Ripple used to be a cheap wine that hippies drank when they were smoking doll way back when. It’s not the Ripple I’m talking about. The Ripple I want to talk about today is the song by the group that is considered the iconic San Francisco acid rock band: the Grateful Dead. I am been a Dead fan since 1969 or so. I remember seeing the band at the Kinetic Playground in Chicago July 4, 1970 where they came on stage at about midnight and played till nearly 7 AM. That was quite a Fourth of July party!
My favorite Dead album is American Beauty. One of the songs on that album is called Ripple. The music for that song was written by Jerry Garcia, the lead guitarist for the Dead. The lyrics, which is what I want to focus on here. were written by the lyricist for the Dead, Robert Hunter. In my considered opinion, Hunter, along with Jim Morrison of The Doors and Keith Reid and Bob Dylan were the poets laureate of my generation. A hundred years from now they will be teaching these guys in American literature classes, or in the case of Reid, English literature classes. I am not going to print out the entire lyrics of Ripple here. If you are interested in reading the lyrics, click here. And if you want to listen to the song, you can click here.
To me, this song expresses the hippie philosophy of life better than anything else I have ever heard or read or see. According to the song, life is a road that we travel alone. The road of life is unique to the individual. Others can serve as guides, and as the song says “if you fall, you fall alone.”
Why all this talk about this song and being an old hippie (see the previous post)? One of the things that happens when you get old is that you tend to reminisce a great deal. If you are a writer, and that is something I consider myself to be, then you probably reminisce even more than most people my age do. As I said when I started the series here Confronting The Past, what I will be writing since that day is really a way for me to leave a legacy for my children. My oldest, Heidi, is nearly 25. My youngest, Michael, will be 20 at the end of the year. My children are actually young enough to be my grandchildren. In fact my brother Tom has a grandson who is the same age as my older son/middle child, Ian. Obviously, I am not going to be around a whole lot longer and my kids will not be that old. I really didn’t appreciate and want to learn a whole lot about my father and his past and his dreams and his hopes until I was well in my 30s. Assuming my children do the same thing, the odds are I won’t be here when they are in their 30s. So I want to leave a written record for them that they can read whenever they feel they need to know more about who I am, what I am and why I am what I am.
Also, when I graduated from high school in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, I went into a self-imposed exile from the people I grew up with. There are lots of reasons for why I did that, none of which are relevant anymore, so I will not go into in. Suffice it to say that that self-imposed exile lasted almost 50 years. A couple of years ago Michael talked me into opening a Facebook page. It was through Facebook page that I began to hear from people I knew in high school. Most of the friends that I have on Facebook now are people from high school, in fact.
Those people have a certain conception of who I am. That person, Bernie, is someone I no longer am and have not been for a very long time. That is one reason I do not like using the name Bernie. Bernie was a relatively timid, shy, somewhat awkward young man. I became John in 1968. How that nickname came about is a story that no longer needs to be told. It’s kind of silly and irrelevant to much of anything. Suffice it to say, that John was a hippie and that John still is a hippie of sorts. My friends from high school never really met the hippie me, so this blog in some ways gives them insight into who I am now, not who I was 50 years ago.
There is more I want to talk about in terms of my being a hippie, but it is not really appropriate to this post. So we will save it for the next one. Until then, peace and love all of you.