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Month: October 2017 (page 2 of 2)

Burning of the Age of Aquarius, Harbin Hot Springs


Hair’s long run on Broadway reinforced the counterculture imagery

Dragon gate welcomes still

I attended a revival of the first rock opera, Hair, a few years ago and, out of nowhere, tears flowed down my face during a rendition of  Let the Sunshine in/ Aquarius. I looked over at my girlfriend and she asked “What’s wrong. It is a joyful song, it is a hopeful message.” I responded, “You had to be there.” She is from a different country and generation, and to her the Age of Aquarius was just a song. For me and many of our generation ,Hair codified our culture’s ideals and vision. In September, 2015, a real world expression of that vision incinerated. It is being rebuilt, but it won’t be the same. Harbin Hot Springs’ latest incarnation was a direct descendant of ‘flower power’ in the best sense of that term. But when it rises again, like the phoenix, will it be true to its Sixties’ tradition?

Harbin’s Temple pre-fire

When the Valley Fire in 2015 descended on Harbin Hot Springs, buildings over a hundred years old turned to ash. All that remained was the twisted dragon-shaped iron works and the pools. Originally a haven of the local indigenous people, nineteenth century entrepreneurs capitalized on the then massive demand for the ‘water cure’ and built a succession of resorts in this spot in northern California in an out of the way canyon near Middletown, CA (named for its location as a stage stop mid-way between Calistoga and Clear Lake).

A lifelong counterculturalist (even in my disguise as an inner city high school principal), I discovered Harbin Hot Springs in the mid-90s. A quirky poet friend told me on the down-low about this mysterious place. One weekend we rolled up from LA. That first day felt like a homecoming for me. Disregarding the signs that prohibited alcohol and drugs, we fired up before entering, then perched in the oaks overlooking a motley crowd of hippies of all generations, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and life-styles. After the first few minutes, the titillation of dozens of naked bodies strolling around wore off and a kind of reverie settled in. Peace, love, and happiness prevailed. The natural hot springs pool accommodated about a dozen people—all in mandatory meditative silence. Around the regular pool and the heart-shaped pool, people carried on soft conversations, but mostly sat and read or napped.

 

Temple meadow now

Harbin developed into my own Shangri-La, where I regularly sought respite from the pressures of career, modern life, and my everyday self.  At Harbin, I could count on meeting new friends, sometimes amorous, whether alone or with a friend. Odd encounters frequently happened, as in the time I ‘accidentally’ ran into an acquaintance from home two years running. Or, a few years ago ,when I wanted to watch the NBA finals and went to the local brewery and met someone I had just spoken with in the pools. We were all from the same Aquarian tribe.  Like the vibe back in the sixties/ seventies, when every kid at the concert or the demonstration was a friend simply because we were there. We shared values and culture. Harbin felt the same. It attracted like-minded souls from around the world. I once had a didgeridoo healing from a young woman from Israel which touched me so deeply I cried.

The hippie Harbin was resurrected from ruins of a failed commune by Ishvara (originally Robert Hart) in 1972, who then sold the property to a religious corporation , Heart Consciousness Church, which he heads. For the 20 years on my annual trip I marveled at the on-going, quirky enhancements to the magical vibe. One year they added a winding path decorated with dragons and hobbit-like railings from the store front to the market. Several years ago a major improvement arose in the form of the Temple which looked like an old time big top circus and had perfect acoustics. The pools stayed largely the same except for the addition of sauna and steam bath rooms.

 

 

Harbin wasn’t all quiet and peace. They could party with either unconditional dance or live concerts providing entertainment in addition to the nightly free movies. At the dances, free flowing half-naked guests and residents gyrated to dj music—No partners (just like psychedelic concerts at the Fillmore in San Francisco).  Community vibes could happen anywhere at Harbin. The communal kitchen operated as the center for visitors. You could leave excess food in the community box. Help yourself. That applied during meals as well. Many times I shared my food with strangers. Of course, no meat was allowed in the kitchen.

The heart of Harbin was the staff: Over the years, I had many engaging conversations with them and they all had a story. Not drop-outs, but drop-ins to a calmer and freer lifestyle. I’ve met engineers, clowns, and teachers, who now played the roles of housekeeping or cook or security. For some, Harbin was a temporary refuge from the struggles of the world, and for others it became home.

 

Hippie ideals of peace, love, and community rooted and prospered at Harbin largely due to the vision and commitment of Ishvara. Ishvara was not a man who sought notoriety, but at the same time had always harbored big dreams for Harbin. As true hippies they honored the history of the place and the character of the 100 year-old buildings. Our parents’ generation had celebrated the modern in all things; new tract homes were preferred to older areas like Ocean Park and Venice and when hippie evolved out of beatnik, the hippie converts gravitated to older neighborhoods, like Haight-Ashbury. Old stuff had character and soul. We craved—authenticity. In those days the approbation slung at someone or something hopelessly square was—Plastic.

Under Ishvara, the old buildings were rehabbed and restored, links to earlier times. Nothing at Harbin was plastic, ersatz, or bogus. But the classic old buildings that had survived numerous fires before  are now gone. Only ruins of the concrete foundations, the stone fireplace chimney, and the pools remain.  The Age of Aquarius prospered and flourished at Harbin Hot Springs from 1978-2015, almost forty years. And now it is gone.

 

 

Heart pool right after the fire

Yes, it will be rebuilt, but the vision expressed in its last incarnation is over. Hippie dreams have completed their cycle. We had 130 acres of our vision and whatever rises in its place won’t be the same. It won’t have the same weight of history,  connection to the lineage of the 1960s, or heritage of the original settlers. The bromide ‘change is constant’ doesn’t mean much until we face major transitions which compel reinvention.

Harbin’s oasis in the Age of Aquarius is now returned to dust—whatever shall rise up will surely be 21st century. This old hippie, though, hopes they will keep a remembrance of a glorious place where hippies of all ages, ethnicities, and classes thrived in harmony with each other, and with nature. Nature has its due, and we are part of nature.

Hopefully, Harbin, will be, as is the Los Angeles Free Press, reincarnated with the ideals of old, along with new thoughts and strategies for creating a freer, more just and harmonious world. Time is real and there is no rewind, but we can influence its unfolding.

 

 

 

Hot pool is back, 2017

[Ed.s’ Note:  Read more by RW Klarin in this secction of the LA FP – Remembrances – or a whole more in his memoir/ self-help book—Living the Dream Deferred (2015)

In fact, you can even read about him with a short jump to our LA FP Staff page with a simple click HERE.]

Paul Krassner Found Alive and Well


Yes…Paul Krassner was found alive and well… 50 years ago. Just shortly after he killed himself off by his own hand, that satirical bastard.

So why is it that we are putting this story up as our Headliner?  (when ‘U.S. Concentration Camps Are Ready! Are You?’ is infinitely more important.)

Because Paul Krassner is a true Icon of the 60’s – and that IS with a capital ‘I’ .  Don’t believe it ? Well, here, take a look at a credible source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Krassner   Our only addition to it, for the moment, is this:  That guy was all over our pages, us interviewing him, us running ads for his shows, us reviewing those same shows, us running articles on him and those damn YIPPIES! And guess what? He is still going strong… but not a word, not a single word, about us!   Paul??

Now let’s get back to that important article… ‘U.S. Concentration Camps Are Ready! Are You?’.  As you can well imagine, back then people thought that, again, we were ahead of our time – here was real Fake News.  But, alas, it was nothing like that story put out by Mr. Krassner.

In fact, by the next year, the reality was such that our screamer headline was not about sexual rejuvenation, instead it read ‘How to Escape from a Concentration Camp’.  Hmm… you still think it was a joke?  Try this reality on –

Are Mexican Abortions Dangerous?


 

More than Ecstacy, MDMA is Medicine


RW Klarin partaking of local wares at toking space, MAPS conference 2017

Walking around hotel ballroom,  swirling images of hallucinogen inspired paintings, dozens of clinical study bulletin boards, and bean-bag chairs, I had a natural flash-back.   The colorful denizens of this reminded me of  my psychedelic infused college days in the 70s, except this time they came from all over the world and you couldn’t tell the straights from the freaks.  But times have changed, most overtly in the toking space outside of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Oakland, where bongs and vapes were freely passed around in the open.

Coinciding with this year’s 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love and prohibition of LSD, the worldwide  community of psychedelic therapists, researchers, and enthusiasts emerged from the shadows.  I joined over three thousand  at the quadrennial MAPS (Multi-disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) conference in Oakland, CA this April. From the large conference halls to the smaller workshop rooms to the marketplace of psychedelic art, I sensed a new confident exuberance. No longer confined to secretive latter-day hippies or the laboratories,  psychedelics came out this year. For this old Sixties psychonaut, it felt like reconnecting with my long-lost tribe. We spoke freely about inner journeys without couching personal stories in the third person or providing a lot of explanation.

Psychedelic inspired painting

But more than a party, data dominated the conference.  I attended several lectures that elucidated the therapeutic benefits of MDMA, ayahuasca, ibogaine, LSD, and cannabis. MDMA has shown promise in treating PTSD and addiction in numerous studies both here and abroad. First synthesized by Merck chemist Anton Kollisch in 1912, former Dow chemist Sasha Shulgin discovered its’ relaxing properties accidentally and used it as his evening cocktail.  Soon it occurred to Shulgin that MDMA may be helpful with psychotherapy and shared it with therapist friends. Quickly spreading within that community, it proved too much fun to keep in the doctor’s office. Perfect for the 80s party culture, it became a staple of  rave culture worldwide from Ibiza to Dallas.  The genie had again escaped from the bottle.  The liberated and joyful mood generally experienced attracted the attention of the DEA,  placed MDMA in Schedule 1. Schedule 1 drugs are deemed to be of no medical use and pose serious health risks. Included in Schedule 1 are cocaine, heroin, cannabis, and MDMA. That effectively ended its use in therapy until MAPS associates began to use it with Iraq War vets suffering from PTSD.

The recent approval of MDMA (also known as Ecstacy, Molly, Adam, and dozens of other names) for study by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for phase three clinical trials culminates a long struggle for scientific support of its efficacy. If these are successful, then the possibility is for doctor prescriptions with very narrow guidelines. If approved,  it would have limited availability.  But that is how medical marijuana opened, first approved twenty years ago in California the door for legal cannabis . Regardless, not only a new found respectability, but I noted a new honesty  with researchers reporting the results of studies of psychedelics from Brazil to Israel some of  which have not been met expectations.  Seeking to not repeat the mistakes of the Sixties of overpromising the virtues of the drugs and incurring a the backlash from conservatives, MAPS and its executive director, Rick Doblin, proceed methodically .

Attending the MAPS conference was like visiting a long ago friend who had been on a long odyssey: She had changed, wiser and more nuanced, but still offered a familiar essence—freedom, expansion, and bliss. One thing has changed now, fellow-travelers include science and business types, along with the counter-culturalists, the artists, and the curious.   Perhaps Doblin is on the right track and going through channels will lead to respectability.   And that we can learn from the past, and treat these entheogens (god chemicals) with the respect and love they deserve.

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