By Wally DuChateau
Just in case you haven’t followed these columns long enough to know, this illustrious writer is a child of the Sixties. Though I’m certainly old enough to have been influenced by Elvis and the other stars of early rock ‘n’ roll, it was the hippie generation and really hard rock that pulled my soul loose from it’s moral roots and hung it out to dry.
As you probably realize, owing to the amount of publicity its anniversary has received, it has been 40 years since those “freaks” floated about in the fields of Woodstock on a sea of chemicals. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there. Instead, I was floating around in Seattle’s Blue Moon tavern – and, even though that was 3,000 miles from upstate New York, the atmosphere of both places were very similar. (Though Woodstock entertained more than 500,000 people, I still have a hard time believing all those who tell me they were there, actually were.)
Woodstock is often considered the apex of the hippie phenomenon, but a lot of “experienced commentators” disagree. For example, Ken Kesey. He felt the hippies peaked during the summer of 1967. (And, in fact, that’s when God reached down and slapped me in the face.)
Yet, generally speaking, I suspect the hippie eros pf peace and love reached its summit even earlier then that. At least that seemed true in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco and that intersection was usually considered the movement’s home base. By the “Summer of Love,” speed, heroin and the Hell’s Angels had arrived on that scene and tens of thousands of teenagers were stumbling about in a mental fog from which they would never escape.
I think the Haight’s most significant “spiritual awakening” occurred in late 1966 and didn’t last more than six months. As a social movement, it was all downhill after that. To be sure, it was a slow descent that took several years. But it was downhill nonetheless.
Of course, I’m surely not dismissing the Sixties as a lost cause. Far from it. Rather, I agree with author Tom Robbins. The 1960s were one of the most important decades in American history.
Yet, the era left a hell of a lot of shattered lives in its wake. I know, because for a time I was one of them. Fortunately, I survived. Furthermore, I retained the spiritual insights I was exposed to and they profoundly and irreversibly changed my life.
Certain people or songs can usher in a nostalgic wave of memories and emotions from those days. Just the other afternoon, I found myself gazing into a black void full of dancing, wiggling lines of light. There were also incredibly beautiful beams of blue, awesome radiation. And, on other occasions, a blinding flash of white light.
Psychedelic as this may seem, it had nothing to do with acid. It was merely my annual eye exam conducted by optometrist Mark Seaburg.
Alas, he handed me a prescription, not for medical marijuana but for stronger eyeglasses. Failing eyesight is a common ailment among people old enough to remember the Sixties.