The Night Watch

The Night Watch was created in 1969.  Today I reflect on that image of four dark figures huddled around a candle, passing a smoking joint as they wait out the night.

Image of the painting titled "Night Watch"

Night Watch

In the days of hippiedome every mind-altering substance was explored. Never in the history of humanity had there been such a chance for mass revelation.

But in our innocence we failed to notice that for each of these mind-altering and psychedelic substances there is a gateway to that altered perception. An ally guards the gateway; and each psychedelic substance has its own ally. Call it a force field or an entity, it needs to be appeased or won over. If you are proven true by the ally you are allowed to pass across the abyss onto the shores of splendor. These allies are both fierce and extracting waiting to bag us soul and all if we fail to make the proper offerings.

In most societies shaman and visionary leaders guarded this psychedelic knowledge. But with our western sense of entitlement we ploughed through millennium of ritual and wisdom without a care or a guide to prepare the way. No wonder the whole psychedelic thing died in disillusionment as many of us found ourselves trapped by acts of silliness and greed and the foolish idea that we could take and give nothing in return.

“I just want to get loaded” was a sure chance that you would get loaded all right but not by what you were expecting. Mostly it was just dumb stupidity. For some of us it was the terrible consequences of the law. And once and while we miraculously stumbled on to a vision of self-enlightenment.

We forgot that you had to pay the price to make the crossing. Drug addiction is not the price. Addiction is what you get when you fail to pay the price. The price for the crossing is simple; you must offer a part of your self, a commitment to bring back a sliver of truth from those other worlds and to share the magic with the rest of us. In stories and myth it is the Prometheus gift. It is the return of the dragon hunter who has freed and brought home the maiden-mother of earth so that the crops will grow once again. It is the boon, the magic jewel, or a simple idea.

Instead we went for party, for pleasure, for need, for the release of pain, and we were doomed from the beginning to an empty journey. We were the “heroes of a thousand faces” who plunged into a failed quest, while wonderment was just beyond our reach.

We were so close to the divine and we blew it. We even had the act itself at our fingertips and I do not mean the smoking weed but the act of passing that sacred smoke to each other. It was the eucharist, the gift, the treasure, the sharing and the receiving of the sacred message of the gods.

Image of detail from the painting titled "Night watch"

Detail from the painting titled “Night Watch”

The Night Watch is dedicated to the Louie Kelly’s, the Lane Wooden’s, and the Ron Denend’s of Topanga Canyon and all those who huddled at the edge of that dark precipice waiting for the coming of the dawn.

Note: You may also enjoy the latest update on the construction of the Mushroom Wedding Arch at:

And of course comments are always welcome.


American Armageddon

painting titled: American Armageddon  (full view)

American Armageddon (full view)

American Armageddon was created as a billboard. In 1969 was mounted on the garage of our rented house along side of the road that ran a short way into the mountains. There was not a lot of traffic but it soon became a small sensation with people driving up the road to view it.

Unfortunately an early and very cold winter snapped the polyester resin coating and moisture caused the artwork to  warp. The work was moved to the local bar in the canyon where it hung on the wall of the pool room for several years. The large round hole looks like a pool ball  punched a hole in the resin and the small hole was probably created by a pool cue.

The work was created with Koh-I-Noor ink, acrylic paint and resin on pasteboard laminated on plywood and, unfortunately, coated with polyester resin. Over the years the resin has begun to yellow. The dimensions inside the frame are 4 x 8 feet.

Later I was a reluctant hippy on the fringe of society.  We watched our leaders being blown away one by one with the assassination Martin Luther King,  Malcolm X,  John Lennon and all the accidental deaths of the witnesses of the Kennedy assassination. While we thought we were safe because we had dropped out of society, the first sign that there was a movement against hippydom was the conversion of the alternative FM radio stations.

In those early years of FM radio, the  bandwidth had opened up and a number of new FM stations began playing half hour tracks of the Doors and the Beatles without commercial interruption or the insipid three-minute songs. Those new FM stations were like the Internet of today, broadcasting love-ins  protests and marches and where to go to take part in those events. That information slowly faded away but first there was  the poison slipped in between the songs.

Hippydom was more than just dropping out and turning on. It was a vast revolution of the mind, an exploration into alternative ways of thinking and values. Not all the experiments worked and for all the judgment and hippier-than-thou-ness it was still based on the optimism that humankind could move from consumption and exploitation to hope and creativity.

So when these radio stations which we trusted as our beacons in the void began broadcasting advertisements for banking and same old rhetoric of the early monetization of everything, we knew it was over and that we had been sold out.

Painting titled American Armageddon (detail of top center view)

American Armageddon (detail: top center view)

Painting titled: American Armageddon (detail lower center view)

American Armageddon (detail lower center view)

Painting titled: American Armageddon (detail upper view right)

American Armageddon (detail upper view right)

Painting titled: American Armageddon (detail upper view right)

American Armageddon (detail lower view right)

Painting titled: American Armageddon (detail lower center view)

American Armageddon (detail center view)

Painting titled: American Armageddon (detail lower screen left view)

American Armageddon (detail lower screen left view)