inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #126 of 160: Martin Torgoff (martintorgoff) Thu 3 Jun 04 12:14
    
First, Kesey. One of the more interesting and significant Americans of
the 20th Century. Gans's notion of him as Prometheus is perfeect, the
myth being that he shared fire (ie psychedelics) with the people
against the wishes of the Gods (ie the Lord God, the US government,
just about any other authority aspect of our lives) and was punished
for his sins. Of course, the punishment in this case is obviously going
to jail for a while ('67-'68) for his two marijuana busts, which, for
a man who loved freedom as much as Kesey, must have been excrutiating.
But I think the punishment went deeper. Kesey was sent away at the
zenith of his influence and power, right at the flowering of the whole
psychedelic scene. He was taken out of the action at a critical moment,
really. I always thought it was analagous to Ali being stripped of the
heavyweight crown at his peak during the 60s.There's no telling what
he might have accomplished and the way things might have come down.
Other aspects of his punishment come to mind. Bob Stone always had this
take on Kesey: that much of his life seemed an anticlimax after the
Pranksters and the Acid Tests--that  there was a kind of melancholia
for him after all of those lights and colors. Not that he wasn't happy
in Oregon with his family--just that it was a very hard comedown for
him. And Stone also felt that Kesey lost momentum and focus with his
writing. Kesey himself acknowledges that writing itself seemed an
obsolete form after psychedelics and multi-media and the Great
Prankster Movie. Not that he stopped writing or being creative, but it
would be a very long time before another major novel. But if you asked
Kesey I'm certain that he would have said none of this came even close
to the death of his son.

As for Garcia's quote about "Drugs was our Vietnam," wow, I'd never
heard that one (if I had it would have been in the book). It's great,
one of those observations that have so many possible meanings. Here's
what comes to mind: Vietnam was a defining generational experience,
first. Everyone was affected by it, whether you were there or not. It
was a watershed for the country. It began idealistically, with the best
of intentions, but eventually produced pain, devastation, folly,
denial, deep regrets, and finally, wisdom about the limits and
application of power. All of it apt and directly applicable to the
story of drugs.  
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #127 of 160: David Crosby (croz) Fri 4 Jun 04 07:18
    
that last paragraph there is especially  fine ....and in my opinion
absolutely true
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #128 of 160: Robin Russell (rrussell8) Fri 4 Jun 04 08:36
    
Except for the part about Vietnam beginning idealistically.

Also, I know plenty of people whose lives did not feature "pain,
devastation, folly, denial, deep regrets" as a necessary corrollary of
drug use.

I think that Garcia's line was about the intimate knowledge of death,
both existentially through the use of psychedelics and viscerally
through the ODs; the hide and seek game with the law; the camaraderie,
the courage, the despair. 
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #129 of 160: Martin Torgoff (martintorgoff) Fri 4 Jun 04 09:04
    
Robin. I agree with you that that there are plenty of people who did
drugs and did not experience these negative things. It's statistically
irrefutable that the overwhelming majority of people did not become
addicts or even regular abusers, but in using the Vietnam corrollary,
one is loath to think of postitives at all.

 I agree with you that cameraderie and courage are powerful dimension
of this that I left out, and perhaps the only positives of Vietnam for
those hwo fought it: the Band of Brothers aspect of the men who served,
which turned out to be the only enduring and real part of the
experience once the politcal machinations were exposed to them and the
myths and follies clarified. In fact, for them, at least, Vietnam did
begin idealistically. I have friends who were there in the early years
and their motivations were no different from those depicted in Born on
the Fourth of July: the purest kind of John Wayne patriotism in their
desire to save the world from Communism. And I have friends who were
there in the last years, when there was nothing left for them but to
get high and survive.

Your perception of "the intimate knowledge of death re: psychedelics
and ODs" is certainly possible on Garcia's part; it's intersting to see
it that way and a much less obvious read on it, but we're also leaving
a few other things out that were also central to the Vietnam
experience that Garcia may have had in mind: ambiguity and weirdness.
In Vietnam, as in drugs, there was an aspect of things never quite
being what they seem. And, man, it was weird. Just read (or reread)
Michael Herr's Dispatches. Nobody rendered the ambiquities and the
weirdness and how it all fused with the sheer drugginess of it all
better. All of which, when you consider it, makes Garcia's perception
all the more intresting to ponder.

Of course, we're just conjecturing thoughts on his part. Wouldn't it
be great to just be able to ask him what the fuck he meant? Alas.
  
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #130 of 160: Andrew Alden (alden) Fri 4 Jun 04 09:56
    
The other parallel is the complete disconnect between the official version
of things and the experience in the field.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #131 of 160: Robin Russell (rrussell8) Fri 4 Jun 04 10:35
    
Martin, you are right, I was not thinking of the fighting soldiers
(who, after all, did not start the war). In the sixties I lived on a
military base and watched many young men who were about to ship out to
Vietnam, idealism mostly intact, if a bit battered about by the draft
in the later years. By the seventies it was gone.

I certainly agree with a multi-dimensional interpretation of Garcia's
quip, and your further observation is also on the money, Andrew.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #132 of 160: David Gans (tnf) Fri 4 Jun 04 11:17
    

This has been a great conversation, and although it's being replaced in the
center ring by our next invterview, there is no reason why it should stop.

Martin, you've written an important book here, and you've been a terrific
inkwell guest.  Gary, I knew you were the perfect guy to host this one :^)

Thanks to all who have participated, and PLEASE DON'T STOP!
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #133 of 160: Berliner (captward) Fri 4 Jun 04 11:48
    
Yeah, I'm co-moderating the other one, but this is one of the best in
a while, so keep going!
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #134 of 160: Robin Russell (rrussell8) Fri 4 Jun 04 12:16
    
I hope you will bear with us Martin. I only received the book this
week and have a fair chunk to go yet.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #135 of 160: Martin Torgoff (martintorgoff) Fri 4 Jun 04 13:00
    
Guys, I've really loved this. Thanks you so much. I'm here and I'm
ready to sail on with it, so riff away as you please and I'll keep
comin' bck at ya. And via condios.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #136 of 160: Justin Hager (cubistpoet) Sat 5 Jun 04 20:35
    
Wrapping my way toward the end of _The Electric Acid Kool-Aid Test_, I
am amazed to find how much Kesey's meanderings (or for that matter
Kesey himself) and the acid culture of the Pranksters reflects Taoism.

The sense of one-ness, the syncing, the Now, the being rather than
thinking, the emphasis on the inability to explain the experience. 

It's even more facinating that Kesey's flight to Mexico cause all of
this to fall apart rapidly, suggesting that it was never the acid
itself that caused all the wonderful insanity of the Pranksters, but
rather acid was a means to open people to Kesey's dream. 

A common theme that seems to creep up here again is the idea that
drugs do not change people; they can simply lubricate the wheels of
change. 

It seems like... some people are slightly broken. Perhaps most if not
all of us are slightly broken. Held back by the hangups, fears, etc.
that are present thoughout the book. Drugs can act as a quick fix,
taking away the broken parts temporarily. The mistaken way of reading
this is to assume that you need to be on drugs constantly, to patch the
broken spots. The real power of this is in simply seeing that fixing
these broken spots is possible. That a you can exist that is not
broken.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #137 of 160: Gary Greenberg (gberg) Sun 6 Jun 04 05:08
    
Sorry to have disappeared from here this week. The good news--besides
that this conversation went on fine without me--is that my phone lines
are working again and once again, through no fault of the phone
company, the lightning only blew up the phone interface box on the
outside of the house, and not the house itself. I have, however,
informed the phone company that if I die because of their antiquated
and poorly grounded infrastructure (they claim, no kidding, that the
problem is that the local earth is a poor conductor), I will sue the
living shit out of them. 

But I digress. Revelatory regarding this book and the mixture of heady
relief and hopelessness that it (and this conversation) inspires is
today's review in the NY Times. The nut graf, here reprinted without
permission:

In Can't Find My Way Home, [Tofrgoff's[ audaciou, overstuffed cultural
history of illegal drug use and abuse, Martine Torgoff wants to stake
out a middle ground between those who are "dogmatically anitti-drug"
and proponents of "personal" or "recreational" drug use. He ultimately
fails, in part bvecause his heart clearly belongs to the
freedom-of-choice side--this despite ihs willingness to depict the
searing horrors and tragedies of drug abuse, not to mention his own
struggle with addiction--and in part because he lacks the facility and
range to reconcile the contradictions of his ambition. His deepest
affinity is not for tangled arguments about morality and public policy,
but for the sensational entertainment falue of Armerca's
half-participatory, half-voyeruistic romance with illegal drugs. It may
not change minds, but Torgoff's bok is an exuberant chronicle of
ecstatic inbebriation, delusional utopianism, wretched  excess and
chastened nostalgia for lost highs.


So there's two counts against the book here. ONe is that it is
entertaining instead of boring, that it peoples the policy landscape
with actual drama, with the true, if salacious, facts of drug use in
America, that it tries to revivify a discussion that long ago turned
into abstractions about wrong messages and vulnerable kids. Having read
nearly every tome about morality and public policy that's come out in
the last ten years, I can only thank Martin for having written a book
that turns its own pages. Since when is being exuberant and vivid in
nonfiction grounds for criticism? Does one have to strut one's
anhedonia in order to write about everyone else's revelry?

Which brings us to the second of the reviewer's complaints: That the
book is pro-drug. Now, if I'd written this review (which I will admit I
not only wished I had but I asked to do a mere two days after the
Times assigned it to Hal Espen, editor of OUtside Magazine, a
well-known expert in the field of drugs an drug policy), I would have
probably criticized it for the opposite reason: Not that it is
anti-drug, but that its pro-sobriety message is, unlike the rest of the
book, a little lacking in self-reflective critique and not
sufficiently tempered by accounts of people who have incorporated drugs
into their productive everyday lives. I hold this opinioin, I supopse,
becaues I have taken too many drugs and have crippled not only my
intellect but my moral faculties, making me unable to see that saying
that drugs aren't the best thing in the world but they're not the worst
either, that they've led to some important cultural achievements as
well as to some horrific flameouts, that it's pointless to try to judge
something so protean, so heterogeneous, such a blank check, and that
it is in any event a travesty, if not a scandal, thta the way this
government deals with drugs is to lock up millions of people--that
saying all that is failure of objectivity. To me, this criticism
reflects precisely the problem--that the drug war is based on
prejudices that are only tangentially related to the actual
effects--good and bad--of drugs and that it functions to suppress all
critique by confusing dissent with pathology, if not outright
depravity. 

Espen also seems to regret that Martin's advocacy of drug policy
reform is anticlimactic. "The bok winds up with a sympathetic acocunt
of the decriminalization movement, whose key insight--'the vast
majority of American illegal drug users do so responsiblyt"--is a far
cry from the revolutionary claims and pirate swagger of the long-gone
drug culture." So which way do you want it, Hal? Here's a whole chapter
more or less devoted to Ethan Nadlemann, policy wonk par excellence,
all about "public policy", advancing a reasoned approach to drugs, and
all you can say is that it lacks swagger? And the endpoint that Espen
wishes for? Better knowledge about the neurochemistry of drug
addiction: "Until we know more, our excperiments with illicty drugs
will contine on the margins and crazy compenidums like Torgoff'w will
hold us in their sway."  IN other words, when we turn this problem over
the the proper experts--the drug companies--then it will go away.
Until then, all attempts to understand drug taking in its
pscuychological and political context are just so much drug-fueled
ranting.

I'd say that it's disturbing that this review made it past an editor,
what with all its internal contradictions and obvious polemics. But
I've bneen around too long not to know that most people won't even
recognize them.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #138 of 160: Gary Greenberg (gberg) Sun 6 Jun 04 05:34
    
Just a clarification...By mentioning what my own criticism would be, I 
didn't mean to pile on. I just got lostr in my own thought (more 
drug-addledlness?) and forgot my point, which was that if Espen thinks 
that Martin is too pro-drug and I think he's too pro-sobriety, then he's 
probably got it just about right.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #139 of 160: David Gans (tnf) Sun 6 Jun 04 09:34
    

>  (they claim, no kidding, that the problem is that the local earth is a
>  poor conductor)

Those people have a future in the second Bush adminstration, god help us.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #140 of 160: David Gans (tnf) Sun 6 Jun 04 09:41
    

Here's the lyric to a song by Dan Bern, posted without permission but I think
Dan would be okay with it.  It's from THE SWASTIKA EP, which also contains a
great Dylanesque piece called "Talkin' Al Kida Blues."





JAIL

I wish you well on your travels
My friends I wish you well along the way
This is the story of how I came to be
In jail for a night and a day

Well I'm driving my '88 Olds Cutlass
It's raining and it's dark
My wipers are beating slow and steady
Like the thump, thump, thumping of my heart
I'm rolling down from southern Colorado
Stella Blue in ABQ tonight
When my rear view flashes red, white and blue
My license plate's missing a light
The cop smells sweet green Colorado
Hidden in the lining 'bove my head
Next thing I know there's four cop cars flashing
And around my wrists are bracelets of lead
Well, take my license, take my fingerprints
Take my wallet that I'll no longer need
Take my belt so I can't hang myself
For a nickel bag of weed
Then put me in a cell on an old mattress pad
To measure out in minutes this night
One cup of water in styrofoam
Four walls and one fluorescent light
And this is my one phone call
And baby I'm calling you
You tell me, "stay strong boy"
I say "well, I'll do the best I do"

And I wish you well on your travels
My friends I wish you well along the way
This is the story of how I came to be
In jail for a night and a day
Now at first I'm thinking, man, I'm such a fuck-up
My head is lonesome and bowed
Figure I'll join some program, get religious
My abstinence will make my mother proud
And I stare at the stone cold floor
I guess that's what you do in the pen
Then I get to thinking what I'd really like to do
 Is to come back here and fight this to the end

Your honor, think of Johnny Cash
And Elvis and Hank Williams too
Whatever it took to go get those songs
Those good old boys would do
It's illegal, so throw out Blonde on Blonde
And every Beatles song since Hard Day's Night
Go ahead and burn Walt Whitman
Unpaint Starry Night
Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, let 'em burn
Kerouac, Thelonious Monk
Alice in Wonderland, Picasso
Burroughs, Blake, Ginsberg, throw it out, it's junk
Then throw out all your favorite records
Throw your books of poetry away
Close the museums, burn the paintings
Send us back to Galileo's Day
Then to the drug store we will go
For Vicodin and Chloraseptic spray
Scarf a couple Darvocets and Xanax
And then we'll go floating away
Dear Governor, dear Governor, dear Governor
The ultimate enforcer of my fate
Did I interrupt your three-martini lunch, sir?
Are you jonesing for a cigarette break?



Well, I wish you well on your travels
My friends I wish you well along the way
This is the story of how I came to be
 In jail for a night and a day

Next day, my buddies bail me out
Toward late afternoon
And the grass, it never smelled greener
Sun drips honey like from a golden spoon
I jump in the car and drive on out of there
Soon I'm a hundred miles away
And I get to thinking what awaits me
When I come back some not-so-distant day
Will I stand before the judge
And say, "Your Honor, this law, it is wrong"
Or do I just do the time and pay my fine
Shake this town from my boots and be gone

I wish you well on your travels
My friends I wish you well along the way
This is the story of how I came to be
In jail for a night and a day
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #141 of 160: Seastones: safe at any speed (unkljohn) Sun 6 Jun 04 16:16
    
nice.     it speaks to me for sure.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #142 of 160: Martin Torgoff (martintorgoff) Mon 7 Jun 04 01:20
    
This Dan Bern song is wonderful; so witty, so true. Reminds me of one
of my other favorites of his: "The Day They Found a Cure For AIDS."

 I've had experiences of being on the insides of police stations
because of drugs, though nothing ever ended up on my record. But for
some reason it makes me flash back to my freshman year at Cortland
State, 1970. My best friend and I wanted to hitch up to Syracuse to see
a double bill of Seals & Croft and John Sebastian, and the Rockefeller
Laws were just going into effect, which at the time were the most
Draconian drug laws in the US--terrifying, but they never stopped us
for a second from getting high in any way shape or form. But they sure
as hell made us paranoid enough to want to take extra measures to hide
the pot, especially as we were going to be hitch hiking and were a
couple of conspicuously long haired young men (see photo on my
website). But where to hide them? In our shoes? No, that'd be the
firstplace they'd look, right? The rectal canals? No, much too
uncomfottable, along with other reasons. So we ended up wrapping our
joints in Saran Wrap and putting them in our tuna sandwiches.
Brilliant! We get up there, get great seats, blow the joints, and the
concert is magical: Sebastian, alone on a little stage with his baby
Fender amp, entertaining 10,000 people in this field house as only he
could, and we get a ride back in the back of this pick up down Route
81, and I'm laying in that thing stoned with the cold wind and the
stars beaming down, huddled with a bunch of my brothers and sisters. It
was so wonderful and fun and innocent and really quite harmless and I
wouldn;t trade the memory for anything. But if we'd been stopped and a
New York State Highway Patrolmen would have searched those two tuna
sandwiches on kaiser rolls, my college years would have been very
different. 

Gary, welcome back. Yes, the Times review was...weird. But what the
hell. It's such a strange subject; everybody just reads into the book
what they want to see; and what they don't see, they invent. I knew
this was going to happen.  People have accused me of romanticizing
drugs, playing them for their entertainment value; and then, on the
other hand, trying to promote some message of sobriety or whatever. I
mean, the publisher is happy with the reviews because the book is being
taken seriously and they make it at least seem interesting to read to
have your own experience of it and make up your own mind, and there are
plenty of lines to pluck out and plaster on the back of the paperback
when it comes out, but you're right, they don't get it: mainly that I
did the book to promote an honesty about drugs in the national
discourse. Ultimately, the NY Times and the Washington Post didn;t get
it anymore than Bill Bennett would have had be reviewed the book, which
is pretty sad. Book reviewing in general is getting up on soapboxes to
shout about things that have little or nothing to do with the book,
but this subject brings that tendency out even more. My editor, Bob
Bender had called me with the advance of the review. "It's mixed, but
much more favorable than unfavorable." He was very pleased with its
placement (on the third page) and that it was full page. I told him I
was happy with it if he was, and then I went into a riff about how
writers are always dreaming of that perfect rave in the Times, much
like an adolescent dreaming of that perfect pair of tits and ass
(forgive the crassness of this analogy, ladies, but I see life in
metaphors of baseball and sex). As young men, we think about this
vision of prurient perfection, and often spend a lot of time chasing
it, but more often than not it eludes us, and if we're lucky we end up
being satisfied with the pussy we actually end up getting. There was a
pause on the phone, after which Bob said, drily, "Well put, Martin,"
and we had a good laugh. And then a review arrived from the May 28
edition of the Rocky Mountain News. The Perfect Lay! Spent the rest of
the day in post-orgasmic glow from it...

Stay tuned for Rolling Stone on June 14th, the summer double issue.  
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #143 of 160: Robin Russell (rrussell8) Mon 7 Jun 04 07:47
    
Finished the book last night. I found it enjoyable and well written
(though the 12 steps stuff was a slow section). It is a useful
contribution to what should be but is not a debate in the public arena.

The best bit? McKenna saying something along the lines of having
explored every aspect of the planet that he could and concluding that
the most interesting thing was DMT. What I would like to have seen more
of? A more detailed exploration of just why McKenna might say that. In
Food of the Gods, he says: "What we experience in the presence of DMT
is real news. It is a nearby dimension -- frightening, transformative,
and beyond our powers to imagine, and yet to be explored in the usual
way. We must send fearless experts, whatever that may come to mean, to
explore and to report on what they find."

To quote the Mary Jane Hot-Cha, "Mary Jane's a little homely, but
she's safer than DMT."

When the book goes to the cocaine sections there is some discussion of
the background history of the drug which goes some way to setting the
US experience 1945 to 2000 in context. However, this is not done to
quite the same extent elsewhere. As a result, it is difficult to frame
the material in the book. Was any given situation peculiar to the US?
Did it develop in the US and spread elsewhere? For example, in a
different thread on Richie Unterberger's Eight Miles High we were
discussing the Australian High Times magazine, published by Phillip
Frazer, which was first on the scene about 1971, several years before
the US version debuted.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #144 of 160: Runcible Spoonerism (bryan) Mon 21 Jun 04 12:26
    
I'm about halfway through this book. It's really good; I'm sorry to have
missed the author here.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #145 of 160: Berliner (captward) Tue 22 Jun 04 02:54
    
Not positive, but I think my review will be in the next issue of Harp.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #146 of 160: David Gans (tnf) Tue 22 Jun 04 10:09
    
Is the review positive?
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #147 of 160: Berliner (captward) Tue 22 Jun 04 11:46
    
Oh, yeah, I was impressed. 
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #148 of 160: Berliner (captward) Tue 22 Jun 04 11:47
    
Duhh. I see what you mean. That's what happens early in the morning
when the coffee hasn't hit. It's *me* who's not positive when the
review will run. 
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #149 of 160: David Gans (tnf) Tue 22 Jun 04 11:51
    
I figgered, but I wanted to be sure.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #150 of 160: Bryan Higgins (bryan) Fri 2 Jul 04 15:17
    <scribbled by bryan Sat 3 Jul 04 00:12>
  

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