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On Barlow

Throughout the course of any one person’s life there are sure to be a few key people that show up as agents of transformation. People who help to define the myriad of essential moments that shape your journey into one that has direction, purpose and meaning. I have my parents Timothy and Barbara, a couple of romantic relationships, many close friends and my teachers that I’ve known personally as well as in the astral. Within that mix, nestled deep in the roots of my formative years, resides John Perry Barlow. I say this with the utmost conviction and gratitude. I’d be a different person than I am today had I never crossed paths with Barlow.

Barlow entered my life 30 years ago when I was 14 years old. I was just a gangly confused teenager trying to find my way in the world. During the span of these 30 years there were phases in my relationship with Barlow where we’d be in each other’s orbit frequently and fondly, possibly sharing a laugh at a trademark “Barlow Frenzy.” Alternatively, many years could also pass, sometimes awkwardly, that would eventually come to an end in the form of a loving reunion. It must be said that certain elements of my time with Barlow could contain their fair share of complex tensions having to do with the very strong personalities of both my family and his being. That’s not to say any of it had a lasting effect. They were gracefully balanced out with countless intimate moments of dancing in each other’s consciousness that could only be achieved by Barlow’s brilliance at understanding complex eco-systems and then knowing how to rebuild them.

Nostalgically, I recall many moments where my Deadhead-ness would take over and I’d barrage him with my curiosity about the inner workings of the Grateful Dead. That was hard to shake with me. Remember, I met Barlow when I was a 14-year-old fan and a kid, so the context of our friendship evolved over time. For the first 10 years he was more of a “god-uncle”, as he put it, intent on exposing me to the wonders of the world through his unique lens. He knew that my household was kind of “different” and that I could use an extra set of adult eyes helping me out to make sure I didn’t go further astray. Growing up, I was so blessed to have some of the greatest guest stars one could ever imagine, but it wasn’t always easy for me to connect with them. The stage was so large, and I tried so hard to be smart and liked, that I often fumbled because I was also in the midst of screeching through the baffling process of growing up. Barlow made it easy, he made any bullshit go away. He was always so comforting, funny and gracious with the way he could make me feel safe and included. He’d come into my room and crouch down next to me as we geeked out on Mac IIci games or to dial up to The Well to unearth the possibilities of what was to come. Cowboy boots always on of course.

I didn’t spend as much time with Barlow over the years as many did nor did I spend the least. I’m no authority on his life and legacy, however, due to the memorable intensity of the time I did spend with him things tended to morph from mundane moments to thrilling events that left stamps on my consciousness for life. Everything he did was full on.

Perhaps, the most special quality of his was the way he could set the stage for glorious potential. When you were with Barlow you got the feeling that THIS night could be the greatest night of your life. Anything could happen. His thirst for stirring the pot with forward thinking ideas, for bringing people together, for seducing women and all while weaving the mischief of the Grateful Dead ethos into the mixture made for the perfect conditions for an atmosphere of magic. Only someone with his brand of unmistakable ego and intellect could be a ring leader of this magnitude.

At first, and this is true, my folks and I used to laugh uncontrollably at Barlow’s relentless ego and need to speak in the third person. Before email was a regular thing, we’d get “BarlowGrams” in the mail. My dad would be like “who does this guy think he is? Who the fuck cares what he’s doing?” The thing is, our acerbic tongues and judgement eventually went out the window because his sincerity and authenticity could not be denied. We’d came around. Even grouchy ol’ Timmy saw Barlow was doing amazing stuff, gathered fantastic people for parties and was actually worth following in his branded email updates. His finger was many levels above being “on the pulse”, he was creating a new pulse. Barlow was a social media brand 15 years before any of us were trying to do the same thing. Fact.

Also, like my dad, Barlow’s ability to reinvent himself was the stuff of legends. If you plot the logic of a Wyoming cattle rancher Dead lyricist changing professions mid-stream to that of an Internet freedom fighter philosopher, you’ll get lost and confused. It was a brilliant transformation that defied convention.

For me though, I was a Deadhead first and foremost, that was my main lifeline to him. In my eyes his place in the world was part of that formula. When the Mondo 2000 era was booming and the EFF was forming, Barlow’s voice as a freedom fighter on the plains of cybernetic consciousness was visionary and a sight to behold. But it never moved me in the same way because I was much more interested in learning about how “Throwing Stones” came to life. That’s just who I am I guess. I am thrilled that his desire to be remembered as an Information Age visionary is what’s leading the headlines in public obits. Look Barlow, you did it! I think the NY Times didn’t even mention the Dead in depth for 3 paragraphs.

He was a maverick until the end.

Death has no mercy. That much is true. Barlow’s slow burn into formlessness was rough. In the last couple of years, it pained me to see him to be honest. Still, it was reflective of way he lived – full on, hard, gritty, vulnerable and always up for adventure. For a cowboy from Wyoming, Barlow was one of the most sensitive guys I’d ever come across. From an early age he was an example to me of how a man could show emotion with pride. His death encapsulated those notes as well. He lived and died on the edge with a hunger to seize every moment and to make them into epic tales of ragged glory. Many of his greatest songs he wrote with Weir illustrate that part of him.

The Weir/Barlow cannon makes up many of the most cherished Dead songs in my opinion. At any given show I was just as happy to hear “Let it Grow” as I was “Scarlet Begonias” – I was full on with Bobby and not solely a Jerry freak. Barlow’s contribution to the Dead zeitgeist, while not as prolific as Hunter’s, was an essential part of the fabric. He helped to paint the tapestry of one of Rock n Roll’s most important legacies.

All this aside, this post isn’t about praising his accomplishments. Many will do that better than I will. Not to mention the fact that his accomplishments are obvious and speak for themselves.

This is about family. Barlow was a core part of the Leary family and many of its dimensions. His presence during the last 9 years of Timothy’s life was not subtle. He formed a friendship with Timothy the best anyone really could. Anyone who saw the two of them together remembers fondly their battles of oratory and quiet battle to see who could own the room. That being true, I have to say now that he made a mistake by getting in too deep when Timothy and my mother Barbara were headed for splitsville. His penchant for the spotlight and unquenchable attraction to powerful women helped create a set of circumstances that I wish didn’t happen. They come complete with gossip and intrigue that in the end left some scars. All the details aren’t important but it’s a tough sting when someone crosses the line with your own mother and claims to have had a relationship with her that simply was not true. That was always looming in the back of my head even decades after, it was hard to shake. The crowning bit of poetic irony is that Barlow being the way he is, made it so that I somehow could look passed it and just keep on dancing. Hard to explain I guess. As times goes on, I find many of the great long-term friendships in one’s life can also get complex and that’s just fine. It makes them rich and special.

My intention of bringing this up is not to add scars to his legacy, the point is that he was family and things got that intimate. With family comes many nuances, ins and outs and various sets of baggage. It’s how any family operates. He played hard and wasn’t afraid to go all in. That I admire. And for that I love him.

He also gave me what I felt was too harsh a dose of tough love during a time when I was in my addiction and faulted by making some poor choices (to say the least.) I felt that doing it publicly wasn’t the right move considering his way of life and penchant for hard living wasn’t always the best example to follow. Still, he meant well and always wanted me to shine. Additionally, I have to admit that his knack for not being subtle may have actually benefited me in this case. Essentially, his contradictions were part of his charm. I mean, how could you love a sometimes Mormon Republican Bohemian Grove member Grateful Dead lyric writing acid head? You just could. Because he was the only one of that kind.

He had so much to offer the world and many people as well, I’m lucky that I got even a shred of it. I can’t think of a smarter, more generous and more worldlier profound person that I’ve ever known. The world is a sadder place without him.

Like I said earlier, magic with him was always possible and even frequent. My top 3 memories of Barlow infused magic are as follows:

1.) Pink Floyd 1994 – this story could be an entire book. The last night he spent with his beloved Cynthia Horner happened to be at our house in 1994 the same weekend that Pink Floyd was playing at the Rose Bowl. Gilmour was a friend, so that weekend of shows saw our house turned into a launchpad for the shows, dozens of people gathered up there before the trek to Pasadena. Barlow and Cynthia too – they exchanged beams of love, possibly took something and then transported with all of us at the Floyd show. From what we all understood they had an amazing night and sealed their bond. Tragically, the very next day Cynthia passed away on an airplane in her sleep only hours after Barlow took her to LAX. It goes without saying that he was never the same and the un-calculable grief that came as a result was his work for the remainder of his life. While sad, the profound connection with his loss fused with magic of Pink Floyd all while using our house as the playing ground is something I’ll never forget. For years after that, every time I saw him I could not escape the image of that weekend.

2.) Brent Mydlands death – I was only 16 but Barlow called our house the day Brent died of an overdose in 1990. Or maybe Timmy called him after I explained why Barlow’s relationship with Brent was special. I’m not sure. After talking to my dad for a while I was handed the phone to give my condolences. I wasn’t sure why, what could I possibly say? I had gone to over 40-50 shows in the previous two years and because of that and my age it was very hard to put it all into context and to come from my heart. I did my best and we stayed on the phone for probably 15 minutes, which I thought was a lot back then. With effortless grace the lessons, wisdom and perspective that I got from talking to Barlow that day left a deep canyon of love in my soul. It was one of the earliest confrontations with death that I experienced. There I was talking to a guy about his friend and song writing partner who just died. He blew my mind and also set the stage for many more encounters with death that I’d walk through over the years. This was new territory for me not to mention a deeply sad and surreal example. Footnote – The Grateful Dead were essentially never the same after that. They rebounded a little with Hornsby but that 87-90 peak was the last of its magnitude.

3.) ACLU Benefit – I believe the year was 1997. It wasn’t long after Timmy had checked out and I use that as context because many of the Leary.com team was still hanging out together and we were Barlow’s guests that evening. In addition, Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman were the musical guests to compliment the honoring of Barlow by the ACLU. The event was at the Century Plaza Hotel in LA and Barlow thought it would be a grand idea to make the entire evening into a post Leary-drome memorial gathering fused with a classic BarlowFrenzy that was to take place in his hotel room. It wasn’t quite the case in terms of size but after the event and a classic mini-set by Bob and Rob, Weir joined myself and some of the other Leary-folk in a psychedelic dance around the cosmos. It was so special for me personally because Jerry hadn’t been gone long and Bobby was still marinating in the haze and was quite candid in talking about it. The combination of that and the psychedelic exploration was a night to remember. Classic Barlow magic.

There are so so many more. But that feels about right.

Shine on John. I’ll miss you. Thank you for everything. Thank you for being a pain in the ass. For challenging me. For teaching me. For making me laugh. For countless Dead tickets. And for not being successful at hooking up with my mother. Having you as a step dad would have been too much. See you on the other side.

 

People Pop Culture

The Weinstein Debacle

Does everyone know that half of “Hollywood” is in total damage control spin mode right now?

Several things to consider:

1.) More people knew about HW than didn’t. The Hollywood inner circle is very small, elite and incestuous. If you’re a member of that club you talk to other members.

2.) Not only did other people know but many gave him a hall pass because like it or not HW made great films. Only a select few could have the luxury to choose to not work with HW. The vast majority of people who wanted to make movies and were given the chance to work with HW took it.

3.) Many of those complicit in keeping and/or brushing off the HW secret are artists we know and love. If 100% disclosure should happen we all will be collectively much more freaked out than we already are.

4.) This went on for decades. Drawing logical conclusions we can assume that many (yes, many) talented and awesome actresses did in fact have coerced sexual relationships with HW. That is the sad truth. He could ruin careers with one phone call and most likely did on several occasions. Or at best he “benched” some actresses for a few months. Not everyone is an Angelina Jolie or Gwyneth Paltrow with that kind of power and weight. This is a really sad truth to part of the story and my heart aches for these women. Hollywood can be a cruel, bitter and highly dysfunctional playground.

5.) Again, part of the problem is that HW made amazing films. Some of the best. It would be so much easier if this was Michael Bay. Because of this the spider web of connections, secrets, cover ups and complicity has Hollywood freaking the fuck out right now. There isn’t a Lot or production company in LA that isn’t scared out of their minds.

6.) It took old fashioned hard nosed journalism to take him down. This allowed for a strong group of women to unite and collectively tell their story using the already built shield of the published stories. Imagine if one lone actress hired Gloria Allred and came forth? HW would have called her a liar and sued for defamation. He’s that fucked up. This is a story that demonstrates when media works well, it can create a tsunami that mobilizes truth.

People Pop Culture

Quickly On Hef

My families association with Hef began in the 60s when TL was featured as an interview subject in the magazine. That interview still remains one of the pivotal early profiles. Not long after that Hef was vital in raising money for TL’s legal defense against “the man” for trying to shut down his ideas. This was huge.

I’m sure there will be some chatter about Playboy’s objectification of women and all the tangental issues that go along with that. Perhaps what many young people don’t realize is that Hef was a fierce champion of First Amendment rights, fringe political issues, anti-authoritarian causes and for creating a modern day dreamland that was all his own and was beyond anything recognizable in 1950s America.

“Life is too short to be living somebody else’s dream.”

 

In my youth my parents would regale me with stories of wild hedonistic tinged nights at the Playboy mansion. God only knows what really went on but I was treated to stories of Kareem calling my dad “doc” and the casual elegance of Jack just hanging out talking to Babs. Naturally like any young man growing up in LA during the 80’s, I couldn’t wait for it to be my turn.

That didn’t come until much much later and quite honestly by the time I arrived I felt like I was 20-30 years too late. It was cool to meet him, sure. But the “Hef” mystique is one of the few tapestries in life that make me feel I was born at the wrong time.

Shine on Hef. You were a maverick.

People Pop Culture

1967 and The Hippie Idea. BIG Exclusive!

1967 was a pivotal year in American history. The “sixties” was in full swing with Vietnam being a full blown conflict, LSD was penetrating the hearts and minds of an entire generation, rock and roll was taking on new shapes and forms and the hippie movement was maturing into a real ideology.

Danny Goldberg’s new book “In Search of The Lost Chord – 1967 and the Hippie Idea” chronicles the time and culture like nothing else ever written. It takes you through all the wild twists and turns that are now things of legend.

You may know Danny as being one of the great figures in music business history due to his managing of Nirvana, being Steve Earles chief advocate and of course doing PR for a band called Led Zeppelin. Through those experiences he’s developed a refined cultural voice that comes in the form of commentary and astute written analysis. The book, due out June 6th, is not to be missed.

IAH is pleased to offer you an exclusive excerpt from the book. Dig it!

Excerpted from In Search of the Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea, copyright 2017 by Danny Goldberg, used with permission of Akashic Books (akashicbooks.com).

FROM THE INTRODUCTION

The word “hippie” morphed from a brief source of tribal pride to a cartoon almost immediately. Ronald Reagan, who began his first term as governor of California in 1967, said, “A hippie is someone who looks like Tarzan, walks like Jane, and smells like Cheetah.”

Most of the mainstream liberal establishment of the time was almost as dismissive. In August of 1967, Harry Reasoner delivered a report for the CBS Evening News in which he referred to the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco as “ground zero of the hippie movement.” After an interview with members of the Grateful Dead, Reasoner questioned the premise that hippies were doing anything to make the world a better place: “They, at their best, are trying for a kind of group sainthood, and saints running in groups are likely to be ludicrous. They depend on hallucination for their philosophy. This is not a new idea, and it has never worked. And finally, they offer a spurious attraction of the young, a corruption of the idea of innocence. Nothing in the world is as appealing as real innocence, but it is by definition a quality of childhood. People who can grow beards and make love are supposed to move from innocence to wisdom.”

A similar disdain was prevalent in most liberal circles in Washington. After Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg testified in front of the US Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, Thomas Dodd, the Democratic committee chair, denounced them as “pseudo-intellectuals who advocate the use of drugs in search for some imaginary freedoms of the mind and in search of higher psychic experiences.”

Fifty years later, reading those sanctimonious put-downs reminds me of the revulsion I had for such “respectable” men. For many of us, the idea of breaking the addiction to climbing the ladder of officially sanctioned “success” was not an “imaginary freedom” but a reason to live. None of us felt, individually, that we were “saints,” but we did believe that there was a growing subculture that could come up with a better value system than the one we were born into. We didn’t see “innocence” and “wisdom” as mutually exclusive, and we bitterly resented it when unhappy authority figures insisted on this false choice.

There was indeed a danger from indiscriminately using hallucinogens, but we also knew that for most people they were nowhere near as dangerous as the corrosive effects of legal drugs like beer and gin and tonics, or tranquilizers like Librium, which were inexplicably accepted by many of the same people who were so down on pot and acid—the criminalization of which further eroded the credibility of their authority for many of us.

As for Senator Dodd’s condescending use of the word “pseudo-intellectuals,” he was among the majority of Democrats who sided with the supposedly wise Ivy League “intellectuals” in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who were responsible for the escalation of the Vietnam War.

– by Danny Goldberg

People Politics

Growing up Angeleno – illusions, race and all

When I first learned that what we commonly refer to as the “ghetto” was born out of unfair economic practices, it all made so much sense to me. When the modern mortgage system was spreading in the early 20th century most of the lenders were racist and didn’t want to lend money to people of color. The result of that was that many concentrated communities sprung up in typically undesirable parts of town that no one else wanted to live in. The buildings were shoddy, the available work in that area was sub-par, and so began a system of creating a socioeconomic loop that was nearly impossible to get out of.

At that time the aftershock of the Civil War was still very palpable; it was not ancient history nor was it a distant memory. Many people alive at the time were just one step away from living through the ramifications of what happened then, and simply did not want to deal with integration. Instead it was easier to create an institutional form of racism that allowed the white individual to say “oh, but I’m not racist” but then turn around and create an economic wall that kept colored folks segregated, isolated, angry, afraid, and highly disadvantaged. This created a culture of white privilege which is borne out of a sense of more options being available to white folks because colored opposition wasn’t even around to be felt or heard.

I know this experience well, from growing up in a white, affluent part of Los Angeles in the 80’s and 90’s. Embarrassingly the only time I ever experienced the tiniest glimpse of black LA was when I attended Raiders games in the 80’s, or when my parents would get lost in Inglewood after a Lakers game. Back then Inglewood was much grittier than it is now. Other than that, I was raised to think that my entire Los Angeles was north of Wilshire and west of Vine St. – anything else might as well have been Mars. It wasn’t until I started going to public schools in the 8th grade did my world view change. LAUSD was famous for implementing “bussing” programs which allowed for kids from the inner city to be “bussed” into different schools because the schools in their neighborhoods were overcrowded. It was built to alleviate a specific problem but also helped to integrate kids who normally wouldn’t cross paths. While I’ve never experienced what it’s like to have to go back home to an apartment on Florence and Normandy in 1990 (pre LA riots), or felt what it’s like to not have a parent home when I returned from school because they were out working a second job, I was introduced to people that did live in that reality. I was exposed to something that was outside of my white bubble. I am also thankful that my parents did not introduce me to the concept of a difference in skin color or racism. That thought was never taught to me personally, but because of the segregated nature of Los Angeles in a physical sense, I can see why people who were brought up that with those values feel so much tension in and around LA. There are generations of millions of white people who are brought up to see a black person in Los Angeles and immediately think that “they” are far from home if a colored couple is walking down the street in Beverly Hills. And if that black person is wearing saggy jeans they must be a banger, right? This horrific view of the world is still so apparent within the hearts and minds of so many white people that it’s become second nature. It’s an embarrassing reality that most “liberal” white people from the Westside don’t want to admit. Adding to that is the very fabric of the way that our city is laid out physically. Sure there are some hipster neighborhoods that borderline-classify as melting pots but let’s be real – LA is a sectioned off and segregated melting pot. It so happens that many of the white people who are brought up to think like the horrific cliché when they see a colored person outside of their “zone” are now cops. That’s just math. Sure there are black and Hispanic cops in LA too, but there are also many white ones.

I understand that this week’s shootings of two black men by white police officers, and then the insane retaliation in Dallas, were not in Los Angeles. The point Aim making is that I understand how our cities were initially built to be fucked up failures, with the deck stacked against the chance of success. Until we start truly living in integrated communities, or at least integrated mind sets, the road will be long. This endless bullshit Illusion of Separation is do deeply integrated into the Maya of white America that it will take bold action to course correct the trends we are experiencing. America is not that old; only 50 years ago the peak of the modern Civil Rights movement was in full bloom. Just 50 years. That means my parents were growing up before that – they were brought up in a segregationist America. That’s just one generation away.

We need to fix our cities, address the power struggle with cops, possibly not let cops with less than 5 years on the force have guns at all, and most of all offer across the board economic equality for all. As long as our inner cities stay in the disadvantaged column, things will remain tough. These problems are systemic and ingrained in our minds, but also into the visual landscape. Breaking these molds are a necessary step so we stop viewing the city and the world as separate or that of “us and them.” I wish there was some way to wave a magic wand that erased the innate ignorance of white America, but the reality is that there is not. That’s why I think we need to combat that ignorance with systemic fixes that will force change from the inside out.

God and Yoga People

“LOVE EVERYONE” author Parvati Markus!

The guru system conjures up a lot of different ideas, some good and some bad, for different people. However, I encourage anyone reading this post to forget anything you think you know and dive into the love portal that is Neem Karoli Baba. Check out this podcast but also get the book “Love Everyone” and go beyond dogma and straight into a map of consciousness that may pry you wide open.

The podcast can be found here

Get the book here

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Me People

Saul David Raye on the podcast

This podcast episode was maybe my favorite one yet. As I learn how to do this podcasting thing a little better with each episode I can see how some episodes get in a better flow than others. This one was like that. Give it a listen.

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Yogi, mystic, healer and explorer of the sacred multi-verse, Saul David Raye stops by IAH to open our hearts and blow our minds. Quite literally. This episode will challenge everything you thought you knew about yoga and hopefully inspire you to dig even deeper within your own soul.

http://zachleary.com/index.php/2015/10/29/episode-14-saul-david-raye/

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