Sometimes magic starts itself

Before I arrived at High Times, I’d spent over a year working on a book about the East Village art scene, examining the art clubs. Art After Midnight goes for around $100 today, although you can buy an updated digital version on smashwords with new illos and photos for under $5. There was a lot of hybridization going on in the 1980s, with punk meeting hip hop and both invading the art world from different fronts. Both styles emanated out of the 1960s counterculture and both found the mainstream too soft.

So I was in a Club 57 frame of mind, where camp becomes a wilderness of mirrors, when I arrived at High Times and just to pass the time, started a column called My Amerika by Ed Hassle, a tribute to Ed Anger of the Weekly World News. I always thought the supermarket tabloids were run as propaganda tools by the CIA, but Anger was an obvious comedy act who made fun of right wing views by taking them to their illogical conclusions.

Bill Kelly, my favorite deejay used to read from his column on his Sunday show. Funny thing, Bill was a big reason I diverted into forming the Soul Assassins. I was hanging out with the first generation of hip hop and inspired by their do-it-yourself energy. I could have formed a rap band I guess, or just become a hip hop journalist for the rest of my life and made a fortune like Nelson George. Instead I veered into garage rock? Maybe because I’d been kicked out of my first garage band for doing LSD in 1967 and never got to finish perfecting my garage rock set. Then I met Brian Spaeth and he’d been kicked out of the Fleshtones, the reigning garage kings of NYC. So I guess we both had something to prove.

Funny thing, after Ed Hassle called for the formation of a new movement called The Freedom Fighters, a hemp movement that would bring back the big pot rallies from the late 1960s (most of these events had died out) it began as a joke really, but when the issue came out, the concept took off like wild-fire, and I realized I had a tiger by the tale. Before long, I was touring around the country, playing with my band in front of tens of thousands of cheering fans, and giving speeches about legalization with Chef RA and Jack Herer at every stop. And afterwards, we’d head back to the campground and eat Ra’s Rasta Pasta, sip Budweiser and pass spliffs until late into the night while the Assassinettes danced around the fire with a full moon beaming down. See, I was trained in “Happenings” by the likes of Jasper Grootveld, Julian Beck, John Cage, and Ken Kesey, so I had a sense of the magic involved in changing people’s perceptions on a massive scale, as well as the techniques for manifesting that sort of magic.

Funny how the natural elements always seemed to be working against us, not to mention all those undercover cop cars that dogged us everywhere. The first time we left New York in our magic bus, we got stranded by a freak snow storm high in the Pennsylvania mountains. Much later, returning from the first Freedom Fighter National Convention, we got lost in a monsoon and a screaming fight broke out about which way to go. When the bus finally got back to our motel, I kissed the ground. But we lost Rodger, who had all the weed, as he couldn’t take the smell of hard liquor on some of us and disappeared never to trust us fully again. And then the party turned into a binge drinking bash with no weed in which our energy unraveled and we lost harmonization. We’d broken up and lost our Assassinettes, not to mention Brian, Bob and Rick. And the vibe just wasn’t the same without them.

2 Replies to “Sometimes magic starts itself”

  1. In the late 60’s we were certain that pot would be legalized in…oh…say around 5 years or so. There was a chemistry teacher in HS who was on board (don’t know if I should mention his name, so I’ll just call him Mr. M.) And here we are, 45 +- years later still fighting the fight. Imagine that!
    Just the mention of Chef Ra puts a large smile on my Old Hippie face. Chef Ra was quite the character. I knew him since H.S. and he was his class President one year. At his funeral in Urbana, IL, the Minister mentioned that his pews had never been totally full before, not even for a major public official. Yep-leave it to Chef Ra, A.K.A. Jimmy, to go out in style!
    This brings me to my friend Steve Hager, who I have recently hooked back up with and I am thrilled about that. Steve and I were on the same debate team in H.S. we were the ‘Con’ side, debating against the Vietnam War and we won that debate. We were pretty darn good at it. My Mother was the Speech and Drama teacher. Jimmy was also involved in those kind of activities, as well.
    Thanks for the opportunity to express my thoughts here. It’s amazing I can still remember so many tiny details of the long ago past. It’s the walking into a room and thinking, “what am I in here for?”, that plagues me now.
    We lived during one of the most incredible and historically changing times ever, during our hippie years and now Old Hippie years. (BTW, Old is only a state of mind.) I’ve been passing those ideals from that time on to my children and grandchild, in addition to what I have learned since as well as currently learning. Learning is a lifelong process and the hunger for it, I cherish. Peace!

  2. Hey Steve,
    Hope all is well with you in your neck of the hood. The recent tornadoes were heading right at us and the storm split in two shortly before Champaign-Urbana, and went north and south of us. Devastation abounds in Gifford (F3), Washington (190 mph winds-jury still out on its rating on the Fukishima scale) and several other towns.
    I commented on your post today. Then I noticed it needed editing and resubmitted. If possible the edited version is the one for public viewing, of course.
    Take care my friend and as always, Peace!
    Keeping In Touch…
    Vickie (Griffiths) De Shong
    Victoria De Shong on Facebook

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