyer stood up and stepped around the desk. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion to Jazmine. Her heart pounded. Dr. Meyer opened a drawer and took out a piece of crumpled paper. She started to come back around the desk. The slow-motion trauma was killing Jazmine. Would she never get around the desk?

Dr. Meyer sat back in her upholstered chair with the crumpled paper in her hand, resting on her lap.

“What was it, Jazmine? What was the paper you put into your pocket?”

Jazmine gasped for breath. “Ragman,” she whispered, and a flood of tears came. Dr. Meyer sat next to her on the couch and put her hand on Jazmine’s shoulder. She had not touched Jazmine before – perhaps there was some professional ethics thing about touching your patients – but Jazmine was grateful for the human touch.

With her other hand, Dr. Meyer held out the paper.


The second coming

Astonished by a light refracted
in floating candles, the steps, a gesture,
a witching hour but the circle
broken, with blood and bone

broken, the moon shone
impassive, beautiful, cold
as the moon is, but
something broken, something

not right.

He approached; we all rejoiced,
not knowing what he might do.

Many years since in the reckless world we went
traveling their trains and fields of sweet rose bay
and silver-lined cities. Gears grind shards
of blood and bone and moon

destroying, creating, fixing the circle,
the cross, but no, not well, not
carefully enough, the wind
blowing through steps and through

empty spaces not even there,
silver, blood, bone,

not there.

He approached; we all rejoiced,
mindless of the terrible power that had
changed his countenance since Galilee.

We all rejoiced, praying, grasping, thinking:
this is r e a l l y going to be something.


from the new poetry chapbook (click to view)

Who were the hippies?

Intrigued by my hippie posts and new novel, some of my younger friends have asked for a nutshell clarification on who the hippies were. They are aware that a kind of cultural revolution was taking place in the late 1960s, but remain a little vague on it. Here’s my one-page summary.

Let’s start with the Vietnam war, which probably more than anything drove the urgency of the hippie movement. Teenagers were being sent involuntary (through the draft) and in droves to fight, die, and get maimed and scarred, for no clear reason they could see other than to save the pride of some old white guys in stuffed shirts and suits in Washington. And it was ubiquitous – everyone in every neighborhood knew kids who went to Vietnam: hence, widespread anti-war rallies and public (and illegal) burning of draft cards.

The anti-war movement brought anti-Establishment thinking, which already had some threads in rock and roll and beatnik culture, in recent memories of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Gandhi’s pacifism, to a new level of cohesiveness and to a whole new set of ideals. It was no longer just, “Fuck the Man, I’m going to celebrate my own eccentricities”; now it was, “There’s a whole generation of us fed up with the Establishment, and we’re bonding together in the public sphere – we can do this, we can effect a cultural paradigm shift and move out of the era of materialism, the era of the crushing corporate state, into a new age of peace and harmony, with a newfound respect for nature and simplicity.” So you had this fairly coherent anti-Establishment movement, absorbing the anti-war movement, civil rights and feminist movements, old beatniks like Allen Ginsberg, nascent environmentalism, a mushrooming interest in Eastern religions and philosophies as a possible alternative to the dead-end Establishment of the West. You had all of these groups together on the anti-Establishment wagon, and then you had the emerging phenomenon of the outdoor rock festival, a moveable public venue for the expression of mass solidarity. In 1962, Elvis Presley’s “Return to Sender” was the biggest hit of the year; by 1967, it was Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers – an enormous change in the sonic contours of the culture in a very short span of time. It did look like it might be a millennial paradigm shift, a tidal wave ready to sweep all away before it. At least it scared the hell out of my grandma and Richard Nixon.

By the early 1970s, the hippie scene was faltering, a victim of both inner contradictions and external forces. The Vietnam war resistance, psychedelic drugs, sexual openness, the freedom of the commune – it seemed that everything about the 1960s could be incredibly liberating or wildly destructive. The hippies were perhaps not savvy enough to counter the destructive forces within and without and bring their beautiful ideals to full flower. But the cultural ground they broke was broken for good, and their legacy continues threading its way through subsequent cultural formations (from music to the fight for gender and racial and sexual orientation equality to organic foods and yoga centers). One could argue that the hippie dream of rewriting culture from the ground up around the ideals of peace, love, and flowers, not war, money, and machines, is not dead but running in multiple channels underground. The next time the Establishment gives us a catalyst with the same level of urgency as the Vietnam war, hippies might return in a more mature aspect, and “the world might wake up and burst into a beautiful flower” (Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums). Is this just a pipe-dream like Shangri-la or Atlantis? Maybe, but could it not also be that such visions in the collective unconscious only await a strong enough call from the next generation? Might I refer you to flower-child hippie, Donovan Leitch, as he invokes messianic forces from those submerged regions in the 1968 “Atlantis”?

And as the elders of our time choose to remain blind
Let us rejoice and let us sing and dance and ring in the new
Hail Atlantis!

(YouTube h/t: Carlos Lara)

The HIPPIES are coming(click to view)

. . .

My new HIPPIES Facebook page

Aquarius Rising

Another excerpt from my forthcoming novel, Hippies. (Log line. In this overdue epic of the Age of Aquarius, Jazmine, Ziggy, Ragman, and a coterie of hippies struggling with the contradictions of the 1960s counterculture discover an LSD-spinoff drug that triggers past life regressions and sweeps them toward a dramatic climax.)        

“Hey, Pepper, that bandanna looks great on you.”

“Thanks, sweetie.”

“Did the priestess come in today?”

“Yeah, bitch was there,” said Pepper. “Complaining about horse shit from the tourist carriages on Royal Street.”

“I thought horse shit was her specialty,” laughed Jazmine. She stood, stretched, and tossed the magazine on the lower shelf of the open pantry.

“Let’s sit outside,” said Pepper. “It’s a nice, clear night.”

They stepped out to the yard just as the spring sun set and sat on the benches at the small picnic table. The night was clear but the air dense and humid, with a moist citrus scent coming from the small satsuma tree near the alley that ran from the yard to the street.

Ziggy brought out three plates and Ragman filled four jelly jars with wine. Zig and Jaz and Rag dug in, and Pepper took a sip of chianti and looked up. She was engrossed with the sky, or something in it, but she said nothing.

“You make the simplest things taste so good,” Jaz said to Ziggy.

“How about you?” Pepper addressed Jazmine. “How you doing?”


“I mean that trip the other day. The tan acid. What do you think? Was it good? Bad? Weird.”

“Well, it was quick in and quick out, just like Rag predicted. That’s good.”

“That’s really good,” said Pepper, and she looked back up at the sky.

The others ate in silence, enjoying the crickets, the bird chatter of dusk, and the occasional sound of a VW bug torqueing around the potholes on St. Roch Street. Rag bussed the plates and refilled the wine.

“That’s why I never did LSD after that first time with Gina and Tex,” Pepper continued, as if there were no pause. “It was cool at first but then the long agony of coming down. I remember driving across the 24-mile bridge at night and seeing monsters coming out of the water with each turn of the waves, over and over in a hellish rhythm. And then I felt all the organs inside my body splitting open. I could see them and feel them tearing. Fuck that.”

Ragman had come back out and was lighting two tiki torches at the ends of the table.

“What the hell were you doing driving while tripping?” he asked.

“I wasn’t driving. Tex was.”

“Oh, that makes it all better,” joked Zig. “TEX was driving while tripping.” They all chuckled at the reckless absurdity of it all, knowing that at least this time all turned out safe.

“But listen,” Jazmine said. “You could even do this stuff, Pepper. There is no long, dark coming down part.”

Rag fired up a joint. The match momentarily lit up his face. The hazel eyes gleamed, the cheekbones more prominent as they tapered down to the point of the light brown beard. He looked for a moment like one of the plastic devil heads that come from claw machines. He inhaled hard on the joint and then passed it to Zig, who sat on the bench next to him across from Pepper and Jaz. Rag momentarily held the pot in his lungs and ran his hand through his flowing brown hair.

“What are you thinking, Rag?” Jaz asked quietly. The flickering of the tiki torch pulled the violet highlights from her eyes.

Rag was equally quiet as he spoke: “This shit could change everything.”

Zig took his hit and passed the joint to Pepper. The earthy sweet smell of marijuana mixed with the citronella fuel of the tiki torches, wrapping the four faces at the table into their own world. Jazmine, with her dark eyes and ivory glow, fiery Pepper with the ice blue eyes, Zig with his rectangular face framed by long curling black locks, and Ragman: faces close together, dimly lit against the darkening sky, all feeling the wrap and pull of pot-forged kinship, but the attention was on Ragman.