Miserable ease. The lake house was needed for other uses; we got booted out. We found a place with room for all three of us way out off Highway 90 east. There were two buildings, a small house and a smaller duplex. Marty moved into the house, and Linda and I split the duplex, which had interior connecting doors so we could hang out together if we wanted. But we'd drifted apart and I had begun withdrawing into myself. I came to Tallahassee full of life and energy, and life in the lake house had been a blast, but I was beginning to get too comfortable in my cushy state job. I was headed into a miserable ease.
Herbalism. I lived there a year, and got big into herbalism. I had several herbals. I even bought John Christopher's absurdly expensive book, considered the absolute cat's pajamas of herbal wisdom. I fasted, and even went so far as to give myself an herbal enema once. Glad I got that outta my system.
Asshole. The duplex started feeling cramped with all my stuff in it; I'd become an intrepid thrifter. I was more into stuff than people. I moved into an apartment in an old fourplex on East Park Avenue. Except for a few months in my trailer, it was the first time I ever lived alone. I wanted to live alone because I wasn't getting along with people. I started being hypercritical, an old bad habit. I was well on my way to becoming a comfortable asshole.
Cool old stuff. Living alone, I pursued other interests. My interests had a theme: cool old stuff. I had been frequenting thrift stores and used bookstores. I became a connoisseur of junk.
I furnished my bedroom and living room with elaborate, heavy, dark antique furniture, including bookshelves. I furnished my kitchen with Noritake china, silver plate utensils, and delicate etched glass stemware. I filled my bookshelves with theosophy, Sufism, and Gurdjieff. The new age church was all about the Far East: India, the Himalayas, China. I rebelled against that. I expanded, first to Madame Blavatsky and theosophy, then to the Sufis. Studying the Sufis led me to Gurdjieff. TH was big into Gurdjieff, but by the time I met him I'd read Meetings and was making my way through the four volumes of Bennett's Dramatic Universe. I loved to torture myself by reading really dense crap like that. I wasn't enough of a sucker to waste my time on Beelzebub, and Ouspensky? What a load of crap.
Alone. I loved living in my apartment alone, at least at first. I would leave for work in the morning and return in the evening, and everything was just as I left it. And then after a while I noticed the same thing again, only differently: everything was just the same as I left it, no surprises, pleasant or otherwise, no greetings, nobody cooking up something good. There was no life there. That started to feel lonely.
So I adopted cats. So much easier to get along with than people. First a Burmese I named Sattvic, and then her daughter, an F1 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.
Brenda. They say it's not a good idea to have an affair with your coworker. My affair with Brenda would support that. She worked as a keypunch operator. She also did odd jobs that came up, a job she earned by owning a pickup. Brenda wasn't lovely by anyone's standards. She had a plain face and frizzy hair with a mind of its own. But she was, ahem, deep bosomed. Whatever she wore she gave the impression she was about to fall out of it. Even the shapeless dirty sweatshirt she wore for the pickup jobs. I had the hots for her from day 1. I needed some gear for a report I was writing, so I went along with her on the pickup truck run. After the job I was eying her across the front seat, trying not to appear too obvious. But she was eying me back. I could tell she was interested. We were sitting waiting for the light to turn green and it just happened. We were all over each other. She drove us to her house and we made hot monkey love in the sweaty afternoon. We were hot and heavy for a couple months. Then she got possessive. I wasn't seeing anyone else. She kept me plenty busy. But she would get all worked up if I even talked to a girl. It got way out of hand and I broke it off. She quit her job over it to avoid me.
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 and SNCC meetings for a few months. Something was being protested in Atlanta, as usual. Tallahassee organizers chartered a bus and a passel of us headed north 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 protestors. 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 of 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 and never brought them back. My thinking at the time was that the Mel High library patrons did not deserve these books. One was a nicely bound hard copy of Anabasis by Saint-John Perse. The other was a cheap pulp edition of Jacques Prévert's Paroles. I couldn't read French but I was drawn to it and studied it for a year and a half in college. M. Menard, the professor, complimented me on my pronunciation of difficult French sounds. That chameleon quality of mine. In high school I managed to work out a translation of Le cancre and could recite it from memory in both English and French. I loved that poem. The student felt like me. But that's not what I'm 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. isa, all lower case. They stole the lower case affectation from est, which isa was modeled on but don't tell them I said so. It was a human potential kind of thing, again like est but you could go to the bathroom if you had to. I loved it and got a lot out of it. Why am I confessing? Because that's what you did, that's what it was about. Confessing to each other one-to-one, and then to the whole room, your guilty secrets.
Rudy Vallée made it a hit, but nobody sings it like Peggy. It provided a way for us heathen people to receive the benefit of confession, the great and abiding power of the Catholic Church that was adopted to very good effect by AA, where I later rediscovered it. How did I right the wrong of stealing books? By sending them back. One of the core liturgical practices of isa graduates was to right old wrongs, and I righted that one by mailing the books to the library, signing myself A reformed book thief. isa freed lots of sexual energy among the participants. Ole Larsen, the founder of isa and leader of our weekend, is a sexual predator. Or maybe he's just alleged. I don't know if any of the many complaints have made it to a conviction. I connected with Alice, an attractive bug-eyed blonde ectomorph who was so bony it was uncomfortable to hold her. The liberated sexual energy from the isa weekend faded fast.
Healing arts fair. Marty, Linda and I may have gone our separate ways, but our new age church was still a going concern, and eight or ten of us had become ministers. We were still putting on the weekly chanting + meditation. We added a new thing: an annual healing arts fair in the summer. That gave me some chops that I later used for the Tilth Organic Harvest Fair. I coordinated that for a few years right after I arrived in Seattle.
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 and landed in Boulder. He was studying with a guy named TH, who taught a holistic healing system called Harmonizing, and he said I just had to have this guy in our healing arts fair.
Mad psychopomp. In one of my lost pix, TH is sitting in my Kennedy rocking chair, toasting the photographer with a beer, a mischievous gleam in his eye. He had that a lot; he was full of mischief. He was to be my guide to a new life. There's a word for that role, one I learned in my mythology studies: psychopomp, the conductor of souls, the guide. Rilke has my favorite depiction of the psychopomp in literature, a poem called Orpheus, Eurydice, Hermes. Here's Stephen Mitchell's translation.
Transformation. I did indeed move to Boulder to study Harmonizing, and it's a good thing I did; I needed to live with a lot more self-discipline, and life in Boulder was good for that. But for me, by far the most potent and transformative part of my relationship with TH happened while I was still living on East Park Avenue.
Dance. TH read my ticket right off: I was poised for spiritual growth. Everything in me was in great shape, there was just one piece missing. TH made me find the missing piece by dancing: once a day, alone, no music. Whatever kind of dancing I felt moved to do. I quickly felt moved to dance outside, and from then on danced in the back yard of my fourplex.
Words can't hold it. I can't describe what happened in that dancing; it's not the kind of thing that words are good for. It clearly sprang from what happened to me in college when I was studying comparative mythology. What I can say is the dancing really developed, very strongly, and as it did, so did I. Once I connected with that missing piece, I took off.
Staying strong. That's the wisdom I got from TH; it would be 30 years before I was ready for the next step. 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. Keep my focus on making progress with love. Meditate despite my drinking. Boulder was excellent on all counts. 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.
I'm grateful to everyone there for putting up with me. There were also things about life in Boulder I couldn't accept. Nobody made a big deal about it. I got what I needed out of Boulder despite my contrary ways.