"It was twenty years ago today,
Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play."
When the Beatles sang those first words on the eponymous track of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967, nothing in my life had happened twenty years ago. But the driving chords, stabbing guitar and words were a hook that lodged in my - and I suspect almost everyone else's - head, an association that probably won't end until I end or dementia robs me of all but my earliest memories.
It was quite a few years later that I first began a sentence with that phrase. "It was twenty years ago..." The sound of those words, and the accompanying soundtrack spooling instantaneously through my head, froze me in my tracks and I dropped the sentence into the well of unfinished thoughts. "OMG, I didn't just say that, did I?" It shocked me that I was about to relate a tale of something or other that had happened, something I personally remembered experiencing, two decades earlier. It was an even greater shock to realize that whatever it was seemed so crystal clear and fresh in my memory.
It wasn't any easier the second time the words tumbled out, or the third or the fourth. But in time it became less traumatic. The music never stopped but the thoughts and stories continued. A pang of déjà vu tied me in a knot the first time I substituted 30 years for 20 as the milepost marking the sentence, but by then I'd grown accustomed to, if not comfortable with, the variant of relativity theories that makes time seem to accelerate the older we get, compressing ancient experiences into fresh memories and stupefying those around us who wonder why we're telling them tales older than they are.
The shock washed over me anew last month when I was reminded the various governments I've lived under for most of my life have been at war with me for, gulp, 40 years! Yes, boys and girls, it was 40 years ago - cue music - this July that Richard Nixon, the man we all thought had a lock on the Worst President Ever award until George Bush the Younger came along, declared war on drugs. Notwithstanding last month's announcement by the Office of National Drug Control Policy that the Obama administration will no longer use the term, the war continues to rage.
While I've tried to maintain a status of conscientious objector in the war on drugs, at least one side considers me an enemy combatant and would, if they could, spirit me away to any one of the many Gitmos scattered like so many high-security M&Ms across every community in North America. A shocking number of those prisons have been built solely to house, at great expense to the state and at even greater expense to the individuals, people who would rather unwind after a long day in the corporate trenches with a puff rather than with a socially-approved, government-taxed drink.
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