inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #101 of 160: Justin Hager (cubistpoet) Sun 30 May 04 21:29
    
One of my primary facinations in life, incidentally, right now is how
the death of the Beat culture (and perhaps of idealism, liberalism, and
a bunch of other nice, worthwile -isms) came about?

Does your book deal with this subject? If so, I may very well have to
put it to the top of my reading list. 

Not to say that I wouldn't like to read it anyway, but you know...
poor college student syndrome.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #102 of 160: David Gans (tnf) Sun 30 May 04 23:06
    

I first smoked pot when I was 12 or 13.  Turned on by my older brother,
natch.   I have never beeen a heavy smoker -- way too ambitious, busy and
inspired to lose that much time to wool-gathering or partying.  But then, I
have rarely used drugs for partying; I don't much care for alcohol, and the
psychedelics (of which I consider pot to be the mildest) have been great
tools for me.  I can't read when I'm high, but I can really bond with my in-
strument and delve into creative impulses: for me, pot is great for im-
provisational situations and nonverbal taking-things-in.  Acid is strong
medicine, and it scared the shit out of me when I was younger and less whole;
I used it sparingly as I got older, always finding some spiritual value in it
and occasionally gaining some really important insight.

I used too much cocaine and speed in my 20s, and I regret the time and money
I wasted on those spiritually empty pursuits.

It fucking pisses me off that psychedelics are illegal.  They can be useful.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #103 of 160: Martin Torgoff (martintorgoff) Mon 31 May 04 05:42
    
Justin, your points are well taken about weed being A Mirror That
Magnifies: it's generally true that those with creative inclinations
can become more turned on to this aspect of themselves, just as those
with sluggish amotivatinal tendencies can easily become more slug-like
than ever. But the thing about mind-altering substances that makes them
so interesting is that for every time-honored cardinal observation
about them, counter trends and patterns and exceptions abound. 

Myself, I was coming out of several adolescent bags by the time I
encountered it: first as a fuck-up running with the tough juicer kids
in town (we called them "greasers" in that middle class Long Island
teen culture of the early to mid-60s, and being in the smart class and
from a nice Jewish family, that made me bad); and then, when I was
tired of that scene, the jocks (guys with varsity jackets and letters
on their sweaters who were always trying to feel up the pretty
cheerleaders). Both were dead-end scenes for me, so by the time I
crossed the threshold into Stonesville on that fateful night in '68, I
was very hungry for something new and weed was the perfet thing. At the
time there were maybe a few other kids in the whole town who smoked
it. We were like this strange little cult. 

I was an example of both the observation and the counter-observation.
I was always an obsevor, a kid who felt somehow apart from things; weed
pulled me deeply into myself, and opened up whole new worlds. I had
always been interested in writing but within the year I went from
writing for the local newspaper about high school sports to strange
impressionistic poetry. Within a year I was playing a guitar and
seriously taking photographs, and had decided that my destiny was to
travel around the world, seeing all the places I'd always dreamed of
seeing. I wanted to meet fascinating people, meet and sleep with
beautiful girls, and make beautiful art. I decided all of this while
seated on  the stone bridge on East Island after school, stoned,
watching the late afternoon sun glinting off the Long Island Sound. In
essence, I dreamed it; I would eventually do all of these things and
fulfill this destiny. 

Would I have gone in this direction had I not smoked pot? Who can
ultiimately know but somehow I suspect not. I would also become an
alcoholic and an addict. Would that have happened had I not smoked pot?
Who can ultimately know but, again, I somehow suspect not. Of course,
all of it was probably latent in my being or karma somewhere, but in
retrospect I can see that the pot served as a powerful catalyst; I have
it to thank for things good and bad.  None of this is ever evident to
an adolescent at the tme, of course. Real drug education would somehow
address these issues and life experiences.

Gans! How was Utah? Thank you for sharing aspects of your
psycho-pharmacological resume. I concur strongly about cocaine being a
"spiritually empty" pursuit. I like what Tom Robbins said about it in
my book: "I felt like it put holes in my aura."




  
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #104 of 160: Gary Greenberg (gberg) Mon 31 May 04 06:00
    
 Think
 about how great it would have been to talk to someone who you could
 really trust about drugs, who you knew was interested in nothing but
 your safety and welfare. You'd listen to that person. A counseler, if
 you will, who could teach you to respect their powers to enhance,
 distort, and damage, and how to recognize it.

I agree that this sounds like a good idea. As it happens, though, I 've 
been in pretty much that situation--counseling adolescents about drugs. 
I've been fired by lots of parents because I'vefailed to take a 
zero-tolerance approach, and I strongly discourage parents from sending me 
their kids if what they're mostly interested in is gettgin a clean piss 
test out of them. (Actually, I rarely see adolescentswithout their 
families anymore, but that's a different story.) But even though I make it 
clear to the kids that I'm on their side, that the issue here is notdrugs 
but responsibility and safety and respect for self and others (concepts 
they've been familiarized with far more than my generation ever was, 
drilled inot themnot only by DARE but by all sorts of socialization 
curricula) and here's what happens if you keep doing this and all that I'm 
your buddy jive, they still fuck up. They get whacked out or repeatedly 
busted or expelled or whatever. 

Now maybe I should blame this on all that has come before me, all the 
propaganda and indoctrination and intimidation that makes it hard to talk 
honestly and listen openly. Or take it on myself as a clinical skill Ijust 
don't have. But I think that in addition to the rough typology that Martin 
laid out earlier--some kids will be wiser or luckier or smarter or more 
afraid than others--there's also the way that drugs are embedded in the 
generational wars. It's the job of kids not to listen to grownups, or at 
least no to let he grownups know they are listening. And it's their job to 
put our norms back in our faces--whether it's about how low on your hips 
you wear your pants or whether you take drugs. It could be, then, that the 
Partnership is correct when they say that Parents are the AntiDrug--that 
the best thing we could do is be open about our drug use in a society that 
has carved out a place for drug use. Which ours has not, not even with 
respect to alcohol.

But I do think that the significance of the kid issue is overstated. Not 
only is it a pretext for enforcing a "culture of abstinence," it also 
assumes that there is somethign rational behind the drug war. Which I do 
not believe. 
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #105 of 160: Martin Torgoff (martintorgoff) Mon 31 May 04 06:15
    
Gary, points well taken about teen rebellion. And I do think that the
issue of kids has always been used to manipulate fears about drugs and
sanction the drug war (think of one of the first slogans of the PFDFA:
A Tiny Nation in Peril). But overstated from which perspective? The
parents who are legitimately concerned, or the prohibitionist
establishment that cyncically manipulates the concern? 
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #106 of 160: Gary Greenberg (gberg) Mon 31 May 04 08:51
    
I don't think it is possible to overstate the concern that parents have 
about drugs. I picked up a hitchhiker the other day. He was a junkie on 
his way to court for burglary. He'd "gotten right" earlier in the day--
to help him in court, he said--and then he planned to try to find a bed at 
the local detox. He was pathetic, of course, oscillating between his love 
of the drug and his hatred for his love of the drug. AT one point, just 
after he told me of his detox plans, he talked about how much better he 
felt after he'd ended three days of being straight with that morning's 
fix, and then he caught himself. "Listen to me," he said with chagrin. 
"There I was talking about getting straight, and listen to me now." Drug 
war politics aside, you couldn't help just feeling sorry for someone whose 
life had come to this. He was 23.

I thought about our encounter for awhile, and one of the things never far 
from my consciousness was my son who is six. Will this happen to him? Will 
this vampire, or some other, bite him? It really does scare the living 
daylights out of me, that thought. It takes its place, of course, among 
all the others, all the nightmare scenarios that play out whenever he is 
near danger, like yesterday when he was walking the rail along our deck 
as if it were a balance beam and I looked up just in time to see him posed 
above the charcoal grill, one false step from disaster. And I have no idea 
what I will do when we get todrugs. As with so many other things, I think 
I am more at his mercy than I like to think. Maybe he'll be the kind of 
kid who stays away, or maybe he won't. Maybe the love of physical 
sensation that is at the center of his life, the exuberant  wya in which 
he throws himself into the next challenge will lead him to graduate from 
spinning into dizziness to pot to alcohol to hallucinogens to opiates. Or 
maybe he'll play football and climb rocks--both of whic alternatives are 
fraught with potential disaster. I just hope I can respond with what he 
needs--whcih, I know, may well be something I am loathe to give, like huge 
amounts of control, lockdown even--and that I will bvy then be better at 
sorting out my anxiety from concern for him. that whatever atempts I make 
at cotrolling him will be about what is good for him and not about what 
puts me at ease, because those two conditoins don't always coincide. 

I thjink this is precisely what PDFA, ONDCP< DARE, and all the others who 
profess to be worried about kids have failed to realize. WE have anxieties 
about who we are, about what we have to keep at bay in order to live in 
the world we live in, about our ability to do this. Many of those 
anxisties 
have to do with control--of the natural world, of the internal world, of 
our delights and our agonies. Drug use, both as an idea nd as a reality, 
challenges those abilities, rouses those anxieties, and my suspicion is 
that this, far more than concern for kids, drives the ideology of 
abstinence and the drug war it serves. 

I've talked to a lot of drug warriors. They are sincerely worried about 
kids. But I think they are more worried about themselves.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #107 of 160: David Gans (tnf) Mon 31 May 04 09:58
    

Gary, I have been privileged to witness your journey as a parent since Joel
came into your life.  You've written brilliantly and movingly about your
fears and joys, and today's posts here continue that tradition.  You are
living what Joseph Campbell calls "an authentic life," dealing with reality
on its terms rather than shoving yourself and your boy into the procrustean
bed of the American Illusion.  No one can predict how it's going to go in
this or any other phase, but you're telling the truth to yourself annd I
trust you'll tell the truth to your son, too.

In PIHKAL, the Shulgins write: "Our generation is the first, ever, to have
made the search for self-awareness a crime, if it is done with the use of
plants of chemical compounds as the means of opening the psychic doors."  It
seems to me that capital is a parasite that is killing its host -- or subsum-
ing it, anyway.  Over the course of my lifetime, the needs of corporations
have grown to totally scuttle the rights and wishes of the individual.  There
is no rational basis whatsoever for the drug laws in this country, especially
in relation to what remains legal.  Follow the money, and we can see who
benefits from the status quo.  As in so many realms these days, the moralis-
tic minority are a useful tool to those who profit from our misery.



(Utah was great!  It was the fourth of July of wildflowers out there!  We
hiked, we climbed, we floated on the Colorado; we ate some great meals and
cooked over gas bottles; we spent some time with great friends; we did a
little inner-space exploring, too; and we took hundreds of pictures.  Rita
and I are going to work on a photo-journal today, and I'll post the URL when
it's up.  My only regret about the trip was not being able to participate
here.)
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #108 of 160: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Mon 31 May 04 11:37
    
Utah is a beautiful place. And right next to Idaho!
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #109 of 160: David Gans (tnf) Mon 31 May 04 12:48
    

(Sharon, I''m playng a gig in Moscow ID in late July -- how far is that from
you?)
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #110 of 160: Justin Hager (cubistpoet) Mon 31 May 04 13:11
    
I can say that even as I am able to experience some of the more
inspiring and positive aspects of marijauna I also know a good number
of people who are the type that "never come down" and worse yet those
who fall into a life of idle consuming, whether it be alcohol, weed, or
an endless stream of movies and books. 

People who are emotionally dependent on "being fucked up" so to speak.
People who can't really handle life sober.

I'm glad that I was not hasty to pick up substance use. There was a
period in my life when I was far less emotionally healthy and far less
in contact with what I would refer to as reality, and I could easily
see myself falling into the same kind of trap.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #111 of 160: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Mon 31 May 04 13:40
    
(Just about as far away from me as you can be and still be in Idaho.
:-) I hear it's a lovely place, though. College town. I've been known
to make road trips to see Wellperns in remote parts of Idaho, though,
so please keep me posted as to the date. And if you head through Boise,
let me know.)
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #112 of 160: David Gans (tnf) Mon 31 May 04 16:28
    
(Will do.)
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #113 of 160: Martin Torgoff (martintorgoff) Mon 31 May 04 16:55
    
This is great; this is exactly the kind of dialogue I wrote this book
to have about drugs: young people, people who have been down the road
with it; addicts, non-addicts; talk from parents. 

Gary, your point about drugs being "embedded in the generational wars"
and your personal feelings about your son are to me what this is all
about, and why I started the book with my own father and his utter
bewilderment about the whole thing and how painful a part of our
relationship it was. Somehow when he talked about looking in my eyes
when I was stoned...and not knowing what I was on but knowing I was on
something because "the look in your eye had changed from the child I
had known." I realized at that moment that this had to be the frame of
the book because it was how the story of drugs in our time has been
framed.

 From the very beginning, prohibition was driven by closely related
fears: how to protect the white protestant mainstream culture and
uphold its "values" from the "other" associated with drugs, whether
immigrants, blacks, libertines, what have you. And it has always been a
crusade against drugs, the Assassin of Youth. And from the beginning,
drugs have always served as a nexus of cultural exchange where
boundaries are dissolved. Everywhere you look, in all the drug scenes,
you see the dynamic of cultural miscegenation. 

I see prohibition and the drug war as one of the greatest expressions
of American denial in the 20th century--as this giant dizzying mistake
that's been going on for almost a century. Of course, drugs aren't
going away, any more terrorism is going away, any more than AIDS is
going away (until the cure is found). This will be the world of our
children. We have to all make our peace with it, but the answer is in
the human heart and mind and soul, in our families and friends and
communities, not in the diktat of the government. This is why the book
begins with the quote from the Tao: Try to make people moral and you
lay the groundwork for vice. I believe it to the depths of my soul.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #114 of 160: David Gans (tnf) Mon 31 May 04 17:19
    

> Everywhere you look, in all the drug scenes, you see the dynamic of cul-
> tural miscegenation.

Yes.


> I see prohibition and the drug war as one of the greatest expressions of
> American denial in the 20th century--as this giant dizzying mistake that's
> been going on for almost a century.

Yes!  And as the American ruling class becomes more and more isolated on
their shrinking island of cultural hegemony, their efforts become more shrill
and irrational.  The current "decency" campaign in broadcastinc (e.g. Howard
Stern) is an example.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #115 of 160: Justin Hager (cubistpoet) Tue 1 Jun 04 01:06
    
> This is why the book begins with the quote from the Tao: Try to 
> make people moral and you lay the groundwork for vice. I believe it
> to the depths of my soul.

"Because he knows that the credit for learning is due to the
willingness of the student, he teaches without teaching"
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #116 of 160: Justin Hager (cubistpoet) Tue 1 Jun 04 01:18
    
And I believe, Mr. Torgoff, you have also nailed on the head why it is
pointless for you to try to explain your experiences as an addict to
those who have not had the same experience and why all DARE-style
programs will fail and perhaps one of the great failures in American
policy.

Namely, the only way to understand a particular experience (especially
with regards to drugs) is to have that experience for yourself. No
words will ever capture the true essence of that experience, and all
our noodling here is simply attempting to find a language to discuss
the knowledge of that experience with others who have shared it.

We should really give up teaching people absitence, no matter what its
form, because in some ways absitence is as unwise as excess. Instead,
we should teach youth from the very beginning temperance, and by
extension the importance of balancing different portions of life.

It seems the educational system would rather pretend students are
robots than humans; we have such an utter disregard for the emotional
health/state of our students. That's supposed to be the relegated
domain of parents, but I don't know how one can even consider the
question of providing any sort of holistic education (especially in
regard to lifestyle choices like sex or drugs) without involving
emotions. If we're to assume the parents are responsible for a child's
emotional life, then parents should also be in charge of a child's
drug/sexual education. 
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #117 of 160: Martin Torgoff (martintorgoff) Tue 1 Jun 04 17:43
    
Justin, you're awfully wise for your twenty three years. I agree with
pretty much everything you say, except your point about the
ineffability of drug experience ie how no words will ever be able to
capture the experience. Of course, one can't ultimately "know" an
experience unless one has it, but it sure as hell can be described,
painted, sketched, rendered in various forms of language. Yes, to write
about drugs is very challenging, but people have done it quite
brilliantly: Poe, Baudelaire, Aleister Crowley, Mezz Mezzrow, Huxley,
Alexander Trocchi, Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Leary, Michael
McClure, Hendrix, Robert Hunter, and so on. I will grant that to
successfully write about drugs is tremendously challenging, and
brilliantly even more rare, and not for the literary faint-hearted...  
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #118 of 160: Uncle Jax (jax) Tue 1 Jun 04 23:34
    
You forgot Quincy!
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #119 of 160: Justin Hager (cubistpoet) Wed 2 Jun 04 08:07
    
Well, Martin, thank you for your compliment re: my wisdom.

I have suggested elsewhere (well, in my own private journal) that the
artist, in the truest sense of the word, is charged with the task of
attempting to describe that which defies description. It is perhaps a
doomed struggle, but what glorious failures have been produced so far!
:)

It's my stuggle as well, as a fledgling poet, to find someway to
subvert the unstable medium of language enough to poke through a little
bit that cardboard partition that floats between knowledge/description
and experience/understanding.

It's a toughy.

Most of the time you just end up preaching to the choir.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #120 of 160: Martin Torgoff (martintorgoff) Thu 3 Jun 04 03:39
    
Poetry is the bravest form of writing. Preach on...
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #121 of 160: Robin Russell (rrussell8) Thu 3 Jun 04 06:39
    
Martin, at p 22 "Huncke took another hit and laughed softly. Kerouac
and Cassady died back in the sixties and soon Ginsberg and Burroughs
would be gone as well. Huncke would live out his last days in a room in
the Chelsea Hotel paid for by the Grateful Dead through the Rex
Foundation. He was the last living connection to a part of the past
that we had always sought to disavow and bury in jails - the time of
the old schmeckers like Louie the Lip and Crazy Ozzie, Harry Anslinger
and reefer madness."

Kerouac and Cassady died in the sixties (1969 and 1968 respectively),
while both Burroughs (1914 - 1997) and Ginsberg (1926 - 1997) outlived
Huncke (1915 - 1996). While they died soon after Kerouac and Cassidy on
some timescales, given that the book covers the period 1945 to 2000,
thirty years is a pretty long time.

The inside flap of the book calls it a history. Do you see your role
as an historian? Or is it more of a personal chronicle, setting out
your perspectives and the influences on your own life experience?
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #122 of 160: Martin Torgoff (martintorgoff) Thu 3 Jun 04 08:51
    
Robin, I see it as both, though it certainly isn't a "formal" history.
As it turns out, I got my degree in history, so I've read plenty of
them, but the last thing I wanted to do was something academic. I came
of age being very much influenced by the New Journalism of f the
60s--Wolfe, Mailer, Talese, et al--when the writer's personal take
became all but inseparable from the material at hand, so an approach
that was a "personal chronicle" as well as a history was a natural one.
I was also influenced by the rise of oral history as exemplified by
Studs Terkel, wherein authentic voices form a social mosaic. And I was
very much influenced by a number of novelists: Kesey, Kerouac, Bob
Stone, many others. I've always liked non fiction book in which
novelized elements work well. I think the book combines all of these,
and the subject of drugs seemed to require all of them. 

And by the way, as long as you're pointing out the dates of the demise
of the various Beats in the book, I'm struck and always by the
incredible longevity of Burroughs--a living testament to a long life of
narcotics!
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #123 of 160: Justin Hager (cubistpoet) Thu 3 Jun 04 09:06
    
I'm currently making my way through Wolfe's _The Electric Kool-Aid
Acid Test_, and it is literally spellbinding. It's been a long time
since I was so utterly entranced by a book as to plow through over a
hundred pages in a single sitting, a single tired sitting at that.

It's amazing to realize that LSD and the culture surrounding it
basically all came spiraling out of a psychological experiment that
just happened to have Ken Kesey as its subject. Someone who really
believed, deeply, that the world as it actually lived and breathed was
being revealed to him for the first time.

His (undoubtedly well documented by his own cameras) antics would be
shocking now. I can't imagine what they were like to people of the
time.
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #124 of 160: David Gans (tnf) Thu 3 Jun 04 09:09
    

I traded books and autographs with Kesey back in the late '80s, and I signed
my book "To Ken Kesey - our Prometheus."
  
inkwell.vue.214 : Martin Torgoff: "Can't Find My Way Home"
permalink #125 of 160: Robin Russell (rrussell8) Thu 3 Jun 04 10:48
    
Aleister Crowley also had a pretty good run. AIDS and Hep C are taking
a savage toll these days. 

Garcia said "Drugs was our Vietnam" - a quote that I don't think is in
the book. Martin, what is your take on that one? I took it to mean
more than just a nod to the dead and damaged. Something like a coming
of age trial.
  

More...



Members: Enter the conference to participate

Subscribe to an RSS 2.0 feed of new responses in this topic RSS feed of new responses

 
   Join Us
 
Home | Learn About | Conferences | Member Pages | Mail | Store | Services & Help | Password | Join Us

Twitter G+ Facebook