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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Albert Hoffman, Fly in Peace

photo from CBC News

Albert Hoffman, the Swiss chemist who discovered LSD in 1938, died this past Tuesday. As inventors go, I'd rank him with Edison and the Wright brothers who brought us light and flight.

Thanks Dr. Hoffman for enabling me to see all the conventions of my life in the center of a Hostess cupcake I rolled in my hand. Thanks for giving me the lens to watch a pelican fly overhead and recognize its pitch-perfect line in the universe's poem. Thanks for empowering my ears to hear a stormy day bathe in sunlight as Layla poured out of the record player. I know you meant it for medicine and not for tie dyed frolics (let alone how the CIA used it), but I considered your invention the most amazing elixir under a throbbing sun for a transmigrant from Yeshiva.

Even though the terror-lined passageways multiplied over the years, I'll never forget the marlmalade skies. For those of us who can't get our legs into a lotus position or stop swatting at mental mosquitoes when attempting to meditate, you gave us a view from the mountaintop and a glorious taste of transcendence.

"Young At Heart"

Last night we saw Young At Heart, a very entertaining documentary about a chorus of old folks whose repertoire is rock songs. The average age of these singers is 80, so as they belt out numbers from Sonic Youth to Springsteen, they also deal with memory lapses and mortality issues. One solos a Coldplay tune with an oxygen tank hooked into his nose.

There was one scene in particular, that makes this real-life documentary unforgettable. One morning - just before they are off to a gig at a prison - they find out that a member of their troupe has passed away the night before. They give a blistering performance, starting with Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" that utterly charms and disarms a skeptical bunch of prisoners in their yard. Before their last number, they reveal that one of their members has died and dedicate the song to him. As they sing Dylan's "Forever Young" the camera pans the audience one by one, and their emotions are visceral.

Forever Young
May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.