Sleeping Where I Fall: A Chronicle

Sleeping Where I Fall: A Chronicle

by Peter Coyote


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In his energetic, funny, and intelligent memoir, Peter Coyote relives his fifteen-year ride through the heart of the counterculture—a journey that took him from the quiet rooms of privilege as the son of an East Coast stockbroker to the riotous life of political street theater and the self-imposed poverty of the West Coast communal movement known as The Diggers. With this innovative collective of artist-anarchists who had assumed as their task nothing less than the re-creation of the nation’s political and social soul, Coyote and his companions soon became power players.

In prose both graphic and unsentimental, Coyote reveals the corrosive side of love that was once called “free”; the anxieties and occasional terrors of late-night, drug-fueled visits of biker gangs looking to party; and his own quest for the next high. His road through revolution brought him to adulthood and to his major role as a political strategist: from radical communard to the chairman of the California Arts Council, from a street theater apprentice to a motion-picture star.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781619025608
Publisher: Counterpoint Press
Publication date: 04/14/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 513,859
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

An ordained practitioner of Zen Buddhism and a politically engaged actor, Peter Coyote began his work in street theater and political organizing in San Francisco. In addition to acting in over 140 films, and working with directors such as Martin Ritt, Steven Spielberg and Roman Polanski, Coyote has won an Emmy for narrating the award-winning documentary “Pacific Century.” He has also narrated “The West, “ “The Dust Bowl,” “Prohibition,” and “The Roosevelts” for Ken Burns. In 1993 he was awarded a Pushcart Prize for “Carla’s Story,” published in Zyzzyva. He lives in Mill Valley, California.

Read an Excerpt

“One of the defining attributes of the sixties was the collective impulse to reveal yourself candidly and publicly, confessing your inner visions as your daily life. It was as if the participants at a costume ball suddenly found the event too silly and simultaneously dropped their masks. Farm boys from Nebraska were writing poems, preppy girls from Grosse Point were throwing the Tarot and studying herbs. . . . Personal style counted more than a pedigree.”

“The Digger idea of life acting was a kind of mental nuclear fuel, and before it was diluted into the weak tea of lifestyle (which came to mean spend any way you choose), the concept galvanized our community.”

“I reviewed my life choices up to that point, reviewed my friends with sallow skin, nicotine-stained fingers, and bad teeth. For all our brilliant social invention and hipness, were we healthy? What did freedom and liberation mean without freedom from illness? I had lots of time to ponder because my speculations concerning limitless invention had finally collided head on with their first inalienable limit: the integrity of the body. Abuse of it had flattened me like foolscap.”

“We descend into the gullies, wind through the Live and Chinquapin oaks draped with Spanish moss, and climb to the large field leading directly to the house where we once played football against the Red House. But there is nothing there to stop the eye: no house, no barn, no outbuildings—nothing but whispering grass. . . . I cannot conceive how such a flamboyant people—Emmett, Elsa, Sweet William, Moose, Gristle, Carla, J.P. Bryden, Billy Batman, and Sam—people so visible in the moment, can be invisible to history, can have left no indelible mark. This book, if it is anything, is my attempt at carving a petroglyph, at creating some record of the tribes of free people who passed through here, along with the now unseen sides of myself, into that invisible half of the smoky moon.”

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Preface xiii

Introduction: You Have to Start Somewhere 3

1 Themes and Anticipations 6

2 The Perpetual Present 16

3 Home Is Hard 22

4 Breaking the Glass 32

5 The Minstrel Show 39

6 Growing a New Skin 57

7 Emmett: A Life Played for Keeps 67

8 The Invisible Circus 74

9 Edge City 84

10 Crossing the Free Frame of Reference 94

11 Biker Blues 107

12 Sweet William's Story 113

13 The Red House 130

14 Black Bear Ranch 143

15 Dr. Feelgood's Walking Cure 159

16 Slippingto the Edge of the World 167

17 Free Fall 179

18 Full Bloom 201

19 Approaching Terminal Velocity 214

20 Top of the Arc 242

21 Roman Candle 263

22 A Moment's Float 274

23 Gravity Wins 291

24 Splatter 311

25 Stepping Out of the Wind 327

Afterword: Time to Take a Break 347

Postscript 353

Index 369

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