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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/17/17

What Was Verifiably Great About America: Fragments of a Memoir Set To A Musical Soundtrack

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Yet to the young men, the hippie sphinxes, sirens, waifs and gypsy queens were baffling, unapproachable; these women were less than taken by their greasy, pompadoured forelocks and aggressive bearing.

In short, and to appropriate the parlance of the era, the hippie chicks didn't get off on these young men's "bad vibes " it, like, really harshed their high."

But these great, great grandsons of the Lost Cause proved much more malleable in countenance than the ossified in memory, now enshrined in marble statuary, of their confederate forefathers.

Consequently, a kind of cracker Lysistrata started to unfold. The pomade lacquer faded from stiff pompadours, yielding to lank, draping locks of hippie plumage. The habit of rebel bellicosity was sublimated into an avidity to "boogie." The zealots of ass-kicking became the acolytes of acid and devotees of the gospels of kicking back and getting down.

As time passed, on weekends, as the Allman Brothers preached Sunday sermons vis-a-vis guitar and drum solos, these newly minted freaks could be found in positions of repose and reflection upon the grassy hills of the park, eating Orange Sunshine and drawling, "aw mahn, Dwayne's guitar is shootin' sparks into mah brain""

Or as Marcel Proust put it, "The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes."

If the US is great in any regard, it is not because of the psychotic belief in its own exceptionalism or its risible grandiosity involving the claim to be the one and only "indispensable nation." Conversely, its best quality is evinced in the voices of the country's economically bereft rabble, as expressed in the blues, in jazz, folk, country/western, and hip hop music, in which the powerless find a voice that moves the heart by inducing the soul to be able to penetrate the thick walls of shame that the class-based capitalist prison state imposes on the laboring class.

Waylon Jennings rendition of Billy Joe Shaver's outlaw country classic, and its Cracker Zen philosophy of: The more adept one becomes at growing down--even composting--one's pride, ego, pretensions, and careerist striving the richer the soil of the soul grows.

(Billy Joe Shaver's mother, eight months pregnant with him, was severely beaten by her husband and left for dead in a ditch. Later spotted labouring in the scorching heat of an east Texas cotton field, a child harness to her back, young Billy at her side, by a recruiter for local honky-tonks scouting the area to fill waitress positions. Shaver's red-haired mother's good looks proved providential for exposing him to venues of country/western music.)

The early 1980s. I am attempting to navigate, and failing on a psychical basis, the vales and canyons of Los Angeles. It is the advent of the Reagan years. The idiot stare of the encompassing dome of the LA sky is too much for my Appalachian Hill country psyche. There is no green-on-green canopy to filter the relentless sheen of sunlight. It renders me manic, angst-ridden, and sleepless.

The damp evening air envelops one at sundown in LA. It gets damn cold. A clinging chill wafts from the Pacific Ocean. But the phenomenon is not weather related; instead, the cold is the embrace of the ghosts of the dead dreams of the city's inhabitants.

X captures in tone and limns in lyric the effects of the atomised LA landscape upon my besieged psyche" I slouch in the direction of The Whiskey to catch them.

This song, by Elizabeth Cotten, here, interpreted by Rhiannon Giddens, seems to me, concerns the type of release borne of lament, whereas one has lost everything and made every attempt to right oneself with circumstance and fate but to no avail. Every worldly possession is in hock...but destitution has not been dodged.

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Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at Facebook:

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