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GOING THE DISTANCE
"POP, THE ANGELS AND THE DEAD"
Photo by Genghis
MAGIC: Significant entities come in threes.
EXCERPT FROM AN INTERNET TREATISE:
The Symbolism and Spiritual Significance of the Number Three
"In the first three numbers, all of the others are synthesized. From the union of oneness and duality (which is its reflection), that is, from triad, proceed all of the other numbers, and from this primordial triangle all figures derive.
There is also, for traditional civilizations, a direct relationship between numbers and letters of the alphabet, to the point where, with many alphabets, numbers were represented by letters, and had no special signs of their own. This is not the case with the early American cultures, which knew no alphabet, but we wish to call attention to this correspondence because not only the alphabetical code, but the numerical one, as well, describe all reality: that is, everything that is numerable or nameable-in the sense of 'ciphers,' harmonious measures, 'proportions-in sum, the totality of the cosmos, of the knowable.
This threeness or triad, has always been considered sacred-like oneness, duality, and all numbers-by virtue of its very properties and particular attributes. These properties and attributes are manifested in its threefold nature, which of itself is the inevitable expression of a principle, an archetypal fact, that solidifies in a series, as a representation of ideas and energies that materialize in magical, mysterious fashion while obeying precise, universal laws, which the numerical codes and their geometrical correspondences symbolize.
This symbol a triad or trinity. It is a symbol of the unity of body, mind and spirit. The symbol is of universal significance - it is found throughout history and all over the world. It was popularized early in this century by the Russian-born artist, philosopher and scientist Nicholas Roerich. It can be interpreted in many different senses: spirit/mind/body in a circle of synthesis; past/present/future enclosed in the ring of eternity; art/science/religion bound in a circle of culture.
The oldest of Indian symbols, Chintamani, the sign of happiness, is composed of this symbol and it can be found in the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. It appears in the Three Treasures of Tibet; on the breast of the Christ in Memling's famous painting; on the Madonna of Strasbourg; on the shields of the Crusaders and coat of arms of the Templars. It can be seen on the blades of the famous Caucasian swords called 'Gurda' and on the swords of Japanese nobility.
It appears as a symbol in several philosophical systems. It can be discovered on the images of Gessar Khan and Rigden Djapo; on the 'Tamga' of Timurlane and on the coat of arms of the Popes. It can be seen in the works of ancient Spanish painters and of Titian, and on the ancient ikon of St. Nicholas in Bari and that of St. Sergius and the Holy Trinity. It appears on the coat of arms of the city of Samarkand, on Ethiopian and Coptic antiquities, on the rocks of Mongolia, on Tibetan rings, on Buddhist banners, on the breast ornaments of all the Himalayan countries, and on the pottery of the Neolithic age.
The symbol of the triad or trinity has existed over immeasurable time and throughout the world. It can be understood as a key to the integrity and interdependence of all existence.
The triad is a defining characteristic of Celtic religion and mythology, and not all female triads in the Irish tradition, at least, are as clear symbols of the Mother Goddess. These symbolic attributes include: cornucopia, fruit, animals on the figure's knee, or a child in her arms or at her side.
Celtic art and literature has long been preoccupied with the number three. Looking at Celtic works or art one notices that often figures are grouped in clusters of three, creatures have three heads, objects repeat three times, or a single head might have three faces.
Oak, ash, and thorn were called the faery triad of trees. Where they grow together,it is still said that faeries live.
From the Druid or Celtic Shamanistic viewpoint the number three represents the different views one might develop following an initiation ceremony. Celtic Shamans believed that they could see the present, past and future - their vision of the world was complete and trustworthy. The Shaman often saw himself as a man standing in three different worlds at the same time. In this way, his judgments, decisions and advice became infallible and was closed to interpretation.
To the Celtic Shaman the worlds overlapped thus his consciousness is different from anyone else. His world view is full and complete. He has many ongoing relationships with otherworldly entities, such as fairies, the dead and the yet to be born. He gains his knowledge of this world from these entities and bestows it upon those who are not so blessed with such insight, such as King Arthur.
The Celtic preoccupation with the number three can be seen in the image of many of the Celtic Gods and Goddesses such as the three Brigids, and in the course of a story, often male heroes travel in groups of three in an attempt to complete a task, each of the three completing a different leg of the journey.
Just as night and day need twilight or dawn to go between it, the Celtic Shaman is the necessary third being between what is seen and unseen. He is neither this nor that. This widespread interest of the number three remains in our thinking today. Many modern concepts in philosophy, mathematics, physics, etc., are still very much based in the idea of 'the three.'
The Greeks used the number three a lot. There were the three Fates, three Graces, three Gorgons and the three Furies. Even Apollo's Pythia sat on a three legged chair (tripod) and Cerberus was a three headed dog. Multiples of three also seemed to be used such as the nine Muses and the twelve Olympian gods.
Add the Holy Trinity, the trimester and some others, and you have a world-wide phenomenon."
The Number Three has a high degree of signifcance in many cultures. One need look no further than the late Dale Earnhardt and his 3 Car, to know this. Given the marked heavyweight status of the Number 3, why should it be any different for this biker in my life? Yesterday was the anniversary of my father's passing. Today would have been the anniversary of my wedding anniversary with my ex-wife Nancie, had we stayed together. Next monday is my wedding anniversary with my wife, Patty. That's September 20th, September 21st and September 26th, three days of great consequence in my life, in the month of September. Things indeed come in threes. My father's death also is one link in a Triad of Three. My father's death will forever be linked with the other two cornerstones of this triad: the Hells Angels and the Grateful Dead. More on this later.
This story starts in my teenage years, when my Mom said to me...."You'll never get married. No girl could ever stand you!" Now, I was a moody mofo back in the day. Still am, but to a slightly lesser degree. Guess I mellowed....somewhat, with age.
My mother had it right, though. I was hard to get along with, as my parents could have attested to. Thank God that Patty is as patient and loving as she is. My first wife, Nancie, never had the long-term chance to test her patience with me, as we divorced after only five years of marriage. My father did have a chance to witness my marital and parental happiness before he died though, when Nancie gave birth to our son Michael, in June of 1970.
I'll never forget the scene when Nancie and I went to my parents' Chinese laundry to announce that Nancie was pregnant. We had dinner in the back of the laundry, which was a habit even though we lived in the second floor apartment above the laundry. The supper table consisted of an old wooden table, with what I believe was an old-style porcelainized bathtub cover on top of it.
I also felt somewhat vindicated by our display of marriage (albeit temporary, with my first wife) and pending child, as it nullified my mother's contention that I was a hopeless case, domestically. My mother was in tears and my father was beaming. They should've been this happy, when I bought my first Harley!
Both Ma and Pop, were overjoyed at the the future arrival of this Little Biker into the family. Little did I know then, that my son Mike would have no interest in Harleys as he grew up.
I called my mother "Ma" or "Mom" and my father "Va," but there's a subtext to this. The subtext is that there seem to be generic phonetic sounds in most languages that are remarkably similiar, that connote "mother" and father." In the Cantonese dialect of Chinese, mother is "mama" and father is "baba." Amazing, isn't it, that a culture which had for thousands of years had no contact with English-speaking people, could spontaneously develop words so similar to "mama" and "papa?"
Since infancy, I had called my father "Va," which was really a corruption of the Chinese term "Ba," short for "baba" which means father. This was due to my twisting the word with my infant's mind and tongue, which led to me continue calling him "Va" even up to his death, although when I referred to him with others in conversation, I called him "Pop." That's what I, my brother and my sisters called him: "Pop." But up until the very end, he was "Va" to me.
Only after he passed away on September 20, 1970, did I fully realize how much I truly loved and respected him, moreso than I did my mother. It seemed my dominant emotion as I grew up toward my parents, was resentment. In the ensuing years since my father's death, I've grown to realize how wise and right Pop was.
His death turned out to be one element of the triad of Pop, the Angels and the Dead, that reinforces the idea that consequential entities tend to come in threes. This triad came to a head on the evening of September 20, 1970. On that night, a Triangle of Consequence would inexorably alter my life, for better or worse.
At that time, I was fully immersed in the music of the Dead. I was so spoiled by the Grateful Dead's improvisational prowess---led by lead guitarist Jerry Garcia---that I basically could only listen to their music. No other musicians could satisfy me. In fact, it wasn't until recently that I found another guitarist and band who could fill the void that Garcia's death left behind, and that is Warren Haynes and his band, Gov't Mule. I needed a band in my life that was creating new music. It got to be a drag listening to forty year old riffs all the time. New blood was called for.
In 1970 though, the Dead was that band. I'm a person of allegiance and loyalty, whether we're talking about bands, cars, football teams, racecar drivers, motorcycles or cameras.
I am glad to have a contemporary band to listen to, to appreciate. My allegiance has now spread beyond the Dead parameters, to engulf Warren Haynes. Man, he is a worthy successor to Garcia.
Nancie and I lived on 3rd Street between Avenues B and C in the East Village at the time of my father's death. On September 20, 1970, the New York City chapter of the Hells Angels sponsored a Grateful Dead concert at the Anderson Theater on Second Avenue, near the Fillmore East.
As the crow flies, the Anderson Theater was only a quarter of a mile from our apartment.
The Anderson Theater was a seedier version of the Fillmore East, but was a small fish compared to the famed Fillmore East. The Fillmore East didn't even know the Anderson was alive. If you had mentioned the Anderson Theater to Bill Graham, he would've said...."Huh?"
This Dead concert was a benefit concert for the Angels. I believe that the president of the NYC Angels, Sandy Alexander was incarcerated at that time, and the receipts from the concert were to go to his legal fund.
Generally speaking, the Angels engendered a feeling of goodwill in the East Village community toward the club. The Hells Angels were seen in a positive light by the counterculture community (I am repulsed by the urge to call 'em "hippies").
I can't speak for other independents in the East Village, but I got along with 'em.
The only people to overtly hate the Angels then, were members of the Pagans M.C. Being such a Dead fan, I was happy that they were holding a Grateful Dead concert so close to home. The Dead meant a lot to me. I'd seen the Dead at the Fillmore East, and a couple of times at another local East Village venue called the Electric Circus, but this would be the first time at the Anderson.
I have many great memories of the Dead. One in particular were the golden tones of Garcia's Les Paul guitar as he played his solo in the song, "Alligator" at the Electric Circus. In those early days, you could sidle right up to the edge of the stage. This was before the megaconcerts at stadiums.
The most enduring memory of the Dead took place in the parking lot of the Pavillion in Queens, New York, at the site of the 1964 Worlds Fair where the Dead gave a fantastic concert. This was around 1968. The strains of "Darkstar" reaching toward the sky (the Pavillion was an outdoor structure, with no roof), was simply magical.
After the concert ended, while coming down from an acid trip on orange sunshine myself, I gave Garcia some tabs of the acid in the parking lot. He graciously accepted. he said in that laid back California accent, "Thankee, thankee..." as he shook my hand.
Like many young people of the time, I was an experimenter with, and eager partaker of psychedelic drugs. I was a veteran LSD tripper, having taken more than 30 acid trips by the time of the concert. The night of the Dead concert, I had taken mescaline for the first time. The trip was very heavy, and very euphoric, different from LSD yet the same in some ways. By the time Nancie (who did not do acid or psychedelics as much as I did) and I arrived at the Anderson Theater, I was not yet peaking on the mescaline. I have a distinct memory of arriving at the theater lobby, very high and feeling just on top of the world (this would change as the night unfolded into early morning). My most vivid memory was of the Angel who took our tickets, and this memory was no doubt indelibly etched into my memory because I was flying high on the mescaline.
This was a Hells Angel I didn't know by name. Unlike many of the NYC Angels of the day who long hair, he had his hair sleekly slicked back, old time greaser-style, with a little duck's ass, known parochially in the NYC area in the '50s and early '60s as a "ducktail". He had a neatly trimmed goatee, satan-like. I thought about him, "Very cleancut looking..." He wore the prototypical heavy-framed biker glasses, but they had clear lenses instead of shades. He was a classical-looking biker.
He wore his levi colors over a long-sleeved, red and white polo shirt, reminiscent of Lee Marvin's character's shirt, in "The Wild One." This Angel was polite as I perceived other HAs to be, which belied their fierce rep as having been merciless with enemies.
If you didn't screw with them, they wouldn't screw with you. The scene with them was cool if you weren't a member of a rival club. I recall one incident involving a Pagan I knew, who worked as a motorcycle messenger with the Quick Trip Messenger Service, the same company I worked for. One day, he was running down St. Marks Place for his life, being chased by the HA. That was the last I saw of him.
On their block, the Angels were ironically perceived as enforcers of order.
How often do you hear of outlaw motorcyclists being depicted as peace officers?
It was said that their block was the most crime-free in the East Village. I have no doubt that this was true. Muggers did not ply their trade on the Angels' block, period.
By the time the concert started, I was peaking out on the mescaline. The show was indescribably euphoric for me. Those who have taken psychedelics and listened to music, know where's it's at. The experience is so comprehensively involving both mentally and physically, that it seems that your body is vibrating in tune with each note played, rising and falling with every interaction between the musicians. That was one feature about the Dead that differentiated them from other rock bands: Their improvisational interaction was so tight at times, that it seemed that it bordered on the psychic, as if each musician knew what the others were about to play. This was intellectual music of the highest order, showing the complexity of classical music, melded with the spontaneous jamming of jazz, but fueled by the power of rock and the blues. There was also a fair amount of country influence in their music, as well.
The music was emotionally involving, Garcia was in fine fettle, and the night ended in the early morning hours. By the time that my ex and I made the short walk back to our tenement building, I was getting really tired. When we got to our apartment on the second floor, I found this nore from a neighbor taped to the door:
"Scott, call your brother-in-law Eddie. Urgent."
I called Eddie, and he said...."I'm sorry Scott, but Pop passed away today." September 21, 1970 was a sunday, a customary day for Pop to take my mother for a drive in his cherished '64 Chevelle Malibu SS, with its spirited 283 cube motor. Pop loved that car. He did take Mom for a drive that day, probably either to points west out on Long Island, or to upstate New York---maybe Bear Mountain, one of his favorite driving destinations. When they came back home after the ride, my father keeled over and died of a stroke---just like that. he'd been drinking coffee with my mother as it happened. It could have been worse. It could've happened while he was driving my mother around in his Malibu SS.
The confluence of events and players involved---my father, the Angels and the Dead---formed three sides of a triangle. This triad of entities, conforming to the Rule of Threes, had serious consequences in my life. After Pop died, it was left up to me as the most unsettled sibling, to live with my mother who was suicidal. The night of my father's death, Mom tried to kill herself with an overdose of sleeping pills, and ended up for a time, at the psych ward of Elmhurst Hospital (yes, the same hospital where I ended up after my wreck on Mabel) for observation. Living with my mother, which meant that Nancie and I had to give up our East Village apartment, negatively affected our marriage. Living with my mother, bereft of our independence and our own home, put a tremendous strain on our relationship.
It also torpedoed our plans to move to California, which had been imminent at the time of Pop's death.
It was my dream, to be able to ride my Harley in the warm and welcoming California sunshine.
The plan had been to buy a used Ford Econoline van (which we did for $600), pile all our belongings, including my XLCH Sally The Bitch, and drive across country to San Diego with our baby, where we'd planned to settle. This plan was blown to smithereens, and delayed our departure to San Diego for more than another year. That's how long it took to make sure that my mother was stable enough to face life on her own again. Living with her was a nightmare. My mother was one of the most negative people I've ever known, at times maliciously so. The dye was cast. She, along with Nancie's and my immaturity, were at the root of the breakup of my first marriage.
These events were triggered by my father's death, on the night that the Grateful Dead soared on the stage of the Anderson Theater. The riffs from Garcia's Telecaster rose and fell, as my father fell. All this while the Angels watched over the crowd at the Anderson, and perhaps angels watched over my father as he ascended.
It seems that the Hells Angels have been in the periphery of my life, from the earliest times, from literary sources at first. Reading Hunter S. Thompson's book about the HA was tremendously influential with me, as was reading "Freewheeling Frank." The latter was a California Hells Angel's memoir. For a young man with an XLCH, this was heady stuff! I felt a Harley Kinship with those in the books. Much has been said regarding whether Thompson twisted and exaggerated his observations.
I don't think it ultimately mattered from an influence perspective, whether Thompson's account was entirely accurate. The Angels of that time who were depicted in his book, including the legendary Sonny Barger, steadfastly to this day differ with HST's version of events. Moreover, they rightly felt slighted by HST's actions and attitude. Here's why I don't believe Thompson's accuracy mattered, though:
From an historical perspective, HST's book on the Hells Angels elevated their status in the public's nind through sheer magnificent writing, and exposure to the public through numbers of books sold. Make no mistake about it: Even though HST tried to depict the Angels in a more negative light toward the end of his book, he clearly succeeded into making 'em true American heroes, intentionally or not. That's the way it works, man. People love bigger than life characters, and that's what HST made 'em with his great prose.
The book certainly changed the course of my life, convincing me that a Harley-Davidson would be a lifelong companion. This book started my going the distance as a biker. There's no doubt about this in my mind.
With the death of my father, which was squarely placed by fate and circumstance at a Hells Angels benefit concert, where my band, the Grateful Dead played---the Angels and the Anderson Theater have been indelibly welded into my memory, and my life experience. A passing of a parent is a huge marker in a person's life, and the people and places that revolve around the event are unforgettable.
I pass the now-defunct Anderson Theater, as well as the now-defunct Fillmore East every day as I walk to work. The Fillmore East is now a bank. The Anderson Theater, is now a gay bar, believe it or not. Time marches on. Ya can't make this stuff up, man.
As the Angels have always seemed to be in the periphery of my life as it unfolded, the Grateful Dead were an ever-presence in my life, closer to the center of it than the Angels.
As I pass the site where the Anderson Theater once stood, I swear that I can hear the Dead playing....and can see the Angel with his hair greased back, asking for my ticket. Important things come in threes.