Table of Contents

The Fez

Service. I was a waiter then maître d' at Mataam Fez, a Moroccan restaurant in Boulder for ten years, all through the 1980s. Working there I discovered a gift for service I never knew I had. Serving made me feel alive in a way I'd never been before. The idea of selfless service had always seemed dubious to me. When I went on yoga retreats back in my new age church days, seva or karma yoga was a thing you had to do: we all took turns putting in our hours cleaning floors and washing dishes. Seva was compulsory, a practical necessity that robbed the act of any semblance of selflessness. Compulsory service is worthless. I encountered a different kind of service at sleep away camp in the sixties. There were two jobs: host and scut. We all got to be both lord and servant. That made service more interesting: we took turns. That made service feel right. At The Fez the maître d' was host and the servers just servers but there was a twist: we didn't have stations. Everyone served everyone, and as maître 'd I served just like everyone else when I didn't have maître d'ly duties. All tips were pooled, with everyone including the maître d' getting an equal hourly share. That made serving glorious. We all worked together as a team to serve our guests and we all got equal hourly pay. We were generous with our guests, which inspired them to be generous with us. I didn't know it at the time but Leela gave me that job so I could develop a neglected side of me. Serving the patrons at Mataam Fez gave me a new way to relate to people. I found myself blooming in my new role, delighted to serve as the gracious host. It softened me up, forcing me to relate genially and warmly to people I didn't know. Serving at Mataam Fez was training aimed at preparing me for the work of surrendering to my own internal authority. Working at Mataam Fez had another sweet gift for me: an ironclad excuse to miss toasting circles, pestilent events that took place evenings and weekends, i.e. during my work hours. My appreciation for that gift grew steadily as Harmonizing slowly morphed into a cult. Mataam Fez became a foot on the ground, helping me keep my balance against TH's onslaught.

I should back up here. I moved to Boulder from Tallahassee in 1979 to study holistic healing. That was going to be my new career, a holistic healer, and I was psyched. I came to study with TH Tizer, who taught Harmonizing, which he touted as an integrated, customizable healing system. He had promoted it at a hippie healing arts fair put on by a new age church I was part of in Tallahassee. I was enthusiastic about becoming a practitioner. That was the story and that's how it went at first. I joined the practitioner group and set to work, studying hard to catch up. I was most behind on muscle testing so I got private lessons from Doña, a Harmonizing practitioner who was also a belly dancer at Mataam Fez. I promptly fell in love with her, which was a no-no. Falling in love with her is one of the key ways I never fit into life in the Boulder community.

Cult. Meanwhile, several Self-Harmonizing groups got going: people getting Harmonized by TH or someone in his inner circle. While I was in Boulder these morphed into a community which then morphed into a cult of running. Running was one of TH's key interests I mean addictions, along with booze and sexually abusing his disciples. I was a frog in the slowly warming water surrounding the charismatic leader. I didn't have potential as a runner, but TH wanted me for other uses.

Toasting circles. My worst experiences in Harmonizing all happened in toasting circles, later known as resos. Toasting circle may sound like something fun and festive, but in fact they were brutal, relentless, designed to crush resistance by breaking people down psychologically, one by one. One person sat in the hot seat and toasted with bourbon; the rest of us toasted back with beer. God how I dreaded the hot seat. Maybe it worked for other people. All I ever got was discomfort, anxiety, brutality and booze. I liked the booze part. Part of the initial attraction I felt for TH's whole scene was that you could drink, and I loved drinking. But I drew the line at enforced drinking and psychological abuse. I abhorred the toasting circles and was keen to avoid them. Besides severe illness, having to work was your only get-out-of-jail-free card. So it was a godsend, that job. I was expected to work the busiest shifts, Friday and Saturday nights, when most of the toasting circles happened. Beyond that, one of my duties as maître d' was to make the overall wait staff schedule. I scheduled myself as I liked, and kept an ear out for upcoming toasting circles so I could be sure to miss them. Blessed psychological relief, blessed protection from brutality. Serving at Mataam Fez was an extraordinary gift from Leela.

Mataam Fez. It was one of those right place at the right time moments. I knew the current maître d'. He hired me as a waiter on sight. He graduated from CU a few months later. When he took off, I took his place for want of any other likely candidates. It was a special occasion restaurant. We served a five-course Moroccan feast: lamb & lentil soup, salads, b'stella, entrees, tea and dessert. There were vegetarian options, but it was a lot more fun to be a carnivore. Isn't it always? To me it all seemed astronomically expensive. The website is gone, but there's a photo tour of the Denver Mataam Fez on Yelp.

First we brought out towels and a tass, a silver basin and pitcher, and poured warm water scented with sliced lemon for guests to wash their hands. People loved that, and always needed to be cautioned to point their hands down into the basin as I poured, so as not to create a waterway headed straight for their lap. You got to keep your towel as a giant napkin. Right before tea there was another round of handwashing. Then we served tea and dessert, pouring the tea all fancy from on high.

I adored serving. Diners sat or lounged on cushions on the floor around low tables. You ate with your fingers, no utensils. I knelt at each table once folks settled in. Kneeling was still easy for me back then, and it felt so right in my role as a server. I wore a real djellaba instead of the brocaded polyester pantsuits other servers wore. Traditional djellabas are light colored to reflect heat, making them challenging for a klutz like me delivering food with richly spiced and colored sauces. My girlfriend Doña made me a spectacular black one, rayon for drape and pinstriped in metallic gold thread. I told them how their feast would unfold, answered their questions and encouraged them to order a variety of entrees and share. I loved the intimate feeling of kneeling at each table to connect. I got to be playful and generous, the wizard who made everything work just right. I did everything I could to make them feel welcome; that was my role all through the feast. I came back to join them on my knees many times during their stay with us, and I loved every minute of it. I was in my element, a brand new element.

Learning to love polyamory. Monogamy was frowned on in The Community, and sleeping around was encouraged; the whole community was one big polyamorous family, though strictly straight. When I first got to Boulder I was fine with that. As someone joked, I was like a kid cut loose in a candy store. As Harmonizing morphed into a cult TH took command of everyone's sex life, dictating who slept with whom and when. We were all supposed to get over silly notions like who were were attracted to. By contrast, Leela has taught me that attraction is a message from her, from my body, the deepest part of me, and a reliable guide for finding the right people to be with for any reason, e.g. I should pay attention which people I'm attracted to dancing with. Then I fell in love with Doña, the Harmonizing practitioner who taught me muscle testing. We weren't exclusive at first, but soon after we fell in love we became monogamous and I moved into her house on Walnut Street. Now, decades later, I embrace polyamory, and have come to see culturally mandated monogamy as a serious problem worldwide, the source of endless heartache and violence. I'm now very happily non-monogamous with Ariel.

Booze at The Fez. My job at The Fez had a formative influence on my relationship with alcohol. As maître d' I was in charge of keeping the wine cellar stocked and finding new wines as needed. My boss encouraged me to explore that role and gave me free rein. I threw myself into getting educated about wine, attending industry-only tastings whenever I could to educate myself and find new wines for the cellar. One day I was mulling over what I might be able to sell people who did not have sophisticated tastes in wine but might still enjoy a little buzz with their special occasion dinner and I remembered sangria. I'd made it for my parents in Kenya, and then in college it became a weekly event for a while. It seemed to me that might go well with richly spiced Moroccan food. I came up with the idea of using inexpensive ingredients and a dynamite recipe to create sangria as easy to sell as to quaff. I developed a recipe using inexpensive jug wine, frozen concentrated OJ, and cheap brandy, decorated with slices of fresh orange and served in a carafe. It was a hit; people loved it. Making up a batch became a regular part of my job. I also got into learning about and selling the midrange and finer wines that were on the list when I arrived, and expanding the after dinner drink options: I added armagnac, grappa, tangerine liqueur and Georgian brandy to the cognac we'd already been offering. They were all popular. I was having a blast. I loved being the booze guy. Now I can see all this was a way Leela pushed me deeper into booze, accelerating my drinking in preparation for the big push in the mid-2010s that culminated in my quitting. Having it be part of my profession was brilliant. The more deeply I look back at my past, the more awed I am by my love Leela. I have been blessed. Blessings come to those who work like hell.

I'm forever grateful. Working at Mataam Fez affected me deeply. It was an extraordinary gift in so many ways. People came there to celebrate, not just eat, and we were brujos and brujas invoking ancient Moroccan arts of celebration. I arrived there without a clue how to love, how to be good to my lover. I started learning how from the first night I worked there. That job required kindness, generosity, affability, good humor. It drew those qualities out in me and I became a better lover for it. I started learning how to treat my sweetheart right by learning how to treat my guests right.