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AsEverWas: Memoirs of a Beat Survivor

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AsEverWas: Memoirs of a Beat Survivor
by Hammond Guthrie
Review by Skip Stone

The great beat writers encouraged many young people to discover true freedom for themselves, on the road. That road of self-discovery began in California for Hammond Guthrie when he took the "Acid Test", Ken Kesey and the Merry Prankster's inspired rite of passage into the psychedelic era. He was soon following the hip beat from San Francisco to London, Amsterdam, Paris and Morocco. Guthrie was befriended along the way by the likes of Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. Such legendary literary figures helped inspire him and expose his work to a generation whose minds were suddenly open to new and unusual experiences.

Trying his hand at Brion Gysin's (and Burrough's) "cut-up" style, Guthrie found his audience with unique, experimental performances, combining the spoken word, music, strange sounds and psychedelic visuals. He was part of the avant-garde San Francisco performance art scene of the 1960s. He dabbled with innovative media and helped stage some very unusual events.

"One of my solo Events ("PigNailleon") got us thrown out of the church for quite a while. During the "Abstract Expressionist Ritual," I mixed a gallon of sow's blood into my PigMents and then painted a large canvas, using a number of freshly butchered pig's feet for brushes. When the work was complete, I nailed the collection of colored feet to the canvas, and the event was over. (Almost!) Somehow unbeknownst to me, my PigArt was left inside the church, and a few days later I got a call from the irate pastor, who demanded to know what "the ungodly smell" was. I went over to the Intersection, where the chapel air was now permeated with the odor of rotting pig meat. I tried to explain what had happened but the irate reverend went over his top, calling me "a demented artist with distinctly Pagan tendencies" and announced that I was summarily "banned" (albeit temporarily) from my own theater."

Living in London and Amsterdam broadened Guthrie's artistic avenues, and with the encouragement and support of several established artists, he was able to pursue his real talent, painting. He presented several successful shows in Amsterdam, where his "demented" art "with Pagan tendencies" was evidently perfectly acceptable.

But life never works out as planned, and just as his art career takes off; his marriage takes a dive. The resulting confusion and despair managed to shoot holes in Guthrie's self-confidence and career plans. Refusing to give up on his marriage he let his wife dabble in extramarital affairs that only served to drive him further into despondency.

And like many of us from the heady 60s, Guthrie tried to find solace in drug abuse. His story reverberates for those of us who have intimate knowledge of the ego wrenching insecurities such abuse encourages. The downward spiral can lead to disaster, but alas Guthrie was lucky to have many friends who were there to help.

In Amsterdam, Guthrie was fortunate to cross paths with Kees Hoekert and Jasper Grootveld, two of the most interesting characters to grace the canals of that beautiful city. He stumbled upon Kees' canal boat one frozen winter night, and was graciously offered accommodation and warm Dutch hospitality, including copious amounts of Dutch wiet (weed), which it turns out is Kees' and Jasper's ongoing preoccupation.

Guthrie unexpectedly stumbled upon the nascent Dutch cannabis scene, a by-product of the Provo movement. The Provo movement led to reforms and a change in government which liberalized Dutch society, making it possible for marijuana to be grown, sold and consumed without fear of incarceration or ostracism. His newfound friends are now legends in cannabis history and Guthrie's stories about them only add to the legends.

Being around the wholesale cannabis trade inevitably led Guthrie to meet and befriend quite a number of drug smugglers. His tell-tale trail leads us to Morocco, where he and his estranged wife help free five drug smugglers including his wife's lover. The story is replete with Berbers, kif, hashish, decadent Tangier, bribing judges and dreadful Moroccan prisons.

In his memoir, AsEverWas, Guthrie reveals a fascinating tale of Beat/Hippie life including free love, drugs, smugglers and the incredibly creative art milieu of the period. His encounters with the legends from that period are some of the highlights of the book. His reflections and insights into his own life are deep and meaningful, reflecting the prevailing anomie many of us felt during that period of social change.

As a beat-influenced scribe, Hammond Guthrie does that cohort justice, with an easy and breezy writing style. Not unlike a "young Kerouac" as he was once described. In fact, AsEverWas is an important work, connecting a lot of counter-culture dots, yielding a psychedelic collage of people, events and ideas that inspired a generation.

Added: July 21st 2003
Reviewer: Skip Stone | See all reviews by Skip Stone
Category: Book

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AsEverWas: Memoirs of a Beat Survivor
Posted by parish_ on 2003-09-13 01:25:19   My Score:
It is interesting to read the commentaries of people that are not totally washed over by the thought consciousness of the USA from the Beat Generation until this "Wannabee Hippy Movement." Skip Stone writes in his other articles the beginnings of the Hippy Era, and it seems as if the entire endeavor was another American Invention. Well it was not. I am a Canadian, and although throughout my childhood I lived all overt the USA and parts of Mexico I can tell you a substanial sub culture flourished, in Germany, in great Britain and in Canada. With the proximity of hte USA to the Canadian Border it was well known that we too flourished in our part of these immergent aculturations. I spoke to Skip Stone about the self sufficent and only University of its type to form during these years, whether he had discussed its nature and importance in any of his 1960s and "How it Began," books his uniquivical answer was, "No." he'd only covered the USA, they were after all the most important. I ask anyone reading this review to go to a good search engine, i.e., Google or anyone and type in Rochdale College, then read the many links that will pop up. As for Skip Stone's regard for Freedom of Speech and differences of thought, he is totally fallacious in his declarations. He is the Webmaster of this site, however as such and as it is the case in many a human being his power has gone directly to bloating his ego. Unfortunately he makes the rules up as he goes. Therefore if you run across this article before you join and send him a $10.00 donation in US dolars beware. I gave three years of my life to this site, in the way of articles, reviews, helping other members, answering tough questions, eventually becoming a moderator, etc. However in the end this meant nothing because Skip Stone does not care of what free qualities you possess are, you must atune yourself to his. In the wake of this he Banned another Moderator and almost Banned one other woman who simply asked where I had disappeared. I was liked despite what Mr. Stone declares after the action. I was good at my job, I just rubbed his too big for his self defining ego to let me stay. I was not notifyied, therefore be forewarned that in the Guidelines here it states there will be warnings given, as a Moderator I gave them as Skip Stone ordered we do, when it came to him, he just Banned. Without warning or regard for "Free Speech." But back to the topic of this alternate life style. It was hard to describe. It was not centred around the USA. Canadians, Norse countries also fought primarily to help young men and sometimes their families to escape the draft. I assisted some ex-patriot members of the part of the Black Panther Party that was in Toronto because they were on the rolls for being draftable. We had various communes and an East Coast/ West Coast travel somewhat like that of the USA. Ours went between Vancouver on the West Coast and Toronto here on Lake Ontario. Our policies were harsh as I see them, we fell in line with the CIA, but then there was a more relaxed attitude in the cities, in the outlying countryside, for the establishment of these young Americans to begin families, and many stayed, despite the amnsety granted in the mid to late 1970's. We had our first "Love In," in Queen's Park," outside our Government Buildings in the early spring of 1967. Rochdale College a High Rise Tower was initially a part of the University of Toronto, and built specifically with this alternate life culture in mind. Although it ran independantly and eventually the "druggies," took over in a couple of years it flourished until the late 1970's. Many famous singers, musicians, artists and actors came from Canada, as part of this cultural alteration, as Canadians also had a so named Baby Boom after the Second World War. I wish I had the forum to write a longer treatise about this time in our lives, and the change that was not exclusively American, all I hope for is that is some curious soul will look for Yorkville Village+Toronto, and Rochdale College and try to glean an understanding of the immense undertakings that was done here as well as in the USA. Artisits to look at are: Pierre Trudeau-Prime Minister of Canada Joni Mitchell Neil Young Zalman Yanovsky David Clayton Thomas Dennie Doherty Dennis Lee-Children's Book Author and founding member of Rochdale College. Judith Merrill-Science Fiction Writer and Author Donald Sutherland-actor Link to- Two Monkeys or Dancing Monkeys @ earthlink.com and many others too numerous to write. Sincerley proud to be a Canadian PeaceNik. the women that used to be called, "prieztezz." Member from 2001 till July of 2003 when she was Banned Unfairly.

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