Stay or Go, Now

1969 October   Blind Owl

I’m going up the country, babe, don’t you wanna go?
I’m going to some place where I’ve never been before.

Well, I’m going where the water tastes like wine.
We can jump in the water, stay drunk all the time.

I’m gonna leave this city, got to get away.
All this fussing and fighting, man,
you know I sure can’t stay.

Now baby, pack your leaving trunk,
you know we’ve got to leave today,
Just exactly where we’re going I cannot say,
But we might even leave the USA,
‘Cause there’s a brand new game that I want to play.

No use of you running, or screaming and crying,
‘Cause you’ve got a home as long as I’ve got mine.

—Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson (1943—1970)
American blues-rock musician, environmentalist
“Goin Up the Country”, October 1968

2004 March   Yvon

My favorite thing to do is to disappear in the South Pacific with my fishing pole and my surfboard…. My wife doesn’t like the tropics, but I’d disappear there. If I were 20 or 30 years younger, I’d get out of the country, because just by living here I feel like I’m supporting the Bush administration.

—Yvon Chouinard (b.1938) 2004, age 65
American outdoorsman, environmentalist-businessman
founder of Patagonia clothing company
“The Revolution Starts at the Bottom”
Sierra magazine March/April 2004

1976 February   Rex

Yes, you are right about the USA. After living in Japan, the culture shock of living here again is too much. This is the greatest military despotism since Assyria, governed by fools & feared and hated by every nation on earth…there is no escaping homo homini lupus [man is wolf to man]. I don’t want to be part of the collective guilt. I do not have a male friend in Santa Barbara who is not a foreigner! I don’t know what American men are talking about and I have nothing to say to them. On that score—as on most others—Tocqueville was certainly right.                                                       …I wish I was 35 years younger. I would change my citizenship…What a country!”

—Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982), 1976, age 70
American poet, radical intellectual, outdoorsman, professor
letter to Morgan Gibson, 1 February 1976


This whole experience of working to ease the suffering and difficulty of our Japanese American friends and neighbors in San Francisco who were being imprisoned in concentration camps completely disaffiliated me from the American capitalist state, from the state as such.
—Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982) 1941-45, age 40-44
An Autobiographical Novel [1966, 1982]

1945 August

One morning in 1945, Marie came running up the stairs weeping and woke me up.
She said, “Truman has just dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and hundreds of thousands of people have been killed.”
I sat up in bed and said, “Get to a travel agent and buy tickets to Montevideo, Auckland, or Hobart.”
We didn’t. We stayed, but “an old age was out, it was time to begin anew.”

—Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982) 1945, age 44
An Autobiographical Novel [1966, 1982]


Since then I’ve seen very little in American official policy and behavior to be proud of. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Vietnam finished the job. I am a citizen of a country founded by a group of radical intellectuals that seems to have vanished from the earth.

—Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982) 1945-82, age 44-76
An Autobiographical Novel [1966, 1982]

1948   Basil

I like a new landfall, certain graces of men and trees and hills, the greased leathern aprons of Zulu girls, the lack of cupidity in remote places and places grown out-of-date, Portuguese sailor’s shirts. I like the monkeys to be in the tree, not on chains, bougainvillea; the banyan; the snake-guarded wild bananas in bush you must cut as you go, a life more physical, less logical, less covetous, less distilled out of the past, than the chained life we lead. That’s…why I hate earning a living.

—Basil Bunting (1900-1985) 1948, aged 48
British poet, radical Quaker socialist, diplomat, journalist
letter to Dorothy Shakespear Pound

1970 June   George

“I think there are times when one should go underground when he can’t stand what is going on in the outside world, and that is what we did a long time ago. It is a thing of going into the catacombs and letting what is Caesar’s be unto Caesar. I would say, get the hell away from the city, away from the civilization, and go way back into the headwaters of the Orinoco or the Brahmaputra. Start over, crawl into little areas that are open to you and create little cells. I’m not saying ten million people could do it, but I think the craftsman could. We wouldn’t need urban planners or sociologists or college graduates, just people who can do things, who enjoy nature and the life of the spirit.”

—George Nakashima (1905-1980) 1970, age 65
Japanese American woodworker-artist and architect
“Nakashima the Craftsman,” Life magazine 68:22,77-78
June 12, 1970

1977 April    Japhy

I’ll say this real clearly, because it seems that it has to be said over and over again: There is no place to flee to in the U.S. There is no “country” that you can go and lay back in. There is no quiet place in the woods where you can take it easy and be a stoned-out hippie. The surveyors are there with their orange plastic tape, the bulldozers are down the road warming up their engines, the real estate developers have got it all on the wall with pins on it, the county supervisors are in the back room drinking coffee with the real estate subdividers, the sheriff’s department is figuring to get a new deputy for your area soon, and the forest service is just about to let out a big logging contract to some company. That’s the way it is everywhere, right up to the north slope of Alaska, all through Canada, too. It’s the final gold rush mentality. The rush right now is on for the last of the resources that are left standing. And that means that the impact is hitting the so-called country and wilderness. In that sense, we’re on the front lines. I perceived that when I wrote the poem; that’s why I called it “Front Lines.” I also figured that we were going to have to stay and hold the line for our place.

A friend of mine came to where I live five years ago, and he could see what was going to come down. He said, “I’m not going to settle here, I’m going to British Columbia.” So with his wife and baby he drove two hundred and fifty miles north of Vancouver, B.C., and then seventy miles on a dirt road to the end of the road, and then walked two miles to a cabin they knew about, and bought a piece of land only a few miles south of the St. Elias range. That summer there they discovered they were surrounded by chain saws that were clear-cutting the forest, and that there were giant off-the-road logging trucks running up and down the seventy miles of dirt road, so that it was to take your life in your hands to try to go into town to get something. “Town” was a cluster of laundromats, discarded oil drums, and mobile homes that had been flown in. That’s the world. My friends came back down to California; it was too industrial up there.

—Gary Snyder (b.1930) April 1977, age 47
American poet, outdoorsman, radical intellectual, professor
interview, East West Journal, Summer 1977
collected in The Real Work, 1980

1985  June    Feather

This place, the U.S., is weird, uptight, oppressive, expensive, unspiritual in a deep way, warlike, and now it’s becoming a warring right-wing Christian fundamentalist nation. What benefits are there to living here? Maybe faster communication, less lines to wait in for this and that…easier shopping…and then?

—Ven. Thubten Wongmo (Feather Meston, b.1945) 1985 age 40
American Buddhist nun, author
letter to her son


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