Questions from Stacie: Part 2

1.) Do you think all children should be exposed to some sort of organized religion to help form their moral compass?

I don’t know much about child-rearing, so I really can’t say. Religions in general can  be a mixed bag of nuts when it comes to imposing their particular “moral compass” on others. Though generally I think it’s good to expose children to religion. At some point later in life most of us start asking the religious questions: “Why are we here? What is this life all about?” And religion is a good starting point for investigating into these questions.

2.) What effect does religion have on your daily life today?

Not much, I consider myself as a spiritual person, more so than a member of any particular religion.

3.) Are there any negative aspects of religion that have affected you in the past or that affect you now?

When I was in college, my roommate — who was a pot-smoking, guitarist in a KISS cover-band — suddenly became a Born Again Christian, cut off his hair, and spent the next semester tormenting me that I was going to Hell if I didn’t renounce Satan and give my life to Jesus.  So that was annoying.  Other than that, I can’t think of religion impacting on my life one way or another.

Questions from Stacie

1) Do you consider yourself religious, spiritual, or any other creative source?

I’ve always considered my life a spiritual quest. I’m a seeker by nature. At times I’ve felt like I was gaining hard-fought spiritual wisdom. While at other times I’ve felt like a spiritual cripple.  I’ve checked out most of the world’s religions. But don’t belong to any of them. Practiced yoga and meditation for many years. But I suppose those would be considered more as a form of spiritual science than as a religion. I’ve probably most been influenced by Vedanta and Hinduism.

2) Have you ever had a religious or spiritual experience so intense it changed the way you feel about the universe that you’d like to share?

When I was 19 I was heavily into LSD and Alan Watts and books about Zen. And at one point, peaking on acid, I had what I considered to be a pretty intense mystical experience. Experiencing God, experiencing myself as a manifestation of God, experiencing Oneness with God, Oneness with the Universe. I transcended my individual identity and experienced my Universal identity. Though later I came to question the authenticity of the experience. And to question the validity of psychedelics as a spiritual tool . . . .  My spiritual life sort of hit a dead-end after awhile, and was dormant for many years. Until I was 40 and a friend of mine gave me for a Christmas present a copy of this book by Swami Muktananda — an Indian guru — titled “Where Are You Going?” (good question) And I had an instantaneous “Shakti” experience just from looking at the photo of Muktananda in the book. “Shakti” is the experience when an enlightened spiritual master directly transmits his divine spiritual energy into a devotee. It’s like the ultimate “contact high.”  Where the guru gives you a taste of his Divine state. That experience kick-started a renewed interest in my spiritual development. And I would spend the next 7 years reading all of Muktananda’s books and practicing daily kundalini yoga meditation and mantra repetition. And I had many spiritual experiences from those practices.

3) What do you think happens when you die? If you believe in heaven do you think there are certain criteria that must be met to be worthy? Do you believe in redemption?

I believe in reincarnation. That we all go through many lifetimes — as a process of purifying ourselves. Until we ultimately reach the highest state and merge with God. Though the mystics regularly point out that in fact we’re already one with God, even though most of us haven’t realized that fact yet.

4) Do you believe that objects like crystals, symbols like tarot or ouija, have any power?

I believe that different objects, and places, can be blessed as well as haunted or cursed. There is spiritual power emanating from all the points of this universe of ours. Personally, I’m not very familiar with crystals, tarot or ouija, so can’t really comment about that.

5) Have you ever had a paranormal experience?

One of the unusual — and dangerous — side effects of practicing kundalini yoga is that as you get more advanced into it, you start to gain these occult powers. The powers are along the lines of “whatever you think will manifest.” The more purified and powerful your mind gets from the yoga, the more you’re able to make things happen simply by willing them to be. Which can get you into all sorts of trouble if you start using these powers. Especially in the early stages. Because you’re like a baby who has been given this extremely powerful (and volatile) toy to play around with. And I severely retarded my spiritual development because I couldn’t resist indulging on the occult level.

6) How do you think all this was created? Big bang, evolution, a higher power?Does your personal belief system help you act with higher standards of morals and behaviors? Was your first exposure to religion a positive one, or was it used as a judgment with unreachable standards or harsh punishment?

I believe God created this entire Universe in a blink of an eye, primarily for sport, for His own amusement and cosmic kicks. And one day God will blink his eye again and dissolve this entire Universe back to nothingness. And that the entire Universe is nothing less than the body of God Himself.

7) Do you think there’s only one “Right and true religion?” Can an atheist have a conscience and similar high moral integrity without religious rules or the punishment of purgatory, or hell?If you do believe in an afterlife or higher power, when did you first find your faith? Have you had more than one religion that you Identified with? Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

I think most of the world religions have something of value to offer. Different people feel comfortable with different religions depending on their temperament and cultural background. But there’s a common mystical thread that runs through most of them. And that’s the primary facet of religion that has always interested me. I started out primarily interested in Zen Buddhism (the satori experience) and Taoism. But was later drawn primarily to Vedanta.

I appreciate your questions. Spirituality isn’t something I talk about very much. It’s a personal thing with me. And not always easy to communicate with others about. And like I said, I primarily consider myself a spiritual seeker. So it’s not really my place to be a spiritual talker or teacher.

The Great John Lennon Toronto Peace Festival — the festival that never was

In the wake of the great Woodstock peace ’n’ acid festival, John Lennon took one last stab at the great Peace Guru role. His latest caper in 1970 was to produce the great John Lennon Toronto Peace Festival. Feel the vibes. Which would be “bigger than Woodstock,” naturally.

Lennon hooked up with his latest guru — this big, fat nut named Dr. Hambrick. Hambrick claimed to be “in contact with supernatural beings from another planet who would arrive on earth to save us from our own self-destruction.” Hambrick’s goal was to “capture The Beatles because The Beatles would be the earth force by which the supernatural powers could act in concert to bring peace to our chaotic planet.”

So Dr. Hambrick had a sensible plan for bringing about world peace.

And Hambrick had indeed captured John Lennon with all this talk. Lennon was enthralled by all this stuff, about getting to meet supernatural alien creatures from outer space (Hambrick would personally introduce Lennon to the critters), and especially his exciting new role as Savior of Humanity.

So John ’n’ Yoko and the whole crew went off to Denmark for a big “retreat” to plot out the big John Lennon Toronto Peace Festival. The whole crew decided to trip on some REALLY STRONG ACID to help align their vibes to the big task ahead of Saving Humanity. So they passed this little dish around with “some black sticky stuff that smelled like medicine,” and they all ate it and they all got high.

“Like really high, like a completely nonphysical feeling,” said John Brower, the Peace Festival promoter who was along for the ride. At the peak of the acid trip, according to Brower, Lennon suddenly had a Major Revelation. He pounded his fist on the table and exclaimed to his manager Allen Klein: “HITLER WAS RIGHT. YOU’VE GOT TO CONTROL THE PEOPLE!”

Only now, instead of like Hitler controlling the people for war and all that bad stuff, John Lennon, the Great Man, would control the people for peace. Cool.

Then Dr. Hambrick laid his next brain-storm on the tripped-out multitudes. Hambrick had invented this amazing “two-passenger car that looks like a plane that goes on the ground or flies in the air, and it never needs fuel, its powered by psychic energy.”

Well, this is just the coolest. So the big plan now was for John ’n’ Yoko to fly one of those psychic-energy planes right over the crowd at the freakin’ John Lennon Toronto Peace Festival, and right up onto the stage. How’s that for a grand entrance (let’s see Paul McCartney top that one!). And even better, they’re gonna’ mass-market these psychic-energy cars, and you had better believe that those babies will sell like hotcakes, because you don’t even need fuel to fly them And, best of all, all the profits from the psychic-energy cars will go directly to the John Lennon Peace Foundation!

So this is just the coolest of all. Awesome.

What a guy. John and Yoko would hit the stage (to thunderous applause) and bring peace and love to earth. Restoring the cosmic balance of the cosmos, saving the world, and bringing harmony to humanity. All in a day’s work.

Now keep in mind: They actually believed this stuff. And, considering that John Lennon’s real life had already been so spectacularly unbelievable, I guess anything could seem possible to him at this point. And when you factor in LSD, with its peculiar messianic, hallucinatory, and exaggerating properties (as if Lennon’s life wasn’t already exaggerated enough) it’s little wonder that Lennon ended up having no IDEA which end was up. Myth or reality? Christ, just gimme’ some truth, he cried. Whatever that was.

Alas, the great John Lennon Toronto Peace Festival collapsed in a sea of bad vibes and organizational chaos (Lennon changing his mind with every new drug trip didn’t help matters). In a desperate attempt to save the sinking festival, Lennon wrote an impassioned plea to ROLLING STONE magazine — that crucial organ for all your latest Lennon updates — entitled: “HAVE WE ALL FORGOTTEN WHAT VIBES ARE?”

In the article, he wrote:

“Can you imagine what we could do together, one million souls (plus TV link-ups) in one spot, praying for peace. We could change the balance of energy power. On earth and therefore, in the universe.”

So it all made perfect sense.

But alas and alack, the people had indeed forgotten what vibes are. Darn. And, like so many of the hippie pipe dreams of the ‘60s, the great John Lennon Toronto Peace Festival went up in smoke.

Trying to write my goddamn ACID HEROES book

 

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Writing my ACID HEROES book was a fairly painful experience. It took me 7 years to write the damn thing. 2002 to 2009. And I wrote like 7 different drafts. But the weird thing was, every draft improved it in some ways, but made it worse in other ways. Which was maddening.

I had never gone through anything like this before. With all my other projects, the more I worked on them, the better they got. It was like carving out a sculpture. I’d slowly but surely cut out the parts I didn’t want. And the image I was trying to create would get clearer and clearer. Until I was finally done.

But with the ACID HEROES book, the more I worked on it, the worse it got. It was like I was going around in circles. Flailing away blindly.

Part of the problem was that the subject matter didn’t play to my strengths as a writer. Generally I like to take a small thing, and extrapolate that into a bigger thing. Like with my previous book — SURVIVING ON THE STREETS. I’d write about a little thing, like the best kind of boots to wear when you’re on the streets. And extrapolate that into a larger meaning about life on the streets.

But with the ACID HEROES book I was coming from the opposite direction. I was taking this big thing — 50 years of my life, and 50 years of the cultural history of America — and trying to boil it down to this little thing, this concise little book. It was like making a documentary where you got 50 years worth of footage, and you got to edit it down to a 2 hour movie. So it required some pretty precise editing. Which didn’t play to my strengths as a writer, which tends to prefer a more meandering approach.

Adding to the problems, when I finally got down to working on the final draft I was homeless and living on the streets. Try writing, editing, and self-publishing a 300 page book while living out of a sleeping bag in the middle of the rainy season. No easy task.

And by that point I had already written and re-written every sentence 7 times. And I had gotten lost within it. I could no longer tell which was the best take.

On top of that I was going through an extremely stressful period in my personal life. I was in the middle of on-going wars with 4 different street people — lunatics all — and the kind of feuds that involved physical violence and dealing with the police. So that distracted my attention. On top of that I was dealing with my best friend who was in the process of dying a hideously painful death. On top of that I was working full time at my job as a street vendor, which was another source of stress. On top of that I was diagnosed with glaucoma and the docs were telling me I could blind at any moment. So it was like, what the fuck?? A complete over-load on my senses. Meanwhile I’m still striving to create immortal literature.

So it was hard to distinguish the forest from the trees. I was so immersed in the details of trying to get every sentence exactly right that I lost sight of the bigger picture. The actual concept of the book. And the pacing and the structure of the things. And I made several crucial mistakes on the final draft that irk me to this day.

Oh and one more problem. I was trying to write about the psychedelic experience and hallucinations. Which any writer will tell you is difficult to capture in words.

When I finally managed to get the damn thing published — almost exactly 10 years ago from this day — I was so stressed out that I contracted this disease, Shingles. Which is largely caused by stress. Half of my face was covered with these incredibly painful festering sores and scabs. I still have the scars from it to this day.

In a way I never really recovered from the experience of writing that book. I had spent the previous 35 years doing one artistic project after another after another. But after ACID HEROES there would be no more projects. I was fried.

People often say to me: Ace you should publish another book. Or put out another CD. Or do another calendar. Or publish another zine. And I’m like: “No. I don’t think so.”

Cary Grant

 
 
 

Dyan Cannon’s book — “DEAR CARY: My Life With Cary Grant” — is one of the more perceptive looks at Cary Grant. He was 58 and she was 25 when they first started dating, and she was practically a virgin (Cannon: “I’d had sex only once in my life, though it was so inept I’m not sure it even qualified.”).

There’s a weird scene where Cary casually introduces her to Timothy Leary and they kind of double-team her, give her the big sales pitch to “turn on” to LSD. Something she wasn’t particularly eager to try. And didn’t particularly enjoy.

He does come off as a bit of an ass playing Pygmalian with Cannon. Playing at being the big know-it-all who’s gonna solve all of her psychological problems with this magic pill LSD. While not copping to how screwed up he is.

Overall, Cary comes off kind of bizarre in the book. Half the time he comes off like “Cary Grant,” like he’s playing his movie role in real life — charming, witty, gracious, graceful. And then the other half he suddenly becomes stunted, cold, inarticulate. confused, nuerotic. Like he lost the script and couldn’t sustain his act…. But he seemed like a sincere guy with some kind of deep-rooted psychological quirk he couldnt fix. As he famously put it: “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.”

Turn on, tune in, and flip out

Acid Backwords

I remember this one time when the acid was a little too pure, a little too powerful. And my brain was completely overwhelmed by the wattage…..

I was walking down Telegraph Avenue when that first rush hit. That mind-boggling wave when all of reality seems up for grabs. When I suddenly noticed these two guys, these two very suspicious looking guys in trenchcoats. Dark-complexioned. Foreigner-looking. And they were staring at me, and pointing at me, and whispering something back and forth to each other. I immediately realized it was Them. And they were On To Me!!!

I rushed back to my apartment building in a panic. Quickly checked my mailbox in the lobby — there was a single postcard in the box with this sinister hand-written message that basically said: “WE WANT TO TALK TO YOU!!”

I rushed upstairs to my second floor apartment, slammed the front door shut, and locked and bolted it. Thinking I was safe at last. But when I looked out my window I was shocked to find out that the two guys in trenchcoats had followed me all the way down to my apartment. They were in the motel across the street, peering up at me from between the slats of the venetian blinds in the motel window. And pointing some kind of device at me, some kind of recording device or mind-control machine that they were beaming directly at me.

I pulled down all the shades and stood there in the middle of my apartment in a panic. I considered making a run for it. But I knew they would surely catch me.

And then at that exact moment my phone rang. I stood there pouring sweat, debating whether I should answer it. For I knew it was all connected. Finally I realized I had no choice. I cautiously picked up the receiver and said, “Hello?”

“Well hi there!!” said the voice. Dripping with menace. “I was calling to see if you got the postcard I sent you.”

“Yes I GOT it!!” I exclaimed.

And I immediately knew it was Him. The Leader. He began talking to me on the phone. And while I couldn’t fully comprehend what he was saying, I knew it was bad. I desperately listened to every word, every syllable he said with a manic intensity. Clutching the phone in my fist. Trying to make sense of it all. Trying to figure out what his game was. And what he wanted from me. And if there was any way out. His eerie, tinny, almost subhuman voice coming into my ear as if from another dimension of time and space.

Finally I angrily confronted him about the two goons in the motel across the street that he had sent to spy on me. He denied the accusation, pretended like he didn’t know what i was talking about. But I could tell he was lying. Every word he said was a lie.

I slammed the phone down and stood there pondering my next move. I suddenly concluded — in a rare moment of clarity — that my only hope was to rush down to the 7-11 on the corner, and purchase two 6-packs of Budweiser beer in the bottles. And drink as many of the bottles as quickly as I could until my brain started to come back down to earth. And that’s what I did.

The next day, when I had straightened up (sort of), I realized the guy on the phone was actually the editor of IN THESE TIMES, this leftwing magazine from Chicago, and he was trying to interview me about this article he was working on.

LSD really is a stupid drug.

Turn on, tune in and geist out

 

 

I just heard the film director Tobe Hooper, who made the movie Poltergeist (among other things) just passed away. I’ll never forget Poltergeist. Though my memory of it is a series of fragmented images.

It must have been around 1984 and I was watching Poltergeist on TV at my friend Mary’s house. About an hour earlier I had dropped some LSD. And that particular batch of LSD turned out to be a little more pure and powerful than I had bargained for. I began to completely hallucinate. My brains were so scrambled I became convinced that the Poltergeist movie I was watching was actually the 6 o’clock TV news reporting on the nuclear Holocaust in progress. And when I looked out the window I could see all the bombs dropping all over the place and all the buildings exploding. “This is it, Mary, it’s all about to blow up!!” I said. “It’s the end of the world!” Mary looked back at me stoically.
And I was amazed at Mary’s calmness and courage in the face of the end of the world. And then Mary’s house was like the house in the beginning of the Wizard of Oz where it starts spinning faster and faster by the tornado and soars up into the sky. . . The next thing I remember, I realized that I was curled up on the floor sucking on Mary’s foot. Mary looked down at me and said: “Would you get the hell out of here!”

So I give Poltergeist a big thumb’s up. Five stars. RIP Tobe Hooper.

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