Matt Siegle - Hall of Flowers
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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 6-8PM
Lust for Cassady
By Travis Diehl
When sometimes I'm sitting on the Oakland curbs waiting for the Sheriff's bus while the Zip Tie restraints dig into my wrists and paprika tears dribble out of me in the gray murk of a Bay sunset I see an apparition stroll down the avenue through the loose ranks of riot cops, he slides along the road and up the long coast from San Diego to Seattle, his jeans are torn his hair is long, he is peacenik head to toe I mean his shoes are manufactured tie-dyed, he is like disheveled Liberty but no one follows, his placard spells nonsense and the logos on his clothes are those of nihilism affected.
I want to tell you about Cassady.
When Cassady got his Medical Marijuana Patient ID Card back in summer of '11 he dressed like Kurt Cobain, like Cobain solo on a Rolling Stone cover-blue suit, red tie, long hair, cobalt stare. It's a striking icon: rocker as businessman-and you know Cassady knows it, since he picked it up so naturally. His long locks grew and his blue eyes got that focused far-out look. He dressed that way in suit and tie and white collar and went to see the Weed Doctor, for his anxiety and depression you understand (and the truth is he ain't lyin', nor would you or I be), and when they took his photo for the Patient ID against that chopped white backdrop it was like a headshot of Cobain. It was like circumscription by prescription and the codification of counterculture. It was a hundred years of prohibition shunted into a legal loophole. In a way it was all over then, and churning still, and Cassady had much to do yet, but it was all over and that is the way of history.
Cassady saw the tents of Occupy Wall Street pile up at the base of a Mark di Suvero sculpture via live stream while tracking plane tickets on Kayak. Arab Spring came courtesy Facebook and Twitter and every cable news network said to Follow Us and Cassady did follow, he went down to Tahrir Square in the weeks and months after to see it and to check in on some old friends. In 2008 in California Prop 8 passed and you could no longer marry a person of your same sex in that state. Cassady drove over to Sunset Boulevard and marched in protest of that measure, but that was later and that's another story, and the big march was long dispersed. His placard now as then was bold but not clever, was heartfelt but not legible, as if one day smoking on his couch the bag of Cheetos sprawled out onto the table like some occult message and stuck there. THAT is what he stands for. An accidental and prophetic cause, or every cause, frozen in a minute of conviction like a stoned epiphany.
All that to say these were raw times for the counterculture, which had never asked for Cassady, nor he for it.
Meanwhile the activists and artists at the avant-garde traced and recombined their way through history "From the Sorbonne in '68 / The Massacre at ol' Kent State / Hell's Angels' knife at Altamont / Mayday marches and riots-" and I'd be remiss not to mention their sympathetic treatment of Neil Young and Robert Smithson and Kurt Cobain and the Indigenous. Political art was revisionist in the extreme, the scene was one of outward, con-stellar groups of people acting on each other and making facts as if to prove facts could be made. But none of that quite did it for Cassady-it was the Nineties Aughts and Teens but we were still struggling with the Sixties, and Cassady struggling with those struggling. This was Cassady's time and place, and Cassady loved Cassady, and also his fellow man, insofar as one man is the site of himself. And if art had some value for Cassady it was as a way of living, which should follow, should it not, from your lifestyle of choice as you produce it.
Well Man what is it Like to bear that Green cross? Cassady knows: Like having the biggest heaviest patch sewn on your jean jacket, wearing those symbols well years past their heyday, and hence knowing each new symbol for nothing but a future cliché, or, more, likely, a rebranded cliché of old. Then suddenly no matter how hard you mean it, and you mean it hard, you find yourself, surrounded and down,living and becoming those clichés and that is freedom spelled out in puffy Pirate Booty ™ Snapple ™ Moët ™ Whole Foods ™ Wheat Thins ™Naked ™ NEVERMIND ™ and man, those are the brands which you may grapple with and through. Cassady has tried it. He tries it now. On Saturday or any day Cassady is free to be found drinking Sparking Wine in Dolores Park like all good hippies. He takes count of his life in minutes and hours, not days and years. There is only him and now. Lust, for Cassady, is past, and ongoing, and is for the Past. If he is an idealist, it is for idealism. It's a sunny beauty-filled place that he's from.
Once our rebellion sure had style, you could dress like it and act rebellious, and that's how Cassady looks to us: self-absorbed and symbolic, like nonchalance and calculated apathy looks. But what I struggle to say, what I take to be my true struggle-well it's the difference in Cassady's approach, which is: no longer conscientious objection, but "true relaxation and knowledge" preached by his example from inside the system's jaws. Yeah there are the agents of the program everywhere, but what is Cassady's crime? Who do these cops think they are? Counterculture ID in secret pocket, Cassady improvises his own crime within the law but good; escape within cliché; desire within the Game. Of course he pays a price, he follows all the rules, and no one can blame him, or those that should blame him are dead and gone, or envelop him instead in their guru empathy. Fuck the Man and I mean love him, Cassady spells out in supermarket sushi and champagne. Cassady sticks carnations in the barrels of their bright green riot shotguns. Cassady throws a barbecue and has his friends cut off his hair.
It's a good game, I think, walking through Downtown Los Angeles one night, near where Skid Row becomes the Arts District, and there rush a pack of punks in Anonymous masks and Occupy regalia, in the road against traffic, wrong way down a one way street. I watch the big dumb country stumbling on its unravelling youth, it seems. But that's not Cassady's style really. Not that he disagrees. Cassady protests alone, like a street preacher, or a radio going in an empty bar. I wonder bound in Zip Tie cuffs and frozen in my own old vomit what to call it, waiting to be jackbooted down and processed and shipped downtown on a windowless Sheriff's bus, the Furthur of the Man, how to call this game, the Game that surrounds us like electricity, like stoplights and crosswalks, like the Interstates, laid down by and forthe Game, as I'm stuck to the idea of these inalienable rights I lust for Cassady.
- January 2013
On the Occasion of Hall of Flowers
Matt Siegle, Anthony Greaney, BostonThe Ballad of Cassady
When the Man is on the Rise
Throw those Glasses on your Eyes
& Sing a Song for Cassady
When the Halls of Flowers Fall
& the Writing's on the Wall
Just Sing a Song for Cassady
He Was There in San Francisco
Montgomery & DC
He Was There for all your Love-Ins
His Cause is You & Me
Peace & Progress Always Brewin
At the G8 & the UN
But not Fast enough for Cassady
In the Air is Revolution
& Inside is the Solution
Oh Sing That Song for Cass-a-dyyy