He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man. --Dr. Johnson
We will close the drapes tonight. A thing like that could send a drug person careening around the room like a ping pong ball. Hallucinations are bad enough. But after a while you learn to cope with things like seeing your dead grandmother crawling up your leg with a knife in her teeth. Most acid fanciers can handle this sort of thing.
But nobody can handle that other trip-- the possibility that any freak with $1.98 can walk into Circus-Circus and suddenly appear in the sky over downtown Las Vegas twelve times the size of God, howling anything that comes into his head. No, this is not a good town for psychedelic drugs. Reality itself is too twisted.
Now off the escalator and into the casino, big crowds still tight around the crap tables. Who are these people? These faces? Where do they come from? They look like caricatures of used-car dealers from Dallas. But they're real And, sweet Jesus, there are a hell of a lot of them--still screaming around these desert-city crap tables at four-thirty on a Sunday morning--still humping the American Dream, that vision of the Big Winner somehow emerging from the last minute pre-dawn chaos of a stale Vegas casino.
The room was very quiet. I walked over to the TV set and turned it on to a dead channel--white noise at maximum decibel, a fine sound for sleeping, a powerful continuous hiss to drown out everything strange.
Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era--the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something Maybe not, in the long run...but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch the sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant...
History is hard to know because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of "history" it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes ot a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time--and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened. [...]
There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda...You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning...
And that, I think was the handle--that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting--on our side or theirs. We all had the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave...
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark--that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.
Man, I'll try just about anything; but I'd never in hell touch a pineal gland.
...but with a head full of acid, the sight of two fantastically obese human beings far gone in a public grope while a thousand cops all around them watched a movie about the "dangers of marijuana" would not be emotionally acceptable. The brain would reject it.
But their loss and failure is ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped to create...a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody---or at least some force--is tending that light at the end of the tunnel.
What sells, today, is whatever Fucks You Up--whatever short-circuits your brain and grounds it out for the longest possible time. The ghetto market has mushroomed into suburbia.
So there is more to their stance than a wistful yearning for acceptance in a world they never made. Their real motivation is an instinctive certainty as to what the score really is. They are out of the ballgame and they know it. Unlike the campus rebels, who with a minimum amount of effort will emerge from their struggle with a validated ticket to status, the outlaw motorcyclist views the future with the baleful eye of a man with no upward mobility at all. In a world increasingly geared to specialists, technicians and fantastically complicated machinery, the Hell's Angels are obvious losers and it bugs them. But instead of submitting quietly to their collective fate, they have made it the basis of a full-time social vendetta. They don't expect to win anything, but on the other hand, they have nothing to lose.
The Angels were beginning to view their sudden fame as a confirmation of what they had always suspected: they were rare, fascinating creatures ("Wake up and dig it, man, we're the Texas Rangers").
They saw themselves as modern Robin Hoods. . . virile, inarticulate brutes whose good instincts got warped somewhere in the struggle for self-expression and who spent the rest of their violent lives seeking revenge on a world that done them wrong when they were young and defenseless.
The concept of the "motorcycle outlaw" was as uniquely American as jazz. Nothing like them had ever existed. In some ways they appeared to be a kind of half-breed anachronism, a human hangover from the era of the Wild West. Yet in other ways they were as new as television. There was absolutely no precedent, in the years after World War II, for large gangs of hoodlums on motorcycles, reveling in violence, worshiping mobility and thinking nothing of riding five hundred miles on a weekend. . . to whoop it up with other gangs of cyclists in
To whatever extent the Hell's Angels may or may not be latent sado-masochists or repressed homosexuals is to me -- after nearly a year in the constant company of outlaw motorcyclists -- almost entirely irrelevant.
There are literary critics who insist that Ernest Hemingway was a tortured queer and that Mark Twain was haunted to the end of his days by a penchant for interracial buggery. It is a good way to stir up a tempest in the academic quarterlies, but it won't change a word of what either man wrote, nor alter the impact of their work on the world they were writing about. Perhaps Manolete was a hoof fetishist, or suffered from terrible hemorrhoids as a result of long nights in Spanish horn parlors. . . but he was a great matador, and it is hard to see how any amount of Freudian theorizing can have the slightest effect on the reality of the thing he did best.
The outlaws tend to see their bikes as personal monuments, created in their own image, however abstract, and they develop an affection for them that is hard for outsiders to understand. It seems like a pose, or even a perversion -- and maybe it is, but to bike freaks it is very real. Anybody who has ever owned one of the beasts will always be a little bit queer for them. Not the little bikes, but the big expensive temperamental bastards, the ones that respond to the accelerator like a bucking horse to a whip, that will stand up in the air and run fifteen yards on one wheel, scorching the pavement with a fiery blast from the chrome tailpipes. The little bikes may be fun, like the industry people say, but Volkwagens are fun too, and so are BB guns. Big bikes, Ferraris and .44 Magnum revolvers are something beyond fun; they are man-made machines so powerful and efficient in their own realms that they challenge a man's ability to control them, to push them to the limits of their design and possibilities. This is one of the pillars of the Big Bike mystique that looms so large in the life of every Hell's Angel. Or as they say: "That's where it's at, man. That's where it lives."
There is not a Hell's Angel riding who hasn't made the emergency-ward scene, and one of the natural results is that their fear of accidents is well tempered by a cavalier kind of disdain for physical injury. Outsiders might call it madness or other, more esoteric names. . . but the Angels inhabit a world in which violence is as common as spilled beer, and they live with it as easily as ski bums live with the risk of broken legs. This casual acceptance of bloodletting is a key to the terror they inspire in the squares. Even a small, inept street-fighter has a tremendous advantage over the average middle-class American, who hasn't had a fight since puberty. It is a simple matter of accumulated experience, of having been hit or stomped often enough to forget the ugly panic that nice people associate with a serious fight. A man who has had his nose smashed three times in brawls will risk it again with hardly a thought.
The fact that people are poor or discriminated against doesn't necessarily endow them with any special qualities of justice, nobility, charity or compassion.
-- Saul Alinsky
Meanwhile, the parties grew wilder and louder. There was very little marijuana, but plenty of LSD, which was then legal. The cops stood out on the highway and looked across the creek at a scene that must have tortured the very roots of their understanding. Here were all these people running wild, bellowing and dancing half naked to rock-'n'-roll sounds piped out through the trees from massive amplifiers, reeling and stumbling in a maze of psychedelic lights. . . WILD, by God, and with no law to stop them.
-on the merry pranksters parties w/hells angels
This was Ginsberg's first encounter with the Angels, and he quickly became an aficionado. Sometime late in the evening, when it became apparent that everyone leaving the party was being grabbed by the police, Ginsberg and I drove out to see what it meant. A Volkswagen which left just ahead of us had been pulled over about a half mile down the highway, and the occupants were taken out for grilling. Our idea was to arrive on the capture scene with a tape recorder, but I barely got out of first gear before we were pulled over by another sheriffs car. I stepped out with the microphone in my hand and asked what the trouble was. The sight of the mike caused the deputies to stand mute except for the bare essentials. One asked to see my license while the other tried to ignore Ginsberg, who inquired very pleasantly and repeatedly why everyone who left the party was being seized. The cop stood with his feet apart, hands clasped behind his back and his face frozen in a dumb stare. Ginsberg continued to question him while the other deputy ran a check on my license. I enjoy listening to that encounter on tape. It sounds as if Ginsberg and I are flapping rhetorical questions at each other, with a police radio chattering in the background. Every few moments a different voice comes in with a monosyllabic utterance, but our questions are never answered. For several moments there is no talk at all -- only the sound of Ginsberg humming a Near Eastern raga, backed up now and then by the spastic crackling of the Voice from Headquarters. The scene was so ridiculous that even the cops began smiling after a while. Their refusal to speak amounted to an unlikely reversal of roles, starkly emphasized by our amusement.
The outlaws had never met anyone quite like Ginsberg: they considered him otherworldly. "That goddamn Ginsberg is gonna fuck us all up," said Terry. "For a guy that ain't straight at all, he's about the straightest sonofabitch I've ever seen. Man, you shoulda been there when he told Sonny he loved him. . . Sonny didn't know what the hell to say."
To them the appearance of the Hell's Angels must have seemed like a wonderful publicity stunt. In a nation of frightened dullards there is a sorry shortage of outlaws, and those few who make the grade are always welcome: Frank Sinatra, Alexander King, Elizabeth Taylor, Raoul Duke. . . they have that extra "something."
You can't wallow with the pigs at night and then soar with the eagles in the morning.
Morality is temporary, Wisdom is permanent. 8
Right. And thank you, Lou Reed, for that one [Walk on the Wild Side]. You bet. Every once in a while, but not often, you can sit down and write a thing that you know is going to stand people's hair on end for the rest of their lives--a perfect memory of some kind, like a vision, and you can see the words rolling out of your fingers and bouncing around for a while like wild little jewels before they finally roll into place and line up just as exactly like you wanted them to...Wow! Look at that shit! Who wrote that stuff?
What? Me? Hot damn! Let us rumble, keep going, don't slow down--whatever it is, keep doing it. Let's have a little Fun.
Even writing feels like when you catch a moment like this. You feel Pure and natural--Yes, sir, I am a Natural Man tonight. Bring it on. Fuck those people. Tonight we walk with the king. That is my kind of fun, and I like to spread it around. You can't hoard fun. It has no shelf-life. 112
At the top of the mountain we are all snow leopards. 134
The brain is such a wonderful instrument (until God sinks his teeth into it) 173
People frequently ask me if I believe in God, as if it were some kind of final judgment or naked indicator of my pro or con value in this world. 18
If the freak who wrote the Book of Revelation had been busted and jailed for the horrible threats he made against the whole human race, he would have been executed on the spot by a Military Tribunal. So long, Johnny, we never really liked you anyway. 18