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What a tangled web we weave
Go round in circumstance
Someone show me how to tell
The dancer from the dance

The Eagles (Randy Meisner, Don Henley, Glen Frey & Bernie Leadon), "Saturday Night," Desperado, 1973, ripping off both Sir Walter Scott (1808) and W.B. Yeats (1927), which ain't bad for rock'n'roll

Have to get people off their asses first.

Robert Christgau, panning the above in a contemporaneous review, reprinted in Rock Albums of the '70s: A Critical Guide


To the north, the silver surf undulated towards the sand and the dark skirt of palms that hid it from the rice paddies beyond. That vista was oscillating gently with the wind and tide, around the kind of idealized image that gets painted on velvet and flogged to folk who know what they like, and they do, and they are right. Forget the pejorative, the view was pretty. If you want something more challenging to put up on your mental wall, factor in the rot and life, the sandcrabs and the humans, the abrasive sands and the stinking seaweed, all true, all there, all fine and beautiful ... but lighten up already, it was Christmas and party time. Prettiness may be transient and insubstantial but it's there till it's gone and none the worse for a' that.

Off to the right, about east-north-east as Annie led Cedar around the headland, was the gathering of their tribe, worshipping at the electric altar by Anjuna beach. The stage was real, the lights largely imaginary; the players determined, the playing stochastic; the dancers setting rhythms and the whole audience performing for the ones with instruments and microphones (yeah, mikes too but we'll get to that); a glorious mass attempt to hallucinate the higher reality of joy.

The principal focus was certainly the stage but we're not talking math here, and we're dealing with a bunch of instinctive anarchists. Smaller shrines with candles more or less marked the perimeter, a loose-knit chain of portable chai stalls, purveyors of banana bread and coconut cookies to the dessert-deprived. Within the half-ellipse were other groupings, talkers to the ocean side, dancers near the land, sleepers crashed out at random in between. Some had blankets and baskets and sat up properly like their parents on a Sunday spree, some wore facepaint and not much more, atavism in action, and most fell far between and enjoyed both. The vibe was clearly accepting and easy (just ask anyone) or easing into acceptance (full moon festivity, not just a good idea, it's the law) or facing an easement (never trust a prankster, it was nights past full and the fun went on) or ... it was safe and loose and warm and friendly and only just as silly as anyone happened to want it to be.

"Munchies," exclaimed Cedar as they approached the rim.

"OK," agreed Annie, acting as designated navigator. "Look, there's Juanita." She waved companionably as Cedar detoured to the food supply. "I'll be thataway."

"Cool," acknowledged her companion, who was more boggled than he cared to admit by the fortuitous manifestation of everything his little heart currently desired and lacked. "I'll bring things."

There was tea, in the little clay disposable pots typically used at Indian railroad stations, which cost paisa per hundred to throw by hand and reverted almost instantaneously to soil when tossed out the window, thus eliminating the need for trash containers (except, perhaps, on the beach). There were little pakoras and samosas (the food, not the dictator), the cakish bread and the breadish cookies, and one or two items he chose not to inspect too closely just at the moment. Decisions, decisions. He took one of these and two of those, with a little of that and a bit of this, all piled on a pair of banana leaves, ordered a couple of chai's and bore the comestibles off grandly to where Annie had established home base, as an annex to her friend's encampment.

The stallholder shared a smile and lifted the kettle from the coals. She knew he'd be back. Not many of the tourists stiffed her and she could usually pick them early. Besides, she was doing gold-rush business. When the hordes are migrating, food's a better commodity to be in than even sex and booze, just ask the Santa Cruz potato farmers who followed on behind the miners of '49 and cleaned up. Of course by 1853 the crops were rotting as everyone tried to get into the act, and by the late 1970s Mrs daSilva was going to have to get corporate or get out, but hey just then the prospects were pleasing and man wasn't looking too vile either.

Cedar was back before the tea cooled, with a fistful of rupees and no taste for haggling. She gently extracted an elegant sufficiency and waggled her head to indicate it was enough. He beamed, not really confused but happy to let it go.

Juanita was Roman, despite her handle, but had polished her English over a year at the London College of Printing, where she had studied graphic design, Notting Hill Gate, Afghani black and a young gent called Steve who had finally failed inspection, for reasons which she had described to Annie in graphic and hilarious detail over a cuppa after they met while eyeing the same bale of cloth in the market. There was enough for two but heavens you wouldn't want to run into someone else with the same party dress now would you, not when you'd had it custom made. Since both were willing to admit they were more interested in meeting simpatico types than in grabbing that particular pattern and no other (people > things, hippie axiom #12 or was it #35?), they had compromised on two totally different styles and headed off to chat.

Juanita was there with a small colony of Italians who had flown out two weeks before for a month or so and rented a large house communally. Her boyfriend was a brand-new architect who had been to Columbia and the Sorbonne – he came from a line of lire billionaires (at six-hundred-odd to the buck at the time, this was big-time wealth even in real money) and could certainly afford her fare – while she was unemployed and had the time, so why not and wasn't it great. Three other couples were with them, all vaguely arty, seriously tanned, exceptionally stylish and almost completely unable to converse in English on any abstract level.

The concrete, however, was covered, and Cedar's arrival bearing this and that provoked immediate reciprocation with the other.

"You like to smoke?" offered an exhibit Mike Angelo would have killed for, black curls, sinuously rippling muscles, gold chain with crucifix tickling the chest hair, Mastroianni eyelids and accent – not "yuh like-ah ter smoke-ah" à la Chico, something more like "'oo li-aike t'smo-oh-oke" but we'll leave the phonetics to the reader's imagination – and a hand-made item that evoked Cedar's respect, avarice, desire and attention.

"Does the pope shit in the woods?" he responded automatically.

"'Scuse?" countered the generous host, baffled, but Juanita's 'old man' had put in his college time on the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and was happy to prove it.

"Is the bear a Catholic?" he grinned and turned, presumably to translate because he raised a solid chuckle that wasted a good opening blast of smoke but hey there was plenty more where that came from.

"Si, si" he coughed and passed it around.

The boys were bonding (which doesn't mean the girls didn't get their hits) and suddenly concerned about the proprieties so hands were extended to shake, European-style, and names were formally exchanged.

"I'm Federico, but in New York they used to call me Fred."

"Fuck, man, in New York they used to call me Jacob," an unusual admission that came directly from the local psychic disturbances, "But I'm Cedar. This is Annie." True, of course, but a bad move. Do we smell the hint of a property claim? No, no, of course not. Sure we do but no one's talking.






The necessary dozen handshakes – Annie and Cedar nearly found themselves greeting each other in the confusion – took a while but the group settled down, picking up (it has to be confessed) on many a stereotype. What can we say? Clichés develop out of observation and ritual social behavior is bound to tradition by a law almost as relentless as gravity. Yup, the girls talked tailors and the boys talked guitarists, and none were fully satisfied and all were fairly content. It took Annie to say something truthful, but then she always was reluctant to follow convention except under duress, which was hardly the ruling principle of the time.

"I hate to say it," she lied, "But this music is, um, not really my kind of thing."

She paused for brickbats that didn't materialize.

"In fact," she truthed, "I kinda wish they'd stop."

Federico laughed and Carlo joined in. Juanita smiled encouragement and explained:

"They're Germans. They're into that industrial noisy shit."

"You know," offered Federico, "Like the Velvets."

"Sure," said Cedar, butting in. "Like 'Heroin' and all that stuff from the first album."

"They're junkies?" asked Annie, misunderstanding. She had always preferred harmonies to instrumental freak-outs anyway.

"No, the song," explained the encyclopædia.

"Sure," said Juanita, "I've seen them around."

"Yeah," said Federico, "I saw them in the Village one time."

Cedar was impressed. Annie was confused. Federico was primed to reminisce about the Big Apple. Carlo was thinking of retiring to the Italian-language conversation behind him. Juanita offered Annie consolation.

"Anyway, don't worry," she confided. "They keep changing the people."

Public opinion seemed to be on Annie's side, with the significant exception of (a) those on stage, who were oblivious to the known universe as experienced by anyone else and (b) the remaining die-hard hip- and head-shakers, most of whom seemed to be merged with their own movements, inventing a beat that none could hear and somehow failing even to achieve consensus on that to the external eye. But they were having a good time.

Annie lay back on the soft cotton blanket, one of four the Italians had brought, and looked at the stars and giggled.

"You know," she said, and Juanita looked over (the boys were into criticism and shared second-hand experience) "I'm lying on the beach at a party in paradise and I'm complaining about the band."

Juanita giggled too, and laughed and lay back herself.


"I mean, far freaking out."

And they laughed again, and rolled around for the sheer sensuous pleasure of it.