(Excerpted from Chapter 11: Sushi, Day Work & Crazy Horse: The Grateful Unrich…)
San Francisco 4-6-1989
My scheduled flight on Philippine Airlines – the last leg of my round the world ticket – is twelve hours late, so I raise a fuss at the PAL ticket counter upon arrival in L.A. and score a free hotel room at the Airport Ramada Inn upon arrival in San Francisco.
I check in early to take full advantage of this small covert peck at the mighty system. There is free coffee, a complimentary San Francisco Examiner and a $10 breakfast coupon. I wonder whether a naked politically-correct fungus-eating cave dweller would have handled it differently and spent the night on a park bench. I doubt it.
On the free airport bus into downtown San Francisco I meet Stacy. She is a beautiful 27-year-old black woman living in the Haight-Asbury district. Her straight talk about the frustrations and anger that come with the territory of being a black woman in racist America hits home. Though the bus trip lasts only twenty minutes, I feel I have known her my entire life. She is a metaphor for the struggle I must shoulder as I plunge back into the belly of the beast.
I stroll down Haight Street to Buena Vista Park. My desperate youth comes storming back as I realize that my generation has let history down. Time rolls on, but we have missed the wave and are now stuck with the guilt, anguish, boredom and disillusionment that happen when the train has left the station without you. We need to run at breakneck speed to catch up with history, erasing these 1980’s as some B-rate movie starring plastic fantastic capitalist man. If we accept the liberal solution of slow reform, we will live perpetually in the riptide, treading water just to survive, never reaching the crest of the wave.
Some say we are the “Me” generation. I disagree. If we were actually looking out for ourselves, we would love more and work less for the corporate machine. Ultimately “I” equals “we” and “they” is tantamount to “us”. All bifurcated microscopically partitioned duality is fabricated confusion generated by a medieval Puritanical subconscious based on self-hatred and self-annihilation. If we were a “Me” generation we would allow peace to break out and we would quit the war machine. We would allow the poor to teach simplicity instead of paying the rich to preach complexity. We would accept happiness instead of constantly trying to fabricate it through expensive hobbies and trips to the mall.
Rather we are a generation that hates itself and has allowed our most base aspect to be jerked off by the military-industrial empire – barren of meaning, devoid of soul, controlled by devilish forces dangling phallic carrots in Oedipal darkness, backed always by the proverbial colonial stick. Our insecurities have reduced us to fitting in, being accepted and stamped as normal when we fly off the factory line, ready for inspection and use by the old boy network, brainwashed and robotized to love their machinery and hate ourselves and humanity and nature, fodder for burgeoning off-shore bank accounts.
From the top of Buena Vista Park, I stare out over San Francisco Bay. The Golden Gate Bridge fills a photo frame between two old pine trees. Traffic buzzes below. I am indifferent to its presence. For just this moment, above all the clatter, there is total resignation to the here and now that brings forth a profound truth. Ocean-bound freighters steam beneath the impressive bridge through a fog bank towards choppy seas. I wonder if they will stop anywhere I have been.
My mood fluctuates wildly in San Francisco. One minute I revel in the beatnik vibe so unique to this city, the next I seethe with hatred at the hippie fashion show that mimics the best Madison Avenue marketing effort. The tourists at Fisherman’s Wharf stare at me like some circus freak, some side-show to their all-American trip west. I am one of those Haight-Asbury relics that their snickering tour operator told them to expect. At North Beach I check out Lawrence Ferlengetti’s City Lights Bookstore, wondering if Willow the Belizean refugee will be flopping on a couch at the back of the shop. I wander through Chinatown, growing hungry in the sweetened fennel air, then circle back to the Haight, where post-modern pseudo-hippies mingle, separated from black people on porches who have transformed Black Panther CIA infiltration into angry rap music. Smugness and pretension have invaded the white half of the portrait. These 1980’s wannabes play the same follow the leader game that sold Telegraph Road out in the first place. They look the part but they don’t feel the love.
It is convincing evidence that movements are only necessary when they come from our assholes or the Boston Symphony. I am weary of meetings, groups, signs, banners and cute useless acronyms. Give me your anger and your outrage and leave these power trip excuses to insecure posing corpses who chase the next cool trend and get their rocks off on imagery and illusion.
Greyhound Bus: San Francisco to Miller, SD 4-8-1989
As we make the turn east on I-90 at Seattle, a frail graying woman sits down beside me. Margaret is 81-years-old and lives in Olympia, WA. Sensing an impending end to her life, she is headed east for Great Falls, MT to visit her 96-year-old aunt one last time. “The other ones are only there when she can do something for her,” Margaret says bitterly, “but I’ve packed enough clothes to stay six months if necessary. I live with my son and his wife. He took my car away, but I don’t want to be dependent on them. You know if I was lucky enough to have been born a man, I’d have done the same as you. I would have worked until I made enough to move on and I would have seen the world. Maybe I’ll go to Sacramento in August if my son will let me.”
Her words are an affirmation that the trip I have just completed could serve as inspiration for those who seek a more meaningful and free life. Talking with her, I realize that I relate so much better to this older generation than I do to either my own or that of my parents. Margaret – like my Grandma Marguerite who taught me so much – lived during a time when values mattered more than money, when hardship was the norm and when simplicity was essential for survival. Younger generations are increasingly spoiled and shallow of spirit.
We stop in Missoula, MT at 7:30 AM. I’ve decided to visit the University of Montana where I’ll be studying this fall. I wander into the Philosophy Department and meet Professor Albert Bell – a stuffy white-haired man who heads the department. He invites me to his office where I toss down my torn multi-colored Nepalese rucksack and present my unshaven scraggly self for inspection. Knowing that I’m already in and there is nothing he can do about it, I commence to blow his mind with tales of Southeast Asian CIA escapades and Indian ashrams. He is noticeably unnerved and speechless. I smile and tell him I’ll see him this fall.
I stroll through downtown Missoula, grab a bagel and some strong coffee, and head back to the bus station. As we head east I strike up another conversation, this time with Jack – who is tall, very thin and in the latter stages of middle age. His Mack Truck baseball cap is pulled crookedly down over thick plastic-framed eyeglasses. Tired of constantly driving, he is taking the bus from the mining town of Butte to the cattle and oil town of Billings. He is comfortably settled into the local vernacular of diesel engines, the right to own a large cache of weapons and intense discussions on weather. But I sense a much deeper understanding of life hidden under his trucker hat.
He is a Korean War veteran and begins talking of the absurdities of this nightmare. “It was no different from Vietnam, ya’ know. Best thing that ever happened was getting rid of Macarthur. He may have been a good general, but he sure as hell didn’t hesitate to sacrifice his troops. There was one time,” Jack recalls, “when he left 20,000 troops on the DMZ without any supplies. Many people froze to death. Others were bombed by the Chinese. But you can bet the brass didn’t get caught out in the cold. They sent choppers in just to get the big-shots out. Everyone else was left to die.”
Our conversation expands to include the CIA, the best way to grow pot without getting caught and the corruption of the Burlington Northern railroad, which still colonizes Montana. In the typically subtle fashion that often unmasks Midwestern simpletons as closet geniuses, Jack has succeeded in blowing my mind on this snowy March day of cruising between icy island mountain ranges. I am reminded of something my favorite professor at the University of South Dakota – the kind scraggly radical Mike Roche, who was highly instrumental to my awakening – had once said. In a moment of unbelievable clarity during a debate on capital punishment in one of his lively criminal justice classes, Roche stated, “Before all of the peelings. We are One and God is.”
The aging Jackrabbit pulls out of the Black Hills at Rapid City, SD and bears down on the remaining flat expanse of I-90 that separates me from home. Beneath catchy billboards touting Wall Drug lay the soil of a land betrayed – first by the white man’s lust for gold in these Paha Sapa, then by the chemical poisons of agribusiness. An Air Force tractor-trailer from Ellsworth Air Force Base buzzes past us with its covert cargo – a load of imminent death bound for some Third World tin-cup dictator’s army. Angus hormone-injected cattle roam the prairie at the foot of the Badlands – sacred burial grounds of Ogallala Sioux warrior Crazy Horse, who saw the bullshit of the forked tongued war-mongers long before Rockwell began bribing Pentagon officials, Homestake Mines began dumping arsenic into the Cheyenne River and small farmers who refused to dump glow-in-the-dark Roundup on their wheat were driven from their land and into the Sioux Falls meat-packing nightmare – led by the union-busting John Morrell, subsidiary of the United Brands cocaine syndicate.
Despite all the decadence and spiritual impoverishment that occurs here, I feel the spirit of Crazy Horse bounding between these stark jagged formations, stirring the soul of the people, screaming at the top of his lungs, “It is a good day to die!” I can feel his breath now. I pity the miserable ruling tyrants who live their lives in bondage to the money gods. I rejoice in the dangerous, audacious and subversive thing known as truth and in the realization that I am quite prepared to die speaking it. I laugh with the poor and dispossessed, whose lives are rich beyond material garbage and who have once again bestowed upon me renewed hope and faith everlasting.
Laughing Poor Folks
The clown with the frown appeared dripping in tears
To conceive the retrieval of conscience
The men with the plan shuddered and ran
From the mobs without jobs
Whose voice had no choice
The guard in the yard with dark stains on his brain
Fired once at the toys who were still making noise
Then a quiet calm vision made its final decision
Descending pretenders to the ranks of their banks
Depositing despots to save their own graves
Accounts climbing higher as they build their own pyres
Til’ abounding with cheer the reaper appeared
To scoff at their coffins every so often
Overflowing with bliss in their fiery abyss
Never aware of their self-sown despair
Fate ate them with chuckling stare
Dean Henderson is the author of five books:Big Oil & Their Bankers in the Persian Gulf: Four Horsemen, Eight Families & Their Global Intelligence, Narcotics & Terror Network, The Grateful Unrich: Revolution in 50 Countries, Das Kartell der Federal Reserve,Stickin’ it to the Matrix & The Federal Reserve Cartel. You can subscribe free to his weekly Left Hookcolumn @www.hendersonlefthook.wordpress.com