[SUNDAY LECTURE NO. 9] “The Case For The Watershed As An Organizing Principle” by Freeman House

Freeman House is a former commercial salmon fisher who has been involved with a community-based watershed restoration effort in northern California for more than 25 years. He is a co-founder of the Mattole Salmon Group and the Mattole Restoration Council. His book, Totem Salmon: Life Lessons from Another Species received the best nonfiction award from the San Francisco Bay Area Book Reviewers Association and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award for quality of prose. He lives with his family in northern California.”

That’s the biographical note for Freeman House on the Lannan Foundation website. We would add that earlier in his life, Freeman edited Innerspace, a mid-1960s independent press magazine for the nascent psychedelic community; presided over the marriage of Abbie and Anita Hoffman at Central Park on June 10, 1967; and was a member of both New York City’s Group Image and the San Francisco Diggers.

This is the ninth lecture in this series. This series ran previously on this site in 2010-11, and is being rerun now because it’s the right thing to do.


The Case For The Watershed As An Organizing Principle

by Freeman House

[I’ve rarely given a talk in circumstances more alien to my life experience. This talk was presented a roomful of county and state bureaucrats charged with implementing a five-county wetlands protection and restoration effort. The five counties were the southwestern-most part of California, stretching from Santa Barbara to San Diego, a part of the state that makes me feel like I’m in a foreign country. As if to accentuate the weirdness, the luncheon was held at Sea World, a theme park in San Diego.]

I’ve had quite a bit of time to puzzle about what qualifies me to be here. I feel a little like a visiting diplomat or more accurately, an anthropologist dropping into a whole other culture. Up in the backwoods of northern California, where I come from, we tend to think of ourselves as living in Alta California. Los Angeles and San Diego seem like another place, although they shouldn’t, considering that the voters around here determine a lot of what goes on in the state of California. Which is where I live regardless of the fact that it’s much easier for me and my comrades to think of ourselves as part of the Klamath Province.

I have worked at watershed restoration for 20 years, but in a drainage where there are no dams, and where there are still three species of a wild salmon population holding on. An eighth of the land base is managed benignly by the federal government as the King Range National Conservation Area, another eighth not so benignly by corporate timber interests, and the rest is held either in ranches or private smallholdings. It has a human population density of less than ten folks per square mile. Not too many similarities. And most of the people in this room probably know more about wetlands biology than I do.

Since it was a book I wrote that inspired the organizers to invite me and the book, Totem Salmon, is mainly about attempts to invoke a new (or rather very old) kind of community identity that lives within the constraints and opportunities of the place it finds itself, that’s what I’ll go ahead and talk about.

It could be my best credentials for being here today is the fact that I was born in Orange County. The earliest memories are of my first five years spent at my grandparents’ home in Anaheim, pre-Disneyland. Set in the middle of town, I had two acres to run in haphazardly planted to oranges and lemons and avocados, and for a long time that Edenic space was my model for paradise. Each weekend, we’d drive in my grandfather’s 1935 Buick sedan for maybe ten minutes to a local farm to buy our week’s supply of eggs and milk and vegetables. When we extended our drive to visit Aunt Florence in Pomona, we drove through 60 unbroken miles of commercial orange groves, another image of paradise. I’m revealing my age when I tell you that the air was wonderful, the light incredible.

Since then, I’ve learned something about the settlement of contemporary Anaheim. The existence of Anaheim is entirely dependent on 19th-century amateur efforts in social and physical engineering. Hard as it may be to believe when trying to find the freeway exits to Anaheim today, it was largely settled in the 1860s by polyglot groups of urban utopians who had few of the skills required for the kinds of agriculturally-based communitarian paradigms they were pursuing.

One thing was clear to all of them, however, and that was that their dreams were dependent on importing water to the arid lands they hoped would support them. Continue reading

OUT, DEMONS, OUT!: The 1967 Exorcism of the Pentagon and the Birth of Yippie! (Arthur, 2004)

This piece was originally published in Arthur No. 13 (Nov. 2004), with cover artwork by John Coulthart and design by William T. Nelson, pictured above (click image to view at larger size). A correction involving Cosmic Charlie published in a later issue has been embedded in the text here at the most natural point. I’m sorry that I’ve been unable to include the many fantastic photographs from the print article here. However, I have added a still from the film “Will the Real Norman Mailer Please Stand Up” by Dick Fontaine, which we did not have access to at the time of print publication into the text, and there are more stills from various films appended. —Jay Babcock

Clip from Arthur No. 13’s Table of Contents page, featuring photo by Robert A. Altman.


On October 21, 1967, the Pentagon came under a most unconventional assault.

An oral history by Larry “Ratso” Sloman, Michael Simmons and Jay Babcock

* * *

By Autumn of 1967, the “police action” in Vietnam had escalated. The United States of America waged War—that hideous manifestation of the human race’s worst instincts—against the small, distant, sovereign land. 485,600 American troops were then stationed in Nam; 9,353 would die in ’67 alone. We were there under false pretenses (the “attack’ at the Gulf of Tonkin that never happened), operating under a paranoid doctrine (the Domino Theory, fretting that Vietnamese Communists fighting a civil war in their own country with popular support would envelop all of Southeast Asia and end up invading Dubuque, Iowa). Seven million tons of bombs would eventually be dropped, as opposed to two million during World War II. Indiscriminate use of gruesome weaponry was deployed, most infamously napalm, a jelly that sticks to—and burns through—human skin. Saturation bombings, free-fire zones, massive defoliation with the carcinogen Agent Orange. “Destroying the village to save it,” as one American military man put it.

For a generation that remembered the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals after WW II, something had to be done. Genocidal fugitive Adolf Eichmann’s “I was just following orders” excuse would not fly. The draft was sending 18-year-olds off to die. A domestic anti-war movement emerged, as had a counterculture of hairy young people who rejected the militarism, greed, sexual repression, and stunted consciousness of their parents and leaders to pursue Joy and Sharing as well as Dope, Rock and Roll, and Fucking in the Streets. Pundits spoke of The Generation Gap. A quaking chasm had split the nation.

San Francisco painter Michael Bowen had a dream of people coming together to celebrate his city’s burgeoning hippie subculture, and so he and his wife Martine initiated the Great Human Be-In on Sunday, January 14, 1967. Sub-billed as A Gathering of the Tribes, 10,000 hippies, radicals and free spirits convened in Golden Gate Park. Beat poets emceed (Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Lenore Kandel), rock bands rocked (Grateful Dead, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Charlatans), Hell’s Angels returned lost kids to their mommies – and the cops busted no one, despite rampant open marijuana use. For many, the realization that there were other Martians was transcendental. Berkeley anti-war activist Jerry Rubin gave a speech, but his narrow political rap was dubbed “too histrionic” by Ginsberg and many in the crowd. It fortuitously forked Rubin’s direction. “It was the first time I did see a new society,” he said later. “I saw there was no need for a political statement. I didn’t understand that until then, either.”

Events ending with the suffix “In” became the rage. Bob Fass hosted the hippest radio show in the country, “Radio Unnameable” on New York’s WBAI. The all-night gab-and-music fest was Freak Centra, functioning as a pre-internet audio website. Regular guests included Realist editor Paul Krassner (dubbed “Father of the Underground Press”), underground film director Robert Downey Sr. (father and namesake of…), actor/writer Marshall Efron (arguably the funniest man on the planet), and a manic activist-gone-psychedelic named Abbie Hoffman—all rapping madly, verbally riffing and improvising like musicians. One night after participating in a UsCo avant-garde multi-media show of projections, movies, music, etc., at an airplane hangar, Fass stopped by nearby JFK International Airport and noticed a group of three dozen young people—clearly ripped to the tits—communally entranced by a giant mobile centerpiecing a terminal. The vast open spaces of an airport, with jet planes and stars in the sky, were the stage for dreams to come to life. Fass flashed on the infinite possibilities.

He conceived a Fly-In at JFK and announced it on Radio Unnameable. Though Saturday night, February 11, was freezing cold, 3,000 of the underground’s finest came to sing Beatles songs, torch reefers, dance the body electric, and groove with their sisters and brothers. “One of the things that happened,” Fass observed, “was that there was such a colossal amount of human connection that there was something akin to feedback that happened, and people really began to experience not ‘happiness,’ but Ecstasy and Joy. We’re planning another one at your house.”

New York responded to San Francisco’s Be-In with its own. Key to its success was Jim Fouratt, a young actor who’d become one of the most effective hippie organizers on the Lower East Side. Promotion for the event cost $250, which paid for posters and leaflets. On Easter Sunday, March 27, 10,000 full and part-time hippies came together—some in the carnal definition—at Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. It was a glistening, no bad vibes, lysergic day. Fouratt was central to virtually every NYC hip community event, including the infamous Soot-In at Consolidated Edison, where he, Abbie Hoffman, and others dumped bags of nasty black soot at the coal burning, energy company’s offices, in a protest that prefigured and influenced the birth of the environmental movement.

Emmett Grogan was a brilliant and enigmatic prankster/con man at the heart of San Francisco’s do-goodnik anarcho-rogues the Diggers. He suggested to his friend Bob Fass that a Sweep-In would strengthen the momentum the Fly-In had sparked. The idea was to “clean up the Lower East Side” area of NYC where the hippies dwelled. Fass conspired with Krassner and Abbie and listeners on his radio show, and they chose Seventh Street, where Krassner lived. The buzz grew louder and one day an inquiring bureaucrat from the Sanitation Department called Radio Unnameable. The potentates of garbage at City Hall were nervous about these beatniks with brooms taking their gig. While appearing cooperative on the phone and in a later meeting, the city pranked the pranksters on the day of the Sweep-In, April 8. When thousands of mop-wielding longhairs appeared at 11 a.m., they beheld a garbage-free, sparkling fresh, squeaky clean street of slums—courtesy of the Sanitation Department. Fass and Krassner were amused that they’d actually forced the city to do its job. Unfazed, they moved the Sweep-In to Third Street. When a city garbage truck turned the corner, the street peeps leaped on it and cleaned it as well.

No single human—other than Tribal Elder Allen Ginsberg—was as influential on this emerging culture than Ed Sanders. He led the satirical-protest-smut-folk-rock band The Fugs with East Village legend Tuli Kupferberg, ran the Peace Eye Bookstore (and community center) on 10th Street, published Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts, made films like Mongolian Clusterfuck, wrote poetry, rabble roused for myriad peacenik causes and cannabis legalization. Sanders—one of the first public figures to live seamlessly within realms of Politics, Art, and Fun—was a first cousin to Che Guevara’s paradigmatic New Man—albeit thoroughly American and anti-authoritarian.

But the Life Actor who embodies the Revolutionary Prankster in 20th-century history books is Abbie Hoffman. And he is where our story begins…

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This is a slightly revised version of an article Gary Snyder wrote in 1961 called “Buddhist Anarchism” for a City Lights publication called Journal for the Protection of All Beings #1. This revised version was published in 1969 in Snyder’s Earth House Hold: Technical Notes and Queries to Fellow Dharma Revolutionaries.


Buddhism holds that the universe and all creatures in it are intrinsically in a state of complete wisdom, love and compassion; acting in natural response and mutual interdependence. The personal realization of this from-the-beginning state cannot be had for and by one-“self”—because it is not fully realized unless one has given the self up; and away.

In the Buddhist view, that which obstructs the effortless manifestation of this is Ignorance, which projects into fear and needless craving. Historically, Buddhist philosophers have failed to analyze out the degree to which ignorance and suffering are caused or encouraged by social factors, considering fear-and-desire to be given facts of the human condition. Consequently the major concern of Buddhist philosophy is epistemology and “psychology” with no attention paid to historical or sociological problems. Although Mahayana Buddhism has a grand vision of universal salvation, the actual achievement of Buddhism has been the development of practical systems of meditation toward the end of liberating a few dedicated individuals from psychological hangups and cultural conditionings. Institutional Buddhism has been conspicuously ready to accept or ignore the inequalities and tyrannies of whatever political system it found itself under. This can be death to Buddhism, because it is death to any meaningful function of compassion. Wisdom without compassion feels no pain.

No one today can afford to be innocent, or indulge himself in ignorance of the nature of contemporary governments, politics and social orders. The national polities of the modern world maintain their existence by deliberately fostered craving and fear: monstrous protection rackets. The “free world” has become economically dependent on a fantastic system of stimulation of greed which cannot be fulfilled, sexual desire which cannot be satiated and hatred which has no outlet except against oneself, the persons one is supposed to love, or the revolutionary aspirations of pitiful, poverty-stricken marginal societies like Cuba or Vietnam. The conditions of the Cold War have turned all modern societies—Communist included—into vicious distorters of man’s true potential. They create populations of “preta”—hungry ghosts, with giant appetites and throats no bigger than needles. The soil, the forests and all animal life are being consumed by these cancerous collectivities; the air and water of the planet is being fouled by them.

There is nothing in human nature or the requirements of human social organization which intrinsically requires that a culture be contradictory, repressive and productive of violent and frustrated personalities. Recent findings in anthropology and psychology make this more and more evident. One can prove it for himself by taking a good look at his own nature through meditation. Once a person has this much faith and insight, he must be led to a deep concern with the need for radical social change through a variety of hopefully non-violent means.

The joyous and voluntary poverty of Buddhism becomes a positive force. The traditional harmlessness and refusal to take life in any form has nation-shaking implications. The practice of meditation, for which one needs only “the ground beneath one’s feet,” wipes out mountains of junk being pumped into the mind by the mass media and supermarket universities. The belief in a serene and generous fulfillment of natural loving desires destroys ideologies which blind, maim and repress—and points the way to a kind of community which would amaze “moralists” and transform armies of men who are fighters because they cannot be lovers.

Avatamsaka (Kegon) Buddhist philosophy sees the world as a vast interrelated network in which all objects and creatures are necessary and illuminated. From one standpoint, governments, wars, or all that we consider “evil” are uncompromisingly contained in this totalistic realm. The hawk, the swoop and the hare are one. From the “human” standpoint we cannot live in those terms unless all beings see with the same enlightened eye. The Bodhisattva lives by the sufferer’s standard, and he must be effective in aiding those who suffer.

The mercy of the West has been social revolution; the mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both. They are both contained in the traditional three aspects of the Dharma path: wisdom (prajna), meditation (dhyana), and morality (sila). Wisdom is intuitive knowledge of the mind of love and clarity that lies beneath one’s ego-driven anxieties and aggressions. Meditation is going into the mind to see this for yourself—over and over again, until it becomes the mind you live in. Morality is bringing it back out in the way you live, through personal example and responsible action, ultimately toward the true community (sangha) of “all beings.”

This last aspect means, for me, supporting any cultural and economic revolution that moves clearly toward a free, international, classless world. It means using such means as civil disobedience, outspoken criticism, protest, pacifism, voluntary poverty and even gentle violence if it comes to a matter of restraining some impetuous redneck. It means affirming the widest possible spectrum of non-harmful individual behavior—defending the right of individuals to smoke hemp, eat peyote, be polygynous, polyandrous or homosexual. Worlds of behavior and custom long banned by the Judaeo-Capitalist-Christian-Marxist West. It means respecting intelligence and learning, but not as greed or means to personal power. Working on one’s own responsibility, but willing to work with a group. “Forming the new society within the shell of the old”—the IWW slogan of fifty years ago.

The traditional cultures are in any case doomed, and rather than cling to their good aspects hopelessly it should be remembered that whatever is or ever was in any other culture can be reconstructed from the unconscious, through meditation. In fact, it is my own view that the coming revolution will close the circle and link us in many ways with the most creative aspects of our archaic past. If we are lucky we may eventually arrive at a totally integrated world culture with matrilineal descent, free-form marriage, natural-credit communist economy, less industry, far less population and lots more national parks.

Gary Snyder


Came across this document in Issue No. 15 of the “Upriver/Downriver” newsletter, published sometime in the early ’90s, at that time edited by Freeman House and Seth Zuckerman. Sez there, “The manifesto was originally published in Mesechabe, the bioregional journal of the Mississippi Delta region.”

by Max Cafard


Here we cast anchor in rich earth.
Tristan Tzara, Dada Manifesto (1918)

“Just as the turtle cannot separate itself from its shell, neither can we separate ourselves from what we do to the earth.” —Ted Andrews

For our Mother the Earth, we set sail on Celestial Ships. Anchored in Erda, we ride the wind. For Gaia, we take flight, spreading terrifying Cafardic wings. No longer trembling at the emasculating, defeminizing sound: the Name of the Father. We re-member Mama. Papa dismembered Mama. We now re-call the suppressed Names of the Mother. Anamnesis for anonymous Inanna. A surre(gion)al celebration, a Manifestival for Mama Earth. This is dedicated to the One we love. For the One Big Mother, in her thousand forms, here it is: the Mama Manifesto (1989).

Principia Logica

Breton said “we are still living under the reign of logic.” Today this is true more than ever. Indeed, we are now living under the Acid Rain of Logic.

There are Logics and there are Logics. Eco-Logics, Geo-Logics, Psycho-Logics, Mytho-Logics, Ethno-Logics, Socio-Logics, Astro-Logics, Cosmo-Logics, Onto-Logics, Physio-Logics, Bio-Logics, Zoö-Logics, et cetera.

Yet all of these are transformed into subsets of the one universal Techno-Logic. Techno-Logic, the death of Truth. Techno-Logic, the enshrinement of Truth. The burying of Truth under a crushing burden—under a Wealth of Knowledge.

Authentic knowing requires the “search for Truth,” the pursuit of Truth, the chasing after Truth, the hunger and thirst for Truth, the following of Truth along all her devious paths of Logic, through her labyrinths of the Logics. It means climbing logical mountains, plunging to logical ocean bottoms, traversing an infinitude of unparalleled planes. The search for Truth means always allowing her escape.

Scrambling the Cosmic Egg

“The Region regions” said Heidegger the Egg-Hider, hiding his eggs. Edelweiss und Eselscheisse! Scion of a Scheisse-ridden race! Shyster Lawyer of Being! The “Region” does not “region.” It’s exactly the reverse. (For the Time Being).

Where is the Region, anyway? For every Logic there is a Region. To mention some of particular importance to us, the Surre(gion)alists: Ecoregions, Georegions, Psychoregions, Mythoregions, Ethnoregions, Socioregions, and Bioregions.

This is no joke! We are Bioregionalists only if we are Regionalists. And once we begin to think Regions, we discover a vast multiplicity. Of Regionalisms and Regions, of Regions within Regions, and Regionalisms within Regionalisms. Thus, Surre(gion)alism.

Regions are inclusive. They have no borders, no boundaries, no frontiers, no State Lines. Though Regionalists are marginal, Regions have no margins. Regions are traversed by a multitude of lines, folds, ridges, seams, pleats. But all lines are included, none exclude. Regions are bodies. Interpenetrating bodies. Interpenetrating bodies in semi¬simultaneous spaces. (Like Strangers in the Night).

Region is origin. It is our place of origin. Where all continues to originate. Origination is perpetual motion. Reinhabitation means reorigination. We return to our roots for nourishment. Without that return, we wither and die. We follow our roots and find them to extend ever deeper, and ever outward. They form an infinite web, so all-encompassing that uprooting becomes impossible and unthinkable, deracination irrational.

Regions are multiple and arbitrary. Techno-regionalism says, in a Techno-Rational rage for definition, that when less than 90% of the species of one defined area are present in another defined area, then each is a separate Bioregion. How Techno-Logical! How Scientific! Or so it sounds. For such a definition is entirely self-annihilating, and absurd in its very technicality. This is, of course, its beauty. It is entirely valid, if taken as part of the Science and Logic of the Absurd. An infinite number of Regions can be defined by such criteria. Occasionally the Region will run after a stray organism (calculator in hand). This is a hallucinogenic Logic. (Though it is seldom taken in this way—even in small doses).

The Region always suffers the danger of capture by Techno-Logic. But Science can also be captured by the Aesthetic. Thales, the first metaphysician and scientist, said “All is Water,” and thus became the first humorist, also. And Technics can also be captured by Erotics. (Fourier proposed a “New Amorous Order” in his Phalansteries, based on tactics of Utopian Technique.)

Off Center

The Region is the end of Centrism. Centrism is an obsession. Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with obsessions, as long as we know that we’re obsessed. Take, for example, Mr. Alan Fairweather, whose entire life revolves around his obsession with, study of, and consumption of potatoes. In Mr. Fairweather’s words:”I suppose you could say I have a potato-centric view of the world.” (Newsweek, 5/30/88.) But centrists are seldom so healthy.

Anthropo-centrism has been our world-champion Centrism. It’s come close to K.O.ing the Earth (a T.K.O.—a Technical Knock-Out). But it’s long been on the ropes. Astro-Logic knocked Anthropos off Cosmic center. Bio-Logic knocked him off Planetary center. Psycho-Logic even knocked him off Ego center. And Techno-Logic itself melts him into air. We hardly need any post-structuralist Post-Logic to “de-center” the vapor that remains.

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From the Upriver/Downriver newsletter Number 10, circa 1991…

“Things That Really Work”
by Gary Snyder


Without further rhetoric or utopian scheming, I have a simple suggestion that if followed would begin to bring wilderness, farmers, people, and the economies back. That is: don’t move. Stay still. Once you find a place that feels halfway right, and it seems time, settle down with a vow not to move any more. Then, take a look at one place on earth, one circle of people, on realm of beings over time, conviviality and maintenance will improve. School boards and planning commissions will have better people on them, and larger and more widely concerned audiences will be attending. Small environmental issues will be attended to. More voters will turn out, because local issues at least make a difference, can be won—and national scale politics too might improve, with enough folks getting out there. People begin to really notice the plants, birds, stars, when they see themselves as members of a place. Not only do they begin to work the soil, they go out hiking, explore the back country or the beach, get on the Freddies’ ass for mismanaging Peoples’ land, and doing that as locals counts! Early settlers, old folks, are valued and respected, we make an effort to learn their stories and pass it on to our children, who will live here too. We look deeply back in time to the original inhabitants, and far ahead to our own descendants, in the mind of knowing a context, with its own kind of tools, boots, songs. Mainstream thinkers have overlooked it: real people stay put. And when things are coasting along ok, they can also take off and travel, there’s no delight like swapping stories downstream. Don’t Move! I’d say this really works because here on our side of the Sierra, Yuba river country, we can begin to see some fruits of a mere fifteen years’ inhabitation, it looks good.

Gary Snyder: wikipedia

A little dream

From a 1996 Gary Snyder interview:

“The marks of Buddhist teaching are impermanence, no-self, the inevitability of suffering and connectedness, emptiness, the vastness of mind, and a way to realization.

“It seems evident that there are throughout the world certain social and religious forces that have worked through history toward an ecologically and culturally enlightened state of affairs. Let these be encouraged: Gnostics, hip Marxists, Teilhard de Chardin Catholics, Druids, Taoists, Biologists, Witches, Yogins, Bhikkus, Quakers, Sufis, Tibetans, Zens, Shamans, Bushmen, American Indians, Polynesians, Anarchists, Alchemists, primitive cultures, communal and ashram movements, cooperative ventures.

“Idealistic, these?” Snyder says when asked about such alternative ‘Third Force’ social movements. “In some cases the vision can be mystical; it can be Blake. It crops up historically with William Penn and the Quakers trying to make the Quaker communities in Pennsylvania a righteous place to live-treating the native peoples properly in the process. It crops up in the utopian and communal experience of Thoreau’s friends in New England.

“As utopian and impractical as it might seem, it comes through history as a little dream of spiritual elegance and economic simplicity, and collaboration and cooperating communally—all of those things together. It may be that it was the early Christian vision. Certainly it was one part of the early Buddhist vision. It turns up as a reflection of the integrity of tribal culture; as a reflection of the kind of energy that would try to hold together the best lessons of tribal cultures even within the overwhelming power and dynamics of civilization.”

courtesy Michael Sigman