That Other End of Time
A Retrospect; Denver, Jimi Hendrix and 1968
Home is inside you. That’s where I’m headed. Back to a time when youthful dreams filled my head. Following a trail into the sixties and seventies, and even further back, hoping to make sense of all that went down. A personal and global history of cannabis, if you will.
I’ve eaten half of a homemade edible a coworker gave me and I’m feeling like a possum eating honeyed bumblebees for breakfast. I’m on my way to Renton, WA to see Jimi Hendrix, the master himself, dead, but very much alive. Four o’clock and rush hour started four hours ago. Traffic is a giant centipede bending at a crawl around the S-curves on Interstate 405. I’m getting happier, even as the smog and congestion builds in the encroaching dark. The last of the sunlight, cold and hard, splashes my windshield and blinds me momentarily. A choppy sea of winter clouds pounds the horizon over the Puget Sound to the west. Rain is coming.
The poet Bukowski titled one of his early books: The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills. Time is difficult to catch, so I’ll set my compass and sail into those seas, be they rough or calm – into a way of being that I once owned, now lost. Time can do that. Loses its way as you move forward. I’m hoping Jimi will jar that which has been sleeping inside me all these years. The past is never past.
I reach exit 4 and push my 1999 Volvo station wagon up the winding hill to Greenwood Memorial Park, which, if it weren’t for the trees and buildings, would overlook the 737 Boeing plant and Lake Washington. Somehow, I feel as though he doesn’t belong here in this green pasture of graves as far as the eye can see. Nothing could contain him in life and nothing will in Death. I park in the mortuary parking lot and make a long walk across a large well-manicured lawn toward the marble dome memorial in the distance. The ground is spongy and, if I were stoned on today’s weed, I might lose my balance and trip, fall flat on my face, especially after tossing down several of my favorite high-infused alcoholic beers. Back then, in the sixties, the dope wasn’t as overpowering as today’s. You could smoke a whole lid and consume three six packs of Walters Beer that would cost you $1.99 a case, be good and stoned and not have the whirlies. A lid was an ounce, give or take a few grams, usually costing us fifteen or twenty bucks. Mostly seeds and stems, crackly dry, with a few good buds. Not much heft in those flimsy baggies. I reach the memorial rising like a phoenix over his grave. There is no one about. A few crows (guardians, perhaps?) perch atop the memorial looking at me as I come toward Jimi’s resting place. This place is as peaceful as its name. I had expected to see others here, but this is better. I can be alone with him.
Time is difficult to catch, so I’ll set my compass and sail into those seas, be they rough or calm – into a way of being that I once owned, now lost. Time can do that.
I visited in the early nineties when there was just a gravestone. Since then he’s been reinterred in another part of the cemetery and a memorial erected overhead his marker. The giant model of his guitar made of steel, a relatively new addition, sits on a dais directly under the dome. Five strings. As I run my hands down over the neck, I feel as though the metal is warming my fingers and, if I listen hard enough, I can hear him playing Purple Haze. Purple Haze is what I want to hear. Especially right now, especially in these times.
The rain begins and a young couple in a 1990’s smoke-filled Mazda drives up, peace stickers slathered on the back bumper, wipers swishing. Oregon license plates. I expect them to get out and disturb my peace. But they stay in the car respecting my space and give me a few precious moments more. I don’t want to leave, but time is pressing, as it always does, so I turn and hurry back to my car, the rain pelting my face. I close the door and lean back and stare out the skylight into the perspiring, cottony sky. I decide not to head out into the traffic. Instead, I eat the other half of the edible. I settle into my seat, set to return to that other end of Time when Jimi was living and playing his music. When my lungs were filled with the music of Panama Red or Acapulco Gold or any other strain that came my way. When the dreams kept coming and coming. I first saw Jimi in the most unlikely of places in 1968 at a catholic women’s college in Denver. Now that was a dream come true.