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How is it that I can come out to here
And be still standing
And never hit bottom and keep falling through
Just relaxed and paying attention

Roger McGuinn (then known as Jim), the Byrds, "5D (Fifth Dimension)," 1966


Consciousness is a dangerous tool. As a many-edged sword, it cuts every which way: not only do we try not to change when change we should, we try too hard too soon, and sometimes we make adjustments we don't even need.

Acid gets in there somewhere.

How else do you reach the fifth dimension?

Not that the Byrds wrote druuurgh songs, you understand, nothing of the sort, "5D" was all about, er, transcendental meditation, yes, that's it, or was it the Zen of Physics, or the Tao of Motorpsycho Nitemares, or simply the universe as seen through long bangs and granny glasses on organic herbal tea (tea, geddit, hepcat word for grass?). Of course when they did get busted by the AM radio it was for a song that really was about getting a long way off the ground (with the help of Pan Am) ... but ain't that typical.

Now that's out of the way, let's see if we can hook together Annie then (halfway out of her tiny) and Annie later (trying the activist's hat on for size), not to mention Blackie and Whitey (then and there and where and when). It's a gestalt. If it's about the sixties it has to be a gestalt, and 1970 was right in the middle of the sixties, which ran roughly from the death of JFK to the resignation of RMN. (In the UK, from the defeat of the fourteenth Earl of Doubtless Whom to the second coming of the Aralvilsn after the interregnum of the blasted 'eath.) Somehow it all fits in, it has to, right, it's all one, man.

Cedar may have planned a course of exploration with Captain Trips, but that's just him. Annie took it because she wanted to. The interesting question is, why did she want to?

Earthquake city, day return.

Cedar's problem was that he tried to go up to the ticket window and order one. Nice try, kid, but a thorough-going examination of the psyche is like love: you can't get it simply by asking.

Happiness is always a by-product.

Annie in later years kept trying too, but the results got less and less dramatic. Sometimes there would be flashes of intense love, like the time with Brendan when Peggy Seeger's original solo version of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" came sneaking onto the radio and filled the room like a warm mist that left Annie weeping with joy and appreciation of the depths of human intimacy. It was the most beautiful thing in the entire history of the planet, but that didn't change anything, not even her life. Well, not much.

It wasn't that the acid got weaker, although on the street it generally did, it was more that Annie learned to function on acid. Typical, typical. The first goal of the trippers was to give away everything they had learned and to experience the universe directly (God, they sometimes called it); the second was to master the trick of quotidian rituals under the influence, dealing with cars and dealing with cops and dealing with kids and dealing with everything else that simply had to be handled and therefore was. With this useful skill came the ability to do more and more and get from it, uh-oh, less and less.

If you know there is coming a mighty holy-courst, to rend the city from wall to wall and purify it of sin, well, probably you squirrel away a few useful things to make rebuilding easier, it's only practical. Like FEMA with its helicopter getaways for the President and Pentagon, you plan for change by trying to minimize the effects. Bad move. If change is needed, accept it, and if it isn't, avert it; but any child will tell you that Humpty Dumpty ain't getting back on top of that wall, no, not never no more.

Annie's town in '90 was as fractured and confused as her psyche and for many of the same reasons. Neither of them knew how to face the coming years, and both of them were standing in a doorway that neither had intended to open. The future is a foreign country, they do things differently there and the guide books are worse than useless.

Bookshop Santa Cruz rode the transition. The warm and friendly post-hippie living-room ambiance was shattered forever, but out of the pavilions that housed the business during the transition arose a new, clean, well-lighted place, an urban store with room for Isabel Allende to come and read, with no more shabby used hard- or paperbacks, with a coffee-house attached and sidewalk tables, with entrances fore and aft and space for the free papers and the expensive imports, an efficient and appropriate enterprise for the new and sparkling city.

Before the earthquake, they couldn't have built it without riots.

Psychic riots, anyway.

The city had been changing – the people were changing – but no one wanted to admit it. Jump-cut through a photo album and evolution becomes obvious even when it seemed like stasis in the moment. Yesterday's community bookstore was history before it crumbled, only no one knew it. Not ready to collapse, not even to disappear, but to move from the center of the story of the city. The earthquake purged it of its seventies sins and let it be born anew for the nineties. The owner was Mayor when the shop and the street fully reopened (in early '93), and a fine figure of a Mayor he was too, solid as Santa (the city's first name, as he liked to point out) and taking the heat from left and right.

Without the Pretty Big One, the transition would have cost the store the love (though possibly not the dollars) of its clientele. The move was needed, but not seen to be needed, and perception is often the more important part.

As a young woman, Annie would take her acid sometimes knowing for absolute certain that she would find out during the trip how she felt and therefore what to do. It was, as such, a decision-making tool. But only if you were willing to surrender, completely.

Whitey didn't need it (oh yes he did) and Blackie wouldn't take it (oh yes he would). They took it of course, everyone did (hey, wait a minute, cry the vocal majority ... yes yes well everyone they approached as peers ... and don't try to pretend that you never fell into that trap of false identification), but neither made a fetish of it and for those opposite reasons. Whitey's street instincts gave him a resilience that only needed adjustment when dulled by his acceptance of another's routine; and Blackie, poor lad, knew only his reason, expensively trained as it certainly was. Both of them were led to the sensory side, managed hallucinations and the like, the trivial if beautiful concomitants of the psychedelic experience.

They got their rude adjustments from Mario and his mates.

Which meant, of course, they brought them on themselves.

The town that's shaken doesn't usually bring it upon itself (much). Mortar dried to dust, shoddy construction, landfill putting houses where waves should be, all these make things worse but they don't actually create the explosion. (Fiddling with the water table might, though.) But if you build of wood and wattle and live lightly upon the land, the quakes that will happen anyway will ripple around and through your home, and leave you to sleep again. Fear and foolishness are the greatest killers.

You can try to impose or you can try to adapt.

Masters of the universe are likely to be humbled.

Stewards may learn to cope.

Marxism has been called a Christian heresy, but that misses the point. All the dogmas of modern western civilization – capitalism, communism, the religions of the book, the class system of the modern multi-national, and a million other hierarchical systems – are really old-fashioned scientific heresies. They are all based on the systematizing principle, the naming of parts, the construction of elaborate systems of cause and effect, of discarding the irrelevant and focusing on the experimental model, the entire panoply of ideas that, for better and worse, built the world we have today. Science from Babylon to Newton.

The nuclear physicists have been coughing ostentatiously for the better part of a century now, but the social sciences haven't caught up and many of the theologians (in Rome or Canterbury as in Teheran or Oklahoma) are light-years away. The basics they thought they knew are simply wrong. Time need not be one-way. The observer does affect the observed. Randomness is real.

It is not that Christianity (or Judaism or Islam) is contradicted by science.

Christianity is bad science.

And it is not that Annie chose, in the face of a stultifying sense of middle-aged pointlessness, to put herself in a situation where new impulses might awake a spark of creativity within herself. That's just what she did.

She didn't have to name it, all she needed was to be it.

Relaxed, and paying attention.