A fade-to-gist

August 11, 2020

Maybe it’s retirement combined with #COVID-19 self semi-quarantine, but I find myself using some of my time to wander thru memories for whatever remains of my wild and crazy youth.

“Human memory is notoriously unreliable, especially when it comes to details. Scientists have found that prompting an eyewitness to remember more can generate details that are outright false but that feel just as correct to the witness as actual memories. In day-to-day life, this isn’t a bug; it’s a feature”

I like this psychedelic brain image.

“A key rule about memory change over time is what we call fade-to-gist,” so says Dr. Charles Brainerd, (real name) a professor of human development at Cornell University.

What set me down memory lane recently was Dirt Road to Psychedelia a documentary about the mid to late sixties music scene in Austin, TX including the Vulcan Gas Company

The Vulcan was the hippest, coolest place in Austin (maybe the world). The following are some things I dredged up in memories as a direct result of viewing the film. And, yes, I going to be name-dropping because…

I started going to the Vulcan when it opened in early ’68. Some of my college friends were musicians and we went often together, but not always.

I was introduced to marijuana by a musician friend who went on to play bass with the 13th Floor Elevators. So that got me thinking. During my junior year in college 67-68 I spent much time in the company of the previous drummer for the Elevators. John Ike had quit the band and his mother thought he ought to go to college. He was a fun person to be with.

In the summer of ’68 I spent a lot of time in the company of the band New Atlantis in their Austin rental house. New Atlantis played at the Vulcan often and there I was introduced to Johnny Winter. I was crazy about his blues guitar licks. We became friends. I went to all of his Austin shows and we’d hangout for hours afterward. He called me his ‘college girl’ as I was still attending at that time. He got famous from those Vulcan gigs, and the last time I visited with him was in the mid-70’s when he stopped by the Armadillo Beer Garden.

The Armadillo World Headquarters, an Austin Texas music venue, in September 1976 photo by SteveHopson

By the time the Vulcan closed, I had graduated and was living in Music Mecca aka Austin. The Armadillo opened in 1970 and I was a frequent visitor thru early 1980 when I moved to NM. It felt like I was there every time the doors opened, but that’s not true. I saw so many wonderful shows–Jerry Lee Lewis on New Year’s Eve. Taj Mahal, Bette Midler, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Zappa, Van Morrison, Ravi Shankar… I rented the downstairs room of my house to drummer Jerry Barnett who worked some at the ‘Dillo and played with Shiva’s Headband.  Jerry was kind enough to get me in the door for free many, many times.

A boyfriend once broke up with me while the Dylan song “Ramona’ played on the PA in between stage sets of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. He said, “Oh by the way, I’ve asked Ramona to move in with me, so this is our last date.” It was a rather apropos lead in, don’t you think?

Me and my brand new baby boy 1974

If you want to read more, try Race Relations, which I wrote about 10 years ago and recently updated.

As it all fades, the gist of it is–I had a really good time with little or no regrets. Because what would be the point of regrets?

Feel free to leave comment of your memories.

 


And we all shine on

March 8, 2020

Last night I attended the 22nd annual Townes Van Zandt Memorial Tribute in Austin, Texas

I knew Townes back in the middle-hippie ages in Austin. He was one of the persons who gravitated repeatedly to Uncle Seymour Washington’s home in the Clarksville section of Austin in the 70’s. read more here.

Another legendary Austin musician Butch Hancock was the host of this intimate event of just over 100 folks.

I sat next to two fellas in their 30’s (?) from Alberta, Canada. They had come all the way to Austin, in spite of the scary Coronavirus, to hear more of Townes’ music in one of the cities he regularly played. My brother and I proceeded to give them anecdotes and sidebars regarding Townes and other shenanigans in the Vulcan Gas Company/Armadillo days. I swear those two beautiful Canadians said they were “pleased and honored to have met us.”

The rest of the story is another old love of mine was one of the story-telling singers. Wally Stopher aka Oat Willie surprised me. This post is dedicated to him:

Dear friend, I saw you last night, and you saw me. But it seems we didn’t recognize each other. I was there with my brother for Townes’ tribute. I heard you sing for the first time in 40+ years. God dang! We’re still alive and well. Much love to you and many memories.

Then on the way home I heard John Lennon with some apropos lyrics

Instant Karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead
What in the world you thinking of
Laughing in the face of love
What on earth you tryin’ to do
It’s up to you, yeah you

 


Sacred Space

July 28, 2019

meditation, stones, pond,prayerHey y’all, it’s Sunday and time for a little reflection regarding sacred space.

A sacred place is, first of all, a defined place, a space distinguished from other spaces… A sacred place focuses attention on the forms, objects, and actions in it and reveals them as bearers of religious meaning. Encyclopedia.com

Sacred space is any space or area that has been dedicated to a sacred (holy) purpose. An emphasis on sacred space is found in all of the world’s religions and traditions and they all have places set aside as holy, that they use for worship, prayer, and important rituals. The School of Magical Living

Many of the definitions I found on the internet tie sacred space to a specific religious meaning or place. But I like to think it’s simpler than that. A physical sacred place may allow you to reach the ethereal sacred inside yourself.  It’s not necessary to be associated with any religious ritual. It’s just spiritual in and of itself.

When I think of sacred space, I think of experiencing moments where the world seems to stand still and the cosmos aligns itself in perfect harmony.  These experiences might last for a few seconds or several minutes.  But, before the gears of chaos engage again, I always have the overwhelming feeling “Woo-hoo, life is good!”

aiea heightsWhen I was in my early teens, we lived in a house located next to a state park on top of Aiea Heights, Oahu, Hawaii.  I would hike by myself up the trail to sit on a patch of green grass beneath a big evergreen tree that overlooked Pearl Harbor and the ‘Punchbowl’ Cemetery. Even at a young age, I knew this place was a conduit to the spiritual. The view alone is enough for anyone to appreciate their innermost sacredness.

In my twenties, music was the vehicle for many a trip. I’ll never forget the time I was laying on the floor listening to Emerson, Lake and Palmer through headphones. I’m sure I was transporting somewhere groovy until I opened my eyes at the end of side one and there were two Doberman Pinchers staring me in the face.

 

As an adult, I enjoy sitting by the pool. Watching the clouds drift by, listening to the birds, I feel my body and soul warming, the tension washing away, and I experience “the eternal happiness of the spotless mind.”

Oh, I could go on, but I encourage you to find your own path to a sacred space whether it is physical or metaphysical.


Memories–who you were, are and will be

March 2, 2019

What makes a memory anyway?  When people speak of ‘making memories’ I think they’re most likely alluding to a significant life event which will be remembered forever by the parties involved.  Sometimes I feel like my memory is a roll of the dice or maybe more like a pinball machine bouncing from bumper to bumper after each flip. It seems memories can be traumatic or trivial. My guess is it depends of the individual.

Scientifically speaking: One study at UCLA determined through research experimentsmemory-word-cloud “This link between reactivation of neurons in the hippocampus and conscious recall of past experience has been suspected and theorized for some time, but the study now provides direct evidence for such a link.  “In a way, then,” Dr. Fried said, “reliving past experience in our memory is the resurrection of neuronal activity from the past.” Seems rather unromantic, yes?

A How Stuff Works article says “Human memory is a complex, brain-wide process that is essential to who we are. Your “memory” is really made up of a group of systems that each play a different role in creating, storing, and recalling your memories.”

townes-and-me0001-2

Me and my brand new baby boy.

What have I forgotten? For many years I waxed nostalgic about my days during and after college when I lived in the great hippiedom of Austin, Texas.  Specific memories were apparent, but it was more a general recollection of a feeling of peace, freedom, music, and fun that carry these times around my brain.

Recently, I reconnected with two women friends from those years who lived in the same Austin neighborhood as I did on the outskirts of Clarksville. We were pregnant at the same time giving birth to babies, who through toddlerhood grew up as best friends.

In our reminiscing, I realized I had pushed a lot of memories from those days to the back of my mind. Because why? One explanation could be that I was no longer in touch with those folks with whom I could be remembering.  Also, because those were wild, unfettered times, it didn’t always seem like the best tales to tell.

Consequently, I became aware of meaningful parts of my life I had kept under my memory radar. I am grateful to those ‘historically significant’ friends who led me to recall and reembrace much of that part of my past.  I like to think all memories are intricately a part of your life-defining who you were, are and will be.

Of course, the Beatles said so many things the best.

There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all


Sgt. Pepper’s Album changed my life

June 5, 2017

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

The first time I heard it was just a few days after its release. My best friend Melissa and I were in summer school at SWTSU, living in the dorm. My previous roomie asked us over to listen to a new Beatles album. Because we wanted to enjoy it fully and faithfully, we stuffed a towel under the door and smoked a great big joint.

Over in JoAnn’s room, we sat mesmerized through the entire, what turned out to be, breakthrough musical recording.  I’m not sure I ever heard it that exact same way again even though I’ve listen to it hundreds of times now.

It was a life changer for sure!

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/531039734/531099121


May you stay forever young

June 1, 2016
Me at 6 months

Me at 6 months

This is me with my mother at about six months of age, 68 1/2 years ago. We were living in Germany where my dad was posted for three years. I really don’t remember anything about Germany.  I used to think I’d had this dream about looking down and seeing all these tiny houses, people and trees. But, after talking to my mom about it, I realized it was what I had seen through the airplane window as we were landing back in the good ole USA.

This is a picture of me almost 42 years ago. It’s my son Jack’s, first birthday party and we are at the Besson family’s house in Austin, Texas. As my 69th birthday is Me at 28 years old, Jack at oneright around the corner, I’ve been reflecting, once again, on what an awesome life I’m living. Nah, I’m not rich or famous, but I am for the most part healthy and happy.

I am grateful for the many times in my wilder years God pulled my butt out of a metaphorical fire so that I can continue to enjoy life. I am grateful He gives me the energy to keep on learning. I am blessed to continue to meet and make friends with some smart, creative people—young and old. I’m glad I’m still around to grow older together with my hubby and kids and grandkids.

I know 69 years is not that old in these times.

But, it does feel like it’s down the road a piece.

I extend to you Bob Dylan’s words sung by Joan Baez “May you stay forever young”

May your heart always be joyful

May your song be always sung

May you stay forever young

 


British Invasion Redux

September 23, 2014

Last night I went to a great music concert/fundraiser in Austin courtesy of my sister-in-law who works for Health Alliance for Austin Musicians or HAAM.

The British Invasion of the 60’s was revisited by an eclectic procession of Austin/Texas/British musicians. It was a very entertaining musical history lesson and a whole bunch of fun!

allatx playbill

Click for full list of performers

The Zombies (in the flesh!) sang this old Kinks tune. It really it made an impression on me, so I decided to share.


Cultural Extinction

September 14, 2014

At any given time, I have about a dozen books on my shelf waiting for the right time to be read. So it was with “The Wayfinders-Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World,” by Wade Davis, which had been waiting patiently for about three years. Once I’d read the first few pages, I gulped this book like it was a life-giving elixir.

way finder book coverDavis begins by sharing his view of the world. And believe me, from his life experiences as a National Geographic explorer, writer and anthropologist, he is well versed in world. “Together the myriad of cultures makes up an intellectual and spiritual web of life that envelopes the planet and is every bit as important to the well being of the planet as is the biological web of life we know as the biosphere.” Davis calls this social web of life an ethnosphere — the “sum total of our thoughts and intuitions, myths and beliefs.” This ethnosphere is the core of our adaptive nature and our legacy.  And, the truth is we are facing the loss of half of humanity’s social, cultural and intellectual legacy, as the extinction of human cultures is picking up pace.

Excellently written and thought provoking, this book is essentially a compilation of Davis’ series of Massey Lectures. Davis shares his extensive knowledge of a good many diverse populations with whom he developed relationships. First, the Polynesians, spreading their cultural realm to hundreds of islands throughout the Pacific with their amazing art of navigation. Who knew Thor Hyderdahl’s “Kon Tiki” was full of bunk! Peoples of the Anaconda is a perfect example of a large and diverse civilization whose existence is woven into the very fabric of its physical location–along the Amazon River. The Aborigines of Australia, with their ritual ‘dreaming,’ evolved a deep, timeless relationship with their world. “What does it mean that though out history “dynamic living people have been driven out of existence by identifiable and overwhelming external forces?” Davis asks.

With a perfect blend of science and human insights, Davis makes  powerful observations. In the chapter on Sacred Geography he states, “…I would like to reflect on this particular attitude of ours, this manner in which we have reduced our planet to a commodity, a raw resource to be consumed at our whim.”  The modern world…”is certainly not the true and only pulse of history. It is merely a constellation, of beliefs, conviction, paradigm, that represent one way of doing things…”

For some reason I thought of this song when I was writing this blog. In the vast oceans, we are but ripples and waves. But, as that, we part of the whole. We are past, present, and the future–if we don’t fuck it up.

“I’m a wave upon the ocean, I’m a little ripple on the sea. Don’t get no crazy notion, you know you’re very much like me.” Shivas Headband


Four Dead in Ohio

May 4, 2013

Today marks the 43rd anniversary of the Kent State shootings. On May 4, 1970 as students were protesting the ‘Cambodian Incursion’ and the Vietnam war in general, National Guardsmen fired 67 rounds of ammunition over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis. (read more)

Just out of college and still actively involved in protesting the war, the shootings were horrifying–the worst yet of escalating violence between student protestors and law enforcement.

Here is the still poignant “Four Dead in Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.”


The night they drove old Dixie down

April 22, 2013

Tonight I watched a tribute to Levon Helm call “Love for Levon.” A whole slew of grey-haired musicians like Roger Waters, Greg Allman, Joe Walsh, and many more sang their hearts out for Levon and his music for a couple of glorious hours.

I remember back in the early seventies in Austin. For about a year, there was a bar called Bonnie’s (I think) that became ‘the place’ to be on Wednesday nights. It was a little ramshackle place with a large outdoor patio. Beer was a quarter or fifty cents–what ever was really cheap back then. At the end of the night, every time, whatever band was playing that night, played the Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” The whole audience sang along. That song signaled the end of the evening and if you didn’t have someone to go home with yet, that was the cue to find someone fast.

The tribute to Levon, made me cry. It made me miss my youth. Now, I’m OK with who and what my life is now, but really, those were the days.

So, I’m gonna take a load off fannie (mine being considerably larger these day), have a beer, or three, and watch that show again.