Saturday, December 4, 2010
Reveries at the Aztec Cafe
So I'm sitting at the Aztec Cafe in Santa Fe, a coffeehouse was rather seminal in my transition from one paradigm to another, from Oklahoma preacher/University of Chicago grad student to wandering hippie-yogi-sadhu-freak. Upon my first venture hitchhiking, an endeavor I fashioned as a "pilgrimage" on the road, a leap of faith in no God in particular, an attempt to find out if trust in Divine providence and humanity was merited, I found my way to the Santa Fe International Hostel and the Aztec Cafe, and discovered a world I had not realized still existed. This was a door opened to the traveling hippie circuit, a world of post-modern gypsies and punks, Deadheads (just post-Grateful), dread-heads and mystics seekers of modern day America, something I had little clue had survived past the sixties and seventies.
After a mostly vegetarian Thanksgiving at the hostel, I spent my last five bucks at the Aztec, and encountered a collection of creative and exhuberant artists, traveling hippies and other colorful sorts, lively bohemian revolutionaries with hopes of transforming self and society. When I had set out from Oklahoma with my thumb extended in the middle of the night, less than two days previous, I had little clue that there were yet those with the impetus to explore outside of the norms of conventional propriety and societial norms. There were Rainbow hippie chicks braiding hemp, others plying pipes and beadwork, mohawks and dreadlocks and a mostly healthy community of self expressive individuals seeking some meaning beyond the thin veneer of American commercialism and capitalist desire, suburban malaise and conformist ways.
The license to freedom, and the encouragement of comrades to radical living, expanded consciousness, exploration of the realms of mind and spirit off limits by the standards of the world I had known. Here were people who had the strength to question the system, the desire for an experience of life unconstrained by conventional religion and social and economic expectations so heavily laid upon members of proper and conformist society. Though certainly there was some degree of dysfunction, something endemic to a society so seperated from nature and the ancient truths known to our ancestors, each and all, these were men and women of more than a couple of generations, young people and old, who were to some rather ecclectic degree united on continuing the sorts of change sought by the hippies and the beats, and revolutionaries of many ages and eras, and people endeavoring a creative and bold response to dysfunctions both societal and personal and familial.
I had encountered Deadheads in Oklahoma, as I would sometimes go to clubs in Norman where these ecstatic dancing freaky folk would cut loose to the vibes of cover bands, but especially in that part of the country, such people were a tiny minority in a sea of Bible-belt bullshit. Similarly in Laramie, closest to hometown I have known in this lifetime, there were a number of hippie--or as I called them at the time, "granolas," but had only come to the acquintance of these, again mostly through attending shows of cover bands at local bars. At the Aztec in those days, I found a concentration and concentrated version of the post-modern gypsie-hippie-freak world.
As I rolled into town last night, catching a ride from Antonito with an older hispanic man on his way to make deliveries towards Mexico (and I am assuming to return with other cargo), my first stop was to the Aztec. As I rounded the corner past the Cowgirl and started down Aztec Street, I was dismayed to see no light in the windows, and that as I approached the door, the sign noted this officially designated "Cutting Edge Art Space" is no longer open at night, indicated that at least to some degree, the scene has been subdued. Indeed, as with the first generation of hippies, things like family and economic necessity take hold, and seems only the die-hard maintain the full-blown ways and vibrance they knew in those wilder days. Nonetheless, these people continue to push society towards the transformation they sought whilst on the road, when young and youthfully excited at the newness of experiencing, the movement towards environmental sustainability, spiritual freedom and making life the artistic and exhuberant and wholistic experience it was meant to be has moved more mainstream than ever, and this movement was indeed given impetus from venues like the Aztec Cafe, coffeehouses having indeed always served as hotbeds of radical thinking, revolutionary spirit and transformational intention. And the young of today offer all the more promise.
Well, despite the limited hours of the Aztec Cafe on Aztec Street in Santa Fe, as I arrived this morning for my morning cup of black brew and a bagel (they were apparently out of the delightful almond croissants long my favorite), I saw many familiar faces, people I first met in those early days of my travels, and indeed they seem still of the same mind, if a bit older and some steeped in family life and even careers. And indeed, there is still plenty of impetus displayed towards seeing the changes and self-expressive, artistic spiritualistic exhuberant transformational means and modes I found so encouraging back in those days, the fall of 1996, and the beginnings of my personal pilgrimage to finding myself, and Self, Atman, the transformational seed of the Divine already extant in each and all, sometimes just needing a little attention and care to bear fruit, encouragement to grow and to manifest through each individually the beauty and power intrinsic to being and Being.