Here We Are Now
(the sequel to Ticket to Ride)
A Novel of the Grunge Generation
by philip scott wikel
He imagined a gathering of women with one thing in common. They’d all been Dylan’s girlfriends at one time. They appeared as gargoyles set free from their perches atop gothic cathedrals with their focus on the one who appeared as the leader.
The room was dark with only the light of a candle emanating from a makeshift altar. On the altar there were herbs and charms and a likeness of “the goddess” holding a snake in either hand. Medea began the incantations as the rest joined hands. Their faces becoming hollow like so many skeletons.
“… from the mouths of children, fools, and the weak-minded, we will surround him with false witness, lies, and confusion… RUMORS GIRLS!, will be our best form of black magic,” Medea continued, her voice strained with hatred, “to the end that he capitulate and we gain our vengeance.”
Capitulate, he thought? What is it they want? Me dead?
Dylan shrugged this off and as the image faded he sat thinking:
If the world were run by this sort of women, instead of tangible, overt, warfare, we would all be caught up in a sort of cold-war-mind-fuck and subject to neurotic acts of terrorism.
He considered himself Jeffersonian, but only to a point. Jefferson believed in the goodness of all people and that, if we were to tap into this, we could raise humanity to a higher ground. One summer as a Youth Counselor at the YMCA had shown Dylan that, without proper guidance and discipline many children would go the way of Hitler, little devious manipulators that would lie and coerce to serve their selfish agendas. There were kids who seemed inherently good but, almost invariably, their parents had kept a close rein on them. The raw human animal will do anything to survive and it was a rare case that a kid would develop positively without clear and concerted attention to the matters of right and wrong. Right being the engagement in endeavors and actions that served the greater good, being helpful, cordial, respectful and kind. Wrong being the engagement in endeavors that hurt others, served only selfish ends, and separated us from the greater good. The world seemed to Dylan full of people with only themselves in mind. For a while he wondered why the world seemed so crazy. But this was it. It was not that people were crazy, it was that many of them had been misled. Perhaps himself as well.
Last year, while visiting Ojai a small town in California, his mother had written:
Call Me Un-American…
… but I feel we should all be on our guard against the use of the “war effort” as a means to undermine the great strides that have been made on the environmental front in the past three decades (a few weeks ago President Bush attempted to attach his energy plan to a war appropriations bill).
This is not a diatribe against war and I’m not a peacenik; this is merely an expression of a concern that we may lose sight of many things that are of equal importance to eradicating terrorism.
For one, our oceans have been under siege for over a century and their misuse is to many the environmental equivalent to the attacks in Iraq. This siege doesn’t have the apparent immediate intensity as these attacks, there are perhaps no 30 second video clips that can illustrate it quite as well, but its there, and has been, and is taking its toll slowly.
We are at our best as Americans when we join together to stand up for a cause that is close to our hearts. The attacks of several weeks ago were made by a country that was ailing both spiritually and psychologically. We have become smug, and perhaps too comfortable or pre-occupied with our personal, individual and selfish aims. Evil, in its many forms, preys on weakness; dividing, alienating and eroding human bonds until we are a disconnected grouping of impotent and contentious little factions.
The collective voice is a powerful one, it fortifies us, especially when that voice can agree to disagree on selfish minutiae and allow itself to rise to a common ground; to be flexible enough to bend and to have the grace and the long-term vision that can see the beauty in a well-crafted collaboration. Our selfish and idiosyncratic wants and needs may never be met, but as William Blake said, “the cut worm forgives the plow” and the outcome of that sacrifice can be the final harvesting of a realized dream held by many, and others to share that victory with.
It’s very American to care. We’re learning this again. Many folks have been asking how they might be of assistance to their fellow Americans. I don’t believe you need to join the Peace Corp or the military. You can however continue to do what you’ve always done; raise children, build homes, volunteer for the PTA, or maybe Amnesty International. Just do it better, do it with passion and compassion, and do it because you are now so much more aware of the beauty of the great works that can be done with other like-minded Americans at your side.
– Livy Tinsley, The New Yorker, 2001
After having been raised in such an idyllic place as Barbados, that year in Ojai, California had been the worst that Dylan could remember; disturbing and unsettling. He couldn’t seem to see the world as his mother did but refrained from sharing his thoughts; something deep down warning him to be silent.
He’d heard people speak of Ojai as a vortex or a receptacle of collective energy and, it seemed, that it (the vortex) either liked you or it didn’t. He felt that when he was “tuned in” it felt like a scene from the film “Deliverance,” Bakersfield with a few artists, and the birthplace of political correctness fraught with hypocrisy, smugness, and a weird sort of hillbilly belligerence. The only folks who seemed to warm to him were the “minority” population, people of color. Having seen real struggle in their lives, there was something in Dylan that drew them to him. He’d been raised with, and to have, compassion. There was warmth in him. Children felt it, animals felt it, and so did the elderly. It was mostly the plain “white folks” he felt the most weirdness from.
His parents had gone there on a whim that could only be explained by the fact that they’d forgotten the feeling the place had given them years ago. They’d traveled into the Ojai backcountry in search of a Buddhist monastery only to find themselves unwanted and not otherwise enthused. They’d had a nice time by the river on the way back and a good surf at Rincon Point later that same day before getting on a plane for the Seychelles. That afternoon had blurred their overall feeling of disenfranchisement and Ojai had become to them, as to many, a curiosity. So they’d gone back. And, after nearly a year of complete stasis, they left to find somewhere that they could “get back into the flow again;” back to upstate New York.