Beyond the Ether

Alta Cienega Motel, Room 32

“In that year, in our youth, we had an intense visitation of energy”  ~Jim Morrison

Approaching Grapevine

I suppose every journey begins or ends with the realization of having experienced the unexpected.  And for anyone seeking adventure, enlightenment or education, this must be seen as a positive element of discovery.  For some, including myself, it’s often the entire point.

Whisky a Go-Go
Door’s 40th birthday photo, Whisky a GoGo

My earliest memory is standing on the front porch of our home in a small Central California town, looking at my left hand as I held it into the sunlight, my attention focused on the pain I felt in my bandaged finger.  If my math is correct I was only five years old.  Beyond what is only conjecture and speculation, why I remember this moment will forever be a mystery.

Stage shot of The Whisky
Morrison portraiture, Whisky a GoGo

Looking beyond the memory of that otherwise irrelevant moment from my distant past, it is, if nothing more, a reminder that our planet continues to spin on its axis regardless of how we choose to paint our personal legacy.  Being only five at the time, I of course could not muster the wisdom to realize the significance of this.  Nevertheless, as I grew older I began to categorize or put into context historical events by coinciding them with events in my personal life.   And so as I stood looking into the sunlight from my family’s front porch that day, in the latter part of the 1960’s, I could not know that three hundred miles to the south, in Hollywood, California, Rock and Roll history was being made.  That discovery would have to wait for another forty years.

Sunset Sound Recorders
The Doors & Strange Days

My introduction to a band called “The Doors” was during high school, through a friend who was, and still is, a fan of most music genres.  My high school music preference was predominately Rock and Roll, produced by rock bands such as Boston, Sammy Hagar, Cheap Trick, The Scorpions, Van Halen, Blue Oyster Cult, Rush, 38 Special, etc.  Early head-banger stuff.  If there is a link between my high school music preferences and The Doors I don’t pretend to see or understand it.  But I unexpectedly found myself listening to The Doors as much as I did the more contemporary Rock and Roll of the time.  And today, when I rarely listen to music popular during my high school years, I still enjoy listening to music created by that psychedelic rock band on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

Doors office/studio
1968 – 1972
L.A. Woman

I am not a student of music but I do enjoy studying history.  Attempting to uncover the circumstances and trends which precipitate future events is, in my opinion, a good way to spend time and intellectual energy.   These are the dynamic forces that shape, predict and define social and political climates – the ‘fabric’ – of an era, where the convoluted boundary between acceptance and resistance is drawn.  There has probably never been a more symbolic period in our history, thus far, than the 1960’s in which to survey the outcome, benefits and consequences of these social and political forces.

Jim’s favorite surplus store

It was perhaps five or six years ago that I came across the book, “Light my Fire”, a biography authored by Ray Manzarek describing his life with The Doors.  In his book, Manzarek describes in great detail not only his experiences as co-founder and member of the band, but also his reflections and thoughts on the world as it appeared to him at the time.  Manzarek is an educated man, an artist, who obviously considered himself and his band as part of the anti-establishment.  After all, it was the 60’s, and California.

Plaque outside studio

Perhaps this is the underpinning of my fascination with The Doors, a band which created the music and lyrics representative of the era in which it was conceived and nurtured.  The name itself, “The Doors”, was symbolic of a door in the mind opening to enlightenment.  By this time the 50’s mind-set and inward looking perspective was slipping away, being displaced by a new ideology of truth-seeking and enlightenment obtainable only outside the mainstream, away from the perceived disengenuous rhetoric of what was, at the time, labeled “The Establishment.”  This was the psychedelic era, the moment in time for the flower children, peace and love, love not war and, of course, tie-dye clothing.

Jim’s room 32
Alta Cienega

For me, it’s important to put an era into context, in its respective place, so that its uniqueness and dynamics in history’s chronological time-line can be appreciated.  These are characteristics which identify and separate each era, allowing us to extract a moment from time, and upon looking at it immediately recognize it as unlike any other in history.

Ray & Dorothy’s
first home 1967

The effect of the 60’s on our collective psyche, and its impact on shaping our beloved Republic, can be and has been argued to infiniti.  And I would argue that this is due to it being entirely impossible to measure such things objectively.  Besides, would there be a point?  It’s now in the history books and we are living in the sequel, the second act.  We’ve moved beyond it and are continuing to construct the chronological time-line.

Morrison’s room
Room 32 Alta Cienega

“Effusive, exuberent, crazed, manic.  What a time my friends.  Those sixties.” 

~ Ray Manzarek

Jim & Pam’s apartment

In the closing pages of his biography, Manzarek leaves us with qualities, identifiers, of a time that will forever be remembered for what differentiated it from those before or since.  Memories have a tendency to freeze moments in time, the strongest of which are remembered most as the emotional highs and lows, moments of euphoria and depression.

So as I journeyed through Manzarek’s biography I discovered a little history I’d not been aware of before, and along the way discovered a little something about myself as well.  That is, a) despite the tendency of human nature to never meander far beyond the standard deviation, every so often a movement comes along – in this instance the sixties –  creating a large enough paradigm shift that we simply cannot ignore it, and spend subsequent decades of applied intellectual energy and thought grappling to comprehend.  And, b) I’m not as old, or delusional as I originally considered myself to be, and find comfort in my opinion that indeed, karma will assist the pendulum of humanity in locating its balance point.  If this bodes well for the future of man-kind I’ve no idea, but it does promise to sustain a continuance of this most interesting journey.

~ Castaway

Village Recorders
Jim’s poetry recording
Behind Barney’s Beanery
off Santa Monica