Poems by John Wester
By Anna Daniels
Back in the early 70’s Julian was home to an enclave of young writers, intellectuals and politicos. John Wester was part of this group of kindred spirits that also included SDFP contributor Jay Powell and Bud Sonka who recently introduced me to John’s poetry. I hope that we will hear more about what they built and thought about up on the mountain during that time.
What can you say about the march
That caused the sweat that took the starch
From collars worn by members who
Live doing what they’re told to do–
Passing laws for points to please
The ones they’re hoping to appease
To get the votes to win again
The chance to serve the rich white men?
I’ve seen enough to know that we
Are all the same–come down to need.
Our enemies amount to three:
Ignorance, fear and stubborn greed–
The credo of the ruling class:
You’re nothing if you don’t kick ass.
“I need to talk to you,” he said,
You follow to his office where
The heavy air is dripping dread–
You know he’s going to kill you there.
Boss, an envelope in his hand,
Tells you, “Sorry, this is hard.
I just hope you’ll understand,
We hold you, still, in high regard–
But we have to let you go.”
Security guard behind you now.
“You didn’t fit in with the flow–
It wasn’t working. Anyhow,
Here’s your check, so here you are–
Joe will see you to your car.”
The day you made the birds shut up
Still makes me laugh inside.
We were talking big stuff, yup,
But trees were filled with pride–
Birds returning for the spring
On their way up north;
Couldn’t think to hear them sing,
Calling back and forth.
You got up from beer and yelled,
Shut the fuck up. Birds got still.
You’d stood up, the silenced jelled
The mountainside. We sat until
The words came out, and what you said
Still rings aloud inside my head.
Contractor building a parking lot
Fired his workers on May 1st.
They didn’t show up for work, were caught
Up in the day–and so he cursed
The Mexicans, and now behind
The profit that he had in mind.
Too bad he paid them Friday, now
The dreams he had, time won’t allow.
Next day he brought his son to work–
Boy didn’t want to be there.
Sat on his ass–thought, dad’s a jerk,
Times he caught his angry stare.
He had better things to do
Than shoveling dirt–a one-man crew.
He wasn’t made to do this shit,
Tonight he might tell dad he’s quit.
Jim Bliesner says
The Julian air does that to folks I hear.
Jay Powell says
Anna: Thanks to you and Bud for getting some of John’s poems in SDFP.
Bud did a lot of work on alternate press late 60’s/early 70’s. Bud, John and I took a memory lane drive up to Julian and down Banner grade last year. Nice. You asked about what we built and thought about up there. Here is a Saturday night’s quick outline:
I built a dome, a garden, and helped restore the old Bailey House. The dome structs were ripped with a 5″ circular saw from lumber salvaged from the Julian open pit dump.
My friend Dennis and I salvaged a lot of other fine items including a lot of things from the estate of the late Myrtle Botts. Myrtle had been the town librarian mid-last century and ( as I came to later learn) was a very close “friend” of that guy who had his family living in the Anza Borrego desert and wrote for Arizona magazine about how they were self sufficient. Rumor had it he would mail his articles off up in Julian as he picked up the weekly food supply and water and visited with Myrtle…then back to the family. You can still see remnants of their settlement in the desert.
Tried to build a methane generator to run on chicken shit, but a bunch of dogs cornered our chicken who had escaped from the zoo at a big party one Sunday afternoon and she went on to other things in the cosmos. My experiment was retired to the barn.
We built the Julian Food Coop and ran it out of our barn (actually was the barn we rented from Franklin Barnes) until we moved it to the Mountain Market.
We drove down the mountain to protest the bombings in Indochine in Dec 72.
Played in the Julian jug band with late Dennis Mellin (Buck Low) on ukelele singing “leppard skin pill box hat, Stan Goudy on banjo, dearly departed friend Jim MacDougall on guitar and vocals on some of his own great songs with sister Nan. Wagging his head and tappin’his foot. Did occasional theatric exercises with John Reed’s dad.
Hiked thru the snow in Wynola, past Jim Hubbell’s house to where the dotted line for the headwater of San Diego River vanished.
Hiked on the rocks behind the orchard where some fool now wants to scrap and stick up a huge “solar farm”. My nightmare dreamed some decades ago actually might come true—ticky-tack houses where an orchard grew next to our cross-country croquet course.
Bunch of us did a survey and narrated slide show (real slides popping up and down in a carousel) showing lots of nice pictures and some ugly stuff like slabs just poured all over Mira Mesa for the update for the Julian Community Plan. Best part was some of the comments on the surveys….one about what a wonderful beautiful place this was and then drifting off into some philosophizing about “the noble and futile destiny of man kind. ” (We smart know it all 20-somethings laughed our asses off…. now whadda think?…).
Roz did some beautiful stained glass work for James Hubbell. We had dinner one night with Ann and Jim and some architect friends. Omar (now passed on into cosmos) told us that if he was in charge, he would line up the bulldozers in a big circle around suburbia and “puss zem (he was native of Syria) into za City”. I can still see him in my minds eye atop the bulldozer , headdress blowing in the dust like a tank commander pointing downtown. (It got kinda quiet around the table for a a few beats). We had just returned from a trip to LA for some kind of conference about “Focus on Shelter for Mankind.” Here again, we knew we had all the answers.
Flew down America’s grade from Pine Hills to Wynola on the Daytona with Freeway Phil holding on tight, laying into the curves on a summer’s Saturday afternoon.
Shot pool at the roadhouse across from Lake Cuyamaca one night with new friend Walt. He was a young kid, kinda rough around the edges, levi cut off jacket and tattos. Somebody made the mistake of hassling us that night–our hair was a little longer then. They didn’t know Walt had most recently been a paratrooper. They found out the hard way.
Those is just some of the things we done, playin’ back-to-the-land in the home of the minute-man shooting up the Old Kentuck homestead and nearly ending Bud’s family cause they don’t like no claim jumpin’ commie headed, long haired hippies up here onest-upon a time.
Generally, lived a sweet lifetime in a few years in spite of the spite and moved up higher to Thunder Valley then back to earth by the sea and here we are. Like to go up to top of the Volcan Mountain trail and look down the Banner grade ever so often. Get my head right. The Julian air does that to folks.
Anna Daniels says
Jay—This is the stuff of a stand alone article(s). We can’t let these stories get swallowed up in the maw of forgetfulness. I’ve been curious for years about that time in Julian. Thank you for filling in some of the blanks in your inimitable style–the death of the methane generator and the image of Omar on a bulldozer are wonderful.
bob dorn says
I hear the Julian air doing that to folks.