Continued from last post…
We’re still at the heavenly Avalon Ballroom where Janis Joplin was wailing on Psalm 4. Then Janis’ conscience suddenly jumped out in the form of Jiminy Cricket and started berating the hippies and flower children because they’re little brats. Now the Pondering Pig feels called upon to deliver some edifying comments…
The trouble with Jiminy Cricket is that, although he often gives good advice, he delivers it in a tut-tut, looking down his nose sort of manner that turns people like Walrus Pemmican off. Walrus is the young guy with the beatific smile and guru shirt who got reamed by Jiminy Cricket in the last post for harboring angry thoughts, and I knew him well. When he went dancing at the Avalon Ballroom with his old lady, as they called girl friends in those far off times, they didn’t want to be acceptable to God, they wanted to be free. Walrus wasn’t against being acceptable to God, he just didn’t know anything about it, and neither did the other kids sitting cross-legged on the ballroom floor. Jiminy Cricket is speaking the truth about the lies and pretensions in their lives, but he’s not exactly helping them change their hearts. Check out his next line:
Offer right sacrifices and put your trust in the Lord!
Walrus is thinking, “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord? Well, what happens if I accidentally offer a wrong sacrifice? Will God reject me like he did Cain in the Bible story?” All his rebellious instincts start coming out. But he’s just looking for holes – to him, Cain and Abel is a story in a book, and The Lord’s full name is The Lord of The Sleepers. Why would he put his trust in that God?”
Sorry if I am shocking anybody, but this guy David who wrote Psalm 4 is not communicating to the kids in the Avalon Ballroom, or any other ballroom in time. He is suggesting Walrus Pemmican obey the rules. Can you imagine? Why? Because I said so!
Any right-thinking rebel needs to understand the purpose of a rule. On the streets Walrus walks everyday he see cars with bumper stickers that read Question Authority and Ignore Alien Orders. In a world where the proper authorities have shown again and again you can’t trust them, it’s the only sane attitude.
The rules expressed in the Psalms themselves can be life-giving, survival tactics. It’s not the rules’ problem, the problem is the stuffy enemies of the young who turn them into umbrellas made for whacking.
Like this ‘right sacrifice’ business. Look, David was saying you’ll be all right if you get the best unblemished lamb from your flock and take it down to the temple and offer that to God. That’s how they did things in those days. It’s got to be your best one, though. One little horrible skin disease and it’s right out.
I like David a lot better in Psalm 51, when he says: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” It’s the same idea, really, but applicable across the centuies.
For Walrus Pemmican,for instance, freedom brought with it a certain burden of guilt and sorrow. He was trying to live right, he really was, but he kept screwing up. Both he and his girl Suzie Creamcheese were chased by demons they couldn’t see. Did they ever chase you?
They were young and beautiful, but there was some skin disease growing on their insides. If Walrus had known the Lord of the Sleepers could actually give him a clean, whole heart and a new, right spirit, and zero demons, he would have jumped…if he could actually feel on the inside like he looked on the outside, he would have offered that new heart to God in a second.
It’s like that stiff word repentance. Once I understood it didn’t mean some mysterious ritual where you put on a Christian suit, cut your hair short on the back and sides and chat with boring people while eating too many doughnuts, once I understood repentance actually meant accepting God’s offer of a new and right spirit, then I was up for it.
Well, that’s how the Walrus and his old lady are feeling about Jiminy Cricket’s lecture. “Hey man, we’re looking, maybe in all the wrong places, for freedom and joy and love and you’re giving us rules and regulations. Why should we believe anything you say?” Jiminy’s not giving them what they need if they only knew they needed it.
The show is kind of winding down. It’s getting late. Chet Helms, the hippie impresario who runs the Avalon, comes out to say goodnight to the hippies, including Walrus Pemmican and Suzie Creamcheese. All year, Chet has been struggling to compete with rival rock impresario Bill Graham for the best bands, the best poster artists, the most joy, the most love and, hopefully, have a few bucks left over.
Bill Graham is raking in the dough over there at the Fillmore. He’s a business man, he has stumbled on a money machine and he is very good at turning it. Chet is more about the music and the good times, and although he is charging the same admission and featuring the same great bands, he and the Family Dog collective are just hanging on from show to show.
So Chet smiles his sweet eternal grin and says these words:
There are many who say ‘O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord! You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound.
Hey, we all need some grain and some wine. Nothing wrong with that. But there’s more to life than raking in the bucks. You know what? I’m going with the gladness in my heart.
I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety.
Good night, everybody, stay safe! See you next week!
Today, for those of my generation and time and place, Bill Graham is remembered as a hard but decent guy, a good businessman who got rich and in the process helped a lot of talented people get known and established. Chet? Well, go look at his website here.
Chased by demons:
Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose in a Los Angeles hotel in 1970.
The Raelettes – According to the movie Ray, Margie Hendrix died of a heroin overdose in 1973. Hope the others all all doing great.
Mike Bloomfield died of a heroin overdose in San Francisco in 1981
Paul Butterfield died of an alcohol and drugs overdose in 1987
Bill Graham died in a helicopter crash in 1991.
Chet died from hepatitis in 2005.
Elvin Bishop – is still alive and performing, in spite of a devastating family tragedy. Somebody shake his hand.
Jiminy Cricket has returned to Pleasure Island where he continues to explain the rules of proper living to the bad boys who live there.
I heard from Walrus Pemmican not long ago. He is still seeking the farthest island in the farthest sea.
More about Walrus and Janis at Famous People I Never Knew 2: Janis Joplin