On turning 58

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Alan Watts, possibly considering publishing a new book, “The Drunken Cosmology.”

This might sound stupid (I thought I’d give that stupidity thing a whirl and see if it works for me).  But one of my last remaining goals in life was to make it to 58.   Two of the acid heroes of my youth — Alan Watts and George Harrison —  both kicked the bucket at 58.  Both of whom I would later come to have decidedly mixed feelings about.  So it was important to me (for some stupid reason) to out-live both of them.

Alan Watts was pretty much a wasted-away, old man alcoholic by age 58.  In between writing all those books about how we could attain the higher states of consciousness, ole’ Al failed to mention that one of his favorite techniques, personally, was to pound endless fifths of straight vodka.

The famous Indian philosopher Krishnamurti used to go on tirades about Alan Watts and Aldous Huxley back in the ’60s.  He blamed them, rightly or wrongly, for helping to lead an entire generation astray with their books that linked psychedelic drugs to spiritual wisdom.  And he held them partially accountable for the Drug Epidemic that swept across America in the wake of the ’60s.

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The Beatles, grooving at one of those famous ’60s LSD parties.

George Harrison, along with them other Beatles, was another one who greatly popularized the notion of LSD to a generation of youth.  People forget, in 1965 and 1966, the Beatles had an audience primarily of millions of prepubescent little kids.  Then, just a year later, they’re singing songs exstoling  the magical (as well as mystical and mysterious) virtues of LSD.  I remember as a 10 year old boy watching the Beatles Saturday Morning Cartoon Show,  and there were the cartoon Lads, singing “Tomorrow Never Knows.”  The lyrics taken practically word-for-word from Dr. Timothy Leary’s “The Psychedelic Experience”  — which he wrote as a How-To-Take-An-LSD-Trip guide.  Which is exactly how John Lennon intended the song . . . .   Nowadays, we’ve banned the Joe Camel cartoon character out of concern that it might influence children to smoke Camel cigarettes.  And yet, very little consideration was given to the potentially tragic aspects of the Beatles singing their LSD hymns to an audience of millions of kiddies.

After John Lennon’s murder in 1980 (by a guy my age who went nuts partially from gobbling down LSD by the handful back when he was a budding 14-year–old Beatlemaniac grooving to the Magical Mystery trip) George Harrison famously opined:  “This would have never happened if John had stayed in England.”  Shortly after, another Beatles-obsessed nut came within inches of murdering George in his English mansion.  Which no doubt contributed to George’s premature demise at age 58.

And me?  Somehow I’ve bucked the odds just to still be walking on two legs on God’s green earth at age 58.  Considering some of the demographics I’ve been in over the years — smoker, drinker, druggie, starving artist, long-time homeless — my life expectancy probably should have been around 40.

And if anybody just wants to write this rant off as, Sour Turd Blames Famous Celebrities For His Own Degenerate Drug Use, there’s probably more than an element of truth in that, too.

 

6 thoughts on “On turning 58

  1. ” In between writing all those books about how we could attain the higher states of consciousness, ole’ Al failed to mention that one of his favorite techniques, personally, was to pound endless fifths of straight vodka.”

    So true.

    It was also the preferred method (brandy) of another great modern guru, Gurdgieff.

    What is it about damaged people (of which alkies are a subset) that makes them so eager to become gurus and control the lives of others?

    You see this constantly at a low level even in “the rooms” of AA.

    1. Ya know . . . I dunno . . . Maybe they need to compensate for the lowly feelings they have about being an alcoholic by playing at being The Great Man.

      In Alan Watts’s case, he got locked into this act of playing at Alan Watts: the great know-it-all, the man with the answers, the guy who was always on top of things, the man with a twinkle in his eye. An act he couldn’t pull off when he was sober. For one thing, he was a very shy man. So he needed the alcohol to maintain the public façade. Then, pretty soon, he needed it to maintain his private façade, too.

      Believe me, I’m the last guy to be casting stones at alcoholics. It’s sort of the phoniness of Watts that grated on me a little.

  2. oh my God… Firstly, despite your mate here giving you the back-slap for it, “Alan Watts was…” NOT “pretty much a wasted-away, old man alcoholic by age 58”. Oh dear, oh dear…
    This is the most sanest sober, lucid video made by someone who is “a wasted-away, old man”!?

    And George never went public at all about LSD< for he was very ambivalent about it.
    Sorry, I know you are just writing lightly around your birthday, but I don't like misinformation about those I respect & love.
    Sure, Alan drunk copiously for many years -but he is -according to his recordings, the most eloquent, charismatic, intelligent, articulate rascal there could be, most charming and yet incredibly deep.
    And George, Just see Sorcese's Living in the Material World, to kind of get him/his essence, this intelligent, aware, dour, opinionated Liverpudlian guy- who had the most down-to earth hobbies and many great friends, despite his penchant for spirituality (* his curiosity, not love-affair, with LSD)
    But anyway, happy birthday to then!

    1. I appreciate your comments, and your even-tempered tone. Yes, Alan Watts was an extremely lucid man. Even after down his customary daily dose of several bottles of straight vodka he still retained his lucidity. That said, there are plenty of lucid salesman and lawyers in this world. I’ve read and re-read just about every book by Alan Watts.. I’d also reccomend reading a biography about Watts published a few years ago that paints a far different picture of the man then the one he presented to the public in his books and lectures. And it’s a pretty accepted fact that he drank himself to death. I’m an alcoholic myself, so I’m not throwing stones in that regard. Just stating the obvious. . . But yeah, I was going through a period of bitterness towards the ’60s counterculture in general when I wrote that piece. So I probably over-reacted with the harshness of some of my critique. Hell has no fury like a former lover scorned. Heh heh.

      1. As for the Beatles and drugs, you can Google “George Harrison” “LSD” and find plenty of public comments from George where he touts the benefit of LSD. As well as some where he voiced second thoughts. Here’s something I just stumbled upon on the internet in regards to George’s somewhat harrowing visit to the Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of Love:

        “George Harrison could not have anticipated this deranged response to his music. But he did instinctively sense that LSD use, which The Beatles had helped promote, was leading to very dark outcomes.
        …. ‘It certainly showed me what was really happening in the drug cult. It wasn’t what I thought with all these groovy people having spiritual awakenings and being artistic. It was like any addiction. So at that point, I stopped taking it actually.. the dreadful lysergic. That’s where I really went for the meditation.’”

        George did come to his senses a bit, after helping to “promote” LSD to a generation of kids. But his response was a bit too-little-too-late for my tastes. Just my opinion.

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