07 August 2011

Trippin' With Some Far Out Cats -- Kesey and Isherwood in Documentaries


Love lost, such a cost,
Give me things
that don't get lost.
Like a coin that won't get tossed
Rolling home to you.
From 'Old Man' by Neil Young

A long strange trip. Life is. We hold these memories to be self evident that all people are created and then up and die some day and yes...so it goes. Papa there it is.


Yesterday was documentary day for me in that I saw two of them. One in the theater one off Netflix Instant. Both in the instant theater of my mind, man. One was a recent release being seen by me for the first time. T'other was a film I saw when it hit theaters -- bam! -- three years ago. Second go round, this was, brother. Very different stories but both centered around a favorite author...of mine!

Mine!

Magic Trip (FAR OUT!!) is about the incredible journey of the Merry Pranksters. You've got to understand that the Sixties (PEACE) did not begin on January 1, 1960 any more than your adulthood starts on the day of your 18th birthday. Arbitrary stuff I can do without. Out with. See the Fifties didn't end until Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963. Till then it was Leave it Beaver America. There was a brief purgatory for the era thing until early '64 when The Beatles (YEAH YEAH YEAH) hit American shores -- bam! -- and a few months later when the Pranksters hit the road, going all Jack Kerouac on America's ass. (TRIPPIN'!)

The Pranksters were led by author Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion). Kesey in turn was led by LSD and that trip was part of the Prankster trip because taking LSD is called taking a trip. Or dropping acid. Work with me here people.

The Pranksters were all about.....uh, something, I'm sure. Maybe love, acceptance. Nahhhhhhhhhhh!!! More like freedom. Enlightenment. Grooving (GROOVY!) on love and life and all the wonders of doin' your own thing and to hell with corporate button downed Amerika and all that jazz.

Magic Trip uses a teensy bit of the 40 hours of footage shot -- bam! -- on the Prankster trip and a little bit of their audio recordings which were not in sync with the film -- damn it all. The Pranksters were on this converted school bus that they painted all psychedelic and named Further (like, what else are you going to call it and say have I finally found my voice?). The Pranksters included a bunch of people you likely never heard of unless you read The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. Except of course for Kesey and the man who manically drove the bus east, Neal Cassady. Yeah the one and the same who was the inspiration for the character of Dean Moriarty in On the Road. That was one wild ride, I mean being Cassady. Being around Cassady. Hell's bells watching him is a ride and half. He was known to take hits -- bam! -- of speed now and again and again and again. And brother he could and would and did talk and talk and talk and it was like so totally rapid fire and stream of or really river of consciousness and went all over the map and under it and in it and you get the picture sure.

So the documentary shows footage and you hear later interviews of the Pransketers and see other scenes of America circa the early Sixties when all these changes were exploding -- bam! -- all the hell over the culture that would have reverberations that are still reverberating. So cool. And you do know they really popularized the whole acid dropping (that's taking LSD, you square) thing along with Timothy Leary who was -- dig this -- too straight laced for them. So in some of the movie you see them on acid and how do you convey that? They did a really good job, take it from my mind (it's such a mind mind that has me searching for my heart of old and I'm getting gold or words to the effect).

Yeah I liked the movie. What's not to like? This was the era that defined so many of us  of the baby boom -- --boom! -- and made us what we aren't today. Defining moments and all that rock and roll and protests and peace movements and liberation fronts and love and awakenings and long hair and sex (mmmmmmmmm).

Then last night it was Chris and Don. A Love Story(2008) which the love story of my life who is my wife had not seen but like I said I had. This centers around the love between two men (Gay maybe?) Don Bachardy the still living artist and Christopher Isherwood the late great author. First time I saw the film in question I'd never read anything of his. In the past six months I've pretty much poured through every novel he penned. Yes, I'm a fan. So this time maybe I appreciated the movie a tad more, but just a tad. Really the love story is what's all about and to a lesser extent the amazing lives they led and the people (My God the PEOPLE!!) they met and hung out with. If you're interested you might check out what I wrote about the film after I first saw it. But actually I liked it more the second time because it's so damn good. Gooooood.

This time I really tripped off the fact (you ever trip off facts?) that this is movie that some of those sexual bigots who claim a God hates some his children because they lay with people of their own gender, that those assh*les should see this. Is it not love? Not the Newt Gingrich get divorced twice and cheat on your wife on her death bed kind of love but the kind with real commitment and honesty and caring for one another kind of love. You watch this and you still hate these people or their love and you are one f*cked up person. Seriously.

Other thing: this is a superbly constructed documentary. One of the best.

Isherwood and Kesey. Kesey and Isherwood. Writers extraordinaire. Very different lives and milieus and backgrounds and tastes. Vive la difference. I don't get liking just one type of anything. Gimme genres aplenty. Types and styles. Give me Isherwood and Kesey and I'll have some F Scott and Dostoevsky and how about some Kerouac and if you don't mind a bit of Flaubert. Don't forget my poetry too. Ginsberg, Eliot, Neruda, Giovanni please. Cheers.

Point is....Oh do I really need a point? It was just a lovely day. More exposure to great minds and that I don't mind. Off doing their own things. Committed to their art and all and by God aren't we glad to have reminders of why all the pain and suffering is endurable for the moments of artistic vision, truth and clarity. Bam!

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