Wondrous tales of the hippie highway by Grateful Dead lyricist and internet pioneer Barlow.
The author died recently after a long series of illnesses that form a moody counterpart to the general anarchist fun of his memoir. That may be a good thing considering that the statute of limitations may not yet have run out for various of the hijinks he recounts here. The son of a prominent Wyoming rancher, Barlow was packed off to a Colorado prep school, where he met a classmate named Bob Weir, later to become renowned as a Dead’s guitarist and singer. Later, at Wesleyan, Barlow came into the orbit of Timothy Leary, who inducted him into the mysteries of LSD. These and many other confluences make for the narrative bones of a story that the author tells with zest and no small amount of self-congratulation—in part for having survived where so many others fell, such as pal Neal Cassady, who died of exposure in Mexico. “Exposure seemed right to me,” writes Barlow. “He had lived an exposed life. By then, it was beginning to feel like we all had.” A lysergic pioneer, Barlow initiated young John F. Kennedy Jr. into the cult; had the young man not died in a plane crash, as Barlow warned him it was all too easy to do, he might have changed the shape of American politics. The author was steeped in politics, renegade though he might have been; he was a friend of Sen. Alan Simpson, a sometime associate of Dick Cheney, and a confidant of Jackie Kennedy. The storyline is a bit of a mess, but so was Barlow’s life, the latter part of which was devoted to internet-related concerns. But he writes with rough grace and considerable poetic power, as when he describes a 1993 Prince concert: “the place was full of all these bridge and tunnel people who were swaying in their seats like kelp in a mild swell.”
A yarn to read, with pleasure, alongside Ringolevio and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.