On a airy October night in 1969, John Perry Barlow blew into our busy abode on the Connecticut bank like a bang from the accomplished and the approaching too. Dressed as accepted in a covering covering and cowboy hat, he had a attache and haversack he’d lugged all the way from India, through JFK Airport and beeline up the artery to this blue summer cottage on Connected Island Sound area he’d never been before. How did he alike acquisition the place?
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He looked exhausted but additionally wild-eyed, preternaturally awake, with an “aha” attending on his face that had annihilation to do with accession or navigation. He shrugged off his backpack and extracted a bronze, nearly-life-sized arch of a Buddha. Aback he handed it to me, I about alone the thing. It was heavy. Solid bronze? The abutting of it had been bankrupt over with some thick, aphotic actuality that had accustomed about into a affectionate of cement.
Barlow rubbed his feel on the dark, bankrupt neck, took a aroma of it and handed it to me to do the same. I couldn’t aroma anything, and that was the point.
“The Customs guys arrested it out for 10 or 15 minutes, sniffing it, handing it aback and forth. They assuredly absitively not to bother,” he said. “The guys who bankrupt this up for me assured me it would amalgamate up and accord off no smell. One of their capital capacity was cow dung.”
Barlow rummaged about in the kitchen for tools, knives, assignment bits, a hammer. Afresh he whittled and chipped at the aphotic abutting of the brownish head. The sealing absolute began to abatement off in pieces. Afterwards a while he assuredly austere out the Buddha’s neck, accomplished central and pulled out a captivated amalgamation that angry out to be a kilo of Nepalese atramentous hashish in a blubbery braided bundle, aloof below a bottom long. To backpack it bound and accumulate the assortment from banging about in the Buddha’s brain, Barlow had blimp the arch with flaky, brownish Indian ganja.
I had never credible that abundance of assortment in one agglomeration before. The aroma was alien and outrageous. Barlow loaded a aqueduct with some ganja and whittled off flecks of the assortment to baptize on top.
“Man, this is the arch actuality I ever…” I said.
Barlow smiled and nodded as I angry into a aphasiac bean statue.
And that became a ritual whenever anyone visited that house. About in the absolute aboriginal minutes, Barlow would bare his abundant meteorite of hash, animate his guests to detect it, and afresh dent off $.25 into his pot-filled pipe. And the acknowledgment was consistently the same, sometimes with red eyes and coughing.
“Jesus, that is the arch bits I ever . . .”
And afresh accent would abandon in smoke as aeroembolism set in. Barlow would nod and affirm the time it had taken from aboriginal assimilation to complete accident of brainy and motor skills. It became a affectionate of test, an admission to this absent abode we had accidentally agreed to allotment for a season.
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Barlow and I knew anniversary added from college. We were amid the stoners, booze hounds, brim chasers and accomplished wise-guy layabouts who survived the Vietnam War with academy deferments, and the aphotic advance of existential all-overs with the admonition of lysergic acid. Barlow consistently had added money than best of us and ran a affectionate of salon in his large, blue accommodation in town, area the music ran hot and allowance of all substances was encouraged. On any accustomed night any address of passersby and associates ability be on duke there in any anatomy of mind.
Barlow and I agreed to hire a abode calm abroad from best accompany and cartage in adjustment to get some autograph done. When he went off to South Asia, I busy a summer abode in a antecedents of abandoned cottages on Connected Island Sound. Best places there were uninsulated and boarded up tight, but one doctor anticipation he ability as able-bodied get money for his place instead of absolution it sit abandoned all winter. So he and I addled a accord for nine months, September through May.
It was a baby two-bedroom, a few hundred anxiety from the water’s edge, sparsely furnished, but with a anatomic bathroom, kitchen and fireplace. To pay my hire I got a job as a circadian anchorman on the accompaniment board of the Hartford Courant. I started out in a agency on the shore, which was aback I busy the house. But anon abundant I had to address to assignment in Hartford best days, a 40-minute drive from our house. I had hoped to address fiction in my additional hours but my job took abundant added time and activity than I had imagined.
The doctor who busy me the cottage came by a few weeks afterwards to analysis up on things. Barlow had not yet accustomed and I hadn’t afflicted abundant of annihilation in the place. I was basically camping, alone there connected abundant to sleep. I usually fabricated myself breakfast but not atramentous meals. Everything looked OK to him, so he didn’t bother advancing by afresh until spring. By afresh it was abundant too late.
A few canicule afterwards Barlow’s acknowledgment from India, a U-Haul barter pulled up to the cottage abounding of his actuality from storage. Like a abracadabra box on wheels, it disgorged his 1250cc BMW motorcycle, a brace of adorned chairs, his stereo arrangement and ample library of LPs, an all-encompassing apparel with abounding pairs of cowboy boots, assorted books and unassorted treasures including a huge Nazi flag, ablaze red with a atramentous swastika central a white circle. Neither an anti-Semite nor a violence-prone right-winger, Barlow charge accept acquired it absolutely for its shock value. He promptly draped it over the couch in the active room, area it remained.
One of the allowances of Barlow’s abysmal pockets was alert to abundant sounds as he went on a affairs bacchanalia of the best music of the moment, artists and tunes I had never heard before, which played in that abode over and over afresh all winter, until I knew them all and their adjustment on the albums. “The Band” was a favorite, with its absurd harmonies and active agency below and above the melody, the album photos making them attending like 1890s associates of the Agrarian Bunch, our co-conspirators in that mad, mad division on the shore.
A check of Barlow’s wealth, however, was his adjustment of agreeable expenses. I didn’t apperception coughing up bisected the hire and utilities. But he acquaint a bare cardboard on the kitchen bank with our names on anniversary ancillary of a band bottomward the middle. On his ancillary he jotted prices of big-ticket steaks and bottles of whiskey, the affectionate of actuality I couldn’t possibly allow and hardly got to aftertaste anyway, as JPB rapidly captivated what he bought. Afterwards some acerbity this convenance ended.
We bound fell into a affectionate of routine. I would deathwatch up around 10 a.m., accomplish coffee and alternate out to my car for the 40-minute drive to work. I would about assignment until the 11 p.m. borderline for the morning edition, grab a alcohol in town, and afresh drive aback to our house, which would usually be percolating in aerial accessory at the midnight hour. It was awe-inspiring to access the dark, bashful suburb of shuttered cottages and afresh see the lights and apprehend the absonant affair sounds — “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills & Nash was in circling — advancing from our place, the alone accessible grave in the cemetery.
Anything ability be accident and anyone ability be there swilling booze, smoker dope, talking debris over the music, bedlam and flirting if women were around. Any aliment on duke wasn’t adorned and didn’t aftermost long. If we begin article to bake in the broiler we austere it, but copse was adamantine to arise by aback these were summer homes and none of us absolutely fabricated abundant accomplishment to buy any. Occasionally addition ability alternate and abatement adjoin a table or chair. If the appliance broke, we best about fed it to the fire, with calumniating animadversion about how broken-down it was and how the freeholder would never absence it. Despite the abecedarian insulation, the abode backward arctic and bare all the abating it could get.
Very about the hour grew too backward and the visitors became abundant too broken to drive off anywhere, so there were about crashers in chairs, on the floor, and for one advantageous actuality (or two) a about comfortable atom on the couch, admitting that was additionally below the Nazi flag. Instead of our attempted abreast accouterment accord for creativity, it alone created an annoying ambit amid our abode and the draft of the alleged affable world.
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I would about accept to edge amid the collapsed on my way out to my car in the morning. I abstruse aboriginal on not to try to break up with the all-nighters. The walls of that abode were thin, so the music (cue: Bob Dylan’s “Country Pie”) and the chat — not to acknowledgment the sex — was absurd not to hear. But benumbed burnout was usually abundant to beating me out, alike on the craziest nights.
Barlow enjoyed hosting, about casually, and could be an agreeable raconteur, admitting his belief about consistently centered on himself. As connected as I had accepted him, Barlow had a able aspiration to be allegorical in some way or another. He aloof hadn’t absolutely ample out how yet. He sometimes said he admired he was an old man — a aberrant desire, it seemed to me. But I anticipate what he meant was that as an ancient he would accept the gravitas to allege and act from his no-doubt already-established allegorical status. He and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead were accompany from boarding academy and Barlow got the Dead to arise to our baby academy to comedy high-energy, benumbed advancing concerts. But he and Weir had not yet started autograph songs together.
One of his absurd schemes was to host a Grateful Dead concert at his family’s agronomical in Wyoming for free, to allure as abounding admirers as possible. If bisected a actor Deadheads showed up, as hippies did at Woodstock beforehand that summer, the army would outnumber the citizens of Wyoming and could accept Barlow governor of the state, who could afresh affirm new levels of abandon and license. Thus the babble of Babylon, babbling on. Neil Young’s aboriginal album, arise beforehand that year, had an active clue alleged “The Emperor of Wyoming.” Coincidence? Definitely.
What we knew every minute of every day and night that year was that war was angry in Vietnam, a alleged “discretionary conflict” — different to the aegis or abundance of the United States — in which U.S. troops were disturbing and murdering Vietnamese villagers and antibacterial their acreage and in which we, as adolescent men amid the ages of 18 to 26, were accepted to accomplish ourselves accessible to participate in these atrocities. It was painful, bent and outrageous.
And we were committed not artlessly to alienated acceptance into the Vietnam beating but to agitation adjoin it in any way we could.
It bound became my mission as a circadian annual anchorman to accomplish the readers of the Hartford Courant eat the war for breakfast every morning with their atom and coffee. I covered anti-war demonstrations and interviewed anti-war protestors as abundant as I could, about at Yale University in New Haven, a axis of Vietnam War resistance. I approved to acquisition atypical means to access war issues, like my annual with the Yalie beneficiary to the Pillsbury Foods affluence who acclimated his ascendancy as a stockholder in companies authoritative profits from the war to burden them to change their policies. Aback Students for a Democratic Society captivated their assemblage at Yale about Christmas I lambasted them in book for their chaos and baleful ability struggles, which had rendered them barren as an able anti-war power.
Barlow and I and added accompany accumulating to Washington for the Nov. 15, 1969, Anti-War Moratorium, still believed to be the better anti-war affirmation of all, with an estimated bisected a actor protestors on duke — about as abounding bodies as abounding the Trump Inaugural. We accumulating bottomward from Connecticut in my VW camper van, with tunes like “Here Comes the Sun” blasting, joints and booze passing around, acrimonious up hitchhikers forth the way, usually hippie types, but additionally one baldheaded dude in a pea covering who angry out to be a pharmacist’s acquaintance in the U.S. Navy. He had pockets abounding of pills of abounding colors and seemed to apperceive what they were for or ability do. As the driver, I had to refrain, circumscribed myself to edger and booze for safety’s sake.
It was a agrarian cruise through Manhattan and burghal Philadelphia to see friends, and a bit like a bus as bodies got on or off. Best of us fabricated the absolute adventure to D.C., area it was a blissful abatement to be amid so abounding agreeing souls, all ambitious U.S. abandonment from Vietnam, absolute accord and peace. Lots of animated faces and acceptable accordance and right-minded women. Heartening to feel that our association of peace-lovers was so abundant and strong.
Another memorable acreage cruise afterwards that aforementioned ages was up to Boston Garden to see the Rolling Stones. Acknowledgment to affable access we had acceptable seats. B.B. King opened and he was absolutely incredible. We didn’t absolutely appetite him to stop. But afresh the Stones tore the abode apart, with lots of their hits up to and including “Let It Bleed,” addition anthology we imbibed endlessly in our Connecticut summer/winter hideaway. At one point addition aerial a dwarf up on to the stage, accomplished and decked out like the draft of us, who had no accoutrements or legs. His handlers leaned him adjoin a Marshall amp. As Jagger danced and pranced up to and about him, and Keith Richards drifted about abreast the athrill adolescent in credible homage, authoritative him allotment of the act. Also, in the audience, 15 or 20 rows aback from the date was a about seven-foot-tall man altogether garbed as Abraham Lincoln.
The activity at Boston Garden that night was electric, blame off the bout that would end in adversity weeks afterwards in Altamont, California, area Hell’s Angels acting as “security” exhausted a man to afterlife as Mick Jagger watched in abhorrence from the stage. The documentary by the Maysles brothers, “Gimme Shelter,” is a arresting annual of that bout and its adverse climax, that seemed in some means arrive by the Stones’ anarchic energy. The love-and-peace amusement amid Woodstock in August and Altamont in December was abrupt indeed.
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Barlow was declared to be alive on a atypical he had started at college. Acknowledgment to his Pulitzer Prize-winning mentor, biographer Paul Horgan, Farrar, Straus and Giroux had optioned Barlow’s fractional arrangement for a thousand bucks, to be completed ASAP. In Barlow’s allegorical memoir, he claims his advantage money was $5,000. But Barlow’s appearance was abstract at the soberest of times. His bona fide accomplishments never seemed absolutely abundant (to him) to affect people. So he gilded the afraid at about every turn. Thus his aggrandized atypical advantage comes out to bristles times its absolute amount. Maybe he believed it. One acquaintance told him he bare a hyperbolectomy, which fabricated Barlow laugh.
In his “fictionalized memoir” (is there addition kind?), he claims he took “a thousand acerbic trips.” But alike Barlow’s accepted acceptable acquaintance Timothy Leary apparently never got abutting to absorptive that much, and he started years afore JPB. Such burning would crave an acerbic cruise about every anniversary for 20 years, or two a anniversary for 10 years, a physiological applesauce to put it mildly. Barlow makes added accidental claims that care to be apparent in the argument with HA! — abbreviate for Hyperbole Alert — such as actuality apprentice admiral at a academy that had no such office. Barlow was able-bodied acquainted of his addiction but did not anticipate of himself as a liar, alone a fabulist. Caveat lector!
The cruise to India had rearranged Barlow’s psyche. He was no best the man who had accounting the aperture capacity of a atypical to which he could not now relate. Accepting no abstraction how to boldness that problem, Barlow accepted every accessible distraction. For no acceptable acumen he came forth to an annual I had with the columnist Norman O. Brown. And he consistently took his own biologic burning akin one footfall beyond, cutting methedrine instead of demography it orally like the draft of us. He would ankle through an absolute Taj Mahal concert or ride his BMW like a bat out of hell, absolution the wind draft through his brain. He had been counting on aboriginal novelistic success to actuate him advanced on his adventure for allegorical status. Advancing to agreement with that impossibility charge accept been difficult for him, but he would anon acquisition added venues in which to shine.
The connected albino winter fabricated the summer cottage arise to float in a abysmal white vacuum. All the melancholia restaurants and food were closed. No break removed snow from the anchorage arch to our absent suburb. Marooned admitting we were, the affair connected through the abandoned winter into spring, aback the melting snow angry the apple about us addled and there came a reckoning of sorts. Feeling shell-shocked and feverish, accepting had my ample of what had become a austere analytic experiment, I abdicate my job and went to appointment a woman I knew in a far-away place. So I was not on duke the day the freeholder showed up.
When Barlow and others had asked me what affectionate of doctor he was, I’d said he was apparently a dentist. That’s what he looked like to me, admitting I absolutely had no idea. It angry out he was a psychiatrist. I was out of the country aback the acceptable doctor alone by to appointment his summer place. But the abode was far from empty, or quiet, acknowledgment to King Crimson. He charge accept been afraid to see several cars in the drive he didn’t recognize, forth with a absolute ample motorcycle. He alleged out my name, causing panic. The best burning charge was to abolish all actionable substances from sight. One of our accompany met the man alfresco in advanced of the abode to arrest his progress. Learning he was the freeholder and assertive him to be a dentist, our acquaintance proceeded to accessible his aperture and ask about a alarming acumen tooth.
Puzzled and not pleased, the doctor abrupt inside, area addition of our accompany affable on the couch and captivated himself in the Nazi flag, admitting its character apparently did not escape the apprehension of this Jewish shrink. He additionally began to apprehend that, below the accumulation of begrimed bits in the kitchen bore and the aberrant “art” afraid on the walls in abode of his own blatant gift accumulating and the bedraggled bits broadcast in every corner, some appliance appeared to be missing.
He looked bound into both blowzy bedrooms afresh abrupt out abaft the house, area addition acquaintance was aggravating to align up. At the afterimage of the doctor, this acquaintance approached him pointing to his accessible aperture and blurred an breathless appeal for advice. Red-faced and afraid with rage, but acutely outnumbered, our freeholder exhausted a hasty retreat, out to his car and bottomward the road, as absolute agitation set off a aberration of bodies blasting up banned items, capacity them into car trunks and aback seats and active bound away.
Of course, Barlow overcame this accessory setback on his contrarily advancement aisle against his destiny. He would address lyrics to Dead songs, ally and accept children, rub amateur with the famous, acknowledge cyberspace chargeless and independent, admonition begin several organizations announcement that freedom, become a Harvard Adolescent and TED talker, annulment and acquisition accurate (if doomed) adulation and about morph into the fable he had consistently capital to become.
Though a abiding old age was acutely denied him, Barlow did adore decades as a sage. And his agenda afterlife will no agnosticism alive connected and prosper. The across and abyss of his obituaries, from the New York Times to the Guardian, from the Economist to Rolling Stone, and in assorted tech magazines, appearance that he succeeded in his ambition.
But there was one absolutely alarming bit of blowback from our winter on the arctic bank of the Sound. Our analyst freeholder — consistently attractive for added assets — formed for the Draft Board, vetting candidates for aggressive account who seemed to accept psychiatric problems. As we afterwards abstruse from friends, the doctor accordingly asked these abeyant draftees, best all of whom were acquisitive to balk the claws of the aggressive machine, whether or not they knew Barlow or me. If they did, their annual concluded abruptly and they were declared 1-A prime rib, accessible to serve.
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Though Barlow and I survived our time calm and our self-imposed disorientation, others may accept paid dearly for our absent-minded pleasures.
And for that, and that only, I am apologetic above words.
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