Issue 13 : Fall 2007








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Dr. Yes and the Mystery of the Mission

by David Cox

15 Sep 2007

Were you thinking that those were the words those upright lines? Those curves, angles, dots?
No, those are not the words - the substantial words are in the ground and sea,
They are in the air - they are in you.
-Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1867)

Part Three


Dr. Yes eyes were moving rapidly across his field of vision, though his eyes were firmly closed. Deep in sleep, he scanned a vast black universe alive with movement. This one was just like the others this past month. It featured very thin, almost hair-like light blue glowing geometric forms intersecting each other like dancers in an elaborate waltz of pure form. Thin lines met exquisitely tiny points of light to form elaborate spidery veils of intricate floating boxes, hexagons, but then intersecting variations of these. There was music: Ravel's Daphne St. Chloe building to a crescendo and as it did so the various three-dimensional silver shapes in this vast dark landscape came together to form a tesseract - a four dimensional cube, which outside of the dream-state defied all comprehension in a strictly 3D world. But here it was, revealing itself to Dr. Yes, who woke up crying.

image 1 His cat licked the back of his hand as he wept into his cupped palms.

An hour of cable TV could not fully dispel the now waking visions, which kept coming at odd intervals - fine elaborate shapes dancing around his head like migraine auras, occasionally aligning themselves with details of the room: a golden section over the doorway. A tetrahedron and pentacle overlapping near the microwave, to rest above it.

Hair Loss Update. America's Hilarious Home Videos. Another car-bomb in Baghdad, dancing model robots in Nagasaki. The San Francisco Mystery Sniper "just what was the motive?" A documentary on movie star swimming pools: "Some are the size of football fields". President Bush laughing at some joke of his own to a room of reporters, all laughing with him. Yes turned the TV off and watched the blue and red lights from a passing cop car form thin moving deltas across the ceiling. Two gunshots reverberated across South Van Ness Avenue outside.

The phone rang. It was Sharon, asking Yes if he had seen the news about the latest sniper attack at Café Artemis. Yes, he'd seen it. He'd actually walked past that café an hour before it had happened and thought he could remember the victim, sneering contemptuously at a homeless man who had passed with his shopping cart full of found broken toys, blankets and a tinny radio blaring country and western music.

Dr. Yes agreed to coming over later to advise on some factual details on the dot-com boom and bust sequence for her movie.

A New Frame of Reference

The doorbell rang. A sharply dressed man in his early thirties stood next to a much older man, dressed in brown, grey and cream-colored clothes made of very fine cheesecloth, cotton and wool. The suit wore shiny black shoes, the older man sandals.

"Are you Doctor Theodore Yes?" the suit asked.

"I am" Dr. Yes replied.

"Son of Finnegan Yes" the older man asked.

"I am."

"I am Andrew Bartlett, a legal representative for your late father, Mr. Finnegan Yes, who left instructions to contact you on this day" said the suit.

"And my name is Liberty" said the older man.

"Before he disappeared, your father left specific instructions for this box to be delivered to you on this very day." Bartlett handed Dr. Yes a box, wrapped in brown paper and in string. Handwriting on its upper surface read: To be opened by my son no earlier than the twelfth of October 2008.

Liberty peered from over his wire-frame glasses and semi-whispered.

"Dr. Yes. Your father and I were very good friends back in the 1960s. He and I and a lot of other people shared a very vivid and profound vision for a better society. We genuinely believed that a utopia might emerge from the ashes of war and the bitter fruit which America had handed down to its children."

Dr. Yes looked at his eyes. Pentacles formed there, ringed with tesseracts within tesseracts ...

"I know that whatever is in that box comes from a man who held the principles of a free and just society closest to his heart. I know that whatever message you may be receiving this day from your father will communicate more than the desire of a man to pass on information to his son. I know that whatever happened to your father - and many have speculated on what did actually happen to him when he disappeared - he wanted you to know that he loved you. And that he fully intended to one day share with you that which he had learned."

Dr. Yes opened the box. His hands were shaking. His father had been something like a rumor, a collection of obscure fragments of information. He had needed to construct a personal shrine of possible forms for this man who had one day been there when he was five years old, then gone, like a snowflake in a furnace.

The box contained a letter, and a cassette. There was also a small two-inch square wooden frame, painted yellow, attached to a chain. Dr. Yes picked it up and looked at it.

At that moment Liberty put his hand into his shirt and withdrew an identical frame-on-a-chain, this one infinitely more worn. It seemed to be a relic from a forgotten time.

Dr. Yes recognized it immediately. "The Frame of Reference" he said. "Symbol of the Diggers, the Haight-Ashbury libertarians who gave free food and shelter to the people, and started shops where every product was free."

"You know your history, Dr. Yes".

Dr. Yes placed the cassette in his hi-fi and pressed 'play'. The ancient sound of tape hiss filled the room. Then it began.

My dearest son, Theodore. By the time you hear this message you will have reached your forty-third year. And you will be at this age, the same age as I now as I record this, my message to the future.

My son, my self and my generation in this year of nineteen sixty-seven face perhaps the greatest of challenges the world has ever seen. Massive forces of power and control today dominate every aspect of life. Many of us have worked very hard to offer an alternative to this world, and have to some extent succeeded, if only in symbolic forms through our actions here in San Francisco.

For we are the Diggers, and we seek not fame, nor fortune, but a fair and happy life for all. We are connected globally through the actions of many in different parts of the world. The Situationists in France. The Provos in Holland. Our brothers everywhere fight the aggressors on the soils of Vietnam, in the streets of Prague, of London and of Tokyo, and progressive people from all around the world constitute a major force to confront the growing cesspit of corruption which has all but denied this planet its population's right to self determination and participation in all aspects of life, not just those reserved for commerce and exploitation.

I of course can know nothing of the world of two thousand and eight, other than that perhaps life might by some miracle be free of such suffering, war and injustice such as that which plagues our generation. As to my fate, and that of yourself after hearing this, time will tell, I promise ...

Dr. Yes looked up to see that Liberty was weeping and smiling, laughing and crying ...

You see son, amazingly happening groovy and political scenes come and go. Good and trusted collaborators who once swore to join the struggle against the man often end up resembling him more and more. I have seen men turn from open-minded libertarians to closed-minded paranoid and fearful people, viewing every gesture of solidarity and kindness as evidence of a world gone sour. Friendship turns to suspicion, love turns to brittle anxiety.

The pull or promise of power and fame is sometimes that which corrupts and twists the best of intentions in our finest artists, thinkers and activists. San Francisco is filled with the living corpses of once great heroes of revolution, whose moral remains now turned to dust, the memory of their best work gone with the wind, and the intense dazzle of their heyday, now a dim and dying candle flickering as before a storm. Like cats cooped up in the basements of creative endeavor, they go stir crazy and lash out at everything, even themselves. There are other ways to be. Other forms of action. Other zones to inhabit.

We must be either patient with such cases, or simply dismiss them as the inevitable result of a human nature, all too frail in its vulnerability to forces bigger and better equipped to rob rich, vibrant, and joyful communities of everything that keeps them real and authentic. Whichever side of the street you stand, you must keep to your side in the battle for authenticity - political, artistic, and communitarian. Do as thou wilt, but make sure it is in fact really you who govern the doing.

As men get older, even the brightest and best of the artists and thinkers can become weakened by struggle, dispirited by the countless let-downs and sometimes genuine and deliberate attempts by the buffoons in power to undermine our efforts. When once idealistic people get mean, judgmental, and lose their taste for utopia, it is time for those of us who carry an ember of hope to move on and seek community elsewhere. When you fly in the airship of struggle, the ballast of despair must be cut loose lest the whole ship crash and burn.

When the so-called "Hippie" cult started to show signs this year of co-optation, we Diggers acted accordingly. We staged "Death of Hippie" as a ceremony. Others interpreted the idea in ways more ... let's say 'lasting'.

Enclosed in the box you have been given, along with your new frame of reference pendant, is a floor-plan to a house which my colleagues and I restored and in which we live today as a commune. We call this house Utopia. If it still stands, swing by and take a look.

There is one room in this house which I would like you to visit.

Until then. See you in the context of this new frame of reference ...

image 2 The House at 992 Masonic

Andrew Bartlett opened the door to his SUV van and Dr. Yes stepped out at the foot of a large Victorian Mansion. Liberty stood next to him.

"We called it 'Arcadia'. Here were had some of the finest and most enjoyable moments not only of my life, but of many lives. Within the walls of this house, Dr. Yes, took place discussions of life, of politics, of a world in which the possibilities before us seemed truly infinite ... ."

The door opened to reveal a cavernous lobby, a grand wooden staircase lit by stained glass windows which projected colored patterns across the walls. A grandfather clock ticked slowly. There was no furniture in the house, only the vague sense that recently, very recently the house had been occupied, and swiftly vacated.

"Dr. Yes. This is your house. And these are your things. Everything here is yours. Your father left it all to you in his will."

Dr. Yes returned "His will."

Bartlett showed him a piece of paper. "This is your father's last Will and Testament. With it is a key."

Dr. Yes picked up the key and looked at it. An "A-in-a-circle" formed the part you held between thumb and forefinger.

"Let us go upstairs" said Liberty.

They climbed the gently curving stairs and were faced with a long corridor. Dr. Yes held the floor-plan from the box up to compare with the hallway.

"This plan shows a room which does not appear here!" said Yes.

Dr. Yes walked to the place where the room should be, only to find a smooth, white-painted wall. He ran his hand across it.

Near the skirting board, almost invisible, Yes found a small thread. Attached to the thread was an "A-in-a-circle" disk no bigger than an eighth of an inch. He pulled it. The paint fell away to reveal a large rectangle shape as the fine wire revealed the hidden doorway. Pulling away the remaining paint, dust, and wallpaper, the three men discovered a large polished wooden door set flush into the wall. Solid mahogany. It was framed by a large yellow painted frame.

"We all have to see with better eyes than the ones we have" said Liberty. "It was one of Finnegan's favorite phrases."

In the centre of the door a small keyhole was covered by a disk, with a spiral pattern engraved on it. Dr. Yes inserted his key and turned it.

A whoosh! of air escaped as the huge door opened on its hinges. Inside the room was a perfectly preserved Hippie bedroom, but tiny - like a large broom cupboard, no bigger than eight feet by five, the ceiling another ten feet high ... Che poster on the wall, stacks of film cans, tapes, an electric guitar, books, magazines, a bong, a stereo system. And on the bed, the largest thing in the room lay a figure. Its face was like a kind of grey pallid leather, like a shoe left out in the dry desert for four hundred years. Its skeletal face showed teeth, its closed eyes framed by wire frame glasses, and brown long hair came down to the waist of the figure. Its arms were crossed and were holding a yellow frame, just like the one in the box and that worn by Liberty.

Liberty said "... hey Finnegan, long time no see man ... ."

Then he turned to a dumbfounded Dr. Yes and said

"Dr. Yes, meet your father ..."

Dr. Yes will return in the next issue of Otherzine!

David Cox is a writer, filmmaker and artist who lives in the Mission District of San Francisco. He is a regular contributor to Otherzine. He is also working on a film version of the Dr. Yes story. A trailer for this film can be viewed here: