You may make Hologram JPB. He would think it was funny.
You may make Hologram JPB. He would think it was funny.
The handsome guy in the middle was John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr., and he would have been looking at his 60th birthday were he alive. Probably would have been president, if he hadn’t driven off any bridges. When he was a teenager, he was a little asshole, so his mother sent him out to the Bar-Cross Ranch for the summer. Just like another teenage asshole we know. Sometimes, boys need some coaching up. Barlow put ’em all to work. Always work to do on the ranch.
The blonde was his wife, Carolyn Besette-Kennedy. She was in the airplane that Junior didn’t quite know how to fly.
If you told John Perry Barlow that famous people were talking about computers, he would say to you, “Let me get my neckerchief.”
Regardless of its Swiss birth, LSD is an American drug, which means there is an East Coast history and a West Coast history.
Timothy Leary was a psychologist and teacher at Harvard. He and a man named Richard Alpert had access to psychedelics and a house so fancy it had a name. The men were academics, so they started an academic journal. They wrote at length about the soul. There were retreats. Meditation. O, the lectures. They took their psychedelics pseriously. Richard Alpert, who was from Newton, Massachusetts, even adopted a Holy Foreign Name, which is the ultimate White Guy On Acid move.
Out West, a redneck novelist stole a shitload of Goofy Juice from the CIA and bought a school bus, which he and his friends used to bother people all across the country. There were no retreats on the West Coast; the West Coast went furthur. There were parties, where famous journalists were lied to, and there was a house band.
Everybody got busted just the same, though.
John Perry Barlow knew Bill S. Preston, Esquire.
(Before anyone starts piping up in the Comment Section about one of the randos is a famous tech billionaire: I don’t care. Fuck all of ’em.)
Hey, don’t judge: I’m sure some of your friends have committed treason, too.
This one, you may judge. You may judge the shit out of this bullshit.
The white-haired fellow on the left is Daniel Ellsberg. Nixon tried to have him assassinated a few times, but Nixon tried to have everyone assassinated a few times. The guy next to JPB is Joan Cusack’s brother.
Listen, this is gonna come out racist, but I don’t give a shit: is that woman wearing native garb? And if so: did Santana force her to?
“Put on your native garb.”
“I was just gonna wear my jeans, Carl–”
“Never deny Santana!”
And so on.
All the computer nerds and freedom fetishists have tried to claim Barlow today, but fuck ’em. He’s ours. He was ours first.
He died in his sleep, because men who live morally get to die in their sleep.
That’s not true at all.
John Perry Barlow was born in 1947, to Mormons. The West is full of Mormons, and Wyoming is in the West, and the Bar Cross Ranch is in Wyoming. You grow things on a farm, but you raise things on a ranch. The Barlows raised cattle. John Perry Barlow was a cowboy. He was first educated in a one-room schoolhouse, because you cannot tell a cowboy story without a one-room schoolhouse, and then his parents sent him off to a prep school in Colorado. There, he met a skinny kid named Bobby.
My father went that way, too. Sick, sick, sick, and then he woke up dead, having been no better or worse the night before.
I wonder if it happens during a dream.
The skinny kid, Bobby, comes out to the Bar Cross Ranch to spend the summer of 1963. He and Barlow ride horses, punch doggies, there are rope tricks involved. It’s the single most important summer in Bobby’s life; part of him is still there.
John Perry Barlow wrote this, while drunk at a party in Switzerland, in 1996:
Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.
The Governments of the Industrial World, upon reading John Perry Barlow’s words, chuckled and said, “You’re adorable,” and sent the Secret Police to computer classes.
Those are the opening lines to A Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace. Takes balls to write a Declaration, plus a certain social status. If you write a Declaration in a shack in the woods, then everyone’s going to call it a Manifesto.
The boy shows promise. Wesleyan, where he studies Comparative Religion and writes poetry and serves two terms as Student Body President. Spends his weekends sitting cross-legged in mansions with Tim Leary. Accepted to Harvard Law, and wins a book contract based on a few chapters of a novel. Turns down Harvard, takes the advance, fucks off to India, never turns in the book.
The doctors can keep you alive if you are willing to let them hurt you.
It is 1971. John Perry Barlow, who was born and raised in the West, in Wyoming, is living in New York City. He is dealing cocaine. He is shooting cocaine. He is armed, and almost certainly wearing his cowboy hat. The skinny kid from the ranch has joined a band, and they are playing right outside the city in Port Chester, at the Capitol Theater. No one in the band could write lyrics, at least not well, and so they had given the job to a poet the guitarist knew. At first, the arrangement worked, but then the skinny kid started coming up with songs and needed words, but he and the poet didn’t get along. The skinny kid and the poet had an argument backstage at one of the shows, and then the poet turned to the coke dealer in the cowboy hat, who’d been hanging around all week getting on everyone’s nerves, and said,
“You wrote poetry in college, right?”
John Perry Barlow said that he had.
“Great. He’s yours.”
And he was.
He was engaged to a woman named Cynthia Horner, who died in her sleep, too. She was 29, and on an airplane. Some people are born with broken hearts.
In 1972, John Perry Barlow went back to the ranch. His father was dying. He had been to Wesleyan, and Millbrook, and India and Europe and Africa, and New York City. Hollywood, too, but he went back to the West, back to Wyoming and the Bar-Cross Ranch, and that’s where he stayed for a good long while. Don’t get me wrong: JPB would jet off to Paris to hang out with Jackie Onassis on the weekends, but he spent most of his time punching them doggies.
That the internet is a space ungovernable by fleshy authority, where one is guaranteed both inviolable anonymity and absolute freedom of speech, is not axiomatic. It is not mathematical. It’s precisely the view of the internet you might expect from a Wyoming rancher who identified politically–depending on who was asking–as Republican, libertarian, or anarchist.
I wonder what independence in cyberspace would have looked like to a city-dwelling socialist.
Well past the age when he should have known better, Barlow liked to punctuate his arguments by firing his pistol into the air (if he were outside) or into the floorboards (if he were inside). He still got invited to parties.
It would be a finer world had he been right about the internet.
There’s a band out on the highway. Everybody’s dancing.
John Perry Barlow died today.
And THE LORD created man, and when He was done, man worshiped and made thanks and had several questions.
“Do we have speed?”
THE LORD said that man did not.
“Are we strong?”
THE LORD said that man was not.
“Where are our claws?”
THE LORD’s head is the size of America, and His shoulders are each like oceans. He shrugged them and said,
“No claws. I gave you thumbs, though.”
“You gave them to gorillas, too.”
THE LORD said,
“So I did. So I did.”
And man did list off so many useful traits to be born with: eyesight like a hawk, or a nose like a bloodhound; skin like a rhino, or skin like a cuttlefish; venom like a snake, or poison like a frog.
THE LORD shrugged His shoulders once more.
And man said,
“Then what have You given us?”
THE LORD said,
And then He took no further questions.
The man dies before the name;
The debt outlives them both.
American death, man:
That shit’ll run ya.
Out of pocket before too long.
We can cure you wholesale.
Is the ranch in your name?
What’s in your name?
Whatever you’ve got,
You don’t need.
But what you have,
You don’t want.
Let’s make a deal:
How much for another year?
Lock these prices in now before the holidays.
Sign over all those cattle,
Or you could maybe sell the car.
Do you have a friend with money?
Or a hat and a guitar?
Well, if you didn’t have the cash,
then who told you to get old?
Here’s the irony of being in the Grateful Dead: you never got to go to a Grateful Dead show. There were 20,000 people in the arena dancing, but there were five or six guys (and Mrs. Donna Jean) who were at their jobs. For us to play, they had to work. Think about it: the Dead were the only people in the building that had to be doing a specific thing. You could dance, or lie down, or get tackled by Parish; hell, you could walk out and go get ice cream if you wanted to. Our temporary autonomy was a direct result of their contractual obligation.
It’s the gilded cage scenario, sure, but a locked door is a floater in your eye: once you know it’s there, you’re always going to notice it. There’s backstage, but that’s friends and hangers-on and drug dealers and record company assholes and stone-cold teen foxes; sometime you just have to dive into a crowd of strangers and wade around, maybe buy a t-shirt or a corn dog.
But how? A Grateful Dead would draw a crowd, especially in a Grateful Dead crowd, and that’s not the point of the parking lot: you want to see and be seen, not be gawked at. The Deadheads would mean well, and they would say lovely things and offer lovely drugs, but on a clear and hot summer day, you just want to glide down Shakedown, nice and smooth, and leave no wake.
Trickery was to be employed.
That photo is from the parking lot of Ventura in ’87; look at the skeleton’s eyes: that’s our Bobber. He thought the best way to remain inconspicuous was dressing up in a skeleton costume while standing next to a man dressed like a riverboat gambler. I’d like to think that everyone knew it was Bobby and was just polite about it, and pretended that they were fooled.
Bobby has picked his band members well, because several years ago Young John Mayer did this exact routine, except he filmed it and put it on his MTV show. (You forgot he had an MTV show, didn’t you?)
That’s John in the grizzly bear suit. Later on, he made love to that woman and recorded it. You must never, ever listen to that recording.
On the other hand:
“Hey, fuckers! It’s me! Who wants to tell me how great I am!?”
“All right, you’ll all get a chance. Line up, line up.”
“Billy, I love you. You’re the best.”
“I am! Here’s some rolling papers. Next!”
“I named my dog after you, Billy.”
“That’s great, kid. Here’s some rolling papers. Next!”
And so on.
(Photo stolen from a Reddit–and that place has become an unwashed asshole except for some of the smaller and more specific subs–user named Sirsnackpack, who I don’t believe is actually a knight. I think he’s just Mistersnackpack, and he’s trying to sound fancy.)
John Perry Barlow, TotD is glad to report, posted this pic of himself with Bobby and a fellow named Lucas Autry Nelson, who may or may not be related to any of the famous people he shares names with. JPB reports that they are writing some new cowboy songs for Bobby to bother the drummers with.
Any tweet from John Perry Barlow brings a smile to my face because, if you add up all the minutes, he was dead for around an hour this year. Happily, it never took.
There’s been a bunch of Downfall parodies made during this exhausting year with the Dead Or What’s Left Of It and I may have posted one, but that’s it.
I enjoy the meme when it’s well-written, and I have fun speculating on the backstories of Yodel and Krebbs*, and as you may have guessed, I’ve always agreed with Mel Brooks about Hitler: funny. But most of them regarding the Dead have sucked.
This one, though: not only funny, but endorsed on Twitter by John Perry Barlow!