All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Friday, June 30, 2017

Half a Century

This corner may not mean a whole lot to people now, but in the summer of 1967 --50 years ago-- it was a symbol, a rallying point. I was worried. Everybody was worried.  Some excellent worried people got together and planned something where the district around this street sign gives onto Golden Gate Park. John McClaren, the gardener who built the park, meant it as a place of peace where people could go and enjoy the forest he'd dreamed and created on the dunes. 


                                                     ( Photo above has been released into the public domain by its author, Waterthedog                                                                                                                                                            at English Wikipedia. This applies worldwide.)

They inspired a remarkably capable tenor to record this song:
{Scott Mckenzie, "San Francisco"}


Wheew! Half a century. I wrote a poem on a piece of binder paper, under a tree at Sacramento Community College. A girl walked over and read it. She asked if she could have it. Like now, nothing I wrote was sacred to me so I tore it from my notebook and put it in her hand. Some months later, a thin volume of poems was handed to me by someone else. Here:
I take great pleasure in rewriting the 1st stanza:
The wall on Front Street is too high and thick,
Too grand to be explained, too brief to be noticed.
The newsboy flashes on and off, fading away 
Until he throws a paper --then peddling meekly,
Goes to bicycle off the edge of the world. 

I didn't do the artwork but have this evening narrowed it down to Adele Davalos, Rick Almeida, and Chuck Moore.  I saw Chuck at a hotel restaurant 30 years ago --he was working in Hollywood-- but I forgot to ask him. I do recall the closing lines of a poem by a roommate 50 years ago:

"Haight is love
 Love is Haight
 Love is Hate
 Haight is hate." --S. Waymire

He is now a Zen teacher in Oregon.

I will close  with a lovely song by Mary Hopkins --throughout which one feels an homage to Bertolt Brecht, Elizabeth Hauptmann and especially, Kurt Weill:Mary Hopkin, "Those were The Days"


I know I usually telegraph enigmas with humor in this blog, but today I felt a need to address a  serious subject. 50 years ago, I felt peace was imperative. I still do. Yet I see it slipping away. I know that, according to scripture, it takes several generations to get rid of a bad idea, but thought we'd be further along after a half century.  This dismays me, but even worse, it embarrasses me. I have measureless faith and trust in the current peace movement, in this vibrant new generation of activists, but we must never forget our early reflections on the subject. We must support their efforts and give peace a chance.

22 comments:

  1. Peace, and gentleness are indeed imperatives. I hope it isn't slipping from our grasp, but on dark days and nights fear it is.
    I love both songs today, and old as they are, they have fanned the fragile flame of hope.
    Thank you.
    And your poems then as now were multi-layered and thought provoking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kind EC, even when things look dark I hope there are enough peace-loving people who wish to live their lives to full measure --and want others to do the same.

      Delete
  2. The world is crazy. We are crazy.
    Where are we heading for?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're quite right, Ana. Each country must proceed with caution and compassion. I received an email today from our local congressman, Ami Bera M.D. which said in part,"Repealing the Affordable Care Act is not a solution for... problems. In fact, it would make matters worse." This is the sort of compassion I mean.

      Delete
  3. Those were interesting (and scary) times. I remember wanting to go out to San Francisco with a friend and join the movement but got married instead. I have since been to Haight Ashbury a few times and posed in front of the sign. The area has changed greatly.

    I agree, today we face more problems, and some of them are the same as 50 years ago. I am so frightened for my children and grandchildren and their future. Every day seems to bring us closer to the edge. Hate is now stronger than love and there are no superheroes to bring us together.

    Geo, I echo EC's last paragraph, your poems and your words are always thought provoking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beautiful Arleen, the idea was to make a subculture of peace and even though it was full of imperfections and we made it look way more fun than it really was, it showed it could be done. It spread and fired imagination far and wide. Scott's song was a clarion call --there was no internet. No superheroes were required, except those, like you, who chose love, wherever they were. Happy Anniversary, dear Arleen!

      Delete
  4. Wish I could have been there, for one thing it would have cooler and less humid than where i was. I wish the same as you, in my case because as Ms Collins sang in "...both sides now,..." I know it's preferable than the alternative.
    Nice post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You were where you needed to be, Mike, in a time of astonishing tragedy --saving lives, not taking them. Real tragedy would be if you had chosen a different profession. As one whose life was saved by guys like you, my opinion is admittedly a bit selfish. Thanks.

      Delete
  5. Every day I feel 'peace' pulling further and further away. Each of us needs to find it within ourselves and then ... let it out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Delores, that is an excellent and effective plan --not just for peace, but for being really human.

      Delete
  6. We all long for peace. People who were coming of age in the 60's have been working toward that end for so long. If we can keep pushing that way maybe we can accomplish it. Unfortunately our leaders are fighting against us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There will always be opposition to peace, Emma, if only prompted by greedy factions. As Eisenhower warned, "Beware the military-industrial complex", but there ARE leaders who promote diplomacy and government by discussion. They don't always get much press, but they're there.

      Delete
  7. Amen! and Amen!!
    Geo, your post today walloped me. Have been reflecting on the hopes of youth and the passion of commitment as I watch our culture in this spasm of trumpism. We are the same age and I'm sure I would have detested his values 50 years ago too. That he has ascended to a place to do so much harm is demoralizing and a call to arms. As you say we must enable this generation of peace activists and those who campaign for rights, dignity and civilization. It's a kind of double whammy--I watched a brilliant portrayal of another 70 year old Sam Elliot in The Hero. The acting was riveting--but the loss of the years and the wash of time and the mortality has me sad for all that we dreamt, visioned and hoped for 50 years ago. But I believe it no less. Thanks for your beautiful post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your encouraging comment, Tom. I have been a Sam Elliot fan for many years and look forward to seeing this new film, "The Hero", very much. Here in my late 60s, I have learned so much from the the mistakes of others without having to make them myself anymore, and that is a big relief. What I don't get is how a successful man like Trump can make so many errors in judgement and leadership. I remember there was a pungent influence in the '80s --anxiety breeds excellence-- that polluted humanism with greed, but I thought it had receded. Guess I was wrong. Nonetheless, as you say, we must encourage these new people to take good care of each other. They'll be a great generation. They want to be.

      Delete
  8. I'm not sure whether I'm naive or an optimist or just a realist ... I think there have always been problems in the world and always will be, because that is the nature of some members of the human race. I wish it were different, but it seems not to be. With regard to the current administration in the US, so many people, including his own party as well as leaders of other world powers, are aghast at his behavior that I am hopeful that he will be treated like the drunk uncle at the family gathering - tolerated but sent home at the first opportunity and quietly removed from the guest list. It will be a difficult period in history but it will be over in 3-1/2 years. I am knocking on wood as I type, just to be sure ...

    From a slightly different viewpoint, this post taught me quite a bit, Geo. I was a little young to be in the flower power generation and not really aware of it as it was going on. This has made it a little clearer. Your poetry was then as it is now, as EC said, complex and thought-provoking. For which I am glad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love your "drunk uncle" analogy, Jenny. The intoxication of power probably distorts perception more than booze. There may be a withdrawal of support from his own party by those who wish to have a political career beyond this administration. I hope he sobers up before that happens and learns government by discussion. Thanks for your comment on my poems --I notice they have got shorter over the past half century even though I have grown no taller.

      Delete
  9. Fifty years ago, many from our generation were full of ideals and hopes for a better world, and we honestly thought we could make a difference. Peace, love, and rock and roll! I never participated in peace rallies and the such, but they always held my heart... especially after my husband was sent to Vietnam.

    In spite of the fact that it seems we've made so little progress over the years, and in fact, at times seem to be moving in the wrong direction, I remain optimistic. I must, for the alternative is too unthinkable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Progress can be deceptive, Susan. Resistance to one direction can sometimes accelerate more positive trends --while turning negative currents where they will do least harm. The peace rallies were shows purposed to raise awareness; the real change was in the heart --a personal adjustment-- toward tolerance, compassion, reason, love. You and Smarticus are part of progress.

      Delete
  10. "Thought we'd be further along after a half century."

    I know whenever I do anything to try and improve the world, I've learned to stop thinking about timelines into the future. If I think too hard about the rate of change, I'd never have the heart to continue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Harry, you've definitely nailed the enigma. In our universe there are probably more threats to our survival than possibilities of our existence, and yet we are here. We must be better temporal navigators than we consciously admit to ourselves.

      Delete
  11. Wow! this was one post that hit me in the gut ~ brought so many memories to the front. I was living on an island off the coast of Nova Scotia in the summer of 1967 ~ but I knew about Haight-Ashbury, and I heard Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco" over and over on my radio. I have his song on my iPod shuffle now and listen to it over and over again some days when I'm walking. We were so filled with hope and optimism then. We really thought that we would change the world for better.

    It was Canada's 100th birthday fifty years ago today. Early in the summer I went to Expo, the World's Fair in Montreal. I was one of two kids from western Nova Scotia who won an essay contest and a trip to Expo. There were about 50 of us from all across Canada who wrote our way there ~ Lord, what a vibrant, passionate group of kids ~ all heading off to university, stepping out into a world we were going to change. Peace and love ~ that's what we were all about.

    I never had an inkling then that five years later I'd go on a blind date in Madrid and end up marrying a paralyzed American vet from the 101st Airborne I met that night. It never entered my head that I'd be spending my adult life in the US and would become an American citizen.

    But I was a young idealist, and that's what young idealists do. I thought love could conquer everything. Now I'm not so sure.

    The world seems a lot darker, and I feel like we're walking on the edge of a knife blade. But I see an amazing generation coming of age when I look at my nieces and nephews on both sides of our family. They fill me with hope. They're building meaningful lives and working, each in their own unique way, for peace and to save the planet.

    Somehow humanity always seems to bumble through: horrific wars, natural disasters, terrible plagues. And yet, here we are. Somehow I refuse to believe that we're going to not make it through this challenging time and forge a better future. I just can't believe it's all for nothing.

    As always, I really enjoy your poetry! Have a great 4th!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have always had a talent for bumbling through and suspect it is a general human manifestation --genetic, I hope. We'll get through the hard times, like we always have, and the positive gene glitches can actually advance us. Mustn't forget what Ben Franklin said:"A kite flies highest against the wind." Nor can we ignore (Bible) Proverbs, ch.11, verse 9: "He that troubles his own house shall inherit the wind." I believe both quotes refer to political flatulence but you are among the "wise at heart" and will be spared. I have had so much fun chasing your comments up and down the years tonight. I did so because you're important --and maybe a little because time-travel is really really fun!

      Delete

I value your comments. Say hello. Reach out a bit. I do.