Pin-ups make us feel good. Marilyn Monroe and Baba Ram Dass make me feel good. Why else did I spend the first half of my life jerking off into her picture, and the second half into his? An exaggeration, of course, but so, too, my awakening to sex, and spirit — has the treacherous valley between ever been traversed without fear, over the narrowest footbridge? — and an exaggeration meant to stand against America’s overheated fictions about itself. For these are our heroes (who but Mrs. Ford keeps a picture of Gerry on her desk?), the stars by which we chart our course, and in the trapped light we call a photograph, we see our yearning reflected. Did we hunger for nakedness? Naked ecstasy and total union? Total sensation and final release? Come, say our heroes, we welcome you into the bosom of your dreams. Here is a pillow for your head, and a mantra, and the parting of thighs.

Now, Marilyn is in heaven and Ram Dass’ new guru is a woman too sexy to photograph. She reads his mind, but then, Marilyn read ours. Did she dimly perceive, through that last barbiturate haze, what a martyr to beauty she would become? And Ram Dass, shot from the cannon of his own expanded perceptions on his first trip with LSD — what inkling, then, of the burden of being a New Age leading man, having to change from holy robes to jeans so he wouldn’t feel embarrassed eating pizza?

Curse me, for an American, and a fool, but I can’t take my eyes off them.

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