In that beginning time was fire and ice. The war was cold, a looking glass, spectral abyss into which people fell never to rise again. An epidemic of stinging accusations descended upon the land like locust and devoured men whole. Telescopes and microscopes, plows and shovels had been traded in for briefcases in which were contained lists of hundreds, no thousands, of card carrying Reds. Mothers were strapped to vacuum cleaners and sent out to get more vermouth. Oppenheimer was in disgrace and Edward Teller held center soap box with a hydrogen bomb in one hand and a half eaten baby's brain in the other. It was the fifties.

Johnny arrived in a discharge of blood and smoke. Blessed with a full mouth of teeth at birth, he bit through his own umbilical cord, punched out the doctor and slipped the attending nurse the tongue. His mother screamed. The doctor cursed. The nurse swooned. Before being tackled by security, Johnny breached the medicine cabinet and ingested a hearty quantity of pharmaceuticals. It was an auspicious birth.

Johnny began roaming when he was four. Some say it was because his parents use to leave him by the railroad tracks in hopes that the gypsy bitch his mother swore must have birthed him would find and rightfully claim the boy. Others credit Johnny's peripatetic tendencies to a chemical imbalance that was aggravated by a penchant for bourbon. Who can rightfully say? Johnny himself claims he was being guided by interstellar beacons from the dog star Sirius. but then Johnnys claims a lot of things, most of which are unpresentable to good Christian folk. Suffice it to say the youngster had a nose for trouble and a hankering for disturbances.

Among the adventures Johnny boasts of is a jaunt down Memphis-way in 1953 to see the King. Of course at that time Elvis wasnıt even a prince. A snot-nosed cheeseburger grunter in a pick-up truck is the way Johnny described him. Backwards even for country, a little too sweet to let the trouble in his soul come to full boil, too damn attached to his momma, it was hard to imagine young Elvis would amount to much.

Johnny ran into Elvis at a roadside grease joint. It was five in the morning and Johnny was trying to convince the waitress he was really a midget and it would be all right to dose his coffee with a shot of Old Colonel. He caught a look of Elvis eying him from across the way with that special lip sneer E had.

"Whatıs blowing up your rear, cracker?"

"Hey, now, little buddy. I donıt believe thatıs the way for a young fella like you to be talking."

"Just cause Iım a midget doesnıt mean I canıt call 'em as I see 'em."

"A midget? Why little buddy, I donıt believe youıre this side of six years old."

"Oh yeah, grease ball. Letıs you and me step outside and weıll see who's left standing."

"I'd rather just share a plate of beans and rice, if thatıs all right with you."

"Beans and rice? Why yes, that sounds like a mighty fine meal to start the day."

Johnny also alleges to have had encounters with Alan Freed, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins and Howlin' Wolf. He swears to having been instrumental in the career of Little Richard. The story involves a poker hand, an accusation of cheating, and a whiskey bottle cracked across Richardıs bare sconce. The result, besides a nasty bump and several hours of unconsciousness, was those high notes that rocketed Penniman to fame. Richard claims to know nothing about no Johnny and to have never done no gambling.

As the decade wore on and his peers took to ducking under school desks at the first sound of a siren, Johnny fell in love. The first sight of a fold out Marilyn laying naked against a red background and his young heart went South. With a kitchen knife he carved her name into his thigh. When "Some Like it Hot" opened, Johnny spent a week hiding in a movie theatre so he could catch every showing. Twice he set out for the West Coast to find her. The first time he was arrested in Chicago after mooning Vice President Nixon at a ribbon cutting ceremony. Trip number two was terminated when, hearing Pat Boone sing "Love Letters in the Sand" at a supermarket opening in Des Moines, Johnny was picked up for trying to purchase a fire arm. It wasnıt until nineteen sixty-two that Johnny finally made it to California. The night he was arriving, Bobby Kennedy was leaving. Every year Johnny makes a pilgrimage to Marilynıs grave to sprinkle it with rose petals.

After the plane crash that took out Buddy and the scandal that castrated Alan Freed; after the army barber cut Elvisıs hair and Pat Boone sanitized Little Richard's love moan; in the last two years of the fifties when everyone shut their eyes and made believe that Ike would never go; as the bomb shelters were dug and Annette grew tits and shed her mouska-ears, Johnny took to hanging out at coffee houses and shooting junk with the beats. His clothes were black and his gospel Zen nihilism. It had to be like, snap, now, snap, or it was like, snap, nothing. Johnny refers to a time he and Jack Kerouac shot a game of pool in a Greenwich Village cat house. Ginsberg stood in a corner chanting mantras. Gregory Corso raved about a new poem he was dedicating to Van Goghıs ear and, weaving around the room with a razor, proposed they all slash themselves as a statement against imperialism. Outside the night howled like an angry celestial beast driven to madness.

The winter before the Beatles arrived was dark and heavy. Radios vomited the carmel-scented treacle of Sugar Shack and Roses are Red, My Love. Kruschev threatened the world with a shoe. Lenny Bruce was sweating out a mean speed habit. Across America could be heard the collective splosh of olives dropping into tumblers of unbruised martinis. Fire hoses attempted to drown the song of freedom, Malcolm was rethinking Islam, white folk huddled around their televisions to accompany a choir of Mitch Miller trained ducks in a rousing version of "Nearer My God to Thee." Silently the black hole of Vietnam had begun sucking at Uncle Samıs soul. Johnny spent the winter locked in his basement cooking up medicine.

The Beatles were the young boy calling out that the emperor was naked. They were the stone in David's sling that felled Goliath. In one of the last interviews he gave before his assassination, John Lennon compared the Beatles to a sail on the world ship that filled with a strange wind and took us into uncharted seas. They were the vehicle that the Spirit that moves us employed to take us deeper into ourselves. When Elvis first shook it on the Ed Sullivan show, the censorship of the times had prohibited the cameramen from focusing below his waist. It was as if the entire arsenal of the military-industrial complex was trained of the E manıs crotch. Western civilization was girded in a cast iron chastity belt wired to a hundred megaton bomb. One lascivious move and weıd all be winging it to eternity. A decade later, the chastity belt was ripe for picking. With a laugh and a wink the Beatles handed us the key.

Free Love and LSD. These words still ring in Johnnyıs ears like a divinely inspired mantra. What a powerful and sweet time those years of the sixties were. It was as if for a short while we were all allowed the knowledge of what it feels like to be rocked in the lap of God. Holy prophets burned their draft cards. Angry women burned their bras. A century old stereotype of Step'n Fetch It eating watermelon and whistling shoe shine melodies was dynamited into oblivion by Malcolmıs children: the Black Panthers. Incense scented winds from the East swept across the nation whispering of the thousand and one faces of God. Down every alley, on every street corner, in the swamp lands, in the heartland, sweet as a young girl's first blush of ripeness, hardy as the bulge in a teenage boyıs jeans, America was throbbing, bobbing, pulsing, gyrating, sweating and bleeding, growling and soaring, awake, suddenly Krishna-like, the scales of a thousand years of slumber falling from her eyes. And from every one of those scales arose a song. Hillbilly, blues, country, gospel: ears were open and imaginations glowed like the eyes of a hibernating beast awakened from a winterıs nap by a sharp pang of hunger. Sitar driven ragas, heroin sick white boys warbling on warped necked Fenders, feedback jagged and dangerous as a barbed wire fence slicing up no manıs land, country wailers simple and devious as a fifth of Kentucky bourbon. Suddenly it was good to have appetite, to experiment, to collapse into a heap of what you didnıt know, to live by a creed the first and last word of which was "yes."

Did I mention the LSD? Johnny's first trip was in the spring of 1964. A friend of a friend who'd been studying psychology at Harvard under the tutelage of those two mad monks Leary and Alpert appeared with a vial of what he proclaimed to be wizard's juice.

"A drop on the tongue, my man. A single drop and youıll experience Satori."

"Fuck Satori," responded an unenlightened Johnny. "I want a little action."

Grabbing the vial from this friend of a friend, our intrepid voyager swallowed half its contents before being subdued.

"Holy shit, man. Thatıs so uncool. You drank too much, man. Youıre going to be so uncool."

How uncool can a cyclone of naked angels chanting backwards from the Tibetan Book of the Dead be? Or a glimpse of the foot of God tapping on the treadle of the world loom? But I get ahead of the tale.

The first thirty minutes after ingesting the wizardıs potion, Johnny paced back and forth cursing the fraudulent claims of this would be pharmacologist.

"Nothingıs happening," he screamed. "I don't feel a Goddamned thing."

His two companions had grown curiously quiet. They eyed the frothing Johnny with a bemused expectancy. The Harvard student kept looking at his watch and nudging his companion.

"What's up with you two turkeys? You feed me this turtle pabulum with the promise of some mystical banshee roller coaster ride and all I'm feeling is a big fat nada. Do you hear me? Nada, nothing, zippo, less than zero. Why I oughta...."

Johnny paused as if preparing for a renewed verbal assault. He felt a gentle stirring somewhere in the primitive register of his limbic lobes. It was as if whoever was responsible for keeping track of things in his mind had taken a giant step backwards and fallen through a trap door. The last coherent thing Johnny said was,

"What the hell was that?"

A gift, a blessing, a cosmic lube job. A chance to move beyond the word of the prophet and be a part of the vision. Not for the faint of heart, not for those whose stock and trade is accountability. To witness the divine descending on the tower of Babel and experience that last moment when all men knew what all men knew, to drink from the water Christ had turned into wine at Cana, to awaken from the dream of a lifetime, to be ripped naked and bleeding from the womb of illusions. It was funny beyond word. It was terrifying. At once confusing and liberating, horrible and sweet. And on top of it all, that strange background noise, a sort of amusement park rumble, like a hurdy gurdy being dubbed over a backwards tape loop of sea gull cries.

Johnny became a disciple. And for a moment it seemed as if the entire world was on the verge of initiation. How can I explain how it felt to one day wake up and hear Bob Dylan wailing "Like a Rolling Stone" over an AM radio station. A few months before the most adventurous musical foray to assault American ears had involved singing Chipmunks and a Christmas wish for a hula hoop. Now the Byrds were chanting about disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind, the Stones couldn't get no satisfaction, the Yardbirds had a heart full of soul. It was Zimmer-zen-arific, Dylan-tao-o-ese, Bobby-Krishna-alacious. Every day was like a celebration, a new invention.

And it just got better and better. The Jefferson Airplane took off into uncharted regions: Jimi corralled the screaming shrapnel and fiery napalm of a distant war into our private head space: Janis had us moaning for just one more sip from the loving cup. And the art work. Beardsley in wonderland, Mr. Natural a-go-go, portholes of perception warped and twisted back on themselves, color requests that drove printers mad, a-Kelly-a-Mouse-a-Griffin-arama. It was all too much but only left you hungry for more. It was just ahead, around the next corner, veiled in the shadows, a world waiting to be born, a vision rip for revelation, blessings light as sunshine and rich as daybreak.

Johnny discovered the Dead in '66. He was pursuing a commercial venture out on the coast when an acquaintance took him to a dance at the Fillmore West. It was a blustery November night in the bay and our hero was nursing a purple mood. The government had reclassified LSD as a dangerous substance and possession had become a jailable offense. A month earlier, Ken Kesey had been nabbed by the FBI after sneaking back into the country from Mexico. Leary, too, was experiencing the heat and advising his followers to stay on Buddha-Vishnu ice until the next psychic wave cleansed the nation. After making his delivery back east, Johnny was contemplating a move down to South America.

The Dead changed that.

It started as a kind of shuffling in his feet, a shucking, jiving, like wading through a cosmic cotton field. All the weight of the world, an eternity of sweat and toil, rolled off Johnnyıs body and shimmered in a puddle before him. From that pool rose a ruby moon. It bounced around the auditorium teased and coaxed by the slithery riffs that Garcia squeezed from his guitar. Light played across the gathered tribe, momentarily settling on each memberıs crown chakra. Touched, you could not suppress the smile that blossomed upon your face. Licking your lips, youıd swear they were oozing honey. Someone somewhere must have opened a door. A mist laden wind swept across the room and a hundred voices whispered into each ear, calling, entreating, promising. Johnny could feel every pore in his body breathing. And more. He could no longer be sure where the music was coming from. He could see the band before him, follow and relate the sound to their movements. Yet it felt somehow as if the music was inside him, being generated by his heart, his gut, his shuffling feet. Johnny began to spin. And everyone in the tribe was spinning. Then the lightning bolt struck.

Thatıs what it was about. Thatıs what Johnny came to the Dead for. The moment when the restrictive seams of consciousness burst, when the tick-tocking of linear structure imploded and beneath the event horizon you could sense a beast stalking. To see yourself sliding down the helixes of your own DNA; to know yourself before your birth, after your death; to see your spirit shaking impatient and ruthless at the starting gates of incarnation; to know all your thoughts at once and then move beyond, to be the power within thought. It was holy and wicked. It was indescribable. You were open, vulnerable, cleansed, out of control, out of line, out of your ABCing, one-two-threeing, cotton pickin' mind. It was the tribal stomping, chemically altered, karmic tricksters, Zen outlaws, Godıs emissaries to the human race: the Good Ole Grateful Dead.

There is no time in the Garden. Each note of the birdıs song is new and now, each ripened fruit is the first fruit. A day is as long as it needs to be: the cycle of life, like the cycle of breathe, is autonomous and unfolds without investment of thought. And if we could, weıd always be staying there. Or so we believe. Johnny certainly did. Along with his tribe of misfits, radicals, flower children, acid heads, mystics and visionaries. For a time it seemed as if the ranks were swelling, that a wave of peaceful revolution was on the verge of washing over the land to sweep away the evils of war, prejudice and greed. No doubt this was naive, wishful thinking, even a bit maniacal. In a recent interview recalling these times of the late sixties, Mickey Hart notes that he had believed there were tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of freaks in the nation eager to usher in a new life. But the fact was there only were a few hundred. As for the rest, they were what Ken Kesey called weekend warriors: a little LSD and some motorcycle partying Friday night through Sunday. But come Monday morning it was coat and tie, office job, Yes, sir, no, sir, of course Iım voting for Tricky...I mean Nixon, sir.

Some try to point to the moment it was over. The Stones at Altamont or the election of Nixon. The assassination of Martin, the assassination of Bobby. The arrest and flight of Timothy Leary, the street fights at the Democratic convention. The breakup of the Beatles, Johnıs marriage to Yoko, the death of Paul. When the hard drugs hit the Haight, when the tourist buses hit the Haight, when Chocolate George bought the farm. The official version would have it that at the heart of the hippie movement was a darkness that eventually erupted into violence, hard drugs and the lunacy that was the Manson family. As with all official versions, this is just slightly wide of the mark: coded with references and symbols to make any decent man shudder and turn away. Thank God, Marge, weıve escaped that hippie plague.

The truth is the garden the hippies sought to cultivate was, from the beginning, set in a landscape fertilized by rotting corpses. Vietnam, the first war to be brought to you accompanied by Swansonıs T.V. dinners; Vietnam, where poor menıs sons were given the privilege of donating their body parts to help further the corporate security of rich menıs sons who despised them; Vietnam, where racism and technology mated to give birth to the three headed bitch of genocide, mutilation and rape; Vietnam, where warriors were shipped without instruction, sacrificed without accountability, sent home without honor. Upon this we tried to build a garden.

Racism: magnolia trees bearing the bitter fruit of castrated black men hung and emasculated because they'd grown tired of the shuck and shuffle; Racism, four young girls ages nine to thirteen blown from this sweet life in a church bombing in Alabama; or, three young civil rights workers found shot and buried in a gravel pit in Mississippi; Racism, more than the fire hoses and the German shepherds, more than the burning crosses and the hooded killers, but would be decent folk scared blind by the trash talk that what little they had the black man would take; Racism, a nation of deeply spiritual people who for millennia had lived on this land and maintained her in harmony and beauty rounded up, lied to, poisoned, infected, brutalized, kept in poverty and alcoholic squalor. On this we tried to build a garden.

Sexism. Fear of gays. Fear of women. Fear of the sexual fun house the Creator built for us. On this we tried to build a garden. Materialism. The sacrifice of spirit in exchange for stock options in the Electro-Demonic-Capitalistic-Headhunters Co., Inc. On this we tried to build a garden.

As the sixties broke down, some got disciplined and some got deranged; some built hope while others drowned in despair; some put down their fists and took up a briefcase, some dismounted from their stallions and stuck their heads in a hole. Johnny spent time in a Zen retreat trying to sort out the Orwellian from the Divine. He traveled extensively in South America where he had the opportunity to study with several shamans. On a journey to the underworld, Johnny had one of the jewels of his soul stolen by a winged sloth. When he returned gasping and pale, a medicine man took him to the river and bathed him. Johnny was advised to return to his own land and plant a seed. The only way to recapture the missing spirit diamond, his instructor told him, is to cast you image out into the storm of this world. Such a lure would prove irresistible to the thief and the stage would be set for reunification.

So was Johnnyıs born. A ripple of psychic disturbance, a sanctuary for the lost jewels of our soul, hunting ground for merry pranksters, rodeo for day-glo cowboys and star-spangled hustlers. For some a homing beacon, to others a soulless palace of debauchery. To some a rainbow hued freak flag, to others a civic and moral disgrace. A place of myth and rumor, would be busts and stone cold resurrections. A crunchy taste of hilarity and nuts, a punch bowl filled with electric kool aid. East meets west and Krishna gets an STP charged stratocaster.

Everything youıve heard about Johnnyıs could be true. Then again, no single story can be more than the sum of your own words, your own worlds. Stunningly simple when you come face to face with it. The seamless broadcast of your own reality. Like the pulsing of electrons going on in the dot of an i. Be careful. This store is set with traps designed to snare winged thieves of soul stones.