Table of Contents

Tallahassee to Boulder

New digs. My boss Rick needed the lake house for other uses; we got booted out. Marty found us a place with room for all three of us off Highway 90 east. None of the lake house's grand style, just basic digs more suited to our station. There were three buildings: a small two bedroom house, a big garage with a tiny apartment attached, and a small duplex. Steve lived in the garage. He and Marty were friends, sometimes lovers. He got us into the place as the previous tenants moved out. He was a gorgeous longhaired motorcycle mechanic, a bit like Ed but holier: dope instead of Tree Frog Beer. He was a cool dude about to hit his stride: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance had just been published.

Miserable ease. Marty moved into the house and Linda and I split the duplex. It had interior connecting doors: we each had a door we could lock so we could be together or separate. At first we kept them open, but she and I were drifting apart. I'd begun withdrawing into myself. I came to Tallahassee full of life and energy from my college adventures, and life in the lake house had been a blast. But I was beginning to get way too comfortable in my cushy state job. I was headed straight into a miserable ease, the sad end of anyone's spiritual quest

Mental muddle. I lived in my side of the little duplex about a year. In those days I was convinced I could read and think my way to enlightenment. I was keen on anything alternative, diligent but misguided. How could I be anything else, with only my thinking to guide me? My usual approach back then was to buy books. I collected all manner of books on holy and alternative topics. A few of these were actually helpful, nudging me in the right direction, like Blyth's four volume haiku collection and the Reps book. Most of the books were just a muddle. That's when I started getting into herbalism. I even bought John Christopher's absurdly expensive book, considered the absolute cat's pajamas of herbal wisdom back then. At the height of my mania I went on a three-day cleansing fast: water and herbal infusions only. To add insult to injury, as I was ending the fast I drank a bottle of Pluto water, which had been outlawed some years before but was still easy to find in old-fashioned drug stores. Once I was all emptied out I gave myself a coffee enema. Oy. The misguided things we do for love.

Asshole. My half duplex started feeling cramped with all my stuff in it. It filled up because I'd become an obsessive thrifter. I went to garage sales every weekend, marking up the yard sale classifieds in the Democrat (I was a subscriber, god help me, a newspaper subscriber ffs) and planning one route for Friday afternoon and another for Saturday morning, agonizing over which sales sounded more appealing. I also discovered Tallahassee's thrift stores. All my attention went into collecting junk. I'd become more interested in stuff than people. I hardly had room to walk in my tiny half duplex so I moved into a spacious one bedroom in a shabby genteel fourplex on East Park Avenue. Except for a few months in my trailer, it was the first time I ever lived alone. I would not live alone again until I moved into my new home here on Capitol Hill. I wanted to live alone because I wasn't getting along with people. A nasty old habit had recrudesced: I started being hypercritical with people. Despicable. I was well on my way to getting locked in to being a comfortable asshole for life.

Mental and physical junk. My thrifting led me to become a connoisseur of junk. I furnished my kitchen with gold-edged Noritake china, silver plate utensils, and etched glass goldrimmed stemware. I furnished my bedroom and living room with elaborate, heavy, dark antiquish furniture, including bookshelves. I furnished my bookshelves with theosophy, Sufism, and Gurdjieff. The new age church was all about the Far East: India, China and Japan. I rebelled against that by exploring Western esoterics: LaVey, Crowley, Blavatsky, Alice Bailey. I read Bailey's stupendously dense dull drivel with helpless fascination, hoping that etiolated fantasy could somehow save me, somehow elevate me out of my mind. But I couldn't think my way out of thinking. Right. I finally drifted on to the Sufis thence Gurdjieff. Turned out TH was big into Gurdjieff, but by the time I met him I'd read Meetings and was making my way through the ever so much more stylish dense drivel of Bennett's Dramatic Universe. For most of my adult life I tortured myself by reading really dense crap like that. But I wasn't enough of a sucker to waste my time on Beelzebub. Ouspensky? What a load of crap. There was a limit to my gullibility. However, my taste in almost everything was wretched. Gold rims? LaVey? Really? That's how Steely Dan got a foothold in this paragraph: thanks to Leela, my tastes have improved.

Cats. I loved living in my apartment alone. I would leave for work in the morning and return in the evening, and everything was as I left it. No messes left by housemates, no lingering resentments, no uncomfortable silences. After a while I noticed the same thing again only differently: everything was the same as I left it. No surprises. No greetings. Nobody cooking up something good. There was no life there, unless you count palmetto bugs. That started to feel lonely. I didn't have the rich internal resources I would develop later in life; I wasn't really ready to live alone. So I adopted cats. They're so much easier to get along with than people. First a Burmese I named Sattvic, and then her daughter, a Tonkinese I named Bhakti. They kept me company; they were good at it. They both talked a lot; that's what originally drew me to those breeds. Engaging, quirky, funny: pretty good company. I wouldn't have cats again until I lived in Bridle Trails, decades later. By then I got along with people much better. The two Tigers were also a mother-daughter pair.

Sweet finale. I made my one and only sortie into political action in those days: I joined the local SDS chapter. I went to their meetings sporadically for a few months. There was going to be a big demonstration in Atlanta. Some Tallahassee organizers chartered a bus and a passel of us headed north to get our fair share of abuse.

Such a brilliant cover. According to the organizers, the idea was to get arrested. Somehow that would advance our cause. I was lucky enough not to unlock that achievement. Also lucky enough to miss the bus home because of all the confusion. I got a ride home in a beat up station wagon stuffed to the gills with tired protesters. I found myself squashed up against an absolutely gorgeous Black girl. We whiled away the hours making out, suddenly very awake and aware of each other among the dreary demonstration dregsters. I wish I could say it went on from there, but she was too far out of my league. I decided that was the best possible note I could end my political career on.

Confession. I was a book thief. In 1969 I stole two books of French poetry from the Mel High library, the one where six or seven of us met once a week around the trapezoidal conference table for Elaine Rankin's senior American lit seminar. There was no library security. I just took the books home without checking them out and never brought them back. My thinking at the time was that the Mel High library patrons did not deserve these books, an assessment that in retrospect seems almost but not quite legit. One was a nicely hard bound copy of Anabase by Saint-John Perse. The other was a cheap pulp edition of Jacques Prévert's Paroles. But that's not what I am here to confess. I righted that wrong. I'm here to confess that I did a workshop in the late 1970s put on by the Institute for Self Actualization, styled isa, all lower case. They stole the lower case affectation from est, which isa was modeled on. It was a human potential weekend seminar, again like est but you could go to the bathroom. I loved it and got a huge charge out of it that lasted weeks. Why am I confessing? Because that's what you did at isa, that's what it was all about. Confessing to each other one-to-one, and then to the whole room, your guilty secrets, the things you were most afraid other people would find out about you. isa gave us heathens the benefits of confession and absolution, the great selling points of the Catholic Church. I later rediscovered the power of confession and absolution at AA. Being in a meeting was the only medicine besides sleep that could ease my panic attack. One of the core liturgical practices of isa graduates was to right old wrongs, aka Step 9, making amends. I mailed the books back to the library, signing myself A reformed book thief. isa freed lots of energy among the participants, sexual and otherwise. That's what they were selling, the high you got from confession. Of course it didn't last. You had to keep signing up for more, getting another fix. But the high was great fun while it lasted. TH pulled the same trick on me with the dancing assignment he gave me.

Ministerial training program. Marty, Linda and I may have gone our separate ways, but our new age church was thriving. We had steadily growing attendance at our weekly chanting + meditation sessions. The ministerial training program Marty put together after the three of us moved to Tallahassee had run its course, resulting in eight or ten of us becoming ministers. This was no ordination mill deal. I was already an ordained minister in Kirby J. Hensley's Universal Life Church, dating back to my draft dodging days. We spent most of a year at it, with an extensive reading list and regular meetings where Marty drilled us in related topics and skills, notably pastoral counseling. We made monthly field trips to all kinds of different churches. At the end of it we had a lovely ordination ceremony with a big potluck feast. Several of us were also interested in alternative medicine, so we added a new thing: an annual healing arts fair in the summer. I took a leading role in putting the fairs on, which gave me some chops I later used for the Tilth Organic Harvest Fair.

TH. In the runup to our second annual fair I heard from an old college chum who'd gone off in search of enlightenment a few years before. He'd landed in Boulder and was studying with a guy named TH Tizer. His real first name was Marc. I never heard anyone call him that, not even his wife. I never found out what TH stood for. The scuttlebutt in Boulder had it as The Homewrecker, with a wink and a nudge. He later changed his name to Yousamien, Yo for short. TH taught a holistic healing system called Harmonizing, and my college chum said we just had to have this guy in our healing arts fair. We made him our headliner, bumping Swami Satchidananda, a big name in those days. Such rebels we were. A year later I ended up moving to Boulder to study with him, and it's a good thing I did. I needed to learn how to live with a lot more self-discipline, and life in Boulder was good for that.

Very clever. After TH's visit I started studying with him via long distance phone calls. He got me started running again, and gave me a dancing assignment that gave me a huge buzz. At the time I thought that meant I was making spiritual progress. TH encouraged that delusion. That was just the thing he needed to do to win me over completely. Very clever move on his part. Getting sucked into his cult and becoming his disciple was just the right move for me at the time. It would be thirty years before I was ready to start doing real spiritual work, making progress with love. Till then I better not kill myself or make myself weak through lousy self-indulgent living habits. I also needed to stay connected with spiritual work. Meditate despite my drinking. Living in Boulder was good for all of that. In Boulder I had to study spiritual teachers and I got direct instruction from TH, which was great until he started to go off the deep end. I got to confront all my bad habits, my laziness, even some of my dishonesty. I spent the 1980s there. My living habits got better and I kept my focus on the spiritual quest.