Chronology 2

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.

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