Don’t Go With The Flow, Flow With The Go!

image

(written while staying in Taos, NM)

Met a poet the other day named John Mason. A real hip cat of a fella. As a poet, still living life as much a student as a teacher. Too young to be a proper beatnik, but spent enough time with that generation. Reciting rhymes. Stories of the road. Lost sweet hearts in New Orleans. Run ins with Nixon. A real mind blower if I ever met one.

He told me this vision of a Beat convention at Naropa in Boulder, Colorado. Circa 1980? Ginsberg, Snyder, Burroughs. All present. Maybe even Jan Kerouac. I swear she wrote about it in her second novel.

John Mason bet his buddy with a bus ticket he could beat him there by hitch hiking. Both traveling from Detroit, Michigan. A real rambler in a time before cell phones. He lost the bet, but only by 4 hours.
First thing he does after arriving in town is ask an organizer about the open mics. Organizer says, “Sorry John. We ain’t thought about that.”

So John goes to city hall, rounds up a bunch of open air venues and bookstores. Comes back and hands a list to the organizer and says, “You got 500 or more poets coming in from all across the world. That’s a whole bunch of folks who should be reading. Here’s a complete list of your open readings and shared microphones for the next three days.”

A real wrangler. Ended up sharing the stage with Bill Burroughs before the convention was over. Got drunk at a party with Harold Norse. Really became a part of the scene.

Then he tells me this other story in lyric form. Recites it from the top of his head as if it were sitting on the page in front of him. A real epic if I ever heard one. Stole the cadence from Rudyard Kipling. Story starts with a taste of a 4 way window pane before setting out on the road. Thumbs a ride somewhere near Chicago and gets picked up by a normal looking guy and his wife. Before him, the road animated like a crystalized quartz jewel opening wide.

The driver seems wise to his plight. Strikes up a conversation about civil disobedience, riots, and the holy NOW. John Mason didn’t hesitate a moment, jumping right into this philosophical diatribe. The holy NOW is what really caught him most and my retelling won’t do it justice. You’ll have to talk to John Mason yourself for any sort of clarity, because see, it ends up this driver and his wife are somewhat scholars of sufi-mystics. They’d practiced the Tao and read up on Zen. So with all John Mason’s spirit leaning towards hippy activism, they had a response for him that seemed to intuit doing nothing.

But here’s where the argument changes. There is a moment of clairvoyance. Before you know it the driver’s tossing out a new mantra that a whole generation could get behind.
And this is the real mindblower. Both for John and for me in his retelling.

The driver, he says, “John, don’t go with the flow, man. The only thing I ever saw go with the flow was a dead fish floating down the river.” He says. “See, John. You gotta learn to flow with the go, man. There ain’t no other way about it.”

And right there, John Mason’s mind on acid tips right into a new direction. And here I am in the 21st century, having the same reaction.

Don’t go with the flow, man.
The only thing that ever did that was a dead fish.
Instead you gotta flow with the go.
That’s the real way to find enlightenment.

Don’t Go With The Flow, Flow With The Go!

The Flight of the Crow

image

It’s amazing how quickly one can skip across the country. One day acting a fool in the desert of Joshua Tree, the next day climbing desert mountains until finally i’m crossing the border of New Mexico and diving through colors so grand the sky is like nirvana unimaginable (to think some people see this every day and think nothing of it), then pulling over and sleeping in Pueblo ruins alongside ghosts of an old alien culture that transformed themselves long ago into the crows that follow my car to every rest stop and grand vista pull off. They bark at me loud orders and i think of something my friend Mariana said about how they signify that i’m going to say things that people won’t like. I see them as elders and they guide my dreams. I’m on a heist like in the old westerns, only somehow i’ve conned a moving company out of a truck loaded with gold money and with a crew we’re driving out of the city. I’m swimming in a lake of liquid lava and out of the flames of my own body a falcon rips to the surface soaring over us with red and purple colors streaking the skies behind her. I make love to a beatnik princess and after lovemaking we talk about the change of guard and how someday we’ll settle in the country and grow our own food but first we’ll make love more in our dreams together.

Did I tell you about how I followed two crows around in Joshua Tree? I was dashing through some boulders and moon temples and I heard one of them cawing but they kept flying further out of reach until finally I hiked through some arches and out of a wash to a clearer view of the mountain where they were gliding around. They cawed to me so I started climbing. The sides of the mountain were exploding with fragments of rose quartz as I got higher and at the peak I found a few dozen rock balances from past wanderers. Now the crows were below me and I slowly descended to where they sat laughing and pruning their feathers atop a giant round boulder kind of like a skull. They let me walk right up to them and they just sat there staring at me. Now was my turn to make silly noises so I howled and wooped  and yahooed as much as I could think to. Here’s where it echoed, surprisingly out into the valley and I wondered how, when I was so high and the ground so far away. It drove me practically crazy and I kept testing it. My woop followed by seconds of delay and then it coming back to me faintly almost as if my ears were playing tricks on me. The crows just stared at me some more, slightly alarmed but more just blase. I think they were just surprised to be cawed at by this silly ape below them. Not usually used to anyone paying attention to their own voices. Eventually they flew off and I caught one on film for a future TV installation. Cute couple gliding away and back into the boulders to bother some other tourist.

I wake in the morning and I’m as cold as a ghost myself with frost permeating from my blue lips and caking on the tent ceiling. I watch the sunrise and watch her colors streak all across the sky evenly filling it with the fire of my dreams. I do a quick sun salutation but i’m shivering like a wild man so I pack up and take the Willie Jeep route and head for Santa Fe grabbing at the sage brush with my hand held outstretched through the open window. The crows are around every bend, but i’m not paying attention to them anymore as the Rio Grande grows into a Grand Canyon beside me. Eventually there are snow covered mountains, Pueblo ruins, and painted canyons on every horizon. I pass Santa Fe (thinking of my friends there, bummed to miss them) and roll up to Taos taking the main street in, happy to see nothing has changed. I park at the Spot Cafe where all my last adventures began, and immediately feel like a wanderer returned home from the season of travels. Here a pretty punk chick smiles at me as I enter and an old hippy lady tells me, “Oh, number 11. That’s  a good number. The number for ‘peace’ in the I Ching.” when I receive my number for my breakfast sandwich. There’s a group sitting in the doorway and they remind me of everything I love about people in the mountains. Earthy vibes, with a little bit of elfish wonderment,  but here there’s also the vibe of the desert rat and a wild-eyed hippiness that got here 50 years ago and got so excited they stripped off all their clothes and dove right in. Soon i’m basking in hot springs, letting everything around me drift away and loosing my sense of identity. That flow of the earth breaking away at whatever worries I may have for heading home. Soon i’ll spend time with friends of the heart that I made the last time I drove through here. And then from there tomorrow I’ll make the last dash for the east where more friends and a series of readings awaits me.

The Flight of the Crow