My Back Pages

[Tip of the hat to Bob Dylan]
stories and reflections on my childhood, young adulthood, and middle age

the reading

I have told no one this story—not until this moment.

It was 1973. I was 22 years old, hitchhiking around the Mediterranean Sea, with no itinerary and no time constraints. It was my hope that, by surrendering all expectations, I might acquire some insight into what to do in life.

In Nice, France, three English musicians invited me to stay with them for a bit. With a place to stash my guitar and other stuff, I was free to walk the city streets, something I treasured more than visiting museums and historic battle sites.

On a slightly run-down street, I walked by a girl not older than seventeen but whose smile had the air of an old soul. Continue reading

stray dog

[This piece is so-titled because the story wasn’t over when I thought it was, but instead followed me like a stray dog determined to tag along.]

It was the Seventies. I was at Brandeis University, just outside Cambridge, Massachusetts. So yes, I took LSD. I was alone in the university’s Rose Art Museum that was like a drop of pond water: tiny and unassuming until you slid it under a microscope and then suddenly there was life of every ilk. In the Rose-Art-Museum Drop-of-Pond-Water, I was rubbing elbows with scores of the greatest artists of the past century.

Face-to-face with an abstract impressionist canvas, I said “I know you. You will now become pure light.” I stared. The colors throbbed, swirled, and melted into solid white.

On a different day, another student and I dropped acid and went to visit Shapiro Hall, a girls’ dorm. My behavior was very normal. I was surprised when a female student I knew came up to me and asked point-blank “Are you guys tripping?” In my most composed voice I responded “Why would you ask that?” And she replied “Your friend has been staring at the wall for thirty minutes.” Continue reading