It fucks you up when you're struck by the fact that your gods are not immortal. I was sixteen, skinny, blond and callow, having grown up in one of Elmont's GI-mortgage Cape Cods on a block of nearly identical homes. Moses, Levitt, and those other developer pricks laid down the grid out on the Island. I called it Plasticville. I dug poetry and Miles, hated crookback Nixon, popped off whenever I saw a pretty girl, and sure as shite didn't want to go off to Vietnam. In other words, I was a normal boomer lad. Smoke dope, baby, don't be one.
Of course it was 99% sham. We were suburbanites through and through. Look at what we've done since then: churned up the rest of the world while takin all the cream for ourselves. So fat you can't even prise these blobby arses out of our SUVs with a crowbar.
My buddies and I played music in basements and garages, crappy South Shore bars, and along the Housatonic River in the summer. Our favorite band was the middle-era Byrds -- McGuinn strokin his twelve-string Rickenbacker, Clarence White bendin it like Nashville, Gene Parsons layin down the beat, and John York pluckin out a bottom. Central Park in a dead heat, livin in a beer commercial. Love was never free, baby. Cripes, we had fun, in those days before micro-breweries and MIDI tunes, burnin through the fag-ends of endless days and nights in a narcoleptic haze, tryin to perfect our pretty harmonies in the key of D. Hell, I forget if Alice's Restaurant was a movie, a song, or an actual place -- not the iconic one in Stockbridge, but that other one on Northern Boulevard. Or was it My Father's Mustache?
Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat, thinkin, I'm nothin but these memories, and even they're startin to slip away. That's why I write these things down as they come into my head, just the way I used to bang on the piano keys. My mother would tell me, "I know exactly how you feel when you play." She knew how to encourage self-expression. Teasing out the mystic chords of memory from the daily repetition of senseless events. After blowin some weed, the two things seem one and the same, poot, one and the same.
The movies meant a lot to me back in '69 -- Midnight Cowboy, Medium Cool, The Wild Bunch, Goodbye, Columbus, Burn!, More, and, of course, Easy Rider -- cuz I thought that they were showin me the world as it really was. Not like the petty dramas on the cusp of passion taking place in Plasticville. They were sexy and violent. People were tryin to break free from their chains, their past, their alienation, their whatever. Runnin for freedom to some other land. That's what I wanted too, to get out of the blinkered 'burbs and head to Oz, away from the adulthood that my parents and their friends practiced. I figured I'd let them have their depression and their just war -- my struggle was gonna be different. My war was cold, not hot. In Hollywood you could be anyone you wanted to be. Captain America or Billy, the town drunk or the hitch-hiker. The girls were all like Mimsy Farmer and you'd still be playin banks-and-robbers when you were old and gray. How do you think that rosy-cheeked actor Reagan got into the White House? He believed in the movies, poot.
I walk around the lake these days thinkin about freedom, real freedom, the kind you have to take for yourself every day from the actual world around you, not some shadow world in your noggin. Real freedom doesn't look exciting from the outside -- nobody's gonna sing songs or make a movie about it. It's more than a feelin and it's a helluva lot more than nuthin left to lose. It is sitting still in the face of mortality, wearing a smile, deeply and consciously grateful that eternity is not endlessness. It's hard to take.