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inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #51 of 156: Ed McClanahan (clammerham) Tue 10 Feb 09 08:49
    
In Gurney Norman's wonderful little 1977 collection of stories titled
Kinfolks, in the last story ("A Correspondence"), an old lady named
Drucilla, who is a displaced Kentuckian currently living out her life,
miserably, in Phoenix, complains bitterly about (among many other
sorrows and afflictions of Western Living) "this sarcastic neighbor Mr.
Ortiz who pranks with the electricity ... "

Hey, I'd love it if somebody (anybody!) turned "Drowning in the Land
of Sky-Blue Waters" into a real song.  Your move, David!

Melinda, I don't know of any better expression in the language than
Gurney makes with that above-mentioned story ("A Correspondence") of
how deeply rooted this often-exasperating "place on earth" (to borrow
Wendell's title) is in the DNA of Kentucky natives.  When I went out
west in the '50s, I could hardly wait to scrape Kentucky off my
shoe-soles--and when I came back twenty years later, I could hardly
wait to get here!  Like Faulkner said:  "You have to be born there."
(No, Faulkner wasn't talking about Kentucky ... but that's because he
wasn't born here!)

Give me a call sometime, and we'll have that pint.    
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #52 of 156: Steve Silberman (digaman) Tue 10 Feb 09 10:19
    
Ed, could you please name five books by others that you think have been
underrated or nearly forgotten and deserve wider readership, from any era?
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #53 of 156: Melinda Belleville (mellobelle) Tue 10 Feb 09 11:04
    
Yes, I remember that story. We read Kinfolks in my Appalachian Authors
class my last semester in school. Our instructor knew Gurney and asked
him to come visit us and talk about the book.  You're right and he was
right about how the further away from KY you get the better it seems.
Altho' I guess I'm ahead of the game. I already know I don't want to be
anywhere else April through Oct and and wish I was anywhere else the
rest of the time.

I'd love to 'quaff some ales' with you sometime, but I could never
impose.  Drop me a line at mellobelle@insightbb.com sometime when your
schedule permits and we'll have an O'Round and a pint.

Oh, and for all y'all who haven't read Kinfolks, it's a great little
book of stories about growing up in E.Ky. 
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #54 of 156: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Tue 10 Feb 09 11:26
    
One of my more fascinating discoveries when I wrote The Hippie
Narrative was how many key literary figures of the 1960’s and ’70s
counterculture grew up in Kentucky––Gurney Norman, Wendell Berry, and
Hunter S. Thompson.  In O the Clear Moment, you also mention, “having
unlearned the box-step one night in 1966 under the combined influence
of Owsley acid, the Grateful Dead, and the strobe lights of the
Fillmore […]”.  

Hunter S. Thompson grew up in Louisville.  Owsley is the scion of a
politically prominent Kentucky family and the namesake of one of your
Bluegrass State counties.  Both went to California in the early ‘60s. 
Did you ever have the chance to talk to either Hunter or Owsley about
your shared Kentucky roots?  And, maybe it’s just those “Cumberland
Blues,” but why do you think certain ethos from the counterculture
resonated so strongly with you Kentuckians all born in the 1930s? 
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #55 of 156: Ed McClanahan (clammerham) Tue 10 Feb 09 19:41
    
First let me take a shot at Steve's question about books that, in my
opinion, have been unjustly overlooked or forgotten, or otherwise
haven't received the attention due them.  (Are they mostly by friends
of mine?  You betchum!)

At the top of the list, of course, are Sometimes a Great Notion and
Divine Right's Trip, and coming in a close third is Kinfolks (Gnomon
Press), Gurney's absolutely perfect little collection of stories, which
has been quietly in print for more than thirty years, and is still
selling briskly.  Then there's the whole body of work by my dear friend
(I met him at the paperback rack, smart ass!) Erskine Caldwell, which,
uneven and trashy and irascible as it can sometimes be, is nonetheless
a monumental but sorely neglected landmark of Southern literature. 
Bob Stone's later work is much acclaimed, of course, but nobody pays
much attention nowadays to his great first novel, A Hall of Mirrors. 
Merrill Joan Gerber, a classmate of mine and Bob's in the Stanford
writing program, has published a raft of fine novels and short story
collections, all largely unnoticed.  Harry Crews's A Childhood is a
great non-fiction achievement which I fear is in peril of being
forgotten.  And while we're on the subject of non-fiction splendors, I
nominate Chuck Kinder's hilarious Last Mountain Dancer, a hillbilly
laff-riot if ever there was one.  I have a couple more local nominees,
too:  Hell and Ohio, Chris Holbrook's superb collection of Appalachian
stories, and James Baker Hall's long-neglected first novel Yates Paul,
His Grand Flights, His Tootings, now back in print after forty years
(thank you, University Press of Kentucky) and as funny and touching as
ever.

But before we move along, let us pause momentarily for a reverent tip
of the McClanahat to that modest little masterpiece A Congress of
Wonders, by the shy and retiring Sweet Singer of Burdock County, Ed
McWhat's-his-name.

See, Steve, you never shoulda asked me that question in the first
place.    

Now on to Scott's question about Owsley and Hunter Thompson and what
it is with Kentucky and the "counterculture ethos":

I met Owsley (or at any rate was in his exalted presence) a couple of
times, but never got to know him at all.  I did know Hunter, and liked
him very much, but to tell the truth our conversations had mostly to do
with (or were seriously befuckled by) whichever substances we
happened, at those all-too-infrequent moments, to be mutually abusing.

But the outlaw ethos is powerful in Kentucky, land of Mike Fink and
alligator-horses and moonshiners and Hatfields and McCoys and company. 
When I first moved back here in the mid-1970s and was working in
tobacco, I was fond of predicting that Kentucky (because of its history
of hemp and tobacco cultivation plus the tradition of moonshine
outlawry) was destined to become the marijuana capital of the known
world.  And sure enough, thirty-some-odd years later, guess what our
number one cash crop is!
  

           
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #56 of 156: Scott MacClanafar (s-macfarlane) Tue 10 Feb 09 20:23
    
I’m going to have to expand my collection of fine Kentucky literature,
and use some stout bottles of hootch as bookends.  Fascinating list.  

When I examined Divine Right’s Trip (DRT) for my book, several reviews
commented on how amazing it was that Norman could connect two such
disparate worlds––that of the Appalachian mountain people and the
California hippie.  Yet, in the back-to-the-land movement toward
self-reliance and finding a “righteous” path, as Divine Right/David Ray
yearned to do in DRT, the separation of these cultures wasn’t really
so incongruous.  The emerging environmental awareness wasn’t lost on
the old-school Kentuckians, such as when Divine Right hears this from a
local miner he has picked up in Urge, his faithful VW Bus:

“Got cows, good garden and a spring, man can live good there if he’s
willing to work.  But they’s this outfit owns the coal rights
underneath, and they’re on their way to get it.  Eighty miles long,
that bench is.  Reminds me of a big sarpent sneaking through the hills,
big old eighty mile long snake killing everything in its path.  It’s
that way everywhere around here.  Some folks call it the end of time
but me, I just call it a bunch of goddamn criminals out tearing up the
world.”  (from DRT)
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #57 of 156: Steve Silberman (digaman) Tue 10 Feb 09 21:22
    
Wonderful, Ed, thanks so much.
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #58 of 156: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Tue 10 Feb 09 22:49
    <scribbled>
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #59 of 156: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Tue 10 Feb 09 22:54
    <scribbled>
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #60 of 156: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Tue 10 Feb 09 23:02
    
Even though you live in Kentucky and most of the surviving Merry
Pranksters are in Oregon, you’ve remained close with your old friends.
I had the wonderful opportunity to hear you read from O the Clear
Moment three months ago in Eugene, and then visit with you at a
Prankster barbecue held the next day on your behalf.  

Several of the original Pranksters were there, including George
Walker, Mike Hagen, John and Ken Babbs, Mountain Girl, Chuck Kesey,
Ken's widow Faye, and yourself, of course.  Ken Kesey’s absence from
that party was palpable.  He was very much a family man, and that
party was comprised of his clan--both blood relations and Prankster
related.

My own father and that side of my family are all from Oregon, and,
down to the few remnant longhairs, this low-key gathering reminded me
so much of being with my aunts and uncles and cousins in the Willamette
Valley.  

Do you see similarities and differences between this gathering in the
Pacific Northwest, and those you’ve been to in Kentucky?  

And, can you describe, briefly, your relationship with Ken on a
personal level?
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #61 of 156: David Gans (tnf) Wed 11 Feb 09 01:30
    


Greetings from Oregon!

Simon Babbs came to my gig in Hillsboro this evening.  I wonder what it is
like to be the spittin' image of a legendary character.

I remember reading "Drowning in the Land of Sky-Blue Waters" and thinking it
actually worked as a lyric (putative song lyrics that show up in novels etc.
tend not to, I think).  I'm 500 miles from my copy of the book - would
someone mind posting it here?

I'm glad you're here, Ed, and I'm glad my favorite Kentucky gal found her way
over here to join the conversation.

And I really want to see the original "GD I Have Known," so I went and
ordered a copy of "My Vita" - thanks for the pointer!

So many fine comments and questions on the table already.  As a once and
future writer who is currently contemplating a possible attempt to someday
tell some of my own damn stories, I admire the hell out of the way you tell
yours.  "O the Clear Moment" makes me both envious and inspired, so thanks.

Here's a question I have been thinking about a lot.  There's a line in "St
Stephen" that I keep ruminating on in my own life and work: "Did it matter?
Does it now?"  LSD, the Pranksters, and the Grateful Dead didn't change the
world to nearly the extent we had hoped they might, but they did change it
some.  So you agree?  How did it change you, and how did you put all that to
work in the life that followed those days?
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #62 of 156: Scott MacFanoclan (s-macfarlane) Wed 11 Feb 09 07:10
    
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 1985, 2008 ©Ed McClanahan

[I write this and then share these lyrics w/o talking to Ed
McClyriclan, but it's for educational purposes, you know, and a get
rich scheme for you and Gans, Ed.]



"Drowning in the Land of Sky-Blue Waters"


I've lost my way again
Out in this neon wilderness,
Where the rivers run in circles
And the fish smoke cigarettes;

Where the only things that gave me
Any peace of mind
Are a jukebox and a barstool
And a strange electric sign.

CHORUS:
'Cause I'm drowning in the land of sky-blue waters
Since I lost my way home to you.
Yes, I'm drowning in the land of sky-blue waters;
I need you to see me through.

I've seen that peaceful campsite
A hundred times tonight,
Where the campfire's always burning
And everything looks right.

But across that crazy river
In this godforsaken place,
A man is going under;
He could sink without a trace.

CHORUS:
For he's drowning...(etc.)

The Elbow Room is closing now,
And I must face the street,
Where the only rushing rivers
Are rivers of concrete.

There's no way I can cry for help;
My pride has got its rules.
But at last call for alcohol
My heart calls out for you:

CHORUS:
Oh, I'm drowning...etc.




So David, is it too much to expect an international premiere of this
fine and future song at the great annual Grateful Dead caucus in
Albuquerque??!!??  That'll give you a full two weeks...

(Oh, and Diga and I expect glory and fame in the liner notes if this
little ditty hits the big time...)

 
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #63 of 156: David Gans (tnf) Wed 11 Feb 09 11:21
    

> So David, is it too much to expect an international premiere of this fine
> and future song at the great annual Grateful Dead caucus in Albu-
> querque??!!??  That'll give you a full two weeks...

I CAN'T TAKE THE PRESSURE! 

One things at a time, as I am wont to say.  I'll ruminate on it.
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #64 of 156: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 11 Feb 09 13:47
    
No worries, David.  Stretch out your elbows, have a cold beer and
whenever, if ever, is cool! 

(And when you see a neon waterfall flowing uphill, know that either
someone's gotten to your Blue Ribbon, or the muse is camped out on your
shoulder.)
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #65 of 156: Gail Williams (gail) Wed 11 Feb 09 16:41
    
That should be a verse! 

(Just kidding -- it would not fit in with the simple sort of
urban-country pathos of the rest of the lines as they are now, seems to
me.  That more psychedelic image is kind of like the old folk-tune,
Big Rock Candy Mountain.) 
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #66 of 156: Ed McClanahan (clammerham) Wed 11 Feb 09 18:18
    
I'll start with Scott's question:

Hey, the reason Ken wasn't there is that it was MY goddamn party, and
we didn't invite him!  

In fact, I feel very strongly connected with those folks in Oregon. 
For one thing, I'm something of an Oregonian myself, having spent four
years (1958-62) in Corvallis.  I was a rural guy (not to say a hick)
teaching at what was then a rural college (Oregon State), so even from
the first, I never felt like a total stranger out there.  And of course
during my California and Montana years, Ken and his family and all my
Prankster pals in Oregon exerted an irresistibly powerful magnetic
force on me.  It was--still is--like going home; I went there as often
as I could make it ... and I still do.

As I imagine almost anyone who held Ken in high regard would
acknowledge, it was easy to love and admire and enjoy him from a
distance; being his friend, on the other hand, could at times be its
own kind of acid test.  He could be very judgmental, for one thing, and
he sometimes jumped to conclusions and then stubbornly clung to them
till you could practically see his knuckles turning white.  Introducing
him to one's friends was always risky, because he would sometimes take
an almost instant dislike to someone, and then, almost as if he'd
formed a sort of prejudice, it would be really hard to dislodge that
opinion from his noggin.  Also, in conversation, his responses were
sometimes as quick and reflexive--and therefore as "thoughtless," in
both the best and worst senses of the word--as an athlete's reactions
in the heat of competition.

But that friend of yours whom Ken hadn't liked was liable to have
become, by the next time you ran into him or her, an indispensable
inner-circle Prankster.  And although Ken would never apologize for
hurting your feelings with some offhand abrasive observation--sincere
apology requires at least a modicum of humility, and humility wasn't
among Ken's many virtues--, the next time you saw him he was liable to
say or do something so genuinely, ingenuously affectionate and generous
that an apology would have seemed to violate a whole new reality. 
He'd never dream of allowing you to suppose YOU had changed his
mind--but if he changed it himself, that was an altogether different
matter, and whatever he'd changed it to had magically become ... the
New Reality!

Ken always rose to the occasion.  I think the best thing I ever wrote
about him (and I wrote a lot!) is the story called "Ken Kesey, Jean
Genet, the Revolution, et Moi" in Famous People I Have Known.  In that
story, he takes on Genet, a sizable contingent of Black Panthers, and a
roomful of academic would-be revolutionaries, and wins the day even as
he ascends to the very pinnacle (or, if you will, descends into the
mire) of Political Incorrectness. 

"One things at a time"!  I love that, David!  And it's good advice for
me right now, because it's a really windy evening here in Lex, and I'd
like to get this posted before we lose power.  I'll try to come to
grips with the "did it matter" matter in the next posting.   
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #67 of 156: Steve Silberman (digaman) Wed 11 Feb 09 18:47
    
Ed, that post is brilliant written and observed.  Thank you.
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #68 of 156: Steve Silberman (digaman) Wed 11 Feb 09 18:48
    
*brilliantly
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #69 of 156: Authentic Frontier Gibberish (gerry) Wed 11 Feb 09 18:58
    
Indeed.  I don't have anything to add right now, but I just want to
say that I've been following along here and am thoroughly enjoying this
magnificent discussion.  I *love* your style, Ed!
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #70 of 156: Ed McClanahan (clammerham) Thu 12 Feb 09 06:49
    
Thank you, Steve and Gerry!  You're too kind.

Now, back to David's question:  Did it matter?  Yeah, I think it
absolutely did--but not necessarily in the ways we thought it would. 
We allowed ourselves to suppose that, with our acid and weed and
politics and ecstatic dancing at the Fillmore, we were stirring up some
giant tsunami wave of change that would sweep all that old detritus of
history away before it and leave the world shining anew, all fresh and
bright and good to go--and everybody knows how that worked out.

Yet the change was happening withal; but it was our individual,
separate, multitudinous selves that we were changing, one at a time,
irrevocably.  Here's a passage from Famous People I Have Known, from
the story "The Day the Lampshades Breathed," about the Perry Lane days
back in the early '60s:

"But for weekenders and day-trippers like me, psychedelics were mostly
just for laughs; they made things more funny ha-ha than funny-
peculiar.  And for me at least, the laughter was a value in itself.  I
hadn't laughed so unrestrainedly since childhood, and the effect was
refreshing, bracing, invigorating--aftershave for the psyche.  Nor had
I ever in my life allowed myself to fall so utterly in love with all my
friends at once.  And there were several occasions, in the highest,
clearest moments of those high old times, when I caught a glimpse of
something at the periphery of my vision that shook the throne of the
tyrannical little atheist who sat in my head and ruled my Kentucky
Methodist heart."

The little atheist has long since resumed the throne (he's as
tenacious as that tiny demon on tv, the one that takes up residence
under your toenail), but things are never quite the same after an
experience like that.  There's an old story by Ray Bradbury about a guy
who takes a time-machine trip back into pre-history, where he
accidentally steps on a butterfly--and when he returns to the present,
he discovers that his little accident has resonated through the ages
and altered (very much for the worse, in Bradbury's story) a recent,
crucial presidential election.

In the '60s, bless our innocent hearts, we tried very, very hard not
to step on any butterflies.  And look who's president now!      

  
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #71 of 156: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Thu 12 Feb 09 07:15
    
It'd be a difficult case to make that the goings on at Perry Lane, the
Haight, Berkeley, etc., had much to do with Barack Obama becoming the
first African-American president 40-45 years later. I suspect the
goings on in Selma, Montgomery and Little Rock (not to mention
Washington, D.C.) had rather much more to do with it.

So you're saying, Ed, that the difference that was made by the
psychedelic era was a difference for and within individuals, not for
society in general?
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #72 of 156: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Thu 12 Feb 09 07:58
    
Steve B, I had a professor in college who challenged the notion of the
term, "the masses," as used then when discussing "the mass media" or
"the rising of the masses."  His point was simple.  A mass is a
singular blob which doesn't actually exist.  What exists in society are
hundreds, thousands and millions of individuals, not a mass.

"...to fall so utterly in love with all my friends at once."

So if the Kentuckian Owsley, one of several LSD "cooks", produced an
estimated 5 million hits of acid taken by millions of young people, at
what point did all the hits that were consumed during that era help
precipitate a collective consciousness shift, a cultural shift in the
way that "we" viewed our friends, community, nation, and possibilities
for the world? 

The powerful hallucinogens were and are some serious skookum.  From
out of that period's cauldron of change, the Civil Rights and other
liberationist movements do not adequately explain a shift in
consciousness or the rise of a new ethos, which in its most positive
manifestations included:

• honoring mother earth
• a we-can-change-the-world hopefulness
• the oneness of being
• an ecological interconnectedness of the last whole earth
• an anti-materialism leading to more conscientious consumption of
resources
• the need for humans to use appropriate technologies, and
• ideals to actualize world peace

I don't know what Ed's take is on this, but of all the core threads of
change in the late 60's and early 70's, the shifting dynamic of the
drugs being used, namely those potent hallucinogens taken by millions,
is the least examined for the effects it had on our subsequent culture.
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #73 of 156: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Thu 12 Feb 09 08:09
    
Somewhat related to SteveB's question, I was talking informally to a
semi-retired psychiatrist recently about Cuckoo's Nest.  Kesey once
described his first novel as "a simple Christ allegory that takes place
in a nuthouse."  Yet, the impact of this book read by millions of
individuals was not so simple.  The psychiatrist told me, in no
uncertain terms, that Cuckoo's Nest was the primary catalyst in
changing mental health practices, most notably the elimination of
Electro-Shock Therapy.  One thing that Ken Kesey stayed true to
throughout his life, interview after interview, was his unfaltering
belief in the reality and continued possibilities of a "consciousness
revolution."

Ed, you’ve cited Gurney Norman's Divine Right’s Trip as a greatly
underappreciated work of literature.  I wholeheartedly concur.   

And, while not ignored nearly to the extent that DRT has been, you
also say that Sometimes a Great Notion never received the literary
acclaim it deserved.  

Including Cuckoo’s Nest, how do you view Kesey’s two great works of
literature and their impacts?  Is there something in the thematic depth
and complexity of the works that elevate them to a stature as great
American novels?
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #74 of 156: Ed McClanahan (clammerham) Thu 12 Feb 09 08:56
    
C'mon, Steve, no need to take everything so fucking literally, fer
crissake!  What I'm saying is just that in changing oneself, one
changes the world.  That's not to say, though, that social movements
like Selma, etc., don't change it a whole lot more, or at any rate a
whole lot faster.   
  
inkwell.vue.346 : Ed McClanahan - O the Clear Moment
permalink #75 of 156: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Thu 12 Feb 09 09:13
    
Back to #72.  I didn't connect the final dot.  SteveB, there is a
definite linear connection from the Civil Rights Movement through the
many diversity initiatives in our culture and the efforts to allow
enfranchisement to a broad swath of American society that is at the
core of why Obama could be elected in 2008.  

However, the children of the enfranchised were also, from the inside,
railing against the establishment in droves during that era.  Reaction
to the Vietnam War was the primary agitation, but there was also
something profound taking place in core cultural attitudes when
psychedelic albums by the Beatles and many others proselytized for
peace and a change of consciousness.  

I doubt that John Lennon was implying sex when he said: "I'd love to
turn you on."  In a less linear way, the widespread consumption of
potent psychedelics was key part of breaking down the old order.  

So rather than look at the consciousness revolution to provide a
linear cause and effect for why Obama could be elected forty years on,
it did play an indirect role.  Again, this is a significant component
of the shifting social gestalt that is seldom appreciated or examined
for the impact it had.
  

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