Want to join the Resistance?

Ivanka Trump has inspired Darcie and me to design a bracelet, in the spirit of her 60 Minutes bauble. It’s a solid-silicone statement of how we intend to resist her daddy’s administration:

Wrist Rebel Resistance bracelet

Long ago, when our government was terrorizing Southeast Asia and drafting young men as cannon fodder, I joined an organization called the Philadelphia Resistance. We did whatever we could to throw a wrench in the works, to stop the madness.

Since then I have disagreed with many of my government’s policies, I’ve demonstrated in the streets and spilled much ink (and many electrons) to protest new military adventures, a stolen election in 2000, and racism in its many forms. But only now am I ready to say again:

As loyal Americans, it’s time to resist the extremists who have taken control of our country. They will stop at nothing to impose an order that threatens our safety, health and freedom. I won’t cooperate.

Resistance to the Nixon administration may (or may not) have shortened the Vietnam war – it certainly drove the president into deep paranoia that ultimately drove him from office. And resistance ended the military draft.

Our actions then took many forms. Virtually all were peaceful, but many were militant…blocking access to draft boards, blocking streets (a tactic I came to regret), attempting to close down a military base, political street theater, destroying files, and, most of all, refusing to cooperate with the bureaucracy. Two of these tactics landed me in jail, and a third led to a year-long entanglement with the FBI. (You can read about these in Some Way Outa Here.)

The symbol of the Resistance was the omega: Ω  It’s the symbol for electrical resistance. We’ve proudly incorporated it into the bracelet.

Wrist Rebel Resistance bracelet

OK, so other than looking good, what is this “resistance” thing about in the 21st century?

For starters, resistance means that the proceeds from the bracelet go to the Natural Resources Defence Council, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU. (Yes, the same ACLU that defended me in court 1970.) These organizations are dedicated to serving Americans as the Trump administration tries to attack (not too strong a word) the environment, take away women’s health services, and silence those who point out what’s happening. Providing these services is resisting.

Resistance means defending law-abiding, hardworking immigrants from discrimination, detention, or deportation (in many cases, to countries they have never lived in). These are people who have cared for our children and our parents, who write the software that underpins our economy, who pick our food and who are our friends and neighbors. Protecting them is resisting.

Resistance means standing up for Muslim Americans.  It means, if a Muslim registry is implemented, being the first one in line to say “I am a Muslim.” It means, when Muslims are attacked, wearing a head scarf. When Muslims are under attack, we are all Muslims. Standing together is resisting.

Resistance means preserving our right to health care and a secure retirement. When our health insurance is taken away, it means insisting that until everyone is guaranteed health care, no one is safe. (Especially the middle/working class Trump supporters who will be devastated by the destruction of the Affordable Care Act.) It means refusing to cooperate with private insurance companies if they refuse to serve all Americans. Fighting for universal health care is resisting.

Resistance means stopping new coal and oil power plants, and working with states and private companies to promote the use of low-carbon fuels. And it means helping dislocated coal and oil workers transition to new careers, especially in wind and solar energy. Saving the planet for ourselves and our grandchildren is resisting.

Resistance means standing up for women’s’ rights to control their bodies – especially when those rights are being taken away, one state at a time, and providing safe, affordable alternatives even when they are outlawed. This is resisting.

Resistance means doing the hard work to reduce violence by police against minorities, and to fight the vilification or scapegoating of minorities. Refusing to accept racism is resisting.

Resistance means thinking about what is happening, every day, and not accepting that greed and stupidity is the new normal. The billionaires who have seized power are about to begin looting our country on a scale never before imagined. Standing up for our economic rights – decent wages and a fair share of our prosperity – is a way of saying, “we, and our parents,  built this country, and you’re not going to take it away from us.” Providing services, even when illegal, is resisting.

If we decide it’s just too hard and look the other way, they win. If we just wait till the next election, there may not be another election. If we keep our heads down and do our jobs, we may not have jobs.

It’s time to actively, peacefully, and passionately resist the madness.

Get your Resistance bracelet at WristRebel.com!

For the reader on your holiday list…

…a delightful book about an incredible time.

Millennials and teens are fascinated to discover an era when young people discovered they could change the world.

Boomers can relive a time when the world was changing faster than anyone could believe, as people walked on the moon, a youth culture blossomed, and a distant war raged.

Over a thousand people have purchased Some Way Outa Here since it was published last winter. They’ve posted 30 five star reviews on Amazon, with praise like…

  • “A terrifically engaging memoir that captures a pivotal year’s drama, daring and urgency.”
  • “This gentle, sensitive narrative is told with compelling characters that capture the innocence, idealism and intensity of the era…with vivid imagery, fast paced storytelling and fun-to-remember details.”
  • “I can’t recommend it highly enough!”

As we enter a new, uncertain future, Some Way Outa Here will inspire readers. It’s a story about both discovering the world and changing it. What better gift to help someone start the coming new year?

Order on Amazon.
Mark Lauden's memoir

Me and Bob

We go way back, me and Bob Dylan.

I knew Dylan’s early songs from a young age, but they were a little esoteric and to young ears, the voice was grating. But when other people started recording his songs – first there were pop-folksingers like Peter Paul and Mary – and then the Byrds, I started paying attention. Then I heard “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Since that day, Dylan’s lyrics have filled a disproportionate amount of space in my brain. It wasn’t long before I knew all the words to “Desolation Row,” all ten verses (but who’s counting?). Even now, I can sing (and play) most of the songs from Highway 61 Revisited.

Dylan’s way with words is surely Nobel-worthy. He has written serious songs that still resonate – “Masters of War,” “A Hard Rain,” “Hurricane,” “Gates of Eden.” There are love songs that are achingly beautiful – “Tomorrow is a Long Time,” “Don’t Think Twice,” “If You See Her Say Hello.” There are short stories in song – “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Black Diamond Bay,” and many more. And songs that make no sense but are unforgettable – “Memphis Blues Again,” “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”

The words have sunk into our language the way Shakespeare’s words did. “Don’t think twice” or “something’s going on, but you don’t know what it is;” “one more cup of coffee,” or “how does it feel?” – none of these lines are unique to Dylan’s songs, but you may hear the melody when someone says them. Dylanisms like “to live outside the law you must be honest” or “she breaks just like a little girl” ring familiar. And the poetry – “sad-eyed lady of the lowlands, where the sad-eyed prophets say that no man comes,” “yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky, with one hand waving free” – can bring tears to my eyes.

When I wrote my book, I knew from the start that the title had to be drawn from Bob’s songs. Since the book is about my journey through the politics, culture and music of the late 1960s, it was just a question of which song, which words. In the end, it was easy: the book is my search for some way out of adolescence, out of my suburban hometown, out of here. All “Along the Watchtower” says it plainly, “there must be some way outa here.” It also tells a mysterious, ambiguous story about “too much confusion,” where “there are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.” The sense of urgency rang true for me: “let us not talk falsely, the hour is getting late.”

Dylan’s Nobel prize is a well-deserved affirmation of his craft. But even now, there is one big part of his work that is underappreciated: his 21st century songs. When Rolling Stone listed “Dylan’s best” songs a few years ago, only a handful of recent songs were included. They haven’t been paying attention, and if you haven’t either, take heed:

Spend a little time with Modern Times, Love and Theft, and the others. Listen to “Mississippi,” “Thunder on the Mountain,” “Spirit on the Water,” “High Water,” “Beyond Here Lies Nothing” and “It’s All Good.”

It is…all good. Very good.

Thanks for everything, Bob.

Check out Some Way Outa Here on Amazon!

Echoes of 1968 in the presidential race

The Donald says “there could be riots” if he is denied the Republican nomination at the July convention. Intentional or not, it’s an echo from the bizarre events of 1968.

In case you don’t remember…the election was about ending the Vietnam war, and fighting poverty and racism. Bobby Kennedy became the Democratic frontrunner for president when he beat Senator Gene McCarthy in the California primary, two months before the Democratic convention. Minutes after his victory speech, he was murdered.

All hell broke loose.

McCarthy, who had first challenged President Lyndon Johnson and precipitated Johnson’s early retirement, claimed the nomination. Kennedy’s ally George McGovern stepped in and claimed Kennedy’s mantle. And the party establishment panicked: They called in Hubert Humphrey, Johnson’s Vice President.

Humphrey hadn’t run in a primary and was nearly as unpopular as the war-burdened president, but the he was the establishment’s choice going into the convention.

The antiwar movement was determined to have a voice in the proceedings, and the Left descended on Chicago for the big event. There were liberal activists; the increasingly radical Students for a Democratic Society; civil rights demonstrators from the South; and the most colorful of the lot, the Yippies, who nominated a hog named Pigasus for president.

On the night that the convention nominated Humphrey, a huge mass of demonstrators attempted to march to the convention hall. Blocked by police, they sat down in Michigan Avenue. They mayor, Richard Daley, gave the order for the police to attack, and they did, brutally. On national TV, they began gassing and clubbing sitting protesters, who chanted “the whole world is watching!” It was.

Inside the convention hall, the McCarthy and McGovern supporters denounced the “police state” violence unfolding outside. But the nomination proceeded, surrounded by mayhem. Humphrey was so tarred by the events that Richard Nixon eked out a victory in November.

Could something like this happen again?

In this year’s presidential race, there’s one big difference: one of the candidates is threatening violence if he is not nominated. The threat of violence from a candidate is unprecedented in modern times.

Arguably, political violence in America has always benefited the most extreme right-wing candidates. Trump has shown an appetite for provoking confrontations at his rallies, and he knows how to use it to further his cause..

The havoc of 1968 was not limited to rioting. One candidate and another great leader, Martin Luther King, were assassinated by gunmen. The outcome of the election was certainly shaped by violence. The prospect of returning to that era is scary, indeed.

As much as some of us might enjoy the spectacle of the Republican Party eating itself alive, a turn toward intimidation and brute force threatens to unleash forces that may lead in unpredictable, dangerous directions.

In the year that followed the events of 1968, my contemporaries and I struggled to find the lines between peaceful dissent and violent resistance. You can read about it in my new book Some Way Outa Here.

26 Aug 1968, Chicago, Illinois, USA --- The sign over the archway leading to the International Amphitheater welcomes delegates to the Democratic Convention, but from the sea of police helmets in the foreground, it looks like only police are attending. (Sign says "Hello Democrats, Welcome to Chicago" and a bunch of police are seen from the back. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

An interview about Some Way Outa Here

Last week author Mercedes Fox asked me to talk about writing and my new book, and here’s the interview, excerpted from her website.

If you use a pen name, why did you choose it?  My pen name is my real name. In real life, I go by another name.

I had a complicated family, and I ended up with my stepfather’s last name. But I was the last male in my father’s family, and we gave my children – all girls, it turned out – his last name. So when I started writing stories about growing up, it made sense to me to use the name I was born with, Mark Lauden.

Why do you write?  I can’t not write. It just happens. I do it in my work to explain things – technology, usually. I write about people because it’s the best way to understand them and share that understanding. I figured that out in high school when I started writing for an underground newspaper – it’s a story I tell in Some Way Outa Here.

Writing is also a zenlike thing. When you immerse yourself in a story or characters, you get lost in a world that can go any way you want it to go. It’s like being in control of a dream. I enjoy that.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something? I’ve been telling stories about he events of the late 1960s for years, and recently someone pointed out to me that it’s now history, not just memories. But she felt that the events of that time have often been told poorly, misunderstood, and that it’s up to those of us who were there to tell what really happened. It turns out, the truth is a lot more interesting than the mythology of hippies and protesters. I think Some Way Outa Here will strike my contemporaries as true in some important ways, and I hope it sheds some light on a distant, mystical era for younger readers.

Which writers inspire you?  This varies day to day, but today I’m feeling in a Mark Twain mood. Huckleberry Finn is still the best American novel, and if I could write something like it my life would be complete. Homer’s Odyssey has inspired us all. – so many stories harken back to it. Kerouac’s On the Road inspired me to think about learning from the world, not just learning about the world. Robert Pirsig showed us how examine the world, philosophy and madness while riding a motorcycle across the country. You might notice a theme there, and it’s one that I try to explore in my own writing.

What one person from history would you like to meet and why? John Lennon. To thank him for everything. I wouldn’t mind if he’d play a tune or two with me, too.

If there was one thing you could do to change the world, what would it be?  I would make sure that every student learned two things really well: First, the beauty and importance of the scientific method, so that everyone would appreciate the disciplines of skepticism and proof. Second, the parable of The Tragedy of the Commons, which teaches a concept that may be central to the survival of humanity. For more on the latter, you can read about how I learned this in Some Way Outa Here.

What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer?  Writing things as they happened – journalism – rarely gets to the truth. If you want to tell the truth, write like a painter rather than a photographer. Find the essence of a person, place or concept and repaint it with colors and light that illuminate what’s important. Even in history or memoir, insight is more important than precision.

What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?  I’ve done both, and while my first book, published by a big publisher, was financially successful, I had a lot more fun with my new self-published book, and I think it shows. It’s not a shortcut: I approach self-publishing as a challenge to make a book that’s better than a traditional publisher would make, in all ways – writing, editing and design.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?  As my first independent reviewer recommended: “Just read it.”

For the whole interview, check out Mercedes Fox’s site.
Mark Lauden interview

All Along the Watchtower

There must be some way outa here, cried the joker to the thief.
There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.

I fell in love with “All Along the Watchtower” the first time I heard the John Wesley Harding album. (It’s still one of my favorite Dylan albums.) But like so many of us, it was Jimi Hendrix who made this into an indelible, central part of the our personal soundtracks.

It’s a strange song. It’s written backwards – the last line could easily be the first: two riders were approaching, and the wind began to howl. The characters are looking for a way out at the beginning, but it seems like it should be the end.

A few months after Dylan released the song, Hendrix tried it out. The result was a thunderous, electrifying guitar explosion that fulfilled the song’s apocalyptic potential. Instead of Dylan’s storyteller vocal, Hendrix sings it like he’s out there on the watchtower when the wind begins to howl, a desperate watchman at the rampart. The rhythm guitars (Dave Mason is playing a 12-string acoustic) turn Dylan’s simple strum into a slapped, crackling force, like timbers snapping. And the topping is Hendrix’ astonishing guitar lead, personifying the howling wind.

Dylan says this is the best cover version of any of his songs. Some people say this is the best cover version of any rock song. I’ll buy that.

But it’s that first line that drew me in, from the first hearing. “There must be some way outa here.” (Actually, Jimi turns it into “there must be some kinda way outa here.” It works.) It’s the vision of being on the rampart in the middle of nowhere, with wildcats prowling, riders approaching, and the wind blowing hard…there must be some way out. Who hasn’t been there?

I was there, on my own private watchtower, a teenager desperate to find something else, someplace else. Perhaps that’s why Watchtower was one of the first songs I learned on guitar…I needed to sing it. Still do. Whenever the wind begins to howl.

The passage of years helped me understand that in 1969-70, this was what I needed, a way out of a time when nothing made sense, and a place that was oblivious to the madness. Suburban life in the late 1960s had the feeling of a place you would stumble on if you fell down a rabbit hole, where nothing was quite real, and you wanted to find the way out, back into the sunshine. I knew it at the time, but I couldn’t articulate it.

Dylan’s words and Jimi’s anguished voice and thrashing guitar said it best.

Is there a song lyric that would sum up your formative years?


Why did you write Some Way Outa Here?

I’m asked…why did you write your book?

Good question. It’s a less polite way of asking: What makes you think anyone is interested in what happened to you almost 50 years ago?

Once I got the idea for this book, I had to write it. Once I started, it was as if it was writing itself. My recollections of a twelve month period, long ago, somehow snapped together like a puzzle, and I could see them as a whole that was much more interesting than the individual parts.

I saw the connections between people and events; I saw how friends and relatives were all part of a web of interconnections, all influencing each other.

The time, the place, and the people had come into focus.

What made the story most worth telling was the time itself. So many amazing weird and outrageous things happened that year, and I wanted to explain them to people. For my friends who were there, I found that reviving memories by telling my story helped them remember their own stories. And I found that younger people were astonished and amused by the slightly unhinged world we grew up in.

So there are two answers to the question…

I wrote Some Way Outa Here as a way to understand what had happened and how it led us to where we are now.


I think it’s a pretty good story, and a good story is always worth telling.

Mark Lauden's memoir

A First Review

I’ve sent prerelease copies of Some Way Outa Here to a few reviewer/bloggers. Dean Robertson has posted the first review to go live, and it’s very positive. I’m particularly pleased that the book triggered some meaningful personal memories.

Click this link to see the review:

Book Review~Mark Lauden is looking for “Some Way Outa Here”