Dragon’s Blood and Baez

A voice. An image. A face. A song from long ago. There is no telling what will turn a distant recollection into a torrent of memories. For me it was a smell. Rather, the smell – of New York City’s Greenwich Village in the Spring of 1968.

What turned the Mind Spigot on was – soap. Recently I’ve been trying various hand-made natural soaps from soap maker, Emily Seaver. It was one of these soaps, Dragon’s Blood, with its incense scent, that sent me back decades into a world that fascinated, but would only be observed.

New York was just a bit over an hour away by train, but what had started out as a shopping trip became the catalyst for a life-long love of folk music and an admiration for one of the eras most honest artists and voices.

Washington Square

Walking along Bleeker, Thompson and MacDougal Streets and through Washington Square Park ones senses were constantly bombarded with the sounds of bongos, saxophones, guitars, flutes and voices both sweet and ferocious singing of protest or love. The smell of subway steam rising through street vents mingled with the scents of every food imaginable. The sweet, earthy smell of roasting coffee permeated the street in front of Porto Rico Coffee and from the countless coffee cafes that lined the streets of The Village. And, through it all rose the stench of unwashed bodies, garbage and omnipresent drugs. New York in the 60’s. Nothing quite like it and never to be forgotten.

Venturing into a small, colorful shop along Thompson Street I soon realized that I had entered another world altogether. What would later be learned was a Head Shop, this little store was jam-packed with pipes, bongs, clips, etc., etc. Not only were these things of no interest, I really had no idea what they were for. Such an innocent! But, what did interest me was the dizzying (truly) display of incense. Now, this was something I was familiar with. Incense sticks and cubes of various fruits and scents filled shelves from top to bottom. What really caught my eye were small bags of loose incense – including jasmine, patchouli and every Catholic schoolboy’s favorite, frankincense. A whiff of that and for sure you would feel on your way to heaven! After buying a small packet, it was time to further explore the neighborhood.

Ritchie Havens

Cafe Wha?, The Bitter End, Bottom Line, Cafe Au Go Go, The Gaslight Cafe, The Village Vanguard. Handbills plastered on the sides of buildings and construction fencing advertised both coming and just past appearances of The Stone Poneys, Ritchie Havens, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell -live nyc Little Green, Jimi Hendrix, Odetta, Peter, Paul and Mary, Tom Paxton, Judy Collins (click on hyperlinks) and – Joan Baez. What were these places and who were these people? Coming from a very parochial background (in every sense of the word) I was not in my element. But, the Genie of Curiosity was out of the bottle and while, somewhat sadly, I never got to go to any of the above music venues I did embark on a journey to discover who those musicians were and what they were saying. One in particular has kept my admiration all these years – Joan Baez.

Joni Mitchell
Joan Baez

Now, Ms Baez probably has a few views that are, shall we say, not simpatico with mine. But, her steadfast aversion to war, her respect and empathy for the common man and the downtrodden far outweigh those possible differences and have allowed me to appreciate her artistry without the distraction of politics. Her voice and songs remain both beautiful and meaningful. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvDyq66_lWY , Diamonds and Rust, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptxxq5PUHEk and There But for Fortune, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKq-nVdiQ8U are just a few of Baez’ songs that endure.

There’s no going back of course. But, I wonder, what happened … to the promise and optimism of those days and that generation? I just wonder.

12 thoughts on “Dragon’s Blood and Baez

  1. tanssityttö July 30, 2021 / 7:49 am

    You mentioned that soap, it occurred to me, there’s one soap: Rexona, which reminds me of the summers of childhood and youth at the cottage. It’s scent reminds me of Finnish mosquito poison called: “Off” which then became much used. The smell is good and I even find it euphoric, even though it is reminiscent of mosquito poison … 😄

    Like

  2. Cathy June 23, 2021 / 7:42 am

    I really enjoyed your article. Brought back many memories of head shop smells when buying my hip-hugger
    bell bottom jeans. Thanks for the memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • BGCT2VA June 23, 2021 / 12:38 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the article and the links to the music.

      Like

  3. Easymalc June 22, 2021 / 1:56 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I visited the Bitter End Club around 26 years ago and remember it as though it was yesterday. There wasn’t anybody famous playing but it was a great atmosphere. It must have been great there back in the 60s. Thanks for the memories and a fabulous post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • BGCT2VA June 22, 2021 / 9:24 am

      Thanks, as always. for reading. If you can recall the performers of the night you visited the club it may be interesting to check them out now. Some may not be performing but may have become very successful writers or composers, you never know.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Easymalc June 22, 2021 / 9:50 am

        I think one of the bands was called Living Loud but I can’t remember the others. I remember it was in December 1994, but the rest of it is a bit of a haze 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • BGCT2VA June 22, 2021 / 10:04 am

        There was a band named Living Loud that was comprised of former members of Uriah Heap and Deep Purple

        Liked by 1 person

      • Easymalc June 22, 2021 / 10:43 am

        That’s interesting. I have a photograph of them which includes a girl singer who also plays guitar.

        Like

  4. Texans Jack & Dodie June 20, 2021 / 11:04 am

    Absolutely brilliant writing. Just when I consider it an A grade, the Genie brought it out the “+”. I am actually missing the erotic smell of incense and so identify with everything you wrote. I remained somewhat innocent & did exactly what you did. I bought some punts or sticks of incense. It was a variety pack with various aromas. Wished I knew the names of them. They bring back wonder preteen & teenage memories. A+ and a big thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • BGCT2VA June 20, 2021 / 1:56 pm

      Coming from you, Jack, a “C” grade on anything I write would be a huge compliment. Someday I’ll have to write about my mentor, The Tom Tom, who gave me some excellent advice on writing.
      But, I am curious, Jack, what might your thoughts be on what happened to generation of Peace and Love? When and how did we get off-track?
      Thanks, again, for reading and your compliment.
      Bill

      Like

Your Comments are always welcome!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.