by Michael Fairchild

[NOTE: The story below is an excerpt from the 1988 historical novel, A Touch Of Hendrix. For a quick background about the story, see the accompanying page: Trajectory of Intersections = Crossrown Traffic.]

Beginning in April 1970 an amazing chain of events transpired to imprint Jimi's legacy into history. While the song Woodstock by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young was climbing up the record charts, the three hour movie of that three day festival opened in packed theaters around the country. The marketing of Woodstock produced shockwaves in the straight world as back-to-nature, altered consciousness, hippie lifestyles became the height of youth fashion. None of this was promoted on television. The establishment appeared to have lost all control as the "underground" surfaced towards the mainstream.

1970 Earth Day in New York

The Student Mobilization Committee sponsored a week of demonstrations from April 13th through the 18th. A nationwide student strike on April 15th targeted Internal Revenue Service offices around the country. Reenactments of the Boston Tea Party were staged in Chicago, Des Moines, and Boston. In New York 30,000 people gathered in Bryant Park. A band of 100 militants interrupted the reading of the names of the war-dead and then prevented speakers from appearing. Eventually they took over the podium and led the crowd in chants of "Revolution Now!" In Berkeley the University was closed and declared to be in a state of emergency after two days of rioting following police attacks on students who tried to close down the campus ROTC building. The largest turnout occurred in Boston where more than 75,000 people assembled on the Common. Several thousand marched over to Cambridge where they smashed windows, set fires in Harvard Yard and chanted, "How're the nation's elite?" More than 200 people were injured as police battled with demonstrators through the night and arrested 35.

One week later Let It Be by The Beatles topped the charts on the first Earth Day.

After he observed the massive turnout for the November 1969 Moratorium protests in Washington, Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.) proposed a nationwide teach-in on environmental problems. For the next four months a volunteer group coordinated the effort and on Wednesday, April 22nd, Earth Day was observed in more than 2000 American communities. Focusing attention on pollution, it was a middle-of-the-road demonstration designed for the family. So many politicians took part in Earth Day that Congress shut down on April 22nd. Senators and Congressmen fanned out across the country as all bands of the political spectrum jumped on the anti-pollution bandwagon (in words, at least). Fifth Ave. was blocked off in New York while 100,000 people gathered to demonstrate their concern for the environment and listen to radio broadcasts of John Lennon's new tune, Instant Karma:

Well we all shine on,
like the Moon and the Stars and the Sun...

In Washington, 1700 students marched to the Interior Department and poured quarts of oil on the sidewalk to protest oil spills in the ocean. Universities sponsored lectures on the fragility of the eco-system and hundreds of thousands of school children roamed through parks and city streets to collect tons of litter cast off by the consumer culture.

At dinnertime this night, Clyde Kinney complains to his parents, "They made us walk around and pick up garbage at school today."

"If they wanna beautify America they should make them hippie fags git a haircut," snarls Jack.

Mick curls his lip. "Hippies aren't ugly, the M.A.N. is"

"What man?" asks Cheryl.

"The Mean And Nasty!" answers Mick.

Henry tosses his chicken wing back on his plate. "Jumpin' Jesus Christ! Do we hafta hear this crap night after night?"

Claudia reproaches Mick, "We told you not to talk crazy around here!"

"Jack said America would be beautiful if hippies cut their hair. He's the one who's nuts."

Claudia drops her fork and slaps his mouth. "Don't you call us names!"

"You don't hafta hit me!"

"Don't talk back!" she yells as she swings at him again. He catches her hand and pushes it away. Claudia springs from her seat and grabs his collar. "HOW DARE YOU RAISE YOUR HAND TO ME! YOU UNGRATEFUL RAT!" she screams, yanking him off his chair and onto the floor. SLAP! SLAP! SLAP! "GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!"

Mick runs up to the attic. Straightening the collar of his shirt he turns on Clyde's radio. Almost Cut My Hair from the new CSNY album is fading out on WCFM. DJ Spacey Daisy reports in a tranquil voice, "There's been a lot of protest against pollution today, here's a little air freshener from Woodstock to help clean up the establishment." Like a breath of revolution Jimi's Star Spangled Banner sighed from the little transistor, followed by the cyclonic fury of Purple Haze. When the music ends Spacey Daisy announces, "Jimi begins a three month tour of the country this week. He'll be playing in more than thirty cities and at least three outdoor festivals." The news helps take Mick's mind off his savage family. He spends the remainder of Earth Day doing homework. Turning a page of his history book he listens to radio news about Viet Cong supply dumps in Cambodia and wonders what life is like in a place with such an exotic name. Credence Clearwater's Bad Moon Rising begins to play on CFM and chases away his thoughts of foreign lands.

On the last day of April a heat wave hits western New York and greenery begins sprouting on bushes and trees around the Kinney house. After dinner Henry and Claudia drive over to the grade school for an Open House meeting between parents and teachers. Cheryl stays home with the boys and Mick is quick to sneak next door to visit Lane. "Your 'rents go to Open House?" he asks at the back door.

Band Of Gypsys album cover
Top-5 on charts, Spring/Summer 1970

"Yeah, they already split." Lane says. "C'mon, I'll show ya Jimi's new album." He leads Mick into the front room and lowers the TV volume, pointing to the coffee table, "There's the cover." The disc is already on the turntable. Lane walks over and applies the tone arm while Mick examins the jacket. Jimi looks almost dejected, he thinks, hunched over his Strat in the cover photo. The weird colors make his face appear to be covered with bruises. For a moment the notion that someone had roughed up Jimi crosses Mick's mind, but he quickly dismisses it. Who could threaten a superstar? he naively asks himself. While the boys listen to Jimi's Band Of Gypsys, Malcolm and Cliff stroll into the house and flop onto the front room sofa.

"Did you see the Woodstock movie yet?" Mick asks them.

"Yeah, but they left a lot of the best parts out," replies Cliff.

"They really butchered Jimi's set and the camera angles suck," adds Malcolm, glancing at the soundless TV. He sees the president pointing at a map of Southeast Asia. "What's Pig Nixon squealin' about?" Reaching over to the set he raises the volume as Lane lowers the stereo. They listen with rising anxiety as Nixon announces that 48,000 South Vietnamese troops and American aircraft had crossed Vietnam's boarder and invaded the neighboring country of Cambodia. Another 30,000 U.S. troops are following. As the president speaks, the skies over North Vietnam are raining bombs from stepped up B-52 raids. Malcolm and Cliff feel sick. Mick and Lane feel sick. Millions of Americans despair for the thousands of teenage boys who are being sacrificed to the capitalist god-of-greed. Pig Nixon calls for national unity against the enemy and the counterculture units against him, his brain-trained supporter's and their leeching war industries.

Malcolm tunes out the news and turns off the TV. Cliff stares out the window. Lane breaks the tension by raising the volume on Jimi's new album:

evil man make me kill ya
evil man make you kill me
evil man make me kill you
even though we're only families apart…

Malcolm reachs for the dial and turns the volume up all the way.

same way you shoot me down, baby
you'll be goin' just the same
three times the pain
and your own self to blame,
yeah machine gun…

Draft age teens nationwide ride Jimi's guitar-weapon alarm-siren like a twisting aural surf. This deafening channel from another world drains their aggression and soothes their despair.

after while your cheap talk don't even cause me pain
so let your bullets fly like rain…

Machine Gun from Fillmore East, NY - Jan. 1, 1970 -
version released on Hendrix Band Of Gypsys album April 1970:

The days that follow are frustrating for Mick as he repeatedly hears the Kinneys praise the National Guard. This is the p.i.g.s.' brightest hour as Nixon's braintrained pawns see Kent State as their cue to intimidate protesters. Mick senses danger and dares not interfere with the crazed celebration. He listens to the family with unexpressed horror, while silently cheering reports of rampaging students. From this deeply divided America he comes to understand how civil war can happen.

By the end of the week record breaking heat succumbs to record breaking cold in Rochester as temperatures plunge into the mid 20s. On Friday Malcolm, Cliff and a van full of their friends leave town to join a mass march on Washington. Tensions have reached fever pitch all over the country. At noon in New York hundreds of students gather on the steps of Federal Hall National Memorial near Wall Street - the heart of corporate America. A mob of flag-carrying construction workers from a nearby site push aside the few cops present and attack the student protesters. The rampaging construction workers use their orange and yellow hard- hats to strike demonstrators as well as bystanders; 75 people are injured and 11 of the demonstrators are hospitalized. The "hard-hats" then invade City Hall where Mayor Lindsay had ordered flags flown at half staff on this "day of reflection" for the Kent State dead. The hard-hats demand that the flag be raised to full staff and one of them climbs up the building and hoists the City Hall flag to full staff. The man is seized by police but then released when a city councilman comes to his defense. A mayoral assistant lowers the flag back to half staff and the construction workers start chanting "Lindsay is a red!" When the flag is then raised a second time they sing the Star Spangled Banner, out of key. Whipped into a patri-neurotic frenzy, one of the hard-heads notices a peace-banner hanging from a window at nearby Pace College. The crazed gang storms the college, smashing windows, attacking students and burning the banner.

The Kinneys watch the Evening News and hear New York's Police Commissioner say that no arrests had been made during the hard-hat riot because police were "outnumbered".

"Why didn't they call out the National Guard?" asks Mick.

"For what?" quips Jack. "Those guys did what any patriotic American would do." That's what any idiotic American would do, Mick mutters to himself. He listens to more reports of right wing violence.

"At the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque today at least nine people were hospitalized with bayonet wounds after a confrontation between students and National Guard troops. New Mexico State Police moved onto the campus this afternoon and arrested one-hundred-and-forty protesters who had been occupying the Student Union Building since Wednesday. After the students were removed from the campus, two-hundred National Guardsmen advanced on several hundred more students outside the building. The stabbings occurred when troops ringed the building to keep demonstrators away. Among those stabbed was a TV news cameraman. A University doctor said that the cameraman 'probably would have died if the chest wound had been an eighth inch deeper.'"

"See, they only call out the guard on protesters," notes Mick.

Claudia orders him to shut up. "Those rabble rousers deserve what they get," she sneers.

He turns to the TV and lets the next report answer for him:

"A throng of protesters swarmed into a tense and apprehensive Washington today for tomorrow's demonstration that may top one-hundred-thousand persons. White House officials and rally organizers worked out a compromise whereby the demonstration will be held on the Ellipse, a huge elm-lined circular park just south of the White House. On Capitol Hill solemn students lobbied in conference rooms, auditoriums, corridors and in Senator's offices and urged an end to the war through legislative action. Others set up camp in Lafayette Park directly across from the White House. Organizers promised to carry their protest to 'the doorsteps of Mister Nixon's house', but the White House has been cordoned off so no one can get closer than a block's distance. Mrs. Nixon and other members of the family who could hear chants of 'Seig Heil!' outside the White House left for Camp David until the demonstration is over."

Mister Nixon's Out House, Mick thought to himself. He prays that demonstrators can reach the Out House pole and raise the Viet Cong flag. Later that night he lays in bed listening to CFM: "Hendrix continues his tour in the mid-west this weekend with concerts tonight at the University of Oklahoma. Tomorrow he'll play the Auditorium in Fort Worth and on Sunday the Arena in San Antonio." Mick thinks of Jill at the University of Oklahoma just before falling to sleep. He dreams of a huge rock festival on the Out House lawn with the white-columned veranda used for a stage. He sees the VC flag wave overhead with Pig Nixon and his piglets held captive inside as Jimi blasts their little brains with the Scar Mangled Banner.

What did happen at the Out House the next day is not too far removed from Mick's dream, in spirit anyway. Nixon, unable to sleep as thousands of protesters surround his pen, flees to the Lincoln Memorial at 5 a.m. Secret Service agents are alarmed to see their Pig wander out of his limo-cage and start rapping to eight disgusted demonstrators. A crowd gathers to hear the King of Babylon babble on incoherently about surfing and sports. "It was unreal," said Ronnie Kempler after she listened to him. "He wasn't really concerned with why we are here."

"I hope it's because he's tired, but most of what he's saying is absurd," said Joan Pelletier. "Here we had come from a university that's completely uptight, on strike, and when we tell him where we're from he talks about football!"

"He didn't make sense," said a Syracuse student named Lynn Shatekin. "People would ask him questions and he would talk about something else."

Nixon returns to the barricaded Out House and watchs televised football while the week of mounting demonstrations comes to a climax. By mid-day 130,000 protesters are amassed on the Ellipse across the street. As temperatures break into the mid-8Os the throng begins to look like a rock festival. Dozens of people are busted for swimming nude in the reflecting pool. Cops use tear gas to disperse bands of militants who try to tip over buses parked bumper-to-bumper around the Out House. Five-thousand uniformed troops are placed on alert in the city. Some of them pass gas at the Justice Department when pelted with bottles and rocks. The powerful loudspeakers set up on the Ellipse are easily heard inside the Out House. Jane Fonda appears onstage to welcome the crowd by shouting, "Greetings fellow bums!" In front of the platform a black man is roped to a 13-foot cross. One of the perspiring freex who holds up the cross tells reporters, "He's up there to show that Nixon is crucifying the American people."

Students from Columbia, Pratt and New York University carry blood drenched animal organs in a circle around the Washington Monument and chant, "End the Agony! End the Pain! End the Murders!" The west end of the Ellipse roars with cheers when hundreds of people march into the crowd with banners reading, "Federal Employees for Peace" and "Federal Bums Against the War". More than 300 draft cards are collected and brought to the platform to be burned.

At 4 p.m. marchers carrying rows of coffins lead the procession up 15th Street towards the Out House. The crowd has their best chance to stage a sit-down when they reach H Street. But because this demonstration has been organized in just 10 days (six times faster than any previous march on Washington), the organizers didn't have time to agree on a plan to direct a sit-down. Fearing a massacre by federal troops, the street marshals discourage people from entering H Street where the sit-down would have been most effective. Marshals also discourage small groups from staging separate sit-downs and, instead, lead the procession to Arlington Cemetery. Several thousand people follow the coffins to the Out House where one coffin is pushed over the bus barricade. Cops pass gas and militants trash the streets; 300 busts result. Most of the people are waiting to join in a mass sit-down but the lack of direction leaves them unclear about where or when it will happen. As things turn out, the crowd simply disperses at Arlington Cemetery. Despite the atmosphere of tension and anger, the overall demonstration is ironically peaceful.

At dusk Malcolm and Cliff join hundreds of militants at George Washington University. Under rows of Viet Cong "enemy" flags, they march to DuPont Circle chanting "Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh - NLF Is Going To Win!" (NFL = National Liberation Front of "enemy" North Vietnam, headed by Marxist leader Ho Chi Minh). Along the way they hurl bricks and rocks through plate glass windows of banks and savings and loan associations. D.C. cops attack them with their familiar magic wands and Cliff gets clubbed on the head. Malcolm grabs his arm and leads him stumbling down a side street. They'd received their share of abuse. It's time to go home and heal until the next round.

The following day 200,000 people gather in a Paris park. A government official calls it "the largest expression ever seen of the French people's determination to bring an end to American aggression...against the odious massacres ordered by Nixon." Throughout the weekend West Berlin is wracked by protests against the Cambodian invasion. Outbursts on Saturday leave 261 cops injured; 24 of them are hospitalized along with 30 demonstrators. On Sunday a West Berlin firm called General Leasing is firebombed by militants who mistakenly think it's American because of its English name. Also on Sunday, 500 Canadian demonstrators stage a "symbolic invasion" by marching 21 miles across the boarder into the U.S. - the same distance American troops have penetrated into Cambodia.

During the coming week Manhattan becomes a battleground for protesters and counter-demonstraters. On Monday thousands of hard-hats and longshoremen rally on Wall Street in support of the war. On Tuesday students from six eastern universities gather to protest while police hold back construction workers trying to attack them. On May 20th the Building and Construction Trade Council of Greater New York sponsors a pro-Nixon rally at City Hell for 60,000 men. The next day 20,000 anti-war protesters demonstrate in front of City Hell and try to march to Bryant Park. Police intercept them and a battle breaks out; l6 persons are injured.

Divisiveness in America has reached its deepest level since the Civil War. Truong Nhu Tang, himself a victim of civil war, recognizes this when he writes in A Vietcong Memoir:

"The American bombing and invasion of Cambodia largely accomplished its immediate goals (I barely survived it myself). Nixon and Kissinger justified it then and later as an operation that gained an essential year of time. Yet this 'victory' arguably did more to undermine American unity than any other event of the war. The American leaders braced themselves to weather a storm of protest that would, they thought, eventually subside. But how does one judge the cumulative effects on one's own body politic of ingrained distrust and ill will? To achieve a year or so of dubious battlefield grace, Nixon and Kissinger incurred a propaganda defeat whose effects are still apparent (fifteen years later) and, to the extent that they have entered the American national psyche, may well be permanent. Whatever the facts of who infringed first on Cambodian neutrality, the significance of that engagement was that it helped separate the American leadership from its internal support and instilled among many Americans a lasting skepticism about their government's morality. It was - to Vietnam's revolution and to the revolution's that have followed Vietnam - an enduring gift."