The Random Griffith

Life is but a dream

Posted in psychedelic shack by Jackson Griffith on 15/10/2010

Had some weird-ass dreams last night. I was in this hilly graveyard in the crepuscular netherworld where I often go in dreams. It was more like the Hubert Eaton model of memorial park with no Victorian gothic headstones, just flat boring markers on the ground. There were a lot of half-asleep people like me stumbling around like we’d had too much to drink, and we were mixing it up with the animated dead, who’d also had too much embalming fluid to drink and didn’t like the formaldehyde buzz or something. There were a bunch of fat coppers in blue 1920s copper uniforms rolling a fat man around trying to wake him up, and one of the more rotting corpses was laughing so hard and going “Dudes, he’s like so totally dead,” and his fits of laughter shook his rotting arm, the finger end which was pointing at the cops, out of the socket, before the arm fell on the ground and was chewed by squirrels.

Later, I was in an older section of the cemetery with some other people and corpses, looking at a small family-style granite mausoleum with a big oak branch that had fallen on the once-peaked roof to reveal two cars, a new-design retro Camaro and a 1960 Bel Air sedan, smashed up by the roof and the branch. Someone accused me of bringing down the branch on the mausoleum using my psychic powers, and I argued back: “No way, Jose. I’m a Mopar man. I don’t even like Chevys enough to bother calling attention to them by messing them up. Let Chevrolet stay dead and buried, unless they can come up with another Nomad. Or at least a decent-looking Corvette.”

Later, I was a contestant on Jeopardy with a couple of those furry Muppets. At one point, I’d picked the category “Celebrity Sluts.” So Alex Trebek says, “The swarthy Gabor sisters,” and I answered without even wasting a beat: “What is a colostomy bag of tricks?” Then the whole place went off like a psychedelic jackpot in the Mescalito Tribe Casino, the one out there on Route 666 in New Mexico south of Farmington where the saucers patrol from the secret base under the Four Corners, and I was on a magic carpet. A magic carpet riding into a vividly kaleidoscopic sunset between two stratus clouds, or maybe they were lenticulars, that fit together just like vaginal lips whose opening revealed the starry expanse beyond. Oeu-hoooo!

Sometimes my dreams are just too stupidly weird. —Jackson Griffith

I am not a film critic

Posted in psychedelic shack by Jackson Griffith on 23/08/2010

It’s Sunday morning. Back to reasonably restored. I’m sitting here in Cafe Mekka in Nevada City, California, having awakened and meditated, with a decent breakfast under my belt and caffeine in my system. Last night around 1 a.m., I was swerving into the delirious zone from lack of sleep. But now I can reflect a little bit on, what, 19 short films at the Nevada City Film Festival, plus a live presentation by Tim and Eric from Adult Swim that included some filmed bits.

I couldn’t find much on YouTube. Did find the trailer to a slightly overdone hipster film-noir number that featured David Yow from the Jesus Lizard, but that film (Sunday Punch) wasn’t one of my favorites. I did wonder if the director, Dennis Hauck, is any relation to the esoteric magician Dennis William Hauck, who once wrote a book on haunted places in America and who, when I barney googled around to figure out how to contact him around 10 years ago, turned out to live in my adopted hometown, Sacramento, and was giving a talk on local haunted houses at the Sacramento Public Library downtown that very week, which I attended and conversed with him and asked him about one of my former residences, 2307 H Street, an old Victorian whose active ghost population kept me entertained for the couple years I lived there in the early 1990s. He’d heard, but never had first-hand documentation. But I digress, and more about those ghosts some other time.

Anyway, Sunday Punch, in the context of everything I saw, wasn’t one of my favorites, but that’s because so many other entries were that wonderful. The films I saw were grouped into three sittings; of the first bunch titled “Love Is Strange,” my favorite of those was probably Thomas Leisten Schneider’s One Day, an 11-minute bit about a kid who was taking his French girlfriend out to dinner to propose to her, but he didn’t have the nerve, and then lots of things went awry. A pedestrian theme, yes, but it was done so well and the performances felt authentic, and it just hit me in that emotional sweet spot. Or maybe it was one of the first films I saw, before getting overwhelmed with images and sounds as the day rolled on. Or maybe I’m just the worst kind of stupid middle-aged romantic?

That seven-film grouping also included a poignant five-minute short called Empty House, where director Sean Christensen evoked the divorce of his parents in childhood with a montage of imagery and old films, a 15-minute film by Tom Geens titled Please, in which an English working-class couple invited a workmate of the husband’s over for supper, with the hidden agenda of satisfying wifey horizontally because hubby could not achieve or maintain tumescence, and Robert Arnold and Cynthia Mitchell’s All Animals, another 15-minute film, this one filmed in bright outdoor Tracy, San Joaquin County (thought I recognized that particular quality of alfresco light and low, grassy mountains), about a guitar-playing California hillbilly fighting with and proposing to run away with a much younger deaf woman, who turned out to be his daughter. Her performance had magic; his was something I’d seen in too many other indie films of the Texas variety, not to mention a John Sayles ensemble piece or three. (On edit, after watching All Animals again on Sunday afternoon: Dunno what I was thinking, as it’s a straight-up tale of a father telling his deaf daughter that he’s leaving her mom. That, of course, isn’t established at the beginning, but my own corrupted mind filled in the blanks — wrong.)

After a short break, and an interview segment with Arnold and Mitchell, came “Short Stories,” five more films, these in the narrative drama category. The festival winner was Grzegorz Jonkajtys’ 15-minute The 3rd Letter, a dystopian steampunk (if steampunk can be used to describe analog 1950s gear) evocation of a future when your health-care provider’s denial of care, in the form of a cancelled battery license for the cardio pacemaker everyone must wear, brings about an healthy case of angst. It was a fine little film, as was The Bridge, Philipp Wolter’s 16-minute piece about a middle-aged Asian dry-cleaning employee who gets trapped in a limbo world between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn on, I think, the Manhattan Bridge, until a homeless man breaks the spell by handing him an origami boat. But my favorite of this set was Florian Krautkr√§mer’s Beine Breichen (Breaking Legs), an ingenious 15-minute silent black-and-white short about a German man (in the old Deutsche Demokratische Republik?) who is ripped away from his family, interrogated and set free because he knows nothing of value, and then has to make up stories about how tough he was under pressure. The story was told using artfully placed Helvetica subtitles.

After another break, and an interview segment with Jonkajtys and Wolter, came a segment titled “Survival of the Crittest,” a grouping of seven films that came from a less narrative and more imaginary place. Sunday Punch was one of these. More amazing was Gray Espectations, an sweet little 13-minute short by musician Spencer Seim (Hella) featuring his sister Jennifer and her 10-year-old daughter Taylor, a fluffy chicken named Graybeard, some other barnyard animals, and preparations for the upcoming Nevada County Fair, where Graybeard would be entered in some kind of bantam yardbird category. The ending was disappointing, compared to the utter charm that came before it, but that didn’t matter. It was followed by Ataque de los Robotos Nebulosa (Attack of the Nebulous Robots), a six-minute black-and-white Spanish-language film about a mentally ill man who foretells an invasion by malevolent robots (note: no director was noted in the program or on the festival’s website).

My favorite of this grouping was Sven Alexander Heinrich’s El Amante del Padrino (The Lover of the Godfather), a 28-minute relative epic, in Spanish, about a hapless man who toiled in a yellow chicken suit inside an urban Mexican grocery until he was plucked for greater — and, um, gayer — things by the Godfather, a nebulous practitioner of palo mayombe, a Mexican voodoo/Yoruba or Santeria hybrid practice involving sticks and a cauldron, or nganga, into which human body parts, spiders, blood and other things are poured and stirred, with the desired result being that the criminals, for whom the palo mayombe magick is being practiced, will remain protected by dark forces, and invisible and bulletproof (sorry; my erstwhile obsession with some really dark true crime literature may be showing here). El Padrino and his entourage are working in sub-rosa behalf of a shadowy candy bar and energy drink magnate, who has the Godfather murdered, with the sensational killing pinned on poor hapless chicken-suit dude, who is imprisoned, then killed, as the candy bar magnate, the chief of police and the El Padrino Muerte’s former right-hand man and now new Godfather laugh with derision. Sorry, but I really get off on movies like that. It was the perfect mix of Hammer Films cheesiness and telenovela dark psychedelia.

Then came the awards, and then Tim and Eric. I laughed. I was tired. The bald-headed comic from Carmichael who introduced them really rubbed me the wrong way after a while. But it was fun.

Oops. I’d better post this, check out and move the car. More later. —Jackson Griffith

Mind: baked. And, no, I’m not stoned

Posted in arbeit macht frei, hipster gibberish, psychedelic shack by Jackson Griffith on 22/08/2010

“Izzat Kenny Bloggins over there?” Some guy just yelled that at the guy sitting behind me, Dana Gumbiner, inside the Miners Foundry in Nevada City. I guess Dana once had a blog called that. I guess I should feel like a dweeb because I’m sitting here “blogging,” but fuck it. I have a commitment to fulfill. Because I’ve dropped the ball on this whole blogging thing, so I’d better get on the good foot or the lickin’ stick or whatever it is and write some shit.

Sorry. It’s dark. I can’t even see my fucking keyboard, so I can’t see to find any of the great 19 or so short movies I watched today. I’m at the Nevada City Film Festival, which is run by my old pal Jeff Clark along with Jesse Locks and this other guy David. So I posted this other really catchy pop song. I’ll write more later. It’s rude to sit here posting with all these other people around. Later. —Jackson Griffith

Starry starry starry night

Posted in embarrassing confessionals, hipster gibberish, psychedelic shack by Jackson Griffith on 28/07/2010

Tonight, when I was walking around the park, I saw a falling star. I was walking up Alhambra, and it was just over the truncated spires of the Greek Orthodox Church across the street. I’d been eating soup at a Chinese restaurant, all alone — yes, ladies, the lone diner strikes again — except for the help there, who were conversing in Chinese, and there was a large television set with an English-language version of a Chinese cable-news channel bringing tidings of flooding on the Yangtze and disaster everywhere in the Middle Kingdom. So I needed to walk the jinky off, and what better place than McKinley Park on a cool Tuesday evening?

Seeing that falling star immediately took me back to the mid-1990s, when I was living in Midtown Sacramento on I Street and driving a stripped-down Dodge Dakota pickup. Sometime during midsummer through the dog days, I’d hit Interstate 5 going north — again, all by my lonesome — on a restless night when the Leonids or Perseids would be raining, crank a little Pavement on the deck, something along the lines of the sweet stoner jams of Wowee Zowee, and a few hours later I’d be winding along the Everett Highway from the town of Mount Shasta up the south face of the mountain to the treeline at around 8,000 feet, where I’d park in the lot above Panther Meadows. I’d make sure my windshield was facing the mountain, and then I’d climb in the back and wrap myself with a sleeping bag on an old futon mattress and watch the stars shooting around the sky like breaking billiard balls all night and drink Mountain Dew and smoke cigarettes. It was like seeing a Vincent Van Gogh painting come to life.

Years later, like about four years ago, I was in New York City on business, right around when my marriage was coming off its rails for the final time. I’d managed to find enough work to merit stretching a couple day’s worth of perusing old rhythm and blues contracts in the eighth-floor loft offices of a hip-hop label on 49th Street right near the Brill Building through the weekend and into the next week. On Saturday I walked all the way up Central Park West to Harlem, then back down around the park on the Fifth Avenue side. I was going to spend all day at Central Park on Sunday, but the weather turned ugly, and so other plans needed to be made.

I figured out that the Museum of Modern Art was right around the corner, or a couple blocks over and four blocks up, on 53rd Street, so that’s where I went. I managed to hit every floor. Entire rooms filled with Picassos. Lots or Warhols and Lichtensteins and Rothkos and tons of other great stuff. Round a corner, and there was Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World” in all its glory. In one room, away from a brilliant Toulouse-Lautrec that depicted the exquisitely bored sneers of the entitled, there was a crowd gathered along a wall, where a small painting was hanging: Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Yes, it was beautiful, but like Bruce Springsteen, in my mind it loomed gigantic; in real life, not so much. In fact, not much at all. The only thing as shocking to me was a tiny Salvador Dali painting, “The Persistence of Memory.”

Or so I remember. Everything that day was eclipsed by one art piece. I’d walked into this room, and the wall was completely covered with a Jackson Pollock painting, or more accurately a radioactive jizz explosion of copper and other hues. I stood in front of the piece and got baked from the inside, and had one of those “suddenly I understand” moments that I still can’t explain, except that the starry starry starry starry starry night wasn’t on the wall or in some static and small painting in another room, but inside me waiting to burst like shredded notes from a saxophone whose embouchure was being aeolusly and righteously fired up and worked like a master.

Anyway, so much for starry nights. It’s bedtime. Hope sleep will come. Pleasant dreams, too. —Jackson Griffith

Feel free to bug me

Posted in arbeit macht frei, bugs are cool, psychedelic shack by Jackson Griffith on 05/07/2010

Some of you know I’ve joined the world of the employed lately, and for that I am very, very grateful. For a person who spent years getting paid to listen to music and make judgment calls, or to work tangentially with music and art, the new world I’m immersed in on a daily basis is much different. And, as it turns out, it’s a subject I’ve been interested in since childhood, when I used to fry pillbugs — which are small crustaceans, and not insects — on the sidewalk with my glasses, and would spend hours watching aphids making honeydew, or ants building colonies. Work just woke up the dormant nine-year-old boy in me, which isn’t a bad thing.

I was at a music event a couple of weeks ago — Sea of Bees, John Vanderslice and DoomBird at the TownHouse, to be specific — and they were projecting this French documentary called Microcosmos on the wall. It’s got bugs galore, even snails having sexytime, and I dug it enough to pay attention when the credits were rolling, and then found the whole thing online. Enjoy.

Before I started at my new gig, I couldn’t have told you the difference between a drywood and a subterranean termite, or what an alate was and why they call it a “swarmer,” or why Formosan termites are seriously problematic, or the interesting thing about Argentine ants is that they take over and dominate other species not through bellicosity, but via superior social organizing skills, or a bunch of other things. Did you know that there’s a wasp in the Far East that will sting a cockroach in the thorax in a spot that will paralyze the roach long enough for the wasp to deliver another sting, in the roach’s ganglia, or brain, that will disable its escape impulse, and then the wasp will snip the now-docile roach’s antennae off at the halfway point, then will suck out some body fluids through an antenna like a bug mai tai through a straw, and then the wasp will lead the roach like a dog on a leash back to its lair, where it will lay an egg on the zombie-fied bug, which will provide a living host for the wasp larva to burrow into and then burst from like an alien facehugger when it’s done feeding? I mean, how’s that for a cool horror movie plot?

Yeah, you could say I’m digging this new line of work. —Jackson Griffith

They squeak when they walk

Posted in music, psychedelic shack by Jackson Griffith on 25/06/2010

Not sure how long I’m gonna be able to post here. I’m in a Peet’s in Stockton on a Thursday after work. It’s in this shopping center where I used to work, but Santa’s elves showed up and rendered the place utterly unrecognizable: Gone are the K Mart and the Prime Rib Inn and the Sherwood Plaza Cinema where I showed up high on pot as a teener expecting to see some dumb comedy and instead caught some flick no one knew anything about called The Omen, which harshed my buzz considerably that night.

This shopping center, however, is really constricting my high; the Peet’s is playing crummy overplayed classical music of the pussyass variety, and some graybeard community college professor-type and his shlumpy wife butted in on me before I’d gotten my coffee order with their dumb questions about how to make espresso and what bean to use, and then when my wireless didn’t work, and I wanted to ask a question, the musteline little Trader Joe’s bastard was still asking questions of the staff, had ’em all tied up even to where I momentarily envisioned myself kicking his casually dressed ass, and I had to wait at least one whole minute to get a barista’s attention and service.

Actually, the Mac’s acting up again. It still has a disc stuck in its drive, and now it just goes whirrrr whirrrr whirrrr three times and then tries to eject, and then sucks the disc back in and tries again, ad infinitum. I need to get it fixed, because it’s driving me nuts. It was engaging if I’d hold the thing upside down, which at least would stop the battery-draining ejection attempts, but that ain’t shaking now.

Sooo, well, last night I saw my old pals the Authorities play some place called Plea for Peace on Weber Avenue in downtown Stockton. I used to drink with the Authorities back when I was a drinker, and now all that’s left of them is Curt Hall, a singer who looks kinda like Steve Perry of Journey and sounds like a more punk-rock helium-infused version of, well, not Steve Perry, but someone. Me, you, I dunno. Anyway, my old pal Brian Thalken is the other guy left from the early days; he plays guitar. He was in Fall of Christianity, too, and also Death’s Ugly Head, the latter one of my few claims to musical fame. The other three guys were some random Canadians that Thalken knows, because he moved to Vancouver 20 years ago. Actually, the drummer’s from Liverpool, which I understand is somewhere slightly south of Scotland.

I laughed my ass off. The songs were great. Most rehashed punk rock played by veterans of the scene now in their 40s or 50s leaves me with a firm desire to go sit in a bowling alley lounge and hope there’s some Domenico Modugno or Dean Martin on the jukebox. Al Martino, even. But this was the shit from start to finish. I mean, from “I Hate Cops,” penned by the late, great Nick “Slurb” Kappos, who met his end in 1989 or so in the bathroom at the downtown Stockton Greyhound depot where he’d temporarily retired to fix some shit he probably, uh, copped on the bus, and they found him nodded off to eternity with a spike in his arm and one supposes a smile on his face, and how classic a demise is that, not even Robert Johnson can lay claim to that, much less any of these other wankers: “I hate cops/ They’re all fuckin’ piggers/ They all got mustaches/ They squeak when they walk/ I hate cops.

The yoks were nonstop: Thalken’s “Radiation Masturbation,” slowed to a dirge then sped to a monkeyfuck gallop; “Nobody Likes Him,” which sent the guy it was written about storming out of the club in a snit, 30 years later; “Achtung,” “Shot in the Head,” and a bunch of other tunes whose names I didn’t recognize. I kinda remember writing the lyrics to three of the songs: “Slam the Ham,” which me and Thalken wrote once after drinking a bunch of Regal Selects and Kessler; “Jarhead,” which I think I had a part in; and the evening’s showstopper, “Teenage Piss Party.” The latter culminated with Hall onstage with Vince Voodoo from Hot Spit Dancers, the Slurb’s post-Authorities band, and Eric “Sprinkler” Engelken, frontman for the Young Pioneers, which later was became the Straw Dogs.

If I remember right, one day me and Thalken and this other guy named Theron Knight, who was in Fall of Christianity with Thalken and Gary Young, who also was in Death’s Ugly Head with me and Brian and Kelly Foley and Sam Harvey, were driving around the insta-ghetto duplex-hell suburbs of north Stockton one overcast day in Thalken’s dad’s Dodge Coronet smoking cigarettes and drinking from a bottle of Old Overholt rye whiskey, when we found this band in a garage. We decided to take them under our wing, Malcolm McLaren style, and I think Foley and Jeff Clark from the Mixers and later Shiva Burlesque got involved, too, and we renamed them the Young Pioneers, and we wrote a bunch of bogus communist firebrand songs for them like “Teenage Piss Party” and “Running Dog Lackeys of the Bourgeoisie,” and I was so hammered and pickled I can ill recall the other numbers. But anyway, um, the played that shit for a while and then they revolted, because their bass player, a quiet kid named Steve Malkmus, thought we were a bunch of assholes and that they might be up to making some art.

Anyway, tonight the Authorities are opening for Malkmus’ later band, Pavement, at the Bob Hope Theatre for the Performing Arts or some shit, which we used to call the Fox. Our old drummer Gary, who recorded Malkmus and Scott Kannberg when they were trying to get something going 20 years ago or so, is gonna pound the skins for Pavement. If it’s anything like last night, it’s liable to be epic. —Jackson Griffith

The good news and the bad news

Posted in hipster gibberish, music, psychedelic shack by Jackson Griffith on 31/05/2010

The good news is that old dad’s found a way to deal with the horrible snoring caused by his sleep apnea, where he no longer sounds like a lumber mill every time he catches a few Zs, thus waking half the neighborhood. Now, an exercise regimen of swallowing and chewing motions, plus random vowels along with a moratorium on Ben & Jerry’s, to reduce neck circumference (read: fat), and everyone is sleeping a lot easier. No more CPAP-related flatulence, either.

The bad news is that old dad’s taken up playing the goddamn didgeridoo, the blowing through of which is helping him strengthen and tighten those flaccid throat muscles, thus reducing and even eliminating snoring. Unfortunately, the aforementioned didgeridoo, known to law-enforcement officials as a patchouli-scented hippie magnet, has manifested as a massive neighborhood influx of bongo-playing dreadlocked burnouts and other bong-impaired vermin around the clock, not to mention the low-level aural pollution of didgeridoo and drum circle noises.

But the old bastard’s quit snoring, which is all that matters. —Jackson Griffith

What is hip?

Posted in celebrity ooze, hipster gibberish, psychedelic shack by Jackson Griffith on 12/05/2010

At some point, the popular idea of “hipness” changed from something that was knowledge-based to something that depended upon how much money you spent. Suddenly, everybody was a hipster, or at least everybody who had enough disposable income to position themselves as somewhat au courant. The problem with this newer breed of hipster is that they messed with the equation, foisting inferior ideas into the slipstream. No, money does not equal taste, contrary to what you may be reading elsewhere these days. Don’t be swayed by disinformation.

A society needs its hipsters to help art and culture navigate through the stupidities of commerce and bureaucracy. But not jiveass bullshit hipsters, but real hipster people who are awake to what’s going on and have some idea of possibilities to where things might be going, and how to get there. There are arcane streams of data and little signposts along the way that might be missed if awakened people aren’t paying attention. People who are so busy powershopping for the next accoutrement of hipster chic are most likely going too fast to read the signs.

Hipness isn’t a tribe, it’s a priesthood. A secret priesthood. A lot of the tribe that people identify as hipsters? Those people are really scenesters, man. There are people out there who are hipsters who, well, you’d have no idea as to how hip they are, because you never sat down to share a cup of coffee, or whatever they put in their cups, to catch what’s going on behind their eyes. There are ascended masters walking among you. They’re not showing up on’s latest flash of some Tinseltown casualty stumbling out of whatever Hollywood watering hole is fashionable this week. You’ll never notice them if you’re tuned into the wrong channel.

Hipness is part of the watery bailiwick of Neptune. It shifts, constantly, but underneath those shifting oceanic currents, there are certain consistencies. Like: Hip doesn’t need to ride a fixed gear bicycle to get where it’s going, because it’s already there. And: Hip doesn’t tweet like the cranial diarrhea of celebrities unhinged; it whispers like the saxophone of Paul Desmond, just before sunrise. And, also: Hip doesn’t have to go looking for some arbiter of hipsterist hipness to verify anything, because the knowledge is already there. And, finally: If you went out and dropped a huge chunk of change at some hipster emporium on a totem that will automatically bestow hipness upon your parched and craving visage, what you bought was counterfeit. It wasn’t even a reasonable facsimile.

Welcome to the scene.

Oh, and by the way, I make no claims to being hip. I’m really pretty L-7: Like, total squaresville, daddy-o. I will say that I’ve been around long enough to know the genuine article when I see it or hear it, however, and what’s getting passed off as “hip” these days is anything but. Life is a mystery.

And, you know, there are some things I just don’t get. And I’m totally okay with that. —Jackson Griffith

Tune in, turn on, run the world

Posted in psychedelic shack by Jackson Griffith on 29/04/2010

Chalk it up to early exposure to Mad Magazine, perhaps. I grew up having a hard time taking anything too seriously. And even now that I’m old enough to ask for a discount at Denny’s on those coronary-occluding “Grand Slam” breakfasts, I still tend to view current events through the lens of looking for a punch line. Factor in the many “duck and cover” drills in grade school, with the ever-present fear that the Russkies were going to roast our junior capitalist asses on the playground with their big ugly nuclear missiles, and then the promise that incipient stoner culture might allow us the opportunity to segue from that harsh reality to full-time cartoon existence, and I had a hard time knuckling down and getting with the program as a result.

Reality, man: It’s like a bummer, but it’s totally where we, like, live and stuff. Translation: My attempted transition to the world of Bugs and Daffy and Elmer was largely unsuccessful, although there are times I can pontificate like Foghorn Leghorn. But I think I’ve made it into the present day mostly unscathed, although I’m sure you can find detractors of mine who would argue that I’m full-tilt bugnuts crazy. Perhaps. But one crazytown express I did not climb onto is the Tea Party bus. And given the examples of Tea Party logic I’ve seen, especially since the more unhinged members of conservative America lost their collective fudge after a mocha-colored Democrat got elected president, I’d have to say a lot of the people riding on that bus have had some grim experiences with psychedelics.

Which isn’t limited to the wingnut class, of course. What’s important is how you deal with these bad trips, or “bummers.” If you’re willing to explore why you have the kind of primal fears that tend to get triggered and distorted by artificially induced consciousness change, it’s possible to grow toward more elastic and three-dimensional models of thinking. But if you get locked into atavistic modes of reasoning and responding, or you crawl back into your lizard brain and operate from there, it would seem that you’re going to have a much harder time dealing with the accelerating changes and shifts we all are experiencing. Clinging to the past is one thing; clinging to a hallucination of an imaginary past is another. And from what I’m hearing come out of the mouths of right-wingers in the past couple of years, I’d have to say that most of the people you see featured on Fox News Channel have unresolved psychedelic experiences, as any cursory listen to Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin will attest.

As the old saw goes, it takes one to know one. And I can recognize an old burned-out tripper, especially one who elected to thump the Bible or the Book of Mormon rather than do a little hard and painful psychic excavating, and this whole resurgent knee-jerk conservative convulsion has “acid casualty” written all over it. What makes me an expert? I’m not. But I did make a few mistakes in my younger days, and there was a period afterward that I’d describe today as a rough time. But out of that came a transition to a more nuanced and three-dimensional model of thinking; instead of binary black-white perceptions, events and ideas became more complex — as an example, the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching demonstrate that there are 64 different combinations of black and white, when you use a figure that contains six lines (a hexagram). And as a result, every problem no longer was a nail, and I needed to find tools other than a hammer to deal with them.

I’m not advocating drug use here. Since the end of the summer of 1992, I stopped putting any intoxicants into my body, and I’d ceased dipping into Hunter S. Thompson’s bag of party novelties years before. But the small-L libertarian in me believes that individuals should have the freedom to decide whether they want to alter their consciousness at will. No, I don’t think people should take mushrooms and go driving around — “set and setting” is how one of my psychedelic explorer friends describes the approach to venturing outside of Jack Webb consciousness — but I do think that adults should be able to get high, if that’s what they want to do, without getting busted by The Man. To me, the so-called drug menace is a public-health problem, not a criminal-justice problem. And maybe if we as a society became more tolerant of altered forms of consciousness, we might begin to progress away from the binary, black/white, hammer>nail, Manichaean model that has vexed us for what seems like all of my adult life.

Friends, if we really want America to lead again, we’ve got some growing up to do. —Jackson Griffith