Archive for January, 2009

Venus harnessed to the Moon

January 31, 2009

After the sun went down, Venus, harnessed to the crescent moon like a surfer to his parabolic kite, led my way west out of the darkling woods back to the looming house.  I like to go out skiing every afternoon I can, but the economic woes stretched my office hours today, and I got out late.

It’s stupid skiing that I do, heading into the trackless woods, especially with the crusty snow we have now, where I am too heavy to stay on top, and the serrated edges of ice tear at my boots and skis.  If I put on snowshoes, I could traverse any of these routes I create in half the time, and with half the sweat.  Of course, sweating is part of the point.

And I like the way the skis make my ‘feet’ long, extending their awareness fore and aft, and the muscle actions they require of me.  My Front and Back lines’ fasciae stretching and muscles gulping as I leap out and push forward on the flats. Skiing downhill, I fix those lines in a slightly flexed, cursorial position, and let the inner and outer (Deep Front and Lateral) lines go into dynamic balance to keep me upright.

Going uphill on this crust is especially challenging – going up straight is great exercise for my triceps as my Deep Back Arm line propels me forward – or keeps me from sliding back, or doesn’t, when it’s too steep.  Herringbone doesn’t work well in the crust; you don’t get a grip with your edge.

Nope, the only way is to stand sideways to the hill and go up inch by inch, letting the Front and Back lines stabilize and feeling the interplay between the active Lateral and Deep Front lines, lifting, setting the uphill edge into the crust, hauling the lower ski up – what should have taken a couple of minutes takes ten, even with the help of the trees on the hill, where I can pull myself up a foot or two, or use the trunk to change my orientation 180 degrees.

Only when I reach the snowy dirt road, crust broken up to snow gravel by trucks, can I let go and carve turns as I swish downhill from one side to the other, occasionally going up on the banks, but using my Spiral line to control to rotation and make the lean that determines the edge that makes the long ‘toes’ and ‘heels’ change direction.

Along the bright clacking pond and the close hush of the woods, I alternate between ambient sound and the reassuring nasal elitism of NPR.  I have been forced to learn more about the economy than I wished to need to know.  Not alone, I am finding out just how quickly the house of cards called prosperity and the collective (and apparently delusional) agreement about the value of money can come crashing down around our heads.  My business especially – depending on the disposable income of therapists and trainers, themselves depending on the disposable income of the middle class – is taking a dive.

My daughter has recently demonstrated an unexpected flair for studying economics – she certainly got those genes from neither her mother nor myself.  Neuro-economics, the ebbs and flows of currency, the approximate differential equations of the dismal science, the politics of the developing world’s flexing muscle and the trembling of our out-of-shape industry – I admire her for taking it on, but from the outside, the dissociation between economy and ecology is a decided and dispositive flaw in the Ben-Gay being prescribed for our aches and pains.

I am in favor of waking from this delusion – the whole economic boom from the early 90’s on (or pick your date – it really started with Thatcher and Reagan) was so at odds with the ecological imperative that it needed to come undone, so I will take my lumps without much complaining, in order to readjust.

But still many economists are talking about what will get the consumer spending again.  The very reliance on a consumption economy is so unsustainable, so counter-ecological, that I am afraid if this kind of thinking maintains its sway, we are in for a long and sustained depression.

The eco- in both words comes from the Greek oikos, or ‘household’, and any housewife can tell you that the model we have been using for prosperity had to have an end – its teleology was built into its premise.

So what will we replace it with?  Kennedy gave us the War on Poverty (which went against Jesus’s ‘the poor you will always have with you’, but was moderately, under Johnson’s jawbone, successful in its time) and the moon shot, which was a magnificent effort at lifting humans toward the angelic – nearly literally.  Even though that thrust has petered out for the moment, and seems irrelevant, I am sure it will be back.

But if another flight of superhuman fancy into space seems beside the point for these times, how much more irrelevant was Bush’s exhortation after 9/11 to ‘go out shopping’, as if consumer spending were anti-terroristic.  If retail therapy is the only way our household works, then we will all end up on the junk heap for sure, and quickly.  A real ‘household’ would be composting its garbage, taking care of its own, being efficient in its energy consumption, putting up food for the winter, and not throwing the trash into the yard.  In other words, ‘conservative’.  Obama’s ‘betrayal’ of the left bothers me not at all – we could use a real conservative, and none have been on view since Goldwater.

I hope Obama – or someone who follows him, for this is a long-term job – can redefine the economy in terms of a larger purpose than consumption (a tubercular term if ever there was one).  We need a new sustainable model that accounts for the environment, for income energy (wind, solar, tides) rather than capital resources (oil, gas, nuclear), for insuring our children’s children’s education and security.

We are that rich, that we could do such a thing, and our richness is not measured in the billions which just inflated into trillions, or our gold reserves, but really from our time, energy, and ingenuity – and this we have aplenty if we but harness it.  I’m no Democrat, but Obama seems to have done more in this direction in 8 days than Bush did in 8 years.

Huge readjustments involving real pain to real people will be required to adjust from the current model to a sound one that counts in pollution and social costs.  The political will for change that nominated McCain on one side and Obama on the other have not yet reached the level of imposing a carbon tax or (I am sad to say) reforming health care.  Depending on how bad it gets, we may have to wait for the next wave to get these things done, but make no mistake: the old order, absolutely unsustainable, is on its way out, and the new order, in which ecology and economy will be blended into one household, is struggling to be born.

Northeaster

January 28, 2009

On of the more endearing parts of enduring a Maine winter is the speed with which the entire scene can be changed.  A world of white arrived today, engulfing everything.

Dressed for it, it’s easy to take (although that’s one of the downsides – lots of dressing and undressing), so I strapped on my skis and sloped down through the woods and onto the pond. The brisk northeaster carried me quickly down it, the snow billowing around me like  sails falling when the mooring’s made, with the pine branches waving in time along the shore, cheering me on like football fans.

Dive into the woods to avoid the wind and enter a silent cavern of stalagmite trees and stalactite burdened branches, snow falling so straight and thick I can leap fallen trunks with a single bound, but my yowp of glee is swallowed by the rustling curtain of silence.

Take any picture with an old black and white Brownie and the newest megapixel SLR and get the same result:  blacks, whites and greys.  No turkey tracks today. No sign of any animal abroad until I see the horses in the paddock.

The wind builds as I scoot back to the house to shovel out and put aside gallons of water for when the electricity goes out, as it will shortly.  I’ll post this, then batten hatches. Office closed, roads deserted, a prefect setting for a Stephen King story or a cozy evening in front of the fire.

Catapult

January 25, 2009

Catapulted in 22 hours from the soft tans and green-grey-browns of the Oxford damp at just either side of 32F/0C degrees back to Maine, 0F/-18C and bright blue on dazzling white, where your first gulp of morning air is like drinking mercury.  The greater change is from a day focused morning to night on successful teaching to the variegated quilt of life at home.

Pulled off for a random inspection at the boarding gate, the slim Indian woman with her blue black hair swept back over pearl earrings examines my pack.  I have a bumper sticker on my computer that shows a silhouetted progression of the skeletons laid out from fish to man with the legend, “Read the Bones – Darwin was Right

“Are you a Darwin fan?”  she asked in clipped South ‘Efrican’ tones.

“Well, it’s his 200th birthday, and the 150th anniversary of Origin, and his ideas have changed our whole conception of ourselves in that time, so yes I’d guess you’d say I was a fan.”

“Are you an atheist then?”

“No, I’m not.  Darwin was a minister, you know.”

I left it there, though I wondered whether she asks such impertinent and personal questions of all her examinees, but then I remembered that, except in security personnel, I like impertinent.

I know Dawkins’ atheism (The God Delusion) is front and center, but I have always found it odd that people cannot reconcile mechanisms of evolution and the presence of a spirit that moves within and beyond such a fertile playing field.  It is so obvious to me that when God’s face moved upon the waters of the deep, He or She engineered the tides in a predictable way, left a consistency in the miracle of waves, and started a system of bubbling, irrepressible chemistry that is anything but ‘loving’ or ‘fair’ in Sunday School or human legal terms, but makes a terrifying – ‘awesome’ in its original sense of ‘full of awe’ – and magisterial sense.

In the billions of stars and planets, I am aware that this little, obscure sun’s play upon the earth – which is what we all are – ‘doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy old world’ as Rick says in Casablanca.  The magnificence of it for me is not that we are hooked into some personally caring, invisible personality that watches over this tiny planet and us scrambling on it, but that the rules were set up so exactly for this highly original dance on the edge of complexity, hovering always between splitting into irrecoverable chaos and congealing into stultifying stability.

And the rules themselves evolve, a fact not yet recognized by most (economists especially, at the moment), who still think of consistent rules working on changing objects.  My next turn onto the plane reminded me: In the jetway was a shapeless security guard with a dog on a long leash.  Happy is the dog with a job, and this young retriever was so obviously enamoured of his skills and being useful, even in the entirely man-made world of an airport, that I cheerfully swung my pack low  so he could sniff me for cordite or drugs, or whatever it is they have trained him for, even though I usually resent such intrusions into my olfactory space.

Even before we understood evolution, we started acting within it, breeding horses and dogs and a thousand plants, bending their species development to our purposes, and in turn having our species, mostly unnoticed, bend to the environment we have made.  Now, except for a few Thoreauvian souls who really venture into the natural world beyond the farms and the roads, we all live within surfaces and substances altered by the hand of Man.

The person who doesn’t believe in a fair, loving, and caring god is labeled an atheist, as if that were the only way for God to be.  Though we aspire to it, we are not on the whole fair or loving or caring either.  My observation is that much of what is called ‘good’ done by humans in this world is in truth carried on the back of the huge sin of vanity.

None of this makes the world less mysterious, the nature of ‘nature’ less poetic, or the human experiment less adorable.  When you realize we are all shit, mud with upward mobility at best, any rosy and altruistic behaviour we can find is to be celebrated, and our knowledge of evolution, far from denying God, simply makes Her workings more within our grasp, and thus brings us closer to Her.  Darwin may have thrown our origins with apes in our faces and cut us down to our animal selves, but he also pointed the way to being real angels, designing our own evolution in Her image and likeness.

Rhetoric

January 21, 2009

On Auntie Beeb (BBC Radio 4) this morning, there were some sniffy comments about how Obama’s speech did not rise to the soaring level of Lincoln or Churchill.  For me, the whole thing left me in tears of joy and relief that our 8-year national nightmare might be over.  For them, here is a quote from that ever-prescient ex-Brit, John Lennon:

I'm sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, shortsighted, narrow-minded hypocrites
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

I've had enough of reading things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

My Country, Tis of Thee

January 20, 2009

Today, and not just because he is a black man, though that is part of our pride, one feels that America can with healing time become America again – the America of the Constitution, the America of the Declaration of Independence, the America that, despite all its mistakes, is still a beacon of the rights of man, of the promise of democracy  – not the tyranny of the majority, but a country measured in the ability of the still, small voice to be heard above the roar of the behemoth.

Chronology 2

January 17, 2009

My daughter, I know you only asked where I was when, and I have gone far beyond that, begging your patience and your pardon.  Even so long, there is a lot left out of a life – so many little side stories of interest, but I have tried to hit the important bits of rhythm and melody, but the harmony would take far more delving and construction.

Skimming the first installment over again, I find there are a few gaps to be filled in to cover the post-college ‘finding your way’ period in detail, because a lot happened in a short time, or so it seemed to me.

First, going all the way back, when I was in the womb in late ’48 and into ’49, Julia was being moved from Princeton to Damariscotta.  Edward and Julia had met on the tennis courts of Christmas Cove in ’38 or so.  Julia was NY Social Register, debutante material (though I don’t know if she formally ‘came out’ into society, she certainly attended enough of those balls, and Edward was very familiar with a tux and cummerbund), and very aware of her class.  Edward went along with it, but he was never very snobby.

His mother, Theodora, was though.  Edward loved his summers in Maine with his parents, whom I knew as Gram and Gup.  Gupper  – Allen Fleming Myers, one of your great grandfathers – ran a printing company that printed / engraved those fancy illuminated manuscripts, diplomas, etc., in NYC, and he had made a go of it after losing everything in the depression – enough to buy a summer cottage in Christmas Cove.  Teddy, their other child, was the favorite, won all the tennis championships, and Edward was born small and felt a bit unwanted, a bit left behind, a bit of a loner who took to sailing as his hobby.  Gram was a very difficult, neurotic person, whom Gupper suffered patiently, so I am not surprised that Edward had his inner twists.

Anyway, Julia was up visiting a friend in ‘Kissy Cove’, as they called it, and was immediately charmed by Edward.  They were married sufficiently before Winslow was born, though Gram worried a lot that he might be born prematurely and ruin the Myers’ reputation.  (Pris and Brett – next generation down – had to hurry to the altar for Thayer to be ‘legitimate’ – as if a ceremony or a piece of paper would confer legitimacy on this capable young woman.  Read Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.)

Edward worked – I don’t know the order – for the Vick’s company as a salesman, not so good at selling Vap-o-Rub out of a car in the south, then I think he was drafted for the end of the war, but was saved from being sent to the Pacific theater by the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Always felt ambivalent about that: clearly an outrage against the human race, but both my father and Quan’s (and so many others) were freed to live their lives by not having to retake the Pacific island by bloody island, and Japan itself would have been even worse.  Edward later read the stories of how Japan had actually surrendered, or wanted to, before the bombs were dropped, but the American generals wanted to test their weapons, so dropped they were.  You could see, his body on the line, how the paradox tore at him.

After the war, he worked as a copy writer for a Madison Avenue advertising firm in NY, but then settled into Princeton as a fund raiser and writer / editor for the Princeton Alumni Weekly.  Allen and Winslow grew up there, with Einstein patting them on the head as he passed down their street to work, and Edward’s parents not so far away in Elizabeth, where he was born.  But Edward soon tired of the rat race, and conceived this scheme of moving to Maine year-round.  So in the spring of ’49 – two boys in tow and me in the oven, Julia was dragged to Maine, away from her social familiarity, with a crazy man without much visible means of support.

As we know now, Edward did fine, Maine turned out to be a good move, society slowly caught up with them here, and now we all love it.  But back then, Julia was scared, somewhat rightly, somewhat just being taken from her rarified milieu and being placed among the denizens of Maine.  Maine was a different place in ’49, very, very back woods, small, and frozen in.  Edward started looking for a paper to buy and edit, but soon realized that there was so little money in journalism in Maine that he would have to export something if he had any chance of making it.  He hit upon exporting lobsters (as clambakes) to individuals, and thus Saltwater Farm was born (though he always watched the birthing and dying of small publications in Maine with interest).

The point of all this being – besides a little family background – that Julia was truly frightened and deracinated during my womb life, and I drank in that fear as cortisol, adrenalin, and the rest.  The chemical fear in my very body tissues is something I have been able to recognize, come to terms with, and counter in some ways, but it is part of my very fabric, and it is a layer I encounter whenever I am breaking through to another level of my being, or whenever facing big changes in my life.  It’s a primal, yellow overwhelm that I call my ‘womb-fear’, and I can usually see it arising, but sometimes I cannot stop it.

I wonder if such things can be really eradicated from a body / person, like Quan’s horrific treatment by her father, or whether such things can only be softened, ameliorated, compensated for.  Both of us have come a long way from our childhoods, but both of us are still subject to the very deepest wounds and colouration.  I know you are just getting to throwing off the yoke of your mother’s strong influence and my lesser one, and I wish I could be more encouraging that an authentic self can actually by obtained, but I think it requires a lot of spiritual and psychological and even dietary work to achieve a truly original being for oneself, if indeed it is possible.  You’re way ahead of where I was at your age, I assure you.

Jumping back toward where we left off last time, I just want to pick up a couple of threads slightly earlier than college graduation.  I spent ’63-’67 at Mt Hermon School, with summers in Maine either working in a garden or on a yacht.  I spent ’67 – ’69 at Harvard, with the summer of ’68 being spent in Providence working against the war, and the summer of ’69 in Cambridge, doing odd jobs, unsuccessfully dealing drugs (but successfully taking them) and generally fucking up or off, depending on your point-de-vu.

My parents, rightfully concerned, sent me at this juncture to be tested at the Human Engineering Laboratories.  I arrived in the Back Bay offices (not far from your dorm last year) all hushed with walnut banisters and oriental rugs – me in my bell-bottoms and dashiki, hair to my shoulders, and attitude to my dirty toes: “You ain’ gon’ fool me wid yo’ honky tests!”  Within a half an hour, I was fascinated and totally into it.  They tested my pitch discrimination, rhythm discrimination, grip, tweezer dexterity, word and picture association games – all kinds of really cool stuff.  They insisted that all these things were innate aptitudes, and they compared your scores to scores on the same tests by, say, architects or professional musicians, or whatever.

At the end of two half-days of testing, I asked what I was suited for. “Oh, you can do anything you want, just don’t be a salesman, you’re not suited to that.”  I have had a number of sales jobs in my life, some successful, some a waste of time.  I cannot imagine my parents were reassured with such a vague assessment of my future potential, but they never said anything.

The one thing these folks tested that was not innate was vocabulary.  Never have I been given such vocabulary tests; they kept feeding me tests until I only got 15% right.  Humbling but fascinating.  The reason they test vocabulary is that they have found that statistically, within any given professional group, the people that go the farthest are those with the highest vocabulary.  Keep that Word of the Day widget going!  Crack those languages!

At the end of the summer of ’68, my Dad invited me on a trip to Ireland.  He was going over to investigate adding smoked salmon to his mail-order list at Saltwater Farm, and I can imagine Julia saying something like, “Your third son is off the rails with this political radical hippie thing; take him with you to Ireland and straighten him out.”   In any case, curious, I accepted the invitation (I was, truly, in my ‘Viet Cong’ period – black clothes, dark beard, long live Che Guevara), and off we went to Dublin.  I had been to Canada as a child, and to Bermuda for spring break my senior year in prep school, but never overseas, never really visited a foreign country – unlike you, my child, who had been literally around the world and had 50,000 frequent flyer miles on Continental before your first birthday.

One story from that visit is necessary, because it turned around my radicalism.  During the summer of ’68 I had been pretty strongly radicalized.  In spite of Tony’s guidance to Frenchy and me, keeping us on the path of the revolution against fear, I had still been stopped, harassed, cursed, hit, collared, and jailed enough by the Irish Providence police to be fairly militant against the ‘pigs’, the army (generals, not the troops), and the government.

So picture this angry but very green 18-year-old arriving in Dublin.  Dad had meetings scheduled all day, so I was free and footloose.  Walking toward the University to see the Book of Kells, I saw a gypsy caravan stuck in the small courtyard of the Bank of Ireland, and stopped to help the young driver and the top-hatted and tailed doorman of the bank back and fill this caravan until the horse was headed out the gateway.  The caravans, it turns out, were donated by an Irish businessman to the cause of collecting money for Biafra, that year’s Ethiopia.  Roger – not a very Irish name but there you are – had been collecting from the bankers as they arrived for work.

Skipping the history lesson of the Book of Kells (very pretty, finally saw it only ten years ago or so), I hopped on the wagon with Roger and we clopped through the streets of Dublin, looking for likely places to dun money for the poor starving children of Africa.  Largely aimless all morning, we pulled up in the main street of Dublin (McConnell St? – I should know by now), which is a 4-lane road with a center strip.  We were athwart the crosswalk at a busy intersection, and proceeded to rattle our coin boxes (standard form over there for beggars / solicitors), looking for donations.  Now Ireland is a good Catholic country, with many missions in Africa, so we were doing quite well, tuppence, thruppence, a shilling at a time.  But I noticed a couple of cops looking us over.  After a bit they came over to me and said, “Na, surely you wouldn’t be after leavin’ yer wagon right here all afternoon, na would ye?”

My reaction was to bristle – I had been hassled and worse by Irish cops all summer – but I was in a foreign country, so thought I’d be at least minimally polite.  But their reaction was nothing like the Americans: “Listen, you’re blocking pedestrian traffic here, and we’ve let you do it for an hour, but that’s enough.  Look down there where the buses are parked – why don’t you take your wagon down there and tie it to one of the buses and let the bus company worry about it?”

So Roger and I led the horse a couple of hundred meters down the road and tied it off to the back stanchion of one of those double-decker red buses, and went back to collecting money at the crosswalk.  A bit later another uniformed man, a bus driver, collared me and walked me back to the wagon.  I expected trouble, but  “Look what ye’ve done, ye’ve tied the wagon to the back of the bus.  The driver could get into the front of the bus and drive right off, and then what a mess you’d be in!”  So we untied the horse and wagon from the back of the bus, and led it around to the front of the bus and tied it there, so the driver could not get in without seeing the situation.

I have never had the same feeling abut people in uniform again.  My two-dimensional radicalism was broken from that moment, without a word from my father.

The rest of the trip was good, the green east and the stony west of the benighted land, and gave me the travel bug.  The day we went ‘round the Ring of Kerry, we started out with some raw oysters that one of Dad’s prospective importers got for us right from the sea.  At that time we did not know he had an allergy to oysters.  We started on the Kerry road – desolate, starkly beautiful, windy, see Light Years Away if you can find it) – and soon Dad needed to stop the car to vomit.  It was his standard reaction to relaxation – get a migraine, start vomiting – so I left him to it (his preference) and climbed a hill to take pictures.

We motored on, but he was increasingly sick, well past his usual migraine, so I took over driving (my first time on the wrong side of the road), stopping every so often to hold his collar while we retched out the open door.  I am afraid I missed the thrills of Kerry, tunneled into concentration on the road, wanting only to find some help.  Finally we came to petrol station, but the proprietors only spoke Gaelic.  Many miles on, we finally came to a little town, and I got him to a doctor.  Edward was by this time white, spent, spewing from both ends, and gasping weakly about his insurance – always a bad sign.  After an injection he was a bit better, and we went on to the nearest hospital in Killarney, where he was well taken care of, and I spent the night at a nearby B&B.

He got out of the hospital more cheaply than I got out of the B&B; my first encounter with socialized medicine.

I’ll pick up that thread of travel again, but we also need to fill in a bit about relationships, to make sense of what is to come.

I met Peggy the summer of my junior year in high school.  She was baby-sitting for a friend of my parents’ family, and they threw us together hoping we would be friends.  Terribly shy and fiercely loyal was I to a fault, so even though Peggy was about my first date, we took each other’s virginity, and we married.  How quaint it all seems now.

She gave it up for me not that summer – that summer was old-fashioned dates, especially going over to the Merry Barn where I played guitar and sang at the open-like ‘hootenenannies’ they had a couple of times a week – but the end of the next summer when she returned from her trip to Europe.  Peggy White was likewise blue blood material, and I went down to Baltimore for her ‘coming out’ cotillion – about the only time I have seriously donned a tuxedo – where her parents thoroughly disapproved, me not being of Baltimore or NY society, but put up a show of tolerance.  My own snobbery had to do with education, so I was not put out by this except mildly.

So a trip to Europe was on her to-do list, but when she came back at the end of the following summer she came up to visit, and the Glory Hole became or trysting place, as I suspect it has been for others.  So, thank god, I did not enter Harvard a virgin.

From your sophisticated vantage point, I am not sure I can convey the absolute ignorance and abysmal stupidity that surrounded sex and sexuality in those days.  Read On Chesil Beach for a good approximation.  The extent of my father’s sexual education was to give me, with great embarrassment and running away immediately after, a booklet explaining the act (in two sentences, I think) and a close-up of a sperm meeting an ovum in a Fallopian tube.  (Been interested in embryology ever since)

I had no idea how it worked, how to do it, what to look for, how to please a woman, nothing but urgent need and total fumbling desperation and inability to really connect, and no knowledge of what to do after – but somehow we got through it successfully, and continued to practice.  As for everyone, it was a rite of passage, and I was not the same after.

Peggy – plain, smart, shy, and an art history major as I remember – returned to Pembroke (now Brown, in Providence) and we visited each other that year, usually with her coming to Cambridge.  I think I managed to briefly seduce one ‘Cliffie, but mostly I was true to Peggy, not because of real inner commitment, but because of lack of opportunity – I was still pretty dorky, but wising up fast as the ‘60’s took hold.

In the middle of my second year, she dropped out of Pembroke and moved up to Cambridge, taking a job in a social services agency. I was ostensibly living at my dorm, but actually living with her – again the impossibility of either of our parents knowing that we were shacking up was guiding our moves.  Poor Peggy – about the time she was building a social network through her work, I was ready to move to Illinois to go back to school and study with Bucky Fuller.  But she came along anyway.   I don’t remember considering her feelings much.

Carbondale, Illinois and Southern Illinois University were about what the name says – middle-American, corny, near Appalchian coal mining country.  It says on my resumé that I studied with Bucky, but that was more true of Frenchman than myself, as he actually got to work with Bucky in his office, whereas I merely studied Bucky’s stuff in the Design Department, most notably World Game – a project where we presumed the population for 2000 of 6 billion (remember, this is 1970) and asked the question: “How could we reorder the world’s resources to the betterment of everyone?’

This was the time when I really sucked in whole systems thinking at the ‘feet’ of Fuller.  We found, for instance, that the problem of food in India was really a problem of the lack of electricity.  Energize India, and you would solve the food problem.  And so it has turned out.  Tensegrity and geodesic geometry was really not part of my interest then, though we all wanted to live in a round dome instead of a square house, but that was mostly conceit (they all leak!).  But the systems thinking was a revelation, and changed my way of viewing situations forever.

Fuller, a little milk bottle of a man, dapper, with a stuttery Boston Brahmin way of speaking, was the most unlikely success.  Far-sighted to a fare-thee-well, his glasses made his eyes swim, and they had hearing aids at the end of both bows.  But god, what a thinker!  He would start talking about ropes and knots, which made sense, but then he would start talking about the design of Viking ships, and then the British East India Company and then metallurgy, and you would have followed each one (at least after a while of listening to him, you could) but he just seemed to be veering this way and that until at the end of a (4-6 hr) talk, he would quite suddenly and deftly pull them altogether, and you would realize that he was ‘thinking aloud’ to a specific purpose the entire time.  Read Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth for a short taste of his global point of view.)

It took me two years of studying him to be able to listen to him in real time and follow it.  It was worth it, but it took a lot of investment, and most people didn’t want to take the time.  Many years ahead of his time, he invented a new geometry, a new map of the world, a car that held 8 people and turned on its own radius, a manufactured house, geodesic domes, and a number of other lesser inventions, none of which made him rich because the inventing part was all he was interested in.  They just had a Bucky retrospective at the Whitney, and Michael and I went – this is our 40th year of friendship – and I finally saw the Dymaxion car, one of three built.  A teardrop shape, 3 wheels, a periscope instead of a rear view mirror.  Amazing man, anyway.

Aside from the Fullerian stuff, which certainly held my interest, I went to school in Carbondale ‘with my left foot’, as Gurdjieff says.  It was very easy.  The Vietnam War, and bombing Cambodia, and the draft, and the protests were in full swing, but I had moved on into global systems and the environmental movement – no more cops and robbers games for me,

About the only ‘traveling’ I did were marathon drives back to Boston to see the family on Thanksgiving, but I cannot let Carbondale pass without some reference to Bob and Teresa, as she was my ‘travel’ in this period before Peggy and I went to Europe.

Theresa and Bob were Michael’s fiends when Peggy and I got to Illinois – Michael and Susan’s really, since he was also married (and divorced) early.  Bob was a physicist working with lasers, into jazz and science fiction, quirky, Greenwich Village beatnik type but outwardly the straight professor, but after a couple of scotches he was off on three bibbity-bop tangents at once.  Theresa, however, was my teacher and friend. A Hungarian Jew, she was hauled off to a work camp (not as bad as a concentration camp) as a child by the Nazis with her mother, and for three years made peach jam.  She and her mother escaped the camp one moonlit night, and Theresa, a fashion designer and queen, was forced to drop the one thing she had saved through the entire internment, a white ermine stole, for fear of its being spotted in the moonlight.

She and her Mom returned to Budapest to find that her father had just committed suicide, despairing of ever seeing them again.  She and her mother did fashion to keep body and soul together, and she was in the theater scene, making costumes, until the anti-Communist uprising of ’56, and this time she ran for her life, she and her mother arriving in NYC with no English and no money.  They started doing fashion, Theresa discovered Greenwich Village, and then Bob, and then Bob got the job in Carbondale and this larger-then-life Magyar woman- busty, bustling, huge smile, pock-marked, irrational but irresistible – found herself in tiny Carbondale, where she was to be a big fish in a tiny puddle for the rest of her life.

Fast friends, Theresa was too much life for my little polite New England tight asshole, but I knew I had to grow to match her, and grow I tried.  She was impossible, overfeeding us, talking a blue streak, taking every drug under the sun – to sleep, to wake up, to get out of pain, to manage this or that hypochondriac illness (she always had several going at any given time), in an attempt to counter the effects of the camp and the terrible early life she had, but stronger than either the experiences or the drugs, she dragged me out of my observer perch and into participation.  We worked together on a book on the Victorian meaning of flowers, which worked its way into our wedding, but I am getting ahead of myself, for Peggy wanted me to see Europe, see it as she did, as an artist, or art appreciator, at any rate.

So the summer of ’70, becoming 21, we took off for points east.  We still had to lie to our parents about our going together, but it soon became evident, which forced the marriage later, but first came Europe.

I had been to Ireland, so England wasn’t much of a change, and as one of thousands of college kids descending on Earl’s Court, I hated England.  After a few days of tourism, we busted for France, hitch-hiking to Harwich for the ferry.  After a few days of Paris, I was likewise frustrated, and lit out for the south of France, where we spent some time on the Riviera.  This was more like it, Picasso country (like I knew about it, more than in passing), but I loved the Mediterranean flavor of the air, the pines, the olive trees.  Golfe Juan was where we stayed, near Antibes.

We wandered over to Genoa, and tried to hitch-hike to Rome.  It was autostradas, and a perky girl was out there hitch-hiking with us.  She got a ride, and then was back in 15 minutes, got a ride, was back in 15 minutes – it took me a while to catch on, and anyway, Peggy and I were still there as the light began to fade, and I hated the whole Genovese macho sexist thing, so I wanted to turn north, but Peggy said, “No, you have to see Greece.”  “In that case, we’re going right now, “ I insisted, and we walked down into town and boarded a train.  We passed Florence, Rome just a stop in the night – Peggy was heartbroken having me miss all that ‘cultcha’, but I was adamant.  What an angry and selfish young man!

A terrible night in Brindisi with the southern Italians on the boot heel, and we were on the ferry to Corfu.  I remember waking up on the deck of the ferry (too hot inside) and seeing the sleeping god shape of Corfu island above the wine-dark sea (sorry), and falling in love with Greece before we even got there.

Although I was to return in later years to the British Museum, the Louvre, Uffizi, and the Sistine Chapel, it was in Greece that my cultural education began, and loyal person that I am, it is still my second spiritual home, after Maine.

Staying in one of two rooms in a taverna on a little crescent beach (I went back with your Mum many years later – all white hotels and noisy water sports – I cried), we met a Belgian engineer – the earliest telecommuter I ever met, long before computers.  We had lunch with him most days to solve the problems of the world.  One day he called to a fisherman pulling his caique (ka-ee’-ki) up on the beach, clad only in an old T-shirt and bathing suit, and those covered with scales.  The gentleman, handsome and stocky with a shock of hair despite his obvious poverty and late middle age came and joined us.

To my surprise, he was a very educated man, and we conversed in English.  His chosen subject, as we bought him food and coffee, was war.  It turns out he was a general.  This was the time of the military junta (see the movie Z), and he had said something slightly out of line, not enough to get him killed or sent to prison, but enough to be banished to his home town for the duration, which was a number of years.  So he became a fisherman, and contemplated his lot.

With us, clearly foreign tourists, he was expansive, and he was really knowledgeable about the history of warfare, and he unrolled battles and campaigns in the most interesting way, from Hannibal to Caesar, Xerxes to Rommel, and my pacifism took a back seat to these daily lectures.

We moved on to Athens, and thence to Kriti (Crete) for a stay in the little hippie town of Matalla, just after Joni Mitchell had left (listen to her album Blue for the sound track to this trip), where I learned to body surf and made friends with Kosta, who brought us grapes and carpousie (watermelon) each morning.  We rented our little shack – all we needed – for $5/month.

Joining another couple, we traveled in their car from Athens around the coast past Thessaloniki to Istanbul, Turkey, staying on the way at a monastery where the head monk questioned whether we were really married, but fed us just the same.  The generous and participatory spirit of the Greeks finished the job Theresa had started, cracking my New England Harvard prissiness.  Of course I was and am still its victim from time to time, but not in its permanent grip.

Though I loved the bustle and architecture of Istanbul – the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia – I did not take to the Moslem feel, and gladly kept going with our friends through Bulgaria (the most primitive place I had ever been – endless fields of sunflowers tended by shapeless women in various states of cover, from tiny dirt poor villages, occasionally interspersed with the boxy horror of Soviet apartment blocks) into Yugoslavia.

Totally ignorant of the history, and what ethnic group was where, we tootled over the little mountain roads to Skopje, where my friend’s wife got sick.  We were thus housed by the inTourist board (communist) with a doctor, who could look after her (and get a little extra money – that was the thing about these strict communist countries: there were no beggars, but everyone with a little initiative was on the lookout for some more money.  “We pretend to work, and you pretend to pay us”.).

The second night the doctor’s sons stopped by for a visit.  After we had talked politely for a while, the older one could stand it no longer and asked how my country could conduct a war in Vietnam.  Although I was quite active against the war, I turned the tables and asked how he felt about the Russians rolling their tanks over the Prague Spring of ’68.  Seconds later, the doctor appeared at the door to the room and pointed to his two boys and said, “You go to bed.”  Such was the state control in those days – he couldn’t even risk a mildly controversial political talk within his home.  Someone might be listening – see The Lives of Others.

We camped in then beautiful and intact Dubrovnik, but we’d had it with traveling and artifacts by then, and flew to Amsterdam, sampled the hashish, and flew home.

Having exposed our living and traveling together, we were under increasing pressure from both sets of parents – even my brother Allen – to marry.  We arranged to do so in Carbondale (we were back there for our senior year), and both families came out for our hippie wedding.  Friends playing guitar and recorders, me in a huge white cape lined with the multicoloured material I had picked up in Istanbul, Peggy beautiful in lace and cream silk, but Jesus, we were young and out of it.

The ceremony was built around the book I was helping Theresa with – we gave each other flowers, each one symbolizing our vows – juniper for succor, rose for true love, I don’t remember the rest, and I don’t think Theresa ever finished the book.  She threw the reception at her house.  She blew my mother right off the earth, charmed my Dad, probably did the same for Peggy’s parents, I was too stoned to remember.

In December of 1971 we graduated, which threw me into the draft.  I had started my bid to be a conscientious objector (Winslow was one, and did two years’ service at a home for neurotic kids, Allen had got a physical deferment for his back), but here I was coming up for the army in the fiery end (as it turned out) of the Vietnam War.  It was at this time that they had instituted the lottery, and my birthday came up 120, about 1/3 of the way down.  As it happened because of my graduation date, I could allow myself to become 1A (draftable) for one month, and then be off the hook forever, without the hassle of CO or army service.  I sweated through that month, and then was free.

But I was ashamed.  Tony Ramos had served two years for refusing induction, and Michael had burned his draft card.  It was only recently that I could admit to Michael that I had taken this coward’s route, and he pooh-poohed my embarrassment: “Anyway you could get out of that war and that army was a good way.”

So in January of ’71, I was in Maine and looking for a job.  It was Edward who suggested that I should apply with Tom Chappell, who had started a company called Kennebunk Chemical Center, which was later to be Tom’s of Maine. Poor Peggy – about the time she got used to Cambridge, I was pulling her out to Illinois.  By the time she made friends in Illinois, we were graduating and on our way back east.  By the time we reached Kennebunk, she was rattled, and I was suddenly ambitious.  Content to follow the political scene, study Fuller, and play pinochle (!) in Carbondale, now – free of college – I was suddenly seized by the desire to make something of myself, as well as pressed by the realization that no one was going to do it for me. Peggy, of a slower and more following nature, was left in the dust.

We settled in a little cape in Kennebunk for the year of ’72, where I did various jobs for Tom – sales manager, plant manager – he even laid me off for the summer, and I helped a local carpenter to make ends meet.  My first take home pay was $94.10 / week.  Later it was upped to $105.

Toward the end of the year Tom blew up at me for something – he was always blowing up, mostly at his kids, and mostly it didn’t mean anything.  It meant something to me, having grown up in a house where anger was always contained, and only escaped through small holes.  Even though I deep down knew that this was an easy breach to patch, I also thought that Tom would not make it; I thought his company would fail and I would go down with it.  Boy, was I wrong!  Not only did he succeed, he thrived, and even thrived ethically.

His path to success was interesting.  Here’s part of what I wrote for his retirement book:

And so I joined Tom and his secretary Jane in the dusty office, living up on Cat Mousam Road and tempering my youthful idealism with a bit of domestic realism, from the cheerful orderliness of the plant to the cheerful chaos of their house – full of young children on projects, with Tom as sergeant-major, and Kate as super-Mom, having it all before it was either fashionable or easy.

Over the next year, I was sales manager, then laid off, then plant manager – fancy titles for whatever needed to be done next – with dairy vats full of steaming soaps.  I watched Tom use his uncommon drive, peddling 90’s ideas in a 70’s environment, searching for funding, markets, customers, whatever was next – going to the bank with statements that read “Cash on hand  – $6”.

This was pre-toothpaste, and a lot of KCC’s product went out to commercial customers in 55-gallon drums.  Our premier product (and only, at that time) for the consumer was Clearlake, an environmental laundry detergent.  Clearlake’s gimmick was a label that acted as a self-addressed envelope to send the bottle back to us for recycling.  The detergent was fine, but the original packaging was fairly hopeless – e.g. the tops leaked and streaked the labels.  All anyone had to do to put us out of business, Tom used to muse, was to send the bottle back full of water – the postage bill would have been horrendous!

These empty bottles collected under the plant in large plastic bags, as we faced the lamentable truth of our plastic culture: it cost more – way more – to wash, strip, and relabel the bottles than it did to use new ones.  I may have asked Tom what finally became of these bottles, but I have forgotten the answer.

I was bad at all the jobs, as it turned out, so I left after a year to start an aquaculture project with Edward on the Damariscotta River.  For Tom, Clearlake led to liquid soap (Pawl Hawken wanted something to compete with good ol’ Dr, Bronner’s – sorry, I still use it), and liquid soap to shampoo, shampoo to toothpaste, and the rest is history.

I have had cause to regret my decision – which was essentially an ever-so-erroneous “this guy is not going to make it” – as I returned through Maine in my traveling years, seeing the heart-warming successes and real differences on so many levels that Tom’s of Maine and Tom and Kate in particular have made for the people of this state and beyond.

But, happy in my own choices and back after years abroad on the Damariscotta River again, it is enough to celebrate and share in their – your – achievement from afar.

In any case, I took his temper tantrum as an opportunity to leave, and late ’72 saw Peggy and I moving back to Damariscotta – an apartment up in Damariscotta Mills – to help Edward start Abandoned Farm, the mussel-culture business.  By this time, Peggy and I were on the skids.  While my loyal (Julia) self had stuck with my first love through thick and thin and many homes, my adventurous (Edward) self had had a few other lovers when opportunity presented (how can you resist experience?).  None of these had tipped the bucket.

But when I was out in Carbondale, we had traveled to Aspen to a design conference Bucky was speaking at.  The wife of the other couple and I immediately took a dislike to each other, but within a few days of being in that vibrating automobile across the long plains states, we were ass-over-teakettle in lust.  Just being in proximity, we couldn’t understand why no one could see the sparks fly.  Nothing happened on that trip, but after we got back, I did travel up to see her, and we slept together.  This has to be only months after Peggy and I got married (after years of living together) and in a paroxysm of guilt (or so I concluded in later therapy) a broke my leg (right fibula – stepped off a curb at dusk and was hit by a bicycle with a 150-lb guy on it).  So I could no longer drive.  We went back east after graduation with the cast still on.  Problem solved.

But not really – I wanted that lust, that passion.  Not with Kathryn – she was married and only partly what I wanted, but I wanted excitement, not the familiarity of married life with a docile partner, and besides, I was rarin’ to go.  I felt I needed to give the marriage two years, but I was kind of ticking down those days.  And Peggy was too frightened and cowed to put up a fight.  We kept up appearances during the months I worked for Edward – who was now head of the Darling Center, Univ of Maine’s Oceanographic Center, so he couldn’t legally start a company himself, but he was advising me nearly daily.

I worked very hard on that project, with an old woodsman who lived up the road called Chester.  He was an old-timer who could do anything on woods or water, but he had had a bad war in the Pacific – malaria, and bad fighting – and then his oldest favorite child had died very painfully of leukemia, and he had taken to drink.  I would have him work for me (if such an independent cuss could work for anybody) and then pay him when I didn’t need him, as he would drink up the pay, and come back to work when the money ran out and the hangover abated.  I suppose it was only 5 or 6 months I did Abandoned Farm, though it seems much longer.  I built the initial rafts, lobbied for the aquaculture leases in the legislature – they didn’t exist then, so our first raft was registered as a Coast Guard navigational buoy.  It was an interesting project, but I knew that I would not stay; I could not be so close to my family, I need room to spread my wings.

Over the spring I outfitted a van and on June 23rd, 1973 – a date etched in my memory – I took off, sans Peggy (poor thing – what a terrible rocky ride I gave her.  I don’t even know what she did after – went back to Baltimore or Boston with her tail between her legs, I guess, later married a computer guy she could control, having had one out of control husband).

America was tipped left in those days, and everything loose rolled west, and I was no exception.  I went back to see Kathryn in Illinois, but that fizzled right away, and I rolled on out to Aspen, but soon found myself in Boulder.  Crazy, I wracked my brain for what it was I wanted to do.  I remembered I wanted to fly, so I took a few lessons flying a plane at a little airport, but really it was a dead end.

I was living in the back of my Chevy van, hanging out with the junkies in the park in downtown Boulder (no, that drug I never did), as I knew no one.  A couple of days with them and I concluded that people were sincerely fucked, and I drove my van into the mountains above Boulder.  After a few days with myself and my incessant mind chatter, I concluded that I was sincerely fucked-up, and re-descended into town.  I did this oscillation a few times.

Then I remembered that I liked acting in school, and coincidentally saw a flyer for a video improvisation class, and thought I would try that.  The class – I only went to a few – turned out to be more a gestalt therapy class using video.  The goal was not good acting, but authenticity, and the teacher, a kindly young portly man, was able to show me my inauthenticity in a very succinct and telling way.  From this I got a glimmer of what was to come – I craved and wanted that emotional honesty.

Simultaneously, in an effort to get laid, I guess, I was attending the free evenings offered by the spiritual groups that had taken over the frat houses that lined University Hill. The frats had gotten rowdy and CU had turned them out, so now they were all occupied by Swami Satchidananda (Meditative Yoga), Chogyam Trungpa (Tibetan Buddhist), and Arica (American Sufi), and got knows what else.

The perception of the underlying world below my waking consciousness, opened by drugs, but never developed, was tickled by the video class, and furthered by Arica.  I tried all my tricks (as I now look back and see it) to make the girl who was trying to recruit me angry, and it didn’t work.  It was terribly hard for my New England soul to spend money on nothing but myself, but in the end, I sprung the $600 for the 40-day Arica training.

So this is Boulder, fall of ’73 (24 years old), and I enter my spiritual period, meditating like mad, getting a full smorgasbord of techniques form the Arica method.  Breathing, chanting, physical exercise, martial arts, emotional and history karma cleaning, yantra, mantra, meditations of all kinds, ceremonies, diet, alchemy – it was quite a training, and I wish it still ran something like this – it was one of the toughest and most satisfying experiences I have ever had.

During the training, some folks would sneak off and come back with red welts on their bodies.  What are you doing? I asked.  Getting rolfed, they replied.  What’s that?  Someone in the class offered to show me, and put his hands on my sternum and fairly ripped the skin off my chest.  My teeth started to tingle – far out!

Toward the end of this six weeks of supposed ‘scientific mysticism’, I did indeed have the scheduled transcendent experience.  Sounds mundane, or induced, but I can tell you it was very real, very simple, and very profound.  I was driving the van around Boulder, and suddenly the veil between ‘me’ and ‘it’ dropped away, and I was one with everything – it was all going through me – ach, words are inadequate to this task, but suffice it to say, it was in some ways like a drug-like experience, but sustained, and without any of the intoxication or disconnection.

Arica was – maybe still is, I have no contact – a cult, and I entered it lock, stock, and two smoking barrels.  I hit the road right back to NY to study for another two weeks with Oscar Ichazo, Arica’s guru.  Again, I had only limited contact with the man himself, but immersed myself in the study of the Tarot, Gurdjieff, very complex meditations and ceremonies, and whatever else they threw our way – all in a very colourful and fashionable 57th St setting.

From NY I put the pedal to the metal for California (good ol’ van) and arrived through the desert into the hills around the deadly inversion they call LA on Christmas Day of 1973 to expand my exploration, and ultimately my career, in Human Potential.

Since you are in LA as I write this to you, I think I will leave it here for now, and take up the final chapter of the rest of my life’s chronology in the next installment.

Chronology 1

January 1, 2009

Since you express interest, my daughter, I take keyboard in hand to make some account of my time upon this Earth.

I first took breath at 8:15 on the morning of July 16th, 1949, at the then-tiny Miles Hospital in Damariscotta.  It was a typical 1950’s birth: my mother was drugged, so of course I was too, a fact I was to come upon when regressing through my birth in my therapy period.  Untypically, I escaped circumcision, though both my brothers and father were –that ob-gyn just did not routinely do it, to my everlasting gratitude.

Though we came out of the hospital to a tiny summer cottage, by autumn we were established in a house in town, on the hill right across from the hospital, actually, right where Peter and Lucy live, where we went to have dinner and sing?  I remember little of that house, more of the house next door where my constant playmate, Chris Baker, was recovering from the auto accident that took his eye.  As a child I remember peering into the strangely deep pink socket as his mother cleaned it out and then popped his glass eye back in – it had a ghoulish appeal to a boy.

My brothers, 6 and 9 years older, were at school most of the time, and were companions to each other.  As third child, I was left to raise myself a lot, thank goodness.

My Dad, surprise, surprise, was a workaholic, and was busy in his office dawn to dark starting up Saltwater Farm, the business where he sold clambakes to individuals, the first to do so, so he had a lot of work to do.  He took a full-page ad in The New Yorker to get started, but strangely what made his fortune was an article a friend did for the little Ford Times – house organ of the Ford Motor Company – that made a live-lobster clambake from Saltwater Farm a yearly tradition for many unions and working families on Labor Day.

When I was three and a half, he bought Edna and Everett Kelsey’s farm and we moved to Clarks Cove.  What a different place it was then! Linoleum floors, paint and wallpaper thickened all over the house over horsehair plaster and lathes, every system old and creaky.  It had been a boarding house for the ice men and the brickmakers, and ‘summer people’ in the season, with Edna and Everett living in just the two rooms of the ell, out of one of which Edna cooked for the boarders.  There were three barrels under the large old lead lined sink under what is no the counter: one for flour, one for beans, and one for molasses, and that got ’em through the winter.

There was a hand-made woodshed – I mean the nails, pins, timbers, and shingles all hand made on this farm where the garage is now – and the barn, working blacksmith shop, and five-car garage that blew away in the hurricane of ’56.  It had a Ford Model T in it, and an old surrey that we kids used to pull along the road in front of the house – someone as driver, the rest as horses.  The blacksmith’s forge was, unfortunately, given to the Maine State Museum, as we could probably use it in the coming depression.

One time, bored, I went into the barn and took an old sharpening wheel and set it in motion with its foot pedal, and then took a pick-axe and dropped it on the turning surface, ruining that old antique forever.  I wish my father had just tanned my hide and had it over with; his look of disappointed reproach was worse, and I can’t remember doing such wanton destruction of property again.

I was certainly a bored and boring, praeternaturally lazy child.  I certainly remember days when I took off into the woods to build dams or down the fields to the midden to search for something salvageable, but I also remember days of writhing at the bottom of the stairs and whining up to my working mother, “I don’t have anything to dooo-ooo.”  It was ever-so-rural Maine in those days, and we were new.  There were other children around, but mostly older, so I saw my town friends on the weekend.

I know I was dragged on sailing trips, and I know I found them both boring and scary by turns.  Dad was an adventurer, but a yeller when he was scared, and judging by his yelling he was scared a lot of the time.

School was a welcome way out, and I excelled, the little bastard who always has his hand up – smug and scared and earnest.  I tried actually not putting my hand up for a while in third grade – it was manifestly not cool (though that word was not yet in our lexicon) to be so nerdy – little glory if you’re right, and humiliation if you’re wrong.  I stood it for two or three days, and then I could stand the turgid pace no longer, and started putting up my hand again, just to keep things moving along.  I have given myself no trouble about being a participator since then; it’s a nerdy job, but somebody has to do it.

I was in the school, now the fire station, at the top of the hill, two rooms, grades 1-4 in one room, 5 – 8 in the other, ruled over with an iron hand by Mrs. Gwendolyn Thompson, the first of a series of old lady tyrants who seem to mark my passage through life.  At the time she was a royal pain, brimming with temper, cultivating an image of herself as tough but fair, when in fact she was like any other petty tyrant – the smaller the territory, the more vehement the control.  Actually, I was scared enough to be good, but I was still a teacher’s crank, not a teacher’s pet, due to my opened mouth and smart-aleckiness (so were my brothers who preceded me in her classroom).  I could never take Abe Lincoln’s sound advice: “It is better to close your mouth and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove it.”

There was a terrible set of temper tantrums on my part between 7-9 years old – throwing things like mad, sometimes causing damage – coinciding with the birth of my baby sister and the consequent loss of attention.  I was literally transferred to a bedroom on the third floor, where I was scared of the witches in the attic, and once came across a bunch of my mother’s mother’s silver, and concluded for a couple of horrified days that my parents were burglars, sneaking out at night after I had gone to bed to rifle other houses for loot.

The temper tantrums resolved into not seeing, or so I believe – the anger didn’t go away, it was just sublimated, and I chose, like the rest of the family, to not look things in the face and become instead myopic, getting very thick lenses from fourth grade on.  I am quite sure – running against the establishment view – that this myopia was a ‘decision’, not an ailment out of my control, and I’ll tell you why.  One night during my spiritual period I was doing a meditation where we bent forward and rested our head in our hands.  It went on and on, and I got bored, so I spent my time trying to really relax my neck, letting my head rest in my hands like a bowling ball.  The meditation was very long, and I managed to get my neck really relaxed.  The next morning, I rolled over in bed and looked out through the window across the street to where birds sat on a wire.  No way, at 20-400, that I could see birds or a wire without my glasses.  My eyesight was perfect all that morning, and re-established itself as myopic by the afternoon.  I can only write this off to the deep relaxation I had in my neck and eye muscles.  I have improved my eyesight since then, but never so dramatically.  As you know, I had Lasix surgery, and though it hasn’t done a thing for my psychology, it’s been very successful in terms of seeing.

Men worked on cars, older boys shot squirrels, crows, and anything else with their BB guns, deer season was serious business.  Dad established the plant, and hired Ervine Hatch out of the shipyard to tie the building together and build water tanks, and built the precursor to the current pier, so that he could pump water uphill to the plant and keep thousands of pounds of lobster super-fresh in clean seawater, but readily available for packing.  Though workers came and went, Ervine was foreman for many years, toothless and strong, patient and long-suffering.

I remember getting up at ungodly hours – 2 or 4 in the morning, to pack lobsters in the week before Labor Day or Christmas.  Other times, I remember accompanying Dad out to the end of the pier on super-cold stormy nights to hold the flashlight for him when the power failed and we had to get the gasoline pump going or all the lobsters would begin to die.

Winters were far colder then, below zero temperatures common in winter, while seeing any ground at all between December and May was rare – not these New Jersey winters we have now.  Ice fishing, ice skating, sledding down that big hill between us and the school, building snow forts we then used for weeks.

TV was just coming in, and I loved it, but we didn’t have it.  I would go over to Ervine’s house, chat up his wife Jewel, and try to get her to turn on the TV – soaps, Pinkie Lee, Howdy Doody, it didn’t matter – it was moving, it on the screen, and it was from far away – irresistible.  Edward and Julia didn’t get a TV until long after we were gone from the house.

Philip Hatch, Ervine’s son two or three years my senior, introduced me to sex in a furtive and unsatisfying way – I believe he went on to some molestation charge or something, so he was weird, not just curious as I was.  I was simultaneously grateful (to be initiated), disgusted, used, furtive, guilty – sex was a touch nut to crack in the 50’s, absolute silence surrounded it.

I was, you must know, an utter ponce in grade school years – fodder for bullies, a nerd, a fool, a bedwetter until way too late, especially at camp when I was 8 and 9, to my everlasting shame (Summer camp was in general a trial for me.  The first year I got strep throat and had to be hospitalized, then be home and resting for the rest of the summer.  One way out), always out of it, always playing the little adult, entirely bad at sports, uninterested in cars, not the boy, not the man, more like someone’s unsure mother.  I got along much easier when I hit California and the early days of what is now called ‘metrosexual’.

Very specifically, in 5th grade, noontime recess, I struck out in the softball game, and as I turned away from the plate, seeing Dwayne Seider’s ‘Oh, God, what could we expect?’ look and the opposite side’s glee, and I made a very hard decision deep inside, which I would vocalize later as: “Alright! You go play those physical games and I will play the intellectual games, and we’ll see who comes out on top!”  There were 5 people in my class, three of whom are still in the area somewhere; just over 20 in the whole 8 grades.

Thus confirmed as a plump whining nerd mamma’s boy … But let me not be too hard on myself, I also had a wicked gift of mimicry, and had already learned to pass up chances to be cruel. One morning, imitating the older boys, I captured a frog in a little pond and proceeded to subject it to all kinds of torture, culminating in hitting the poor little thing over the head with the spiky mace of an early horse chestnut.  Suddenly I relocated within myself – I cannot describe it any other way than a change in point-de-vu – and I saw what I was doing.  Instantly filled with remorse, I returned the frog to the pond and waited until it had recovered and swum away.  I trace what little compassion I have from that day.

As I got into the upper grades, I snuck comic books home under my winter coat on the days of my piano lessons, as Mom didn’t approve of Superman, Batman, my favorite Green Lantern, or best of all, the Justice League of America.  Though born into Truman, the first political figure I remember is ‘Ike’ Eisenhower, and he dimly.  The 50’s were a world of sincere 4th of July parades past the little stack of cannonballs and a mortar on the little green in front of the white church, with firetrucks passing under the stately elms in slow motion, and crew-cut men in white shirts waving flags by the side of the road.  It was a simpler time.

Dad would take the kids to Sunday school, go to his office and get some work done, and come back to pick us up.  It was only later, after the children all left, that they became pillars of the church.  I hated making clay squirrels and colouring pictures of God as a man in a white beard, so I switched from the Congregational to the Christian Science church, where I could discuss more interesting things like atonement and whether animals had souls.

I would always get carsick on the way back from Sunday School, which I always laid off to being hot in the car in a suit, but later realized was anticipation of Sunday afternoon, when Dad, finally unable to work, would relax his knots into a migraine headache, so that Sunday afternoons he was generally intolerant and sometimes intolerable.

Since you only knew the gentle, depressed Edward of his later life, it is hard to envision the hard and sharp-edged Edward of his younger years.  I used to shake his hand and call him ‘sir’, and lived in fear of his disapproval.  I do remember with great affection games of Russian Bank played on the carpet in front of the stove.  Even though he was merciless in playing, it was great interaction and training in attention.  Otherwise, he was a lecturer, and a good one, a professor manqué, like all the Myers.

He and Julia were both very squeamish about sex, though they must have enjoyed it themselves, with four children and a couple of miscarriages to their credit.  I was sent to bed with a very hot face and without supper for walking into the living kitchen – just the two of them there – with an apple in my shirt as a joke, saying, “Look, I only got one milker.”

Julia, though gentler than Edward, had her own rigidity around social niceties, as she does to this day.  Although she was more physically affectionate than Dad, she was underneath more reserved, and I was not to find out the depth of Edward’s passion for his children until I divorced your mother, when he was fiercely and perhaps too partisan on my side (and Felicity’s too, when she divorced Bill).

One story for this: I came down in my pajamas late one evening with terrible pains in my belly, sharp, large pains I had never felt before.  Dad correctly diagnosed gas, and put me on the floor on my back with my knees up, having me press down on my belly.  We were soon rewarded with a fart, which immediately relieved me, but Julia looked up from her magazine and said “Edward!” in a reproving tone, as if suppressing impolite noises was more important than relieving pain.

In the summer, this small town life was counterpointed with the summer people, still my parent’s friends though we were now ‘year-rounders’.  Their kids – from Darien, Scarsdale, and the wealthy suburbs of Boston – were so impossibly more sophisticated than I was, from this little town in Maine full of carpenters, fisherfolk, and clam diggers, that again I felt excluded, standing awkwardly at the summer picnics, trying to be polite and gather some cool, and utterly failing.

Of course, I was no better at fitting in with the locals during the school year either, with my mid-Atlantic pronunciation and my home education.  A lifetime of being a misfit started very early, and I have spent much of my life knocking on the door of various groups, only to refuse to join when they finally open the door.

I think my parents would have been just as happy if I chosen to go to the local high school, but I elected to follow my brothers to prep school.  Mt Hermon, in western Mass, was a Methodist school, with chapel 4x / week and Bible study 3x / week still clinging to its otherwise liberal agenda.  I credit Mt Hermon with giving me some work ethic – everyone at the school had a job in addition to academia; I worked in the kitchen for 3 years.  And theater – I tried out for plays from freshman year right through senior, usually landing bit roles, but sometimes playing the lead or near-lead in those awful (looking back, at the time they were great fun and a chance to interact with girls without the humiliating expectation of trying to get under their clothes, which obsessed my waking and sleeping hours) school productions.  Here finally my feminine self and the mimic as well found an outlet.

I was impossibly green my freshman year, and played the wise-fool for sophmore.  I remember writing a scathing letter to my Dad after Kennedy was shot, as if this was what he wanted in his criticism of Kennedy.  He took me for a long walk in the woods to explain loyal opposition.  By junior year I had abandoned the Barry Goldwater conservatism that I took from him (I remember declining to wear a black arm band the day after Goldwater was defeated), and was leaning toward the Beatles, the civil rights movement, and more worldly concerns.  I was a junior in high school when I first heard of pot, but knew no one who smoked it until someone gave me a joint on spring holiday in Washington DC.  Didn’t do a thing for me.

By the time I graduated I was heaped with honors – a proctor my senior year, several awards and Dean’s List – I was kind of amazed, as I still had ineffective nerd written all over me, but I must have done something someone liked.  I had of course applied to Princeton, where my brothers, father, grandfather, and several assorted friends and relations had gone.  But I also applied to Harvard, and a visit to Princeton convinced me that an all-boys campus was not the place I wanted to be, so (horror-of-horrors to my family) I chose Harvard over Princeton, never even opening the envelope from Princeton.  Have it still, somewhere.

Meantime, I had started summer jobs to get spending money for school.  I started as a caddie for the local golf course (but was too talkative to make it in this job).  I found digging clams to be too muddy and demanding, and then landed (through Mom) a job in Mary Smith’s truck farm.  Mary was Maggie’s sister, the white-haired woman holding you as a baby in that photo we have, but in 1963 Maggie was not there yet, and tall and broad Mary Bean Smith and I would work together every morning from 6-9 am, weeding and harvesting and preparing the lettuces for market in large galvanized tubs.  Mary was a wonderful companion, taught me a lot about life, and was entertained by my juvenile flights of fancy that I would spin as we weeded.

Another two years I spent the summer crewing on Horace Henriques’s Concordia yawl, and here, from someone other than my father, I learned to love sailing.  A giant of industry who summered in Pemaquid, he was a tough old captain who taught me how to scrub the decks and polish the brass and what order to pull on which ropes, but was generally kind and tolerant, and – unlike my father – did not yell.

One particular day sticks in my mind, when we started at 5 in the morning in the fog at Tenant’s Harbor, and made it all the way to Winter Harbor in Schoodic.  Horace and his two guests went off to a yacht club party, and I was left in the hands of two sisters who taught the loose 16-year-old how to French kiss.  Yum!

So I think that takes us to the summer of ’67.  This may have been the summer of love in San Francisco, but the East Coast was behind the times, and such things were just beginning to enter my consciousness.  By senior year in high school, I was still a virgin, against the war, singing at open mikes and ‘hootenannies’.  I lost my virginity ever so gratefully to Peggy when she came home from a trip to Europe at the end of that summer, in the Glory Hole cottage down by the shore.

So now I want to give a little more attention to my college years, since that is where you are now, and so many changes of note happened to both me and the world during those very intense years.

The innocence of Camelot had been shattered by whoever’s spray of bullets ended Jack Kennedy’s life in 1963. Lyndon Johnson, who finished Kennedy’s agenda (in a way Kennedy himself probably would not have been able to mount) by passing the Civil Rights bill and continuing the space program’s bid for the moon, was also mired in an increasingly unpopular war in Vietnam.

Having started on “Blowin’ in the Wind” on the guitar at prep school (and moving to 12-string very early, bought it from Winslow for $200, a fortune of an ill-advised expenditure for a 14 year-old in 1964 – never regretted it), I arrived in Cambridge in the fall of 1967 in my stove-pipe Levi’s and fleece lined jacket, all ready for Club 47 and the other folk clubs in Cambridge, all centered around the new phenomenon of Bob Dylan – and Pete Seeger and Joan Baez and Peter, Paul & Mary, Donovan, Arlo Guthrie and ‘Alice’s Restaurant’.  The ferment was alive all around me, and I was drawn into it easily as a moth to flame – adventurism winning out over conservatism.

But you must see a socially awkward preppie in his madras sport jacket arriving into the dorm in Harvard Yard, drinking in the flavor of the Square – so much more innocent but just as bustling then – but mostly still a ‘good’ boy, toiling away in Widener Library, trying to make it at Harvard.  Peggy was down in Providence, also at college, so we saw each other infrequently.

I had two roommates At Weld Hall in Harvard Yard.  One was Chris Durang, now a famous playwright in NY.  He came to Harvard with the express purpose of seeing every film he could.  He would only take morning classes, because in the afternoon he would disappear into the Brattle, moving from theater to theater, coming back to the dorm only at 12 or 2am if he could find a midnight showing of something.  He was pasty-faced, the Pillsbury dough-boy, plump and (as it turned out) gay, and Cartney and I hardly ever saw him and thought he was weird.  Clearly talented and smart, he was just too weird for me then; in hindsight I wish I had delved into his unique mind more.

As I side note: however much we were for civil rights for blacks, and probably could be convinced about feminism (as long as it didn’t interfere with our sexual freedom), gay rights were not on the table, and gayness was anathema, even several years into my hippiedom.

And hippiedom began in earnest.  Cartney James, the grandson of the author Henry James, was my other roomie, and he had dope, pot, grass.  Well, he didn’t, but his friend (Brownie, maybe?) did, and so for the first time I got high.  I had tried once before but felt nothing; this time I was floating as if on a ship, and the being-taken-out-of-consensus-reality was a very welcome change in my life.  Though I did well in my academic life and kept my parents fooled, Cartney and I and a few friends were raving every night, culminating in finally taking acid in the spring of 1969.  My first trip included seeing ‘2001, A Space Odyssey’, Kubrick’s early psychedelic film, but what I remember is coming on in the subway, getting paranoid at all the surly faces going swirly, and giggling at the suddenly ridiculous turnstyles of the Red Line.

I continued to work in the theater, and here I found my second teacher, my father really being my first.  Dan Selzer was later to take his own life while a professor at Princeton, but in ’67 he was the radical darling of the Harvard theater crowd, talented as an actor, director, and professor.  Short but large of spirit, a shock of curly hair everywhere, large and sensuous lips; I got to join an improvisation group he started.  It was not a course, so we added 3 nights per week, as I remember, to our already pretty honkin’ academic schedule in order to show up for his group.  Everybody showed up every time, or you had to answer to the group for your absence, and the total dedication shook a number of people out in the first couple of months, but those who remained were right there.

Dan would take us every night through a series of exercises to free the voice, the breath, the body, and then we would move into improvisations, never anything with a script.  It was intense, and intensely interesting.  I wasn’t very good, but I loved it.  One night Dan passed out slips of paper, giving each of us a role.  I got the piece of paper labeled ‘candidate’; others got ‘spectator’, or ‘secret service agent’; one got ‘assassin’.  So, nobody knew who was who, except for me, as I got up on a chair and began a speech.  This was the beginning of the 1968 campaign, so I was doing satire, going back and forth between radical right and radical left rhetoric, showing off, going from Eugene McCarthy to George Wallace and back again.  Because my speech was rambling and so obviously grandstandingly self-conscious parody, the skit lost power after a few minutes, and Dan called it off, the moment broke, and I stepped down off the chair and went out of character.  At that moment the assassin struck, firing into my chest.  All hell broke loose: I sagged to the floor, secret service agents jumped on the assassin, people started tending to me, a doctor appeared.  I cannot remember when this was in relation to the King and Bobbie Kennedy assassination, but the vibe was in the air, and this one improvisation – the more so for taking shape after it had been ‘called’ so to speak – affected us all deeply.  Some women ended up crying in the ladies’, and we were all shaken.

Looking back, it seems that both the world and I are on a cusp in those heady spring days of 1968, at the end of my freshman year.  I was pretty tied to Peggy, my first love and first ‘lay’, though I had snuck in another lover from Radcliffe, but being fair to or understanding women had not yet entered my radar.  The softening of the hard edges of reality had definitely come in via the drugs, and political change was definitely in the wind.  I went up to New Hampshire one weekend to work with the McCarthy campaign, but my heart was more radical, and I ended up contacting the Cambridge office of the Quakers, and getting assigned as a ‘Vietnam volunteer’ for Providence.  The summer of ’68 was a life changer.

Armed with a back seat full of literature, the princely salary of $25/wk, and a VW beetle my brother Allen loaned me for the summer, I prepared to take the town of Providence by storm.  Housed in a squat with a couple of sympathetic reporters from the Journal, I joined with other anti-war students and adult liberals in the Rhode Island Committee for Peace in Vietnam.  Ann Finger, a prescient and dedicated cripple (‘differently-abled’, I know, she had a bad couple of club feet, and crutches, and in those days it was ‘crippled’), started the Omega Coffeehouse (Omega = resistance, get it?) on lower Thayer Street, and we were off – harassing the cops, giving out fliers about draft resistance, counseling kids about avoiding service – even helping a couple of AWOL servicemen from Narragansett naval base to escape to Canada.

First, I met R. Michael Frenchman – ‘Frenchy’ in those days, never Michael or, god forbid, Raymond.  We have just passed our 40 years of friendship mark.  We hit it off right away, being similarly indeed.  I was insufferable in those days, a radical without a clue; adamant, vehement, incoherent, and having the best time.  Michael’s and my teacher, guiding us through all this madness, was a black protester named Tony Ramos.  I guess King had come out against the war by then, but a black guy in the anti-war movement was still a rarity; it was a pretty white movement, while civil rights was all about blacks and mostly about the south.

Tony, son of a Cape Verdean (and therefore Portuguese) fisherman, tall and thin, big funk mustache, handsome and articulate as all-get-out, was the first post-racial person I ever met – hard to think about now, but back then, no matter how egalitarian you were, there was an unbridgeable gulf between the races.  Not Tony, he was a cultural and sexual omnivore, and an artist to boot.  He has refused induction into the army in Providence (there was a draft then, you know), and then fled to Canada before he was indicted.  When King and Kennedy were assassinated, he returned to the States, and took sanctuary in a church, announcing his whereabouts.  Many people stayed at the church in solidarity with his move, and when the Feds came to take him away, they had to take him over the bodies of the protesters.  I was not there for that event, but arrived soon after, and Tony, now out on bail, was Michael’s and my mentor.

I was never one for radical communism or the SDS, and Tony set us on the right course: this is a long revolution, a revolution against fear.  The political system was unimportant, perception was everything.  Tony was courageous, outrageous, and definitely in the eyes of the police, an uppity black man.  He was in and out of jail all summer, usually for minor offenses.  His long-suffering petite white wife Ann (he was a prodigious sexual athlete, with anything that moved) just rolled with the punches as Tony led the show.  Eventually he went o trial and served for two years in Allentown prison.  When he got out, he and Michael started a video business in NY, but it collapsed around 1978 into fights between Michael and Tony, who had had an affair as well as a partnership, and now you cannot mention Tony around Michael, but he was a big influence on both of us.

I was hauled off in a paddy wagon only once for my activities.  I spent a night in jail, and I don’t mind telling you I was scared.  How Tony maintained his cool in the face of the Irish cops and their flashlights used as truncheons, I don’t know.  I was scared and could be seen to be scared, I imagine.  They put me in a line-up in the morning – you know, in front of all the cops with the lines that say how tall you are behind you – called me a ‘communist outside agitator’, as I had come all the way from Cambridge to disturb the citizenry of Rhode Island with my radical views on peace.

That was the summer of the Democratic convention where Mayor Daley sicced the police on the protesters, and we came out of that summer discouraged with the whole cops and robbers game of protest, sick of the whole political system, in fact.  Michael and his girlfriend went out to Southern Illinois, to get themselves educated at little cost – you could establish residency, and thus get very low tuition.  Tony headed to jail.  I headed back to Harvard for my sophmore year.  A man we suspected of being an undercover cop was being rather too helpful around the Rhode Island Committee for Peace in Vietnam, so we made him the office manager and all left, leaving him holding the organization.

I came back to school, back to more courses, back for more drugs, back to continue my work with Dan, but the center was not holding in the widening gyre.  Halfway through sophmore year, I moved into an apartment with Peggy – all hush-hush, no one could know, I still had my dorm room and the fiction that I lived there.  Nixon got elected, and sometime in the spring of ’69 the student protests overflowed and we took over the University Hall admin building, holding it for a couple of days until the University brought in cops and cleared the building.

I was caught up in this – who wants to see one’s fellow students, even those in wheelchairs, being dragged out and beat up – but was really against the ruling ideology around Harvard of communist / socialist style of revolution; I was more for a media revolution, and very much in the American constitutional tradition – I just didn’t think our government was doing its job very well.  In the aftermath of that takeover, many classes were canceled and the whole mood for the rest of the spring was a very heady brew of student-run classes in radical peasantism intellectualized, a kind of Mao-ist take on the world in which I had no interest.

I was in Dan’s course on Shakespeare, and me and a small band of brothers were doing a multi-media production at the Loeb, a labor of love into which I put everything, including the kitchen sink.  It included music from a band, theater, skits, a complicated set, and a break in which we gave everyone a Popsicle.  This production got no critical notice at all, while the huge year-end paper on T. S. Eliot and Tom Stoppard, put together in a mere three days because I had devoted all my time to the show (can’t even remember its name now), got an A and a placement in the upper echelons of the English department for my junior year.  Again, Dean’s Honor List, in spite of the fact that I did one exam high on acid, and the others were just wedged in between druggish nights, classroom days, and evenings spent either at the improv group or doing the multi-media show with my compadres.  You make some of your closest friends at college, and Roger and Sammy and Bob and Cartney and I spent a lot of time together, though none of these friendships lasted beyond our 20’s whereas Michael and I have moved from strength to strength.

Somewhere in these months I realized I was going to drop out.  It was moment, crossing the yard at Dunster House, the backpack on my back.  It was a momentary realization that I crossed some kind of line and could not return, that even if I became too afraid to make this move, I would make another similar move soon.  It was a feeling of taking hold of my own life.  While living with Peggy and taking drugs were hide-able offenses, dropping out of school would put me definitively in opposition to my parents’ way.  But I knew I had no other path in front of me, so I determined to drop out, and followed through, to Julia’s horror and Edward’s annoyance.

Part of dropping out was surely my realization that I was not that good at theater, despite my love for it, and English Lit was hardly going to provide me with much room for advancement, so there was both a rebellion and a resignation in my dropping out.  This ‘lost period’ makes me sympathetic for yours.

So, summer of ’69 finds me in the wrong side of Cambridge, doing odd jobs, getting broken into, generally screwing up.  In mid-summer, Peggy and I hitch-hiked out to Carbondale in southern Illinois to see Frenchy and Susan, and he ended up showing me a book of Buckminster Fuller’s.  I gave it back as too hard to read, and he gave it me again, asking me to stick with it.  I did, and Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth became my new bible.

A couple of months later I returned alone to Illinois, and Michael and I did my one and only drug deal, cutting down hemp bushes by the side of the cornfields in middle Illinois, hanging them upside down for a few days, and then harvesting 22 pounds of poor quality marijuana, which I (so foolishly, but it was a more innocent time) packed into a suitcase and flew back to Boston for resale.  I was not a successful dealer, and all the stuff I bought with my ill-gotten gains was stolen out of my car the next year.

The more important result was that Peggy and I packed up from Cambridge and moved out to southern Illinois – as corn-bread as it comes, almost Appalachia – and we went to school, both graduatingfrom SIU at the end of 1971, me with a BS in Design.  The time in Carbondale was a time of treading water, really.  I was ostensibly in the environmental movement, certainly into whole systems thinking, but going to school at SIU was hardly challenging, so I spent a lot of time playing pinochle and watching Nixon slowly swing in the wind as the Watergate hearings slowly captured him and forced him out.