Monday, March 4, 2013

New Mexico Hippy's Take The Mountain Life To The Limit And To The Brink of Madness

I lived in Northern New Mexico during the late 1960’s and from 2003 to 2008, right at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo (blood of Christ) mountain range. This is an area that has drawn artists, outlaws, visionaries and lost souls for decades, from D.H. Lawrence to Dennis Hopper to the New Buffalo Commune and the Rainbow Tribe. The mountains are thought to have mystical powers, both good and bad. It is said they can mess with a man’s mind. I lived in Taos, which a friend once called “the world’s largest open air mental institution”, and I saw the flow of neo-hippies coming into town blending with the old guard who had been living there for decades. It was a wild mix of 1960’s hippie Aquarian Age and a kind of longhair punk nihilism - a fascinating blend turning a bit moldy at the edges and slightly rotten at the core.
Dennis Hopper was busted in the mid-1960’S in Taos for walking into a town council meeting brandishing a shotgun.
Shot in New Mexico, the “fat Jew on shrooms” video (Rob Tyner, is that you?) is a comically surreal version of the kind of madness you’ll find in the high desert, on the mesas and in the bloody mountains. The altitude can turn a simple psychedelic trip into something straight out of a Castaneda book and, in this dude’s case, something gonzo from Hunter Thompson. I don’t know how ‘real’ it is, but at 10,000 feet above sea level shit happens. Whether shroom boy is having a bonafide mystical experience or just going apeshit for the camera doesn’t matter. It’s the vibe, man. And the vibe is spooky.
In New Mexico, guns, pot and longhair are totems of some new bizarre breed of hippie outlaw.
The other video included here is from a film called “Off The Grid” and is the real deal. I knew these folks in the video. I had a store not far from where they lived on the mesa and they were my customers. Many were Vietnam vets, some clinically insane, others were social outcasts or folks just looking to live a simple hippie life. I liked most of them. But a few had feral children that saddened me. Dirty and hungry, these little kids were living in poverty and squalor, not by their own design, but by the choices their parents, mostly quite young themselves, had made in deciding to live outside of society.
The directors of “Off The Grid” were told by the folks depicted in the film never to screen the movie in Taos. If they did, they’d regret it.
A little comedy followed by something a bit more serious. The connection between these videos is kind of tenuous; longhairs with guns. That’s something I never imagined during the Summer Of Love.

Thanks to Marc Campbell 

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