I didn’t plan to take over High Times, in fact, I was a sporadic user of recreational drugs most of my life. It wasn’t until I moved to New York City in 1979 that I got really tempted. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum; I got empowered and began manifesting ceremony and ritual like crazy.
My initial vision was constructed around hemp being essential when this country was founded, yet the symbols (or sigils) of our founding fathers were under the control of the radical right wing, unfair and inaccurate to say the least.
So I launched a campaign to create a wave of awareness that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were devoted hemp farmers, and that hemp could save the world by replacing oil, a concept recently introduced to me by Jack Herer. I flew out to Jack’s home in the Valley and laid out a plan to create a national group called the Freedom Fighters, based around the Boston Minute Men, who would attend rallies across the country. The rally movement had basically died out and I felt between us, we might be able to rebuild that movement, with Jack as the leader, of course. “And I want you to come to the Rainbow Gathering with me,” I told Jack. You see, both Rainbow and the Dead scene had considerable overlap, but I knew Rainbow was the center of energy on the real spirituality, while the Dead scene was tainted around the edges. Probably, I also wanted to pull Jack out of hard drugs and bad food, only one of which I was successful at.
The first year I hit the rally circuit I was dressed in a psychedelic shirt and tri-corner hat and carried a snare drum, but by the time the next season came around, I was wearing a brain-tanned leather outfit made by Agatha, and, on my head was a huge top hat with a pink psychedelic peace sign painted on the front. (Later, Agatha became the seamstress of choice of the local Hell’s Angels, but the original leather jacket she created was a replica of the double-breasted black leather jacket I wore throughout the sixties.) I was wearing Agatha’s Native American warrior outfit and beating a round Native American drum with a peace sigil painted in psychedelic paint and chanting some Native American-type chant to Mother Earth (yes, I guess I was trying to move the energy from a father sigil to a mother sigil) and I was leading this immense parade down the main drag of campus-town in Madison, Wisconsin, one afternoon, when some student jutted up and asked, “Are you a shaman?”
See, a lot of us magicians are into magic long before we even realize what we’re doing. These energies move through us naturally, so as I stood there for a few extra beats, I was thinking, am I a shaman, political activist, or guerrilla street theater performer, or what they hell am I? Pretty soon, I decided if I was a shaman it was time for something really bold, something with even more immense vibe than this 30,000 person rally. If I could just reassemble the greatest magicians of the sixties revolution, you know, the Gaskins, the Pranksters, the Hog Farm, Paul Krassner, John Trudell, John Sinclair, and what if we called that ceremony Whee!?
People are bugging me. They want to hear stories about Whee! I dunno, I might, or I might move in new directions. Stay tuned for my next unexpected episode because I don’t know which way I’m going. Funny thing about the Freedom Fighters, though, we made a Tri-corner hat for Jack right away, and that very hat sits on my altar. And that, my friends, is what my magic is all about. Planting positive sigils in your orbit.
6 Replies to “My Life as a General in the War Against War”
I remember well when the Freedom Fighters came to Louisville with Willie Nelson to campaign for Gatewood Galbraith. We were all hanging around the front of the Mr. Nelson’s bus and you gave Willie Nelson the three cornered hat to wear. Some random kid said to Willie, “I’ll trade you my hat for yours!” So, Willie immediately took it off and gave it to the kid. Then you had to try to get it back from its new owner. You did, but not without some negotiation.
(re: the double-breasted black leather jacket I wore throughout the sixties.)
I remember you in that jacket. I bet you bought it at Smokey Joes, in Chicago,?… That store was on Wabash around Monroe, I believe….not far from the IC Station/art institute….When you were in Champaign ( a seniort in high school.) I read TinWhistle. Chris S. brought it by the apartment I shared with JohnMcN. I was a freshman in art school at U o fI. Roomed with JM. for a semester In Champaign. Crappy little hovel that student approved housing on Locust Street was. I believe the address was 911s. Locust. Our landlord was a nice guy but we hated him because he was a landlord. I am disgusted by the way I acted toward him. I was such a pissant jerk back then. But anyway Bird, ‘Naughton, Nicey, Chris Swing, all jonesed for a doobblebreasted coat like yours….Right? Nicey had one of the first coats and then , I think. once while coming down from acid. Nancy Taylor,and by way of Gary Pini, had one, right, Gary? there was Caroline and her wonderful circle of college lady friends. I think they all got to wearing that incredible staple of really coool fashion then. I love the memory, Steve. Bless your heart for writing this…Elke, Paula, et al. , O god I see their faces, but their names escape me…so wonderful to remember. And so sad. and out there was Big Sue, the “other hagger,” and various other Bone Creek celeb n’er do wells like Cole, and Scotty and Gerard, Spencer, and Marty, Butts, and their wonderful lead singer, Guy, of the seeds of doubt. no less……Leather Shop folk , too.
. and WOW, Steve, you are rockin’ it this morning with the reading material….I gotta quit this, I’ve got to get to work. Going to Medford this morning after the thunderstorms pass..
Bugsy was the one who found the coat first, it was at Joseph Kuhn’s in Downtown Champaign. When I saw his, I asked how much? I believe it was $100 and he bought it with profits made selling LSD. As soon as I found a way to scrape that much money together, I got one. Soon, they were gone, never to reappear, and yes, lots of people coveted those jackets, and nobody more than the toughest black kids in town. Thankfully, they all gave me total respect after my newspaper started publishing attacks on racism.
O God, Steve, I gotta get to work…you’re killin’ me here….but yeah you are so right. I think the coat found at Kuhn’s (Bugsy got the only one) and that is the one you wore? What provenance!! Well how’s this for a twist…JonMcN’s friend, Nicey, was a great character. Maybe you could look him up….but I digress…he and JohnMcN each scored a coat from Smokey Joes on Wabash, and wore it during that semester when acid was just flooding campus and us Freshman art students (JM, Nancy T, Gary Pini, Bird (Bob B) and me, and Nicey (?…or was he a business admin. major?) et al. ) before Woodstock, were enthralled with the new look imported from Chicgo’s south Wabash haberdashery, SmokeyJoe’s. Soul fashion. Leathers from the South and West side….sorry for the run ons….but I’ve gotta run on…..see ya …Steve…LOL
PS…Nicey’s jacket I wore upon my window pane descent. That trip was sometime early summer…after jacket season passed. It must have been 90 F in Champaign. Nicey lent me his jacket because I had the “shivers.” When I buttoned up, I felt like I “had just gotten some great, really great news!” I came down just fine. The coat, Steve, is what you are talkin about. The robe. The vines., the vestments… Later when recovered, Nicey drove off to Chicago. I think he had his jacket, or I think he said he pawned it off near Parkland….Kuhn’s? Naw, couldn’t be….
damn, man….I’m just not going to work today…. afterall…
Your story is amazing, fucking amazing, Steven.
I actually painted (art school) a nude woman model, sitting on a black leather coat. I think she was a friend of yours? A townie. On canvas in acrylics. Her bare, and beautiful legs sat on this black double breasted waist coat leather breaker…..which morphed into the background of the painting that looked like shapes that looked like a candle were casting a dark and mysterious tableau of shadows upon the dimly lit wall.. O heaven’s Steven, you are making me MAD>
I didn’t buy Bugsy’s. We both had the identical coat. He was probably peeved a bit, but I warned him I planned to get one like his. Everyone wanted the Chicago-style Blues jacket that all the Black Panthers wore. But this was a bit shorter, and double-breasted, so it was pretty unique. Plus it had a warm, zip out lining that you could remove during the summer. I hitchhiked around the country for years with only that jacket to keep me warm.