Hippie/freak literature, particularly during the 60's, is full of tales both odd and miraculous. So is the Bible, not to mention the Bhagavad Gita. Generally speaking however, events unexplainable, things of a "miraculous" nature, are deemed magic or folklore by the more empirical of our brethren. I heard a doozy though, a while back. First Hand. There were witnesses.

The story concerns The Band. The fellows who brought us Music From Big Pink. Dylan's back-up group back in the day. Arguably the greatest American rock outfit ever.

It seems they were playing a gig at the Houston Astrodome, one of the first really big stadium concerts. Richard Manuel, their piano player, (who years later committed suicide you'll recall) had fallen and couldn't walk. He couldn't even stand. Fearful that the show would have to be cancelled, the road manager (my source for this tale) cast about for help; spiritual, pharmaceutical, it didn't matter, they'd try anything.

Someone (it is unclear to me now who this person was) said that for twenty-five thousand dollars, he would guarantee that Manuel would play that night. Cash is readily available to rock groups you know. Gate receipts and all that. Expensive lifestyles to uphold. Anyway, the money was paid and the band--THE BAND!--waited.

In time a NASA jet, one of those sleek symbols of power with the groovy logo, arrived at the airport. Exiting the craft, in single file and no doubt of a single mind, was a group of Tibetan monks in orange robes, with drums, incense, and serious demeanor.

They made their way to the musician's suite, took the afflicted Manuel into the bedroom, and for some time they treated him. Chanted, laid on hands, whatever it is Tibetan monks do if you don't have health insurance. The other members of the group--including our witness--stayed outside and listened.

For the musicians it must have been awesome: Sounds. Silence. Rhythms. Magic? Imagine: The Band, to a man--Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, even that Canadian enigma, Garth Hudson (who was probably picking up new licks)--ears against the bedroom door. Listening....

After a while the monks came quietly out.

"Let him rest," they said. "Give him no drugs and no alcohol. He will recover."

They returned to their plane--the NASA plane--and from there to whence they'd come. Which was...where?

Manuel played that night. I'm told the concert was brilliant. The next day he was x-rayed.

"An old back injury," the American doctors said. "It appears to have healed a long time ago."

Magic? Folklore? Coincidence? Whatever else it was, in the high-priced world of rock n roll the Tibetan monks in the NASA jet seem to have been a bargain.

One thing puzzles me though: What's the Government got to do with all of this?

And now I'm wondering as well: is Richard Manuel really dead? Cause I really miss his music and his goofy laugh.

And my back has been giving me trouble lately.

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