It’s 1969. AD. I’m 8 years old and happily ensconced all alone in the cozy confines of my downstairs game room where I’m playing pool and groovin’ (yes, groovin’) to Beatles music on our state-of-the-art Magnavox Quadraphonic stereo. I’m the best company a boy can have. And the beauty part is I’m never without me. And while I appreciate the company of other people, I especially like mine. I always seem to know exactly what I want to do and I never have to wait around for me to show up so I can do it. I’ve always been there for me. I have no choice. And being with myself in this special way (in the basement shooting pool and listening to the Beatles) was like a divinely choreographed yogic practice.
Sometimes the downstairs game room became my sacred subterranean sweat lodge. A place where I’d forget the world and remember myself. A place where sinking the 9-ball in the corner pocket would take on new meaning when set against the backdrop of John Lennon’s seductive lyrics, “I’d love to tuuurn yooou ooon.” Here in this sacred little kingdom I began to resonate with the background radiation of the universe. Tucked so serenely beneath the predictable tumult of a chattering world, life’s challenges didn’t need to be overcome because they didn’t exist; having disappeared into the side pocket by a combination of my trusty pool cue and a satisfyingly eerie dose of A Day in the Life. This downstairs sanctuary became a swirling meditation of colliding spheres and enchanting sounds – a microcosm of the universe with me at the center of my own time zone. And, like an ordinary iceberg whose superficial display belies its unseen massivity beneath, you’d have no idea any of this exalted stuff was going on if you happened to be outside looking in.
When the ethereal opening strains of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds began to permeate the overly-paneled game room, I’m transported to (or reassume) that naturally happy place I remember from before. And like the uncontaminated soul I was, I just assumed everyone was familiar with this place. As an 8 year old you assume a lot of things and loving ubiquity is one of them. It’s a wonderful life when there’s nothing to fear. Judgments morph into cellophane flowers of yellow and green towering over your head. I was still open to the possibility of all things. Or should I say I wasn’t closed to the possibility of things yet. My hard case (aka my cranium) had not ossified sufficiently to block out the honeyed joy of my source. The Beatles helped me remember that place – the place I had left just 8 years earlier. Sgt. Pepper’s had a way of evoking that memory.
There was something so magical and mysterious about some of those Beatle songs. In a very cool and unintentional way they were pointing to a more substantial place. Not this clunky earth, which I admit is a great place if you’re suffering from RPS – Restless Penis Syndrome. But it still seems so makeshift and temporary – like some kind of put-up job for me to buy into and play my part. I can’t explain it (obviously). And I don’t know why I interpret it as I do. It’s not like I took any hallucinatory drug (unless you count a couple sleeves of Oreo’s). There was nothing cross-wired in my head beyond a preternatural urge to rediscover that power behind the curtain. Put another way; as welcomed as my mother’s corned beef hash and eggs were (and they were f*ckin’ awesome) no earthly attraction could contend with the calling of a million suns yearning to radiate from my pineal gland. Y’know, that place just behind where the Hindus put that red dot. Well they put it there for a reason.
The Beatles spiritually incendiary songs didn’t seem to be so much created, as they were plucked whole from a vast ocean of shared experience and presented as the sonic essence of the unseen multiverses at work – not an easy thing for a thin vinyl disc to do. Circling the pool table with what seemed like the cunning mastery of a seasoned pool shark, I absorbed the insistent musical expressions of those Liverpudlian minstrels and felt clothed in the immense power of a warm and knowing presence.
So all this is going on in my head while I’m stroking billiard balls on my grandfather’s pool table. The green felt pool table we inherited when he died in 1969. Shoot pool and grove to the vibe. It’s all I wanted to do. It’s all I needed to do – I didn’t need to Turn On, Tune In and Drop Out. I didn’t need to Be Here Now. I Was There Then. I knew. I remembered.
After a spell, this tendril of easy rapture would retreat. And in various turns I’d try to recall it, like those colorful snowfalls I remembered from the other place. Back within the klutzy confines of monochromatic earth I was crestfallen to see white snowfallen. Especially when I knew the colorful snowflakes were just a click away. After a rousing session of enlightening BeatlesPool in the downstairs kiva, I loathed to reenter the bumptious outside world of drama, calamity and silly people who run around and disagree and never win and wonder why they don’t get past my door. From where I reposed in the buoyant joy of my downstairs amniotic sac, it was getting better all the time. All else was either intrusive or a pale imitation of what it could be. But it was the only game in town – at least the town of Syracuse where I lived.
My downstairs basement (as opposed to the upstairs basement) was, at times, a serene and contemplatively glorious Walden Pond where I played Walden Pool. With enough Oreos I could hold out there all night. I’d groove to the grooves on the 331⁄3 rpm LPs I stacked one atop another. I felt supremely alone and yet totally connected – the sublime contradiction undressed. My brother or sister might come home from a night out. They’d bound down the stairs and I’d see their whole experience before me while my sonic séance was unfolding in the sanctum of my groovy grotto. I inherently understood their scene (their concerns, their loveliness, our shared experience being in the same family). It wasn’t the 8 year old that knew this, but rather the soul (call it what you will) within that understood it all while it revolved at 331⁄3 rpms.
I was fairly pure back then and seeing things as they were wasn’t anything I tried to do – it was just done. Inherent. As time marched on I accreted the obfuscating rime of everyday life – its praises, its patterns, its reproofs – and the next thing you know old Jed’s a millionaire. That’s not exactly what I meant to say, but you know what I mean. You can fill in the blanks. Remember them? I know you do. It’s twilight. You’re in a small body looking out the window at all the colorful snowflakes falling from the sky. Your dad pulls into the driveway. There’s an outline of presents in the back seat. Presents for everyone. Your best angels are right there and you remember yourself.
Anyway it’s something like that. Be happy I (or anyone else) can’t describe transcendence in its full dimensional clarity – it’s better than that. Its grace to be savored and experienced, not understood through direct observational perception. It’s that thing you forgot you knew. But don’t worry. Don’t ever worry. The amnesia is only temporary. Meanwhile how about a game of pool? I’ll put on some records. I’ve got’em on mp3 now. And no talking. We’ll just shoot billiards and listen to the waves on Walden Pool.