(Dedicated to Deadheads and music lovers around the world)
In the attics of my life
Full of cloudy dreams; unreal
Full of tastes no tongue can know
And lights no eye can see
When there was no ear to hear
You sang to me
-Attics of my life- Robert Hunter/Grateful Dead
The storyteller never tells you what to think, merely observes and reports the facts as he or she observes the world around them. Every once in awhile if a storyteller is extremely lucky they are afforded insight into stories that predate paper and shed light on mystical ancient occurrences, like looking through a kaleidoscope into a scattered view of history. This storyteller had the great fortune, or misfortune as some may call it, to have worn the coat of past truths and peered into a life that has so long ago finished its tale, and attempt to formulate them into a narrative in such a way as to enlighten the listener. The day I put on the psychedelic Jean Jacket I viewed the tale of Kaleidoscope Joe, son of Jacob the Ganja man from Canaan. My duty is to shed a light on that which I saw and allow you make of this tale what you will. No need to pay me off in silver, I offer this up as a storyteller, a humble servant of the universe. Let me just say this though, if ever you find yourself in the position to don the jacket an open mind and little weed of wisdom will make the journey much more colorful and far easier to understand.
How I came across this magic jean jacket is not a special story, just a bit of luck while clearing out the attic of an old acquaintance that recently passed over to the next realm. In a small cabinet marked “Peyote Pinechest” was an assortment of smoking aids and implements designed for inhaling intoxicating fumes of various mind enrichment products. Folded neatly at the bottom was a jean jacket of rainbow dayglo pigments, a “coat of many colors.” A rather unexciting and mundane find although steeped in fond memories of the days Kevin and I ruled the world. But then I tried it on. From the moment it covered my shoulders I knew I had inadvertently stumbled on to something unique, not only in look, but in attribute. You see, anyone who wears this visionary jacket begins to see past truths, ancient occurrences that have long been forgotten and stored away in the attics of the mind. This is the storytellers account of just such a leap of faith.
The Music Never Stopped
All I know is something like a bird
within her sang
All I know she sang a little while
and then flew on
As I opened the peyote pinechest it made an unusual sound, a sound that seemed to have been waiting forever to escape its pinewood confines. The sound was followed by an aroma, one not altogether unfamiliar. It wasn’t a musty mothballesque aroma nor a musty mold laced scent one might expect, but rather a sweet woodsy smell, reminiscent of an excursion of mine back in ‘73 to Jamaica. I was in Ochos Rios when I met a Rastafarian, Herbie. Herbie had long ago thrown away his comb so he sported long matted locks of hair almost to his waist which he called dreadlocks. He looked to be all of 25 years of age though his eyes betrayed a life long and hard, an old man with the eyes of the world. He sized me up, a white American youth with very long hair and a semi full beard. “Welcome my friend, I am a Rasta, cool like you Mon. My name is Herbie, man of the Herb, please come into my hut.” I would later learn that the early Rastafarians fancied themselves the equivalent of American Hippies, a generation of rebels who took a stand against government and borrowed the term “cool“ as a bonding statement. The hotel I was staying at had warned me about dangerous Rasta’s and scams in town designed to have Americans incarcerated. Bunny, the banjo player at the hotel explained to me that in Jamaica they believe all Americans are rich, and some corrupt cops set up buy and busts with phony Rasta’s expecting the young Americans to call home and send money to avoid jail from illegal possession of Ganja. I ignored the warnings because Herbie was cool. Like me. Once inside the hut my ignored fears disappeared completely because my instincts were correct. For a change. Inside Herbie’s hut a small boom box rumbled out some obscure reggae tunes. An Ethiopian flag was hanging on one canvas wall and posters of Bob Marley and Haile Selassie scattered on the others. An assortment of pipes and rolling machines in a makeshift bookcase was propped up on the back wall. Sitting on top of the bookshelf under a knitted cloth of red green and yellow stood a small Buddha statue with a trail of smoke emanating form its head. Inside the statue was not incense, but fresh Jamaican ganja that actually smelled of sweetness. It was that aroma this chest invoked and that’s where my vision begins.
I breathed in as if I could get a hit of that sweet smelling ganja as I examined the contents of Kevin’s peyote Pinechest. A spectacular looking jacket reached up and grabbed me by the eye. I vaguely remembered my best friend Kevin wearing it back in our youth. It was a Lee Rider jean jacket his girlfriend Bonnie had customized for him. Bonnie was a Native American young woman with an exotic air about her. Her long straight hair was so dark black it earned her the nickname Onyx. Onyx came from somewhere in Arizona part of a Yaqui Indian tribe who were known for their spiritual pipe smoking out of body practices. It was rumored they often used hallucinogenic herbs and roots of cacti in their rituals which explained the peyote pinechest. Onyx was skilled in various art forms having air brushed a number of vans in town but her local claim to fame was art of silk-screening. She had a fine business making extraordinary psychedelic looking tee shirts of rock bands but she silk-screened Kevin’s jacket for him special as a birthday present. It was magnificent, bright color in an intricate design that that would make peter Max jealous. I tried it on which put me in a trance.
There I was back in Herbies hut, Herbie rolling a stick of ganja in paper coated with oil essence of hashish. We shared the joint which was even tastier than the smell from Buddha’s head when a very old man entered the scene . The old man looked as though he walked out from the Old Testament, dressed in tattered rags and sandals and sporting a long scraggly grey beard and long thin white hair to his waist. He motioned to me come over which I did. In his hand he held a three foot long pipe made of human bone he was filling with something. He lit it, took a long inhale and passed it to me. “I am Joseph, from Carlisle in the land of The Canaanites, perhaps you know me better as Kaleidoscope Joe.” I took a long hit from the pipe, it seemed like it took all my breath to get the tiniest hit of smoke all the way from the bowl to my lungs. I shook my head to let him know I had no clue who he was. He handed me an old photo of a very sad looking man perhaps from the Middle East staring at a strikingly beautiful woman. “Well then, finish this bowl of ganja, I’ll tell you a story.”
Lady With A Fan
His name is August West, and he was in love with that lady there, Pearly Baker, the lady with the fan. Unfortunately Old August had a pension for wine, but not just any wine, his homemade power burgundy. Pearly was beautiful, a wonderful woman an August loved her true, in fact I was in love with her too. You see, August there is my brother, and Pearly Baker came between us forcing us to choose. August, drunk though he was, had a fierce determination and wasn’t afraid of anything. Pearly pitted us against each other with a challenge. “Which of you to gain me tell will risk uncertain pains of hell?” She tossed the fan into a pit of vipers, “The first to retrieve my fan from these snakes shall have me in every way you wish.” I sensed Pearly enjoyed the power of having us fight to be the one to bed her. I weighed my options, will having my way with Pearly justify what I would need to o to my brother? Even if I could beat August what kind of a wife would Pearly be? I doubted that challenges would ever stop, her desire to challenge too great but August wasted no time at all. He pushed me aside, reached into the pit of vipers risking venomous snake bites grabbing and offering up her fan as proof of his devotion. The old man paused looking at me. “You saw it didn’t you? You didn’t hear my tale you experienced it right? It’s okay, I know, this pipe is filled with wisdom which has entered your soul. You will see things you probably should not see many years from now. We will meet again my friend, when you are ready.” The man left so I turned to Herbie, “So Mon, you lika my ganga? Twenty bucks for you because your cool like me Mon.” I handed Herbie the twenty dollar bill and he gave me an ounce of preamo weed. He had been doing something with a razor on the table, I asked, “Did you know that old dude Herbie?” He smiled, “No Mon, no old man was here. But many strange ting happen in my hut, have a taste of dis before you leave Mom, make sure you come back.” Hernbie handed me a mirror with two long line of a whitish yellow powder and a short straw. I sniffed the coke an walke3d back out to the street. What Herbie had for sale was so good I knew I would be back tomorrow for more. As I walked down the street I heard someone say, “Strategy was his strength and not disaster.” Kevin would never believe me if I didn’t bring some back.
With that I found myself back up in the attic all by myself remembering how I smuggled ganga and cocaine back for Kevin in a container of baby powder . Apparently I was sweating and had removed the psychedelic jean jacket snapping me from the trance. I folded the jacket and put it aside trying to remember if that ol man was a real memory or a hallucination from the peyote pinechest as I explored the other treasures inside its confines . Kevin had stored quite an assortment of smoking utensils, a few chamber pipes, a meerschaum pipe, a cob pipe, a half dozen bongs, two hookahs, and at the very bottom of the chest was his prized chillum. The chillum was a ceramic straight conical pipe which you hold between your fingers in a fisted hand and smoke through the thumb an index finger essentially making your fist a bowl of smoke. We both loved that pipe, it was so unusual. Reminiscing I lit up the chillum to smoke any remnants from resonated bowl. I thought back to when he first bought the chillum, as usual in those days Kev and I were together. We had set out on a mission to Woodstock NY to get a tattoo at the Shooting Star Tattoo Parlor. The owner/artist, Country Paul, had gone to the original concert and never left town. Along with his artwork of potential tattoo’s he had a showcase in his shop filled with various pieces of crystal and a few small pipes. Kevin spotted the chillum right away and had to have it. It had an Indian Hindu inspired design, a very cool looking concentric design of geometric shapes Country called it a Chakra, or wheel. Of course Kevin had that design tattooed on his bicep while I viewed some of Country‘s other works he had on the “wall of choice.” Being in a dark period of my life I was drawn to a picture Country Paul called The Redeemer and the clay. It wasn’t like Christ the redeemer it was an old man with long hair and a long beard in a long red robe walking with a cane with a human skull on top. He was pulling an old wooden wagon filled with clumps of clay. It looked so cool I had it tattooed on the inside of my forearm. Those were the days, when we believed ourselves indestructible. As I smoked whatever remnants I could scrape from the chillum I stared at my tattoo. As I exhaled the old smoke I realized the redeemer pulling the wagon was the same man I had seen, or maybe not seen in Herbies hut so long ago.
What shall we say, shall we call it by a name
As well to count the angels dancing on a pin
Water bright as the sky from which it came
And the name is on the earth that takes it in
We will not speak but stand inside the rain
And listen to the thunder shout
I am, I am, I am, I am
-John Perry Barlow/Grateful Dead-
The Wind And Rain
Jacob was a good man, a successful man living in a place called Canaan. A farmer who plowed the fields in which he grew the sweet mind bending tobaccos which afforded him a fine home for his wife and family. Jacob was happily married to his second wife Rachael and an outstanding role model to his twelve boys. His first wife Leah was Rachael’s older sister and the mother of eleven of the boys. Jacob and Rachael had only one son together, Joseph, who was shown special favor by his father. While the other boys worked the fields that supplied Sativa and opium for the royals of the Orient with their father, Joseph stayed behind to help his Mom. Joseph was an amazing cook who had a natural talent for making hashish cupcakes. “You must knead the hash in softened butter first before adding it to the batter. That’s what makes them so special” He often entertained himself by spending hours looking through a cylinder of changing colors and shapes. This earned him the nickname Kaleidoscope Joe, and the jealous wrath of his siblings who simply called him Clyde.
“Why are we out here busting our asses while that little priss Clyde lounges in the kitchen staring through that stupid cylinder of his?” “That wimpy Clyde never worked a day in his life.” The grumbling never ceased. As always Jacob stood up for his favorite son, “Come on guys quit complaining, we have fields to tend to afore all that’s left is the wind and rain. Joseph is the best cook ever and his cupcakes are to die for. You guys all enjoy the food so he works the kitchen while you work the fields. Now lets finish up here, there’s a barn dance Friday and I understand the woodcutters daughter will be there. They all turned to look across the field to the riverbank where the woodcutters daughter often knelt down at to gather water. A beautiful woman with dark skin, as brown as the bank. It’s said she knows secrets the water has told her. She wasn’t there today, only the sun sparkling off the reeds into the sea. Jacobs son August was especially smitten with her. “Oh man, she has the sweetest voice, her song is the latch on the door to my heart. I live to follow her as she walks the path to the river shore come the morning sun.” The other boys began chuckling as Jacob shook his son from his daydream, “Okay poet, enough of that talk we have fields to plow. The work of day measures far more than the planting and growing alone. We must let it grow.” August was still dreamy, “For the time I shall break ground to reap bushels of cannabis and poppy meal, but Friday I shall dance with my lady in circular motion, just me and Pearly.” Jacob laughed, “Right now you can dance in the furrowed field my son, you only reap that which you sow. Tread lightly with your lady friend, if you plant ice your gonna harvest wind my son”
Did you ever waken to the sound
Of street cats makin’ love
And guess from their cries
You were listenin’ to a fight?
Well, you know…
Hate’s just the last thing they’re thinkin’ of.
They’re only trying to make it through the night.
-John Perry Barlow/Grateful Dead
Excitement had been building all week so when Friday finally arrived the air was ripe with anticipation. Jacobs twelve boys would be out on the prowl and the ladies in town stood no chance. As usual it would be refusal and then surrender, the boys eager to sow their wild oats. Jacob was concerned for his son Joseph because Joe didn’t posses the strength and experience of his older brothers so before they left Jacob presented him with a special coat, a coat of many colors. Now Joseph would no doubt be the sharpest dressed man at the dance and have a much needed edge. While Kaleidoscope Joe was overjoyed, his brothers were angry and grew ever more envious of how Joe was shown so much favor from their father. Joe was oblivious to his brothers envy and openly admired his good looks in the mirror. “I can’t believe how great this coat looks, I am gonna get me a fine woman tonight, a woman I can cook for.” August sneered, “You just hang around Loose Lucy little brother, save the real women for men who know what to do with them. And stay far away from Pearly, she’s mine tonight.” Joseph teased, “I don’t see no ring or no name on her brother, but I’m not interested in hr anyway.”
At the dance Joseph was strutting like egotistic peacock flashing his baby blue eyes and full on smile at all the ladies which only added fuel the burning flames of jealousy which crackled within the boys. Especially August. When Joseph began flirting with Pearly Baker the mule shit hit the fan. Livid and pumped with jealousy August rounded up all the brothers and formed a cabal outside the barn. “Guys we just can’t have this anymore. Something needs to be done about Clyde and it has to be tonight. Even after I stuck my hand in a pit of vipers he flirts with the girl of my dreams. I have a plan to get rid of Clyde forever” They were all in agreement, each hating their little brother for differing reasons. August continued, “There this guy Jack Straw who smuggles slaves over to Egypt and not only will he take Clyde away, he’ll give us s few bottles of whiskey on top of it. We can dip that hideous colored coat Dad gave him and coat it with goat blood. Then We’ll tell Pops he was killed at the point of a knife. We can rid ourselves of that nuisance and get on with our lives. We can share the women and we can share the wine.”
So it was, Kaleidoscope Joe was smuggled out as a slave, the boys telling Jacob his favorite son had been jumped for his ring, kaleidoscope, four bucks and change outside of Delilah Jones brothel. Jacob cried for nights wishing it weren’t true but he had the coat of many colors all covered in blood. The next thing this story teller saw was Joseph dragging a cart of clay. I realized I was no longer looking at my tattoo and the chillum was gone. I shook my head back an forth with great force in an attempt to regain some reality when I heard a voice from the past. “JT that coat looks beautiful on you, you should keep it. I have no doubt Kevin would want you to.” I knew that voice instantly. Smiling I turned, “Onyx, my god how are you? How long has it been? You look fantastic.” That’s when I realized I was once again wearing the jacket Onyx had fashioned special for Kevin. I removed it and found myself drenched in sweat. I folded it up, “No Onyx, you made it for him you should have it. I’m not even sure why I had it on.” To my dismay I was alone in the attic, no Onyx, no Jamaican Rastafarian, no Joseph from the old testament. I took the coat flung it over my shoulder. Time to get a drink.