Oct. 22, 2008

Ocean Drive

by Miriam Levine

Some of us rush from our houses while it's still light
to reach the green allée and the red-lit colonnade.
We press our noses deep into the opening frangipani
and when the Latin band begins we dance to the end of the song.

We dip our children into the ocean and drink
their salty smiles while two feet away a man lies
drunk in the grass. The sun will burn him again.
His shoes are gone and his clothes have dried to his body like a shroud.

In the end we all have to lie down.
If I'm lucky you'll touch my hand and I'll remember
all the good you have done me and your beauty—
no one was more beautiful, your wet black hair, your hands full of roses.

"Ocean Drive" by Miriam Levine from The Dark Opens. © Autumn House Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the novelist Doris Lessing, (books by this author) born in Kermanshah, Persia, which is now Iran (1919). Her novels include The Golden Notebook (1962) and The Sweetest Dream (2002). In 2007, she won the Nobel Prize in literature.

It's the birthday of novelist and poet Ivan Bunin, (books by this author) born near Voronezh, Russia (1870). In 1910, he published his novel The Village. He wrote, "If I had no arms or legs, if I could only sit behind the gate at a shop and look at the setting sun, I would be happy."

It's the birthday of John Reed, (books by this author) born in Portland, Oregon (1887). He's best known for the book Ten Days That Shook The World (1922), about the Russian Revolution in 1917.

It's the birthday of writer and psychedelic drug advocate Timothy Leary, (books by this author) born in Springfield, Massachusetts (1920). He was the only child of an army captain-turned-dentist and a devout Catholic mother. He attended Jesuit schools growing up, and he started at a Catholic college before deciding he was no longer a believer. Then he went to West Point to become an officer in the Army, but he was routinely disciplined for infractions, so he was put in solitary confinement, where he took advantage of the time to read Eastern philosophy. He dropped out of West Point. He earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Berkeley, and he joined the faculty there. Then his wife committed suicide. He was a single father of two grade-school-aged kids, and he became disillusioned with his life. He wrote, "I awoke to the consciousness that I was trapped in a dark room, in a hastily constructed, thin-walled stage-prop home in Berkeley, California. I was a rootless city-dweller. An anonymous city employee who drove to work each morning in a long line of commuter cars, and drove home each night and drank martinis and looked like and acted like several million middle-class liberal intellectual robots."

He took a leave of absence from his job and went to Spain with his two children. When he returned to the U.S., he started teaching at Harvard. He took a vacation to Mexico, and it was there that he tried psychedelics for the first time. He said, "I ate seven of the sacred mushrooms of Mexico and discovered that beauty, revelation, sensuality, the cellular history of the past, God, the Devil — all lie inside my body, outside my mind."

Back at Harvard, he began to experiment with hallucinogens. When he got fired from the university, he continued his experiments in a mansion in New York state, which had been donated by a sympathetic philanthropist. He started his own religion, the League of Spiritual Discovery, LSD.

He was arrested after a trip to Mexico, trying to cross the border back into the U.S. with his daughter. Authorities charged him with possession of marijuana, and he got out of that, but he was also tried for smuggling, and sentenced to 10 years in jail. At about the same time, he was arrested for marijuana possession in Laguna Beach, California, and received a 10-year sentence.

He was assigned to a low-security unit, and he managed to escape from jail. He went to Algeria with his wife, and then to Switzerland. He was extradited back to the U.S. and imprisoned in California. According to his wishes, when he died of prostate cancer, a portion of his ashes was sent into outer space on a rocket, which orbited the earth for six years before being consumed by the atmosphere.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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