Archive for March, 2012

A few months ago, I contacted my creative writing teacher from high school, Ms. Franke, who was and remains a fabulous teacher. Basically, I asked her if she would be okay with me teaching a creative writing lecture to her classes this quarter, on the subject of speculative fiction.

Basically, she said yes. And so, on a foggy Thursday morning, I got up in the hours of darkness, hitched a ride to Santa Cruz High with my mom, and arrived at my old high school…

The Fortress of Darkness.

The Seventh Pit of Hell.

The Palace of Rotating Knives.

Santa Cruz High School.

(Yep… can you tell that I didn’t have a very fun time when I was in high school?)

Anyway, I came to the doors of Ms. Franke’s new classroom (which was my Government teacher’s classroom when I was in high school), armed with three powerful weapons:

  • a pink cardboard box filled with eight dozen donut holes,
  • a folder filled with about sixty copies of Neil Gaiman’s poem, “The Day the Saucers Came”,
  • and my trusty Jayne Hat.

Sits sorta cunning, don't it?

Armed with these three tools, as well as my luck and my wits, I came into the Valley of Sorrow and Tears that is Santa Cruz High, and entered into darkness…

Or rather, I sat outside of Ms. Franke’s classroom for about twenty minutes until she showed up.

It was great to see her. Really, it was. I wasn’t aware of this, but Ms. Franke was surprised at how much older I looked. (Yeah, I know: I graduated high school two years ago. I blame the beard.*)

We had a nice conversation for the twenty minutes before class started, discussing such perennial subjects of interest as Michael Chabon and the divide between literary and genre fiction. She also asked me what I was writing, and I sort of evaded the subject, saying simply, “Oh, short stories, mostly. A lot of poetry, too.” I didn’t mention that the vast majority of my creative output was going towards my lame blog, because honestly, when I feel like writing for fun, then Axolotl Ceviche is the first place that I’ll go to put up my random bleatings and babblings.

The students filed in, one by one, somewhat glassy-eyed and sleepy-looking, but hey: I’m never at my best at 8:00 in the morning. In all honesty, I prefer to be unconscious until noon. But I had bolstered my wakefulness with some +3 Coffee of Eternal Hyperactivity, and I was ready. I had prepared myself well.

The first period class went along fine. What I tried to do with the students was to engage them in a discussion, rather than lecturing them. One of the things that I did was, essentially, ask them: “What do you think the definitions of SF and fantasy are?”

There were many interesting discussions to be had. Pretty early on, a student caught me using fancy twenty-dollar words that they done learned me at the univarsity, but when I realized that many of the students hadn’t been through the same sort of classes that I’d gone through where I learned my high-falutin’ vocab, I was able to modify my lecture to kind of talk more… well… plainly. We had a fascinating discussion about what it means for something to be SF or fantasy, and we went off on tangents (specifically, is Star Wars science fiction or fantasy?****)

Eventually we did a writing exercise: I asked them to write down a “What if?” question on a scrap of paper, and then placed the slips into a Jayne Hat. Then, we pulled out five questions, and voted on the three best questions. Then, everyone did a writing exercise (basically writing a piece of flash fiction) for twenty minutes based on that question.

Here were some of my favorite questions that people asked:

  • What if we had wings?
  • What if we could use technology to control our emotions?
  • What if you found the end of the rainbow?
  • What if oxygen was toxic?*****
By the end of the second period writing class, I felt like I was put through the wringer. For one thing, I had to be enthusiastic with the second-period class, which, while they had many good qualities, didn’t seem like they were very geeky. All the geeks seemed to be concentrated in the first period.*******
Furthermore, I was exhausted, physically and mentally: I tried to have a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and that’s not easy. For that, I should have drank more coffee. Or at least used some coffee with a higher enchantment bonus.
However, it was fun and exciting, and a few of the students who enjoyed it more than the others asked me about my own writing. So I mentioned this blog. If any of you are here from Ms. Franke’s Creative Writing classes, welcome. Feel free to leave comments below.********
As for me?
I headed home, watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, and fell asleep on the couch.
DAY WELL SPENT.*********
~ Ian

*Take note, young high schoolers who want to get crazy shitfaced: when you’re in a bar or restaurant, a good beard is more valuable a disguise than any fake ID**. Not that I would know of such things, being the morally-upright and outstanding citizen that I am.

**A good beard, mind you. You’re not going to get into a bar with just any kind of chin-pubes. You need it to be as lush and full as the Amazon rainforests. For those of you who are not capable of growing beards***, why not check out my line of Ian P. McJohnson’s Hirsute Helpers: #1 in Bearded Elegance? We have a variety of false beards, from the Rothfuss, to the Gimli, to the David Gilmour (circa 1977).

***This includes women. Just because your follicles are underperforming doesn’t mean that your beauty couldn’t be improved by a flowing, manly chin-wig. At the very least, it will help you pick up dwarf men in taverns.

****Pretty much everyone agreed that Star Wars was both. This surprised me, because I’d expected at least one person in the class to claim that it was SF.

*****Many of the students who chose to write on this prompt had all the people in the hypothetical society wearing masks. When I asked one student what the people in this universe breathed instead of oxygen, he said that he didn’t know.******

******Okay, fine: one person did state that the people in this universe breathed “sulfur”. I took this to mean that they breathed sulfur dioxide, and amused myself with a visual of a society of people with INCREDIBLY DEEP VOICES.

*******I had to explain to them what Doctor Who is. I WEEP FOR THE YOUTH OF TODAY.

********For those of you who were wondering about the books that I was talking about that none of you seemed to read, then here’s a list of some of them:

  • Dune, Frank Herbert
  • Neuromancer, William Gibson
  • The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation)
  • The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
  • A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. LeGuin
  • American Gods, Neil Gaiman
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein
  • Probably others that I can’t think of right now. (If you heard any books that you’re interested in, and you can’t remember the title, just tell me a description of the book and I’ll see if I can remember the name.)

*********Yes, I did go overboard on the footnotes in this post. Tough. It’s my blog. I’m driving.


I almost completely forgot today was Wednesday. Shows you how I’m kind of a spaz, especially when I have too much free time on my hands.

Anyway: Spring Break is going along like a long and comfortable bath. It’s warm and wet and soothing, and I don’t really want to get out, because it’s bitterly cold out there, and I’m not going to make it between the tub and the towels in time before I freeze my ass off.

But I’m looking back with this poem: a poem that I wrote over Winter Break, about a character that came into my head and simply wouldn’t get out.

She entered my mind as an image: an ancient warrior, standing on top of a hill in time-worn armor, staring up at the ever-revolving stars, hand on her sword, long flowing silver-white hair blowing behind her. Rowan. That was what her name was. It couldn’t be anything else.

Anyway, I figured I needed to write a poem about Rowan. A free-verse, story poem: one that played around with form and rhythm. Like I said: for me, poetry is weightlifting. I do it in order to practice for my actual story writing. (And yes, I have been working on original fiction all this time… Maybe I’ll post some of it eventually. Who knows.)

This poem was basically practice with imagery and sentence rhythm. But when I kept on writing it, I found that I’d come away with what might be an interesting story. It doesn’t really work in prose form, but I like the underlying tale: a story of a warrior and her lover, and the brief time that they spent together. A tale of destiny and duty, and the battle to keep entropy from dominating the universe.

I think there are more stories to be told about Rowan. I’m not sure what they are, but they’re out there.

The border is a metaphor poached from Gloria Anzaldúa, one of my favorite thinker-type persons.

Hope you enjoy this.

~ Ian


Rowan: A Poem of Love and the Border




Borders are sharp places.

They are a razor-wire edge,

a cold sharp cutting blade,

and where they dig into the flesh of reality

they lacerate;

hell-hot drops of blood dripping and seeping

through the cracks in space and time.

Where the blood seeps through,

pain follows.

Anger flows.

The innocent and the damned are mingled.









Scrambled get mixed things and.

The world falls





It was to the border that Rowan came.





There are sentinels who watch the edges.

Men and women who guard that which is

from that which is not.

That which is: green, ripe, fat,

full of the essence of being.

That which is not: hungry, emaciated,

dry as dessicants and as cold as nothing.

The story of time is the story of the conflict

between being

and not-being.


One such watcher was Rowan.


How long did she stand there?

How long did she wait,

staring into the cold starlight,

the earth turning towards dawn?

She never told me.

I never asked.


She was beautiful, I think,

although I believe that at the time

I was looking for a hero

to save me from my misery.

Her hair was milk-white and flowing.

Her eyes were dark.

Nose, lips, cheekbones,

all were in the right places.

Long legs, strong shoulders,

tall, proud, like a standing stone,

and when we made love

she would wrap her legs around me

and bite my neck with her small, sharp teeth.

She came into my life but for a moment.

A brief moment, when I was young

and the world was green and new.


(She was much older than me.

I think.

I never asked her age.)


I was in love

(or thought I was in love)

and I think (hope) (wish)

that she had some affection for me.


She came into my life like a brief shower

that falls from the sky in the spring sunlight.


She left me like the sun,

slipping out of my world slowly,

until everything was dark.


Not a day goes by when I don’t miss her.





This is my sword, Rowan told me,

and you must never touch her. 

I give you leave to touch any part of my body,

from the crown of my head

to the soles of my feet

and anyplace in between.

But this is my sword,

and we share a bond that is closer than lovers.

Closer than twins are we.

We are two parts of the same body.


Do you love your sword 

more than you love me?

I asked her.

It was a teasing question,

an idle statement,

the kind of jest a lover would make.


I expected her to smile and laugh,

shrug, and lean against me,

pressing her lips to mine,

our tenderest skin touching.


I was as surprised as anybody

when Rowan replied,






She would leave for weeks on end.

She would vanish into the darkness

once every few months,

leaving my side as I slept after we made love.

I knew she was gone,

because her sword

(which always stood by the fireplace of my cottage

when she was around)

would invariably be gone.


She always knew how to hurt me most.


One night when it stormed and raged,

dark thoughts flew through my head

like birds of shadow.

Is she with another man?

Someone far away, where nobody knows me?

How many lovers does she have?

Is she lying to me?


I went down to the inn

on the village green,

bought a bottle of Rhaelish whiskey

and drank it down,

cup by cup,









When I came home, she was there,

asleep in our bed.


I woke her up, called her whore,

raged incoherently at her

for the better part of an hour.


She sat there and bore it.


Finally she showed me her back

and peeled off her bandages

and there it was,

from her tailbone to the nape of her neck,

a pink-and-tender healing wound

that was only a week old.


After a moment of shock

my head cleared.

I understood.


I don’t abandon you for myself,

Rowan told me gently.

I abandon you for the world.





I touched her sword, one winter day.


Rowan was out chopping wood

and I was in the house

watching the fire crackle

leaping crackling gleeful

and with abandon.


The firelight shone on the pommel of the sword.


I came over to the fireplace

and drew




(After all,

she said that I could touch any part of her body, didn’t she?

We were lovers. We were friends.

Were not Rowan and the sword

two parts of the same body?)


It was not much.

A bit heavy, very sharp,

but the sword was a thing of beauty.

Not gaudy or jeweled elegance.

It was the sane, practical beauty

of a beloved kitchen knife.


I felt guilty to touch it.


I have a poet’s hands.

Rowan had the strong fingers

and scarred palms

of a skilled warrior.

It felt wrong for me to handle a sword.


I sheathed it

and went back to watching the fireplace.


Rowan came in at sunset,

carrying an armful of wood

in her strong arms.

I said nothing to her

about touching her sword,

her most private part.


But I felt guilty,

and Rowan must have sensed the guilt,

for we did not make love that night,

nor did we sleep in each other’s arms

(as was our custom on winter nights)

but back to back, shoulder blades touching,

the stigmata of silence lying over my house.





After I touched Rowan’s sword,

we fell out of each other’s lives.

She was gone more and more frequently,

going away for longer and longer,

until one day

at the height of summer

she did not return.


I cried.

I was heartbroken.


But I was young.

And young hearts heal.





I saw her three times after that.


The first time was in a tavern

in the gaudy city of Lost Steelhaven

at the mouth of the Swiftflow River.

I had moved to the city

to make my living as a playwright.

I had a woman (barely more than a girl)

who I took to the tavern

and sat down on my knee as I drank

and played dominoes

with jewel-pipped ivory squares

surrounded by beautiful women

and some of my friends.


She stood across the room,

firelight shining on her milk-white hair

and her eyes like obsidian

at the heart of a volcano.

She wore leather armor

and her sword (which I had touched)

was slung across her back.

I could tell she was a mercenary,

a sword for hire,

standing there with her arms crossed

and her body language

as impassive as a mountain.


(I did not speak to her.

It’s awkward to introduce an old lover

to the girl you plan to sleep with

later that night.)


The second time

was at a ball in High Overholt,

the greatest city of the cold North,

where I was performing my newest play

for the delight of the magistrate’s daughter.


She was there,

wearing a gown of soft damask,

the soft green color

of spring grass.


(I had never seen Rowan in a dress before.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.)


She spotted me, this time,

and came over to talk.

She smiled, and laughed,

and we danced a measure

as the band played sweet music.


She told me that she was going to the border,

that she would be away for a long time,

that she might never return.


She told me the story of conflict,

of being and not-being

and how not-being will one day win.

She would do whatever she could

to postpone that day.


It was a bittersweet meeting.


The third time

was in a dream

but somehow, in my deepest bones,

I knew

it was a true dream.


She sat on a rock, sword on her knees,

staring up at the starlight,

coldness in her eyes,

waiting for something.

(For what?)

For the end of the world.


This was the last time we met.

And though I am old now,

with a wife and three children

and five or more bastards,

I still think of that time I had with her,

when I was young

and the world was green and new,

when the days were filled with laughter,

when the nights smelled sweetly of love.


Not a day goes by

when I don’t miss her.


Posted: March 22, 2012 in Uncategorized




~ Ian

(Image credit: Dinosaur Comics. And don’t worry, I’ll get back around to putting up my own content here eventually, rather than just cut-and-pasting comics by a moderately well-known webcomic artist.)

I haven’t been posting here on Axolotl Ceviche as much as I’d like. It’s because I’ve been so incredibly busy all this month of March that I haven’t had much of the spare time to even sit down and write, much less make musings on my lame blog.

But this last week has been Finals week. And, strangely, I haven’t been very busy.

I do have a Spanish final tomorrow. But I know Spanish like the back of my hand. So I’ve been hanging out in my dorm room, watching LoadingReadyRun videos…

…and rereading the Kingkiller Chronicles.

When I first read Name of the Wind, I must have been sixteen or seventeen. I think the first copy of it that I read was the one in the Santa Cruz County Public Library, which was also the place that I first read the Elric novels, as well as a lot of other things. I read Name of the Wind in about three days, blazing through the story, reading the book every spare moment I got.

When Wise Man’s Fear came out in 2011, I bought the hardback immediately. I even interrupted a date so that I could go to the bookstore and get a copy on launch day. (Yes… smooth, I know.) It was another of those times where I snatched spare moments to read the book… in class, in the dining hall, on the bus, wherever. Both books are intensely beautiful, well-crafted pieces of fiction. And I don’t use the term well-crafted lightly: Both NotW and WMF are built, as solidly as a sailing ship. When I first read Name of the Wind, the whole time I was thinking, Merciful Tehlu. I want to write a book like this when I grow up.

Looking at the Kingkiller Chronicles now, when I have a bit more experience with storytelling, I see it as a kind of intricate machine, some vast clockwork automaton, all gears and oiled wood and shining brass, like an Analytical Engine: a marvelous, wonderful machine, each cog and cam perfectly shaped, each one fitting into the next, wheels whirring and gears grinding in a blur of frantic motion to produce something wonderful. I look at the books now, and I see how perfectly each chapter fits into the next, how everything is set up and lined up perfectly to create beautiful moments later on. The casual references thrown into NotW, which lead into the strange, magical happenings in the later chapters of WMF. I was surprised to find references to Felurian and the Adem from near the beginning of NotW. And knowing what happens later gives me context for interesting moments in the earlier chapters: like, for example, I marveled at Kvothe’s boldness in comparing Denna to Felurian, in their second meeting in NotW.

But when I read NotW when I was in high school, it was something difference. Instead of looking at the books as a marvelous machine, I saw them as a storm: a frenzied rush of wind and rain coming in from the sea, the waves blowing salt spray in your face as you look out onto the thunderheads, and occasionally there’s a bolt of lightning so sudden and so bright that you can’t help but wonder. Some of those lightning moments still exist for me: like Kvothe’s first performance at the Eolian. Or the moment that Kvothe first calls the wind. But then, some of the moments where lightning happens are different. When I first read NotW, I had much more of a shock at the moment that Kvothe’s family is killed. But now I feel something much deeper, and much sadder, when I read about young feral Kvothe in the forests of the Commonwealth, learning to play emotions on his lute. There’s something magical about that moment (and it’s not the fact that Kvothe is probably playing Names). Any writer can write about wizards. But for a writer to write actual wizardry– that’s something rare and special.

Wow. That last one sounds like a blurb.

Pat, if you ever need a blurb for your books, feel free to use that one.

Call me.

~ Ian

I’ll be honest with you: this installment of Creative Writing Wednesday is a little dark.

I have bad days. A lot of the time. I realize that I’ve been putting a certain kind of face forward on my blog, and hey, that’s okay: I use my blog as a creative outlet, and it’s the most public side of my personality. For one thing, looking at the site stats on the blog lets me know that I’ve had hits from all over: every inhabited continent, except for Africa. Many of these people– hell, most of these people– don’t know me. And while, yes, many of my hits come from the fact that people are searching for “ceviche” (which this blog is decidedly not about, by the way), I have a feeling that there are some people who read and enjoy my lame blog.

Still. I have rules about posting on Axolotl Ceviche. I try to avoid politics, religion, and personal information. And in many ways, my poetry is pretty personal. I mean, every writer shows a little bit of herself in her work. That’s unavoidable.

In any case, I wrote this poem a few weeks back, on a day when I was having the worst possible day imaginable. I’m not going to get into details about it, because going into details is a bit too personal for… well… everyone in the entire world to read. But this poem was one I wrote to help me rationalize the feelings that I was having that day. It’s really a thing I used to work out my anger without breaking things or people, which at one point I was seriously worried that I was going to do.

A note: I have to touch on religion here, violating my second rule above. I don’t believe in a god. In fact, I stopped believing in gods about the same time that I stopped believing in Santa Claus. So I need to make the disclaimer that I don’t pray, and this was not an entreaty to some celestial being to come and help me.

But if I did believe in a god, then this is probably what I would pray.

~ Ian


The Nihilist’s Prayer


God, please give me the strength

to get up in the morning,

to face the day with a smile on my face

while inside me all is chaos and anger,

and I want nothing more

than to curl up in a ball and weep.


God, give me the strength

to refrain from destroying the world,

to keep my feelings inside myself,

my face impassive like a jade mask,

to keep myself from burning down the universe,

to sing the song that ends the world

with a requiem of ashes and fire.


God, please give me the courage

that will allow me to seem human

because if I ever doubt myself, I will be destroyed,

and like a cartoon coyote

plummet thousands of feet to the canyon floor.

Help me to walk this tightrope

between ecstasy and despair,

and convince me to keep my balance

when all I want to do is fall.


God, please help me to see humanity in others,

to believe that every person has a person inside her,

and she is not just a sack of bones and meat

trying to convince herself that she has free will,

trying to convince herself that she can think for herself,

a side of beef screaming her existence to the unfeeling skies.


God, please help me to forget

that the world will end someday,

and all the hopes and dreams and sorrows,

fighters and lovers and saints and sinners,

will one day be gone,

this speck of dust we live on

transmuted into the heart of a black hole,

and then evaporated into nothing,

radiation echoing forever in eternal darkness.


If you exist, God,

then please give me this strength.

Nobody else will.

…happy birthday, Dad.

~ Ian

(image credit: Dinosaur Comics)

It is no secret that the most undeniably badass people on any ski slope are the blind skiers.

Blind skiers are relatively common: I see one or two of them every day when I go skiing. They’re pretty easy to see: they wear orange vests that say BLIND SKIER in big black letters. In addition, they have a guide behind them, who tells the blind skier information about the slopes below, while holding onto them with ropes, which the guide uses to help the skier down the mountain.

…That was a terrible description, wasn’t it?

Here, I’ll just show you a picture:

I think that the blind skier, to put his/her trust so completely into the hands of someone else, is incredibly brave. I don’t usually say this out loud, certainly not on my lame blog, but I have trust issues. Serious ones.

So I don’t think that I could put my life into someone else’s hands as completely as a blind skier does with his/her guide.

Like I said. Badass.

In any case, I decided to use the blind skier as a central metaphor in a short free-verse love poem. Enjoy.

~ Ian


Hold On To Me


I am

a blind skier

hurtling unseeing into darkness

not knowing what’s ahead of me

not knowing the dangers ahead

plunging unheeding towards destruction.


You are

my sighted guide

always guiding me past the rocks and ice

always keeping hold of my leash

always steering me in the right direction

always guiding me away from the end.


And I know

you will always hold on to me.

The Beatles: Bread. The basic staple on which all Western food (or, in this case, rock music) is built.

Pink Floyd: Pasta. At first glance, it looks pretty boring, but then you realize that there’s way more variety in it than you think.

The Doors: Doritos. Really good to have around when you’re high.

Journey: Budweiser. The classic staple of both the working-class Average Joe and the party-crazy college student.

Queen: Potato chips. Tasty, crunchy, and fun to listen to– and I bet you can’t listen to just one song.

Talking Heads: Jello. You can’t stand still– you just have to start wiggling.

Dream Theater: Cheese. Occasionally delicious, yes, but you can’t have a diet of just cheese.

Dead Can Dance: Pho. Exotic, dark, and filling– and doesn’t get nearly as much credit as it deserves.

Fall Out Boy: Coke Zero. Sweet and fizzy, but not really substantial in any meaningful way.

30 Seconds to Mars: Cookie dough. Good to have around in case of a breakup.

Jonathan Coulton: Cup Noodles. The staple food of Geek-Americans.

Mastodon: Bacon. Sometimes you’ve just gotta have it.

Justin Bieber: Cheez-Whiz. A vile abomination that deserves to be destroyed.


~ Ian

This is something I was thinking about while I was coming down Lift 4 on Kirkwood’s backside today. I’m really tired after a long-ass day, so please be aware that the following post may not be rational, or coherent, or sane.

You have been warned.

For almost two decades– from the mid-80s to the early oughties– there was a massive, intense rivalry between skiers and snowboarders. It was huge and all-encompassing. Snowboarders saw skiers as elitist, overly-wealthy snobs. Skiers saw snowboarders as fat-headed snot-nosed punks. Both groups went out of their respective ways to harass, insult, mock, and just generally be dicks to the other group.

I came in on the tail edge of this era. Growing up as a skier in the late 90s/early oughties, I got shit from snowboarding teenage assholes for being small, and a skier. It didn’t really go to my head at all– really, I got worse crap from my schoolmates at Westlake Elementary (may their names be forever cursed)– but I don’t doubt that, had I been a snowboarder, I would have gotten the same steaming pile of insults from skiers.

But then, something changed in the mid-oughties. The skier-snowboarder rivalry completely disappeared. It vanished, gone off to the land of wind and ghosts where remaindered books and lost internet memes go.

What happened? Did skiers, realizing that the world had changed, decide to let bygones be bygones and coexist with the snowboarders who now dominated the ski resort scene? Did the former-teen snowboarders, once they reached their thirties, suddenly wake up to find two heaping scoops of maturity in their Raisin Bran?

I don’t think that’s the case. I think that the skiers and snowboarders both realized that, despite certain superficial differences of technique and equipment, their sports were basically the same. The object of skiing and snowboarding is the same: to slide down the hill until you run out of hill, then go back up the hill and repeat until you get sleepy. Yeah, sure, there are differences between the sports. Skis are a lot faster and more stable; snowboards can make sharper turns and are easier to jump with. But these differences don’t matter. We both like to have fun, and we go about having fun in much the same fashion. The number of planks we affix to our feet doesn’t matter. What matters is the fact that we like to slide down snowy mountains, and the sliding is a lot more fun when we don’t act like assholes to each other.

Blech. That was horrible. I really need to stop making thinkings now…

Relax now. Blog later.

~ Ian

Walking between classes today, I saw a group of people seated in a circle on a grassy lawn. They looked like central casting Happy Young People: they were white, dressed in t-shirts and jeans, male and female. The men had shaggy hair and grad-student beards. The women either had long hair down to their waists or hair cropped short against their skulls. They were joyful and golden in the California sunlight, not going anywhere, just being, communing with the spring air and warm sunshine on a beautiful day.

One of the men had a guitar.

He was playing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”.

It sparked a chain of thoughts in my mind. The young people were probably born in the early 90s, in ’91 or ’92. The sixties are completely lost to our generation. It’s in the irrevocable past. And yet I feel like my generation has nostalgia for this time that we can never visit.

“I wish I were back in the sixties,” a friend of mine told me once, her eyes shining and her face glowing with wistful remembrance of a time gone by. “Things were simpler then.”

“You can’t be back in the sixties,” I replied. “You were never there.”

“Yeah,” she said. “But still.”

Among the college students of my generation, there are artifacts of the past scattered casually and anachronistically among us. Led Zeppelin t-shirts. Bare feet on the summer grass. Woodstock concert LPs. Beards.

Honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted to live through the sixties. It was a time of freedom and youth uprising, that’s true– but it was also a time of war and assassinations, of dogs being set on peaceful civil rights protesters, and the ever-present haunting specter of the Draft, and the knowledge that it could all be over in less than forty-five seconds if Russia and the US decided to let their missiles fly. For every Woodstock, there was an Altamont. For every John Lennon, a Charlie Manson.

The sixties that the youth of my generation have composed in their minds is as based in reality as any fantasy realm. Yet it’s a place for them to retreat to. They play Beatles music, shaggy-headed and bare-footed, in the sunshine. They smoke weed and eat mushrooms in the light of the full moon, in drum circles far out in the woods.

You know what I think my generation’s idealization of the sixties is like, honestly? It reminds me most of the hard-edged Republicans who believe in a long-lost past where men were honest and just, women knew their place, and children never disobeyed or even expressed an opinion of their own. A past that never existed, yet for many people, is just as real as the chaotic, seething world in front of them– more real, in fact, because their PerfectWorld™ is the Platonic ideal of civilization as constructed in their heads, and everything else is just noise and madness.

Believing in a past that never existed is just as dangerous as ignoring history completely. How much better would our world be if the gullible idiots who believe in that perfect storybook small-town America actually looked at the world as it was and realized that it was just the same– if not worse– than our own world? Will my generation make that same mistake, and put the idolized Summer of Love on a pedestal– so much on a pedestal, in fact, that we ignore the world around us?

How can you feel nostalgia for a place you’ve never been?

~ Ian