The Age of Aquarius
Be Here Now
Be here now. Breathe deep, don’t let the draft dodger weep. Take a long breath, hold for a count of eight. Exhale slowly. Have another gargantuan hit and intone, Om mani padme hum. Take it in. Hold your breath, count to eight, exhale. Om mani padme hum. Repeat over and over until you melt into the floor.
Like the Dylan song: The Times They Are A-Changin’, change was exploding around us and pot was at the center of it all, fueling our outlook, fueling the change:
Come gather ‘round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
And if your breath to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
Don’t let life pass you by. Get on the train and live. It’s your time. There will be no other. The Past is Past. Live a little. Hard to stay in the moment when you’re in the flux of change. So, take a toke.
Like a bell ringing in the new year, the ‘60s ushered in a joyous use of weed never before seen. Heretofore it had been relegated to the dark and shadowy recesses of the underground. Now the buds were shooting up like spring blooms, announcing, I’m here, try me. You’ll never be the same. This was our time, living the high life, riding the new wave of culture change and shock. We wielded the power of Aquarius with music, sex and drugs. Marijuana, though, was the symbol of our times. Pot changed everything. We never were the same. Pot turned life on its head, unified us in an unlawful, yet benign way so we could fight the power and give it the black eye we all thought it deserved. Hell, it even helped bring a war down, dead in its tracks.
I saw Dylan last summer at Chateau Ste. Michelle. He still has it, although his voice has gotten a bit cranky. His songs are no longer protests, but calmer and more measured. That’s why he’s still relevant when other artists have been left by the wayside. They can’t change. They sing all their old hits. They have nothing new.
A crowd of old hipsters was in attendance, along with the nouveau rich, dressed to the nines and driving Porches. The old hippies were trying to bring back the memories of the past. They understood Dylan. The well-off? Well, they were attired in beige or black or brown, drinking white wine with strawberries. I could hardly pick up a whiff of pot – a far cry from when I saw Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in the sixties. Back then you could hardly see the stage, there was so much smoke in the air. Even if you weren’t smoking, you got high just by breathing. Raucous, bedraggled hippies in technicolor dress, flaunting their counterculture, hair down past their shoulders. Lighting up as if there were no tomorrow. The police stayed on the periphery, but they were watching from the shadows – you could feel their eyes smoldering in the dark.
Back in the sixties and seventies, cannabis and the counterculture went hand in hand to help combat Nixon and his band of crooks. Today, weed is becoming part of the establishment. Regulated, lawful. Bringing in tax revenue, at least for some progressive states, amid sudden pressure from Trump as of late. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The times they are a-changin’. Time truly is cyclic.
Different times require different measures. If I had to do it over again, I might have done things a little differently. Maybe today, I would go half-speed. But I was a product of the weed generation of the sixties. Like most of us, I didn’t want to go to war, so much so that I went all-out, full-fucking bore, taking Haggis’s plan and running with it. Determined to break the line and liberate myself from Uncle Sam’s clutches. Following Haggis’s plan didn’t sound like too big a deal. At first. He warned us, though, it wasn’t for the faint of heart. Turned out my heart would never be the same again.
* * *
Everything lies in the heart. Haggis had a plan to teach us how to elevate our blood pressure and keep it high, so when we went into the draft physical at the Federal building in downtown Denver, we’d be rejected and sent to the cardiac unit of Denver General with a big fat IV-F classification stamped on our chests. His glorious plan: cardiac arrest. Off yourself before you’re killed in the jungles.
He advocated the roiling of the mind. Make it race until it jumps, screaming out of your head. Rev up your body with alcohol and plenty of it, add some excellent high-grade hashish, all while mind-melding with Beelzebub himself. Haggis told us, when the time comes and the doctor places the dreaded blood pressure wrap around your arm and pumps it up, tightening it around your arm, think of the most horrible things that can happen to you or your friends or your family. Visualize. Visualize. Visualize, he counseled. Feel their pain and yours. Take it to the limit. Watch a bullet piercing your girlfriend’s forehead, and her killer turning the gun on you. Elevate, elevate, elevate. Get that pressure up, get it through the roof. Think grim, think the worst. Think volcanic lava burning you alive, feeling the inferno perforate your skin in seconds. See yourself wake up in a casket, buried alive, waiting those moments or hours or days enclosed in your own slow death, with no chance of rescue. Raise the pressure. Hike it up. Elevate. The Army can’t have hearts that are going to fail. The Army wants healthy hearts. It takes heart to fight. Haggis presented us with his own personal blood pressure machine, so we could test ourselves daily for the next year and a half. And test ourselves we did – smoking and drinking and entertaining end-of-the-world thoughts, for end-of-the-world times. Be here now.